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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by Mr. Burns, was a house, shaded with great willow-trees, and
surrounded by a flower-garden and lawn, the abode for many years of the
venerable widow of Captain John Denison, who long survived her husband.
Of her we have already once spoken in connection with Petersfield. She
was, as we have intimated, a sterling old English gentlewoman of a type
now vanishing, as we imagine. The house was afterwards long in the
occupation of her son-in-law, Mr. John Fennings Taylor, a gentleman
well-known to Canadian M.P.'s during a long series of years, having been
attached as Chief Clerk and Master in Chancery first to the Legislative
Council of United Canada and then to the Senate of the Dominion.

To the right and left, as we passed north, was a wet swamp, filled with
cedars of all shapes and sizes, and strewn plentifully with granitic
boulders: a strip of land held in light esteem by the passers-by, in the
early day, as seeming to be irreclaimable for agricultural purposes.

But how admirably reclaimable in reality the acres hereabout were for
the choicest human purposes, was afterwards seen, when, for example, the
house and grounds known as Foxley Grove, came to be established. By the
outlay of some money and the exercise of some discrimination, a portion
of this same cedar swamp was rapidly converted into pleasure ground,
with labyrinths of full-grown shrubbery ready-prepared by nature's hand.
Mr. James Bealey Harrison, who thus transformed the wild into a garden
and plaisaunce, will be long remembered for his skill and taste in the
culture of flowers and esculents choice and rare: as well as for his
eminence as a lawyer and jurist.

He was a graduate of Cambridge; and before his emigration to Canada, had
attained distinction at the English bar. He was the author of a work
well known to the legal profession in Great Britain and here, entitled
"An Analytical Digest of all the Reported Cases determined in the House
of Lords, the several Courts of the Courts of the Common Law in Banc and
Nisi Prius, and the Court of Bankruptcy, from Michaelmas Term, 1756, to
Easter Term, 1843; including also the Crown Cases Referred: in Four
Volumes." During the régime of Sir George Arthur, Mr. Harrison was
Secretary of the Province and a member of the Executive Council; and at
a later period he was Judge of the County and Surrogate Courts. The
memory of Judge Harrison as an English Gentleman, genial, frank and
straightforward, is cherished among his surviving contemporaries.

On turning westward into Dundas Street proper, we were soon in the midst
of a magnificent pine forest, which remained long undisturbed. The whole
width of the allowance for road was here for a number of miles
completely cleared. The highway thus well-defined was seen bordered on
the right and left with a series of towering columns, the outermost
ranges of an innumerable multitude of similar tall shafts set at various
distances from each other, and circumscribing the view in an irregular
manner on both sides, all helping to bear up aloft a matted awning of
deep-green, through which, here and there, glimpses of azure could be
caught, looking bright and cheery. The yellow pine predominated, a tree
remarkable for the straightness and tallness of its stems, and for the
height at which its branches begins.

No fence on either hand intervened between the road and the forest; the
rider at his pleasure, could rein his horse aside at any point and take
a canter in amongst the columns, the underwood being very slight.
Everywhere, at the proper season, the ground was sprinkled with wild
flowers - with the wild lupin and the wild columbine; and everywhere, at
all times, the air was more or less fragrant with resinous exhalations.

In the heart of the forest, midway between York and the bridge over the
Humber, was another famous resting place for teams - the Peacock
Tavern - a perfect specimen of a respectable wayside hostelry of the
olden time, with very spacious driving-houses and other appropriate
outbuildings on an extensive scale.

Not far from the Peacock a beaten track branched off westerly, which
soon led the equestrian into the midst of beautiful oak woods, the trees
constituting it of no great magnitude, but as is often the case on sandy
plains, of a gnarled, contorted aspect, each presenting a good study for
the sketcher. This track also conducted to the Humber, descending to the
valley of that stream where its waters, now become shallow but rapid,
passed over sheets of shale. Here the surroundings of the bridle-road
and foot-path were likewise picturesque, exhibiting rock plentifully
amidst and beneath the foliage and herbage.

