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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"July 17th, [1767.] Arrived Wabacommegat, chief of the Mississagas. [He
came from Toronto, as we shall presently see.] July 18th. Arrived
Ashenshan, head-warrior of the Senecas, belonging to the Caiadeon
village. This day, Wabacommegat came to speak to me, but was so drunk
that no one could understand him."

Again: "July 19th. Had a small conference with Wabacommegat.
Present - Norman M'Leod, Esq.; Mr. Neil MacLean, Commissary of
Provisions; Jean Baptiste de Couagne, interpreter. Wabacommegat spoke
first, and, after the usual compliments, told that as soon as he had
heard of my arrival, he and his young men came to see me. He then asked
me if I had any news, and desired I should tell all I had. Then he gave
four strings of wampum. I then told them - Children, I am glad to see
you. I am sent here by your father, Sir William Johnson, to take care of
your trade, and to prevent abuses therein. I have no sort of news, for I
suppose you have heard of the drunken Chippewas that killed an
Englishman and wounded his wife very much, above Detroit; they are sent
down the country by consent and approbation of the head men of the
nation. I am sorry to acquaint you that some of your nation that came
here with Nan-i-bo-jou, killed a cow and a mare belonging to Captain
Grant, on the other side of the river. I am persuaded that all here
present think it was very wrong, and a very bad return for the many good
offices done by the English in general towards them, and in particular
by Captain Grant, who had that day fed the men that were guilty of the
theft. I hope and desire that Wabacommegat and the rest of the chiefs
and warriors here present, will do all in their power to discover the
thief, and bring him in here to me the next time they return, that we
may see what satisfaction he or they may give Captain Grant for the loss
of his cattle. [I gave seven strings of wampum.] Children, I am sorry to
hear you have permitted people to trade at Toronto. I hope you will
prevent it for the future. All of you know the reason of this belt of
wampum being left at this place. [I then showed them a large belt left
here five or six years ago by Wabacommegat, by which belt he was under
promise not to allow anybody whatever to carry on trade at Toronto.]
Now, children, I have no more to say, but desire you to remember and
keep close to all the promises you have made to your English father. You
must not listen to any bad news. When you hear any, good or bad, come to
me with it. You may depend upon it I shall always tell you the truth. [I
gave four strings of wampum.]

"Wabacommegat replied: 'Father, we have heard you with attention. I
think it was very wrong in the people to kill Captain Grant's cattle. I
shall discover the men that did it, and will bring them in here in the
fall. We will allow no more trade to be carried on at Toronto. As to
myself, it is well known I don't approve of it, as I went with the
interpreter to bring in those that were trading at that place. We go
away this day, and hope our father will give us some provisions, rum,
powder and shot, and we will bring you venison when we return.' I
replied, it was not in my power to give them much, but as it was the
first time I had the pleasure of speaking to them, they should have a
little of what they wanted."

In the January previous to the conference, two traders had been arrested
at Toronto. Sir William Johnson, in a letter to Gen. Gage, writes thus,
under date of January 12, 1767. "Capt. Browne writes me that he has, at
the request of Commissary Roberts, caused two traders to be apprehended
at Toronto, where they were trading contrary to authority. I hope
Lieut.-Gov. Carleton," Sir William continues, "will, agreeable to the
declaration in one of his letters, have them prosecuted and punished as
an example to the rest. I am informed that there are several more from
Canada trading with the Indians on the north side of Lake Ontario, and
up along the rivers in that quarter, which, if not prevented, must
entirely ruin the fair trader." In these extracts from the
correspondence of Sir William Johnson, and from the Journal of
transactions at Fort Niagara, in 1767, we are admitted, as we suspect,
to a true view of the status of Toronto as a trading-post for a series
of years after the conquest. It was, as we conceive, a place where a
good deal of forestalling of the regular markets went on. Trappers and
traders, acting without license, made such bargains as they could with
individuals among the native bands frequenting the spot at particular
seasons of the year. We do not suppose that any store-houses for the
deposit of goods or peltries were maintained here after the conquest. In
a MS. map, which we have seen, of about the date 1793, the site of the
old Fort Rouillé is marked by a group of wigwams of the usual pointed
shape, with the inscription appended, "Toronto, an Indian village now

[Sidenote: 1788.]

