Henry Scadding.

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

. (page 24 of 59)
Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 24 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

reaching the whole height of the building, and consisting of the stems
of four good-sized, well-matched pines, with their deeply-chapped,
corrugated bark unremoved. The doors and shutters to the windows were
all of double thickness, made of stout plank, running up and down on one
side, and crosswise on the other, and thickly studded over with the
heads of stout nails. From the middle of the building rose a solitary,
massive chimney-stack.

We can picture to ourselves the cavalcade that was wont, from time to
time, to be seen in the summers and autumns of 1794-'5-'6, wending its
way leisurely to the romantically situated château of Castle Frank,
along the reaches and windings, the descents and ascents of the forest
road, expressly cut out through the primitive woods as a means of access
to it.

First, mounted on a willing and well-favoured horse, as we will suppose,
there would be General Simcoe himself - a soldierly personage, in the
full vigour of life, advanced but little beyond his fortieth year, of
thoughtful and stern, yet benevolent aspect - as shewn by the medallion
in marble on his monument in the cathedral at Exeter - revolving ever in
his mind schemes for the development and defence of the new Society
which he was engaged in founding; a man "just, active, enlightened,
brave, frank," as the French Duke de Liancourt described him in 1795;
"possessing the confidence of the country, of the troops, and of all
those who were joined with him in the administration of public affairs."
"No hillock catches his eye," the same observant writer remarks,
"without exciting in his mind the idea of a fort which might be
constructed on the spot, associating with the construction of this fort
the plan of operations for a campaign; especially of that which should
lead him to Philadelphia, _i. e._, to recover, by force of arms, to the
allegiance of England, the Colonies recently revolted."

By the side of the soldier and statesman Governor, also on horseback,
would be his gifted consort, small in person, "handsome and amiable," as
the French Duke again speaks, "fulfilling," as he continues to say, "all
the duties of the mother and wife with the most scrupulous exactness;
carrying the latter so far," DeLiancourt observes, "as to be of great
assistance to her husband by her talent for drawing, the practice of
which, in relation to maps and plans, enabled her to be extremely useful
to the Governor," while her skill and facility and taste in a wider
application of that talent were attested, the French traveller might
have added, by numerous sketch-books and portfolios of views of Canadian
scenery in its primitive condition, taken by her hand, to be treasured
up carefully and reverently by her immediate descendants, but
unfortunately not accessible generally to Canadian students.

This memorable lady - memorable for her eminent Christian goodness, as
well as for her artistic skill and taste, and superior intellectual
endowments - survived to the late period of 1850. Her maiden name is
preserved among us by the designation borne by two of our townships,
East and West "Gwillim"-bury. Her father, at the time one of the
aides-de-camp to General Wolfe, was killed at the taking of Quebec.

Conspicuous in the group would likewise be a young daughter and son, the
latter about five years of age and bearing the name of Francis. The
château of which we have just given an account was theoretically the
private property of this child, and took its name from him, although the
appellation, by accident as we suppose, is identical, in sound at all
events, with that of a certain "Castel-franc" near Rochelle, which
figures in the history of the Huguenots.

The Iroquois at Niagara had given the Governor a title, expressive of
hospitality - Deyonynhokrawen, "One whose door is always open." They had,
moreover, in Council declared his son a chief, and had named him Tioga;
or Deyoken, "Between the Two Objects;" and to humour them in return, as
Liancourt informs us, the child was occasionally attired in Indian
costume. For most men it is well that the future is veiled from them. It
happened eventually that a warrior's fate befell the young chieftain
Tioga. The little spirited lad who had been seen at one time moving
about before the assembled Iroquois at Niagara, under a certain
restraint probably, from the unwonted garb of embroidered deerskin, in
which, on such occasions, he would be arrayed; and at another time
clambering up and down the steep hill-sides at Castle Frank, with the
restless energy of a free English boy, was at last, after the lapse of
some seventeen years, seen a mangled corpse, one in that ghastly pile of
"English dead," which, in 1812, closed up the breach at Badajoz.

