Henry Scadding.

Toronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario online

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ourselves at once to the point where we had intended to begin our
descent of King Street. That point was the site of a building now wholly
taken out of the way - the old General Hospital. Farther west on this
line of road there was no object possessing any archæological interest.

The old Hospital was a spacious, unadorned, matter-of-fact, two-storey
structure, of red brick, one hundred and seven feet long, and sixty-six
feet wide. It had, by the direction of Dr. Grant Powell, as we have
heard, the peculiarity of standing with its sides precisely east and
west, north and south. At a subsequent period, it consequently had the
appearance of having being jerked round bodily, the streets in the
neighbourhood not being laid out with the same precise regard to the
cardinal points. The building exhibited recessed galleries on the north
and south sides, and a flattish hipped roof. The interior was
conveniently designed.

In the fever wards here, during the terrible season of 1847, frightful
scenes of suffering and death were witnessed among the newly-arrived
emigrants; here it was that, in ministering to them in their distress,
so many were struck down, some all but fatally, others wholly so;
amongst the latter several leading medical men, and the Roman Catholic
Bishop, Power.

When the Houses of Parliament, at the east end of the town, were
destroyed by fire in 1824, the Legislature assembled for several
sessions in the General Hospital.

The neighbourhood hereabout had an open, unoccupied look in 1822. In a
_Weekly Register_ of the 25th of April of that year, we have an account
of the presentation of a set of colours to a militia battalion, mustered
for the purpose on the road near the Hospital. "Tuesday, the 23rd
instant," the _Register_ reports, "being the anniversary of St. George,
on which it has been appointed to celebrate His Majesty's birthday,
George IV., [instead of the 4th of June, the fête of the late King,] the
East and West Regiments, with Capt. Button's Troop of Cavalry, which are
attached to the North York Regiment, on the right, were formed in line
at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, on the road in front of the
Government House, and a Guard of Honour, consisting of 100 rank and file
from each regiment, with officers and sergeants in proportion, under the
command of Lieut.-Col. FitzGibbon, were formed at a short distance in
front of the centre, as the representatives of the militia of the
Province, in order to receive the rich and beautiful Colours which His
Majesty has been graciously pleased to command should be prepared for
the late incorporated Battalion, as an honourable testimony of the high
sense which His Majesty has been pleased to entertain of the zeal and
gallantry of the militia of Upper Canada."

The _Register_ then proceeds: "At 12 o'clock, a Royal Salute was fired
from the Garrison, and the Lieutenant-Governor with his staff having
arrived on the ground, proceeded to review the widely-extended line;
after which, taking his station in front of the whole, the band struck
up the nation anthem of 'God save the King.' His Excellency then
dismounted, and accompanied by his staff, on foot, approached the Guard
of Honour, so near as to be distinctly heard by the men; when,
uncovering himself, and taking one of the Colours in his hand, in the
most dignified and graceful manner, he presented them to the proper
officer, with the following address: - "Soldiers! I have great
satisfaction in presenting you, as the representatives of the late
incorporated Battalion, with these Colours - a distinguished mark of His
Majesty's approbation. They will be to you a proud memorial of the past,
and a rallying-point around which you will gather with alacrity and
confidence, should your active services be required hereafter by your
King and Country.' - His Excellency having remounted, the Guard of Honour
marched with band playing and Colours flying, from right to left, in
front of the whole line, and then proceeded to lodge their Colours at
the Government House."

"The day was raw and cold," it is added, "and the ground being very wet
and uneven, the men could neither form nor march with that precision
they would otherwise have exhibited. We were very much pleased, however,
with the soldier-like appearance of the Guard of Honour, and we were
particularly struck by the new uniform of the officers of the West York,
as being particularly well-adapted for the kind of warfare incident to a
thickly-wooded country. Even at a short distance it would be difficult
to distinguish the gray coat or jacket from the bole of a tree. There
was a very full attendance on the field; and it was peculiarly
gratifying to observe so much satisfaction on all sides. The Colours,
which are very elegant, are inscribed with the word Niagara, to
commemorate the services rendered by the Incorporated Battalion on that
frontier; and we doubt not that the proud distinction which attends
these banners will always serve to excite the most animating
recollections, whenever it shall be necessary for them to wave over the
heads of our Canadian Heroes, actually formed in battle-array against
the invaders of our Country. At 2 o'clock His Excellency held a Levee,
and in the evening a splendid Ball at the Government House concluded the
ceremonies and rejoicings of the day." The Lieut. Governor on this
occasion was Sir Peregrine Maitland, of whom fully hereafter.

