Henry Scadding.

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

. (page 18 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 18 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and other furs at the store of Robert Coleman, Esquire, Market Place,

Mr. Rogers' descendants continue to occupy the identical site on King
Street indicated above, and the Indian Trapper, renovated, is still to
be seen - a pleasant instance of Canadian persistence and stability.

In Great Britain and Europe generally, the thoroughfares of ancient
towns had, as we know, character and variety given them by the
trade-symbols displayed up and down their misty vistas. Charles the
First gave, by letters patent, express permission to the citizens of
London "to expose and hang in and over the streets, and ways, and alleys
of the said city and suburbs of the same, signs and posts of signs,
affixed to their houses and shops, for the better finding out such
citizens' dwellings, shops, arts, and occupations, without impediment,
molestation or interruption of his heirs or successors." And the
practice was in vogue long before the time of Charles. It preceded the
custom of distinguishing houses by numbers. At periods when the
population generally were unable to read, such rude appeals to the eye
had, of course, their use. But as education spread, and architecture of
a modern style came to be preferred, this mode of indicating "arts and
occupations" grew out of fashion.

Of late, however, the pressure of competition in business has been
driving men back again upon the customs of by-gone illiterate
generations. For the purpose of establishing a distinct individuality in
the public mind the most capricious freaks are played. The streets of
the modern Toronto exhibit, we believe, two leonine specimens of
auro-ligneous zoology, between which the sex is announced to constitute
the difference. The lack of such clear distinction between a pair of
glittering symbols of this genus and species, in our Canadian London,
was the occasion of much grave consideration in 1867, on the part of the
highest authority in our Court of Chancery. Although in that _cause
célèbre_, after a careful physiognomical study by means of photographs
transmitted, it was allowed that there _were_ points of difference
between the two specimens in question, as, for example, that "one looked
older than the other;" that "one, from the sorrowful expression of its
countenance, seemed more resigned to its position than the other" - still
the decree was issued for the removal of one of them from the
scene - very properly the later-carved of the two.

Of the ordinary trade-signs that were to be seen along the thoroughfare
of King Street no particular notice need be taken. The Pestle and
Mortar, the Pole twined round with the black strap, the Crowned Boot,
the Tea-chest, the Axe, the Broad-axe, the Saw, (mill, cross-cut and
circular), the colossal Fowling-piece, the Cooking-stove, the Plough,
the Golden Fleece, the Anvil and Sledge-Hammer, the magnified
Horse-Shoe, each told its own story, as indicating indispensable wares
or occupations.

Passing eastward from the painted effigy of the Indian Trapper, we soon
came in front of the Market Place, which, so long as only a low wooden
building occupied its centre, had an open, airy appearance. We have
already dwelt upon some of the occurrences, and associations connected
with this spot.

On King street, about here, the ordinary trade and traffic of the place
came, after a few years, to be concentrated. Here business and bustle
were every day, more or less, created by the usual wants of the
inhabitants, and by the wants of the country farmers whose waggons in
summer, and sleighs in winter, thronged in from the north, east and
west. And hereabout at one moment or another, every lawful day, would be
surely seen, coming and going, the oddities and street-characters of the
town and neighbourhood. Having devoted some space to the leading and
prominent personages of our drama, it will be only proper to bestow a
few words on the subordinates, the Calibans and Gobbos, the Nyms and
Touchstones, of the piece.

From the various nationalities and races of which the community was a
mixture, these were drawn. There was James O'Hara, for example, a poor
humourous Irishman, a perfect representative of his class in costume,
style and manner, employed as bellman at auctions, and so on. When the
town was visited by the Papyrotomia - travelling cutters-out of
likenesses in black paper (some years ago such things created a
sensation), - a full-length of O'Hara was suspended at the entrance to
the rooms, recognized at once by every eye, even without the aid of the
"Shoot easy" inscribed on a label issuing from the mouth. (In the
_Loyalist_ of Nov. 24, 1827, we have O'Hara's death noted. "Died on
Friday the 16th instant, James O'Hara, long an inhabitant of this Town,
and formerly a soldier in His Majesty's service.") - There was Jock
Murray, the Scotch carter; and after him, William Pettit, the English
one; and the carter who drove the horse with the "spring-halt;" (every
school-lad in the place was familiar with the peculiar twitch upwards of
the near hind leg in the gait of this nag.)

