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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between York and the head of the Bay of Quinté:" probably where Port
Hope now stands. It is marked in the old French maps in that position.
(On one of them a track is drawn from it to "Lac Taronthé;" that is to
the chain of Lakes leading north-westerly to Lake Toronto, _i. e._ Lake
Simcoe.) The Taiaiagon of Hennepin is stated by him to be "at the
farther end of Lake Ontario," and "about seventy leagues from Fort
Frontenac:" too far, of course. Again: the distance from Taiaiagon to
the mouth of the Niagara river, is made by him to be fifteen or sixteen
leagues; also too far, if Toronto is the site of his Taiaiagon.





We now enter again the modern Fort; passing back through the western
gate. On our right we have the site of the magazine which so fatally
exploded in 1813; we learn from Gen. Sheaffe's despatch to Sir George
Prevost, that it was "in the western battery."

In close proximity to the magazine was the Government House of the day,
an extensive rambling cluster of one-storey buildings; all "riddled" or
shattered to pieces by the concussion, when the explosion took place.
The ruin that thus befel the Governor's residence led, on the
restoration of peace, to the purchase of Chief Justice Elmsley's house
on King street, and its conversion into "Government House."

From the main battery, which (including a small semi-circular bastion
for the venerable flag-staff of the Fort) extends along the brow of the
palisaded bank, south of the parade, the royal salutes, resounding down
and across the lake, used to be fired on the arrival and departure of
the Lieutenant-Governor, and at the opening and closing of the

From the south-eastern bastion, overlooking the ravine below, a
twelve-pounder was discharged every day at noon. "The twelve-o'clock
gun," when discontinued, was long missed with regret.

At the time of the invasion of Canada in 1812, the garrison of York was
manned by the 3rd regiment of York militia. We have before us a relic of
the period, in the form of the contemporary regimental order-book of the
Fort. An entry of the 29th of July, 1812, showing the approach of
serious work, has an especial local interest. "In consequence of an
order from Major-General Brock, commanding the forces, for a detachment
of volunteers, under the command of Major Allan, to hold themselves in
readiness to proceed in batteaux from the Head of the Lake to-morrow at
2 o'clock, the following officers, non-commissioned officers and
privates will hold themselves in readiness to proceed at 2 o'clock, for
the purpose of being fitted with caps, blankets and haversacks, as well
as to draw provisions. On their arrival at the Head of the Lake,
regimental coats and canteens will be ready to be issued to them." The
names are then given. "Capt. Heward, Lieut. Richardson, Lieut. Jarvis,
Lieut. Robinson. Sergeants Knott, Humberstone, Bond, Bridgeford."

In view of the test to which the citizen-soldiers were about to be
subjected, the General, like a good officer, sought by judicious praise,
to inspire them with self-confidence. "Major-General Brock," the
order-book proceeds, "has desired me (Captain Stephen Heward) to
acquaint the detachment under my command, of his high approbation of
their orderly conduct and good discipline while under arms: that their
exercise and marching far exceeded any that he had seen in the Province.
And in particular he directed me to acquaint the officers how much he is
pleased with their appearance in uniform and their perfect knowledge of
their duty."

On the 13th of August, we learn from other sources, Brock was on the
Western Frontier with 700 soldiers, including the volunteers from York,
and 600 Indians; and on the 16th the old flag was waving from the
fortress of Detroit; but, on the 13th October, the brave General, though
again a victor in the engagement, was himself a lifeless corpse on the
slopes above Queenston; and, in April of the following year, York, as we
have already seen, was in the hands of the enemy. Such are the ups and
downs of war. It is mentioned that "Push on the York Volunteers!" was
the order issuing from the lips of the General, at the moment of the
fatal shot. From the order-book referred to, we learn that "Toronto" was
the parole or countersign of the garrison on the 23rd July, 1812.

The knoll on the east side of the Garrison Creek was covered with a
number of buildings for the accommodation of troops, in addition to the
barracks within the fort. Here also stood a block-house. Eastward were
the surgeon's quarters, overhanging the bay; and further eastward
still, were the commandant's quarters, a structure popularly known, by
some freak of military language, as Lambeth Palace. Here for a time
resided Major-General Æneas Shaw, afterwards the owner and occupant of
Oak Hill.

