The dapper, larger than life Alexander Wood has stood on his corner at Church and Alexander streets for 11years now. The bronze statue by Del Newbigging was unveiled in May 2005.
Wood came to Upper Canada from Scotland and settled in Toronto (known as York at the time) in 1797. He was a successful merchant, magistrate, and lieutenant in the York militia. The plaque on the granite pedestal tells his story.
“Militia Officer, Businessman, Public Servant, Justice of the Peace, Gay Pioneer
Alexander Wood came to Canada in 1793, settled in York in 1797 and started a mercantile business, one of only three stores in York at that time. Within a year he was a lieutenant in the York Militia; he was appointed magistrate in 1800 and by 1805 was a Commissioner for the Court of Requests (a senior planning officer). He was involved in a homophobic scandal in 1810 and fled to Scotland, but in two years he was back in Canada and resumed his duties. In spite of ridicule and discrimination he had a successful career in public service: he was on the executive of nearly every society in York, often as treasurer; he was manager of several businesses and acted for clients in land transactions. Wood died in 1844 at the age of seventy-two while in Scotland. The British Colonist paper called him one of Toronto’s ‘most respected inhabitants’.”
There is another bronze plaque on the back of the pedestal, complete with shiny bits. This plaque adds more details to the story of the 1810 scandal that Wood got himself into.
“1810 The Scandal
In 1810 a woman reporting a rape to Magistrate Wood said she had scratched her rapist. Wood inspected several suspects privately, requiring them to undress. To avoid the scandal caused by his unconventional behaviour, Wood fled to Scotland. After two years he returned to Canada but suffered ridicule and discrimination for the rest of his life.
Alexander Wood 1772-1844
Militia Officer, Businessman, Public Servant, Justice of the Peace, Gay Pioneer”
In 1810, word had spread quickly around the town (of 700) and Wood had become known as the “Inspector General of Private Accounts”. The worst of the scandal blew over while Wood was in Scotland; he was back in York in 1812 and resumed all his previous occupations, including magistrate. At that time, “molly’ was a derogatory word for a gay man and he was nicknamed Molly Wood.
In 1826 he purchased 50 acres of land east of Yonge St. and north of Carlton St. in the neighbourhood where his statue now stands. It is also the “Village”. In Wood’s time it was referred to as ‘Molly Wood’s Bush’. Wood remained in Toronto until 1842 at which time he returned again to Scotland where he died two years later.