Northeast corner King St. East and Toronto St., Toronto
In the 1830s the Court House and Jail stood back 1100 feet on the north side of King Street, leaving the space called Courthouse Square. The prison yard was to the rear (north) of the prison, facing present-day Court St. The present-day Courthouse Square faced the jail yard in the 1830s and was known as “Hangman’s Square”.
On 12 April 1838, two of William Lyon Mackenzie’s most loyal supporters were executed here by hanging in a vengeful retaliation by then Lt-Governor Sir George Arthur for their part in the 1837 Rebellion. Mass petitions for clemency were ignored by Arthur, in order to make an example of the two leaders for those who still sympathized with Mackenzie’s aims for reform and independence from Britain. Their deaths made them political martyrs, an outcome not expected by the Colonial Office and which may have resulted in halting further executions. Mackenzie was shocked by the hangings. Taking refuge in the United States, he wrote bitter comments from Rochester: “Canada’s martyrs-Royal mercy. Rob the people first, then murder ’em for defending themselves”.
A plaque recording the execution was located near the courthouse and jail for many years, but has disappeared - an unsolved mystery to date. In current days the Toronto Historical Board (now Heritage Toronto) planned a new plaque for the parkette north of the present office buildings that have replaced the historic site. City Council had been long considering turning the entire area into a memorial park, but corporate demands for this prime real estate won the day.