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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is very sorry, on account of his customers, that he has not received his
East India Goods and Groceries: he is sure they are at Oswego; and
should they not arrive this season, they may be looked for early in the
spring." It was tantalizing to suppose they were so near York as Oswego,
and yet could not be had until the spring.

The principal incident connected with the marine of the harbour of York
in 1804 was the loss of the _Speedy_. We give the contemporary account
of the disaster from the _Gazette_ of Saturday, Nov. 3, 1804.

"The following," the _Gazette_ says, "is as accurate an account of the
loss of the schooner _Speedy_, in His Majesty's service on Lake Ontario,
as we have been able to collect. The _Speedy_, Capt. Paxton, left this
port (York) on Sunday evening, the 7th of October last, with a moderate
breeze from the north-west, for Presqu'isle, and was descried off that
island on the Monday following before dark, where preparations were made
for the reception of the passengers, but the wind coming round from the
north-east, blew with such violence as to render it impossible for her
to enter the harbour; and very shortly after she disappeared. A large
fire was then kindled on shore as a guide to the vessel during the
night; but she has not since been seen or heard of; and it is with the
most painful sensations we have to say, we fear is totally lost.
Inquiry, we understand, has been made at almost every port of the Lake,
but without effect; and no intelligence respecting the fate of this
unfortunate vessel could be obtained. It is, therefore, generally
concluded that she has either upset or foundered. It is also reported by
respectable authority that several articles, such as the compass-box,
hencoop and mast, known to have belonged to this vessel, have been
picked up on the opposite side of the Lake. - The passengers on board the
ill-fated _Speedy_, as near as we can recollect," the narrative goes on
to say, "were Mr. Justice Cochrane; Robert J. D. Gray, Esq.,
Solicitor-General, and Member of the House of Assembly; Angus Macdonell,
Esq., Advocate, Member of the House of Assembly; Mr. Jacob Herchmer,
Merchant; Mr. John Stegman, Surveyor; Mr. George Cowan, Indian
Interpreter; James Ruggles, Esq.; Mr. Anderson, Student in the Law; Mr.
John Fisk, High Constable, all of this place. The above named gentlemen
were proceeding to the District of Newcastle, in order to hold the
Circuit, and for the trial of an Indian (also on board the _Speedy_)
indicted for the murder of John Sharp, late of the Queen's Rangers. It
is also reported, but we cannot vouch for its authenticity, that
exclusive of the above passengers, there were on board two other
persons, one in the service of Mr. Justice Cochrane, and the other in
that of the Solicitor-General; as also two children of parents whose
indigent circumstances necessitated them to travel by land. The crew of
the _Speedy_, it is said, consisted of five seamen (three of whom have
left large families) exclusive of Captain Paxton, who also had a very
large family. The total number of souls on board the _Speedy_ is
computed to be about twenty. A more distressing and melancholy event has
not occurred to this place for many years; nor does it often happen that
such a number of persons of respectability are collected in the same
vessel. Not less than nine widows, and we know not how many children,
have to lament the loss of their husbands and fathers, who, alas, have,
perhaps in the course of a few minutes, met with a watery grave. It is
somewhat remarkable," the _Gazette_ then observes, "that this is the
third or fourth accident of a similar nature within these few years, the
cause of which appears worthy the attention and investigation of persons
conversant in the art of ship-building."

Two of the disasters to vessels probably alluded to by the _Gazette_
were noted above. In 1802 the _Lady Washington_, Captain Murray,
foundered in the Lake, leaving scarcely a trace. And three years
previously, the _York_, in command of the same Captain Murray, was lost
at the point known as the Devil's Nose, not far from the entrance to the
River Genesee. And again, some years earlier, in 1780, before the
organization of the Province of Upper Canada, the _Ontario_, Capt.
Andrews, carrying twenty-two guns, went down with all on board, while
conveying troops, a detachment of the King's Own, under Col. Burton,
from Niagara to Oswego. One hundred and seventy-two persons perished on
this occasion, Capt. Andrews was, at the time, First Commissioner of the
Dock Yard at Kingston, and Commodore of the small flotilla maintained
on the Lake, chiefly for transport service. (For several of these
particulars we are indebted to Capt. Andrews' grandson, the Rev. Saltern

As to the apparent fragility of the government vessels, on which the
_Gazette_ remarks, the use of timber insufficiently seasoned may have
had something to do with it. The French Duke de Liancourt, in 1795,
observed that all the vessels which he saw at Niagara were built of
timber fresh cut down and not seasoned; and that, for that reason, "they
never lasted longer than six or eight years. To preserve them for even
this length of time," he says, "requires a thorough repair: they must be
heaved down and caulked, which costs, at least, from one thousand to one
thousand two hundred guineas. The timbers of the _Mississaga_," he says,
"which was built three years ago, are almost all rotten."