Riding with the Governor, out to his rustic lodge, would be seen also
his attached secretary, Major Littlehales, and one or other of his
faithful aides-de-camp, Lieutenant Talbot or Lieutenant Givins; with men
in attendance in the dark green undress of the famous Queen's Rangers,
with a sumpter pony or two, bearing packages and baskets filled with a
day's provender for the whole party. A few dogs also, a black
Newfoundland, a pointer, a setter, white and tan, hieing buoyantly about
on the right and left, would give animation to the cavalcade as it
passed sedately on its way -

"Through the green-glooming twilight of the grove."

It will be of interest to add here, the inscription on General Simcoe's
monument in Exeter Cathedral: - "Sacred to the memory of John Graves
Simcoe, Lieutenant-General in the army, and Colonel of the 22nd Regiment
of Foot, who died on the 25th day of October, 1806, aged 54. In whose
life and character the virtues of the hero, the patriot and the
Christian were so eminently conspicuous, that it may justly be said, he
served his king and his country with a zeal exceeded only by his piety
towards God." Above this inscription is a medallion portrait. On the
right and left are figures of an Indian and a soldier of the Queen's
Rangers. The remains of the General are not deposited in Exeter
Cathedral, but under a mortuary chapel on the estate of his family

Our cavalcade to Castle Frank, as sketched above, was once challenged on
the supposed ground that in 1794 there were no horses in Western
Canada. - Horses were no doubt at that date scarce in the region named;
but some were procurable for the use of the Governor and his suite. In a
"Journal to Detroit from Niagara, in 1793, by Major Littlehales,"
printed for the first time in the _Canadian Literary Magazine_, for May,
1833, we have it mentioned that, on the return of an exploring party,
they were met at the end of the plains, near the Salt Lake Creek, by
Indians, "bringing horses for the Governor and his suite." The French
_habitans_ about Sandwich and Detroit were in possession of horses in
1793, as well as their fellow countrymen in Lower Canada.

After the departure of General Simcoe from Canada, Castle Frank was
occasionally made the scene of an excursion or pic-nic by President
Russell and his family; and a ball was now and then given there, for
which the appliances as well as the guests were conveyed in boats up the
Don. At one time it was temporarily occupied by Captain John Denison, of
whom hereafter. About the year 1829, the building, shut up and
tenantless at the time, was destroyed by fire, the mischievous handiwork
of persons engaged in salmon-fishing in the Don. A depression in the dry
sand just beyond the fence which bounds the Cemetery of St. James,
northward, shews to this day the exact site of Castle Frank. The
quantity of iron that was gathered out from this depression after the
fire, was, as we remember, something extraordinary, all the window
shutters and doors having been, as we have said, made of double planks,
fastened together with an immense number of stout nails, whose heads
thickly studded the surface of each in regular order.

The immediate surroundings of the spot where Castle Frank stood,
fortunately continue almost in their original natural state. Although
the site of the building itself is outside the bounds of the Cemetery of
St. James, a large portion of the lot which at first formed the domain
of the château, now forms a part of that spacious and picturesque
enclosure. The deep glen on the west, immediately below where the house
was built, and through which flows (and by the listener may be
pleasantly _heard_ to flow) the brook that bears its name, is to this
day a scene of rare sylvan beauty. The pedestrian from the town, by a
half-hour's easy walk, can here place himself in the midst of a forest
solitude; and from what he sees he can form an idea of the whole
surrounding region, as it was when York was first laid out. Here he can
find in abundance, to this day, specimens, gigantic and minute, of the
vegetation of the ancient woods. Here at the proper seasons he can still
hear the blue jay; the flute notes of the solitary wood-thrush, and at
night, specially when the moon is shining bright, the whip-poor-will,
hurriedly and in a high key, syllabling forth its own name.

_5. - On to the Ford and the Mills._

We now resume our ramble up the valley of the Don. Northward of the
gorge, where Castle Frank Brook entered, and where so many other
deep-cut ravines converge upon the present channel of the stream, the
scenery becomes really good.

