Toronto of Old, H. Scadding. D.D.
Chapter XXIX. THE HARBOUR: ITS MARINE, 1793-99.
THE first formal survey of the harbour of Toronto was made by Joseph Bouchette in 1793. His description of the bay and its surroundings at that date is, with the historians of Upper Canada, a classic passage. For the completeness of our narrative it must be produced once more. "It fell to my lot," says Bouchette,"to make the first survey of York Harbour in 1793." And he explains how this happened. "Lieutenant-Governor, the late Gen. Simcoe, who then resided at Navy Hall, Niagara, having," he says, "formed extensive plans for the improvement of the colony, had resolved upon laying the foundations of a provincial capital. I was at that period in the naval service of the Lakes, and the survey of Toronto (York) Harbour was entrusted by his Excellency to my performance."
He then thus proceeds, writing, we may observe, in 1831 still distinctly recollect the untamed aspect which the country exhibited when first I entered the beautiful basin, which thus became the scene of my early hydrographical operations. Dense and trackless forests lined the margin of the lake and reflected their inverted images in its glassy surface. The wandering savage had constructed his ephemeral habitation beneath their luxuriant foliage - the group then consisting of two families of Mississagas, - the bay and neighbouring marshes were the hitherto uninvaded haunts of immense coveys of wild fowl. Indeed, they were so abundant," he adds, "as in some measure to annoy us during the might." The passage is to be found in a note at p. 89 of volume one of the quarto edition of "The British Dominions in North America," published in London in 1831.
The winter of 1792-3 was in Upper Canada a favourable one for explorers. "We have had a remarkably mild winter," says the Gazette in its first number, dated April 18, 1793; "the thermometer in the severest time has not been lower than nine degrees above zero, by Fahrenheit's scale. Lake Erie has not been frozen over, and there has been very little ice on Lake Ontario." The same paper informs us that "his Majesty's sloop, the Caldwell, sailed the 5th instant (April), from Niagara, for fort Ontario (Oswego) and Kingston." Also that "on Monday evening (13th) there arrived in the river (at Niagara) his Majesty's armed schooner, the Onondago, in company with the Lady Dorchester, merchantman, after an agreeable passage (from Kingston) of thirty-six hours." (The following gentlemen, it is noted, came passengers:- J. Small, Esq., Clerk of the Executive Council; Lieut.-McCan, of the 6oth regiment; Capt. Thos. Fraser, Mr. J. Denison, Mr. Joseph Forsyth, merchant, Mr. L. Crawford, Capt. Archibald Macdonald, - Hathaway.)
Again, on May 2nd, the information is given that " on Sunday morning early, his Majesty's sloop Caldwell arrived here (Niagara) from Kingston, which place she left on Thursday - but was obliged to anchor off the bar of this river part of Saturday night. And on Monday also arrived from Kingston the Onondago, in twenty-three hours."
Joseph Bouchette in 1793 must have been under twenty years of age. He was born in 1774. He was the son of Commodore Bouchette, who in 1793 had command of the Naval Force on Lake Ontario. When Joseph Bouchette first entered the harbour of Toronto, as described above, he was not without associates. He was probably one of an exploring party which set out from Niagara in May, 1793. It would appear that the Governor himself paid his first visit to the intended site of the capital of his young province on the same occasion.
In the Gazette of Thursday, May 9th 1793, published at Newark or Niagara, we have the following record:- "On Thursday last (this would be May the 3rd) his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, accompanied by several military gentlemen, set out in boats for Toronto, round the Head of the Lake Ontario, by Burlington Bay; and in the evening his Majesty's vessels the Caldwell and Buffalo, sailed for the same place." Supposing the boats which Proceeded round the Head of the Lake to have arrived at the cleared spot where the French stockaded trading-post of Toronto had stood, on Saturday, the 4th, the inspection of the harbour and its surroundings by the Governor and military gentlemen" occupied a little less than a week ; for we find that on Monday, the 13th, they are back again in safety at Niagara. The Gazette of Thursday, the 16th of May, thus announces their return : "On Monday (the 13th) .about 2 o'clock, his Excellency the Lieut.-Governor and suite arrived at Navy Hall from Toronto; they returned in boats round the Lake."
