Front Street From The Market Place To Brock Street

The corner we approach after passing the Market Square, was occupied by

an inn with a sign-board sustained on a high post inserted at the outer

edge of the foot-path, in country roadside fashion. This was Hamilton's,

or the White Swan. It was here, we believe, or in an adjoining house,

that a travelling citizen of the United States, in possession of a

collection of stuffed birds and similar objects, endeavoured at an early
/> period to establish a kind of Natural History Museum. To the collection

here was once rashly added figures, in wax, of General Jackson and some

other United States notabilities, all in grand costume. Several of these

were one night abstracted from the Museum by some over-patriotic youths,

and suspended by the neck from the limbs of one of the large trees that

over-looked the harbour.

Just beyond was the Steamboat Hotel, long known as Ulick Howard's,

remarkable for the spirited delineation of a steam-packet of vast

dimensions, extending the whole length of the building, just over the

upper verandah of the hotel. In 1828, Mr. Howard is offering to let his

hotel, in the following terms:--"Steamboat Hotel, York, U. C.--The

proprietor of this elegant establishment, now unrivalled in this part of

the country, being desirous of retiring from Public Business, on account

of ill-health in his family, will let the same for a term of years to be

agreed on, either with or without the furniture. The Establishment is

now too well-known to require comment. N. B. Security will be required

for the payment of the Rent, and the fulfilment of the contract in every

respect. Apply to the subscriber on the premises. U. Howard, York, Oct

8th, 1828."

A little further on was the Ontario House, a hotel built in a style

common then at the Falls of Niagara and in the United States. A row of

lofty pillars, well-grown pines in fact, stripped and smoothly planed,

reached from the ground to the eaves, and supported two tiers of

galleries, which, running behind the columns, did not interrupt their

vertical lines.

Close by the Ontario House, Market Street from the west entered Front

Street at an acute angle. In the gore between the two streets, a

building sprang up, which, in conforming to its site, assumed the shape

of a coffin. The foot of this ominous structure was the office where

travellers booked themselves for various parts in the stages that from

time to time started from York. It took four days to reach Niagara in

1816. We are informed by a contemporary advertisement now before us,

that "on the 20th of September next [1816], a stage will commence

running between York and Niagara: it will leave York every Monday, and

arrive at Niagara on Thursday; and leave Queenston every Friday. The

baggage is to be considered at the risk of the owner, and the fare to be

paid in advance." In 1824, the mails were conveyed the same distance,

via Ancaster, in three days. In a post-office advertisement for

tenders, signed "William Allan, P. M.," we have the statement: "The

mails are made up here [York] on the afternoon of Monday and Thursday,

and must be delivered at Niagara on the Wednesday and Saturday

following; and within the same period in returning." In 1835, Mr.

William Weller was the proprietor of a line of stages between Toronto

and Hamilton, known as the "Telegraph Line." In an advertisement before

us, he engages to take passengers "through by daylight, on the Lake

Road, during the winter season."

Communication with England was at this period a tedious process. So late

as 1836, Mrs. Jameson thus writes in her Journal at Toronto (i. 182):

"It is now seven weeks since the date of the last letters from my dear

far-distant home. The Archdeacon," she adds, "told me, by way of

comfort, that when he came to settle in this country, there was only one

mail-post from England in the course of a whole year, and it was called,

as if in mockery, the Express." To this "Express" we have a reference in

a post-office advertisement to be seen in a Quebec Gazette of 1792: "A

mail for the Upper Countries, comprehending Niagara and Detroit, will be

closed," it says, "at this office, on Monday, the 30th inst., at 4

o'clock in the evening, to be forwarded from Montreal by the annual

winter Express, on Thursday, the 3rd of Feb. next." From the same paper

we learn that on the 10th of November, the latest date from Philadelphia

and New York was Oct. 8th: also, that a weekly conveyance had lately

been established between Montreal and Burlington, Vermont. In the

Gazette of Jan. 13, 1808, we have the following: "For the information

of the Public.--York, 12th Jan., 1808.--The first mail from Lower Canada

is arrived, and letters are ready to be delivered by W. Allan,


Compare all this with advertisements in Toronto daily papers now, from

agencies in the town, of "Through Lines" weekly, to California,

Vancouver's, China and Japan, connecting with Lines to Australia and New


On the beach below the Steamboat Hotel was, at a late period, a market

for the sale of fish. It was from this spot that Bartlett, in his

"Canadian Scenery," made one of the sketches intended to convey to the

English eye an impression of the town. In the foreground are groups of

conventional, and altogether too picturesque, fishwives and squaws: in

the distance is the junction of Hospital Street and Front Street, with

the tapering building between. On the right are the galleries of what

had been the Steamboat Hotel; it here bears another name.

