Friday, April 18, 2008

WHO WAS COLONEL SAMUEL SMITH?



When the Canada Act of 1791 authorized Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe to divide Upper Canada into counties and townships, he emulated the Roman model of military colonies and gave the first grants of land largely to disbanded soldiers to ensure the security of the front and to promote settlement. In 1795, 4150 acres of land was allotted to the First Military Tract in Etobicoke. (In 1811, it was renamed The Colonel Samuel Smith Tract by Lieutenant-Governor Sir Francis Gore.)
Simcoe granted 1600 acres from this Tract to his close associate, Colonel Samuel Smith, an officer whose father had bought him a commission in the Queen's Rangers. Smith situated his house at the southeast corner of present day Lakeshore Road and the Etobicoke Creek and in 1799 he married Jane Isabelle Clark. Upon leaving the army, Colonel Smith was appointed to the executive council of Upper Canada in which he twice (from June 1817 to August 1818 and for four months in 1920) served as president during the absence of the Lieutenant-Governor. During this period, he lived primarily in his town house on Richmond Street.
Colonel Smith was the largest Etobicoke landowner in those early days. He built a sawmill on the Etobicoke Creek around 1820 and raised racing horses. At his death in 1826, though land rich, life had become an economic challenge and his daughter was forced to petition for financial aid to maintain her nine younger siblings.
By 1871, when Colonel Smith's son sold the 500 acres remaining in the state, only a few had been cleared and a small orchard cultivated. When the Smith house was sold to E.P. Taylor in 1955, it was probably the second oldest one in Etobicoke. Taylor had the heritage building demolished. An archaeological dig in the schoolyard of Parkview Public School in 1984 located some household goods and a drip line, but the structure was not located. Nonetheless, Colonel Samuel Smith is remembered in the name of the in-fill Colonel Samuel Smith Park, a unique and beloved example of creative naturalized waterfront planning.

Posted by Kathleen Sims
(sources available on request)

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