History of Toronto Front Street From The Market Place To Brock Street
The corner we approach after passing the Market Square, was...
The Harbour: Its Marine 1815-1827
Soon after the close of the war with the United States in 1...
Yonge Street: Onward From Holland Landing To Penetanguishene
To render our narrative complete, we give in a few parting ...
King Street Digression Into Duke Street
On passing George Street, as we intimated a moment ago, we ...
Queen Street From The College Avenue To Brock Street And Spadina Avenue
Pursuing our way now westward from the Avenue leading to th...
King Street From Yonge Street To Church Street
Where Yonge Street crosses King Street, forming at the pres...
King Street: Digression Southwards At Church Street: Market Lane
Across Church Street from Clinkunbroomer's were the wooden ...
In 1869, the survivors of the early occupants of York, Uppe...
King Street From John Street To Yonge Street
After our long stroll westward, we had purposed returning t...
The Harbour: Its Marine 1793-99
The first formal survey of the harbour of Toronto was made ...
Queen Street From George Street To Yonge Street
--MEMORIES OF THE OLD COURT HOUSE.
When we pass George S...
Queen Street From The Don Bridge To Caroline Street
We return once more to the Don Bridge; and from that point ...
The Harbour: Its Marine 1828-1863
The Canada's advertisement for the season of 1828 appears i...
King Street: St James' Church Continued
At the southern end of the Church, in which we are supposin...
Palace Street To The Market Place
In Rome, at the present day, the parts that are the most at...
King Street: Digression Northward At Church Street: The Old District Grammar School
Immediately north of the church plot, and separated from it...
The Valley Of The Don
I.--From the Bridge on the Kingston Road to Tyler's.
King Street: St James' Church
The first Church of St. James, at York, was a plain structu...
From Brock Street To The Old French Fort
Returning again to the front. The portion of the Common tha...
King Street From George Street To Caroline Street
We now retrace our steps to King Street, at its intersectio...
Palace Street To The Market Place
In Rome, at the present day, the parts that are the most attractive to
the tourist of archaeological tastes, are those that are the most
desolate; quarters that, apart from their associations, are the most
uninviting. It is the same with many another venerable town of the world
beyond the Atlantic, of far less note than the old Imperial capital,
with Avignon, for example; with Nismes and Vienne in France; with Paris
itself, also, to some extent; with Chester, and York, and St. Albans,
the Verulam of the Roman period, in England.
It is the same with our American towns, wherever any relics of their
brief past are extant. Detroit, we remember, had once a quaint,
dilapidated, primaeval quarter. It is the same with our own Toronto. He
that would examine the vestiges of the original settlement, out of which
the actual town has grown, must betake himself, in the first instance,
to localities now deserted by fashion, and be content to contemplate
objects that, to the indifferent eye, will seem commonplace and
To invest such places and things with any degree of interest will appear
difficult. An attempt in that direction may even be pronounced
visionary. Nevertheless, it is a duty which we owe to our forefathers to
take what note we can of the labours of their hands; to forbid, so far
as we may, the utter oblivion of their early efforts, and deeds, and
sayings, the outcome of their ideas, of their humours and anxieties; to
forbid, even, so far as we may, the utter oblivion of the form and
fashion of their persons.
The excavations which the first inhabitants made in the construction of
their dwellings and in engineering operations, civil and military, were
neither deep nor extensive; the materials which they employed were, for
the most part, soft and perishable. In a few years all the original
edifices of York, the infant Toronto, together with all the primitive
delvings and cuttings, will, of necessity, have vanished. Natural decay
will have destroyed some. Winds, fires, and floods will have removed
others. The rest will have been deliberately taken out of the way, or
obliterated in the accomplishment of modern improvements, the rude and
fragile giving way before the commodious and enduring.
At St. Petersburg, we believe, the original log-hut of Peter the Great
is preserved to the present day, in a casing of stone, with a kind of
religious reverence. And in Rome of old, through the influence of a
similar sacred regard for the past, the lowly cottage of Romulus was
long protected in a similar manner. There are probably no material
relics of our founders and forefathers which we should care to invest
with a like forced and artificial permanence. But memorials of those
relics, and records of the associations that may here and there be found
to cluster round them,--these we may think it worth our while to collect
Overlooking the harbour of the modern Toronto, far down in the east,
there stands at the present day, a large structure of grey cut-stone.
Its radiating wings, the turret placed at a central point aloft,
evidently for the ready oversight of the subjacent premises; the
unornamented blank walls, pierced high up in each storey with a row of
circular-heading openings, suggestive of shadowy corridors and cells
within, all help to give to this pile an unmistakable prison-aspect.
It was very nearly on the site of this rather hard-featured building
that the first Houses of Parliament of Upper Canada were placed--humble
but commodious structures of wood, built before the close of the
eighteenth century, and destroyed by the incendiary hand of the invader
in 1813. "They consisted," as a contemporary document sets forth, "of
two elegant Halls, with convenient offices, for the accommodation of the
Legislature and the Courts of Justice."--"The Library, and all the
papers and records belonging to these institutions were consumed, and,
at the same time," the document adds, "the Church was robbed, and the
Town Library totally pillaged."--The injuries thus inflicted were a few
months afterwards avenged by the destruction of the Public Buildings at
Washington, by a British force. "We consider," said an Address of the
Legislative Council of Lower Canada to Sir George Prevost, "the
destruction of the Public Buildings at Washington as a just retribution
for the outrages committed by an American force at the seat of
Government of Upper Canada."
On the same site succeeded the more conspicuous and more capacious, but
still plain and simply cubical brick block erected for legislative
purposes in 1818, and accidentally burned in 1824. The conflagration on
this occasion entailed a loss which, the Canadian Review of the
period, published at Montreal, observes, "in the present state of the
finances and debt of the Province, cannot be considered a trifling
affair." That loss, we are informed by the same authority, amounted to
the sum of two thousand pounds.
Hereabout the Westminster of the new capital was expected to be. It is
not improbable that the position at the head, rather than the entrance,
of the harbour was preferred, as being at once commanding and secure.
The appearance of the spot in its primaeval condition, was doubtless more
prepossessing than we can now conceive it ever to have been. Fine groves
of forest trees may have given it a sheltered look, and, at the same
time, have screened off from view the adjoining swamps.
