David Gibson was a successful surveyor, farmer and reform-minded politician. His quiet leadership contrasted with that of his ally William Lyon Mackenzie. Disturbed by the escalation to violence during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, Gibson attempted to exert a moderating influence on Mackenzie. But he paid a price equal to Mackenzie's; branded as a traitor, he had to flee to Rochester, New York, as his house burned and his family was left stranded.
Gibson worked as an engineer on the Erie Canal and brought his family to Lockport, New York. Pardoned in 1843 and still owning his Yonge Street property, he and his family returned from exile in 1848 to re-build and prosper again.
Today, Gibson House Museum is one of Toronto’s living history sites. Once a farm lane led to the Gibsons' yard; now urban development surrounds the family home. A significant contrast to their 1850s life, busy Yonge Street is a reflection of Gibson's role in Toronto's settlement and the rise of the North York community.
By Dennis Smith