John Cummer

Section N, Lot 56
Toronto Necropolis

John Cummer was the first white child to be born in the dense wilderness north of Muddy York. Jacob Cummer I and his wife Elizabeth, United Empire Loyalists, were on their way from Pennsylvania to settle in the backwoods of North York when their fourth child, John, was born during the winter of 1796-97. The family had taken refuge in a log cabin in the pioneer settlement of Eglinton. In 1819, the 22-year-old John acquired his first farm of 200 acres (80 hectares) on the north-west corner of today’s Finch Avenue and Yonge Street, stretching to Bathurst Street. This was the community of Newtonbrook. He later acquired another 500 acres (200 hectares), some in the heart of Cummer’s Settlement (founded by his father is what is today Willowdale), but most of it east of Bayview Avenue, south of Steeles Avenue. By then, John was running his father’s thriving sawmill business on the Middle Don River, south of his Bayview holdings. John inherited the sawmill when his father died in 1841. By 1851, John and his son, Jacob III, had added a grist mill and woollen factory to the Middle Don holdings. They named the settlement Reading Mills, after the community in Pennsylvania from which John’s parent’s had come. John’s first home was on his Yonge-Finch farm, and it was there that government troops arrested the day after the failed 1837 Rebellion led by William Lyon Mackenzie. Cummer’s wrists were tied, he was roped to other prisoners and the party was marched 9 miles (14.5 kilometres) down Yonge Street to the Toronto jail. Simmer’s 16-year-old brother, Samuel, was also locked up. Both Cummers were released the next day, December 9th, Samuel because of his youth; John because of his influential Tory friends in the government, who managed to plead his case despite John’s membership in Mackenzie’s Reform Party. (Cummer was one of five North York men chosen at a convention of the Reform Party, at the Golden Lion Inn at Sheppard Avenue and Yonge Street, to seek a seat in the assembly in 1834. He was elected.) John Cummer died on September 11, 1868 at the age of 71.

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