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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Paul's £250; to St. Peter's £250.

Just opposite on the left was where Angell lived, the architect of the
abortive bridges over the mouths of the Don. We obtain from the York
_Observer_ of December 11, 1820, some earlier information in regard to
Mr. Angell. It is in the form of a "Card" thus headed: "York Land Price
Current Office, King Street." It then proceeds - "In consequence of the
Increase of the population of the Town of York, and many applications
for family accommodation upon the arrival of strangers desirous of
becoming settlers, the Subscriber intends to add to the practice of his
Office the business of a _House Surveyor_ and _Architect_, to lay out
Building Estate, draw Ground plans, _Sections_ and _Elevations_, to
_order_, and upon the most approved _European_ and _English_ customs.
Also to make _estimates_ and provide contracts with _proper securities_
to prevent impostures, for the performance of the same. E. Angell.
N.B. - Land proprietors having estate to dispose of, and persons
requiring any branch of the above profession to be done, will meet with
the most respectful attention on application by letter, or at this
office. York, Oct. 2, [1820]."

The expression, "York Land Price Current Office," above used is
explained by the fact that Mr. Angell commenced at this early date the
publication of a monthly "Land Price Current List of Estates on Sale in
Upper Canada, to be circulated in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales."

Near Mr. Angell, on the same side, lived also Mr. Cummins, the manager
of the _Upper Canada Gazette_ printing office; and, at a later period,
Mr. Watson, another well-known master-printer of York, who lost his life
during the great fire of 1849, in endeavouring to save a favourite press
from destruction, in the third storey of a building at the corner of
King and Nelson streets, a position occupied subsequently by the
Caxton-press of Mr. Hill.

On some of the fences along here, we remember seeing in 1827-8, an
inscription written up in chalk or white paint, memorable to ourselves
personally, as being the occasion of our first taking serious notice of
one of the political questions that were locally stirring the people of
Upper Canada. The words inscribed were - No Aliens! Like the Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity, which we ourselves also subsequently saw painted
on the walls of Paris; these words were intended at once to express and
to rouse public feeling; only in the present instance, as we suppose
now, the inscription emanated from the oligarchical rather than the
popular side. The spirit of it probably was "Down with Aliens," - and not
"Away with the odious distinction of Aliens!"

A dispute had arisen between the Upper and the Lower House as to the
legal terms in which full civil rights should be conferred on a
considerable portion of the inhabitants of the country. After the
acknowledgment of independence in 1783, emigrants from the United States
to the British Provinces came in no longer as British subjects, but as
foreigners. Many such emigrants had acquired property and exercised the
franchise without taking upon themselves, formally, the obligations of
British subjects. After the war of 1812, the law in regard to this
matter began to be distinctly remembered. The desire then was to check
an undue immigration from the southern side of the great lakes; but the
effect of the revival of the law was to throw doubt on the land titles
of many inhabitants of long standing; doubt on their claim to vote and
to fill any civil office.

The consent of the Crown was freely given to legislate on the subject:
and in 1825-6 the Parliament resolved to settle the question. But a
dispute arose between the Lower and Upper House. The Legislative Council
sent down a Bill which was so amended in terms by the House of Assembly
that the former body declared it then to be "at variance with the laws
and established policy of Great Britain, as well as of the United
States; and therefore if passed into a law by this Legislature, would
afford no relief to many of those persons who were born in the United
States, and who have come into and settled in this Province." The Upper
House party set down as disloyal all that expressed themselves satisfied
with the Lower House amendments. It was from the Upper House party, we
think, that the cry of "No Aliens!" had proceeded.

The Alien measure had been precipitated by the cases of Barnabas Bidwell
and of his son Marshall, of whom the former, after being elected, and
taking his seat as member for Lennox and Addington, had been expelled
the House, on the ground of his being an alien; and the latter had met
with difficulties at the outset of his political career, from the same
objection against him. In the case of the former, however, his alien
character was not the only thing to his disadvantage.

It was in connection with the expulsion of Barnabas Bidwell that Dr.
Strachan gave to a member of the Lower House, when hesitating as to the
legality of such a step, the remarkable piece of advice, "Turn him out,
turn him out! Never mind the law!" - a _dictum_ that passed into an adage
locally, quoted usually in the Aberdeen dialect.