Bartlett's second sketch is from the end of a long wharf or jetty to the

west. The large building in front, with a covered passage through it for

vehicles, is the warehouse or freight depot of Mr. William Cooper, long

the owner of this favourite landing place. Westwards, the pillared front

of the Ontario house is to be seen. Both of these views already look

quaint, and possess a value as preserving a shadow of much that no

longer exists.

Where Mr. Cooper's Wharf joined the shore there was a ship-building

yard. We have a recollection of a launch that strangely took place here

on a Sunday. An attempt to get the ship into the water on the preceding

day had failed. Delay would have occasioned an awkward settling of the

ponderous mass. We shall have occasion hereafter to speak of the early

shipping of the harbour.

The lot extending northward from the Ontario House corner to King street

was the property of Attorney-General Macdonell, who, while in attendance

on General Brock as Provincial aide-de-camp, was slain in the engagement

on Queenston Heights. His death created the vacancy to which, at an

unusually early age, succeeded Mr. John Beverley Robinson, afterwards

the distinguished Chief Justice of Upper Canada. Mr. Macdonell's remains

are deposited with those of his military chief under the column on

Queenston Heights. He bequeathed the property to which our attention has

been directed, to a youthful nephew, Mr. James Macdonell, on certain

conditions, one of which was that he should be educated in the tenets of

the Anglican Church, notwithstanding the Roman Catholic persuasion of

the rest of the family.

The track for wheels that here descended to the water's edge from the

north, Church Street subsequently, was long considered a road remote

from the business part of the town, like the road leading southward from

Charing-cross, as shewn in Ralph Aggas' early map of London. A row of

frame buildings on its eastern side, in the direction of King Street,

perched high on cedar posts over excavations generally filled with

water, remained in an unfinished state until the whole began to be out

of the perpendicular and to become gray with the action of the weather.

It was evidently a premature undertaking; the folly of an over-sanguine

speculator. Yonge street beyond, where it approached the shore of the

harbour, was unfrequented. In spring and autumn it was a notorious

slough. In 1830, a small sum would have purchased any of the building

lots on either side of Yonge Street, between Front Street and Market


Between Church Street and Yonge Street, now, we pass a short street

uniting Front Street with Wellington Street. Like Salisbury, Cecil,

Craven and other short but famous streets off the Strand, it retains the

name of the distinguished person whose property it traversed in the

first instance. It is called Scott Street, from Chief Justice Thomas

Scott, whose residence and grounds were here.

Mr. Scott was one of the venerable group of early personages of whom we

shall have occasion to speak. He was a man of fine culture, and is

spoken of affectionately by those who knew him. His stature was below

the average. A heavy, overhanging forehead intensified the thoughtful

expression of his countenance, which belonged to the class suggested by

the current portraits of the United States jurist, Kent. We sometimes,

to this day, fall in with books from his library, bearing his familiar


Mr. Scott was the first chairman and president of the "Loyal and

Patriotic Society of Upper Canada," organized at York in 1812. His name

consequently appears often in the Report of that Association, printed by

William Gray in Montreal in 1817. The objects of the Society were "to

afford relief and aid to disabled militiamen and their families: to

reward merit, excite emulation, and commemorate glorious exploits, by

bestowing medals and other honorary marks of public approbation and

distinction for extraordinary instances of personal courage and fidelity

in defence of the Province." The preface to the Report mentions that

"the sister-colony of Nova Scotia, excited by the barbarous

conflagration of the town of Newark and the devastation on that

frontier, had, by a legislative act, contributed largely to the relief

of this Province."

In an appeal to the British public, signed by Chief Justice Scott, it is

stated that "the subscription of the town of York amounted in a few days

to eight hundred and seventy-five pounds five shillings, Provincial

currency, dollars at five shillings each, to be paid annually during the

war; and that at Kingston to upwards of four hundred pounds."

Medals were struck in London by order of the Loyal and Patriotic Society

of Upper Canada; but they were never distributed. The difficulty of

deciding who were to receive them was found to be too great. They were

defaced and broken up in York, with such rigour that not a solitary

specimen is known to exist. Rumours of one lurking somewhere, continue

to this day, to tantalize local numismatists. What became of the bullion

of which they were composed used to be one of the favourite vexed

questions among the old people of York. Its value doubtless was added to

the surplus that remained of the funds of the Society, which, after the

year 1817, were devoted to benevolent objects. To the building fund of

the York General Hospital, we believe, a considerable donation was made.

The medal, we are told, was two and one-half inches in diameter. On the

obverse, within a wreath of laurel, were the words "FOR MERIT." On this

side was also the legend: "PRESENTED BY A GRATEFUL COUNTRY." On the

reverse was the following elaborate device: A strait between two lakes:

on the North side a beaver (emblem of peaceful industry), the ancient

cognizance of Canada: in the background an English Lion slumbering. On

the South side of the Strait, the American eagle planing in the air, as

if checked from seizing the Beaver by the presence of the Lion. Legend


Scott Street conducts to the site, on the north side of Hospital Street,

westward of the home of Mr. James Baby, and, eastward, to that of Mr.

