Henry Scadding.

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

. (page 16 of 59)
Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 16 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the block to the west, "Square for Court House and Jail.") The fact that
the Jail was to be erected there accounts for the name "Newgate Street,"
formerly borne by what is now Adelaide Street.

In the early days, when the destined future was but faintly realized,
"College Square" was probably expected to become in time, and to
continue for ever, an ornamental piece of ground round an educational
institution. The situation, in the outskirts of York, would be deemed
convenient and airy.

For many years this six-acre field was the play-ground of the District
Grammar School. Through the middle of it, from north to south, passed a
shallow "swale," where water collected after rains; and where in winter
small frozen ponds afforded not bad sliding-places. In this moist
region, numerous crayfish were to be found in summer. Their whereabouts
was always indicated by small clay chimneys of a circular form, built by
the curious little nipping creatures themselves, over holes for the
admission of air.

In different places in this large area were remains of huge pine-stumps,
underneath the long roots of which it was an amusement to dig and form
cellars or imaginary treasure-vaults and powder-magazines. About these
relics of the forest still grew remains of the ordinary vegetation of
such situations in the woods; especially an abundance of the
sorrel-plant, the taste of which will be remembered, as being quite
relishable. In other places were wide depressions showing where large
trees had once stood. Here were no bad places, when the whim so was, to
lie flat on the back and note the clouds in the blue vault over head;
watch the swallows and house-martins when they came in spring; and
listen to their quiet prattle with each other as they darted to and fro;
sights and sounds still every year, at the proper season, to be seen and
heard in the same neighbourhood, yielding to those who have an eye or
ear for such matters a pleasure ever new; sights and sounds to this day
annually resulting from the cheery movements and voices of the direct
descendants, doubtless, of the identical specimens that flitted hither
and thither over the play-ground of yore.

White clover, with other herbage that commonly appears spontaneously in
clearings, carpeted the whole of the six acres, with the exception of
the places worn bare, where favourable spots had been found for the
different games of ball in vogue - amongst which, however, cricket was
not then in these parts included - except, perhaps, under a form most
infantile and rudimentary. After falls of moist snow in winter, gigantic
balls used here to be formed, gathering as they were rolled along, until
by reason of their size and weight they could be urged forward no
further: and snow castles on a large scale were laboriously built;
destined to be defended or captured with immense displays of gallantry.
Preparatory to such contest, piles of ammunition would be stored away
within these structures. It was prohibited, indeed, in the articles to
be observed in operations of attack and defence, to construct missiles
of very wet snow; to dip a missile in melted snow-water prior to use; to
subject a missile after a saturation of this kind, to the action of a
night's frost; to secrete within the substance of a missile any foreign
matter; yet, nevertheless, occasionally such acts were not refrained
from; and wounds and bruises of an extra serious character, inflicted by
hands that could not always be identified, caused loud and just
complaints. Portions of the solid and extensive walls of the
extemporized snow-fortresses were often conspicuous in the play-ground
long after a thaw had removed the wintry look from the rest of the

The Building into which the usual denizens of the six-acre play-ground
were constrained, during certain portions of each day, to withdraw
themselves, was situated at a point 114 feet from its western, and 104
from its southern boundary. It was a large frame structure, about
fifty-five long, and forty wide; of two storeys; each of a respectable
altitude. The gables faced east and west. On each side of the edifice
were two rows of ordinary sash windows, five above, and five below. At
the east end were four windows, two above, two below. At the west end
were five windows and the entrance-door. The whole exterior of the
building was painted of a bluish hue, with the exception of the window
and door frames, which were white. Within, on the first floor, after the
lobby, was a large square apartment. About three yards from each of its
angles, a plain timber prop or post helped to sustain the ceiling. At
about four feet from the floor, each of these quasi-pillars began to be
chamfered off at its four angles. Filling up the south-east corner of
the room was a small platform approached on three sides by a couple of
steps. This sustained a solitary desk about eight feet long, its lower
part cased over in front with thin deal boards, so as to shut off from
view the nether extremities of whosoever might be sitting at it.

