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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the antique, strongly-marked, vigorous, sterling type. She was one of
the Taylors, of Essex; among whom, at home and abroad, ability and
talent, and traits of a higher and more sacred character, are curiously
hereditary. We shall have occasion, further on, to speak of the
immediate descendants of these early occupants of Petersfield.

On the south side of the expansion of Queen Street, in front of
Petersfield, and a little beyond Peter Street (which, as we have
previously noticed, had its name from Peter Russell) was the abode of
Mr. Dunn, long Receiver-General of Upper Canada. It was (and is) a
retired family house, almost hidden from the general view by a grove of
ornamental trees. A quiet-looking gate led into a straight drive up to
the house, out of Queen Street. Of Mr. Dunn we have already discoursed,
and of Mrs. Dunn, one of the graceful lady-chiefs in the high life of
York in the olden time. In the house at which we now pause was born
their famous son, Alexander Roberts Dunn, in 1833; who not only had the
honour of sharing in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava in
1856, now so renowned in history and song, but who, of all the six
hundred there, won the highest meed of glory.

Six feet three inches in stature, a most powerful and most skilful
swordsman, and a stranger to fear, Lieut. Dunn, instead of consulting
his own safety in the midst of that frightful and untoward mêlée,
deliberately interposed for the protection of his comrades in arms. Old
troopers of the Eleventh Hussars long told with kindling eyes how the
young lieutenant seeing Sergeant Bentley of his own regiment attacked
from behind by two or three Russian lancers, rushed upon them
single-handed, and cut them down; how he saved the life of Sergeant
Bond; how Private Levett owed his safety to the same friendly arm, when
assailed by Russian Hussars. Kinglake, the historian of the Crimean war,
records that the Victoria Cross placed at the disposal of the Eleventh
Hussars was unanimously awarded by them to Lieut. Dunn; the only cavalry
officer who obtained the distinction.

To the enthusiasm inspired by his brilliant reputation was mainly due
the speedy formation in Canada of the Hundredth Regiment, the Prince of
Wales' Royal Canadian Regiment, in 1857. Of this regiment, chiefly
raised through his instrumentality, Mr. Dunn was gazetted the first
major; and on the retirement of the Baron de Rottenburg from its
command, he succeeded as its Lieutenant Colonel.

In 1864 he was gazetted full Colonel: at the time he had barely
completed his twenty-seventh year. Impatient of inactivity, he caused
himself to be transferred to a command in India, where he speedily
attracted the notice of General Napier, afterwards Lord Napier of
Magdala; and he accompanied that officer in the expedition against King
Theodore of Abyssinia. While halting at Senafé in that country, he was
accidently killed by the sudden explosion of his rifle while out
shooting deer. The sequel can best be given, as well as an impression of
the feelings of his immediate associates on the deplorable occasion, by
quoting the touching words of a letter addressed at the time to a near
relative of Colonel Dunn, by a brother officer:

"In no regiment," says this friend, "was ever a commanding officer so
missed as the one we have just so unhappily lost: such a courteous,
thorough gentleman in word and deed, so thoughtful for others, so
perfect a soldier, so confidence-inspiring a leader. Every soldier in
the regiment misses Colonel Dunn; he was a friend, and felt to be such,
to every one of them. The regiment will never have so universally
esteemed a commander again. We all feel that. For myself I feel that I
have lost a brother who can never be replaced. I can scarcely yet
realize that the dear fellow is really dead, and as I pass his tent
every morning I involuntarily turn my head, expecting to hear his usual
kind salutation, and to see the dear, handsome face that has never
looked at me but with kindness. I breakfasted with him on the morning of
the 25th, and he looked so well as he started off with our surgeon for a
day's shooting. Little did I think that I had looked on his dear old
face for the last time in life. . . . I cannot describe to you what a
shock the sad news was to every one, both in my regiment and indeed in
every one in the camp. Our dear Colonel was so well known, and so
universally liked and respected.

