King Street: St James' Church Continued

At the southern end of the Church, in which we are supposing ourselves

to be, opposite the Lieutenant-Governor's pew, but aloft in the gallery,

immediately over the central entrance underneath, was the pew of Chief

Justice Powell, a long narrow enclosure, with a high screen at its back

to keep off the draughts from the door into the gallery, just behind.

The whole of the inside of the pew, together with the screen by which it

was backed, was lined with dark green baize or cloth. The Chief's own

particular place in the pew was its central point. There, as in a focus,

surrounded by the members of his family, he calmly sat, with his face to

the north, his white head and intelligent features well brought out by

the dark back-ground of the screen behind.

The spectator, on looking up and recognizing the presence of the Chief

Justice thus seated, involuntarily imagined himself, for the moment, to

be in court. In truth, in an absent moment, the Judge himself might

experience some confusion as to his whereabouts. For below him, on his

right and left, he would see many of the barristers, attorneys, jurors

and witnesses (to go no farther), who on week days were to be seen or

heard before him in different compartments of the Court-room.

Chief Justice Powell was of Welsh descent. The name is, of course, Ap

Howell; of which "Caer Howell," "Howell's Place," the title given by the

Chief Justice to his Park-lot at York, is a relic. His portrait exists

in Toronto, in possession of members of his family. He was a man of

rather less than the ordinary stature. His features were round in

outline, unmarked by the painful lines which usually furrow the modern

judicial visage, but wakefully intelligent. His hair was milky white.

The head was inclined to be bald.

We have before us a contemporary brochure of the Chief's, from which we

learn his view of the ecclesiastical land question, which for so long a

period agitated Canada. After a full historical discussion, he

recommends the re-investment of the property in the Crown, "which," he

says, "in its bounty, will apply the proceeds equally for the support of

Christianity, without other distinction:" but he comes to this

determination reluctantly, and considers the plan to be one of

expediency only. We give the concluding paragraph of his pamphlet, for

the sake of its ring--so characteristically that of a by-gone day and

generation: "If the wise provision of Mr. Pitt," the writer says, "to

preserve the Law of the Union [between England and Scotland], by

preserving the Church of England predominant in the Colony, and touching

upon her rights to tythes only for her own advantage, and by the same

course as the Church itself desiderates in England (the exchange of

tythes for the fee simple), must be abandoned to the sudden thought of a

youthful speculator [i. e., Mr. Wilmot, Secretary for the Colonies,

who had introduced a bill into the Imperial Parliament for the sale of

the Lands to the Canada Company], let the provision of his bill cease,

and the tythes to which the Church of England was at that time lawfully

entitled be restored; she will enjoy these exclusively even of the Kirk

of Scotland: but if all veneration for the wisdom of our Ancestors has

ceased, and the time is come to prostrate the Church of England, bind

her not up in the same wythe with her bitterest enemy; force her not to

an exclusive association with any one of her rivals; leave the tythes

abolished; abolish all the legal exchange for them; and restore the

Reserves to the Crown, which, in its bounty, will apply the proceeds

equally for the support of Christianity, without other distinction."

In the body of the Church, below, sat another Chief Justice, retired

from public life, and infirm--Mr. Scott--the immediate predecessor of

Chief Justice Powell; a white-haired, venerable form, assisted to his

place, a little to the south of the Governor's pew, every Sunday. We

have already once before referred to Mr. Scott.

And again: another judicial personage was here every week long to be

seen, also crowned with the snowy honours of advanced age--Mr. Justice

Campbell--afterwards, in succession to Chief Justice Powell, Chief

Justice Sir William Campbell. His place was on the west side of the

central aisle. Sir William Campbell was born so far back as 1758. He

came out from Scotland as a soldier in a Highland regiment, and was

taken prisoner at Yorktown when that place was surrendered by Cornwallis

in 1781. In 1783 he settled in Nova Scotia and studied law. After

practising as a barrister for nineteen years he was appointed

Attorney-General for the Island of Cape Breton, from which post, after

twelve years, he was promoted to a Judgeship in Upper Canada. This was

in 1811. Fourteen years afterwards (in 1825), he became Chief Justice.

