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In French colonial documents of a very respectable antiquity, we meet
with the name Toronto again and again. It is given as an appellation
that is well-known, and its form in the greater number of instances is
exactly that which it has now permanently assumed, but here and there
its orthography varies by a letter or two, as is usually the case with
strange terms when taken down by ear. In a Memoir on the state of
affairs in Canada, transmitted to France in 1686, by the Governor in
Chief of the day, the Marquis de Denonville, the familiar word appears.
Addressing the Minister de Seignelay, the Marquis says: "The letters I
wrote to Sieurs du Lhu and de la Durantaye, of which I sent you copies,
will inform you of my orders to them to fortify the two passages leading
to Michilimaquina. Sieur du Lhu is at that of the Detroit of Lake Erie,
and Sieur de la Durantaye at that of the portage of Toronto. These two
posts" the marquis observes, "will block the passage against the
English, if they undertake to go again to Michilimaquina, and will serve
as retreats to the savages our allies either while hunting or marching
against the Iroquois."
Again, further on in the same Despatch, Denonville says: "I have heard
that Sieur du Lhu is arrived at the post of the Detroit of Lake Erie,
with fifty good men well-armed, with munitions of war and provisions and
all other necessaries sufficient to guarantee them against the severe
cold, and to render them comfortable during the whole winter on the spot
where they will entrench themselves. M. de la Durantaye is collecting
people to entrench himself at Michilimaquina and to occupy the other
pass which the English may take by Toronto, the other entrance to lake
Huron. In this way" the marquis assures de Seignelay, "our Englishmen
will have somebody to speak to. All this, however," he reminds the
minister, "cannot be accomplished without considerable expense, but
still" he adds, "we must maintain our honour and our prosperity."
Du Lhu and de la Durantaye here named were the French agents or
superintendents in what was then the Far West. Du Lhu is the same person
whose name, under the form of Duluth, has become in recent times so well
known, as appertaining to a town near the head of Lake Superior,
destined in the future to be one of the great Railway Junctions of the
continent, like Buffalo or Chicago.
The Englishmen for whom M. de Denonville desired an instructive
reception to be prepared were some of the people of Governor Dongan of
the province of New York. Governor Dongan either could not or would not
restrain his people from poaching for furs on the French King's domain.
When Denonville wrote his despatch in 1686 some of these illicit traders
had been recently seen in the direction of Michilimackinac, having
passed up by the way of Lake Erie. To intercept them on their return,
the Marquis reports that he has stationed "a bark, some canoes and
twenty good men" at the river communicating from Lake Erie with that of
Ontario near Niagara, by which place the English who ascended Lake Erie
must of necessity pass on their return home with their peltries. "I
regard, Monseigneur," continues Denonville to the minister, "as of
primary importance the prohibition of this trade to the English, who,
without doubt, would entirely ruin ours both by the cheaper bargains
they could give the Indians, and by attracting to them the Frenchmen of
our colony who are accustomed to go into the woods." Governor Dongan was
also always holding communications with the Iroquois and spiriting them
on to resist French encroachments. He even audaciously asserted that his
own sovereign--it soon became doubtful who that was, whether James II.
or William of Orange--was the rightful supreme lord of the Iroquois
As to the particular spot intended when Denonville says M. de la
Durantaye is about to occupy "the pass which the English may take by
Toronto," there may seem at first to be some ambiguity.
In 1686 the vicinage of Lake Simcoe, especially the district between
Lake Simcoe and Lake Huron, appears to have been commonly known as the
Toronto region. We deduce this from the old contemporary maps, on one or
other of which Matchedash bay is the Bay of Toronto; the river Severn is
the Toronto river; Lake Simcoe itself is Toronto Lake; the chain of
Lakes passing south-eastward from the neighbourhood of Lake Simcoe and
issuing by the Trent in the Bay of Quinte is also the Toronto river or
lake-chain, and again, the Humber, running southwesterly from the
vicinity of Lake Simcoe into Lake Ontario, is likewise occasionally the
Toronto river; the explanation of all which phraseology is to be found
in the supposition that the Severn, the Trent chain of lakes, and the
Humber, were, each of them, a commonly-frequented line of
water-communication with a Toronto region--a well-peopled district--"a
place of meeting," the haunt of numerous allied families and friendly
bands. (That such is the most probable interpretation of the term
Toronto, we shall hereafter see at large.)
The spot to be occupied by de la Durantaye for the purpose of defending
"the Pass at Toronto" might therefore be either in the Toronto region
itself at the Lake Huron end of the trail leading from Lake Ontario, or
at the Lake Ontario end of the same trail, at the point where English
trespassers coming from the direction of the Iroquois territory would
disembark, when intending to penetrate to Michilimackinac by this route.
At the first-mentioned point, viz, the Lake Huron end of the trail, it
was early recommended that a fort should be established, as we learn
from letter twenty-three of Lahontan, but we do not hear that such a
structure was ever erected there. The remains of solid buildings that
have been found in that quarter are those of Jesuit mission-houses, and
not of a formal fort established by the French government. At the
last-mentioned spot, on the contrary, viz, the Lake Ontario end of the
trail, it is certain that a fortified trading-post was early erected;
the official designation of which, as we shall presently learn, was Fort
Rouille, but the name by which it came in the course of time to be
popularly known was Fort Toronto, as being the object which marked and
guarded the southern terminus of the trail or portage leading to the
district in the interior commonly called the Toronto region.
It was here then, near the embouchure of the modern Canadian Humber,
that "our Englishmen," as Denonville expressed himself, crossing over on
illicit errands from Governor Dongan's domain to that of the King of
France, were to find "somebody to speak to."
The order sent to Durantaye was indeed not immediately executed. In 1687
Denonville reports as follows to the authorities at Paris: "I have
altered" he says, "the orders I had originally given last year to M. de
la Durantaye to pass by Toronto and to enter Lake Ontario at
Gandatsi-tiagon to form a junction with M. du Lhu at Niagara. I have
sent him word," he continues, "by Sieur Juchereau, who took back the two
Hurons and Outaouas chiefs this winter, to join Sieur du Lhu at the
Detroit of Lake Erie, so that they may be stronger, and in a condition
to resist the enemy, should he go to meet them at Niagara."
