The Valley Of The Don

I.--From the Bridge on the Kingston Road to Tyler's.

Retracing our steps; placing ourselves again on the bridge, and, turning

northwards, we see on the right, near by, a field or rough space, which

has undergone excavation, looking as though the brick-maker or potter

had been at work on it: and we may observe that large quantity of the

displaced material has been spread out over a portion of the marshy
tract enclosed here by a bend of the river westward. What we see is a

relic of an effort made long ago, by Mr. Washburn, a barrister of York,

to whom reference has been made before, to bring this piece of land into

cultivation. In its natural state the property was all but useless, from

the steepness of the hill-side on the one hand, and from the ever wet

condition of the central portion of the flat below on the other. By

grading down the hill and filling in the marsh, and establishing a

gentle slope from the margin of the stream to the level of the top of

the bank on the right, it was easy to see that a large piece of solid

land in an eligible position might be secured. The undertaking, however,

was abandoned before the work was finished, the expense probably being

found heavy, and the prospect of a return for the outlay remote.

At a later period Mr. O'Neill, with greater success and completeness,

cut down the steep ridges of the bank at Don Mount, a short distance up,

and filled in the marsh below. These experiments show how the valley of

the Don, along the eastern outskirts of the town, will ultimately be

turned to account, when the necessities of the population demand the

outlay. At present such improvements are discouraged by the length of

time required to cover large surfaces of new clay with vegetable mould.

But in future years it will be for mills and factories, and not for

suburban and villa purposes, that the parts referred to will be held


These marshes along the sides of the Don, from the point where its

current ceases to be perceptible, appear to be remains of the river as

it was at an epoch long ago. The rim or levee that now, on the right and

left, confines and defines the meanderings of the stream in the midst of

the marshes, has been formed by the alluvial matter deposited in the

annual overflowings. The bed of the stream has probably in the same

manner been by degrees slightly raised. The solid tow-path, as it were,

thus created on each side of the river-channel, affords at present a

great convenience to the angler and fowler. It forms, moreover, as shown

by the experiments above alluded to, a capital breastwork, towards which

the engineer may advance, when cutting down the adjoining hills, and

disposing of their material on the drowned land below.

Once more imagining ourselves on the bridge, and looking obliquely to

the north-west, we may still discern close by some remains of the short,

shallow, winding ravine, by which in winter the sleighs used to ascend

from the level of the river, and regain, through a grove of pines and

hemlocks, the high road into the town. As soon as the steady cold set

in, every year, the long reaches and grand sweeps of the river Don

became peculiarly interesting. Firmly frozen over everywhere, and coated

with a good depth of snow, bordered on each side by a high shrubbery of

wild willow, alder, wych-hazel, dog-wood, tree-cranberry and other

specimens of the lesser brushwood of the forest, plentifully overspread

and interwoven in numerous places with the vine of wild grape, the whole

had the appearance of a fine, clear, level English coach-road or

highway, bounded throughout its winding course by a luxuriant hedge,

seen as such English roads and their surroundings were wont to be, all

snow-clad, at Christmas-tide, from the top of the fast mail to Exeter,

for example, in the old coaching days.

Down the river, thus conveniently paved over, every day came a cavalcade

of strong sleighs, heavily laden, some with cordwood, some with sawn

lumber, some with hay, a whole stack of which at once, sometimes, would

seem to be on the move.

After a light fall of snow in the night, the surface of the frozen

stream would be marked all over with foot-prints innumerable of animals,

small and great, that had been early out a-foraging: tracks of

field-mice, minks and martens, of land-rats, water-rats and muskrats; of

the wild-cat sometimes, and of the fox; and sometimes of the wolf. Up

this valley we have heard at night the howling of the wolf; and in the

snow of the meadows that skirt the stream, we have seen the

blood-stained spots where sheep had been worried and killed by that

ravenous animal.

In one or two places where the bends of the river touched the inner high

bank, and where diggings had abortively been made with a view to the

erection of a factory of some kind, beautiful frozen gushes of water

from springs in the hill-side were every winter to be seen, looking, at

a distance, like small motionless Niagaras. At one sheltered spot, we

remember, where a tannery was begun but never finished, solid ice was

sometimes to be found far on in the summer.