The building on King Street known as "Government House" was originally
the private residence of Chief Justice Elmsley. For many years after its
purchase by the Government it was still styled "Elmsley House." As at
Quebec, the correspondence of the Governor-in-Chief was dated from the
"Château St. Louis," or the "Castle of St. Louis," so here, that of the
Lieutenant-Governor of the Western Province was long dated from "Elmsley
House." Mr. Elmsley was a brother of the celebrated classical critic and
editor, Peter Elmsley, of Oxford. We shall have occasion frequently to
speak of him.

On the left, opposite Government House, was a very broken piece of
ground, denominated "Russell Square;" afterwards, through the
instrumentality of Sir John Colborne, converted into a site for an
educational Institution. Sir John Colborne, on his arrival in Upper
Canada, was fresh from the Governorship of Guernsey, one of the Channel
Islands. During his administration there he had revived a decayed Public
School, at present known as Elizabeth College. Being of opinion that the
new country to which he had been transferred was not ripe for a
University on the scale contemplated in a royal Charter which had been
procured, he addressed himself to the establishment of an institution
which should meet the immediate educational wants of the community.

Inasmuch as in the School which resulted - or "Minor College" as it was
long popularly called - we have a transcript, more or less close, of the
institution which Sir John Colborne had been so recently engaged in
reviving, we add two or three particulars in regard to the latter, which
may have, with some, a certain degree of interest, by virtue of the
accidental but evident relation existing between the two institutions.
From a paper in Brayley's Graphic and Historical Illustrator (1834), we
gather that Elizabeth College, Guernsey, was originally called the
"School of Queen Elizabeth," as having been founded under Letters Patent
from that sovereign in 1563, to be a "Grammar-school in which the youth
of the Island (_juventus_) may be better instructed in good learning and
virtue." The temple or church of the suppressed Order of Gray Friars
(Friars minors or Cordeliers), with its immediate precincts, was
assigned for its "use," together with "eighty quarters of wheat rent,"
accruing from lands in different parts of the Island, which had been
given to the friars for dispensations, masses, obits, &c. By the
statutes of 1563 the school was divided into six classes; and books and
exercises were appointed respectively for each, the scholars to be
admitted being required "to read perfectly, and to recite an approved
catechism of the Christian religion by heart."

In all the six classes the Latin and Greek languages were the primary
objects of instruction; but the Statutes permitted the master, at his
discretion, "to add something of his own;" and even "to concede
something for writing, singing, arithmetic, and a little play." For more
than two centuries the school proved of little public utility. In 1799
there was one pupil on the establishment. In 1816 there were no
scholars. From that date to 1824 the number fluctuated from 15 to 29. In
1823, Sir John Colborne appointed a committee to investigate all the
circumstances connected with the school, and to ascertain the best mode
of assuring its future permanent efficiency and prosperity, without
perverting the intention of the foundress. The end of all this was a new
building (figured in Brayley) at a cost of £14,754 2_s._ 3_d._; the
foundation-stone being laid by Sir John in 1826. On August the 20th,
1829, the revived institution was publicly opened, with one hundred and
twenty pupils. "On that day," we are told, "the Bailiff and Jurats of
the Island, with General Ross, the Lieutenant-Governor [Sir John
Colborne was now in Canada], his staff, and the public authorities,
headed by a procession consisting of the Principal, Vice-Principal, and
other masters and tutors of the school (together with the scholars),
repaired to St. Peter's Church, where prayers were read by the Dean, Dr.
Durand, and _Te Deum_ and other anthems were sung. They then returned to
the College, where, in the spacious Examination Hall, a crowded assembly
were addressed respectively by the Bailiff and President-director
[Daniel de Lisle Brock, Esq.], Colonel de Havilland, the Vice-President,
and the Rev. G. Proctor, B.D., the new Principal, on the antiquity,
objects, apparent prospects, and future efficiency of the institution."