On the general level of the floor below, along the whole length of the
southern and northern sides of the chamber, were narrow desks set close
against the wall, with benches arranged at their outer side. At right
angles to these, and consequently running out, on each side into the
apartment, stood a series of shorter desks, with double slopes, and
benches placed on either side. Through the whole length of the room from
west to east, between the ends of the two sets of cross benches, a wide
space remained vacant. Every object and surface within this interior,
were of the tawny hue which unpainted pine gradually assumes. Many were
the gashes that had furtively been made in the ledges of the desks and
on the exterior angles of the benches; many the ducts cut in the slopes
of the desks for spilt ink or other fluid; many the small cell with
sliding lid, for the incarceration of fly or spider; many the initials
and dates carved here, and on other convenient surfaces, on the wainscot
and the four posts.

On the benches and at the desks enumerated and described, on either
side, were ordinarily to be seen the figures and groups which usually
fill up a school interior, all busily engaged in one or other of the
many matters customary in the training and informing the minds of boys.
Here, at one time, was to be heard, on every side, the mingled but
subdued sound of voices conning or repeating tasks, answering and
putting questions; at another time, the commotion arising out of a
transposition of classes, or the breaking up of the whole assembly into
a fresh set of classes; at another time, a hushed stillness preparatory
to some expected allocution, or consequent on some rebuke or admonition.
It was manifest, at a glance, that the whole scene was under the spell
of a skilled disciplinarian.

Here, again, the presiding genius of the place was Dr. Strachan. From a
boy he had been in the successful discharge of the duties of a
schoolmaster. At the early age of sixteen we find that he was in charge
of a school at Carmyllie, with the grown-up sons of the neighbouring
farmers, and of some of the neighbouring clergy, well under control. At
that period he was still keeping his terms and attending lectures,
during the winter months, at King's College, Aberdeen. Two years
afterwards he obtained a slightly better appointment of the same kind at
Denino, still pursuing his academical studies, gathering, as is evident
from his own memoranda, a considerable knowledge of men and things, and
forming friendships that proved life-long. Of his stay at Denino he
says, in 1800: "The two years which I spent at Denino were, perhaps, as
happy as any in my life; much more than any time since." "At Denino,"
the same early document states, "I learned to think for myself. Dr.
Brown [the parish-minister of the place, afterwards professor at
Glasgow,] corrected many of my false notions. Thomas Duncan [afterwards
a professor at St. Andrew's] taught me to use my reason and to employ
the small share of penetration I possess in distinguishing truth from
error. I began to extend my thoughts to abstract and general ideas; and
to summon the author to the bar of my reason. I learned to discriminate
between hypotheses and facts, and to separate the ebullitions of fancy
from the deductions of reason. It is not to be supposed that I could or
can do these things perfectly; but I began to apply my powers: my skill
is still increasing."

Then for two years more, and up to the moment of his bold determination
to make trial of his fortunes in the new world beyond the seas, he is in
charge of the parish-school of Kettle. We have before us a list of his
school there, March the 22nd, 1798. The names amount to eighty-two.
After each, certain initials are placed denoting disposition and
capability, and the direction of any particular talent. Among these
names are to be read that of D. Wilkie, afterwards the artist, and that
of J. Barclay, afterwards the naval commander here on Lake Erie. We
believe that Thomas Campbell, author of the Pleasures of Hope, was also
for a time under his care.

In the history of Dr. Strachan's educational labours in Canada, the
school at York presents fewer points of interest than that at Cornwall,
which is rendered illustrious by having had enrolled on its books so
many names familiar in the annals of Upper Canada. Among the forty-two
subscribers to an address accompanying a piece of Plate in 1833, there
are Robinsons, and Macaulays, and McDonells, and McLeans, and Joneses,
and Stantons, and Bethunes; a Jarvis, a Chewett, a Boulton, a
Vankoughnet, a Smith of Kingston, an Anderson; with some others now less
known. - So illustrative is that address of the skill and earnest care of
the instructor on the one hand, and of the value set upon his efforts by
his scholars, on the other, after the lapse of many years, that we are
induced to give here a short extract from it.