The funeral of Sir William Campbell, in 1834, was one of unusual

impressiveness. The Legislature was in session at the time, and attended

in a body, with the Bar and the Judges. At the same hour, within the

walls of the same Church, St. James', the obsequies of a member of the

Lower House took place, namely, of Mr. Roswell Mount, representative of

the County of Middlesex, who had chanced to die at York during the


A funeral oration on the two-fold occasion was pronounced by Archdeacon

Strachan.--Dr. Henry, author of "Trifles from my Portfolio," attended

Sir William Campbell in his last illness. In the work just named, his

case is thus described: "My worthy patient became very weak towards the

end of the year," the doctor says, "his nights were restless--his

appetite began to fail, and he could only relish tit bits. Medicine was

tried fruitlessly, so his doctor prescribed snipes. At the point of the

sandy peninsula opposite the barracks," Dr. Henry continues, "are a

number of little pools and marshes, frequented by these delectable

little birds; and here I used to cross over in my skiff and pick up the

Chief Justice's panacea. On this delicate food the poor old gentleman

was supported for a couple of months; but the frost set in--the snipes

flew away, and Sir William died." (ii. 112.)

Appended to the account of the funeral ceremonies, in the York Courier

of the day, we notice one of those familiar paragraphs which sensational

itemists like to construct, and which stimulate the self-complacency of

small communities. It is headed Longevity, and then thus proceeds: "At

the funeral of the late Sir W. Campbell, on Monday, there were twenty

inhabitants of York, whose united ages exceed fourteen hundred and fifty


It is certain that there were to be seen moving up the aisles of the old

wooden St. James', at York, every Sunday, a striking number of venerable

and dignified forms. For one thing their costume helped to render them

picturesque and interesting. The person of our immediate ancestors was

well set off by their dress. Recall their easy, partially cut-away black

coats and upright collars; their so-called small-clothes and buckled

shoes; the frilled shirt-bosoms and the white cravats, not apologies for

cravats, but real envelopes for the neck. (The comfortable, well-to-do

Quaker of the old school still exhibits in use some of their homely

peculiarities of garb.) And then remember the cut and arrangement of

their hair, generally milky white, either from age or by the aid of

powder; their smoothly-shaven cheek and chin; and the peculiar

expression superinduced in the eye and the whole countenance, by the

governing ideas of the period, ideas which we are wont to style

old-fashioned, but which furnished, nevertheless, for the time being,

very useful and definite rules of conduct.

Two pictures, one, Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of

Independence; the other, Huntingdon's Republican Court of Washington

(shewn in Paris in 1867), exhibit to the eye the outward and visible

presentment of the prominent actors in the affairs of the central

portion of the Northern Continent, a century ago. These paintings may

help to do the same, in some degree, for us here in the north, also; any

one of the more conspicuous figures in the congregation of the old St.

James's, at York, might have stepped out from the canvas of one or other

of the historic works of art just named. On occasions of state, even the

silken bag (in the case of officials at least) was attached to the nape

of the neck, as though, in accordance with a fashion of an earlier day

still, the hair were yet worn long, and required gathering up in a

receptacle provided for the purpose.

It seems to-day almost like a dream that we have seen in the flesh the

honoured patriarchs and founders of our now great community--

"Zorah, Nahor, Haran, Abram, Lot,

The youthful world's gray fathers in one knot;"--

that our eyes really once beheld the traces on their countenances of

their long and varied experiences, of their cares, and processes of

thought; the traces left by the lapse of years, by times, rough and

troublous, not merely heard of by the hearing of the ear, as existing

across the Lakes or across the Seas, but encountered in their own

persons, in their own land, at their own hearths; encountered and

bravely struggled through:--that we were eye-witnesses of their

cheerfulness and good courage after crisis upon crisis had thus passed

over them; eye-witnesses again, too, of their earnest devotedness to the

duties of calmer days, discharged ever honestly and well according to

the beliefs and knowledge of the period, and without the realization, in

many an instance, of the reach and vastness of the scheme of things

which was being wrought out:--that with our own eyes we saw them, again

and again, engaged within consecrated walls, in solemn acts which

expressed, in spite of the vicissitudes which their destiny had brought

with it, their unaffected faith in the unseen, and their living hope in

relation to futurity.

