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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The loud crack occasioned by the blow left no room for doubt as to the
fact of nudity; but the dignified Laird was somewhat disconcerted by the
over zeal of his young retainer.

Again, at Kingston, the ever-conscious Chief having written himself down
in the visitors' book at the hotel as The MacNab, his juvenile relative,
coming in immediately after and seeing the curt inscription, instantly
entered his protest against the monopoly apparently implied, by writing
_himself_ down, just underneath, in conspicuous characters, as The Other
MacNab - the genius of his coming fortunes doubtless inspiring the merry
deed. - He held for a time a commission in the 68th, and accompanied that
regiment to York in 1827. Riding along King Street one day soon after
his arrival in the town, he observed Mr. Washburn, the lawyer, taking a
furtive survey of him through his eyeglass. The proceeding is at once
reciprocated by the conversion of a stirrup into an imaginary lens of
large diameter, lifted by the strap and waggishly applied to the eye.
Mr. Washburn had, we believe, pressed matters against the young officer
rather sharply in the courts, a year or two previously. A few years
later, when member for Wentworth, he contrived, while conversing with
the Speaker, Mr. McLean, in the refreshment-room of the Parliament
House, to slip into one of that gentleman's coat pockets the leg-bone of
a turkey. After the lapse of a few minutes, Mr. MacNab, as chairman of a
committee of the whole House, is solemnly seated at the Table, and Mr.
Speaker, in his capacity as a member, is being interrogated by him on
some point connected with the special business of the committee. At this
particular moment, it happens that Mr. Speaker, feeling for his
handkerchief, discovers in his pocket the extraordinary foreign object
which had been lodged there. Guessing in an instant the author of the
trick, he extricates the bone and quick as thought, shies it at the head
of the occupant of the Chair. The House is, of course, amazed; and Mr.
MacNab, in the gravest manner, directs the Clerk to make a note of the
act. - We have understood that the house occupied by Mr. Fothergill
(where we paused a short time since) was originally built by Allan
MacNab, junior, but never dwelt in by him.

We now arrived at the Don bridge. The valley of the Don, at the place
where the Kingston Road crosses it, was spanned in 1824 by a long wooden
viaduct raised about twenty-five feet above the marsh below. This
structure consisted of a series of ten trestles, or frames of hewn
timber supporting a roadway of plank, which had lasted since 1809. A
similar structure spanned the Humber and its marshes on the west side of
York. Both of these bridges about the year 1824 had become very much
decayed; and occasionally both were rendered impassable at the same
time, by the falling in of worn-out and broken planks. The York papers
would then make themselves merry on the well-defended condition of the
town in a military point of view, approach to it from the east and west
being effectually barred.

Prior to the erection of the bridge on the Kingston Road, the Don was
crossed near the same spot by means of a scow, worked by the assistance
of a rope stretched across the stream. In 1810, we observe that the
Humber was also crossed by means of a ferry. In that year the
inhabitants of Etobicoke complained to the magistrates in session at
York of the excessive toll demanded there; and it was agreed that for
the future the following should be the charges: - For each foot
passenger, 2½d.; for every hog, 1d.; for every sheep, the same; for
horned cattle, 2½d. each, for every horse and rider, 5d.; for every
carriage drawn by two horses, 1s. 3d. (which included the driver); for
every carriage with one horse, 1s. It is presumed that the same tolls
were exacted at the ferry over the Don, while in operation.

In 1824 not only was the Don bridge in bad repair, but, as we learn from
a petition addressed by the magistrates to Sir Peregrine Maitland in
that year, the bridge over the Rouge in Pickering, also, is said to be,
"from its decayed state, almost impassable, and if not remedied," the
document goes on to state, "the communication between this town (York)
and the eastern parts of the Province, as well as with Lower Canada by
land, will be entirely obstructed."

At length the present earthwork across the marsh at the Don was thrown
up, and the river itself spanned by a long wooden tube, put together on
a suspension principle, roofed over and closed in on the sides, with the
exception of oblong apertures for light. It resembled in some degree the
bridges to be seen over the Reuss at Lucerne and elsewhere in
Switzerland, though not decorated with paintings in the interior, as
they are. Stone piers built on piles sustained it at either end. All was
done under the superintendence of a United States contractor, named
Lewis. It was at him that the _italics_ in Mr. Angell's advertisement
glanced. The inuendo was that, for engineering purposes, there was no
necessity for calling in the aid of outsiders.