Peter Macdougall, two notable citizens of York.

A notice of Mr. Baby occurs in Sibbald's Canadian Magazine for March,

1833. The following is an extract: "James Baby was born at Detroit in

1762. His family was one of the most ancient in the colony; and it was

noble. His father had removed from Lower Canada to the neighbourhood of

Detroit before the conquest of Quebec, where, in addition to the

cultivation of lands, he was connected with the fur-trade, at that time,

and for many years after, the great staple of the country. James was

educated at the Roman Catholic Seminary of Quebec, and returned to the

paternal roof soon after the peace of 1783. The family had ever been

distinguished (and indeed all the higher French families) for their

adherence to the British crown; and to this, more than to any other

cause, are we to attribute the conduct of the Province of Quebec during

the American War. Being a great favourite with his father, James was

permitted to make an excursion to Europe, before engaging steadily in

business; and after spending some time, especially in England, rejoined

his family. * * * There was a primitive simplicity in Mr. Baby's

character, which, added to his polished manners and benignity of

disposition, threw a moral beauty around him which is very seldom


In the history of the Indian chief Pontiac, who, in 1763, aimed at

extirpating the English, the name of Mr. Baby's father repeatedly

occurs. The Canadian habitans of the neighbourhood of Detroit, being

of French origin, were unmolested by the Indians; but a rumour had

reached the great Ottawa chief, while the memorable siege of Detroit was

in progress, that the Canadians had accepted a bribe from the English to

induce them to attack the Indians. "Pontiac," we read in Parkman's

History, p. 227, "had been an old friend of Baby; and one evening, at an

early period of the siege, he entered his house, and, seating himself by

the fire, looked for some time steadily at the embers. At length,

raising his head, he said he had heard that the English had offered the

Canadian a bushel of silver for the scalp of his friend. Baby declared

that the story was false, and protested that he never would betray him.

Pontiac for a moment keenly studied his features. 'My brother has

spoken the truth,' he said, 'and I will show that I believe him.' He

remained in the house through the evening, and, at its close, wrapped

himself in his blanket and lay down upon a bench, where he slept in full

confidence till morning." Note that the name Baby is to be pronounced


Mr. Macdougall was a gentleman of Scottish descent, but, like his

compatriots in the neighbourhood of Murray Bay, so thoroughly

Lower-Canadianized as to be imperfectly acquainted with the English

language to the last. He was a successful merchant of the town of York,

and filled a place in the old local conversational talk, in which he was

sometimes spoken of as "Wholesale, Retail, Pete McDoug,"--an expression

adopted by himself on some occasion. He is said once to have been much

perplexed by the item "ditto" occurring in a bill of lading furnished of

goods under way; he could not remember having given orders for any such

article. He was a shrewd business man. An impression prevailed in

certain quarters that his profits were now and then extravagant. While

he was living at Niagara, some burglars from Youngstown broke into his

warehouse; and after helping themselves to whatever they pleased, they

left a written memorandum accounting for their not having taken with

them certain other articles: it was "because they were marked too high."

That he was accustomed to affix a somewhat arbitrary value to his

merchandise, seems to be shown by another story that was told of him. He

was said, one day, when trade in general was very dull, to have boasted

that he had that very morning made L400 by a single operation. On being

questioned, it appeared that it had been simply a sudden enlargement of

the figure marked on all his stock to the extent of L400.

One other story of him is this: On hearing a brother dealer lament that

by a certain speculation he should, after all, make only 5 per cent., he

expressed his surprise, adding that he himself would be satisfied with

3, or even 2, (taking the figures 2, 3, &c., to mean 2 hundred, 3

hundred, &c.)--We shall hear of Mr. Macdougall again in connection with

the marine of the harbour.

Of Yonge Street itself, at which we now arrive, we propose to speak at

large hereafter. Just westward from Yonge Street was the abode,

surrounded by pleasant grounds and trees, of Mr. Macaulay, at a later

period Sir James Macaulay, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, a man

beloved and honoured for his sterling excellence in every relation. A

full-length portrait of him is preserved in Osgoode Hall. His peculiar

profile, not discernable in that painting, is recalled by the engraving

of Capt. Starky, which some readers will remember in Hone's Every-Day


Advancing a little further, we came in front of one of the earliest

examples, in these parts, of an English-looking rustic cottage, with

verandah and sloping lawn. This was occupied for a time by Major

Hillier, of the 74th regiment, aide-de-camp and military secretary to

Sir Peregrine Maitland. The well-developed native thorn-tree, to the

north of the site of this cottage, on the property of Mr. Andrew Mercer,

is a relic of the woods that once ornamented this locality.

