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

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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 ;

1 82 Toronto of Old. [§ 13.

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 out-
lines, 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 Mclntoshes, 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 employ^ 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 resi-
dences everywhere, Mr. Secretary Jarvis's house, which we just
now passed, became afterwards the place of business of a memo-
rable cutler and gunsmith, named Isaac Columbus. During the
war of 181 2, 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 j 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 geome-
trician 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 at-
tended to at Mr. Columbus's. Once on leaving word that a certain

§ 1 3.] King Street : (Duke Street. 183

article must be ready by a particular hour, we remember being in-
formed that " must" was only for the King of France. His politi-
cal 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 co/um&a, dove, of which columbus is
the masculine form.



E now retrace our steps to King Street, at its inter-
section with George Street j and here our eye im-
mediately 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 struc-
ture 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 Kings-
ton. The building was on his property, which became afterwards
that of Mr. George Duggan, once before referred to. (In connec-
tion 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 re-
moval 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 contem-
porary record, now before us, we learn that it opened on June the
first, 1807, and that the first names entered on its. books were

§ 1 4.] King Street , front George to Caroline Sts. 185

those of John Ridout, William A. Hamilton, Thomas G. Hamil-
ton, George H. Detlor, George S. Boulton, Robert Stanton, Wil-
liam 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 Mc-
Donell, 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 ex-
cluded from the primitive Home District School. On the roll are
names which surviving contemporaries would recognize as belong-
ing to the beau monde of Upper Canada, distinguished and ad-
mired 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 Gazette of the 18th of March, 1822 ; and in the
advertisement it is stated to be " one of the most eligible lots in
the Town of York, and situated in King Street, in the centre of
the Town/'

To the left, just across from this choice position, was, in 1833,
Wragg & Co.'s establishment, where such matter-of-fact articles as
the following could be procured " Bending and unbending nails,
as usual ; wrought nails and spikes of all sizes [a change since
18 10] : ox-traces and cable chains ; tin ; double and single sheet
iron : sheet brass and copper ; bar, hoop, bolt and rod iron of all
sizes ; shear, blister and cast steel ; with every other article in the
heavy line, together with a very complete assortment of shelf
goods, cordage, oakum, tar, pitch, and rosin : also a few patent ma-
chines for shelling corn." (A much earlier resort for such mer-
chandize was Mr. Peter Paterson's, on the west side of the Market

1 86 Toronto of Old. [§ 14.

Of a date somewhat subsequent to that of Messrs. Wragg's ad-
vertisement, was the dep6t of Mr. Harris for similar substantial
wares. This was situated on the north side of King Street, west-
ward of the point at which we are now pausing. It long resisted
the great conflagration of 1849, towering up amidst the flames
like a black, isolated crag in a tempestuous sea ; but at length it
succumbed. Having been rendered, as it was supposed, fire-
proof externally, no attempt was made to remove the contents of
the building.

To the east of Messrs. Wragg's place of business, on the same
side, and dating back to an early period, was the dwelling house
and mart of Mr. Mosley, the principal auctioneer and appraiser of
York, a well-known and excellent man. He had suffered the
severe calamity of a partial deprivation of the lower limbs by frost-
bite ; but he contrived to move about with great activity in a room
or on the side- walk by means of two light chairs, shifting himself
adroitly from the one to the other. When required to go to a
distance or to church, (where he was ever punctually to be seen
in his place), he was lifted by his son or sons into and out of a
wagonette, together with the chairs.

On the same (north) side was the place where the Messrs. Lesslie,
enterprising and successful merchants from Dundee, dealt at once
in two remunerative articles — books and drugs. The left side of
the store was devoted to the latter ; the right to the former. Their
first head-quarters in York had been further up the street ; but a
move had been made to the eastward, to be, as things were then,
nearer the heart of the town.

This firm had houses carrying on the same combined businesses
in Kingston and Dundas. There exists a bronze medal or token,
of good design, sought after by collectors, bearing the legend,
" E. Lesslie and Sons, Toronto and Dundas, 1822." The date
has been perplexing, as the town was not named Toronto in 1822.
The intention simply was to indicate the year of the founding of
the firm in the two towns ; the first of which assumed the name
of Toronto at the period the medal was really struck, viz., 1834.
On the obverse it bears a figure of Justice with scales and sword :
on the reverse, a plough with the mottoes, " Prosperity to Canada,"
" La Prudence et la Candeur." — A smaller Token of the same firm
is extant, on which " Kingston " is inserted between " Toronto "
and " Dundas."