Here in the vale of the Humber stood a large Swiss-like structure of
hewn logs, with two tiers of balcony on each of its sides. This was the
house of Mr. John Scarlett. It was subsequently destroyed by fire. Near
by were mills and factories also belonging to Mr. Scarlett. He was well
connected in England; a man of enlightened views and fine personal
presence. He loved horses and was much at home in the saddle. A shrewd
observer when out among his fellow men, at his own fireside he was a
diligent student of books.

[Illustration]




[Illustration]

XXIV.

YONGE STREET - FROM THE BAY TO YORKVILLE.


The tourist of the present day, who, on one of our great lake-steamers,
enters the harbour of Toronto, observes, as he is borne swiftly along,
an interesting succession of street vistas, opening at intervals inland,
each one of them somewhat resembling a scene on the stage. He obtains a
glimpse for a moment of a thoroughfare gently ascending in a right line
northward, with appropriate groups of men and vehicles, reduced prettily
to lilliputian size by distance.

Of all the openings thus transiently disclosed, the one towards which
the boat at length shapes its course, with the clear intention of
thereabout disburdening itself of its multifarious load, is quickly seen
to be of preëminent importance. Thronged at the point where it descends
to the water's edge with steamers and other craft, great and small,
lined on the right and left up to the far vanishing-point with handsome
buildings, its pavements and central roadway everywhere astir with life,
its appearance is agreeably exciting and even impressive. It looks to
be, what in fact it is, the outlet of a great highway leading into the
interior of a busy, populous country. The railway station seen on the
right, heaving up its huge semicircular metal back above the subjacent
buildings, and flanking the very sidewalk with its fine front and lofty
ever-open portals, might be imagined a porter's lodge proportioned to
the dignity of the avenue whose entrance it seems planted there to
guard.

We propose to pass, as rapidly as we may, up the remarkable street at
the foot of which our tourist steps ashore. It will not be a part of our
plan to enlarge on its condition as we see it at the present time,
except here and there as in contrast with some circumstance of the past.
We intend simply to take note, as we ramble on, of such recollections as
may spring up at particular points, suggested by objects or localities
encountered, and to recall at least the names, if not in every instance,
characteristic traits and words and acts, of some of the worthies of a
byegone generation, to whose toil and endurance the present occupants of
the region which we shall traverse are so profoundly indebted.

Where Yonge Street opened on the harbour, the observer some forty years
ago would only have seen, on the east side, the garden, orchard and
pleasure grounds of Chief Justice Scott, with his residence situated
therein, afterwards the abode of Mr. Justice Sherwood; and on the west
side the garden, orchard, pleasure-grounds and house of Mr. Justice
Macaulay, afterwards Chief Justice Sir James Macaulay, and the
approaches to these premises were, in both cases, not from Yonge Street
but from Front Street, or from Market Street in the rear.

The principal landing place for the town was for a series of years, as
we have elsewhere stated, at the southern extremity of Church Street:
and then previously, for another series of years, further to the east,
at the southern extremity of Frederick Street. The country and local
traffic found its way to these points, not by Yonge Street, south of
King Street, but by other routes which have been already specified and
described.

Teams and solitary horses, led or ridden, seen passing into Yonge
Street, south of King Street, either out of King Street or out of Front
Street, would most likely be on their way to the forge of old Mr. Philip
Klinger, a German, whose name we used to think had in it a kind of anvil
ring. His smithy, on the east side, just south of Market Street, now
Wellington Street, was almost the only attraction and occasion of resort
to Yonge Street, south of King Street. His successor here was Mr. Calvin
Davis, whose name became as familiar a sound to the ears of the early
townsfolk of York as Mr. Klinger's had been.

It seems in the retrospect but a very short time since Yonge Street
south of King Street, now so solidly and even splendidly built up, was
an obscure allowance for road, visited seldom by any one, and for a long
while particularly difficult to traverse during and just after the rainy
seasons.

Few persons in the olden time at which we are glancing ever dreamed
that the intersection of Yonge Street and King Street was to be the
heart of the town. Yet here in one generation we have the Carfax of
Toronto, as some of our forefathers would have called it - the
Quatrevoies or Grand Four-cross-way, where the golden milestone might be
planted whence to measure distances in each direction.

What are the local mutations that are to follow? Will the needs of the
population and the exigencies of business ever make of the intersection
of Brock Street and Queen Street what the intersection of Yonge and King
Streets is now?