Next came the residence of Mr. Justice Boulton, a spacious family

domicile of wood, painted white, situated in an extensive area, and

placed far back from the road. The Judge was an English gentleman of

spare Wellington physique; like many of his descendants, a lover of

horses and a spirited rider; a man of wit, too, and humour, fond of

listening to and narrating anecdotes of the ben trovato class. The

successor to this family home was Holland House, a structure of a

baronial cast, round which one might expect to find the remains of a

moat; a reproduction, in some points, as in name, of the building in the

suburbs of London, in which was born the Judge's immediate heir, Mr. H.

J. Boulton, successively Solicitor-General for Upper Canada, and Chief

Justice of Newfoundland.

When Holland House passed out of the hands of its original possessor, it

became the property of Mr. Alexander Manning, an Alderman of Toronto.

It was at Holland House that the Earl and Countess of Dufferin kept high

festival during a brief sojourn in the capital of Ontario, in 1872.

Suggested by public addresses received in infinite variety, within

Holland House was written or thought out that remarkable cycle of

rescripts and replies which rendered the vice-regal visit to Toronto so

memorable,--a cycle of rescripts and replies exceedingly wide in its

scope, but in which each requisite topic was touched with consummate

skill, and in such a way as to show in each direction genuine human

sympathy and heartiness of feeling, and a sincere desire to cheer and

strengthen the endeavour after the Good, the Beautiful and the True, in

every quarter.

Whilst making his visit to Quebec, before coming to Toronto, Lord

Dufferin, acting doubtless on a chivalrous and poetical impulse, took up

his abode in the Citadel, notwithstanding the absence of worthy

arrangements for his accommodation there.

Will not this bold and original step on the part of Lord Dufferin lead

hereafter to the conversion of the Fortress that crowns Cape Diamond

into a Rheinstein for the St. Lawrence--into an appropriately designed

castellated habitation, to be reserved as an occasional retreat,

nobly-seated and grandly historic, for the Viceroys of Canada?

We now passed the grounds and house of Chief-Justice Powell. In this

place we shall only record our recollection of the profound sensation

created far and wide by the loss of the Chief-Justice's daughter in the

packet ship Albion, wrecked off the Head of Kinsale, on the 22nd of

April, 1822. A voyage to the mother country at that period was still a

serious undertaking. We copy a contemporaneous extract from the Cork

Southern Reporter:--"The Albion, whose loss at Garrettstown Bay we

first mentioned in our paper of Tuesday, was one of the finest class of

ships between Liverpool and New York, and was 500 tons burden. We have

since learned some further particulars, by which it appears that her

loss was attended with circumstances of a peculiarly afflicting nature.

She had lived out the tremendous gale of the entire day on Sunday, and

Captain Williams consoled the passengers, at eight o'clock in the

evening, with the hope of being able to reach Liverpool on the day but

one after, which cheering expectation induced almost all of the

passengers, particularly the females, to retire to rest. In some short

time, however, a violent squall came on, which in a moment carried away

the masts, and, there being no possibility of disengaging them from the

rigging, encumbered the hull so that she became unmanageable, and

drifted at the mercy of the waves, till the light-house of the Old Head

was discovered, the wreck still nearing in; when the Captain told the

sad news to the passengers, that there was no longer any hope; and, soon

after she struck. From thenceforward all was distress and confusion. The

vessel soon went to pieces, and, of the crew and passengers, only six of

the former and nine of the latter were saved." The names of the

passengers are added, as follows: "Mr. Benyon, a London gentleman; Mr.

N. Ross, of Troy, near New York; Mr. Conyers, and his brother-in-law,

Major Gough, 68th regiment; Mr. and Mrs. Clarke, Americans; Madame

Gardinier and son, a boy about eight years of age; Col. Prevost; Mr.

Dwight, of Boston; Mrs. Mary Pye, of New York; Miss Powell, daughter of

the Honourable William Dummer Powell, Chief-Justice of Upper Canada;

Rev. Mr. Hill, Jamaica, coming home by the way of the United States;

Professor Fisher, of New Haven, Connecticut; Mr. Gurnee, New York; Mr.

Proctor, New York; Mr. Dupont, and five other Frenchmen; Mrs. Mary

Brewster; Mr. Hirst, Mr. Morrison, and Stephen Chase."

The Weekly Register of York, of June 13, 1822, the number that

contains the announcement of the wreck of the Albion packet, has also

the following paragraph: "Our Attorney-General arrived in London about

the 22nd of March, and up to the 11th of April had daily interviews of

great length with ministers. It gives us real pleasure to announce,"--so

continues the editorial of the Weekly Register--"that his mission is

likely to be attended with the most complete success, and that our

relations with the Lower Provinces will be put on a firm and

advantageous footing. We have no doubt that Mr. Robinson will deserve

the general thanks of the country." A family party from York had

embarked in the packet of the preceding month, and were, as this

paragraph intimates, safe in London on the 22nd of March. The disastrous

fate of the lady above named was thus rendered the more distressing to

friends and relatives, as she was present in New York when that packet

sailed, but for some obscure reason, she did not desire to embark

therein along with her more fortunate fellow townsfolk.