In 1788 Toronto harbour was well and minutely described by J. Collins,
Deputy Surveyor General, in a Report presented to Lord Dorchester,
Governor-General, on the Military Posts and Harbours on Lakes Ontario,
Erie and Huron. "The Harbour of Toronto," Mr. Collins says, "is near two
miles in length from the entrance on the west to the isthmus between it
and a large morass on the eastward. The breadth of the entrance is about
half a mile, but the navigable channel for vessels is only about 500
yards, having from three to three and a half fathoms water. The north or
main shore, the whole length of the harbour, is a clay bank from twelve
to twenty feet high, and rising gradually behind, apparently good land,
and fit for settlement. The water is rather shoal near the shore, having
but one fathom depth at one hundred yards distance, two fathoms at two
hundred yards; and when I sounded here, the waters of the Lake were very
high. There is good and safe anchorage everywhere within the harbour,
being either a soft or sandy bottom. The south shore is composed of a
great number of sandhills and ridges, intersected with swamps and small
creeks. It is of unequal breadths, being from a quarter of a mile to a
mile wide across from the harbour to the lake, and runs in length to the
east five or six miles. Through the middle of the isthmus before
mentioned, or rather near the north shore, is a channel with two fathoms
water, and in the morass there are other channels from one to two
fathoms deep. From what has been said," Mr. Collins proceeds to observe,
"it will appear that the harbour of Toronto is capacious, safe and well
sheltered; but the entrance being from the westward is a great
disadvantage to it, as the prevailing winds are from that quarter; and
as this is a fair wind from hence down the Lake, of course it is that
which vessels in general would take their departure from; but they may
frequently find it difficult to get out of the harbour. The shoalness of
the north shore, as before remarked, is also disadvantageous as to
erecting wharfs, quays, &c. In regard to this place as a military post,"
Mr. Collins reports, "I do not see any very striking features to
recommend it in that view; but the best situation to occupy for the
purpose of protecting the settlement and harbour would, I conceive, be
on the point and near the entrance thereof." (The knoll which
subsequently became the site of the Garrison of York, is probably
intended. Gibraltar point, on the opposite side of the entrance, where a
block house was afterwards built, may also be glanced at.)

The history of the site of Fort Toronto would probably have differed
from what it has been, and the town developed there would, perhaps, have
assumed at its outset a French rather than an English aspect, had the
expectations of three Lower Canadian gentlemen, in 1791, been completely
fulfilled. Under date of "Surveyor General's Office [Quebec], 10th June,
1791," Mr. Collins, Deputy Surveyor-General, writes to Mr. Augustus
Jones, an eminent Deputy Provincial Surveyor, of whom we shall hear
repeatedly, that "His Excellency, Lord Dorchester, has been pleased to
order one thousand acres of land to be laid out at Toronto for Mr.
Rocheblave; and for Captain Lajorée, and for Captain Bouchette seven
hundred acres each, at the same place, which please to lay out
accordingly," Mr. Collins says, "and report the same to this office with
all convenient speed."

We may suppose that these three French gentlemen became early aware of
the spot likely to be selected for the capital of the contemplated
Province of Upper Canada, and foresaw the advantages that might accrue
from the possession of some broad acres there. Unluckily for them,
however, delay occurred in the execution of Lord Dorchester's order; and
in the meantime, the new Province was duly constituted, with a
government and land-granting department of its own; and, under date of
"Nassau [Niagara], June 15, 1792," Mr. Augustus Jones, writing to Mr.
Collins, refers to his former communication in the following
terms: - "Your order of the 10th of June, 1791, for lands at Toronto, in
favour of Mr. Rocheblave and others, I only received the other day; and
as the members of the Land Board think their power dissolved by our
Governor's late Proclamation relative to granting of Lands in Upper
Canada, they recommend it to me to postpone doing anything in respect of
such order until I may receive some further instructions."

We hear no more of the order. Had M. Rocheblave, Captain Lajorée and
Captain Bouchette become legally seized of the lands assigned them at
Toronto by Lord Dorchester, the occupants of building-lots in York,
instead of holding in fee simple, would probably have been burdened for
many a year with some vexatious recognitions of quasi-seignorial rights.

