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

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afterwards a "half-pint of gin sling, 3s." At the same time Capt. Demont
has "gill rum sling, 1s. 3d.," and "gill rum, 1s." Capt. Fortune has
"half-pint wine, 2s.," and "Esq. Weekes," "gill brandy, 1s. 3d." Col.
Fortune has "gill sour punch, 2s." This sour punch is approved of by
"Dunlap" - who at one place four times in immediate succession, and
frequently elsewhere, is charged with "glass sour punch, 2s." Jacob
Cozens takes "one bottle Madeira wine, 10s.;" Samuel Cozens, "one bottle
Madeira wine, 10s., and bread and cheese, 1s.;" and Shivers Cozens,
"bottle of wine, 10s., and bread and cheese, 1s. Conets Cozens has
"dinner, 2s., a gill of brandy, 1s., and half a bushel of seed corn,
7s." On the 5th of July, Josiah Phelps has placed opposite his name,
"one glass punch, 3s.; three bowls sour punch, 9s.; gill rum, 1s.; two
gin slings, 2s. 6d.; bowl punch, 3s.; gill rum, 1s.; two gills syrup
punch, 4s.; supper, 2s." About the same time Corporal Wilson had "two
mugs beer, 4s." On the 6th of July Commodore Grant had "half-pint rum,
for medson, 2s.; and immediately after another half-pint rum, for do.,
2s." One "Billy Whitney" figures often; his purchases one day were:
"gill rum sling, 1s. 6d.; do., 1s. 6d.; half-pound butter, 1s. 3d."
Capt. Hall takes "one gill punch, 2s.; glass rum, 6d., and half-gallon
punch, 7s." He at the same time has two dollars in cash advanced to him
by the obliging landlord, 16s.

Mr. Abner Miles supplied customers with general provisions as well as
liquors. On one occasion he sells, "White, Attorney-General," three
pounds of butter for 7s. 6d., and six eggs for 1s. 6d. He also sells
"President Russell" forty-nine pounds and three-fourths, of beef at 1s.
per pound; Mr. Attorney-General White took twenty-three pounds and a
half at the same price. That sold to "Robert Gray, Esq.," is described
as "a choice piece," and is charged two pence extra per pound. The
piece, however, weighed only seven pounds, and the cost was just eight
shillings and two pence. Other things are supplied by Mr. Miles. Gideon
Badger buys of him "one yard red spotted cassimere, 20s.; one and a-half
dozen buttons, 3s; and a pair shears, 3s." At the same time Mr. Badger
is credited with "one dollar, 8s." Joseph Kendrick gets "sole leather
for pair of shoes for self, by old Mr. Ketchum, 6s." Mr. Miles moreover
furnishes Mr. Allan with "237 feet of inch-and-half plank at 12s., 33s.;
two rod of garden fence at 10s., 20s." We suppose the moneys received
were recorded elsewhere generally; but on the pages before us we have
such entries as the following: "Messrs. Hamilton, Baby and Grant settled
up to 4th of July, after breakfast." "Dr. Gamble, at Garrison," obtained
ten bushels of oats and is to pay therefor £4. A mem. is entered of
"Angus McDonell, dr., Dinner sent to his tent." and "Capt. Demont, cr.
By note of hand for £26 5s. Halifax currency, £42 York." On the same day
the Captain indulges in "a five dollar cap, 40s.," and "one gill rum,
1s." That some of Mr. Miles' customers required to be reminded of their
indebtedness to him, we learn from an advertisement in the _Gazette and
Oracle_ of August 31, 1799. It says: "The Subscriber informs all those
indebted to him by note or book, to make payment by the 20th September
next, or he will be under the disagreeable necessity of putting them
into the hands of an attorney. Abner Miles, York, August 28th, 1799."
Mr. Miles' house was a rendezvous for various purposes. In a _Gazette
and Oracle_ of Dec 8, 1798, we read - "The gentlemen of the Town and
Garrison are requested to meet at one o'clock, on Monday next, the 10th
instant, at Miles' Hotel, in order to arrange the place of the York
Assemblies for the season. York, Dec 8, 1798." In another number of the
same paper an auction is advertised to take place at Miles' Tavern.

