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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off at Yorkville to the eastward, and passed down in a hap-hazard kind
of way over the sandy pineland in that direction, and finally entered
the town by the route later known as Parliament Street.

In 1800 the expediency was seen of making the direct northern approach
to York more available. In the _Gazette_ of Dec. 20th, 1800, we have an
account of a public meeting held on the subject. It will be observed
that Yonge Street, between Queen Street and Yorkville, as moderns would
phrase it, is spoken of therein, for the moment, not as Yonge Street,
but as "the road to Yonge Street." "On Thursday last, about noon," the
_Gazette_ reports, "a number of the principal inhabitants of this town
met together in one of the Government Buildings, to consider the best
means of opening the road to Yonge Street, and enabling the farmers
there to bring their provisions to market with more ease than is
practicable at present." The account then proceeds: "The Hon.
Chief-Justice Elmsley was called to the chair. He briefly stated the
purpose of the meeting, and added that a subscription-list had been
lately opened by which something more than two hundred dollars in money
and labour had been promised, and that other sums were to be expected
from several respectable inhabitants who were well-wishers to the
undertaking, but had not as yet contributed towards it. These sums, he
feared, however, would not be equal to the purpose, which hardly could
be accomplished for less than between five and six hundred dollars. Many
of the subscribers were desirous that what was already subscribed should
be immediately applied as far as it would go, and that other resources
should be looked for."

A paper was produced and read containing a proposal from Mr. Eliphalet
Hale to open and make the road, or so much of it as might be required,
at the rate of twelve dollars per acre for clearing it where no
causeway was wanted, four rods wide, and cutting the stumps in the two
middle rods close to the ground; and seven shillings and sixpence,
provincial currency, per rod, for making a causeway eighteen feet wide
where a causeway might be wanted. Mr. Hale undertook to find security
for the due performance of the work by the first of February following
(1801). The subscribers present were unanimously of opinion that the
subscription should be immediately applied as far as it would go. Mr.
Hale's proposition was accepted, and a committee consisting of Mr.
Secretary Jarvis, Mr. William Allan, and Mr. James Playter, was
appointed to superintend the carrying of it into execution. Additional
subscriptions would be received by Messrs. Allan and Wood.

At the same meeting a curious project was mooted, and a resolution in
its favour adopted, for the permanent shutting up of a portion of Lot
Street, and selling the land, the proceeds to be applied to the
improvement of Yonge Street. There was no need of that portion of Lot
Street, it was argued, there being already convenient access to the town
in that direction by a way a few yards to the south. We gather from this
that Hospital Street (Richmond Street) was the usual beaten track into
the town from the west.

"It had been suggested," says the report of the meeting, "that
considerable aid might be obtained by shutting up the street which now
forms the northern boundary of the town between Toronto Street and the
Common, and disposing of the land occupied by it. This street, it was
conceived, was altogether superfluous," the report continues, "as
another street equally convenient in every respect runs parallel to it
at the distance of about ten rods; but it could not be shut up and
disposed of by any authority less than that of the Legislature." A
petition to the Legislature embodying the above ideas was to lie for
signature at Mr. McDougall's Hotel.

The proposed document may have been duly presented, but the Legislature
certainly never closed up Lot Street. Owners of park lots westward of
Yonge Street may have had their objections. The change suggested would
have compelled them to buy not only the land occupied by Lot Street, but
also the land immediately to the south of their respective lots;
otherwise they would have had no frontage in that direction.

In the _Gazette_ of March 14, 1801, we have a further account of the
improvement on Yonge Street. We are informed that "at a meeting of the
subscribers to the opening of Yonge Street held at the Government
Buildings on Monday last, the 9th instant, pursuant to public notice,
William Jarvis, Esq., in the chair, the following gentlemen were
appointed as a committee to oversee and inspect the work, one member of
which to attend in person daily by rotation: James Macaulay, Esq., M.D.,
William Weekes, Esq., A. Wood, Esq., William Allan, Esq., Mr. John
Cameron, Mr. Simon McNab. After the meeting," we are then told, "the
committee went in a body, accompanied by the Hon. J. Elmsley, to view
that part of the street which Mr. Hale, the undertaker, had in part
opened. After ascertaining the alterations and improvements necessary to
be made, and providing for the immediate building of a bridge over the
creek between the second and third mile-posts, the Committee adjourned."
All this is signed "S. McNab, Secretary to the Committee. York, 9th
March, 1801."