In 1687 the business in contemplation was something more serious than
the mere repression of trespass on the part of a few stray traders from
Governor Dongan's province. The confederated Iroquois were, if possible,
to be humbled once for all. From the period of Montmagny's arrival in
1637 the French settlements to the eastward had suffered from the fierce
inroads of the Iroquois. The predecessor of Denonville, de la Barre, had
made a peace with them on terms that caused them to despise the French;
and their boldness had since increased to such a degree that the
existence of the settlements was imperilled. In a Report to the minister
at Paris on this subject M. de Denonville again names Toronto; and he
clearly considers it a post of sufficient note to be classed, for the
moment, with Fort Frontenac, Niagara and Michilimackinac. To achieve
success against the Iroquois, he informed the minister, 3000 men would
be required. Of such a force, he observes, he has at the time only one
half; but he boasts of more, he says, for reputation's sake: "for the
rest of the militia are necessary to protect and cultivate the farms of
the country; and a part of the force," he then adds, "must be employed
in guarding the posts of Fort Frontenac, Niagara, Toronto, and
Michilimackinac, so as to secure the aid which he expects from Illinois
and from the other Indians, on whom however he cannot rely," he says,
"unless he shall be able alone to defeat the five Iroquois nations."
The campaign which ensued, though nominally a success, was attended with
disastrous consequences. The blows struck, not having been followed up
with sufficient vigour, simply further exasperated "the five Iroquois
nations," and entailed a frightful retaliation. In 1689 took place the
famous massacre of Lachine and devastation of the island of Montreal.
Denonville was superseded as his predecessor de la Barre had been. The
Count de Frontenac was appointed his successor, sent out for the second
time, Governor General of New France.
Some years now elapse before we light on another notice of Toronto. But
at length we again observe the familiar word in one of the Reports or
Memoirs annually despatched from Canada to France. In 1749 M. de la
Galissoniere, administrator in the absence of the Governor in Chief, de
la Jonquiere, informs the King's minister in Paris that he has given
orders for erecting a stockade and establishing a royal trading post at
This was expected to be a counterpoise to the trading-post of Choueguen
on the southern side of the Lake, newly erected by the English at the
mouth of the Oswego river, on the site of the present town of Oswego.
Choueguen itself had been established as a set-off to the fort at the
mouth of the Niagara river, which had been built there by the French in
spite of remonstrances on the part of the authorities at New York.
Choueguen at first was simply a so-called "beaver trap" or trading-post,
established by permission, nominally obtained, of the Iroquois; but it
speedily developed into a strong stone-fort, and became, in fact, a
standing menace to Fort Frontenac, on the northern shore of the Lake.
Choueguen likewise drew to itself a large share of the valuable peltries
of the north shore, which used before to find their way down the St.
Lawrence to Montreal and Quebec. The goods offered at the English
trading-post of Choueguen were found to be superior to the French goods,
and the price given for furs was greater there than on the French side
of the water. The storekeeper at Niagara told the Abbe Picquet, of whom
we shall hear again presently, that the Indians compared the
silver-trinkets which were procured at Choueguen with those which were
procured at the French Stores; and they found that the Choueguen
articles were as heavy as the others, of purer silver and better
workmanship, but did not cost them quite two beavers, whilst for those
offered for sale at the French King's post, ten beavers were demanded.
"Thus we are discredited" the Abbe complained, "and this silver-ware
remains a pure loss in the King's stores. French brandy indeed," the
Abbe adds, "was preferred to the English: nevertheless that did not
prevent the Indians going to Choueguen. To destroy the trade there," he
affirms, "the King's posts ought to have been supplied with the same
goods as Choueguen and at the same price. The French ought also," he
says, "to have been forbidden to send the domiciliated Indians thither:
but that" he confesses, "would have been very difficult."
Choueguen had thus, in the eyes of the French authorities, come to be a
little Carthage that must be put down, or, at all events, crippled to
the greatest possible extent.
Accordingly, as a counterpoise in point of commercial influence,
Toronto, as we have seen, was to be made a fortified trading post. "On
being informed" says M. de la Galissoniere, in the document referred to,
bearing date 1749, "that the northern Indians ordinarily went to
Choueguen with their peltries by way of Toronto on the northwest side of
Lake Ontario, twenty-five leagues from Niagara, and seventy-five from
Fort Frontenac, it was thought advisable to establish a post at that
place and to send thither an officer, fifteen soldiers, and some
workmen, to construct a small stockade-fort there. Its expense will not
be great," M. de la Galissoniere assures the minister, "the timber is
transported there, and the remainder will be conveyed by the barques
belonging to Fort Frontenac. Too much care cannot be taken," remarks the
Administrator, "to prevent these Indians continuing their trade with the
English, and to furnish them at this post with all their necessaries,
even as cheap as at Choueguen. Messrs. de la Jonquiere and Bigot will
permit some canoes to go there on license and will apply the funds as a
gratuity to the officer in command there. But it will be necessary to
order the commandants at Detroit, Niagara, and Fort Frontenac, to be
careful that the traders and store-keepers of these posts furnish goods
for two or three years to come, at the same rates as the English. By
these means the Indians will disaccustom themselves from going to
Choueguen, and the English will be obliged to abandon that place."
De la Galissoniere returned to France in 1749. He was a naval officer
and fond of scientific pursuits. It was he who in 1756, commanded the
expedition against Minorca, which led to the execution of Admiral Byng.
