Queen Street From The College Avenue To Brock Street And Spadina Avenue
Pursuing our way now westward from the Avenue leading to the University,
we pass the Powell park-lot, on which was, up to recent times, the
family vault of the Powells, descendants of the Chief Justice. The whole
property was named by the fancy of the first possessor, Caer-Howell,
Castle Howell, in allusion to the mythic Hoel, to whom all ap-Hoels
trace their origin. Dummer Street, which opens northward a little
on, retains, as we have said, the second baptismal name of Chief
Beverley House and its surroundings, on the side opposite Caer Howell
estate, recall one whose name and memory must repeatedly recur in every
narrative of our later Canadian history, Sir John Robinson.--This was
the residence temporarily of Poulett Thomson, afterwards Lord Sydenham,
while present in Toronto as Governor-General of the Canadas in 1839-40.
A kitchen on a large scale which he caused to be built on the premises
of Beverley House, is supposed to have been an auxiliary, indirectly, in
getting the Union measure through the Upper Canada Parliament. In a
letter to a friend, written at Montreal in 1840, he gives a sketch of
his every-day life: it describes equally well the daily distribution of
his time here in Toronto. "Work in my room," he says, "till three
o'clock; a ride with my aide-de-camp till five; work again till dinner;
at dinner till nine; and work again till early next morning. This is my
daily routine. My dinners last till ten, when I have company, which is
about three times a week; except one night in the week, when I receive
about 150 people."
His policy was, as we know, very successful. Of the state of things at
Toronto, and in Upper Canada generally, after the Union measure had been
pushed through, he writes to a friend thus: "I have prorogued my
Parliament," he says, "and I send you my Speech. Never was such
unanimity! When the Speaker read it in the Commons, after the
prorogation, they gave me three cheers, in which even the ultras united.
In fact, as the matter stands now, the Province is in a state of peace
and harmony which, three months ago, I thought was utterly hopeless."
In a private letter of the following year (1841), he alludes to his
influence in these terms: "I am in the midst," he says, "of the bustle
attending the opening of the Session, and have, besides, a ministerial
'crisis' on my hands. The latter I shall get through triumphantly,
unless my wand, as they call it here, has lost all power over the
members, which I do not believe to be the case." This was written at
Kingston, where, it will be remembered, the seat of Government was
established for a short time after the union of Upper and Lower Canada.
Through Poulett Thomson, Toronto for a few months and to the extent of
one-half, was the seat of a modern feudal barony. On being elevated to
the peerage, the Governor-General, who had carried the Union, was
created Baron Sydenham of Sydenham in Kent and Toronto in Canada.
At one time it was expected that Toronto would be the capital of the
United Province, but its liege lord pronounced it to be "too far and out
of the way;" though at the same time he gives it as his opinion that
"Kingston or Bytown would do." Thus in 1840, and in July, 1841, he
writes: "I have every reason to be satisfied with having selected this
place (Kingston) as the new Capital. There is no situation in the
Province so well adapted for the seat of Government from its central
position; and certainly we are as near England as we should be anywhere
else in the whole of Canada. My last letters reached me," he says, "in
fifteen days from London! So much for steam and railways." Being in very
delicate health, it had been Lord Sydenham's intention to return to
England in September, 1841. On the 5th of June he writes at Kingston to
a friend: "I long for September, beyond which I will not stay if they
were to make me Duke of Canada and Prince of Regiopolis, as this place
is called." But he was never more to see England. On the 4th of the
September in which he had hoped to leave Canada, he suffered a fracture
of the right leg and other injury by a fall from his horse. He never
rallied from the shock. His age was only 42.
The Park lot which follows that occupied by Chief Justice Powell was
selected by Solicitor-General Gray, of whom fully already. It afterwards
became the property of Mr. D'Arcy Boulton, eldest son of Mr. Justice
Boulton, and was known as the Grange estate. The house which bears the
name of the "Grange," was built at the beginning of the brick era of
York, and is a favourable specimen of the edifices of that period.
(Beverley House, just noted, was, it may be added, also built by Mr.
The Grange-gate, now thrust far back by the progress of improvement, was
long a familiar landmark on the line of Lot-street. It was just within
this gate that the fight already recorded took place between Mr. Justice
Boulton's horses, Bonaparte and Jefferson, and the bears. A
memorandum of Mr. G. S. Jarvis, of Cornwall, in our possession, affirms
that Mr. Justice Boulton drove a phaeton of some pretensions, and that
his horses, Bonaparte and Jefferson, were the crack pair of the day
at York. As to some other equipages he says: "The Lieut. Governor's
carriage was considered a splendid affair, but some of the Toronto cabs
would now throw it into the shade. The carriage of Chief Justice Powell,
he adds, was a rough sort of omnibus, and would compare with the jail
van used now." (We remember Bishop Strachan's account of a carriage sent
up for his own use from Albany or New York; it was constructed on the
model of the ordinary oval stage coach, with a kind of hemispherical
To our former notes of Mr. Justice Boulton, we add, that he was the
author of a work in quarto published in London in 1806, entitled a
"Sketch of the Province of Upper Canada."