A list of subscribers then follows, with the sums given. Hon. J.
Elmsley, 80 dollars; Hon. Peter Russell, 20; Hon. J. McGill, 16; Hon. D.
W. Smith, 10; John Small, Esq., 20; R. J. D. Gray, Esq., 20; William
Jarvis, Esq., 10; William Willcocks, Esq., 15; D. Burns, Esq., 20; Wm.
Weekes, Esq., 15; James Macaulay, Esq., 20; Alexander Macdonell, Esq.,
the work of one yoke of oxen for four days; Alexander Wood, Esq., 10;
Mr. John Cameron, 15; Mr. D. Cameron, 10; Mr. Jacob Herchmer, 5; Mr.
Simon McNab, 5; Mr. P. Mealy, 5; Mr. Elisha Beaman, 10; Thomas Ridout,
Esq., 4; Mr. T. G. Simons, 4; Mr. W. Waters, 5; Mr. Robert Young, 10;
Mr. Daniel Tiers, 5; Mr. John Edgell, 5; Mr. George Cutter, 10; Mr.
James Playter, 6; Mr. Joseph McMurtrie, 5; Mr. William Bowkett, 6; Mr.
John Horton, 4; Mr. John Kerr, 2. Total, 392 dollars.

The money collected was, we may suppose, satisfactorily laid out by Mr.
Hale, but it did not suffice for the completion of the contemplated
work. From the _Gazette_ of Feb. 20 in the following year (1802), we
learn that a second subscription was started for the purpose of
completing the communication with the travelled part of Yonge Street to
the north.

In the _Gazette_ just named we have the following, under date of York,
Saturday, Feb. 20, 1802: "We whose names are hereunto subscribed,
contemplating the advantage which must arise from the rendering of
Yonge Street accessible and convenient to the public, and having before
us a proposal for completing that part of the said street between the
Town of York and lot No. 1, do hereby respectively agree to pay the sums
annexed to our names towards the carrying of the said proposal into
effect; cherishing at the same time the hope that every liberal
character will give his support to a work which has for its design the
improvement of the country, as well as the convenience of the public:
*the Chief Justice, 100 dollars; *Receiver-General, 20; *Robt. J. D.
Gray, 20 (and two acres of land when the road is completed); John
Cameron 40; *James Macaulay, 20; *Alexander Wood, 20; *William Weekes,
20; John McGill, 16; Wilson, Humphreys and Campbell, 15; D. W. Smith,
10; Thomas Scott, 10; *Wm. Jarvis, 10; *John Small, 10; *David Burns,
10; *Wm. Allan, 10; Alexander McDonell, 10; Wm. Smith, 10; Robert
Henderson, 10; *Simon McNab, 8; John McDougall, 8; D. Cozens, 8; Thomas
Ward, 8; *Elisha Beaman, 6; Joseph Hunt, 6; Eli Playter, 6; John
Bennett, 6; *George Cutter, 6; James Norris, 5¼; Wm. B. Peters, 5; John
Leach, 5; John Titus, 5; Wm. Cooper, 5; *Wm. Hunter, 5; J. B. Cozens, 5;
*Daniel Tiers, 5; Thomas Forfar, 5; Samuel Nash, 5; Paul Marian, 3;
Thomas Smith, 3; John McBeth, 3." It is subjoined that "subscriptions
will be received by Mr. S. McNab, Secretary, and advertised weekly in
the _Gazette_. Those marked thus (*) have paid a former subscription."

In the _Gazette_ of March 6, 1802, an editorial is devoted to the
subject of the improvement of Yonge Street. It runs as follows: "It
affords us much pleasure to state to our readers that the necessary
repair of Yonge Street is likely to be soon effected, as the work, we
understand, has been undertaken with the assurance of entering upon and
completing it without delay; and by every one who reflects upon the
present sufferings of our industrious community on resorting to a
market, it cannot but prove highly satisfactory to observe a work of
such convenience and utility speedily accomplished. That the measure of
its future benefits must be extreme indeed, we may reasonably expect;
but whilst we look forward with flattering expectations of those
benefits we cannot but appreciate the immediate advantage which is
afforded to us, in being relieved from the application of the statute
labour to circuitous by-paths and occasional roads, and in being enabled
to apply the same to the improvement of the streets, and the nearer and
more direct approaches to the Town."

