From The Garrison Back To The Place Of Beginning

We now enter again the modern Fort; passing back through the western

gate. On our right we have the site of the magazine which so fatally

exploded in 1813; we learn from Gen. Sheaffe's despatch to Sir George

Prevost, that it was "in the western battery."

In close proximity to the magazine was the Government House of the day,

an extensive rambling cluster of one-storey buildings; all "riddled" or

to pieces by the concussion, when the explosion took place.

The ruin that thus befel the Governor's residence led, on the

restoration of peace, to the purchase of Chief Justice Elmsley's house

on King street, and its conversion into "Government House."

From the main battery, which (including a small semi-circular bastion

for the venerable flag-staff of the Fort) extends along the brow of the

palisaded bank, south of the parade, the royal salutes, resounding down

and across the lake, used to be fired on the arrival and departure of

the Lieutenant-Governor, and at the opening and closing of the


From the south-eastern bastion, overlooking the ravine below, a

twelve-pounder was discharged every day at noon. "The twelve-o'clock

gun," when discontinued, was long missed with regret.

At the time of the invasion of Canada in 1812, the garrison of York was

manned by the 3rd regiment of York militia. We have before us a relic of

the period, in the form of the contemporary regimental order-book of the

Fort. An entry of the 29th of July, 1812, showing the approach of

serious work, has an especial local interest. "In consequence of an

order from Major-General Brock, commanding the forces, for a detachment

of volunteers, under the command of Major Allan, to hold themselves in

readiness to proceed in batteaux from the Head of the Lake to-morrow at

2 o'clock, the following officers, non-commissioned officers and

privates will hold themselves in readiness to proceed at 2 o'clock, for

the purpose of being fitted with caps, blankets and haversacks, as well

as to draw provisions. On their arrival at the Head of the Lake,

regimental coats and canteens will be ready to be issued to them." The

names are then given. "Capt. Heward, Lieut. Richardson, Lieut. Jarvis,

Lieut. Robinson. Sergeants Knott, Humberstone, Bond, Bridgeford."

In view of the test to which the citizen-soldiers were about to be

subjected, the General, like a good officer, sought by judicious praise,

to inspire them with self-confidence. "Major-General Brock," the

order-book proceeds, "has desired me (Captain Stephen Heward) to

acquaint the detachment under my command, of his high approbation of

their orderly conduct and good discipline while under arms: that their

exercise and marching far exceeded any that he had seen in the Province.

And in particular he directed me to acquaint the officers how much he is

pleased with their appearance in uniform and their perfect knowledge of

their duty."

On the 13th of August, we learn from other sources, Brock was on the

Western Frontier with 700 soldiers, including the volunteers from York,

and 600 Indians; and on the 16th the old flag was waving from the

fortress of Detroit; but, on the 13th October, the brave General, though

again a victor in the engagement, was himself a lifeless corpse on the

slopes above Queenston; and, in April of the following year, York, as we

have already seen, was in the hands of the enemy. Such are the ups and

downs of war. It is mentioned that "Push on the York Volunteers!" was

the order issuing from the lips of the General, at the moment of the

fatal shot. From the order-book referred to, we learn that "Toronto" was

the parole or countersign of the garrison on the 23rd July, 1812.

The knoll on the east side of the Garrison Creek was covered with a

number of buildings for the accommodation of troops, in addition to the

barracks within the fort. Here also stood a block-house. Eastward were

the surgeon's quarters, overhanging the bay; and further eastward

still, were the commandant's quarters, a structure popularly known, by

some freak of military language, as Lambeth Palace. Here for a time

resided Major-General AEneas Shaw, afterwards the owner and occupant of

Oak Hill.

On the beach below the knoll, there continued to be, for a number of

years, a row of cannon dismounted, duly spiked and otherwise disabled,

memorials of the capture in 1813, when these guns were rendered useless

by the regular troops before their retreat to Kingston. The pebbles on

the shore about here were also plentifully mixed with loose canister

shot, washed up by the waves, after their submersion in the bay on the

same occasion.

