King Street From George Street To Caroline Street

We now retrace our steps to King Street, at its intersection with George

Street; and here our eye immediately lights on an object connected with

the early history of Education in York.

Attached to the east side of the house at the south-east angle of the

intersection is a low building, wholly of stone, resembling a small

root-house. Its structure is concealed from view now by a coating of

clapboards. This
was the first school-house possessing a public

character in York.

It was where Dr. Stuart taught, afterwards Archdeacon of Kingston. The

building was on his property, which became afterwards that of Mr. George

Duggan, once before referred to. (In connection with St. James' Church,

it should have been recorded that Mr. Duggan was the donor and planter

of the row of Lombardy poplars which formerly stood in front of that

edifice, and which figured conspicuously in the old engravings of King

Street. He was an Irishman of strong opinions. He once stood for the

town against Mr. Attorney-General Robinson, but without success. When

the exigencies of later times required the uprooting of the poplar

trees, now become overgrown, he warmly resented the removal and it was

at the risk of grievous bodily harm that the Church-warden of the day,

Mr. T. D. Harris, carried into effect the resolution of the Vestry.)

Dr. Stuart's was the Home District School. From a contemporary record,

now before us, we learn that it opened on June the first, 1807, and that

the first names entered on its books were those of John Ridout, William

A. Hamilton, Thomas G. Hamilton, George H. Detlor, George S. Boulton,

Robert Stanton, William Stanton, Angus McDonell, Alexander Hamilton,

Wilson Hamilton, Robert Ross, Allan McNab. To this list, from time to

time, were added many other old Toronto or Upper Canadian names: as, for

example, the following: John Moore, Charles Ruggles, Edward Hartney,

Charles Boulton, Alexander Chewett, Donald McDonell, James Edward Small,

Charles Small, John Hayes, George and William Jarvis, William Bowkett,

Peter McDonell, Philemon Squires, James McIntosh, Bernard, Henry and

Marshall Glennon, Richard Brooke, Daniel Brooke, Charles Reade, William

Robinson, Gilbert Hamilton, Henry Ernst, John Gray, Robert Gray, William

Cawthra, William Smith, Harvey Woodruff, Robert Anderson, Benjamin

Anderson, James Givins, Thomas Playter, William Pilkington. The French

names Belcour, Hammeil and Marian occur. (There were bakers or

confectioners of these names in York at an early period.)

From the same record it appears that female pupils were not excluded

from the primitive Home District School. On the roll are names which

surviving contemporaries would recognize as belonging to the beau

monde of Upper Canada, distinguished and admired in later years.

A building-lot, eighty-six feet in front and one hundred and seventeen

in depth, next to the site of the school, is offered for sale in the

Gazette of the 18th of March, 1822; and in the advertisement it is

stated to be "one of the most eligible lots in the Town of York, and

situated in King Street, in the centre of the Town."

To the left, just across from this choice position, was, in 1833, Wragg

& Co.'s establishment, where such matter-of-fact articles as the

following could be procured: "Bending and unbending nails, as usual;

wrought nails and spikes of all sizes [a change since 1810]: ox-traces

and cable chains; tin; double and single sheet iron: sheet brass and

copper; bar, hoop, bolt and rod iron of all sizes; shear, blister and

cast steel; with every other article in the heavy line, together with a

very complete assortment of shelf goods, cordage, oakum, tar, pitch, and

rosin: also a few patent machines for shelling corn." (A much earlier

resort for such merchandize was Mr. Peter Paterson's, on the west side

of the Market Square.)

Of a date somewhat subsequent to that of Messrs. Wragg's advertisement,

was the depot of Mr. Harris for similar substantial wares. This was

situated on the north side of King Street, westward of the point at

which we are now pausing. It long resisted the great conflagration of

1849, towering up amidst the flames like a black, isolated crag in a

tempestuous sea; but at length it succumbed. Having been rendered, as it

was supposed, fire-proof externally, no attempt was made to remove the

contents of the building.

To the east of Messrs. Wragg's place of business, on the same side, and

dating back to an early period, was the dwelling house and mart of Mr.

Mosley, the principal auctioneer and appraiser of York, a well-known and

excellent man. He had suffered the severe calamity of a partial

deprivation of the lower limbs by frost-bite; but he contrived to move

about with great activity in a room or on the side-walk by means of two

light chairs, shifting himself adroitly from the one to the other. When

required to go to a distance or to church, (where he was ever punctually

to be seen in his place), he was lifted by his son or sons into and out

of a wagonette, together with the chairs.

