History of Toronto Queen Street From The Don Bridge To Caroline Street
We return once more to the Don Bridge; and from that point ...
King Street From Yonge Street To Church Street
Where Yonge Street crosses King Street, forming at the pres...
Front Street From The Market Place To Brock Street
The corner we approach after passing the Market Square, was...
King Street: Digression Northward At Church Street: The Old District Grammar School
Immediately north of the church plot, and separated from it...
King Street From Church Street To George Street
We were arrested in our progress on King Street by St. Jame...
The Harbour: Its Marine 1828-1863
The Canada's advertisement for the season of 1828 appears i...
King Street: St James' Church Continued
It is beginning, perhaps, to be thought preposterous that w...
King Street Digression Into Duke Street
On passing George Street, as we intimated a moment ago, we ...
From Brock Street To The Old French Fort
Returning again to the front. The portion of the Common tha...
Queen Street From Brock Street And Spadina Avenue To The Humber
Immediately after the grounds and property of Mr. Dunn, on ...
Queen Street From The College Avenue To Brock Street And Spadina Avenue
Pursuing our way now westward from the Avenue leading to th...
Yonge Street From Yorkville To Hogg's Hollow
Of long standing is the group of buildings on the right aft...
Yonge Street From Hogg's Hollow To Bond's Lake
Beyond the hollow, Mr. Humberstone's was passed on the west...
Queen Street Digression At Caroline Street History Of The Early Press
A little to the south of Britain Street, between it and Duc...
Yonge Street From The Bay To Yorkville
The tourist of the present day, who, on one of our great la...
King Street: St James' Church Continued
At the southern end of the Church, in which we are supposin...
King Street From John Street To Yonge Street
After our long stroll westward, we had purposed returning t...
Yonge Street: Onward From Holland Landing To Penetanguishene
To render our narrative complete, we give in a few parting ...
The Valley Of The Don
I.--From the Bridge on the Kingston Road to Tyler's.
The Harbour Its Marine 1800-1814
On the 15th of May, 1800, Governor Hunter arrives again in ...
The Harbour: Its Marine 1793-99
The first formal survey of the harbour of Toronto was made by Joseph
Bouchette in 1793. His description of the bay and its surroundings at
that date is, with the historians of Upper Canada, a classic passage.
For the completeness of our narrative it must be produced once more. "It
fell to my lot," says Bouchette, "to make the first survey of York
Harbour in 1793." And he explains how this happened.
"Lieutenant-Governor, the late Gen. Simcoe, who then resided at Navy
Hall, Niagara, having," he says, "formed extensive plans for the
improvement of the colony, had resolved upon laying the foundations of a
provincial capital. I was at that period in the naval service of the
Lakes, and the survey of Toronto (York) Harbour was entrusted by his
Excellency to my performance."
He then thus proceeds, writing, we may observe, in 1831: "I still
distinctly recollect the untamed aspect which the country exhibited when
first I entered the beautiful basin, which thus became the scene of my
early hydrographical operations. Dense and trackless forests lined the
margin of the lake and reflected their inverted images in its glassy
surface. The wandering savage had constructed his ephemeral habitation
beneath their luxuriant foliage--the group then consisting of two
families of Mississagas,--and the bay and neighbouring marshes were the
hitherto uninvaded haunts of immense coveys of wild fowl. Indeed, they
were so abundant," he adds, "as in some measure to annoy us during the
night." The passage is to be found in a note at p. 89 of volume one of
the quarto edition of "The British Dominions in North America,"
published in London in 1831.
The winter of 1792-3 was in Upper Canada a favourable one for explorers.
"We have had a remarkably mild winter," says the Gazette in its first
number, dated April 18, 1793; "the thermometer in the severest time has
not been lower than nine degrees above zero, by Fahrenheit's scale. Lake
Erie has not been frozen over, and there has been very little ice on
Lake Ontario." The same paper informs us that "his Majesty's sloop, the
Caldwell, sailed the 5th instant (April), from Niagara, for fort
Ontario (Oswego) and Kingston." Also that "on Monday evening (13th)
there arrived in the river (at Niagara) his Majesty's armed schooner,
the Onondago, in company with the Lady Dorchester, merchantman,
after an agreeable passage (from Kingston) of thirty-six hours." (The
following gentlemen, it is noted, came passengers:--J. Small, Esq.,
Clerk of the Executive Council; Lieut.-McCan, of the 60th regiment;
Capt. Thos. Fraser, Mr. J. Denison, Mr. Joseph Forsyth, merchant, Mr. L.
Crawford, Capt. Archibald Macdonald,--Hathaway.)
