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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places were ignored. Girard College, Philadelphia, seems to have
inspired the new designs. However, only a minute fragment of one of the
buildings of the new plan was destined ever to exist.

The formal commencement of the abortive work took place on the 23rd of
April, 1842 - a day indelibly impressed on the memory of those who
participated in the proceedings. It was one of the sunniest and
brightest of days. In the year just named it happened that so early as
St. George's day the leaves of the horse-chestnut were bursting their
glossy sheaths, and vegetation generally was in a very advanced stage.
A procession, such as had never before been seen in these parts, slowly
defiled up the Avenue to the spot where the corner-stone of the proposed
University was to be laid.

A highly wrought contemporary description of the scene is given in a
note in _Curiæ Canadenses_: "The vast procession opened its ranks, and
his Excellency the Chancellor, with the President, the Lord Bishop of
Toronto, on his right, and the Senior Visitor, the Chief Justice, on his
left, proceeded on foot through the College Avenue to the University
grounds. The countless array moved forward to the sound of military
music. The sun shone out with cloudless meridian splendour; one blaze of
banners flushed upon the admiring eye. - The Governor's rich
Lord-Lieutenant's dress, the Bishop's sacerdotal robes, the Judicial
Ermine of the Chief Justice, the splendid Convocation robes of Dr.
McCaul, the gorgeous uniforms of the suite, the accoutrements of the
numerous Firemen, the national badges worn by the Office-bearers of the
different Societies, and what on such a day (St. George's) must not be
omitted, the Red Crosses on the breasts of England's congregated sons,
the grave habiliments of the Clergy and Lawyers, and the glancing lances
and waving plumes of the First Incorporated Dragoons, all formed one
moving picture of civic pomp, one glorious spectacle which can never be
remembered but with satisfaction by those who had the good fortune to
witness it. The following stanza from a Latin Ode," the note goes on to
say, "recited by Master Draper, son of the late Attorney-General, after
the ceremony, expresses in beautifully classical language the proud
occasion of all this joy and splendid pageantry: -

"Io! triumphe! flos Canadensium!
Est alma nobis mater; æmula
Britanniæ hæc sit nostra terra, -
Terra diu domibus negata!"

Another contemporary account adds: "As the procession drew nearer to the
site where the stone was to be laid, the 43rd Regiment lined the way,
with soldiers bearing arms, and placed on either side, at equal
intervals. The 93rd Regiment was not on duty here, but in every
direction the gallant Highlanders were scattered through the crowd, and
added by their national garb and nodding plumes to the varied beauty of
the animated scene. When the site was reached," this account says, "a
new feature was added to the interest of the ceremony. Close to the
spot, the north-east corner, where the foundation was to be deposited, a
temporary building had been erected for the Chancellor, and there,
accompanied by the officers of the University and his suite, he took his
stand. Fronting this was a kind of amphitheatre of seats, constructed
for the occasion, tier rising above tier, densely filled with ladies,
who thus commanded a view of the whole ceremony. Between this
amphitheatre and the place where the Chancellor stood, the procession
ranged itself."

The Chancellor above spoken of was the Governor General of the day, Sir
Charles Bagot, a man of noble bearing and genial, pleasant aspect. He
entered with all the more spirit into the ceremonies described, from
being himself a graduate of one of the old universities. Memories of
far-off Oxford and Christ Church would be sure to be roused amidst the
proceedings that rendered the 23rd of April, 1842, so memorable amongst
us. A brother of Sir Charles' was at the time Bishop of Oxford. In his
suite, as one of his Secretaries, was Captain Henry Bagot, of the Royal
Navy, his own son. Preceding him in the procession, bearing a large
gilded mace, was an "Esquire Bedell," like the Chancellor himself, a
Christ Church man, Mr. William Cayley, subsequently a member of the
Canadian Government.

Although breaking ground for the University building had been long
delayed, the commencement now made proved to be premature. The edifice
begun was never completed, as we have already intimated; and even in its
imperfect, fragmentary condition, it was not fated to be for any great
length of time a scene of learned labours. In 1856 its fortune was to be
converted into a Female Department for the over-crowded Provincial
Lunatic Asylum.

