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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Toronto has a place and a neighbourhood at the north abounding with
interesting memories almost as richly as Niagara itself and that
vicinity, at its south: memories intimately associated with its own
history, not alone before the present century began, but also before
even the preceding century began, that is, taking into view the local
history of this part of Canada prior to the acquisition of the country
by the English.

From remote Penetanguishene, dismantled and abolished in a naval and
military sense, our thoughts naturally turn to more conspicuous places
that have in our day successively undergone the same process: to
Kingston, to Niagara, to Montreal, to our own fort, here at Toronto, and
finally, in 1871, to Quebec. The 8th of November, 1871, will be a date
noted in future histories. On that day the Ehrenbreitstein of the St.
Lawrence, symbol for a hundred years and more, of British power on the
northern half of the North American continent, was voluntarily
evacuated, in accordance with a deliberate public policy.

The 60th Regiment, it is singular to add, which on the 8th of November,
1871, marched forth from the gates of the citadel of Quebec, was a
regiment that was present on the heights of Abraham in 1759, and helped
to capture the fortress which it now peacefully surrendered.

Is the day approaching when artistic tourists will be seen sketching, at
Point Levi, the bold Rock in front of them for the sake of the ruins at
its summit, not picturesque probably, but for ever famed in story?





The first formal survey of the harbour of Toronto was made by Joseph
Bouchette in 1793. His description of the bay and its surroundings at
that date is, with the historians of Upper Canada, a classic passage.
For the completeness of our narrative it must be produced once more. "It
fell to my lot," says Bouchette, "to make the first survey of York
Harbour in 1793." And he explains how this happened.
"Lieutenant-Governor, the late Gen. Simcoe, who then resided at Navy
Hall, Niagara, having," he says, "formed extensive plans for the
improvement of the colony, had resolved upon laying the foundations of a
provincial capital. I was at that period in the naval service of the
Lakes, and the survey of Toronto (York) Harbour was entrusted by his
Excellency to my performance."

He then thus proceeds, writing, we may observe, in 1831: "I still
distinctly recollect the untamed aspect which the country exhibited when
first I entered the beautiful basin, which thus became the scene of my
early hydrographical operations. Dense and trackless forests lined the
margin of the lake and reflected their inverted images in its glassy
surface. The wandering savage had constructed his ephemeral habitation
beneath their luxuriant foliage - the group then consisting of two
families of Mississagas, - and the bay and neighbouring marshes were the
hitherto uninvaded haunts of immense coveys of wild fowl. Indeed, they
were so abundant," he adds, "as in some measure to annoy us during the
night." The passage is to be found in a note at p. 89 of volume one of
the quarto edition of "The British Dominions in North America,"
published in London in 1831.

The winter of 1792-3 was in Upper Canada a favourable one for explorers.
"We have had a remarkably mild winter," says the _Gazette_ in its first
number, dated April 18, 1793; "the thermometer in the severest time has
not been lower than nine degrees above zero, by Fahrenheit's scale. Lake
Erie has not been frozen over, and there has been very little ice on
Lake Ontario." The same paper informs us that "his Majesty's sloop, the
_Caldwell_, sailed the 5th instant (April), from Niagara, for fort
Ontario (Oswego) and Kingston." Also that "on Monday evening (13th)
there arrived in the river (at Niagara) his Majesty's armed schooner,
the _Onondago_, in company with the _Lady Dorchester_, merchantman,
after an agreeable passage (from Kingston) of thirty-six hours." (The
following gentlemen, it is noted, came passengers: - J. Small, Esq.,
Clerk of the Executive Council; Lieut.-McCan, of the 60th regiment;
Capt. Thos. Fraser, Mr. J. Denison, Mr. Joseph Forsyth, merchant, Mr. L.
Crawford, Capt. Archibald Macdonald, - Hathaway.)

Again, on May 2nd, the information is given that "on Sunday morning
early, his Majesty's sloop _Caldwell_ arrived here (Niagara) from
Kingston, which place she left on Thursday; but was obliged to anchor
off the bar of this river part of Saturday night. And on Monday also
arrived from Kingston the _Onondago_, in twenty-three hours."