On the beach below the knoll, there continued to be, for a number of
years, a row of cannon dismounted, duly spiked and otherwise disabled,
memorials of the capture in 1813, when these guns were rendered useless
by the regular troops before their retreat to Kingston. The pebbles on
the shore about here were also plentifully mixed with loose canister
shot, washed up by the waves, after their submersion in the bay on the
same occasion.

From the little eminence just referred to, along the edge of the cliff,
ran a gravel walk, which led first to the Guard House over the
Commissariat Stores, in a direct line, with the exception of a slight
divergence occasioned by "Capt. Bonnycastle's cottage;" and then
eastward into the town. Where ravines occurred, cut in the drift by
water-courses into the bay, the gulf was spanned by a bridge of hewn
logs. This walk, kept in order for many years by the military
authorities, was the representative of the path first worn bare by the
soft tread of the Indian. From its agreeableness, overlooking as it did,
through its whole length the Harbour and Lake, this walk gave birth to
the idea, which became a fixed one in the minds of the early people of
the place, that there was to be in perpetuity, in front of the whole
town, a pleasant promenade, on which the burghers and their families
should take the air and disport themselves generally.

The Royal Patent by which this sentimental walk is provided for and
decreed, issued on the 14th day of July, in the year 1818, designates it
by the interesting old name of Mall, and nominates "John Beverley
Robinson, William Allan, George Crookshank, Duncan Cameron and Grant
Powell, all of the town of York, Esqs., their heirs and assigns forever,
as trustees to hold the same for the use and benefit of the
inhabitants." Stretching from Peter Street in the west to the Reserve
for Government Buildings in the east, of a breadth varying between four
and five chains, following the line of Front Street on the one side, and
the several turnings and windings of the bank on the other, the area of
land contained in this Mall was "thirty acres, more or less, with
allowance for the several cross streets leading from the said town to
the water." The paucity of open squares in the early plans of York may
be partly accounted for by this provision made for a spacious Public

While the archæologist must regret the many old landmarks which were
ruthlessly shorn away in the construction of the modern Esplanade, he
must, nevertheless, contemplate with never-ceasing admiration that great
and laudable work. It has done for Toronto what the Thames embankment
has effected for London. Besides vast sanitary advantages accruing, it
has created space for the erection of a new front to the town. It has
made room for a broad promenade some two or three miles in length, not,
indeed, of the _far niente_ type, but with double and treble railway
tracks abreast of itself, all open to the deep water of the harbour on
one side, and flanked almost throughout the whole length on the other,
by a series of warehouses, mills, factories and depôts, destined to
increase every year in importance. The sights and sounds every day,
along this combination of roadways and its surroundings, are unlike
anything dreamt of by the framers of the old Patent of 1818. But it
cannot be said that the idea contained in that document has been wholly
departed from: nay, it must be confessed that it has been grandly
realized in a manner and on a scale adapted to the requirements of these
latter days.

For some time, Front Street, above the Esplanade, continued to be a
raised terrace, from which pleasant views and fresh lake air could be
obtained; and attempts were made, at several points along its southern
verge, to establish a double row of shade trees, which should recall in
future ages the primitive oaks and elms which overlooked the margin of
the harbour. But soon the erection of tall buildings on the newly-made
land below, began to shut out the view and the breezes, and to
discourage attempts at ornamentation by the planting of trees.

It is to regretted, however, that the title of Mall has not yet been
applied to some public walk in the town. Old-world sounds like
these - reeve, warden, provost, recorder, House of Commons, railway, (not
_road_), dugway, mall - like the chimes in some of our towers, and the
sung-service in some of our churches - help, in cases where the
imagination is active, to reconcile the exile from the British Islands
to his adopted home, and even to attach him to it. Incorporated into our
common local speech, and so perpetuated, they may also be hereafter
subsidiary mementoes of our descent as a people, when all connection,
save that of history, with the ancient home of our forefathers, will
have ceased.