The language of the early Provincial Gazetteer, published by
authority, is as follows: "The Don empties itself into the harbour, a
little above the Town, running through a marsh, which when drained, will
afford most beautiful and fruitful meadows." In the early manuscript
Plans, the same sanguine opinion is recorded, in regard to the morasses
in this locality. On one, of 1810, now before us, we have the
inscription: "Natural Meadow which may be mown." On another, the legend
runs: "Large Marsh, and will in time make good Meadows." On a third it
is: "Large Marsh and Good Grass."
At all events, hereabout it was that York, capital of Upper Canada,
began to rise. To the west and north of the site of the Houses of
Parliament, the officials of the Government, with merchants and
tradesmen in the usual variety, began to select lots and put up
convenient dwellings; whilst close by, at Berkeley Street or Parliament
Street as the southern portion of the modern Berkeley Street was then
named, the chief thoroughfare of the town had its commencing-point.
Growing slowly westward from here, King Street developed in its course,
in the customary American way, its hotel, its tavern, its
boarding-house, its waggon-factory, its tinsmith shop, its bakery, its
general store, its lawyer's office, its printing office, its places of
Eastward of Berkeley Street, King Street became the Kingston road,
trending slightly to the north, and then proceeding in a straight line
to a bridge over the Don. This divergency in the highway caused a number
of the lots on its northern side to be awkwardly bounded on their
southern ends by lines that formed with their sides, alternately obtuse
and acute angles, productive of corresponding inconveniencies in the
shapes of the buildings afterwards erected thereon; and in the position
of some of them. At one particular point the houses looked as if they
had been separated from each other and partially twisted round, by the
jolt of an earthquake.
At the Bridge, the lower Kingston road, if produced westward in a right
line, would have been Queen Street, or Lot Street, had it been deemed
expedient to clear a passage in that direction through the forest. But
some way westward from the Bridge, in this line, a ravine was
encountered lengthwise, which was held to present great engineering
difficulties. A road cut diagonally from the Bridge to the opening of
King Street, at once avoided this natural impediment, and also led to a
point where an easy connection was made with the track for wheels, which
ran along the shore of the harbour to the Garrison. But for the ravine
alluded to, which now appears to the south of Moss Park, Lot Street, or,
which is the same thing, Queen Street, would at an early period, have
begun to dispute with King Street, its claim to be the chief
thoroughfare of York.
But to come back to our original unpromising stand-point.
Objectionable as the first site of the Legislative Buildings at York may
appear to ourselves, and alienated as it now is to lower uses, we cannot
but gaze upon it with a certain degree of emotion, when we remember that
here it was the first skirmishes took place in the great war of
principles which afterwards with such determination and effect was
fought out in Canada. Here it was that first loomed up before the minds
of our early law-makers the ecclesiastical question, the educational
question, the constitutional question. Here it was that first was heard
the open discussion, childlike, indeed, and vague, but pregnant with
very weighty consequences, of topics, social and national, which, at the
time, even in the parent state itself, were mastered but by few.
Here it was, during a period of twenty-seven years (1797-1824), at each
opening and closing of the annual session, amidst the firing of cannon
and the commotion of a crowd, the cavalcade drew up that is wont, from
the banks of the Thames to the remotest colony of England, to mark the
solemn progress of the sovereign or the sovereign's representative, to
and from the other Estates in Parliament assembled. Here, amidst such
fitting surroundings of state, as the circumstances of the times and the
place admitted, came and went personages of eminence, whose names are
now familiar in Canadian story: never, indeed, the founder and organiser
of Upper Canada, Governor Simcoe himself, in this formal and ceremonious
manner; although often must he have visited the spot otherwise, in his
personal examinations of every portion of his young capital and its
environs. But here, immediately after him, however, came and went
repeatedly, in due succession, President Russell, Governor Hunter,
Governor Gore, General Brock, General Sheaffe, Sir Gordon Drummond, Sir
And, while contemplating the scene of our earliest political conflicts,
the scene of our earliest known state pageants in these parts, with
their modest means and appliances, our minds intuitively recur to a
period farther removed still, when under even yet more primitive
conditions the Parliament of Upper Canada assembled at Newark, just
across the Lake. We picture to ourselves the group of seven
crown-appointed Councillors and five representatives of the Commons,
assembled there, with the first Speaker, McDonell, of Glengary; all
plain, unassuming, prosaic men, listening, at their first session, to
the opening speech of their frank and honoured Governor. We see them
adjourning to the open air from their straightened chamber at Navy Hall,
and conducting the business of the young Province under the shade of a
spreading tree, introducing the English Code and Trial by Jury,
decreeing Roads, and prohibiting the spread of Slavery; while a boulder
of the drift, lifting itself up through the natural turf, serves as a
desk for the recording clerk. Below them, in the magnificent estuary of
the river Niagara, the waters of all the Upper Lakes are swirling by,
not yet recovered from the agonies of the long gorge above, and the leap
at Table Rock.--Even here, at the opening and close of this primaeval
Legislature, some of the decent ceremonial was observed with which, as
we have just said, the sadly inferior site at the embouchure of the Don
became afterwards familiar. We learn this from the narrative of the
French Duke de Liancourt, who affords us a glimpse of the scene at
Newark on the occasion of a Parliament there in 1795. "The whole retinue
of the Governor," he says, "consisted in a guard of fifty men of the
garrison of the fort. Draped in silk, he entered the Hall with his hat
on his head, attended by his adjutant and two secretaries. The two
members of the Legislative Council gave, by their speaker, notice of it
to the Assembly. Five members of the latter having appeared at the bar,
the Governor delivered a speech, modelled after that of the King, on the
political affairs of Europe, on the treaty concluded with the United
States (Jay's treaty of 1794), which he mentioned in expressions very
favourable to the Union; and on the peculiar concerns of Canada."
(Travels, i. 258.)