The irregular track branching off eastward at Yorkville was an example
of these "circuitous by-paths and occasional roads." Editorials were
rare in the _Gazettes_ of the period. Had there been more of them,
subsequent investigators would have been better able than they are now,
to produce pictures of the olden time. Chief Justice Elmsley was
probably the inspirer of the article just given.

The work appears to have been duly proceeded with. In the following
June, we have an advertisement calling a meeting of the committee
entrusted with its superintendence. In the _Gazette_ of June 12, 1802,
we read: "The committee for inspecting the repair of Yonge Street
requests that the subscribers will meet on the repaired part of the said
street at 5 o'clock on Monday evening, to take into consideration how
far the moneys subscribed by them have been beneficially expended. S.
McNab, Secretary to Committee. York, 10th June, 1802."

In 1807, as we gather from the _Gazette_ of Nov. 11, in that year, an
effort was made to improve the road at the Blue Hill. A present of Fifty
Dollars from the Lieutenant Governor (Gore) to the object is
acknowledged in the paper named. "A number of public-spirited persons"
the _Gazette_ says, "collected on last Saturday to cut down the Hill at
Frank's Creek. (We shall see hereafter that the rivulet here was thus
known, as being the stream that flowed through the Castle Frank lot.)
The Lieutenant-Governor, when informed of it, despatched a person with a
present of Fifty Dollars to assist in improving the Yonge Street road."
It is then added by "John Van Zante, pathmaster, for himself and the
public," - "To his Excellency for his liberal donation, and to the
gentlemen who contributed, we return our warmest thanks."

These early efforts of our predecessors to render practicable the great
northern approach to the town, are deserving of respectful remembrance.

The death of Eliphalet Hale, named above, is thus noted in the _Gazette_
of Sept. 19, 1807: - "Died on the evening of the 17th instant, after a
short illness, Mr. Eliphalet Hale, High Constable of the Home District,
an old and respectable inhabitant of this town. From the regular
discharge of his official duties" the _Gazette_ subjoins, "he may be
considered as a public loss."

The nature of the soil at many points between Lot Street and the modern
Yorkville was such as to render the construction of a road that should
be comfortably available at all seasons of the year no easy task. Down
to the time when macadam was at length applied, some twenty-eight years
after Mr. Hale's operations, this approach to the town was notorious for
its badness every spring and autumn. At one period an experiment was
tried of a wooden tramway for a short distance at the worst part, on
which the loaded waggons were expected to keep and so be saved from
sinking hopelessly in the direful sloughs. Mr. Sheriff Jarvis was the
chief promoter of this improvement, which answered its purpose for a
time, and Mr. Rowland Burr was its suggester. But we must not forestall

We return to the point where Lot Street, or Queen Street, intersects the
thoroughfare to whose farthest bourne we are about to be travellers.

After passing Mr. Jesse Ketchum's property, which had been divided into
two parts by the pushing of Yonge Street southward to its natural
termination, we arrived at another striking rectangular meeting of
thoroughfares. Lot Street having happily escaped extinction westward and
eastward, there was created at this spot a four-cross-way possessed of
an especial historic interest, being the conspicuous intersection of the
two great military roads of Upper Canada, projected and explored in
person by its first organiser. Four extensive reaches, two of Dundas
Street (identical, of course, with Lot or Queen Street), and two of
Yonge Street, can here be contemplated from one and the same standpoint.
In the course of time the views up and down the four long vistas here
commanded will probably rival those to be seen at the present moment
where King Street crosses Yonge Street. When lined along all its sides
with handsome buildings, the superior elevation above the level of the
Lake of the more northerly quadrivium, will be in its favour.

Perhaps it will here not be out of order to state that Yonge Street was
so named in honour of Sir George Yonge, Secretary of War in 1791, and
M.P. for Honiton, in the county of Devon, from 1763 to 1796. The first
exploration which led to the establishment of this communication with
the north, was made in 1793. On the early MS. map mentioned before in
these papers, the route taken by Governor Simcoe on the memorable
occasion, in going and returning is shewn. Explanatory of the red dotted
lines which indicate it, the following note is appended. It reveals the
Governor's clear perception of the commercial and military importance
of the projected road: "Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's route on foot and in canoes
to explore a way which might afford communication for the Fur-traders to
the Great Portage, without passing Detroit in case that place were given
up to the United States. The march was attended with some difficulties,
but was quite satisfactory: an excellent harbour at Penetanguishene:
returned to York, 1793."