On the same (north) side was the place where the Messrs. Lesslie,

enterprising and successful merchants from Dundee, dealt at once in two

remunerative articles--books and drugs. The left side of the store was

devoted to the latter; the right to the former. Their first

head-quarters in York had been further up the street; but a move had

been made to the eastward, to be, as things were then, nearer the heart

of the town.

This firm had houses carrying on the same combined businesses in

Kingston and Dundas. There exists a bronze medal or token, of good

design, sought after by collectors, bearing the legend, "E. Lesslie and

Sons, Toronto and Dundas, 1822." The date has been perplexing, as the

town was not named Toronto in 1822. The intention simply was to indicate

the year of the founding of the firm in the two towns; the first of

which assumed the name of Toronto at the period the medal was really

struck, viz., 1834. On the obverse it bears a figure of Justice with

scales and sword: on the reverse, a plough with the mottoes, "Prosperity

to Canada," "La Prudence et la Candeur."--A smaller Token of the same

firm is extant, on which "Kingston" is inserted between "Toronto" and


Nearly opposite was the store of Mr. Monro. Regarding our King Street as

the Broadway of York, Mr. Monro was for a long time its Stewart. But the

points about his premises that linger now in our recollection the most,

are a tasteful flower-garden on its west side, and a trellised verandah

in that direction, with canaries in a cage, usually singing therein. Mr.

Monro was Mayor of Toronto in 1840. He also represented in Parliament

the South Riding of York, in the Session of 1844-5.

At the north-west corner, a little further on, resided Mr. Alexander

Wood, whose name appears often in the Report of the Loyal and Patriotic

Society of 1812, to which reference before has been made, and of which

he was the Secretary. A brother of his, at first in copartnership with

Mr. Allan, and at a later period, independently, had made money, at

York, by business. On the decease of his brother, Mr. Alexander Wood

came out to attend to the property left. He continued on the same spot,

until after the war of 1812, the commercial operations which had been so

prosperously begun, and then retired.

At the time to which our recollections are just now transporting us, the

windows of the part of the house that had been the store were always

seen with the shutters closed. Mr. Wood was a bachelor; and it was no

uncosy sight, towards the close of the shortening autumnal days, before

the remaining front shutters of the house were drawn in for the evening,

to catch a glimpse, in passing, of the interior of his comfortable

quarters, lighted up by the blazing logs on the hearth, the table

standing duly spread close by, and the solitary himself ruminating in

his chair before the fire, waiting for candles and dinner to be brought


On sunny mornings in winter he was often to be seen pacing the sidewalk

in front of his premises for exercise, arrayed in a long blue over-coat,

with his right hand thrust for warmth into the cuff of his left sleeve,

and his left hand into that of his right. He afterwards returned to

Scotland, where, at Stonehaven, not far from Aberdeen, he had family

estates known as Woodcot and Woodburnden. He died without executing a

will; and it was some time before the rightful heir to his property in

Scotland and here was determined. It had been his intention, we believe,

to return to Canada.--The streets which run eastward from Yonge Street,

north of Carleton Street, named respectively "Wood" and "Alexander,"

pass across land that belonged to Mr. Wood.

Many are the shadowy forms that rise before us, as we proceed on our

way; phantom-revisitings from the misty Past; the shapes and faces of

enterprising and painstaking men, of whose fortunes King Street

hereabout was the cradle. But it is not necessary in these reminiscences

to enumerate all who, on the right hand and on the left, along the now

comparatively deserted portions of the great thoroughfare, amassed

wealth in the olden time by commerce and other honourable

pursuits,--laying the foundation, in several instances, of opulent


Quetton St. George, however, must not be omitted, builder of the solid

and enduring house on the corner opposite to Mr. Wood's; a structure

that, for its size and air of respectability; for its material, brick,

when as yet all the surrounding habitations were of wood; for its tinned

roof, its graceful porch, its careful and neat finish generally, was,

for a long time, one of the York lions.

Mr. Quetton St. George was a French royalist officer, and a chevalier of

the order of St. Louis. With many other French gentlemen, he emigrated

to Canada at the era of the Revolution. He was of the class of the

noblesse, as all officers were required to be; which class, just before

the Revolution, included, it is said, 90,000 persons, all exempt from

the ordinary taxes of the country.

The surname of St. George was assumed by M. Quetton to commemorate the

fact that he had first set foot on English ground on St. George's day.

On proceeding to Canada, he, in conjunction with Jean Louis, Vicomte de

Chalus, and other distinguished emigres, acquired a large estate in

wild lands in the rough region north of York, known as the "Oak Ridges."