In the _Gazette and Oracle_ of July 13th, 1799, we read the following
advertisement: "O. Pierce and Co. have for sale: Best spirits by the
puncheon, barrel, or ten gallons, 20s. per gal. Do. by the single
gallon, 22s. Rum by the puncheon, barrel, or ten gallons, 18s. per gal.
Brandy by the barrel, 20s. per gal. Port wine by the barrel, 18s. per
gal. Do. by single gallon, 20s. per gal. Gin, by the barrel, 18s. per
gal. Teas - Hyson, 19s. per lb.; Souchong, 14s. do.; Bohea, 8s. do.
Sugar, best loaf, 3s. 9d. per lb. Lump, 3s. 6d. Raisins, 3s. Figs, 3s.
Salt six dollars per barrel or 12s. per bushel. Also, a few dry goods,
shoes, leather, hats, tobacco, snuff, &c., &c. York, July 6, 1799." These
prices appear to be in Halifax currency.





The corner we approach after passing the Market Square, was occupied by
an inn with a sign-board sustained on a high post inserted at the outer
edge of the foot-path, in country roadside fashion. This was Hamilton's,
or the White Swan. It was here, we believe, or in an adjoining house,
that a travelling citizen of the United States, in possession of a
collection of stuffed birds and similar objects, endeavoured at an early
period to establish a kind of Natural History Museum. To the collection
here was once rashly added figures, in wax, of General Jackson and some
other United States notabilities, all in grand costume. Several of these
were one night abstracted from the Museum by some over-patriotic youths,
and suspended by the neck from the limbs of one of the large trees that
over-looked the harbour.

Just beyond was the Steamboat Hotel, long known as Ulick Howard's,
remarkable for the spirited delineation of a steam-packet of vast
dimensions, extending the whole length of the building, just over the
upper verandah of the hotel. In 1828, Mr. Howard is offering to let his
hotel, in the following terms: - "Steamboat Hotel, York, U. C. - The
proprietor of this elegant establishment, now unrivalled in this part of
the country, being desirous of retiring from Public Business, on account
of ill-health in his family, will let the same for a term of years to be
agreed on, either with or without the furniture. The Establishment is
now too well-known to require comment. N. B. Security will be required
for the payment of the Rent, and the fulfilment of the contract in every
respect. Apply to the subscriber on the premises. U. Howard, York, Oct
8th, 1828."

A little further on was the Ontario House, a hotel built in a style
common then at the Falls of Niagara and in the United States. A row of
lofty pillars, well-grown pines in fact, stripped and smoothly planed,
reached from the ground to the eaves, and supported two tiers of
galleries, which, running behind the columns, did not interrupt their
vertical lines.

Close by the Ontario House, Market Street from the west entered Front
Street at an acute angle. In the gore between the two streets, a
building sprang up, which, in conforming to its site, assumed the shape
of a coffin. The foot of this ominous structure was the office where
travellers booked themselves for various parts in the stages that from
time to time started from York. It took four days to reach Niagara in
1816. We are informed by a contemporary advertisement now before us,
that "on the 20th of September next [1816], a stage will commence
running between York and Niagara: it will leave York every Monday, and
arrive at Niagara on Thursday; and leave Queenston every Friday. The
baggage is to be considered at the risk of the owner, and the fare to be
paid in advance." In 1824, the mails were conveyed the same distance,
_via_ Ancaster, in three days. In a post-office advertisement for
tenders, signed "William Allan, P. M.," we have the statement: "The
mails are made up here [York] on the afternoon of Monday and Thursday,
and must be delivered at Niagara on the Wednesday and Saturday
following; and within the same period in returning." In 1835, Mr.
William Weller was the proprietor of a line of stages between Toronto
and Hamilton, known as the "Telegraph Line." In an advertisement before
us, he engages to take passengers "through by daylight, on the Lake
Road, during the winter season."

Communication with England was at this period a tedious process. So late
as 1836, Mrs. Jameson thus writes in her Journal at Toronto (i. 182):
"It is now seven weeks since the date of the last letters from my dear
far-distant home. The Archdeacon," she adds, "told me, by way of
comfort, that when he came to settle in this country, there was only one
mail-post from England in the course of a whole year, and it was called,
as if in mockery, the Express." To this "Express" we have a reference in
a post-office advertisement to be seen in a _Quebec Gazette_ of 1792: "A
mail for the Upper Countries, comprehending Niagara and Detroit, will be
closed," it says, "at this office, on Monday, the 30th inst., at 4
o'clock in the evening, to be forwarded from Montreal by the annual
winter Express, on Thursday, the 3rd of Feb. next." From the same paper
we learn that on the 10th of November, the latest date from Philadelphia
and New York was Oct. 8th: also, that a weekly conveyance had lately
been established between Montreal and Burlington, Vermont. In the
_Gazette_ of Jan. 13, 1808, we have the following: "For the information
of the Public. - York, 12th Jan., 1808. - The first mail from Lower Canada
is arrived, and letters are ready to be delivered by W. Allan,