A particular account of the homicide for which the Indian prisoner, lost
in the _Speedy_, was about to be tried, and of his arrest, is given in a
subdivision of one of our chapters, entitled "Some Memories of the Old
Court House."

Of the perils encountered by early navigators of Lake Ontario we have an
additional specimen furnished us by the _Gazette_ of Sept. 8th, 1804.
That paper reports as follows: "Capt Moore's sloop, which sailed from
Sackett's Harbour on the 14th July for Kingston with a load of pot and
pearl ashes, struck on Long Point near Kingston in a gale of wind; and
having on board a number of passengers, men, women, and children, he was
under the necessity of throwing over forty-eight barrels of ashes in
order to lighten the vessel." It is then briefly added: "She arrived at

We hear of the _Toronto Yacht_ in 1805, casually. A boat puts off from
her to the rescue of some persons in danger of drowning, near the
Garrison at York, in November of that year. "On Sunday last, the 10th,"
says the _Gazette_ of Nov. 16th, 1805, "a boat from the River Credit for
this place (York), containing four persons, and laden with salmon and
country produce, overset near the Garrison, at the entrance of this
harbour; and notwithstanding the most prompt assistance rendered by a
boat from the _Toronto Yacht_, we are sorry to add that one person was
unfortunately drowned, and a considerable part of the cargo lost." At
this date, the _Toronto Yacht_ was under the command of Capt. Earl.

In December, 1805, a member of the Kendrick family of York was lost in
a vessel wrecked on the New York side of the Lake. "We understand," says
the _Gazette_ of Feb. 15th, 1806, "that a boat, sometime in December
last, going from Oswego to Sandy Creek, was lost near the mouth of
Salmon river, and four persons drowned. One of the bodies, and the
articles contained in the boat, were driven ashore; the remainder, it is
supposed, were buried in the sand. The persons who perished were - John
McBride (found), John Kendrick of this place (York), Alexander Miller
and Jessamin Montgomery." - In November of this year (1805), Miss Sarah
Kendrick was married. It will be observed that her taste, like that of
her brothers, of whom more hereafter, lay in a nautical direction.
"Married, on Tuesday, the 12th inst., by licence," records the
_Gazette_, "Jesse Goodwin, mariner, to Miss Sarah Kendrick." (This is
the Goodwin from whom the small stream which ran into York Bay at its
eastern extremity used to be called - Goodwin's Creek.)

In the _Gazette_ of Oct 11th, 1806, it is noted that Governor Gore
crossed from York to Niagara in little more than four hours. The vessel
is not named. Probably it was the _Toronto Yacht_.

In 1807, Governor Gore crossed from York to Niagara to hold a levee, on
the King's birthday. The vessel that conveyed him again is not named.
The following notice appears in the _Gazette_ of May 16th, 1807:
"Government House, York, 16th May, 1807. The Lieut.-Governor will hold a
levee at the Commanding Officer's Quarters at Niagara, at 2 o'clock on
Tuesday, the 4th of June. Wm. Halton, Secretary." Then follows a second
notice: "Government House, York, 16th May, 1807. There will be a Ball
and Supper at the Council House, Niagara, on his Majesty's Birthday, for
such ladies and gentlemen as have been presented to the Lieut.-Governor
and Mrs. Gore. Wm. Halton, Secretary."

An accident to the _Toronto Yacht_ is reported in the _Gazette_ of Oct.
17th, 1807. That paper says: "The _Toronto Yacht_, in attempting her
passage across on Wednesday or Thursday last, met with an accident that
obliged her to put back to Niagara, which port, we understand, she
reached with difficulty."

The _Gazette_ of October 31st, 1807, speaks of the inconveniences to
itself, arising from the irregularity in the communication between York
and Niagara. "The communication with Niagara by water," it says, "from
being irregular lately, has prevented us receiving our papers this week.
The Indian Express," the _Gazette_ then adds, "having commenced its
regular weekly route, our publishing day will be changed to Wednesday.
We have nothing of moment or interest. Should anything occur we will
give an extra sheet." On the 18th of November the _Gazette_ appears
printed on blue paper, such as used to be seen on the outside of
pamphlets and magazines. An apology is offered. "We have to apologize to
our readers for the necessity of publishing this week on an inferior
quality of paper, owing to the non-arrival of our expected supply." The
same kind of paper is used in a succession of numbers. It is curious to
observe that the effect of time has been to produce less disfigurement
in the bright appearance of the pages and print of the blue numbers of
the _Gazette_, than in the ordinary white paper numbers, which have now
assumed a very coarse, dingy, inferior aspect.

