A River Runs Through It

The Flemings ,on arriving in Canada West from Perthshire in June 1843, settled first in Vaughan Township, about twenty miles north of Toronto.  Alexander arranged to lease land from William Richard Grahame who had bought 1200 Acres  in 1833 from the Canada Company along the east branch of the Humber between Pinegrove and Kleinburg.  Under the agreement, Alexander was  to clear fifty acres in Concession 7 in an area straddling lots 17 and 18, pay Grahame $ 5 an acre, and retain rest of proceeds from their produce. Over the next six years they built a shelter, erected a barn, raised livestock, cleared the acres, and grew crops. Through hard work and determination, they were able to buy their own 200 acres in the newly surveyed Derby Township and move there in 1850.

Section of Vaughan Township – adapted from 1878 York County  Atlas

The story of their years in Vaughan  is part of family legend.  Roy, Alexander’s grandson, made more than one trip to the area in the 1930s to try to locate the exact area of the farm.  His aunt Jennie recalled some landmarks but finding the farm eluded them.  In October 2016 three descendants and I tried: Ruth Larmour, Roy’s granddaughter, Janet McNally, descendant of James Fleming, and Carol Danard, descendent of Isabella Fleming Finch.

We knew that Lots 17 and 18 would be roughly half way north from Rutherford Road to Major Mackenzie Drive, and that the farm should be east of the East Humber River and just west of Islington Avenue.   The William Granger Greenway passes through this area of the flood plain of the East Humber.

Our clues were: Continue reading

Life of Florence Alice Fleming

The trail began when we read in the young Roy Fleming’s diary an entry for July 3 1891 : “I hear that Florence Fleming has gone out of her mind. They read it in the Times.” Roy was only 12 years of age; his cousin Florence was 28. The Times article, titled “A distressing incident” was on microfilm in the Owen Sound Public Library. In as sympathetic a manner as possible, the Times  journalist reported that Florence, the “accomplished” daughter of Donald Fleming, on a voyage back from Manitoulin Island to Owen Sound, had attempted suicide by drowning.

Florence (standing) with her mother Esther c 1877

Donald had already suffered a great deal. In May 1882 he had admitted his wife Esther Flower to the Asylum for the Insane Toronto on Queen St W. Melancholia ran in the family. Esther’s father Samuel Flower had been considered insane, though there is no record of his being admitted to a hospital. Now Florence had succumbed to delusions and violent reactions – her father had no choice but to have her admitted as well. Eventually she was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.

The Archives of Ontario holds some patient records for the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. The series RG 10-271 provided summary information about Esther and Florence. No other details could be found. However, Florence was transferred to the asylum in Penetanguishene in August 1904 where clinical records and some entries have survived in RG 10-303 Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene.

Florence died in September 1939, at age 75, after spending over half her life confined to an asylum, and crazed by delusions. Fortunately, the records indicate she was fairly well cared for at Penetanguishene and had some contact with family. A fuller account of her life is given in Florence Alice Fleming: Patient [Word document].

To learn more about the lives and care of the mentally ill in Ontario from 1870 to 1940, see Geoffrey Reaume’s book, Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940. University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2010.