Who Was John Ellis?
In the early 1840s Ellis opened an office in Toronto as an engraver, eventually extending into lithographic printing of substantial projects, including the Plan of Toronto in about 1858. Probably the main line of business was stationery. In 1867 the firm was bought by Joseph T. Rolph and, with mergers, has since grown into the modern lithographic house of Rolph-Clark-Stone, Limited.
Ellis was an enthusiastic, and reportedly an accomplished, amateur cellist, prominent in the city’s young musical life. With the Reverend John McCaul* he organized the Toronto Philharmonic Society in 1845 and served on its committee for many years. He was also a founder, and the orchestra leader, of the Toronto Vocal Music Society.
Ellis was Anglican, Conservative, and an early member of the St George’s Society in Toronto. After retiring from business he lived at his old home overlooking Humber Bay, where he died in 1877.
North of Lake Ontario, just west of what is now High Park, stood John Ellis’s house, Herne Hill, overlooking Grenadier pond and the lake. John Ellis Sr. bought the forested 66 hectares (160 acres) west of Grenadier Pond for $25 an acre, and built a house, “Herne Hill” on Grenadier Heights. It was his friend, John George Howard (who donated his land to create High Park) that had convinced John Ellis Sr. to buy the land. The area was known as Windermere in the 1880s, as it has rolling hills similar to its namesake in England, and then Swansea by the 1890’s. Ellis Avenue was constructed over an existing First Nations trail as the entrance to the Herne Hill estate.
Also interesting is the fact that Ellis Ave is a former Indian trail to the lake as is Indian Road.
Most Toronto streets follow a strict British grid, When you find a road that meanders, it’s either an old trail or it follows an old creek or river. Niagara Street is a good example of the former as it followed the path of Garrison Creek from the old fort up to Queen Street and onto the fort at Niagara on the Lake.
The sketch below is his.
Taverns are prominently marked and note that the intersection of Yonge and Bloor is a Potters Field.
“A potter’s field or common grave is a term for a place for the burial of unknown or indigent people. The expression derives from the Bible, referring to a field used for the extraction of potter’s clay; such land, useless for agriculture, could be used as a burial site”.