Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Falling Stones Unearth Toronto Social History

In 2013, the precarious condition of memorial crosses erected in Thornhill's Holy Trinity Cemetery brought about an opportunity to research the history of the graves.

In a blog post More than “Prisoners” on Danielle Terbenche describes the circumstances behind the existence of the five concrete crosses. They marked the graves of eight men, dating from 1928 to 1931, all but one inmates who had committed no crime other than being infirm and living on the street. They were jailed at the Langstaff Industrial Farm as a course of last resort when no public housing or sources of welfare support were available.

They throw light on a substantial social problem. In 1925, with no other options available, 16,500 people were housed in city jail cells, many of them unemployed ex-servicemen. Typically, these individuals were charged with vagrancy and given sentences of 3–6 months as a temporary housing measure.

The eight men at Holy Trinity Cemetery, together with date of death from the memorial, are:

Edward Allen, died Aug. 9, 1931
Alfred Ashton, died June 6 1929
Charles Flowers, accidental death Nov. 10 1930
Charles Hayes, died Oct. 23, 1928
William Johnson, died Oct 1928
James May, died Nov. 16,  1930
Horace Tibbs, died Oct 5, 1929 according to civil registration
John Williams, died Aug. 2 1929

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