"Our young minds," the signers of the address in 1833 say, referring to
their school-days in Cornwall - "our young minds received there an
impression which has scarcely become fainter from time, of the deep and
sincere interest which you took, not only in our advancement in learning
and science, but in all that concerned our happiness or could affect our
future prospects in life." To which Dr. Strachan replies by saying,
among many other excellent things - "It has ever been my conviction that
our scholars should be considered for the time our children; and that as
parents we should study their peculiar dispositions, if we really wish
to improve them; for if we feel not something of the tender relation of
parents towards them, we cannot expect to be successful in their
education. It was on this principle I attempted to proceed: strict
justice tempered with parental kindness; and the present joyful meeting
evinces its triumph: it treats the sentiments and feelings of scholars
with proper consideration; and while it gives the heart and affections
full freedom to shew themselves in filial gratitude on the one side, and
fatherly affection, on the other, it proves that unsparing labour
accompanied with continual anxiety for the learner's progress never
fails to ensure success and to produce a friendship between master and
scholar which time can never dissolve."

Notwithstanding the greater glory of the school at Cornwall, (of which
institution we may say, in passing, there is an engraving in the
board-room of the Toronto Mechanics' Institute,) the lists of the school
at York always presented a strong array of the old, well-known and even
distinguished, Upper Canadian names. This will be seen by a perusal of
the following document, which will also give an idea of the variety of
matters to which attention was given in the school. The numerous family
names which will at once be recognized, will require no comment. - The
intervals between the calling up of each separate class for examination
appear to have been very plentifully filled up with recitations and

"Order of examination of the Home District Grammar School [at York].
Wednesday, 11th August, 1819. First Day. The Latin and Greek Classes.
Euclid and Trigonometry. Thursday, 12th August. Second day. To commence
at 10 o'clock. Prologue, by Robert Baldwin. - Reading Class. - George
Strachan, _The Excellence of the Bible_. Thomas Ridout, _The Man of
Ross_. James McDonell, _Liberty and Slavery_. St. George Baldwin, _The
Sword_. William McMurray, _Soliloquy on Sleep_. Arithmetic Class - James
Smith, _The Sporting Clergyman_. William Boulton, jun., _The Poets New
Year's Gift_. Richard Oates, _Ode to Apollo_. Orville Cassell, _The
Rose_. Book-keeping. - William Myers, _My Mother_. Francis Heward, _My
Father_. George Dawson, _Lapland_. - First Grammar Class. - Second Grammar
Class. - _Debate on the Slave Trade_. For the Abolition: Francis Ridout,
John Fitzgerald, William Allan, George Boulton, Henry Heward, William
Baldwin, John Ridout, John Doyle, James Strachan. Against the Abolition:
Abraham Nelles, James Baby, James Doyle, Charles Heward, Allan McDonell,
James Myers, Charles Ridout, William Boulton, Walker Smith. - First
Geography Class. - Second Geography Class. James Dawson, _The Boy that
told Lies_. James Bigelow, _The Vagrant_. Thomas Glassco, _The Parish
Workhouse_. Edward Glennon, _The Apothecary_. - Natural History. - Debate
by the Young Boys: _Sir William Strickland_, Charles Heward. _Lord
Morpeth_, John Owens. _Lord Hervey_, John Ridout. _Mr. Plomer_, Raymond
Baby. _Sir William Yonge_, John Fitzgerald. _Sir William Windham_, John
Boulton. _Mr. Henry Pelham_, Henry Heward. _Mr. Bernard_, George
Strachan. _Mr. Noel_, William Baldwin. _Mr. Shippen_, James Baby. _Sir
Robert Walpole_, S. Givins and J. Doyle. _Mr. Horace Walpole_, James
Myers. _Mr. Pulteney_, Charles Baby. - Civil History. - William Boulton,
_The Patriot_. Francis Ridout, _The Grave of Sir John Moore_. Saltern
Givins, _Great Britain_. John Boulton, _Eulogy on Mr. Pitt_. Warren
Claus, _The Indian Warrior_. Charles Heward, _The Soldier's Dream_.
William Boulton, _The Heroes of Waterloo_. - Catechism. - _Debate on the
College at Calcutta_. Speakers: _Mr. Canning_, Robert Baldwin. _Sir
Francis Baring_, John Doyle. _Mr. Wainwright_, Mark Burnham. _Mr.
Thornton_, John Knott. _Sir D. Scott_, William Boulton. _Lord Eldon_,
Warren Claus. _Sir S. Lawrence_, Allan Macaulay. _Lord Hawkesbury_,
Abraham Nelles. _Lord Bathurst_, James McGill Strachan, _Sir Thomas
Metcalf_, Walker Smith. _Lord Teignmouth_, Horace Ridout. - Religious
Questions and Lectures. - James McGill Strachan, Anniversary of the York
and Montreal Colleges anticipated for 1st January, 1822. Epilogue, by
Horace Ridout."