(On the same map, the tracks are given of four other similar excursions,
with the following accounts appended respectively: - 1. Lieut.-Gov.
Simcoe's route on foot from Niagara to Detroit and back again in five
weeks; returned to Niagara March 8th, 1793. 2. Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's
route from York to the Thames; down that river in canoes to Detroit;
from thence to the Miamis, to build the fort Lord Dorchester ordered to
be built: left York March 1794; returned by Lake Erie and Niagara to
York, May 5th, 1794. 3. Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's track from York to Kingston
in an open boat, Dec. 5th, 1794. 4. Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's route from
Niagara to Long Point on Lake Erie, on foot and in boats: returned down
the Ouse [Grand River]: from thence crossed a portage of five miles to
Welland River, and so to Fort Chippawa, September, 1795.)

The old chroniclers of England speak in high praise of a primeval but
somewhat mythic king of Britain, named Belin:

"Belin well held his honour,
And wisely was good governour."

says Peter de Langtoft, and his translator, Robert de Brunn; and they
assign, among the reasons why he merited such mention at their hands,
the following:

"His land Britaine he yode throughout,
And ilk county beheld about;
Beheld the woods, water and fen.
No passage was maked for men,
No highe street thorough countrie,
Ne to borough ne citié.
Thorough mooris, hills and valleys
He madé brigs and causeways,
Highe street for common passage,
Brigs over water did he stage."

This notice of the old chroniclers' pioneer king of Britain has again
and again recurred to us as we have had occasion to narrate the
energetic doings of the first ruler of Upper Canada, here and
previously. What Britain was when Belin and his Celts were at work,
Canada was in the days of our immediate fathers - a trackless wild. That
we see our country such as it is to-day, approaching in many respects
the beauty and agricultural finish of Britain itself, is due to the
intrepid men who faced without blenching the trials and perils
inevitable in a first attack on the savage fastnesses of nature.

A succinct but good account is given of the origin of Yonge Street in
Mr. Surveyor General D. W. Smith's Gazetteer of 1799. The advantages
expected to accrue from the new highway are clearly set forth; and
though the anticipations expressed have not been fulfilled precisely in
the manner supposed, we see how comprehensive and really well-laid were
the plans of the first organizer of Upper Canada.

"Yonge Street," the early Gazetteer says, "is the direct communication
from York to Lake Simcoe, opened during the administration of his
Excellency Major-General Lieut.-Governor Simcoe, who, having visited
Lake Huron by Lake aux Claies (formerly also Ouentaronk, or Sinion, and
now named Lake Simcoe), and discovered the harbour of Penetanguishene
(now Gloucester) to be fit for shipping, resolved on improving the
communication from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron, by this short route,
thereby avoiding the circuitous passage of Lake Erie. This street has
been opened in a direct line, and the road made by the troops of his
Excellency's corps. It is thirty miles from York to Holland's river, at
the Pine Fort called Gwillimbury, where the road ends; from thence you
descend into Lake Simcoe, and, having passed it, there are two passages
into Lake Huron; the one by the river Severn, which conveys the waters
of Lake Simcoe into Gloucester Bay; the other by a small portage, the
continuation of Yonge Street, to a small lake, which also runs into
Gloucester Bay. This communication affords many advantages; merchandize
from Montreal to Michilimackinac may be sent this way at ten or fifteen
pounds less expense per ton, than by the route of the Grand or Ottawa
River; and the merchandize from New York to be sent up the North and
Mohawk Rivers for the north-west trade, finding its way into Lake
Ontario at Oswego (Fort Ontario), the advantage will certainly be felt
of transporting goods from Oswego to York, and from thence across Yonge
Street, and down the waters of Lake Simcoe into Lake Huron, in
preference to sending it by Lake Erie."

We now again endeavour to effect a start on our pilgrimage of
retrospection up the long route, from the establishment of which so many
public advantages were predicted in 1799.

The objects that came to be familiar to the eye at the entrance to Yonge
Street from Lot Street were, after the lapse of some years, on the west
side, a large square white edifice known as the Sun Tavern, Elliott's;
and on the east side, the buildings constituting Good's Foundry.

The open land to the north of Elliott's was the place generally occupied
by the travelling menageries and circuses when such exhibitions began to
visit the town.

