Henry Scadding.

Toronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario online

. (page 41 of 59)
Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 41 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

once of John Moody's account of Lady Townley's journey with her
coach-and-four and large household to London, from the veritable
old-country York, in Sir John Vanbrugh's comedy of the Provoked Husband,
so perfect a parallel did it furnish to the traveller's experience here
on Yonge Street on his way from the Canadian York to the Landing in
stage-coach or farmer's waggon in the olden time.

"Some impish trick or other," said John Moody, "plagued us all the day
long. Crack goes one thing: bounce goes another: Woa, says Roger - then
sowse! we are all set fast in a slough. Whaw, cries Miss: scream go the
maids: and bawl just as tho' they were stuck: and so, mercy on us! this
was the trade from morning to night."

The mode of extricating a vehicle from a slough or mudhole when once in,
may be gathered from a passage in McTaggart's "Three Years in Canada,"
ii., 205. The time referred to is 1829: "There are few roads," McTaggart
says, "and these are generally excessively bad, and full of mudholes in
which if a carriage fall, there is great trouble to get it out again.
The mail coaches or waggons are often in this predicament, when the
passengers instantly jump off, and having stripped rails off the fence,
they lift it up by sheer force. Coming up brows they sometimes get in;
the horses are then taken out, and yoked to the stern instead of the
front; and it is drawn out backwards."

The country between York and Lake Huron was, as we have already seen,
first explored by Governor Simcoe in person, in 1793. It was also
immediately surveyed, and in some measure occupied; and so early as
1794, we read in a _Gazette_ the following notice: "Surveyor-General's
Office, Upper Canada, 15th July, 1794. Notice is hereby given that all
persons who have obtained assignments for land on Dundas Street, leading
from the head of Burlington Bay to the upper forks of the River Thames,
and on Yonge Street leading from York to Lake Simcoe, that unless a
dwelling-house shall be built on every lot under certificate of
location, and the same occupied within one year from the date of their
respective assignments, such lots will be forfeited on the said Roads.
D. W. Smith, Acting Surveyor General."

All the conditions required to be fulfilled by the first settlers were
these: "They must within the term of two years, clear fit for
cultivation and fence, ten acres of the lot obtained; build a house 16
by 20 feet of logs or frame, with a shingle roof; also cut down all the
timber in front of and the whole width of the lot (which is 20 chains,
133 feet wide), 33 feet of which must be cleared smooth and left for
half of the public road." To issue injunctions for the performance of
such work was easy. To do such work, or to get such work effectually
done, was, under the circumstances of the times, difficult. Hence Yonge
Street continued for some years after 1794 to be little more than a
rambling forest wheel-track through the woods.

In 1794, as we have before heard, Mr. William Berczy, brought over from
the Pulteney Settlement, on the south side of Lake Ontario, sixty German
families, and conducted them to the township of Markham, north-east of
York, where lands had been assigned them. In effecting this first
lodgement of a considerable body of colonists in a region entirely new,
Mr. Berczy necessarily cut out by the aid of his party, and such other
help as he could obtain, some kind of track through the forest, along
the line of Yonge Street. He had already once before successfully
accomplished a similar work. He had, we are told, hewn out a waggon road
for emigrants through trackless woods all the way from Philadelphia to
the Genesee country, where the Pulteney Settlement was.

In 1795, Mr. Augustus Jones, a Deputy Provincial Surveyor, who figures
largely in the earliest annals of Upper Canada, was directed by the
Lieutenant Governor to survey and open in a more effective manner the
route which Mr. Berczy and his emigrants had travelled. A detachment of
the Queen's Rangers was at the same time ordered to assist.

On the 24th December, 1795, Mr. Jones writes to D. W. Smith, Acting
Surveyor General: - "His Excellency was pleased to direct me, previous to
my surveying the township of York, to proceed on Yonge Street, to survey
and open a cart-road from the harbour at York to Lake Simcoe, which I am
now busy at (_i. e._ I am busily engaged in the preparations for this
work.) Mr. Pearse is to be with me in a few days' time with a detachment
of about thirty of the Queen's Rangers, who are to assist in opening the
said road."

