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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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primogeniture. The son grasped more readily than the father what the
genius of the North American continent will endure, and what it will

Spadina Avenue was laid out by Dr. Baldwin on a scale that would have
satisfied the designers of St. Petersburg or Washington. Its width is
one hundred and twenty feet. Its length from the water's edge to the
base of Spadina Hill would be nearly three miles. Garnished on both
sides by a double row of full grown chestnut trees, it would vie in
magnificence, when seen from an eminence, with the Long Walk at Windsor.

Eastward of Spadina House, on the same elevation of land, was Davenport,
the picturesque and chateau-like home of Col. Wells, formerly of the
43rd regiment, built at an early period. Col. Wells was a fine example
of the English officer, whom we so often see retiring from the camp
gracefully and happily into domestic life. A faithful portrait of him
exists, in which he wears the gold medal of Badajoz. His sons, natural
artists, and arbiters of taste, inherited, along with their æsthetic
gifts, also lithe and handsome persons. One of them, now, like his
father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army, was highly distinguished in
the Crimea; and on revisiting Toronto after the peace with Russia, was
publicly presented with a sword of honour. The view of the Lake and
intervening forest, as seen from Davenport and Spadina, before the
cultivation of the alluvial plain below, was always fine. (On his
retirement from the army, the second Col. Wells took up his abode at




Returning again to the front. The portion of the Common that lies
immediately west of the foot of Brock Street was enclosed for the first
time and ornamentally planted by Mr. Jameson. Before his removal to
Canada, Mr. Jameson had filled a judicial position in the West Indies.
In Canada, he was successively Attorney-General and Vice-Chancellor, the
Chancellorship itself being vested in the Crown. The conversational
powers of Mr. Jameson were admirable: and no slight interest attached to
the pleasant talk of one who, in his younger days, had been the familiar
associate of Southey, Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In a
volume of poems by Hartley Coleridge, son of the philosopher, published
in 1833, the three sonnets addressed "To a Friend," were addressed to
Mr. Jameson, as we are informed in a note. We give the first of these
little poems at length:

"When we were idlers with the loitering rills,
The need of human love we little noted:
Our love was nature; and the peace that floated
On the white mist, and dwelt upon the hills,
To sweet accord subdued our wayward wills:
One soul was ours, one mind, one heart devoted,
That, wisely doating, asked not why it doated,
And ours the unknown joy, which knowing kills.
But now I find how dear thou wert to me;
That man is more than half of nature's treasure,
Of that fair Beauty which no eye can see,
Of that sweet music which no ear can measure;
And now the streams may sing for others' pleasure,
The hills sleep on in their eternity."

The note appended, which appears only in the first edition, is as
follows: "This sonnet, and the two following, my earliest attempts at
that form of versification, were addressed to R. S. Jameson, Esq., on
occasion of meeting him in London, after a separation of some years. He
was the favourite companion of my boyhood, the active friend and sincere
counsellor of my youth. 'Though seas between us broad ha' roll'd' since
we 'travelled side by side' last, I trust the sight of this little
volume will give rise to recollections that will make him ten years
younger. He is now Judge Advocate at Dominica, and husband of Mrs.
Jameson, authoress of the 'Diary of an Ennuyée,' 'Loves of the Poets,'
and other agreeable productions."

Mr. Jameson was a man of high culture and fine literary tastes. He was,
moreover, an amateur artist of no ordinary skill, as extant drawings of
his in water-colours attest. His countenance, especially in his old age,
was of the Jeremy Bentham stamp.

It was from the house on the west of Brock Street that Mrs. Jameson
dated the letters which constitute her well-known "Winter Studies and
Summer Rambles." That volume thus closes: "At three o'clock in the
morning, just as the moon was setting on Lake Ontario, I arrived at the
door of my own house in Toronto, having been absent on this wild
expedition [to the Sault] just two months." York had then been two years
Toronto. (For having ventured to pass down the rapids at the Sault, she
had been formally named by the Otchipways of the locality,
_Was-sa-je-wun-e-qua_, "Woman of the Bright Stream.")

