Tag Archives: Frank O’Connor

Mount Hope Cemetery


The first Catholics in the city attended St. Paul’s Parish and were buried in the large lot behind the church. In the 1840’s the Irish Potato Famine brought large numbers of Catholic immigrants and before long the parish cemetery was filled. In 1855 St Michael’s Cemetery was opened near Yonge and St Clair but just a few decades later it was also filled. With the cost of land in Deer Park it was decided to look for another place to open a new cemetery. A location was found just north of Yonge and Eglinton and in 1900 Mount Hope Cemetery opened.

In the 1890’s the area around Yonge and Eglinton was quite different than it is today. Mount Pleasant Road had not been built yet and many of the local streets had different names. Victoria Avenue near the top of this old map from the Beltline Railway is now known as Blythwood. The area which is now Mount Hope Cemetery has been outlined in green. Notice that Erskine Avenue and Woodward Avenue (now Keewatin) meet on the east end at Greenwood Avenue which joined the East York Line (now Bayview). When the cemetery was opened the portions of these roads that were within the cemetery vanished except for perhaps the curved connection that may still be in use as part of the cemetery roadways.

The cemetery gates can be found on Erskine Avenue and there is also a pedestrian gate on the east end for access off of Bayview Avenue. Starting with the gates, it soon becomes obvious that crosses are everywhere. Catholic cemeteries require a cross or some other select religious symbol on every marker which sets them apart from nondenominational or even Protestant ones.

Just inside the gates is a small chapel and administrative building which wouldn’t be complete without a cross on top of the bell tower.

There’s a section in the cemetery for the Loretto Sisters, also known as The of The Blessed Virgin Mary. They lie in rows marked by rows of identical iron crosses.

Friars are male members of a religious order and they have their own section in the cemetery. Like the nuns, they are buried in neat rows, each with the same style of headstone.

John B Murphy was born on March 1, 1850 and went to Norwood High School and St. Michael’s College in Toronto. At 26 he graduated in medicine from Queens University after which he ran a family practice in Brockville until 1890. That was the year he took the position of resident physician at Mimico Asylum when it opened. In 1894 when the Brockville Asylum was opened he was promoted to Medical Superintendent. He died at the age of 54 on January 17, 1904 and is buried in one of the few mausoleums in the cemetery. He was also one of the early interments in the cemetery.

George Foy was a liquor and tobacco salesman for over 40 years and when he passed a 12-metre tall cross was erected in his memory. It is said to be the tallest family monument in Ontario and is carved out of a single piece of granite. It was moved from Union Station to the cemetery with a team of 24 horses.

Frank O’Connor, who founded Laura Secord Chocolates, is buried along the south fence. He opened his candy shop in Toronto in 1913 at the same time as the city was commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of York. Building on the hype he decided to use a war hero who was a household name. Laura Secord had walked under cover of darkness to bring a message to The British forces at Beaver Dams that led to a decisive victory for the defenders. You can read more about Frank O’Connor and see his estate by following the link.

There are 147 servicemen from both world wars buried in the cemetery. I notice these two stones which commemorate two Privates who were killed on Dec. 6, 1941. Canadian Expeditionary Forces were active in Hong Kong in December 1941 but the fighting started on December 8th. It is unclear at this time why these two soldiers died on the same day, or if there is any relationship other than coincidence.

We’ve featured several cemeteries over the years but Mount Hope has to be one of the best ones if you are interested in carvings and other religious symbols and artwork. The sadness expressed in this angel pretty much sums up the feelings of anyone who has lost a loved one

There are several other angel statues throughout the cemetery. The figure of Jesus is also frequently featured. There are also saints that may have had a specific meaning to the dearly departed or their families. Marble can be easily carved but is also susceptible to acid rain and weather. Several of the marble monuments in Mount Hope have become unstable and are laid on the ground for safety reasons. Catholic cemeteries no longer allow marble carvings.