All this, we say, now seems like a dream of the night, or a mystic

revelation of the scenes of a very distant period and in a very distant

locality, rather than the recollections of a few short years spent on

the spot where these pages are indited. The names, however, which we

shall produce will have a sound of reality about them: they will be

recognized as familiar, household words still perpetuated, or, at all

events, still freshly remembered in the modern Toronto.

From amongst the venerable heads and ancestral forms which recur to us,

as we gaze down in imagination from the galleries of the old wooden St.

James', of York, we will single out, in addition to those already spoken

of, that of Mr. Ridout, sometimes Surveyor-General of the Province,

father of a numerous progeny, and tribal head, so to speak, of more than

one family of connections settled here, bearing the same name. He was a

fine typical representative of the group to which our attention is

directed. He was a perfect picture of a cheerful, benevolent-minded

Englishman; of portly form, well advanced in years, his hair snowy-white

naturally; his usual costume, of the antique style above described.

Then there was Mr. Small, Clerk of the Crown, an Englishman of similar

stamp. We might sketch the rest separately as they rise before the

mind's eye; but we should probably, after all, convey an idea of each

that would be too incomplete to be interesting or of much value. We

therefore simply name other members of the remarkable group of reverend

seniors that assembled habitually in the church at York. Mr. Justice

Boulton, Colonel Smith, sometime President of the Province; Mr. Allan,

Mr. M'Gill, Mr. Crookshank, Colonel Givins, Major Heward, Colonel Wells,

Colonel Fitzgibbon, Mr. Dunn, Dr. Macaulay, Dr. Baldwin, Dr. Lee, Mr.

Samuel Ridout, Mr. Chewett, Mr. McNab (Sir Allan's father); Mr. Stephen

Jarvis, who retained to the last the ancient fashion of tying the hair

in a queue.

We might go on with several others, also founders of families that still

largely people York and its vicinity; we might mention old Captain

Playter, Captain Denison, Mr. Scarlett, Captain Brooke, sen., and

others. Filial duty would urge us not to omit, in the enumeration, one

who, though at a very early period removed by a sudden casualty, is

vividly remembered, not only as a good and watchful father, but also as

a venerable form harmonizing perfectly in expression and costume with

the rest of the group which used to gather in the church at York.

Of course, mingled with the ancients of the congregation, there was a

due proportion of a younger generation. There was for example Mr. Simon

Washburn, a bulky and prosperous barrister, afterwards Clerk of the

Peace, who was the first, perhaps, in these parts, to carry a glass

adroitly in the eye. There was Dr. Grant Powell, a handsome

reproduction, on a larger scale, of his father the Chief, as his

portrait shews; there were the Messrs. Monro, George and John; the

Messrs. Stanton; Mr. Billings; the Messrs. Gamble, John and William; Mr.

J. S. Baldwin, Mr. Lyons, Mr. Beikie, and others, all men of note,

distinguishable from each other by individual traits and characteristics

that might readily be sketched.

And lastly in the interstices of the assemblage was to be seen a

plentiful representation of generation number three; young men and lads

of good looks, for the most part, well set-up limbs, and quick

faculties; in some instances, of course, of fractious temperament and

manners. As ecclesiastical associations are at the moment uppermost, we

note an ill habit that prevailed among some of these younglings of the

flock, of loitering long about the doors of the church for the purpose

of watching the arrivals, and then, when the service was well advanced,

the striplings would be seen sporadically coming in, each one imagining,

as he passed his fingers through his hair and marched with a shew of

manly spirit up the aisle, that he attracted a degree of attention;

attracted, perhaps, a glance of admiration from some of the many pairs

of eyes that rained influence from a large pew in the eastern portion of

the north gallery, where the numerous school of Miss Purcell and Miss

Rose held a commanding position.

