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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of the Bishop, all of them up to a recent date, non-conformists; three
of them non-conformist ministers of mark, Mr Townley, Mr. Leach (whom we
heard just now pronouncing an eulogy on Mr. Hogg,) and Mr. Ritchie; the
fourth, Mr. Sanson, not previously a minister, but now in Holy Orders of
the Church of England, and the minister appointed to officiate in the
new church.

At the present day Yonge Street crosses Hogg's Hollow in a direct line
on a raised embankment which the ancient Roman road-makers would have
deemed respectable - a work accomplished about the year 1835, before the
aid of steam power was procurable in these parts for such purposes. Mr.
Lynn was the engineer in charge here, at that time. The picturesque
character of the valley has been considerably interfered with.
Nevertheless a winding road over the hills to the right leading up to
the church (St. John's) has still some sylvan surroundings. In truth,
were a building or two of the châlet type visible, the passer-by might
fancy himself for a moment in an upland of the High Alps, so Swiss-like
is the general aspect.

It may be added that the destruction of the beautiful hereabout has to
some extent a set-off in the fine geological studies displayed to the
eye in the sides of the deep cuts at both ends of the great causeway.
Lake Ontario's ancient floor here lifted up high and dry in the air,
exhibits, stratum super stratum, the deposits of successive periods long
ago. (The action of the weather, however, has at the present time
greatly blurred the interesting pictures of the past formerly displayed
on the surface of the artificial escarpments at Hogg's Hollow.)




Beyond the hollow, Mr. Humberstone's was passed on the west side,
another manufacturer of useful pottery ware. A curious incident used to
be narrated as having occurred in this house. The barrel of an old
Indian fowling-piece turned up by the plough in one of the fields, and
made to do duty in the management of unwieldy back logs in the great
fire-place, suddenly proved itself to have been charged all the while,
by exploding one day in the hands of Mr. Humberstone's daughter while
being put to its customary use, and killing her on the spot. Somewhat
similarly, at Fort Erie, we have been told, in the fire which destroyed
the wharf at the landing, a condemned cannon which had long been planted
in the pier as a post, went off, happily straight upwards, without doing
any damage.

Mr. Humberstone saw active service as a lieutenant in the incorporated
militia in 1812. He was put in charge of some of the prisoners captured
by Colonel Fitzgibbon, at the Beaver Dams, and when now nearing his
destination, Kingston, with his prisoners in a large batteau, he, like
the famous Dragoon who caught the Tartar, was made a prisoner of himself
by the men whom he had in custody, and was adroitly rowed over by them
to the United States shore, where being landed he was swiftly locked up
in jail, and thence only delivered when peace was restored.

The next memorable object, also on the left, was Shephard's inn, a noted
resting-place for wayfarers and their animals, flanked on the north by
large driving sheds, on the south by stables and barns: over the porch,
at an early period, was the effigy of a lion gardant, attempted in wood
on the premises. Constructiveness was one of the predominant faculties
in the first landlord of the Golden Lion. He was noted also for skilful
execution on several instruments of music: on the bassoon for one. In
the rear of the hotel, a little to the south, on a fine eminence, he put
up for himself after the lapse of some years, a private residence,
remarkable for the originality of its design, the outline of its many
projecting roofs presenting a multitude of concave curves in the Chinese
pagoda style.

In several buildings in this neighbourhood an effort was at one time
made, chiefly, we believe, through the influence of Mr. Shephard, to
reproduce what in the west of England are called cob-walls; but either
from an error in compounding the material, or from the peculiar
character of the local climate, they proved unsatisfactory. - The
Sheppards, early proprietors of land a little farther on, were a
different family, and spelt their name differently. It was some members
of this family that were momentarily concerned in the movement of 1837.

In Willowdale, a hamlet just beyond Shephard's, was the residence of Mr.
David Gibson, destroyed in 1837 by the Government forces. We observe in
the _Gazette_ of January 6th, 1826, the announcement, "Government House,
York, 29th December, 1825. His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor has
been pleased to appoint David Gibson, gentleman, to be a surveyor of
land in the Province." In the practice of the profession indicated he
was prosperous, and also as a practical farmer. He likewise represented
North York in the Provincial Parliament. When the calm came after the
tumult of 1837, he was appointed one of the Superintendents of
Colonization Roads. He died at Quebec in 1864.