From the little eminence just referred to, along the edge of the cliff,

ran a gravel walk, which led first to the Guard House over the

Commissariat Stores, in a direct line, with the exception of a slight

divergence occasioned by "Capt. Bonnycastle's cottage;" and then

eastward into the town. Where ravines occurred, cut in the drift by

water-courses into the bay, the gulf was spanned by a bridge of hewn

logs. This walk, kept in order for many years by the military

authorities, was the representative of the path first worn bare by the

soft tread of the Indian. From its agreeableness, overlooking as it did,

through its whole length the Harbour and Lake, this walk gave birth to

the idea, which became a fixed one in the minds of the early people of

the place, that there was to be in perpetuity, in front of the whole

town, a pleasant promenade, on which the burghers and their families

should take the air and disport themselves generally.

The Royal Patent by which this sentimental walk is provided for and

decreed, issued on the 14th day of July, in the year 1818, designates it

by the interesting old name of Mall, and nominates "John Beverley

Robinson, William Allan, George Crookshank, Duncan Cameron and Grant

Powell, all of the town of York, Esqs., their heirs and assigns forever,

as trustees to hold the same for the use and benefit of the

inhabitants." Stretching from Peter Street in the west to the Reserve

for Government Buildings in the east, of a breadth varying between four

and five chains, following the line of Front Street on the one side, and

the several turnings and windings of the bank on the other, the area of

land contained in this Mall was "thirty acres, more or less, with

allowance for the several cross streets leading from the said town to

the water." The paucity of open squares in the early plans of York may

be partly accounted for by this provision made for a spacious Public


While the archaeologist must regret the many old landmarks which were

ruthlessly shorn away in the construction of the modern Esplanade, he

must, nevertheless, contemplate with never-ceasing admiration that great

and laudable work. It has done for Toronto what the Thames embankment

has effected for London. Besides vast sanitary advantages accruing, it

has created space for the erection of a new front to the town. It has

made room for a broad promenade some two or three miles in length, not,

indeed, of the far niente type, but with double and treble railway

tracks abreast of itself, all open to the deep water of the harbour on

one side, and flanked almost throughout the whole length on the other,

by a series of warehouses, mills, factories and depots, destined to

increase every year in importance. The sights and sounds every day,

along this combination of roadways and its surroundings, are unlike

anything dreamt of by the framers of the old Patent of 1818. But it

cannot be said that the idea contained in that document has been wholly

departed from: nay, it must be confessed that it has been grandly

realized in a manner and on a scale adapted to the requirements of these

latter days.

For some time, Front Street, above the Esplanade, continued to be a

raised terrace, from which pleasant views and fresh lake air could be

obtained; and attempts were made, at several points along its southern

verge, to establish a double row of shade trees, which should recall in

future ages the primitive oaks and elms which overlooked the margin of

the harbour. But soon the erection of tall buildings on the newly-made

land below, began to shut out the view and the breezes, and to

discourage attempts at ornamentation by the planting of trees.

It is to regretted, however, that the title of Mall has not yet been

applied to some public walk in the town. Old-world sounds like

these--reeve, warden, provost, recorder, House of Commons, railway, (not

road), dugway, mall--like the chimes in some of our towers, and the

sung-service in some of our churches--help, in cases where the

imagination is active, to reconcile the exile from the British Islands

to his adopted home, and even to attach him to it. Incorporated into our

common local speech, and so perpetuated, they may also be hereafter

subsidiary mementoes of our descent as a people, when all connection,

save that of history, with the ancient home of our forefathers, will

have ceased.

In 1804, there were "Lieutenants of Counties" in Upper Canada. The

following gentlemen were, in 1804, "Lieutenants of Counties" for the

Counties attached to their respective names. We take the list from the

Upper Canada Almanac for 1804, published at York by John Bennett. The

office and title of County-Lieutenant do not appear to have been kept

up: "John Macdonell, Esq., Glengary; William Fortune, Esq., Prescott;

Archibald Macdonell, Esq., Stormont; Hon. Richard Duncan, Esq., Dundas;

Peter Drummond, Esq., Grenville; James Breakenridge, Esq., Leeds; Hon.