From a despatch written by M. de Longueil in 1752, we gather that the
post of the Toronto portage, in its improved, strengthened state, is
known as Fort Rouille, so named, doubtless from Antoine Louis Rouille,
Count de Jouy, Colonial Minister from 1749 to 1754. M. de Longueil says
that "M. de Celeron had addressed certain despatches to M. de
Lavalterie, the commandant at Niagara, who detached a soldier to convey
them to Fort Rouille, with orders to the store-keeper at that post to
transmit them promptly to Montreal. It is not known," he remarks, "what
became of that soldier." About the same time, a Mississague from Toronto
arrived at Niagara, who informed M. de Lavalterie that he had not seen
that soldier at the Fort, nor met him on the way. "It is to be feared
that he has been killed by Indians," he adds, "and the despatches
carried to the English."
An uncomfortable Anglophobia was reigning at Fort Rouille, as generally
along the whole of the north shore of Lake Ontario in 1752. We learn
this also from another passage in the same despatch. "The store-keeper
at Toronto, says," M. de Longueil writes to M. de Vercheres, commandant
at Fort Frontenac, "that some trustworthy Indians have assured him that
the Saulteux (Otchipways,) who killed our Frenchman some years ago, have
dispersed themselves along the head of Lake Ontario; and seeing himself
surrounded by them, he doubts not but they have some evil design on his
Fort. There is no doubt," he continues, "but 'tis the English who are
inducing the Indians to destroy the French, and that they would give a
good deal to get the Savages to destroy Fort Toronto, on account of the
essential injury it does their trade at Choueguen."
Such observations help us to imagine the anxious life which the lonely
occupants of Fort Rouille must have been leading at the period referred
to. From an abstract of a journal or memoir of the Abbe Picquet given in
the Documentary History of the State of New York (i. 283), we obtain a
glimpse of the state of things at the same place, about the same period,
from the point of view, however, of an interested ecclesiastic. The Abbe
Picquet was a doctor of the Sorbonne, and bore the titles of King's
Missionary and Prefect Apostolic of Canada. He established a mission at
Oswegatchie (Ogdensburg) which was known as La Presentation, and which
became virtually a military outpost of Fort Frontenac. He was very
useful to the authorities at Quebec in advocating French interests on
the south side of the St. Lawrence. The Marquis du Quesne used to say
that the Abbe Picquet was worth ten regiments to New France. His
activity was so great, especially among the Six Nations, that even
during his lifetime he was complimented with the title of "Apostle of
the Iroquois." When at length the French power fell he retired to
France, where he died in 1781. In 1751 the Abbe made a tour of
exploration round Lake Ontario. He was conveyed in a King's canoe, and
was accompanied by one of bark containing five trusty natives. He
visited Fort Frontenac and the Bay of Quinte; especially the site there
of an ancient mission which M. Dollieres de Kleus and Abbe d'Urfe,
priests of the St. Sulpice Seminary had established. "The quarter is
beautiful," the Abbe remarks, "but the land is not good." He then
visited Fort Toronto, the journal goes on to say, seventy leagues from
Fort Frontenac, at the west end of Lake Ontario. He found good bread and
good wine there, it is stated, and everything requisite for the trade,
whilst they were in want of these things at all the other posts. He
found Mississagues there, we are told, who flocked around him; they
spoke first of the happiness their young people, the women and children,
would feel if the King would be as good to them as to the Iroquois, for
whom he procured missionaries. They complained that instead of building
a church, they had constructed only a canteen for them. The Abbe
Picquet, we are told, did not allow them to finish; and answered them
that they had been treated according to their fancy; that they had never
evinced the least zeal for religion; that their conduct was much opposed
to it; that the Iroquois on the contrary had manifested their love for
Christianity. But as he had no order, it is subjoined, to attract them,
viz., the Mississagues, to his mission at La Presentation--he avoided
a more lengthened explanation.
The poor fellows were somewhat unfairly lectured by the Abbe, for,
according to his own showing, they expressed a desire for a church
A note on the Mississagues in the Documentary History (i. 22) mentions
the neighbourhood of Toronto as one of the quarters frequented by that
tribe: at the same time it sets down their numbers as incredibly few.
"The Mississagues," the note says, "are dispersed along this lake
(Ontario), some at Kente, others at the river Toronto (the Humber), and
finally at the head of the Lake, to the number of 150 in all; and at
Matchedash. The principal tribe is that of the Crane."
The Abbe Picquet visited Niagara and the Portage above (Queenston or
Lewiston); and in connection with his observations on those points he
refers again expressly to Toronto. He is opposed to the maintenance of
store-houses for trade at Toronto, because it tended to diminish the
trade at Niagara and Fort Frontenac, "those two ancient posts," as he
styles them. "It was necessary," he says, "to supply Niagara, especially
the Portage, rather than Toronto. The difference," he says, "between the
two first of these posts and the last is, that three or four hundred
canoes could come loaded with furs to the Portage (Queenston or
Lewiston); and that no canoes could go to Toronto except those which
cannot pass before Niagara and to Fort Frontenac--(the translation
appears to be obscure)--such as the Ottawas of the Head of the Lake and
the Mississagues: so that Toronto could not but diminish the trade of
these two ancient posts, which would have been sufficient to stop all
the savages had the stores been furnished with goods to their liking."
In 1752, a French military expedition from Quebec to the Ohio region,
rested at Fort Toronto. Stephen Coffen, in his narrative of that
expedition, which he accompanied as a volunteer, names the place, but he
spells the word in accordance with his own pronunciation, Taranto. "They
on their way stopped," he says "a couple of days at Cadaraghqui Fort,
also at Taranto on the north side of Lake Ontario; then at Niagara
In 1756, the hateful Choueguen, which had given occasion to the
establishment of Toronto as a fortified trading-post, was rased to the
ground. Montcalm, who afterwards fell on the Plains of Abraham, had been
entrusted with the task of destroying the offensive stronghold of the
English on Lake Ontario. He went about the work with some reluctance,
deeming the project of the Governor-General, De Vaudreuil, to be rash.