In 1804, there were "Lieutenants of Counties" in Upper Canada. The
following gentlemen were, in 1804, "Lieutenants of Counties" for the
Counties attached to their respective names. We take the list from the
_Upper Canada Almanac_ for 1804, published at York by John Bennett. The
office and title of County-Lieutenant do not appear to have been kept
up: "John Macdonell, Esq., Glengary; William Fortune, Esq., Prescott;
Archibald Macdonell, Esq., Stormont; Hon. Richard Duncan, Esq., Dundas;
Peter Drummond, Esq., Grenville; James Breakenridge, Esq., Leeds; Hon.
Richard Cartwright, Esq., Frontenac; Hazelton Spencer, Esq., Lenox;
William Johnson, Esq., Addington; John Ferguson, Esq., Hastings;
Archibald Macdonell, Esq., of Marysburg, Prince Edward; Alexander
Chisholm, Esq., Northumberland; Robert Baldwin, Esq., Durham; Hon. David
William Smith, Esq., York; Hon. Robert Hamilton, Esq., Lincoln; Samuel
Ryerse, Esq., Norfolk; William Claus, Esq., Oxford; (Middlesex is
vacant); Hon. Alexander Grant, Esq., Essex; Hon. James Baby, Esq.,

Another old English term in use in the Crown Lands Office of Ontario, if
not generally, is "Domesday Book." The record of grants of land from the
beginning of the organization of Upper Canada is entitled "Domesday
Book." It consists now of many folio volumes.

The gravelled path from the Fort to the Commissariat Stores, as
described above, in conjunction with a parallel track for wheels along
the cliff all the way to the site of the Parliament Buildings, suggested
in 1822 the restoration of a carriage-drive to the Island, which had
some years previously existed. This involved the erection or rather
re-erection of bridges over the lesser and greater Don, to enable the
inhabitants of York to reach the long lines of lake beach, extending
eastward to Scarborough Heights and westward to Gibraltar Point.

All the old accounts of York in the topographical dictionaries of "sixty
years since," spoke of the salubriousness of the peninsula which formed
the harbour. Even the aborigines, it was stated, had recourse to that
spot for sanative purposes. All this was derived from the article in D.
W. Smith's Gazetteer, which sets forth that "the long beach or
peninsula, which affords a most delightful ride, is considered so
healthy by the Indians, that they resort to it whenever indisposed."

So early as 1806 a bridge or float had been built over the mouth of the
Don. In the _Gazette_ of June 18, in that year, we have the notice: "It
is requested that no person will draw sand or pass with loaded waggons
or carts over the new Bridge or Float at the opening of the Don River,
as this source of communication was intended to accommodate the
inhabitants of the town in a walk or ride to the Island. York, 13th
June, 1806."

In a MS. map of this portion of the vicinity of York, dated 1811, the
road over the float is marked "Road from York to the Lighthouse." In
this map, the lesser Don does not appear. A pond or inlet represents it,
stretching in from the bay to the river. A bridge spans the inlet. There
is a bridge also over the ravine, through which flows the rivulet by the
Parliament Buildings.

Health, however, was not the sole object of all these arrangements. A
race-course had been laid out on the sandy neck of land connecting the
central portion of the peninsula with the main shore. Here races were
periodically held; and we have been assured, by an eye-witness, that
twelve fine horses at a time had been seen by him engaged in the contest
of speed. The hippodrome in question was not a ring, but a long straight
level stadium, extending from the southern end of the second bridge to
the outer margin of the lake.

When invasion was threatened in 1812, all the bridges in the direction
of the Island were taken down. An earthwork was thrown up across the
narrow ridge separating the last long reach of the Don from the Bay; and
in addition, a trench was cut across the same ridge. This cut, at first
insignificant, became ultimately by a natural process the lesser Don, a
deep and wide outlet, a convenient short-cut for skiffs and canoes from
the Bay to the Don proper, and from the Don proper to the Bay.