Richard Cartwright, Esq., Frontenac; Hazelton Spencer, Esq., Lenox;

William Johnson, Esq., Addington; John Ferguson, Esq., Hastings;

Archibald Macdonell, Esq., of Marysburg, Prince Edward; Alexander

Chisholm, Esq., Northumberland; Robert Baldwin, Esq., Durham; Hon. David

William Smith, Esq., York; Hon. Robert Hamilton, Esq., Lincoln; Samuel

Ryerse, Esq., Norfolk; William Claus, Esq., Oxford; (Middlesex is

vacant); Hon. Alexander Grant, Esq., Essex; Hon. James Baby, Esq.,


Another old English term in use in the Crown Lands Office of Ontario, if

not generally, is "Domesday Book." The record of grants of land from the

beginning of the organization of Upper Canada is entitled "Domesday

Book." It consists now of many folio volumes.

The gravelled path from the Fort to the Commissariat Stores, as

described above, in conjunction with a parallel track for wheels along

the cliff all the way to the site of the Parliament Buildings, suggested

in 1822 the restoration of a carriage-drive to the Island, which had

some years previously existed. This involved the erection or rather

re-erection of bridges over the lesser and greater Don, to enable the

inhabitants of York to reach the long lines of lake beach, extending

eastward to Scarborough Heights and westward to Gibraltar Point.

All the old accounts of York in the topographical dictionaries of "sixty

years since," spoke of the salubriousness of the peninsula which formed

the harbour. Even the aborigines, it was stated, had recourse to that

spot for sanative purposes. All this was derived from the article in D.

W. Smith's Gazetteer, which sets forth that "the long beach or

peninsula, which affords a most delightful ride, is considered so

healthy by the Indians, that they resort to it whenever indisposed."

So early as 1806 a bridge or float had been built over the mouth of the

Don. In the Gazette of June 18, in that year, we have the notice: "It

is requested that no person will draw sand or pass with loaded waggons

or carts over the new Bridge or Float at the opening of the Don River,

as this source of communication was intended to accommodate the

inhabitants of the town in a walk or ride to the Island. York, 13th

June, 1806."

In a MS. map of this portion of the vicinity of York, dated 1811, the

road over the float is marked "Road from York to the Lighthouse." In

this map, the lesser Don does not appear. A pond or inlet represents it,

stretching in from the bay to the river. A bridge spans the inlet. There

is a bridge also over the ravine, through which flows the rivulet by the

Parliament Buildings.

Health, however, was not the sole object of all these arrangements. A

race-course had been laid out on the sandy neck of land connecting the

central portion of the peninsula with the main shore. Here races were

periodically held; and we have been assured, by an eye-witness, that

twelve fine horses at a time had been seen by him engaged in the contest

of speed. The hippodrome in question was not a ring, but a long straight

level stadium, extending from the southern end of the second bridge to

the outer margin of the lake.

When invasion was threatened in 1812, all the bridges in the direction

of the Island were taken down. An earthwork was thrown up across the

narrow ridge separating the last long reach of the Don from the Bay; and

in addition, a trench was cut across the same ridge. This cut, at first

insignificant, became ultimately by a natural process the lesser Don, a

deep and wide outlet, a convenient short-cut for skiffs and canoes from

the Bay to the Don proper, and from the Don proper to the Bay.

On the return of peace, the absence of bridges, and the existence, in

addition, of a second formidable water-filled moat, speedily began to be

matters of serious regret to the inhabitants of York, who found

themselves uncomfortably cut off from easy access to the peninsula. From

the Gazette of April 15, 1822, we learn that "a public subscription

among the inhabitants had been entered into, to defray the expense of

erecting two bridges on the River Don, leading from this town towards

the south, to the Peninsula." And subjoined are the leading names of

the place, guaranteeing various sums, in all amounting to L108 5s. The

timber was presented by Peter Robinson, Esq., M.P.P. The estimated

expense of the undertaking was L325. The following names appear for

various sums--fifty, twenty, ten, five and two dollars--Major Hillier,

Rev. Dr. Strachan, Hon. J. H. Dunn, Hon. James Baby, Mr. Justice

Boulton, John Small, Henry Boulton, Col. Coffin, Thomas Ridout, sen., W.

