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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slightly under the medium height, with countenance and head of the type
of Milton's in middle age, without eloquence, without any extraordinary
degree of originality of mind, he held together here a large
congregation, consisting of heterogeneous elements, by the strength and
moral force of his personal character. Qualities, innate to himself,
decisiveness of intellect, firmness, a quick insight into things and
men, with a certain fertility of resource, conspired to win for him the
position which he filled, and enabled him to retain it with ease; to
sustain, with a graceful and unassuming dignity, all the augmentations
which naturally accumulated round it, as the community, of which he was
so vital a part, grew and widened and rose to a higher and higher level,
on the swelling tide of the general civilization of the continent.

In all his public ministrations he was to be seen officiating without
affectation in manner or style. A stickler in ritual would have declared
him indifferent to minutiæ. He wore the white vesture of his office with
an air of negligence, and his doctor's robe without any special
attention to its artistic adjustment upon his person. A technical
precisian in modern popular theology would pronounce him out now and
then in his doctrine. What he seemed especially to drive at was not
dogmatic accuracy so much as a well-regulated life, in childhood, youth
and manhood. The good sense of the matter delivered - and it was never
destitute of that quality - was solely relied on for the results to be
produced: the topics of modern controversy never came up in his
discourse: at the period to which we refer they were in most quarters
dormant, their re-awakening deferred until the close of a thirty years'
peace, but then destined to set mankind by the ears when now relieved
from the turmoil of physical and material war, but roused to great
intellectual activity.

Many a man that dropped in during the time of public worship, inclined
from prejudice to be captious, inclined even to be merry over certain
national peculiarities of utterance and diction, which to a stranger,
for a time, made the matter delivered not easy to be understood, went
out with quite a different sentiment in regard to the preacher and his

In the early days of Canada, a man of capacity was called upon, as we
have seen in other instances, to play many parts. It required tact to
play them all satisfactorily. In the case of Dr. Strachan - the voice
that to-day would be heard in the pulpit, offering counsel and advice as
to the application of sacred principles to life and conduct, in the
presence of all the civil functionaries of the country, from Sir
Peregrine Maitland to Mr. Chief Constable Higgins; from Chief Justice
Powell to the usher of his court, Mr. Thomas Phipps; from Mr. Speaker
Sherwood or McLean to Peter Shaver, Peter Perry, and the other popular
representatives of the Commons in Parliament; - the voice that to-day
would be heard in the desk leading liturgically the devotions of the
same mixed multitude - to-morrow was to be heard by portions, large or
small, of the same audience, amidst very different surroundings, in
other quarters; by some of them, for example, at the Executive Council
Board, giving a lucid judgment on a point of governmental policy, or in
the Chamber of the Legislative Assembly, delivering a studied oration on
a matter touching the interests and well-being of the whole population
of the country, or reading an elaborate original report on the same or
some cognate question, to be put forth as the judgment of a committee:
or elsewhere, the same voice might be heard at a meeting for patriotic
purposes; at the meeting of a Hospital, Educational, or other important
secular Trust; at an emergency meeting, when sudden action was needed on
the part of the charitable and benevolent.

Without fail, that voice would be heard by a large portion of the
juniors of the flock on the following day, amidst the busy commotion of
School, apportioning tasks, correcting errors, deciding appeals,
regulating discipline; at one time formally instructing, at another
jocosely chaffing, the sons and nephews of nearly all the well-to-do
people, gentle and simple, of York and Upper Canada.

To have done all this without awkwardness shews the possession of much
prudence and tact. To have had all this go on for some decades without
any blame that was intended to be taken in very serious earnest; nay,
winning in the process applause and gratitude on the right hand and on
the left - this argues the existence of something very sterling in the

Nor let us local moderns, whose lot it is to be part and parcel of a
society no longer rudimentary, venture to condemn one who while
especially appointed to be a conspicuous minister of religion, did not
decline the functions, diverse and multiform, which an infant society,
discerning the qualities inherent in him, and lacking instruments for
its uses, summoned him to undertake. Let no modern caviller, we say, do
this, unless he is prepared to avow the opinion that to be a minister of
religion, a man must, of necessity, be only partially-developed in mind
and spirit, incapable, as a matter of course, of offering an opinion of
value on subjects of general human interest.