On Holland's great MS. map of the Province of Quebec, made in 1791, and
preserved in the Crown Lands Department of Ontario, the indentation in
front of the mouth of the modern Humber river is entitled "Toronto Bay";
the sheet of water between the peninsula and the mainland is not named:
but the peninsula itself is marked "Presqu'isle, Toronto;" and an
extensive rectangular tract, bounded on the south by "Toronto Bay" and
the waters within the peninsula, is inscribed "Toronto." In Mr.
Chewett's MS. Journal, we have, under date of Quebec, April 22, 1792,
the following entry: "Received from Gov. Simcoe a Plan of Points Henry
and Frederick, to have a title page put to them: also a plan of the Town
and township of Toronto, and to know whether it was ever laid out." We
gather from this that sometime prior to Governor Simcoe's arrival, it
had been in contemplation to establish a town at Toronto.

The name Toronto pleased the ear and took the fancy of sentimental
writers. We have it introduced by an author of this class, in a work,
entitled "Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie et dans l'Etat de New York,
par un Membre adoptif de la nation Oneida;" published at Paris in 1801,
but written prior to 1799, as it is inscribed to Washington. The author
describes a Council pretended to be held at Onondaga, where chiefs and
sachems speak. They discourse of the misery of man, of death, of the
ravages of the small-pox. Siasconcet, one of the sages, relates his
interview with Kahawabash, who had lost his wife and all his friends by
the prevailing malady. Siasconcet exhorts him to suffer in silence like
a wise man. Kahawabash replies, "Siasconcet! n'as-tu pas souvent entendu
les cris plaintifs de l'ours, dont la compagne avoit été tuée? N'as-tu
pas souvent vu couler les larmes des yeux du castor qui avait perdu sa
femelle ou ses petits? Eh bien! moi, suis-je inférieur à l'ours ou au
castor? Non: je suis homme, aussi bon chasseur, aussi brave guerrier que
tes sachems: comment empêcher l'arc de s'étendre quand la corde casse?
La cime du chêne ou la tige du roseau de ployer, quand l'orage éclate?
Lorsque le corps est blessé, Siasconcet, il en découle du sang; quand le
coeur est navré, il en découle des larmes: voilà ce que je dirai à tes
vieillards; je verrai ce qu'ils me répondront."

In the reply of Siasconcet, we have the reference to Toronto to which we
have alluded, and which somewhat startled us when we suddenly lighted
upon it in the work above-named. "Eh, bien!" Siasconcet said: "eh, bien!
Kahawabash, pleure sous mon toît, puisque ton bon génie le veut, et pour
plaire au mauvais, que tes yeux soient secs quand tu seras au feu
d'Onondaga." "Que faut-il donc faire sur la terre," rejoined Kahawabash,
"puisque l'un veut ce que l'autre ne veut pas?" "Que faut-il faire?"
answered Siasconcet, "considérer la vie comme un passage de Toronto à
Niagara. Que de difficultés n'éprouvons-pas nous pour doubler les caps,
pour sortir des baies dans lesquelles les vents nous forçent d'entrer?
Que de chances contre d'aussi frêles canots que les nôtres? Il faut
cependant prendre le temps et les choses comme ils viennent, puisque
nous ne pouvons pas les choisir; il faut nourrir, aimer sa femme et ses
enfans, respecter sa tribu et sa nation; jouir du bien quand il nous
écheoit; supporter le mal avec courage et patience; chasser et pêcher
quand on a faim, se reposer et fumer quand on est las; s'attendre à
rencontrer le malheur puisque on est né; se réjouir quand il ne vient
pas; se considérer comme des oiseaux perchés pour la nuit sur la branche
d'un arbre, et qui, au point du jour, s'envolent et disparaissent pour

Familiar with the modern two-hours' pleasure-trip from Toronto to
Niagara, we were, for the moment unprepared for the philosophic sachem's
illustration of the changes and chances of mortal life. We forgot what
an undertaking that journey was in the days of the primitive birch
canoe, when in order to accomplish the passage, the whole of the
western portion of Lake Ontario, was wont to be cautiously and
laboriously coasted.

The real name of the author of the "Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie"
was Saint-Jean de Crèvecoeur.