John Street, passing south just here, is, as was noted previously, a
memorial, so far as its name is concerned, of the first Lieutenant
Governor of Upper Canada. On the plan of the "new town," as the first
expansion westward, of York, was termed,--while this street is marked
"John," the next parallel thoroughfare eastward is named "Graves," and
the open square included between the two, southward on Front Street, is
"Simcoe-place." The three names of the founder of York were thus
commemorated. The expression "Simcoe-place" has fallen into disuse. It
indicated, of course, the site of the present Parliament Buildings of
the Province of Ontario. Graves Street has become Simcoe Street, a
name, as we have seen, recently extended to the thoroughfare northward,
with which it is nearly in a right line, viz., William Street, which
previously recorded, as we have said, the first Christian name of Chief
Justice Powell. The name "John Street" has escaped change. The name
sounds trivial enough; but it has an interest.
In the minds of the present generation, with John Street will be
specially associated the memorable landing of the Prince of Wales at
Toronto in 1860. At the foot of John Street, for that occasion, there
was built a vast semi-colosseum of wood, opening out upon the waters of
the Bay; a pile whose capacious concavity was densely filled again and
again, during the Prince's visit, with the inhabitants of the town and
the population of the surrounding country. And on the brow of the bank,
immediately above the so-called amphitheatre, and exactly in the line of
John Street, was erected a finely designed triumphal arch, recalling
those of Septimus Severus and Titus.
This architectural object, while it stood, gave a peculiarly fine finish
to the vista, looking southward along John Street. The usually
monotonous water-view presented by the bay and lake, and even the
common-place straight line of the Island, seen through the frame-work of
three lofty vaulted passages, acquired for the moment a genuine
picturesqueness. An ephemeral monument; but as long as it stood its
effect was delightfully classic and beautiful. The whole group--the arch
and the huge amphitheatre below, furnished around its upper rim at equal
intervals with tall masts, each bearing a graceful gonfalon, and each
helping to sustain on high a luxuriant festoon of evergreen which
alternately drooped and rose again round the whole structure and along
the two sides of the grand roadway up to the arch--all seen under a sky
of pure azure, and bathed in cheery sunlight, surrounded too and
thronged with a pleased multitude--constituted a spectacle not likely to
Turning down John Street a few chains, the curious observer may see on
his left a particle of the old area of York retaining several of its
original natural features. In the portion of the Macdonell-block not yet
divided into building-slips we have a fragment of one of the many
shallow ravines which meandered capriciously, every here and there,
across the broad site of the intended town. To the passer-by it now
presents a refreshing bit of bowery meadow, out of which towers up one
of the grand elm-trees of the country, with stem of great height and
girth, and head of very graceful form, whose healthy and undecayed limbs
and long trailing branchlets, clearly show that the human regard which
has led to the preservation hitherto of this solitary survivor of the
forest has not been thrown away. This elm and the surrounding grove are
still favourite stations or resting-places for our migratory birds.
Here, for one place, in the spring, are sure to be heard the first notes
of the robin.
At the south-west angle of the Macdonell block still stands in a good
state of preservation the mansion put up by the Hon. Alexander
Macdonell. We have from time to time spoken of the brick era of York.
Mr. Macdonell's imposing old homestead may be described as belonging to
an immediately preceding era--the age of framed timber and
weather-board, which followed the primitive or hewn-log period. It is a
building of two full storeys, each of considerable elevation. A central
portico with columns of the whole height of the house, gives it an air
Mr. Macdonell was one more in that large group of military men who
served in the American Revolutionary war, under Col. Simcoe, and who
were attracted to Upper Canada by the prospects held out by that officer
when appointed Governor of the new colony. Mr. Macdonell was the first
Sheriff of the Home District. He represented in successive parliaments
the Highland constituency of Glengary, and was chosen Speaker of the
House. He was afterwards summoned to the Upper House. He was a friend
and correspondent of the Earl of Selkirk, and was desired by that
zealous emigrational theorist to undertake the superintendence of the
settlement at Kildonan on the Red River. Though he declined this task,
he undertook the management of one of the other Highland settlements
included in the Earl of Selkirk's scheme, namely, that of Baldoon, on
Lake St. Clair; Mr. Douglas undertaking the care of that established at
Moulton, at the mouth of the Grand River.
Mr. Macdonell, in person rather tall and thin, of thoughtful aspect, and
in manner quiet and reserved, is one of the company of our early
worthies whom we personally well remember. An interesting portrait of
him exists in the possession of his descendants: it presents him with
his hair in powder, and otherwise in the costume of "sixty years since."
He died in 1842, "amid the regrets of a community who," to adopt the
language of a contemporary obituary, "loved him for the mild excellence
of his domestic and private character, no less than they esteemed him as
a public man."
Mr. Miles Macdonell, the first Governor of Assiniboia, under the
auspices of the Hudson's Bay Company, and Alexander Macdonell, the chief
representative in 1816 of the rival and even hostile Company of the
North-West Traders of Montreal, were both near relations of Mr.