Then in his Note-book and Journal for the new year 1796, he records the
commencement of the survey, thus: - "Monday, 4th (January, 1796). Survey
of Yonge Street. Begun at a Post near the Lake, York Harbour, on Bank,
between Nos. 20 and 21, the course being Mile No. 1, N. 16 degrees W.,
eighty chains, from Black Oak Tree to Maple Tree on the right side,
along the said Yonge Street: at eighteen chains, fifty links, small
creek; at twenty-eight chains, small creek; course the same at
thirty-two eighty: here First Concession. At, N. 35 W. to 40-50, At
39-50 swamp and creek, 10 links across, runs to the right: then N. 2 E.,
to 43 chains in the line. At 60-25, small creek runs to right; swampy to
73; N. 29 W. to 77, swamp on right. Then N. to 80 on line. Timber
chiefly white and black oak to 60, and in many places windfalls thereon:
maple, elm, beech, and a few oaks, black ash; loose soil. Mile No. 2 do.
80 chains; rising Pine Ridge to 9 on top," &c., and so on day by day,
until Tuesday, February 16th, when the party reached the Landing.

For Mile No. 33 we have the entry. "Course do. (N. 9 W.) 80 chains;
descended; at 10 chains, small creek; cross aforesaid small creek; at
30, several cedars to 35-50; at 33, creek about 30 links across, runs to
left; at 80 chains, hemlock tree on the right bank small creek; hemlock,
pine, a few oak; broken soil. At Mile 34, do., 53 chains to Pine tree
marked at Landing; timber, yellow and white Pines; sandy soil; slight
winds from the north; cloudy, cold weather."

The survey and opening of the Street from York bay to the Landing thus
occupied forty-three days (January 4, to February 16). Three days
sufficed for the return of the party to the place of beginning. The
memoranda of these three days, and the following one, when Mr. Jones
presented himself before the Governor, in the Garrison at York, run
thus: "Wednesday, 17th, returned back to a small Lake at the
twenty-first mile tree; pleasant weather, light winds from the west.
Thursday, 18th, came down to five mile tree from York; pleasant weather.
Friday, 19th, came to the town of York; busy entering some of my field
notes; weather as before. Saturday, 20th, went to Garrison, York, and
waited on His Excellency the Governor, and informed him that Yonge
Street is opened from York to the Pine Fort Landing, Lake Simcoe. As
there is no provision to be had at the place," Mr. Jones proceeds, "His
Excellency was pleased to say that I must return to Newark, and report
to the Surveyor General, and return with him in April next, when the
Executive will sit, and that my attendance would be wanted. Pleasant
weather, light winds from the west."

The entry on the following Monday is this: "The hands busy at repairing
(caulking) the boat to return to Burlington Bay, and thence to Newark;
light winds from south, a few clouds. Tuesday, 23rd, high winds from the
south-west hinder going on the Lake. Wednesday, 24th, high winds from
the south drove a great quantity of ice into the harbour; obliged me to
leave the boat and set out by land; went to the Etobicoke. Thursday,
25th, came along the Lake to the 16 mile creek; winds left from south,
thaw. Friday, 26th, came down to my house, Long Beach; calm, thaw," &c.

Then on Tuesday, the 1st of March, 1796, the entry is: "Came down to
12-mile creek; lame in my feet; high winds from N. W., frosty night.
Wednesday, 2nd, came down to Newark; some snow, calm, frosty weather.
Thursday, 3rd, busy entering some field notes; some snow, calm weather.
Friday, 4th, busy protracting Yonge Street; cold weather, high winds
from N. W." Finally, on Monday, 7th March (1796), we have the entry:
"Busy copying of Yonge Street; high winds from the north, cold, snow
fell last night about six inches."

Some romance attaches to the history of Mr. Augustus Jones. We have his
marriage mentioned in a _Gazette_ of 1798, in the following terms: "May
21, Married, at the Grand River, about three weeks since, A. Jones,
Esq., Deputy Surveyor, to a young lady of that place, daughter of the
noted Mohawk warrior, Terrihogah." - The famous Indian Wesleyan
missionary, Peter Jones, called in the Indian tongue
Kah-ke-wa-quo-na-by, Sacred Waving Feathers, was the issue of this