In the prologue pronounced by "Robert Baldwin," the administration of
Hastings in India is eulogized:

"Her powerful Viceroy, Hastings, leads the way
For radiant Truth to gain imperial sway;
The arts and sciences, for ages lost,
Roused at his call, revisit Brahma's coast."

Sir William Jones is also thus apostrophized, in connection with his
"Asiatic Researches":

"Thy comprehensive genius soon explored
The learning vast which former times had stored."

The Marquis of Wellesley is alluded to, and the college founded by him
at Calcutta:

"At his command the splendid structures rise:
Around the Brahmins stand in vast surprise."

The founding of a Seat of Learning in Calcutta suggests the necessity of
a similar institution in Canada. A good beginning, it is said, had been
here made in the way of lesser institutions: the prologue then proceeds:

"Yet much remains for some aspiring son,
Whose liberal soul from that, desires renown,
Which gains for Wellesley a lasting crown;
Some general structures in these wilds to rear,
Where every art and science may appear."

Sir Peregrine Maitland, who probably was present, is told that he might
in this manner immortalize his name:

"O Maitland blest! this proud distinction woos
Thy quick acceptance, back'd by every muse;
Those feelings, too, which joyful fancy knew
When learning's gems first opened to thy view,
Bid you to thousands smooth the thorny road,
Which leads to glorious Science's bright abode."

"The Anniversary of York and Montreal Colleges anticipated" is a kind of
Pindaric Ode to Gratitude: especially it is therein set forth that
offerings of thankfulness are due to benevolent souls in Britain:

"For often there in pensive mood
They ponder deeply on the good
They may on Canada bestow -
And College Halls appear, and streams of learning flow!"

The "Epilogue" to the day's performances is a humorous dissertation in
doggrel verse on United States innovations in the English Language: a
pupil of the school is supposed to complain of the conduct of the

"Between ourselves, and just to speak my mind,
In English Grammar, Master's much behind:
I speak the honest truth - I hate to dash -
He bounds our task by Murray, Lowth and Ashe.
I told him once that Abercrombie, moved
By genius deep had Murray's plan improved.
He frowned upon me, turning up his nose,
And said the man had ta'en a maddening dose.
Once in my theme I put the word _progress_ -
He sentenced twenty lines, without redress;
Again for 'measure' I transcribed 'endeavour' -
And all the live-long day I lost his favour." &c, &c.

At the examination of the District School on August 7th, 1816, a similar
programme was provided.

John Claus spoke the prologue on this occasion, and the following boys
had parts assigned them in the proceedings. The names of some of them
appear in the account for 1819, just given: John Skeldon, George
Skeldon, Henry Mosley, John Doyle, Charles Heward, James Myers, John
Ridout, Charles Ridout, John FitzGerald, John Mosley, Saltern Givins,
James Sheehan, Henry Heward, Allan McDonell, William Allan, John
Boulton, William Myers, James Bigelow, William Baldwin, St. George
Baldwin, K. de Koven, John Knott, James Givins, Horace Ridout, William
Lancaster, James Strachan, David McNab, John Harraway, Robert Baldwin,
Henry Nelles, Warren Shaw, David Shaw, Daniel Murray.

In 1816, Governor Gore was at the head of affairs. He is advised, in the
Prologue spoken by John Claus, to distinguish himself by attention to
the educational interests of the country: (The collocation of names at
the end will excite a smile.) -

"O think what honour pure shall bless thy name
Beyond the fleeting voice of vulgar fame!
When kings and haughty victors cease to raise
The secret murmur and the venal praise,
Perhaps that name, when Europe's glories fade,
Shall often charm this Academic shade,
And bards exclaim on rough Ontario's shore,
We found a Wellesley and Jones in Gore!"

We have ourselves a good personal recollection of the system of the
school at York, and of the interest which it succeeded in awakening in
the subjects taught. The custom of mutual questioning in classes, under
the eye of the master, was well adapted to induce real research, and to
impress facts on the mind when discovered.