Circumstances, however, unexpectedly favoured him; and the garrison of
Choueguen, in other words, of Oswego, capitulated. "Never before," said
Montcalm, in his report of the affair to the Home Minister, "did 3,000
men, with a scanty artillery, besiege 1,800, there being 2,000 enemies
within call, as in the late affair; the party attacked having a superior
marine, also, on Lake Ontario. The success gained has been contrary to
all expectation. The conduct I followed in this affair," Montcalm
continues, "and the dispositions I made, were so much out of the
ordinary way of doing things that the audacity we manifested would be
counted for rashness in Europe. Therefore, Monseigneur," he adds, "I beg
of you as a favour to assure his Majesty that if he should accord to me
what I most wish for, employment in regular campaigning, I shall be
guided by very different principles." Alas, there was to be no more
"regular campaigning" for Montcalm. His eyes were never again to gaze
upon the battle fields in Bohemia, Italy and Germany, where, prior to
his career in Canada, he had won laurels.
The success before Choueguen in 1756 was followed by a more than
counterbalancing disaster at Fort Frontenac in 1758. In that year a
force of 3,000 men under Col. Bradstreet, detached from the army of
Abercromby, stationed near Lake George, made a sudden descent on Fort
Frontenac, from the New York side of the water, and captured the place.
It was instantly and utterly destroyed, together with a number of
vessels which had formed a part of the spoil brought away from
Choueguen. On this occasion we find that the cry Hannibal ante Portas!
was once more fully expected to be heard speedily within the stockade at
Toronto. M. de Vaudreuil, the Governor-General, informs the Minister at
Paris, M. de Massiac, "that should the English make their appearance at
Toronto, I have given orders to burn it at once, and to fall back on
One more order (the last), issuing from a French source, having
reference to Toronto, is to be read in the records of the following
year, 1759. M. de Vaudreuil, again in his despatch home, after stating
that he had summoned troops from Illinois and Detroit, to rendezvous at
Presqu'isle on Lake Erie, adds,--"As those forces will proceed to the
relief of Niagara, should the enemy wish to besiege it, I have in like
manner sent orders to Toronto, to collect the Mississagues and other
natives, to forward them to Niagara."
The enemy, it appears, did wish to besiege Niagara; and on the 25th of
July they took it--an incident followed on the 18th of the next
September by the fall of Quebec, and the transfer of all Canada to the
British Crown. The year after the conquest a force was despatched by
General Amherst from Montreal to proceed up the country and take
possession of the important post at Detroit. It was conveyed in fifteen
whale-boats and consisted of two hundred Rangers under the command of
Major Robert Rogers. Major Rogers was accompanied by the following
officers: Capt. Brewer, Capt. Wait, Lieut. Bhreme, Assistant-Engineer,
and Lieut. Davis of the Royal Train of Artillery. The party set out from
Montreal on the 12th of September, 1760. The journal of Major Rogers
has been published. It includes an account of this expedition. We give
the complete title of the work, which is one sought after by
book-collectors: "The Journals of Major Robert Rogers, containing an
Account of the several Excursions he made under the Generals who
commanded on the Continent of North America during the late War. From
which may be collected the most material Circumstances of every Campaign
upon that continent from the commencement to the conclusion of the War.
London: Printed for the Author, and sold by J. Millan, bookseller, near
We extract the part in which a visit to Toronto is spoken of. He leaves
the ruins of Fort Frontenac on the 25th of September. On the 28th he
enters the mouth of a river which he says is called by the Indians "The
Grace of Man." (The Major probably mistook, or was imposed upon, in the
matter of etymology.)
Here he found, he says, about fifty Mississaga Indians fishing for
salmon. "At our first appearance," he continues, "they ran down, both
men and boys to the edge of the Lake, and continued firing their pieces,
to express their joy at the sight of the English colours, until such
time as we had landed." About fifteen miles further on he enters another
river, which he says, the Indians call "The Life of Man."
"On the 30th," the journal proceeds:--"We embarked at the first dawn of
day, and, with the assistance of sails and oars, made great way on a
south-west course; and in the evening reached the river Toronto (the
Humber), having run seventy miles. Many points extending far into the
water," Major Rogers remarks, "occasioned a frequent alteration of our
course. We passed a bank of twenty miles in length, but the land behind
it seemed to be level, well timbered with large oaks, hickories, maples,
and some poplars. No mountains appeared in sight. Round the place where
formerly the French had a fort, that was called Fort Toronto, there was
a tract of about 300 acres of cleared ground. The soil here is
principally clay. The deer are extremely plenty in this country. Some
Indians," Major Rogers continues, "were hunting at the mouth of the
river, who ran into the woods at our approach, very much frightened.
They came in however in the morning and testified their joy at the news
of our success against the French. They told us that we could easily
accomplish our journey from thence to Detroit in eight days; that when
the French traded at that place (Toronto), the Indians used to come
with their peltry from Michilimackinac down the river Toronto; that the
portage was but twenty miles from that to a river falling into Lake
Huron, which had some falls, but none very considerable; they added that
there was a carrying-place of fifteen miles from some westerly part of
Lake Erie to a river running without any falls through several Indian
towns into Lake St. Clair. I think Toronto," Major Rogers then states,
"a most convenient place for a factory, and that from thence we may very
easily settle the north side of Lake Erie."
