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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_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 1810]: 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 machines for shelling corn." (A much earlier
resort for such merchandize was Mr. Peter Paterson's, on the west side
of the Market Square.)

Of a date somewhat subsequent to that of Messrs. Wragg's advertisement,
was the depôt of Mr. Harris for similar substantial wares. This was
situated on the north side of King Street, westward 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

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 canaries 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. Alexander
Wood, whose name appears often in the Report of the Loyal and Patriotic
Society of 1812, 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 1812, 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; 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

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 "Alexander,"
pass across land that belonged to Mr. Wood.

Many are the shadowy forms that rise before us, as we proceed on our
way; phantom-revisitings 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

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 material, 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 gentlemen, 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 commemorate 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
Chalûs, and other distinguished _émigrés_, 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
inhabitants. Numerous stations, with this object in view, were
established 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 any time in these parts they cannot open
accounts with any person. Will 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 communication 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. Catharines, who happily did not
disturb the interesting relic just described. 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 copartnership 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 September, 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. Boucherville's, 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 reader's
entertainment, a selection from several of them, adhering for the most
part to the order in which the goods are therein named.

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 bonnets, 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 ribbons, 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, Ticklenburg, brown holland, Creas à la Morlaix, 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 Muscovado 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, mathematical 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-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, Franklin'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 Companion, Modern Literature, Eccentric Biography, Naval
do., Martial do., Fun, Criminal Records, Entick'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 Physician, 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, Evening Amusement, Children of the Abbey, Tom
Jones, Vicar of Wakefield, Sterne's Journey, Abelard and Eloisa, Ormond,
Caroline, 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 à la fureur des flots,
Sait aussi des méchants arrêter des complots.

Rendered rich in money and lands by his extemporized mercantile
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 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, subsequently 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 Commerce.)

Advancing now on our way eastward, we soon came in front of 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 encourager 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 College, where two scholarships perpetuate his

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 proper season gay with

At the next corner, on the north side, a house now totally demolished,
was the original home of the millionaire Cawthra family, already once
alluded to. In the _Gazette and Oracle_ of June 21, 1806, Mr. Cawthra,
senior, thus advertises: - "J. Cawthra wishes to inform the inhabitants
of York and the adjacent country, that he has opened an Apothecary Store
in the house of A. Cameron, opposite Stoyell's Tavern in York, where the
Public can be supplied with most articles in that line. He has on hand
also, a quantity of Men's, Women's, and Children's shoes and Men's hats.
Also for a few days will be sold the following articles, Table Knives
and Forks, Scissors, Silver Watches, Maps and Prints, Profiles, some
Linen, and a few Bed-Ticks, Teas, Tobacco, a few casks of fourth proof
Cognac Brandy, and a small quantity of Lime Juice, and about twenty
thousand Whitechapel Needles. York, June 14, 1806." And again, on the
27th of the following November, he informs the inhabitants of York and
the neighbouring country that he had just arrived from New York with a
general assortment of "apothecary articles;" and that the public can be
supplied with everything in that line genuine: also patent medicines:
he likewise intimates that he has brought a general assortment of Dry
Goods, consisting of "broad cloths, duffils, flannels, swansdown,
corduroys, printed calicoes, ginghams, cambrick muslins, shirting,
muslin, men and women's stockings, silk handkerchiefs, bandana shawls,
pulicat and pocket handkerchiefs, calimancoes, dimity and check; also a
large assortment of men's, women's, and children's shoes, hardware,
coffee, tea and chocolate, lump and loaf sugar, tobacco, &c., with many
other articles: which he is determined to sell on very low terms at his
store opposite Stoyell's tavern." York, Nov. 27, 1806. (The Stoyell's
Tavern here named, had previously been the Inn of Mr. Abner Miles.)