Under the new system the work of education was carried on by a
Principal, Vice-Principal, a First and Second Classical Master, a
Mathematical Master, a Master and Assistant of the Lower School, a
Commercial Master, two French Masters and an Assistant, a Master of
Drawing and Surveying, besides extra Masters for the German, Italian,
and Spanish languages, and for Music, Dancing, and Fencing. The course
of instruction for the day scholars, and those on the foundation,
included Divinity, History, Geography, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French,
English, Mathematics, Arithmetic, and Writing, at a charge in the Upper
School of £3 per quarter; and in the Lower or Preparatory School, of £1
per quarter; for Drawing and Surveying, 15_s._ per quarter. The terms
for private scholars (including all College dues and subscriptions for
exhibitions and prizes of medals, &c.) varied from £60 annually with the
Principal, to £46 annually with the First Classical Teacher.

The exhibitions in the revived institution were, first, one of £30 per
annum for four years, founded by the Governor of Guernsey in 1826, to
the best Classical scholar, a native of the Bailiwick, or son of a
native; secondly, four for four years, of, at least, £20 per annum,
founded by subscription in 1826, to the best scholars, severally, in
Divinity, Classics, Mathematics, and Modern Languages; thirdly, one for
four years, of £20 per annum, founded in 1827 by Admiral Sir James
Saumarez, to the best Theological and Classical scholar; fourthly, one
of £20 per annum, for four years, from 1830, to the best Classical
scholar, given by Sir John Colborne in 1828. There were also two, from
the Lower to the Upper School, of £6 per annum, for one year or more,
founded by the Directors in 1829.

The foregoing details will, as we have said, be of some interest,
especially to Canadians who have received from the institution founded
by Sir John Colborne in Russell Square an important part of their early
training. "Whatever makes the past, the distant and the future
predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking
beings." So moralized Dr. Johnson amidst the ruins of Iona. On this
principle, the points of agreement and difference between the
educational type and antitype is this instance, will be acknowledged to
be curious.

Another link of association between Guernsey and Upper Canada exists in
the now familiar name "Sarnia," which is the old classical name of
Guernsey, given by Sir John Colborne to a township on the St. Clair
river, in memory of his former government.

Those who desire to trace the career of Upper Canada College _ab ovo_,
will be thankful for the following advertisements. The first is from the
_Loyalist_ of May 2, 1829. "Minor College. Sealed tenders for erecting a
School House and four dwelling-houses will be received on the first
Monday of June next. Plans, elevations and specifications may be seen
after the 12th instant, on application to the Hon. Geo. Markland, from
whom further information will be received. Editors throughout the
Province are requested to insert this notice until the first Monday in
June, and forward their accounts for the same to the office of the
_Loyalist_, York. York, 1st May, 1829."

The second advertisement is from the _Upper Canada Gazette_ of Dec. 17,
1829. "Upper Canada College, established at York. Visitor, the
Lieutenant-Governor for the time being. This College will open after the
approaching Christmas Vacation, on Monday the 8th of January, 1830,
under the conduct of the Masters appointed at Oxford by the Vice
Chancellor and other electors, in July last. Principal, the Rev, J. H.
Harris, D.D., late Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge. Classical
Department: Vice Principal, The Rev. T. Phillips, D.D., of Queen's
College, Cambridge. First Classical Master: The Rev. Charles Mathews,
M.A., of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. Second Classical Master: The Rev. W.
Boulton, B.A., of Queen's College, Oxford. Mathematical Department: The
Rev. Charles Dade, M.A., Fellow of Caius College, Cambridge, and late
Mathematical Master at Elizabeth College. French, Mr. J. P. De la Haye.
English, Writing and Arithmetic, Mr. G. A. Barber and Mr. J. Padfield.
Drawing Master, Mr. Drury. (Then follow terms, &c.) Signed: G. H.
Markland, Secretary to the Board of Education. York, Upper Canada, Dec.
2, 1829."

After Russell Square on the left, came an undulating green field; near
the middle of it was a barn of rural aspect, cased-in with upright,
unplaned boards. The field was at one time a kind of _Campus Martius_
for a troop of amateur cavalry, who were instructed in their evolutions
and in the use of the broadsword, by a veteran, Capt. Midford, the
Goodwin of the day, at York.

