King Street: Digression Southwards At Church Street: Market Lane

Across Church Street from Clinkunbroomer's were the wooden buildings

already referred to, as having remained long in a partially finished

state, being the result of a premature speculation. From this point we

are induced to turn aside from our direct route for a few moments,

attracted by a street which we see a short distance to the south,

namely, Market Lane, or Colborne Street, as the modern phraseology is.

/> In this passage was, in the olden time, the Masonic Hall, a wooden

building of two storeys. To the young imagination this edifice seemed to

possess considerable dignity, from being surmounted by a cupola; the

first structure in York that ever enjoyed such a distinction. This

ornamental appendage supported above the western gable, by slender

props, (intended in fact for the reception of a bell, which, so far as

our recollection extends, was never supplied), would appear

insignificant enough now; but it was the first budding of the

architectural ambition of a young town, which leads at length to

turrets, pinnacles, spires and domes.

A staircase on the outside led to the upper storey of the Masonic Hall.

In this place were held the first meetings of the first Mechanics'

Institute, organized under the auspices of Moses Fish, a builder of

York, and other lovers of knowledge of the olden time. Here were

attempted the first popular lectures. Here we remember

hearing--certainly some forty years ago--Mr. John Fenton read a paper on

the manufacture of steel, using diagrams in illustration: one of them

showed the magnified edge of a well-set razor, the serrations all

sloping in one direction, by which it might be seen, the lecturer

remarked, that unless a man, in shaving, imparted to the instrument in

his hand a carefully-studied movement, he was likely "to get into a

scrape."--The lower part of the Masonic Hall was for a considerable

while used as a school, kept successively by Mr. Stewart and Mr.

Appleton, and afterwards by Mr. Caldicott.

At the corner of Market Lane, on the north side, towards the Market, was

Frank's Hotel, an ordinary white frame building. The first theatre of

York was extemporized in the ball-room of this house. When fitted up for

dramatic purposes, that apartment was approached by a stairway on the


Here companies performed, under the management, at one time, of Mr.

Archbold; at another, of Mr. Talbot; at another, of Mr. Vaughan. The

last-named manager, while professionally at York, lost a son by drowning

in the Bay. We well remember the poignant distress of the father at the

grave, and that his head was bound round on the occasion with a white

bandage or napkin. Mrs. Talbot was a great favourite. She performed the

part of Cora in Pizarro, and that of Little Pickle, in a comedy of that

name, if our memory serves us.

Pizarro, Barbarossa or the Siege of Algiers, Ali Baba or the Forty

Thieves, the Lady of the Lake, the Miller and his Men, were among the

pieces here represented. The body-guard of the Dey of Algiers, we

remember, consisted of two men, who always came in with military

precision just after the hero, and placed themselves in a formal manner

at fixed distances behind him, like two sentries. They were in fact

soldiers from the garrison, we think. All this appeared very effective.

The dramatic appliances and accessories at Frank's were of the humblest

kind. The dimensions of the stage must have been very limited: the

ceiling of the whole room, we know, was low. As for orchestra--in those

days, the principal instrumental artist of the town was Mr. Maxwell,

who, well-remembered for his quiet manner, for the shade over one eye,

in which was some defect, and for his homely skill on the violin, was

generally to be seen and heard, often alone, but sometimes with an

associate or two, here, as at all other entertainments of importance,

public or private. Nevertheless, at that period, to an unsophisticated

yet active imagination, innocent of acquaintance with more respectable

arrangements, everything seemed charming; each scene, as the bell rang

and the baize drew up, was invested with a magical glamour, similar in

kind, if not equal in degree, to that which, in the days of our

grandfathers, ere yet the modern passion for real knowledge had been

awakened, fascinated the young Londoner at Drury Lane.

And how curiously were the illusions of the mimic splendors sometimes in

a moment broken, as if to admonish the inexperienced spectator of the

facts of real life. In the performance of Pizarro, it will be remembered

that an attempt is made to bribe a Spanish soldier at his post. He

rejects and flings to the ground what is called "a wedge of massive

gold:"--we recollect the sound produced on the boards of the stage in

Frank's by the fall of this wedge of massive gold: it instantly betrayed

itself by this, as well as by its nimble rebound, to be, of course, a

gilded bit of wood.

And it is not alone at obscure village performances that such

disclosures occur. At an opera in London, where all appearances were

elaborately perfect, we recollect the accidental fall of a goblet which

was supposed to be of heavy chased silver, and also filled with wine--a

contretemps occasioned by the giddiness of the lad who personated a

page: two things were at once clear: the goblet was not of metal, and

nothing liquid was contained within it: which recalls a mishap

associated in our memory with a visit to the Argentina at Rome some

years ago: this was the coming off of a wheel from the chariot of a

Roman general, at a critical moment: the descent on this occasion from

the vehicle to the stage was a true step from the sublime to the

ridiculous; for the audience observed the accident, and persisted in

their laugh in spite of the heroics which the great commander proceeded

to address, in operatic style, to his assembled army.

