Don Valley Legacy: A Pioneer History


213 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919783-15-5






Reviewed by Adele Ashby

Adele Ashby was the former editor of Canadian Materials for Schools and Libraries.


In 1821, amidst the wake of the depression that followed the Napoleonic wars, John Taylor and his family left England to start a new life in America. After several moves over a ten-year period, they settled on a small farm near the forks of the Don River. There their holdings grew from 82 acres to nearly 4000. On the river, they started grist, saw, and paper mills. The latter is still in operation, now owned by Domtar. Later Taylors built brick works, which operated under the name of the Toronto Brick Company until 1981, and helped to found one of Canada’s principal banks.

The author, Ann Guthrie, is a Taylor descendent; but her work is far more than a family history. Because of the Taylor connections, Don Valley Legacy also chronicles large chunks of 19th- and 20th-century life in Toronto. The reader encounters James Austin (of Spadina House and Austin Terrace), William Gooderham and James Worts (of Gooderham & Worts distillery), William Lea (of Leaside), Philippe de Grassie (of Degrassi Street), John Shaw (of Shaw Street), and Byron Edmond Walker, founder of the National Gallery in Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Royal Ontario Museum, to name only a few.

The text flows easily without bogging down in the endless detail that mars so many family histories and is supported by illustrations on almost every page.

Don Valley Legacy is a worthy addition to the Toronto history shelf.


Guthrie, Ann, “Don Valley Legacy: A Pioneer History,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,