It would have been a singular exception to a general law, had the

interior into which we are now gazing, and whose habitues we are now

recalling, not been largely frequented by the feminine portion of

society at York. Seated in their places in various directions along the

galleries and in the body of the old wooden church, were to be regularly

seen specimens of the venerable great-grandmammas of the old English and

Scottish type (in one or two instances to be thought of to this day with

a degree of awe by reason of the vigour, almost masculine, of their

character); specimens of kindly maiden aunts; specimens of matronly

wives and mothers, keeping watch and ward over bevies of comely

daughters and nieces.

Lady Sarah Maitland herself cannot be called a fixed member of society

here, but having been for so long a time a resident, it seems now, in

the retrospect, as if she had been really a development of the place.

Her distinguished style, native to herself, had its effect on her

contemporaries of the gentler sex in these parts. Mrs. Dunn, also, and

Mrs. Wells, may likewise be named as special models of grace and

elegance in person and manner. In this all-influential portion of the

community, a tone and air that were good prevailed widely from the

earliest period.

It soon became a practice with the military, and other temporary

sojourners attached to the Government, to select partners for life from

the families of York. Hence it has happened that, to this day, in

England, Ireland and Scotland, and in the Dependencies of the Empire on

the other side of the globe, many are the households that rise up and

call a daughter of Canada blessed as their maternal head.

Local aspirants to the holy estate were thus unhappily, now and then, to

their great disgust, baulked of their first choice. But a residue was

always left, sufficient for the supply of the ordinary demand, and

manifold were the interlacings of local connections; a fact in which

there is nothing surprising and nothing to be condemned: it was from

political considerations alone that such affinities came afterwards to

be referred to, in some quarters, with bitterness.

Occasionally, indeed, a fastidious young man, or a disappointed widower,

would make a selection in parts remote from the home circle, quite

unnecessarily. We recall especially to mind the sensible emotion in the

congregation on the first advent amongst them of a fair bride from

Montreal, the then Paris of Canada; and several lesser excitements of

the same class, on the appearance in their midst of aerial veils and

orange blossoms from Lobo, from New York, from distant England. Once the

selection of a "helpmeet" from a rival religious communion, in the town

of York itself, led to the defection from the flock of a prominent

member; an occurrence that led also to the publication of two polemical

pamphlets, which made a momentary stir; one of them a declamation by a

French bishop; the other, a review of the same, by the pastor of the

abandoned flock.

The strictures on the intelligence and moral feeling of the feminine, as

well as the masculine portion of society at York, delivered by such

world-experienced writers as Mrs. Jameson, and such enlightened critics

as were two or three of the later Governors' wives, may have been just

in the abstract, to a certain extent, as from the point of view of old

communities in England and Germany; but they were unfair as from the

point of view of persons calmly reviewing all the circumstances of the

case. Here again the maxim applies: Tout comprendre, c'est tout


We have said that the long pew on the west side of the Governor's seat

was allotted to the military. In this compartment we remember often

scanning with interest the countenance and form of a youthful and

delicate-looking ensign, simply because he bore, hereditarily, a name

and title all complete, distinguished in the annals of science two

centuries ago--the Hon. Robert Boyle: he was one of the aides-de-camp of

Sir Peregrine Maitland. Here, also, was to be seen, for a time, a Major

Browne, a brother of the formerly popular poetess, Mrs. Hemans. Here,

too, sat a Zachary Mudge, another hereditary name complete,

distinguished in the scientific annals of Devonshire. He was an officer

of Artillery, and one of Sir John Colborne's aides-de-camp; for some

unexplained reason he committed suicide at York, and his remains were

deposited in the old military burying-ground. In this pew familiar forms

were also--Major Powell, Capt. Grubbe, Major Hillier, Capt. Blois, Capt,

Phillpotts, brother of the Bishop.