It is probable that Bouchette was left behind, perhaps with the Caldwell and Buffalo, to complete the survey of the harbour. (in the work above named is a reduction of Bouchette's chart of the harbour with the soundings and bottom; also with lines shewing "the breaking of the ice in the spring." His minute delineation of the pinion-shaped peninsula of sand which forms the outer boundary of Toronto bay, enables the observer to see very clearly how, by long-continued drift from the cast, that barrier was gradually thrown up; as, also, how inevitable were the marshes at the outlet of the Don.)
The excursion from Niagara, just described, was the Governor's first visit to the harbour of Toronto, and we may suppose the Caldwell and the Buffalo to have been the first sailing-craft of any considerable magnitude that ever stirred its waters. In April 1793, the Governor had not yet visited Toronto. We learn this from a letter dated the 5th of that month, addressed by him to Major-General Clarke, at Quebec. Gen. Clarke was the Lieut. Governor in Lower Canada. Lord Dorchester, the Governor General himself, was absent in England. "Many American officers," Gen. Simcoe says to Gen. Clarke on the 5th of April, "give it as their opinion that Niagara should be attacked, and that Detroit must fall of course. I hope by this autumn," he continues, "to show the fallacy of this reasoning, by opening a safe and expeditious communication to La Tranche. But on this subject reserve myself till I have visited Toronto."
The safe and expeditious communication referred to was the great military road, Dundas Street, projected by the Governor to connect the port and arsenal at Toronto with the Thames and Detroit. It was in the February and March of this very same year, 1793, that the Governor had made, partly on foot, and partly in sleighs, his famous exploratory tour through the woods from Niagara to Detroit and back, with a view to the establishment of this communication.
On the 31st of May he is writing again to Gen. Clarke, at Quebec. He has now, as we have seen, been at Toronto; and he speaks warmly of the advantages which the site appeared to him to possess. "It is with great pleasure that I offer to you," he says, "some observations upon the Military strength and Naval convenience of Toronto (now York) [he adds], which I propose immediately to occupy. I lately examined the harbour," he continues, "accompanied by such officers, naval and military, as I thought most competent to give me assistance therein, and upon minute investigation I found it to be, without comparison, the most proper situation for an arsenal, in every extent of that word, that can be met with in this Province."
The words, "now York," appended here and in later documents to "Toronto," show that an official change of name had taken place. The alteration was made between the 15th and 31st of May. No proclamation, however, announcing its change, is to be found either in the local Gazette or in the archives at Ottawa.
Nor is there any allusion to the contemplated works at York either in the opening or closing speech delivered by the Governor to the houses of parliament, which met at Niagara for their second session on the 28th of May, and were dismissed to their homes again on the 9th of the following July. We may suppose the minds of the members and other persons of influence otherwise prepared for the coming changes, chiefly perhaps by means of friendly conferences.
The Governor's scheme may, for example, have been one of the topics of conversation at the levée, ball and supper on the King's birthday, which, happening during the parliamentary session, was observed with considerable ceremony. - "On Tuesday last, the fourth of June," says the Gazette of the period, "being the anniversary of his Majesty's birthday, his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor held a levée at Navy Hall. At one the troops in garrison and at Queenston fired three volleys. The field pieces above Navy Hall under the direction of the Royal Artillery, and the guns at the garrison, fired a royal salute. In the evening," the Gazette further reports, "his Excellency gave a Ball and elegant supper in the Council Chamber, which was most numerously attended."
Of this ball and supper another brief notice is extant. It chanced that three distinguished Americans were among the guests-Gen. Lincoln, Col. Pickering, and Mr. Randolph, United States commissioners on their way, via Niagara, to a great Council of the Western Indians, about to be held at the Miami river. In his private journal, since printed in the Massachusetts Historical Collections, Gen. Lincoln made the following note of the Governor's entertainment at Niagara :- "The ball," he says, " was attended by about twenty well-dressed and handsome ladies, and about three times that number of gentlemen. They danced," he records," from seven o'clock till eleven, when supper was announced, and served in very pretty taste. The music and dancing," it is added, " was good, and everything was conducted with propriety." This probably was the first time the royal birthday was observed at Niagara in an official way.