In 1808 the important announcement is made in the _Gazette_ of March
16th, that a lighthouse is about to be immediately established on
Gibraltar Point, at the entrance of York Harbour. "It is with pleasure
we inform the public," the _Gazette_ says, "that the dangers to vessels
navigating Lake Ontario will in a great measure be avoided by the
erection of a Lighthouse on Gibraltar Point, which is to be immediately
completed, in compliance with an Address of the House of Assembly to the

We have understood that a lighthouse was begun at the point of York
peninsula before the close of the last century; that the _Mohawk_ was
employed in bringing over stone for the purpose, from Queenston; and
that Mr. John Thompson, still living in 1873, was engaged in the actual
erection of the building. It was perhaps then begun. In 1803 an Act was
passed by the Provincial Legislature for the establishment of
lighthouses "on the south-westernmost point of a certain island called
Isle Forest, situated about three leagues from the town of Kingston, in
the Midland District; another upon Mississaga point, at the entrance of
the Niagara river, near to the town of Niagara; and the other upon
Gibraltar point." It was probably not practicable to carry the Act fully
into effect before 1806. According to the Act a fund for the erection
and maintenance of such lighthouses was to be formed by levying
three-pence per ton on every vessel, boat, raft, or other craft of ten
tons burthen and upwards, doubling the point named, inward bound. That
lighthouse duty should be levied at ports where there was no lighthouse,
became a grievance; and in 1818 it was enacted that "no vessel, boat,
raft or other craft of the burthen of ten tons and upwards shall be
liable to pay any Lighthouse Duty at any port where there shall be no
lighthouse erected, any law or usage to the contrary notwithstanding."

Mr. Cartwright (Judge Cartwright) built in 1808 two vessels on
Mississaga Point at the mouth of the Cataraqui, one for himself, the
_Elizabeth_; the other for the North-West Company, the _Governor
Simcoe_. The North-West Company had previously a vessel on the lake
called the _Simcoe_, which was now worn out.

In June, 1808, Governor Gore departs from York for a tour in the western
part of the Province. The _Gazette_ seems mildly to rebuke him for
having swerved from his first design in regard to this tour. He had
intended to proceed _via_ Lake Huron; that is, by the Yonge Street
route, but he had finally preferred to go _via_ Lake Ontario. "His
Excellency the Lieut.-Governor left this place, York," the _Gazette_
announces, "on the 15th instant, on a visit to Sandwich, etc. We are
sorry," the editor then ventures to observe, "that he did not, as he
originally destined, proceed by Lake Huron, according to his amiable
intention and view of promoting the first interests of this province."

In the _Gazette_ of October 22nd, in this year, we hear once more of the
_Toronto Yacht_. - Governor Gore has returned to York in safety, and has
left again for Niagara in the _Toronto_. "On the 17th instant," the
above-named _Gazette_ reports, "his Excellency the Lieut.-Governor and
Major Halton sailed for Niagara in the _Toronto Yacht_. It was his
Excellency's intention to have gone there on Monday last." The _Gazette_
says: "He embarked for the purpose, and received an honorary salute from
the Garrison. Excessive gales and a succession of violent head winds
delayed his proceeding until Thursday morning." (He returned in the
_Toronto_ on Tuesday, the 6th of November.)

On the 14th of December in this year, the editor of the _Gazette_ again
announces a change in the day of publication, in consequence of the
suspension of water communication between York and Niagara. "The
suspension of our water communication with Niagara at the present season
obliges us to alter the day of publication, which will now be on
Wednesday. John Cameron."

A postal notice issued in the _Gazette_ of Jan. 4th, in the following
year, 1809, is interesting now. It reads thus: "For General Information.
The winter mail will be despatched from Quebec for Upper Canada on the
following days: Monday, 2nd Jan., 1809: do. 6th Feb.: do. 6th March: do.
3rd April. Each mail may be looked for here (York) from 16 to 18 days
after the above periods. The Carrier from Kingston (the Indian Express
probably of which we have heard already) is to go on to Niagara without
making any stay (unless found necessary) at this place; so that all
persons will have time to prepare their letters by the time he returns
from Kingston again. W. Allan, Deputy P. M., York, 2nd Jan. 1809." The
mail between Montreal and Kingston was carried on the back of one
Anderson. Between these two places the postage was nine-pence.