Macdonell of York, as also was the barrister, lost in the Speedy, and
the well-known R. C. Bishop Macdonell of Kingston. Col. Macdonell, slain
at Queenston, with General Brock, and whose remains are deposited
beneath the column there, was his brother. His son, Mr. Allan Macdonell,
has on several occasions stood forward as the friend and spirited
advocate of the Indian Tribes, especially of the Lake Superior region,
on occasions when their interests, as native lords of the soil, seemed
in danger of being overlooked by the Government of the day.
On Richmond Street a little to the west of the Macdonell block, was the
town residence of Col. Smith, some time President of the Province of
Upper Canada. He was also allied to the family of Mr. Macdonell. Col.
Smith's original homestead was on the Lake Shore to the west, in the
neighbourhood of the river Etobicoke. Gourlay in his "Statistical
Account of Upper Canada," has chanced to speak of it. "I shall describe
the residence and neighbourhood of the President of Upper Canada from
remembrance," he says, "journeying past it on my way to York from the
westward, by what is called the Lake Road through Etobicoke. For many
miles," he says, "not a house had appeared, when I came to that of
Colonel Smith, lonely and desolate. It had once been genteel and
comfortable; but was now going to decay. A vista had been opened through
the woods towards Lake Ontario; but the riotous and dangling undergrowth
seemed threatening to retake possession from the Colonel of all that had
once been cleared, which was of narrow compass. How could a solitary
half-pay officer help himself," candidly asks Gourlay, "settled down
upon a block of land, whose very extent barred out the assistance and
convenience of neighbours? Not a living thing was to be seen around. How
different might it be, thought I, were a hundred industrious families
compactly settled here out of the redundant population of England!"
"The road was miserable," he continues; "a little way beyond the
President's house it was lost on a bank of loose gravel flung up between
the contending waters of the lake and the Etobicoke stream." He here
went astray. "It was my anxious wish," he says, "to get through the
woods before dusk; but the light was nearly gone before the gravel bank
was cleared. There seemed but one path, which took to the left. It led
me astray: I was lost: and there was nothing for it but to let my little
horse take his own way. Abundant time was afforded for reflection on the
wretched state of property flung away on half-pay officers. Here was the
head man of the Province, 'born to blush unseen,' without even a
tolerable bridle-way between him and the capital city, after more than
twenty years' possession of his domain. The very gravel-bed which caused
me such turmoil might have made a turnpike, but what can be done by a
single hand? The President could do little with the axe or wheelbarrow
himself; and half-pay could employ but few labourers at 3s. 6d. per day
with victuals and drink." He recovers the road at length, and then
concludes: "after many a weary twist and turn I found myself," he says,
"on the banks of the Humber, where there was a house and a boat."
Col. Smith did something, in his day, to improve the breed of horses in
Upper Canada. He expended considerable sums of money in the importation
of choice animals of that species from the United States.
The house which led us to this notice of President Smith is, as we have
said, situated on Richmond Street. On Adelaide Street, immediately south
of this house, and also a little west of the Macdonell block, was a
residence of mark, erected at an early period by Mr. Hugh Heward, and
memorable as having been the abode for a time of the Naval Commissioner
or Commodore, Joseph Bouchette, who first took the soundings and
constructed a map of the harbour of York. His portrait is to be seen
prefixed to his well-known "British Dominions in North America." The
same house was also once occupied by Dr. Stuart, afterwards Archdeacon
of Kingston; and at a later period by Mrs. Caldwell, widow of Dr.
Caldwell, connected with the Naval establishment at Penetanguishene. Her
sons John and Leslie, two tall, sociable youths, now both deceased, were
our classmates at school. We observe in the Oracle of Saturday, May
28, 1803, a notice of Mr. Hugh Heward's death in the following terms:
"Died lately at Niagara, on his way to Detroit, after a lingering
illness, Mr. Hugh Heward, formerly clerk in the Lieutenant-Governor's
office, and a respectable inhabitant of this town (York)."
Just beyond was the abode of Lieut. Col. Foster, long Adjutant General
of Militia; an officer of the antique Wellington school, of a fine type,
portly in figure, authoritative in air and voice; in spirit and heart
warm and frank. His son Colley, also, we here name as a congenial and
attached schoolboy friend, likewise now deceased, after a brief but not
undistinguished career at the Bar.
A few yards further on was the home of Mr. John Ross, whose almost
prescriptive right it gradually became, whenever a death occurred in one
of the old families, to undertake the funeral obsequies. Few were there
of the ancient inhabitants who had not found themselves at one time or
another, wending their way, on a sad errand, to Mr. Ross's doorstep. On
his sombre and very unpretending premises were put together the
perishable shells in which the mortal remains of a large proportion of
the primitive householders of York and their families are now reverting
to their original dust. Almost up to the moment of his own summons to
depart hence, he continued to ply his customary business, being favoured
with an old age unusually green and vigorous, like "the ferryman austere
and stern," Charon; to whom also the "inculta canities" of a plentiful
supply of hair and beard, along with a certain staidness, taciturnity
and rural homeliness of manner and attire, further suggested a
resemblance. Many things thus combine to render Mr. John Ross not the
least notable of our local dramatis personae. He was led, as we have
understood, to the particular business which was his usual avocation, by
the accident of having been desired, whilst out on active service as a
militiaman in 1812, to take charge of the body of Gen. Brock, when that
officer was killed on Queenston Heights.