In the spring and summer, a pull up the Don, while yet its banks were in

their primeval state was something to be enjoyed. After passing certain

potasheries and distilleries that at an early period were erected a

short distance northward of the bridge, the meadow land at the base of

the hills began to widen out; and numerous elm trees, very lofty, with

gracefully-drooping branches, made their appearance, with other very

handsome trees, as the lime or basswood, and the sycamore or

button-wood.--At a very early period, we have been assured that brigades

of North-west Company boats, en route to Lake Huron, used to make

their way up the Don as far as the "Forks," by one of which they then

passed westward towards the track now known as Yonge-street: they there

were taken ashore and carried on trucks to the Holland river. The help

gained by utilizing this piece of water-way must have been slight, when

the difficulties to be overcome high up the stream were taken into

account. We have conversed with an early inhabitant who, at a more

recent period, had seen the North-west Company's boats drawn on trucks

by oxen up the line of modern Yonge-street, but, in his day, starting,

mounted in this manner, from the edge of the bay. In both cases they

were shifted across from the Lake into the harbour at the

"Carrying-place"--the narrow neck or isthmus a little to the west of the

mouth of the Don proper, where the lake has now made a passage.

We add one more of the spectacles which, in the olden time, gave

animation to the scene before us. Along the winding stream, where in

winter the sleighs were to be seen coming down, every summer at night

would be observed a succession of moving lights, each repeated in the

dark water below. These were the iron cressets, filled with unctuous

pine knots all ablaze, suspended from short poles at the bows of the

fishermen's skiffs, out in quest of salmon and such other large fish as

might be deemed worth a thrust of the long-handled, sharply-barbed

trident used in such operations. Before the establishment of mills and

factories, many hundreds of salmon were annually taken in the Don, as in

all the other streams emptying into Lake Ontario. We have ourselves been

out on a night-fishing excursion on the Don, when in the course of an

hour some twenty heavy salmon were speared; and we have a distinct

recollection of the conspicuous appearance of the great fish, as seen by

the aid of the blazing "jack" at the bow, nozzling about at the bottom

of the stream.

2.--From Tyler's to the Big Bend.

Not far from the spot where, at present, the Don-street bridge crosses

the river, on the west side and to the north, lived for a long time a

hermit-squatter, named Joseph Tyler, an old New Jersey man, of

picturesque aspect. With his rather fine, sharp, shrewd features, set

off by an abundance of white hair and beard, he was the counterpart of

an Italian artist's stock-model. The mystery attendant on his choice of

a life of complete solitude, his careful reserve, his perfect

self-reliance in regard to domestic matters, and, at the same time, the

evident wisdom of his contrivances and ways, and the propriety and

sagacity of his few words, all helped to render him a good specimen in

actual life of a secular anchorite. He had been in fact a soldier in the

United States army, in the war of Independence, and was in the receipt

of a pension from the other side of the lakes. He was familiar, he

alleged, with the personal appearance of Washington.

His abode on the Don was an excavation in the side of the steep hill, a

little way above the level of the river-bank. The flue of his winter

fire-place was a tubular channel, bored up through the clay of the

hill-side. His sleeping-place or berth was exactly like one of the

receptacles for human remains in the Roman catacombs, an oblong recess,

likewise carved in the dry material of the hill. To the south of his

cave he cultivated a large garden, and raised among other things, the

white sweet edible Indian corn, a novelty here at the time; and very

excellent tobacco. He moreover manufactured pitch and tar, in a little

kiln or pit dug for the purpose close by his house.

He built for himself a magnificent canoe, locally famous. It consisted

of two large pine logs, each about forty feet long, well shaped and

deftly hollowed out, fastened together by cross dove-tail pieces let in

at regular distances along the interior of its bottom. While in process

of construction in the pine woods through which the "Mill road" passes,

on the high bank eastward of the river, it was a wonderment to all the

inquisitive youth of the neighbourhood, and was accordingly often

visited and inspected by them.

In this craft he used to pole himself down the windings of the stream,

all the way round into the bay, and on to the landing-place at the foot

of Caroline-street, bringing with him the produce of his garden, and

neat stacks of pine knots, ready split for the fishermen's lightjacks.

He would also on occasion undertake the office of ferryman. On being

hailed for the purpose, he would put across the river persons anxious to

make a short cut into the town from the eastward. Just opposite his den

there was for a time a rude causeway over the marsh.

At the season of the year when the roads through the woods were

impracticable, Tyler's famous canoe was employed by the Messrs.

Helliwell for conveying into town, from a point high up the stream, the

beer manufactured at their Breweries on the Don. We are informed by Mr.

William Helliwell, of the Highland Creek, that twenty-two barrels at a

time could be placed in it, in two rows of eleven each, laid lengthwise

side by side, still leaving room for Tyler and an assistant to navigate

the boat.