The long possession of unchallenged authority within the immediate area
of his ecclesiastical labours, rendered Dr. Strachan for some time
opposed to the projects that began, as the years rolled on, to be mooted
for additional churches in the town of York. He could not readily be
induced to think otherwise than as the Duke of Wellington thought in
regard to Reform in the representation, or as ex-Chancellor Eldon
thought in regard to greater promptitude in Chancery decisions, that
there was no positive need of change.

"Would you break up the congregation?" was the sharp rejoinder to the
early propounders of schemes for Church-extension in York. But as years
passed over, and the imperious pressure of events and circumstances was
felt, this reluctance gave way. The beautiful cathedral mother-church,
into which, under his own eye, and through his own individual energy,
the humble wooden edifice of 1803 at length, by various gradations,
developed, forms now a fitting mausoleum for his mortal remains - a
stately monument to one who was here in his day the human main-spring of
so many vitally-important and far-reaching movements.

Other memorials in his honour have been projected and thought of. One of
them we record for its boldness and originality and fitness, although we
have no expectation that the æsthetic feeling of the community will soon
lead to the practical adoption of the idea thrown out. The suggestion
has been this: that in honour of the deceased Bishop, there should be
erected, in some public place, in Toronto, an exact copy of Michael
Angelo's Moses, to be executed at Rome for the purpose, and shipped
hither. The conception of such a form of monument is due to the Rev. W.
Macaulay, of Picton. We need not say what dignity would be given to the
whole of Toronto by the possession of such a memorial object within its
precincts as this, and how great, in all future time, would be the
effect, morally and educationally, when the symbolism of the art-object
was discovered and understood. Its huge bulk, its boldly-chiselled and
only partially-finished limbs and drapery, raised aloft on a plain
pedestal of some Laurentian rock, would represent, not ill, the man whom
it would commemorate - the character, roughly-outlined and incomplete in
parts, but, when taken as a whole, very impressive and even grand, which
looms up before us, whichever way we look, in our local Past.

One of the things that ennoble the old cities of continental Europe and
give them their own peculiar charm, is the existence of such objects in
their streets and squares, at once works of art for the general eye, and
memorials of departed worth and greatness. With what interest, for
example, does the visitor gaze on the statue of Gutenberg at Mayence;
and at Marseilles on that of the good Bishop Belzunce! - of whom we read,
that he was at once "the founder of a college, and a magistrate,
almoner, physician and priest to his people." The space in front of the
west porch of the cathedral of St. James would be an appropriate site
for such a noble memorial-object as that which Mr. Macaulay
suggests - just at the spot where was the entrance, the one sole humble
portal, of the structure of wood out of which the existing pile has

Our notice of the assembly usually to be seen within the walls of the
primitive St. James', would not be complete, were we to omit all mention
of Mr. John Fenton, who for some time officiated therein as parish
clerk. During the palmy days of parish clerks in the British Islands,
such functionaries, deemed at the time, locally, as indispensable as the
parish minister himself, were a very peculiar class of men. He was a
rarity amongst them, who could repeat in a rational tone and manner the
responses delegated to him by the congregation. This arose from the
circumstance that he was usually an all but illiterate village rustic,
or narrow-minded small-townsman, brought into a prominence felt on all
sides to be awkward.

Mr. Fenton's peculiarities, on the contrary, arose from his
intelligence, his acquirements, and his independence of character. He
was a rather small shrewd-featured person, at a glance not deficient in
self-esteem. He was a proficient in modern popular science, a ready
talker and lecturer. Being only a proxy, his rendering of the official
responses in church was marked perhaps by a little too much
individuality, but it could not be said that it was destitute of a
certain rhetorical propriety of emphasis and intonation. Though not
gifted, in his own person, with much melody of voice, his acquisitions
included some knowledge of music. In those days congregational psalmody
was at a low ebb, and the small choirs that offered themselves
fluctuated, and now and then vanished wholly. Not unfrequently, Mr.
Fenton, after giving out the portion of Brady and Tate, which it pleased
him to select, would execute the whole of it as a solo, to some
accustomed air, with graceful variations of his own. All this would be
done with great coolness and apparent self-satisfaction.

