From Berkeley Street To The Bridge And Across It
We now propose to pass rapidly down "the road to Quebec" as far as the
Bridge. First we cross, in the hollow, Goodwin's creek, the stream which
enters the Bay by the cut-stone Jail. Lieutenant Givins (afterwards
Colonel Givins), on the occasion of his first visit to Toronto in 1793,
forced his way in a canoe with a friend up several of the meanderings of
this stream, under the impression that he was exploring the Don. He had
heard that a river leading to the North-West entered the Bay of Toronto,
somewhere near its head; and he mistook the lesser for the greater
stream: thus on a small scale performing the exploit accomplished by
several of the explorers of the North American coast, who, under the
firm persuasion that a water highway to Japan and China existed
somewhere across this continent, lighted upon Baffin's Bay, Davis
Strait, the Hudson River, and the St. Lawrence itself, in the course of
On the knoll to the right, after crossing Goodwin's creek, was Isaac
Pilkington's lowly abode, a little group of white buildings in a grove
of pines and acacias.
Parliament Street, which enters near here from the north, is a memorial
of the olden time, when, as we have seen, the Parliament Buildings of
Upper Canada were situated in this neighbourhood. In an early section of
these Recollections we observed that what is now called Berkeley Street
was originally Parliament Street, a name which, like that borne by a
well-known thoroughfare in Westminster, for a similar reason, indicated
the fact that it led down to the Houses of Parliament.
The road that at present bears the name of Parliament Street shews the
direction of the track through the primitive woods opened by Governor
Simcoe to his summer house on the Don, called Castle-Frank, of which
fully, in its place hereafter.
Looking up Parliament Street we are reminded that a few yards westward
from where Duke Street enters it, lived at an early period Mr. Richard
Coates, an estimable and ingenious man, whose name is associated in our
memory with the early dawn of the fine arts in York. Mr. Coates, in a
self-taught way, executed, not unsuccessfully, portraits in oil of some
of our ancient worthies. Among things of a general or historical
character, he painted also for David Willson, the founder of the
"Children of Peace," the symbolical decorations of the interior of the
Temple at Sharon. He cultivated music likewise, vocal and instrumental;
he built an organ of some pretensions, in his own house, on which he
performed; he built another for David Willson at Sharon. Mr. Coates
constructed, besides, in the yard of his house, an elegantly-finished
little pleasure yacht, of about nine tons burden.
This passing reference to infant Art in York recalls again the name of
Mr. John Craig, who has before been mentioned in our account of the
interior of one of the many successive St. Jameses. Although Mr. Craig
did not himself profess to go beyond his sphere as a decorative and
heraldic painter, the spirit that animated him really tended to foster
in the community a taste for art in a wider sense.
Mr. Charles Daly, also, as a skilful teacher of drawing in water-colours
and introducer of superior specimens, did much to encourage art at an
early date. In 1834 we find Mr. Daly promoting an exhibition of
Paintings by the "York Artists and Amateur Association," and acting as
"Honorary Secretary," when the Exhibition for the year took place. Mr.
James Hamilton, a teller in the bank, produced, too, some noticeable
landscapes in oil.
As an auxiliary in the cause, and one regardful of the wants of artists
at an early period, we name, likewise, Mr. Alexander Hamilton; who, in
addition to supplying materials in the form of pigments and prepared
colours, contributed to the tasteful setting off of the productions of
pencil and brush, by furnishing them with frames artistically carved and
Out of the small beginnings and rudiments of Art at York, one artist of
a genuine stamp was, in the lapse of a few years, developed--Mr. Paul
Kane; who, after studying in the schools of Europe, returned to Canada
and made the illustration of Indian character and life his specialty. By
talent exhibited in this class of pictorial delineation, he acquired a
distinguished reputation throughout the North American continent; and by
his volume of beautifully illustrated travels, published in London, and
entitled "Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America,"
he obtained for himself a recognized place in the literature of British
In the hollow, a short distance westward of Mr. Coates's, was one of the
first buildings of any size ever erected in these parts wholly of stone.
It was put up by Mr. Hutchinson. It was a large square family house of
three storeys. It still exists, but its material is hidden under a
coating of stucco. Another building, wholly of stone, was Mr. Hunter's
house, on the west side of Church Street. A portion of Hugill's Brewery
likewise exhibited walls of the same solid, English-looking substance.
We now resume our route.
We immediately approach another road entering from the north, which
again draws us aside. This opening led up to the only Roman Catholic
church in York, an edifice of red-brick, substantially built. Mr. Ewart
was the contractor. The material of the north and south walls was worked
into a kind of tesselated pattern, which was considered something very
extraordinary. The spire was originally surmounted by a large and
spirited effigy of the bird that admonished St. Peter, and not by a
cross. It was not a flat, moveable weathercock, but a fixed, solid
figure, covered with tin.
In this building officiated for some time an ecclesiastic named O'Grady.
Mingling with a crowd, in the over-curious spirit of boyhood, we here,
at funerals and on other occasions, first witnessed the ceremonial forms
observed by Roman Catholics in their worship; and once we remember being
startled at receiving, by design or accident, from an overcharged
aspergillum in the hands of a zealous ministrant of some grade passing
down the aisle, a copious splash of holy water in the eye.
Functionaries of this denomination are generally remarkable for their
quiet discharge of duty and for their apparent submissiveness to
authority. They sometimes pass and repass for years before the
indifferent gaze of multitudes holding another creed, without exciting
any curiosity even as to their personal names. But Mr. O'Grady was an
exception to the general run of his order. He acquired a distinctive
reputation among outsiders. He was understood to be an unruly presbyter;
and through his instrumentality, letters of his bishop, evidently never
intended to meet the public eye, got into general circulation. He was
required to give an account of himself, subsequently, at the feet of the
Power Street, the name now applied to the road which led up to the Roman
Catholic church, preserves the name of the Bishop of this communion, who
sacrificed his life in attending to the sick emigrants in 1847.
The road to the south, a few steps further on, led to the wind-mill
built by Mr. Worts, senior, in 1832. In the possession of Messrs.