§ 1 4.] King Street, from George to Caroline Sts. 187

Nearly opposite was the store of Mr. Monro. Regarding our
King Street as the Broadway of York, Mr. Monro was for a long
time its Stewart. But the points about his premises that linger
now in our recollection the most, are a tasteful flower-garden on
its west side, and a trellised verandah in that direction, with cana-
ries in a cage, usually singing therein. Mr. Monro was Mayor of
Toronto in 1840. He also represented in Parliament the South
Riding of York, in the Session of 1844-5.

At the north-west corner, a little further on, resided Mr. Alex-
ander Wood, whose name appears often in the Report of the
Loyal and Patriotic Society of 181 2, to which reference before
has been made, and of which he was the Secretary. A brother of
his, at first in copartnership with Mr. Allan, and at a later period,
independently, had made money, at York, by business. On the
decease of his brother, Mr. Alexander Wood came out to attend
to the property left. He continued on the same spot, until after
the war of 18 12, the commercial operations which had been so
prosperously begun, and then retired.

At the time to which our recollections are just now transporting
us, the windows of the part of the house that had been the store
were always seen with the shutters closed. Mr. Wood was a
bachelor j and it was no uncosy sight, towards the close of the
shortening autumnal days, before the remaining front shutters of
the house were drawn in for the evening, to catch a glimpse, in
passing, of the interior of his comfortable quarters, lighted up by
the blazing logs on the hearth, the table standing duly spread
close by, and the solitary himself ruminating in his chair before the
fire, waiting for candles and dinner to be brought in.

On sunny mornings in winter he was often to be seen pacing
the sidewalk in front of his premises for exercise, arrayed in a
long blue over-coat, with his right hand thrust for warmth into the
cuff of his left sleeve, and his left hand into that of his right. He
afterwards returned to Scotland, where, at Stonehaven, not far
from Aberdeen, he had family estates known as Woodcot and
Woodburnden. He died without executing a will ; and it was some
time before the rightful heir to his property in Scotland and here
was determined. It had been his intention, we believe, to return
to Canada. — The streets which run eastward from Yonge Street,
north of Carleton Street, named respectively " Wood " and "Alex-
ander," pass across land that belonged to Mr. Wood.

1 88 Toronto of Old. [§ 14.

Many are the shadowy forms that rise before us, as we proceed
on our way ; phantom-re visitings from the misty Past ; the shapes
and faces of enterprising and painstaking men, of whose fortunes
King Street hereabout was the cradle. But it is not necessary in
these reminiscences to enumerate all who, on the right hand and
on the left, along the now comparatively deserted portions of the
great thoroughfare, amassed wealth in the olden time by commerce
and other honourable pursuits, — laying the foundation, in several
instances, of opulent families.

Quetton St. George, however, must not be omitted, builder of
the solid and enduring house on the corner opposite to Mr. Wood's;
a structure that, for its size and air of respectability ; for its ma-
terial, brick, when as yet all the surrounding habitations were of
wood ; for its tinned roof, its graceful porch, its careful and neat
finish generally, was, for a long time, one of the York lions.

Mr. Quetton St. George was a French royalist officer, and a
chevalier of the order of St. Louis. With many other French gen-
tlemen, he emigrated to Canada at the era of the Revolution. He
was of the class of the noblesse, as all officers were required to be ;
which class, just before the Revolution, included, it is said, 90,000
persons, all exempt from the ordinary taxes of the country.

The surname of St. George was assumed by M. Quetton to com-
memorate the fact that he had first set foot on English ground on St.
George's day. On proceeding to Canada, he, in conjunction with
Jean Louis, Vicomte de Chalus, and other distinguished emigres,
acquired a large estate in wild lands in the rough region north of
York, known as the " Oak Ridges."

Finding it difficult, however, to turn such property speedily to
account, he had recourse to trade with the Indians and remote in-
habitants. Numerous stations, with this object in view, were es-
tablished by him in different parts of the country, before his final
settlement in York. One of these posts was at Orillia, on Lake
Couchiching ; and in the Niagara Herald of August the 7th, 1802,
we meet with the following advertisement : — " New Store at the
House of the French General, between Niagara and Queenston.
Messrs. Quetton St. George and Co., acquaint the public that they
have lately arrived from New York with a general assortment of
Dry Goods and Groceries, which will be sold at the lowest price
for ready money, for from the uncertainty of their residing anytime
in these parts they cannot open accounts with any person. Will

§ 1 4.] King Street ; from George to Caroline Sis. 189

also be found at the same store a general assortment of tools for
all mechanics. They have likewise well-made Trunks ; also empty-
Barrels. Niagara, July 23."