Compare all this with advertisements in Toronto daily papers now, from
agencies in the town, of "Through Lines" weekly, to California,
Vancouver's, China and Japan, connecting with Lines to Australia and New

On the beach below the Steamboat Hotel was, at a late period, a market
for the sale of fish. It was from this spot that Bartlett, in his
"Canadian Scenery," made one of the sketches intended to convey to the
English eye an impression of the town. In the foreground are groups of
conventional, and altogether too picturesque, fishwives and squaws: in
the distance is the junction of Hospital Street and Front Street, with
the tapering building between. On the right are the galleries of what
had been the Steamboat Hotel; it here bears another name.

Bartlett's second sketch is from the end of a long wharf or jetty to the
west. The large building in front, with a covered passage through it for
vehicles, is the warehouse or freight depot of Mr. William Cooper, long
the owner of this favourite landing place. Westwards, the pillared front
of the Ontario house is to be seen. Both of these views already look
quaint, and possess a value as preserving a shadow of much that no
longer exists.

Where Mr. Cooper's Wharf joined the shore there was a ship-building
yard. We have a recollection of a launch that strangely took place here
on a Sunday. An attempt to get the ship into the water on the preceding
day had failed. Delay would have occasioned an awkward settling of the
ponderous mass. We shall have occasion hereafter to speak of the early
shipping of the harbour.

The lot extending northward from the Ontario House corner to King street
was the property of Attorney-General Macdonell, who, while in attendance
on General Brock as Provincial aide-de-camp, was slain in the engagement
on Queenston Heights. His death created the vacancy to which, at an
unusually early age, succeeded Mr. John Beverley Robinson, afterwards
the distinguished Chief Justice of Upper Canada. Mr. Macdonell's remains
are deposited with those of his military chief under the column on
Queenston Heights. He bequeathed the property to which our attention has
been directed, to a youthful nephew, Mr. James Macdonell, on certain
conditions, one of which was that he should be educated in the tenets of
the Anglican Church, notwithstanding the Roman Catholic persuasion of
the rest of the family.

The track for wheels that here descended to the water's edge from the
north, Church Street subsequently, was long considered a road remote
from the business part of the town, like the road leading southward from
Charing-cross, as shewn in Ralph Aggas' early map of London. A row of
frame buildings on its eastern side, in the direction of King Street,
perched high on cedar posts over excavations generally filled with
water, remained in an unfinished state until the whole began to be out
of the perpendicular and to become gray with the action of the weather.
It was evidently a premature undertaking; the folly of an over-sanguine
speculator. Yonge street beyond, where it approached the shore of the
harbour, was unfrequented. In spring and autumn it was a notorious
slough. In 1830, a small sum would have purchased any of the building
lots on either side of Yonge Street, between Front Street and Market

Between Church Street and Yonge Street, now, we pass a short street
uniting Front Street with Wellington Street. Like Salisbury, Cecil,
Craven and other short but famous streets off the Strand, it retains the
name of the distinguished person whose property it traversed in the
first instance. It is called Scott Street, from Chief Justice Thomas
Scott, whose residence and grounds were here.

Mr. Scott was one of the venerable group of early personages of whom we
shall have occasion to speak. He was a man of fine culture, and is
spoken of affectionately by those who knew him. His stature was below
the average. A heavy, overhanging forehead intensified the thoughtful
expression of his countenance, which belonged to the class suggested by
the current portraits of the United States jurist, Kent. We sometimes,
to this day, fall in with books from his library, bearing his familiar

Mr. Scott was the first chairman and president of the "Loyal and
Patriotic Society of Upper Canada," organized at York in 1812. His name
consequently appears often in the Report of that Association, printed by
William Gray in Montreal in 1817. The objects of the Society were "to
afford relief and aid to disabled militiamen and their families: to
reward merit, excite emulation, and commemorate glorious exploits, by
bestowing medals and other honorary marks of public approbation and
distinction for extraordinary instances of personal courage and fidelity
in defence of the Province." The preface to the Report mentions that
"the sister-colony of Nova Scotia, excited by the barbarous
conflagration of the town of Newark and the devastation on that
frontier, had, by a legislative act, contributed largely to the relief
of this Province."