The foundry, after supplying the country for a series of years with
ploughs, stoves and other necessary articles of heavy hardware, is
memorable as having been the first in Upper Canada to turn out real
railway locomotives. When novelties, these highly finished ponderous
machines, seen slowly and very laboriously urged through the streets
from the foundry to their destination, were startling phenomena. We have
in the _Canadian Journal_ (vol. ii. p. 76), an account of the first
engine manufactured by Mr. Good at the Toronto Locomotive Works, with a
lithographic illustration. "We have much pleasure," the editor of the
_Canadian Journal_ says "in presenting our readers with a drawing of the
first locomotive engine constructed in Canada, and indeed, we believe,
in any British Colony. The 'Toronto' is certainly no beauty, nor is she
distinguished for any peculiarity in the construction, but she affords a
very striking illustration of our progress in the mechanical arts, and
of the growing wants of the country. The 'Toronto' was built at the
Toronto Locomotive Works, which were established by Mr. Good, in
October, 1852. The order for the 'Toronto' was received in February,
1853, for the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railroad. The engine was
completed on the 16th of April, and put on the track the 26th of the
same month. Her dimensions are as follows: cylinder 16 inches diameter,
stroke 22 inches, driving wheel 5 feet 6 inches in diameter, length of
internal fire box 4 feet 6 inches, weight of engine 25 tons, number of
tubes 150, diameter of tubes 2 inches."

With property a little to the north on the east side, the name of
McIntosh was early associated, and - Canadian persistency again - is still
associated. Of Captains John, Robert and Charles McIntosh, we shall have
occasion to speak in our paper on the early Marine of York harbour. It
was opposite the residence of Captain John McIntosh that the small riot
took place, which signalized the return home of William Lyon Mackenzie,
in 1849, after the civil tumults of 1837. Mr. Mackenzie was at the time
the guest of Captain McIntosh, who was related to him through a marriage

Albert Street, which enters Yonge Street opposite the McIntosh property,
was in 1833 still known as Macaulay Lane, and was described by Walton as
"fronting the Fields." From this point a long stretch of fine
forest-land extended to Yorkville. On the left side it was the property
partly of Dr. Macaulay and partly of Chief Justice Elmsley. The fields
which Macaulay Lane fronted were the improvements around Dr. Macaulay's
abode. The white entrance gate to his house was near where now a street
leads into Trinity Square. Wykham Lodge, the residence of Sir James
Macaulay after the removal from Front Street, and Elmsley Villa, the
residence of Captain J. S. Macaulay, (Government House in Lord Elgin's
day, and subsequently Knox College,) were late erections on portions of
these spacious suburban estates.

The first Dr. Macaulay and Chief Justice Elmsley selected two adjoining
park lots, both of them fronting, of course, on Lot Street. They then
effected an exchange of properties with each other. Dividing these two
lots transversely into equal portions, the Chief Justice chose the upper
or northern halves, and Dr. Macaulay the lower or southern. Dr. Macaulay
thus acquired a large frontage on Lot Street, and the Chief Justice a
like advantage on Yonge Street. Captain Macaulay acquired his interest
in the southern portion of the Elmsley halves by marriage with a
daughter of the Chief Justice. The northern portion of these halves
descended to the heir of the Chief Justice, Capt. John Elmsley, who
having become a convert to the Church of Rome, gave facilities for the
establishment of St. Basil's college and other Roman Catholic
Institutions on his estate. Of Chief Justice Elmsley and his son we have
previously spoken.

Dr. Macaulay's clearing on the north side of Macaulay lane was, in
relation to the first town plot of York, long considered a locality
particularly remote; a spot to be discovered by strangers not without
difficulty. In attempting to reach it we have distinct accounts of
persons bewildered and lost for long hours in the intervening marshes
and woods. Mr. Justice Boulton, travelling from Prescott in his own
vehicle, and bound for Dr. Macaulay's domicile, was dissuaded, on
reaching Mr. Small's house at the eastern extremity of York, from
attempting to push on to his destination, although it was by no means
late, on account of the inconveniences and perils to be encountered; and
half of the following day was taken up in accomplishing the residue of
the journey.

Dr. Macaulay's cottage might still have been existent and in good order;
but while it was being removed bodily by Mr. Alexander Hamilton, from
its original site to a position on the entrance to Trinity Square, a few
yards to the eastward, it was burnt, either accidentally or by the act
of an incendiary. Mr. Hamilton, who was intending to convert the
building into a home for himself and his family, gave the name of
Teraulay Cottage - the name by which the destroyed building had been
known - to the house which he put up in its stead.

A quarter of a century sufficed to transform Dr. Macaulay's garden and
grounds into a well-peopled city district. The "fields," of which Walton

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 38 of 59)