The educational system inaugurated in the new building in 1843 was, as
the plate enclosed in the foundation-stone finely expressed it,
"præstantissimum ad exemplar Britannicarum Universitatum." But the
"exemplar" was not, in practice, found to be, as a whole, adapted to the
genius of the Western Canadian people.

The revision of the University scheme with a view to the necessities of
Western Canada, was signalized by the erection in 1857 of a new building
on an entirely different site, and a migration to it bodily, of
president, professors and students, without departing however from the
bounds of the spacious park originally provided for the institution; and
it is remarkable that, while deviating, educationally and otherwise, in
some points, from the pattern of the ancient universities, as they were
in 1842, a nearer approach, architecturally, was made to the mediæval
English College than any that had been thought of before. Mr.
Cumberland, the designer of the really fine and most appropriate
building in which the University at length found a resting place, was,
as is evident, a man after the heart of Wykeham and Wayneflete.

The story of our University is a part of the history of Upper Canada.
From the first foundation of the colony the idea of some such seat of
learning entered into the scheme of its organization. In 1791, before he
had yet left England for the unbroken wilderness in which his Government
was to be set up, we have General Simcoe speaking to Sir Joseph Banks,
the President of the Royal Society, of "a college of a higher class," as
desirable in the community which he was about to create. "A college of a
higher class," he says, "would be eminently useful, and would give a
tone of principles and of manners that would be of infinite support to
Government." In the same letter he remarks to Sir Joseph, "My friend the
Marquis of Buckingham has suggested that Government might allow me a sum
of money to be laid out for a Public Library, to be composed of such
books as might be useful in the colony. He instanced the Encyclopædia,
extracts from which might occasionally be published in the newspapers.
It is possible," he adds, "private donations might be obtained, and that
it would become an object of Royal munificence."

It was naturally long before the community of Upper Canada was ripe for
a college of the character contemplated; but provision for its ultimate
existence and sustenance was made, almost from the beginning, in the
assignment to that object of a fixed and liberal portion of the public
lands of the country.

In 1819-20, Gourlay spoke of the unpreparedness of Upper Canada as yet
for a seat of learning of a high grade. Meanwhile, as a temporary
expedient, he suggested a romantic scheme. "It has been proposed," he
says, "to have a college in Upper Canada; and no doubt in time colleges
will grow up there. At present, and for a considerable period to come,
any effort to found a college would prove abortive. There could neither
be got masters nor scholars to ensure a tolerable commencement for ten
years to come; and a feeble beginning might beget a feeble race of
teachers and pupils. In the United States," he continued, "academies
and colleges, though fast improving, are yet but raw; and greatly
inferior to those in Britain, generally speaking. Twenty-five lads sent
annually at public charge from Upper Canada to British Universities,
would draw after them many more. The youths themselves, generally, would
become desirous of making a voyage in quest of learning. - Crossing the
ocean on such an errand would elevate their ideas, and stir them up to
extraordinary exertions. They would become finished preachers, lawyers,
physicians, merchants; and, returning to their native country, would
repay in wisdom what was expended in goodness and liberality. What more
especially invites the adoption of such a scheme is the amiable and
affectionate connection which it would tend to establish between Canada
and Britain. But it will not do at present to follow out the idea."

Gourlay's prediction that "in time colleges will grow up there" has been
speedily verified. The town especially, of which in its infant state he
spoke in such terms of contempt, has been so prolific of colleges that
it is now become a kind of Salamanca for the country at large; a place
of resort for students from all parts. It is well probably for Canada
that the scheme of drafting a batch of young students periodically to
the old country, was not adopted. Canada would thereby possibly, on the
one hand, have lost the services of some of the cleverest of her sons,
who, on obtaining academic distinction would have preferred to remain in
the mother country, entering on one or other of the public careers to
which academic distinction there opens the ready path; and, on the other
hand, she should, in many an instance, it is to be feared, have received
back her sons just unfitted, in temper and habit, for life under
matter-of-fact colonial conditions.