The Preface to the American edition of Mrs. Jameson's "Characteristics
of Women" was also written here. In that Introduction we can detect a
touch due to the "wild expedition" just spoken of. "They say," she
observes, "that as a savage proves his heroism by displaying in grim
array the torn scalps of his enemies, so a woman thinks she proves her
virtue by exhibiting the mangled reputations of her friends:" a censure,
she adds, which is just, but the propensity, she explains, is wrongly
attributed to ill-nature and jealousy. "Ignorance," she proceeds, "is
the main cause; ignorance of ourselves and others; and when I have heard
any female acquaintance commenting with a spiteful or a sprightly levity
on the delinquencies and mistakes of their sex, I have only said to
myself, 'They know not what they do.'" "Here, then," the Preface
referred to concludes, "I present to women a little elementary manual or
introduction to that knowledge of woman, in which they may learn to
understand better their own nature; to judge more justly, more gently,
more truly of each other;

'And in the silent hour of inward thought
To still _suspect_, yet still _revere_ themselves
In lowliness of heart.'"

Mrs. Jameson was unattractive in person at first sight, although, as
could scarcely fail to be the case in one so highly endowed, her
features, separately considered, were fine and boldly marked.
Intellectually, she was an enchantress. Besides an originality and
independence of judgment on most subjects, and a facility in
generalizing and reducing thought to the form of a neat aphorism, she
had a strong and capacious memory, richly furnished with choice things.
Her conversation was consequently of the most fascinating kind.

She sang, too, in sweet taste, with a quiet softness, without display.
She sketched from nature with great elegance, and designed cleverly. The
seven or eight illustrations which appear in the American edition of the
"Characteristics," dated at Toronto, are etched by herself, and bear her
autograph, "Anna." The same is to be observed of the illustrations in
the English edition of her "Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories, and
Fancies;" and in her larger volumes on various Art-subjects. She had
super-eminently beautiful hands, which she always scrupulously guarded
from contract with the outer air.

Mrs. Jameson was a connoisseur in "hands," as we gather from her
Commonplace Book, just mentioned. She there says: "There are hands of
various character; the hand to catch, and the hand to hold; the hand to
clasp, and the hand to grasp; the hand that has worked, or could work,
and the hand that has never done anything but hold itself out to be
kissed, like that of Joanna of Arragon, in Raphael's picture." Her own
appeared to belong to the last-named class.

Though the merest trifles, we may record here one or two further
personal recollections of Mrs. Jameson; of her appreciation, for
example, of a very obvious quotation from Horace, to be appended to a
little sketch of her own, representing a child asleep, but in danger
from a serpent near; and of her glad acceptance of an out-of-the-way
scrap from the "Vanity of Arts and Sciences" of Cornelius Agrippa, which
proved the antiquity of _charivaries_. "Do you not know that the
intervention of a lady's hand is requisite to the finish of a young
man's education?" was a suggestive question drawn forth by some youthful
maladroitness. Another characteristic dictum, "Society is one vast
masquerade of manners," is remembered, as having been probably at the
time a new idea to ourselves in particular. The irrational
conventionalities of society she persistently sought to counteract, by
her words on suitable occasions, and by her example, especially in point
of dress, which did not conform to the customs in vogue.

Among the local characters relished by Mrs. Jameson in Canada was Mr.
Justice Hagerman, who added some of the bluntness of Samuel Johnson to
the physique of Charles James Fox. She set a high value on his talents,
although we have heard her, at once playfully and graphically, speak of
him as "that great mastiff, Hagerman." From Mrs. Jameson we learned that
"Gaytay" was a sufficient approximation in English to the pronunciation
of "Goethe." She had been intimately acquainted with the poet at Weimar.

In the Kensington Museum there is a bust, exceedingly fine, of Mrs.
Jameson, by the celebrated sculptor Gibson, executed by him, as the
inscription speaks, "in her honour." The head and countenance are of
course somewhat idealized; but the likeness is well retained. In the
small Boston edition of the "Legends of the Madonna" there is an
interesting portrait of Mrs. Jameson, giving her appearance when far
advanced in years.

Westward from the house and grounds whose associations have detained us
so long, the space that was known as the Government Common is now
traversed from south to north by two streets. Their names possess some
interest, the first of them being that of the Duke of Portland, Viceroy
of Ireland, Colonial Secretary, and three times Prime Minister in the
reign of George the Third; the other that of Earl Bathurst, Secretary
for the Colonies in George the Fourth's time.