Again, on May 2nd, the information is given that "on Sunday morning
early, his Majesty's sloop Caldwell arrived here (Niagara) from
Kingston, which place she left on Thursday; but was obliged to anchor
off the bar of this river part of Saturday night. And on Monday also
arrived from Kingston the Onondago, in twenty-three hours."
Joseph Bouchette in 1793 must have been under twenty years of age. He
was born in 1774. He was the son of Commodore Bouchette, who in 1793 had
command of the Naval Force on Lake Ontario. When Joseph Bouchette first
entered the harbour of Toronto, as described above, he was not without
associates. He was probably one of an exploring party which set out from
Niagara in May, 1793. It would appear that the Governor himself paid his
first visit to the intended site of the capital of his young province on
the same occasion.
In the Gazette of Thursday, May 9th 1793, published at Newark or
Niagara, we have the following record:--"On Thursday last (this would be
May the 3rd) his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, accompanied by
several military gentlemen, set out in boats for Toronto, round the Head
of the Lake Ontario, by Burlington Bay; and in the evening his Majesty's
vessels the Caldwell and Buffalo, sailed for the same place."
Supposing the boats which proceeded round the Head of the Lake to have
arrived at the cleared spot where the French stockaded trading-post of
Toronto had stood, on Saturday, the 4th, the inspection of the harbour
and its surroundings by the Governor and "military gentlemen" occupied a
little less than a week; for we find that on Monday, the 13th, they are
back again in safety at Niagara. The Gazette of Thursday, the 16th of
May, thus announces their return: "On Monday (the 13th) about 2 o'clock,
his Excellency the Lieut.-Governor and suite arrived at Navy Hall from
Toronto; they returned in boats round the Lake."
It is probable that Bouchette was left behind, perhaps with the
Caldwell and Buffalo, to complete the survey of the harbour. (In the
work above named is a reduction of Bouchette's chart of the harbour with
the soundings and bottom; also with lines shewing "the breaking of the
ice in the spring." His minute delineation of the pinion-shaped
peninsula of sand which forms the outer boundary of Toronto bay, enables
the observer to see very clearly how, by long-continued drift from the
east, that barrier was gradually thrown up; as, also, how inevitable
were the marshes at the outlet of the Don.)
The excursion from Niagara, just described, was the Governor's first
visit to the harbour of Toronto, and we may suppose the Caldwell and
the Buffalo to have been the first sailing-craft of any considerable
magnitude that ever stirred its waters. In April, 1793, the Governor had
not yet visited Toronto. We learn this from a letter dated the 5th of
that month, addressed by him to Major-General Clarke, at Quebec. Gen.
Clarke was the Lieut.-Governor in Lower Canada. Lord Dorchester, the
Governor-General himself, was absent in England. "Many American
officers," Gen. Simcoe says to Gen. Clarke on the 5th of April, "give it
as their opinion that Niagara should be attacked, and that Detroit must
fall of course. I hope by this autumn," he continues, "to show the
fallacy of this reasoning, by opening a safe and expeditious
communication to La Tranche. But on this subject I reserve myself till I
have visited Toronto."
The safe and expeditious communication referred to was the great
military road, Dundas Street, projected by the Governor to connect the
port and arsenal at Toronto with the Thames and Detroit. It was in the
February and March of this very same year, 1793, that the Governor had
made, partly on foot, and partly in sleighs, his famous exploratory tour
through the woods from Niagara to Detroit and back, with a view to the
establishment of this communication.
On the 31st of May he is writing again to Gen. Clarke, at Quebec. He has
now, as we have seen, been at Toronto; and he speaks warmly of the
advantages which the site appeared to him to possess. "It is with great
pleasure that I offer to you," he says, "some observations upon the
Military strength and Naval convenience of Toronto (now York) [he adds],
which I propose immediately to occupy. I lately examined the harbour,"
he continues, "accompanied by such officers, naval and military, as I
thought most competent to give me assistance therein, and upon minute
investigation I found it to be, without comparison, the most proper
situation for an arsenal, in every extent of that word, that can be met
with in this Province."
The words, "now York," appended here and in later documents to
"Toronto," show that an official change of name had taken place. The
alteration was made between the 15th and 31st of May. No proclamation,
however, announcing its change, is to be found either in the local
Gazette or in the archives at Ottawa.
Nor is there any allusion to the contemplated works at York either in
the opening or closing speech delivered by the Governor to the houses of
parliament, which met at Niagara for their second session on the 28th of
May, and were dismissed to their homes again on the 9th of the following
July. We may suppose the minds of the members and other persons of
influence otherwise prepared for the coming changes, chiefly perhaps by
means of friendly conferences.
