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

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Police Magistrate for the City of Toronto. The _Christian Guardian_, a
local religious paper which still survives, began in 1828. The _Patriot_
appeared at York in 1833: it had previously been issued at Kingston; its
whole title was "_The Patriot and Farmer's Monitor_," with the motto,
"Common Sense," below. It was of the folio form, and its Editor, Mr.
Thos. Dalton, was a writer of much force, liveliness and originality.
The _Loyalist_, _Courier_ and _Patriot_ were antagonists politically of
the _Advocate_ while the latter flourished; but all three laboured under
the disadvantage of fighting on the side whose star was everywhere on
the decline.

Notwithstanding its conservatism, however, it was in the _Courier_ that
the memorable revolutionary sentiments appeared, so frequently quoted
afterwards in the _Advocate_ publications: "the minds of the
well-affected begin to be unhinged; they already begin to cast about in
their mind's eye for some new state of political existence, which shall
effectually put the colony without the pale of British connection;"
words written under the irritation occasioned by the dismissal of the
Attorney and Solicitor-General for Upper Canada in 1833.

For a short time prior to 1837, McKenzie's paper assumed the name of
_The Constitution_. A faithful portrait of McKenzie will be seen at the
beginning of the first volume of his "Life and Times," by Mr. Charles
Lindsey, a work which will be carefully and profitably studied by future
investigators in the field of Upper Canadian history. Excellent
portraits of Mr. Gurnett and of Mr. Dalton are likewise extant in
Toronto.

Soon after 1838, the _Examiner_ newspaper acquired great influence at
York. It was established and edited by Mr. Hincks. Mr. Hincks had
emigrated to Canada with the intention of engaging in commerce; and in
Walton's _York Directory_, 1833-34, we read for No. 21, west side of
Yonge Street, "Hincks, Francis, Wholesale Warehouse." But Mr. Hincks'
attention was drawn to the political condition of Canada, especially to
its Finance. The accident of living in immediate proximity to a family
that had already for a number of years been taking a warm and active
interest in public affairs, may have contributed to this. In the
Directory, just named, the Number after 21 on the west side of Yonge
Street, is 23, and the occupants are "Baldwin, Doctor W. Warren;
Baldwin, Robert, Esq., Attorney, &c., Baldwin and Sullivan's Attorney's
Office, and Dr. Baldwin's Surrogate Office round the corner, in King
Street, 195½." It was not unnatural that the next door neighbour of Dr.
Baldwin's family, their tenant, moreover, and attached friend, should
catch a degree of inspiration from them. The subsequent remarkable
career of Mr. Hincks, afterwards so widely known as Sir Francis Hincks,
has become a part of the general history of the country.

About the period of the Union of Upper and Lower Canada, a local
tri-weekly named _The Morning Star and Transcript_ was printed and
published by Mr. W. J. Coates, who also issued occasionally, at a later
date, the _Canadian Punch_, containing clever political cartoons in the
style of the London _Punch_.

We have spoken once, we believe, of the _Canadian Freeman's_ motto,
"_Est natura hominum novitatis avida_;" and of the _Patriot's_, just
above, "_Common Sense_." Fothergill's "_Weekly Register_" was headed by
a brief cento from Shakespeare: "Our endeavour will be to stamp the very
body of the time - its form and pressure - : we shall extenuate nothing,
nor shall we set down aught in malice."

Other early Canadian newspaper mottoes which pleased the boyish fancy
years ago, and which may still be pleasantly read on the face of the
same long-lived and yet flourishing publications, were the "_Mores et
studia et populos et prælia dicam_," of the Quebec _Mercury_, and the
"_Animos novitate tenebo_" of the Montreal _Herald_. The _Mercury_ and
_Herald_ likewise retain to this day their respective early devices: the
former, Hermes, all proper, as the Heralds would say, descending from
the sky, with the motto from Virgil, _Mores et studia et populos et
prælia dicam_: the latter the Genius of Fame, bearing in one hand the
British crown, and sounding as she speeds through the air her trump,
from which issues the above-cited motto. Over the editorial column the
device is repeated, with the difference that the floating Genius here
adds the authority for her quotation - Ovid, _a la_ Dr. Pangloss.
Underneath the floating figure are many minute roses and shamrocks; but
towering up to the right and left with a significant predominance, for
the special gratification of Montrealers of the olden time, the thistle
of Scotland.