Finding it difficult, however, to turn such property speedily to

account, he had recourse to trade with the Indians and remote

inhabitants. Numerous stations, with this object in view, were

established by him in different parts of the country, before his final

settlement in York. One of these posts was at Orillia, on Lake

Couchiching; and in the Niagara Herald of August the 7th, 1802, we

meet with the following advertisement:--"New Store at the House of the

French General, between Niagara and Queenston. Messrs. Quetton St.

George and Co., acquaint the public that they have lately arrived from

New York with a general assortment of Dry Goods and Groceries, which

will be sold at the lowest price for ready money, for from the

uncertainty of their residing any time in these parts they cannot open

accounts with any person. Will also be found at the same store a

general assortment of tools for all mechanics. They have likewise

well-made Trunks; also empty Barrels. Niagara, July 23."

The copartnership implied was with M. de Farcy. The French General

referred to was the Comte de Puisaye, of whom in full hereafter. The

house spoken of still exists, beautifully situated at a point on the

Niagara River, where the carriage-road between Queenston and the town of

Niagara approaches the very brink of the lofty bank, whose precipitous

side is even yet richly clothed with fine forest trees, and where the

noble stream below, closed in towards the south by the heights above

Lewiston and Queenston, possesses all the features of a picturesque

inland lake.

Attached to the house in question is a curious old fire-proof structure

of brick, quaintly buttressed with stone: the walls are of a thickness

of three or four feet; and the interior is beautifully vaulted and

divided into two compartments, having no communication with each other:

and above the whole is a long loft of wood, approached by steps on the

outside. The property here belonged for a time in later years to

Shickluna, the shipbuilder of St. Catharines, who happily did not

disturb the interesting relic just described. The house itself was in

some respects modernized by him; but, with its steep roof and three

dormer windows, it still retains much of its primitive character.

In 1805 we find Mr. St. George removed to York. The copartnership with

M. de Farcy is now dissolved. In successive numbers of the Gazette and

Oracle, issued in that and the following year, he advertises at great

length. But on the 20th of September, 1806, he abruptly announces that

he is not going to advertise any more: he now once for all, begs the

public to examine his former advertisements, where they will find, he

says, an account of the supply which he brings from New York every

spring, a similar assortment to which he intends always to have on hand:

and N. B., he adds: Nearly the same assortment may be found at Mr.

Boiton's, at Kingston, and at Mr. Boucherville's, at Amherstburgh, "who

transact business for Mr. St. George."


As we have, in the advertisements referred to, a rather minute record of

articles and things procurable and held likely to be wanted by the

founders of society in these parts, we will give, for the reader's

entertainment, a selection from several of them, adhering for the most

part to the order in which the goods are therein named.

From time to time it is announced by Mr. St. George that there have

"just arrived from New York":--Ribbons, cotton goods, silk tassels,

gown-trimmings, cotton binding, wire trimmings, silk belting, fans,

beaded buttons, block tin, glove ties, cotton bed-line, bed-lace,

rollo-bands, ostrich feathers, silk lace, black veil lace, thread do.,

laces and edging, fine black veils, white do., fine silk mitts,

love-handkerchiefs, Barcelona do., silk do., black crape, black mode,

black Belong, blue, white and yellow do., striped silk for gowns,

Chambray muslins, printed dimity, split-straw bonnets, Leghorn do.,

imperial chip do., best London Ladies' beaver bonnets, cotton wire,

Rutland gauze, band boxes, cambrics, calicoes, Irish linens,

callimancoes, plain muslins, laced muslins, blue, black and yellow

nankeens, jeans, fustians, long silk gloves, velvet ribbons, Russia

sheetings, India satins, silk and cotton umbrellas, parasols, white

cottons, bombazetts, black and white silk stockings, damask table

cloths, napkins, cotton, striped nankeens, bandana handkerchiefs,

catgut, Ticklenburg, brown holland, Creas a la Morlaix, Italian

lutestring, beaver caps for children.

Then we have: Hyson tea, Hyson Chaulon in small chests, young Hyson,

green, Souchong and Bohea, loaf, East India and Muscovado sugars,

mustard, essence of mustard, pills of mustard, capers, lemon-juice,

soap, Windsor do., indigo, mace, nutmegs, cinnamon, cassia, cloves,

pimento, pepper, best box raisins, prunes, coffee, Spanish and American

"segars," Cayenne pepper in bottles, pearl barley, castor oil, British

oil, pickled oysters.