"We left Toronto," the journal then proceeds, "the 1st of October,
steering south, right across the west end of Lake Ontario. At dark, we
arrived at the South Shore, five miles west of Fort Niagara, some of our
boats now becoming exceeding leaky and dangerous. This morning, before
we set out, I directed the following order of march:--The boats in a
line. If the wind rose high, the red flag hoisted, and the boats to
crowd nearer, that they might be ready to give mutual assistance in case
of a leak or other accident, by which means we saved the crew and arms
of the boat commanded by Lieutenant M'Cormack, which sprang a leak and
sunk, losing nothing except the packs. We halted all the next day at
Niagara, and provided ourselves with blankets, coats, shirts, shoes,
moccasins, &c. I received from the commanding officer eighty barrels of
provisions, and changed two whale-boats for as many batteaux, which
proved leaky. In the evening, some of my party proceeded with the
provisions to the Falls (the rapid water at Queenston), and in the
morning marched the rest there, and began the portage of the provisions
and boats. Messrs. Bhreme and Davis took a survey of the great cataract
At the time of Major Rogers' visit to Toronto all trading there had
apparently ceased; but we observe that he says it was most convenient
place for a factory. In 1761, we have Toronto named in a letter
addressed by Captain Campbell, commanding at Detroit, to Major Walters,
commanding at Niagara, informing him of an intended attack of the
Indians. "Detroit, June 17th, 1761, two o'clock in the morning. Sir,--I
had the favour of yours, with General Amherst's despatches. I have sent
you an express with a very important piece of intelligence I have had
the good fortune to discover. I have been lately alarmed with reports of
the bad designs of the Indian nations against this place, and the
English in general. I can now inform you for certain it comes from the
Six Nations; and that they have sent belts of wampum and deputies to all
the nations from Nova Scotia to the Illinois, to take up the hatchet
against the English, and have employed the Mississaguas to send belts of
wampum to the northern nations. Their project is as follows:--The Six
Nations, at least the Senecas, are to assemble at the head of French
Creek, within five-and-twenty leagues of Presqu'isle; part of the Six
Nations (the Delawares and Shawnees), are to assemble on the Ohio; and
at the same time, about the latter end of the month, to surprise Niagara
and Fort Pitt, and cut off the communication everywhere. I hope this
will come time enough to put you on your guard, and to send to Oswego,
and all the posts in that communication. They expect to be joined by the
nations that are to come from the North by Toronto."
Eight years after the occupation of the country by the English, a
considerable traffic was being carried on at Toronto. We learn this from
a despatch of Sir William Johnson's to the Earl of Shelburne, on the
subject of Indian affairs, bearing date 1767. Sir William affirms that
persons could be found willing to pay L1,000 per annum for the monopoly
of the trade at Toronto. Some remarks of his that precede the reference
to Toronto give us some idea of the commercial tactics of the Indian and
Indian trader of the time. "The Indians have no business to follow when
at peace," Sir William Johnson says, "but hunting. Between each hunt
they have a recess of several months. They are naturally very covetous,"
the same authority asserts, "and become daily better acquainted with the
value of our goods and their own peltry; they are everywhere at home,
and travel without the expense or inconvenience attending our journey to
them. On the other hand, every step our traders take beyond the posts,
is attended at least with some risk and a very heavy expense, which the
Indians must feel as heavily on the purchase of their commodities; all
which considered, is it not reasonable to suppose that they would rather
employ their idle time in quest of a cheap market, than sit down with
such slender returns as they must receive in their own villages?" He
then instances Toronto. "As a proof of which," Sir William continues, "I
shall give one instance concerning Toronto, on the north shore of Lake
Ontario. Notwithstanding the assertion of Major Rogers," Sir William
Johnson says, "that even a single trader would not think it worth
attention to supply a dependent post, yet I have heard traders of long
experience and good circumstances affirm, that for the exclusive trade
of that place, for one season, they would willingly pay L1,000--so
certain were they of a quiet market--from the cheapness at which they
could afford their goods there."
Although after the Conquest the two sides of Lake Ontario and of the St.
Lawrence generally were no longer under different crowns, the previous
rivalry between the two routes, the St. Lawrence and Mohawk river
routes, to the seaboard continued; and it was plainly to the interest of
those who desired the aggrandisement of Albany and New York to the
detriment of Montreal and Quebec, to discourage serious trading
enterprises with Indians on the northern side of the St. Lawrence
waters. We have an example of this spirit in a "Journal of Indian
Transactions at [Fort] Niagara, in the year 1767," published in the
documentary History of New York (ii. 868, 8vo. ed.), in which Toronto is
named, and a great chieftain from that region figures--in one respect,
somewhat discreditably, however. We give the passage of the journal to
which we refer. The document appears to have been drawn up by Norman
M'Leod, an Indian agent, visiting Fort Niagara.
"July 17th, [1767.] Arrived Wabacommegat, chief of the Mississagas. [He
came from Toronto, as we shall presently see.] July 18th. Arrived
Ashenshan, head-warrior of the Senecas, belonging to the Caiadeon
village. This day, Wabacommegat came to speak to me, but was so drunk
that no one could understand him."
Again: "July 19th. Had a small conference with Wabacommegat.
Present--Norman M'Leod, Esq.; Mr. Neil MacLean, Commissary of
Provisions; Jean Baptiste de Couagne, interpreter. Wabacommegat spoke
first, and, after the usual compliments, told that as soon as he had
heard of my arrival, he and his young men came to see me. He then asked
me if I had any news, and desired I should tell all I had. Then he gave
four strings of wampum. I then told them--Children, I am glad to see
you. I am sent here by your father, Sir William Johnson, to take care of
your trade, and to prevent abuses therein. I have no sort of news, for I
suppose you have heard of the drunken Chippewas that killed an
Englishman and wounded his wife very much, above Detroit; they are sent
down the country by consent and approbation of the head men of the
nation. I am sorry to acquaint you that some of your nation that came
here with Nan-i-bo-jou, killed a cow and a mare belonging to Captain
Grant, on the other side of the river. I am persuaded that all here
present think it was very wrong, and a very bad return for the many good
offices done by the English in general towards them, and in particular
by Captain Grant, who had that day fed the men that were guilty of the
theft. I hope and desire that Wabacommegat and the rest of the chiefs
and warriors here present, will do all in their power to discover the
thief, and bring him in here to me the next time they return, that we
may see what satisfaction he or they may give Captain Grant for the loss
of his cattle. [I gave seven strings of wampum.] Children, I am sorry to
hear you have permitted people to trade at Toronto. I hope you will
prevent it for the future. All of you know the reason of this belt of
wampum being left at this place. [I then showed them a large belt left
here five or six years ago by Wabacommegat, by which belt he was under
promise not to allow anybody whatever to carry on trade at Toronto.]
Now, children, I have no more to say, but desire you to remember and
keep close to all the promises you have made to your English father. You
must not listen to any bad news. When you hear any, good or bad, come to
me with it. You may depend upon it I shall always tell you the truth. [I
gave four strings of wampum.]