While in this quarter we should pause too for a moment before the former
abode of Mr. Robert Stanton, sometime King's Printer for Upper Canada,
as noted already; afterwards editor of the Loyalist; and subsequently
Collector of Customs at York:--a structure of the secondary brick
period, and situated on Peter Street, but commanding the view eastward
along the whole length of Richmond Street. Mr. Stanton's father was an
officer in the Navy, who between the years 1771 and 1786 saw much active
service in the East and West Indies, in the Mediterranean, at the siege
of Gibraltar under General Elliott, and on the American coast during
the Revolutionary war. From 1786 to 1828 he was in the public service in
several military and civil capacities in Lower and Upper Canada. In 1806
he was for one thing, we find, issuer of Marriage Licences at York. From
memoranda of his while acting in this capacity we make some extracts.
The unceremoniousness of the record in the majority of cases, is
refreshing. The names are all familiar ones in Toronto. The parties set
down as about to pledge their troth, either to other, had not in every
instance, in 1872, passed off the scene.
1806, Nov. 26, Stephen Heward to Mary Robinson. Same date, Ely Playter
to Sophia Beaman. Dec. 11, same year, Geo. T. Denison to C. B.
Lippincott. 1807, Feb. 3, Jordan Post to M. Woodruffe. July 13, Hiram
Kendrick to Hester Vanderburg. Dec. 28, Jarvis Ashley to Dorothy
McDougal. 1808, Jan. 13, D'Arcy Boulton, Jun., to Sally Ann Robinson.
March 17, James Finch to M. Reynolds. April 9, David Wilson to Susannah
Stone. May 2, John Langstaff to Lucy Miles. May 30, John Murchison to
Frances Hunt. August 8, John Powell, Esq., to Miss Isabella Shaw. Sept.
12, Hugh Heward to Eliza Muir. 1809, April 14, Nicholas Hagarman to
Polly Fletcher. May 18, William Cornwall to Rhoda Terry. June 19, John
Ashbridge to Sarah Mercer. June 21, Jonathan Ashbridge to Hannah Barton.
July 15, Orin Hale to Hannah Barrett. Aug. 5, Henry Drean to Jane
Brooke. Dec. 14, John Thompson to Ann Smith. 1810, March 8, Andrew
Thomson to Sarah Smith. March 30, Isaac Pilkington to Sarah McBride.
June 2, Thomas Bright to Jane Hunter. July 3, John Scarlett to Mary
Thomson. Sept. 10, William Smith to Eleanor Thomson. June 22, William B.
Sheldon to Jane Johnson. July 30, Robert Hamilton, gent., to Miss Maria
Lavinia Jarvis. 1811, Sept. 20, George Duggan to Mary Jackson.
In one or two instances we are enabled to give the formal announcement
in the Gazette and Oracle of the marriage for which the licence issued
by Mr. Stanton was so curtly recorded. In the paper of Jan. 27, 1808, we
have: "Married, on the 13th instant, by the Rev. G. O. Stuart, D'Arcy
Boulton, jun., Esq., barrister, to Miss Sarah Robinson, second daughter
of the late C. Robinson, Esq., of York."
And in the number for August 13, in the same year we read: "Married by
the Rev. G. O. Stuart, on Monday the 8th instant, John Powell, Esq., to
Miss Shaw, daughter of the Hon. AEneas Shaw, of this place (York)." To
this announcement the editor, as we suppose, volunteers the observation:
"This matrimonial connexion of the amiable parties we think replete
with, and we wish it productive of, the most perfect human happiness."
A complimentary epithet to the bride is not unusual in early Canadian
marriage notices. In the Gazette and Oracle of Dec. 29, 1798, we have
a wedding in the Playter family recorded thus: "Married last Monday, Mr.
James Playter to the agreeable Miss Hannah Miles, daughter of Mr. Abner
Miles of this town." In the same paper for Feb. 24, 1798, is the
announcement: "Married in this town (Niagara), by the Rev. Mr. Burke,
Captain Miles Macdonell of the Royal Canadian Volunteers, to the amiable
Miss Katey Macdonell." (This union was of brief duration. In the
Constellation of Sept 6, 1799, we observe: "Died lately at Kingston,
Mrs. Macdonell, of this town (Niagara), the amiable consort of Captain
Miles Macdonell of the Canadian Volunteers.")
Again: in the Gazette and Oracle for Saturday Oct, 26, 1799: "Married,
last Monday, by the Rev. Mr. Addison, Colonel Smith, of the Queen's
Rangers, to the most agreeable and accomplished Miss Mary Clarke." (This
was the Col. Smith who subsequently was for a time President of Upper
In the Constellation of Nov. 23, 1799, in addition to the
complimentary epithet, a poetical stanza is subjoined: thus: "Married at
the seat of the Hon. Mr. Hamilton, at Queenston, on Sunday last, Mr.