Gooderham & Worts are three interesting pictures, in oil, which from
time to time have been exhibited. They are intended to illustrate the
gradual progress in extent and importance of the mills and manufactures
at the site of the wind-mill. The first shows the original structure--a
circular tower of red brick, with the usual sweeps attached to a
hemispherical revolving top; in the distance town and harbour are seen.
The second shows the wind-mill dismantled, but surrounded by extensive
buildings of brick and wood, sheltering now elaborate machinery driven
by steam power. The third represents a third stage in the march of
enterprise and prosperity. In this picture gigantic structures of
massive, dark-coloured stone tower up before the eye, vying in colossal
proportions and ponderous strength with the works of the castle-builders
of the feudal times. Accompanying these interesting landscape views, all
of them by Forbes, a local artist of note, a group of life-size
portraits in oil, has occasionally been seen at Art Exhibitions in
Toronto--Mr. Gooderham, senior, and his Seven Sons--all of them
well-developed, sensible-looking, substantial men, manifestly capable of
undertaking and executing whatever practical work the exigencies of a
young and vigorous community may require to be done.
Whenever we have chanced to obtain a glimpse of this striking group
(especially the miniature photographic reproduction of it on one card),
a picture of Tancred of Hauteville and his Twelve Sons, "all of them
brave and fair," once familiar as an illustration appended to that
hero's story, has always recurred to us; and we have thought how
thankfully should we regard the grounds on which the modern Colonial
patriarch comforts himself in view of a numerous family springing up
around him, as contrasted with the reasons on account of which the
enterprising Chieftain of old congratulated himself on the same
spectacle. The latter beheld in his ring of stalwart sons so many
warriors; so much good solid stuff to be freely offered at the shrine of
his own glory, or the glory of his feudal lord, whenever the occasion
should arise. The former, in the young men and maidens, peopling his
house, sees so many additional hands adapted to aid in a bloodless
conquest of a huge continent; so much more power evolved, and all of it
in due time sure to be wanted, exactly suited to assist in pushing
forward one stage further the civilizing, humanizing, beautifying,
processes already, in a variety of directions, initiated.
"Peace hath her victories,
No less renowned than war;"
and it is to the victories of peace chiefly that the colonial father
expects his children to contribute.
When the families of Mr. Gooderham and Mr. Worts crossed the Atlantic,
on the occasion of their emigration from England, the party, all in one
vessel, comprised, as we are informed, so many as fifty-four persons
more or less connected by blood or marriage.
We have been told by Mr. James Beaty that when out duck shooting, now
nearly forty years since, he was surprised by falling in with Mr. Worts,
senior, rambling apparently without purpose in the bush at the mouth of
the Little Don: all the surrounding locality was then in a state of
nature, and frequented only by the sportsman or trapper. On entering
into conversation with Mr. Worts, Mr. Beaty found that he was there
prospecting for an object; that, in fact, somewhere near the spot where
they were standing, he thought of putting up a wind-mill! The project at
the time seemed sufficiently Quixotic. But posterity beholds the large
practical outcome of the idea then brooding in Mr. Worts's brain. In
their day of small things the pioneers of new settlements may take
courage from this instance of progress in one generation, from the rough
to the most advanced condition. For a century to come, there will be
bits of this continent as unpromising, at the first glance, as the mouth
of the Little Don, forty years ago, yet as capable of being reclaimed by
the energy and ingenuity of man, and being put to divinely-intended and
legitimate uses.--Returning now from the wind-mill, once more to the
"road to Quebec," in common language, the Kingston road, we passed, at
the corner, the abode of one of the many early settlers in these parts
who bore German names--the tenement of Peter Ernst, or Ernest as the
appellation afterwards became.
From these Collections and Recollections matters of comparatively so
recent a date as 1849 have for the most part been excluded. We make an
exception in passing the Church which gives name to Trinity Street, for
the sake of recording an inscription on one of its interior walls. It
reads as follows:--"To the Memory of the Reverend William Honywood
Ripley, B.A., of University College, Oxford, First Incumbent of this
Church, son of the Rev. Thomas Hyde Ripley, Rector of Tockenham, and
Vicar of Wootton Bassett in the County of Wilts, England. After devoting
himself during the six years of his ministry, freely, without money and
without price, to the advancement of the spiritual and temporal welfare
of this congregation and neighbourhood, and to the great increase
amongst them of the knowledge of Christ and His Church, he fell asleep
in Jesus on Monday the 22nd of October, 1849, aged 34 years. He filled
at the same time the office of Honorary Secretary to the Church Society
of the Diocese of Toronto, and was Second Classical Master of Upper
Canada College. This Tablet is erected by the Parishioners of this
Church as a tribute of heartfelt respect and affection. Remember them
that have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God:
whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation."
Canadian society in all its strata has been more or less leavened from
England. One of the modes by which the process has been carried on is
revealed in the inscription just given. In 1849, while this quarter of
Toronto was being taken up and built over, the influence of the
clergyman commemorated was singularly marked within it. Mr. Ripley, in
his boyhood, had been trained under Dr. Arnold, at Rugby; and his father
had been at an early period, a private tutor to the Earl of Durham who
came out to Canada in 1838 as High Commissioner. As to the material
fabric of Trinity Church--its erection was chiefly due to the exertions
of Mr. Alexander Dixon, an alderman of Toronto.
The brick School-house attached to Trinity Church bears the inscription:
"Erected by Enoch Turner, 1848." Mr. Turner was a benevolent Englishman
who prospered in this immediate locality as a brewer, and died in 1866.
Besides handsome bequests to near relations, Mr. Turner left by will,
to Trinity College, Toronto, L2,000; to Trinity Church, L500; to St.
Paul's L250; to St. Peter's L250.
Just opposite on the left was where Angell lived, the architect of the
abortive bridges over the mouths of the Don. We obtain from the York
Observer of December 11, 1820, some earlier information in regard to
Mr. Angell. It is in the form of a "Card" thus headed: "York Land Price
Current Office, King Street." It then proceeds--"In consequence of the
Increase of the population of the Town of York, and many applications
for family accommodation upon the arrival of strangers desirous of
becoming settlers, the Subscriber intends to add to the practice of his
Office the business of a House Surveyor and Architect, to lay out
Building Estate, draw Ground plans, Sections and Elevations, to
order, and upon the most approved European and English customs.
Also to make estimates and provide contracts with proper securities
to prevent impostures, for the performance of the same. E. Angell.
N.B.--Land proprietors having estate to dispose of, and persons
requiring any branch of the above profession to be done, will meet with
the most respectful attention on application by letter, or at this
office. York, Oct. 2, ."
The expression, "York Land Price Current Office," above used is
explained by the fact that Mr. Angell commenced at this early date the
publication of a monthly "Land Price Current List of Estates on Sale in
Upper Canada, to be circulated in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales."
Near Mr. Angell, on the same side, lived also Mr. Cummins, the manager
of the Upper Canada Gazette printing office; and, at a later period,
Mr. Watson, another well-known master-printer of York, who lost his life
during the great fire of 1849, in endeavouring to save a favourite press
from destruction, in the third storey of a building at the corner of
King and Nelson streets, a position occupied subsequently by the
Caxton-press of Mr. Hill.
On some of the fences along here, we remember seeing in 1827-8, an
inscription written up in chalk or white paint, memorable to ourselves
personally, as being the occasion of our first taking serious notice of
one of the political questions that were locally stirring the people of
Upper Canada. The words inscribed were--No Aliens! Like the Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity, which we ourselves also subsequently saw painted
on the walls of Paris; these words were intended at once to express and
to rouse public feeling; only in the present instance, as we suppose
now, the inscription emanated from the oligarchical rather than the
popular side. The spirit of it probably was "Down with Aliens,"--and not
"Away with the odious distinction of Aliens!"
A dispute had arisen between the Upper and the Lower House as to the
legal terms in which full civil rights should be conferred on a
considerable portion of the inhabitants of the country. After the
acknowledgment of independence in 1783, emigrants from the United States
to the British Provinces came in no longer as British subjects, but as
foreigners. Many such emigrants had acquired property and exercised the
franchise without taking upon themselves, formally, the obligations of
British subjects. After the war of 1812, the law in regard to this
matter began to be distinctly remembered. The desire then was to check
an undue immigration from the southern side of the great lakes; but the
effect of the revival of the law was to throw doubt on the land titles
of many inhabitants of long standing; doubt on their claim to vote and
to fill any civil office.
The consent of the Crown was freely given to legislate on the subject:
and in 1825-6 the Parliament resolved to settle the question. But a
dispute arose between the Lower and Upper House. The Legislative Council
sent down a Bill which was so amended in terms by the House of Assembly
that the former body declared it then to be "at variance with the laws
and established policy of Great Britain, as well as of the United
States; and therefore if passed into a law by this Legislature, would
afford no relief to many of those persons who were born in the United
States, and who have come into and settled in this Province." The Upper
House party set down as disloyal all that expressed themselves satisfied
with the Lower House amendments. It was from the Upper House party, we
think, that the cry of "No Aliens!" had proceeded.
The Alien measure had been precipitated by the cases of Barnabas Bidwell
and of his son Marshall, of whom the former, after being elected, and
taking his seat as member for Lennox and Addington, had been expelled
the House, on the ground of his being an alien; and the latter had met
with difficulties at the outset of his political career, from the same
objection against him. In the case of the former, however, his alien
character was not the only thing to his disadvantage.
It was in connection with the expulsion of Barnabas Bidwell that Dr.
Strachan gave to a member of the Lower House, when hesitating as to the
legality of such a step, the remarkable piece of advice, "Turn him out,
turn him out! Never mind the law!"--a dictum that passed into an adage
locally, quoted usually in the Aberdeen dialect.
Barnabas Bidwell is thus commemorated in Mackenzie's Almanac for 1834:
"July 27, 1833: Barnabas Bidwell, Esq., Kingston, died, aged 69 years
and 11 months. He was a sincere friend of the rights of the people;
possessed of extraordinary powers of mind and memory, and spent many
years of his life in doing all the good he could to his
fellow-creatures, and promoting the interests of society."
Irritating political questions have now, for the most part, been
disposed of in Canada. We have entered into the rest, in this respect,
secured for us by our predecessors. The very fences which, some forty
years ago, were muttering "No Aliens!" we saw, during the time of a late
general election, exhibiting in conspicuous painted characters, the
following exhortation: "To the Electors of the Dominion--Put in Powell's
Pump"--a humorous advertisement, of course, of a particular contrivance
for raising water from the depths. We think it a sign of general peace
and content, when the populace are expected to enjoy a little jest of
A small compact house, with a pleasant flower garden in front, on the
left, a little way on, was occupied for a while by Mr. Joshua Beard, at
the time Deputy Sheriff, but afterwards well known as owner of extensive
iron works in the town.
We then came opposite to the abode, on the same side, of Mr. Charles
Fothergill, some time King's Printer for Upper Canada. He was a man of
wide views and great intelligence, fond of science, and an experienced
naturalist. Several folio volumes of closely written manuscript, on the
birds and animals generally of of this continent, by him, must exist
somewhere at this moment. They were transmitted to friends in England,
as we have understood.
We remember seeing in a work by Bewick a horned owl of this country,
beautifully figured, which, as stated in the context, had been drawn
from a stuffed specimen supplied by Mr. Fothergill. He himself was a
skilful delineator of the living creatures that so much interested him.
In 1832 Mr. Fothergill sat in Parliament as member for Northumberland,
and for expressing some independent opinions in that capacity, he was
deprived of the office of King's Printer. He originated the law which
established Agricultural Societies in Upper Canada.
In 1836, he appears to have been visited in Pickering by Dr. Thomas
Rolph, when making notes for his "Statistical Account of Upper Canada."
"The Township of Pickering," Dr. Rolph says, "is well settled and
contains some fine land, and well watered. Mr. Fothergill," he
continues, "has an extensive and most valuable museum of natural
curiosities at his residence in this township, which he has collected
with great industry and the most refined taste. He is a person of
superior acquirements, and ardently devoted to the pursuit of natural
philosophy." P. 189.
It was Mr. Fothergill's misfortune to have lived too early in Upper
Canada. Many plans of his in the interests of literature and science
came to nothing for the want of a sufficient body of seconders. In
conjunction with Dr. Dunlop and Dr. Rees, it was the intention of Mr.
Fothergill to establish at York a Museum of Natural and Civil History,
with a Botanical and Zoological Garden attached; and a grant of land on
the Government Reserve between the Garrison and Farr's Brewery was
actually secured as a site for the buildings and grounds of the proposed
A prospectus now before us sets forth in detail a very comprehensive
scheme for this Museum or Lyceum, which embraced also a picture gallery,
"for subjects connected with Science and Portraits of individuals," and
did not omit "Indian antiquities, arms, dresses, utensils, and whatever
might illustrate and make permanent all that we can know of the
Aborigines of this great Continent, a people who are rapidly passing
away and becoming as though they had never been."
For several years Mr. Fothergill published "The York Almanac and Royal
Calendar," which gradually became a volume of between four and five
hundred duodecimo pages, filled with practical and official information
on the subject of Canada and the other British American Colonies. This
work is still often resorted to for information.
Hanging in his study we remember noticing a large engraved map of
"Cabotia." It was a delineation of the British Possessions in North
America--the present Dominion of Canada in fact. It had been his
purpose in 1823 to publish a "Canadian Annual Register;" but this he
never accomplished. While printing the Upper Canada Gazette, he edited
in conjunction with that periodical and on the same sheet, the "Weekly
Register," bearing the motto, "Our endeavour will be to stamp the very
body of the time--its its form and pressure: we shall extenuate nothing,
nor shall we set down aught in malice." From this publication may be
gathered much of the current history of the period. In it are given many
curious scientific excerpts from his Common Place Book. At a later
period, he published, at Toronto, a weekly paper in quarto shape, named
Among the non-official advertisements in the Upper Canada Gazette, in
the year 1823, we observe one signed "Charles Fothergill," offering a
reward "even to the full value of the volumes," for the recovery of
missing portions of several English standard works which had belonged
formerly, the advertisement stated, to the "Toronto Library," broken up
"by the Americans at the taking of York." It was suggested that probably
the missing books were still scattered about, up and down, in the town.
It is odd to see the name of "Toronto" cropping out in 1823, in
connection with a library. (In a much earlier York paper we notice the
"Toronto Coffee House" advertised.)
Mr. Fothergill belonged to the distinguished Quaker family of that name
in Yorkshire. A rather good idea of his character of countenance may be
derived from the portrait of Dr. Arnold, prefixed to Stanley's Memoir.
An oil painting of him exists in the possession of some of his
We observe in Leigh Hunt's London Journal, i. 172, a reference to
"Fothergill's Essay on the Philosophy, Study and Use of Natural
History;" and we have been assured that it is our Canadian Fothergill
who was its author. We give a pathetic extract from a specimen of the
production, in the work just referred to: "Never shall I forget," says
the essayist, "the remembrance of a little incident which many will deem
trifling and unimportant, but which has been peculiarly interesting to
my heart, as giving origin to sentiments and rules of action which have
since been very dear to me."
"Besides a singular elegance of form and beauty of plumage," continues
the enthusiastic naturalist, "the eye of the common lapwing is
peculiarly soft and expressive; it is large, black, and full of lustre,
rolling, as it seems to do, in liquid gems of dew. I had shot a bird of
this beautiful species; but, on taking it up, I found it was not dead. I
had wounded its breast; and some big drops of blood stained the pure
whiteness of its feathers. As I held the hapless bird in my hand,
hundreds of its companions hovered round my head, uttering continued
shrieks of distress, and, by their plaintive cries, appeared to bemoan
the fate of one to whom they were connected by ties of the most tender
and interesting nature; whilst the poor wounded bird continually moaned,
with a kind of inward wailing note, expressive of the keenest anguish;
and, ever and anon, it raised its drooping head, and turning towards the
wound in its breast, touched it with its bill, and then looked up in my
face, with an expression that I have no wish to forget, for it had power
to touch my heart whilst yet a boy, when a thousand dry precepts in the
academical closet would have been of no avail."
The length of this extract will be pardoned for the sake of its
deterrent drift in respect to the wanton maiming and massacre of our
feathered fellow-creatures by the firearms of sportsmen and missiles of
Eastward from the house where we have been pausing, the road took a
slight sweep to the south and then came back to its former course
towards the Don bridge, descending in the meantime into the valley of a
creek or watercourse, and ascending again from it on the other side.
Hereabout, to the left, standing on a picturesque knoll and surrounded
by the natural woods of the region, was a good sized two-storey
dwelling; this was the abode of Mr. David MacNab, sergeant-at-arms to
the House of Assembly, as his father had been before him. With him
resided several accomplished, kind-hearted sisters, all of handsome and
even stately presence; one of them the belle of the day in society at
Here were the quarters of the Chief MacNab, whenever he came up to York
from his Canadian home on the Ottawa. It was not alone when present at
church that this remarkable gentleman attracted the public gaze; but
also, when surrounded or followed by a group of his fair kinsfolk of
York, he marched with dignified steps along through the whole length of
King Street, and down or up the Kingston road to and from the MacNab
homestead here in the woods near the Don.
In his visits to the capital, the Chief always wore a modified highland
costume, which well set off his stalwart, upright form: the blue bonnet
and feather, and richly embossed dirk, always rendered him conspicuous,
as well as the tartan of brilliant hues depending from his shoulder
after obliquely swathing his capacious chest; a bright scarlet vest with
massive silver buttons, and dress coat always jauntily thrown back,
added to the picturesqueness of the figure.
It was always evident at a glance that the Chief set a high value on
himself.--"May the MacNab of MacNabs have the pleasure of taking wine
with Lady Sarah Maitland?" suddenly heard above the buzz of
conversation, pronounced in a very deep and measured tone, by his manly
voice, made mute for a time, on one occasion, the dinner-table at
Government House. So the gossip ran. Another story of the same class,
but less likely, we should think, to be true, was, that seating himself,
without uncovering, in the Court-room one day, a messenger was sent to
him by the Chief Justice, Sir William Campbell, on the Bench, requiring
the removal of his cap; when the answer returned, as he instantly rose
and left the building, was, that "the MacNab of MacNabs doffs his bonnet
to no man!"
At his home on the Chats the Emigrant Laird did his best to transplant
the traditions and customs of by-gone days in the Highlands, but he
found practical Canada an unfriendly soil for romance and sentiment.
Bouchette, in his British Dominions, i. 82, thus refers to the
Canadian abode of the Chief and to the settlement formed by the clan
MacNab. "High up [the Ottawa]," he says, "on the bold and abrupt shore
of the broad and picturesque Lake of the Chats, the Highland Chief
MacNab has selected a romantic residence, Kinnell Lodge, which he has
succeeded, through the most unshaken perseverance, in rendering
exceedingly comfortable. His unexampled exertions in forming and
fostering the settlement of the township, of which he may be considered
the founder and the leader, have not been attended with all the success
that was desirable, or which he anticipated."
Bouchette then appends a note wherein we can see how readily his own
demonstrative Gallic nature sympathized with the kindred Celtic spirit
of the Highlander. "The characteristic hospitality that distinguished
our reception by the gallant Chief," he says, "when, in 1828, we were
returning down the Ottawa, after having explored its rapids and lakes,
as far up as Grand Calumet, we cannot pass over in silence. To voyageurs
in the remote wilds of Canada," he continues, "necessarily strangers
for the time to the sweets of civilization, the unexpected comforts of a
well-furnished board, and the cordiality of a Highland welcome, are
blessings that fall upon the soul like dew upon the flower. 'The sun was
just resigning to the moon the empire of the skies,' when we took our
leave of the noble chieftain," he adds, "to descend the formidable
rapids of the Chats. As we glided from the foot of the bold bank, the
gay plaid and cap of the noble Gael were seen waving on the proud
eminence, and the shrill notes of the piper filled the air with their
wild cadences. They died away as we approached the head of the rapids.
Our caps were flourished, and the flags (for our canoe was gaily
decorated with them) waved in adieu, and we entered the vortex of the
swift and whirling stream."
In 1836, Rolph, in his "Statistical Account of Upper Canada," p. 146,
also speaks of the site of Kinnell Lodge as "greatly resembling in its
bold, sombre and majestic aspect, the wildest and most romantic scenery"
of Scotland. "This distinguished Chieftain," the writer then informs us,
"has received permission to raise a militia corps of 800 Highlanders, a
class of British subjects always distinguished for their devoted and
chivalrous attachment to the laws and institutions of their noble
progenitors, and who would prove a rampart of living bodies in defence
of British supremacy whenever and wherever assailed."
The reference in Dean Ramsay's interesting "Reminiscences of Scottish
life and Character," to "the last Laird of MacNab," is perhaps to the
father of the gentleman familiar to us here in York, and who filled so
large a space in the recollections of visitors to the Upper Ottawa. "The
last Laird of MacNab before the clan finally broke up and emigrated to
Canada was," says the Dean in the work just named, "a well-known
character in the country; and, being poor, used to ride about on a most
wretched horse, which gave occasion to many jibes at his expense. The
Laird," this writer continues, "was in the constant habit of riding up
from the country to attend the Musselburgh races [near Edinburgh]." A
young wit, by way of playing him off on the race course, asked him in a
contemptuous tone, "Is that the same horse you had last year,
Laird?"--"Na," said the Laird, brandishing his whip in the
interrogator's face in so emphatic a manner as to preclude further
questioning, "Na! but it's the same whup!" (p. 216, 9th ed.)
We do not doubt but that the MacNabs have ever been a spirited race.
Their representatives here have always been such; and like their kinsmen
in the old home, too, they have had, during their brief history in
Canada, their share of the hereditary vicissitudes. We owe to a
Sheriff's advertisement in the Upper Canada Gazette or American Oracle
of the 14th of April, 1798, published at Niagara, some biographical
particulars and a minute description of the person of the Mr. MacNab who
was afterwards, as we have already stated, Usher of the Black Rod to the
House of Assembly and father of his successor, Mr. David MacNab, in the
same post; father also of the Allan MacNab, whose history forms part of
that of Upper Canada.
In 1798, imprisonment for debt was the rigorously enforced law of the
land. The prominent MacNab of that date had, it would appear, become
obnoxious to the law on the score of indebtedness: but finding the
restraint imposed irksome, he had relieved himself of it without asking
leave. The hue and cry for his re-capture proceeded as follows: "Two
hundred dollars reward! Home District, Upper Canada, Newark, April 2,
1798. Broke the gaol of this District on the night of the 1st instant,
[the 1st of April, be it observed,] Allan MacNab, a confined debtor. He
is a reduced lieutenant of horse," proceeds the Sheriff, "on the
half-pay list of the late corps of Queen's Rangers; aged 38 years or
thereabouts; five feet three inches high; fair complexion; light hair;
red beard; much marked with the small-pox; the middle finger of one of
his hands remarkable for an overgrown nail; round shouldered; stoops a
little in walking; and although a native of the Highlands of Scotland,
affects much in speaking the Irish dialect. Whoever will apprehend, &c.,
&c., shall receive the above reward, with all reasonable expenses."
The escape of the prisoner on the first of April was probably felt by
the Sheriff to be a practical joke played off on himself personally. We
think we detect personal spleen in the terms of the advertisement: in
the minuteness of the description of Mr. MacNab's physique, which never
claimed to be that of an Adonis; in the biographical particulars, which,
however interesting they chance to prove to later generations, were
somewhat out of place on such an occasion: as also in a postscript
calling on "the printers within His Majesty's Governments in America,
and those of the United States to give circulation in their respective
papers to the above advertisement," &c.
It was a limited exchequer that created embarrassment in the early
history--and, for that matter, in much of the later history as well--of
Mr. MacNab's distinguished son, afterwards the baronet Sir Allan; and no
one could relate with more graphic and humorous effect his troubles from
this source, than he was occasionally in the habit of doing.
When observing his well-known handsome form and ever-benignant
countenance, about the streets of York, we lads at school were wont, we
remember, generally to conjecture that his ramblings were limited to
certain bounds. He himself used to dwell with an amount of complacency
on the skill acquired in carpentry during these intervals of involuntary
leisure, and on the practical results to himself from that skill, not
only in the way of pastime, but in the form of hard cash for personal
necessities. Many were the panelled doors and Venetian shutters in York
which, by his account, were the work of his hands.
Once he was on the point of becoming a professional actor. Giving
assistance now and then as an anonymous performer to Mr. Archbold, a
respectable Manager here, he evinced such marked talent on the boards,
that he was seriously advised to adopt the stage as his avocation and
employment. The Theatre of Canadian public affairs, however, was to be
the real scene of his achievements. Particulars are here unnecessary.
Successively sailor and soldier (and in both capacities engaged in
perilous service); a lawyer, a legislator in both Houses; Speaker twice
in the Popular Assembly; once Prime Minister; knighted for gallantry,
and appointed an Aide-de-camp to the Queen; dignified with a baronetcy;
by the marriage of a daughter with the son of a nobleman, made the
possible progenitor of English peers--the career of Allan MacNab cannot
fail to arrest the attention of the future investigator of Canadian
With our local traditions in relation to the grandiose chieftain above
described, one or two stories are in circulation, in which his young
kinsman Allan amusingly figures. Alive to pleasantry--as so many of our
early worthies in these parts were--he undertook, it is said, for a
small wager, to prove the absolute nudity of the knees, &c., of his
feudal lord when at a ball in full costume: (the allegation,
mischievously made, had been that the Chief was protected from the
weather by invisible drawers.) The mode of demonstration adopted was a
sudden cry from the ingenuous youth addressed to the Chief, to the
effect that he observed a spider, or some such object running up his
leg!--a cry instantly followed by a smart slap with the hand, with the
presumed intention of checking the onward course of the noxious thing.
The loud crack occasioned by the blow left no room for doubt as to the
fact of nudity; but the dignified Laird was somewhat disconcerted by the
over zeal of his young retainer.
Again, at Kingston, the ever-conscious Chief having written himself down
in the visitors' book at the hotel as The MacNab, his juvenile relative,
coming in immediately after and seeing the curt inscription, instantly
entered his protest against the monopoly apparently implied, by writing
himself down, just underneath, in conspicuous characters, as The Other
MacNab--the genius of his coming fortunes doubtless inspiring the merry
deed.--He held for a time a commission in the 68th, and accompanied that
regiment to York in 1827. Riding along King Street one day soon after
his arrival in the town, he observed Mr. Washburn, the lawyer, taking a
furtive survey of him through his eyeglass. The proceeding is at once
reciprocated by the conversion of a stirrup into an imaginary lens of
large diameter, lifted by the strap and waggishly applied to the eye.
Mr. Washburn had, we believe, pressed matters against the young officer
rather sharply in the courts, a year or two previously. A few years
later, when member for Wentworth, he contrived, while conversing with
the Speaker, Mr. McLean, in the refreshment-room of the Parliament
House, to slip into one of that gentleman's coat pockets the leg-bone of
a turkey. After the lapse of a few minutes, Mr. MacNab, as chairman of a
committee of the whole House, is solemnly seated at the Table, and Mr.
Speaker, in his capacity as a member, is being interrogated by him on
some point connected with the special business of the committee. At this
particular moment, it happens that Mr. Speaker, feeling for his
handkerchief, discovers in his pocket the extraordinary foreign object
which had been lodged there. Guessing in an instant the author of the
trick, he extricates the bone and quick as thought, shies it at the head
of the occupant of the Chair. The House is, of course, amazed; and Mr.
MacNab, in the gravest manner, directs the Clerk to make a note of the
act.--We have understood that the house occupied by Mr. Fothergill
(where we paused a short time since) was originally built by Allan
MacNab, junior, but never dwelt in by him.
We now arrived at the Don bridge. The valley of the Don, at the place
where the Kingston Road crosses it, was spanned in 1824 by a long wooden
viaduct raised about twenty-five feet above the marsh below. This
structure consisted of a series of ten trestles, or frames of hewn
timber supporting a roadway of plank, which had lasted since 1809. A
similar structure spanned the Humber and its marshes on the west side of
York. Both of these bridges about the year 1824 had become very much
decayed; and occasionally both were rendered impassable at the same
time, by the falling in of worn-out and broken planks. The York papers
would then make themselves merry on the well-defended condition of the
town in a military point of view, approach to it from the east and west
being effectually barred.
Prior to the erection of the bridge on the Kingston Road, the Don was
crossed near the same spot by means of a scow, worked by the assistance
of a rope stretched across the stream. In 1810, we observe that the
Humber was also crossed by means of a ferry. In that year the
inhabitants of Etobicoke complained to the magistrates in session at
York of the excessive toll demanded there; and it was agreed that for
the future the following should be the charges:--For each foot
passenger, 21/2d.; for every hog, 1d.; for every sheep, the same; for
horned cattle, 21/2d. each, for every horse and rider, 5d.; for every
carriage drawn by two horses, 1s. 3d. (which included the driver); for
every carriage with one horse, 1s. It is presumed that the same tolls
were exacted at the ferry over the Don, while in operation.
In 1824 not only was the Don bridge in bad repair, but, as we learn from
a petition addressed by the magistrates to Sir Peregrine Maitland in
that year, the bridge over the Rouge in Pickering, also, is said to be,
"from its decayed state, almost impassable, and if not remedied," the
document goes on to state, "the communication between this town (York)
and the eastern parts of the Province, as well as with Lower Canada by
land, will be entirely obstructed."
At length the present earthwork across the marsh at the Don was thrown
up, and the river itself spanned by a long wooden tube, put together on
a suspension principle, roofed over and closed in on the sides, with the
exception of oblong apertures for light. It resembled in some degree the
bridges to be seen over the Reuss at Lucerne and elsewhere in
Switzerland, though not decorated with paintings in the interior, as
they are. Stone piers built on piles sustained it at either end. All was
done under the superintendence of a United States contractor, named
Lewis. It was at him that the italics in Mr. Angell's advertisement
glanced. The inuendo was that, for engineering purposes, there was no
necessity for calling in the aid of outsiders.
From a kind of small Friar-Bacon's study, occupied in former years by
ourselves, situated on a bold point some distance northwards, up the
valley, we remember watching the pile-driver at work in preparing the
foundation of the two stone piers of the Don bridge: from where we sat
at our books we could see the heavy mallet descend; and then, after a
considerable interval, we would hear the sharp stroke on the end of the
piece of timber which was being driven down. From the same elevated
position also, previously, we used to see the teams crossing the high
frame-work over the marsh on their way to and from Town, and hear the
distant clatter of the horses' feet on the loosely-laid planks.
The tubular structure which succeeded the trestle-work bridge did not
retain its position very long. The pier at its western extremity was
undermined by the water during a spring freshet, and gave way. The
bridge, of course, fell down into the swirling tide below, and was
carried bodily away, looking like a second Ark as it floated along
towards the mouth of the river, where at length it stranded and became a
On the breaking up of the ice every spring the Don, as is well known,
becomes a mighty rushing river, stretching across from hill to hill.
Ordinarily, it occupies but a small portion of its proper valley,
meandering along, like an English tide-stream when the tide is out. The
bridge carried away on this occasion was notable so long as it stood,
for retaining visible marks of an attempt to set fire to it during the
troubles of 1837.
The next appliance for crossing the river was another tubular frame of
timber, longer than the former one; but it was never provided with a
roof, and never closed in at the sides. Up to the time that it began to
show signs of decay, and to require cribs to be built underneath it in
the middle of the stream, it had an unfinished, disreputable look. It
acquired a tragic interest in 1859, from being the scene of the murder,
by drowning, of a young Irishman named Hogan, a barrister, and, at the
same time, a member of the Parliament of Canada.
When crossing the high trestlework which preceded the present
earth-bank, the traveller, on looking down into the marsh below, on the
south side, could see the remains of a still earlier structure, a
causeway formed of unhewn logs laid side by side in the usual manner,
but decayed, and for the most part submerged in water, resembling, as
seen from above, some of the lately-discovered substructions in the
lakes of Switzerland. This was probably the first road by which wheeled
vehicles ever crossed the valley of the Don here. On the protruding ends
of some of the logs of this causeway would be always seen basking, on a
warm summer's day, many fresh-water turtles; amongst which, as also
amongst the black snakes, which were likewise always to be seen coiled
up in numbers here, and among the shoals of sunfish in the surrounding
pools, a great commotion would take place when the jar was felt of a
waggon passing over on the framework above.
The rest of the marsh, with the exception of the space occupied by the
ancient corduroy causeway, was one thicket of wild willow, alder, and
other aquatic shrubbery, among which was conspicuous the spiraea, known
among boys as "seven-bark" or "nine-bark" and prized by them for the
beautiful hue of its rind, which, when rubbed, becomes a bright scarlet.
Here also the blue iris grew plentifully, and reeds, frequented by the
marsh hen; and the bulrush, with its long cat-tails, sheathed in
chestnut-coloured felt, and pointing upwards like toy sky-rockets ready
to be shot off. (These cat-tails, when dry and stripped, expand into
large, white, downy spheres of fluff, and actually are as inflammable as
gunpowder, going off with a mighty flash at the least touch of fire.)
The view from the old trestlework bridge, both up and down the stream,
was very picturesque, especially when the forest, which clothed the
banks of the ravine on the right and left, wore the tints of autumn.
Northward, while many fine elms would be seen towering up from the land
on a level with the river, the bold hills above them and beyond were
covered with lofty pines. Southward, in the distance, was a great
stretch of marsh, with the blue lake along the horizon. In the summer
this marsh was one vast jungle of tall flags and reeds, where would be
found the conical huts of the muskrat, and where would be heard at
certain seasons the peculiar gulp of the bittern; in winter, when
crisp and dry, here was material for a magnificent pyrotechnical
display, which usually, once a year, came off, affording at night to
the people of the town a spectacle not to be contemned.
Through a portion of this marsh on the eastern side of the river, Mr.
Justice Boulton, at a very early period, cut, at a great expense, an
open channel in front of some property of his: it was expected, we
believe, that the matted vegetation on the outer side of this cutting
would float away and leave clear water, when thus disengaged; but no
such result ensued: the channel, however, has continued open, and is
known as the "Boulton ditch." It forms a communication for skiffs
between the Don and Ashbridge's Bay.
At the west end of the bridge, just across what is now the gore between
Queen Street and King Street, there used to be the remains of a military
breastwork thrown up in the war of 1812. At the east end of the bridge,
on the south side of the road, there still stands a lowly edifice of
hewn logs, erected before the close of the last century, by the writer's
father, who was the first owner and occupant of the land on both sides
of the Kingston road at this point. The roadway down to the original
crossing-place over the river in the days of the Ferry, and the time of
the first corduroy bridge, swerving as it did considerably to the south
from the direct line of the Kingston road, must have been in fact a
trespass on his lot on the south side of the road: and we find that so
noteworthy an object was the solitary house, just above the bridge, in
1799, that the bridge itself, in popular parlance, was designated by its
owner's name. Thus in the Upper Canada Gazette for March 9, 1799, we
read that at a Town Meeting Benjamin Morley was appointed overseer of
highways and fence-viewer for the section of road "from Scadding's
bridge to Scarborough." In 1800 Mr. Ashbridge is appointed to the same
office, and the section of highway placed under his charge is on this
occasion named "the Bay Road from Scadding's bridge to Scarborough."
This Mr. Ashbridge is the early settler from whom Ashbridge's Bay was so
called. His farm lay along the lower portion of that sheet of water.
Next to him, westward, was the property of Mr. Hastings, whose Christian
name was Warren. Years ago, when first beginning to read Burke, we
remember wondering why the name of "the great proconsul" of Hindustan
looked so familiar to the eye: when we recollected that in our childhood
we used frequently to see here along the old Kingston road the name
Warren Hastings appended in conspicuous characters, to placards posted
up, advertising a "Lost Cow," or some other homely animal, gone
astray.--Adjoining Mr. Hasting's farm, still moving west, was that of
Mr. Mills, with whose name in our mind is associated the name of "Hannah
Mills," an unmarried member of his household, who was the Sister of
Charity of the neighbourhood, ever ready in times of sickness and
bereavement to render, for days and nights together, kindly, sympathetic
and consolatory aid.
We transcribe the full list of the appointments at the Town Meeting of
1799, for the sake of the old locally familiar names therein embodied;
and also as showing the curious and almost incredible fact that in the
language of the people, York at that early period, 1799, was beginning
to be entitled "the City of York!"
"Persons elected at the Town Meeting held at the City of York on the 4th
day of March, 1799, pursuant to an Act of Parliament of the Province,
entitled an Act to provide for the nomination and appointment of Parish
and Town Officers within this Province. Clerk of the Town and
Township,--Mr. Edward Hayward. Assessors,--(including also the Townships
of Markham and Vaughan) Mr. George Playter and Mr. Thomas Stoyles.
Collector,--Mr. Archibald Cameron. Overseers of the Highways and Roads,
and Fence-viewers,--Benjamin Morley, from Scadding's Bridge to
Scarborough; James Playter, from the Bay Road to the Mills; Abraham
Devans, circle of the Humber; Paul Wilcot, from Big-Creek to No. 25,
inclusive, on Yonge Street, and half Big-Creek Bridge; Daniel Dehart,
from Big-Creek to No. 1 inclusive, on Yonge Street, and half Big-Creek
Bridge. Mr. McDougal and Mr. Clarke for the district of the city of
York. Pound Keepers: Circle of the Don, Parshall Terry, junr.; Circle of
the Humber, Benjamin Davis; Circle of Yonge Street, No. 1 to 25, James
Everson; Circle of the City, etc., James Nash. Townwardens, Mr.
Archibald Thompson and Mr. Samuel Heron. Other officers, elected
pursuant to the 12th clause of the said Act: Pathmasters and
Fence-viewers, Yonge Street, in Markham and Vaughan, Mr. Stilwell
Wilson, lots 26 to 40, Yonge Street; Mr. John H. Hudrux, 41 to 51, Yonge
Street, John Lyons, lots 26 to 35. John Stulz, Pathmaster and
Fence-viewer in the German Settlement of Markham. David Thompson, do.
It is then added:--"N. B.--Conformably to the resolutions of the
inhabitants, no hogs to run at large above three months old, and lawful
fences to be five feet and a half high. Nicholas Klingenbrumer,
constable, presiding." Furthermore, the information is given that "the
following are Constables appointed by the Justices: John Rock, Daniel
Tiers and John Matchefosky, for the city, etc. Levi Devans for the
District of the Humber, Thomas Hill from No. 1 to 25, Yonge Street;
Balser Munshaw, for Vaughan and first Concession of Markham; ----
Squantz for the German settlement of Markham. By order of the
Magistrates: D. W. Smith." Also notice is given that "Such of the above
officers as have not yet taken the oath, are warned hereby to do so
without loss of time. The constables are to take notice that although
for their own ease they are selected from particular districts, they are
liable to serve process generally in the county."
When, in 1799, staid inhabitants were found seriously dignifying the
group of buildings then to be seen on the borders of the bay, with the
magnificent appellation of the "City of York," it is no wonder that at a
later period indignation is frequently expressed at the ignominious
epithet of "Little," which persons in the United States were fond of
prefixing to the name of the place. Thus for example, in the Weekly
Register so late as June, 1822, we have the editor speaking thus in a
notice to a correspondent: "Our friends on the banks of the Ohio, 45
miles below Pittsburg, will perceive," the editor remarks, "that
notwithstanding he has made us pay postage [and postage in those days
was heavy], we have not been unmindful of his request. We shall always
be ready at the call of charity when not misapplied; and we hope the
family in question will be successful in their object.--There is one
hint, however," the editor goes on to say, "we wish to give Mr. W.
Patton, P. M.; which is, although there may be many "Little" Yorks in
the United States, we know of no place called "Little York" in Canada;
and beg that he will bear this little circumstance in his recollection
when he again addresses us."
Gourlay also, as we have seen, when he wished to speak cuttingly of the
authorities at York, used the same epithet. In gubernatorial
proclamations, the phrase modestly employed is--"Our Town of York."
A short distance east from the bridge a road turned northward, known as
the "Mill road." This communication was open in 1799. It led originally
to the Mills of Parshall Terry, of whose accidental drowning in the Don
there is a notice in the Gazette of July 23, 1808. In 1800, Parshall
Terry is "Overseer of Ways from the Bay Road to the Mills." In 1802 the
language is "from the Bay Road to the Don Mills," and in that year, Mr.
John Playter is elected to the office held in the preceding year by
Parshall Terry. (In regard to Mr. John Playter:--The solitary house
which overlooked the original Don Bridge and Ferry was occupied by him
during the absence of its builder and owner in England; and here, Mr.
Emanuel Playter, his eldest son, was born.)
In 1821, and down to 1849, the Mill road was regarded chiefly as an
approach to the multifarious works, flour-mills, saw-mills,
fulling-mills, carding-mills, paper-mills and breweries, founded near
the site of Parshall Terry's Mills, by the Helliwells, a vigorous and
substantial Yorkshire family, whose heads first settled and commenced
operations on the brink of Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side, in 1818,
but then in 1821 transferred themselves to the upper valley of the Don,
where that river becomes a shallow, rapid stream, and where the
surroundings are, on a small scale, quite Alpine in character--a
secluded spot at the time, in the rudest state of nature, a favourite
haunt of wolves, bears and deer; a spot presenting difficulties
peculiarly formidable for the new settler to grapple with, from the
loftiness and steepness of the hills and the kind of timber growing
thereabout, massive pines for the most part. Associated with the
Helliwells in their various enterprises, and allied to them by
copartnerships and intermarriage, were the Skinners and Eastwoods, all
shrewd and persevering folk of the Midland and North-country English
stock.--It was Mr. Eastwood who gave the name of Todmorden to the
village overlooking the mills. Todmorden, partly in Yorkshire, and
partly in Lancashire, was the old home of the Helliwells.
Farther up the river, on the hills to the right, were the Sinclairs,
very early settlers from New England; and beyond, descending again into
the vale, the Taylors and Leas, substantial and enterprising emigrants
Hereabout were the "Forks of the Don," where the west branch of that
stream, seen at York Mills, enters. The hills in this neighbourhood are
lofty and precipitous, and the pines that clothed them were of a
remarkably fine growth. The tedious circuit which teams were obliged to
make in order to get into the town from these regions by the Don bridge
has since been, to some extent, obviated by the erection of two
additional bridges at points higher up the stream, north of the Kingston