Peter Jones, in his published autobiography, thus speaks: "I was born at
the heights of Burlington Bay, Canada West, on the first day of January,
1802. My father, Augustus Jones," he continues, "was of Welsh
extraction. His grandfather emigrated to America previous to the
American Revolution, and settled on the Hudson River, State of New York.
My father, having finished his studies as a land surveyor in the City of
New York, came with a recommendation from Mr. Colden, son of the
Governor of that State, to General Simcoe, Governor of Upper Canada, and
was immediately employed by him as the King's Deputy Provincial
Surveyor, in laying out town plots, townships and roads in different
parts of the Province. This necessarily brought him in contact with the
Indian tribes, and he learned their language and employed many of them
in his service. He became much interested in the Indian character - so
much so that he resolved to take a wife from amongst them. Accordingly,
he married my mother, Tuh-ben-ah-nee-quay, daughter of Wahbanosay, a
chief of the Mississaga tribe of the Ojibway nation. I had one brother,
older than myself, whose name was Tyenteneget (given to him by the
famous Captain Joseph Brant), but better known by the name of John
Jones. I had also three younger brothers and five sisters. My father
being fully engaged in his work, my elder brother and myself were left
entirely to the care and management of our mother, who, preferring the
customs and habits of her nation, taught us the superstitions of her
fathers - how to gain the approbation of the Munedoos (or gods,) and how
to become successful hunters. I used to blacken my face with charcoal,
and fast, in order to obtain the aid of personal gods or familiar
spirits, and likewise attended their pagan feasts and dances. For more
than fourteen years I lived and wandered about with the Indians in the
woods, during which time I witnessed the woful effects of the firewater
which had been introduced amongst us by the white people."

There is a discrepancy, it will be observed, between the _Gazette_ and
the autobiography, in regard to the name and tribe of the father of Mr.
Jones' Indian bride. The error, no doubt, is on the side of the

It is pleasant to find, in 1826, the now aged surveyor writing in the
following strain to his missionary son, in a letter accompanying the
gift of a horse, dated Coldsprings, Grand River: "Please to give our
true love to John and Christina," he says, "and all the rest of our
friends at the Credit. We expect to meet you and them at the camp
meeting. I think a good many of our Indians will come down at that time.
I send you Jack, and hope the Lord will preserve both you and your
beast. He is quiet and hardy: the only fault I know he stumbles
sometimes; and if you find he does not suit you as a riding horse, you
can change him for some other; but always tell your reasons. May the
Lord bless you! Pray for your unworthy father, Augustus Jones."

Augustus Jones was, as has been already seen, concerned in the very
earliest survey of York and the township attached. As we have at hand
the instructions issued for this survey, we give them. It will be
noticed that the Humber is therein spoken of as the Toronto River, and
that the early settler or trader St. John is named, from whom the Humber
was sometimes called St. John's River. The document likewise throws
light on the mode of laying out townships by concessions. On general
grounds, therefore, it will not be inappropriate in an account of the
early settlement of Yonge Street.

"Surveyor-General's Office, Province of Upper Canada, 26th January,
1793. - Description of the Township of York (formerly Toronto), to be
surveyed by Messrs. Aitken and Jones. - The front line of the front
concession commences adjoining the township of Scarborough, (on No. 10),
at a point known and marked by Mr. Jones, running S. 74° W. from said
front one chain, for a road; then five lots of twenty chains each, and
one chain for a road; then five lots more of twenty chains each, and one
chain for a road; and so on till the said line strikes the River
Toronto, whereon St. John is settled. The concessions are one hundred
chains deep, and one chain between each concession, to the extent of
twelve miles."

We subjoin a further early notice of Mr. Augustus Jones, which we
observe in a letter addressed to him by John Collins, Deputy
Surveyor-General, dated "Quebec, Surveyor-General's Office, January
23rd, 1792." Mr. Collins mentions that he has recommended Mr. Jones to
the notice of Governor Simcoe, who was at the time in Quebec, _en route_
for his new Province in the west. - "Colonel Simcoe, the Governor of your
Province," Mr. Collins says, "is now with us. I have taken the liberty
to recommend you to him in the manner I think you merit, and I cannot
doubt but that you will be continued in your salary."

Another early surveyor of note, connected with the primitive history of
Yonge Street, was John Stegmann, a German, who had been an officer in a
Hessian regiment. He was directed in 1801, by the Surveyor-General, D.
W. Smith, to examine and report upon the condition of Yonge Street. The
result was a document occupying many sheets. We will give some extracts
from it. They will furnish a view of the great thoroughfare which we are
beginning to perambulate, as it appeared a few years after Jones'
expedition. Though somewhat dryly imparted, the information will
probably not be without interest.

