1796, The Water Dogs

Castle Frank home of Governor Simcoe, built by the Kendrick Brothers, 1795 photo reproduced courtesy of Ontario Digital Archives.

The rush was on. The Government of Upper Canada was giving away 200-acre lots flanking Yonge Street from Eglinton all the way to Lake Simcoe. To have a shot at a land grant, it helped to have connections in the government.

The Kendrick brothers had those kinds of contacts. John, Duke William, Joseph and Hiram were among the first settlers to the Toronto area, arriving in 1793. They were well known as contractors and sailors. Several of the Kendrick’s helped build Castle Frank, Governor Simcoe’s summer home in the country (at the west end of the Bloor Street Viaduct, on the south side of the street).

They were also prominent on the waterfront where, at various times, they served as captains on vessels plying Lake Ontario. Their affinity for boats earned them the nickname “Water Dogs”.

So, it wasn’t surprising that the four Kendrick’s were granted four side-by-side properties – giving them ownership of all the land between Yonge and Bathurst, from Lawrence to Hogg’s Hollow.

Joseph was the first to receive a lot, the southernmost strip of land, between Lawrence and Woburn. The 200-acre property was nothing but forest. There was no Lawrence Avenue, no Bathurst, and no Woburn. Yonge Street was a stump-infested quagmire. To keep the land, Joseph would have to build a house on the property within 12 months. He did. It’s likely that by 1798 he and his wife, son and two daughters were living in a 16-by-20-foot dirt-floor hut near the northwest corner of Yonge and Lawrence.

But Joseph was still lured by the lake and served as captain of the Peggy. By 1804, he sold his property and moved back into town. Ten years later, he bought the farm back, only to subdivide and resell it.

His older brother, Duke William, was given the next lot to the north, between Woburn and St. Germaine. He too had a house built within a year, which he shared with his wife Susan and five children. Following an unsuccessful attempt to establish a potash business on the property, Duke William moved back to York where he served as an innkeeper. He also worked as a pilot on the lake. He died serving in the War of 1812.

The youngest brother, Hiram, was next, with property running from St. Germaine to Old Orchard Grove. He remained firmly rooted in town and rented out his land rather than build on it.

The eldest brother, John, was given the lot between Old Orchard Grove and the Governor’s Hill condominiums. He too built on the site, selling the west half of the farm in 1805. He still owned 15 acres in 1822, but it’s likely he rented out the property and was living in London, Ontario.

Just before the dawn of the 19th century, the Water Dogs owned the entire Bedford Park community west of Yonge. By the mid-1820s, the Kendrick name had largely disappeared from area.

Gary Schlee has been a resident of Bedford Park since 1991. As an author and historian, he has written many articles about the history of our area, notably from 2003 – 2012, for Community Life published by Fairlawn Avenue United Church (FAUC). This article originally appeared in the Winter 2003 issue. BPRO is grateful to Gary and FAUC for kindly and generously authorizing us to reprint these articles on our website. Please come back regularly to see additional articles as we post them.