A Remarkable Page of the Globe

by Jane E. MacNamara

I’ll admit to getting sidetracked from time to time with an intriguing entry in a burial register—hard to resist digging a little further into some of the stories. But sometimes the information is almost too easy to find.

A burial register page for Mount Pleasant Cemetery for January 1911 showed the names of Laura S. Brooks, aged 36, and three young Brooks boys aged 2, 3 and 5 years. All four died on January 21 of suffocation. I had to know more about this sad story.

We’re very lucky to have the two most prominent Toronto newspapers available online through the Toronto Public Library. The Toronto Star and the Globe are also available through many other Canadian public and university libraries.

Page 8 of the Globe for Monday, January 23, 1911, explained that Mrs. Brooks and her three sons suffocated when their home at 435 Indian Road caught fire. The unique house had a concrete exterior, but the inside was finished with oiled Georgia pine. The story is told in great detail—including a lot of family information—but I’d recommend caution in relying on this early reporting. It is always a good idea to watch for later stories that add corrections. Other newspapers can add a different perspective, too.

But let’s look back to page 8 of the Globe. Remarkably, it includes the dramatic deaths of another five people who appear on the same Mount Pleasant Cemetery register page.

“Two Toronto Men Killed in the West” tells of the deaths of Samuel J. Hunt and Richard A. Chapman in a train wreck near Macoun, Saskatchewan on January 21.

“Injuries were Fatal” refers to “a young German” Izzo Luise who was struck by a streetcar at Bloor and McCaul on January 21. (The register lists him as Sizzo Linse.)

“Dies after a Week: William Armitage Killed by Elevator Accident”. The incident took place at the A.R. Williams machine shop—which explains why the company purchased his burial plot. (The register lists him as Samuel Armitage.)

Page 8 also included the death notices. Of the thirteen notices, only one appears on our register page—Hattie Putnam, also known as Birdie, the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.H. Putman who died in the Saratoga Hospital on January 22.

This single page of the Globe has added a remarkable amount of complementary information to the register page—but you’ll have noticed some contradictions in names. Was he Sizzo or Izzo, or William or Sam?

By the way, the Globe tells us the Brooks family were to be buried at St. James Cemetery. We found them in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery register—which notes that they were all moved to Forest Lawn in 1912!

Detail of Toronto Globe 23 Jan 1911

Detail of page 8, showing the beginning of the story about the Brooks family. Click the image to download a pdf of the full page of the Globe.


A Toronto Trust Cemeteries Indexing Project Milestone

We’ve had exciting news from our partners in Salt Lake City today (August 29). Another installment of the index we’ve made with the help of our partners at FamilySearch.org will become live and searchable on FamilySearch.org overnight. (It may take a little longer to update the intro page.)

The new records will be:

  • York General Burying Ground (Potter’s Field) 1826 to 1855
  • Toronto Necropolis 1877 to 1935 (1850 to 1877 were already available)
  • Mount Pleasant Cemetery 1876 to 1903

This is exciting stuff. The more recent records include plot owners and next of kin names and full addresses. All indexed.

You can also search by year or place of birth or death. Just as a test tonight, I found 26 people born in Chicago, 210 born in Montreal, and 8 born in Todmorden. Think of the possibilities this type of access opens up!

Congratulations to all the volunteers who help make these records available to researchers around the world.

There are more records in progress: Mount Pleasant Cemetery 1904 to 1935, and Prospect Cemetery 1890 to 1935. A lot of names.

A Mount Pleasant musical note

One of our FamilySearch indexing volunteers, Vera Reed, came across a familiar name while working on the burial registers of Mount Pleasant Cemetery for the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project. Vera writes:

Luigi Von Kunits was born in Vienna in 1870 and died in Toronto in October 1931. He is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. He was a musical prodigy—at the age of 11 he was invited by Brahms to play second violin in one of the composer’s quartets.