The Governor's scheme may, for example, have been one of the topics of
conversation at the levee, ball and supper on the King's birthday,
which, happening during the parliamentary session, was observed with
considerable ceremony.--"On Tuesday last, the fourth of June," says the
Gazette of the period, "being the anniversary of his Majesty's
birthday, his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor held a levee at Navy
Hall. At one the troops in garrison and at Queenston fired three
volleys. The field pieces above Navy Hall under the direction of the
Royal Artillery, and the guns at the garrison, fired a royal salute. In
the evening," the Gazette further reports, "his Excellency gave a Ball
and elegant supper in the Council Chamber, which was most numerously
Of this ball and supper another brief notice is extant. It chanced that
three distinguished Americans were among the guests--Gen. Lincoln, Col.
Pickering, and Mr. Randolph, United States commissioners on their way,
via Niagara, to a great Council of the Western Indians, about to be
held at the Miami river. In his private journal, since printed in the
Massachusetts Historical Collections, Gen. Lincoln made the following
note of the Governor's entertainment at Niagara:--"The ball," he says,
"was attended by about twenty well-dressed and handsome ladies, and
about three times that number of gentlemen. They danced," he records,
"from seven o'clock till eleven, when supper was announced, and served
in very pretty taste. The music and dancing," it is added, "was good,
and everything was conducted with propriety." This probably was the
first time the royal birthday was observed at Niagara in an official
Soon after the prorogation, July the 9th, steps preparatory to a removal
to York began to be taken. Troops, for example, were transported across
to the north side of the Lake. "A few days ago," says the Gazette of
Thursday, August the 1st, 1793, "the first Division of his Majesty's
Corps of Queen's Rangers left Queenston for Toronto--now York [it is
carefully added], and proceeded in batteaux round the head of the Lake
Ontario, by Burlington Bay. And shortly afterwards another division of
the same regiment sailed in the King's vessels, the Onondago and
Caldwell, for the same place."
It is evident the Governor, as he expressed himself to Gen. Clarke, in
the letter of May 31, is about "immediately to occupy" the site which
seemed to him so eligible for an arsenal and strong military post.
Accordingly, having thus sent forward two divisions of the regiment
whose name is so intimately associated with his own, to be a guard to
receive him on his own arrival, and to be otherwise usefully employed,
we find the Governor himself embarking for the same spot. "On Monday
evening [this would be Monday, the 29th of July]," the Gazette just
quoted informs us, "his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor left Navy
Hall and embarked on board his Majesty's schooner, the Mississaga,
which sailed immediately with a favourable gale for York, with the
remainder of the Queen's Rangers."--On the following morning, July 30,
1793, they would, with the aid of the "favourable gale," be at anchor in
the harbour of York.
Major Littlehales, the Governor's faithful secretary, remains behind
until the following Thursday, August the 1st, engaged probably in
arranging household matters for the Governor, an absence from Navy Hall
of some duration being contemplated. He then crosses the Lake in the
Caldwell, and joins his Chief. At the same time start Chief Justice
Osgoode and Mr. Attorney-General White for the East, to hold the
circuit. "On Thursday evening, the 1st instant," says the Gazette of
the 8th of August, "his Majesty's armed vessels the Onondago and the
Caldwell sailed from this place (Niagara). The former, for Kingston,
had on board the Hon. William Osgoode, Chief Justice of this Province,
and John White, Esq., Attorney General, who are going to hold the
circuits at Kingston and Johnstown. Major Littlehales sailed in the
latter, for York, to join his Excellency's suite."
We should have been glad of a minute account of each day's proceedings
on the landing of the troops at York, and the arrival there of the
Governor and his suite. But we can readily imagine the Rangers
establishing themselves under canvas on the grassy glade where formerly
stood the old French trading-post. We can imagine them landing stores--a
few cannon and some other munitions of war--from the ships; landing the
parts and appurtenances of the famous canvas-house which the Governor
had provided for the shelter of himself and his family, and which, as we
have before noted, was originally constructed for the use of Captain
Cook in one of the scientific expeditions commanded by that celebrated
The canvas-house must have been a pavilion of considerable capacity, and
was doubtless pitched and fixed with particular care by the soldiers and
others, wherever its precise situation was determined. It was, as it
were, the praetorium of the camp, but moveable. We can conceive of it as
being set down, in the first instance, on the site of the French fort,
and then at a later period, or on the occasion of a later visit to York,
shifted to one of the knolls overlooking the little stream known
subsequently as the Garrison creek; and shifted again, at another visit,
to a position still farther east, where a second small stream meandered
between steep banks into the Bay, at the point where a Government
ship-building yard was in after years established. (Tradition places
the canvas-house on several sites.)
