Mayors, Councillors, Reeves & Chairmen

Biography - William Lyon MacKenzie

William Lyon MacKenzie (b.1795-d.1861)
Mayor of Toronto - 1834

William Lyon MacKenzie arrived from Scotland in Upper Canada in 1820. In May of 1824 he started his career in political journalism when he published a newspaper called the Colonial Advocate, which was a growing voice for the reform movement. Wanting to be closer to the provincial parliament, he moved the paper to York in the fall of 1824.

MacKenzie was elected to the House of Assembly for the York riding and was kicked out numerous times after his verbal attacks on the "Family Compact", but his constituents kept returning him to the riding. His views made him a target for libel suites, threats, physical attacks and attacks to his newspaper establishment.

In 1834, his reform colleagues elected him the first mayor of Toronto, which was the first mayor in the Province of Ontario. He became mayor with a population of approximately 10,000 people with the Town Hall at the St. Lawrence Market Complex, on the corner of Front and Jarvis Streets. The building was the Town Hall from 1834 to 1844 when it became too small and a new Town Hall was built at the corner of King and Jarvis Streets.

MacKenzie led a divided council after elections were contested. During his short time as mayor he and council adopted the design for the coat of arms and the civic motto "Industry, Intelligence, Integrity". He was responsible for hiring civic officials like the City Clerk, City Chamberlain and the Clerk of the Market. As mayor he presided over the Mayors court once every three months and attended to the police office to deal with petty cases. He also was responsible for reducing his own salary from 250 pounds to 100 pounds.

During the summer of 1834, a cholera epidemic hit Toronto and he assisted people that were affected with cholera until he became ill himself. He chose not to serve a 2nd term as Mayor and started to pursue reform in the province. He was elected to the provincial parliament in the fall of 1834.

In December 1837, MacKenzie led an unsuccessful armed revolt, which led to the collapse of his rebellion and his need to escape to the United States. In the States he worked for the "Liberation of Upper Canadians" until he was jailed for 18 months for breach of the neutrality laws.

During the next 10 years he was exiled in the United States, he worked for the New York Tribune and wrote several books. In 1849 he was pardoned by the Canadian government and returned to Canada.

He served in the assembly of the Province of Canada, while still a journalist, until he retired in 1857.

Mayors of Toronto, Volume 1, 1834-1899
by Victor Loring Russell
Published by: The Boston Mills Press