To the narrative just given is appended information, which, if
superfluous, will nevertheless be read locally now, with some curiosity.
The note explains that Toronto and Niagara, are "postes considérables de
l'Ontario: le premier, situé à l'ouest de ce lac, est formé par une baie
profonde et commode, où le Gouvernement Anglais a fait construire un
chantier, et une ville à laquelle on a donné le nom d'York; le second,
situé au sud-ouest, est formé par l'embouchure de la rivière Niagara, à
l'est de laquelle est la forteresse du même nom, et à l'ouest la pointe
des Mississagués, sur laquelle on construit une nouvelle ville, destinée
à être la capitale du Haut Canada."

The annotator speaks, we see, of the town on Mississaga point and the
other new town on the opposite side of the lake in the same terms: both
are in process of construction; and the town on Mississaga point, he
still thinks is destined to be the capital of Upper Canada.

[Sidenote: 1796.]

The language of the note recalls the agitation in the public mind at
Niagara in 1796, on the subject of the seat of Government for Upper
Canada - a question that has since agitated Canada in several of its
sub-sections. The people of Niagara in 1796, being in possession,
naturally thought that the distinction ought to continue with them.
Governor Simcoe had ordered the removal of the public offices to the
infant York: there to abide, however, only temporarily, until the West
should be peopled, and a second London built, on a Canadian Thames. Lord
Dorchester, the Governor-in-Chief, at Quebec, held that Kingston ought
to have been preferred, but that place, like Niagara, was, it was urged,
too near the frontier in case of war. In 1796, Governor Simcoe had
withdrawn from the country, and the people of Niagara entertained hopes
that the order for removal might still be revoked. The policy of the
late Governor, however, continued to be carried out.

[Sidenote: 1793.]

Three years previously, viz., in 1793, the site of the trading post
known as Toronto had been occupied by the troops drawn from Niagara and
Queenston. At noon on the 27th of August in 1793, the first royal salute
had been fired from the garrison there, and responded to by the
shipping in the harbour, in commemoration of the change of name from
Toronto to York - a change intended to please the old king, George III.,
through a compliment offered to his soldier son, Frederick, Duke of

For some time after 1793, official letters and other contemporary
records exhibit in their references to the new site, the expressions,
"Toronto, now York," and "York, late Toronto."

[Sidenote: 1795.]

The ancient appellation was a favorite, and continued in ordinary use.
Isaac Weld, who travelled in North America in 1795-7, still speaks in
his work of the transfer of the Government from Niagara to Toronto.
"Niagara," he says, "is the centre of the _beau monde_ of Upper Canada:
orders, however," he continues, "had been issued before our arrival
there for the removal of the Seat of Government from thence to Toronto,
which was deemed a more eligible spot for the meeting of the Legislative
bodies, as being farther removed from the frontiers of the United
States. This projected change," he adds, "is by no means relished by the
people at large, as Niagara is a much more convenient place of resort to
most of them than Toronto; and as the Governor, who proposed the
measure, has been removed, it is imagined that it will not be put in

[Sidenote: 1803.]

In 1803-4, Thomas Moore, the distinguished poet, travelled on this
continent. The record of his tour took the form, not of a journal in
prose, but of a miscellaneous collection of verses suggested by
incidents and scenes encountered. These pieces, addressed many of them
to friends, appear now as a subdivision of his collected works, as Poems
relating to America. The society of the United States in 1804 appears to
have been very distasteful to him. He speaks of his experience somewhat
as we may imagine the winged Pegasus, if endowed with speech, would have
done of his memorable brief taste of sublunary life. Writing to the Hon.
W. R. Spencer, from Buffalo, - which he explains to be "a little village
on Lake Erie," - in a strain resembling that of the poetical satirists of
the century which had just passed away, he sweepingly declares -

"Take Christians, Mohawks, Democrats, and all,
From the rude wigwam to the congress-hall,
From man the savage, whether slav'd or free,
To man the civilized, less tame than he, -
'Tis one dull chaos, one unfertile strife
Betwixt half-polished and half-barbarous life;
Where every ill the ancient world could brew
Is mixed with every grossness of the new;
Where all corrupts, though little can entice,
And nought is known of luxury, but its vice!"