Soon after the prorogation, July the 9th, steps preparatory to a removal to York began to be taken. Troops, for example, were transported across to the north side of the Lake. "A few days ago," says the Gazette of Thursday, August the 1st, 1793, "the first Division of his Majesty's Corps of Queen's Rangers left Queenston for Toronto-now York [it is carefully added], and proceeded in batteaux round the head of the Lake Ontario, by Burlington Bay. And shortly afterwards another division of the same regiment sailed in the King's vessels, the Onondago and Caldwell, for the same place."
It is evident the Governor, as he expressed himself to Gen. Clarke, in the letter of May 31, is about "immediately to occupy " the site which seemed to him so eligible for an arsenal and strong military post. Accordingly, having thus sent forward two divisions of the regiment whose name is so intimately associated with his own, to be a guard to receive him on his own arrival, and to be otherwise usefully employed, we find the Governor himself embarking for the same spot. "On Monday evening [this would be Monday, the 29th of July]," the Gazette just quoted informs us, " his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor left Navy Hall and embarked on board his Majesty's schooner, the Mississaga, which sailed immediately with a favourable gale for York, with the remainder of the Queen's Rangers." - On the following morning, July 30, 1793, they would, with the aid of the " favourable gale," be at anchor in the harbour of York.
Major Littlehales, the Governor's faithful secretary, remains behind until the following Thursday, August the 1st, engaged probably in arranging household matters for the Governor, an absence from Navy Hall of some duration being contemplated. He then crosses the Lake in the Caldwell, and joins his Chief. At the same time start Chief justice Osgoode and Mr. Attorney General White for the East, to hold the circuit. " On Thursday evening, the 1st instant," says the Gazette of the 8th of August, "his Majesty's armed vessels the Onondago and the Caldwell sailed from this place (Niagara). The former, for Kingston, had on board the Hon. William Osgoode, Chief justice of this Province, and John White, Esq., Attorney General, who are going to hold the circuits at Kingston and Johnstown. Major Littlehales sailed in the latter, for York, to join his Excellency's suite."
We should have been glad of a minute account of each day's proceedings on the landing of the troops at York, and the arrival there of the Governor and his suite. But we can readily imagine the Rangers establishing themselves under canvas on the grassy glade where formerly stood the old French trading-post. We can imagine them landing stores-a few cannon and some other munitions of war-from the ships; landing the parts and appurtenances of the famous canvas-house which the Governor had provided for the shelter of himself and his family, and which, as we have before noted, was originally constructed for the use of Captain Cook in one of the scientific expeditions commanded by that celebrated circumnavigator.
The canvas-house must have been a pavilion of considerable capacity, and was doubtless pitched and fixed with particular care by the soldiers and others, wherever its precise situation was determined. It was, as it were, the praetorium of the camp, but moveable. We can conceive of it as being set down, in the first instance, on the site of the French fort, and then at a later period, or on the occasion of a later visit to York, shifted to one of the knolls overlooking the little stream known subsequently as the Garrison creek; and shifted again, at another visit, to a position still farther east, where a second small stream meandered between steep banks into the Bay, at the point where a Government ship building yard was in after years established. (Tradition places the canvas-house on several sites.)
We can conceive, too, all hands, sailors as well as soldiers, busy in opening eastward through the woods along the shore, a path that should be more respectable and more useful for military and civil, purposes than the Indian trail which they would already find there, leading directly to the quarter where, at the farther end of the Bay, the town-plot was designed to be laid out, and the Government buildings were intended to be erected.
On the 8th of August we know the Governor was engaged at York in writing to the Indian Chief Brant, from whom a runner has just arrived all the way from the entrance to the Detroit river. Brant, finding the conference between his compatriots and the United States authorities likely to end unsatisfactorily, sent to solicit Governor Simcoe's interposition, especially in regard to the boundary line which the Indians of the West insisted on-the Ohio river. Thus runs the Governor's reply, written at York on the 8th:- "Since the Government of the United States," he says, " have shown a disinclination to concur with the Indian nations in requesting of his Majesty permission for me to attend at Sandusky as mediator, it would be highly improper and unreasonable in me to give an opinion relative to the proposed boundaries, with which I am not sufficiently acquainted, and which question I have studiously avoided entering into, as I am well aware of the jealousies entertained by some of the subjects of the United States of the interference of the British Government, which has a natural and decided interest in the welfare of the Indian nations, and in the establishment of peace and permanent tranquillity. In this situation, I am sure you will excuse me from giving to you any advice, which, from my absence from the spot, cannot possibly arise from that perfect view and knowledge which so important a subject necessarily demands."