A road turning off at right angles to the eastward out of Willowdale led
to a celebrated camp-meeting ground, on the property of Mr. Jacob
Cummer, one of the early German settlers. It was in a grand maple
forest - a fine specimen of such trysting places. It was here that we
were for the first time present at one of the peculiar assemblies
referred to, which, over the whole of this northern continent, in a
primitive condition of society at its several points, have fulfilled,
and still fulfil, an important, and we doubt not, beneficent function.

This, as we suppose, was the scene of the camp-meeting described in
Peter Jones' Autobiography. "About noon," he writes on Tuesday, the
10th of June, 1828, "started for the camp ground. When we arrived we
found about three hundred Indians collected from Lake Simcoe and Scugog
Lake. Most of those from Lake Simcoe have just come in from the back
lakes to join with their converted brethren in the service of the
Almighty God. They came in company with brother Law, and all seemed very
glad to see us, giving us a hearty shake of the hand. The camp ground
enclosed about two acres, which was surrounded with board tents, having
one large gate for teams to go in and out, and three smaller ones.

"The Indians occupied one large tent, which was 220 feet long and 15
feet broad. It was covered overhead with boards, and the sides were made
tight with laths to make it secure from any encroachments. It had four
doors fronting the camp ground. In this long house the Indians arranged
themselves in families, as is their custom in their wigwams. Divine
service commenced towards evening. Elder Case first gave directions as
to the order to be observed on the camp ground during the meetings.
Brother James Richardson then preached from Acts ii. 21; after which I
gave the substance in Indian, when the brethren appeared much affected
and interested. Prayer-meeting in the evening. The watch kept the place
illuminated during the night." The meeting continued for four days.

Where the dividing line occurs between York and Markham, at the angle on
the right was the first site of the sign of the Green Bush, removed
afterwards, as we have noted, to the immediate outskirts of York; and to
the left, somewhere near by, was a sign that used to interest from its
peculiarity, the Durweston Gate: a small white five-barred gate, hung by
its topmost bar to a projection from a lofty post, and having painted on
its lower bars "Durweston Gate," and the landlord's name. It was
probably a reproduction by a Dorsetshire immigrant of a familiar object
in his native village.

Not excluding from our notes, as will be observed, those places where
Shenstone sighed to think a man often "found the warmest welcome" we
must not forget Finch's - a great hostelry on the right, which we soon
reached as we advanced northward, of high repute about 1836, and
subsequently among excursion parties from town, and among the half-pay
settlers of the Lake Simcoe region, for the contents of its larder and
the quality of its cooking. Another place of similar renown was Crew's,
six or eight miles further on.

When for long years, men, especially Englishmen, called by their
occasions away from their homes, had been almost everywhere doomed to
partake of fare too literally hard, and perilous to the health, it is
not to be wondered at, when, here and there, at last a house for the
accommodation of the public did spring up where, with cleanly quarters,
digestible viands were to be had, that its fame should speedily spread;
for is it not Dr. Samuel Johnson himself who has, perhaps rather
sweepingly said, "there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man
by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn."

Where a long slope towards the north begins soon after Finch's a village
entitled Dundurn was once projected by Mr. Allan McNab, afterwards the
famous Sir Allan, acting, we believe at the time as agent for Mr. H. J.
Boulton; but Dundurn never advanced beyond incipience. The name was
afterwards familiar as that of Sir Allan's château close by Hamilton.

A well-travelled road now soon turned off to the right leading to
certain, almost historic mills in Markham, known as the German Mills. In
the _Gazetteer_ of 1799 these mills are referred to. "Markham township
in the east riding of the County of York fronts Yonge Street," it is
stated in that early work, "and lies to the northward of York and
Scarborough. Here" it then adds "are good mills and a thriving
settlement of Germans."