The large piece of meadow land on the east side of the river, above

Tyler's abode, enclosed by a curve which the stream makes towards the

west, has a certain interest attached to it from the fact that therein

was reproduced, for the first time in these parts, that peculiarly

pleasant English scene, a hop-garden. Under the care of Mr. James Case,

familiar with the hop in Sussex, this graceful and useful plant was here

for several seasons to be seen passing through the successive stages of

its scientific cultivation; in early spring sprouting from the surface

of the rich black vegetable mould; then trained gradually over, and at

length clothing richly the poles or groups of poles set at regular

distances throughout the enclosure; overtopping these supports; by and

by loading them heavily with a plentiful crop of swaying clusters; and

then finally, when in a sufficiently mature state, prostrated, props and

all, upon the ground, and stripped of their fragrant burden, the real

object of all the pains taken.--From this field many valuable pockets of

hops were gathered; and the quality of the plant was pronounced to be

good. Mr. Case afterwards engaged extensively in the same occupation in

the neighbourhood of Newmarket.

About the dry, sandy table-land that overlooked the river on each side

in this neighbourhood, the burrows of the fox, often with little

families within, were plentifully to be met with. The marmot too,

popularly known as the woodchuck, was to be seen on sunny days sitting

up upon its haunches at holes in the hill-side. We could at this moment

point out the ancient home of a particular animal of this species, whose

ways we used to note with some curiosity.--Here were to be found racoons

also; but these, like the numerous squirrels, black, red, flying and

striped, were visible only towards the decline of summer, when the maize

and the nuts began to ripen. At that period also, bears, he-bears and

she-bears, accompanied by their cubs, were not unfamiliar objects,

wherever the blackberry and raspberry grew. In the forest, moreover,

hereabout, a rustle in the underbrush, and something white seen dancing

up and down in the distance like the plume of a mounted knight, might at

any moment indicate that a group of deer had caught sight of one of the

dreaded human race, and, with tails uplifted, had bounded incontinently


Pines of a great height and thickness crowded the tops of these hills.

The paths of hurricanes could be traced over extensive tracts by the

fallen trunks of trees of this species, their huge bulks lying one over

the other in a titanic confusion worthy of a sketch by Dore in

illustration of Dante; their heads all in one direction, their upturned

roots, vast mats of woody ramifications and earth, presented sometimes a

perpendicular wall of a great height. Occasionally one of these upright

masses, originating in the habit of the pine to send out a wide-spread

but shallow rootage, would unexpectedly fall back into its original

place, when, in the clearing of the land, the bole of the tree to which

it appertained came to be gashed through. In this case it would

sometimes happen that a considerable portion of the trunk would appear

again in a perpendicular position. As its top would of course show that

human hands had been at work there, the question would be propounded to

the new comer as to how the axe could have reached to such a height. The

suppositions usually encouraged in him were, either that the snow must

have been wonderfully deep when that particular tree was felled, or else

that some one of the very early settlers must have been a man of

exceptional stature.

Among the lofty pines, here and there, one more exposed than the rest

would be seen, with a piece of the thickness of a strong fence-rail

stripped out of its side, from its extreme apex to its very root,

spirally, like the groove of a rifle-bore. It in this manner showed that

at some moment it had been the swift conductor down into the earth of

the contents of a passing electric cloud. One tree of the pine species,

we remember, that had been severed in the midst by lightning, so

suddenly, that the upper half had descended with perfect

perpendicularity and such force that it planted itself upright in the

earth by the side of the trunk from which it had been smitten.

Nor may we omit from our remembered phenomena of the pine forests

hereabout, the bee-trees. Now and then a huge pine would fall, or be

intentionally cut down, which would exhibit in cavernous recesses at a

great distance from what had been its root end, the accumulated combs

of, it might be, a half century; those of them that were of recent

construction, filled with honey.

A solitary survivor of the forest of towering pines which, at the period

to which we are adverting, covered the hills on both sides of the Don

was long to be seen towards the northern limit of the Moss Park

property. In the columns of a local paper this particular tree was thus

gracefully commemorated:--

Oh! tell to me, thou old pine tree,

Oh! tell to me thy tale,

For long hast thou the thunder braved,

And long withstood the gale;

The last of all thy hardy race,

Thy tale now tell to me,

For sure I am, it must be strange,

Thou lonely forest tree.

Yes, strange it is, this bending trunk,

So withered now and grey,

Stood once among the forest trees

Which long have passed away:

They fell in strength and beauty,

Nor have they left a trace,

Save my old trunk and withered limbs

To show their former place.

Countless and lofty once we stood;

Beneath our ample shade

His forest home of boughs and bark

The hardy red man made.

Child of the forest, here he roamed,

Nor spoke nor thought of fear,

As he trapped the beaver in his dam,

And chased the bounding deer.