The controversy in the West, in relation to which the Governor is thus cautiously expressing himself to the Indian Chief on the 8th of August was a subject for cabinet consideration; a matter only for the few. But towards the close of the month, news from a different quarter - from the outer world of the far European East - reached the infant York, suitable to be divulged to the many and turned to public account. It was known that hostilities were going on between the allied forces of Europe and the armies of Revolutionary France. And now came intelligence that the English contingent on the continent had contributed materially to a success over the French in Flanders on the 23rd of May last. Now this contingent, 10,000 men, was under the command of the Duke of York, the King's son. A happy thought strikes the Governor. What could be more appropriate than to celebrate the good news in a demonstrative manner on a spot which in honour of that Prince had been named YORK.
Accordingly, on the 26th of August, we find the following General Order issued:-"York, Upper Canada, 26th of August, 1793 His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor having received information of the success of his Majesty's arms, under His Royal Highness the Duke of York, by which Holland has been saved from the invasion of the French armies,-and it appearing that the combined forces have been successful in dislodging their enemies from an entrenched camp supposed to be impregnable, from which the most important consequences may be expected; and in which arduous attempts His Royal Highness the Duke of York and His Majesty's troops supported the national glory:-It is His Excellency's orders that on the rising of the Union Flag at twelve o'clock to-morrow a Royal Salute of twenty-one guns is to be fired, to be answered by the shipping in the Harbour, in respect to His Royal Highness and in commemoration of the naming this Harbour from his English title, YORK. E. B. Littlehales, Major of Brigade."
These orders, we are to presume, were punctually obeyed; and we are inclined to think that the running up of the Union Flag at noon on Tuesday, the 27th day of August, and the salutes which immediately after reverberated through the woods and rolled far down and across the silvery surface of the Lake, were intended to be regarded as the true inauguration of the Upper Canadian YORK. The rejoicing, indeed, as it proved, was somewhat premature. The success which distinguished the first operations of the royal duke did not continue to attend his efforts. Nevertheless, the report of the honours rendered in this remote portion of the globe, would be grateful to the fatherly heart of the King.
On the Saturday after the Royal Salutes, the first meeting of the Executive Council ever held in York, took place in the garrison; in the canvas-house, as we may suppose. " The first Council," writes Mr. W. H. Lee from Ottawa, " held at the garrison, York, late Toronto, at which Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe was present, was on Saturday, 31st August, 1793." It transacted business there, Mr. Lee says, until the following fifth of September, when the Government returned to Navy Hall. Still, the Governor and his family passed the ensuing winter at York. Bouchette speaks of his inhabiting the canvas-house "through the winter;" and under date of York, on the 23rd of the following February (1794), we have him writing to Mr. Secretary Dundas.
In the despatch of the day just named, after a now prolonged experience of the newly-established post, the Governor thus glowingly speaks of it: "York," he says, "is the most important and defensible situation in Upper Canada, or that I have seen," he even adds, "in North America. I have, sir,'' he continues, "formerly entered into a detail of the advantages of this arsenal of Lake Ontario. An interval of Indian land of six and thirty miles divides this settlement from Burlington Bay, where that of Niagara commences. Its communication with Lake Huron is very easy in five or six days, and will in all respects be of the most essential importance."
Before the channel at the entrance of the Harbour of York was visibly marked or buoyed, the wide-spread shoal to the west and south must have been very treacherous to craft seeking to approach the new settlement. In 1794 we hear of the Commodore's vessel, " the Anondaga, of 14 guns," being stranded here and given up for lost. We hear likewise that the Commodore's son, Joseph Bouchette, the first surveyor of the harbour, distinguished himself by managing to get the same Anondaga off, after she had been abandoned; and we are told of his assuming the command and sailing with her to Niagara, where he is received amidst the cheers of the garrison and others assembled on the shores to greet the rescued vessel.