We pass along through natural meadows, bordered on both sides by fine
hills, which recede by a succession of slight plateaux, the uppermost of
them clothed with lofty pines and oaks: on the slope nearest to "the
flats" on the east, grew, along with the choke-cherry and may-flower,
numbers of the wild apple or crab, beautiful objects when in full bloom.
Hereabout also was to be found the prickly ash, a rather uncommon and
graceful shrub. (The long-continued precipitous bank on the west side of
the Don completely covered with forest, with, at last, the roof of the
rustic château appearing above, must have recalled, in some slight
degree, the Sharpham woods and Sharpham to the mind of anyone who had
ever chanced to sail up the Dart so far as that most beautiful spot.)

Immediately beyond the Castle Frank woods, where now is the property
known as Drumsnab, came the estate of Captain George Playter, and
directly across on the opposite side of the river, that of his son
Captain John Playter, both immigrants from Pennsylvania. When the town
of York was in the occupancy of the Americans in 1813, many of the
archives of the young province of Upper Canada were conveyed for safe
keeping to the houses of these gentlemen. But boats, with men and
officers from the invading force, found their way up the windings of the
Don; and such papers and documents as could be found were carried away.

Just below Drumsnab, on the west side of the stream, and set down, as it
were, in the midst of the valley, was, and is, a singular isolated mound
of the shape of a glass shade over a French clock, known in the
neighbourhood as the "Sugar Loaf." It was completely clothed over with
moderate sized trees. When the whole valley of the Don was filled with a
brimming river reaching to the summit of its now secondary banks, the
top of the "Sugar Loaf," which is nearly on a level with the summit of
the adjacent hills, must have appeared above the face of the water as an
island speck.

This picturesque and curious mound is noticed by Sir James Alexander, in
the account which he gives of the neighbourhood of Toronto in his
"L'Acadie, or Seven Years' Explorations in British America": - "The most
picturesque spot near Toronto," says Sir James, "and within four miles
of it, is Drumsnab, the residence of Mr. Cayley. The mansion is roomy
and of one storey, with a broad verandah. It is seated among fields and
woods, on the edge of a slope; at the bottom winds a river; opposite is
a most singular conical hill, like an immense Indian tumulus for the
dead; in the distance, through a vista cut judiciously through the
forest, are seen the dark blue waters of Lake Ontario. The walls of the
principal room are covered with scenes from Faust, drawn in fresco, with
a bold and masterly hand, by the proprietor." - (Vol. 1. p. 230.)

In the shadow thrown eastward by the "Sugar Loaf," there was a "Ford" in
the Don, a favourite bathing-place for boys, with a clean gravelly
bottom, and a current somewhat swift. That Ford was just in the line of
an allowance for a concession road; which from the precipitous character
of the hills on both sides, has been of late years closed by Act of
Parliament, on the ground of its supposed impracticability for ever, - a
proceeding to be regretted; as the highway which would traverse the Don
valley at the Ford would be a continuation of Bloor street in a right
line; and would form a convenient means of communication between Chester
and Yorkville.

In the meadow on the left, just above the Ford, a little meandering
brook, abounding in trout, entered the Don. Hereabouts also was, for a
long while, a rustic bridge over the main river, formed by trees felled
across the stream.

Proceeding on our way we now in a short time approached the great colony
of the Helliwells, which has already been described. The mills and
manufactories established here by that enterprising family constituted
quite a conspicuous village. A visit to this cluster of buildings, in
1827, is described by Mr. W. L. Mackenzie, in his "Sketches of Canada,"
published in London, by Effingham Wilson, in 1833. At page 270 of that
work, the writer says: "About three miles out of town, in the bottom of
a deep ravine, watered by the river Don, and bounded also by beautiful
and verdant flats, are situated the York Paper Mills, distillery and
grist-mill of Messrs. Eastwood & Co.; also Mr. Shepard's axe-grinding
machinery; and Messrs. Helliwell's large and extensive Brewery. I went
out to view these improvements a few days ago, and returned much
gratified with witnessing the paper-manufacture in active operation - as
also the bold and pleasant scenery on the banks of the Don. The river
might be made navigable with small expense up to the brewery; and if the
surrounding lands were laid out in five-acre lots all the way to town,
they would sell to great advantage."





We return once more to the Don Bridge; and from that point commence a
journey westward along the thoroughfare now known as Queen Street, but
which at the period at present occupying our attention, was
non-existent. The region through which we at first pass was long known
as the Park. It was a portion of Government property not divided into
lots and sold, until recent times.