Besides these primitive mottoes and emblematic headings, the _Mercury_
and _Herald_ likewise retain, each of them, to this day a certain
pleasant individuality of aspect in regard to type, form and
arrangement, by which they are each instantly to be recognized. This
adherence of periodicals to their original physiognomy is very
interesting, and in fact advantageous, inspiring in readers a certain
tenderness of regard. Does not the cover of _Blackwood_, for example,
even the poor United States copy of it, sometimes awaken in the chaos of
a public reading-room table, a sense of affection, like a friend seen in
the midst of a promiscuous crowd? The English Reviews too, as circulated
among us from the United States, are conveniently recognized by their
respective colours, although the English form of each has been, for
cheapness' sake, departed from. The _Montreal Gazette_ likewise
survives, preserving its ancient look in many respects, and its high
character for dignity of style and ability.

In glancing back at the supply of intelligence and literature provided
at an early day for the Canadian community, it repeatedly occurs to us
to name, as we have done, the _Albion_ newspaper of New York. From this
journal it was that almost every one in our Upper Canadian York who had
the least taste for reading, derived the principal portion of his or her
acquaintance with the outside world of letters, as well as the minuter
details of prominent political events. As its name implies, the _Albion_
was intended to meet the requirements of a large number of persons of
English birth and of English descent, whose lot is cast on this
continent, but who nevertheless cannot discharge from their hearts their
natural love for England, their natural pride in her unequalled
civilization. "_Cælum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt_," was
its gracefully-chosen and appropriate motto.

Half a century ago, the boon of a judicious literary journal like the
_Albion_ was to dwellers in Canada a very precious one. The Quarterlies
were not then reprinted as now; nor were periodicals like the
Philadelphia _Eclectic_ or the Boston _Living Age_ readily procurable.
Without the weekly visit of the _Albion_, months upon months would have
passed without any adequate knowledge being enjoyed of the current
products of the literary world. For the sake of its extracted reviews,
tales and poetry the New York _Albion_ was in some cases, as we well
remember, loaned about to friends and read like a much sought after book
in a modern circulating library. And happily its contents were always
sterling, and worth the perusal. It was a part of our own boyish
experience to become acquainted for the first time with a portion of
Keble's _Christian Year_, in the columns of that paper.

The _Albion_ was founded in 1822 by Dr. John Charlton Fisher, who
afterwards became a distinguished Editor at Quebec. To him Dr. Bartlett
succeeded. The New York _Albion_ still flourishes under Mr. Cornwallis,
retaining its high character for the superior excellence of its matter,
retaining also many traits of its ancient outward aspect, in the style
of its type, in the distribution of its matter. It has also retained its
old motto. Its familiar vignette heading of oak branches round the
English rose, the thistle of Scotland, and the shamrock, has been
thinned out, and otherwise slightly modified; but it remains a fine
artistic composition, well executed.

There was another journal from New York much esteemed at York for the
real respectability of its character, the _New York Spectator_. It was
read for the sake of its commercial and general information, rather
than for its literary news. To the minds of the young the Greek
revolution had a singular fascination. We remember once entertaining the
audacious idea of constructing a history of the struggle in Greece, of
which the authorities would, in great measure, have been copious
cuttings from the _New York Spectator_ columns. One advantage of the
embryo design certainly was a familiarity acquired with the map of
Hellas within and without the Peloponnesus. Navarino, Modon, Coron,
Tripolitza, Mistra, Missolonghi, with the incidents that had made each
temporarily famous, were rendered as familiar to the mind's eye as
Sparta, Athens, Thebes, Thermopylæ, and the events connected with each
respectively, of an era two thousand years previously, afterwards from
other circumstances became. Colocotroni, Mavrocordato, Miaulis,
Bozzaris, were heroes to the imagination as fully as Miltiades,
Alcibiades, Pericles, and Nicias, afterwards became.