This exploit, of which he was naturally proud, and for which he was promoted on the 12th of May, 1794, to the rank of Second Lieutenant, Bouchette duly commemorates on his chart of York Harbour by conspicuously marking the spot where the stranded ship lay, and appending the note-" H. M. Schooner Anondaga, 14 guns, wrecked, but raised by Lieutenant Joseph Bouchette and brought to." (A small two-masted vessel is seen lying on the north-west bend of the great shoal at the entrance of the Harbour.) - A second point is likewise marked on the map "where she again grounded but was afterwards brought to." (Here again a small vessel is seen lying at the edge of the shoal, but now towards its northern point.) The Chart, which was originally engraved for Bouchette's octavo book, "A Topographical Description of Canada, &c.," published in 1815, is repeated with the marks and accompanying notes, from the same plate, in the quarto work of 1831 - "The British Dominions in North America." The Anondaga of the Bouchette narrative is, as we suppose, the Onondago of the Gazette, which, as we have seen, helped to take over the Rangers in August, 1793. The same uncertainty, which we have had occasion repeatedly to notice, in regard to the orthography of aboriginal words in general, rendered it doubtful with the public at large as to how the names of some of the Royal vessels should be spelt.
It is to be observed in passing, that when in his account of the first survey of the Harbour in 1793, Bouchette speaks of the Lieutenant-Governor removing from Niagara with his regiment of Queen's Rangers " in the following spring," he probably means in the later portion of the spring of the same year 1793, because, as we have already seen, the Gazettes of the day prove that the Lieutenant-Governor did proceed to the 'site of the new capital with the Rangers in 1793. Bouchette's words as they stand in his quarto book, imply, in some degree, that 1794 was the year in which the Governor and his Rangers first came over from Niagara. In the earlier octavo book his words were: "In the year 1793 the spot on which York stands presented only one solitary wigwam ; in the ensuing spring the ground for the future metropolis of Upper Canada was fixed upon, and the buildings commenced under the immediate superintendence of the late General Simcoe, the Lieut. Governor: in the space of five or six years it became a respectable place."
Bouchette was possibly recalling the commencement of the Public Buildings in 1794, when in his second work, published in 1831, he inserted the note which has given rise, in the minds of some, to a slight doubt as to whether 1793 or 1794 was the year of the founding of York. The Gazettes, as we have seen, shew that 1793 was the year. The Gazettes also shew that the so called Public Buildings, i.e., the Parliamentary Buildings, were not begun until 1794. Thus, in the Gazette of July 10, 1794, we read the advertisement : "Wanted: Carpenters for the Public Buildings to be erected at York. Application to be made to John McGill, Esq., at York, or to Mr. Allan Macnab at Navy Hall." On the 23rd of February, 1794, Governor Simcoe was, as we noted above, writing a despatch at York to Mr. Secretary Dundas. So early in the season as the 17th of March, however, he is on the move for the rapids of the Miami river, at the upper end of Lake Erie, to establish an additional military post in that quarter, the threatened encroachments on the Indian lands north of the Ohio by the United States rendering such a demonstration expedient. He is, of course, acting under instructions from superior authority. In the MS. map to which reference has before been made, the Governor's route on this occasion is marked; and the following note is appended:- "Lieut.-Governor Simcoe's route from York to the Thames, down that river in canoes to Detroit; from thence to the Miami to build the fort Lord Dorchester ordered to be built; left York March 17th, 1794; returned by Erie and Niagara to York, May 5th, 1794."
In the following August, Gov. Simcoe is at Newark or Niagara. On the 18th of that month he has just heard of an engagement between the United States forces under General Wayne and the Indians, close to the new fort on the Miami, and he writes to Brant that he is about to proceed in person to the scene of action "by the first vessel." On the 30th of September he is there ; and on the 10th of October following, he is attending a Council of Chiefs in company with Brant, at the southern entrance of the Detroit river. A cessation of hostilities on the part of the Indians is urged, until the spring; and, for himself, he says to the assembly: " I will go down to Quebec and lay your grievances before the Great Man [the Onnontio probably was the word]. From thence they will be forwarded to the King your Father. Next spring you will know the result of everything-what you and I will do."