"Next day, Sunday, the 26th of January, he was buried about 4 o'clock
p.m.. I went to look at the dear old fellow, before his coffin was
closed, and his poor face, though looking so cold, was yet so handsome,
and the expression of it, so peaceful and happy. I cut off some of his
hair, which lately he wore very short, a lock of which I now send you,
keeping one for myself, as the most valuable souvenir I could have of
one I loved very dearly. And I knelt down to give his cold forehead a
long farewell kiss. He was buried in uniform, as he had often expressed
a wish to me to that effect. Every officer in the camp attended his
funeral, and, of course, the whole of his own regiment, in which there
was not a single dry eye, as all stood round the grave of their lost
commander. He has been buried in a piece of ground near where our camp
now stands, at the foot of a small hill covered with shrubbery and many
wild flowers. We have had railings put round the grave, and a stone is
to be placed there with the inscription: In memory of A. R. Dunn, V.C.,
Col. 33rd Regiment, who died at Senafé on 25th January, 1868, aged 34
years and 7 months."

Thus in remote Abyssinia rest the mortal remains of one who in the happy
unconsciousness of childhood, sported here in grounds and groves which
we are now passing on Queen Street. In numerous other regions of the
earth, once seemingly as unlikely to be their respective final
resting-places, repose the remains of Canadian youth, who have died in
the public service of England. We are sharing in the fortune and history
of the mother country, and like her, or rather like the ubiquitous Roman
citizen of old, we may even already ask "_Quæ caret ora cruore
nostro?_" - sadly as individuals, perhaps, but proudly as a people.

The occupant of Mr. Dunn's house at a later period was Chief Justice
McLean, who died here in 1865. He was born at St. Andrews, near
Cornwall, in 1791. At the battle of Queenston, he served as Lieutenant
in Capt. Cameron's No. 1 Flank Company of York Militia, and received a
severe wound in the early part of the engagement. He was afterwards for
some time Speaker of the House. An admirable full-length painting of
Chief Justice McLean exists at Osgoode Hall.





Immediately after the grounds and property of Mr. Dunn, on the same
side, and across the very broad Brock Street, which is an opening of
modern date, was to be seen until recently, a modest dwelling-place of
wood, somewhat peculiar in expression, square, and rather tall for its
depth and width, of dingy hue; its roof four-sided; below, a number of
lean-to's and irregular extensions clustering round; in front, low
shrubbery, a circular drive, and a wide, open-barred gate. This was the
home of one who has acquired a distinguished place in our local annals,
military and civil - Colonel James Fitzgibbon.

A memorable exploit of his, in the war with the United States in 1813,
was the capture of a force of 450 infantry, 50 cavalry and two guns,
when in command himself, at the moment, of only forty-eight men. He had
been put in charge of a depôt of stores, at the Beaver Dams, between
Queenston and Thorold. Colonel Boerstler, of the invading army, was
despatched from Fort George, at Niagara, with orders to take this depôt.
Fitzgibbon was apprized of his approach. Reconnoitring, and discovering
that Boerstler had been somewhat disconcerted, on his march, by a
straggling fire from the woods, kept up by a few militiamen and about
thirty Indians under Captain Kerr, he conceived the bold idea of dashing
out and demanding a surrender of the enemy! Accordingly, spreading his
little force judiciously, he suddenly presented himself, waving a white
pocket-handkerchief. He was an officer, he hurriedly announced, in
command of a detachment: his superior officer, with a large force, was
in the rear; and the Indians were unmanageable. (Some extemporized
war-whoops were to be heard at the moment in the distance.)

The suggestion of a capitulation was listened to by Colonel Boerstler as
a dictate of humanity. The truth was, Major DeHaren, of the Canadian
force, to whom, in the neighbourhood of what is now St. Catharines, a
message had been sent, was momentarily expected, with 200 men. To gain
time, Fitzgibbon made it a matter of importance that the terms of the
surrender should be reduced to writing. Scarcely was the document
completed when DeHaren arrived. Had there been the least further delay
on his part, how to dispose of the prisoners would have been a
perplexing question.

Lieutenant Fitzgibbon was now soon Captain Fitzgibbon. He had previously
been a private in the 19th and 61st Regiments, having enlisted in
Ireland at the age of seventeen. On the day of his enrolment, he was
promoted to the rank of sergeant; and a very few years later he was a
sergeant-major. He saw active service in Holland and Denmark. His title
of Colonel was derived from his rank in our Canadian Militia.

His tall muscular figure, ever in buoyant motion; his grey,
good-humoured vivacious eye, beaming out from underneath a bushy,
light-coloured eyebrow; the cheery ring of his voice, and its animated
utterances, were familiar to everyone. In the midst of a gathering of
the young, whether in the school-room or on the play-ground, his
presence was always warmly hailed. They at once recognized in him a
genuine sympathizer with themselves in their ways and wants; and he had
ever ready for them words of hope and encouragement.