In the meantime, those who recall the very commonplace look which this
particular spot, viz.: the intersection of King Street and Yonge Street,
long wore, when as yet only recently reclaimed from nature, cannot but
experience a degree of mental amazement whenever now they pause for a
moment on one of the crossings and look around.

A more perfect and well-proportioned rectangular meeting of four great
streets is seldom to be seen. Take the view at this point, north, south,
west, or east, almost at any hour and at any season of the year, and it
is striking.

It is striking in the freshness and coolness and comparative quiet of
early morning, when few are astir.

It is striking in the brightness and glow of noon, when the sons and
daughters of honest toil are trooping in haste to their mid-day meal.

A few hours later, again, it is striking when the phaetons,
pony-carriages, and fancy equipages generally, are out, and loungers of
each sex are leisurely promenading, or here and there placidly engaged
in the inspection and occasional selection of "personal requisites," - of
some one or other of the variegated tissues or artificial adjuncts
demanded by the modes of the period, - while the westering sun is now
flooding the principal thoroughfare with a misty splendour, and on the
walls, along on either side, weird shadows slanting and elongated, are
being cast.

Then, later still, the views here are by no means ordinary ones, when
the vehicles have for the most part withdrawn, and the passengers are
once more few in number, and the lamps are lighted, and the gas is
flaming in the windows.

Even in the closed up sedate aspect of all places of business on a
Sunday or public holiday, statutable or otherwise, these four streets,
by some happy charm, are fair to see and cheery. But when drest for a
festive gala occasion, when gay with banners and festoons, in honour of
a royal birthday, a royal marriage, the visit of a prince, the
announcement of a victory, they shew to special advantage.

So, also, they furnish no inharmonious framework or setting, when
processions and bands of music are going by, or bodies of military,
horse or foot, or pageants such as those that in modern times accompany
a great menagerie in its progress through the country - elephants in
oriental trappings, teams of camels clad in similar guise, cavaliers in
glittering mediæval armour, gorgeous cars and vans.

And again, in winter, peculiarly fine pictures, characteristic of the
season, are presented here when, after a plentiful fall of snow, the
sleighs are on the move without number and in infinite variety; or when,
on the contrary, each long white vista, east, west, north, and south,
glistening, perhaps, under a clear December moon, is a scene almost
wholly of still life - scarcely a man or beast abroad, so keen is the
motionless air, the mercury having shrunk down some way below the
zero-line of Fahrenheit.

But we must proceed. From the Lake to the Landing is a long journey.

In the course of our perambulations we have already noticed some
instances in the town of long persistency in one place of business or
residence. Such evidences of staidness and substantiality are common
enough in the old world, but are of necessity somewhat rare amid the
chances, changes, and exchanges of young communities on this continent.
An additional instance we have to note here, at the intersection of King
Street and Yonge Street. At its north-east angle, where, as in a former
section we have observed, stood the sole building in this quarter, the
house of Mr. John Dennis, for forty years at least has been seen with
little alteration of external aspect, the Birmingham, Sheffield and
Wolverhampton warehouse of the brothers Mr. Joseph Ridout and Mr.
Percival Ridout. A little way to the north, too, on the east side, the
name of Piper has been for an equal length of time associated
uninterruptedly with a particular business; but here, though outward
appearances have remained to some extent the same, death has wrought
changes.

Near by, also, we see foundries still in operation where Messrs. W. B.
Sheldon, F. R. Dutcher, W. A. Dutcher, Samuel Andrus, J. Vannorman and
B. Vannorman, names familiar to all old inhabitants, were among the
foremost in that kind of useful enterprise in York. Their advertisement,
as showing the condition of one branch of the iron manufacture in York
in 1832, will be of interest. Some of the articles enumerated have
become old-fashioned. "They respectfully inform their friends and the
public that they have lately made large additions to their
establishments. They have enlarged their Furnace so as to enable them to
make Castings of any size or weight used in this province, and erected
Lathes for turning and finishing the same. They have also erected a
Steam Engine of ten horse power, of their own manufacture, for
propelling their machinery, which is now in complete operation, and they
are prepared to build Steam Engines of any size, either high or low
pressure. Having a number of experienced engineers employed, whose
capability cannot be doubted, they hope to share the patronage of a
generous public. They always keep constantly on hand and for sale,
either by wholesale or retail, Bark Mills, Cooking, Franklin, Plate and
Box Stoves, also, a general assortment of Hollow Ware, consisting of
Kettles, from one to one hundred and twenty gallons; Bake-Ovens,
Bake-Basins, Belly-Pots, High Pans, Tea Kettles, Wash-Kettles, Portable
Furnaces, &c. Also are constantly manufacturing Mill-Gearing of all
kinds; Sleigh Shoes, 50, 56, 30, 28, 15, 14, and 7 pound Weights, Clock
and Sash Weights, Cranes, Andirons, Cart and Waggon Boxes, Clothiers'
Plates, Plough Castings, and Ploughs of all kinds."