The negro population was small. Every individual of colour was
recognizable at sight. Black Joe and Whistling Jack were two
notabilities; both of them negroes of African birth. In military bands a
negro drummer or cymbal-player was formerly often to be seen. The two
men just named, after obtaining discharge from a regiment here, gained
an honest livelihood by chance employment about the town. Joe, a
well-formed, well-trained figure, was to be seen, still arrayed in some
old cast-off shell-jacket, acting as porter, or engaged about horses;
once already we have had a glimpse of him in the capacity of sheriff's
assistant, administering the lash to wretched culprits in the Market
Place. The other, besides playing other parts, officiated occasionally
as a sweep; but his most memorable accomplishment was a melodious and
powerful style of whistling musical airs, and a faculty for imitating
the bag-pipes to perfection. - For the romantic sound of the name, the
tall, comely negress, Amy Pompadour, should also be mentioned in the
record. But she was of servile descent: at the time at which we write
slavery was only just dying out in Upper Canada, as we shall have
occasion to note hereafter more at large.

Then came the "Jack of Clubs." Lord Thurlow, we are told, once enabled a
stranger to single out in a crowd Dunning, afterwards Lord Ashburton, by
telling him to take notice of the first man he saw bearing a strong
resemblance to the "Jack of Clubs." In the present case it was a worthy
trader in provisions who had acquired among his fellow-townsmen a
sobriquet from a supposed likeness to that sturdy court-card figure. He
was a short, burly Englishman, whose place of business was just opposite
the entrance to the Market. So absolutely did the epithet attach itself
to him, that late-comers to the place failed to learn his real name: all
which was good-humouredly borne for a time; but at last the distinction
became burdensome and irritating, and Mr. Stafford removed in disgust to
New York.

A well-known character often to be seen about here, too, was an
unfortunate English farmer of the name of Cowper, of disordered
intellect, whose peculiarity was a desire to station himself in the
middle of the roadway, and from that vantage-ground to harangue any
crowd that might gather, incoherently, but always with a great show of
sly drollery and mirthfulness.

On occasions of militia funeral processions, observant lads and others
were always on the look-out for a certain prosperous cordwainer of the
town of York, Mr. Wilson, who was sure then to be seen marching in the
ranks, with musket reversed, and displaying with great precision and
solemnity the extra-upright carriage and genuine toe-pointed step of the
soldier of the days of George the Second. He had been for sixteen years
in the 41st regiment, and ten years and forty-four days in the 103rd;
and it was with pride and gusto that he exhibited the high proficiency
to which he had in other days attained. The slow pace required by the
Dead March gave the on-looker time to study the antique style of
military movement thus exemplified.

It was at a comparatively late period that Sir John Smythe and Spencer
Lydstone, poets, were notabilities in the streets; the latter, Mr.
Lydstone, recognizable from afar by a scarlet vest, brought out, ever
and anon, a printed broadside, filled with eulogiums or satires on the
inhabitants of the town, regulated by fees or refusals received. The
former, Sir John Smythe, found in the public papers a place for his
productions, which by their syntactical irregularities and freedom from
marks of punctuation, proved their author (as a reviewer of the day once
observed) to be a man _supra grammaticam_, and one possessed of a genius
above commas. But his great hobby was a railway to the Pacific, in
connection with which he brought out a lithographed map: its peculiarity
was a straight black line conspicuously drawn across the continent from
Fort William to the mouth of the Columbia river.

In a tract of his on the subject of this railway he provides, in the
case of war with the United States, for steam communication between
London in England and China and the East Indies, by "a branch to run on
the north side of the township of Cavan and on the south side of Balsam
Lake." "I propose this," he says, "to run in the rear of Lake Huron and
in the rear of Lake Superior, twenty miles in the interior of the
country of the Lake aforesaid; to unite with the railroad from Lake
Superior to Winnipeg, at the south-west main trading-post of the
North-West Company." The document is signed "Sir John Smythe, Baronet
and Royal Engineer, Canadian Poet, LL.D., and Moral Philosopher."

