Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Simcoe And London

John Graves Simcoe (February 25, 1752-October 26, 1806) was the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (1791-1796). The capital of Upper Canada at that time was in Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) which Simcoe viewed as militarily too close to the American border.

The present site of London was to become the future capital of Upper Canada, and the river was renamed the Thames. The Governor-in-Chief Lord Dorchestor rejected this proposal, but accepted the second choice of York (Toronto). For Dorchester London was just too far west. Simcoe moved the capital to York in 1893. He was also responsible in laying out two roads which were to aid in the defence of Upper Canada. Younge Street which was built on a north/south axis from York on Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe, and Dundas Street east/west from York to London. His roads were strategic not for the convenience of settlers. In 1793 when Dundas Street was begun it virtually ran from nowhere to nowhere.

To secure his first choice as capital Simcoe purchased land from the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi nations in the 1790’s. He set aside 3,850 acres at the forks of the Thames as a Crown Reserve for the site of this future capital. Originally he was going to name it Georgina not London. The Crown Reserve was to hold up the founding of the city for some decades.

John Graves Simcoe is remembered in this area with a Simcoe Street, and a Lord Simcoe Public School (gone the way of the dodo now). As a footnote he was responsible for the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada years before it was abolished by Britain.

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