Partly in consequence of the eagerness with which the columns of the
_New York Spectator_ used to be ransacked with a view to the composition
of the proposed historical work, we remember the peculiar interest with
which we regarded the editor of that periodical at a later period, on
falling in with him, casually, at the Falls of Niagara. Mr. Hall was
then well advanced in years; and from a very brief interview, the
impression received was, that he was the beau ideal of a veteran editor
of the highest type; for a man, almost omniscient; unslumberingly
observant; sympathetic, in some way, with every passing occurrence and
every remark; tenacious of the past; grasping the present on all sides,
with readiness, genial interest and completeness. In aspect, and even to
some extent in costume, Mr. Hall might have been taken for an English
bishop of the early part of the Victorian era.

[Illustration]




[Illustration]

XX.

QUEEN STREET, FROM GEORGE STREET TO YONGE STREET. - MEMORIES OF THE OLD
COURT HOUSE.


When we pass George Street we are in front of the park-lot originally
selected by Mr. Secretary Jarvis. It is now divided from south to north
by Jarvis street, a thoroughfare opened up through the property in the
time of Mr. Samuel Peters Jarvis, the Secretary's son. Among the
pleasant villas that now line this street on both sides, there is one
which still is the home of a Jarvis, the Sheriff of the County.

Besides filling the conspicuous post indicated by his title, Mr.
Secretary Jarvis was also the first Grand Master of the Masons in Upper
Canada. The archives of the first Masonic Lodges of York possess much
interest. Through the permission of Mr. Alfio de Grassi who has now the
custody of them, we are enabled to give the following extracts from a
letter of Mr. Secretary Jarvis, bearing the early date of March 28th,
1792: - "I am in possession of my sign manual from his Majesty," Mr.
Jarvis writes on the day just named, from Pimlico, to his relative
Munson Jarvis, at St. John, New Brunswick, "constituting me Secretary
and Registrar of the Province of Upper Canada, with power of appointing
my Deputies, and in every other respect a very full warrant. I am also"
he continues, "very much flattered to be enabled to inform you that the
Grand Lodge of England have within these very few days appointed Prince
Edward, who is now in Canada, Grand Master of Ancient Masons in Lower
Canada; and William Jarvis, Secretary and Registrar of Upper Canada,
Grand Master of Ancient Masons in that Province. However trivial it may
appear to you who are not a Mason, yet I assure you that it is one of
the most honourable appointments that they could have conferred. The
Duke of Athol is the Grand Master of Ancient Masons in England. Lord
Dorchester with his private Secretary, and the Secretary of the
Province, called on us yesterday," Mr. Jarvis proceeds to say, "and
found us in the utmost confusion, with half a dozen porters in the house
packing up. However his Lordship would come in, and sat down in a small
room which was reserved from the general bustle. He then took Mr. Peters
home with him to dine: hence we conclude a favourable omen in regard to
his consecration, which we hope is not far distant. Mrs. Jarvis," the
Secretary informs his relative, "leaves England in great spirits. I am
ordered my passage on board the transport with the Regiment, and to do
duty without pay for the passage only. This letter," he adds, "gets to
Halifax by favour of an intimate friend of Mr. Peters, Governor
Wentworth, who goes out to take possession of his Government. The ship
that I am allotted to is the _Henneker_, Captain Winter, a transport
with the Queen's Rangers on board."

The Prince Edward spoken of was afterwards Duke of Kent and father of
the present Queen. Lord Dorchester was the Governor-General of the
Province of Quebec before its division into Upper and Lower Canada. Mr.
Peters was _in posse_ the Bishop of the new Province about to be
organized. It was a part of the original scheme, as shewn by the papers
of the first Governor of Upper Canada, that there should be an episcopal
see in Upper Canada, as there already was at Quebec in the lower
province. But this was not carried into effect until 1839, nearly half a
century later.

When Jarvis Street was opened up through the Secretary's park-lot, the
family residence of his son Mr. Samuel Peters Jarvis, a handsome
structure of the early brick era of York, in the line of the proposed
thoroughfare, was taken down. Its interior fittings of solid black
walnut were bought by Captain Carthew and transferred by him without
much alteration to a house which he put up on part of the Deer-park
property on Yonge Street.

A large fragment of the offices attached to Mr. Jarvis's house was
utilized and absorbed in a private residence on the west side of Jarvis
Street, and the gravel drive to the door is yet to be traced in the less
luxuriant vegetation of certain portions of the adjoining flower
gardens. Mr. Secretary Jarvis died in 1818. He is described by those who
remember him, as possessing a handsome, portly presence. Col. Jarvis,
the first military commandant in Manitoba, is a grandson of the
Secretary.