In the higher classes each lad in turn was required to furnish a set of
questions to be put by himself to his class-fellows, on a given subject,
with the understanding that he should be ready to set the answerer right
should he prove wrong. And again: any lad who should be deemed competent
was permitted to challenge another, or several others, to read or recite
select rhetorical pieces: a memorandum of the challenge was recorded:
and, at the time appointed, the contest came off, the class or the
school deciding the superiority in each case, subject to the criticism
or disallowance of the master.

It will be seen from the matters embraced in the programme given above,
that the object aimed at was a speedy and real preparation for actual
life. The master, in this instance, was disembarrassed of the traditions
which, at the period referred to, often rendered the education of a
young man a cumbersome, unintelligent and tedious thing. The
circumstances of his own youth had evidently led him to free himself
from routine. He himself was an example, in addition to many another
Scottish-trained man of eminence that might be named, of the early age
at which a youth of good parts and sincere, enlightened purpose, may be
prepared for the duties of actual life, when not caught in the
constrictor-coils of custom, which, under the old English
Public-School-system of sixty years since, used sometimes to torture
parent and son for such a long series of years.

Dr. Strachan's methods of instruction were productive, for others, of
the results realized in his own case. His distinguished Cornwall pupils,
were all, we believe, usefully and successfully engaged in the real work
of life in very early manhood. "The time allowed in a new country like
this," he said to his pupils at Cornwall in 1807, "is scarcely
sufficient to sow the most necessary seed; very great progress is not
therefore to be expected: if the principles are properly engrafted we
have done well."

In the same address his own mode of proceeding is thus dwelt upon: "In
conducting your education, one of my principal objects has always been
to fit you for discharging with credit the duties of any office to which
you may hereafter be called. To accomplish this, it was necessary for
you to be accustomed frequently to depend upon, and think for
yourselves: accordingly I have always encouraged this disposition, which
when preserved within due bounds, is one of the greatest benefits that
can possibly be acquired. To enable you to think with advantage, I not
only regulated your tasks in such a manner as to exercise your judgment,
but extended your views beyond the meagre routine of study usually
adopted in schools; for, in my opinion, several branches of science may
be taught with advantage at a much earlier age than is generally
supposed. We made a mystery of nothing: on the contrary, we entered
minutely into every particular, and patiently explained by what
progressive steps certain results were obtained. It has ever been my
custom, before sending a class to their seats, to ask myself whether
they had learned anything; and I was always exceedingly mortified if I
had not the agreeable conviction that they had made some improvement.
Let none of you, however, suppose that what you have learned here is
sufficient; on the contrary, you are to remember that we have laid only
the foundation. The superstructure must be laid by yourselves."

Here is an account of his method of teaching Arithmetic, taken from the
introduction to a little work on the subject, published by himself in
1809: "I divide my pupils," he says, "into separate classes, according
to their progress. Each class has one or more sums to produce every day,
neatly wrought upon their slates: the work is carefully examined; after
which I command every figure to be blotted out, and the sums to be
wrought under my eye. The one whom I happen to pitch upon first, gives,
with an audible voice, the rules and reasons for every step; and as he
proceeds the rest silently work along with him, figure for figure, but
ready to correct him if he blunder, that they may get his place. As soon
as this one is finished, the work is again blotted out, and another
called upon to work the question aloud as before, while the rest again
proceed along with him in silence, and so on round the whole class. By
this method the principles are fixed in the mind; and he must be a very
dull boy indeed who does not understand every question thoroughly before
he leaves it. This method of teaching Arithmetic possesses this
important advantage, that it may be pursued without interrupting the
pupil's progress in any other useful study. The same method of teaching
Algebra has been used with equal success. Such a plan is certainly very
laborious, but it will be found successful; and he that is anxious to
spare labour ought not to be a public Teacher. When boys remain long
enough, it has been my custom to teach them the theory, and give them a
number of curious questions in Geography, Natural Philosophy and
Astronomy, a specimen of which may be seen in the questions placed
before the Appendix."

The youths to be dealt with in early Canadian schools were not all of
the meek, submissive species. With some of them occasionally a sharp
regimen was necessary; and it was adopted without hesitation. On this
point, the address just quoted, thus speaks: "One of the greatest
advantages you have derived from your education here, arises from the
strictness of our discipline. Those of you who have not already

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 16 of 59)