The German Mills are situated on Lot No. 4 in the third concession, on a
portion of the Rouge or Nen - a river which the same _Gazetteer_ informs
its readers was "the back communication from the German settlement in
Markham to Lake Ontario. The expectation in 1799 was, as the _Gazetteer_
further shows, that this river, and not either the Humber or the Don,
would one day be connected with the Holland river by a canal." It was not
certainly known in 1794, where the river which passed the German Mills
had its outlet. In Iredell's plan of Markham of that date, the stream is
marked "Kitcheseepe or Great River," with a memorandum attached - "waters
supposed to empty into Lake Ontario to the eastward of the Highlands of
York." Information, doubtless, noted down, by Iredell, from the lips of
some stray native. Kitche-seepe, "Big River" is of course simply a
descriptive expression, taken as in so many instances, by the early
people, to be a proper name. (It does not appear that among the
aborigines there were any proper local names, in our sense of the

The German Mills were founded by Mr. Berczy, either on his own account
or acting as agent for an association at New York for the promotion of
German emigration to Canada. When, after failing to induce the
Government to reconsider its decision in regard to the patents demanded
by him for his settlers, that gentleman retired to Montreal, the German
Mills with various parcels of land were advertised for sale in the
_Gazette_ of April 27, 1805, in the following strain: "Mills and land in
Markham. To be sold by the subscriber for payment of debts due to the
creditors of William Berczy, Esq., the mills called the German Mills,
being a grist mill and a saw mill. The grist mill has a pair of French
burs, and complete machinery for making and bolting superfine flour.
These mills are situated on lot No. 4 in the third concession of
Markham; with them will be given in, lots No. 3 and 4 in the third
concession, at the option of the purchaser. Also, 300 acres being the
west half of lot No. 31, and the whole of lot 32 in the second
concession of Markham. Half the purchase money to be paid in hand, and
half in one year with legal interest. W. Allan. N.B. - Francis Smith, who
lives on lot No. 14 in the third concession, will show the premises.
York, 11th March, 1805."

It appears from the same _Gazette_ that Mr. Berczy's vacant house in
York had been entered by burglars after his departure. A reward of
twenty dollars is offered for their discovery. "Whereas," the
advertisement runs, "the house of William Berczy, Esq., was broken open
sometime during the night of the 14th instant, and the same ransacked
from one end to the other; this is to give notice that whoever shall
lodge an information, so that the offender or offenders may be brought
to justice, shall upon conviction thereof receive Twenty Dollars. W.
Chewett. York, 18th April, 1805."

We have before referred to Mr. Berczy's embarrassments, from which he
never became disentangled; and to his death in New York, in 1813. His
decease was thus noticed in a Boston paper, quoted by Dr. Canniff, p.
364, "Died - In the early part of the year 1813, William Berczy, Esq.,
aged 68; a distinguished inhabitant of Upper Canada, and highly
respected for his literary acquirements. In the decease of this
gentleman society must sustain an irreparable loss, and the republic of
letters will have cause to mourn the death of a man eminent for genius
and talent."

The German Mills were purchased and kept in operation by Capt. Nolan, of
the 70th Regiment, at the time on duty in Canada; but the speculation
was not a success. We have heard it stated that this Captain Nolan was
the father of the officer of the same name and rank who fell in the
charge of the Light Brigade at the very first outset, when, at

"Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred."

The _Gazette_ of March 19, 1818, contains the following curt
announcement: "Notice. The German Mills and Distillery are now in
operation. For the proprietors, Alexander Patterson, Clerk, 11th March,
1818." Ten years later they are offered for sale or to lease in the _U.
C. Loyalist_ of April 5, 1828. (It will be observed that they once bore
the designation of Nolanville.) "For sale or to be leased," thus runs
the advertisement, "all or any part of the property known and described
as Nolanville or German Mills, in the third concession of the township
of Markham, consisting of four hundred acres of land, upwards of fifty
under good fences and improvements, with a good dwelling-house, barn,
stable, saw-mill, grist-mill, distillery, brew-house, malt-house, and
several other out-buildings. The above premises will be disposed of,
either the whole or in part, by application to the subscriber, William
Allan, York, January 26, 1828. The premises can be viewed at any time by
applying to Mr. John Duggan, residing there."

In the absence of striking architectural objects in the country at the
time, we remember, about the year 1828, thinking the extensive cluster
of buildings constituting the German Mills a rather impressive sight,
coming upon them suddenly, in the midst of the woods, in a deserted
condition, with all their windows boarded up.