The passing of a child is always tragic but losing twins must be even harder to bear. This pair of small angels mark the graves of a pair of girls who were born on August 20, 1927. Rosina passed away less than three weeks after her first birthday and her sister Irene followed a little more than three months later.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s the cemetery was having around 4,000 burials each year but with the rising popularity of cremations that number has dropped to only 1,200. Even so, the cemetery quickly started to be filled. In the early years Burke Brook formed two ponds on the north side of the property. To make more room, the ponds were drained and Burke Brook was placed into a culvert. A row of trees (marked with dark blue arrows on the Google Earth capture below) still marks the former northern limit of the burial grounds. When this was filled they turned to closing some of the roads and turning them into additional space. At least six of these short connector roads have been indicated with light blue arrows below.

Mount Hope is the only functioning Catholic Cemetery within Toronto City limits and it makes a quiet place to walk and reflect on life and the remembrance of it.

Other cemetery stories: Mount Pleasant, The Necropolis, Prospect Cemetery, Pioneer Cemetery Cairns

Google Maps Link: Mount Hope Cemetery

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Frank O’Connor – Estates of the GTA

Sunday Feb. 22, 2015

Family emergencies precluded any extended hike this weekend but I was able to take a few minutes to visit an historic estate in my neighbourhood.

Frank O’Connor was born in Desoronto in 1885 and after marrying Mary Ellen Hayes he moved to Toronto.  In 1913 they opened a small candy store at 354 Yonge Street.  The city was busy celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of York (Apr. 27, 1813) from the war of 1812. To capitalize on the current air of patriotism the O’Connors decided to name their candy store after Canada’s most famous war heroine and mark the 100th anniversary of her legendary walk.

On the evening of June 21, 1813 the American military entered the Secord home in Queenston and forced Laura to serve them dinner.  After dinner she overheard their plans to carry out a surprise attack on the small British force at Beaver Dams (Thorold).  The following morning she began a 10 mile journey through swamps and briers to the stone house where the British lieutenant James Fitzgibbon was stationed.  As she climbed out of the swamp several hours later she was surrounded by a band of Iroquois who escorted her to her destination.  After an ambush by 400 Indian warriors, the American forces were ready to surrender and Fitzgibbon took 462 prisoners.  Laura Secord’s advance notice of the impending attack led to a decisive British victory and the use of her name led to a successful candy franchise.  Today there are over 120 Laura Secord stores, making it Canada’s largest chocolatier.


In the early 1930’s Frank O’Connor had become wealthy enough to purchase 600 acres of land north west of Lawrence Avenue and Victoria Park Avenue on which to build his estate.  He built stables, barns and raised a herd of Ayrshire cattle.  His prime Clydesdale and thoroughbred horses were shown each year at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.  Frank named his farm Maryvale after his wife, Mary.  The restored house stands near today’s Rowena Park.


The coach house has been restored for use as a conference centre while the smaller maintenance building on the left remains shuttered and off limits to the public.


The cupola on the coach house has a weather vane on it with the four points of the compass and an arrow to indicate the direction of the wind.


All three of the remaining buildings were constructed at the same time.  The date stone was placed in the coach house and it reads 1932.


Frank O’Connor was a key player in the Liberal Party of Ontario and helped Mitchell Hepburn win the 1934 Ontario election to become the Premier of the province.  He was also involved in the federal election of 1935 in which Liberal leader William Lyon Mackenzie King became the 10th Prime Minister of Canada.  The cover photo shows Prime Minster King on the left, Premier Hepburn on the right and O’Connor in the back (like a typical back-bencher) on the steps of the legislature.  For his loyalty, O’Connor was awarded with a senate position in 1935.  O’Connor routinely gave his fortune away to several charities and when he died in 1939 he bequeathed his estate to a local religious community.  Over the year’s the estate was sold off for development and by the year 2000 the three remaining buildings were unoccupied and in danger of demolition.  The efforts of local community groups as well as federal, provincial and local governments were required to make the restoration possible and save the buildings, which have since been designated as historical sites.  O’Connor Drive is named after Senator Frank O’Connor.

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