On the 14th of November the Governor is at Newark embarking again for York and the East. In the Gazette of Dec. 10, we have the announcement : " His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor left this town (Newark) on the I 4th ultimo, on his way, via York, to the eastern part of the Province, where it is expected lie will spend the winter." He appears to have left York on the 5th of December in an open boat. The MS. map gives the route, with the note : " Lieut.-Gov. Simcoe's track from York to Kingston in an open boat, Dec. 5, 1794." On the 20th of the same month he is writing a despatch at Kingston to the " Lords of the Committee of His Majesty's Council for Trade and Plantations " and we learn from the document that the neighbourhood of York, if not York itself, was becoming populous. The Governor says to their Lordships: " Having stated to Mr. Secretary Dundas the great importance which I attached to York (late Toronto), and received directions to give due encouragement to the settlement, it is with great pleasure that I am to observe that seventy families at least are settling in its vicinity, and principally on the communication between York and Holland's River, which falls into Lake Simcoe." (The German families these, principally, who were brought over by Mr. Berczy from the Pulteney settlement in the Genesee country, on the opposite side of the Lake.)
The proposed journey to and from Quebec may have been accomplished after the 20th of December.
In June of the following year, 1795, the Governor is at Navy Hall, Newark. He receives and entertains there for eighteen days the French Royalist Duke de Liancourt, who is on his travels on the American continent. The Duke does not visit York; but two of his travelling companions, MM. du Pettithouars and Guillemard take a run over and report to him that there "had been no more than twelve houses hitherto built at York." The barracks, they say, stand on the roadstead two miles from the town, and near the Lake. The duke adds: "Desertion, I am told, is very frequent among the soldiers."
While staying at Navy Hall, the Duke de Liancourt was taken over the Fort on the opposite side of the river; he also afterwards dined therewith the officers. "With very obliging politeness," the duke says," the Governor conducted us over the Fort, which be is very loth to visit, since he is sure that he will be obliged to deliver it up to the Americans."-In fact it was made over to them under Jay's Treaty in this very year 1794, along with Oswego, Detroit, Miami, and Michilimackinac, though not actually surrendered until 1796. And this was the somewhat inglorious termination of the difficulties between the Indian allies of England and the United States Government, which had compelled the Governor again and again to undertake toilsome journeys to the West-" Thirty artillerymen," the duke notes, " and eight companies of the Fifth Regiment form the garrison of the Fort. Two days after the visit," be continues, " we dined in the Fort at Major Seward's, an officer of elegant, polite and amiable manners, who seems to be much respected by the gentlemen of his profession. He and Mr. Pilkington, an officer of the corps of Engineers, are the military gentlemen we have most frequently seen during our residence in this place, and whom the Governor most distinguishes from the rest."
In 1796 Governor Simcoe was ordered to the West Indies. He met his Parliament at Newark on the 16th of May, and prorogued it on the 3rd of June, after assenting to seven Acts.
In the Gazette of Sept. 11, 1796, a proclamation from Peter Russell announces that "His most gracious Majesty has been pleased to grant his royal leave of absence to his Excellency Major General Simcoe," and that consequently the government pro tem had devolved upon himself.
In the November following, Mr. Russell, now entitled President, comes over from Niagara in the Mohawk The Gazette of Nov. 4, 1796 (still published at Niagara), announces: "Yesterday (Nov. 3), his Honour the President of the Province and family sailed in the Mohawk for York. On his departure he was saluted with a discharge of cannon at Fort George, which was answered by three cheers from on board." (Fort George, afterwards famous in Canadian annals, and whose extensive remains are still conspicuous, had now been constructed, on the west side of the river, close by Newark or Niagara, as a kind of counterpoise to the French Fort on the east side of the river, immediately opposite, which had just been surrendered to the United States.)
It is briefly noted in the Gazette of the 26th of January in the following year (1797), that the President's new house at York had been destroyed by fire. This may account for his being at Niagara in May (1797), and sailing over again in the Mohawk to York, apparently to open Parliament. The Gazette of the 31st of May, 1797, says : " On Saturday last, sailed in the Mohawk for York, his Honour the Administrator, and several members of the Parliament of the Province."
(The Mohawk had come up from Kingston on the 27th of April. On the 28th of that month a vessel had arrived at Niagara, bearing the name of the late Governor. The Gazette Of May 3, 1797, thus speaks: "On Sunday last, arrived from Kingston his Majesty's armed vessel the Mohawk; and on Monday last, the Governor Simcoe, being their first voyage.")
