Cabbagetown resident, Sally Gibson has just published, The Distillery District: History by the Lake
Aunt Polly

Aunt Polly (Mary Ann Noble Verner)

Mary Ann Verner (nee Noble) was born in 1837 in Dromore, Ireland. After Polly's father dies, her mother Jane, marries her neighbour William Fleming. The newly wed family wants to establish a better standard of living for their family and embarks on the Sesostris in Londonderry on in May 14th 1847. Sadly, four of Polly's siblings perished en route to Canada, and extended family members loose their lives at sea on the ill-fated Exmouth voyage which sank in a violent storm.

After living for a short time in Montreal, the family moved to Cabbagetown in Toronto. Aunt Polly and her siblings attended Park School in the Cabbagtown area. After successfully establishing her life in Canada, Aunt Polly marries John Verner on May 15, 1854 when Polly was 17 years of age. It was said that John, being a talented tailor, made her a beautiful dress for every special occasion. Polly's twin sisters, Rebecca and Isabelle move in with the newlyweds until they themselves marry.

After opening their grocery store, named the Cabbagetown Store, Polly and John Verner create a credit system for which the patrons could use to pay for their purchases. Bank accounts were unheard of at the time and many of the store regulars were impoverished. The Cabbagetown Store was one of the few stores in the area which provided this service to its customers since the larger corporations did not operate on credit systems.

Aunt Polly's generosity was known throughout the family and the town. When her brother R.J. Fleming lost his wife, Aunt Polly helped raise his children with the help of R.J.'s oldest daughter Reba. It was said that her philosophy was 'you share what you have with those who had a call on you.'


In the 1880's, John and Polly had a rough year with Aunt Polly's sister dying in childbirth and the bankruptcy of the Cabbagetown Store. Polly adopted her sister's child, Marjorie, after her mother passed.

In 1914, Polly and John celebrated their 60th anniversary, a great milestone celebrated in the local papers as well as in family mementos. In 1918 Aunt Polly died at the age of 81.