By the Quebec Act, passed in 1791, it was enacted that the Legislative
Council for Upper Canada should consist of not fewer than seven members,
and the Assembly of not less than sixteen members, who were to be called
together at least once in every year. To account for the smallness of
the attendance on the occasion just described, the Duke explains that
the Governor had deferred the session "on account of the expected
arrival of a Chief Justice, who was to come from England: and from a
hope that he should be able to acquaint the members with the particulars
of the Treaty with the United States. But the harvest had now begun,
which, in a higher degree than elsewhere, engages in Canada the public
attention, far beyond what state affairs can do. Two members of the
Legislative Council were present, instead of seven; no Chief Justice
appeared, who was to act as Speaker; instead of sixteen members of the
Assembly, five only attended; and this was the whole number that could
be collected at this time. The law required a greater number of members
for each house, to discuss and determine upon any business; but within
two days a year would have expired since the last session. The Governor,
therefore, thought it right to open the session, reserving, however, to
either house the right of proroguing the sitting, from one day to
another, in expectation that the ships from Detroit and Kingston would
either bring the members who were yet wanting, or certain intelligence
of their not being able to attend."
But again to return to the Houses of Parliament at York.--Extending from
the grounds which surrounded the buildings, in the east, all the way to
the fort at the entrance of the harbour, in the west, there was a
succession of fine forest trees, especially oak; underneath and by the
side of which the upper surface of the precipitous but nowhere very
elevated cliff was carpeted with thick green-sward, such as is still to
be seen between the old and new garrisons, or at Mississaga Point at
Niagara. A fragment, happily preserved, of the ancient bank, is to be
seen in the ornamental piece of ground known as the Fair-green; a strip
of land first protected by a fence, and planted with shrubbery at the
instance of Mr. George Monro, when Mayor, who also, in front of his
property some distance further on, long guarded from harm a solitary
survivor of the grove that once fringed the harbour.
On our first visit to Southampton, many years ago, we remember observing
a resemblance between the walk to the river Itchen, shaded by trees and
commanding a wide water-view on the south, and the margin of the harbour
In the interval between the points where now Princes Street and Caroline
Street descend to the water's edge, was a favourite landing-place for
the small craft of the bay--a wide and clean gravelly beach, with a
convenient ascent to the cliff above. Here, on fine mornings, at the
proper season, skiffs and canoes, log and birch-bark were to be seen
putting in, weighed heavily down with fish, speared or otherwise taken
during the preceding night, in the lake, bay, or neighbouring river.
Occasionally a huge sturgeon would be landed, one struggle of which
might suffice to upset a small boat. Here were to be purchased in
quantities, salmon, pickerel, masquelonge, whitefish and herrings; with
the smaller fry of perch, bass and sunfish. Here, too, would be
displayed unsightly catfish, suckers, lampreys, and other eels; and
sometimes lizards, young alligators for size. Specimens, also, of the
curious steel-clad, inflexible, vicious-looking pipe-fish were not
uncommon. About the submerged timbers of the wharves this creature was
often to be seen--at one moment stationary and still, like the
dragon-fly or humming-bird poised on the wing, then, like those nervous
denizens of the air, giving a sudden dart off to the right or left,
without curving its body.
Across the bay, from this landing-place, a little to the eastward, was
the narrowest part of the peninsula, a neck of sand, destitute of
trees, known as the portage or carrying-place, where, from time
immemorial, canoes and small boats were wont to be transferred to and
from the lake.
Along the bank, above the landing-place, Indian encampments were
occasionally set up. Here, in comfortless wigwams, we have seen Dr. Lee,
a medical man attached to the Indian department, administering from an
ordinary tin cup, nauseous but salutary draughts to sick and
convalescent squaws. It was the duty of Dr. Lee to visit Indian
settlements and prescribe for the sick. In the discharge of his duty he
performed long journeys, on horseback, to Penetanguishene and other
distant posts, carrying with him his drugs and apparatus in saddle-bags.
When advanced in years, and somewhat disabled in regard to activity of
movement, Dr. Lee was attached to the Parliamentary staff as Usher of
the Black Rod.--The locality at which we are glancing suggests the name
of another never-to-be-forgotten medical man, whose home and property
were close at hand. This is the eminent surgeon and physician,
It is to be regretted that Dr. Widmer left behind him no written
memorials of his long and varied experience. Before his settlement in
York, he had been a staff cavalry surgeon, on active service during the
campaigns in the Peninsula. A personal narrative of his public life
would have been full of interest. But his ambition was content with the
homage of his contemporaries, rich and poor, rendered with sincerity to
his pre-eminent abilities and inextinguishable zeal as a surgeon and
physician. Long after his retirement from general practice, he was every
day to be seen passing to and from the old Hospital on King Street,
conveyed in his well-known cabriolet, and guiding with his own hand the
reins conducted in through the front window of the vehicle. He had now
attained a great age; but his slender form continued erect; the hat was
worn jauntily, as in other days, and the dress was ever scrupulously
exact; the expression of the face in repose was somewhat abstracted and
sad, but a quick smile appeared at the recognition of friends. The
ordinary engravings of Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the
blood, recall in some degree the countenance of Dr. Widmer. Within the
General Hospital, a portrait of him is appropriately preserved. One of
the earliest, and at the same time one of the most graceful
lady-equestrians ever seen in York was this gentleman's accomplished
wife. At a later period a sister of Mr. Justice Willis was also
conspicuous as a skilful and fearless horse-woman. The description in
the Percy Anecdotes of the Princess Amelia, youngest daughter of George
II., is curiously applicable to the last-named lady, who united to the
amiable peculiarities indicated, talents and virtues of the highest
order. "She," the brothers Sholto and Reuben say, "was of a masculine
turn of mind, and evinced this strikingly enough in her dress and
manners: she generally wore a riding-habit in the German fashion with a
round hat; and delighted very much in attending her stables,
particularly when any of the horses were out of order." At a phenomenon
such as this, suddenly appearing in their midst, the staid and
simple-minded society of York stood for a while aghast.
In the Loyalist of Nov. 15, 1828, we have the announcement of a
Medical partnership entered into between Dr. Widmer and Dr. Diehl. It
reads thus: "Doctor Widmer, finding his professional engagements much
extended of late, and occasionally too arduous for one person, has been
induced to enter into partnership with Doctor Diehl, a respectable
practitioner, late of Montreal. It is expected that their united
exertions will prevent in future any disappointment to Dr. Widmer's
friends, both in Town and Country. Dr. Diehl's residence is at present
at Mr. Hayes' Boarding-house. York, Oct. 28, 1828." Dr. Diehl died at
Toronto, March 5, 1868.