Joseph Bouchette in 1793 must have been under twenty years of age. He
was born in 1774. He was the son of Commodore Bouchette, who in 1793 had
command of the Naval Force on Lake Ontario. When Joseph Bouchette first
entered the harbour of Toronto, as described above, he was not without
associates. He was probably one of an exploring party which set out from
Niagara in May, 1793. It would appear that the Governor himself paid his
first visit to the intended site of the capital of his young province on
the same occasion.

In the _Gazette_ of Thursday, May 9th 1793, published at Newark or
Niagara, we have the following record: - "On Thursday last (this would be
May the 3rd) his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, accompanied by
several military gentlemen, set out in boats for Toronto, round the Head
of the Lake Ontario, by Burlington Bay; and in the evening his Majesty's
vessels the _Caldwell_ and _Buffalo_, sailed for the same place."
Supposing the boats which proceeded round the Head of the Lake to have
arrived at the cleared spot where the French stockaded trading-post of
Toronto had stood, on Saturday, the 4th, the inspection of the harbour
and its surroundings by the Governor and "military gentlemen" occupied a
little less than a week; for we find that on Monday, the 13th, they are
back again in safety at Niagara. The _Gazette_ of Thursday, the 16th of
May, thus announces their return: "On Monday (the 13th) about 2 o'clock,
his Excellency the Lieut.-Governor and suite arrived at Navy Hall from
Toronto; they returned in boats round the Lake."

It is probable that Bouchette was left behind, perhaps with the
_Caldwell_ and _Buffalo_, to complete the survey of the harbour. (In the
work above named is a reduction of Bouchette's chart of the harbour with
the soundings and bottom; also with lines shewing "the breaking of the
ice in the spring." His minute delineation of the pinion-shaped
peninsula of sand which forms the outer boundary of Toronto bay, enables
the observer to see very clearly how, by long-continued drift from the
east, that barrier was gradually thrown up; as, also, how inevitable
were the marshes at the outlet of the Don.)

The excursion from Niagara, just described, was the Governor's first
visit to the harbour of Toronto, and we may suppose the _Caldwell_ and
the _Buffalo_ to have been the first sailing-craft of any considerable
magnitude that ever stirred its waters. In April, 1793, the Governor had
not yet visited Toronto. We learn this from a letter dated the 5th of
that month, addressed by him to Major-General Clarke, at Quebec. Gen.
Clarke was the Lieut.-Governor in Lower Canada. Lord Dorchester, the
Governor-General himself, was absent in England. "Many American
officers," Gen. Simcoe says to Gen. Clarke on the 5th of April, "give it
as their opinion that Niagara should be attacked, and that Detroit must
fall of course. I hope by this autumn," he continues, "to show the
fallacy of this reasoning, by opening a safe and expeditious
communication to La Tranche. But on this subject I reserve myself till I
have visited Toronto."

The safe and expeditious communication referred to was the great
military road, Dundas Street, projected by the Governor to connect the
port and arsenal at Toronto with the Thames and Detroit. It was in the
February and March of this very same year, 1793, that the Governor had
made, partly on foot, and partly in sleighs, his famous exploratory tour
through the woods from Niagara to Detroit and back, with a view to the
establishment of this communication.

On the 31st of May he is writing again to Gen. Clarke, at Quebec. He has
now, as we have seen, been at Toronto; and he speaks warmly of the
advantages which the site appeared to him to possess. "It is with great
pleasure that I offer to you," he says, "some observations upon the
Military strength and Naval convenience of Toronto (now York) [he adds],
which I propose immediately to occupy. I lately examined the harbour,"
he continues, "accompanied by such officers, naval and military, as I
thought most competent to give me assistance therein, and upon minute
investigation I found it to be, without comparison, the most proper
situation for an arsenal, in every extent of that word, that can be met
with in this Province."

The words, "now York," appended here and in later documents to
"Toronto," show that an official change of name had taken place. The
alteration was made between the 15th and 31st of May. No proclamation,
however, announcing its change, is to be found either in the local
_Gazette_ or in the archives at Ottawa.

Nor is there any allusion to the contemplated works at York either in
the opening or closing speech delivered by the Governor to the houses of
parliament, which met at Niagara for their second session on the 28th of
May, and were dismissed to their homes again on the 9th of the following
July. We may suppose the minds of the members and other persons of
influence otherwise prepared for the coming changes, chiefly perhaps by
means of friendly conferences.