We can conceive, too, all hands, sailors as well as soldiers, busy in
opening eastward through the woods along the shore, a path that should
be more respectable and more useful for military and civil purposes than
the Indian trail which they would already find there, leading directly
to the quarter where, at the farther end of the Bay, the town-plot was
designed to be laid out, and the Government buildings were intended to
On the 8th of August we know the Governor was engaged at York in writing
to the Indian Chief Brant, from whom a runner has just arrived all the
way from the entrance to the Detroit river. Brant, finding the
conference between his compatriots and the United States authorities
likely to end unsatisfactorily, sent to solicit Governor Simcoe's
interposition, especially in regard to the boundary line which the
Indians of the West insisted on--the Ohio river. Thus runs the
Governor's reply, written at York on the 8th:--"Since the Government of
the United States," he says, "have shown a disinclination to concur with
the Indian nations in requesting of his Majesty permission for me to
attend at Sandusky as mediator, it would be highly improper and
unreasonable in me to give an opinion relative to the proposed
boundaries, with which I am not sufficiently acquainted, and which
question I have studiously avoided entering into, as I am well aware of
the jealousies entertained by some of the subjects of the United States
of the interference of the British Government, which has a natural and
decided interest in the welfare of the Indian nations, and in the
establishment of peace and permanent tranquillity. In this situation, I
am sure you will excuse me from giving to you any advice, which, from my
absence from the spot, cannot possibly arise from that perfect view and
knowledge which so important a subject necessarily demands."
The controversy in the West, in relation to which the Governor is thus
cautiously expressing himself to the Indian Chief on the 8th of August,
was a subject for cabinet consideration; a matter only for the few. But
towards the close of the month, news from a different quarter--from the
outer world of the far European East--reached the infant York, suitable
to be divulged to the many and turned to public account. It was known
that hostilities were going on between the allied forces of Europe and
the armies of Revolutionary France. And now came intelligence that the
English contingent on the continent had contributed materially to a
success over the French in Flanders on the 23rd of May last. Now this
contingent, 10,000 men, was under the command of the Duke of York, the
King's son, A happy thought strikes the Governor. What could be more
appropriate than to celebrate the good news in a demonstrative manner on
a spot which in honour of that Prince had been named York.
Accordingly, on the 26th of August, we find the following General Order
issued:--"York, Upper Canada, 26th of August, 1793. His Excellency the
Lieutenant-Governor having received information of the success of his
Majesty's arms, under His Royal Highness the Duke of York, by which
Holland has been saved from the invasion of the French armies,--and it
appearing that the combined forces have been successful in dislodging
their enemies from an entrenched camp supposed to be impregnable, from
which the most important consequences may be expected; and in which
arduous attempts His Royal Highness the Duke of York and His Majesty's
troops supported the national glory:--It is His Excellency's orders that
on the rising of the Union Flag at twelve o'clock to-morrow a Royal
Salute of twenty-one guns is to be fired, to be answered by the shipping
in the Harbour, in respect to His Royal Highness and in commemoration of
the naming this Harbour from his English title, York. E. B. Littlehales,
Major of Brigade."
These orders, we are to presume, were punctually obeyed; and we are
inclined to think that the running up of the Union Flag at noon on
Tuesday, the 27th day of August, and the salutes which immediately after
reverberated through the woods and rolled far down and across the
silvery surface of the Lake, were intended to be regarded as the true
inauguration of the Upper Canadian York.
The rejoicing, indeed, as it proved, was somewhat premature. The success
which distinguished the first operations of the royal duke did not
continue to attend his efforts. Nevertheless, the report of the honours
rendered in this remote portion of the globe, would be grateful to the
fatherly heart of the King.
On the Saturday after the Royal Salutes, the first meeting of the
Executive Council ever held in York, took place in the garrison; in the
canvas-house, as we may suppose. "The first Council," writes Mr. W. H.
Lee from Ottawa, "held at the garrison, York, late Toronto, at which
Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe was present, was on Saturday, 31st August,
1793." It transacted business there, Mr. Lee says, until the following
fifth of September, when the Government returned to Navy Hall. Still,
the Governor and his family passed the ensuing winter at York. Bouchette
speaks of his inhabiting the canvas-house "through the winter;" and
under date of York, on the 23rd of the following February (1794), we
have him writing to Mr. Secretary Dundas.