Originally a great space extending from the first Parliament houses,
bounded southward and eastward by the water of the Bay and Don, and
northward by the Castle Frank lot, was set apart as a "Reserve for
Government Buildings," to be, it may be, according to the idea of the
day, a small domain of woods and forest in connection with them; or else
to be converted in the course of time into a source of ways and means
for their erection and maintenance. The latter appears to have been the
view taken of this property in 1811. We have seen a plan of that date,
signed "T. Ridout, S. G.," shewing this reserve divided into a number of
moderate sized lots, each marked with "the estimated yearly rent, in
dollars, as reported by the Deputy Surveyor [Samuel S. Wilmot]." The
survey is therein stated to have been made "by order of His Excellency
Francis Gore, Esq., Lieutenant-Governor."

The number of the lots is eighty-three. None of them bear a larger
amount than twenty dollars. Some of them consisting of minute bits of
marsh, were expected to yield not more than one dollar. The revenue from
the whole if realised would have been eleven hundred and thirty-three
dollars. In this plan, what is now Queen street is duly laid down, in
direct continuation of the Kingston Road westward, without regard to the
engineering difficulties presented by ravines; but it is entitled in
large letters, "Dundas Street." On its north side lie forty-six, and on
its south, thirty-seven of the small lots into which the whole reserve
is divided The scheme was never carried into effect.

The Park, as we remember it, was a tract of land in a state of nature,
densely covered, towards the north, with massive pines; and towards the
south, with a thick secondary growth of the same forest tree. Through
these woods ran a devious and rather obscure track, originating in the
bridle-road cut out, before the close of the preceding century, to
Castle Frank; one branch led off from it to the Playter-estate, passing
down and up two very steep and difficult precipices; and another,
trending to the west and north, conducted the wayfarer to a point on
Yonge Street about where Yorkville is now to be seen.

To the youthful imagination, the Park, thus clothed with veritable
forest -

The nodding horror of whose shady brows
Awed the forlorn and wandering passenger -

and traversed by irregular, ill-defined and very solitary paths, leading
to widely-separated localities, seemed a vast and rather mysterious
region, the place which immediately flashed on the mind, whenever in
poem or fairy tale, a wild or wold or wilderness was named. As time
rolled on, too, it actually became the haunt and hiding-place of lawless

After passing, on our left, the burial-plot attached to the first Roman
Catholic Church of York, and arriving where Parliament Street, at the
present day, intersects, we reached the limit, in that direction, of the
"Reserve for Government Buildings." Stretching from the point indicated,
there was on the right side of the way, a range of "park lots,"
extending some two miles to the west, all bounded on the south by what
at the present time is Queen Street, but which, from being the great
thoroughfare along the front of this very range, was long known as "Lot
Street." (In the plan above spoken of, it is marked, as already stated,
"Dundas Street," it being a section of the great military way, bearing
that name, projected by the first Governor of Upper Canada to traverse
the whole province from west to east, as we shall have occasion
hereafter to narrate.)

In the early plan of this part of York, the names of the first locatees
of the range of park-lots are given. On the first or easternmost lot we
read that of John Small. On the next, that of J. White.

In this collocation of names there is something touching, when we recall
an event in which the first owners of these two contiguous lots were
tragically concerned. Friends, and associates in the Public Service, the
one as Clerk of the Crown, the other as Attorney-General for Upper
Canada, from 1792-1800, their dream, doubtless, was to pass the evening
of their days in pleasant suburban villas placed here side by side in
the outskirts of the young capital. But there arose between them a
difficulty, trivial enough probably at the beginning, but which,
according to the barbaric conventionality of the hour, could only be
finally settled by a "meeting," as the phrase was, in the field, where
chance was to decide between them, for life or death, as between two
armies - two armies reduced to the absurdity of each consisting of one
man. The encounter took place in a pleasant grove at the back of the
Parliament Building, immediately to the east of it, between what is now
King Street and the water's edge. Mr. White was mortally wounded and
soon expired. At his own request his remains were deposited in his
garden on the park-lot, beneath a summer-house to which he had been
accustomed to retire for purposes of study.

