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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woods before dusk; but the light was nearly gone before the gravel bank
was cleared. There seemed but one path, which took to the left. It led
me astray: I was lost: and there was nothing for it but to let my little
horse take his own way. Abundant time was afforded for reflection on the
wretched state of property flung away on half-pay officers. Here was the
head man of the Province, 'born to blush unseen,' without even a
tolerable bridle-way between him and the capital city, after more than
twenty years' possession of his domain. The very gravel-bed which caused
me such turmoil might have made a turnpike, but what can be done by a
single hand? The President could do little with the axe or wheelbarrow
himself; and half-pay could employ but few labourers at 3s. 6d. per day
with victuals and drink." He recovers the road at length, and then
concludes: "after many a weary twist and turn I found myself," he says,
"on the banks of the Humber, where there was a house and a boat."

Col. Smith did something, in his day, to improve the breed of horses in
Upper Canada. He expended considerable sums of money in the importation
of choice animals of that species from the United States.

The house which led us to this notice of President Smith is, as we have
said, situated on Richmond Street. On Adelaide Street, immediately south
of this house, and also a little west of the Macdonell block, was a
residence of mark, erected at an early period by Mr. Hugh Heward, and
memorable as having been the abode for a time of the Naval Commissioner
or Commodore, Joseph Bouchette, who first took the soundings and
constructed a map of the harbour of York. His portrait is to be seen
prefixed to his well-known "British Dominions in North America." The
same house was also once occupied by Dr. Stuart, afterwards Archdeacon
of Kingston; and at a later period by Mrs. Caldwell, widow of Dr.
Caldwell, connected with the Naval establishment at Penetanguishene. Her
sons John and Leslie, two tall, sociable youths, now both deceased, were
our classmates at school. We observe in the _Oracle_ of Saturday, May
28, 1803, a notice of Mr. Hugh Heward's death in the following terms:
"Died lately at Niagara, on his way to Detroit, after a lingering
illness, Mr. Hugh Heward, formerly clerk in the Lieutenant-Governor's
office, and a respectable inhabitant of this town (York)."

Just beyond was the abode of Lieut. Col. Foster, long Adjutant General
of Militia; an officer of the antique Wellington school, of a fine type,
portly in figure, authoritative in air and voice; in spirit and heart
warm and frank. His son Colley, also, we here name as a congenial and
attached schoolboy friend, likewise now deceased, after a brief but not
undistinguished career at the Bar.

A few yards further on was the home of Mr. John Ross, whose almost
prescriptive right it gradually became, whenever a death occurred in one
of the old families, to undertake the funeral obsequies. Few were there
of the ancient inhabitants who had not found themselves at one time or
another, wending their way, on a sad errand, to Mr. Ross's doorstep. On
his sombre and very unpretending premises were put together the
perishable shells in which the mortal remains of a large proportion of
the primitive householders of York and their families are now reverting
to their original dust. Almost up to the moment of his own summons to
depart hence, he continued to ply his customary business, being favoured
with an old age unusually green and vigorous, like "the ferryman austere
and stern," Charon; to whom also the "inculta canities" of a plentiful
supply of hair and beard, along with a certain staidness, taciturnity
and rural homeliness of manner and attire, further suggested a
resemblance. Many things thus combine to render Mr. John Ross not the
least notable of our local dramatis personæ. He was led, as we have
understood, to the particular business which was his usual avocation, by
the accident of having been desired, whilst out on active service as a
militiaman in 1812, to take charge of the body of Gen. Brock, when that
officer was killed on Queenston Heights.

While in this quarter we should pause too for a moment before the former
abode of Mr. Robert Stanton, sometime King's Printer for Upper Canada,
as noted already; afterwards editor of the _Loyalist_; and subsequently
Collector of Customs at York: - a structure of the secondary brick
period, and situated on Peter Street, but commanding the view eastward
along the whole length of Richmond Street. Mr. Stanton's father was an
officer in the Navy, who between the years 1771 and 1786 saw much active
service in the East and West Indies, in the Mediterranean, at the siege
of Gibraltar under General Elliott, and on the American coast during
the Revolutionary war. From 1786 to 1828 he was in the public service in
several military and civil capacities in Lower and Upper Canada. In 1806
he was for one thing, we find, issuer of Marriage Licences at York. From
memoranda of his while acting in this capacity we make some extracts.
The unceremoniousness of the record in the majority of cases, is
refreshing. The names are all familiar ones in Toronto. The parties set
down as about to pledge their troth, either to other, had not in every
instance, in 1872, passed off the scene.