The Governor's scheme may, for example, have been one of the topics of
conversation at the levée, ball and supper on the King's birthday,
which, happening during the parliamentary session, was observed with
considerable ceremony. - "On Tuesday last, the fourth of June," says the
_Gazette_ of the period, "being the anniversary of his Majesty's
birthday, his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor held a levée at Navy
Hall. At one the troops in garrison and at Queenston fired three
volleys. The field pieces above Navy Hall under the direction of the
Royal Artillery, and the guns at the garrison, fired a royal salute. In
the evening," the _Gazette_ further reports, "his Excellency gave a Ball
and elegant supper in the Council Chamber, which was most numerously

Of this ball and supper another brief notice is extant. It chanced that
three distinguished Americans were among the guests - Gen. Lincoln, Col.
Pickering, and Mr. Randolph, United States commissioners on their way,
_via_ Niagara, to a great Council of the Western Indians, about to be
held at the Miami river. In his private journal, since printed in the
Massachusetts Historical Collections, Gen. Lincoln made the following
note of the Governor's entertainment at Niagara: - "The ball," he says,
"was attended by about twenty well-dressed and handsome ladies, and
about three times that number of gentlemen. They danced," he records,
"from seven o'clock till eleven, when supper was announced, and served
in very pretty taste. The music and dancing," it is added, "was good,
and everything was conducted with propriety." This probably was the
first time the royal birthday was observed at Niagara in an official

Soon after the prorogation, July the 9th, steps preparatory to a removal
to York began to be taken. Troops, for example, were transported across
to the north side of the Lake. "A few days ago," says the _Gazette_ of
Thursday, August the 1st, 1793, "the first Division of his Majesty's
Corps of Queen's Rangers left Queenston for Toronto - now York [it is
carefully added], and proceeded in batteaux round the head of the Lake
Ontario, by Burlington Bay. And shortly afterwards another division of
the same regiment sailed in the King's vessels, the _Onondago_ and
_Caldwell_, for the same place."

It is evident the Governor, as he expressed himself to Gen. Clarke, in
the letter of May 31, is about "immediately to occupy" the site which
seemed to him so eligible for an arsenal and strong military post.
Accordingly, having thus sent forward two divisions of the regiment
whose name is so intimately associated with his own, to be a guard to
receive him on his own arrival, and to be otherwise usefully employed,
we find the Governor himself embarking for the same spot. "On Monday
evening [this would be Monday, the 29th of July]," the _Gazette_ just
quoted informs us, "his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor left Navy
Hall and embarked on board his Majesty's schooner, the _Mississaga_,
which sailed immediately with a favourable gale for York, with the
remainder of the Queen's Rangers." - On the following morning, July 30,
1793, they would, with the aid of the "favourable gale," be at anchor in
the harbour of York.

Major Littlehales, the Governor's faithful secretary, remains behind
until the following Thursday, August the 1st, engaged probably in
arranging household matters for the Governor, an absence from Navy Hall
of some duration being contemplated. He then crosses the Lake in the
_Caldwell_, and joins his Chief. At the same time start Chief Justice
Osgoode and Mr. Attorney-General White for the East, to hold the
circuit. "On Thursday evening, the 1st instant," says the _Gazette_ of
the 8th of August, "his Majesty's armed vessels the _Onondago_ and the
_Caldwell_ sailed from this place (Niagara). The former, for Kingston,
had on board the Hon. William Osgoode, Chief Justice of this Province,
and John White, Esq., Attorney General, who are going to hold the
circuits at Kingston and Johnstown. Major Littlehales sailed in the
latter, for York, to join his Excellency's suite."