Furthermore, china-ware is to be had in small boxes and in sets; also,

Suwarrow boots, bootees, and an assortment of men's, women's and

children's shoes, japanned quart mugs, do. tumblers, tipped flutes,

violin bows, brass wire, sickles, iron candlesticks, shoe-makers'

hammers, knives, pincers, pegging awls and tacks, awl-blades,

shoe-brushes, copper tea-kettles, snaffle-bits, leather shot belts, horn

powder flasks, ivory, horn and crooked combs, mathematical instruments,

knives and forks, suspenders, fish-hooks, sleeve-links, sportsmen's

knives, lockets, earrings, gold topaz, do., gold watch-chains, gold

seals, gold brooches, cut gold rings, plain do., pearl do., silver

thimbles, do. teaspoons, shell sleeve buttons, silver watches, beads. In

stationery there was to be had paste-board, foolscap paper, second do.,

letter paper, black and red ink powder and wafers.

There was also the following supply of Literature:--Telemachus, Volney's

Views, Public Characters, Dr. Whitman's Egypt, Evelina, Cecilia, Lady's

Library, Ready Reckoner, Looking Glass, Franklin's Fair Sex, Camilla,

Don Raphael, Night Thoughts, Winter Evenings, Voltaire's Life, Joseph

Andrews, Walker's Geography, Bonaparte and the French People, Voltaire's

Tales, Fisher's Companion, Modern Literature, Eccentric Biography, Naval

do., Martial do., Fun, Criminal Records, Entick's Dictionary, Gordon's

America, Thompson's Family Physician, Sheridan's Dictionary, Johnson's

do., Wilson's Egypt, Denon's Travels, Travels of Cyrus, Stephani de

Bourbon, Alexis, Pocket Library, Every Man's Physician, Citizen of the

World, Taplin's Farriery, Farmer's Boy, Romance of the Forest,

Grandison, Campbell's Narrative, Paul and Virginia, Adelaide de Sincere,

Emelini, Monk, Abbess, Evening Amusement, Children of the Abbey, Tom

Jones, Vicar of Wakefield, Sterne's Journey, Abelard and Eloisa, Ormond,

Caroline, Mercutio, Julia and Baron, Minstrel, H. Villars, De Valcourt,

J. Smith, Charlotte Temple, Theodore Chypon, What has Been, Elegant

Extracts in Prose and Verse, J. and J. Jessamy, Chinese Tales, New

Gazetteer, Smollett's Works, Cabinet of Knowledge, Devil on Sticks,

Arabian Tales, Goldsmith's Essays, Bragg's Cookery, Tooke's Pantheon,

Boyle's Voyage, Roderick Random, Jonathan Wild, Louisa Solomon's Guide

to Health, Spelling-books, Bibles and Primers.

Our extracts have extended to a great length: but the animated picture

of Upper Canadian life at a primitive era, which such an enumeration of

items, in some sort affords, must be our apology.

In the Gazette of July 4, 1807, Mr. St. George complains of a

protested bill; but consoles himself with a quotation--

Celui qui met un frein a la fureur des flots,

Sait aussi des mechants arreter des complots.

Rendered rich in money and lands by his extemporized mercantile

operations, Mr. St. George returned to his native France soon after the

restoration of Louis XVIII., and passed the rest of his days partly in

Paris and partly on estates in the neighbourhood of Montpellier. During

his stay in Canada he formed a close friendship with the Baldwins of

York; and on his departure, the house on King Street, which has given

rise to these reminiscences of him, together with the valuable

commercial interests connected with it, passed into the hands of a

junior member of that family, Mr. John Spread Baldwin, who himself, on

the same spot, subsequently laid the foundation of an ample fortune.

(It is a phenomenon not uninteresting to the retrospective mind, to

observe, in 1869, after the lapse of half a century, the name of Quetton

St. George reappearing in the field of Canadian Commerce.)

Advancing now on our way eastward, we soon came in front of the abode of

Dr. Burnside, a New-England medical man of tall figure, upright

carriage, and bluff, benevolent countenance, an early promoter of the

Mechanics'-Institute movement, and an encourager of church-music, vocal

and instrumental. Dying without a family dependent on him, he bequeathed

his property partly to Charities in the town, and partly to the

University of Trinity College, where two scholarships perpetuate his


Just opposite was the residence of the venerable Mrs. Gamble, widow of

Dr. Gamble, formerly a surgeon attached to the Queen's Rangers. This

lady died in 1859, in her 92nd year, leaving living descendants to the

number of two hundred and four. To the west of this house was a

well-remembered little parterre, always at the proper season gay with


At the next corner, on the north side, a house now totally demolished,

was the original home of the millionaire Cawthra family, already once

alluded to. In the Gazette and Oracle of June 21, 1806, Mr. Cawthra,

senior, thus advertises:--"J. Cawthra wishes to inform the inhabitants

of York and the adjacent country, that he has opened an Apothecary Store

in the house of A. Cameron, opposite Stoyell's Tavern in York, where the

Public can be supplied with most articles in that line. He has on hand

also, a quantity of Men's, Women's, and Children's shoes and Men's hats.