"Wabacommegat replied: 'Father, we have heard you with attention. I
think it was very wrong in the people to kill Captain Grant's cattle. I
shall discover the men that did it, and will bring them in here in the
fall. We will allow no more trade to be carried on at Toronto. As to
myself, it is well known I don't approve of it, as I went with the
interpreter to bring in those that were trading at that place. We go
away this day, and hope our father will give us some provisions, rum,
powder and shot, and we will bring you venison when we return.' I
replied, it was not in my power to give them much, but as it was the
first time I had the pleasure of speaking to them, they should have a
little of what they wanted."
In the January previous to the conference, two traders had been arrested
at Toronto. Sir William Johnson, in a letter to Gen. Gage, writes thus,
under date of January 12, 1767. "Capt. Browne writes me that he has, at
the request of Commissary Roberts, caused two traders to be apprehended
at Toronto, where they were trading contrary to authority. I hope
Lieut.-Gov. Carleton," Sir William continues, "will, agreeable to the
declaration in one of his letters, have them prosecuted and punished as
an example to the rest. I am informed that there are several more from
Canada trading with the Indians on the north side of Lake Ontario, and
up along the rivers in that quarter, which, if not prevented, must
entirely ruin the fair trader." In these extracts from the
correspondence of Sir William Johnson, and from the Journal of
transactions at Fort Niagara, in 1767, we are admitted, as we suspect,
to a true view of the status of Toronto as a trading-post for a series
of years after the conquest. It was, as we conceive, a place where a
good deal of forestalling of the regular markets went on. Trappers and
traders, acting without license, made such bargains as they could with
individuals among the native bands frequenting the spot at particular
seasons of the year. We do not suppose that any store-houses for the
deposit of goods or peltries were maintained here after the conquest. In
a MS. map, which we have seen, of about the date 1793, the site of the
old Fort Rouille is marked by a group of wigwams of the usual pointed
shape, with the inscription appended, "Toronto, an Indian village now
In 1788 Toronto harbour was well and minutely described by J. Collins,
Deputy Surveyor General, in a Report presented to Lord Dorchester,
Governor-General, on the Military Posts and Harbours on Lakes Ontario,
Erie and Huron. "The Harbour of Toronto," Mr. Collins says, "is near two
miles in length from the entrance on the west to the isthmus between it
and a large morass on the eastward. The breadth of the entrance is about
half a mile, but the navigable channel for vessels is only about 500
yards, having from three to three and a half fathoms water. The north or
main shore, the whole length of the harbour, is a clay bank from twelve
to twenty feet high, and rising gradually behind, apparently good land,
and fit for settlement. The water is rather shoal near the shore, having
but one fathom depth at one hundred yards distance, two fathoms at two
hundred yards; and when I sounded here, the waters of the Lake were very
high. There is good and safe anchorage everywhere within the harbour,
being either a soft or sandy bottom. The south shore is composed of a
great number of sandhills and ridges, intersected with swamps and small
creeks. It is of unequal breadths, being from a quarter of a mile to a
mile wide across from the harbour to the lake, and runs in length to the
east five or six miles. Through the middle of the isthmus before
mentioned, or rather near the north shore, is a channel with two fathoms
water, and in the morass there are other channels from one to two
fathoms deep. From what has been said," Mr. Collins proceeds to observe,
"it will appear that the harbour of Toronto is capacious, safe and well
sheltered; but the entrance being from the westward is a great
disadvantage to it, as the prevailing winds are from that quarter; and
as this is a fair wind from hence down the Lake, of course it is that
which vessels in general would take their departure from; but they may
frequently find it difficult to get out of the harbour. The shoalness of
the north shore, as before remarked, is also disadvantageous as to
erecting wharfs, quays, &c. In regard to this place as a military post,"
Mr. Collins reports, "I do not see any very striking features to
recommend it in that view; but the best situation to occupy for the
purpose of protecting the settlement and harbour would, I conceive, be
on the point and near the entrance thereof." (The knoll which
subsequently became the site of the Garrison of York, is probably
intended. Gibraltar point, on the opposite side of the entrance, where a
block house was afterwards built, may also be glanced at.)
The history of the site of Fort Toronto would probably have differed
from what it has been, and the town developed there would, perhaps, have
assumed at its outset a French rather than an English aspect, had the
expectations of three Lower Canadian gentlemen, in 1791, been completely
fulfilled. Under date of "Surveyor General's Office [Quebec], 10th June,
1791," Mr. Collins, Deputy Surveyor-General, writes to Mr. Augustus
Jones, an eminent Deputy Provincial Surveyor, of whom we shall hear
repeatedly, that "His Excellency, Lord Dorchester, has been pleased to
order one thousand acres of land to be laid out at Toronto for Mr.
Rocheblave; and for Captain Lajoree, and for Captain Bouchette seven
hundred acres each, at the same place, which please to lay out
accordingly," Mr. Collins says, "and report the same to this office with
all convenient speed."
We may suppose that these three French gentlemen became early aware of
the spot likely to be selected for the capital of the contemplated
Province of Upper Canada, and foresaw the advantages that might accrue
from the possession of some broad acres there. Unluckily for them,
however, delay occurred in the execution of Lord Dorchester's order; and
in the meantime, the new Province was duly constituted, with a
government and land-granting department of its own; and, under date of
"Nassau [Niagara], June 15, 1792," Mr. Augustus Jones, writing to Mr.
Collins, refers to his former communication in the following
terms:--"Your order of the 10th of June, 1791, for lands at Toronto, in
favour of Mr. Rocheblave and others, I only received the other day; and
as the members of the Land Board think their power dissolved by our
Governor's late Proclamation relative to granting of Lands in Upper
Canada, they recommend it to me to postpone doing anything in respect of
such order until I may receive some further instructions."
We hear no more of the order. Had M. Rocheblave, Captain Lajoree and
Captain Bouchette become legally seized of the lands assigned them at
Toronto by Lord Dorchester, the occupants of building-lots in York,
instead of holding in fee simple, would probably have been burdened for
many a year with some vexatious recognitions of quasi-seignorial rights.