At the south-west corner of Princes Street, near where we are now
supposing ourselves to be, was a building popularly known as Russell
Abbey. It was the house of the Hon. Peter Russell, and, after his
decease, of his maiden sister, Miss Elizabeth Russell, a lady of great
refinement, who survived her brother many years. The edifice, like most
of the early homes of York, was of one storey only; but it exhibited in
its design a degree of elegance and some peculiarities. To a central
building were attached wings with gables to the south: the windows had
each an architectural decoration or pediment over it. It was this
feature, we believe, that was supposed to give to the place something of
a monastic air; to entitle it even to the name of "Abbey." In front, a
dwarf stone wall with a light wooden paling surrounded a lawn, on which
grew tall acacias or locusts. Mr. Russell was a remote scion of the
Bedford Russells. He apparently desired to lay the foundation of a solid
landed estate in Upper Canada. His position as Administrator, on the
departure of the first Governor of the Province, gave him facilities
for the selection and acquisition of wild lands. The duality necessarily
assumed in the wording of the Patents by which the Administrator made
grants to himself, seems to have been regarded by some as having a touch
of the comic in it. Hence among the early people of these parts the name
of Peter Russell was occasionally to be heard quoted good-humouredly,
not malignantly, as an example of "the man who would do well unto
himself." On the death of Mr. Russell, his property passed into the
hands of his sister, who bequeathed the whole to Dr. William Warren
Baldwin, into whose possession also came the valuable family plate,
elaborately embossed with the armorial bearings of the Russells. Russell
Hill, long the residence of Admiral Augustus Baldwin, had its name from
Mr. Russell, and in one of the elder branches of the Baldwin family,
Russell is continued as a baptismal name. In the same family is also
preserved an interesting portrait of Mr. Peter Russell himself, from
which we can see that he was a gentleman of portly presence, of strongly
marked features, of the Thomas Jefferson type. We shall have occasion
hereafter to speak frequently of Mr. Russell.
Russell Abbey became afterwards the residence of Bishop Macdonell, a
universally-respected Scottish Roman Catholic ecclesiastic, whose
episcopal title was at first derived from Rhesina in partibus, but
afterwards from our Canadian Kingston, where his home usually was. His
civil duties, as a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada,
required his presence in York during the Parliamentary sessions. We have
in our possession a fine mezzotint of Sir M. A. Shee's portrait of
Bishop Macdonell. It used to be supposed by some that the occupancy of
Russell Abbey by the Bishop caused the portion of Front Street which
lies eastward of the Market-place, to be denominated Palace Street. But
the name appears in plans of York of a date many years anterior to that
In connection with this mention of Bishop Macdonell, it may be of some
interest to add that, in 1826, Thomas Weld, of Lulworth Castle,
Dorsetshire, was consecrated as his coadjutor, in England, under the
title of Bishop of Amylae. But it does not appear that he ever came out
to Canada. (This was afterwards the well-known English Cardinal.) He had
been a layman, and married, up to the year 1825; when, on the death of
his wife, he took orders; and in one year he was, as just stated, made a
Russell Abbey may indeed have been styled the "Palace"; but it was
probably from being the residence of one who for three years
administered the Government; or the name "Palace Street" itself may have
suggested the appellation. "Palace Street" was no doubt intended to
indicate the fact that it led directly to the Government reservation at
the end of the Town on which the Parliament houses were erected, and
where it was supposed the "Palais du Gouvernement," the official
residence of the representative of the Sovereign in the Province would
eventually be. On an Official Plan of this region, of the year 1810, the
Parliament Buildings themselves are styled "Government House."
At the laying out of York, however, we find, from the plans, that the
name given in the first instance to the Front street of the town was,
not Palace Street, but King Street. Modern King Street was then Duke
Street, and modern Duke Street, Duchess Street. These street names were
intended as loyal compliments to members of the reigning family; to
George the Third; to his son the popular Duke of York, from whom, as we
shall learn hereafter, the town itself was named; to the Duchess of
York, the eldest daughter of the King of Prussia. In the cross streets
the same chivalrous devotion to the Hanoverian dynasty was exhibited.
George street, the boundary westward of the first nucleus of York, bore
the name of the heir-apparent, George, Prince of Wales. The next street
eastward was honoured with the name of his next brother, Frederick, the
Duke of York himself. And the succeeding street eastward, Caroline
Street, had imposed upon it that of the Princess of Wales, afterwards so
unhappily famous as George the Fourth's Queen Caroline. Whilst in
Princes Street (for such is the correct orthography, as the old plans
show, and not Princess Street, as is generally seen now,) the rest of
the male members of the royal family were collectively commemorated,
namely, the Duke of Clarence, the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Cumberland,
the Duke of Sussex, and the Duke of Cambridge.
When the Canadian town of York was first projected, the marriage of the
Duke of York with the daughter of the King of Prussia, Frederica
Charlotta Ulrica, had only recently been celebrated at Berlin. It was
considered at the time an event of importance, and the ceremonies on the
occasion are given with some minuteness in the Annual Register for 1791.
We are there informed that "the supper was served at six tables; that
the first was placed under a canopy of crimson velvet, and the victuals
(as the record terms them) served on gold dishes and plates; that
Lieutenant-General Bornstedt and Count Bruhl had the honour to carve,
without being seated, that the other five tables, at which sat the
generals, ministers, ambassadors, all the officers of the Court, and the
high nobility, were served in other apartments; that supper being over,
the assembly repaired to the White Hall, where the trumpet, timbrel, and
other music, were playing; that the flambeau dance was then began, at
which the ministers of state carried the torches; that the new couple
were attended to their apartment by the reigning Queen and the Queen
dowager; that the Duke of York wore on this day the English uniform, and
the Princess Frederica a suit of drap d'argent, ornamented with
diamonds." In Ashburton's "New and Complete History of England, from the
first settlement of Brutus, upwards of one thousand years before Julius
Caesar, to the year 1793," now lying before us, two full-length portraits
of the Duke and Duchess are given.--New York and Albany, in the
adjoining State, had their names from titles of a Duke of York in 1664,
afterwards James II. His brother, Charles II., made him a present, by
Letters Patent, of all the territory, from the western side of the
Connecticut river to the east side of Delaware Bay; that is, of the
present States of Connecticut, New York, Delaware, and New Jersey.