1806, Nov. 26, Stephen Heward to Mary Robinson. Same date, Ely Playter
to Sophia Beaman. Dec. 11, same year, Geo. T. Denison to C. B.
Lippincott. 1807, Feb. 3, Jordan Post to M. Woodruffe. July 13, Hiram
Kendrick to Hester Vanderburg. Dec. 28, Jarvis Ashley to Dorothy
McDougal. 1808, Jan. 13, D'Arcy Boulton, Jun., to Sally Ann Robinson.
March 17, James Finch to M. Reynolds. April 9, David Wilson to Susannah
Stone. May 2, John Langstaff to Lucy Miles. May 30, John Murchison to
Frances Hunt. August 8, John Powell, Esq., to Miss Isabella Shaw. Sept.
12, Hugh Heward to Eliza Muir. 1809, April 14, Nicholas Hagarman to
Polly Fletcher. May 18, William Cornwall to Rhoda Terry. June 19, John
Ashbridge to Sarah Mercer. June 21, Jonathan Ashbridge to Hannah Barton.
July 15, Orin Hale to Hannah Barrett. Aug. 5, Henry Drean to Jane
Brooke. Dec. 14, John Thompson to Ann Smith. 1810, March 8, Andrew
Thomson to Sarah Smith. March 30, Isaac Pilkington to Sarah McBride.
June 2, Thomas Bright to Jane Hunter. July 3, John Scarlett to Mary
Thomson. Sept. 10, William Smith to Eleanor Thomson. June 22, William B.
Sheldon to Jane Johnson. July 30, Robert Hamilton, gent., to Miss Maria
Lavinia Jarvis. 1811, Sept. 20, George Duggan to Mary Jackson.

In one or two instances we are enabled to give the formal announcement
in the _Gazette and Oracle_ of the marriage for which the licence issued
by Mr. Stanton was so curtly recorded. In the paper of Jan. 27, 1808, we
have: "Married, on the 13th instant, by the Rev. G. O. Stuart, D'Arcy
Boulton, jun., Esq., barrister, to Miss Sarah Robinson, second daughter
of the late C. Robinson, Esq., of York."

And in the number for August 13, in the same year we read: "Married by
the Rev. G. O. Stuart, on Monday the 8th instant, John Powell, Esq., to
Miss Shaw, daughter of the Hon. Æneas Shaw, of this place (York)." To
this announcement the editor, as we suppose, volunteers the observation:
"This matrimonial connexion of the amiable parties we think replete
with, and we wish it productive of, the most perfect human happiness."

A complimentary epithet to the bride is not unusual in early Canadian
marriage notices. In the _Gazette and Oracle_ of Dec. 29, 1798, we have
a wedding in the Playter family recorded thus: "Married last Monday, Mr.
James Playter to the agreeable Miss Hannah Miles, daughter of Mr. Abner
Miles of this town." In the same paper for Feb. 24, 1798, is the
announcement: "Married in this town (Niagara), by the Rev. Mr. Burke,
Captain Miles Macdonell of the Royal Canadian Volunteers, to the amiable
Miss Katey Macdonell." (This union was of brief duration. In the
_Constellation_ of Sept 6, 1799, we observe: "Died lately at Kingston,
Mrs. Macdonell, of this town (Niagara), the amiable consort of Captain
Miles Macdonell of the Canadian Volunteers.")

Again: in the _Gazette and Oracle_ for Saturday Oct, 26, 1799: "Married,
last Monday, by the Rev. Mr. Addison, Colonel Smith, of the Queen's
Rangers, to the most agreeable and accomplished Miss Mary Clarke." (This
was the Col. Smith who subsequently was for a time President of Upper

In the _Constellation_ of Nov. 23, 1799, in addition to the
complimentary epithet, a poetical stanza is subjoined: thus: "Married at
the seat of the Hon. Mr. Hamilton, at Queenston, on Sunday last, Mr.
Thomas Dickson, merchant, to the amiable Mrs. Taylor, daughter of
Captain Wilkinson, commanding, Fort Erie.

For thee, best treasure of a husband's heart;
Whose bliss it is that thou for life art so;
That thy fond bosom bears a faithful part
In every casual change his breast may know."

But occasionally the announcement is almost as terse as one of Mr.
Stanton's entries. Thus in the _Constellation_ of Dec. 28, 1799, Mr.
Hatt's marriage to Miss Cooly appears with great brevity: "Married at
Ancaster, Mr. Richard Hatt to Miss Polly Cooly."

A magistrate officiates sometimes, and his name is given accordingly. In
the _Gazette and Oracle_ of March 2, 1799, we have: "Married on Tuesday
last, by William Willcocks, Esq., Sergeant Mealy, of the Queen's
Rangers, to Miss M. Wright, of this town."