The compartment on the east side of the Governor's pew, was as we have

said, appointed for the use of the members of the Legislature, when in

session. Here at certain periods, generally in mid-winter, were to be

observed all the political notabilities of the day; for at the period we

are glancing at, non-conformists as well as conformists were to be seen

assisting, now and again, at public worship in St. James' Church.

In their places here the outward presentments of Col. Nichol (killed by

driving over the precipice at Queenston), of Mr. Homer (a Benjamin

Franklin style of countenance), of Dr. Lefferty, of Hamnet Pinhey, of

Mahlon Burwell, of Absalom Shade, of other owners of old Canadian names,

are well remembered. The spare, slender figure of Mr. Speaker Sherwood,

afterwards a judge of the King's Bench, was noticeable. Mr. Chisholm, of

Oakville, used facetiously to object to the clause in the Litany where

"heresy and schism" are deprecated, it so happening that the last term

was usually, by a Scotticism, read "Chisholm." Up to the Parliamentary

pew we have seen Mr. William Lyon McKenzie himself hurriedly make his

way, with an air of great animation, and take his seat, to the visible,

but, of course, repressed disconcertment of several honourable members,

and others.

Altogether, it was a very complete little world, this assemblage within

the walls of the old wooden church at York. There were present, so to

speak, king, lords, and commons; gentle and simple in due proportion,

with their wives and little ones; judges, magistrates and gentry;

representatives of governmental departments, with their employes;

legislators, merchants, tradespeople, handicraftsmen; soldiers and

sailors; a great variety of class and character.

All seemed to be in harmony, real or conventional, here; whatever feuds,

family or political, actually subsisted, no very marked symptoms thereof

could be discerned in this place. But the history of all was known, or

supposed to be known, to each. The relationship of each to each was

known, and how it was brought about. It was known to all how every

little scar, every trivial mutilation or disfigurement, which chanced to

be visible on the visage or limb of any one, was acquired, in the

performance of what boyish freak, in the execution of what practical

jest, in the excitement of what convivial or other occasion.

Here and there sat one who, in obedience to the social code of the day,

had been "out," for the satisfaction, as the term was, of himself or

another, perhaps a quondam friend--satisfaction obtained (let the age be

responsible for the terms we use), in more than one instance, at the

cost of human life.

(Pewholders in St. James' Church from its commencement to about 1818,

were President Russell: Mr. Justice Cochrane: Mr. Justice Boulton:

Solicitor General Gray: Receiver General Selby: Christopher Robinson:

George Crookshank: William Chewett: J. B. Robinson: Alexander Wood:

William Willcocks: John Beikie: Alexander Macdonell: Chief Justice

Elmsley: Chief Justice Osgoode: Chief Justice Scott: Chief Justice

Powell: Attorney General Firth: Secretary Jarvis: General Shaw: Col.

Smith: D'Arcy Boulton: William Allan: Duncan Cameron: John Small: Thomas

Ridout: William Stanton: Stephen Heward: Donald McLean: Stephen Jarvis:

Capt. McGill: Col. Givins: Dr. Maccaulay: Dr. Gamble: Dr. Baldwin: Dr.

Lee: Mr. St. George: Mr. Denison: Mr. Playter: Mr. Brooke: Mr. Cawthra:

Mr. Scadding: Mr. Ketchum: Mr. Cooper: Mr. Ross: Mr. Jordan: Mr.

Kendrick: Mr. Hunt: Mr. Higgins: Mr. Anderson: Mr. Murchison: Mr.

Bright: Mr. O'Keefe: Mr. Caleb Humphrey.--The Churchwardens for 1807-8

were: D'Arcy Boulton and William Allan. For 1809: William Allan and

Thomas Ridout. For 1810: William Allan and Stephen Jarvis. For 1812:

Duncan Cameron and Alexander Legge.)