From a kind of small Friar-Bacon's study, occupied in former years by
ourselves, situated on a bold point some distance northwards, up the
valley, we remember watching the pile-driver at work in preparing the
foundation of the two stone piers of the Don bridge: from where we sat
at our books we could see the heavy mallet descend; and then, after a
considerable interval, we would hear the sharp stroke on the end of the
piece of timber which was being driven down. From the same elevated
position also, previously, we used to see the teams crossing the high
frame-work over the marsh on their way to and from Town, and hear the
distant clatter of the horses' feet on the loosely-laid planks.

The tubular structure which succeeded the trestle-work bridge did not
retain its position very long. The pier at its western extremity was
undermined by the water during a spring freshet, and gave way. The
bridge, of course, fell down into the swirling tide below, and was
carried bodily away, looking like a second Ark as it floated along
towards the mouth of the river, where at length it stranded and became a
wreck.

On the breaking up of the ice every spring the Don, as is well known,
becomes a mighty rushing river, stretching across from hill to hill.
Ordinarily, it occupies but a small portion of its proper valley,
meandering along, like an English tide-stream when the tide is out. The
bridge carried away on this occasion was notable so long as it stood,
for retaining visible marks of an attempt to set fire to it during the
troubles of 1837.

The next appliance for crossing the river was another tubular frame of
timber, longer than the former one; but it was never provided with a
roof, and never closed in at the sides. Up to the time that it began to
show signs of decay, and to require cribs to be built underneath it in
the middle of the stream, it had an unfinished, disreputable look. It
acquired a tragic interest in 1859, from being the scene of the murder,
by drowning, of a young Irishman named Hogan, a barrister, and, at the
same time, a member of the Parliament of Canada.

When crossing the high trestlework which preceded the present
earth-bank, the traveller, on looking down into the marsh below, on the
south side, could see the remains of a still earlier structure, a
causeway formed of unhewn logs laid side by side in the usual manner,
but decayed, and for the most part submerged in water, resembling, as
seen from above, some of the lately-discovered substructions in the
lakes of Switzerland. This was probably the first road by which wheeled
vehicles ever crossed the valley of the Don here. On the protruding ends
of some of the logs of this causeway would be always seen basking, on a
warm summer's day, many fresh-water turtles; amongst which, as also
amongst the black snakes, which were likewise always to be seen coiled
up in numbers here, and among the shoals of sunfish in the surrounding
pools, a great commotion would take place when the jar was felt of a
waggon passing over on the framework above.

The rest of the marsh, with the exception of the space occupied by the
ancient corduroy causeway, was one thicket of wild willow, alder, and
other aquatic shrubbery, among which was conspicuous the _spiræa_, known
among boys as "seven-bark" or "nine-bark" and prized by them for the
beautiful hue of its rind, which, when rubbed, becomes a bright scarlet.

Here also the blue iris grew plentifully, and reeds, frequented by the
marsh hen; and the bulrush, with its long cat-tails, sheathed in
chestnut-coloured felt, and pointing upwards like toy sky-rockets ready
to be shot off. (These cat-tails, when dry and stripped, expand into
large, white, downy spheres of fluff, and actually are as inflammable as
gunpowder, going off with a mighty flash at the least touch of fire.)

The view from the old trestlework bridge, both up and down the stream,
was very picturesque, especially when the forest, which clothed the
banks of the ravine on the right and left, wore the tints of autumn.
Northward, while many fine elms would be seen towering up from the land
on a level with the river, the bold hills above them and beyond were
covered with lofty pines. Southward, in the distance, was a great
stretch of marsh, with the blue lake along the horizon. In the summer
this marsh was one vast jungle of tall flags and reeds, where would be
found the conical huts of the muskrat, and where would be heard at
certain seasons the peculiar _gulp_ of the bittern; in winter, when
crisp and dry, here was material for a magnificent pyrotechnical
display, which usually, once a year, came off, affording at night to
the people of the town a spectacle not to be contemned.

Through a portion of this marsh on the eastern side of the river, Mr.
Justice Boulton, at a very early period, cut, at a great expense, an
open channel in front of some property of his: it was expected, we
believe, that the matted vegetation on the outer side of this cutting
would float away and leave clear water, when thus disengaged; but no
such result ensued: the channel, however, has continued open, and is
known as the "Boulton ditch." It forms a communication for skiffs
between the Don and Ashbridge's Bay.