Barnabas Bidwell is thus commemorated in Mackenzie's Almanac for 1834:
"July 27, 1833: Barnabas Bidwell, Esq., Kingston, died, aged 69 years
and 11 months. He was a sincere friend of the rights of the people;
possessed of extraordinary powers of mind and memory, and spent many
years of his life in doing all the good he could to his
fellow-creatures, and promoting the interests of society."

Irritating political questions have now, for the most part, been
disposed of in Canada. We have entered into the rest, in this respect,
secured for us by our predecessors. The very fences which, some forty
years ago, were muttering "No Aliens!" we saw, during the time of a late
general election, exhibiting in conspicuous painted characters, the
following exhortation: "To the Electors of the Dominion - Put in Powell's
Pump" - a humorous advertisement, of course, of a particular contrivance
for raising water from the depths. We think it a sign of general peace
and content, when the populace are expected to enjoy a little jest of
this sort.

A small compact house, with a pleasant flower garden in front, on the
left, a little way on, was occupied for a while by Mr. Joshua Beard, at
the time Deputy Sheriff, but afterwards well known as owner of extensive
iron works in the town.

We then came opposite to the abode, on the same side, of Mr. Charles
Fothergill, some time King's Printer for Upper Canada. He was a man of
wide views and great intelligence, fond of science, and an experienced
naturalist. Several folio volumes of closely written manuscript, on the
birds and animals generally of of this continent, by him, must exist
somewhere at this moment. They were transmitted to friends in England,
as we have understood.

We remember seeing in a work by Bewick a horned owl of this country,
beautifully figured, which, as stated in the context, had been drawn
from a stuffed specimen supplied by Mr. Fothergill. He himself was a
skilful delineator of the living creatures that so much interested him.

In 1832 Mr. Fothergill sat in Parliament as member for Northumberland,
and for expressing some independent opinions in that capacity, he was
deprived of the office of King's Printer. He originated the law which
established Agricultural Societies in Upper Canada.

In 1836, he appears to have been visited in Pickering by Dr. Thomas
Rolph, when making notes for his "Statistical Account of Upper Canada."
"The Township of Pickering," Dr. Rolph says, "is well settled and
contains some fine land, and well watered. Mr. Fothergill," he
continues, "has an extensive and most valuable museum of natural
curiosities at his residence in this township, which he has collected
with great industry and the most refined taste. He is a person of
superior acquirements, and ardently devoted to the pursuit of natural
philosophy." P. 189.

It was Mr. Fothergill's misfortune to have lived too early in Upper
Canada. Many plans of his in the interests of literature and science
came to nothing for the want of a sufficient body of seconders. In
conjunction with Dr. Dunlop and Dr. Rees, it was the intention of Mr.
Fothergill to establish at York a Museum of Natural and Civil History,
with a Botanical and Zoological Garden attached; and a grant of land on
the Government Reserve between the Garrison and Farr's Brewery was
actually secured as a site for the buildings and grounds of the proposed

A prospectus now before us sets forth in detail a very comprehensive
scheme for this Museum or Lyceum, which embraced also a picture gallery,
"for subjects connected with Science and Portraits of individuals," and
did not omit "Indian antiquities, arms, dresses, utensils, and whatever
might illustrate and make permanent all that we can know of the
Aborigines of this great Continent, a people who are rapidly passing
away and becoming as though they had never been."

For several years Mr. Fothergill published "The York Almanac and Royal
Calendar," which gradually became a volume of between four and five
hundred duodecimo pages, filled with practical and official information
on the subject of Canada and the other British American Colonies. This
work is still often resorted to for information.

Hanging in his study we remember noticing a large engraved map of
"Cabotia." It was a delineation of the British Possessions in North
America - the present Dominion of Canada in fact. It had been his
purpose in 1823 to publish a "Canadian Annual Register;" but this he
never accomplished. While printing the _Upper Canada Gazette_, he edited
in conjunction with that periodical and on the same sheet, the "Weekly
Register," bearing the motto, "Our endeavour will be to stamp the very
body of the time - its its form and pressure: we shall extenuate nothing,
nor shall we set down aught in malice." From this publication may be
gathered much of the current history of the period. In it are given many
curious scientific excerpts from his Common Place Book. At a later
period, he published, at Toronto, a weekly paper in quarto shape, named
the "Palladium."