He makes an exception in a note appended to these lines, in favour of
the Dennies and their friends at Philadelphia, with whom he says, "I
passed the few agreeable moments which my tour through the States
afforded me." These friends he thus apostrophises: -

"Yet, yet forgive me, oh! ye sacred few,
Whom late by Delaware's green banks I knew:
Whom known and loved thro' many a social eve,
'Twas bliss to live with, and 'twas pain to leave.
Not with more joy the lonely exile scann'd
The writing traced upon the desert's sand,
Where his lone heart but little hoped to find
One trace of life, one stamp of human kind;
Than did I hail the pure, th' enlightened zeal,
The strength to reason and the warmth to feel,
The manly polish and the illumined taste,
Which, 'mid the melancholy, heartless waste,
My foot has traversed, oh! you sacred few,
I found by Delaware's green banks with you."

After visiting the Falls of Niagara, Moore passed down Lake Ontario,
threaded his way through the Thousand Islands, shot the Long Sault and
other rapids, and spent some days in Montreal.

The poor lake-craft which in 1804 must have accommodated the poet, may
have put in at the harbour of York. He certainly alludes to a tranquil
evening scene on the waters in that quarter, and notices the situation
of the ancient "Toronto." Thus he sings in some verses addressed to Lady
Charlotte Rawdon, "from the banks of the St. Lawrence." (He refers to
the time when he was last in her company, and says how improbable it
then was that he should ever stand upon the shores of America):

"I dreamt not then that ere the rolling year
Had filled its circle, I should wander here
In musing awe; should tread this wondrous world,
See all its store of inland waters hurl'd
In one vast volume down Niagara's steep,
Or calm behold them, in transparent sleep,
Where the blue hills of old Toronto shed
Their evening shadows o'er Ontario's bed;
Should trace the grand Cadaraqui, and glide
Down the white rapids of his lordly tide.
Through massy woods, 'mid islets flowering fair,
And blooming glades, where the first sinful pair
For consolation might have weeping trod,
When banished from the garden of their God."

We can better picture to ourselves the author of Lalla Rookh floating on
the streams and other waters "of Ormus and of Ind," constructing verses
as he journeys on, than we can of the same personage on the St. Lawrence
in 1804 similarly engaged. "The Canadian Boat Song" has become in its
words and air almost a "national anthem" amongst us. It was written, we
are assured, at St Anne's, near the junction of the Ottawa and the St.

Toronto should be duly appreciative of the distinction of having been
named by Moore. The look and sound of the word took his fancy, and he
doubtless had pleasure in introducing it in his verses addressed to Lady
Rawdon. It will be observed that while Moore gives the modern
pronunciation of Niagara, and not the older, as Goldsmith does in his
"Traveller," he obliges us to pronounce Cataraqui in an unusual manner.

Isaac Weld, it will have been noticed, also preferred the name Toronto,
in the passage from his Travels just now given, though writing after its
alteration to York. The same traveller moreover indulges in the
following general strictures: "It is to be lamented that the Indian
names, so grand and sonorous, should ever have been changed for others.
Newark, Kingston, York, are poor substitutes for the original names of
the respective places, Niagara, Cataraqui, Toronto."


"Dead vegetable matter made the humus; into that the roots of
the living tree were struck, and because there had been
vegetation in the past, there was vegetation in the future. And
so it was with regard to the higher life of a nation. Unless
there was a past to which it could refer, there would not be in
it any high sense of its own mission in the world. . . . . .
They did not want to bring the old times back again, but they
would understand the present around them far better if they
would trace the present back into the past, see what it arose
out of, what it had been the development of, and what it
contained to serve for the future before them." - _Bishop of
Winchester to the Archæological Institute, at Southampton, Aug.





In Rome, at the present day, the parts that are the most attractive to
the tourist of archæological tastes, are those that are the most
desolate; quarters that, apart from their associations, are the most
uninviting. It is the same with many another venerable town of the world
beyond the Atlantic, of far less note than the old Imperial capital,
with Avignon, for example; with Nismes and Vienne in France; with Paris
itself, also, to some extent; with Chester, and York, and St. Albans,
the Verulam of the Roman period, in England.

It is the same with our American towns, wherever any relics of their
brief past are extant. Detroit, we remember, had once a quaint,
dilapidated, primæval quarter. It is the same with our own Toronto. He
that would examine the vestiges of the original settlement, out of which
the actual town has grown, must betake himself, in the first instance,
to localities now deserted by fashion, and be content to contemplate
objects that, to the indifferent eye, will seem commonplace and

To invest such places and things with any degree of interest will appear
difficult. An attempt in that direction may even be pronounced
visionary. Nevertheless, it is a duty which we owe to our forefathers to

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 3 of 59)