The _Oracle_ of Saturday, January 4, 1800, records the duel in the
following words: - "Yesterday morning a duel was fought back of the
Government Buildings by John White, Esq., his Majesty's
Attorney-General, and John Small, Esq., Clerk of the Executive Council,
wherein the former received a wound above the right hip, which it is
feared will prove mortal." In the issue of the following Saturday,
January 11th, the announcement appears: - "It is with much regret that we
express to the public, the death of John White, Esq." It is added: "His
remains were on Tuesday evening interred in a small octagon building,
erected on the rear of his Park lot." "The procession," the _Oracle_
observes, "was solemn and pensive; and shewed that though death, 'all
eloquent,' had seized upon him as his victim, yet it could not take from
the public mind the lively sense of his virtues. _Vivit post funera

The _Constellation_ at Niagara, of the date January 11th, 1800, also
records the event, and enjoying a greater liberty of expression than the
Government organ at York, indulges in some just and sensible remarks on
the irrational practice of duelling in general, and on the sadness of
the special case which had just occurred. We give the _Constellation_

"Died at York, on the 3rd instant, John White, Esq., Attorney-General of
this Province. His death was occasioned by a wound he received in a duel
fought the day before with John Small, Esq., Clerk of the Executive
Council, by whom he was challenged. We have not been able to obtain the
particulars of the cause of the dispute; but be the origin what it may,
we have to lament the toleration and prevalency of a custom falsely
deemed honourable, or the criterion of true courage, innocency or guilt,
a custom to gratify the passion of revenge in a single person, to the
privation of the country and a family, of an ornament of society, and
support: an outrage on humanity that is too often procured by the meanly
malicious, who have preferment in office or friendship in view, without
merit to gain it, and stupidly lacquey from family to family, or from
person to person, some wonderful suspicion, the suggestions of a soft
head and evil heart; and it is truly unfortunate for Society that the
evil they bring on others should pass by their heads to light on those
the world could illy spare. We are unwilling to attribute to either the
Attorney-General or Mr. Small any improprieties of their own, or to say
on whom the blame lies; but of this we feel assured, that an explanation
might easily have been brought about by persons near to them, and a
valuable life preserved to us. The loss is great; as a professional
gentleman, the Attorney-General was eminent, as a friend, sincere; and
in whatever relation he stood was highly esteemed; an honest and upright
man, a friend to the poor; and dies universally lamented and we here
cannot refuse to mention, at the particular request of some who have
experienced his goodness, that he has refused taking fees, and
discharged suits at law, by recommending to the parties, and assisting
them with friendly advice, to an amicable adjustment of their
differences: and this is the man whom we have lost!"

For his share in the duel Mr. Small was, on the 20th January, 1800,
indicted and tried before Judge Allcock and a jury, of which Mr. Wm.
Jarvis was the foreman. The verdict rendered was "Not Guilty." The
seconds were - Mr. Sheriff Macdonell for Mr. Small, and the Baron DeHoen
for Mr. White.

(In 1871, as some labourers were digging out sand, for building
purposes, they came upon the grave of Attorney-General White. The
remains were carefully removed under the inspection of Mr. Clarke
Gamble, and deposited in St. James' Cemetery.)

Mr. White's park-lot became afterwards the property of Mr. Samuel
Ridout, sometime Sheriff of the County, of whom we have had occasion to
speak already. A portion of it was subsequently owned and built on by
Mr. Edward McMahon, an Irish gentleman, long well known and greatly
respected as Chief Clerk in the Attorney General's office. Mr. McMahon's
name was, for a time, preserved in that of a street which here enters
Queen Street from the North.

Sherborne Street, which at present divides the White park-lot from Moss
Park commemorates happily the name of the old Dorsetshire home of the
main stem of the Canadian Ridouts. The original stock of this family
still flourishes in the very ancient and most interesting town of
Sherborne, famous as having been in the Saxon days the see of a bishop;
and possessing still a spacious and beautiful minster, familiarly known
to architects as a fine study.

Like some other English names, transplanted to the American continent,
that of this Dorsetshire family has assumed here a pronunciation
slightly different from that given to it by its ancient owners. What in

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 24 of 59)