The Lost Village of Seaton
By Paul J. Mc Grath

From the December 2005 issue of Toronto Tree the publication of the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society

The Village of Seaton once existed as an unincorporated village north from Bloor to Hammond (now Dupont), between Bathurst and Hope (now Manning) Streets. Situated just west of Yorkville, this area was annexed by the City in 1887 as the City made its northward push into the suburbs. The origins of Seaton are an interesting tale involving some of the earliest residents of Toronto.

Many of the original patentees to land in the Town of York were friends and relatives of our first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves SIMCOE. Two such friends were Col. David SHANK and Capt. Samuel SMITH, both of whom served with Simcoe in the Queen’s Rangers during the American Revolution. In fact all the Park Lots west of Bathurst Street were granted to military men: Col. David SHANK, Capt. MacDONNELL (who was aide-de-camp of General Brock), Capt. Samuel SMITH, and Capt. Æneas SHAW (another captain in the Queen’s Rangers).

The Queen’s Rangers (named to honour Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III) were the successor to Roger’s Rangers. SIMCOE was appointed colonel from 1791-1796; Samuel SMITH succeeded him until 1798, whereupon David SHANK held the post until 1799. [1]

Samuel SMITH was born in 1756 in Hempstead, NY, the son of James SMITH. He joined the Queen’s Rangers in 1777 and rose to the rank of Captain. He was among the officers who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, Virginia. SMITH then settled in York, having been granted land which included parts of what became Seaton Village. He also received 1,000 acres in Etobicoke Township. SMITH sold his park lot to George CROOKSHANK, and removed to his Etobicoke property, where he died in 1826. [2]

David SHANK returned to England after the American War of Independence, but came to Canada in 1792 when he helped raise a troop of the Queen’s Rangers in Canada. He was granted a patent on land in what later became Seaton Village in 1797 and 1798, although he probably did not live there himself. He too sold his land to George CROOKSHANK. David SHANK died in Glasgow in 1831.

George CROOKSHANK (often spelled “CRUIKSHANK” by the Scottish), was a successful merchant in York who had been born in New York City in 1773. His parents, George CROOKSHANK Sr., and Catherine Norris had been merchants in New York during the American Revolution. Having sided with the British during that conflict, they lost everything. After the war they made their way to Upper Canada via New Brunswick, settling in York. George CROOKSHANK (the son) became a land speculator, and purchased the lots previously owned by Col. SHANK, Capt. SMITH and others. His property, which included his original 330 acres that had been granted by the Crown, now stretched from between Bathurst and Niagara Street, north to Davenport Road. He built a house in 1801 just north of Fort York on Front Street, west of Bathurst. His country home was located along Bathurst, just north of Bloor (in what became Seaton Village).

In fact Bathurst Street had originally been called Crookshank’s Lane as it was a semi-private driveway leading between Mr. Crookshank’s home in the City and his country estate.

His Front Street property had a commanding view of the Bay, which is probably why the American General Henry DEARBORN looted and commandeered the house during the American Occupation of York. Crookshank had been among the soldiers who retreated to Kingston during the Occupation. Upon his return he built another home, incorporating parts of the earlier structure. This grand building stood until 1863 when it was sub-divided into two houses; it was finally torn down in 1881. Unfortunately the original 1801 structure was also demolished at the same time.

CROOKSHANK began to sell off his land in parcels beginning around 1850. He died in 1859 in his adopted city of Toronto.

In 1851 Robert A. GOODENOUGH purchased the land north of Bloor. He held this land for eight years until he in turn sold it to Capt. STRACHAN (son of Bishop John STRACHAN). Unlike GOODENOUGH, STRACHAN actually lived on the property, occupying the old Crookshank farmhouse. In 1864 Capt. STRACHAN sold the property to Phillip BROWN, who soon after moved the farmhouse about a hundred yards eastward. Unfortunately the movement of the house seems to have caused extensive damage to the structure and the building was never quite the same; it was torn down in the early part of the 20th Century.

The Village of Seaton began to be developed in the early 1860s when Mr. BROWN started sub-dividing the lots. Most of the early residents of the village were English, causing some to refer to Seaton as the “English Village”. Others still mis-pronounced the name (in jest) as “Satan’s Village”. [3]

By 1870 there were more than 60 homes in the small village.

“The Pioneer”, a hotel, once stood at the corner of Bathurst & Bloor on the site of another previous hotel known locally as “Poulter’s”. One of the most prominent features of the village was Seaton Square which ran one block north from Bloor (later called Vermont Square, now called Palmerston Square).

One of the most prominent businesses of Seaton Village was a glue factory near the corner of Hope and Seaton Streets. The odour emanating from this factory was, as J.R. ROBERTSON reports, “not of roses” [4]

Early family names of Seaton included: WENMAN, GOODCHILD, THOMPSON, DELWORTH, MCGREGOR, BAILEY, VAUGAHN, MILLS, HARRISON, WATONS, ADARE, ORR, KIRHAN, HOLLYMAN, TRUSS, NEWBERRY, PARKER, MAGEE, STANLEY, BAIRD, HOOD, GOWDY, MARKS, COLE, GOLDSMITH, VALIANT, HANDCOCK, BALDWIN, HAMPTON, CLARKE, BROWN, POULTER, WOOTON, and WOODHOUSE.

The village never really got a chance to prosper; it was swallowed up by the City in 1887 as the City began its push northward. Although many people know of the name Seaton, most people associate it as being part of the “Greater Annex” area. Looking at the corner of Bathurst Street and Bloor Street now (site of famous Honest Ed’s), it is hard to image it was once a private dirt road connecting someone’s city home to their “country estate”.


Footnotes:

1..Some of these biographical details are from: Scadding, Henry, Toronto of Old: Collections and Recollections, Adam, Stephenson & Co: Toronto, 1873. [Return]

2. Further biographical details can be found in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (http://www.biographi.ca/) [Return]

3. Robertson, John Ross, Landmarks of Toronto, Vol VI., J.Ross Robertson: Toronto, 1914, p. 43-47. [Return]

4. Ibid. [Return]