Thomas Dickson, merchant, to the amiable Mrs. Taylor, daughter of
Captain Wilkinson, commanding, Fort Erie.
For thee, best treasure of a husband's heart;
Whose bliss it is that thou for life art so;
That thy fond bosom bears a faithful part
In every casual change his breast may know."
But occasionally the announcement is almost as terse as one of Mr.
Stanton's entries. Thus in the Constellation of Dec. 28, 1799, Mr.
Hatt's marriage to Miss Cooly appears with great brevity: "Married at
Ancaster, Mr. Richard Hatt to Miss Polly Cooly."
A magistrate officiates sometimes, and his name is given accordingly. In
the Gazette and Oracle of March 2, 1799, we have: "Married on Tuesday
last, by William Willcocks, Esq., Sergeant Mealy, of the Queen's
Rangers, to Miss M. Wright, of this town."
(Somewhat in the strain of the complimentary marriage notices are the
following: "We announce with much pleasure an acquisition to society in
this place by the arrival of Prideaux Selby, Esq., and Miss
Selby.--Gazette, Dec. 9, 1807. The York Assembly which commenced on
Thursday the 17th instant, was honoured by the attendance of His
Excellency and Mrs. Gore. It was not numerous. We understand that Mrs.
Firth, the amiable Lady of the Attorney General, lately arrived, was a
distinguished figure."--Gazette, Dec. 23, 1807.)
The family of Mr. Stanton, senior, was large. It was augmented by twins
on five several occasions. Not far from Mr. Stanton's house, a lesser
edifice of brick of comparatively late date on the north side of
Richmond Street, immediately opposite the premises associated just now
with the memory of President Smith, may be noted as having been built
and occupied by the distinguished Admiral Vansittart, and the first
example in this region of a cottage furnished with light, tasteful
verandahs in the modern style.
We now return from our digression into Richmond and Adelaide Streets,
and again proceed on our way westward.
The grantee of the park-lot which followed Solicitor-General Gray's, was
the famous Hon. Peter Russell, of whom we have had occasion again and
again to speak. A portion of the property was brought under cultivation
at an early period, and a substantial farm-house put up thereon--a
building which in 1872 was still in existence. The name attached to this
house and clearing was Petersfield.
Human depredators prowled about a solitary place like this. At their
hands in 1803, Mr. Russell suffered a serious loss, as we learn from an
advertisement which about midsummer in that year appeared in several
successive numbers of the Oracle. It ran as follows: "Five Guineas
Reward. Stolen on the 12th or 13th instant from Mr. Russell's farm, near
this town, a Turkey Hen, with her brood of six half-grown young ones.
Whoever will give such information and evidence as may lead to the
discovery of the Thieves shall receive from the subscriber the above
reward upon conviction of any of the delinquents. Peter Russell, York,
Aug. 15th, 1803." Another advertisement has been mentioned to us,
issuing from the same sufferer, announcing the theft of a Plough from
the same farm.
Similar larcenies were elsewhere committed. In the Gazette of June 12,
1802, we read: "Forty dollars reward.--Mr. Justice Allcock offers a
reward of forty dollars to any one who will give information of the
person or persons who stole and carried away from his farm near the
Garrison a number of iron teeth from two harrows. The same reward will
also be given to any one who will give such information as will convict
any person or persons of having bought such iron teeth, or any part of
them, knowing the same to be stolen. If more than one was concerned, the
same reward will be given to any accomplice upon his giving such
information as will convict the other party or parties concerned with
him, and every endeavour used to obtain a pardon. Note. It has been
ascertained that two blacksmiths in the town did, about the time these
teeth were stolen, purchase harrow-teeth from a soldier, since deserted,
and that another soldier was in company when such teeth were offered for
sale. 28th May, 1802."
Again, in the same paper we have:--"Twenty dollars reward will be paid
by the subscriber to any person who will discover the man who is so
depraved and lost to every sense of social duty, as to cut with an axe
or knife, the withes which bound some of the fence round the late Chief
Justice's Farm on Yonge Street, and to throw down the said Fence.
Independent of the above inducement, it is the duty of every good member
of society to endeavour to find out who the character is that can be
guilty of such an infamous act, in order that he may be brought to
justice. Robert J. D. Gray, York, June 28th, 1803."
Occasionally notices of a reverse order appear. A homely article picked
up on the Common was judged to be of sufficient importance to its owner
to induce the finder to advertise as follows in the Oracle of
Saturday, Aug. 14th, 1802:--"Found lately near the Garrison, a Cow-bell.
Whoever has lost the same, may have it again by applying to the Printer
hereof, on paying the expense of this advertisement, and proving
property. York, Aug. 7, 1802."
Again, in the Oracle of Feb. 25, 1804:--"Found on Saturday last, the
11th instant, a Bar of Iron. The owner may have it again, by applying to
the Printer hereof. York, Feb. 8th." And again: "Found on Friday, the
5th instant, two silk handkerchiefs. The owner can have them again by
applying to the Printer, and paying the expense of this advertisement.
York, Oct. 12th, 1804." In October, 1806, an iron pot was picked up:
"Found, on Sunday last, the 12th instant, on the beach opposite Messrs.