The concourse of traffickers and idlers in the open space before the old
Market Place were free of tongue; they sometimes talked, in no subdued
tone, of their fellow-townsfolk of all ranks. In a small community every
one was more or less acquainted with every one, with his dealings and
appurtenances, with his man-servant and maid-servant, his horse, his
dog, his waggon, cart or barrow.

Those of the primitive residentiaries, to whom the commonalty had taken
kindly, were honoured in ordinary speech with their militia-titles of
Colonel, Major, Captain, or the civilian prefix of Mister, Honourable
Mister, Squire or Judge, as the case might be; whilst others, not held
to have achieved any special claims to deference, were named, even in
mature years, by their plain, baptismal names, John, Andrew, Duncan,
George, and so on.

And then, there was a third marking-off of a few, against whom, for some
vague reason or another, there had grown up in the popular mind a
certain degree of prejudice. These, by a curtailment or national
corruption of their proper prenomen, would be ordinarily styled Sandy
this, Jock that. In some instances the epithet "old" would irreverently
precede, and persons of considerable eminence might be heard spoken of
as old Tom so-and-so, old Sam such-a-one.

And similarly in respect to the sons and nephews of these worthy
gentlemen. Had the community never been replenished from outside
sources, few of them would, to the latest moment of their lives, have
ever been distinguished except by the plain John, Stephen, Allan,
Christopher, and so on, of their infancy, or by the Bill, Harry, Alec,
Mac, Dolph, Dick, or Bob, acquired in the nursery or school.

But enough has been said, for the present at least, on the humors and
ways of our secondary characters, as exemplified in the crowd
customarily gathered in front of the old Market at York. We shall now
proceed on our prescribed route.

The lane leading northward from the north-west corner of Market Square
used to be known as Stuart's Lane, from the Rev. George Okill Stuart,
once owner of property here. On its west side was a well-known inn, the
Farmers' Arms, kept by Mr. Bloor, who, on retiring from business, took
up his abode at Yorkville, where it has curiously happened that his name
has been attached to a fashionable street, the thoroughfare formerly
known as the Concession Line.

The street running north from the north-east angle of Market Square, now
known as Nelson Street, was originally New Street, a name which was
commemorative of the growth of York westward. The terminal street of the
town on the west, prior to the opening of this New Street, had been
George Street. The name of "New Street" should never have been changed,
even for the heroic one of Nelson. As the years rolled on, it would have
become a quaint misnomer, involving a tale, like the name of "New
College" at Oxford - a College about five hundred years old.

At a point about half-way between New Street and George Street, King
Street was, in 1849, the scene of an election _fracas_ which, in distant
quarters, damaged for a time the good name of the town. While passing in
front of the Coleraine House, an inn on the north side of the street,
and a rendezvous of the unsuccessful party, some persons walking in
procession, in addition to indulging in the usual harmless groans, flung
a missile into the house, when a shot, fired from one of the windows,
killed a man in the concourse below.

Owing to the happy settlement of numerous irritating public questions,
elections are conducted now, in our towns and throughout our Provinces,
in a calm and rational temper for the most part. Only two relics of evil
and ignorant days remain amongst us, stirring bad blood twice a year, on
anniversaries consecrated, or otherwise, to the object. A
generous-hearted nation, transplanted as they have been almost _en
masse_ to a new continent, where prosperity, wealth and honours have
everywhere been their portion, would shew more wisdom in the repudiation
than they do in the recognition and studied conservation, of these
hateful heirlooms of their race.





On passing George Street, as we intimated a moment ago, we enter the
parallelogram which constituted the original town-plot. Its boundaries
were George Street, Duchess Street, Ontario Street (with the lane south
of it), and Palace Street. From this, its old core, York spread westward
and northward, extending at length in those directions respectively
(under the name of Toronto) to the Asylum and Yorkville; while eastward
its developments - though here less solid and less shapely - were finally
bounded by the windings of the Don. Were Toronto an old town on the
European Continent, George Street, Duchess Street, Ontario Street and
Palace Street, would probably now be boulevards, showing the space once
occupied by stout stone walls. The parallelogram just defined represents
"the City" in modern London, or "la Cité" in modern Paris - the original
nucleus round which gradually clustered the dwellings of later

Before, however, we enter upon what may be styled King Street proper, it
will be convenient to make a momentary digression northwards into Duke
Street, anciently a quiet, retired thoroughfare, skirted on the right
and left by the premises and grounds and houses of several most
respectable inhabitants. At the north-west angle of the intersection of
this street with George Street was the home of Mr. Washburn; but this
was comparatively a recent erection. Its site previously had been the
brickyard of Henry Hale, a builder and contractor, who put up the wooden
structure, possessing some architectural pretensions, on the south-east
angle of the same intersection, diagonally across; occupied in the
second instance by Mr. Moore, of the Commissariat; then by Dr. Lee, and
afterwards by Mr. J. Murchison.