At the west end of the bridge, just across what is now the gore between
Queen Street and King Street, there used to be the remains of a military
breastwork thrown up in the war of 1812. At the east end of the bridge,
on the south side of the road, there still stands a lowly edifice of
hewn logs, erected before the close of the last century, by the writer's
father, who was the first owner and occupant of the land on both sides
of the Kingston road at this point. The roadway down to the original
crossing-place over the river in the days of the Ferry, and the time of
the first corduroy bridge, swerving as it did considerably to the south
from the direct line of the Kingston road, must have been in fact a
trespass on his lot on the south side of the road: and we find that so
noteworthy an object was the solitary house, just above the bridge, in
1799, that the bridge itself, in popular parlance, was designated by its
owner's name. Thus in the _Upper Canada Gazette_ for March 9, 1799, we
read that at a Town Meeting Benjamin Morley was appointed overseer of
highways and fence-viewer for the section of road "from Scadding's
bridge to Scarborough." In 1800 Mr. Ashbridge is appointed to the same
office, and the section of highway placed under his charge is on this
occasion named "the Bay Road from Scadding's bridge to Scarborough."

This Mr. Ashbridge is the early settler from whom Ashbridge's Bay was so
called. His farm lay along the lower portion of that sheet of water.
Next to him, westward, was the property of Mr. Hastings, whose Christian
name was Warren. Years ago, when first beginning to read Burke, we
remember wondering why the name of "the great proconsul" of Hindustan
looked so familiar to the eye: when we recollected that in our childhood
we used frequently to see here along the old Kingston road the name
Warren Hastings appended in conspicuous characters, to placards posted
up, advertising a "Lost Cow," or some other homely animal, gone
astray. - Adjoining Mr. Hasting's farm, still moving west, was that of
Mr. Mills, with whose name in our mind is associated the name of "Hannah
Mills," an unmarried member of his household, who was the Sister of
Charity of the neighbourhood, ever ready in times of sickness and
bereavement to render, for days and nights together, kindly, sympathetic
and consolatory aid.

We transcribe the full list of the appointments at the Town Meeting of
1799, for the sake of the old locally familiar names therein embodied;
and also as showing the curious and almost incredible fact that in the
language of the people, York at that early period, 1799, was beginning
to be entitled "the City of York!"

"Persons elected at the Town Meeting held at the City of York on the 4th
day of March, 1799, pursuant to an Act of Parliament of the Province,
entitled an Act to provide for the nomination and appointment of Parish
and Town Officers within this Province. Clerk of the Town and
Township, - Mr. Edward Hayward. Assessors, - (including also the Townships
of Markham and Vaughan) Mr. George Playter and Mr. Thomas Stoyles.
Collector, - Mr. Archibald Cameron. Overseers of the Highways and Roads,
and Fence-viewers, - Benjamin Morley, from Scadding's Bridge to
Scarborough; James Playter, from the Bay Road to the Mills; Abraham
Devans, circle of the Humber; Paul Wilcot, from Big-Creek to No. 25,
inclusive, on Yonge Street, and half Big-Creek Bridge; Daniel Dehart,
from Big-Creek to No. 1 inclusive, on Yonge Street, and half Big-Creek
Bridge. Mr. McDougal and Mr. Clarke for the district of the city of
York. Pound Keepers: Circle of the Don, Parshall Terry, junr.; Circle of
the Humber, Benjamin Davis; Circle of Yonge Street, No. 1 to 25, James
Everson; Circle of the City, etc., James Nash. Townwardens, Mr.
Archibald Thompson and Mr. Samuel Heron. Other officers, elected
pursuant to the 12th clause of the said Act: Pathmasters and
Fence-viewers, Yonge Street, in Markham and Vaughan, Mr. Stilwell
Wilson, lots 26 to 40, Yonge Street; Mr. John H. Hudrux, 41 to 51, Yonge
Street, John Lyons, lots 26 to 35. John Stulz, Pathmaster and
Fence-viewer in the German Settlement of Markham. David Thompson, do.
for Scarborough."