While the discourse was going on in the Pulpit above him, it was his
way, often, to lean himself resignedly back in a corner of his pew and
throw a white cambric handkerchief over his head and face. It
illustrates the spirit of the day to add, that Mr. Fenton's employment
as official mouth-piece to the congregation of the English Church, did
not stand in the way of his making himself useful, at the same time, as
a class-leader among the Wesleyan Methodists.

The temperament and general style of this gentleman did not fail of
course to produce irritation of mind in some quarters. The _Colonial
Advocate_ one morning averred its belief that Mr. Fenton had, on the
preceding Sunday, glanced at itself and its patrons in giving out and
singing (probably as a solo) the Twelfth Psalm: "Help, Lord, for good
and godly men do perish and decay; and faith and truth from worldly men
are parted clean away; whoso doth with his neighbour talk, his talk is
all but vain; for every man bethinketh now to flatter, lie and feign!"
Mr. Fenton afterwards removed to the United States, where he obtained
Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church. His son was a clever and ingenious
youth. We remember a capital model in wood of "Cæsar's Bridge over the
Rhine," constructed by him from a copper-plate engraving in an old
edition of the Commentaries used by him in the Grammar School at York.

The predecessor of Mr. Fenton in the clerk's desk was Mr.
Hetherington - a functionary of the old-country village stamp. His habit
was, after giving out a psalm, to play the air on a bassoon; and then to
accompany with fantasias on the same instrument such vocalists as felt
inclined to take part in the singing. This was the day of small things
in respect of ecclesiastical music at York. A choir from time to time
had been formed. Once, we have understood, two rival choirs were heard
on trial in the Church; one of them strong in instrumental resources,
having the aid of a bass-viol, clarionet and bassoon; the other more
dependent on its vocal excellencies. The instrumental choir triumphantly
prevailed, as we are assured: and in 1819 an allowance of £20 was made
to Mr. Hetherington for giving instruction in church music. One of the
principal encouragers of the vocalist-party was Dr. Burnside. But all
expedients for doing what was, in reality, the work of the congregation
itself were unreliable; and the clerk or choir-master too often found
himself a solitary performer. Mr. Hetherington's bassoon, however, may
be regarded as the harbinger and foreshadow of the magnificent organ
presented in after-times to the congregation of the "Second Temple" of
St. James', by Mr. Dunn - a costly and fine-toned instrument (presided
over, for a short time, by the eminent Dr. Hodges, subsequently of
Trinity Church, New York), but destined to be destroyed by fire,
together with the whole church, after only two years of existence, in

In the conflagration of 1839 another loss occurred, not so much to be
regretted; we refer to the destruction of a very large triplet window of
stained glass over the altar of the church, containing three life-size
figures by Mr. Craig, a local "historical and ornamental painter," not
well skilled in the ecclesiastical style. As home-productions, however,
these objects were tenderly eyed; but Mrs. Jameson in her work on Canada
cruelly denounced them as being "in a vile tawdry taste." - Conceive, in
the presence of these three Craigs, the critical authoress of the
"History of Sacred and Legendary art," accustomed, in the sublime
cathedrals of Europe, to

"See the great windows like the jewell'd gates
Of Paradise, burning with harmless fire."

Mr. Dunn, named above as donor of an organ to the second St. James', had
provided the previous wooden church with Communion Plate. In the
_Loyalist_ of March 1, 1828, we read: "The undersigned acknowledges the
receipt of £112 18 5 from the Hon. John Henry Dunn, being the price of a
superb set of Communion Plate presented by him to St. James' Church at
this place. J. B. Macaulay, Church Warden, York, 23rd Feb., 1828."