Ashbridge's, an Iron Pot capable of containing about two pails full.
Whoever may own the above-mentioned Pot, may have it again by proving
property, and paying charges, on application to Samuel Lewis or to the
Printer hereof. York, Oct. 16th, 1806."
A barrel of flour was found on the beach near the Garrison in 1802, and
was thus advertised: "The Public are hereby informed that there has been
a barrel of flour left on the beach near the Garrison by persons
unknown. Whoever will produce a just claim to the same may have it, by
applying to the Garrison Sergeant-Major, and paying the expense of the
present advertisement. J. Petto, G. S. Major, York, March 22, 1802."
Once more: in the Gazette of Dec. 3, 1803: "On the 26th ult. the
subscriber found one-half of a fat Hog on the Humber Plains, which he
supposes to be fraudulently killed, and the other half taken away. The
part which he found he carried home and dressed, and requests the owner
to call, pay expenses, and take it away. John Clark, Humber Mills, Dec.
Peter Russell's name became locally a household synonym for a helluo
agrorum, and not without some show of reason, as the following list in
successive numbers of the Gazette and Oracle of 1803 would seem to
indicate. Of the lands enumerated he styles himself, at the close of the
advertisement, the proprietor. We have no desire, however, to perpetuate
the popular impression, that all the said properties had been patented
by himself to himself. This, of course, could not have been done. He
simply chose, as he was at liberty to do, after acquiring what he and
his family were entitled to legally, in the shape of grants, to invest
his means in lands, which in every direction were to be had for a mere
The document spoken of reads thus: "To be sold.--The Front Town Lot,
with an excellent dwelling-house and a kitchen recently built thereon,
in which Mr. John Denison now lives, in the Town of York, with a very
commodious water-lot adjoining, and possession given to the purchaser
immediately. The Lots Nos. 5, 6, and 7 in the 2nd, and lots No. 6 and 7
in the 3d concession of West Flamboro' township, containing 1,000 acres,
on which there are some very good mill seats; the lots No. 4 and 5, in
the 1st concession of East Flamboro' with their broken fronts,
containing, according to the Patent, 600 acres more or less; the lots
No. 1, 3 and 4 in the 2nd, and lots No. 2 and 3 in the 3rd concession of
Beverley, containing 1,000 acres; the lots No. 16 in the 2nd and and 3rd
concession of the township of York containing 400 acres; the lots 32
and 33 with their broken fronts, in the 1st, and lots No. 31 and 32 in
the 2nd concession of Whitby, containing 800 acres; the lots 22 and 24
in the 11th, lot 23 in the 12th, and No. 24 in the 13th and 14th
concessions of Townsend, containing a 1,000 acres; the lots No. 12, 13
and 14 in the 1st and 2nd concession of Charlotteville, immediately
behind the Town plot, containing 1,200 acres; the lots Nos. 16 and 17 in
the 1st concession of Delaware township, on the river Thames (La
Tranche) containing 800 acres; the lots Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 in the
10th; No. 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7 in the 11th, and Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 7 in the
12th concession of Dereham, containing 3,000 acres, with mill-seats
thereon; and also the lots Nos. 22, 24, 25, 26, and 28 in the 1st, Nos.
22, 23, 25, 27 and 28 in the 3rd, Nos. 22, 24, 25, 26 and 28 in the
11th, and Nos. 22, 24, 25, 26 and 28 in the 12th concession of Norwich,
containing 600 acres, with mill-seats thereon. The terms are either
cash, or good bills of exchange on London, Montreal and Quebec, for the
whole of such purchase, in which case a proportionably less price will
be expected, or the same for one moiety of each purchase, and bonds
properly secured for principal and interest, until paid, for the other.
The prices may be known by application to the proprietor at York. Peter
Clearly, an idea of the prospective value of property in Canada had
dawned upon the mind of Mr. Russell in the year 1803; and he aimed to
create for himself speedily a handsome fortune. His plans, however, in
the long run, came to little, as in another connexion, we have heard
Survivors of the primitive era in Upper Canada have been heard sometimes
to express, (like Lord Clive, after his dealings with the rajahs,) their
surprise that they did not provide for themselves more largely than they
did, when the broad acres of their adopted country were to be had to any
extent, almost for the asking. But this reflection should console them;
in few instances are the descendants of the early very large
land-holders much better off at the present hour than probably they
would have been, had their fathers continued landless.
Mr. Russell died at York on the 30th of September, 1808. His obituary
appears in the Gazette and Oracle of the following day. "Departed this
life on Friday, the 30th ultimo, the Hon. Peter Russell, Esquire,
formerly President of the Government of the Province, late Receiver
General, and Member of the Executive and Legislative Councils: a
gentleman who whilst living was honoured, and sincerely esteemed; and of
whose regular and amiable conduct, the Public will long retain a
favoured and grateful remembrance."
Of the funeral, which took place on the 4th of October, we have a brief
account in the paper of Oct. 8, 1808. It says: "The remains of the late
Hon. Peter Russell were interred on Wednesday the 4th instant with the
greatest decorum and respect. The obsequies of this accomplished
gentleman were followed to the grave by His Excellency the Lieut.