In the original planting of the Avenue, up whose fine vista we have been
gazing, the mistake was committed of imitating nature too closely.
Numerous trees and shrubs of different kinds and habits were mingled
together as they are usually to be seen in a wild primitive wood; and
thus the growth and fair development of all were hindered. The
horse-chestnuts alone should have been relied on to give character to
the Avenue; and of these there should have been on each side a double
row, with a promenade for pedestrians underneath, after the manner of
the great walks in the public parks of the old towns of Europe.




Pursuing our way now westward from the Avenue leading to the University,
we pass the Powell park-lot, on which was, up to recent times, the
family vault of the Powells, descendants of the Chief Justice. The whole
property was named by the fancy of the first possessor, Caer-Howell,
Castle Howell, in allusion to the mythic Hoel, to whom all ap-Hoels
trace their origin. Dummer Street, which opens northward a little
further on, retains, as we have said, the second baptismal name of Chief
Justice Powell.

Beverley House and its surroundings, on the side opposite Caer Howell
estate, recall one whose name and memory must repeatedly recur in every
narrative of our later Canadian history, Sir John Robinson. - This was
the residence temporarily of Poulett Thomson, afterwards Lord Sydenham,
while present in Toronto as Governor-General of the Canadas in 1839-40.
A kitchen on a large scale which he caused to be built on the premises
of Beverley House, is supposed to have been an auxiliary, indirectly, in
getting the Union measure through the Upper Canada Parliament. In a
letter to a friend, written at Montreal in 1840, he gives a sketch of
his every-day life: it describes equally well the daily distribution of
his time here in Toronto. "Work in my room," he says, "till three
o'clock; a ride with my aide-de-camp till five; work again till dinner;
at dinner till nine; and work again till early next morning. This is my
daily routine. My dinners last till ten, when I have company, which is
about three times a week; except one night in the week, when I receive
about 150 people."

His policy was, as we know, very successful. Of the state of things at
Toronto, and in Upper Canada generally, after the Union measure had been
pushed through, he writes to a friend thus: "I have prorogued my
Parliament," he says, "and I send you my Speech. Never was such
unanimity! When the Speaker read it in the Commons, after the
prorogation, they gave me three cheers, in which even the ultras united.
In fact, as the matter stands now, the Province is in a state of peace
and harmony which, three months ago, I thought was utterly hopeless."

In a private letter of the following year (1841), he alludes to his
influence in these terms: "I am in the midst," he says, "of the bustle
attending the opening of the Session, and have, besides, a ministerial
'crisis' on my hands. The latter I shall get through triumphantly,
unless my _wand_, as they call it here, has lost all power over the
members, which I do not believe to be the case." This was written at
Kingston, where, it will be remembered, the seat of Government was
established for a short time after the union of Upper and Lower Canada.

Through Poulett Thomson, Toronto for a few months and to the extent of
one-half, was the seat of a modern feudal barony. On being elevated to
the peerage, the Governor-General, who had carried the Union, was
created Baron Sydenham of Sydenham in Kent and Toronto in Canada.

At one time it was expected that Toronto would be the capital of the
United Province, but its liege lord pronounced it to be "too far and out
of the way;" though at the same time he gives it as his opinion that
"Kingston or Bytown would do." Thus in 1840, and in July, 1841, he
writes: "I have every reason to be satisfied with having selected this
place (Kingston) as the new Capital. There is no situation in the
Province so well adapted for the seat of Government from its central
position; and certainly we are as near England as we should be anywhere
else in the whole of Canada. My last letters reached me," he says, "in
fifteen days from London! So much for steam and railways." Being in very
delicate health, it had been Lord Sydenham's intention to return to
England in September, 1841. On the 5th of June he writes at Kingston to
a friend: "I long for September, beyond which I will not stay if they
were to make me Duke of Canada and Prince of Regiopolis, as this place
is called." But he was never more to see England. On the 4th of the
September in which he had hoped to leave Canada, he suffered a fracture
of the right leg and other injury by a fall from his horse. He never
rallied from the shock. His age was only 42.

The Park lot which follows that occupied by Chief Justice Powell was
selected by Solicitor-General Gray, of whom fully already. It afterwards
became the property of Mr. D'Arcy Boulton, eldest son of Mr. Justice
Boulton, and was known as the Grange estate. The house which bears the
name of the "Grange," was built at the beginning of the brick era of
York, and is a favourable specimen of the edifices of that period.
(Beverley House, just noted, was, it may be added, also built by Mr.
D'Arcy Boulton.)