(The No. 1 referred to is the first lot after crossing the Third
Concession Road from the Lake Shore.) "Agreeable to your instructions,"
Mr. Stegmann says to Mr. Smith, "bearing date June the 10th, [1801], for
the examination of Yonge Street, I have the honor to report thereon as
follows: That from the town of York to the three mile post on the Poplar
Plains the road is cut, and that as yet the greater part of the said
distance is not passable for any carriage whatever, on account of logs
which lie in the street. From thence to Lot No. 1 on Yonge Street the
road is very difficult to pass, at any time, agreeable to the present
situation in which the said part of the street is. The situation of the
street from No. 1 to Lot 95 on Yonge Street will appear as per margin."

We have then a detail of his notes as to the condition of the road
opposite every lot all the way to the northern limit of the townships of
King and Whitchurch. Of No. 1 in the township of York, on the west side
of Yonge Street, it is reported that the "requisition of Government" is
"complied with, except a few logs in the street not burnt." Of Lot 1 on
the east side also, that it is complied with, except a "few logs not
burnt." - No. 2, west side, complied with; the street cut but not burnt.
East side, complied with; some logs in the street not burnt; and in some
places narrow. No. 3, west side, complied with, except a few logs not
burnt; east side, complied with; the clearing not fenced; no house; some
logs in the street not burnt. No. 5, west side, complied with; east
side, non-compliance. No. 8, west side, complied with; the street cut,
but not burnt. East side, complied with; the street cut, but logs not
burnt; here the street, it is noted, goes to the eastward of the line on
account of the hilly ground. No. 3, west side, complied with in the
clearing; the street bad and narrow. East side, non-compliance; street
bad and narrow, and to the east of the road. No. 16, west side, nothing
done to the road; about 5 acres cut; not fenced and no house thereon.
East side, complied with. No. 17, west side, complied with; the
underbrush in the street cut but not burnt. - East side, complied with,
except logs in the street not burnt. No. 18, west side, well complied
with. East side, well complied with. No. 25, west side, complied with.
East side, complied with; - nothing done to the street, and a
school-house erected in the centre of the street. This is the end of the
township of York.

Then on No. 33, west side, Vaughan, clearing is complied with; no house,
and nothing done to the street. East side, Markham, clearing is
complied with; south part of the street cut but not burnt; and north
part of the street nothing done. No. 37, Vaughan, clearing complied
with, but some large trees and some logs left in the street. Markham,
some trees and logs left in the streets; some acres cut, but not burnt;
no fence, and a small log house. No. 55, Vaughan, clearing complied
with; the street cut and logs not burnt. Markham, clearing complied
with; the street cut and logs not burnt; a very bad place for the road
and may be laid out better. No. 63, west side, King, non-compliance.
East side, Whitchurch, non-compliance; and similarly on to No. 88, on
which, in King, the clearing is complied with; not fenced; the street
good; in Whitchurch clearing is complied with, and nothing done to the
street. No. 93, King, four acres cut, and nothing done to the street.
Whitchurch, six acres clear land, and nothing done to the street. Here
King and Whitchurch and the Report end.

Mr. Stegmann then perorates thus: "Sir, - This was the real situation of
Yonge Street when examined by me; and I am sorry to be under the
necessity to add at the conclusion of this report, that the most ancient
inhabitants of Yonge Street have been the most neglectful in clearing
the street; and I have reason to believe that some trifle with the
requisition of Government in respect of clearing the street."

Mr. Berczy brought over his sixty-four families in 1794. The most
ancient inhabitants were thus of about seven years' standing. If we men
of the second generation regarded Yonge Street as a route difficult to
travel, what must the first immigrants from the Genesee country and
Pennsylvania have found it to be? They brought with them vehicles and
horses and families and some household stuff. "The body of their
waggons," we are told in an account of such new-comers in the
_Gazetteer_ of 1799, "is made of close boards, and the most clever have
the ingenuity to caulk the seams, and so by shifting off the body from
the carriage, it serves to transport the wheels and the family." Old
settlers round Newmarket used to narrate how in their first journey from
York to the Landing they lowered their waggons down the steeps by ropes
passed round the stems of saplings, and then hauled them up the ascent
on the opposite side in a similar way.