No gallant ship with spreading sail

Then ploughed those waters blue,

Nor craft had old Ontario then,

But the Indians' birch canoe;

No path was through the forest,

Save that the red man trod;

Here, by your home, was his dwelling place,

And the temple of his God.

Now where the busy city stands,

Hard by that graceful spire,

The proud Ojibeway smoked his pipe

Beside his camping fire.

And there, where those marts of commerce are

Extending east and west,

Amid the rushes in the marsh

The wild fowl had its nest.

But the pale face came, our ranks were thinn'd,

And the loftiest were brought low,

And the forest faded far and wide,

Beneath his sturdy blow;

And the steamer on the quiet lake,

Then ploughed its way of foam,

And the red man fled from the scene of strife

To find a wilder home.

And many who in childhood's days

Around my trunk have played,

Are resting like the Indian now

Beneath the cedar's shade;

And I, like one bereft of friends,

With winter whitened o'er,

But wait the hour that I must fall,

As others fell before.

And still what changes wait thee,

When at no distant day,

The ships of far off nations,

Shall anchor in your bay;

When one vast chain of railroad,

Stretching from shore to shore,

Shall bear the wealth of India,

And land it at your door.

A short distance above the hop ground of which we have spoken, the Don

passed immediately underneath a high sandy bluff. Where, after a long

reach in its downward course, it first impinged against the steep cliff,

it was very deep. Here was the only point in its route, so far as we

recall, where the epithet was applicable which Milton gives to its

English namesake, when he speaks of--

"Utmost Tweed, or Ouse, or gulphy Don."

This very noticeable portion of the river was known as the "Big Bend."

(We may observe here that in retaining its English name, the Don has

lost the appellation assigned to it by the French, if they ever

distinguished it by a name. The Grand River, on the contrary, has

retained its French name, notwithstanding its English official

designation, which was the Ouse. The Rouge, too, has kept its French

name. It was the Nen. The Indians styled this, or a neighbouring stream,

Katabokokonk, "The River of Easy Entrance." The Thames, however, has

wholly dropped its French title, LaTranche. We may subjoin that the

Humber was anciently called by some, St John's River, from a trader

named St. John; and by some, as we have already learnt, Toronto River.

In Lahontan's map it is marked Tanaouate. No interpretation is

given.--Augustus Jones, the early surveyor of whom we shall have

occasion frequently to speak, notes in one of his letters that the

Indian name for the Don was Wonscoteonach, "Back burnt grounds;" that

is, the river coming down from the back burnt country, meaning probably

the so-called Poplar Plains to the north, liable to be swept by casual

fires in the woods. The term is simply descriptive, and not, in the

modern sense, a proper name.)

Towards the summit of the high bluff just mentioned, the holes made by

the sand-martins were numerous. Hereabout we have met with the snapping

turtle. This creature has not the power of withdrawing itself wholly

within a shell. A part of its protection consists in the loud

threatening snap of its strong horny jaws, armed in front with a

beak-like hook bent downwards. What the creature lays hold of, it will

not let go. Let it grasp the end of a stout stick, and the sportsman may

sling it over his shoulder, and so carry it home with him. When allowed

to reach its natural term of life, it probably attains a very great age.

We remember a specimen captured near the spot at which we are pausing,

which, from its vast size, and the rough, lichen-covered condition of

its shell, must have been extremely old. We also once found near here a

numerous deposit of this animal's eggs; all white and spherical, of the

diameter of about an inch, and covered with a tough parchment-like skin.

The ordinary lesser tortoises of the marsh were of course plentiful

along the Don: their young frequently to be met with creeping about,

were curious and ever-interesting little objects. Snakes too there were

about here, of several kinds: one, often very large and

dangerous-looking, the copper-head, of a greenish brown colour, and

covered with oblong and rather loose scales. The striped garter-snake of

all sizes, was very common. Though reported to be harmless, it always

indulged, when interfered with, in the menacing action and savage

attempts to strike, of the most venomous of its genus.--Then there was

the beautiful grass-green snake; and in large numbers, the black

water-snake. In the rank herbage along the river's edge, the terrified

piping of a pursued frog was often heard.

It recurs to us, as we write, that once, on the banks of the Humber, we

saw a bird actually in the grasp of a large garter-snake--just held by

the foot. As the little creature fluttered violently in the air, the

head of the reptile was swayed rapidly to and fro. All the small birds

in the vicinity had gathered together in a state of noisy excitement;

and many spirited dashes were make by several of them at the common foe.

No great injury having been as yet inflicted, we were enabled to effect

a happy rescue.