In the despatch of the day just named, after a now prolonged experience
of the newly-established post, the Governor thus glowingly speaks of it:
"York," he says, "is the most important and defensible situation in
Upper Canada, or that I have seen," he even adds, "in North America. I
have, sir," he continues, "formerly entered into a detail of the
advantages of this arsenal of Lake Ontario. An interval of Indian land
of six and thirty miles divides this settlement from Burlington Bay,
where that of Niagara commences. Its communication with Lake Huron is
very easy in five or six days, and will in all respects be of the most
Before the channel at the entrance of the Harbour of York was visibly
marked or buoyed, the wide-spread shoal to the west and south must have
been very treacherous to craft seeking to approach the new settlement.
In 1794 we hear of the Commodore's vessel, "the Anondaga, of 14 guns,"
being stranded here and given up for lost. We hear likewise that the
Commodore's son, Joseph Bouchette, the first surveyor of the harbour,
distinguished himself by managing to get the same Anondaga off, after
she had been abandoned; and we are told of his assuming the command and
sailing with her to Niagara, where he is received amidst the cheers of
the garrison and others assembled on the shores to greet the rescued
This exploit, of which he was naturally proud, and for which he was
promoted on the 12th of May, 1794, to the rank of Second Lieutenant,
Bouchette duly commemorates on his chart of York Harbour by
conspicuously marking the spot where the stranded ship lay, and
appending the note--"H. M. Schooner Anondaga, 14 guns, wrecked, but
raised by Lieutenant Joseph Bouchette and brought to." (A small
two-masted vessel is seen lying on the north-west bend of the great
shoal at the entrance of the Harbour.)--A second point is likewise
marked on the map "where she again grounded but was afterwards brought
to." (Here again a small vessel is seen lying at the edge of the shoal,
but now towards its northern point.) The Chart, which was originally
engraved for Bouchette's octavo book, "A Topographical Description of
Canada, &c.," published in 1815, is repeated with the marks and
accompanying notes, from the same plate, in the quarto work of
1831--"The British Dominions in North America." The Anondaga of the
Bouchette narrative is, as we suppose, the Onondago of the Gazette,
which, as we have seen, helped to take over the Rangers in August, 1793.
The same uncertainty, which we have had occasion repeatedly to notice,
in regard to the orthography of aboriginal words in general, rendered it
doubtful with the public at large as to how the names of some of the
Royal vessels should be spelt.
It is to be observed in passing, that when in his account of the first
survey of the Harbour in 1793, Bouchette speaks of the
Lieutenant-Governor removing from Niagara with his regiment of Queen's
Rangers "in the following spring," he probably means in the later
portion of the spring of the same year 1793, because, as we have already
seen, the Gazettes of the day prove that the Lieutenant-Governor did
proceed to the site of the new capital with the Rangers in 1793.
Bouchette's words as they stand in his quarto book, imply, in some
degree, that 1794 was the year in which the Governor and his Rangers
first came over from Niagara. In the earlier octavo book his words were:
"In the year 1793 the spot on which York stands presented only one
solitary wigwam; in the ensuing spring the ground for the future
metropolis of Upper Canada was fixed upon, and the buildings commenced
under the immediate superintendence of the late General Simcoe, the
Lieut.-Governor: in the space of five or six years it became a
Bouchette was possibly recalling the commencement of the Public
Buildings in 1794, when in his second work, published in 1831, he
inserted the note which has given rise, in the minds of some, to a
slight doubt as to whether 1793 or 1794 was the year of the founding of
York. The Gazettes, as we have seen, shew that 1793 was the year. The
Gazettes also shew that the so-called Public Buildings, i. e., the
Parliamentary Buildings, were not begun until 1794. Thus, in the
Gazette of July 10, 1794, we read the advertisement: "Wanted:
Carpenters for the Public Buildings to be erected at York. Application
to be made to John McGill, Esq., at York, or to Mr. Allan Macnab at Navy
On the 23rd of February, 1794, Governor Simcoe was, as we noted above,
writing a despatch at York to Mr. Secretary Dundas. So early in the
season as the 17th of March, however, he is on the move for the rapids
of the Miami river, at the upper end of Lake Erie, to establish an
additional military post in that quarter, the threatened encroachments
on the Indian lands north of the Ohio by the United States rendering
such a demonstration expedient. He is, of course, acting under
instructions from superior authority. In the MS. map to which reference
has before been made, the Governor's route on this occasion is marked;
and the following note is appended:--"Lieut.-Governor Simcoe's route
from York to the Thames, down that river in canoes to Detroit; from
thence to the Miami to build the fort Lord Dorchester ordered to be
built; left York March 17th, 1794; returned by Erie and Niagara to York,
May 5th, 1794."