Before leaving St. James' Church and its precincts, it may be well to
give some account of the steps taken in 1818, for the enlargement of the
original building. This we are enabled to do, having before us an all
but contemporary narrative. It will be seen that great adroitness was
employed in making the scheme acceptable, and that pains were shrewdly
taken to prevent a burdensome sense of self-sacrifice on the part of the
congregation. At the same time a pleasant instance of voluntary
liberality is recorded. "A very respectable church was built at York in
the Home District, many years ago" - the narrative referred to, in the
_Christian Recorder_ for 1819, p. 214, proceeds to state - "which at that
time accommodated the inhabitants; but for some years past, it has been
found too small, and several attempts were made to enlarge and repair
it. At length, in April 1818, in a meeting of the whole congregation, it
was resolved to enlarge the church, and a committee was appointed to
suggest the most expeditious and economical method of doing it. The
committee reported that a subscription in the way of loan, to be repaid
when the seats were sold, was the most promising method. No subscription
to be taken under twenty-five pounds, payable in four instalments."

"Two gentlemen," the narrative continues, "were selected to carry the
subscription paper round; and in three hours from twelve to thirteen
hundred pounds were subscribed. Almost all the respectable gentlemen
gave in loan Fifty Pounds; and the Hon. Justice Boulton, and George
Crookshank, Esq., contributed £100 each, to accomplish so good an
object. The church was enlarged, a steeple erected, and the whole
building with its galleries, handsomely finished. In January last
(1819)," our authority proceeds to say, "when everything was completed,
the pews were sold at a year's credit, and brought more money than the
repairs and enlargement cost. Therefore," it is triumphantly added, "the
inhabitants at York erect a very handsome church at a very little
expense to themselves, for every one may have his subscription money
returned, or it may go towards payment of a pew; and, what is more, the
persons who subscribed for the first church count the amount of their
subscription as part of the price of their new pews. This fair
arrangement has been eminently successful; and gave great satisfaction."

The special instance of graceful voluntary liberality above referred to
is then subjoined in these terms: "George Crookshank, Esq.,
notwithstanding the greatness of his subscription, and the pains which
he took in getting the church well finished, has presented the clergyman
with cushions for the pulpit and reading desk, covered with the richest
and finest damask; and likewise cloth for the communion-table." "This
pious liberality," the writer remarks, "cannot be too much commended; it
tells us that the benevolent zeal of ancient times is not entirely done
away. The congregation were so much pleased," it is further recorded,
"that a vote of thanks was unanimously offered to Mr. Crookshank for his
munificent present." (The pulpit, sounding-board, and desk had been a
gift of Governor Gore to the original church, and had cost the sum of
one hundred dollars.)

When the necessity arose in 1830 for replacing the church thus enlarged
and improved, by an entirely new edifice of more respectable dimensions,
the same cool, secular ingenuity was again displayed in the scheme
proposed; and it was resolved by the congregation (among other things)
"that the pew-holders of the present church, if they demanded the same,
be credited one-third of the price of the pews that they purchased in
the new church, not exceeding in number those which they possessed in
the old church; that no person be entitled to the privilege granted by
the last resolution who shall not have paid up the whole purchase money
of his pew in the old church; that the present church remain as it is,
till the new one is finished; that after the new church is completed,
the materials of the present one be sold to the highest bidder, and the
proceeds of the same be applied to the liquidation of any debt that may
be contracted in erecting the new church, or furnishing the same; that
the upset price of pews in the new church be twenty-five pounds
currency;" and so on.

The stone edifice then erected (measuring within about 100 by 75 feet),
but never completed in so far as related to its tower, was destroyed by
fire in 1839. Fire, in truth, may be said to be, sooner or later, the
"natural death" of public buildings in our climate, where, for so many
months in every year, the maintenance within them of a powerful
artificial heat is indispensable.