(The last named was for a long time the Stultz of York, supplying all
those of its citizens, young and old, who desired to make an attractive
or intensely respectable appearance, with vestments in fine broadcloth.)

A little to the north, on the left side of George Street, was the famous
Ladies' School of Mrs. Goodman, presided over subsequently by Miss
Purcell and Miss Rose. This had been previously the homestead of Mr.
Stephen Jarvis, of whom again immediately. - Two or three of these
familiar names appear in an advertisement relating to land in this
neighbourhood, in the _Gazette_ of March 23rd, 1826. - "For Sale: Three
lots or parcels of land in the town of York, the property of Mrs.
Goodman, being part of the premises on which Miss Purcell now resides,
and formerly owned by Col. Jarvis. The lots are each fifty feet in width
and one hundred and thirty in depth, and front on the street running
from King Street to Mr. Jarvis's Park lot. If not disposed of by private
sale, they will be put up at auction on the first day of May next.
Application to be made to Miss Purcell, or at the Office of the _U. C.
Gazette_. York, March 10, 1826."

Advancing on Duke Street eastward a little way, we came, on the left, to
the abode of Chief Justice Sir William Campbell, of whom before Sir
William erected here in 1822 a mansion of brick, in good style. It was
subsequently, for many years, the hospitable home of the Hon. James
Gordon, formerly of Amherstburgh.

Then on the right, one square beyond, at the south-easterly corner where
Caroline Street intersects, we reached the house of Mr. Secretary
Jarvis, a man of great note in his day, whose name is familiar to all
who have occasion to examine the archives of Upper Canada in the
administrations of Governors Simcoe, Hunter and Gore. A fine portrait of
him exists, but, as we have been informed, it has been transmitted to
relatives in England. Mr. Stephen Jarvis, above named, was long the
Registrar of Upper Canada. His hand-writing is well-known to all holders
of early deeds. He and the Secretary were first cousins; of the same
stock as the well-known Bishop Jarvis of Connecticut, and the Church
Historian, Dr. Samuel Farmer Jarvis. Both were officers in incorporated
Colonial regiments before the independence of the United States; and
both came to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Mr. Stephen Jarvis was
the founder of the leading Canadian family to which the first Sheriff
Jarvis belonged. Mr. Samuel Peters Jarvis, from whom "Jarvis Street" has
its name, was the son of Mr. Secretary Jarvis.

On the left, one square beyond the abode of Mr. Secretary Jarvis, came
the premises and home of Mr. Surveyor General Ridout, the latter a
structure still to be seen in its primitive outlines, a good specimen of
the old type of early Upper Canadian family residence of a superior
class; combining the qualities of solidity and durability with those of
snugness and comfort in the rigours of winter and the heats of summer.
In the rear of Mr. Ridout's house was for some time a family
burial-plot; but, like several similar private enclosures in the
neighbourhood of the town, it became disused after the establishment of
regular cemeteries.

Nearly opposite Mr. Ridout's, in one of the usual long, low Upper
Canadian one-storey dwellings, shaded by lofty Lombardy poplars, was the
home of the McIntoshes, who are to be commemorated hereafter in
connection with the Marine of York: and here, at a later period, lived
for a long time Mr. Andrew Warffe and his brother John. Mr. Andrew
Warffe was a well-known employé in the office of the Inspector General,
Mr. Baby, and a lieutenant in the Incorporated Militia.