His travels took him to the U.S. with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; and for 14 years he was the conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

After another sojourn in Vienna he came to Toronto. Here he founded the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and was its conductor until his death. There is a bust of Von Kunits in the lobby of Roy Thomson Hall.

Vera Reed is an Ontario Genealogical Society member from Toronto and has been a very active member of our Toronto Trust project right from the start.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Fifth Season 1926–27, conducted by Luigi Von Kunits (Toronto Public Library)

A Family of Mariners, a Remarkable Ship

By Jane E. MacNamara

While arbitrating a page of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery records, today, I came across Captain James K. Harbottle. James Keith Harbottle died on April 1, 1897, age 37 years, 11 months. He was buried in plot C 17 12.

Harbottle was the popular master of the steamer Chicora*, a vessel that took passengers from Toronto to Niagara Falls for some 36 years. His death made the front page of The Evening Star of April 1.

Chicora had earlier been captained by his father Thomas Harbottle. Thomas had emigrated from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Buffalo, and then to Toronto about 1850. He plied the Great Lakes in a number of different vessels until he took on Chicora in 1876. In 1882, he was appointed Inspector of Hulls and Equipment for the Port of Toronto. Thomas died suddenly in 1894 at the age of 73. The father of 16 children, six of his sons served as his pallbearers.

Our Captain James K. Harbottle’s sailing siblings included Harry G., Thomas E., Neville, and George (also a druggist). You can read more about their careers at Maritime History of the Great Lakes.

*The steamer Chicora’s 74-year history is remarkable. Built in Liverpool as a Confederate blockade runner in 1864, she left Charleston after the war for Halifax. Purchased for use in Toronto in 1867, she was brought to Quebec where she was cut into two sections for passage up the canals. Chicora served as a troop ship during the Northwest Rebellion, and was refitted as the vice-regal yacht for Governor-General Lord Dufferin, all before her Toronto-Niagara career. Read more about  Chicora in the Toronto Marine Historical Society’s Scanner.

The steamer Chicora in 1903. Photo by Rowley W. Murphy (Toronto Marine Historical Society)

“Killed by Falling Wall”

by Tricia Clark

One of the reasons I volunteered to index was the glimpses of people’s lives we get from the records. While indexing the records for the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project, I have been following the trends in the Cause of Death column. As I was indexing records for July 1902, one page gave me pause. Of the 52 names on that page, there were nine accidental deaths. This was an unusually high number. Even more unusual was the fact that five of these nine were young men “Killed by Falling Wall” on Thursday, July 10, 1902.

I was immediately reminded of my great-grandfather whose death certificate lists the cause of death as “Fell down shaft at Island”. Only six months after arriving in Canada in 1907 with his wife and five children, he and three other men were killed working on the excavation of a tunnel under Toronto Harbour. They fell to their deaths when a cable snapped on the “bucket” that lifted them out of the tunnels at the end of the day.

I felt compelled to find out how five young men had been killed by a falling wall. The Toronto Star for July 11, 1902 revealed that they were all firefighters killed by two separate wall collapses while fighting a fire at the P. McIntosh Feed Company on George Street.[1]

Firefighters killed in the McIntosh Feed Company fire on July 10, 1902, Toronto (The Sentinel and Orange Protestant Advocate, 12 July 1902, page 5, AO microfilm N 44 reel 11)

At one time, the building had been used by the Toronto Street Railway Company for stabling horses and was packed with hay, straw and other highly flammable materials. The blaze was intense and spread rapidly. Within minutes of arriving on the scene at 6:20 a.m., Chief Thompson had called a general alarm to summon other stations.

Without any warning, the first wall collapsed on Adam Kerr, David See, and W. Harry Clarke. Despite the incredible heat and danger, men worked to move the rubble to free the men. See and Clarke were found and their lifeless bodies recovered within fifteen minutes. Kerr was located a few hours later only a few feet away. A few minutes after the first wall fell, a second explosion was heard. The south wall had collapsed on Walter Collard and Fred Russell as they were preparing to move away from the dangerous area. A third man who had been with Collard and Russell was saved by the fact that he had gone to turn off the water supply for the hose. It was the largest loss of firefighters in the history of the City of Toronto fire department.

