Last Public Hanging in Toronto

57 Adelaide Street East

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On the morning of March 10, 1862, a crowd gathered outside the York County Magistrates Court to await the arrival of James Brown at the scaffold. Brown was sentenced to hang for his role in the death of journalist and politician John Sheridan Hogan during an attack by the dreaded “Brooks’ Bush Gang” in December 1859.

A 19th-century artist's rendering of the public hangings of Lount and Matthews, Toronto, April 12, 1838 (public domain).

After a night of prayer and a breakfast of coffee and cake, Brown asked a clergyman to find the woman he lived with and to urge her to turn away from her sinful ways. At 9:45 a.m. the sheriff arrived to lead Brown to the scaffold, where the condemned man proclaimed his innocence despite having been “a very bad man.” At 10 a.m. Brown became the last man to be hung in public in Toronto.

Built in the early 1850s, the building that eventually became known as the Adelaide Court House served as a centre of Toronto justice for half-a-century. Between 1909 and 1920 it housed the Arts and Letters Club, where the members of the Group of Seven first came together.

By Jamie Bradburn

Visit The Canadian Encyclopedia for more on Toronto.