The Grange-gate, now thrust far back by the progress of improvement, was
long a familiar landmark on the line of Lot-street. It was just within
this gate that the fight already recorded took place between Mr. Justice
Boulton's horses, _Bonaparte_ and _Jefferson_, and the bears. A
memorandum of Mr. G. S. Jarvis, of Cornwall, in our possession, affirms
that Mr. Justice Boulton drove a phaeton of some pretensions, and that
his horses, _Bonaparte_ and _Jefferson_, were the crack pair of the day
at York. As to some other equipages he says: "The Lieut. Governor's
carriage was considered a splendid affair, but some of the Toronto cabs
would now throw it into the shade. The carriage of Chief Justice Powell,
he adds, was a rough sort of omnibus, and would compare with the jail
van used now." (We remember Bishop Strachan's account of a carriage sent
up for his own use from Albany or New York; it was constructed on the
model of the ordinary oval stage coach, with a kind of hemispherical

To our former notes of Mr. Justice Boulton, we add, that he was the
author of a work in quarto published in London in 1806, entitled a
"Sketch of the Province of Upper Canada."

John Street, passing south just here, is, as was noted previously, a
memorial, so far as its name is concerned, of the first Lieutenant
Governor of Upper Canada. On the plan of the "new town," as the first
expansion westward, of York, was termed, - while this street is marked
"John," the next parallel thoroughfare eastward is named "Graves," and
the open square included between the two, southward on Front Street, is
"Simcoe-place." The three names of the founder of York were thus
commemorated. The expression "Simcoe-place" has fallen into disuse. It
indicated, of course, the site of the present Parliament Buildings of
the Province of Ontario. Graves Street has become Simcoe Street, a
name, as we have seen, recently extended to the thoroughfare northward,
with which it is nearly in a right line, viz., William Street, which
previously recorded, as we have said, the first Christian name of Chief
Justice Powell. The name "John Street" has escaped change. The name
sounds trivial enough; but it has an interest.

In the minds of the present generation, with John Street will be
specially associated the memorable landing of the Prince of Wales at
Toronto in 1860. At the foot of John Street, for that occasion, there
was built a vast semi-colosseum of wood, opening out upon the waters of
the Bay; a pile whose capacious concavity was densely filled again and
again, during the Prince's visit, with the inhabitants of the town and
the population of the surrounding country. And on the brow of the bank,
immediately above the so-called amphitheatre, and exactly in the line of
John Street, was erected a finely designed triumphal arch, recalling
those of Septimus Severus and Titus.

This architectural object, while it stood, gave a peculiarly fine finish
to the vista, looking southward along John Street. The usually
monotonous water-view presented by the bay and lake, and even the
common-place straight line of the Island, seen through the frame-work of
three lofty vaulted passages, acquired for the moment a genuine
picturesqueness. An ephemeral monument; but as long as it stood its
effect was delightfully classic and beautiful. The whole group - the arch
and the huge amphitheatre below, furnished around its upper rim at equal
intervals with tall masts, each bearing a graceful gonfalon, and each
helping to sustain on high a luxuriant festoon of evergreen which
alternately drooped and rose again round the whole structure and along
the two sides of the grand roadway up to the arch - all seen under a sky
of pure azure, and bathed in cheery sunlight, surrounded too and
thronged with a pleased multitude - constituted a spectacle not likely to
be forgotten.

Turning down John Street a few chains, the curious observer may see on
his left a particle of the old area of York retaining several of its
original natural features. In the portion of the Macdonell-block not yet
divided into building-slips we have a fragment of one of the many
shallow ravines which meandered capriciously, every here and there,
across the broad site of the intended town. To the passer-by it now
presents a refreshing bit of bowery meadow, out of which towers up one
of the grand elm-trees of the country, with stem of great height and
girth, and head of very graceful form, whose healthy and undecayed limbs
and long trailing branchlets, clearly show that the human regard which
has led to the preservation hitherto of this solitary survivor of the
forest has not been thrown away. This elm and the surrounding grove are
still favourite stations or resting-places for our migratory birds.
Here, for one place, in the spring, are sure to be heard the first notes
of the robin.