The morning following the fire, permission was granted to the Trustees of the cemetery for the civic funeral, waiving a bylaw that prohibited Sunday burials. Thousands of people waited for hours in the heat outside St. James Cathedral at King and Church and all along Yonge Street. The procession took over an hour to pass any one spot on the route to Mount Pleasant Cemetery. See, Collard and Clarke were buried in Plot B – Section 7 Lot 7, Section 8 Lot 6, and Section 8 Lot 7 respectively. Russell was buried in Plot K – Section 30, Lot 8 and Kerr was buried in Adult Single Grave 1827. These two were subsequently relocated to Plot B next to the other three in Section 6, Lot 7 and Section 16, Lot 6 respectively.[2]

Gravestones for three of the fallen firefighters (L to R: Collard, See, and Clarke) in Section B of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, near the Yonge Street gates.

In Their Last Alarm, Robert B. Kirkpatrick recounts the stories of Ontario firefighters who lost their lives from 1848 to 2002.[3] He provides us with some of the details of the men’s lives. David See, 32, single, was a veteran of the Boer War in South Africa.[4] Adam Kerr, 27, single, joined the department in 1900. The cemetery records indicate he was born in England. Walter Collard, 32, was the assistant captain at the Rose Avenue Hall.[5] Kirkpatrick identifies him as single but the Globe and Mail reports him married with no children.[6] The 1901 Canada census on Ancestry.ca confirms this, showing Walter, a fireman, born in 1870, living with his wife Catherine.[7] Harry Clarke, 27, was married with two children.[8] Fred Russell, 32, was married with three children. According to the Toronto Star, at the time of the fire, his wife was visiting the sanatorium in Gravenhurst, Ontario for treatment of consumption.[9]

Returning to that page in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery records with nine accidental deaths, the other four were: Oscar Joyce, 24, who died June 22, 1902 from “injuries falling from a train” in Tyndall Manitoba; Alexander Martin, 69, who died June 27, 1902 in Toronto Emergency Hospital after “injuries to head received in a fall”; Elizabeth Edwards, 17, in a drowning accident at Kew Beach on July 1, 1902; and a second drowning, William Goddard, 22 in the Don River on July 4, 1902. These are stories to be investigated another day.

“There is little doubt that out of the 180,000 people whose final resting place is here in this beautiful cemetery almost every one has a story just waiting to be told.” – Mike Filey in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, An Illustrated Guide

[1] Toronto Star July 11, 1902 page 1, and Toronto Star July 13, 1902 page 1

[2] “David See” article by Mike Filey on the web site of the Mount Pleasant Group: http://www.mountpleasantgroup.com/new/interest/filey/archives/see

A similar article about David See appears in: Filey, Mike, Mount Pleasant Cemetery An Illustrated Guide, Toronto, Ontario, Dundurn Press 1999, p 192.

[3] Kirkpatrick, Robert B., Their Last Alarm, Burnstown, Ontario, General Store Publishing House 2002

[4] David See’s gravestone says he died “in his 30th year”.

[5] Walter is listed on his gravemarker as Walter Oakes Collard, born June 10, 1870.

[6] Globe & Mail July 11, 1902 page 1 and 2

[7] 1901 Census: District 117 Toronto East/ subdistrict R/ polling subdivision 32 in Toronto Ward 2/ p 9. (Viewed on Ancestry.ca on June 17, 2011)

[8] Harry is listed on his gravemarker as Walter H.

[9] Further information about the incident, including nearly a full page of biographical data, can be found in the The Sentinel and Orange Protestant Advocate, 12 July 1902, page 5, Archives of Ontario microfilm N 44 reel 11.
The following web sites were also consulted:
Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Five Orangemen Killed in the line of Duty, July 10th, 1902”, published on the web site of the County Orange Lodge of Toronto

The author, Tricia Clark, who lives in Aurora, Ontario has been collecting family stories since she was a kid. She volunteers as an indexer for the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project as a way to give back to the genealogical community and because it’s fascinating!

