JOHN WESLEY TOY was born in New Holland, Ohio in 1853 to George L. Toy and his wife the former Georgianna Holland. His parents were married in Camden on January 7, 1850, and did not go west until after the birth of their oldest child, Mary, in 1851. The family remained in Ohio until after the birth of younger sister Ida Louise Toy in 1855. By 1858 they had moved back to Camden, when a son, Lafayette Toy was born. Sadly, he died the following year. Another child Laura E.Toy, was born in 1874.


1869 was not a good year for the Toy family. Both George L. Toy and oldest daughter Mary passed away, leaving Georgianna Toy and her three remaining children to make their way in the world. When the census was taken in 1870 John Toy was working as an apprentice bricklayer. He was working as a bookbinder by May of 1874. The family was living at 707 South 4th Street when John W. Toy was appointed to the Camden Fire Department in July of 1873, taking the place of Stephen L. Thomas. John W. Toy served as an extra man with Engine Company 1 until April of 1876, when he was replaced by William Marsh. He was re-appointed on April 8, 1877 and served until April 4, 1882, when he was replaced by William Irelan. John Toy was recalled to service two years later, and assigned to Engine Company 1. In 1885, when Samuel S. Elfreth was re-elected Chief of the Fire Department after being away from the department for three years, John W. Toy was transferred to the Hook and Ladder Company, where he served as a ladderman. The 1890-1891 City Directory states that John W. Toy was the tillerman for the Hook and Ladder Company

In January 1895 the Camden Fire Department organized a new company, Chemical Engine Company No. 1, stationed at Fire Headquarters at North 5th Street and Arch Street. John W. Toy was promoted to Foreman, similar to today's Captain, and was placed in charge of the new unit. George Cox was the Company's first driver, Wright Cox and Charles Robinson were the first hose men assigned.

It was reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 27, 1895 that John Toy had been ill, and that he had recovered and had returned to duty.

John W. Toy was still the foreman of Chemical Engine Company No. 1 when the 1898 Camden City Directory was compiled. By the time the 1899 edition was being assembled, he had left the Fire Department.

When the Census was taken in 1900 John W. Toy was living with his mother at 603 Pine Street, the home of his sister Laura and her husband James Alcott. Georgianna Toy died in Camden on September 4, 1905.

The 1906 City Directory reveals that John W. Toy was then living at 441 Washington Street. The 1910 Census shows that John W. Toy was living at 438 West Street with his sister Ida and her husband Charles Wescott.

John Wesley Toy died in Camden on November 27, 1916 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery. He was survived by his sisters, Mrs. Ida Wescott and Mrs. Laura Alcott, and a number of nieces and nephews.

John Toy was an active member of the Fourth Ward Republican Club, where he associated with Charles Elfreth, who had served with the Camden Fire Department and was the brother of Chief of Department Samuel S. Elfreth.

It is of interest that John Toy's father, George L. Toy, was a prominent member of an organization known as the Brotherhood of the Union. George Reeser Prowell wrote, in his History of Camden County, New Jersey which was published in 1886 the following:

This order was organized in Philadelphia, by George Lippard, in 1846. The principles teach the paternity of God, the fraternity of man, that every man has a right to a home and to the full fruits of his toil ; that monopoly in land should be prevented and the public domain given to landless settlers. It is patriotic in its aims, and pledges its members to uphold the American Union and the dignity of labor. The present Supreme Washington is James E. Russell, of New Jersey, and the Grand Chief Washington of New Jersey is John M. Clayton, of Camden. 

The divisions are Circles, Grand Circles and a Supreme Circle, with similar divisions of the Home Communion, the women's branch of the order. There are in Camden three Circles and two Home Communions. 

Witherspoon Circle, No. 1, which meets in Wildey Hall, was instituted April 23, 1849, George Lippard officiating, these being the initiates: George L. Toy, Joshua W. Roberts, Philip H. Mulford, Henry Belsterling, Edward N. Daugherty, Henry Copeland, Joseph L. Wright, William R. Maxwell, David Mills, Michael Seibenlist, Isaac Rawn and Ballenger Smith. These members of Witherspoon Circle have been Supreme Washington : George L. Toy, Henry L. Bonsall, William J. Maguire and James E. Russell. The G. E. W.'s are Edward N. Daugherty, Benjamin M. Braker, Henry Bradshaw, Earned Smith, Francis Warren, Isaac Warr and George W. Fenner. Exalted Washingtons: Andrew R. Ackley, Josiah Bozarth, A. E. Atkinson, Charles Deith, E. W. Jones, Albert V. Mills, Absalom Jordan, Benjamin Smith, E.G. Hoefflich, George W. Fenner, Jr., Elisha C. Smith, William S. McCabe and George L. Swyler. The officers for 1886 are: E. W., George L. Swyler; H. S. K., James E. Russell ; C. W., William O. Engler; H. R., Frank Warren ; C. J., William H. Harris ; H. T., Harry Bradshaw ; C. F., William McAllister; H.H., William B. Bergnell. The membership is one hundred and nineteen, with seven hundred dollars in funds. 

Welcome Circle, No. 3, which meets in Central Hall, was instituted December 31, 1869, by D. S. W. Archibald Cochran, who installed these officers : E. W., Thomas Westphall ; H. S. K., W. Frank Gaul ; C. W., Benjamin H. Connelly ; H. T., John Reynolds ; C. J., Edward Furlong; W. D., James G. Hyatt ; C. F., J. E. Atkinson; W. N., Edward Andrews. G. E. W.'s: James G. Hyatt, J. Harry Stiles, Joseph Dufour, Samuel W. Stivers,  John McMichael and John H. Clayton. E. W.'s : Charles Wrifford, George S. West, William B. Jobes, Samuel McMichael, Benjamin Toy, John F. Harned, J. M. Adams, Samuel Dodd, Jr., Thomas Adams, John Dentist, John Hart, George Baghurst, Jr., George L. Knight and George A. Baghurst. The officers for 1886 are : E. W., George Wallison; H. S. K., George S. West; C. W., Samuel J. Cook ; H. R., John F. Harned ; C. J., Charles H. Beck; H. T., Joseph Dufour; H. K., Charles Christman. The membership is one hundred and ninety-seven and the assets thirty-eight hundred dollars. 


Philadelphia Inquirer * March 26, 1877

Philadelphia Inquirer * June 6, 1896
Charles Elfreth - John Toy