On the return of peace, the absence of bridges, and the existence, in
addition, of a second formidable water-filled moat, speedily began to be
matters of serious regret to the inhabitants of York, who found
themselves uncomfortably cut off from easy access to the peninsula. From
the _Gazette_ of April 15, 1822, we learn that "a public subscription
among the inhabitants had been entered into, to defray the expense of
erecting two bridges on the River Don, leading from this town towards
the south, to the Peninsula." And subjoined are the leading names of
the place, guaranteeing various sums, in all amounting to £108 5s. The
timber was presented by Peter Robinson, Esq., M.P.P. The estimated
expense of the undertaking was £325. The following names appear for
various sums - fifty, twenty, ten, five and two dollars - Major Hillier,
Rev. Dr. Strachan, Hon. J. H. Dunn, Hon. James Baby, Mr. Justice
Boulton, John Small, Henry Boulton, Col. Coffin, Thomas Ridout, sen., W.
Allen, Grant Powell, Samuel Ridout, J. S. Baldwin, S. Heward, James E.
Small, Chas. Small, S. Washburn, J. B. Macaulay, G. Crookshank, A.
Mercer, George Boulton, Thomas Taylor, Joseph Spragge, George Hamilton,
R. E. Prentice, A. Warffe, W. B. Jarvis, B. Turquand, John Denison,
sen., George Denison, John and George Monro, Henry Drean, Peter
McDougall, Geo. Duggan, James Nation, Thomas Bright, W. B. Robinson, J.
W. Gamble, William Proudfoot, Jesse Ketchum, D. Brooke, jun., R. C.
Henderson, David Stegman, L. Fairbairn, Geo. Playter, Joseph Rogers,
John French, W. Roe, Thomas Sullivan, John Hay, J. Biglow, John Elliot.

On the strength of the sums thus promised, an engineer, Mr. E. Angell,
began the erection of the bridge over the Greater Don. The _Gazette_
before us reports that it was being constructed "with hewn timbers, on
the most approved _European_ principle." (There is point in the
italicised word: it hints the impolicy of employing United States
engineers for such works). The paper adds that "the one bridge over the
Great Don, consisting of five arches, is in a forward state; and the
other, of one arch, over the Little Don, will be completed in or before
the month of July next, when this line of road will be opened." It is
subjoined that "subscriptions will continue to be received by A. Mercer,
Esq., J. Dennis, York, and also by the Committee, Thomas Bright, William
Smith and E. Angell."

By the _Weekly Register_ of June 19, in the following year, it appears
that the engineer, in commencing the bridge before the amount of its
cost was guaranteed, had calculated without his host; and, as is usually
the case with those who draw in advance on the proceeds of a supposed
public enthusiam, had been brought into difficulties. We accordingly
find that "on Friday evening last, pursuant to public notice given in
the _Upper Canada Gazette_, a meeting of the subscribers, and other
inhabitants of the town of York, was held at the house of Mr. Phair, in
the Market-place, for the purpose of taking into consideration the
circumstances in which the engineer had been placed by constructing a
bridge, the charge of which was to be defrayed by voluntary
subscription, over the mouth of the river Don."

Resolutions were passed on the occasion, approving of Mr. Angell's
proceedings, and calling for additional donations. A new committee was
now appointed, consisting of H. J. Boulton, Esq., Dr. Widmer, S. Heward,
Esq., Charles Small, Esq., and Allan McNab, Esq. - The editor of the
_Weekly Register_ (Fothergill) thus notices the meeting: "It is
satisfactory to find that there is at length some probability of the
bridge over the Don in this vicinity being completed. We are,
ourselves," the writer of the article proceeds to say, "the more anxious
on this account, from the hope there is reason to entertain that these
and other improvements in the neighbourhood will eventually lead to a
draining of the great marsh at the east end of this town; for until that
is done, it is utterly impossible that the place can be healthy at all
seasons of the year. The public are not sufficiently impressed with the
alarming insalubrity of such situations. We beg to refer our readers,"
the editor of the _Register_ then observes, "to a very interesting
letter from Dr. Priestly to Sir John Pringle in the Philosophical
Transactions for 1777; and another from Dr. Price to Dr. Horsley in the
same work in 1774; both on this subject, which throw considerable light
upon it." And it is added, "We have it in contemplation to republish
these letters in this work, as being highly interesting to many persons,
and applicable to various situations in this country, but particularly
to the neighbourhood of York."

The desired additional subscriptions do not appear to have come in. The
works at the mouth of the Don proper were brought to a stand-still. The
bridge over the Lesser Don was not commenced. Thus matters remained for
the long interval of ten years. Every inhabitant of York, able to
indulge in the luxury of a carriage, or a saddle horse, or given to
extensive pedestrian excursions, continued to regret the
inaccessibleness of the peninsula. Especially among the families of the
military, accustomed to the surroundings of sea-coast towns at home, did
the desire exist, to be able, at will, to take a drive, or a canter, or
a vigorous constitutional, on the sands of the peninsula, where, on the
one hand, the bold escarpments in the distance to the eastward, on the
other, the ocean-like horizon, and immediately in front the long rollers
of surf tumbling in, all helped to stir recollections of (we will
suppose) Dawlish or Torquay.