From the high sandy cliff, to which our attention has been drawn, it was

possible to look down into the waters of the river; and on a sunny day,

it afforded no small amusement to watch the habits, not only of the

creatures just named, but of the fish also, visible below in the stream;

the simple sunfish, for example, swimming about in shoals (or schools,

as the term used to be); and the pike, crafty as a fox, lurking in

solitude, ready to dart on his unwary prey with the swiftness and

precision of an arrow shot from the bow.

3.--From the Big Bend to Castle Frank Brook.

Above the "Big Bend," on the west side, was "Rock Point." At the water's

edge hereabout was a slight outcrop of shaly rock, where crayfish were

numerous, and black bass. The adjoining marshy land was covered with a

dense thicket, in which wild gooseberry bushes and wild black-currant

bushes were noticeable. The flats along here were a favourite haunt of

woodcock at the proper season of the year: the peculiar succession of

little twitters uttered by them when descending from their flight, and

the very different deep-toned note, the signal of their having alighted,

were both very familiar sounds in the dusk of the evening.

A little further on was "the Island." The channel between it and the

"mainland" on the north side, was completely choked up with logs and

large branches, brought down by the freshets. It was itself surrounded

by a high fringe or hedge of the usual brush that lined the river-side

all along, matted together and clambered over, almost everywhere by the

wild grape-vine. In the waters at its northern end, wild rice grew

plentifully, and the beautiful sweet-scented white water-lily or lotus.

This minute bit of insulated land possessed, to the boyish fancy, great

capabilities. Within its convenient circuit, what phantasies and dreams

might not be realized? A Juan Fernandez, a Barataria, a New

Atlantis.--At the present moment we find that what was once our charmed

isle has now become terra firma, wholly amalgamated with the mainland.

Silt has hidden from view the tangled lodgments of the floods. A carpet

of pleasant herbage has overspread the silt. The border-strip of

shrubbery and grape-vine, which so delightfully walled it round, has

been improved, root and branch, out of being.

Near the Island, on the left side, a rivulet, of which more immediately,

pouring down through a deep, narrow ravine, entered the Don. On the

right, just at this point, the objectionable marshes began to disappear,

and the whole bottom of the vale was early converted into handsome

meadows. Scattered about were grand elm and butternut, fine basswood and

buttonwood trees, with small groves of the Canadian willow, which

pleasantly resembles, in habit, the olive tree of the south of Europe.

Along the flats, remains of Indian encampments were often met with;

tusks of bears and other animals; with fragments of coarse pottery,

streaked or furrowed rudely over, for ornament. And all along the

valley, calcareous masses, richly impregnated with iron, were found,

detached, from time to time, as was supposed, from certain places in the


At the long-ago epoch when the land went up, the waters came down with a

concentrated rush from several directions into the valley just here,

from some accidental cause, carving out in their course, in the enormous

deposit of the drift, a number of deep and rapidly descending channels,

converging all upon this point. The drainage of a large extent of

acreage to the eastward, also at that period, found here for a time its

way into the Don, as may be seen by a neighbouring gorge, and the deep

and wide, but now dry water-course leading to it, known, where the

"Mill road" crosses it, as the "Big Hollow."

Bare and desolate, at that remote era, must have been the appearance of

these earth-banks and ridges and flats, as also those in the vicinity of

all our rivers: for many a long year they must have resembled the

surroundings of some great tidal river, to which the sea, after ebbing,

had failed to return.

One result of the ancient down-rush of waters, just about here, was that

on both sides of the river there were to be observed several striking

specimens of that long, thin, narrow kind of hill which is popularly

known as a "hog's back." One on the east side afforded, along its ridge,

a convenient ascent from the meadows to the table-land above, where

fine views up and down the vale were obtainable, somewhat Swiss in

character, including in the distance the lake, to the south. Overhanging

the pathway, about half-way up, a group of white-birch trees is

remembered by the token that, on their stems, a number of young men and

maidens of the neighbourhood had, in sentimental mood, after the manner

of the Corydons and Amaryllises of classic times, incised their names.

The west side of the river, as well as the east, of which we have been

more especially speaking, presented here also a collection of convergent

"hog's backs" and deeply channelled water-courses. One of the latter

still conducted down a living stream to the Don. This was the rivulet

already noticed as entering just above the Island. It bore the graceful

name of "Castle Frank Brook."

4.--Castle Frank.

Castle Frank was a rustic chateau or summer-house, built by Governor

Simcoe in the midst of the woods, on the brow of a steep and lofty bank,

which overlooks the vale of the Don, a short distance to the north of

where we have been lingering. The construction of this edifice was a

mere divertissement while engaged in the grand work of planting in a

field literally and entirely new, the institutions of civilization.