Of Mr. McGill, first owner of the next park-lot, and of his personal
aspect, we have had occasion to speak in connection with the interior of
St. James' Church. Situated in fields at the southern extremity of a
stretch of forest, the comfortable and pleasantly-situated residence
erected by him for many years seemed a place of abode quite remote from
the town. It was still to be seen in 1870 in the heart of McGill Square,
and was long occupied by Mr. McCutcheon, a brother of the inheritor of
the bulk of Mr. McGill's property, who in accordance with his uncle's
will, and by authority of an Act of Parliament, assumed the name of
McGill, and became subsequently well known throughout Canada as the Hon.
Peter McGill.

(The founder of McGill College in Montreal was of a different family.
The late Capt. James McGill Strachan derived his name from the
marriage-connection of his father with the latter.)

In the _Gazette and Oracle_ of Nov. 13th, 1803, we observe Mr. McGill,
of York, advertising as "agent for purchases" for pork and beef to be
supplied to the troops stationed "at Kingston, York, Fort George, Fort
Chippewa, Fort Erie, and Amherstburg." In 1818 he is Receiver-General,
and Auditor-General of land patents. He had formerly been an officer in
the Queen's Rangers, and his name repeatedly occurs in "Simcoe's
History" of the operations of that corps during the war of the American
Revolution.

From that work we learn that in 1779 he, with the commander himself of
the corps, then Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, fell into the hands of the
revolutionary authorities, and was treated with great harshness in the
common jail of Burlington, New Jersey; and when a plan was devised for
the Colonel's escape, Mr. McGill volunteered, in order to further its
success, to personate his commanding officer in bed, and to take the
consequences, while the latter was to make his way out.

The whole project was frustrated by the breaking of a false key in the
lock of a door which would have admitted the confined soldiers to a room
where "carbines and ammunition" were stored away. Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, it
is added in the history just named, afterwards offered Mr. McGill an
annuity, or to make him Quartermaster of Cavalry; the latter, we are
told, he accepted of, as his grandfather had been an officer in King
William's army; and "no man," Col. Simcoe himself notes, "ever executed
the office with greater integrity, courage and conduct."

The southern portion of Mr. McGill's park-lot has, in the course of
modern events, come to be assigned to religious uses. McGill Square,
which contained the old homestead and its surroundings, and which was at
one period intended, as its name indicates, to be an open public square,
was secured in 1870 by the Wesleyan Methodist body and made the site of
its principal place of worship and of various establishments connected
therewith.

Immediately north, on the same property, the Roman Catholics had
previously built their principal place of worship and numerous
appurtenances, attracted possibly to the spot by the expectation that
McGill Square would continue for ever an open ornamental piece of
ground.

A little farther to the north a cross-street, leading from Yonge Street
eastward, bears the name of McGill. An intervening cross-street
preserves the name of Mr. Crookshank, who was Mr. McGill's
brother-in-law.

The name that appears on the original survey of York and its suburbs as
first occupant of the park-lot westward of Mr. McGill's, is that of Mr.
George Playter. This is the Captain Playter, senior, of whom we have
already spoken in our excursion up the valley of the Don. We have named
him also among the forms of a past age whom we ourselves remember often
seeing in the congregation assembled of old in the wooden St. James'.

Mr. Playter was an Englishman by birth, but had passed many of his early
years in Philadelphia, where for a time he attached himself to the
Society of Friends, having selected as a wife a member of that body. But
on the breaking out of the troubles that led to the independence of the
United States, his patriotic attachment to old far-off England compelled
him, in spite of the peaceful theories of the denomination to which he
had united himself, promptly to join the Royalist forces.

He used to give a somewhat humorous account of his sudden return to the
military creed of ordinary mundane men. "Lie there, Quaker!" cried he to
his cutaway, buttonless, formal coat, as he stripped it off and flung it
down, for the purpose of donning the soldier's habiliments. But some of
the Quaker observances were never relinquished in his family. We well
remember, in the old homestead on the Don, and afterwards at his
residence on Caroline Street, a silent mental thanksgiving before meals,
that always took place after every one had taken his seat at the table;
a brief pause was made, and all bent for a moment slightly forwards. The
act was solemn and impressive.