In 1832 Mr. Charles Perry was also the proprietor of foundries in York,
and we have him advertising in the local paper that "he is about adding
to his establishment the manufacture of Printing Presses, and that he
will be able in a few weeks to produce Iron Printing Presses combining
the latest improvements."

We move on now towards Newgate Street, first noticing that nearly
opposite to the Messrs. Sheldon and Dutcher's foundry were the spirit
vaults of Mr. Michael Kane, father of Paul Kane, the artist of whom we
have spoken previously. At the corner of Newgate Street or Adelaide
Street, on the left, and stretching along the southern side of that
Street, the famous tannery-yard of Mr. Jesse Ketchum was to be seen,
with high stacks of hemlock-bark piled up on the Yonge Street side. On
the North side of Newgate Street, at the angle opposite, was his
residence, a large white building in the American style, with a square
turret, bearing a railing, rising out of the ridge of the roof. Before
pavements of any kind were introduced in York, the sidewalks hereabout
were rendered clean and comfortable by a thick coating of tan-bark.

Mr. Ketchum emigrated hither from Buffalo at an early period. In the
_Gazette_ of June 11, 1803, we have the death of his father mentioned.
"On Wednesday last (8th June), departed this life, Mr. Joseph Ketchum,
aged 85. His remains," it is added, "were interred the following day."
In 1806 we find Jesse Ketchum named at the annual "town meeting," one of
the overseers of highways and fence viewers. His section was from "No. 1
to half the Big Creek Bridge (Hogg's Hollow) on Yonge Street." Mr.
William Marsh, jun., then took up the oversight from half the Big Creek
Bridge to No. 17. In the first instance Mr. Ketchum came over to look
after the affairs of an elder brother, deceased, who had settled here
and founded the tannery works. He then continued to be a householder of
York until about 1845, when he returned to Buffalo, his original home,
where he still retained valuable possessions. He was familiarly known in
Buffalo in later years as "Father Ketchum," and was distinguished for
the lively practical interest which he took in schools for the young,
and for the largeness of his annual contributions to such institutions.
Two brothers, Henry and Zebulun, were also early inhabitants of Buffalo.

Mr. Ketchum's York property extended to Lot Street. Hospital Street
(Richmond Street) passed through it, and he himself projected and opened
Temperance Street. To the facility with which he supplied building sites
for moral and religious uses it is due that at this day the
quadrilateral between Queen Street and Adelaide Street, Yonge Street and
Bay Street, is a sort of miniature Mount Athos, a district curiously
crowded with places of worship. He gave in Yorkville also sites for a
school-house and Temperance Hall, and, besides, two acres for a
Children's Park. The Bible and Tract Society likewise obtained its House
on Yonge Street on easy terms from Mr. Ketchum, on the condition that
the Society should annually distribute in the Public Schools the amount
of the ground rent in the form of books - a condition that continues to
be punctually fulfilled. The ground-rent of an adjoining tenement was
also secured to the Society by Mr. Ketchum, to be distributed in Sunday
Schools in a similar way. Thus by his generous gifts and arrangements in
Buffalo, and in our own town and neighbourhood, his name has become
permanently enrolled in the list of public benefactors in two cities.
Among the subscriptions to a "Common School" in York in 1820, a novelty
at the period, we observe his name down for one hundred dollars.
Subscriptions for that amount to any object were not frequent in York in
1820. (Among the contributors to the same school we observe Jordan
Post's name down for £17 6s. 3d.; Philip Klinger's for £2 10s.; Lardner
Bostwick's for £2 10s.)