(Somewhat in the strain of the complimentary marriage notices are the
following: "We announce with much pleasure an acquisition to society in
this place by the arrival of Prideaux Selby, Esq., and Miss
Selby. - _Gazette_, Dec. 9, 1807. The York Assembly which commenced on
Thursday the 17th instant, was honoured by the attendance of His
Excellency and Mrs. Gore. It was not numerous. We understand that Mrs.
Firth, the amiable Lady of the Attorney General, lately arrived, was a
distinguished figure." - _Gazette_, Dec. 23, 1807.)

The family of Mr. Stanton, senior, was large. It was augmented by twins
on five several occasions. Not far from Mr. Stanton's house, a lesser
edifice of brick of comparatively late date on the north side of
Richmond Street, immediately opposite the premises associated just now
with the memory of President Smith, may be noted as having been built
and occupied by the distinguished Admiral Vansittart, and the first
example in this region of a cottage furnished with light, tasteful
verandahs in the modern style.

We now return from our digression into Richmond and Adelaide Streets,
and again proceed on our way westward.

The grantee of the park-lot which followed Solicitor-General Gray's, was
the famous Hon. Peter Russell, of whom we have had occasion again and
again to speak. A portion of the property was brought under cultivation
at an early period, and a substantial farm-house put up thereon - a
building which in 1872 was still in existence. The name attached to this
house and clearing was Petersfield.

Human depredators prowled about a solitary place like this. At their
hands in 1803, Mr. Russell suffered a serious loss, as we learn from an
advertisement which about midsummer in that year appeared in several
successive numbers of the _Oracle_. It ran as follows: "Five Guineas
Reward. Stolen on the 12th or 13th instant from Mr. Russell's farm, near
this town, a Turkey Hen, with her brood of six half-grown young ones.
Whoever will give such information and evidence as may lead to the
discovery of the Thieves shall receive from the subscriber the above
reward upon conviction of any of the delinquents. Peter Russell, York,
Aug. 15th, 1803." Another advertisement has been mentioned to us,
issuing from the same sufferer, announcing the theft of a Plough from
the same farm.

Similar larcenies were elsewhere committed. In the _Gazette_ of June 12,
1802, we read: "Forty dollars reward. - Mr. Justice Allcock offers a
reward of forty dollars to any one who will give information of the
person or persons who stole and carried away from his farm near the
Garrison a number of iron teeth from two harrows. The same reward will
also be given to any one who will give such information as will convict
any person or persons of having bought such iron teeth, or any part of
them, knowing the same to be stolen. If more than one was concerned, the
same reward will be given to any accomplice upon his giving such
information as will convict the other party or parties concerned with
him, and every endeavour used to obtain a pardon. Note. It has been
ascertained that two blacksmiths in the town did, about the time these
teeth were stolen, purchase harrow-teeth from a soldier, since deserted,
and that another soldier was in company when such teeth were offered for
sale. 28th May, 1802."

Again, in the same paper we have: - "Twenty dollars reward will be paid
by the subscriber to any person who will discover the man who is so
depraved and lost to every sense of social duty, as to cut with an axe
or knife, the withes which bound some of the fence round the late Chief
Justice's Farm on Yonge Street, and to throw down the said Fence.
Independent of the above inducement, it is the duty of every good member
of society to endeavour to find out who the character is that can be
guilty of such an infamous act, in order that he may be brought to
justice. Robert J. D. Gray, York, June 28th, 1803."

Occasionally notices of a reverse order appear. A homely article picked
up on the Common was judged to be of sufficient importance to its owner
to induce the finder to advertise as follows in the _Oracle_ of
Saturday, Aug. 14th, 1802: - "Found lately near the Garrison, a Cow-bell.
Whoever has lost the same, may have it again by applying to the Printer
hereof, on paying the expense of this advertisement, and proving
property. York, Aug. 7, 1802."

Again, in the _Oracle_ of Feb. 25, 1804: - "Found on Saturday last, the
11th instant, a Bar of Iron. The owner may have it again, by applying to
the Printer hereof. York, Feb. 8th." And again: "Found on Friday, the
5th instant, two silk handkerchiefs. The owner can have them again by
applying to the Printer, and paying the expense of this advertisement.
York, Oct. 12th, 1804." In October, 1806, an iron pot was picked up:
"Found, on Sunday last, the 12th instant, on the beach opposite Messrs.
Ashbridge's, an Iron Pot capable of containing about two pails full.
Whoever may own the above-mentioned Pot, may have it again by proving
property, and paying charges, on application to Samuel Lewis or to the
Printer hereof. York, Oct. 16th, 1806."