Our own last personal recollection of Colonel Fitzgibbon is connected
with a visit which we chanced to pay him at his quarters in Windsor
Castle, where, in his old age, through the interest of Lord Seaton, he
had been appointed one of the Military Knights. Though most romantically
ensconced and very comfortably lodged, within the walls of the noblest
of all the royal residences of Europe, his heart, we found, was far
away, ever recurring to the scenes of old activities. Where the light
streamed in through what seemed properly an embrasure for cannon,
pierced through a wall several yards in thickness, we saw a pile of
Canadian newspapers. To pore over these was his favourite occupation.

After chatting with him in his room, we went with him to attend Divine
Service in the magnificent Chapel of St. George, close by. We then
strolled together round the ramparts of the Castle, enjoying the
incomparable views. Since the time of William IV. the habit of the
Military Knights is that of an officer of high rank in full dress,
cocked hat and feather included. As our venerable friend passed the
several sentries placed at intervals about the Castle, arms were duly
presented; an attention which each time elicited from the Colonel the
words, rapidly interposed in the midst of a stream of earnest talk, and
accompanied by deprecatory gestures of the hand, "Never mind _me_, boy!
never mind _me_!"

Colonel Fitzgibbon took the fancy of Mrs. Jameson when in Canada. She
devotes several pages of her "Winter Studies" to the story of his life.
She gives some account of his marriage. The moment he received his
captaincy, she tells us, "he surprised General Sheaffe, his commanding
officer, by asking for a leave of absence, although the war was still at
its height. In explanation, he said he wished to have his nuptials
celebrated, so that if a fatal disaster happened to himself, his bride
might enjoy the pension of a captain's widow. The desired leave was
granted, and after riding some 150 miles and accomplishing his purpose,
he was back in an incredibly short space of time at head-quarters again.
No fatal disaster occurred, and he lived," Mrs. Jameson adds "to be the
father of four brave sons and one gentle daughter."

The name of Colonel Fitzgibbon recalls the recollection of his sister,
Mrs. Washburne, remarkable of old, in York, for dash and spirit on
horseback, spite of extra _embonpoint_; for a distinguished dignity of
bearing, combined with a marked Hibernian heartiness and gaiety of
manner. As to the "four brave sons and one gentle daughter," all have
now passed away: one of the former met with a painful death from the
giving way of a crowded gallery at a political meeting in the Market
Square, as previously narrated. All four lads were favourites with their
associates, and partook of their father's temperament.

Of Spadina Avenue, which we crossed in our approach to Col. Fitzgibbon's
old home, and of Spadina house, visible in the far distance at the head
of the Avenue, we have already spoken in our Collections and
Recollections, connected with Front Street.

In passing we make an addition to what was then narrated. The career of
Dr. Baldwin, the projector of the Avenue, and the builder of Spadina, is
now a part of Upper Canadian history. It presents a curious instance of
that versatility which we have had occasion to notice in so many of the
men who have been eminent in this country. A medical graduate of
Edinburgh, and in that capacity, commencing life in Ireland - on settling
in Canada, he began the study of Law and became a leading member of the

On his arrival at York, from the first Canadian home of his father on
Baldwin's Creek in the township of Clarke, Dr. Baldwin's purpose was to
turn to account for a time his own educational acquirements, by
undertaking the office of a teacher of youth. In several successive
numbers of the _Gazette and Oracle_ of 1802-3 we read the following
advertisement: "Dr. Baldwin understanding that some of the gentlemen of
this Town have expressed some anxiety for the establishment of a
Classical School, begs leave to inform them and the public that he
intends on Monday the first day of January next, to open a School in
which he will instruct Twelve Boys in Writing, Reading, and Classics and
Arithmetic. The terms are, for each boy, eight guineas per annum, to be
paid quarterly or half-yearly; one guinea entrance and one cord of wood
to be supplied by each of the boys on opening the School. _N.B._ - Mr.
Baldwin will meet his pupils at Mr. Willcocks' house on Duke Street.
York, December 18th, 1802." Of the results of this enterprise we have
not at hand any record.