On to Mount Pleasant Cemetery!

Our diligent crew of indexers are finishing off the registers of the Toronto Necropolis and moving on to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. We’ll be seeing digital images from a microfilm that covers 1903 to 1933. (We did the earlier years at the beginning of the project.)

For those readers not familiar with the project, our partners at FamilySearch Indexing make the images and the indexing software available online. We do the indexing on our own home computers and the data is uploaded to FamilySearch. When the project is complete, the index and the images will be available online and free of charge. We have indexers all across Canada as well as in England and the US. All you need is a high-speed Internet connection. Read more about the Toronto Trust Cemeteries project.

Together, we have indexed more than 25,000 names in the first months of 2011.

The new Mount Pleasant registers look very much like the Necropolis registers we’ve been working on for the last couple of months. You could hide the “Nearest Relation” fields for now, but you will need them again in a few weeks. Here are instructions.

You’ll also find some history about Mount Pleasant on the blog. It is a very beautiful place, full of magnificent old trees and rare species. As the weather improves, I’ll be sure to post some photos.

Spring is only a week away. Can’t come soon enough!

Satellite image of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto

Spring! And a family historian’s mind turns to… cemeteries.

The Victoria Day long-weekend is the traditional time for Ontarians to open their summer cottages, dust off the patio furniture—and for genealogists—to think about transcribing cemeteries.

Members of the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Toronto Branch have been very busy this winter and spring preparing to host close to 800 guests at the largest genealogical gathering in Canada, OGS Conference 2010. Forty-five of our “guests” had a look at the Toronto Necropolis as part of the “Toronto’s Irish Heritage” bus tour. But the conference is all done now!

Toronto Trust Cemeteries Project

We were very pleased that Stephen Young from FamilySearch in Salt Lake City was able to come to Conference 2010 and talk about our Toronto Trust Cemeteries indexing project as part of a session called “New Toronto Research Tools”. It has inspired several new indexers to join the project, and now that the conference is out of the way, it is full steam ahead for the rest of us! To become an indexer, contact us at: fsi@torontofamilyhistory.org

Transcribing at St. James Cemetery

If you’re in Toronto this weekend, you can join the transcription team at St. James Cemetery on Parliament Street, just south of Bloor. A sun hat and gardening gloves would come in handy. We’ll be there from 9:00 am to noon on Saturday, in Section 2. (There’s a map just inside the gate to help you get your bearings.) It is a beautiful and fascinating place. I wonder if our single-minded cardinal companion will be there? (You’ll just have to come to find out more about that.) For more information about transcribing and the schedule for St. James, contact: cemeteries@torontofamilyhistory.org

Mount Pleasant Cemetery Tour

This Sunday, May 23, at 2:00 pm, you can join historian Mike Filey for a tour of the west side of Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Meet just inside the Yonge Street entrance. Expect a very large crowd! Here’s a map.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery—a little history

Globe, November 6, 1876, page 4, column 4.

Globe, November 6, 1876, page 4, column 4.

As we approach turn-of-the-century records at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, I thought you might be interested in a little of the cemetery’s history.

Mount Pleasant’s official opening was on Saturday, November 6, 1876—133 years ago, almost to the day. This article appeared in the Globe newspaper on the following Monday (page 4, column 4).

This online article by Toronto historian and journalist Mike Filey on the Mount Pleasant Group’s site, tells the story of Mount Pleasant and its predecessors Toronto General Burying Grounds and the Toronto Necropolis.

Today, Mount Pleasant is a splendid green space in mid-town Toronto, an arboretum of native and exotic species, and home to an sometimes surprising array of urban wildlife. It connects to Toronto’s network of ravine trails and is very popular spot to stroll, run, rollerblade, etc.