Between 1809 and 1812 we do not light upon many notices of vessels
frequenting York Harbour. In 1810, a schooner called the _Lady Gore_ or
the _Bella Gore_, commanded by Captain Sanders, and plying to Kingston,
was a well known vessel. (It may be noted that in 1811 Governor Gore
left York for England, on leave of absence, and was away during the four
eventful years that followed.) In 1812, and previously, a sloop
commanded by Captain Conn was running between York and Niagara. From
some peculiarity in her contour, she was popularly spoken of as "Captain
Conn's Coffin." Another sloop, commanded by Captain Grace, was plying
between York, Niagara and Kingston about the same time.

The Government vessels with whose names we have become familiar were now
either unseaworthy or wrecked. The _Mohawk_, the _Onondaga_, the
_Caldwell_, the _Sophia_, the _Buffalo_, are no longer heard of as
passing in and out of the harbour of York. It had been the fate of the
_Toronto Yacht_, while under the command of Capt. Fish, to run on the
sands at Gibraltar Point through a mistake as to the position of the
light. Her skeleton was long a conspicuous object, visited by ramblers
on the Island. This incident occurred just before the outbreak of the

Most of the vessels which had been engaged in the ordinary traffic of
the Lake were, during the war, employed by the government in the
transport service. Captain Murney's vessel, the _Prince Edward_, built,
as we have already heard, wholly of red cedar, and still in good order
in 1812, was thus employed.

In the fleet on Lake Ontario in 1812-14 new names prevail. Not one of
the old titles is repeated. Some changes made in the nomenclature of
vessels during the contest have created confusion in regard to
particular ships. In several instances which we shall specify
immediately, in the following list, two names indicate the same vessel
at different periods of the war. The _Prince Regent_, the commodore's
ship, (Capt. Earl), the _Princess Charlotte_, the _Montreal_, the
_Wolfe_, the _Sir Sidney Smith_, the _Niagara_, the _Royal George_, the
_Melville_, the _Star_, the _Moira_, the _Cherwell_, the _Gloucester_
(Capt. Gouvereau), the _Magnet_, the _Netley_, the _St. Lawrence_; and
the gunboats _Cleopatra_, _Lais_, _Ninon_, _Nelly_, _Regent_,
_Thunderer_, _Wellington_, _Retaliation_, _Black Snake_, _Prescott_,
_Dreadnought_. In this list the _Wolfe_ and the _Montreal_ are the same
vessels; as also are the _Royal George_ and the _Niagara_; the
_Melville_ and the _Star_; the _Prince Regent_ and the _Netley_; the
_Moira_ and the _Cherwell_; the _Montreal_ and the _Wolfe_; the _Magnet_
and the _Sir Sidney Smith_.

The _Moira_ was lying off the Garrison at York when the _Simcoe_
transport came in sight filled with prisoners taken on Queenston
Heights, and bringing the first intelligence of the death of General
Brock. We have heard the Rev. Dr. Richardson of Toronto, who at the time
was Sailing Master of the _Moira_, under Captain Sampson, describe the
scene. - The approaching schooner was recognized at a distance as the
_Simcoe_: it was a vessel owned and commanded, at the moment, by Dr.
Richardson's father, Captain James Richardson. Mr. Richardson
accordingly speedily put off in a boat from the _Moira_, to learn the
news. He was first startled at the crowded appearance of the _Simcoe's_
deck, and at the unwonted guise of his father, who came to the gangway
conspicuously girt with a sword. 'A great battle had been fought,' he
was told, 'on Queenston Heights. The enemy had been beaten. The _Simcoe_
was full of prisoners of war, to be transferred instanter to the _Moira_
for conveyance to Kingston. General Brock was killed!' - Elated with the
first portion of the news, Dr. Richardson spoke of the thrill of dismay
which followed the closing announcement as something indescribable and
never to be forgotten.

Among the prisoners on board the _Simcoe_ was Winfield Scott, an
artillery officer, afterwards the distinguished General Scott. He was
not taken to Kingston, but, with others, released on parole.