Eastward of Bathurst Street, in the direction of the military
burying-ground, there was long marked out by a furrow in the sward the
ground-plan of a church. In 1830, the military chaplain, Mr. Hudson,
addressed to the commander of the forces a complaint "of the very great
inconvenience to which the troops are exposed in having to march so far
to the place of worship, particularly when the weather and roads are so
unfavourable during a greater part of the year in this country, the
distance from the Barracks to the Church being two miles:" adding, "In
June last, the roads were in such a state as to prevent the Troops from
attending Church for four successive Sundays." He then suggested "the
propriety of erecting a chapel on the Government reserve for the
accommodation of the Troops." The Horse Guards refused to undertake the
erection of a chapel here, but made a donation of one thousand pounds
towards the re-edification of St. James' Church, "on condition that
accommodation should be permanently provided for His Majesty's Troops."
The outline in the turf was a relic of Mr. Hudson's suggestion.

The line that defined the limit of the Government Common to the north
and east, (and west, of course, likewise), prior to its division into
building lots, was a portion of the circumference of a great circle, "of
a radius of a 1,000 yards, more or less," whose centre was the Fort. On
the old plans of York, acres of this great circle are traced, with two
interior concentric arcs, of radii respectively of eight and five
hundred yards.

We now soon arrive at the ravine of the "Garrison Creek." In the rivulet
below, for some distance up the valley, before the clearing away of the
woods, salmon used to be taken at certain seasons of the year. Crossing
the stream, and ascending to the arched gateway of the fort, (we are
speaking of it as it used to be), we pass between the strong
iron-studded portals, which are thrown back: we pass a sentry just
within the gate, and the guard-house on the left. At present we do not
tarry within the enclosure of the Fort. We simply glance at the
loopholed block-house on the one side, and the quarters of the men, the
officers, and the commandant on the other; and we hurry across the
gravelled area, recalling rapidly a series of spirit-stirring ordinal
numbers - 40th, 41st, 68th, 79th, 42nd, 15th, 32nd, 1st - each suggestive
of a gallant assemblage at some time here; of a vigorous, finely
disciplined, ready-aye-ready group, that, like the successive
generations on the stage of human life, came and went just once, as it
were - as the years rolled on, and the eye saw them again no more.

We pass on through the western gate to the large open green space which
lies on the farther side. This is the Garrison Reserve. It bears the
same relation to the modern Toronto and the ancient York as the Plains
of Abraham do to Quebec. It was here that the struggle took place, in
the olden time, that led to the capture of the town. In both cases the
leader of the aggressive expedition "fell victorious." But the analogy
holds no further; as, in the case of the inferior conquest, the
successful power did not retain permanent possession.

The Wolfe's Cove - the landing-place of the invader - on the occasion
referred to, was just within the curve of the Humber Bay, far to the
west, where Queen Street now skirts the beach for a short distance and
then emerges on it. The intention had been to land more to the eastward,
but the vessels containing the hostile force were driven westward by the

The debarkation was opposed by a handful of Indians, under Major Givins.
The Glengary Fencibles had been despatched to aid in this service, but,
attempting to approach the spot by a back road, they lost their way. A
tradition exists that the name of the Grenadier's Pond, a lagoon a
little to the west, one of the ancient outlets of the waters of the
Humber, is connected with the disastrous bewilderment of a party of the
regular troops at this critical period. It is at the same time asserted
that the name "Grenadier's Pond" was familiar previously. At length
companies of the Eighth Regiment, of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment,
and of Incorporated Militia, made their appearance on the ground, and
disputed the progress inland of the enemy. After suffering severely,
they retired towards the Fort. This was the existing Fort. The result is
now matter of history, and need not be detailed. As portions of the
cliff have fallen away from time to time along the shore here, numerous
skeletons have been exposed to view, relics of friend and foe slain on
the adjacent common, where, also, military ornaments and fragments of
fire-arms, used frequently to be dug up. Some of the bones referred to,
however, may have been remains of early French and Indian traders.