We meet with Mr. Stegmann, the author of the above quoted report, in
numerous documents relating to surveys and other professional business
done for the Surveyor-General. His clear, bold handwriting is always
recognizable. His mode of expressing himself is vigorous and to the
point, but slightly affected by his imperfect mastery of the English
language. He gives the following account of himself in his first
application to the Surveyor-General, asking for employment. "My name is
John Stegmann," he says, "late lieutenant in the Hessian Regiment of
Lossberg, commanded by Major-General de Loos, and served during the
whole war in America till the reduction took place in the month of
August, 1783, and by the favour and indulgence of His Excellency, Lord
Dorchester, I obtained land in this new settlement and township of
Osnabruck, and an appointment as Surveyor in the Province; I have a wife
and small family to provide for." - Descendants of his are still to be
found in the neighbourhood of Pine Grove in Vaughan. Their name is now
Anglicised by the omission of one of the final _n_'s. The rivulet at the
Blue Hill was spoken of, in 1799, as "Castle Frank Creek." It is the
stream which runs through the Castle Frank lot. Mr. Stegmann was
concerned in the building of the first bridge at this point. We have a
letter of his to the Acting Surveyor-General, D. W. Smith, referring to
timber, which he has provided for the structure. In the same he also
takes occasion to mention that the fatigue party of soldiers who were
assisting Mr. Jones in the opening of Yonge Street, had as yet received
no compensation.

He says: "Sir, - You were pleased to order me to inform you what time I
should want a team for to get the timber for the bridge at Castle Frank
Creek, for which I am ready, whenever you please to send the same." He
then adds: "The party of Rangers now on this road begged of me to inform
you that they have not received any pay for the work since they have
been out with Mr. Jones." This note is dated, "Castle Frank Creek, Feb.
27, 1799." On the 4th of the following March, he dates a note to Mr. D.
W. Smith in the same way, "Castle Frank Creek," and asks to have a
"bush-sextant" supplied to him. He says: "Sir, - I beg you will have the
goodness to send me by the bearer a Bush-sextant, and am, sir, your most
obedient and very humble servant, John Stegmann, Deputy-Surveyor."
(According to some, the Blue Hill had its name from the circumstance
that the bridge at its foot was painted blue).

The names of other early surveyors may be learned from the following
notice, taken from a _Gazette_: "Surveyor-General's Office, York, 25th
April, 1805. That it may be known who are authorized to survey lands on
the part of the Crown within this Province, the following list is
communicated to the public of such persons as are duly licensed for that
purpose, to be surveyors therein, viz., William Chewett, York; Thomas
Smith, Sandwich; Abraham Iredell, Thomas Welch, Augustus Jones, William
Fortune, Lewis Grant, Richard Cockrell, Henry Smith, John Rider, Aaron
Greeley, Thomas Fraser, Reuben Sherwood, Joseph Fortune, Solomon
Stevens, Samuel S. Wilmot, Samuel Ryckman, Mahlon Burwell, Adrian
Marlet, Samuel Ridout, George Lawe. (Signed), C. B. Wyatt,

Of Mr. Berczy, above spoken of, we shall soon have to give further
particulars. We must now push on.

Just beyond the Blue Hill ravine, on the west side, stood for a long
while a lonely unfinished frame building, with gable towards the street,
and windows boarded up. The inquiring stage-passenger would be told,
good-humouredly, by the driver, that it was Rowland Burr's Folly. It
was, we believe, to have been a Carding or Fulling Mill, worked by
peculiar machinery driven by the stream in the valley below; but either
the impracticability of this from the position of the building, or the
as yet insignificant quantity of wool produced in the country made the
enterprise abortive.

Mr. Burr was an emigrant to these parts from Pennsylvania in 1803, and
from early manhood was strongly marked by many of the traits which are
held to be characteristic of the speculative and energetic American.
Unfortunately in some respects for himself, he was in advance of his
neighbours in a clear perception of the capabilities of things as seen
in the rough, and in a strong desire to initiate works of public
utility, broaching schemes occasionally beyond the natural powers of a
community in its veriest infancy. A canal to connect Lake Ontario with
the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron, _via_ Lake Simcoe and the valley of the
Humber, was pressed by him as an immediate necessity, years ago; and at
his own expense he minutely examined the route and published thereon a
report which has furnished to later theorizers on the same subject much
valuable information.

Mr. Burr was a born engineer and mechanician, and at a more auspicious
time, with proper opportunities for training and culture, he would
probably have become famed as a local George Stephenson. He built on
his own account, or for others, a number of mills and factories,
providing and getting into working order the complicated mechanism
required for each; and this at a time when such undertakings were not
easy to accomplish, from the unimproved condition of the country and the
few facilities that existed for importing and transporting inland, heavy

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 41 of 59)