1792 Bouchette Plan of Toronto Harbour

This was a plan of Toronto Harbour, one of several produced by Joseph Bouchette, showing the site of Toronto immediately before Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe arrived in 1793 to establish the new capital of Upper Canada, York.

Watercolour on ivory portrait of Joseph Bouchette, by John Engleheart, 1815
Joseph Bouchette in 1805, Watercolour by John Engleheart
Bouchette was only 19 at the time of Simcoe’s order to perform the surveys and soundings of the harbour. His description of the assignment and the bay follows:

“It fell to my lot to make the first survey of York Harbour in 1793. Lieutenant-Governor the late Gen. Simcoe, who then resided at Navy Hall, Niagara, having formed extensive plans for the improvement of the colony, had resolved upon laying the foundations of a provincial capital. I was at that period in the naval service of the Lakes, and the survey of Toronto (York) Harbour was entrusted by his Excellency to my performance.

I still distinctly recollect the untamed aspect which the country exhibited when first I entered the beautiful basin, which thus became the scene of my early hydrographical operations. Dense and trackless forests lined the margin of the lake and reflected their inverted images in its glassy surface.

The wandering savage had constructed his ephemeral habitation beneath their luxuriant foliage (the group then consisting of two families of Mississagas) and the bay and neighboring marshes were the hitherto uninvaded haunts of immense coveys  of wild fowl. Indeed, they were so abundant as in some measure to annoy us during the night.”

- Joseph Bouchette, The British Dominions in North America, 1831, V1, Quarto Ed.

Click the image to view a full-size version (4 MB).

1792 Plan of Toronto Harbour by Joseph Bouchette - MAP

Plan of Toronto Harbour, With the Rocks, Shoals & Soundings Thereof, Surveyed & Drawn by Joseph Bouchette. 1792.

Original image scan courtesy City of Toronto Archives: MT101Large version liberated by W. Xavier Snelgrove.
Winearls, MUC no. 2013

Bouchette’s work was key to opening up the bay to future navigators and lake captains -- the entry to Toronto harbour was difficult to navigate in Simcoe’s time. Bouchette would later go on to become Surveyor General.

The above chart is the oldest item held by the City of Toronto Archives, and was donated some 75 years ago by a descendant of John Graves Simcoe.

Following is another plan by Bouchette in 1793 emphasizing the idea of Toronto as a naval base for Lake Ontario. It’s primarily a hydrographic chart in function. It shows an entry for 'Old Toronto Fort'—the site of the French Fort RouillĂ©. Of note, the town plot for York, and a proposed fortification on the western tip of the peninsula. Dock Yards were proposed at the end of Ashbridges Bay, but nothing came of it. Click to expand:

Plan of Toronto Harbour with the Rocks, Shoals, & Soundings etc. surveyed & drawn by J. Bouchette
Winearls, MUC no. 2013 (2)

Image courtesy Library and Archives Canada: NMC4436
[See also: TPL T[1792]/4Msm

And lastly, compare below the 1797 Bouchette Plan of York Harbour - Courtesy TPL: T1815/fold.
Winearls, MUC no. 2013 (4)

Click to expand:

The inscription is a bit of braggadacio, marking a notable youthful exploit of Bouchette’s (circa 1792) wherein he rescued an abandoned 80 ton flagship that had embarrasingly run aground on a shoal at the entrance of the harbour:

a. H.M. Schooner Anandaga 14 Guns wrecked but raised by Lieut. Joseph Bouchette and brought to b. where she again grounded but was afterwards brought to c. The dotted lines d.e.f.g. shew the breaking of the Ice in the Spring.

Bouchette was promoted on May 12, 1794 to Second Lieutenant at the age of 20 as a result of his daring.

The above map appeared in a book of Bouchette’s published in 1815. York is shown as it was around 1797.

Some other Bouchette links
Bouchette’s text quoted above was used by Sarah Nind in her public art commission at the Harbourfront, Pine Cones.
Another Toronto Harbour Plan by Aitken with soundings by Bouchette.

Please ‘Like’ and Share these maps with other Toronto history enthusiasts! (+1s are also welcome!)