After the house and grounds of Chief-Justice Powell came the property of

Dr. Strachan, of whom much hereafter. In view of the probable future

requirements of his position in a growing town and growing country, Dr.

Strachan built, in 1818, a residence here of capacious dimensions and

good design, with extensive and very complete appurtenances. A brother

of the Doctor's, Mr. James Strachan, an intelligent bookseller of

Aberdeen, visited York in 1819, soon after the first occupation of the

new house by its owners. The two brothers, John and James, had not seen

each other since 1799, when John, a young man just twenty-one, was

setting out for Canada, to undertake a tutorship in a family at

Kingston; setting out with scant money outfit, but provided with what

was of more value, a sound constitution, a clear head, and a good strong

understanding trained in Scottish schools and colleges, and by familiar

intercourse with shrewd Scottish folk.

As James entered the gates leading into the new mansion, and cast a

comprehensive glance at the fine facade of the building before him and

over its pleasant and handsome surroundings, he suddenly paused; and

indulging in a stroke of sly humour, addressed his brother with the

words, spoken in grave confidential undertone,--"I hope it's a' come by

honestly, John!"

On his return to Scotland, Mr. James Strachan published "A Visit to the

Province of Upper Canada in 1819," an interesting book, now scarce and

desired by Canadian collectors. The bulk of the information contained in

this volume was confessedly derived from Dr. Strachan.

The bricks used in the construction of the house here in 1818 were

manufactured on the spot. One or two earlier brick buildings at York

were composed of materials brought from Kingston or Montreal; recalling

the parallel fact that the first bricks used for building in New York

were imported from Holland; just as in the present day, (though now, of

course, for a different reason,) houses are occasionally constructed at

Quebec with white brick manufactured in England.

We next arrived at a large open space, much broken up by a

rivulet--"Russell's Creek,"--that meandered most recklessly through it.

This piece of ground was long known as Simcoe Place, and was set apart

in the later plan for the extension of York westward, as a Public

Square. Overlooking this area from the north-west, at the present day,

is one of the elms of the original forest--an unnoticeable sapling at

the period referred to, but now a tree of stately dimensions and of very

graceful form, resembling that of the Greek letter Psi. It will be a

matter of regret when the necessities of the case shall render the

removal of this relic indispensable.

At the corner to the south of this conspicuous tree, was an inn long

known as the Greenland Fishery. Its sign bore on one side, quite

passably done, an Arctic or Greenland scene; and on the other, vessels

and boats engaged in the capture of the whale. A travelling sailor,

familiar with whalers, and additionally a man of some artistic taste and

skill, paid his reckoning in labour, by executing for the landlord, Mr.

Wright, these spirited paintings, which proved an attraction to the


John Street, which passes north, by the Greenland Fishery, bears one of

the Christian names of the first Governor of Upper Canada. Graves

Street, on the east side of the adjoining Square, bore his second

Christian name; but Graves Street has, in recent times, been transformed

into Simcoe Street.

When the Houses of Parliament, now to be seen stretching across Simcoe

Place, were first built, a part of the design was a central pediment

supported by four stone columns. This would have relieved and given

dignity to the long front. The stone platform before the principal

entrance was constructed with a flight of steps leading thereto; but the

rather graceful portico which it was intended to sustain, was never

added. The monoliths for the pillars were duly cut out at a quarry near

Hamilton. They long remained lying there, in an unfinished state. In the

lithographic view of the Parliament Buildings, published by J. Young,

their architect, in 1836, the pediment of the original design is given

as though it existed.

Along the edge of the water, below the properties, spaces and objects

which we have been engaged in noticing, once ran a shingly beach of a

width sufficient to admit of the passage of vehicles. A succession of

dry seasons must then have kept the waters low. In 1815, however, the

waters of the Lake appear to have been unusually high. An almanac of

that year, published by John Cameron, at York, offers, seriously as it

would seem, the subjoined explanation of the phenomenon: "The comet

which passed to the northward three years since," the writer suggests,

"has sensibly affected our seasons: they have become colder; the snows

fall deeper; and from lesser exhalation, and other causes, the Lakes

rise much higher than usual."

The Commissariat store-houses were situated here, just beyond the broken

ground of Simcoe Place; long white structures of wood, with the shutters

of the windows always closed; built on a level with the bay, yet having

an entrance in the rear by a narrow gangway from the cliff above, on

which, close by, was the guard-house, a small building, painted of a dun

colour, with a roof of one slope, inclining to the south, and an arched

stoup or verandah open to the north. Here a sentry was ever to be seen,

pacing up and down. A light bridge over a deep water-course led up to

the guard-house.

Over other depressions or ravines, close by here, were long to be seen

some platforms or floored areas of stout plank. These were said to be

spaces occupied by different portions of the renowned canvas-house of

the first Governor, a structure manufactured in London and imported.