We should have been glad of a minute account of each day's proceedings
on the landing of the troops at York, and the arrival there of the
Governor and his suite. But we can readily imagine the Rangers
establishing themselves under canvas on the grassy glade where formerly
stood the old French trading-post. We can imagine them landing stores - a
few cannon and some other munitions of war - from the ships; landing the
parts and appurtenances of the famous canvas-house which the Governor
had provided for the shelter of himself and his family, and which, as we
have before noted, was originally constructed for the use of Captain
Cook in one of the scientific expeditions commanded by that celebrated

The canvas-house must have been a pavilion of considerable capacity, and
was doubtless pitched and fixed with particular care by the soldiers and
others, wherever its precise situation was determined. It was, as it
were, the prætorium of the camp, but moveable. We can conceive of it as
being set down, in the first instance, on the site of the French fort,
and then at a later period, or on the occasion of a later visit to York,
shifted to one of the knolls overlooking the little stream known
subsequently as the Garrison creek; and shifted again, at another visit,
to a position still farther east, where a second small stream meandered
between steep banks into the Bay, at the point where a Government
ship-building yard was in after years established. (Tradition places
the canvas-house on several sites.)

We can conceive, too, all hands, sailors as well as soldiers, busy in
opening eastward through the woods along the shore, a path that should
be more respectable and more useful for military and civil purposes than
the Indian trail which they would already find there, leading directly
to the quarter where, at the farther end of the Bay, the town-plot was
designed to be laid out, and the Government buildings were intended to
be erected.

On the 8th of August we know the Governor was engaged at York in writing
to the Indian Chief Brant, from whom a runner has just arrived all the
way from the entrance to the Detroit river. Brant, finding the
conference between his compatriots and the United States authorities
likely to end unsatisfactorily, sent to solicit Governor Simcoe's
interposition, especially in regard to the boundary line which the
Indians of the West insisted on - the Ohio river. Thus runs the
Governor's reply, written at York on the 8th: - "Since the Government of
the United States," he says, "have shown a disinclination to concur with
the Indian nations in requesting of his Majesty permission for me to
attend at Sandusky as mediator, it would be highly improper and
unreasonable in me to give an opinion relative to the proposed
boundaries, with which I am not sufficiently acquainted, and which
question I have studiously avoided entering into, as I am well aware of
the jealousies entertained by some of the subjects of the United States
of the interference of the British Government, which has a natural and
decided interest in the welfare of the Indian nations, and in the
establishment of peace and permanent tranquillity. In this situation, I
am sure you will excuse me from giving to you any advice, which, from my
absence from the spot, cannot possibly arise from that perfect view and
knowledge which so important a subject necessarily demands."

The controversy in the West, in relation to which the Governor is thus
cautiously expressing himself to the Indian Chief on the 8th of August,
was a subject for cabinet consideration; a matter only for the few. But
towards the close of the month, news from a different quarter - from the
outer world of the far European East - reached the infant York, suitable
to be divulged to the many and turned to public account. It was known
that hostilities were going on between the allied forces of Europe and
the armies of Revolutionary France. And now came intelligence that the
English contingent on the continent had contributed materially to a
success over the French in Flanders on the 23rd of May last. Now this
contingent, 10,000 men, was under the command of the Duke of York, the
King's son, A happy thought strikes the Governor. What could be more
appropriate than to celebrate the good news in a demonstrative manner on
a spot which in honour of that Prince had been named York.

Accordingly, on the 26th of August, we find the following General Order
issued: - "York, Upper Canada, 26th of August, 1793. His Excellency the
Lieutenant-Governor having received information of the success of his
Majesty's arms, under His Royal Highness the Duke of York, by which
Holland has been saved from the invasion of the French armies, - and it
appearing that the combined forces have been successful in dislodging
their enemies from an entrenched camp supposed to be impregnable, from
which the most important consequences may be expected; and in which
arduous attempts His Royal Highness the Duke of York and His Majesty's
troops supported the national glory: - It is His Excellency's orders that
on the rising of the Union Flag at twelve o'clock to-morrow a Royal
Salute of twenty-one guns is to be fired, to be answered by the shipping
in the Harbour, in respect to His Royal Highness and in commemoration of
the naming this Harbour from his English title, York. E. B. Littlehales,
Major of Brigade."

These orders, we are to presume, were punctually obeyed; and we are
inclined to think that the running up of the Union Flag at noon on
Tuesday, the 27th day of August, and the salutes which immediately after
reverberated through the woods and rolled far down and across the
silvery surface of the Lake, were intended to be regarded as the true
inauguration of the Upper Canadian York.

The rejoicing, indeed, as it proved, was somewhat premature. The success
which distinguished the first operations of the royal duke did not
continue to attend his efforts. Nevertheless, the report of the honours
rendered in this remote portion of the globe, would be grateful to the
fatherly heart of the King.