Nothing of note presented itself until after we arrived at the roadway
which is now known as Bay Street, with the exception, perhaps, of two
small rectangular edifices of red brick with bright tin roofs, dropped,
as it were, one at the south-west, the other at the north-west, angle of
the intersection of King and York Streets. The former was the office of
the Manager of the Clergy Reserve Lands; the latter, that of the
Provincial Secretary and Registrar. They are noticeable simply as being
specimens, in solid material, of a kind of minute cottage that for a
certain period was in fashion in York and its neighbourhood; little
square boxes, one storey in height, and without basement; looking as if,
by the aid of a ring at the apex of the four sided roof, they might,
with no great difficulty, be lifted up, like the hutch provided for
Gulliver by his nurse Glumdalclitch, and carried bodily away.

As we pass eastward of Bay Street, the memory comes back of Franco
Rossi, the earliest scientific confectioner of York, who had on the
south side, near here, a depot, ever fragrant and ambrosial. In his
specialities he was a superior workman. From him were procured the
fashionable bridecakes of the day; as also the _noyeau, parfait-amour_,
and other liqueurs, set out for visitors on New Year's Day. Rossi was
the first to import hither good objects of art: fine copies of the
Laocoon, the Apollo Belvidere, the Perseus of Canova, with other
classical groups and figures sculptured in Florentine alabaster, were
disseminated by him in the community.

Rossi is the Italian referred to by the author of "Cyril Thornton" in
his "Men and Manners in America," where speaking of York, visited by him
in 1832, he says: "In passing through the streets I was rather surprised
to observe an _affiche_ intimating that ice-creams were to be had
within. The weather being hot, I entered, and found the master of the
establishment to be an Italian. I never ate better ice at
Grange's" - some fashionable resort in London, we suppose. The outward
signs of civilization at York must have been meagre when a chance
visitor recorded his surprise at finding ice-creams procurable in such a

Great enthusiasm, we remember, was created, far and near, by certain
panes of plate glass with brass divisions between them, which, at a
period a little later than Cyril Thornton's (Captain Hamilton's) visit,
suddenly ornamented the windows of Mr. Beckett's Chemical Laboratory,
close by Rossi's. Even Mrs. Jameson, in her book of "Winter Studies and
Summer Rambles," referring to the shop fronts of King Street,
pronounces, in a naive English watering-place kind of tone, "that of the
apothecary" to be "worthy of Regent Street in its appearance."

A little farther on, still on the southern side, was the first place of
public worship of the Wesleyan Methodists. It was a long, low, wooden
building, running north and south, and placed a little way back from the
street. Its dimensions in the first instance, as we have been informed
by Mr. Petch, who was engaged in its erection, were 40 by 40 feet. It
was then enlarged to 40 by 60 feet. In the gable end towards the street
were two doors, one for each sex. Within, the custom obtained of
dividing the men from the women; the former sitting on the right hand of
one entering the building; the latter on the left.

This separation of the sexes in places of public worship was an oriental
custom, still retained among Jews. It also existed, down to a recent
date, in some English Churches. Among articles of inquiry sent down from
a Diocesan to churchwardens, we have seen the query: "Do men and women
sit together indifferently and promiscuously? or, as the fashion was of
old, do men sit together on one side of the church, and women upon the
other?" In English Churches the usage was the opposite of that indicated
above: the north side, that is, the left on entering, was the place of
the women; and the south, that of the men.

In 1688, we have Sir George Wheler, in his "Account of the Churches of
the Primitive Christians," speaking of this custom, which he says
prevails also "in the Greek Church to this day:" he adds that it "seems
not only very decent, but nowadays, since wickedness so much abounds,
highly necessary; for the general mixture," he continues, "of men and
women in the Latin Church is notoriously scandalous; and little less,"
he says, "is their sitting together in the same pews in our London

The Wesleyan chapel in King Street ceased to be used in 1833. It was
converted afterwards for a time into a "Theatre Royal."

Jordan Street preserves one of the names of Mr. Jordan Post, owner of
the whole frontage extending from Bay Street to Yonge Street. The name
of his wife is preserved in "Melinda Street," which traverses his lot,
or rather block, from east to west, south of King Street. Two of his
daughters bore respectively the unusual names of Sophronia and
Desdemona. Mr. Post was a tall New-Englander of grave address. He was,
moreover, a clockmaker by trade, and always wore spectacles. From the
formal cut of his apparel and hair, he was, quite erroneously, sometimes
supposed to be of the Mennonist or Quaker persuasion.