Among the non-official advertisements in the _Upper Canada Gazette_, in
the year 1823, we observe one signed "Charles Fothergill," offering a
reward "even to the full value of the volumes," for the recovery of
missing portions of several English standard works which had belonged
formerly, the advertisement stated, to the "Toronto Library," broken up
"by the Americans at the taking of York." It was suggested that probably
the missing books were still scattered about, up and down, in the town.
It is odd to see the name of "Toronto" cropping out in 1823, in
connection with a library. (In a much earlier York paper we notice the
"Toronto Coffee House" advertised.)

Mr. Fothergill belonged to the distinguished Quaker family of that name
in Yorkshire. A rather good idea of his character of countenance may be
derived from the portrait of Dr. Arnold, prefixed to Stanley's Memoir.
An oil painting of him exists in the possession of some of his

We observe in Leigh Hunt's _London Journal_, i. 172, a reference to
"Fothergill's Essay on the Philosophy, Study and Use of Natural
History;" and we have been assured that it is our Canadian Fothergill
who was its author. We give a pathetic extract from a specimen of the
production, in the work just referred to: "Never shall I forget," says
the essayist, "the remembrance of a little incident which many will deem
trifling and unimportant, but which has been peculiarly interesting to
my heart, as giving origin to sentiments and rules of action which have
since been very dear to me."

"Besides a singular elegance of form and beauty of plumage," continues
the enthusiastic naturalist, "the eye of the common lapwing is
peculiarly soft and expressive; it is large, black, and full of lustre,
rolling, as it seems to do, in liquid gems of dew. I had shot a bird of
this beautiful species; but, on taking it up, I found it was not dead. I
had wounded its breast; and some big drops of blood stained the pure
whiteness of its feathers. As I held the hapless bird in my hand,
hundreds of its companions hovered round my head, uttering continued
shrieks of distress, and, by their plaintive cries, appeared to bemoan
the fate of one to whom they were connected by ties of the most tender
and interesting nature; whilst the poor wounded bird continually moaned,
with a kind of inward wailing note, expressive of the keenest anguish;
and, ever and anon, it raised its drooping head, and turning towards the
wound in its breast, touched it with its bill, and then looked up in my
face, with an expression that I have no wish to forget, for it had power
to touch my heart whilst yet a boy, when a thousand dry precepts in the
academical closet would have been of no avail."

The length of this extract will be pardoned for the sake of its
deterrent drift in respect to the wanton maiming and massacre of our
feathered fellow-creatures by the firearms of sportsmen and missiles of
thoughtless children.

Eastward from the house where we have been pausing, the road took a
slight sweep to the south and then came back to its former course
towards the Don bridge, descending in the meantime into the valley of a
creek or watercourse, and ascending again from it on the other side.
Hereabout, to the left, standing on a picturesque knoll and surrounded
by the natural woods of the region, was a good sized two-storey
dwelling; this was the abode of Mr. David MacNab, sergeant-at-arms to
the House of Assembly, as his father had been before him. With him
resided several accomplished, kind-hearted sisters, all of handsome and
even stately presence; one of them the belle of the day in society at

Here were the quarters of the Chief MacNab, whenever he came up to York
from his Canadian home on the Ottawa. It was not alone when present at
church that this remarkable gentleman attracted the public gaze; but
also, when surrounded or followed by a group of his fair kinsfolk of
York, he marched with dignified steps along through the whole length of
King Street, and down or up the Kingston road to and from the MacNab
homestead here in the woods near the Don.

In his visits to the capital, the Chief always wore a modified highland
costume, which well set off his stalwart, upright form: the blue bonnet
and feather, and richly embossed dirk, always rendered him conspicuous,
as well as the tartan of brilliant hues depending from his shoulder
after obliquely swathing his capacious chest; a bright scarlet vest with
massive silver buttons, and dress coat always jauntily thrown back,
added to the picturesqueness of the figure.