The Gazette of the 31st, in addition to the departure of the Mohawk for York, as above, gives us also the following piece of information whence we learn that in the trade of the Lake, a corn petition from the United States side was about to begin:- "On the same day (the day when the Mohawk sailed for York), arrived here (Niagara) a Deck-boat, built and owned by Col. John Van Rensselaer, of Lansingburg, on the North River. This enterprising gentleman," the Gazette says, "built and completed this and one other of the same bigness (fifty barrels burden), and conveyed them by high waters to Oswego, and arrived there without injury this spring. They are to ply continually between Oswego and this place and Kingston."
On July the 3rd, 1797, the return of President Russell to Niagara in the Mohawk is announced. (The exact situation of Mr. Russell's house at Niagara may be deduced from a memorandum in the papers of Augustus Jones, the surveyor, dated Aug., 1796. It runs as follows:- "S. 61 W., 34 chains, 34 links from the north-west corner of the Block-house above Navy Hall to the S. E. angle of the Hon. P. Russell's house: at 24 chains, a fence."
During the stormy season at the close of the year 1797, a momentary apprehension was felt at Niagara for the safety of the Mohawk. In a Gazette of December in this year we read: " West Niagara, Dec. 2. Fears for the fate of the Mohawk are entertained. It is said minute guns were distinctly heard through most of Thursday before last; but we hope she has suffered no further than being driven back to Kingston. The Onondaga," it is added, " which was aground in Hungry Bay at our last intelligence, was in a fair way of being gotten off." In the next Gazette, the number for Dec., 9, it is announced that "since our last, arrived here the Simcoe, from Kingston, by which we learn that the Mohawk had returned there, after having her bowsprit and a considerable part of her sails carried away in the storm." It is also stated of the Onondaga, that "she had gained that Port without material injury sustained in Hungry Bay."
In the Gazette of May 19, in the following year, 1798, the Simcoe again appears. At the same time the name of the commander of the vessel is given. "West Niagara: By the arrival of the schooner Simcoe, Capt. Murney, from Kingston, we are informed that upwards of a hundred houses in the Lower Province have been carried away by the ice this spring." The Capt. Murney here mentioned, as being in command of the Simcoe, was the father of the Hon. Edward Murney, of Belleville. He built and owned in 1801 another vessel named the Prince Edward, capable of carrying 700 barrels of flour in her hold. We are told of this vessel, that she was built wholly of red cedar.
In the Gazette of May 2 6, 17 98, we hear of a " good sloop " constructed of black walnut. She is about to be sold. "To be sold," the Gazette says, " on the stocks at the Bay of Long Point (near Kingston), at any time before the 28th of June next, a good sloop ready for launching, in good order, and warranted sound and masterly built. She is formed of the best black walnut timber, 38 tons burden, and calculated for carrying timber." We are told further in respect to this sloop, that "she will be sold by consent of Mr.Troyer, and a good title with a warranty given on the sale. The conditions are for cash only; one-half down, and the other in three months, with approved security for payment. Wm. Dealy." J. Troyer adds: " I approve of the above." Again, it is subjoined: "All persons having demands on said Dealy are requested to exhibit them before the 28th of June, that the same may be paid one month thereafter. May 24, 1798."
On Monday, the 14th of October, in the year just named, a Mr. Cornwall was drowned by falling out of a boat into the Lake, near the Garrison at York. In the Gazette of the 27th it is noted that "on Monday last the body of Mr. Cornwall, who was unfortunately drowned the 14th instant, by falling out of a boat into the Lake, near the Garrison, was taken up at the Etobicoke. The coroner's inquest sat on the body," it is added, "and brought in a verdict 'accidental death.'" (In this Gazette Etobicoke is curiously printed Toby Cove.)
Boisterous weather gave rise to the usual disasters and inconveniences in the autumn of 1798. "During the heavy gales of wind," says the Gazette of Nov. 24, "which we have had, a vessel loaded with sundry goods was drove on shore at the Mississaga point at Newark (Niagara), and another vessel belonging to this town (York) was drove on a place called the Ducks, where she received considerable damage."