In 1834, through the intervention of Sir John Colborne, and by means of
a subsidy from the military chest, the works on both outlets of the Don
were re-commenced. In 1835 the bridges were completed. On the 22nd of
August in that year they were handed over by the military authorities to
the town, now no longer York, but Toronto.

Some old world formalities were observed on the occasion. The civic
authorities approached the new structure in procession; a barricade at
the first bridge arrested their progress. A guard stationed there also
forbade further advance. The officer in command, Capt. Bonnycastle,
appears, and the Mayor and Corporation are informed that the two bridges
before them are, by the command of the Lieutenant-Governor, presented to
them as a free gift, for the benefit of the inhabitants, that they may
in all time to come be enabled to enjoy the salubrious air of the
peninsula; the only stipulation being that the bridges should be free of
toll forever to the troops, stores, and ordnance of the sovereign.

The mayor, who, as eye-witnesses report, was arrayed in an official robe
of purple velvet lined with scarlet, read the following reply: "Sir - On
the part of His Majesty's faithful and loyal city of Toronto, I receive
at your hands the investiture of these bridges, erected by command of
His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, and now delivered to the
Corporation for the benefit and accommodation of the citizens. In the
name of the Common Council and the citizens of Toronto, I beg you to
convey to His Excellency the grateful feelings with which this new
instance of the bounty of our most gracious sovereign is received; and I
take this occasion on behalf of the city to renew our assurances of
loyalty and attachment to His Majesty's person and government, and to
pray, through His Excellency, a continuance of royal favour towards this
city. I have, on the part of the corporation and citizens, to request
you to assure His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor that His
Excellency's desire and generous exertions for the health and welfare of
the inhabitants of this city are duly and gratefully appreciated; and I
beg you to convey to His Excellency the best wishes of myself and my
fellow-citizens for the health and happiness of His Excellency and
family. Permit me, Sir, for myself and brethren, to thank you for the
very handsome and complimentary manner in which you have carried His
Excellency's commands into execution."

"Immediately," the narrative of the ceremonial continues, "the band, who
were stationed on the bridge, struck up the heart-stirring air, 'God
save the King,' during the performance of which the gentlemen of the
Corporation, followed by a large number of the inhabitants, passed
uncovered over the bridge. Three cheers were then given respectively for
the King, for His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, for the Mayor and
Council of the City of Toronto, and for Capt. Bonnycastle. The
gentlemanly and dignified manner in which both the addresses were read
did credit to the gentlemen on whom these duties devolved; and the good
order and good humour that prevailed among the spectators present were
exceedingly gratifying."

We take this account from the Toronto _Patriot_ of August 28th, 1835,
wherein it is copied from the _Christian Guardian_. Mr. R. B. Sullivan,
the official representative of the city on the occasion just described,
was the second mayor of Toronto. He was afterwards one of the Judges of
the Court of Common Pleas.

The bridges thus ceremoniously presented and received had a short-lived
existence. They were a few years afterwards, seriously damaged during
the breaking up of the ice, and then carried away bodily in one of the
spring freshets to which the Don is subject.

The peninsula in front of York was once plentifully stocked with goats,
the offspring of a small colony established by order of Governor Hunter,
at Gibraltar Point, for the sake, for one thing, of the supposed
salutary nature of the whey of goat's milk. These animals were dispersed
during the war of 1812-13. Governor Hunter may have taken the idea of
peopling the island at York with goats from what was to be seen, at an
early day, on Goat Island, adjoining the Falls of Niagara. A multitude
of goats ran at large there, the descendants of a few reared originally
by one Stedman, an English soldier, who, on escaping a massacre of his
comrades in the neighbourhood of what is now Lewiston, at the hands of
the Iroquois, soon after the conquest of the country, fled thither, and
led, to the end of his days, a Robinson-Crusoe-kind of life.




After our long stroll westward, we had purposed returning to the place
of beginning by the route which constitutes the principal thoroughfare
of the modern Toronto; but the associations connected with the primitive
pathway on the cliff overlooking the harbour, led us insensibly back
along the track by which we came.

In order that we may execute our original design, we now transport

Online LibraryHenry ScaddingToronto of old; collections and recollections illustrative of the early settlement and social life of the capital of Ontario → online text (page 9 of 59)