A barrel of flour was found on the beach near the Garrison in 1802, and
was thus advertised: "The Public are hereby informed that there has been
a barrel of flour left on the beach near the Garrison by persons
unknown. Whoever will produce a just claim to the same may have it, by
applying to the Garrison Sergeant-Major, and paying the expense of the
present advertisement. J. Petto, G. S. Major, York, March 22, 1802."

Once more: in the _Gazette_ of Dec. 3, 1803: "On the 26th ult. the
subscriber found one-half of a fat Hog on the Humber Plains, which he
supposes to be fraudulently killed, and the other half taken away. The
part which he found he carried home and dressed, and requests the owner
to call, pay expenses, and take it away. John Clark, Humber Mills, Dec.
2, 1803."

Peter Russell's name became locally a household synonym for a _helluo
agrorum_, and not without some show of reason, as the following list in
successive numbers of the _Gazette and Oracle_ of 1803 would seem to
indicate. Of the lands enumerated he styles himself, at the close of the
advertisement, the proprietor. We have no desire, however, to perpetuate
the popular impression, that all the said properties had been patented
by himself to himself. This, of course, could not have been done. He
simply chose, as he was at liberty to do, after acquiring what he and
his family were entitled to legally, in the shape of grants, to invest
his means in lands, which in every direction were to be had for a mere

The document spoken of reads thus: "To be sold. - The Front Town Lot,
with an excellent dwelling-house and a kitchen recently built thereon,
in which Mr. John Denison now lives, in the Town of York, with a very
commodious water-lot adjoining, and possession given to the purchaser
immediately. The Lots Nos. 5, 6, and 7 in the 2nd, and lots No. 6 and 7
in the 3d concession of West Flamboro' township, containing 1,000 acres,
on which there are some very good mill seats; the lots No. 4 and 5, in
the 1st concession of East Flamboro' with their broken fronts,
containing, according to the Patent, 600 acres more or less; the lots
No. 1, 3 and 4 in the 2nd, and lots No. 2 and 3 in the 3rd concession of
Beverley, containing 1,000 acres; the lots No. 16 in the 2nd and and 3rd
concession of the township of York containing 400 acres; the lots 32
and 33 with their broken fronts, in the 1st, and lots No. 31 and 32 in
the 2nd concession of Whitby, containing 800 acres; the lots 22 and 24
in the 11th, lot 23 in the 12th, and No. 24 in the 13th and 14th
concessions of Townsend, containing a 1,000 acres; the lots No. 12, 13
and 14 in the 1st and 2nd concession of Charlotteville, immediately
behind the Town plot, containing 1,200 acres; the lots Nos. 16 and 17 in
the 1st concession of Delaware township, on the river Thames (La
Tranche) containing 800 acres; the lots Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 in the
10th; No. 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7 in the 11th, and Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 7 in the
12th concession of Dereham, containing 3,000 acres, with mill-seats
thereon; and also the lots Nos. 22, 24, 25, 26, and 28 in the 1st, Nos.
22, 23, 25, 27 and 28 in the 3rd, Nos. 22, 24, 25, 26 and 28 in the
11th, and Nos. 22, 24, 25, 26 and 28 in the 12th concession of Norwich,
containing 600 acres, with mill-seats thereon. The terms are either
cash, or good bills of exchange on London, Montreal and Quebec, for the
whole of such purchase, in which case a proportionably less price will
be expected, or the same for one moiety of each purchase, and bonds
properly secured for principal and interest, until paid, for the other.
The prices may be known by application to the proprietor at York. Peter

Clearly, an idea of the prospective value of property in Canada had
dawned upon the mind of Mr. Russell in the year 1803; and he aimed to
create for himself speedily a handsome fortune. His plans, however, in
the long run, came to little, as in another connexion, we have heard

Survivors of the primitive era in Upper Canada have been heard sometimes
to express, (like Lord Clive, after his dealings with the rajahs,) their
surprise that they did not provide for themselves more largely than they
did, when the broad acres of their adopted country were to be had to any
extent, almost for the asking. But this reflection should console them;
in few instances are the descendants of the early very large
land-holders much better off at the present hour than probably they
would have been, had their fathers continued landless.

Mr. Russell died at York on the 30th of September, 1808. His obituary
appears in the _Gazette and Oracle_ of the following day. "Departed this
life on Friday, the 30th ultimo, the Hon. Peter Russell, Esquire,
formerly President of the Government of the Province, late Receiver
General, and Member of the Executive and Legislative Councils: a
gentleman who whilst living was honoured, and sincerely esteemed; and of
whose regular and amiable conduct, the Public will long retain a
favoured and grateful remembrance."

