John Graves Simcoe

John Graves Simcoe

Infobox Person
name = John Graves Simcoe

caption = Portrait by George Theodore Berthon
birth_date = February 25, 1752
birth_place = Cotterstock, England
death_date = October 26, 1806
death_place = Exeter, England
education = Eton College,
Merton College, Oxford
occupation = Military officer,
First lieutenant governor of Upper Canada
spouse = Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim
parents = Captain John Simcoe
Katherine Simcoe
children = Francis Gwillim Simcoe (1791-1812)
Eliza Simcoe
Henry Addington Simcoe (1800–1868) Charlotte Henrietta Caroline Katherine Simcoe (1793-1794)
Lieutenant-General John Graves Simcoe (February 25, 1752 – October 26, 1806) was the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada (modern-day southern Ontario and the watersheds of Georgian Bay and Lake Superior) from 1791-1796. He founded York (now Toronto) and was instrumental in introducing institutions such as the courts, trial by jury, English common law, freehold land tenure, and for abolishing slavery in Upper Canada long before it was abolished in the British Empire as a whole (it had disappeared from Upper Canada by 1810, but was not abolished throughout the Empire until 1834).

Early life

John Graves Simcoe was the only son of John (1710-1759) and Katherine Simcoe . His father, a captain in the Royal Navy, commanded the 60-gun HMS "Pembroke" (James Cook was his sailing master) during the 1758 siege of Louisbourg. His father died of pneumonia a few months prior to the siege of Quebec. His paternal grandparents were William and Mary (née Hutchinson) Simcoe.

Simcoe was educated at Eton and Merton College, Oxford.

He was initiated into Freemasonry in Union Lodge, Exeter on the November 2, 1773. [Union Lodge. Minute Book (1766-1789). p113.]

His godfather was British admiral Samuel Graves. Simcoe would marry Graves' ward, Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim, in 1782.

The Simcoes' had five daughters prior to their posting in Canada. Son Francis was born in 1791. Their Canadian born daughter, Katherine, died in infancy in York, Upper Canada. She is buried in the Victoria Square Memorial Park on Portland Avenue.

Military career

In 1770, Simcoe entered the British Army as an ensign in the 35th Regiment of Foot. His unit was dispatched to America, where he saw action in the Siege of Boston. During the siege, he purchased a captaincy in the grenadier company of the 40th Regiment of Foot.

With the 40th, he saw action in the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia campaigns. Simcoe commanded the 40th at the Battle of Brandywine, where he was also wounded.

In 1777, Simcoe sought to form a Loyalist regiment of free blacks from Boston, but instead was offered command of the Queen's Rangers, a well-trained light infantry unit comprising of 11 companies of 30 men, 1 grenadier and 1 hussar, and the rest light infantry. The Queen's Rangers saw extensive action during the Philadelphia campaign, including a successful surprise attack (planned and executed by Simcoe), at the Battle of Crooked Billet.

In 1778, Simcoe commanded the attack on Judge William Hancock's house, killing 20 Americans in their sleep and wounding 12 others. William Hancock was also killed even though he was not with the Americans. The massacre took place at night and with bayonets.On June 28 of that year, Simcoe and his Queen's Rangers took part in the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, in and near Freehold, New Jersey.

During the winter of 1779, Simcoe attempted to capture George Washington, but decided that his men would not shoot the future president. During that year, Armand Tuffin de La Rouërie captured Simcoe. [cite news|title=If you don't like Toronto, blame him|last=Cote|first=Joe|date=2008-08-04|work=Toronto Star|publisher=Torstar|pages=AA6|accessdate=2008-09-16] [cite web|url=|title=John Graves Simcoe|last=Wilson|first=W. R.|date=2007|accessdate=2008-09-16] Simcoe was released in 1781, just in time to see action at the Siege of Yorktown He was invalided back to England in December of that year as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Simcoe wrote a book on his experiences with the Rangers, titled "A Journal of the Operations of the Queen's Rangers from the end of the year 1777 to the conclusion of the late American War", which was published in 1787.

Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada

The Province of Upper Canada was created under the "Constitutional Act of 1791". Simcoe was appointed lieutenant governor and made plans to move to Upper Canada with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Sophia, leaving three other daughters behind with their aunt. They left England in September and arrived on November 11. This was too late in the year to make the trip to Upper Canada and the Simcoes spent the winter in Quebec City. The next spring they moved to Kingston and then Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake).