On Holland's great MS. map of the Province of Quebec, made in 1791, and
preserved in the Crown Lands Department of Ontario, the indentation in
front of the mouth of the modern Humber river is entitled "Toronto Bay";
the sheet of water between the peninsula and the mainland is not named:
but the peninsula itself is marked "Presqu'isle, Toronto;" and an
extensive rectangular tract, bounded on the south by "Toronto Bay" and
the waters within the peninsula, is inscribed "Toronto." In Mr.
Chewett's MS. Journal, we have, under date of Quebec, April 22, 1792,
the following entry: "Received from Gov. Simcoe a Plan of Points Henry
and Frederick, to have a title page put to them: also a plan of the Town
and township of Toronto, and to know whether it was ever laid out." We
gather from this that sometime prior to Governor Simcoe's arrival, it
had been in contemplation to establish a town at Toronto.
The name Toronto pleased the ear and took the fancy of sentimental
writers. We have it introduced by an author of this class, in a work,
entitled "Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie et dans l'Etat de New York,
par un Membre adoptif de la nation Oneida;" published at Paris in 1801,
but written prior to 1799, as it is inscribed to Washington. The author
describes a Council pretended to be held at Onondaga, where chiefs and
sachems speak. They discourse of the misery of man, of death, of the
ravages of the small-pox. Siasconcet, one of the sages, relates his
interview with Kahawabash, who had lost his wife and all his friends by
the prevailing malady. Siasconcet exhorts him to suffer in silence like
a wise man. Kahawabash replies, "Siasconcet! n'as-tu pas souvent entendu
les cris plaintifs de l'ours, dont la compagne avoit ete tuee? N'as-tu
pas souvent vu couler les larmes des yeux du castor qui avait perdu sa
femelle ou ses petits? Eh bien! moi, suis-je inferieur a l'ours ou au
castor? Non: je suis homme, aussi bon chasseur, aussi brave guerrier que
tes sachems: comment empecher l'arc de s'etendre quand la corde casse?
La cime du chene ou la tige du roseau de ployer, quand l'orage eclate?
Lorsque le corps est blesse, Siasconcet, il en decoule du sang; quand le
coeur est navre, il en decoule des larmes: voila ce que je dirai a tes
vieillards; je verrai ce qu'ils me repondront."
In the reply of Siasconcet, we have the reference to Toronto to which we
have alluded, and which somewhat startled us when we suddenly lighted
upon it in the work above-named. "Eh, bien!" Siasconcet said: "eh, bien!
Kahawabash, pleure sous mon toit, puisque ton bon genie le veut, et pour
plaire au mauvais, que tes yeux soient secs quand tu seras au feu
d'Onondaga." "Que faut-il donc faire sur la terre," rejoined Kahawabash,
"puisque l'un veut ce que l'autre ne veut pas?" "Que faut-il faire?"
answered Siasconcet, "considerer la vie comme un passage de Toronto a
Niagara. Que de difficultes n'eprouvons-pas nous pour doubler les caps,
pour sortir des baies dans lesquelles les vents nous forcent d'entrer?
Que de chances contre d'aussi freles canots que les notres? Il faut
cependant prendre le temps et les choses comme ils viennent, puisque
nous ne pouvons pas les choisir; il faut nourrir, aimer sa femme et ses
enfans, respecter sa tribu et sa nation; jouir du bien quand il nous
echeoit; supporter le mal avec courage et patience; chasser et pecher
quand on a faim, se reposer et fumer quand on est las; s'attendre a
rencontrer le malheur puisque on est ne; se rejouir quand il ne vient
pas; se considerer comme des oiseaux perches pour la nuit sur la branche
d'un arbre, et qui, au point du jour, s'envolent et disparaissent pour
Familiar with the modern two-hours' pleasure-trip from Toronto to
Niagara, we were, for the moment unprepared for the philosophic sachem's
illustration of the changes and chances of mortal life. We forgot what
an undertaking that journey was in the days of the primitive birch
canoe, when in order to accomplish the passage, the whole of the
western portion of Lake Ontario, was wont to be cautiously and
The real name of the author of the "Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie"
was Saint-Jean de Crevecoeur.
To the narrative just given is appended information, which, if
superfluous, will nevertheless be read locally now, with some curiosity.
The note explains that Toronto and Niagara, are "postes considerables de
l'Ontario: le premier, situe a l'ouest de ce lac, est forme par une baie
profonde et commode, ou le Gouvernement Anglais a fait construire un
chantier, et une ville a laquelle on a donne le nom d'York; le second,
situe au sud-ouest, est forme par l'embouchure de la riviere Niagara, a
l'est de laquelle est la forteresse du meme nom, et a l'ouest la pointe
des Mississagues, sur laquelle on construit une nouvelle ville, destinee
a etre la capitale du Haut Canada."
The annotator speaks, we see, of the town on Mississaga point and the
other new town on the opposite side of the lake in the same terms: both
are in process of construction; and the town on Mississaga point, he
still thinks is destined to be the capital of Upper Canada.
The language of the note recalls the agitation in the public mind at
Niagara in 1796, on the subject of the seat of Government for Upper
Canada--a question that has since agitated Canada in several of its
sub-sections. The people of Niagara in 1796, being in possession,
naturally thought that the distinction ought to continue with them.
Governor Simcoe had ordered the removal of the public offices to the
infant York: there to abide, however, only temporarily, until the West
should be peopled, and a second London built, on a Canadian Thames. Lord
Dorchester, the Governor-in-Chief, at Quebec, held that Kingston ought
to have been preferred, but that place, like Niagara, was, it was urged,
too near the frontier in case of war. In 1796, Governor Simcoe had
withdrawn from the country, and the people of Niagara entertained hopes
that the order for removal might still be revoked. The policy of the
late Governor, however, continued to be carried out.