On the green sward of the bank between Princes street and George Street,
the annual military "Trainings" on the Fourth of June, "the old King's
birthday," were wont to take place. At a later period the day of meeting
was the 23rd of April, St. George's day, the fete of George IV. Military
displays on a grand scale in and about Toronto have not been uncommon in
modern times, exciting the enthusiasm of the multitude that usually
assembles on such occasions. But in no way inferior in point of interest
to the unsophisticated youthful eye, half a century ago, unaccustomed to
anything more elaborate, were those motley musterings of the militia
companies. The costume of the men may have been various, the fire-arms
only partially distributed, and those that were to be had not of the
brightest hue, nor of the most scientific make; the lines may not always
have been perfectly straight, nor their constituents well matched in
height; the obedience to the word of command may not have been rendered
with the mechanical precision which we admire at reviews now, nor with
that total suppression of dialogue in undertone in the ranks, nor with
that absence of remark interchanged between the men and their officers
that are customary now. Nevertheless, as a military spectacle, these
gatherings and manoeuvres on the grassy bank here, were effective; they
were always anticipated with pleasure and contemplated with
satisfaction. The officers on these occasions,--some of them
mounted--were arrayed in uniforms of antique cut; in red coats with wide
black breast lappets and broad tail flaps; high collars, tight sleeves
and large cuffs; on the head a black hat, the ordinary high-crowned
civilian hat, with a cylindrical feather some eighteen inches high
inserted at the top, not in front, but on the left side (whalebone
surrounded with feathers from the barnyard, scarlet at the base, white
above). Animation was added to the scene by a drum and a few fifes
executing with liveliness "The York Quickstep," "The Reconciliation,"
and "The British Grenadiers." And then, in addition to the local cavalry
corps, there were the clattering scabbards, the blue jackets, and
bear-skin helmets of Captain Button's dragoons from Markham and
Numerously, in the rank and file at these musterings--as well as among
the officers, commissioned and non-commissioned--were to be seen men who
had quite recently jeopardized their lives in the defence of the
country. At the period we are speaking of, only some six or seven years
had elapsed since an invasion of Canada from the south. "The late war,"
for a long while, very naturally, formed a fixed point in local
chronology, from which times and seasons were calculated; a fixed point,
however, which, to the indifferent new-comer, and even to the
indigenous, who, when "the late war" was in progress, were not in bodily
existence, seemed already to belong to a remote past. An impression of
the miseries of war, derived from the talk of those who had actually
felt them, was very strongly stamped in the minds of the rising
generation; an impression accompanied also at the same time with the
uncomfortable persuasion derived from the same source, that another
conflict was inevitable in due time. The musterings on "Training-day"
were thus invested with interest and importance in the minds of those
who were summoned to appear on these occasions, as also in the minds of
the boyish looker-on, who was aware that ere long he would himself be
required by law to turn out and take his part in the annual militia
evolutions, and perhaps afterwards, possibly at no distant hour, to
handle the musket or wield the sword in earnest.
A little further on, in a house at the north-west corner of Frederick
Street, a building afterwards utterly destroyed by fire, was born, in
1804, the Hon. Robert Baldwin, son of Dr. William Warren Baldwin,
already referred to, and Attorney-General in 1842 for Upper Canada. In
the same building, at a later period, (and previously in an humble
edifice, at the north-west corner of King Street and Caroline Street,
now likewise wholly destroyed,) the foundation was laid, by
well-directed and far-sighted ventures in commerce, of the great wealth
(locally proverbial) of the Cawthra family, the Astors of Upper Canada,
of whom more hereafter. It was also in the same house, prior to its
occupation by Mr. Cawthra, senior, that the printing operations of Mr.
William Lyon Mackenzie were carried on at the time of the destruction of
his press by a party of young men, who considered it proper to take some
spirited notice of the criticisms on the public acts of their fathers,
uncles and superiors generally, that appeared every week in the columns
of the Colonial Advocate; a violent act memorable in the annals of
Western Canada, not simply as having been the means of establishing the
fortunes of an indefatigable and powerful journalist, but more notably
as presenting an unconscious illustration of a general law, observable
in the early development of communities, whereby an element destined to
elevate and regenerate is, on its first introduction, resisted, and
sought to be crushed physically, not morally; somewhat as the white
man's watch was dashed to pieces by the Indian, as though it had been a
sentient thing, conspiring in some mysterious way with other things, to
promote the ascendancy of the stranger.
The youthful perpetrators of the violence referred to were not long in
learning practically the futility of such exploits. Good old Mr. James
Baby, on handing to his son Raymond the amount which that youth was
required to pay as his share of the heavy damages awarded, as a matter
of course, by the jury on the occasion, is said to have added:--"There!
go and make one great fool of yourself again!"--a sarcastic piece of
advice that might have been offered to each of the parties concerned.
A few steps northward, on the east side of Frederick Street, was the
first Post Office, on the premises of Mr. Allan, who was postmaster; and
southward, where this street touches the water, was the Merchants'
Wharf, also the property of Mr. Allan; and the Custom House, where Mr.
Allan was the Collector. We gather also from Calendars of the day that
Mr. Allan was likewise Inspector of Flour, Pot and Pearl Ash; and
Inspector of Shop, Still and Tavern Duties. In an early, limited
condition of society, a man of more than the ordinary aptitude for
affairs is required to act in many capacities.
The Merchants' Wharf was the earliest landing-place for the larger craft
of the lake. At a later period other wharves or long wooden jetties,
extending out into deep water, one of them named the Farmers' Wharf,
were built westward. In the shoal water between the several wharves, for
a long period, there was annually a dense crop of rushes or flags. The
town or county authorities incurred considerable expense, year after
year, in endeavouring to eradicate them--but, like the heads of the
hydra, they were always re-appearing. In July, 1821, a "Mr. Coles'
account for his assistants' labour in destroying rushes in front of the
Market Square," was laid before the County magistrates, and audited,
amounting to L13 6s. 3d. In August of the same year, the minutes of
the County Court record that "Capt. Macaulay, Royal Engineers, offered
to cut down the rushes in front of the town between the Merchants' Wharf
and Cooper's Wharf, for a sum not to exceed ninety dollars, which would
merely be the expense of the men and materials in executing the
undertaking: his own time he would give to the public on this occasion,
as encouragement to others to endeavour to destroy the rushes when they
become a nuisance;" it was accordingly ordered "that ninety dollars be
paid to Capt. Macaulay or his order, for the purpose of cutting down the
rushes, according to his verbal undertaking to cut down the same, to be
paid out of the Police or District funds in the hands of the Treasurer
of the District."