All the way from the site of the town of York to the front of this

building, a narrow carriage-road and convenient bridle-path had been cut

out by the soldiers, and carefully graded. Remains of this ancient

engineering achievement are still to be traced along the base of the

hill below the Necropolis and elsewhere. The brook--Castle Frank

Brook--a little way from where it enters the Don, was spanned by a

wooden bridge. Advantage being taken of a narrow ridge, that opportunely

had its commencing point close by on the north side, the roadway here

began the ascent of the adjoining height. It then ran slantingly up the

hill-side, along a cutting which is still to be seen. The table-land at

the summit was finally gained by utilizing another narrow ridge. It then

proceeded along the level at the top for some distance through a forest

of lofty pines, until the chateau itself was reached.

The cleared space where the building stood was not many yards across. On

each side of it, the ground precipitously descended, on the one hand to

the Don, on the other to the bottom of the ravine where flowed the

brook. Notwithstanding the elevation of the position, the view was

circumscribed, hill-side and table-land being alike covered with trees

of the finest growth.

Castle Frank itself was an edifice of considerable dimensions, of an

oblong shape; its walls were composed of a number of rather small,

carefully hewn logs, of short lengths. The whole wore the hue which

unpainted timber, exposed to the weather, speedily assumes. At the gable

end, in the direction of the roadway from the nascent capital, was the

principal entrance, over which a rather imposing portico was formed by

the projection of the whole roof, supported by four upright columns,

reaching the whole height of the building, and consisting of the stems

of four good-sized, well-matched pines, with their deeply-chapped,

corrugated bark unremoved. The doors and shutters to the windows were

all of double thickness, made of stout plank, running up and down on one

side, and crosswise on the other, and thickly studded over with the

heads of stout nails. From the middle of the building rose a solitary,

massive chimney-stack.

We can picture to ourselves the cavalcade that was wont, from time to

time, to be seen in the summers and autumns of 1794-'5-'6, wending its

way leisurely to the romantically situated chateau of Castle Frank,

along the reaches and windings, the descents and ascents of the forest

road, expressly cut out through the primitive woods as a means of access

to it.

First, mounted on a willing and well-favoured horse, as we will suppose,

there would be General Simcoe himself--a soldierly personage, in the

full vigour of life, advanced but little beyond his fortieth year, of

thoughtful and stern, yet benevolent aspect--as shewn by the medallion

in marble on his monument in the cathedral at Exeter--revolving ever in

his mind schemes for the development and defence of the new Society

which he was engaged in founding; a man "just, active, enlightened,

brave, frank," as the French Duke de Liancourt described him in 1795;

"possessing the confidence of the country, of the troops, and of all

those who were joined with him in the administration of public affairs."

"No hillock catches his eye," the same observant writer remarks,

"without exciting in his mind the idea of a fort which might be

constructed on the spot, associating with the construction of this fort

the plan of operations for a campaign; especially of that which should

lead him to Philadelphia, i. e., to recover, by force of arms, to the

allegiance of England, the Colonies recently revolted."

By the side of the soldier and statesman Governor, also on horseback,

would be his gifted consort, small in person, "handsome and amiable," as

the French Duke again speaks, "fulfilling," as he continues to say, "all

the duties of the mother and wife with the most scrupulous exactness;

carrying the latter so far," DeLiancourt observes, "as to be of great

assistance to her husband by her talent for drawing, the practice of

which, in relation to maps and plans, enabled her to be extremely useful

to the Governor," while her skill and facility and taste in a wider

application of that talent were attested, the French traveller might

have added, by numerous sketch-books and portfolios of views of Canadian

scenery in its primitive condition, taken by her hand, to be treasured

up carefully and reverently by her immediate descendants, but

unfortunately not accessible generally to Canadian students.

This memorable lady--memorable for her eminent Christian goodness, as

well as for her artistic skill and taste, and superior intellectual

endowments--survived to the late period of 1850. Her maiden name is

preserved among us by the designation borne by two of our townships,

East and West "Gwillim"-bury. Her father, at the time one of the

aides-de-camp to General Wolfe, was killed at the taking of Quebec.

Conspicuous in the group would likewise be a young daughter and son, the

latter about five years of age and bearing the name of Francis. The

chateau of which we have just given an account was theoretically the

private property of this child, and took its name from him, although the

appellation, by accident as we suppose, is identical, in sound at all

events, with that of a certain "Castel-franc" near Rochelle, which

figures in the history of the Huguenots.