In the following August, Gov. Simcoe is at Newark or Niagara. On the
18th of that month he has just heard of an engagement between the United
States forces under General Wayne and the Indians, close to the new fort
on the Miami, and he writes to Brant that he is about to proceed in
person to the scene of action "by the first vessel." On the 30th of
September he is there; and on the 10th of October following, he is
attending a Council of Chiefs in company with Brant, at the southern
entrance of the Detroit river. A cessation of hostilities on the part of
the Indians is urged, until the spring; and, for himself, he says to the
assembly: "I will go down to Quebec and lay your grievances before the
Great Man [the Onnontio probably was the word]. From thence they will be
forwarded to the King your Father. Next spring you will know the result
of everything--what you and I will do."
On the 14th of November the Governor is at Newark embarking again for
York and the East. In the Gazette of Dec. 10, we have the
announcement: "His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor left this town
(Newark) on the 14th ultimo, on his way, via York, to the eastern part
of the Province, where it is expected he will spend the winter." He
appears to have left York on the 5th of December in in an open boat. The
MS. map gives the route, with the note: "Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's track from
York to Kingston in an open boat, Dec. 5, 1794." On the 20th of the same
month he is writing a despatch at Kingston to the "Lords of the
Committee of His Majesty's Council for Trade and Plantations;" and we
learn from the document that the neighbourhood of York, if not York
itself, was becoming populous. The Governor says to their Lordships:
"Having stated to Mr. Secretary Dundas the great importance which I
attached to York (late Toronto), and received directions to give due
encouragement to the settlement, it is with great pleasure that I am to
observe that seventy families at least are settling in its vicinity, and
principally on the communication between York and Holland's River, which
falls into Lake Simcoe." (The German families these, principally, who
were brought over by Mr. Berczy from the Pulteney settlement in the
Genesee country, on the opposite side of the Lake.)
The proposed journey to and from Quebec may have been accomplished after
the 20th of December.
In June of the following year, 1795, the Governor is at Navy Hall,
Newark. He receives and entertains there for eighteen days the French
Royalist Duke de Liancourt, who is on his travels on the American
continent. The Duke does not visit York; but two of his travelling
companions, MM. du Pettithouars and Guillemard take a run over and
report to him that there "had been no more than twelve houses hitherto
built at York." The barracks, they say, stand on the roadstead two miles
from the town, and near the Lake. The duke adds: "Desertion, I am told,
is very frequent among the soldiers."
While staying at Navy Hall, the Duke de Liancourt was taken over the
Fort on the opposite side of the river; he also afterwards dined there
with the officers. "With very obliging politeness," the duke says, "the
Governor conducted us over the Fort, which he is very loth to visit,
since he is sure that he will be obliged to deliver it up to the
Americans."--In fact it was made over to them under Jay's Treaty in this
very year 1794, along with Oswego, Detroit, Miami, and Michilimackinac,
though not actually surrendered until 1796. And this was the somewhat
inglorious termination of the difficulties between the Indian allies of
England and the United States Government, which had compelled the
Governor again and again to undertake toilsome journeys to the
West.--"Thirty artillerymen," the duke notes, "and eight companies of
the Fifth Regiment form the garrison of the Fort. Two days after the
visit," he continues, "we dined in the Fort at Major Seward's, an
officer of elegant, polite and amiable manners, who seems to be much
respected by the gentlemen of his profession. He and Mr. Pilkington, an
officer of the corps of Engineers, are the military gentlemen we have
most frequently seen during our residence in this place, and whom the
Governor most distinguishes from the rest."
In 1796 Governor Simcoe was ordered to the West Indies. He met his
Parliament at Newark on the 16th of May, and prorogued it on the 3rd of
June, after assenting to seven Acts.
In the Gazette of Sept. 11, 1796, a proclamation from Peter Russell
announces that "His most gracious Majesty has been pleased to grant his
royal leave of absence to his Excellency Major General Simcoe," and that
consequently the government pro tem. had devolved upon himself.
In the November following, Mr. Russell, now entitled President, comes
over from Niagara in the Mohawk. The Gazette of Nov. 4, 1796 (still
published at Niagara), announces: "Yesterday (Nov. 3), his Honour the
President of the Province and family sailed in the Mohawk for York. On
his departure he was saluted with a discharge of cannon at Fort George,
which was answered by three cheers from on board." (Fort George,
afterwards famous in Canadian annals, and whose extensive remains are
still conspicuous, had now been constructed, on the west side of the
river, close by Newark or Niagara, as a kind of counterpoise to the
French Fort on the east side of the river, immediately opposite, which
had just been surrendered to the United States.)