The convenience of its plan, and the hospitality for which it afforded

room, were favourite topics among the early people of the country. We

have it in Bouchette's British North America a reference to this

famous canvas house. "In the spring (i. e. of 1793)," that writer

says, "the Lieutenant-Governor moved to the site of the new capital

(York), attended by the regiment of the Queen's Rangers, and commenced

at once the realization of his favourite project. His Excellency

inhabited, during the summer, and through the winter, a canvas-house,

which he imported expressly for the occasion; but, frail as was its

substance, it was rendered exceedingly comfortable, and soon became as

distinguished for the social and urbane hospitality of its venerable and

gracious host, as for the peculiarity of its structure," vol. i. 80.

After this allusion to the home Canadian life of the first Governor, the

following remarks of de Liancourt, on the same subject, will not appear

out of place:--"In his private life," the Duke says, "Gov. Simcoe is

simple, plain and obliging. He inhabits [the reference now is to Newark

or Niagara] a small, miserable wooden house, which formerly was occupied

by the Commissaries, who resided here on account of the navigation of

the Lake. His guard consist of four soldiers, who every morning come

from the fort [across the river], and return thither in the evening. He

lives in a noble and hospitable manner, without pride; his mind is

enlightened, his character mild and obliging; he discourses with much

good sense on all subjects; but his favourite topics are his projects,

and war, which seem to be the objects of his leading passions. He is

acquainted with the military history of all countries: no hillock

catches his eye without exciting in his mind the idea of a fort which

might be constructed on the spot; and with the construction of this fort

he associates the plan of operations for a campaign, especially of that

which is to lead him to Philadelphia. [Gen. Simcoe appears to have been

strongly of the opinion that the United States were not going to be a

permanency.] On hearing his professions of an earnest desire of peace,

you cannot but suppose, either that his reason must hold an absolute

sway over his passion, or that he deceives himself." Travels, i. 241.

Other traits, which doubtless at this time gave a charm to the home-life

of the accomplished Governor, may be gathered from a passage in the

correspondence, at a later period, of Polwhele, the historian of

Cornwall, who says, in a letter addressed to the General himself, dated

Manaccan, Nov. 5th, 1803:--"I have been sorely disappointed, once or

twice, in missing you, whilst you were inspecting Cornwall. It was not

long after your visit at my friend Mr. Hoblyn's, but I slept also at

Nanswhydden. Had I met you there, the Noctes Atticae, the Coenae

Deorum, would have been renewed, if peradventure the chess-board

intervened not; for rooks and pawns, I think, would have frightened away

the Muses, familiar as rooks and pawns might have been to the suitors of

Penelope." Polwhele, 544.

The canvas-house above spoken of, had been the property of Capt. Cook

the circumnavigator. On its being offered for sale in London, Gov.

Simcoe, seeing its possible usefulness to himself as a moveable

government-house purchased it.

Some way to the east of the Commissariat store-houses was the site of

the Naval Building Yard, where an unfinished ship-of-war and the

materials collected for the construction of others, were destroyed, when

the United States forces took possession of York in 1813.

It appears that Col. Joseph Bouchette had just been pointing out to the

Government the exposed condition of the public property here. In a note

at p. 89 of his British North America that officer remarks: "The

defenceless situation of York, the mode of its capture, and the

destruction of the large ship then on the stocks, were but too

prophetically demonstrated in my report to headquarters in Lower Canada,

on my return from a responsible mission to the capital of the Upper

Province, in the early part of April. Indeed the communication of the

result of my reconnoitering operations, and the intelligence of the

successful invasion of York, and the firing of the new ship by the

enemy, were received almost simultaneously."

The Governor-in-Chief, Sir George Prevost, was blamed for having

permitted a frigate to be laid down in an unprotected position. There

was a "striking impropriety," as the Third Letter of Veritas, a

celebrated correspondent of the Montreal Herald in 1815, points out,

"in building at York, without providing the means of security there, as

the works of defence, projected by General Brock, (when he contemplated,

before the war, the removal of the naval depot from Kingston to York, by

reason of the proximity of the former to the States in water by the

ice), were discontinued by orders from below, [from Sir George Prevost,

that is], and never resumed. The position intended to have been

fortified by General Brock, near York, was," Veritas continues,

"capable of being made very strong, had his plan been executed; but as

it was not, nor any other plan of defence adopted, a ship-yard without

protection became an allurement to the enemy, as was felt to the cost of

the inhabitants of York."

In the year 1832, the interior of the Commissariat-store, decorated with

flags, was the scene of the first charitable bazaar held in these parts.