Immediately across, at the corner on the south side, was a depôt,
insignificant enough, no doubt, to the indifferent passer-by, but
invested with much importance in the eyes of many of the early
infantiles of York. Its windows exhibited, in addition to a scattering
of white clay pipes, and papers of pins suspended open against the panes
for the public inspection, a display of circular discs of gingerbread,
some with plain, some with scalloped edge; also hearts, fishes, little
prancing ponies, parrots and dogs of the same tawny-hued material; also
endwise in tumblers and other glass vessels, numerous lengths or stems
of prepared saccharine matter, brittle in substance, white-looking, but
streaked and slightly penetrated with some rich crimson pigment;
likewise on plates and oval dishes, a collection of quadrangular viscous
lumps, buff-coloured and clammy, each showing at its ends the bold
gashing cut of a stout knife which must have been used in dividing a
rope, as it were, of the tenacious substance into inch-sections or

In the wrapping paper about all articles purchased here, there was
always a soupçon of the homely odors of boiled sugar and peppermint. The
tariff of the various comestibles just enumerated was well known; it was
precisely for each severally, one half-penny. The mistress of this
establishment bore the Scottish name of Lumsden - a name familiar to us
lads in another way also, being constantly seen by us on the title-pages
of school-books, many of which, at the time referred to, were imported
from Glasgow, from the publishing-house of Lumsden and Son.

A little way down the street which crosses here, was Major Heward's
house, long Clerk of the Peace for the Home District, of whom we had
occasion to speak before. Several of his sons, while pursuing their
legal and other studies, became also "mighty hunters;" distinguished, we
mean, as enthusiastic sportsmen. Many were the exploits reported of
them, in this line.

We give here an extract from Mr. McGrath's lively work, published in
1833, entitled "Authentic letters from Upper Canada, with an Account of
Canadian Field Sports." "Ireland," he says, "is, in many places,
remarkable for excellent cock-shooting, which I have myself experienced
in the most favourable situations: not, however, to be compared with
this country, where the numbers are truly wonderful. Were I to mention,"
Mr. McGrath continues, "what I have seen in this respect, or heard from
others, it might bring my graver statements into disrepute."

"As a specimen of the sport," he says, "I will merely give a fact or two
of, not unusual success; bearing, however, no proportion to the quantity
of game. I have known Mr. Charles Heward, of York," he proceeds to
state, "to have shot in one day thirty brace at Chippewa, close to the
Falls of Niagara - and I myself," Mr. McGrath continues, "who am far from
being a first-rate shot, have frequently brought home from twelve to
fourteen brace, my brothers performing their part with equal success."

But the younger Messrs. Heward had a field for the exercise of their
sportsman skill nearer home than Chippewa. The Island, just across the
Bay, where the black-heart plover were said always to arrive on a
particular day, the 23rd of May, every year, and the marshes about
Ashbridge's bay and York harbour itself, all abounded with wild fowl.
Here, loons of a magnificent size used to be seen and heard; and vast
flocks of wild geese, passing and re-passing, high in air, in their
periodical migrations. The wild swan, too, was an occasional frequenter
of the ponds of the Island.





Returning again to King Street: At the corner of Caroline Street,
diagonally across from the Cawthra homestead, was the abode, when
ashore, of Captain Oates, commander of the _Duke of Richmond_ sloop, the
fashionable packet plying between Niagara and York.

Mr. Oates was nearly connected with the family of President Russell, but
curiously obtained no share in the broad acres which were, in the early
day, so plentifully distributed to all comers. By being unluckily out of
the way, too, at a critical moment, subsequently, he missed a bequest at
the hands of the sole inheritor of the possessions of his relative.

Capt. Oates was a man of dignified bearing, of more than the ordinary
height. He had seen service on the ocean as master and owner of a
merchantman. His portrait, which is still preserved in Toronto, somewhat
resembles that of George IV.

A spot passed, a few moments since, on King Street, is associated with a
story in which the _Richmond_ sloop comes up. It happened that the
nuptials of a neighbouring merchant had lately taken place. Some youths,
employed in an adjoining warehouse or law-office, took it into their
heads that a _feu de joie_ should be fired on the occasion. To carry out
the idea they proceeded, under cover of the night, to the _Richmond_
sloop, where she lay frozen in by the Frederick Street wharf, and
removed from her deck, without asking leave, a small piece of ordnance
with which she was provided. They convey it with some difficulty,
carriage and all, up into King Street, and place it in front of the
bridegroom's house; run it back, as we have understood, even into the
recess underneath the double steps of the porch: when duly ensconced
there, as within the port of a man-of-war, they contrived to fire it
off, decamping, however, immediately after the exploit, and leaving
behind them the source of the deafening explosion.

On the morrow the cannon is missed from the sloop (she was being
prepared for the spring navigation): on instituting an inquiry, Capt.
Oates is mysteriously informed the lost article is, by some means, up

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 19 of 59)