It is briefly noted in the Gazette of the 26th of January in the
following year (1797), that the President's new house at York had been
destroyed by fire. This may account for his being at Niagara in May
(1797), and sailing over again in the Mohawk to York, apparently to
open Parliament. The Gazette of the 31st of May, 1797, says: "On
Saturday last, sailed in the Mohawk for York, his Honour the
Administrator, and several members of the Parliament of the Province."
(The Mohawk had come up from Kingston on the 27th of April. On the
28th of that month a vessel had arrived at Niagara, bearing the name of
the late Governor. The Gazette of May 3, 1797, thus speaks: "On Sunday
last, arrived from Kingston his Majesty's armed vessel the Mohawk; and
on Monday last, the Governor Simcoe, being their first voyage.")
The Gazette of the 31st, in addition to the departure of the Mohawk
for York, as above, gives us also the following piece of information
whence we learn that in the trade of the Lake, a competition from the
United States side was about to begin:--"On the same day (the day when
the Mohawk sailed for York), arrived here (Niagara) a Deck-boat, built
and owned by Col. John Van Rensselaer, of Lansingburg, on the North
River. This enterprising gentleman," the Gazette says, "built and
completed this and one other of the same bigness (fifty barrels burden),
and conveyed them by high waters to Oswego, and arrived there without
injury this spring. They are to ply continually between Oswego and this
place and Kingston."
On July the 3rd, 1797, the return of President Russell to Niagara in the
Mohawk is announced. (The exact situation of Mr. Russell's house at
Niagara may be deduced from a memorandum in the papers of Augustus
Jones, the surveyor, dated Aug., 1796. It runs as follows:--"S. 61 W.,
34 chains, 34 links from the north-west corner of the Block-house above
Navy Hall to the S. E. angle of the Hon. P. Russell's house: at 24
chains, a fence.")
During the stormy season at the close of the year 1797, a momentary
apprehension was felt at Niagara for the safety of the Mohawk. In a
Gazette of December in this year we read: "West Niagara, Dec. 2. Fears
for the fate of the Mohawk are entertained. It is said minute guns
were distinctly heard through most of Thursday before last; but we hope
she has suffered no further than being driven back to Kingston. The
Onondaga," it is added, "which was aground in Hungry Bay at our last
intelligence, was in a fair way of being gotten off." In the next
Gazette, the number for Dec. 9, it is announced that "since our last,
arrived here the Simcoe, from Kingston, by which we learn that the
Mohawk had returned there, after having her bowsprit and a
considerable part of her sails carried away in the storm." It is also
stated of the Onondaga, that "she had gained that Port without
material injury sustained in Hungry Bay."
In the Gazette of May 19, in the following year, 1798, the Simcoe
again appears. At the same time the name of the commander of the vessel
is given. "West Niagara: By the arrival of the schooner Simcoe, Capt.
Murney, from Kingston, we are informed that upwards of a hundred houses
in the Lower Province have been carried away by the ice this spring."
The Capt. Murney here mentioned, as being in command of the Simcoe,
was the father of the Hon. Edward Murney, of Belleville. He built and
owned in 1801 another vessel named the Prince Edward, capable of
carrying 700 barrels of flour in her hold. We are told of this vessel,
that she was built wholly of red cedar.
In the Gazette of May 26, 1798, we hear of a "good sloop" constructed
of black walnut. She is about to be sold. "To be sold," the Gazette
says, "on the stocks at the Bay of Long Point (near Kingston), at any
time before the 28th of June next, a good sloop ready for launching, in
good order, and warranted sound and masterly built. She is formed of the
best black walnut timber, 38 tons burden, and calculated for carrying
timber." We are told further in respect to this sloop, that "she will be
sold by consent of Mr. Troyer, and a good title with a warranty given on
the sale. The conditions are for cash only; one-half down, and the other
in three months, with approved security for payment. Wm. Dealy." J.
Troyer adds: "I approve of the above." Again, it is subjoined: "All
persons having demands on said Dealy are requested to exhibit them
before the 28th of June, that the same may be paid one month thereafter.
May 24, 1798."
On Monday, the 14th of October, in the year just named, a Mr. Cornwall
was drowned by falling out of a boat into the Lake, near the Garrison at
York. In the Gazette of the 27th it is noted that "on Monday last the
body of Mr. Cornwall, who was unfortunately drowned the 14th instant, by
falling out of a boat into the Lake, near the Garrison, was taken up at
the Etobicoke. The coroner's inquest sat on the body," it is added, "and
brought in a verdict 'accidental death.'" (In this Gazette Etobicoke
is curiously printed Toby Cove.)