By one of the vicissitudes common in the history of family residences
everywhere, Mr. Secretary Jarvis's house, which we just now passed,
became afterwards the place of business of a memorable cutler and
gunsmith, named Isaac Columbus. During the war of 1812, Mr. Columbus was
employed as armourer to the Militia, and had a forge near the garrison.
Many of the swords used by the Militia officers were actually
manufactured by him. He was a native of France; a liberal-hearted man,
ever ready to contribute to charitable objects; and a clever artizan.
Whether required to "jump" the worn and battered axe of a backwoodsman,
to manufacture the skate-irons and rudder of an ice-boat, to put in
order a surveyor's theodolite, or to replace for the young geometrician
or draughtsman an instrument lost out of his case, he was equally _au
fait_. On occasion he could even supply an elderly lady or gentleman
with a set of false teeth, and insert them.

In our boyhood we had occasion to get many little matters attended to at
Mr. Columbus's. Once on leaving word that a certain article must be
ready by a particular hour, we remember being informed that "must" was
only for the King of France. His political absolutism would have
satisfied Louis XIV. himself. He positively refused to have anything to
do with the "liberals" of York, expressly on the ground that, in his
opinion, the modern ideas of government "hindered the King from acting
as a good father to the people."

An expression of his, "first quality, blue!" used on a particular
occasion in reference to an extra finish to be given to some steel-work
for an extra price, passed into a proverb among us boys at school, and
was extensively applied by us to persons and things of which we desired
to predicate a high degree of excellence.

Over Columbus's workshop, at the corner of Caroline Street, we are
pretty sure his name appeared as here given; and so it was always
called. But we observe in some lists of early names in York, that it is
given as "Isaac Collumbes." It is curious to note that the great
discoverer's name is a latinization of Colon, Coulon, Colombe,
descendant each of _columba_, dove, of which _columbus_ is the masculine





We now retrace our steps to King Street, at its intersection with George
Street; and here our eye immediately lights on an object connected with
the early history of Education in York.

Attached to the east side of the house at the south-east angle of the
intersection is a low building, wholly of stone, resembling a small
root-house. Its structure is concealed from view now by a coating of
clapboards. This was the first school-house possessing a public
character in York.

It was where Dr. Stuart taught, afterwards Archdeacon of Kingston. The
building was on his property, which became afterwards that of Mr. George
Duggan, once before referred to. (In connection with St. James' Church,
it should have been recorded that Mr. Duggan was the donor and planter
of the row of Lombardy poplars which formerly stood in front of that
edifice, and which figured conspicuously in the old engravings of King
Street. He was an Irishman of strong opinions. He once stood for the
town against Mr. Attorney-General Robinson, but without success. When
the exigencies of later times required the uprooting of the poplar
trees, now become overgrown, he warmly resented the removal and it was
at the risk of grievous bodily harm that the Church-warden of the day,
Mr. T. D. Harris, carried into effect the resolution of the Vestry.)

Dr. Stuart's was the Home District School. From a contemporary record,
now before us, we learn that it opened on June the first, 1807, and that
the first names entered on its books were those of John Ridout, William
A. Hamilton, Thomas G. Hamilton, George H. Detlor, George S. Boulton,
Robert Stanton, William Stanton, Angus McDonell, Alexander Hamilton,
Wilson Hamilton, Robert Ross, Allan McNab. To this list, from time to
time, were added many other old Toronto or Upper Canadian names: as, for
example, the following: John Moore, Charles Ruggles, Edward Hartney,
Charles Boulton, Alexander Chewett, Donald McDonell, James Edward Small,
Charles Small, John Hayes, George and William Jarvis, William Bowkett,
Peter McDonell, Philemon Squires, James McIntosh, Bernard, Henry and
Marshall Glennon, Richard Brooke, Daniel Brooke, Charles Reade, William
Robinson, Gilbert Hamilton, Henry Ernst, John Gray, Robert Gray, William
Cawthra, William Smith, Harvey Woodruff, Robert Anderson, Benjamin
Anderson, James Givins, Thomas Playter, William Pilkington. The French
names Belcour, Hammeil and Marian occur. (There were bakers or
confectioners of these names in York at an early period.)

From the same record it appears that female pupils were not excluded
from the primitive Home District School. On the roll are names which
surviving contemporaries would recognize as belonging to the _beau
monde_ of Upper Canada, distinguished and admired in later years.

A building-lot, eighty-six feet in front and one hundred and seventeen
in depth, next to the site of the school, is offered for sale in 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 18 of 59)