The _Loyalist_ newspaper of May 9, 1829, published at York, speaks of
the re-interment on that day of the remains of an officer killed at the
battle of York. The article runs as follows: - "The late Capt.
McNeil. - It will be recollected by many of the inhabitants of York that
this officer fell while gallantly fighting at the head of his Company of
Grenadiers of the 8th Regiment, in defence of the place, on the morning
of the 27th of April, 1813. His remains which so eminently deserved
rites of honourable sepulture, were from unavoidable circumstances
consigned to earth by the hands of the enemy whom he was opposing, near
the spot where he fell, without any of those marks of distinction which
are paid to departed valour.

"The waters of the Lake," the _Loyalist_ then proceeds to say, "having
lately made great inroads upon the bank, and the grave being in danger
of being washed away, it may be satisfactory to his friends to learn,
that on these circumstances being made known to Major Winniett,
commanding the 68th Regiment at this Post, he promptly authorized the
necessary measures to be taken for removing the remains of Capt. McNeil,
and placing them in the Garrison Burial Ground, which was done this day.
A firing-party and the band attended on the occasion, and the remains
were followed to the place of interment by the officers of the Garrison,
and a procession of the inhabitants of the town and vicinity."

The site of the original French stockade, established here in the middle
of the last century, was nearly at the middle point between the
landing-place of the United States force in 1813, and the existing Fort.
West of the white cut-stone Barracks, several earthworks and grass-grown
excavations still mark the spot. These ruins, which we often visited
when they were much more extensive and conspicuous than they are now,
were popularly designated "The Old French Fort."

It is interesting to observe the probable process by which the
appellation "Toronto" came to be attached to the Trading-post here. Its
real name, as imposed by the French authorities, was Fort Rouillé, from
a French colonial minister of that name, in 1749-54. This we learn from
a despatch of M. de Longeuil, Governor-in-Chief of Canada in 1752. And
"Toronto," at that period, according to contemporaneous maps, denoted
Lake Simcoe and the surrounding region. Thus in Carver's Travels through
North America in 1766-8, in p. 172, we read, "On the north-west part of
this lake [Ontario], and to the south of Lake Huron, is a tribe of
Indians called the Mississagués, whose town is denominated Toronto, from
the lake [_i. e._ Lake Simcoe] on which it lies, but they are not very
numerous." This agrees with Lahontan's statements and map, in 1687.

What Carver says of the fewness of the native inhabitants is applicable
only to the state of things in his day. The fatal irruption of the
Iroquois from the south had then taken place, and the whole of the Lake
Simcoe or Toronto region had been made a desert. Before that irruption,
the peninsula included between Notawasaga Bay, Matchedash, or Sturgeon
Bay, the River Severn, Lake Couchichin and Lake Simcoe was a locality
largely frequented by native tribes. It was especially the head-quarters
of the Wyandots or Hurons. Villages, burial-grounds, and cultivated
lands abounded in it. Unusual numbers of the red men were congregated

It was in short the place of meeting, the place of concourse, the
populous region, indicated by the Huron term Toronto.

In the form Toronton, the word Toronto is given by Gabriel Sagard in his
"Dictionnaire de la Langue Huronne," published at Paris in 1636.

With Sagard it is a kind of exclamation, signifying "Il y en a
beaucoup," and it is used in relation to men. He cites as an
example - "He has killed a number of S. (the initial of some hostile
tribe)." "Toronton S. ahouyo."

In the Vocabulary of Huron words at the end of Lahontan's second volume,
the term likewise appears, but with a prefix, - A-toronton, - and is
translated "Beaucoup." Sagard gives it with the prefix O, in the phrase
"O-toronton dacheniquoy," "J'en mange beaucoup."

We are not indeed to suppose that the Hurons employed the term Toronto
as a proper name. We know that the aborigines used for the most part no
proper names of places, in our sense of the word, their local
appellations being simply brief descriptions or allusion to incidents.
But we are to suppose that the early white men took notice of the
vocable Toronto, frequently and emphatically uttered by their red
companions, when pointing towards the Lake Simcoe region, or when
pressing on in canoe or on foot, to reach it.