We have understood that Capt. Macaulay's measures for the extinction of
the rank vegetation in the shallow waters of the harbour, proved to be
very efficient. The instrument used was a kind of screw grapnel, which,
let down from the side of a large scow, laid hold of the rushes at their
root and forcibly wrenched them out of the bed of mud below. The entire
plant was thus lifted up, and drawn by a windlass into the scow. When a
full load of the aquatic weed was collected, it was taken out into the
open water of the Lake, and there disposed of.
Passing on our way, we soon came to the Market Square. This was a large
open space, with wooden shambles in the middle of it, thirty-six feet
long and twenty-four wide, running north and south.
By a Proclamation in the Gazette of Nov. 3, 1803, Governor Hunter
appointed a weekly market day for the Town of York, and also a place
where the market should be held.
"Peter Hunter, Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor, &c. Whereas great prejudice
hath arisen to the inhabitants of the Town and Township of York, and of
other adjoining Townships, from no place or day having been set apart or
appointed for exposing publicly for sale, cattle, sheep, poultry, and
other provisions, goods, and merchandize, brought by merchants, farmers,
and others, for the necessary supply of the said Town of York; and,
whereas, great benefit and advantage might be derived to the said
inhabitants and others, by establishing a weekly market within that
Town, at a place and on a day certain for the purpose aforesaid;
"Know all men, That I, Peter Hunter, Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor of the
said Province, taking the premises into consideration, and willing to
promote the interest, and advantage, and accommodation of the
inhabitants of the Town and Township aforesaid, and of others, His
Majesty's subjects, within the said Province, by and with the advice of
the Executive Council thereof, have ordained, erected, established and
appointed, and do hereby ordain, erect, establish and appoint, a Public
Open Market, to be held on Saturday in each and every week during the
year, within the said Town of York:--(The first market to be held
therein on Saturday, the 5th day of November next after the date of
these presents), on a certain piece or plot of land within that Town,
consisting of five acres and a half, commencing at the south-east angle
of the said plot, at the corner of Market Street and New Street, then
north sixteen degrees, west five chains seventeen links, more or less,
to King Street; then along King Street south seventy-four degrees west
nine chains fifty-one links, more or less, to Church Street; then south
sixteen degrees east six chains thirty-four links, more or less, to
Market Street; then along Market Street north seventy-four degrees east
two chains; then north sixty-four degrees, east along Market Street
seven chains sixty links, more or less, to the place of beginning, for
the purpose of exposing for sale cattle, sheep, poultry, and other
provisions, goods and merchandize, as aforesaid. Given under my hand and
seal at arms, at York, this twenty-sixth day of October, in the year of
our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three, and in the forty-fourth
year of His Majesty's reign. P. Hunter, Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor. By
His Excellency's command, Wm. Jarvis, Secretary."
In 1824, the Market Square was, by the direction of the County
magistrates, closed in on the east, west, and south sides, "with a
picketting and oak ribbon, the pickets at ten feet distance from each
other, with three openings or foot-paths on each side."
The digging of a public well here, in the direction of King Street, was
an event of considerable interest in the town. Groups of school-boys
every day scanned narrowly the progress of the undertaking; a cap of one
or the other of them, mischievously precipitated to the depths where the
labourers' mattocks were to be heard pecking at the shale below, may
have impressed the execution of this public work all the more indelibly
on the recollection of some of them. By referring to a volume of the
Upper Canada Gazette, we find that this was in 1823. An unofficial
advertisement in that periodical, dated June the 9th, 1823, calls for
proposals to be sent in to the office of the Clerk of the Peace, "for
the sinking a well, stoning and sinking a pump therein, in the most
approved manner, at the Market Square of the said town (of York), for
the convenience of the Public." It is added that persons desirous of
contracting for the same, must give in their proposals on or before
Tuesday, the first day of July next ensuing; and the signature, "by the
order of the Court," is that of "S. Heward, Clerk of the Peace, H. D."
The tender of John Hutchison and George Hetherington was accepted. They
offered to do the work "for the sum of L25 currency on coming to the
rock, with the addition of seven shillings and sixpence per foot for
boring into the rock until a sufficient supply of water can be got,
should it be required." The work was done and the account paid July
30th, 1823. The charge for boring eight feet two inches through the rock
was L3 1s. 3d. The whole well and pump thus cost the County the
modest sum of only L28 1s. 3d. The charge for flagging round the
pump, for "logs, stone and workmanship," was L5 2s. 41/2d., paid to
Mr. Hugh Carfrae, pathmaster.
Near the public pump, auctions in the open air occasionally took place.
A humourous chapman in that line, Mr. Patrick Handy, used often here to
be seen and heard, disposing of his miscellaneous wares. With Mr. Handy
was associated for a time, in this business, Mr. Patrick McGann. And
here we once witnessed the horrid exhibition of a public whipping, in
the case of two culprits whose offence is forgotten. A discharged
regimental drummer, a native African, administered the lash. The sheriff
stood by, keeping count of the stripes. The senior of the two
unfortunates bore his punishment with stoicism, encouraging the negro to
strike with more force. The other, a young man, endeavoured for a little
while to imitate his companion in this respect; but soon was obliged to
evince by fearful cries the torture endured. Similar scenes were
elsewhere to be witnessed in Canada. In the Montreal Herald of
September 16th, 1815, we have the following item of city news, given
without comment: "Yesterday, between the hours of 9 and 10, pursuant to
their sentences, Andre Latulippe, Henry Leopard, and John Quin, received
39 lashes each, in the New Market Place." The practice of whipping and
even branding of culprits in public had begun at York in 1798. In the
Gazette and Oracle of Dec. 1st, 1798, printed at York, we have the
note: "Last Monday William Hawkins was publicly whipped, and Joseph
McCarthy burned in the hand, at the Market Place, pursuant to their
sentence." The crimes are not named.
In the Market Square at York, the pillory and the stocks were also from
time to time set up. The latter were seen in use for the last time in
1834. In 1804, a certain Elizabeth Ellis was, for "being a nuisance,"
sentenced by Chief Justice Allcock to be imprisoned for six months, and
"to stand in the pillory twice during the said imprisonment, on two
different market days, opposite the Market House in the town of York,
for the space of two hours each time." In the same year, the same
sentence was passed on one Campbell, for using "seditious words."