The copartnership implied was with M. de Farcy. The French
General referred to was the Comte de Puisaye, of whom in full
hereafter. The house spoken of still exists, beautifully situated at
a point on the Niagara River, where the carriage-road between
Queenston and the town of Niagara approaches the very brink of
the lofty bank, whose precipitous side is even yet richly clothed
with fine forest trees, and where the noble stream below, closed in
towards the south by the heights above Lewiston and Queenston,
possesses all the features of a picturesque inland lake.

Attached to the house in question is a curious old fire-proof
structure of brick, quaintly buttressed with stone : the walls are of
a thickness of three or four feet ; and the interior is beautifully
vaulted and divided into two compartments, having no communi-
cation with each other : and above the whole is a long loft of wood,
approached by steps on the outside. The property here belonged
for a time in later years to Shickluna, the shipbuilder of St. Catha-
rines, who happily did not disturb the interesting relic just de-
scribed. The house itself was in some respects modernized by
him ; but, with its steep roof and three dormer windows, it still
retains much of its primitive character.

In 1805 we find Mr. St. George removed to York. The co-
partnership with M. de Farcy is now dissolved. In successive
numbers of the Gazette and Oracle, issued in that and the following
year, he advertises at great length. But on the 20th of Septem-
ber, 1806, he abruptly announces that he is not going to advertise
any more : he now once for all, begs the public to examine his
former advertisements, where they will find, he says, an account of
the supply which he brings from New York every spring, a similar
assortment to which he intends always to have on hand : and N. B.,
he adds : Nearly the same assortment may be found at Mr.
Boiton's, at Kingston, and at Mr. BouchervihVs, at Amherstburgh,
" who transact business for Mr. St. George."


As we have, in the advertisements referred to, a rather minute
record of articles and things procurable and held likely to be wanted
by the founders of society in these parts, we will give, for the

190 Toronto of Old. [§ x 4-

reader's entertainment, a selection from several of them, adhering
for the most part to the order in which the goods are therein

From time to time it is announced by Mr. St. George that there
have " just arrived from New York " : — Ribbons, cotton goods,
silk tassels, gown-trimmings, cotton binding, wire trimmings, silk
belting, fans, beaded buttons, block tin, glove ties, cotton bed-line,
bed-lace, rollo-bands, ostrich feathers, silk lace, black veil lace,
thread do., laces and edging, fine black veils, white do., fine silk
mitts, love-handkerchiefs, Barcelona do., silk do., black crape,
black mode, black Belong, blue, white and yellow do., striped silk
for gowns, Chambray muslins, printed dimity, split-straw bonnets,
Leghorn do., imperial chip do., best London Ladies' beaver bon-
nets, cotton wire, Rutland gauze, band boxes, cambrics, calicoes,
Irish linens, callimancoes, plain muslins, laced muslins, blue, black
and yellow nankeens, jeans, fustians, long silk gloves, velvet rib-
bons, Russia sheetings, India satins, silk and cotton umbrellas,
parasols, white cottons, bombazetts, black and white silk stockings,
damask table cloths, napkins, cotton, striped nankeens, bandana
handkerchiefs, catgut, Tickenburg, brown holland, Creas a la Mor-
laix, Italian lutestring, beaver caps for children.

Then we have : Hyson tea, Hyson Chaulon in small chests, young
Hyson, green, Souchong and Bohea, loaf, East India and Musco-
vado sugars, mustard, essence of mustard, pills of mustard, capers,
lemon-juice, soap, Windsor do., indigo, mace, nutmegs, cinnamon,
cassia, cloves, pimento, pepper, best box raisins, prunes, coffee,
Spanish and American " segars," Cayenne pepper in bottles, pearl
barley, castor oil, British oil, pickled oysters.