Allen, Grant Powell, Samuel Ridout, J. S. Baldwin, S. Heward, James E.

Small, Chas. Small, S. Washburn, J. B. Macaulay, G. Crookshank, A.

Mercer, George Boulton, Thomas Taylor, Joseph Spragge, George Hamilton,

R. E. Prentice, A. Warffe, W. B. Jarvis, B. Turquand, John Denison,

sen., George Denison, John and George Monro, Henry Drean, Peter

McDougall, Geo. Duggan, James Nation, Thomas Bright, W. B. Robinson, J.

W. Gamble, William Proudfoot, Jesse Ketchum, D. Brooke, jun., R. C.

Henderson, David Stegman, L. Fairbairn, Geo. Playter, Joseph Rogers,

John French, W. Roe, Thomas Sullivan, John Hay, J. Biglow, John Elliot.

On the strength of the sums thus promised, an engineer, Mr. E. Angell,

began the erection of the bridge over the Greater Don. The Gazette

before us reports that it was being constructed "with hewn timbers, on

the most approved European principle." (There is point in the

italicised word: it hints the impolicy of employing United States

engineers for such works). The paper adds that "the one bridge over the

Great Don, consisting of five arches, is in a forward state; and the

other, of one arch, over the Little Don, will be completed in or before

the month of July next, when this line of road will be opened." It is

subjoined that "subscriptions will continue to be received by A. Mercer,

Esq., J. Dennis, York, and also by the Committee, Thomas Bright, William

Smith and E. Angell."

By the Weekly Register of June 19, in the following year, it appears

that the engineer, in commencing the bridge before the amount of its

cost was guaranteed, had calculated without his host; and, as is usually

the case with those who draw in advance on the proceeds of a supposed

public enthusiam, had been brought into difficulties. We accordingly

find that "on Friday evening last, pursuant to public notice given in

the Upper Canada Gazette, a meeting of the subscribers, and other

inhabitants of the town of York, was held at the house of Mr. Phair, in

the Market-place, for the purpose of taking into consideration the

circumstances in which the engineer had been placed by constructing a

bridge, the charge of which was to be defrayed by voluntary

subscription, over the mouth of the river Don."

Resolutions were passed on the occasion, approving of Mr. Angell's

proceedings, and calling for additional donations. A new committee was

now appointed, consisting of H. J. Boulton, Esq., Dr. Widmer, S. Heward,

Esq., Charles Small, Esq., and Allan McNab, Esq.--The editor of the

Weekly Register (Fothergill) thus notices the meeting: "It is

satisfactory to find that there is at length some probability of the

bridge over the Don in this vicinity being completed. We are,

ourselves," the writer of the article proceeds to say, "the more anxious

on this account, from the hope there is reason to entertain that these

and other improvements in the neighbourhood will eventually lead to a

draining of the great marsh at the east end of this town; for until that

is done, it is utterly impossible that the place can be healthy at all

seasons of the year. The public are not sufficiently impressed with the

alarming insalubrity of such situations. We beg to refer our readers,"

the editor of the Register then observes, "to a very interesting

letter from Dr. Priestly to Sir John Pringle in the Philosophical

Transactions for 1777; and another from Dr. Price to Dr. Horsley in the

same work in 1774; both on this subject, which throw considerable light

upon it." And it is added, "We have it in contemplation to republish

these letters in this work, as being highly interesting to many persons,

and applicable to various situations in this country, but particularly

to the neighbourhood of York."

The desired additional subscriptions do not appear to have come in. The

works at the mouth of the Don proper were brought to a stand-still. The

bridge over the Lesser Don was not commenced. Thus matters remained for

the long interval of ten years. Every inhabitant of York, able to

indulge in the luxury of a carriage, or a saddle horse, or given to

extensive pedestrian excursions, continued to regret the

inaccessibleness of the peninsula. Especially among the families of the

military, accustomed to the surroundings of sea-coast towns at home, did

the desire exist, to be able, at will, to take a drive, or a canter, or

a vigorous constitutional, on the sands of the peninsula, where, on the

one hand, the bold escarpments in the distance to the eastward, on the

other, the ocean-like horizon, and immediately in front the long rollers

of surf tumbling in, all helped to stir recollections of (we will

suppose) Dawlish or Torquay.