The Iroquois at Niagara had given the Governor a title, expressive of

hospitality--Deyonynhokrawen, "One whose door is always open." They had,

moreover, in Council declared his son a chief, and had named him Tioga;

or Deyoken, "Between the Two Objects;" and to humour them in return, as

Liancourt informs us, the child was occasionally attired in Indian

costume. For most men it is well that the future is veiled from them. It

happened eventually that a warrior's fate befell the young chieftain

Tioga. The little spirited lad who had been seen at one time moving

about before the assembled Iroquois at Niagara, under a certain

restraint probably, from the unwonted garb of embroidered deerskin, in

which, on such occasions, he would be arrayed; and at another time

clambering up and down the steep hill-sides at Castle Frank, with the

restless energy of a free English boy, was at last, after the lapse of

some seventeen years, seen a mangled corpse, one in that ghastly pile of

"English dead," which, in 1812, closed up the breach at Badajoz.

Riding with the Governor, out to his rustic lodge, would be seen also

his attached secretary, Major Littlehales, and one or other of his

faithful aides-de-camp, Lieutenant Talbot or Lieutenant Givins; with men

in attendance in the dark green undress of the famous Queen's Rangers,

with a sumpter pony or two, bearing packages and baskets filled with a

day's provender for the whole party. A few dogs also, a black

Newfoundland, a pointer, a setter, white and tan, hieing buoyantly about

on the right and left, would give animation to the cavalcade as it

passed sedately on its way--

"Through the green-glooming twilight of the grove."

It will be of interest to add here, the inscription on General Simcoe's

monument in Exeter Cathedral:--"Sacred to the memory of John Graves

Simcoe, Lieutenant-General in the army, and Colonel of the 22nd Regiment

of Foot, who died on the 25th day of October, 1806, aged 54. In whose

life and character the virtues of the hero, the patriot and the

Christian were so eminently conspicuous, that it may justly be said, he

served his king and his country with a zeal exceeded only by his piety

towards God." Above this inscription is a medallion portrait. On the

right and left are figures of an Indian and a soldier of the Queen's

Rangers. The remains of the General are not deposited in Exeter

Cathedral, but under a mortuary chapel on the estate of his family


Our cavalcade to Castle Frank, as sketched above, was once challenged on

the supposed ground that in 1794 there were no horses in Western

Canada.--Horses were no doubt at that date scarce in the region named;

but some were procurable for the use of the Governor and his suite. In a

"Journal to Detroit from Niagara, in 1793, by Major Littlehales,"

printed for the first time in the Canadian Literary Magazine, for May,

1833, we have it mentioned that, on the return of an exploring party,

they were met at the end of the plains, near the Salt Lake Creek, by

Indians, "bringing horses for the Governor and his suite." The French

habitans about Sandwich and Detroit were in possession of horses in

1793, as well as their fellow countrymen in Lower Canada.

After the departure of General Simcoe from Canada, Castle Frank was

occasionally made the scene of an excursion or pic-nic by President

Russell and his family; and a ball was now and then given there, for

which the appliances as well as the guests were conveyed in boats up the

Don. At one time it was temporarily occupied by Captain John Denison, of

whom hereafter. About the year 1829, the building, shut up and

tenantless at the time, was destroyed by fire, the mischievous handiwork

of persons engaged in salmon-fishing in the Don. A depression in the dry

sand just beyond the fence which bounds the Cemetery of St. James,

northward, shews to this day the exact site of Castle Frank. The

quantity of iron that was gathered out from this depression after the

fire, was, as we remember, something extraordinary, all the window

shutters and doors having been, as we have said, made of double planks,

fastened together with an immense number of stout nails, whose heads

thickly studded the surface of each in regular order.

The immediate surroundings of the spot where Castle Frank stood,

fortunately continue almost in their original natural state. Although

the site of the building itself is outside the bounds of the Cemetery of

St. James, a large portion of the lot which at first formed the domain

of the chateau, now forms a part of that spacious and picturesque

enclosure. The deep glen on the west, immediately below where the house

was built, and through which flows (and by the listener may be

pleasantly heard to flow) the brook that bears its name, is to this

day a scene of rare sylvan beauty. The pedestrian from the town, by a

half-hour's easy walk, can here place himself in the midst of a forest

solitude; and from what he sees he can form an idea of the whole

surrounding region, as it was when York was first laid out. Here he can

find in abundance, to this day, specimens, gigantic and minute, of the

vegetation of the ancient woods. Here at the proper seasons he can still

hear the blue jay; the flute notes of the solitary wood-thrush, and at

night, specially when the moon is shining bright, the whip-poor-will,

hurriedly and in a high key, syllabling forth its own name.