The Russell bequest augmented in no slight degree the previous
possessions of Dr. Baldwin. In the magnificent dimensions assigned to
the thoroughfare opened up by him in the neighbourhood of Petersfield,
we have probably a visible expression of the large-handed generosity
which a pleasant windfall is apt to inspire. Spadina Avenue is 160 feet
wide throughout its mile-and-a-half length; and the part of Queen Street
that bounds the front of the Petersfield park-lot, is made suddenly to
expand to the width of 90 feet. Maria Street also, a short street here,
is of extra width. The portion of York, now Toronto, laid out by Dr.
Baldwin on a fraction of the land opportunely inherited, will, when
solidly built over, rival Washington or St. Petersburg in grandeur of
ground-plan and design.

The career of Dr. Rolph, another of our early Upper Canadian
notabilities, resembles in some respects, that of Dr. Baldwin. Before
emigrating from Gloucestershire, he began life as a medical man. On
arriving in Canada he transferred himself to the Bar. In this case,
however, after the attainment of eminence in the newly adopted
profession, there was a return to the original pursuit, with the
acquisition in that also, of a splendid reputation. Both acquired the
local style of Honourable: Dr. Rolph by having been a member of the
Hincks-ministry from 1851 to 1854; Dr. Baldwin by being summoned, six
months before his decease, to the Legislative Council of United Canada,
while his son was Attorney-General.

Mr. William Willcocks, allied by marriage to Dr. Baldwin's family,
selected the park-lot at which we arrive after crossing Spadina Avenue.
A lake in the Oak Ridges (Lake Willcocks) has its name from the same
early inhabitant. In 1802 he was Judge of the Home District Court. He is
to be distinguished from the ultra-Reformer, Sheriff Willcocks, of Judge
Thorpe's day, whose name was Joseph; and from Charles Willcocks, who in
1818 was proposing, through the columns of the _Upper Canada Gazette_,
to publish, by subscription, a history of his own life. The
advertisement was as follows (what finally came of it, we are not able
to state): - "The subscriber proposes to publish, by subscription, a
History of his Life. The subscription to be One Dollar, to be paid by
each subscriber; one-half in advance; the other half on the delivery of
the Book. The money to be paid to his agent, Mr. Thomas Deary, who will
give receipts and deliver the Books. Charles Willcocks, late Lieutenant,
City of Cork Militia. York, March, 17th, 1818."

This Mr. Charles Willcocks once fancied he had grounds for challenging
his name-sake, Joseph, to mortal combat, according to the barbaric
notions of the time. But at the hour named for the meeting, Joseph did
not appear on the ground. Charles waited a reasonable time. He then
chipped off a square inch or so of the bark of a neighbouring tree, and,
stationing himself at duelling distance, discharged his pistol at the
mark which he had made. As the ball buried itself in the spot at which
aim had been taken, he loudly bewailed his old friend's reluctance to
face him. "Oh, Joe, Joe!" he passionately cried, "if you had only been

Although Joseph escaped this time, he was not so fortunate afterwards.
He fell, as we have already noted in connexion with the Early Press,
"foremost fighting" in the ranks of the invaders of Upper Canada in
1814. The incident is briefly mentioned in the Montreal _Herald_ of the
15th of October, in that year, in the following terms: "It is officially
announced by General Ripley (on the American side, that is), that the
traitor Willcocks was killed in the sortie from Fort Erie on the 4th
ult., greatly lamented by his general and the army." Undertaking with
impetuosity a crusade against the governmental ideas which were locally
in the ascendant, and encountering the resistance customary in such
cases, he cut the knot of his discontent by joining the Republican force
when it made its appearance.

The Willcocks park-lot, or a portion of it, was afterwards possessed by
Mr. Billings, a well-remembered Commissariat officer, long stationed at
York. He built the house subsequently known as Englefield, which, later,
was the home of Colonel Loring, who, at the time of the taking of York,
in 1813, had his horse killed under him; and here he died. Mr. Billings
and Colonel Loring both had sons, of whom we make brief mention as
having been in the olden times among our own school-boy associates, but
who now, like so many more personal contemporaries, already noted, are,
after brief careers, deceased. An announcement in the Montreal _Herald_
of February 4th, 1815, admits us to a domestic scene in the household of
Colonel, at the time Captain, Loring. (The Treaty of Peace with the
United States was signed at Ghent, on the 24th of December, 1814. Its
effect was being pleasantly realized in Canada, in January, 1815). "At
Prescott," the _Herald_ reports, "on Thursday, 26th January, the lady of
Capt. Loring, Aide-de-Camp and Private Secretary to His Honor
Lieut.-Gen. Drummond, was safely delivered of a daughter." The _Herald_
then adds: "The happy father had returned from a state of captivity with
the enemy, but a few hours previous to the joyful event." Capt. Loring
had been taken prisoner in the battle of Lundy's Lane, in the preceding