It was always evident at a glance that the Chief set a high value on
himself. - "May the MacNab of MacNabs have the pleasure of taking wine
with Lady Sarah Maitland?" suddenly heard above the buzz of
conversation, pronounced in a very deep and measured tone, by his manly
voice, made mute for a time, on one occasion, the dinner-table at
Government House. So the gossip ran. Another story of the same class,
but less likely, we should think, to be true, was, that seating himself,
without uncovering, in the Court-room one day, a messenger was sent to
him by the Chief Justice, Sir William Campbell, on the Bench, requiring
the removal of his cap; when the answer returned, as he instantly rose
and left the building, was, that "the MacNab of MacNabs doffs his bonnet
to no man!"

At his home on the Chats the Emigrant Laird did his best to transplant
the traditions and customs of by-gone days in the Highlands, but he
found practical Canada an unfriendly soil for romance and sentiment.
Bouchette, in his _British Dominions_, i. 82, thus refers to the
Canadian abode of the Chief and to the settlement formed by the clan
MacNab. "High up [the Ottawa]," he says, "on the bold and abrupt shore
of the broad and picturesque Lake of the Chats, the Highland Chief
MacNab has selected a romantic residence, Kinnell Lodge, which he has
succeeded, through the most unshaken perseverance, in rendering
exceedingly comfortable. His unexampled exertions in forming and
fostering the settlement of the township, of which he may be considered
the founder and the leader, have not been attended with all the success
that was desirable, or which he anticipated."

Bouchette then appends a note wherein we can see how readily his own
demonstrative Gallic nature sympathized with the kindred Celtic spirit
of the Highlander. "The characteristic hospitality that distinguished
our reception by the gallant Chief," he says, "when, in 1828, we were
returning down the Ottawa, after having explored its rapids and lakes,
as far up as Grand Calumet, we cannot pass over in silence. To voyageurs
in the remote wilds of Canada," he continues, "necessarily strangers
for the time to the sweets of civilization, the unexpected comforts of a
well-furnished board, and the cordiality of a Highland welcome, are
blessings that fall upon the soul like dew upon the flower. 'The sun was
just resigning to the moon the empire of the skies,' when we took our
leave of the noble chieftain," he adds, "to descend the formidable
rapids of the Chats. As we glided from the foot of the bold bank, the
gay plaid and cap of the noble Gaël were seen waving on the proud
eminence, and the shrill notes of the piper filled the air with their
wild cadences. They died away as we approached the head of the rapids.
Our caps were flourished, and the flags (for our canoe was gaily
decorated with them) waved in adieu, and we entered the vortex of the
swift and whirling stream."

In 1836, Rolph, in his "Statistical Account of Upper Canada," p. 146,
also speaks of the site of Kinnell Lodge as "greatly resembling in its
bold, sombre and majestic aspect, the wildest and most romantic scenery"
of Scotland. "This distinguished Chieftain," the writer then informs us,
"has received permission to raise a militia corps of 800 Highlanders, a
class of British subjects always distinguished for their devoted and
chivalrous attachment to the laws and institutions of their noble
progenitors, and who would prove a rampart of living bodies in defence
of British supremacy whenever and wherever assailed."

The reference in Dean Ramsay's interesting "Reminiscences of Scottish
life and Character," to "the last Laird of MacNab," is perhaps to the
father of the gentleman familiar to us here in York, and who filled so
large a space in the recollections of visitors to the Upper Ottawa. "The
last Laird of MacNab before the clan finally broke up and emigrated to
Canada was," says the Dean in the work just named, "a well-known
character in the country; and, being poor, used to ride about on a most
wretched horse, which gave occasion to many jibes at his expense. The
Laird," this writer continues, "was in the constant habit of riding up
from the country to attend the Musselburgh races [near Edinburgh]." A
young wit, by way of playing him off on the race course, asked him in a
contemptuous tone, "Is that the same horse you had last year,
Laird?" - "Na," said the Laird, brandishing his whip in the
interrogator's face in so emphatic a manner as to preclude further
questioning, "Na! but it's the same _whup_!" (p. 216, 9th ed.)