Of the funeral, which took place on the 4th of October, we have a brief
account in the paper of Oct. 8, 1808. It says: "The remains of the late
Hon. Peter Russell were interred on Wednesday the 4th instant with the
greatest decorum and respect. The obsequies of this accomplished
gentleman were followed to the grave by His Excellency the Lieut.
Governor (Gore) as Chief Mourner; with the principal gentlemen of the
town and neighbourhood; and they were feelingly accompanied by all
ranks, evincing a reverential awe for the Divine dispensation. An
appropriate funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Okill Stuart. The
Garrison, commanded by Major Fuller, performed with becoming dignity the
military honours of this respected veteran, who was a Captain in the
Army on half-pay." The editor then adds: "deeply impressed with an
ardent esteem for his manly character, and the irreparable loss
occasioned by his death, we were not among those who felt the least at
this last tribute of respect to his memory and remains." (The Major
Fuller, above named, was the father of the Rev. Thomas Brock Fuller, in
1873 Archdeacon of Niagara.)

As we have elsewhere said, Mr. Russell's estate passed to his unmarried
sister, Miss Elizabeth Russell, who, at her own decease, devised the
whole of it to Dr. W. W. Baldwin and his family. The Irish family to
which Mr. Russell belonged was originally a transplanted branch of the
Aston-Abbotts subdivision of the great English family of the same name;
and a connexion, through intermarriages, had long subsisted between
these Russells and the Baldwins of the County of Cork. Russell Hill in
the neighbourhood of Toronto, is so called from a Russell Hill in
Ireland, which has its name from the Russells of the County of
Cork. - During the Revolutionary war, Mr. Russell had been Secretary to
Sir Henry Clinton, Commander-in-chief of the Army in North America from
1778 to 1782.

At the beginning of Peter Russell's advertisement of properties, it will
have been observed that he offered for sale "an excellent dwelling-house
in the town of York," described as being in the occupation of Mr. John
Denison. The building referred to, situate, as it is further mentioned,
on a "front town lot, with a very convenient water-lot adjoining," was
the "ornamental cottage" noted in our journey along Front Street, as
having been once inhabited by Major Hillier, of the 74th. On its site
was afterwards built Dr. Baldwin's town residence, which subsequently
became first a Military Hospital, and then the head office of the
Toronto and Nipissing Railroad.

But Petersfield was also associated with the history of Mr. Denison, who
was the progenitor of the now numerous Canadian family of that name.
Through an intimacy with Mr. Russell, springing out of several years'
campaigning together in the American Revolutionary war, Mr. Denison was
induced by that gentleman, when about to leave England in an official
capacity in company with General Simcoe, to emigrate with his family to
Upper Canada in 1792. He first settled at Kingston, but, in 1796,
removed to York, where, by the authority of Mr. Russell, he temporarily
occupied Castle Frank on the Don. He then, as we have seen, occupied
"the excellent dwelling-house" put up "on a front lot" in the town of
York by Mr. Russell himself; and afterwards, he was again accommodated
by his friend with quarters in the newly-erected homestead of

We have evidence that in 1805 a portion of Petersfield was under
cultivation, and that under Mr. Denison's care it produced fine crops of
a valuable vegetable. Under date of York, 20th December, 1805, in a
contemporary _Oracle_, we have the following advertisement: "Potatoes:
To be sold at Mr. Russell's Farm at Petersfield, by Mr. John Denison, in
any quantities not less than ten bushels, at Four Shillings, York
Currency, the bushel, if delivered at the purchaser's house, or Three
Shillings the bushel, if taken by them from the Farm."

And again, in the _Gazette_ of March 4, 1807: "Blue Nose Potatoes. To be
sold at Mr. Russell's Farm near York. The price three shillings, York
currency, the bushel, if taken away by the purchasers, or they will be
delivered anywhere within the precincts of the Town, at Four Shillings,
in any quantity not less than ten bushels. Application to be made to Mr.
John Denison, on the premises, to whom the above prices are to be paid
on delivery. Feb. 14, 1807."

Our own personal recollection of Mr. Denison is associated with
Petersfield, the homely cosiness of whose interior, often seen during
its occupancy by him, lighted up by a rousing hospitable fire of great
logs, piled high in one of the usual capacious and lofty fire-places of
the time, made an indelible impression on the boyish fancy. The
venerable Mrs. Sophia Denison, too, Mr. Denison's better half, was in
like manner associated in our memory with the cheery interior of the
ancient Petersfield farm-house - a fine old English matron and mother, of

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 33 of 59)