The first occupant of the next lot (No. 16) westward, was Mr. Baby, of
whom we have spoken in former sections. Opposite was the house of
Bernard Turquand, an Englishman of note, for many years first clerk in
the Receiver-General's department. He was an early promoter of amateur
boating among us, a recreation with which possibly he had become
familiar at Malta, where he was long a resident. Just beyond on the same
side, was the dwelling-place of Major Winniett, - a long, low, one-storey
bungalow, of a neutral tint in colour, its roof spreading out,
verandah-wise, on both sides.

After the name of Mr. Baby, on the early plan of the park-lots, comes
the name of Mr. Grant - "the Hon. Alexander Grant." During the
interregnum between the death of Governor Hunter and the arrival of
Governor Gore, Mr. Grant, as senior member of the Executive Council, was
President of Upper Canada. The Parliament that sat during his brief
administration, appropriated £800 to the purchase of instruments for
illustrating the principles of Natural Philosophy, "to be deposited in
the hands of a person employed in the Education of Youth;" from the
débris of which collection, preserved in a mutilated condition in one of
the rooms of the Home District School building, we ourselves, like
others probably of our contemporaries, obtained our very earliest
inkling of the existence and significance of scientific apparatus.

In his speech at the close of the session of 1806, President Grant
alluded to this action of Parliament in the following terms: "The
encouragement which you have given for procuring the means necessary for
communicating useful and ornamental knowledge to the rising generation,
meets with my approbation, and, I have no doubt, will produce the most
salutary effects." Mr. Grant was also known as Commodore Grant, having
had, at one time, command of the Naval Force on the Lakes.

After Mr. Grant's name appears that of "E. B. Littlehales." This is the
Major Littlehales with whom those who familiarize themselves with the
earliest records of Upper Canada become so well acquainted. He was the
writer, for example, of the interesting journal of an Exploring
Excursion from Niagara to Detroit in 1793, to be seen in print in the
_Canadian Literary Magazine_ of May, 1834; an expedition undertaken, as
the document itself sets forth, by the Lieut.-Governor, accompanied by
Captain Fitzgerald, Lieutenant Smith of the 5th Regiment, and
Lieutenants Talbot, Grey and Givins, and Major Littlehales, starting
from Niagara on the 4th of February, arriving at Detroit on the 18th, by
a route which was 270 miles in length. The return began on the 23rd, and
was completed on the 10th of the following month.

It was in this expedition that the site of London, on the Thames, was
first examined, and judged to be "a situation eminently calculated for
the metropolis of all Canada." "Among other essentials," says Major
Littlehales, "it possesses the following advantages: command of
territory - internal situation - central position, facility of water
communication up and down the Thames into Lakes St. Clair, Erie, Huron,
and Superior, - navigable for boats to near its source, and for small
craft probably to the Moravian settlement, - to the southward by a
small portage to the waters flowing into Lake Huron - to the south-east
by a carrying-place into Lake Ontario and the River St. Lawrence; the
soil luxuriantly fertile, - the land rich and capable of being easily
cleared, and soon put into a state of agriculture, - a pinery upon an
adjacent high knoll, and other timber on the heights, well calculated
for the erection of public buildings, - a climate not inferior to any
part of Canada."

The intention of the Governor, at one time, was that the future capital
should be named Georgina, in compliment to George III. Had that
intention been adhered to, posterity would have been saved some
confusion. To this hour, the name of our Canadian London gives trouble
in the post-office and elsewhere. Georgina was a name not inaptly
conceived, suggested doubtless by the title "Augusta," borne by so many
places of old, as, for example, by London itself, the Veritable, in
honour of the Augustus, the Emperor of the day. We might perhaps have
rather expected Georgiana, on the analogy of Aureliana (Orleans), from
Aurelius, or Georgia, after Julia, a frequent local appellation from the
imperial Julius. - Already, had Georgius, temp. Geo. II., yielded Georgia
as the name of a province, and later, temp. Geo. III., the same royal
name had been associated with the style and title of a new planet, 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 34 of 59)