Also for a few days will be sold the following articles, Table Knives

and Forks, Scissors, Silver Watches, Maps and Prints, Profiles, some

Linen, and a few Bed-Ticks, Teas, Tobacco, a few casks of fourth proof

Cognac Brandy, and a small quantity of Lime Juice, and about twenty

thousand Whitechapel Needles. York, June 14, 1806." And again, on the

27th of the following November, he informs the inhabitants of York and

the neighbouring country that he had just arrived from New York with a

general assortment of "apothecary articles;" and that the public can be

supplied with everything in that line genuine: also patent medicines:

he likewise intimates that he has brought a general assortment of Dry

Goods, consisting of "broad cloths, duffils, flannels, swansdown,

corduroys, printed calicoes, ginghams, cambrick muslins, shirting,

muslin, men and women's stockings, silk handkerchiefs, bandana shawls,

pulicat and pocket handkerchiefs, calimancoes, dimity and check; also a

large assortment of men's, women's, and children's shoes, hardware,

coffee, tea and chocolate, lump and loaf sugar, tobacco, &c., with many

other articles: which he is determined to sell on very low terms at his

store opposite Stoyell's tavern." York, Nov. 27, 1806. (The Stoyell's

Tavern here named, had previously been the Inn of Mr. Abner Miles.)

Immediately across, at the corner on the south side, was a depot,

insignificant enough, no doubt, to the indifferent passer-by, but

invested with much importance in the eyes of many of the early

infantiles of York. Its windows exhibited, in addition to a scattering

of white clay pipes, and papers of pins suspended open against the panes

for the public inspection, a display of circular discs of gingerbread,

some with plain, some with scalloped edge; also hearts, fishes, little

prancing ponies, parrots and dogs of the same tawny-hued material; also

endwise in tumblers and other glass vessels, numerous lengths or stems

of prepared saccharine matter, brittle in substance, white-looking, but

streaked and slightly penetrated with some rich crimson pigment;

likewise on plates and oval dishes, a collection of quadrangular viscous

lumps, buff-coloured and clammy, each showing at its ends the bold

gashing cut of a stout knife which must have been used in dividing a

rope, as it were, of the tenacious substance into inch-sections or


In the wrapping paper about all articles purchased here, there was

always a soupcon of the homely odors of boiled sugar and peppermint. The

tariff of the various comestibles just enumerated was well known; it was

precisely for each severally, one half-penny. The mistress of this

establishment bore the Scottish name of Lumsden--a name familiar to us

lads in another way also, being constantly seen by us on the title-pages

of school-books, many of which, at the time referred to, were imported

from Glasgow, from the publishing-house of Lumsden and Son.

A little way down the street which crosses here, was Major Heward's

house, long Clerk of the Peace for the Home District, of whom we had

occasion to speak before. Several of his sons, while pursuing their

legal and other studies, became also "mighty hunters;" distinguished, we

mean, as enthusiastic sportsmen. Many were the exploits reported of

them, in this line.

We give here an extract from Mr. McGrath's lively work, published in

1833, entitled "Authentic letters from Upper Canada, with an Account of

Canadian Field Sports." "Ireland," he says, "is, in many places,

remarkable for excellent cock-shooting, which I have myself experienced

in the most favourable situations: not, however, to be compared with

this country, where the numbers are truly wonderful. Were I to mention,"

Mr. McGrath continues, "what I have seen in this respect, or heard from

others, it might bring my graver statements into disrepute."

"As a specimen of the sport," he says, "I will merely give a fact or two

of, not unusual success; bearing, however, no proportion to the quantity

of game. I have known Mr. Charles Heward, of York," he proceeds to

state, "to have shot in one day thirty brace at Chippewa, close to the

Falls of Niagara--and I myself," Mr. McGrath continues, "who am far from

being a first-rate shot, have frequently brought home from twelve to

fourteen brace, my brothers performing their part with equal success."

But the younger Messrs. Heward had a field for the exercise of their

sportsman skill nearer home than Chippewa. The Island, just across the

Bay, where the black-heart plover were said always to arrive on a

particular day, the 23rd of May, every year, and the marshes about

Ashbridge's bay and York harbour itself, all abounded with wild fowl.

Here, loons of a magnificent size used to be seen and heard; and vast

flocks of wild geese, passing and re-passing, high in air, in their

periodical migrations. The wild swan, too, was an occasional frequenter

of the ponds of the Island.