5.--On to the Ford and the Mills.

We now resume our ramble up the valley of the Don. Northward of the

gorge, where Castle Frank Brook entered, and where so many other

deep-cut ravines converge upon the present channel of the stream, the

scenery becomes really good.

We pass along through natural meadows, bordered on both sides by fine

hills, which recede by a succession of slight plateaux, the uppermost of

them clothed with lofty pines and oaks: on the slope nearest to "the

flats" on the east, grew, along with the choke-cherry and may-flower,

numbers of the wild apple or crab, beautiful objects when in full bloom.

Hereabout also was to be found the prickly ash, a rather uncommon and

graceful shrub. (The long-continued precipitous bank on the west side of

the Don completely covered with forest, with, at last, the roof of the

rustic chateau appearing above, must have recalled, in some slight

degree, the Sharpham woods and Sharpham to the mind of anyone who had

ever chanced to sail up the Dart so far as that most beautiful spot.)

Immediately beyond the Castle Frank woods, where now is the property

known as Drumsnab, came the estate of Captain George Playter, and

directly across on the opposite side of the river, that of his son

Captain John Playter, both immigrants from Pennsylvania. When the town

of York was in the occupancy of the Americans in 1813, many of the

archives of the young province of Upper Canada were conveyed for safe

keeping to the houses of these gentlemen. But boats, with men and

officers from the invading force, found their way up the windings of the

Don; and such papers and documents as could be found were carried away.

Just below Drumsnab, on the west side of the stream, and set down, as it

were, in the midst of the valley, was, and is, a singular isolated mound

of the shape of a glass shade over a French clock, known in the

neighbourhood as the "Sugar Loaf." It was completely clothed over with

moderate sized trees. When the whole valley of the Don was filled with a

brimming river reaching to the summit of its now secondary banks, the

top of the "Sugar Loaf," which is nearly on a level with the summit of

the adjacent hills, must have appeared above the face of the water as an

island speck.

This picturesque and curious mound is noticed by Sir James Alexander, in

the account which he gives of the neighbourhood of Toronto in his

"L'Acadie, or Seven Years' Explorations in British America":--"The most

picturesque spot near Toronto," says Sir James, "and within four miles

of it, is Drumsnab, the residence of Mr. Cayley. The mansion is roomy

and of one storey, with a broad verandah. It is seated among fields and

woods, on the edge of a slope; at the bottom winds a river; opposite is

a most singular conical hill, like an immense Indian tumulus for the

dead; in the distance, through a vista cut judiciously through the

forest, are seen the dark blue waters of Lake Ontario. The walls of the

principal room are covered with scenes from Faust, drawn in fresco, with

a bold and masterly hand, by the proprietor."--(Vol. 1. p. 230.)

In the shadow thrown eastward by the "Sugar Loaf," there was a "Ford" in

the Don, a favourite bathing-place for boys, with a clean gravelly

bottom, and a current somewhat swift. That Ford was just in the line of

an allowance for a concession road; which from the precipitous character

of the hills on both sides, has been of late years closed by Act of

Parliament, on the ground of its supposed impracticability for ever,--a

proceeding to be regretted; as the highway which would traverse the Don

valley at the Ford would be a continuation of Bloor street in a right

line; and would form a convenient means of communication between Chester

and Yorkville.

In the meadow on the left, just above the Ford, a little meandering

brook, abounding in trout, entered the Don. Hereabouts also was, for a

long while, a rustic bridge over the main river, formed by trees felled

across the stream.

Proceeding on our way we now in a short time approached the great colony

of the Helliwells, which has already been described. The mills and

manufactories established here by that enterprising family constituted

quite a conspicuous village. A visit to this cluster of buildings, in

1827, is described by Mr. W. L. Mackenzie, in his "Sketches of Canada,"

published in London, by Effingham Wilson, in 1833. At page 270 of that

work, the writer says: "About three miles out of town, in the bottom of

a deep ravine, watered by the river Don, and bounded also by beautiful

and verdant flats, are situated the York Paper Mills, distillery and

grist-mill of Messrs. Eastwood & Co.; also Mr. Shepard's axe-grinding

machinery; and Messrs. Helliwell's large and extensive Brewery. I went

out to view these improvements a few days ago, and returned much

gratified with witnessing the paper-manufacture in active operation--as

also the bold and pleasant scenery on the banks of the Don. The river

might be made navigable with small expense up to the brewery; and if the

surrounding lands were laid out in five-acre lots all the way to town,

they would sell to great advantage."