It was for the relief of distress occasioned by a recent visitation of

cholera. The enterprise appears to have been remarkably successful. We

have a notice of it in Sibbald's Canadian Magazine of January, 1833,

in the following terms: "All the fashionable and well-disposed attended;

the band of the gallant 79th played, at each table stood a lady; and in

a very short time all the articles were sold to gentlemen,--who will

keep 'as the apple of their eye' the things made and presented by such

hands." The sum collected on the occasion, it is added, was three

hundred and eleven pounds.

Where Windsor Street now appears--with its grand iron gates at either

end, inviting or forbidding the entrance of the stranger to the prim,

quaint, self-contained little village of villas inside--formerly stood

the abode of Mr. John Beikie, whose tall, upright, staidly-moving form,

generally enveloped in a long snuff-coloured overcoat, was one of the

dramatis personae of York. He had been, at an early period, sheriff of

the Home District; at a later time his signature was familiar to every

eye, attached in the Gazette to notices put forth by the Executive

Council of the day, of which rather aristocratic body he was the Clerk.

Passing westward, we had on the right the spacious home of Mr.

Crookshank, a benevolent and excellent man, sometime Receiver-General of

the Province, of whom we shall again have occasion to speak; and on the

left, on a promontory suddenly jutting out into the harbour, "Captain

Bonnycastle's cottage," with garden and picturesque grove attached; all

Ordnance property in reality, and once occupied by Col. Coffin. The

whole has now been literally eaten away by the ruthless tooth of the

steam excavator. On the beach to the west of this promontory was a much

frequented bathing-place. Captain Bonnycastle, just named, was

afterwards Sir Richard, and the author of "Canada as it was, is, and may

be," and "Canada and the Canadians in 1846."

The name "Peter," attached to the street which flanks on the west the

ancient homestead and extensive outbuildings of Mr. Crookshank, is a

memento of the president or administrator, Peter Russell. It led

directly up to Petersfield, Mr. Russell's park lot on Queen Street.

We come here to the western boundary of the so-called New Town--the

limit of the first important extension of York westward. The limit,

eastward, of the New Town, was a thoroughfare known in the former day as

Toronto Street, which was one street east of Yonge Street, represented

now by Victoria Street. At the period when the plan was designed for

this grand western and north-western suburb of York, Yonge Street was

not opened southward farther than Lot [Queen] Street. The roadway there

suddenly veered to the eastward, and then, after a short interval,

passed down Toronto Street, a roadway a little to the west of the

existing Victoria Street.

The tradition in Boston used to be, that some of the streets there

followed the line of accidental cow-paths formed in the olden time in

the uncleared bush; and no doubt other old American towns, like ancient

European towns generally, exhibit, in the direction of their

thoroughfares, occasionally, traces of casual circumstances in the

history of the first settlers on their respective sites. The practice at

later periods has been to make all ways run as nearly as possible in

right lines. In one or two "jogs" or irregularities, observable in the

streets of the Toronto of to-day, we have memorials of early waggon

tracks which ran where they most conveniently could. The slight

meandering of Front Street in its course from the garrison to the site

of the first Parliament Buildings, and of Britain Street, (an obscure

passage between George Street and Caroline Street), may be thus

explained; as also the fact that the southern end of the present

Victoria Street does not connect immediately with the present Toronto

Street. This last-mentioned irregularity is a relic of the time when the

great road from the north, namely, Yonge Street, on reaching Queen

Street, slanted off to the eastward across vacant lots and open ground,

making by the nearest and most convenient route for the market and the

heart of the town.

After the laying-out in lots of the region comprehended in the first

great expansion of York, of which we have spoken, inquiries were

instituted by the authorities as to the improvements made by the

holders of each. In the chart accompanying the report of Mr. Stegman,

the surveyor appointed to make the examination, the lots are coloured

according to the condition of each, and appended are the following

curious particulars, which smack somewhat of the ever-memorable

town-plot of Eden, to which Martin Chuzzlewit was induced to repair, and

which offered a lively picture of an infant metropolis in the rough. (We

must represent to ourselves a chequered diagram; some of the squares

white or blank; some tinted blue; some shaded black; the whole entitled

"Sketch of the Part of the Town of York west of Toronto

Street.")--"Explanation: The blank lots are cleared, agreeable to the

notice issued from His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, bearing date

September the fourth, 1800. The lots shaded blue are chiefly cut, but

the brush not burnt; and those marked with the letter A, the brush only

cut. The lots shaded black, no work done. The survey made by order of

the Surveyor-General's office, bearing date April the 23rd, 1801." A

more precise examination appears to have been demanded. The explanations

appended to the second plan, which has squares shaded brown, in addition

to those coloured blue and black, are: "1st. The blank lots are cleared.

2nd. The lots shaded black, no work done. 3rd. The lots shaded brown,

the brush cut and burnt. 4th. The lots shaded blue, the brush cut and

not burnt. N.B. The lots 1 and 2 on the north side of Newgate Street

[the site subsequently of the dwelling-house of Jesse Ketchum, of whom

hereafter], are mostly clear of the large timber, and some brush cut

also, but not burnt; therefore omitted in the first report. This

second examination done by order of the Honourable John Elmsley, Esq."