Ten years after the re-edification of the St. James' burnt in 1839, its
fate was again to be totally destroyed. But now fire was communicated to
it from an external source - from a general conflagration raging at the
time in the part of the town lying to the eastward. On this occasion was
destroyed in the belfry of the tower, a Public Clock, presented to the
inhabitants of Toronto, by Mr. Draper, on his ceasing to be one of their
representatives in Parliament.

In the later annals of St. James' Church, the year 1873 is memorable.

Several very important details in Mr. Cumberland's noble design for the
building had long remained unrealized. The tower and spire were absent:
as also the fine porches on the east, west, and south sides, the turrets
at the angles, and the pinnacles and finials of the buttresses.
Meanwhile the several parts of the structure where these appendages
were, in due time, to be added, were left in a condition to shew to the
public the mind and intention of the architect.

In 1872, by the voluntary munificence of several members of the
congregation, a fund for the completion of the edifice in accordance
with Mr. Cumberland's plans was initiated, to which generous donations
were immediately added; and in 1873 the edifice, of whose humble
"protoplasm" in 1803 we have sought, in a preceding section, to preserve
the memory, was finally brought to a state of perfection.

By the completion of St. James' Church, a noble aspect has been given to
the general view of Toronto. Especially has King Street been enriched,
the ranges of buildings on its northern side, as seen from east or west,
culminating centrically now in an elevated architectural object of
striking beauty and grandeur, worthy alike of the comely, cheerful,
interesting thoroughfare which it overlooks, and of the era when the
finial crowning its apex was at length set in its place.

Worthy of special commemorative record are those whose thoughtful
liberality originated the fund by means of which St. James' Church was
completed. The Dean, the Very Rev. H. J. Grasett, gave the handsome sum
of Five thousand dollars. Mr. John Worthington, Four thousand dollars.
Mr. C. Gzowski, Two thousand dollars. Mr. J. Gillespie, One thousand
dollars. Mr. E. H. Rutherford, One thousand dollars. Mr. W. Cawthra, One
thousand dollars. Mr. Gooderham and Mr. Worts, conjointly, One thousand
dollars. Miss Gordon, the daughter of a former ever-generous member of
the congregation, the Hon. J. Gordon, One thousand dollars. Sums, in
endless variety, from Eight Hundred dollars downwards, were in a like
good spirit offered on the occasion by other members of the
congregation, according to their means. An association of young men
connected with the congregation undertook and effected the erection of
the Southern Porch.

Let it be added, likewise, that in 1866, the sum of Fourteen thousand
nine hundred and forty-five dollars was expended in the purchase of a
peal of bells, and in providing a chamber for its reception in the
tower - a free gift to the whole community greatly surpassing in money's
worth the sum above named: for have not the chimes, with all
old-countrymen at least, within the range of their sound, the effect of
an instantaneous translation to the other side of the Atlantic? Close
the eyes, and at once the spirit is far, far away, hearkening, now in
the calm of a summer's evening, now between the fitful wind-gusts of a
boisterous winter's morn, to music in exactly the same key, with exactly
the same series of cadences, given out from tree-embosomed tower in some
ancient market-town or village, familiar to the listener in every turn
and nook, in days bygone.

And further, let it be added, that in 1870, to do honour to the memory
of the then recently deceased Bishop Strachan, the congregation of St.
James "beautified" the chancel of their church at a cost of Seven
thousand five hundred dollars, surrounding the spacious apse with an
arcade of finely carved oak, adding seats for the canons, a decanal
stall, a bishop's throne, a pulpit and desk, all in the same style and
material, elaborately carved, with a life-like bust in white marble of
the departed prelate, by Fraser of Montreal, in a niche constructed for
its reception in the western wall of the chancel, with a slab of dark
stone below bearing the following inscription in gilded letters: -






Immediately north of the church plot, and separated from it by an
allowance for a street, was a large field, almost square, containing six
acres. In a plan of the date 1819, and signed "T. Ridout,
Surveyor-General," this piece of ground is entitled "College Square."
(In the same plan the church reservation is marked "Church Square;" and

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 15 of 59)