Furthermore, china-ware is to be had in small boxes and in sets ;
also, Suwarrow boots, bootees, and an assortment of men's, women's
and children's shoes, japanned quart mugs, do. tumblers, tipped
flutes, violin bows, brass wire, sickles, iron candlesticks, shoe-
makers' hammers, knives, pincers, pegging awls and tacks, awl-
blades, shoe-brushes, copper tea-kettles, snaffle-bits, leather shot
belts, horn powder flasks, ivory, horn and crooked combs, mathe-
matical instruments, knives and forks, suspenders, fish-hooks,
sleeve-links, sportsmen's knives, lockets, earrings, gold topaz, do.,
gold watch-chains, gold seals, gold brooches, cut gold rings, plain
do., pearl do., silver thimbles, do. teaspoons, shell sleeve buttons,
silver watches, beads. In stationery there was to be had paste-

§ 1 4.] King Street, from George to Caroline Sts. 191

board, foolscap paper, second do., letter paper, black and red ink
powder and wafers.

There was also the following supply of Literature : — Telemachus,,
Volney's Views, Public Characters, Dr. Whitman's Egypt, Evelina,.
Cecilia, Lady's Library, Ready Reckoner, Looking Glass, Frank-
lin's Fair Sex, Camilla, Don Raphael, Night Thoughts, Winter
Evenings, Voltaire's Life, Joseph Andrews, Walker's Geography,,
Bonaparte and the French People, Voltaire's Tales, Fisher's Com-
panion, Modern Literature, Eccentric Biography, Naval do., Mar-
tial do., Fun, Criminal Records, En tick's Dictionary, Gordon's
America, Thompson's Family Physician, Sheridan's Dictionary,
Johnson's do., Wilson's Egypt, Denon's Travels, Travels of Cyrus,
Stephani de Bourbon, Alexis, Pocket Library, Every Man's Phy-
sician, Citizen of the World, Taplin's Farriery, Farmer's Boy,
Romance of the Forest, Grandison, Campbell's Narrative, Paul
and Virginia, Adelaide de Sincere, Emelini, Monk, Abbess, Even-
ing Amusement, Children of the Abbey, Tom Jones, Vicar of
Wakefield, Sterne's Journey, Abelard and Eloisa, Ormond, Caro-
line, Mercutio, Julia and Baron, Minstrel, H. Villars, De Valcourt,
J. Smith, Charlotte Temple, Theodore Chypon, What has Been,
Elegant Extracts in Prose and Verse, J. and J. Jessamy, Chinese
Tales, New Gazetteer, Smollett's Works, Cabinet of Knowledge,
Devil on Sticks, Arabian Tales, Goldsmith's Essays, Bragg's
Cookery, Tooke's Pantheon, Boyle's Voyage, Roderick Random,.
Jonathan Wild, Louisa Solomon's Guide to Health, Spelling-books,
Bibles and Primers.

Our extracts have extended to a great length : but the animated
picture of Upper Canadian life at a primitive era, which such an
enumeration of items, in some sort affords, must be our apology.

In the Gazette of July 4, 1807, Mr. St. George complains of a
protested bill ; but consoles himself with a quotation —
Celui qui met un frein k la fureur des flots,
Sait aussi des meehants arrester des complots.

Rendered rich in money and lands by his extemporized mer-
cantile operations, Mr. St. George returned to his native France
soon after the restoration of Louis XVIII., and passed the rest of
his days partly in Paris and partly on estates in the neighbourhood
of Montpellier. During his stay in Canada he formed a close
friendship with the Baldwins of York ; and on his departure, the
house on King Street, which has given rise to these reminiscences

192 Toronto of Old. [§ 14.

of him, together with the valuable commercial interests connected
with it, passed into the hands of a junior member of that family,
Mr. John Spread Baldwin, who himself, on the same spot, subse-
quently laid the foundation of an ample fortune.

(It is a phenomenon "not uninteresting to the retrospective mind,
to observe, in 1869, after the lapse of half a century, the name of
Quetton St. George reappearing in the field of Canadian Com-

Advancing now on our way eastward, we soon came in front ol
the abode of Dr. Burnside, a New-England medical man of tall
figure, upright carriage, and bluff, benevolent countenance, an early
promoter of the Mechanics'-Institute movement, and an encou-
rager of church-music, vocal and instrumental. Dying without a
family dependent on him, he bequeathed his property partly to
Charities in the town, and partly to the University of Trinity Col-
lege, where two scholarships perpetuate his memory.

Just opposite was the residence of the venerable Mrs. Gamble,
widow of Dr. Gamble, formerly a surgeon attached to the Queen's
Rangers. This lady died in 1859, in her 92nd year, leaving living
descendants to the number of two hundred and four. To the west
of this house was a well-remembered little parterre, always at the

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