In 1831 the wooden shambles were removed, and replaced in 1833 by a
collegiate-looking building of red brick, quadrangular in its
arrangement, with arched gateway entrances on King Street and Front
Street. This edifice filled the whole square, with the exception of
roadways on the east and west sides. The public well was now concealed
from view. It doubtless exists still, to be discovered and gloated over
by the antiquarian of another century.
Round the four sides of the new brick Market ran a wooden gallery, which
served to shade the Butchers' stalls below. It was here that a fearful
casualty occurred in 1834. A concourse of people were being addressed
after the adjournment of a meeting on an electional question, when a
portion of the overcrowded gallery fell, and several persons were caught
on the sharp iron hooks of the stalls underneath, and so received fatal
injuries. The killed and wounded on this memorable occasion were:--Son
of Col. Fitz Gibbon, killed; Mr. Hutton, killed; Col. Fitz Gibbon,
injured severely; Mr. Mountjoy, thigh broken; Mr. Cochrane, injured
severely; Mr. Charles Daly, thigh broken; Mr. George Gurnett, wound in
the head; Mr. Keating, injured internally; Mr. Fenton, injured; Master
Gooderham, thigh broken; Dr. Lithgow, contused severely; Mr. Morrison,
contused severely; Mr. Alderman Denison, cut on the head; Mr. Thornhill,
thigh broken; Mr. Street, arm broken; Mr. Deese, thigh broken; another
Mr. Deese, leg and arm broken; Mr. Sheppard, injured internally; Mr.
Clieve, Mr. Mingle, Mr. Preston, Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Leslie (of the
Garrison), Master Billings, Mr. Duggan, Mr. Thomas Ridout, Mr. Brock,
Mr. Turner, Mr. Hood (since dead), severely injured, &c.
The damage done to the northern end of the quadrangle during the great
fire of 1849 led to the demolition of the whole building, and the
erection of the St. Lawrence Hall and Market. Over windows on the second
storey at the south east corner of the red brick structure now removed,
there appeared, for several years, two signs, united at the angle of the
building, each indicating by its inscription the place of "The Huron and
Ontario Railway" office.
This was while the Northern Railway of Canada was yet existing simply as
In connection with our notice of the Market, we give some collection
which may serve to illustrate--
EARLY PRICES AT YORK.
During the war it was found expedient by the civil authorities to
interfere, in some degree, with the law of supply and demand. The
Magistrates, in Quarter Sessions assembled, agreed, in 1814, upon the
following prices, as in their opinion fair and equitable to be paid by
the military authorities for provisions:--Flour, per barrel, L3 10s.
Wheat, per bushel, 10s. Pease, per bushel, 7s. 6d. Barley and Rye,
the same. Oats, per bushel, 5s. Hay, per ton, L5. Straw, L3. Beef, on
foot, per cwt. L2 5s.; slaughtered, per lb., 71/2d. Pork, salted, per
barrel, L7 10s.; per carcass, 71/2d. Mutton, per lb., 9d. Veal,
8d. Butter, 1s. 3d. Bread, per loaf of 4 lbs., 1s. 6d. In
April, 1822, peace then reigning, York prices were:--Beef, per lb.,
2d. a 4d. Mutton, 4d. a 5d. Veal, 4d. a 5d. Pork, 2d.
a 21/2d. Fowls, per pair, 1s. 3d. Turkeys, each, 3s. 9d.
Geese, 2s. 6d. Ducks, per pair, 1s. 10d. Cheese, per lb., 5d.
Butter, 71/2d. Eggs, per doz., 5d. Wheat, per bushel, 2s. 6d.
Barley, 48 lbs., 2s. Oats, 1s. Pease, 1s. 11/2d. Potatoes, per
bushel, 1s. 3d. Turnips, 1s. Cabbages, per head, 2d. Flour, per
cwt., 6s. 3d. Flour, per barrel, 12s. 6d. Tallow, per lb., 5d.
Lard, per lb., 5d. Hay, per ton, L2 10s. Pork, per barrel, L2 10s.
Wood, per cord, 10s.
As allied to the subject of early prices at York, we add some excerpts
from the day-book of Mr. Abner Miles, conductor of the chief hotel of
the place, in 1798. It would appear that the resident gentry and others
occasionally gave and partook of little dinners at Mr. Miles', for which
the charges are roughly minuted on some long, narrow pages of folded
foolscap now lying before us. It will be seen from the record that the
local "table-traits," as Dr. Doran would speak, were, as nearly as
practicable those of the rest of the Empire at the period. At the new
capital, however, in 1798, hosts and guests must have laboured under
In July, 1798, the following items appear against the names, conjointly
of Messrs. Baby, Hamilton, and Commodore Grant:--Twenty-two dinners at
Eight shillings, L8 16s. Sixteen to Coffee, L1 12s. Eight Suppers, 16s.
Twenty-three quarts and one pint of wine, L10 11s. 6d. Eight bottles of
porter, L2 8s. Two bottles of syrup-punch, L1 4s. One bottle of brandy
and one bottle of rum, 18s. Altogether amounting to L26 5s. 6d. (The
currency throughout Mr. Miles' books is that of New York, in which the
shilling was seven pence half-penny. The total just given denoted
between L16 and L17 of modern Canadian money. It is observable that in
the entries of which we give specimens, whiskey, the deadly bane of
later years, in not named.) On the 17th June, Thomas Ridout, Jonathan
Scott, Col. Fortune, Surveyor Jones, Samuel Heron, Mr. Jarvis [the
Secretary], Adjutant McGill, and Mr. Crawford are each charged 16s. as
his quota of a "St. John's dinner." On the 4th of June, an entry against
"the Chief Justice" [Elmsley], runs thus: Eighteen dinners at Eight
shillings, L7 4s. Three bottles Madeira, L1 7s. One bottle brandy, 10s.
Five bottles of port wine, four bottles of porter and one pint of rum
are charged, but the value is not given. The defect is supplied in a
later entry against the Chief Justice, of seven dinners (42s.); where
two pints of port wine are charged 9s.; one pint of brandy, 5s.; two
bottles port wine, 18s.; one bottle white wine, 9s.; one bottle of
porter, 6s. On this occasion "four took coffee," at a cost of 8s.