In 1834, through the intervention of Sir John Colborne, and by means of

a subsidy from the military chest, the works on both outlets of the Don

were re-commenced. In 1835 the bridges were completed. On the 22nd of

August in that year they were handed over by the military authorities to

the town, now no longer York, but Toronto.

Some old world formalities were observed on the occasion. The civic

authorities approached the new structure in procession; a barricade at

the first bridge arrested their progress. A guard stationed there also

forbade further advance. The officer in command, Capt. Bonnycastle,

appears, and the Mayor and Corporation are informed that the two bridges

before them are, by the command of the Lieutenant-Governor, presented to

them as a free gift, for the benefit of the inhabitants, that they may

in all time to come be enabled to enjoy the salubrious air of the

peninsula; the only stipulation being that the bridges should be free of

toll forever to the troops, stores, and ordnance of the sovereign.

The mayor, who, as eye-witnesses report, was arrayed in an official robe

of purple velvet lined with scarlet, read the following reply: "Sir--On

the part of His Majesty's faithful and loyal city of Toronto, I receive

at your hands the investiture of these bridges, erected by command of

His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, and now delivered to the

Corporation for the benefit and accommodation of the citizens. In the

name of the Common Council and the citizens of Toronto, I beg you to

convey to His Excellency the grateful feelings with which this new

instance of the bounty of our most gracious sovereign is received; and I

take this occasion on behalf of the city to renew our assurances of

loyalty and attachment to His Majesty's person and government, and to

pray, through His Excellency, a continuance of royal favour towards this

city. I have, on the part of the corporation and citizens, to request

you to assure His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor that His

Excellency's desire and generous exertions for the health and welfare of

the inhabitants of this city are duly and gratefully appreciated; and I

beg you to convey to His Excellency the best wishes of myself and my

fellow-citizens for the health and happiness of His Excellency and

family. Permit me, Sir, for myself and brethren, to thank you for the

very handsome and complimentary manner in which you have carried His

Excellency's commands into execution."

"Immediately," the narrative of the ceremonial continues, "the band, who

were stationed on the bridge, struck up the heart-stirring air, 'God

save the King,' during the performance of which the gentlemen of the

Corporation, followed by a large number of the inhabitants, passed

uncovered over the bridge. Three cheers were then given respectively for

the King, for His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, for the Mayor and

Council of the City of Toronto, and for Capt. Bonnycastle. The

gentlemanly and dignified manner in which both the addresses were read

did credit to the gentlemen on whom these duties devolved; and the good

order and good humour that prevailed among the spectators present were

exceedingly gratifying."

We take this account from the Toronto Patriot of August 28th, 1835,

wherein it is copied from the Christian Guardian. Mr. R. B. Sullivan,

the official representative of the city on the occasion just described,

was the second mayor of Toronto. He was afterwards one of the Judges of

the Court of Common Pleas.

The bridges thus ceremoniously presented and received had a short-lived

existence. They were a few years afterwards, seriously damaged during

the breaking up of the ice, and then carried away bodily in one of the

spring freshets to which the Don is subject.

The peninsula in front of York was once plentifully stocked with goats,

the offspring of a small colony established by order of Governor Hunter,

at Gibraltar Point, for the sake, for one thing, of the supposed

salutary nature of the whey of goat's milk. These animals were dispersed

during the war of 1812-13. Governor Hunter may have taken the idea of

peopling the island at York with goats from what was to be seen, at an

early day, on Goat Island, adjoining the Falls of Niagara. A multitude

of goats ran at large there, the descendants of a few reared originally

by one Stedman, an English soldier, who, on escaping a massacre of his

comrades in the neighbourhood of what is now Lewiston, at the hands of

the Iroquois, soon after the conquest of the country, fled thither, and

led, to the end of his days, a Robinson-Crusoe-kind of life.