Adam Wilson
Portrait of Adam Wilson

ADAM WILSON, who purchased part of Balmy Beach's Lots 1 and 2 in from George Munro in 1853, was born, in Edinburgh in 1814 and immigrated to Halton County, Upper Canada in 1830. He moved to Toronto in 1834 and joined Robert Baldwin Sullivan's law firm. He became known as a leading barrister. In 1850 he was elected a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada and was granted the title of Q.C.

Wilson’s reform sympathies drew him into municipal politics. The civic elections of 1855 saw him chosen alderman for St Patrick’s Ward, and in 1859, he won the first direct popular vote and became mayor of Toronto.

Wilson had not confined his interest in politics to the municipal sphere. In 1858 Wilson initiated a lawsuit against John A. Macdonald and two other ministers for holding their seats in violation of the law. In 1860 Wilson ran successfully for the Legislative Assembly in a by-election for York North, and in the 1861 general election he contested both that seat and Toronto West. Wilson held the post of solicitor general for Upper Canada until he was dropped from the cabinet the next year, when George Brown forced a realignment and a new government came into being.

In 1878 Wilson was made chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas. He became chief justice of Queen’s Bench in 1884 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1887. Wilson’s judicial career was not marked by groundbreaking decisions. He is best remembered as an appellate judge in the case of Patrick James Whelan, the assassin of Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

Adam Wilson died in 1891 in Toronto.

Robert J. Fleming
Robert J. Fleming

ROBERT J. FLEMING, who further developed the Glenfern area, was deemed one of Canada's greatest executives. He was born, in 1854, to poor Irish parents in Cabbagetown and was a high school drop-out. However, after attending business school at night, the ambitious youth entered the feed, coal, and wood business in the mid 1870's. By 1885 he had moved into real estate and finance.

A devout Methodist, he became involved with temperance in his twenties. Following his election in 1886 as an alderman for St David's, he pushed for the reduction of liquor licences in Toronto. In 1892 he ran successfully for the mayoralty on a reform platform that included opposition to the operation of the Toronto Railway Company on Sundays.

In 1887, along with developers W. H. Banks and F. J. Philpott, Fleming further subdivided Adam Wilson's seven Balmy Beach lots into 11 lots. They also laid out Balmy and Glen Fern avenues. Lot 1, at Silver Birch, was the largest with 125 feet of lake frontage.

Hard hit by the real estate collapse of the 1890's, Fleming resigned from the mayoralty in 1897 to become assessment commissioner, and later in 1903, property commissioner. He facilitated the city's acquisition of large pieces of land including plots in the Beach.

Fleming seems to have led a simple lifestyle. When his Cabbagetown neighbours complained about the cattle at his home on Parliament Street, he moved to a small estate on St Clair near Bathurst, though his Jerseys would continue to draw criticism. He also owned a farm in the Whitby area and later the 955-acre Donlands Farm, between Leaside and the Don River. He died there suddenly of pleurisy in October 1925, leaving an estate worth more than $1 million.

More Biographies: Addison Johnston • George Munro