Governor (Gore) as Chief Mourner; with the principal gentlemen of the
town and neighbourhood; and they were feelingly accompanied by all
ranks, evincing a reverential awe for the Divine dispensation. An
appropriate funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Okill Stuart. The
Garrison, commanded by Major Fuller, performed with becoming dignity the
military honours of this respected veteran, who was a Captain in the
Army on half-pay." The editor then adds: "deeply impressed with an
ardent esteem for his manly character, and the irreparable loss
occasioned by his death, we were not among those who felt the least at
this last tribute of respect to his memory and remains." (The Major
Fuller, above named, was the father of the Rev. Thomas Brock Fuller, in
1873 Archdeacon of Niagara.)
As we have elsewhere said, Mr. Russell's estate passed to his unmarried
sister, Miss Elizabeth Russell, who, at her own decease, devised the
whole of it to Dr. W. W. Baldwin and his family. The Irish family to
which Mr. Russell belonged was originally a transplanted branch of the
Aston-Abbotts subdivision of the great English family of the same name;
and a connexion, through intermarriages, had long subsisted between
these Russells and the Baldwins of the County of Cork. Russell Hill in
the neighbourhood of Toronto, is so called from a Russell Hill in
Ireland, which has its name from the Russells of the County of
Cork.--During the Revolutionary war, Mr. Russell had been Secretary to
Sir Henry Clinton, Commander-in-chief of the Army in North America from
1778 to 1782.
At the beginning of Peter Russell's advertisement of properties, it will
have been observed that he offered for sale "an excellent dwelling-house
in the town of York," described as being in the occupation of Mr. John
Denison. The building referred to, situate, as it is further mentioned,
on a "front town lot, with a very convenient water-lot adjoining," was
the "ornamental cottage" noted in our journey along Front Street, as
having been once inhabited by Major Hillier, of the 74th. On its site
was afterwards built Dr. Baldwin's town residence, which subsequently
became first a Military Hospital, and then the head office of the
Toronto and Nipissing Railroad.
But Petersfield was also associated with the history of Mr. Denison, who
was the progenitor of the now numerous Canadian family of that name.
Through an intimacy with Mr. Russell, springing out of several years'
campaigning together in the American Revolutionary war, Mr. Denison was
induced by that gentleman, when about to leave England in an official
capacity in company with General Simcoe, to emigrate with his family to
Upper Canada in 1792. He first settled at Kingston, but, in 1796,
removed to York, where, by the authority of Mr. Russell, he temporarily
occupied Castle Frank on the Don. He then, as we have seen, occupied
"the excellent dwelling-house" put up "on a front lot" in the town of
York by Mr. Russell himself; and afterwards, he was again accommodated
by his friend with quarters in the newly-erected homestead of
We have evidence that in 1805 a portion of Petersfield was under
cultivation, and that under Mr. Denison's care it produced fine crops of
a valuable vegetable. Under date of York, 20th December, 1805, in a
contemporary Oracle, we have the following advertisement: "Potatoes:
To be sold at Mr. Russell's Farm at Petersfield, by Mr. John Denison, in
any quantities not less than ten bushels, at Four Shillings, York
Currency, the bushel, if delivered at the purchaser's house, or Three
Shillings the bushel, if taken by them from the Farm."
And again, in the Gazette of March 4, 1807: "Blue Nose Potatoes. To be
sold at Mr. Russell's Farm near York. The price three shillings, York
currency, the bushel, if taken away by the purchasers, or they will be
delivered anywhere within the precincts of the Town, at Four Shillings,
in any quantity not less than ten bushels. Application to be made to Mr.
John Denison, on the premises, to whom the above prices are to be paid
on delivery. Feb. 14, 1807."
Our own personal recollection of Mr. Denison is associated with
Petersfield, the homely cosiness of whose interior, often seen during
its occupancy by him, lighted up by a rousing hospitable fire of great
logs, piled high in one of the usual capacious and lofty fire-places of
the time, made an indelible impression on the boyish fancy. The
venerable Mrs. Sophia Denison, too, Mr. Denison's better half, was in
like manner associated in our memory with the cheery interior of the
ancient Petersfield farm-house--a fine old English matron and mother, of
the antique, strongly-marked, vigorous, sterling type. She was one of
the Taylors, of Essex; among whom, at home and abroad, ability and
talent, and traits of a higher and more sacred character, are curiously
hereditary. We shall have occasion, further on, to speak of the
immediate descendants of these early occupants of Petersfield.
On the south side of the expansion of Queen Street, in front of
Petersfield, and a little beyond Peter Street (which, as we have
previously noticed, had its name from Peter Russell) was the abode of
Mr. Dunn, long Receiver-General of Upper Canada. It was (and is) a
retired family house, almost hidden from the general view by a grove of
ornamental trees. A quiet-looking gate led into a straight drive up to
the house, out of Queen Street. Of Mr. Dunn we have already discoursed,
and of Mrs. Dunn, one of the graceful lady-chiefs in the high life of
York in the olden time. In the house at which we now pause was born
their famous son, Alexander Roberts Dunn, in 1833; who not only had the
honour of sharing in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava in
1856, now so renowned in history and song, but who, of all the six
hundred there, won the highest meed of glory.