It was in the assembly-room at Frank's, dismantled of its theatrical

furniture, that a celebrated fancy ball was given, on the last day of

the year 1827, conjointly by Mr. Galt, Commissioner of the Canada

Company, and Lady Mary Willis, wife of Mr. Justice Willis. On that

occasion the general interests of the Company were to some extent

studied in the ornamentation of the room, its floor being decorated with

an immense representation, in chalks or water-colour, of the arms of the

association. The supporters of the shield were of colossal dimensions:

two lions, rampant, bearing flags turning opposite ways: below, on the

riband, in characters proportionably large, was the motto of the

Company, "Non mutat genus solum." The sides and ceiling of the room,

with the passages leading from the front door to it, were covered

throughout with branchlets of the hemlock-spruce: nestling in the

greenery of this perfect bower were innumerable little coloured lamps,

each containing a floating light.

Here, for once, the potent, grave and reverend signiors of York, along

with their sons and daughters, indulged in a little insanity. Lady Mary

Willis appeared as Mary, Queen of Scots; the Judge himself, during a

part of the evening, was in the costume of a gay old lady, the Countess

of Desmond, aged one hundred years; Miss Willis, the clever amateur

equestrienne, was Folly, with cap and bells; Dr. W. W. Baldwin was a

Roman senator; his two sons William and St. George, were the Dioscuri,

"Fratres Helenae, lucida Sidera;" his nephew, Augustus Sullivan, was Puss

in Boots; Dr. Grant Powell was Dr. Pangloss; Mr. Kerr, a real Otchipway

chief, at the time a member of the Legislature, made a magnificent

Kentucky backwoodsman, named and entitled Captain Jedediah Skinner. Mr.

Gregg, of the Commissariat, was Othello. The Kentuckian (Kerr),

professing to be struck with the many fine points of the Moor, as

regarded from his point of view, persisted, throughout the evening, in

exhibiting an inclination to purchase--an idea naturally much resented

by Othello. Col. Givins, his son Adolphus, Raymond Baby, and others,

were Indian chiefs of different tribes, who more than once indulged in

the war-dance. Mr. Buchanan, son of the British Consul at New York, was

Darnley; Mr. Thomson, of the Canada Company's office, was Rizzio; Mr. G.

A. Barber was a wounded sailor recently from Navarino (that untoward

event had lately taken place); his arm was in a sling; he had suffered

in reality a mutilation of the right hand by an explosion of gunpowder,

on the preceding 5th of November.

Mr. Galt was only about three years in Canada, but this short space of

time sufficed to enable him to lay the foundation of the Canada Company

wisely and well, as is shewn by its duration and prosperity. The feat

was not accomplished without some antagonism springing up between

himself and the local governmental authorities, whom he was inclined to

treat rather haughtily.

It is a study to observe how frequently, at an early stage of Upper

Canadian society, a mutual antipathy manifested itself between visitors

from the transatlantic world, tourists and settlers (intending and

actual), and the first occupants of such places of trust and emolument

as then existed. It was a feeling that grew partly out of personal

considerations, and partly out of difference of opinion in regard to

public policy. A gulf thus began at an early period to open between two

sections of the community, which widened painfully for a time in after

years;--a fissure, which, at its first appearance, a little philosophy

on both sides would have closed up. Men of intelligence, who had risen

to position and acquired all their experience in a remote, diminutive

settlement, might have been quite sure that their grasp of great

imperial and human questions, when they arose, would be very imperfect;

they might, therefore, rationally have rejoiced at the accession of new

minds and additional light to help them in the day of necessity. And on

the other hand, the fresh immigrant or casual visitor, trained to

maturity amidst the combinations of an old society, and possessing a

knowledge of its past, might have comprehended thoroughly the exact

condition of thought and feeling in a community such as that which he

was approaching, and so might have regarded its ideas with charity, and

spoken of them in a tone conciliatory and delicate. On both sides, the

maxim Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner would have had a salutary

and composing effect, "for," as the author of Realmah well says, "in

truth, one would never be angry with anybody, if one understood him or

her thoroughly."

We regret that we cannot recover two small "paper pellets of the brain,"

of this period, arising out of the discussions connected with the

appointment of an outsider (Mr. Justice Willis) to the Bench of Upper

Canada. They would have been illustrative of the times. They were in the

shape of two advertisements, one in reply to the other, in a local

Paper: one was the elaborate title-page of a pamphlet "shortly to

appear," on the existing system of Jurisprudence in Upper Canada; with

the motto "Meliora sperans;" the other was an exact counterpart of the

first, only in reversed terms, and bearing the motto "Deteriora timens."

In the early stages of all the colonies it is obviously inevitable that

appointments ab extra to public office must occasionally, and even

frequently, be made. Local aspirants are thus subject to

disappointments; and men of considerable ability may now and then feel

themselves overshadowed, and imagine themselves depressed, through the

introduction of talent transcending their own. Some manifestations of

discontent and impatience may thus always be expected to appear. But in

a few years this state of things comes naturally to an end. In no

public exigency is there any longer a necessity to look to external

sources for help. A home supply of persons "duly qualified to serve God

in Church and State" is legitimately developed, as we see in the United

States, among ourselves, and in all the other larger settlements from

the British Islands.