In an appeal to the British public, signed by Chief Justice Scott, it is
stated that "the subscription of the town of York amounted in a few days
to eight hundred and seventy-five pounds five shillings, Provincial
currency, dollars at five shillings each, to be paid annually during the
war; and that at Kingston to upwards of four hundred pounds."

Medals were struck in London by order of the Loyal and Patriotic Society
of Upper Canada; but they were never distributed. The difficulty of
deciding who were to receive them was found to be too great. They were
defaced and broken up in York, with such rigour that not a solitary
specimen is known to exist. Rumours of one lurking somewhere, continue
to this day, to tantalize local numismatists. What became of the bullion
of which they were composed used to be one of the favourite vexed
questions among the old people of York. Its value doubtless was added to
the surplus that remained of the funds of the Society, which, after the
year 1817, were devoted to benevolent objects. To the building fund of
the York General Hospital, we believe, a considerable donation was made.
The medal, we are told, was two and one-half inches in diameter. On the
obverse, within a wreath of laurel, were the words "FOR MERIT." On this
side was also the legend: "PRESENTED BY A GRATEFUL COUNTRY." On the
reverse was the following elaborate device: A strait between two lakes:
on the North side a beaver (emblem of peaceful industry), the ancient
cognizance of Canada: in the background an English Lion slumbering. On
the South side of the Strait, the American eagle planing in the air, as
if checked from seizing the Beaver by the presence of the Lion. Legend

Scott Street conducts to the site, on the north side of Hospital Street,
westward of the home of Mr. James Baby, and, eastward, to that of Mr.
Peter Macdougall, two notable citizens of York.

A notice of Mr. Baby occurs in Sibbald's _Canadian Magazine_ for March,
1833. The following is an extract: "James Baby was born at Detroit in
1762. His family was one of the most ancient in the colony; and it was
noble. His father had removed from Lower Canada to the neighbourhood of
Detroit before the conquest of Quebec, where, in addition to the
cultivation of lands, he was connected with the fur-trade, at that time,
and for many years after, the great staple of the country. James was
educated at the Roman Catholic Seminary of Quebec, and returned to the
paternal roof soon after the peace of 1783. The family had ever been
distinguished (and indeed all the higher French families) for their
adherence to the British crown; and to this, more than to any other
cause, are we to attribute the conduct of the Province of Quebec during
the American War. Being a great favourite with his father, James was
permitted to make an excursion to Europe, before engaging steadily in
business; and after spending some time, especially in England, rejoined
his family. * * * There was a primitive simplicity in Mr. Baby's
character, which, added to his polished manners and benignity of
disposition, threw a moral beauty around him which is very seldom

In the history of the Indian chief Pontiac, who, in 1763, aimed at
extirpating the English, the name of Mr. Baby's father repeatedly
occurs. The Canadian _habitans_ of the neighbourhood of Detroit, being
of French origin, were unmolested by the Indians; but a rumour had
reached the great Ottawa chief, while the memorable siege of Detroit was
in progress, that the Canadians had accepted a bribe from the English to
induce them to attack the Indians. "Pontiac," we read in Parkman's
History, p. 227, "had been an old friend of Baby; and one evening, at an
early period of the siege, he entered his house, and, seating himself by
the fire, looked for some time steadily at the embers. At length,
raising his head, he said he had heard that the English had offered the
Canadian a bushel of silver for the scalp of his friend. Baby declared
that the story was false, and protested that he never would betray him.
Pontiac for a moment keenly studied his features. 'My brother has
spoken the truth,' he said, 'and I will show that I believe him.' He
remained in the house through the evening, and, at its close, wrapped
himself in his blanket and lay down upon a bench, where he slept in full
confidence till morning." Note that the name Baby is to be pronounced

Mr. Macdougall was a gentleman of Scottish descent, but, like his
compatriots in the neighbourhood of Murray Bay, so thoroughly
Lower-Canadianized as to be imperfectly acquainted with the English
language to the last. He was a successful merchant of the town of York,
and filled a place in the old local conversational talk, in which he was
sometimes spoken of as "Wholesale, Retail, Pete McDoug," - an expression
adopted by himself on some occasion. He is said once to have been much
perplexed by the item "ditto" occurring in a bill of lading furnished of
goods under way; he could not remember having given orders for any such
article. He was a shrewd business man. An impression prevailed in
certain quarters that his profits were now and then extravagant. While
he was living at Niagara, some burglars from Youngstown broke into his
warehouse; and after helping themselves to whatever they pleased, they
left a written memorandum accounting for their not having taken with
them certain other articles: it was "because they were marked too high."