Accordingly, at length, the vocable Toronto is caught up by the white
voyageurs, and adopted as a local proper name in the European sense:
just as had been the case already with the word Canada. ("Kanata" was a
word continually heard on the lips of the red men in the Lower St.
Lawrence, as they pointed to the shore; they simply meant to
indicate - "Yonder are our wigwams;" but the French mariners and others
took the expression to be a geographical name for the new region which
they were penetrating. And such it has become.)

We can now also see how it came to pass that the term Toronto was
attached to a particular spot on the shore of Lake Ontario. The mouth of
the Humber, or rather a point on the eastern side of the indentation
known as Humber Bay, was the landing place of hunting parties, trading
parties, war-parties, on their way to the populous region in the
vicinity of Lake Simcoe. Here they disembarked for the tramp to Toronto.
This was a Toronto landing-place for wayfarers bound to the district in
the interior where there were crowds. And gradually the starting-place
took the name of the goal. The style and title of the terminus _ad quem_
were usurped by the terminus _à quo_.

Thus likewise it happened that the stockaded trading-post established
near the landing on the indentation of Humber Bay came to be popularly
known as Fort Toronto, although its actual, official name was Fort

In regard to the signification which by some writers has been assigned
to the word Toronto, of "trees rising out of the water" - we think the
interpretation has arisen from a misunderstanding of language used by
Indian canoe-men.

Indian canoe-men in coasting along the shore of Lake Ontario from the
east or west, would, we may conceive, naturally point to "the trees
rising out of the water," the pines and black poplars looming up from
the Toronto island or peninsula, as a familiar land-mark by which they
knew the spot where they were to disembark for the "populous region to
the north." The white men mixing together in their heads the description
of the landmark and the district where, as they were, emphatically told,
there were crowds, made out of the expressions "trees rising out of the
water," and "Toronto," convertible terms, which they were not.

As to the idea to which Capt. Bonnycastle gave currency, by recording it
in one of his books on Canada, that Toronto, or Tarento, was possibly
the name of an Italian engineer concerned in the construction of the
fort, - it is sufficient to reply that we know what the official name of
the Fort was: it was Fort Rouillé. Sorel, and Chambly, and it may be,
other places in Canada, derived their names from officers in the French
service. But nothing to be found in the early annals of the country
gives any countenance to Capt. Bonnycastle's derivation. It was probably
a mere after-dinner conversational conjecture, and it ought never to
have been gravely propounded.

We meet with Toronto under several different forms, in the French and
English documents; but the variety has evidently arisen from the
attempts of men of different degrees of literary capacity and
qualification, to represent, each as he best could, a native vocable
which had not been long reduced to writing. The same variety, and from
the same cause, occurs in a multitude of other aboriginal terms.

The person who first chanced to write down Toronto as Tarento was
probably influenced by some previous mental familiarity with the name of
an old Italian town; just as he who first startled Europeans by the
announcement that one of the Iroquois nations was composed of Senecas,
was doubtless helped to the familiar-looking term which he adopted, by a
thought of the Roman stoic. (Pownall says Seneca is properly Sen-aga,
"the farther people," that is in relation to the New England Indians;
while Mohawk is Mo-aga, "the hither people." Neither of the terms was
the name borne by the tribe. According to the French rendering, the
Mo-agas were Agniés; the Sen-agas Tsonnontouans.)

The chivalrous and daring La Salle must have rested for a moment at the
Toronto Landing. In his second expedition to the West, in 1680, he made
his way from Fort Frontenac to Michilimackinac by the portage from the
mouth of what is now the Humber to Lake Huron, accompanied by a party of
twenty-four men.

In the preceding year he had penetrated to the Mississippi by the Lake
Erie route. But then also some of his company unexpectedly found
themselves in close proximity to Toronto. The Franciscan Friar,
Hennepin, sent forward by La Salle from Fort Frontenac with seventeen
men, was compelled by stress of weather, while coasting along the north
side of Lake Ontario, to take shelter in the Humber river. It was then
the 26th of Nov. (1678); and here he was delayed until the 5th of
December. Hennepin speaks of the place of his detention as Taiaiagon: a
word erroneously taken to be a local proper name. It means as we are
assured by one formerly familiar with the native Indians, simply a
Portage or Landing-place. So that there were numerous Taiaiagons. One is
noted in particular, situated, the _Gazetteer_ of 1799 says, "half way

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 8 of 59)