Mr. Ketchum died in Buffalo in 1867. He was a man of quiet, shrewd,
homely appearance and manners, and of the average stature. His brother
Seneca was also a character well known in these parts for his natural
benevolence, and likewise for his desire to offer counsel to the young
on every occasion. We have a distinct recollection of being, along with
several young friends, the objects of a well intended didactic lecture
from Seneca Ketchum, who, as we were amusing ourselves on the ice,
approached us on horseback.

It seems singular to us, in the present day, that those who laid out the
region called the "New Town," that is, the land westward of the original
town plot of York, did not apparently expect the great northern road
known as Yonge Street ever to extend directly to the water's edge. In
the plans of 1800, Yonge Street stops short at Lot Street, _i. e._,
Queen Street. A range of lots blocks the way immediately to the south.
The traffic from the north was expected to pass down into the town by a
thoroughfare called Toronto Street, three chains and seven links to the
east of the line of Yonge Street. Mr. Ketchum's lot, and all the similar
lots southward, were bounded on the east by this street.

The advisability of pushing Yonge Street through to its natural terminus
must have early struck the owners of the properties that formed the
obstruction. We accordingly find Yonge Street in due time "produced" to
the Bay. Toronto Street was then shut up and the proprietors of the land
through which the northern road now ran received in exchange for the
space usurped, proportionate pieces of the old Toronto Street. In 1818,
deeds for these fragments, executed in conformity with the ninth section
of an Act of the local Parliament, passed in the fiftieth year of George
III., were given to Jesse Ketchum, William Bowkett, mariner, son of
William Bowkett, and others, by the surveyors of highways, James Miles
for the Home District, and William Richardson Caldwell for the County of
York, respectively.

The street which supplied the passage-way southward previously afforded
by Toronto Street, and which now formed the easterly boundary of the
easterly portions of the lots cut in two by Yonge Street, was, as we
have had occasion already to state in another place, called Upper George
Street, and afterwards Victoria Street.

(The line of the now-vanished Toronto Street is, for purposes of
reference, marked with fine lines on the map of Toronto by the Messrs.
H. J. and J. O. Browne.)

What the condition of some of the lots to which we have been just
referring was in 1801, we gather from a surveyor's report of that date,
which we have already quoted (p. 64), in another connection. We are now
enabled to add the exact terms of the order issued to the surveyor, Mr.
Stegman, on the occasion: "Surveyor General's Office, 19th Dec., 1800
Mr. John Stegman: Sir, - All persons claiming to hold land in the town of
York, having been required to cut and burn all the brush and underwood
on the said lots, and to fall all the trees which are standing thereon,
you will be pleased to report to me, without delay, the number of the
particular lots on which it has not been done. D. W. Smith, Acting
Surveyor General."

The continuation of the great northern highway in a continuous right
line to the Bay, from its point of issue on Lot Street, _i. e._, Queen
Street, was the circumstance that eventually created for Yonge Street,
regarded as a street in the usual sense, the peculiar renown which it
popularly has for extraordinary length. A story is told of a tourist,
newly arrived at York, wishing to utilize a stroll before breakfast, by
making out as he went along the whereabouts of a gentleman to whom he
had a letter. Passing down the hall of his hotel, he asks in a casual
way of the book-keeper - "Can you tell me where Mr. So-and-so lives?
(leisurely producing the note from his breast-pocket wallet). It is
somewhere along Yonge Street here in your town." "Oh yes," was the
reply, when the address had been glanced at - "Mr. So-and-so lives on
Yonge Street, about twenty-five miles up!" We have heard also of a
serious demur on the part of a Quebec naval and military inspector, at
two agents for purchases being stationed on one street at York. However
surprised, he was nevertheless satisfied when he learned that their
posts were thirty miles apart.

Let us now direct our attention to Yonge Street north of Queen Street.

For some years previous to the opening of Yonge Street from Lot Street
to the Bay, the portion of the great highway to the north, between Lot
Street and the road which is now the southern boundary of Yorkville, was
in an almost impracticable condition. The route was recognized, but no
grading or causewaying had been done on it. In the popular mind, indeed,
practically, the point where Yonge Street began as a travelled road to
the north, was at Yorkville, as we should now speak.

The track followed by the farmers coming into town from the north veered



Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 37 of 59)