In August, 1799, Governor Hunter, lately appointed, arrived in York Harbour in the Speedy. The Niagara Constellation of Aug. 23, 1799 gives us the information. It says "His Excellency, Governor Hunter, arrived at York on Friday morning last in the Speedy. On landing," we are told, "he was received by a party of the Queen's Rangers; and at one o'clock p.m. was waited on at his Honour's the President's, by the military officers, and congratulated on his safe arrival and appointment to the government of the Province."
On the 5th of September he has gone over to Niagara. The Constellation of the 6th thus notices his arrival there : " Yesterday morning, arrived here from York his Excellency Governor Hunter. He was saluted by a discharge of twenty-one guns from Fort George. His early arrival in the morning prevented so great an attendance of inhabitants to demonstrate their joy, as was wished by them." He probably crossed the Lake in the Speedy.
The departure of Governor Hunter from Niagara is noted in the Constellation of the following week. "On Saturday last," the Constellation of Sept. 13 says, "His Excellency sailed for Kingston and the Lower Province (probably again in the Speedy). On embarking," we are informed as usual, "he was saluted from the Garrison;" and it is also added that on passing Fort Niagara "he was saluted by the American flag, which had been hoisted for the purpose." On which act of courtesy the Constellation remarks that "merit is respected by all countries." It is then added: "We learn that his Excellency has committed the administration of the Government, during his absence, to a committee composed of the Honourable Peter Russell, J. Elmsley and Aeneas Shaw, Esquires and the Hon. J. McGill, Esq., in the absence of either of them."
Under date of York, Saturday, Sept. 14th, 1799, we have mention made in the Gazette of a new vessel. "The Toronto Yacht, Capt. Baker," the Gazette announces, " will in the course of a few days be ready to make her first trip. She is," the Gazette says, "one of the handsomest vessels of her size that ever swam upon the Ontario; and if we are permitted to judge from her appearance, and to do her justice, we must say she bids fair to be one of the swiftest sailing vessels. She is admirably calculated for the reception of passengers, and can with propriety boast of the most experienced officers and men. Her master-builder," it is subjoined, "was a Mr. Dennis, an American, on whom she reflects great honour." This was Mr. Joseph Dennis; and the place where the vessel was built was a little way up the Humber. (The name Dennis is carelessly given in the Gazette as Dennison.)
The effects of rough weather on the Lake at the close of 1799, as detailed by the Niagara Constellation of the 7th of December, will not be out of place. " On Thursday last," the Constellation says, "a boat arrived here from Schenectady, which place she left on the 22nd ult. She passed the York sticking on a rock off the Devil's Nose: no prospect of getting her off. A small deck-boat also, she reports, lately sprung a leak twelve miles distant from Oswego. The people on board, many of whom were passengers, were taken off by a vessel passing, when she instantly sank: cargo is all lost." The narrative then proceeds to say "A vessel supposed to be the Genesee schooner, has been two days endeavouring to come in. It is a singular misfortune," the Constellation says, " that this vessel, which sailed more than a month ago from Oswego, laden for this place, has been several times in sight, and driven back by heavy gales."
In the same number of the Constellation (Dec. 7th, 1799), we have "the well known schooner Peggy" spoken of. A moiety of her is offered for sale. Richard Beasley of Barton, executor, and Margaret Berry of York, executrix, to the estate of Thomas Berry, merchant, late of York, deceased, advertise for sale: "One moiety of the well-known schooner Peggy: any recommendation of her sailing or accommodation," they say, "will be unnecessary: with these particulars the public are well acquainted, and the purchaser will, no doubt, satisfy himself with personal inspection. For terms of sale apply to the executor and executrix."
In the Constellation of the following week is the mysterious paragraph: "If Jonathan A. Pell will return and pay Captain Selleck for the freight of the salt which he took from on board the Duchess of York without leave, it will be thankfully received and no questions asked."
The disastrous effects of the gales are referred to again in the Gazette of Dec. 21st, 1799. "We hear from very good authority," the Gazette says, "that the schooner Fork, Captain Murray, has foundered, and is cast upon the American shore about fifty miles from Niagara, where the captain and men are encamped. Mr. Forsyth, one of the passengers, hired a boat to carry them to Kingston. Fears are entertained for the fate of the Terrahoga." (A government vessel so named.)