One of our own associations with the German Mills is the memory of Mr.
Charles Stewart Murray, afterwards well-known in York as connected with
the Bank of Upper Canada. He had been thrown out of employment by Capt.
Nolan's relinquishment of the mills. He was then patronized by Mr.
Thorne of Thornhill.

In our boyish fancy, a romantic interest attached to Mr. Murray from his
being a personal friend of Sir Walter Scott's, and from his being
intimately associated with him in the excursion to the Orkneys, while
the Pirate and the Lord of the Isles were simmering in the Novelist's
brain. "Not a bad Re-past," playfully said Sir Walter after partaking
one day of homely meat-pie at the little inn of one Rae. Lo! from Mr.
Murray's talk, a minute grain to be added to Sir Walter's already huge
cairn of _ana_. Mr. M., too, was imagined by us, quite absurdly
doubtless, to be an hereditary devotee of the Pretender, if not closely
allied to him by blood. (His grandfather, or other near relative, had,
we believe, really been for a time secretary to Prince Charles Edward

A mile or two beyond where the track to the German Mills turned off,
Yonge Street once more encountered a branch of the Don, flowing, as
usual, through a wide and difficult ravine. At the point where the
stream was crossed, mills and manufactories made their appearance at an
early date. The ascent of the bank towards the north was accomplished,
in this instance, in no round-about way. The road went straight up.
Horse-power and the strength of leather were here often severely tested.

On the rise above, began the village of Thornhill, an attractive and
noticeable place from the first moment of its existence. Hereabout
several English families had settled, giving a special tone to the
neighbourhood. In the very heart of the village was the home,
unfailingly genial and hospitable, of Mr. Parsons, one of the chief
founders of the settlement; emigrating hither from Sherborne in
Dorsetshire in 1820. Nearer the brow of the hill overlooking the Don,
was the house of Mr. Thorne, from whom the place took its name: an
English gentleman also from Dorsetshire, and associated with Mr. Parsons
in the numerous business enterprises which made Thornhill for a long
period a centre of great activity and prosperity. Beyond, a little
further northward, lived the Gappers, another family initiating here the
amenities and ways of good old west-of-England households. Dr. Paget was
likewise an element of happy influence in the little world of this
region, a man of high culture; formerly a medical practitioner of great
repute in Torquay.

Another character of mark associated with Thornhill in its palmy days
was the Rev. George Mortimer, for a series of years the pastor of the
English congregation there. Had his lot been cast in the scenes of an
Oberlin's labours or a Lavater's, or a Felix Neff's, his name would
probably have been conspicuously classed with theirs in religious
annals. He was eminently of their type. Constitutionally of a spiritual
temperament, he still did not take theology to be a bar to a scientific
and accurate examination of things visible. He deemed it "sad, if not
actually censurable, to pass blind-folded through the works of God, to
live in a world of flowers, and stars, and sunsets, and a thousand
glorious objects of Nature, and never to have a passing interest
awakened by any one of them." Before his emigration to Canada he had
been curate of Madeley in Shropshire, the parish of the celebrated
Fletcher of Madeley, whose singularly beautiful character that of Mr.
Mortimer resembled. Though of feeble frame his ministerial labours were
without intermission; and his lot, as Fletcher's also, was to die almost
in the act of officiating in his profession.

An earlier incumbent of the English Church at Thornhill was the Rev.
Isaac Fidler. This gentleman rendered famous the scene of his Canadian
ministry, as well as his experiences in the United States, by a book
which in its day was a good deal read. It was entitled "Observations on
Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emigration in the United States
and Canada." Although he indulged in some sharp strictures on the
citizens of the United States, in relation to the matters indicated, and
followed speedily after by the never-to-be-forgotten Mrs. Trollope, his
work was reprinted by the Harpers. Mr. Fidler was a remarkable
person, - of a tall Westmoreland mould, resembling the common pictures of
Wordsworth. He was somewhat peculiar in his dress, wearing always an
extremely high shirt-collar, very conspicuous round the whole of his
neck, forming a kind of spreading white socket in which rested and
revolved a head, bald, egg-shaped and spectacled. Besides being
scholarly in the modern sense, Mr. Fidler possessed the more uncommon
accomplishment of a familiarity with the oriental languages.