That he was accustomed to affix a somewhat arbitrary value to his
merchandise, seems to be shown by another story that was told of him. He
was said, one day, when trade in general was very dull, to have boasted
that he had that very morning made £400 by a single operation. On being
questioned, it appeared that it had been simply a sudden enlargement of
the figure marked on all his stock to the extent of £400.

One other story of him is this: On hearing a brother dealer lament that
by a certain speculation he should, after all, make only 5 per cent., he
expressed his surprise, adding that he himself would be satisfied with
3, or even 2, (taking the figures 2, 3, &c., to mean 2 hundred, 3
hundred, &c.) - We shall hear of Mr. Macdougall again in connection with
the marine of the harbour.

Of Yonge Street itself, at which we now arrive, we propose to speak at
large hereafter. Just westward from Yonge Street was the abode,
surrounded by pleasant grounds and trees, of Mr. Macaulay, at a later
period Sir James Macaulay, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, a man
beloved and honoured for his sterling excellence in every relation. A
full-length portrait of him is preserved in Osgoode Hall. His peculiar
profile, not discernable in that painting, is recalled by the engraving
of Capt. Starky, which some readers will remember in _Hone's Every-Day

Advancing a little further, we came in front of one of the earliest
examples, in these parts, of an English-looking rustic cottage, with
verandah and sloping lawn. This was occupied for a time by Major
Hillier, of the 74th regiment, aide-de-camp and military secretary to
Sir Peregrine Maitland. The well-developed native thorn-tree, to the
north of the site of this cottage, on the property of Mr. Andrew Mercer,
is a relic of the woods that once ornamented this locality.

Next came the residence of Mr. Justice Boulton, a spacious family
domicile of wood, painted white, situated in an extensive area, and
placed far back from the road. The Judge was an English gentleman of
spare Wellington physique; like many of his descendants, a lover of
horses and a spirited rider; a man of wit, too, and humour, fond of
listening to and narrating anecdotes of the _ben trovato_ class. The
successor to this family home was Holland House, a structure of a
baronial cast, round which one might expect to find the remains of a
moat; a reproduction, in some points, as in name, of the building in the
suburbs of London, in which was born the Judge's immediate heir, Mr. H.
J. Boulton, successively Solicitor-General for Upper Canada, and Chief
Justice of Newfoundland.

When Holland House passed out of the hands of its original possessor, it
became the property of Mr. Alexander Manning, an Alderman of Toronto.

It was at Holland House that the Earl and Countess of Dufferin kept high
festival during a brief sojourn in the capital of Ontario, in 1872.
Suggested by public addresses received in infinite variety, within
Holland House was written or thought out that remarkable cycle of
rescripts and replies which rendered the vice-regal visit to Toronto so
memorable, - a cycle of rescripts and replies exceedingly wide in its
scope, but in which each requisite topic was touched with consummate
skill, and in such a way as to show in each direction genuine human
sympathy and heartiness of feeling, and a sincere desire to cheer and
strengthen the endeavour after the Good, the Beautiful and the True, in
every quarter.

Whilst making his visit to Quebec, before coming to Toronto, Lord
Dufferin, acting doubtless on a chivalrous and poetical impulse, took up
his abode in the Citadel, notwithstanding the absence of worthy
arrangements for his accommodation there.

Will not this bold and original step on the part of Lord Dufferin lead
hereafter to the conversion of the Fortress that crowns Cape Diamond
into a Rheinstein for the St. Lawrence - into an appropriately designed
castellated habitation, to be reserved as an occasional retreat,
nobly-seated and grandly historic, for the Viceroys of Canada?

We now passed the grounds and house of Chief-Justice Powell. In this
place we shall only record our recollection of the profound sensation
created far and wide by the loss of the Chief-Justice's daughter in the
packet ship _Albion_, wrecked off the Head of Kinsale, on the 22nd of
April, 1822. A voyage to the mother country at that period was still a
serious undertaking. We copy a contemporaneous extract from the _Cork
Southern Reporter_: - "The _Albion_, whose loss at Garrettstown Bay we
first mentioned in our paper of Tuesday, was one of the finest class of

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