Constitutional Act stipulated that the provincial government would consist of the Lieutenant-Governor, an appointed Executive Council and Legislative Council and an elected Legislative Assembly. The first meeting of the nine-member Legislative Council and sixteen-member Legislative Assembly took place at Newark on September 17, 1792.

Simcoe's first priority was dealing with the effects of the Northwest Indian War. War broke out between Britain and France in 1791, and although the United States pledged neutrality its sympathies were with France. Simcoe's instructions were not to cause the United States any reason to mistrust Britain, but at the same time to keep the Indians on both sides of the border friendly to Britain. Simcoe denied the existence of the boundary defined in the Treaty of Paris (1783) on the grounds that the Americans had nullified the treaty. [Taylor pg. 269] The British wished for the Indians to form a buffer state between the two countries. The Indians in the Ohio area were in an ongoing war with the United States called the Northwest Indian War. The Indians asked for military support from the British in this war, which Britain initially refused but they did supply the Indians with weapons in 1794. In February 1794, the Governor in Chief Lord Dorchester, anticipating that the Americans would honour their treaty with France, said that war was likely to break out between the countries before the year was out. His statement encouraged the Indians in their war. Dorchester ordered Simcoe to rally the Indians and arm the vessels on the Great Lakes. He also build Fort Miamis (in present day Indiana) to supply the Indians in the upcoming war. Americans were expelled from a settlement on southern Lake Erie which had threatened British control of the lake. George Washington denounced the "irregular and high-handed proceeding of Mr. Simcoe" [Taylor pg. 284] While Dorchester planned for a defensive war, Simcoe urged London to declare war "Upper Canada is not to be defended by remaining within the boundary line" [Taylor pg. 287] Lord Dorchester was given an official reprimand for his strong speech against the Americans in 1794.

Simcoe realized that Newark made an unsuitable capital because it was right on the United States border and subject to attack. He proposed moving the capital to a more defensible position in the middle of Upper Canada's southwestern peninsula between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. He named the new location London and renamed the river as the Thames in anticipation of the change. Lord Dorchester, rejected this proposal but accepted Simcoe's second choice of Toronto. Simcoe moved the capital to Toronto in 1793 and renamed the location York after Frederick, Duke of York, George III's second son.

Simcoe began construction of two main routes through Ontario which were intended to aid in the defence of Upper Canada but would also help encourage settlement and trade throughout the province. Yonge Street, named after the Minister of War Sir George Yonge, was built north-south along the fur trade route between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe. Soldiers of the Queen's Rangers began cutting the road in August 1793, reaching Holland Landing in 1796. Another road, Dundas Street named for the Colonial Secretary Henry Dundas, was built east-west between Hamilton and York.

The Indians were defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers which resulted in the peace Treaty of Greenville. The British while still at war with France could not afford to antagonise the Americans and in the Jay Treaty they agreed to abandon the frontier forts and to relocate on their side of the border agreed to in the Treaty of Paris. The plan for an Indian buffer state failed and after the surrender of Fort Niagara in November, 1796 the two countries directly faced each other over the Niagara river.

Later career

In July 1796 poor health forced Simcoe to return to Britain. He was unable to return to Upper Canada and resigned his office in 1798. He became Colonel of the 81st Foot in 1798, but exchanged it for the 22nd Foot less than six months later. He later served briefly as the commander of British forces in St. Domingo (Haiti) and commander of the Western District in Britain. In 1806, he was appointed commander-in-chief of India but died in Exeter before assuming that post. He was buried in Wolford Chapel on the Simcoe family estate near Honiton, Devon. The Ontario Heritage Foundation acquired title to the [ chapel] in 1982.