The notices in his book, of early colonial life have now to us an
archaic sound. We give his narrative of the overturn of a family party
on their way home from church. "The difficulty of descending a steep
hill in wet weather may be imagined," he says, "The heavy rains had made
it (the descent south of Thornhill) a complete puddle which afforded no
sure footing to man or beast. In returning from church, the ladies and
gentlemen I speak of," he continues, "had this steep hill to descend.
The jaunting car being filled with people was too heavy to be kept back,
and pressed heavy upon the horses. The intended youthful bridegroom (of
one of the ladies) was, I was told, the charioteer. His utmost skill was
ineffectually tried to prevent a general overturn. The horses became
less manageable every moment. But yet the ladies and gentlemen in the
vehicle were inapprehensive of danger, and their mirth and jocularity
betrayed the inward pleasure they derived from his increasing straggles.
At last the horses, impatient of control, and finding themselves their
own masters, jerked the carriage against the parapet of the road and
disengaged themselves from it. The carriage instantly turned over on its
side; and as instantly all the ladies and gentlemen trundled out of it
like rolling pins. Nobody was hurt in the least, for the mire was so
deep that they fell very soft and were quite imbedded in it. What
apologies the gentleman made I am unable to tell, but the mirth was
perfectly suspended. I overtook the party at the bottom of the hill, the
ladies walking homewards from the church and making no very elegant

As an example of the previously undreamt of incidents that may happen to
a missionary in a backwoods settlement, we mention what occurred to
ourselves when taking the duty one fine bright summer morn, many years
ago, in the Thornhill Church, yet in its primitive unenlarged state. A
farmer's horse that had been mooning leisurely about an adjoining field,
suddenly took a fancy to the shady interior disclosed by the wide-open
doors of the sacred building. Before the churchwardens or any one else
could make out what the clatter meant, the creature was well up the
central passage of the nave. There becoming affrighted, its ejection was
an awkward affair, calling for tact and manoeuvring.

The English Church at Thornhill has had another incumbent not
undistinguished in literature, the Rev. E. H. Dewar, author of a work
published at Oxford in 1844, on the Theology of Modern Germany. It is in
the form of letters to a friend, written from the standpoint of the
Jeremy Taylor school. It is entitled "German Protestantism and the Right
of Private Judgment in the Interpretation of Holy Scripture." The
author's former position as chaplain to the British residents at Hamburg
gave him facilities for becoming acquainted with the state of German
theology. Mr. Dewar, to superior natural talents, added a refined
scholarship and a wide range of accurate knowledge. He died at Thornhill
in 1862.

The incumbent who preceded Mr. Dewar was the Rev. Dominic E. Blake,
brother of Mr. Chancellor Blake; a clergyman also of superior talents.
Previous to his emigration to Canada in 1832, he had been a curate in
the county of Mayo. He died suddenly in 1859. It is remarked of him in a
contemporary obituary that "his productions indicated that while
intellect was in exercise his heart felt the importance of the subjects
before him." These productions were numerous, in the form of valuable
papers and reports, read or presented to the local Diocesan Society.

It is curious to observe that in 1798, salmon ascended the waters of the
Don to this point on Yonge Street. Among the recommendations of a farm
about to be offered for sale, the existence thereon of "an excellent
salmon fishery" is named. Thus runs the advertisement (_Gazette_, May
16, 1798): "To be sold by public auction, on Monday, the 2nd of July
next, at John McDougall's hotel, in the town of York, a valuable Farm,
situated on Yonge Street, about twelve miles from York, on which are a
good log-house, and seven or eight acres well improved. The advantages
of the above farm, from the richness of its soil and its being well
watered, are not equalled by many farms in the Province; and above all,
it affords an excellent salmon fishery, large enough to support a number
of families, which must be conceived a great advantage in this infant
country. The terms will be made known on the day of sale."

As we move on from Thornhill with Vaughan on the left and Markham on the
right, the name of another rather memorable early missionary recurs,
whose memory is associated with both these townships - Vincent Philip

Notwithstanding its drawbacks, early Canadian life, like early American
life generally, became, in a little while, invested with a curious

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 44 of 59)