200 Years of Living History

200 Years of Living History

Posted on November 8 by Scott Kennedy in Recent Releases
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The War of 1812 was barely over when the people of York Mills felled the trees that would become the first St. John’s Anglican Church. Built in 1816 on land that had been donated by pioneer settlers Joseph and Catherine Shepard, the little log church was the first outpost of St. James church in the Town of York and the first parish church in what would one day become the City of Toronto.

The white-brick church that stands there today, high on the land overlooking Hogg’s Hollow, was completed in 1844 and though enlarged and improved over the years, it continues to serve as a welcoming place of worship and a valuable repository of local history. The history of St. John’s York Mills reflects the history of Toronto; from the War of 1812, to the Upper Canada Rebellion, to Syrian refugees being welcomed by the church in 2016: from stage coaches to subways; from farmland to Highway 401.

The churchyard at St. John’s York Mills is the resting place of some of the earliest and most important pioneers in Toronto’s history; people who were born before Mozart; before the first performance of Handel’s Messiah.   


Think of how much Toronto has changed in the last fifty years alone: fifty years that began before we had calculators, cell phones, microwave ovens, bank machines, personal computers or the internet. Now think of how such radical changes have altered the way we relate to each other; to our communities; to our religious institutions.

200 Years at St. John’s York Mills is the story of St. John’s Anglican Church, York Mills and how the church remains relevant as it celebrates its 200th birthday. In a world grown ever more secular, find out how one church manages not only to survive, but to thrive.

This book is being published to celebrate the 200th anniversary of St. John’s York Mills, fifty-one years before Canada itself will be able to mark such an occasion. It has been an honour and a real education to work with the church in the production of this book. I was fortunate to have been able to interview the three most recent rectors in the church’s history; three rectors from a list of only twelve in the past two hundred years.

This is truly living history.


Scott Kennedy

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Scott Kennedy photo

Scott Kennedy

Scott Kennedy witnessed the farms surrounding his North York childhood home being planted with a new cash crop of buildings. He joined the Toronto Musicians’ Association in 1969, but never lost his passion for history. He traces the evolution of a Toronto neighbourhood in his book Willowdale. Scott lives in a Heritage Conservation District he helped create in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood.