Yonge Street From The Bay To Yorkville
The tourist of the present day, who, on one of our great lake-steamers,
enters the harbour of Toronto, observes, as he is borne swiftly along,
an interesting succession of street vistas, opening at intervals inland,
each one of them somewhat resembling a scene on the stage. He obtains a
glimpse for a moment of a thoroughfare gently ascending in a right line
northward, with appropriate groups of men and vehicles, reduced prettily
to lilliputian size by distance.
Of all the openings thus transiently disclosed, the one towards which
the boat at length shapes its course, with the clear intention of
thereabout disburdening itself of its multifarious load, is quickly seen
to be of preeminent importance. Thronged at the point where it descends
to the water's edge with steamers and other craft, great and small,
lined on the right and left up to the far vanishing-point with handsome
buildings, its pavements and central roadway everywhere astir with life,
its appearance is agreeably exciting and even impressive. It looks to
be, what in fact it is, the outlet of a great highway leading into the
interior of a busy, populous country. The railway station seen on the
right, heaving up its huge semicircular metal back above the subjacent
buildings, and flanking the very sidewalk with its fine front and lofty
ever-open portals, might be imagined a porter's lodge proportioned to
the dignity of the avenue whose entrance it seems planted there to
We propose to pass, as rapidly as we may, up the remarkable street at
the foot of which our tourist steps ashore. It will not be a part of our
plan to enlarge on its condition as we see it at the present time,
except here and there as in contrast with some circumstance of the past.
We intend simply to take note, as we ramble on, of such recollections as
may spring up at particular points, suggested by objects or localities
encountered, and to recall at least the names, if not in every instance,
characteristic traits and words and acts, of some of the worthies of a
byegone generation, to whose toil and endurance the present occupants of
the region which we shall traverse are so profoundly indebted.
Where Yonge Street opened on the harbour, the observer some forty years
ago would only have seen, on the east side, the garden, orchard and
pleasure grounds of Chief Justice Scott, with his residence situated
therein, afterwards the abode of Mr. Justice Sherwood; and on the west
side the garden, orchard, pleasure-grounds and house of Mr. Justice
Macaulay, afterwards Chief Justice Sir James Macaulay, and the
approaches to these premises were, in both cases, not from Yonge Street
but from Front Street, or from Market Street in the rear.
The principal landing place for the town was for a series of years, as
we have elsewhere stated, at the southern extremity of Church Street:
and then previously, for another series of years, further to the east,
at the southern extremity of Frederick Street. The country and local
traffic found its way to these points, not by Yonge Street, south of
King Street, but by other routes which have been already specified and
Teams and solitary horses, led or ridden, seen passing into Yonge
Street, south of King Street, either out of King Street or out of Front
Street, would most likely be on their way to the forge of old Mr. Philip
Klinger, a German, whose name we used to think had in it a kind of anvil
ring. His smithy, on the east side, just south of Market Street, now
Wellington Street, was almost the only attraction and occasion of resort
to Yonge Street, south of King Street. His successor here was Mr. Calvin
Davis, whose name became as familiar a sound to the ears of the early
townsfolk of York as Mr. Klinger's had been.
It seems in the retrospect but a very short time since Yonge Street
south of King Street, now so solidly and even splendidly built up, was
an obscure allowance for road, visited seldom by any one, and for a long
while particularly difficult to traverse during and just after the rainy
Few persons in the olden time at which we are glancing ever dreamed
that the intersection of Yonge Street and King Street was to be the
heart of the town. Yet here in one generation we have the Carfax of
Toronto, as some of our forefathers would have called it--the
Quatrevoies or Grand Four-cross-way, where the golden milestone might be
planted whence to measure distances in each direction.
What are the local mutations that are to follow? Will the needs of the
population and the exigencies of business ever make of the intersection
of Brock Street and Queen Street what the intersection of Yonge and King
Streets is now?
In the meantime, those who recall the very commonplace look which this
particular spot, viz.: the intersection of King Street and Yonge Street,
long wore, when as yet only recently reclaimed from nature, cannot but
experience a degree of mental amazement whenever now they pause for a
moment on one of the crossings and look around.
A more perfect and well-proportioned rectangular meeting of four great
streets is seldom to be seen. Take the view at this point, north, south,
west, or east, almost at any hour and at any season of the year, and it
It is striking in the freshness and coolness and comparative quiet of
early morning, when few are astir.
It is striking in the brightness and glow of noon, when the sons and
daughters of honest toil are trooping in haste to their mid-day meal.
A few hours later, again, it is striking when the phaetons,
pony-carriages, and fancy equipages generally, are out, and loungers of
each sex are leisurely promenading, or here and there placidly engaged
in the inspection and occasional selection of "personal requisites,"--of
some one or other of the variegated tissues or artificial adjuncts
demanded by the modes of the period,--while the westering sun is now
flooding the principal thoroughfare with a misty splendour, and on the
walls, along on either side, weird shadows slanting and elongated, are
Then, later still, the views here are by no means ordinary ones, when
the vehicles have for the most part withdrawn, and the passengers are
once more few in number, and the lamps are lighted, and the gas is
flaming in the windows.
Even in the closed up sedate aspect of all places of business on a
Sunday or public holiday, statutable or otherwise, these four streets,
by some happy charm, are fair to see and cheery. But when drest for a
festive gala occasion, when gay with banners and festoons, in honour of
a royal birthday, a royal marriage, the visit of a prince, the
announcement of a victory, they shew to special advantage.
So, also, they furnish no inharmonious framework or setting, when
processions and bands of music are going by, or bodies of military,
horse or foot, or pageants such as those that in modern times accompany
a great menagerie in its progress through the country--elephants in
oriental trappings, teams of camels clad in similar guise, cavaliers in
glittering mediaeval armour, gorgeous cars and vans.
And again, in winter, peculiarly fine pictures, characteristic of the
season, are presented here when, after a plentiful fall of snow, the
sleighs are on the move without number and in infinite variety; or when,
on the contrary, each long white vista, east, west, north, and south,
glistening, perhaps, under a clear December moon, is a scene almost
wholly of still life--scarcely a man or beast abroad, so keen is the
motionless air, the mercury having shrunk down some way below the
zero-line of Fahrenheit.
But we must proceed. From the Lake to the Landing is a long journey.
In the course of our perambulations we have already noticed some
instances in the town of long persistency in one place of business or
residence. Such evidences of staidness and substantiality are common
enough in the old world, but are of necessity somewhat rare amid the
chances, changes, and exchanges of young communities on this continent.
An additional instance we have to note here, at the intersection of King
Street and Yonge Street. At its north-east angle, where, as in a former
section we have observed, stood the sole building in this quarter, the
house of Mr. John Dennis, for forty years at least has been seen with
little alteration of external aspect, the Birmingham, Sheffield and
Wolverhampton warehouse of the brothers Mr. Joseph Ridout and Mr.
Percival Ridout. A little way to the north, too, on the east side, the
name of Piper has been for an equal length of time associated
uninterruptedly with a particular business; but here, though outward
appearances have remained to some extent the same, death has wrought
Near by, also, we see foundries still in operation where Messrs. W. B.
Sheldon, F. R. Dutcher, W. A. Dutcher, Samuel Andrus, J. Vannorman and
B. Vannorman, names familiar to all old inhabitants, were among the
foremost in that kind of useful enterprise in York. Their advertisement,
as showing the condition of one branch of the iron manufacture in York
in 1832, will be of interest. Some of the articles enumerated have
become old-fashioned. "They respectfully inform their friends and the
public that they have lately made large additions to their
establishments. They have enlarged their Furnace so as to enable them to
make Castings of any size or weight used in this province, and erected
Lathes for turning and finishing the same. They have also erected a
Steam Engine of ten horse power, of their own manufacture, for
propelling their machinery, which is now in complete operation, and they
are prepared to build Steam Engines of any size, either high or low
pressure. Having a number of experienced engineers employed, whose
capability cannot be doubted, they hope to share the patronage of a
generous public. They always keep constantly on hand and for sale,
either by wholesale or retail, Bark Mills, Cooking, Franklin, Plate and
Box Stoves, also, a general assortment of Hollow Ware, consisting of
Kettles, from one to one hundred and twenty gallons; Bake-Ovens,
Bake-Basins, Belly-Pots, High Pans, Tea Kettles, Wash-Kettles, Portable
Furnaces, &c. Also are constantly manufacturing Mill-Gearing of all
kinds; Sleigh Shoes, 50, 56, 30, 28, 15, 14, and 7 pound Weights, Clock
and Sash Weights, Cranes, Andirons, Cart and Waggon Boxes, Clothiers'
Plates, Plough Castings, and Ploughs of all kinds."
In 1832 Mr. Charles Perry was also the proprietor of foundries in York,
and we have him advertising in the local paper that "he is about adding
to his establishment the manufacture of Printing Presses, and that he
will be able in a few weeks to produce Iron Printing Presses combining
the latest improvements."
We move on now towards Newgate Street, first noticing that nearly
opposite to the Messrs. Sheldon and Dutcher's foundry were the spirit
vaults of Mr. Michael Kane, father of Paul Kane, the artist of whom we
have spoken previously. At the corner of Newgate Street or Adelaide
Street, on the left, and stretching along the southern side of that
Street, the famous tannery-yard of Mr. Jesse Ketchum was to be seen,
with high stacks of hemlock-bark piled up on the Yonge Street side. On
the North side of Newgate Street, at the angle opposite, was his
residence, a large white building in the American style, with a square
turret, bearing a railing, rising out of the ridge of the roof. Before
pavements of any kind were introduced in York, the sidewalks hereabout
were rendered clean and comfortable by a thick coating of tan-bark.
Mr. Ketchum emigrated hither from Buffalo at an early period. In the
Gazette of June 11, 1803, we have the death of his father mentioned.
"On Wednesday last (8th June), departed this life, Mr. Joseph Ketchum,
aged 85. His remains," it is added, "were interred the following day."
In 1806 we find Jesse Ketchum named at the annual "town meeting," one of
the overseers of highways and fence viewers. His section was from "No. 1
to half the Big Creek Bridge (Hogg's Hollow) on Yonge Street." Mr.
William Marsh, jun., then took up the oversight from half the Big Creek
Bridge to No. 17. In the first instance Mr. Ketchum came over to look
after the affairs of an elder brother, deceased, who had settled here
and founded the tannery works. He then continued to be a householder of
York until about 1845, when he returned to Buffalo, his original home,
where he still retained valuable possessions. He was familiarly known in
Buffalo in later years as "Father Ketchum," and was distinguished for
the lively practical interest which he took in schools for the young,
and for the largeness of his annual contributions to such institutions.
Two brothers, Henry and Zebulun, were also early inhabitants of Buffalo.
Mr. Ketchum's York property extended to Lot Street. Hospital Street
(Richmond Street) passed through it, and he himself projected and opened
Temperance Street. To the facility with which he supplied building sites
for moral and religious uses it is due that at this day the
quadrilateral between Queen Street and Adelaide Street, Yonge Street and
Bay Street, is a sort of miniature Mount Athos, a district curiously
crowded with places of worship. He gave in Yorkville also sites for a
school-house and Temperance Hall, and, besides, two acres for a
Children's Park. The Bible and Tract Society likewise obtained its House
on Yonge Street on easy terms from Mr. Ketchum, on the condition that
the Society should annually distribute in the Public Schools the amount
of the ground rent in the form of books--a condition that continues to
be punctually fulfilled. The ground-rent of an adjoining tenement was
also secured to the Society by Mr. Ketchum, to be distributed in Sunday
Schools in a similar way. Thus by his generous gifts and arrangements in
Buffalo, and in our own town and neighbourhood, his name has become
permanently enrolled in the list of public benefactors in two cities.
Among the subscriptions to a "Common School" in York in 1820, a novelty
at the period, we observe his name down for one hundred dollars.
Subscriptions for that amount to any object were not frequent in York in
1820. (Among the contributors to the same school we observe Jordan
Post's name down for L17 6s. 3d.; Philip Klinger's for L2 10s.; Lardner
Bostwick's for L2 10s.)
Mr. Ketchum died in Buffalo in 1867. He was a man of quiet, shrewd,
homely appearance and manners, and of the average stature. His brother
Seneca was also a character well known in these parts for his natural
benevolence, and likewise for his desire to offer counsel to the young
on every occasion. We have a distinct recollection of being, along with
several young friends, the objects of a well intended didactic lecture
from Seneca Ketchum, who, as we were amusing ourselves on the ice,
approached us on horseback.
It seems singular to us, in the present day, that those who laid out the
region called the "New Town," that is, the land westward of the original
town plot of York, did not apparently expect the great northern road
known as Yonge Street ever to extend directly to the water's edge. In
the plans of 1800, Yonge Street stops short at Lot Street, i. e.,
Queen Street. A range of lots blocks the way immediately to the south.
The traffic from the north was expected to pass down into the town by a
thoroughfare called Toronto Street, three chains and seven links to the
east of the line of Yonge Street. Mr. Ketchum's lot, and all the similar
lots southward, were bounded on the east by this street.
The advisability of pushing Yonge Street through to its natural terminus
must have early struck the owners of the properties that formed the
obstruction. We accordingly find Yonge Street in due time "produced" to
the Bay. Toronto Street was then shut up and the proprietors of the land
through which the northern road now ran received in exchange for the
space usurped, proportionate pieces of the old Toronto Street. In 1818,
deeds for these fragments, executed in conformity with the ninth section
of an Act of the local Parliament, passed in the fiftieth year of George
III., were given to Jesse Ketchum, William Bowkett, mariner, son of
William Bowkett, and others, by the surveyors of highways, James Miles
for the Home District, and William Richardson Caldwell for the County of
The street which supplied the passage-way southward previously afforded
by Toronto Street, and which now formed the easterly boundary of the
easterly portions of the lots cut in two by Yonge Street, was, as we
have had occasion already to state in another place, called Upper George
Street, and afterwards Victoria Street.
(The line of the now-vanished Toronto Street is, for purposes of
reference, marked with fine lines on the map of Toronto by the Messrs.
H. J. and J. O. Browne.)
What the condition of some of the lots to which we have been just
referring was in 1801, we gather from a surveyor's report of that date,
which we have already quoted (p. 64), in another connection. We are now
enabled to add the exact terms of the order issued to the surveyor, Mr.
Stegman, on the occasion: "Surveyor General's Office, 19th Dec., 1800
Mr. John Stegman: Sir,--All persons claiming to hold land in the town of
York, having been required to cut and burn all the brush and underwood
on the said lots, and to fall all the trees which are standing thereon,
you will be pleased to report to me, without delay, the number of the
particular lots on which it has not been done. D. W. Smith, Acting
The continuation of the great northern highway in a continuous right
line to the Bay, from its point of issue on Lot Street, i. e., Queen
Street, was the circumstance that eventually created for Yonge Street,
regarded as a street in the usual sense, the peculiar renown which it
popularly has for extraordinary length. A story is told of a tourist,
newly arrived at York, wishing to utilize a stroll before breakfast, by
making out as he went along the whereabouts of a gentleman to whom he
had a letter. Passing down the hall of his hotel, he asks in a casual
way of the book-keeper--"Can you tell me where Mr. So-and-so lives?
(leisurely producing the note from his breast-pocket wallet). It is
somewhere along Yonge Street here in your town." "Oh yes," was the
reply, when the address had been glanced at--"Mr. So-and-so lives on
Yonge Street, about twenty-five miles up!" We have heard also of a
serious demur on the part of a Quebec naval and military inspector, at
two agents for purchases being stationed on one street at York. However
surprised, he was nevertheless satisfied when he learned that their
posts were thirty miles apart.
Let us now direct our attention to Yonge Street north of Queen Street.
For some years previous to the opening of Yonge Street from Lot Street
to the Bay, the portion of the great highway to the north, between Lot
Street and the road which is now the southern boundary of Yorkville, was
in an almost impracticable condition. The route was recognized, but no
grading or causewaying had been done on it. In the popular mind, indeed,
practically, the point where Yonge Street began as a travelled road to
the north, was at Yorkville, as we should now speak.
The track followed by the farmers coming into town from the north veered
off at Yorkville to the eastward, and passed down in a hap-hazard kind
of way over the sandy pineland in that direction, and finally entered
the town by the route later known as Parliament Street.
In 1800 the expediency was seen of making the direct northern approach
to York more available. In the Gazette of Dec. 20th, 1800, we have an
account of a public meeting held on the subject. It will be observed
that Yonge Street, between Queen Street and Yorkville, as moderns would
phrase it, is spoken of therein, for the moment, not as Yonge Street,
but as "the road to Yonge Street." "On Thursday last, about noon," the
Gazette reports, "a number of the principal inhabitants of this town
met together in one of the Government Buildings, to consider the best
means of opening the road to Yonge Street, and enabling the farmers
there to bring their provisions to market with more ease than is
practicable at present." The account then proceeds: "The Hon.
Chief-Justice Elmsley was called to the chair. He briefly stated the
purpose of the meeting, and added that a subscription-list had been
lately opened by which something more than two hundred dollars in money
and labour had been promised, and that other sums were to be expected
from several respectable inhabitants who were well-wishers to the
undertaking, but had not as yet contributed towards it. These sums, he
feared, however, would not be equal to the purpose, which hardly could
be accomplished for less than between five and six hundred dollars. Many
of the subscribers were desirous that what was already subscribed should
be immediately applied as far as it would go, and that other resources
should be looked for."
A paper was produced and read containing a proposal from Mr. Eliphalet
Hale to open and make the road, or so much of it as might be required,
at the rate of twelve dollars per acre for clearing it where no
causeway was wanted, four rods wide, and cutting the stumps in the two
middle rods close to the ground; and seven shillings and sixpence,
provincial currency, per rod, for making a causeway eighteen feet wide
where a causeway might be wanted. Mr. Hale undertook to find security
for the due performance of the work by the first of February following
(1801). The subscribers present were unanimously of opinion that the
subscription should be immediately applied as far as it would go. Mr.
Hale's proposition was accepted, and a committee consisting of Mr.
Secretary Jarvis, Mr. William Allan, and Mr. James Playter, was
appointed to superintend the carrying of it into execution. Additional
subscriptions would be received by Messrs. Allan and Wood.
At the same meeting a curious project was mooted, and a resolution in
its favour adopted, for the permanent shutting up of a portion of Lot
Street, and selling the land, the proceeds to be applied to the
improvement of Yonge Street. There was no need of that portion of Lot
Street, it was argued, there being already convenient access to the town
in that direction by a way a few yards to the south. We gather from this
that Hospital Street (Richmond Street) was the usual beaten track into
the town from the west.
"It had been suggested," says the report of the meeting, "that
considerable aid might be obtained by shutting up the street which now
forms the northern boundary of the town between Toronto Street and the
Common, and disposing of the land occupied by it. This street, it was
conceived, was altogether superfluous," the report continues, "as
another street equally convenient in every respect runs parallel to it
at the distance of about ten rods; but it could not be shut up and
disposed of by any authority less than that of the Legislature." A
petition to the Legislature embodying the above ideas was to lie for
signature at Mr. McDougall's Hotel.
The proposed document may have been duly presented, but the Legislature
certainly never closed up Lot Street. Owners of park lots westward of
Yonge Street may have had their objections. The change suggested would
have compelled them to buy not only the land occupied by Lot Street, but
also the land immediately to the south of their respective lots;
otherwise they would have had no frontage in that direction.
In the Gazette of March 14, 1801, we have a further account of the
improvement on Yonge Street. We are informed that "at a meeting of the
subscribers to the opening of Yonge Street held at the Government
Buildings on Monday last, the 9th instant, pursuant to public notice,
William Jarvis, Esq., in the chair, the following gentlemen were
appointed as a committee to oversee and inspect the work, one member of
which to attend in person daily by rotation: James Macaulay, Esq., M.D.,
William Weekes, Esq., A. Wood, Esq., William Allan, Esq., Mr. John
Cameron, Mr. Simon McNab. After the meeting," we are then told, "the
committee went in a body, accompanied by the Hon. J. Elmsley, to view
that part of the street which Mr. Hale, the undertaker, had in part
opened. After ascertaining the alterations and improvements necessary to
be made, and providing for the immediate building of a bridge over the
creek between the second and third mile-posts, the Committee adjourned."
All this is signed "S. McNab, Secretary to the Committee. York, 9th
A list of subscribers then follows, with the sums given. Hon. J.
Elmsley, 80 dollars; Hon. Peter Russell, 20; Hon. J. McGill, 16; Hon. D.
W. Smith, 10; John Small, Esq., 20; R. J. D. Gray, Esq., 20; William
Jarvis, Esq., 10; William Willcocks, Esq., 15; D. Burns, Esq., 20; Wm.
Weekes, Esq., 15; James Macaulay, Esq., 20; Alexander Macdonell, Esq.,
the work of one yoke of oxen for four days; Alexander Wood, Esq., 10;
Mr. John Cameron, 15; Mr. D. Cameron, 10; Mr. Jacob Herchmer, 5; Mr.
Simon McNab, 5; Mr. P. Mealy, 5; Mr. Elisha Beaman, 10; Thomas Ridout,
Esq., 4; Mr. T. G. Simons, 4; Mr. W. Waters, 5; Mr. Robert Young, 10;
Mr. Daniel Tiers, 5; Mr. John Edgell, 5; Mr. George Cutter, 10; Mr.
James Playter, 6; Mr. Joseph McMurtrie, 5; Mr. William Bowkett, 6; Mr.
John Horton, 4; Mr. John Kerr, 2. Total, 392 dollars.
The money collected was, we may suppose, satisfactorily laid out by Mr.
Hale, but it did not suffice for the completion of the contemplated
work. From the Gazette of Feb. 20 in the following year (1802), we
learn that a second subscription was started for the purpose of
completing the communication with the travelled part of Yonge Street to
In the Gazette just named we have the following, under date of York,
Saturday, Feb. 20, 1802: "We whose names are hereunto subscribed,
contemplating the advantage which must arise from the rendering of
Yonge Street accessible and convenient to the public, and having before
us a proposal for completing that part of the said street between the
Town of York and lot No. 1, do hereby respectively agree to pay the sums
annexed to our names towards the carrying of the said proposal into
effect; cherishing at the same time the hope that every liberal
character will give his support to a work which has for its design the
improvement of the country, as well as the convenience of the public:
*the Chief Justice, 100 dollars; *Receiver-General, 20; *Robt. J. D.
Gray, 20 (and two acres of land when the road is completed); John
Cameron 40; *James Macaulay, 20; *Alexander Wood, 20; *William Weekes,
20; John McGill, 16; Wilson, Humphreys and Campbell, 15; D. W. Smith,
10; Thomas Scott, 10; *Wm. Jarvis, 10; *John Small, 10; *David Burns,
10; *Wm. Allan, 10; Alexander McDonell, 10; Wm. Smith, 10; Robert
Henderson, 10; *Simon McNab, 8; John McDougall, 8; D. Cozens, 8; Thomas
Ward, 8; *Elisha Beaman, 6; Joseph Hunt, 6; Eli Playter, 6; John
Bennett, 6; *George Cutter, 6; James Norris, 51/4; Wm. B. Peters, 5; John
Leach, 5; John Titus, 5; Wm. Cooper, 5; *Wm. Hunter, 5; J. B. Cozens, 5;
*Daniel Tiers, 5; Thomas Forfar, 5; Samuel Nash, 5; Paul Marian, 3;
Thomas Smith, 3; John McBeth, 3." It is subjoined that "subscriptions
will be received by Mr. S. McNab, Secretary, and advertised weekly in
the Gazette. Those marked thus (*) have paid a former subscription."
In the Gazette of March 6, 1802, an editorial is devoted to the
subject of the improvement of Yonge Street. It runs as follows: "It
affords us much pleasure to state to our readers that the necessary
repair of Yonge Street is likely to be soon effected, as the work, we
understand, has been undertaken with the assurance of entering upon and
completing it without delay; and by every one who reflects upon the
present sufferings of our industrious community on resorting to a
market, it cannot but prove highly satisfactory to observe a work of
such convenience and utility speedily accomplished. That the measure of
its future benefits must be extreme indeed, we may reasonably expect;
but whilst we look forward with flattering expectations of those
benefits we cannot but appreciate the immediate advantage which is
afforded to us, in being relieved from the application of the statute
labour to circuitous by-paths and occasional roads, and in being enabled
to apply the same to the improvement of the streets, and the nearer and
more direct approaches to the Town."
The irregular track branching off eastward at Yorkville was an example
of these "circuitous by-paths and occasional roads." Editorials were
rare in the Gazettes of the period. Had there been more of them,
subsequent investigators would have been better able than they are now,
to produce pictures of the olden time. Chief Justice Elmsley was
probably the inspirer of the article just given.
The work appears to have been duly proceeded with. In the following
June, we have an advertisement calling a meeting of the committee
entrusted with its superintendence. In the Gazette of June 12, 1802,
we read: "The committee for inspecting the repair of Yonge Street
requests that the subscribers will meet on the repaired part of the said
street at 5 o'clock on Monday evening, to take into consideration how
far the moneys subscribed by them have been beneficially expended. S.
McNab, Secretary to Committee. York, 10th June, 1802."
In 1807, as we gather from the Gazette of Nov. 11, in that year, an
effort was made to improve the road at the Blue Hill. A present of Fifty
Dollars from the Lieutenant Governor (Gore) to the object is
acknowledged in the paper named. "A number of public-spirited persons"
the Gazette says, "collected on last Saturday to cut down the Hill at
Frank's Creek. (We shall see hereafter that the rivulet here was thus
known, as being the stream that flowed through the Castle Frank lot.)
The Lieutenant-Governor, when informed of it, despatched a person with a
present of Fifty Dollars to assist in improving the Yonge Street road."
It is then added by "John Van Zante, pathmaster, for himself and the
public,"--"To his Excellency for his liberal donation, and to the
gentlemen who contributed, we return our warmest thanks."
These early efforts of our predecessors to render practicable the great
northern approach to the town, are deserving of respectful remembrance.
The death of Eliphalet Hale, named above, is thus noted in the Gazette
of Sept. 19, 1807:--"Died on the evening of the 17th instant, after a
short illness, Mr. Eliphalet Hale, High Constable of the Home District,
an old and respectable inhabitant of this town. From the regular
discharge of his official duties" the Gazette subjoins, "he may be
considered as a public loss."
The nature of the soil at many points between Lot Street and the modern
Yorkville was such as to render the construction of a road that should
be comfortably available at all seasons of the year no easy task. Down
to the time when macadam was at length applied, some twenty-eight years
after Mr. Hale's operations, this approach to the town was notorious for
its badness every spring and autumn. At one period an experiment was
tried of a wooden tramway for a short distance at the worst part, on
which the loaded waggons were expected to keep and so be saved from
sinking hopelessly in the direful sloughs. Mr. Sheriff Jarvis was the
chief promoter of this improvement, which answered its purpose for a
time, and Mr. Rowland Burr was its suggester. But we must not forestall
We return to the point where Lot Street, or Queen Street, intersects the
thoroughfare to whose farthest bourne we are about to be travellers.
After passing Mr. Jesse Ketchum's property, which had been divided into
two parts by the pushing of Yonge Street southward to its natural
termination, we arrived at another striking rectangular meeting of
thoroughfares. Lot Street having happily escaped extinction westward and
eastward, there was created at this spot a four-cross-way possessed of
an especial historic interest, being the conspicuous intersection of the
two great military roads of Upper Canada, projected and explored in
person by its first organiser. Four extensive reaches, two of Dundas
Street (identical, of course, with Lot or Queen Street), and two of
Yonge Street, can here be contemplated from one and the same standpoint.
In the course of time the views up and down the four long vistas here
commanded will probably rival those to be seen at the present moment
where King Street crosses Yonge Street. When lined along all its sides
with handsome buildings, the superior elevation above the level of the
Lake of the more northerly quadrivium, will be in its favour.
Perhaps it will here not be out of order to state that Yonge Street was
so named in honour of Sir George Yonge, Secretary of War in 1791, and
M.P. for Honiton, in the county of Devon, from 1763 to 1796. The first
exploration which led to the establishment of this communication with
the north, was made in 1793. On the early MS. map mentioned before in
these papers, the route taken by Governor Simcoe on the memorable
occasion, in going and returning is shewn. Explanatory of the red dotted
lines which indicate it, the following note is appended. It reveals the
Governor's clear perception of the commercial and military importance
of the projected road: "Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's route on foot and in canoes
to explore a way which might afford communication for the Fur-traders to
the Great Portage, without passing Detroit in case that place were given
up to the United States. The march was attended with some difficulties,
but was quite satisfactory: an excellent harbour at Penetanguishene:
returned to York, 1793."
(On the same map, the tracks are given of four other similar excursions,
with the following accounts appended respectively:--1. Lieut.-Gov.
Simcoe's route on foot from Niagara to Detroit and back again in five
weeks; returned to Niagara March 8th, 1793. 2. Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's
route from York to the Thames; down that river in canoes to Detroit;
from thence to the Miamis, to build the fort Lord Dorchester ordered to
be built: left York March 1794; returned by Lake Erie and Niagara to
York, May 5th, 1794. 3. Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's track from York to Kingston
in an open boat, Dec. 5th, 1794. 4. Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's route from
Niagara to Long Point on Lake Erie, on foot and in boats: returned down
the Ouse [Grand River]: from thence crossed a portage of five miles to
Welland River, and so to Fort Chippawa, September, 1795.)
The old chroniclers of England speak in high praise of a primeval but
somewhat mythic king of Britain, named Belin:
"Belin well held his honour,
And wisely was good governour."
says Peter de Langtoft, and his translator, Robert de Brunn; and they
assign, among the reasons why he merited such mention at their hands,
"His land Britaine he yode throughout,
And ilk county beheld about;
Beheld the woods, water and fen.
No passage was maked for men,
No highe street thorough countrie,
Ne to borough ne citie.
Thorough mooris, hills and valleys
He made brigs and causeways,
Highe street for common passage,
Brigs over water did he stage."
This notice of the old chroniclers' pioneer king of Britain has again
and again recurred to us as we have had occasion to narrate the
energetic doings of the first ruler of Upper Canada, here and
previously. What Britain was when Belin and his Celts were at work,
Canada was in the days of our immediate fathers--a trackless wild. That
we see our country such as it is to-day, approaching in many respects
the beauty and agricultural finish of Britain itself, is due to the
intrepid men who faced without blenching the trials and perils
inevitable in a first attack on the savage fastnesses of nature.
A succinct but good account is given of the origin of Yonge Street in
Mr. Surveyor General D. W. Smith's Gazetteer of 1799. The advantages
expected to accrue from the new highway are clearly set forth; and
though the anticipations expressed have not been fulfilled precisely in
the manner supposed, we see how comprehensive and really well-laid were
the plans of the first organizer of Upper Canada.
"Yonge Street," the early Gazetteer says, "is the direct communication
from York to Lake Simcoe, opened during the administration of his
Excellency Major-General Lieut.-Governor Simcoe, who, having visited
Lake Huron by Lake aux Claies (formerly also Ouentaronk, or Sinion, and
now named Lake Simcoe), and discovered the harbour of Penetanguishene
(now Gloucester) to be fit for shipping, resolved on improving the
communication from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron, by this short route,
thereby avoiding the circuitous passage of Lake Erie. This street has
been opened in a direct line, and the road made by the troops of his
Excellency's corps. It is thirty miles from York to Holland's river, at
the Pine Fort called Gwillimbury, where the road ends; from thence you
descend into Lake Simcoe, and, having passed it, there are two passages
into Lake Huron; the one by the river Severn, which conveys the waters
of Lake Simcoe into Gloucester Bay; the other by a small portage, the
continuation of Yonge Street, to a small lake, which also runs into
Gloucester Bay. This communication affords many advantages; merchandize
from Montreal to Michilimackinac may be sent this way at ten or fifteen
pounds less expense per ton, than by the route of the Grand or Ottawa
River; and the merchandize from New York to be sent up the North and
Mohawk Rivers for the north-west trade, finding its way into Lake
Ontario at Oswego (Fort Ontario), the advantage will certainly be felt
of transporting goods from Oswego to York, and from thence across Yonge
Street, and down the waters of Lake Simcoe into Lake Huron, in
preference to sending it by Lake Erie."
We now again endeavour to effect a start on our pilgrimage of
retrospection up the long route, from the establishment of which so many
public advantages were predicted in 1799.
The objects that came to be familiar to the eye at the entrance to Yonge
Street from Lot Street were, after the lapse of some years, on the west
side, a large square white edifice known as the Sun Tavern, Elliott's;
and on the east side, the buildings constituting Good's Foundry.
The open land to the north of Elliott's was the place generally occupied
by the travelling menageries and circuses when such exhibitions began to
visit the town.
The foundry, after supplying the country for a series of years with
ploughs, stoves and other necessary articles of heavy hardware, is
memorable as having been the first in Upper Canada to turn out real
railway locomotives. When novelties, these highly finished ponderous
machines, seen slowly and very laboriously urged through the streets
from the foundry to their destination, were startling phenomena. We have
in the Canadian Journal (vol. ii. p. 76), an account of the first
engine manufactured by Mr. Good at the Toronto Locomotive Works, with a
lithographic illustration. "We have much pleasure," the editor of the
Canadian Journal says "in presenting our readers with a drawing of the
first locomotive engine constructed in Canada, and indeed, we believe,
in any British Colony. The 'Toronto' is certainly no beauty, nor is she
distinguished for any peculiarity in the construction, but she affords a
very striking illustration of our progress in the mechanical arts, and
of the growing wants of the country. The 'Toronto' was built at the
Toronto Locomotive Works, which were established by Mr. Good, in
October, 1852. The order for the 'Toronto' was received in February,
1853, for the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railroad. The engine was
completed on the 16th of April, and put on the track the 26th of the
same month. Her dimensions are as follows: cylinder 16 inches diameter,
stroke 22 inches, driving wheel 5 feet 6 inches in diameter, length of
internal fire box 4 feet 6 inches, weight of engine 25 tons, number of
tubes 150, diameter of tubes 2 inches."
With property a little to the north on the east side, the name of
McIntosh was early associated, and--Canadian persistency again--is still
associated. Of Captains John, Robert and Charles McIntosh, we shall have
occasion to speak in our paper on the early Marine of York harbour. It
was opposite the residence of Captain John McIntosh that the small riot
took place, which signalized the return home of William Lyon Mackenzie,
in 1849, after the civil tumults of 1837. Mr. Mackenzie was at the time
the guest of Captain McIntosh, who was related to him through a marriage
Albert Street, which enters Yonge Street opposite the McIntosh property,
was in 1833 still known as Macaulay Lane, and was described by Walton as
"fronting the Fields." From this point a long stretch of fine
forest-land extended to Yorkville. On the left side it was the property
partly of Dr. Macaulay and partly of Chief Justice Elmsley. The fields
which Macaulay Lane fronted were the improvements around Dr. Macaulay's
abode. The white entrance gate to his house was near where now a street
leads into Trinity Square. Wykham Lodge, the residence of Sir James
Macaulay after the removal from Front Street, and Elmsley Villa, the
residence of Captain J. S. Macaulay, (Government House in Lord Elgin's
day, and subsequently Knox College,) were late erections on portions of
these spacious suburban estates.
The first Dr. Macaulay and Chief Justice Elmsley selected two adjoining
park lots, both of them fronting, of course, on Lot Street. They then
effected an exchange of properties with each other. Dividing these two
lots transversely into equal portions, the Chief Justice chose the upper
or northern halves, and Dr. Macaulay the lower or southern. Dr. Macaulay
thus acquired a large frontage on Lot Street, and the Chief Justice a
like advantage on Yonge Street. Captain Macaulay acquired his interest
in the southern portion of the Elmsley halves by marriage with a
daughter of the Chief Justice. The northern portion of these halves
descended to the heir of the Chief Justice, Capt. John Elmsley, who
having become a convert to the Church of Rome, gave facilities for the
establishment of St. Basil's college and other Roman Catholic
Institutions on his estate. Of Chief Justice Elmsley and his son we have
Dr. Macaulay's clearing on the north side of Macaulay lane was, in
relation to the first town plot of York, long considered a locality
particularly remote; a spot to be discovered by strangers not without
difficulty. In attempting to reach it we have distinct accounts of
persons bewildered and lost for long hours in the intervening marshes
and woods. Mr. Justice Boulton, travelling from Prescott in his own
vehicle, and bound for Dr. Macaulay's domicile, was dissuaded, on
reaching Mr. Small's house at the eastern extremity of York, from
attempting to push on to his destination, although it was by no means
late, on account of the inconveniences and perils to be encountered; and
half of the following day was taken up in accomplishing the residue of
Dr. Macaulay's cottage might still have been existent and in good order;
but while it was being removed bodily by Mr. Alexander Hamilton, from
its original site to a position on the entrance to Trinity Square, a few
yards to the eastward, it was burnt, either accidentally or by the act
of an incendiary. Mr. Hamilton, who was intending to convert the
building into a home for himself and his family, gave the name of
Teraulay Cottage--the name by which the destroyed building had been
known--to the house which he put up in its stead.
A quarter of a century sufficed to transform Dr. Macaulay's garden and
grounds into a well-peopled city district. The "fields," of which Walton
spoke, have undergone the change which St. George's Fields and other
similar spaces have undergone in London:
St. George's Fields are fields no more;
The trowel supersedes the plough;
Huge inundated swamps of yore
Are changed to civic villas now.
The builder's plank, the mason's hod,
Wide and more wide extending still,
Usurp the violated sod.
The area which Dr. Macaulay's homestead immediately occupied now
constitutes Trinity Square--a little bay by the side of a great stream
of busy human traffic, ever ebbing and flowing, not without rumble and
other resonances; a quiet close, resembling, it is pleasant to think,
one of the Inns of Court in London, so tranquil despite the turmoil of
Fleet Street adjoining.
Trinity Square is now completely surrounded with buildings; nevertheless
an aspiring attic therein, in which many of these collections and
recollections have been reduced to shape, has the advantage of
commanding to this day a view still showing within its range some of the
primitive features of the site of York. To the north an extended portion
of the rising land above Yorkville is pleasantly visible, looking in the
distance as it anciently looked, albeit beheld now with spires
intervening, and ornamental turrets of public buildings, and lofty
factory flues: while to the south, seen also between chimney stacks and
steeples and long solid architectural ranges, a glimpse of Lake Ontario
itself is procurable--a glimpse especially precious so long as it is to
be had, for not only recalling, as it does, the olden time when "the
Lake" was an element in so much of the talk of the early settlers--its
sound, its aspect, its condition being matters of hourly observation to
them--but also suggesting the thought of the far-off outer ocean
stream--the silver moat that guards the fatherland, and that forms the
horizon in so many of its landscapes.
To the far-off Atlantic, and to the misty isles beyond--the true Insulae
Fortunatoe--we need not name them--the glittering slip which we are
still permitted to see yonder, is the highway--the route by which the
fathers came--the route by which their sons from time to time return to
make dutiful visits to hearthstones and shrines never to be thought of
or named without affection and reverence.--Of that other ideal
ocean-stream, too, and of that other ideal home, of which the poet
speaks, our peep of Ontario may likewise, to the thoughtful, be an
allegory, by the help of which
In a season of calm weather,
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither;
Can in a moment travel thither--
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore!
The Church with the twin turrets, now seen in the middle space of
Trinity Square, was a gift of benevolence to Western Canada in 1846 from
two ladies, sisters. The personal character of Bishop Strachan was the
attraction that drew the boon to Toronto. Through the hands of Bishop
Longley of Ripon, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, a sum of L5,000
sterling was transmitted by the donors to Bishop Strachan for the
purpose of founding a church, two stipulations being that it should be
forever, like the ancient churches of England, free to all for worship,
and that it should bear the name of The Holy Trinity. The sum sent built
the Church and created a small endowment. Soon after the completion of
the edifice, Scoresby, the celebrated Arctic navigator, author of "An
Account of the Arctic Regions, with a History and Description of the
Northern Whale Fishery," preached and otherwise officiated within its
walls. Therein, too, at a later period was heard the voice of Selwyn,
Bishop of Lichfield, but previously the eminent Missionary Bishop of New
Zealand. Here also, while the Cathedral of St. James was rebuilding,
after its second destruction by fire in 1849, Lord Elgin was a constant
devout participant in Christian rites, an historical association
connected with the building, made worthy of preservation by the very
remarkable public services of the Earl afterwards in China and
India.--We recall at this moment the empressement with which an
obscure little chapel was pointed out to us in the small hamlet of
Tregear in Cornwall, on account of the fact that John Wesley had once
preached there. Well then: it may be that with some hereafter, it will
be a matter of curiosity and interest to know that several men of
world-wide note, did, in their day, while sojourning in this region,
"pay their vows" in the particular "Lord's House" to which we now have
occasion to refer.
In the grove which surrounded Sir James Macaulay's residence, Wykham
Lodge, we had down to recent years a fragment of the fine forest which
lined Yonge Street, almost continuously from Lot Street to Yorkville,
some forty years since. The ruthless uprooting of the eastern border of
this beautiful sylvan relic of the past, for building purposes, was
painful to witness, however quickly the presence of rows of useful
structures reconciled us to the change. The trees which cluster round
the great school building in the rear of these improvements will long,
as we hope, survive to give an idea of what was the primeval aspect of
the whole of the neighbourhood.
The land on the opposite side, a little to the north of the point at
which we have arrived, viz., Carleton Street--long remaining in an
uncultivated condition, was a portion of the estate of Alexander Wood,
of whom we have already spoken. His family and baptismal names are
preserved, as we have before noted, in "Wood" Street and "Alexander"
The streets which we passed southward of Wood Street, Carleton, Gerrard,
Shuter, with Gould Street in the immediate vicinity, had their names
from personal friends of Mr. McGill, the first owner, as we have seen,
of this tract. They are names mostly associated with the early annals of
Montreal, and seem rather inapposite here.
Northward, a little beyond where Grosvenor Street leads into what was
Elmsley Villa, and is now Knox College, was a solitary green field with
a screen of lofty trees on three of its sides. In its midst was a Dutch
barn, or hay-barrack, with movable top. The sward on the northern side
of the building was ever eyed by the passer-by with a degree of awe. It
was the exact spot where a fatal duel had been fought.
We have seen in repeated instances that the so-called code of honour was
in force at York from the era of its foundation. "Without it,"
Mandeville had said, "there would be no living in a populous nation. It
is the tie of society; and although we are beholden to our frailties for
the chief ingredient of it, there has been no virtue, at least that I am
acquainted with, which has proved half so instrumental to the civilizing
of mankind, who, in great societies, would soon degenerate into cruel
villains and treacherous slaves, were honour to be removed from among
them." Mandeville's sophistical dictum was blindly accepted, and trifles
light as air gave rise to the conventional hostile meeting. The merest
accident at a dance, a look, a jest, a few words of unconsidered talk,
of youthful chaff, were every now and then sufficient to force persons
who previously, perhaps, had been bosom friends, companions from
childhood, along with others sometimes, in no wise concerned in the
quarrel at first, to put on an unnatural show of thirst for each other's
blood. The victim of the social usage of the day, in the case now
referred to, was a youthful son of Surveyor-General Ridout.
Some years after the event, the public attention was drawn afresh to it.
The surviving principal in the affair, Mr. Samuel Jarvis, underwent a
trial at the time and was acquitted. But the seconds were not arraigned.
It happened in 1828, eleven years after the incident (the duel took
place July 12, 1817), that Francis Collins, editor of the Canadian
Freeman, a paper of which we have before spoken, was imprisoned and
fined for libel. As an act of retaliation on at least some of those who
had promoted the prosecution, which ended in his being thus sentenced,
he set himself to work to bring the seconds into court. He succeeded.
One of them, Mr. Henry John Boulton, was now Solicitor-General, and the
other, Mr. James E. Small, an eminent member of the Bar. All the
particulars of the fatal encounter, were once more gone over in the
evidence. But the jury did not convict.
Modern society, here and elsewhere, is to be congratulated on the change
which has come over its ideas in regard to duelling. Apart from the
considerations dictated by morals and religion, common sense, as we
suppose, has had its effect in checking the practice. York, in its
infancy, was no better and no worse in this respect than other places.
It took its cue in this as in some other matters, from very high
quarters. The Duke of York, from whom York derived its name, had himself
narrowly escaped a bullet from the pistol of Colonel Lennox: "it passed
so near to the ear as to discommode the side-curl," the report said; but
our Duke's action, or rather inaction, on the occasion helped perhaps to
impress on the public mind the irrationality of duelling: he did not
return the fire. "He came out," he said, "to give Colonel Lennox
satisfaction, and did not mean to fire at him; if Colonel Lennox was not
satisfied, he might fire again."
Just to the north of the scene of the fatal duel, which has led to this
digression, was the portion of Yonge Street where a wooden tramway was
once laid down for a short distance; an experiment interesting to be
remembered now, as an early foreshadowing of the existing convenient
street railway, if not of the great Northern Railway itself.
Subterranean springs and quicksands hereabout rendered the primitive
roadmaker's occupation no easy one; and previous to the application of
macadam, the tramway, while it lasted, was a boon to the farmers after
Mr. Durand's modest cottage and bowery grounds, near here, recall at the
present day, an early praiseworthy effort of its owner to establish a
local periodical devoted to Literature and Natural History, in
conjunction with an advocacy of the cause of Temperance. A diligent
attention to his profession as a lawyer did not hinder the editor of the
Literary Gem from giving some of his leisure time to the observation
and study of Nature. We accordingly have in the columns of that
periodical numerous notes of the fauna and flora of the surrounding
neighbourhood, which for their appreciativeness, simplicity, and
minuteness, remind us of the pleasant pages of White's "Natural History
of Selborne." The Gem appeared in 1851-2, and had an extensive
circulation. It was illustrated with good wood-cuts, and its motto was
"Humanity, Temperance, Progress." The place of its publication was
indicated by a square label suspended on one side of the front entrance
of a small white office still to be seen adjoining the cottage which we
are now passing.
The father of Mr. Durand was an Englishman of Huguenot descent, who
emigrated hither from Abergavenny at a very early period. Having been
previously engaged in the East India mercantile service, he undertook
the importation of East India produce. After reaching Quebec and
Montreal in safety, his first consignments, embarked in batteaux, were
swallowed up bodily in the rapids of the St. Lawrence. He nevertheless
afterwards prospered in his enterprise, and acquired property. Nearly
the whole of the eastern moiety of the present city of Hamilton was
originally his. He represented the united counties of Wentworth and
Halton in several parliaments up to 1822. A political journal, entitled
The Bee, moderate and reasonable in tone, was, up to 1812, edited and
published by him in the Niagara District. Mr. Durand, senior, died in
1833, at Hamilton, where he filled the post of County Registrar. His
eldest son, Mr. James Durand, when, in 1817, member for Halton, enjoyed
the distinction of being expelled from the House of Assembly. A
Parliament had just expired. He offered some strictures on its
proceedings, in an address to his late constituents. The new House,
which embraced many persons who had been members of the previous
Parliament, was persuaded to vote the Address to the electors of Halton
a libel, to exclude its author from the House, and to commit him to
prison. His instant re-election by the county of Halton was of course
secured. We observe from the evidence of Mr. James Durand before the
celebrated Grievance Committee of 1835, that he was an early advocate of
a number of the changes which have since been carried into effect. This
Mr. Durand died in 1872 at Kingston, where he was Registrar for the
County of Frontenac.
We have been enabled to present these facts, through the kindness of Mr.
Charles Durand, who, in a valuable communication, further informs us
that besides being among the earliest to engage in mercantile
enterprises in Upper Canada, his father had also in 1805, a large
interest in the extensive flour mills in Chippawa, known as the
Bridgewater Mills: mills burnt by the retreating American army in 1812,
at which period Mr. Durand, senior, was in the command of one of the
flank companies of Militia, composed of the first settlers in the
neighbourhood of the modern Hamilton: moreover he was the first who ever
imported foxhounds into Upper Canada, a pack of which animals he caused
to be sent out to him from England, being fond of the hunter's sport.
With these he hunted near Long Point, on Lake Erie, in 1805, over a
region teeming at the time with deer, bears, wolves and wild turkeys.
Mr. Peter Des Jardins, from whom the Dundas Canal has its name, was, in
1805, a clerk in the employment of Mr. Durand. (Omitted elsewhere, we
insert here a passing notice of Mr. J. M. Cawdell, another
well-remembered local pioneer of literature. He published for a short
time a magazine of light reading, entitled the Rose harp, the bulk of
which consisted of graceful compositions in verse and prose by himself.
Mr. Cawdell had been an officer in the army. Through the friendship of
Mr. Justice Macaulay (afterwards Sir James), he was appointed librarian
and secretary to the Law Society of Osgoode Hall. He died in 1842.)
Proceeding now onward a few yards, we arrived, in former times, at what
was popularly called the Sandhill--a moderate rise, showing where, in
by-gone ages, the lake began to shoal. An object of interest in the
woods here, at the top of the rise, on the west side, was the "Indian's
Grave," made noticeable to the traveller by a little civilized railing
The story connected therewith was this: When the United States forces
were landing in 1813, near the Humber Bay, with the intention of
attacking the Fort and taking York, one of Major Givins' Indians,
concealed himself in a tree, and from that position fired into the boats
with fatal effect repeatedly. He was soon discovered, and speedily shot.
The body was afterwards found, and deposited with respect in a little
grave here on the crest of the Sandhill, where an ancient Indian burying
ground had existed, though long abandoned. It would seem that by some
means, the scalp of this poor Indian was packed up with the trophies of
the capture of York, conveyed by Lieut. Dudley to Washington. From being
found in company with the Speaker's Mace on that occasion, the foolish
story arose of its having been discovered over the Speaker's chair in
the Parliament building that was destroyed.
"With the exception," says Ingersoll, in his History of the War of
1812-14, "of the English general's musical snuff-box, which was an
object of much interest to some of our officers, and a scalp which Major
Forsyth found suspended over the Speaker's chair, we gained but barren
honour by the capture of York, of which no permanent possession was
Auchinleck, in his History of the same war, very reasonably observes,
that "from the expertness of the backwoodsmen in scalping (of which he
gives two or three instances), it is not at all unlikely that the scalp
in question was that of an unfortunate Indian who was shot while in a
tree by the Americans, in their advance on the town." It was rejected
with disgust by the authorities at Washington, Ingersoll informs us, and
was not allowed to decorate the walls of the War Office there. Colonel
W. F. Coffin, in his "1812: The War and its Moral," asserts that a
peruke or scratch-wig, found in the Parliament House, was mistaken for a
Building requirements have at the present day occasioned the almost
complete obliteration of the Sandhill. Innumerable loads of the loose
silex of which it was composed have been removed. The bones of the
Indian brave, and of his forefathers, have been carried away. In a
triturated condition, they mingle now, perhaps, in the mortar of many a
wall in the vicinity.
A noble race! but they are gone,
With their old forests wide and deep,
And we have built our houses on
Fields where their generations sleep.
Their fountains slake our thirst at noon,
Upon their fields our harvest waves,
Our lovers woo beneath their moon--
Then let us spare at least their graves!
Vain, however, was the poet's appeal. Even the prosaic proclamations of
the civil power had but temporary effect. We quote one of them of the
date of Dec. 14th, 1797, having for its object the protection of the
fishing places and burying grounds of the Mississaga Indians:
"Proclamation. Upper Canada. Whereas, many heavy and grievous complaints
have of late been made by the Mississaga Indians, of depredations
committed by some of his Majesty's subjects and others upon their
fisheries and burial places, and of other annoyances suffered by them by
uncivil treatment, in violation of the friendship existing between his
Majesty and the Mississaga Indians, as well as in violation of decency
and good order: Be it known, therefore, that if any complaint shall
hereafter be made of injuries done to the fisheries and to the burial
places of the said Indians, or either of them, and the persons can be
ascertained who misbehaved himself or themselves in manner aforesaid,
such person or persons shall be proceeded against with the utmost
severity, and a proper example made of any herein offending. Given under
my hand and seal of arms, at York, this fourteenth day of December, in
the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven, and in
the thirty-eighth year of his Majesty's reign. Peter Russell, President,
administering the government. By his Honour's command, Alex. Burns,
As to the particular ancient burial-plot on the Sandhill north of York,
however, it may perhaps be conjectured that prior to 1813 the
Mississagas had transferred to other resting places the bulk of the
relics which had been deposited there.
Off to the eastward of the sandy rise which we are ascending, was one of
the early public nursery gardens of York, Mr. Frank's. Further to the
North on the same side was another, Mr. Adams'. Mr. Adams was a tall,
oval-faced, fair-complexioned Scotchman. An establishment of the same
kind at York more primitive still, was that of Mr. Bond, of whom we
shall have occasion to speak by and by.
Kearsny House, Mr. Proudfoot's, the grounds of which occupy the site of
Frank's nursery garden, is a comparatively modern erection, dating from
about 1845; an architectural object regarded with no kindly glance by
the final holders of shares in the Bank of Upper Canada--an institution
which in the infancy of the country had a mission and fulfilled it, but
which grievously betrayed those of the second generation who, relying on
its traditionary sterling repute, continued to trust it. With Kearsny
House, too, is associated the recollection, not only of the president,
so long identified with the Bank of Upper Canada, but of the financier,
Mr. Cassells, who, as a kind of deus ex machina, engaged at an annual
salary of ten thousand dollars, was expected to retrieve the fortunes of
the institution, but in vain, although for a series of years after being
pronounced moribund it continued to yield a handsome addition to the
income of a number of persons.
Mr. Alexander Murray, subsequently of Yorkville, and a merchant of the
olden time at York, occupied the residence which preceded Kearsny House,
on the Frank property. One desires, in passing, to offer a tribute to
the memory of a man of such genuine worth as was Mr. Murray, although