* Act Against Slavery passed in 1793 and eventually led to the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada by 1810. It was superseded by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 that abolished slavery across the British Empire.
* A plaque placed by the Ontario Heritage Foundation in Exeter's cathedral precinct commemorates his life.
* The town of Simcoe in southwestern Ontario is named after him.
* Simcoe County to the west and north of Lake Simcoe is also named after him. Lake Simcoe, meanwhile, was named by John Graves Simcoe for his father.
* Civic Holiday, a statutory holiday celebrated throughout Canada under a variety of names by region, [ Holidays in the Provinces and Territories] ] was established in honour of Simcoe by the Toronto City Council in 1869. [ - A holiday with history] ] Other Ontario municipalities and then other provinces soon took up the holiday as well, leading to its Canada-wide status, but without any attribution to Simcoe himself. In 1965, the Toronto City Council declared the holiday would henceforth be known as Simcoe Day within Toronto. Attempts have been made to have the official provincial name—still Civic Holiday—amended, but none have succeeded.
* Simcoe's regiment still exists as the Queen's York Rangers, an armoured reconnaissance regiment of the Canadian Forces reserves.
* A school in St. Catharines, Ontario, Governor Simcoe Secondary School, was named after him.
* A school in London, Ontario was named after him, Governor Simcoe Public School. Grades K - 8. The now closed and demolished school was located at the corner of Simcoe and Clarence Streets.
* Simcoe Street and John Street in downtown Toronto along with Simcoe Place (office tower) in downtown Toronto are all located near the fort where Simcoe lived during his early years in York.
* Simcoe named London, Ontario and the River Thames.
* Simcoe named his summer home Castle Frank (located in what is now named Cabbagetown, a neighbourhood in Downtown Toronto) for his first and favourite son (preceded by eight daughters), Francis Gwillim. [ [ The real Castle Frank] ]
* Simcoe Island, located near Kingston, Ontario, was named for him.
* Simcoe Hall, located on the St. George campus of the University of Toronto, was named for him.

There are two places named for Simcoe with the title "Lord". However, Simcoe was never a Lord in his life time:

* Lord Simcoe Drive in Brampton, Ontario
* Lord Simcoe Hotel, which opearted from 1956 to 1981




External links

* [ Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [ John Graves Simcoe's biography]
* [ Massacre at Hancock's Bridge]
* [ Massacre at Hancock's Bridge 2]
* [ The Real Castle Frank (Toronto Star)]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • John Graves Simcoe — (* 25. Februar 1752 in Cotterstock, Großbritannien; † 26. Oktober 1806 in Exeter) war von 1791 bis 1796 der erste Vizegouverneur von Oberkanada (Upper Canada), was etwa dem südlichen Teil der heutigen Provinz Süd …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • John Graves Simcoe — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Simcoe (homonymie). John Graves Simcoe John Graves Simcoe (25 février 1752 – 26 octobre …   Wikipédia en Français

  • John Graves (disambiguation) — John Graves may refer to:*John Woodcock Graves (1795–1886), Anglo Australian composer and poet *John George Graves (1866 1945), English entrepreneur *John T. Graves (1806 1870), Irish mathematician *John Graves (born c.1930), Australian rugby… …   Wikipedia

  • Simcoe, John Graves — born Feb. 25, 1752, Cotterstock, Northamptonshire, Eng. died Oct. 26, 1806, Exeter, Devonshire British soldier and colonial administrator in Canada. He served in the American Revolution as commander of the Queen s Rangers (1777–79). He was taken… …   Universalium

  • Simcoe, John Graves — (1752 1806)    S Speaks in House of Commons on Constitutional Act, 7, 8; birth and family, 15; death of his father, 16; educated at Eton and Oxford, 17; obtains commission as ensign, 18; ordered to America, 18; obtains command of Queen s Rangers …   The makers of Canada

  • Simcoe, John Graves — (25 feb. 1752, Cotterstock, Northamptonshire, Inglaterra–26 oct. 1806, Exeter, Devonshire). Militar británico y administrador colonial en Canadá. Prestó servicios en la guerra de la independencia de los EE.UU. como comandante de los Queen s… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Simcoe — can refer to any of the following people:# John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, now modern day southern Ontario, Canada. # Elizabeth Simcoe, the wife of John Graves Simcoe. # Anthony Simcoe, an actor.Places:# Simcoe …   Wikipedia

  • Simcoe — ist der Familienname von: Anthony Simcoe (* 1969), australischer Schauspieler Elizabeth Simcoe (1762 o. 1766–1850), Ehefrau von John Graves Simcoe John Graves Simcoe (1752–1806), Vizegouverneur von Oberkanada (Upper Canada) Sonstiges: Simcoe… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • John Street (Toronto) — John Street is a short street in downtown Toronto, Ontario. It runs from Stephanie Street and Grange Park in the north to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front Street in the south. John, and other streets in the area, were named after John …   Wikipedia

  • Simcoe, Ontario — Simcoe is an unincorporated town of approximately 16,000 people in southwestern Ontario, near Lake Erie, and is the county seat of Norfolk County. It is located at the junction of Highway 3, at Highway 24, due south of Brantford, Ontario, and… …   Wikipedia