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HELLIWELL, THOMAS, merchant and forwarder; b. in 1795 or 1796 at Todmorden, Yorkshire, England, eldest son of Thomas Helliwell and Sally Lord; m. first Mary Wilson (d. 1833), by whom he had six children, and secondly Ann Ashworth, by whom he had seven children; d. 9 March 1862 at Toronto, Canada West.

Thomas Helliwell Sr, a small cotton manufacturer, immigrated to Niagara, Upper Canada, in 1818, with his family. His son Thomas remained behind to wind up his father’s affairs in Yorkshire. In 1819 Thomas Jr arrived in Drummondville (Niagara Falls) and there operated a store with three of his brothers. In 1821 Thomas Sr with Thomas’ help erected a brewery, malt house, and distillery on his 10 acres along the Don River north of York (Toronto). They named the site Todmorden and the area, which also had milling establishments of the Skinner and Eastwood families, became known as the Don Mills. Thomas Jr established himself in York the same year as an agent for the business, which came to include grist and paper mills, as well as the brewery and distillery. From his location at Market Square in York, Thomas purchased grain for the mills, sold its beer and other produce, and expanded the Helliwell property holdings along the waterfront. In 1828 his name was listed among those given town water lots, valuable for wharves and dock storehouses; William Lyon Mackenzie thought these grants were an attempt to win support for John Beverley Robinson, the Tory candidate for York in the election that year. Thomas’ brothers, John, Joseph, and William, shared at various times in the operation of the business at Todmorden after the death of their father in 1825; from 1835 until its destruction by fire in 1847 the business was called “Thomas Helliwell and Bro.”

Helliwell was involved in civic activities in York. In 1825 he served on a committee which purchased a six-acre public burial place (known as Potter’s Field) north of York. He was also the principal signatory of an 1840 petition to Toronto City Council requesting alterations in the plans for market buildings so that the petitioners themselves could build along the Market Square. He was as well a justice of the peace for Toronto.

His occupation is given in 1856 as “forwarder” and his place of business as Helliwell’s Wharf. He was probably then an agent for his brothers’ businesses: Joseph rebuilt the flour mills at Todmorden, and William established saw and grist mills at Highland Creek, Canada West. At his death in 1862 Thomas Helliwell had been a resident and businessman in Toronto for 40 years and he had contributed to the early commercial development of both the Don Valley and the Toronto waterfront.

Dianne Newell

MTCL, William Helliwell, diary, 15 Feb.–15 July 1833; reminiscences, 1889. PAO, Street (Samuel) papers, 24 Aug. 1853; Toronto City Council papers, petition of Thomas Helliwell et al., 16 March 1840. Todmorden Mills Museum (Toronto), Sarah Helliwell diary, 1 Jan.–14 March 1847. Town of York, 1815–34 (Firth). Illustrated historical atlas of the county of York . . . (Toronto, 1878; repr. 1969). Toronto directory, 1833–63. History of Toronto and county of York. Robertson’s landmarks of Toronto, II, 617, 1035.

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Cite This Article

Dianne Newell, “HELLIWELL, THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/helliwell_thomas_9E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/helliwell_thomas_9E.html
Author of Article:   Dianne Newell
Title of Article:   HELLIWELL, THOMAS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   September 28, 2023