Three years previously, viz., in 1793, the site of the trading post
known as Toronto had been occupied by the troops drawn from Niagara and
Queenston. At noon on the 27th of August in 1793, the first royal salute
had been fired from the garrison there, and responded to by the
shipping in the harbour, in commemoration of the change of name from
Toronto to York--a change intended to please the old king, George III.,
through a compliment offered to his soldier son, Frederick, Duke of
For some time after 1793, official letters and other contemporary
records exhibit in their references to the new site, the expressions,
"Toronto, now York," and "York, late Toronto."
The ancient appellation was a favorite, and continued in ordinary use.
Isaac Weld, who travelled in North America in 1795-7, still speaks in
his work of the transfer of the Government from Niagara to Toronto.
"Niagara," he says, "is the centre of the beau monde of Upper Canada:
orders, however," he continues, "had been issued before our arrival
there for the removal of the Seat of Government from thence to Toronto,
which was deemed a more eligible spot for the meeting of the Legislative
bodies, as being farther removed from the frontiers of the United
States. This projected change," he adds, "is by no means relished by the
people at large, as Niagara is a much more convenient place of resort to
most of them than Toronto; and as the Governor, who proposed the
measure, has been removed, it is imagined that it will not be put in
In 1803-4, Thomas Moore, the distinguished poet, travelled on this
continent. The record of his tour took the form, not of a journal in
prose, but of a miscellaneous collection of verses suggested by
incidents and scenes encountered. These pieces, addressed many of them
to friends, appear now as a subdivision of his collected works, as Poems
relating to America. The society of the United States in 1804 appears to
have been very distasteful to him. He speaks of his experience somewhat
as we may imagine the winged Pegasus, if endowed with speech, would have
done of his memorable brief taste of sublunary life. Writing to the Hon.
W. R. Spencer, from Buffalo,--which he explains to be "a little village
on Lake Erie,"--in a strain resembling that of the poetical satirists of
the century which had just passed away, he sweepingly declares--
"Take Christians, Mohawks, Democrats, and all,
From the rude wigwam to the congress-hall,
From man the savage, whether slav'd or free,
To man the civilized, less tame than he,--
'Tis one dull chaos, one unfertile strife
Betwixt half-polished and half-barbarous life;
Where every ill the ancient world could brew
Is mixed with every grossness of the new;
Where all corrupts, though little can entice,
And nought is known of luxury, but its vice!"
He makes an exception in a note appended to these lines, in favour of
the Dennies and their friends at Philadelphia, with whom he says, "I
passed the few agreeable moments which my tour through the States
afforded me." These friends he thus apostrophises:--
"Yet, yet forgive me, oh! ye sacred few,
Whom late by Delaware's green banks I knew:
Whom known and loved thro' many a social eve,
'Twas bliss to live with, and 'twas pain to leave.
Not with more joy the lonely exile scann'd
The writing traced upon the desert's sand,
Where his lone heart but little hoped to find
One trace of life, one stamp of human kind;
Than did I hail the pure, th' enlightened zeal,
The strength to reason and the warmth to feel,
The manly polish and the illumined taste,
Which, 'mid the melancholy, heartless waste,
My foot has traversed, oh! you sacred few,
I found by Delaware's green banks with you."
After visiting the Falls of Niagara, Moore passed down Lake Ontario,
threaded his way through the Thousand Islands, shot the Long Sault and
other rapids, and spent some days in Montreal.
The poor lake-craft which in 1804 must have accommodated the poet, may
have put in at the harbour of York. He certainly alludes to a tranquil
evening scene on the waters in that quarter, and notices the situation
of the ancient "Toronto." Thus he sings in some verses addressed to Lady
Charlotte Rawdon, "from the banks of the St. Lawrence." (He refers to
the time when he was last in her company, and says how improbable it
then was that he should ever stand upon the shores of America):
"I dreamt not then that ere the rolling year
Had filled its circle, I should wander here
In musing awe; should tread this wondrous world,
See all its store of inland waters hurl'd
In one vast volume down Niagara's steep,
Or calm behold them, in transparent sleep,
Where the blue hills of old Toronto shed
Their evening shadows o'er Ontario's bed;
Should trace the grand Cadaraqui, and glide
Down the white rapids of his lordly tide.
Through massy woods, 'mid islets flowering fair,
And blooming glades, where the first sinful pair
For consolation might have weeping trod,
When banished from the garden of their God."
We can better picture to ourselves the author of Lalla Rookh floating on
the streams and other waters "of Ormus and of Ind," constructing verses
as he journeys on, than we can of the same personage on the St. Lawrence
in 1804 similarly engaged. "The Canadian Boat Song" has become in its
words and air almost a "national anthem" amongst us. It was written, we
are assured, at St Anne's, near the junction of the Ottawa and the St.
Toronto should be duly appreciative of the distinction of having been
named by Moore. The look and sound of the word took his fancy, and he
doubtless had pleasure in introducing it in his verses addressed to Lady
Rawdon. It will be observed that while Moore gives the modern
pronunciation of Niagara, and not the older, as Goldsmith does in his
"Traveller," he obliges us to pronounce Cataraqui in an unusual manner.
Isaac Weld, it will have been noticed, also preferred the name Toronto,
in the passage from his Travels just now given, though writing after its
alteration to York. The same traveller moreover indulges in the
following general strictures: "It is to be lamented that the Indian
names, so grand and sonorous, should ever have been changed for others.
Newark, Kingston, York, are poor substitutes for the original names of
the respective places, Niagara, Cataraqui, Toronto."
"Dead vegetable matter made the humus; into that the roots of
the living tree were struck, and because there had been
vegetation in the past, there was vegetation in the future. And
so it was with regard to the higher life of a nation. Unless
there was a past to which it could refer, there would not be in
it any high sense of its own mission in the world. . . . . .
They did not want to bring the old times back again, but they
would understand the present around them far better if they
would trace the present back into the past, see what it arose
out of, what it had been the development of, and what it
contained to serve for the future before them."--Bishop of
Winchester to the Archaeological Institute, at Southampton, Aug.
Next: Palace Street To The Market Place