Six feet three inches in stature, a most powerful and most skilful
swordsman, and a stranger to fear, Lieut. Dunn, instead of consulting
his own safety in the midst of that frightful and untoward melee,
deliberately interposed for the protection of his comrades in arms. Old
troopers of the Eleventh Hussars long told with kindling eyes how the
young lieutenant seeing Sergeant Bentley of his own regiment attacked
from behind by two or three Russian lancers, rushed upon them
single-handed, and cut them down; how he saved the life of Sergeant
Bond; how Private Levett owed his safety to the same friendly arm, when
assailed by Russian Hussars. Kinglake, the historian of the Crimean war,
records that the Victoria Cross placed at the disposal of the Eleventh
Hussars was unanimously awarded by them to Lieut. Dunn; the only cavalry
officer who obtained the distinction.
To the enthusiasm inspired by his brilliant reputation was mainly due
the speedy formation in Canada of the Hundredth Regiment, the Prince of
Wales' Royal Canadian Regiment, in 1857. Of this regiment, chiefly
raised through his instrumentality, Mr. Dunn was gazetted the first
major; and on the retirement of the Baron de Rottenburg from its
command, he succeeded as its Lieutenant Colonel.
In 1864 he was gazetted full Colonel: at the time he had barely
completed his twenty-seventh year. Impatient of inactivity, he caused
himself to be transferred to a command in India, where he speedily
attracted the notice of General Napier, afterwards Lord Napier of
Magdala; and he accompanied that officer in the expedition against King
Theodore of Abyssinia. While halting at Senafe in that country, he was
accidently killed by the sudden explosion of his rifle while out
shooting deer. The sequel can best be given, as well as an impression of
the feelings of his immediate associates on the deplorable occasion, by
quoting the touching words of a letter addressed at the time to a near
relative of Colonel Dunn, by a brother officer:
"In no regiment," says this friend, "was ever a commanding officer so
missed as the one we have just so unhappily lost: such a courteous,
thorough gentleman in word and deed, so thoughtful for others, so
perfect a soldier, so confidence-inspiring a leader. Every soldier in
the regiment misses Colonel Dunn; he was a friend, and felt to be such,
to every one of them. The regiment will never have so universally
esteemed a commander again. We all feel that. For myself I feel that I
have lost a brother who can never be replaced. I can scarcely yet
realize that the dear fellow is really dead, and as I pass his tent
every morning I involuntarily turn my head, expecting to hear his usual
kind salutation, and to see the dear, handsome face that has never
looked at me but with kindness. I breakfasted with him on the morning of
the 25th, and he looked so well as he started off with our surgeon for a
day's shooting. Little did I think that I had looked on his dear old
face for the last time in life. . . . I cannot describe to you what a
shock the sad news was to every one, both in my regiment and indeed in
every one in the camp. Our dear Colonel was so well known, and so
universally liked and respected.
"Next day, Sunday, the 26th of January, he was buried about 4 o'clock
p.m.. I went to look at the dear old fellow, before his coffin was
closed, and his poor face, though looking so cold, was yet so handsome,
and the expression of it, so peaceful and happy. I cut off some of his
hair, which lately he wore very short, a lock of which I now send you,
keeping one for myself, as the most valuable souvenir I could have of
one I loved very dearly. And I knelt down to give his cold forehead a
long farewell kiss. He was buried in uniform, as he had often expressed
a wish to me to that effect. Every officer in the camp attended his
funeral, and, of course, the whole of his own regiment, in which there
was not a single dry eye, as all stood round the grave of their lost
commander. He has been buried in a piece of ground near where our camp
now stands, at the foot of a small hill covered with shrubbery and many
wild flowers. We have had railings put round the grave, and a stone is
to be placed there with the inscription: In memory of A. R. Dunn, V.C.,
Col. 33rd Regiment, who died at Senafe on 25th January, 1868, aged 34
years and 7 months."
Thus in remote Abyssinia rest the mortal remains of one who in the happy
unconsciousness of childhood, sported here in grounds and groves which
we are now passing on Queen Street. In numerous other regions of the
earth, once seemingly as unlikely to be their respective final
resting-places, repose the remains of Canadian youth, who have died in
the public service of England. We are sharing in the fortune and history
of the mother country, and like her, or rather like the ubiquitous Roman
citizen of old, we may even already ask "Quae caret ora cruore
nostro?"--sadly as individuals, perhaps, but proudly as a people.
The occupant of Mr. Dunn's house at a later period was Chief Justice
McLean, who died here in 1865. He was born at St. Andrews, near
Cornwall, in 1791. At the battle of Queenston, he served as Lieutenant
in Capt. Cameron's No. 1 Flank Company of York Militia, and received a
severe wound in the early part of the engagement. He was afterwards for
some time Speaker of the House. An admirable full-length painting of
Chief Justice McLean exists at Osgoode Hall.