Elsewhere, three dinners are charged to the Chief Justice, when three
bottles of wine were required; one pint of brandy, and two bottles of
porter, all at the rates already quoted. A "mess dinner" is mentioned,
for which the Chief Justice, Mr. Hallowell, and Mr. Cartwright pay 6s.
each. One bottle of port, one of Madeira, and one of brandy were
ordered, and the "three took coffee," as before at 2s. a head. Again, at
a "mess dinner," of four, the names not given, two bottles of port and
one bottle of porter were taken. A "club" appears to have met here. In
July, 1798, a charge against the names of "Esq. Weekes," "Esq. Rogers,"
and Col. Fortune, respectively, is "liquor in club the 11th at dinner,
1s. 6d." On July 6th "Judge Powell" is charged for supper, 2s.; for one
quart of wine, 9s. On the same day "Judge Powell's servant" had a "gill
brandy, 1s. 3d. and one glass do., 8d." A few days afterwards, a
reverend wayfarer calls at the inn; baits his beast, and modestly
refreshes himself. The entry runs:--"Priest from River La Tranche, 3
quarts corn and half-pint of wine. Breakfast, 2s 6d." On another day,
Capt. Herrick has a "gill gin sling, 1s. 3d.; also immediately
afterwards a "half-pint of gin sling, 3s." At the same time Capt. Demont
has "gill rum sling, 1s. 3d.," and "gill rum, 1s." Capt. Fortune has
"half-pint wine, 2s.," and "Esq. Weekes," "gill brandy, 1s. 3d." Col.
Fortune has "gill sour punch, 2s." This sour punch is approved of by
"Dunlap"--who at one place four times in immediate succession, and
frequently elsewhere, is charged with "glass sour punch, 2s." Jacob
Cozens takes "one bottle Madeira wine, 10s.;" Samuel Cozens, "one bottle
Madeira wine, 10s., and bread and cheese, 1s.;" and Shivers Cozens,
"bottle of wine, 10s., and bread and cheese, 1s. Conets Cozens has
"dinner, 2s., a gill of brandy, 1s., and half a bushel of seed corn,
7s." On the 5th of July, Josiah Phelps has placed opposite his name,
"one glass punch, 3s.; three bowls sour punch, 9s.; gill rum, 1s.; two
gin slings, 2s. 6d.; bowl punch, 3s.; gill rum, 1s.; two gills syrup
punch, 4s.; supper, 2s." About the same time Corporal Wilson had "two
mugs beer, 4s." On the 6th of July Commodore Grant had "half-pint rum,
for medson, 2s.; and immediately after another half-pint rum, for do.,
2s." One "Billy Whitney" figures often; his purchases one day were:
"gill rum sling, 1s. 6d.; do., 1s. 6d.; half-pound butter, 1s. 3d."
Capt. Hall takes "one gill punch, 2s.; glass rum, 6d., and half-gallon
punch, 7s." He at the same time has two dollars in cash advanced to him
by the obliging landlord, 16s.
Mr. Abner Miles supplied customers with general provisions as well as
liquors. On one occasion he sells, "White, Attorney-General," three
pounds of butter for 7s. 6d., and six eggs for 1s. 6d. He also sells
"President Russell" forty-nine pounds and three-fourths, of beef at 1s.
per pound; Mr. Attorney-General White took twenty-three pounds and a
half at the same price. That sold to "Robert Gray, Esq.," is described
as "a choice piece," and is charged two pence extra per pound. The
piece, however, weighed only seven pounds, and the cost was just eight
shillings and two pence. Other things are supplied by Mr. Miles. Gideon
Badger buys of him "one yard red spotted cassimere, 20s.; one and a-half
dozen buttons, 3s; and a pair shears, 3s." At the same time Mr. Badger
is credited with "one dollar, 8s." Joseph Kendrick gets "sole leather
for pair of shoes for self, by old Mr. Ketchum, 6s." Mr. Miles moreover
furnishes Mr. Allan with "237 feet of inch-and-half plank at 12s., 33s.;
two rod of garden fence at 10s., 20s." We suppose the moneys received
were recorded elsewhere generally; but on the pages before us we have
such entries as the following: "Messrs. Hamilton, Baby and Grant settled
up to 4th of July, after breakfast." "Dr. Gamble, at Garrison," obtained
ten bushels of oats and is to pay therefor L4. A mem. is entered of
"Angus McDonell, dr., Dinner sent to his tent." and "Capt. Demont, cr.
By note of hand for L26 5s. Halifax currency, L42 York." On the same day
the Captain indulges in "a five dollar cap, 40s.," and "one gill rum,
1s." That some of Mr. Miles' customers required to be reminded of their
indebtedness to him, we learn from an advertisement in the Gazette and
Oracle of August 31, 1799. It says: "The Subscriber informs all those
indebted to him by note or book, to make payment by the 20th September
next, or he will be under the disagreeable necessity of putting them
into the hands of an attorney. Abner Miles, York, August 28th, 1799."
Mr. Miles' house was a rendezvous for various purposes. In a Gazette
and Oracle of Dec 8, 1798, we read--"The gentlemen of the Town and
Garrison are requested to meet at one o'clock, on Monday next, the 10th
instant, at Miles' Hotel, in order to arrange the place of the York
Assemblies for the season. York, Dec 8, 1798." In another number of the
same paper an auction is advertised to take place at Miles' Tavern.
In the Gazette and Oracle of July 13th, 1799, we read the following
advertisement: "O. Pierce and Co. have for sale: Best spirits by the
puncheon, barrel, or ten gallons, 20s. per gal. Do. by the single
gallon, 22s. Rum by the puncheon, barrel, or ten gallons, 18s. per gal.
Brandy by the barrel, 20s. per gal. Port wine by the barrel, 18s. per
gal. Do. by single gallon, 20s. per gal. Gin, by the barrel, 18s. per
gal. Teas--Hyson, 19s. per lb.; Souchong, 14s. do.; Bohea, 8s. do.
Sugar, best loaf, 3s. 9d. per lb. Lump, 3s. 6d. Raisins, 3s. Figs, 3s.
Salt six dollars per barrel or 12s. per bushel. Also, a few dry goods,
shoes, leather, hats, tobacco, snuff, &c., &c. York, July 6, 1799." These
prices appear to be in Halifax currency.
Next: Front Street From The Market Place To Brock Street