The year following (1813), York Harbour was visited by the United States
fleet, consisting of sixteen vessels. The result other pages will tell.
It has been again and again implied in these papers. The government
vessel named the _Prince Regent_ narrowly escaped capture. She had left
the port only a few days before the arrival of the enemy. The frames of
two ships on the stocks were destroyed, but not by the Americans. At the
command of General Sheaffe, they were fired by the royal troops when
beginning the retreat in the direction of Kingston. A schooner, the
_Governor Hunter_, belonging to Joseph Kendrick, was caught in the
harbour and destroyed; but as we have understood, the American commander
paid a sum of money to the owner by way of compensation. - At the taking
of York, Captain Sanders, whom we have seen in command of the _Bella
Gore_, was killed. He was put in charge of the dockyardmen who were
organized as a part of the small force to be opposed to the invaders.

We can imagine a confused state of things at York in 1813. Nevertheless
the law asserts its supremacy. The magistrates in sessions fine a pilot
£2 15s. for refusing to fulfil his engagement with Mr. McIntosh. "On the
19th October, 1813, a complaint was made by Angus McIntosh, Esq., late
of Sandwich, now of York, merchant, against Jonathan Jordan, formerly of
the city of Montreal, a steersman in one of Angus McIntosh's boats, for
refusing to proceed with the said boat, and thereby endangering the
safety of the said boat. He is fined £2 15s. currency, to be deducted
from wages due by Angus McIntosh."

It was in May the following year (1814), that Mr. Richardson, while
Acting Master on board the _Montreal_ (previously the _Wolfe_), lost his
left arm in Sir James Yeo's expedition against Oswego. - The place was
carried by storm. After describing the mode of attack and the gallantry
of the men, Sir James Yeo in his official despatch thus speaks in
particular of the _Montreal_: "Captain Popham, of the _Montreal_," he
says, "anchored his ship in a most gallant style; sustaining the whole
fire until we gained the shore. She was set on fire three times by
red-hot shot, and much cut up in her hull, masts and rigging. Captain
Popham," he then proceeds to say, "received a severe wound in his right
hand; and speaks in high terms of Mr. Richardson, the Master, who from a
severe wound in the left arm, was obliged to undergo amputation at the
shoulder joint."

The grievous mutilation thus suffered did not cause Mr. Richardson to
retire from active service. Immediately on his recovery he was, at his
own desire, appointed to a post of professional duty in the fleet. In
October, when the great hundred-gun ship, the _St. Lawrence_, was
launched at Kingston, he was taken by Sir James Yeo on board that
vessel, his familiarity with the coasts of the Lake rendering his
services in the capacity of Acting Pilot of great value.

In the record of disbursements made by the Loyal and Patriotic Society
of Upper Canada in 1815, we have the sum of One Hundred Pounds allotted
on the 22nd of April to "Mr. James Richardson, of the Midland District,"
with the following note appended: "This gentleman was first in the
Provincial Navy, and behaved well: he then became Principal Pilot of the
Royal Fleet, and by his modesty and uncommon good conduct gained the
esteem of all of the officers of the Navy. He lost his arm at the taking
of Oswego, and as he was not a commissioned officer, there was no
allowance for his wounds. The Society, informed of this and in
consideration of his services, requested his acceptance of £100."

By a curious transition, instances of which are now and then afforded in
the history of individuals in every profession, Mr. Richardson became in
after years an eminent minister in the Methodist Society; and at the age
of 82 was known and honoured far and wide throughout Upper Canada as the
indefatigable bishop or chief superintendent of that section of the
Methodist body which is distinguished by the prefix Episcopal.

In 1814 it would appear that Commodore Chauncey and his fleet were no
longer dominating the north shore. The _Netley_, formerly the _Prince
Regent_, is mentioned as being again in the harbour of York. On the 24th
of July she took over Lieut.-General and President Drummond, when on his
way to support General Rial at Lundy's Lane. "I embarked," General
Drummond says in his despatch to Sir George Prevost describing the
engagement at Lundy's Lane; "I embarked on board His Majesty's schooner
_Netley_, at York, on Sunday evening, the 24th instant (July), and
reached Niagara at daybreak the following morning." He then pushed on
from Niagara to Lundy's Lane with 800 rank and file, and was the
undoubted means of preventing a hard-contested fight from ending in a

On the 24th of December in this year the Treaty of Ghent was signed, by
which, to adopt its own language, "a firm and universal peace was
re-established between His Britannic Majesty and the United States, and
between their respective countries, territories, cities, towns and
people of every degree, without exception of persons or places."




Soon after the close of the war with the United States in 1814, the era
of steam navigation on Lake Ontario opens. The first steamer, the

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 52 of 59)