John Graves Simcoe reaches Toronto (1793)

On today’s date in 1793, John Graves Simcoe sailed into Toronto Harbour through the western opening and decided the site would serve well as a fort and settlement.

Simcoe’s wife, Elizabeth, described leaving Niagara and arriving in Toronto for the first time. At this time, there is no town; Toronto is a forest-covered bay, spilling out into a Great Lake.

“Mon. 29th – We were prepared to sail for Toronto this morning, but the wind changed suddenly. We dined with the Chief Justice, and were recalled from a walk at nine o’clock this evening, as the wind had become fair. We embarked on board the

Simcoe first sailed into Toronto in July 1793, when there was no town.

Simcoe first sailed into Toronto in July 1793, when there was no town.

‘Mississaga,’ the band playing in the ship. It was dark, so I went to bed and slept until eight o’clock the next morning, when I found myself in the harbour of Toronto. We had gone under an easy sail all night, for as no person on board had ever been at Toronto, Mr. Bouchette was afraid to enter the harbour till daylight, when St. John Rousseau, an Indian trader who lives near, came in a boat to pilot us.”

Simcoe’s wife, Elizabeth, detailed the journey in a diary.

Simcoe’s wife, Elizabeth, detailed the journey in a diary.

In 1794, Simcoe ordered a halfpenny token to be struck for Upper Canada. He was an esteemed military officer who earned recognition during the American Revolution and after establishing the capital at Toronto, which he renamed York. His regiment still exists today as the Queen’s York Rangers. It’s believed only a handful of these tokens ever existed. Struck by the Soho Mint in silver and copper, the tokens were engraved by the die-engraver Ponthon.

Simcoe was also featured on a $2 trade token struck by the City of London in 1993. That same year, Simcoe was commemorated alongside his wife Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim on a medal marking the 200th anniversary of the founding of York (present-day Toronto).

Simcoe died in England in 1806. He was buried in Wolford Chapel on the Simcoe family estate near Honiton, Devon.

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