At the south-west angle of the Macdonell block still stands in a good
state of preservation the mansion put up by the Hon. Alexander
Macdonell. We have from time to time spoken of the brick era of York.
Mr. Macdonell's imposing old homestead may be described as belonging to
an immediately preceding era - the age of framed timber and
weather-board, which followed the primitive or hewn-log period. It is a
building of two full storeys, each of considerable elevation. A central
portico with columns of the whole height of the house, gives it an air
of dignity.

Mr. Macdonell was one more in that large group of military men who
served in the American Revolutionary war, under Col. Simcoe, and who
were attracted to Upper Canada by the prospects held out by that officer
when appointed Governor of the new colony. Mr. Macdonell was the first
Sheriff of the Home District. He represented in successive parliaments
the Highland constituency of Glengary, and was chosen Speaker of the
House. He was afterwards summoned to the Upper House. He was a friend
and correspondent of the Earl of Selkirk, and was desired by that
zealous emigrational theorist to undertake the superintendence of the
settlement at Kildonan on the Red River. Though he declined this task,
he undertook the management of one of the other Highland settlements
included in the Earl of Selkirk's scheme, namely, that of Baldoon, on
Lake St. Clair; Mr. Douglas undertaking the care of that established at
Moulton, at the mouth of the Grand River.

Mr. Macdonell, in person rather tall and thin, of thoughtful aspect, and
in manner quiet and reserved, is one of the company of our early
worthies whom we personally well remember. An interesting portrait of
him exists in the possession of his descendants: it presents him with
his hair in powder, and otherwise in the costume of "sixty years since."
He died in 1842, "amid the regrets of a community who," to adopt the
language of a contemporary obituary, "loved him for the mild excellence
of his domestic and private character, no less than they esteemed him as
a public man."

Mr. Miles Macdonell, the first Governor of Assiniboia, under the
auspices of the Hudson's Bay Company, and Alexander Macdonell, the chief
representative in 1816 of the rival and even hostile Company of the
North-West Traders of Montreal, were both near relations of Mr.
Macdonell of York, as also was the barrister, lost in the _Speedy_, and
the well-known R. C. Bishop Macdonell of Kingston. Col. Macdonell, slain
at Queenston, with General Brock, and whose remains are deposited
beneath the column there, was his brother. His son, Mr. Allan Macdonell,
has on several occasions stood forward as the friend and spirited
advocate of the Indian Tribes, especially of the Lake Superior region,
on occasions when their interests, as native lords of the soil, seemed
in danger of being overlooked by the Government of the day.

On Richmond Street a little to the west of the Macdonell block, was the
town residence of Col. Smith, some time President of the Province of
Upper Canada. He was also allied to the family of Mr. Macdonell. Col.
Smith's original homestead was on the Lake Shore to the west, in the
neighbourhood of the river Etobicoke. Gourlay in his "Statistical
Account of Upper Canada," has chanced to speak of it. "I shall describe
the residence and neighbourhood of the President of Upper Canada from
remembrance," he says, "journeying past it on my way to York from the
westward, by what is called the Lake Road through Etobicoke. For many
miles," he says, "not a house had appeared, when I came to that of
Colonel Smith, lonely and desolate. It had once been genteel and
comfortable; but was now going to decay. A vista had been opened through
the woods towards Lake Ontario; but the riotous and dangling undergrowth
seemed threatening to retake possession from the Colonel of all that had
once been cleared, which was of narrow compass. How could a solitary
half-pay officer help himself," candidly asks Gourlay, "settled down
upon a block of land, whose very extent barred out the assistance and
convenience of neighbours? Not a living thing was to be seen around. How
different might it be, thought I, were a hundred industrious families
compactly settled here out of the redundant population of England!"

"The road was miserable," he continues; "a little way beyond the
President's house it was lost on a bank of loose gravel flung up between
the contending waters of the lake and the Etobicoke stream." He here
went astray. "It was my anxious wish," he says, "to get through the

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 32 of 59)