It is then added: - "N. B. - Conformably to the resolutions of the
inhabitants, no hogs to run at large above three months old, and lawful
fences to be five feet and a half high. Nicholas Klingenbrumer,
constable, presiding." Furthermore, the information is given that "the
following are Constables appointed by the Justices: John Rock, Daniel
Tiers and John Matchefosky, for the city, etc. Levi Devans for the
District of the Humber, Thomas Hill from No. 1 to 25, Yonge Street;
Balser Munshaw, for Vaughan and first Concession of Markham; - -
Squantz for the German settlement of Markham. By order of the
Magistrates: D. W. Smith." Also notice is given that "Such of the above
officers as have not yet taken the oath, are warned hereby to do so
without loss of time. The constables are to take notice that although
for their own ease they are selected from particular districts, they are
liable to serve process generally in the county."

When, in 1799, staid inhabitants were found seriously dignifying the
group of buildings then to be seen on the borders of the bay, with the
magnificent appellation of the "City of York," it is no wonder that at a
later period indignation is frequently expressed at the ignominious
epithet of "Little," which persons in the United States were fond of
prefixing to the name of the place. Thus for example, in the _Weekly
Register_ so late as June, 1822, we have the editor speaking thus in a
notice to a correspondent: "Our friends on the banks of the Ohio, 45
miles below Pittsburg, will perceive," the editor remarks, "that
notwithstanding he has made us pay postage [and postage in those days
was heavy], we have not been unmindful of his request. We shall always
be ready at the call of charity when not misapplied; and we hope the
family in question will be successful in their object. - There is one
hint, however," the editor goes on to say, "we wish to give Mr. W.
Patton, P. M.; which is, although there may be many "_Little_" Yorks in
the United States, we know of no place called "_Little York_" in Canada;
and beg that he will bear this _little_ circumstance in his recollection
when he again addresses us."

Gourlay also, as we have seen, when he wished to speak cuttingly of the
authorities at York, used the same epithet. In gubernatorial
proclamations, the phrase modestly employed is - "Our Town of York."

A short distance east from the bridge a road turned northward, known as
the "Mill road." This communication was open in 1799. It led originally
to the Mills of Parshall Terry, of whose accidental drowning in the Don
there is a notice in the _Gazette_ of July 23, 1808. In 1800, Parshall
Terry is "Overseer of Ways from the Bay Road to the Mills." In 1802 the
language is "from the Bay Road to the Don Mills," and in that year, Mr.
John Playter is elected to the office held in the preceding year by
Parshall Terry. (In regard to Mr. John Playter: - The solitary house
which overlooked the original Don Bridge and Ferry was occupied by him
during the absence of its builder and owner in England; and here, Mr.
Emanuel Playter, his eldest son, was born.)

In 1821, and down to 1849, the Mill road was regarded chiefly as an
approach to the multifarious works, flour-mills, saw-mills,
fulling-mills, carding-mills, paper-mills and breweries, founded near
the site of Parshall Terry's Mills, by the Helliwells, a vigorous and
substantial Yorkshire family, whose heads first settled and commenced
operations on the brink of Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side, in 1818,
but then in 1821 transferred themselves to the upper valley of the Don,
where that river becomes a shallow, rapid stream, and where the
surroundings are, on a small scale, quite Alpine in character - a
secluded spot at the time, in the rudest state of nature, a favourite
haunt of wolves, bears and deer; a spot presenting difficulties
peculiarly formidable for the new settler to grapple with, from the
loftiness and steepness of the hills and the kind of timber growing
thereabout, massive pines for the most part. Associated with the
Helliwells in their various enterprises, and allied to them by
copartnerships and intermarriage, were the Skinners and Eastwoods, all
shrewd and persevering folk of the Midland and North-country English
stock. - It was Mr. Eastwood who gave the name of Todmorden to the
village overlooking the mills. Todmorden, partly in Yorkshire, and
partly in Lancashire, was the old home of the Helliwells.

Farther up the river, on the hills to the right, were the Sinclairs,
very early settlers from New England; and beyond, descending again into
the vale, the Taylors and Leas, substantial and enterprising emigrants
from England.

Hereabout were the "Forks of the Don," where the west branch of that
stream, seen at York Mills, enters. The hills in this neighbourhood are
lofty and precipitous, and the pines that clothed them were of a
remarkably fine growth. The tedious circuit which teams were obliged to
make in order to get into the town from these regions by the Don bridge
has since been, to some extent, obviated by the erection of two
additional bridges at points higher up the stream, north of the Kingston
road.