The denouement of the Willis-trouble may be gathered from the

following notice in the Gazette of Thursday, July 17th, 1828, now

lying before us: "His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor has been

pleased to appoint, by Commission under the Great Seal, Christopher

Alexander Hagerman, Esq., to be a Judge in the Court of King's Bench for

this Province, in the room of the Hon. John Walpole Willis, amoved,

until the King's pleasure shall be signified."

Lady Mary Willis, associated with Mr. Galt in the Fancy Ball just spoken

of, was a daughter of the Earl of Strathmore. A trial of a painful

nature known as Willis v. Bernard in the annals of the Common Pleas,

arising out of circumstances connected with Judge Willis's brief

residence in Canada, took place in 1832 before the Chief Justice of

England and a special jury, at Westminster, Mr. Sergeant Wilde acting

for the plaintiff; Mr. Sergeant Spankie, Mr. Sergeant Storks and Mr.

Thesiger, for the defendant: when a thousand pounds were awarded as

damages to the plaintiff. On this occasion Mr. Galt was examined as a

witness. Judge Willis was afterwards appointed Chief Justice of


In the Canadian Literary Magazine for April, 1833, there is a notice

of Mr. Galt, with a full-length pen-and-ink portrait, similar to those

which used formerly to appear in Fraser. In front of the figure is a

bust of Lord Byron; behind, on a wall, is a Map shewing the Canadian

Lakes, with York marked conspicuously. From the accompanying memoir we

learn that "Mr. Galt always conducted himself as a man of the strictest

probity and honour. He was warm in his friendships, and extremely

hospitable in his Log Priory at Guelph, and thoroughly esteemed by those

who had an opportunity of mingling with him in close and daily intimacy.

He was the first to adopt the plan of opening roads before making a

settlement, instead of leaving them to be cut, as heretofore, by the

settlers themselves--a plan which, under the irregular and patchwork

system of settling the country then prevailing, has retarded the

improvement of the Province more, perhaps, than any other cause."

In his Autobiography Mr. Galt refers to this notice of himself in the

Canadian Literary Magazine, especially in respect to an intimation

given therein that contemporaries at York accused him of playing

"Captain Grand" occasionally, and "looking down on the inhabitants of

Upper Canada." He does not affect to say that it was not so; he even

rather unamiably adds: "The fact is, I never thought about them [i. e.,

these inhabitants], unless to notice some ludicrous peculiarity of


The same tone is assumed when recording the locally famous

entertainment, given by himself and Lady Willis, as above described.

Having received a hint that the colonelcy of a militia regiment might

possibly be offered him, he says: "This information was unequivocally

acceptable; and accordingly," he continues, "I resolved to change my

recluseness into something more cordial towards the general inhabitants

of York. I therefore directed one of the clerks [the gentleman who

figured as Rizzio,] to whom I thought the task might be agreeable, to

make arrangements for giving a general Fancy Ball to all my

acquaintance, and the principal inhabitants. I could not be troubled,"

he observes, "with the details myself, but exhorted him to make the

invitations as numerous as possible."

In extenuation of his evident moodiness of mind, it is to be observed

that his quarters at York were very uncomfortable. "The reader is

probably acquainted," he says in his Autobiography, "with the manner of

living in the American hotels, but without experience he can have no

right notion of what in those days (1827,) was the condition of the best

tavern in York. It was a mean two-storey house; the landlord, however,

[this was Mr. Frank,] did," he says, "all in his power to mitigate the

afflictions with which such a domicile was quaking, to one accustomed to


Such an impression had his unfortunate accommodation at York made on

him, that, in another place, when endeavouring to describe Dover, in

Kent, as a dull place, we have him venturing to employ such extravagant

language as this: "Everybody who has been at Dover knows that it is one

of the vilest [hypochondriacal] haunts on the face of the earth, except

Little York in Upper Canada." We notice in Leigh Hunt's London Journal

for June, 1834, some verses entitled "Friends and Boyhood," written by

Mr. Galt, in sickness. They will not sound out of place in a paper of

early reminiscences:

"Talk not of years! 'twas yesterday

We chased the hoop together,

And for the plover's speckled egg

We waded through the heather.

"The green is gay where gowans grow,

'Tis Saturday--oh! come,

Hark! hear ye not our mother's voice,

The earth?--she calls us home.

"Have we not found that fortune's chase

For glory or for treasure,

Unlike the rolling circle's race,

Was pastime, without pleasure?

"But seize your glass--another time

We'll think of clouded days--

I'll give a toast--fill up my friend!

Here's 'Boys and merry plays!'"

But Market Lane and its memories detain us too long from King Street. We

now return to the point where Church Street intersects that