John Croft

Plot P, Lot 2242
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto

Less than a month after the heart of Toronto was devastated by fire, 43-year-old John Croft was busily dynamiting what was left standing of some of the structures on Front Street West. Croft had gained experience with dynamite while a young man working in the mines in his native England and was quick to volunteer when the city fathers needed someone to help them get the city back on its feet.
   Spring was in the air in downtown Toronto on the morning of May 4, 1904, but the smell of so many burned buildings made its presence hard to notice. Working on Front Street just east of Bay, John Croft had just inserted three sticks of dynamite in a narrow crevice at the base of the teetering south wall of the W. J. Gage Building 54 - 58 Front Street West, and lit the fuse. Several bobby-helmeted policemen kept the inquisitive crowds back and Croft ran for cover. Shortly, two thuds reverberated throughout the area and the wall began to sway. That third stick would finish the job. Several minutes went by, but there was no third detonation. Croft waited a few more minutes, then went to see what had happened. As he examined the supposedly “dud” stick, it suddenly exploded in the young man’s face. He was horribly maimed and quickly removed to the Emergency Hospital just up Bay Street. First reports suggested that although he was in serious condition, Croft would probably survive. Ten hours later, that prediction was suddenly changed and the family was summoned.
   At 9:50 in the morning, May 5, 1904, the Great Toronto Fire had claimed is first, and thankfully only victim. Two days later, Croft’s wife and their three children silently wept as John Croft was laid to rest in a simple grave in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. In recent years, a memorial plaque was placed on the grave by Croft’s grandson.

Mike Filey
Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide
Second Edition Revised and Expanded

 Story Archives »