[Illustration]

XVII.

THE VALLEY OF THE DON.

_I. - From the Bridge on the Kingston Road to Tyler's._


Retracing our steps; placing ourselves again on the bridge, and, turning
northwards, we see on the right, near by, a field or rough space, which
has undergone excavation, looking as though the brick-maker or potter
had been at work on it: and we may observe that large quantity of the
displaced material has been spread out over a portion of the marshy
tract enclosed here by a bend of the river westward. What we see is a
relic of an effort made long ago, by Mr. Washburn, a barrister of York,
to whom reference has been made before, to bring this piece of land into
cultivation. In its natural state the property was all but useless, from
the steepness of the hill-side on the one hand, and from the ever wet
condition of the central portion of the flat below on the other. By
grading down the hill and filling in the marsh, and establishing a
gentle slope from the margin of the stream to the level of the top of
the bank on the right, it was easy to see that a large piece of solid
land in an eligible position might be secured. The undertaking, however,
was abandoned before the work was finished, the expense probably being
found heavy, and the prospect of a return for the outlay remote.

At a later period Mr. O'Neill, with greater success and completeness,
cut down the steep ridges of the bank at Don Mount, a short distance up,
and filled in the marsh below. These experiments show how the valley of
the Don, along the eastern outskirts of the town, will ultimately be
turned to account, when the necessities of the population demand the
outlay. At present such improvements are discouraged by the length of
time required to cover large surfaces of new clay with vegetable mould.
But in future years it will be for mills and factories, and not for
suburban and villa purposes, that the parts referred to will be held
valuable.

These marshes along the sides of the Don, from the point where its
current ceases to be perceptible, appear to be remains of the river as
it was at an epoch long ago. The rim or levee that now, on the right and
left, confines and defines the meanderings of the stream in the midst of
the marshes, has been formed by the alluvial matter deposited in the
annual overflowings. The bed of the stream has probably in the same
manner been by degrees slightly raised. The solid tow-path, as it were,
thus created on each side of the river-channel, affords at present a
great convenience to the angler and fowler. It forms, moreover, as shown
by the experiments above alluded to, a capital breastwork, towards which
the engineer may advance, when cutting down the adjoining hills, and
disposing of their material on the drowned land below.

Once more imagining ourselves on the bridge, and looking obliquely to
the north-west, we may still discern close by some remains of the short,
shallow, winding ravine, by which in winter the sleighs used to ascend
from the level of the river, and regain, through a grove of pines and
hemlocks, the high road into the town. As soon as the steady cold set
in, every year, the long reaches and grand sweeps of the river Don
became peculiarly interesting. Firmly frozen over everywhere, and coated
with a good depth of snow, bordered on each side by a high shrubbery of
wild willow, alder, wych-hazel, dog-wood, tree-cranberry and other
specimens of the lesser brushwood of the forest, plentifully overspread
and interwoven in numerous places with the vine of wild grape, the whole
had the appearance of a fine, clear, level English coach-road or
highway, bounded throughout its winding course by a luxuriant hedge,
seen as such English roads and their surroundings were wont to be, all
snow-clad, at Christmas-tide, from the top of the fast mail to Exeter,
for example, in the old coaching days.

Down the river, thus conveniently paved over, every day came a cavalcade
of strong sleighs, heavily laden, some with cordwood, some with sawn
lumber, some with hay, a whole stack of which at once, sometimes, would
seem to be on the move.

After a light fall of snow in the night, the surface of the frozen
stream would be marked all over with foot-prints innumerable of animals,
small and great, that had been early out a-foraging: tracks of
field-mice, minks and martens, of land-rats, water-rats and muskrats; of
the wild-cat sometimes, and of the fox; and sometimes of the wolf. Up
this valley we have heard at night the howling of the wolf; and in the
snow of the meadows that skirt the stream, we have seen the
blood-stained spots where sheep had been worried and killed by that
ravenous animal.

In one or two places where the bends of the river touched the inner high
bank, and where diggings had abortively been made with a view to the
erection of a factory of some kind, beautiful frozen gushes of water
from springs in the hill-side were every winter to be seen, looking, at



Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 22 of 59)