Boisterous weather gave rise to the usual disasters and inconveniences
in the autumn of 1798. "During the heavy gales of wind," says the
Gazette of Nov. 24, "which we have had, a vessel loaded with sundry
goods was drove on shore at the Mississaga point at Newark (Niagara),
and another vessel belonging to this town (York) was drove on a place
called the Ducks, where she received considerable damage."
In August, 1799, Governor Hunter, lately appointed, arrived in York
Harbour in the Speedy. The Niagara Constellation of Aug. 23, 1799,
gives us the information. It says: "His Excellency, Governor Hunter,
arrived at York on Friday morning last in the Speedy. On landing," we
are told, "he was received by a party of the Queen's Rangers; and at one
o'clock p.m. was waited on at his Honour's the President's, by the
military officers, and congratulated on his safe arrival and
appointment to the government of the Province."
On the 5th of September he has gone over to Niagara. The Constellation
of the 6th thus notices his arrival there: "Yesterday morning, arrived
here from York his Excellency Governor Hunter. He was saluted by a
discharge of twenty-one guns from Fort George. His early arrival in the
morning prevented so great an attendance of inhabitants to demonstrate
their joy, as was wished by them." He probably crossed the Lake in the
The departure of Governor Hunter from Niagara is noted in the
Constellation of the following week. "On Saturday last," the
Constellation of Sept. 13 says, "His Excellency sailed for Kingston
and the Lower Province (probably again in the Speedy). On embarking,"
we are informed as usual, "he was saluted from the Garrison;" and it is
also added that on passing Fort Niagara "he was saluted by the American
flag, which had been hoisted for the purpose." On which act of courtesy
the Constellation remarks that "merit is respected by all countries."
It is then added: "We learn that his Excellency has committed the
administration of the Government, during his absence, to a committee
composed of the Honourable Peter Russell, J. Elmsley and AEneas Shaw,
Esquires; and the Hon. J. McGill, Esq., in the absence of either of
Under date of York, Saturday, Sept. 14th, 1799, we have mention made in
the Gazette of a new vessel. "The Toronto Yacht, Capt. Baker," the
Gazette announces, "will in the course of a few days be ready to make
her first trip. She is," the Gazette says, "one of the handsomest
vessels of her size that ever swam upon the Ontario; and if we are
permitted to judge from her appearance, and to do her justice, we must
say she bids fair to be one of the swiftest sailing vessels. She is
admirably calculated for the reception of passengers, and can with
propriety boast of the most experienced officers and men. Her
master-builder," it is subjoined, "was a Mr. Dennis, an American, on
whom she reflects great honour." This was Mr. Joseph Dennis; and the
place where the vessel was built was a little way up the Humber. (The
name Dennis is carelessly given in the Gazette as Dennison.)
The effects of rough weather on the Lake at the close of 1799, as
detailed by the Niagara Constellation of the 7th of December, will not
be out of place. "On Thursday last," the Constellation says, "a boat
arrived here from Schenectady, which place she left on the 22nd ult.
She passed the York sticking on a rock off the Devil's Nose: no
prospect of getting her off. A small deck-boat also, she reports, lately
sprung a leak twelve miles distant from Oswego. The people on board,
many of whom were passengers, were taken off by a vessel passing, when
she instantly sank: cargo is all lost." The narrative then proceeds to
say: "A vessel supposed to be the Genesee schooner, has been two days
endeavouring to come in. It is a singular misfortune," the
Constellation says, "that this vessel, which sailed more than a month
ago from Oswego, laden for this place, has been several times in sight,
and driven back by heavy gales."
In the same number of the Constellation (Dec. 7th, 1799), we have "the
well-known schooner Peggy" spoken of. A moiety of her is offered for
sale. Richard Beasley of Barton, executor, and Margaret Berry of York,
executrix, to the estate of Thomas Berry, merchant, late of York,
deceased, advertise for sale: "One moiety of the well-known schooner
Peggy: any recommendation of her sailing or accommodation," they say,
"will be unnecessary: with these particulars the public are well
acquainted, and the purchaser will, no doubt, satisfy himself with
personal inspection. For terms of sale apply to the executor and
In the Constellation of the following week is the mysterious
paragraph: "If Jonathan A. Pell will return and pay Captain Selleck for
the freight of the salt which he took from on board the Duchess of
York without leave, it will be thankfully received and no questions
The disastrous effects of the gales are referred to again in the
Gazette of Dec. 21st, 1799. "We hear from very good authority," the
Gazette says, "that the schooner York, Captain Murray, has
foundered, and is cast upon the American shore about fifty miles from
Niagara, where the captain and men are encamped. Mr. Forsyth, one of the
passengers, hired a boat to carry them to Kingston. Fears are
entertained for the fate of the Terrahoga." (A government vessel so
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