We do not doubt but that the MacNabs have ever been a spirited race.
Their representatives here have always been such; and like their kinsmen
in the old home, too, they have had, during their brief history in
Canada, their share of the hereditary vicissitudes. We owe to a
Sheriff's advertisement in the _Upper Canada Gazette or American Oracle_
of the 14th of April, 1798, published at Niagara, some biographical
particulars and a minute description of the person of the Mr. MacNab who
was afterwards, as we have already stated, Usher of the Black Rod to the
House of Assembly and father of his successor, Mr. David MacNab, in the
same post; father also of the Allan MacNab, whose history forms part of
that of Upper Canada.

In 1798, imprisonment for debt was the rigorously enforced law of the
land. The prominent MacNab of that date had, it would appear, become
obnoxious to the law on the score of indebtedness: but finding the
restraint imposed irksome, he had relieved himself of it without asking
leave. The hue and cry for his re-capture proceeded as follows: "Two
hundred dollars reward! Home District, Upper Canada, Newark, April 2,
1798. Broke the gaol of this District on the night of the 1st instant,
[the 1st of April, be it observed,] Allan MacNab, a confined debtor. He
is a reduced lieutenant of horse," proceeds the Sheriff, "on the
half-pay list of the late corps of Queen's Rangers; aged 38 years or
thereabouts; five feet three inches high; fair complexion; light hair;
red beard; much marked with the small-pox; the middle finger of one of
his hands remarkable for an overgrown nail; round shouldered; stoops a
little in walking; and although a native of the Highlands of Scotland,
affects much in speaking the Irish dialect. Whoever will apprehend, &c.,
&c., shall receive the above reward, with all reasonable expenses."

The escape of the prisoner on the first of April was probably felt by
the Sheriff to be a practical joke played off on himself personally. We
think we detect personal spleen in the terms of the advertisement: in
the minuteness of the description of Mr. MacNab's physique, which never
claimed to be that of an Adonis; in the biographical particulars, which,
however interesting they chance to prove to later generations, were
somewhat out of place on such an occasion: as also in a postscript
calling on "the printers within His Majesty's Governments in America,
and those of the United States to give circulation in their respective
papers to the above advertisement," &c.

It was a limited exchequer that created embarrassment in the early
history - and, for that matter, in much of the later history as well - of
Mr. MacNab's distinguished son, afterwards the baronet Sir Allan; and no
one could relate with more graphic and humorous effect his troubles from
this source, than he was occasionally in the habit of doing.

When observing his well-known handsome form and ever-benignant
countenance, about the streets of York, we lads at school were wont, we
remember, generally to conjecture that his ramblings were limited to
certain bounds. He himself used to dwell with an amount of complacency
on the skill acquired in carpentry during these intervals of involuntary
leisure, and on the practical results to himself from that skill, not
only in the way of pastime, but in the form of hard cash for personal
necessities. Many were the panelled doors and Venetian shutters in York
which, by his account, were the work of his hands.

Once he was on the point of becoming a professional actor. Giving
assistance now and then as an anonymous performer to Mr. Archbold, a
respectable Manager here, he evinced such marked talent on the boards,
that he was seriously advised to adopt the stage as his avocation and
employment. The Theatre of Canadian public affairs, however, was to be
the real scene of his achievements. Particulars are here unnecessary.
Successively sailor and soldier (and in both capacities engaged in
perilous service); a lawyer, a legislator in both Houses; Speaker twice
in the Popular Assembly; once Prime Minister; knighted for gallantry,
and appointed an Aide-de-camp to the Queen; dignified with a baronetcy;
by the marriage of a daughter with the son of a nobleman, made the
possible progenitor of English peers - the career of Allan MacNab cannot
fail to arrest the attention of the future investigator of Canadian

With our local traditions in relation to the grandiose chieftain above
described, one or two stories are in circulation, in which his young
kinsman Allan amusingly figures. Alive to pleasantry - as so many of our
early worthies in these parts were - he undertook, it is said, for a
small wager, to prove the absolute nudity of the knees, &c., of his
feudal lord when at a ball in full costume: (the allegation,
mischievously made, had been that the Chief was protected from the
weather by invisible drawers.) The mode of demonstration adopted was a
sudden cry from the ingenuous youth addressed to the Chief, to the
effect that he observed a spider, or some such object running up his
leg! - a cry instantly followed by a smart slap with the hand, with the
presumed intention of checking the onward course of the noxious thing.

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 21 of 59)