So early as 1802, Mr. Post is advertising in the York paper. In the
_Oracle_ of Sept. 18, 1802, he announces a temporary absence from the
town. "Jordan Post, watchmaker, requests all those who left watches with
him to be repaired, to call at Mr. Beman's and receive them by paying
for the repairs. He intends returning to York in a few months. Sept. 11,
1802." In the close of the same year, he puts forth the general notice:
"Jordan Post, Clock and Watchmaker, informs the public that he now
carries on the above business in all its branches, at the upper end of
Duke Street. He has a complete assortment of watch furniture. Clocks and
watches repaired on the shortest notice, and most reasonable terms,
together with every article in the gold and silver line. N. B. - He will
purchase old brass. Dec 11, 1802."

Besides the block described above, Mr. Post had acquired other valuable
properties in York, as will appear by an advertisement in the _Weekly
Register_ of Jan. 19, 1826, from which also it will be seen that he at
one time contemplated a gift to the town of one hundred feet frontage
and two hundred feet of depth, for the purpose of a second Public
Market. "Town Lots for Sale. To be sold by Auction on the Premises, on
Wednesday the first day of February next, Four Town Lots on King Street,
west of George Street. Also, to be leased at the same time to the
highest bidder, for twenty-one years, subject to such conditions as will
then be produced. Six Lots on the west side of Yonge Street, and Twenty
on Market Street. The Subscriber has reserved a Lot of Ground of One
Hundred Feet front, by Two Hundred Feet in the rear, on George Street,
for a Market Place, to be given for that purpose. He will likewise lease
Ten Lots in front of said intended Market. A plan of the Lots may be
seen and further particulars known, by application to the Subscriber.
Jordan Post. York, Jan. 4, 1826."





Where Yonge Street crosses King Street, forming at the present day an
unusually noble _carrefour_, as the French would say, or rectangular
intersection of thoroughfares as we are obliged to word it, there was,
for a considerable time, but one solitary house - at the north-east
angle; a longish, one-storey, respectable wooden structure, painted
white, with paling in front, and large willow trees: it was the home of
Mr. Dermis, formerly superintendent of the Dock-yard at Kingston. He was
one of the United Empire Loyalist refugees, and received a grant of land
on the Humber, near the site of the modern village of Weston. His son,
Mr. Joseph Dennis, owned and commanded a vessel on Lake Ontario in 1812.
When the war with the United States broke out, he and his ship were
attached to the Provincial Marine. His vessel was captured, and himself
made a prisoner of war, in which condition he remained for fifteen
months. He afterwards commanded the Princess Charlotte, an early
steamboat on Lake Ontario.

To the eastward of Mr. Dennis' house, on the same side, at an early
period, was an obscure frame building of the most ordinary kind, whose
existence is recorded simply for having been temporarily the District
Grammar School, before the erection of the spacious building on the
Grammar School lot.

On the opposite side, still passing on towards the east, was the Jail.
This was a squat unpainted wooden building, with hipped roof, concealed
from persons passing in the street by a tall cedar stockade, such as
those which we see surrounding a Hudson's Bay post or a military
wood-yard. At the outer entrance hung a billet of wood suspended by a
chain, communicating with a bell within; and occasionally Mr. Parker,
the custodian of the place, was summoned, through its instrumentality,
by persons not there on legitimate business. We have a recollection of a
clever youth, an immediate descendant of the great commentator on
British Law, and afterwards himself distinguished at the Upper Canadian
bar, who was severely handled by Mr. Parker's son, on being caught in
the act of pulling at this billet, with the secret intention of running
away after the exploit.

The English Criminal Code, as it was at the beginning of the century,
having been introduced with all its enormities, public hangings were
frequent at an early period in the new Province. A shocking scene is
described as taking place at an execution in front of the old Jail at
York. The condemned refuses to mount the scaffold. On this, the
moral-suasion efforts of the sheriff amount to the ridiculous, were not
the occasion so seriously tragic. In aid of the sheriff, the officiating
chaplain steps more than once up the plank set from the cart to the

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 10 of 59)