The second extension of York westward included the Government Common.

The staking out of streets here was a comparatively late event. Brock

Street, to which we have now approached, had its name, of course, from

the General officer slain at Queenston, and its extra width from the

example set in the Avenue to the north, into which it merges after

crossing Queen Street.

A little to the west of Brock Street was the old military

burying-ground, a clearing in the thick brushwood of the locality: of an

oblong shape, its four picketed sides directed exactly towards the four

cardinal points. The setting off of the neighbouring streets and lots at

a different angle, caused the boundary lines of this plot to run askew

to every other straight line in the vicinity. Over how many a now

forgotten and even obliterated grave have the customary farewell volleys

here been fired!--those final honours to the soldier, always so

touching; intended doubtless, in the old barbaric way, to be an

incentive to endurance in the sound and well; and consolatory in

anticipation to the sick and dying.

In the mould of this old cemetery, what a mingling from distant

quarters! Hearts finally at rest here, fluttered in their last beats,

far away, at times, to old familiar scenes "beloved in vain" long ago;

to villages, hedgerows, lanes, fields, in green England and Ireland, in

rugged Scotland and Wales. Many a widow, standing at an open grave here,

holding the hand of orphan boy or girl, has "wept her soldier dead," not

slain in the battle-field, indeed, but fallen, nevertheless, in the

discharge of duty, before one or other of the subtle assailants that,

even in times of peace, not unfrequently bring the career of the

military man to a premature close. Among the remains deposited in this

ancient burial-plot are those of a child of the first Governor of Upper

Canada, a fact commemorated on the exterior of the mortuary chapel over

his own grave in Devonshire, by a tablet on which are the words:

"Katharine, born in Upper Canada, 16th Jan., 1793; died and was buried

at York Town, in that Province, in 1794."

Close to the military burial-ground was once enacted a scene which might

have occurred at the obsequies of a Tartar chief in the days of old.

Capt. Battersby, sent out to take command of a Provincial corps, was the

owner of several fine horses, to which he was greatly attached. On his

being ordered home, after the war of 1812, friends and others began to

make offers for the purchase of the animals; but no; he would enter into

no treaty with any one on that score. What his decision was became

apparent the day before his departure from York. He then had his poor

dumb favourites led out by some soldiers to the vicinity of the

burying-ground; and there he caused each of them to be deliberately shot

dead. He did not care to entrust to the tender mercies of strangers, in

the future, those faithful creatures that had served him so well, and

had borne him whithersoever he listed, so willingly and bravely. The

carcasses were interred on the spot where the shooting had taken place.

Returning now again to Brock Street, and placing ourselves at the middle

point of its great width--immediately before us to the north, on the

ridge which bounds the view in the distance, we discern a white object.

This is Spadina House, from which the avenue into which Brock Street

passes, takes its name. The word Spadina itself is an Indian term

tastefully modified, descriptive of a sudden rise of land like that on

which the house in the distance stands. Spadina was the residence of Dr.

W. W. Baldwin, to whom reference has already been made. A liberal in his

political views, he nevertheless was strongly influenced by the feudal

feeling which was a second nature with most persons in the British

Islands some years ago. His purpose was to establish in Canada a family,

whose head was to be maintained in opulence by the proceeds of an

entailed estate. There was to be forever a Baldwin of Spadina.

It is singular that the first inheritor of the newly-established

patrimony should have been the statesman whose lot it was to carry

through the Legislature of Canada the abolition of the rights of

primogeniture. The son grasped more readily than the father what the

genius of the North American continent will endure, and what it will


Spadina Avenue was laid out by Dr. Baldwin on a scale that would have

satisfied the designers of St. Petersburg or Washington. Its width is

one hundred and twenty feet. Its length from the water's edge to the

base of Spadina Hill would be nearly three miles. Garnished on both

sides by a double row of full grown chestnut trees, it would vie in

magnificence, when seen from an eminence, with the Long Walk at Windsor.

Eastward of Spadina House, on the same elevation of land, was Davenport,

the picturesque and chateau-like home of Col. Wells, formerly of the

43rd regiment, built at an early period. Col. Wells was a fine example

of the English officer, whom we so often see retiring from the camp

gracefully and happily into domestic life. A faithful portrait of him

exists, in which he wears the gold medal of Badajoz. His sons, natural

artists, and arbiters of taste, inherited, along with their aesthetic

gifts, also lithe and handsome persons. One of them, now, like his

father, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army, was highly distinguished in

the Crimea; and on revisiting Toronto after the peace with Russia, was

publicly presented with a sword of honour. The view of the Lake and

intervening forest, as seen from Davenport and Spadina, before the

cultivation of the alluvial plain below, was always fine. (On his

retirement from the army, the second Col. Wells took up his abode at