On the Saturday after the Royal Salutes, the first meeting of the
Executive Council ever held in York, took place in the garrison; in the
canvas-house, as we may suppose. "The first Council," writes Mr. W. H.
Lee from Ottawa, "held at the garrison, York, late Toronto, at which
Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe was present, was on Saturday, 31st August,
1793." It transacted business there, Mr. Lee says, until the following
fifth of September, when the Government returned to Navy Hall. Still,
the Governor and his family passed the ensuing winter at York. Bouchette
speaks of his inhabiting the canvas-house "through the winter;" and
under date of York, on the 23rd of the following February (1794), we
have him writing to Mr. Secretary Dundas.

In the despatch of the day just named, after a now prolonged experience
of the newly-established post, the Governor thus glowingly speaks of it:
"York," he says, "is the most important and defensible situation in
Upper Canada, or that I have seen," he even adds, "in North America. I
have, sir," he continues, "formerly entered into a detail of the
advantages of this arsenal of Lake Ontario. An interval of Indian land
of six and thirty miles divides this settlement from Burlington Bay,
where that of Niagara commences. Its communication with Lake Huron is
very easy in five or six days, and will in all respects be of the most
essential importance."

Before the channel at the entrance of the Harbour of York was visibly
marked or buoyed, the wide-spread shoal to the west and south must have
been very treacherous to craft seeking to approach the new settlement.
In 1794 we hear of the Commodore's vessel, "the _Anondaga_, of 14 guns,"
being stranded here and given up for lost. We hear likewise that the
Commodore's son, Joseph Bouchette, the first surveyor of the harbour,
distinguished himself by managing to get the same _Anondaga_ off, after
she had been abandoned; and we are told of his assuming the command and
sailing with her to Niagara, where he is received amidst the cheers of
the garrison and others assembled on the shores to greet the rescued

This exploit, of which he was naturally proud, and for which he was
promoted on the 12th of May, 1794, to the rank of Second Lieutenant,
Bouchette duly commemorates on his chart of York Harbour by
conspicuously marking the spot where the stranded ship lay, and
appending the note - "H. M. Schooner _Anondaga_, 14 guns, wrecked, but
raised by Lieutenant Joseph Bouchette and brought to." (A small
two-masted vessel is seen lying on the north-west bend of the great
shoal at the entrance of the Harbour.) - A second point is likewise
marked on the map "where she again grounded but was afterwards brought
to." (Here again a small vessel is seen lying at the edge of the shoal,
but now towards its northern point.) The Chart, which was originally
engraved for Bouchette's octavo book, "A Topographical Description of
Canada, &c.," published in 1815, is repeated with the marks and
accompanying notes, from the same plate, in the quarto work of
1831 - "The British Dominions in North America." The _Anondaga_ of the
Bouchette narrative is, as we suppose, the _Onondago_ of the _Gazette_,
which, as we have seen, helped to take over the Rangers in August, 1793.
The same uncertainty, which we have had occasion repeatedly to notice,
in regard to the orthography of aboriginal words in general, rendered it
doubtful with the public at large as to how the names of some of the
Royal vessels should be spelt.

It is to be observed in passing, that when in his account of the first
survey of the Harbour in 1793, Bouchette speaks of the
Lieutenant-Governor removing from Niagara with his regiment of Queen's
Rangers "in the following spring," he probably means in the later
portion of the spring of the same year 1793, because, as we have already
seen, the _Gazettes_ of the day prove that the Lieutenant-Governor did
proceed to the site of the new capital with the Rangers in 1793.
Bouchette's words as they stand in his quarto book, imply, in some
degree, that 1794 was the year in which the Governor and his Rangers
first came over from Niagara. In the earlier octavo book his words were:
"In the year 1793 the spot on which York stands presented only one
solitary wigwam; in the ensuing spring the ground for the future
metropolis of Upper Canada was fixed upon, and the buildings commenced
under the immediate superintendence of the late General Simcoe, the
Lieut.-Governor: in the space of five or six years it became a
respectable place."

Bouchette was possibly recalling the commencement of the Public
Buildings in 1794, when in his second work, published in 1831, he
inserted the note which has given rise, in the minds of some, to a

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 50 of 59)