Old Mr. Playter was a man of sprightly and humorous temperament, and his
society was accordingly much enjoyed by those who knew him. A precise
attention to his dress and person rendered him an excellent type in
which to study the costume and style of the ordinary unofficial citizen
of a past generation. Colonel M. F. Whitehead, of Port Hope, in a letter
kindly expressive of his interest in these reminiscences of York,
incidentally furnished a little sketch that will not be out of place
here. "My visits to York, after I was articled to Mr. Ward, in 1819,"
Colonel Whitehead says, "were frequent. I usually lodged at old Mr.
Playter's, Mrs. Ward's father. [This was when he was still living at the
homestead on the Don.] The old gentleman often walked into town with me,
by Castle Frank; his three-cornered hat, silver knee-buckles, broad-toed
shoes and large buckles, were always carefully arranged." - To the
equipments, so well described by Colonel Whitehead, we add from our own
boyish recollection of Sunday sights, white stockings and a gold-headed
cane of a length unusual now.

According to a common custom prevalent at an early time, Mr. Playter set
apart on his estate on the Don a family burial-plot, where his own
remains and those of several members of his family and their descendants
were deposited. Mr. George Playter, son of Captain George Playter, was
some time Deputy Sheriff of the Home District; and Mr. Eli Playter,
another son, represented for some sessions in the Provincial Parliament
the North Riding of York. A daughter, who died unmarried in 1832, Miss
Hannah Playter, "Aunt Hannah," as she was styled in the family, is
pleasantly remembered as well for the genuine kindness of her character,
as also for the persistency with which, like her father, she carried
forward into a new and changed generation, and retained to the last, the
costume and manners of the reign of King George the Third.

Immediately in front of the extreme westerly portion of the park lot
which we are now passing, and on the south side of the present Queen
Street in that direction, was situated an early Court House of York,
associated in the memories of most of the early people with their first
acquaintance with forensic pleadings and law proceedings.

This building was a notable object in its day. In an old plan of the
town we observe it conspicuously delineated in the locality
mentioned - the _other_ public buildings of the place, viz., the
Commissariat Stores, the Government House, the Council Chamber (at the
present north-west corner of York and Wellington Streets), the District
School, St. James's Church, and the Parliament House (by the Little
Don), being marked in the same distinguished manner. It was a plain
two-storey frame building, erected in the first instance as an ordinary
place of abode by Mr. Montgomery, father of the Montgomerys, once of the
neighbourhood of Eglinton, on Yonge Street. It stood in a space defined
by the present line of Yonge Street on the west, by nearly the present
line of Victoria Street on the east, by Queen Street on the north and by
Richmond Street on the south. Though situated nearer Queen Street than
Richmond Street, it faced the latter, and was approached from the
latter. - It was Mr. Montgomery who obtained by legal process the opening
of Queen Street in the rear of his property. In consequence of the
ravine of which we have had occasion so often to speak, the allowance
for this street as laid down in the first plans of York had been closed
up by authority from Yonge Street to Caroline Street.

It was seriously proposed in 1800 to close up Queen Street to the
westward also from Yonge Street "so far as the Common," that is, the
Garrison Reserve, on the ground that such street was wholly unnecessary,
there being in that direction already one highway into the town, namely,
Richmond Street, situated only ten rods to the south. In 1800 the
southern termination of Yonge Street was where we are now passing, at
the corner of Montgomery's lot. At this point the farmers' waggons from
the north turned off to the eastward, proceeding as far as Toronto
Street, down which they wended their way to Richmond Street, and so on
to Church Street and King Street, finally reaching the Market Place.

Of the opening of Yonge Street through a range of building lots which in
1800 blocked the way from Queen Street southwards, we shall speak
hereafter in the excursion which we propose to make through Yonge Street
from south to north, the moment we have finished recording our
collections and recollections in relation to Queen Street.

_Memories of the Old Court House._

In the old Court House, situated as we have described, we received our
first boyish impressions of the solemnities and forms observed in Courts
of Law. In paying a visit of curiosity subsequently to the singular
series of Law Courts which are to be found ranged along one side of
Westminster Hall in London - each one of them in succession entered
through the heavy folds of lofty mysterious-looking curtains, each one
of them crowded with earnest pleaders and anxious suitors, each one of



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