Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part IV: Chapter XII. Toronto a Capital Once More

WHEN the clock struck midnight on the night of the 30th of June, 1867, the joy-bells of St. James's Cathedral rang out. It was the 1st of July, the birthday of the New Dominion; Confederation was accomplished, and Toronto was once more a capital—the capital of a Province only, it is true, but that Province the wealthiest, the most enterprising, and the most populous in the Union. The day was observed by the greatest rejoicings in the city. What with bonfires, fireworks, illuminations, excursions, military displays and musical and other entertainments, the citizens and the thousands of strangers who crowded the streets did not want for amusement. Our allotted space is nearly filled, so it will be impossible to describe the manner in which the new capital celebrated the occasion. Since the visit of the Prince of Wales no such day had been witnessed in Toronto.

On the 27th of December, in the same year, the Lieutenant-Governor, Major-General Stisted, opened the first session of the First Parliament of Ontario in the old buildings which had seen so many administrative changes. The approaches to the buildings were thronged with people, eager to witness a ceremony familiar to most Toronto people of to-day. The procedure differed in no important particular from that observed on such occasions, and the usual postponement was made—to allow of the election of a Speaker—until the next day, when the formal opening took place. This was the only ceremony of the kind at which General Stisted presided, as he was succeeded in the following July by the Honourable William Pearce Howland, the well-known merchant prince of Toronto.

In 1869 the city was once more honoured by the presence of royalty, in the person of His Royal Highness Prince Arthur, who had been attached to a corps then stationed in Montreal, and who visited the Provincial Capital on his way back from London, where he had opened the Provincial Exhibition. The preparations that had been made in his honour were much on the same scale and of the same character as those by which the city had testified its loyalty on the occasion of the Prince of Wales's visit in i860. A series of triumphal arches had been erected, and the streets were decked with flags, streamers, evergreens and bunting. The Prince, accompanied by the Governor-General, Sir John Young, Lady Young, and a numerous suite, arrived in Toronto on Saturday, the 2nd of September, by Great Western train. From the station they were conveyed in carriages to the City Hall, where the civic address was to be presented. As in 1860, the streets were packed, and the Prince's progress was one continuous ovation. Every window, balcony, parapet and roof was occupied, and it is estimated .that from thirty thousand to thirty-five thousand people had assembled to witness the demonstration. At the City Hall addresses to the Prince and the Governor-General were read by the Mayor, Mr. Harman; and after suitable replies had been made the party were driven to Government House,, where His Royal Highness remained during his stay, as the guest of the city. During his visit, which was one round of festivities, the Prince, on the 5th, turned the first sod of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway. The next day the royal visitor left the city for the east.

It may be mentioned here, that during this year the Society of the York Pioneers—an association composed of residents of the County of York previous to the incorporation of the City of Toronto, and their descendants on attaining the age of forty years--was founded. The society, which at the present time has a membership of about four hundred, has done good work in preserving documents and other mementoes of the earl\ days of the county.

The monument erected in the Queen's Park to the memory of the volunteers who fell during the Fenian Raid of 1866 was formally unveiled on the 1st of July, 1870, by the Governor-General, who was then visiting Toronto. A large crowd thronged the neighbourhood of the monument, and the three city volunteer corps, the Queen's Own, Tenth Royals, and Grand Trunk Brigade, were present. The ceremony consisted merely of the reading of the report of the secretary of the Monument Committee, a short speech by His Excellency, who then unveiled the monument amid loud cheers, and of eloquent addresses by the Hon. Mr C. Cameron and Dr. Mc.Caul.

We have seen that Mr. J. E. Smith was the first Mayor elected under the Act of r866, by which a return was made to the system of election by the Council. The same gentleman occupied the civic chair during the following year, and was succeeded in 1869 by Mr. S. 33. Harman. who also held the position for two years; but owing to his absence in England during a part of his second term, the Council was for some time presided over by Mr. George D'Arcy Boulton. In 1871, Mr. Joseph Sheard was elected, and the same mark of confidence was bestowed upon him in 1872. He was followed in, 1873 by Mr. Alexander Manning, who was the last Mayor elected by the Council. During this year the Municipal Election Law was again changed, and the election of Mayors in cities was once more vested in the people, who have ever sinice continued to exercise this right. The Chief Magistrates of Toronto since that time have been as follows :—1874-75. Mr. Francis H. Medcalf; 1876-78, Mr. Angus Morrison; 1879-80, Mr. James Beatty; 1881-82, Mr. W. B. McMurrich; and 1883-84, Mr. A. R. Boswell.

The following were the occupants of Government House dining this period:—Major-General Stisted, Hon. W. P. Howland, Hon. John Crawford, Hon. D. A. Macdonald, and Hon. John Beverley Robinson, the present Lieutenant-Governor, who entered office on the 30th Jane, 1880.

The progress made by the city since Confederation has been amazing. Not only have its area and population been largely increased, but it has been greatly beautified by the erection of huge business establishments and palatial private residences; and it has developed a commercial enterprise and energy which seriously endanger the pretensions of Montreal to the mercantile supremacy of the Dominion. Since 1873 five additional wards have been created, viz., St. Thomas's, formed in that year from St. David's; St. Stephen's, m 1875, from St. Patrick's; St. Paul's, in 1883, consisting of the annexed Village of Yorkville; and, in 1884, St. Mark's and St. Matthew's, formed respectively of the Villages of Brockton and Riverside, which had also cast in their lot with the city. Of the growth in population an idea may be formed from the following figures:—In the census of 1871 the population was given as 56,092, being an increase of 11,271 during the previous decade. In 1881 the census gave 86,415, showing an increase of 30,323 since 1871; but at the present time, in consequence of the annexation of the three suburbs of Yorkville, Brockton and Riverside, the population may be fairly estimated at something over 100,000.

It was during the years 1872-4 that Toronto began to make those rapid strides in commercial enterprise that have placed her in the proud position she now occupies. They were years of unusual prosperity, and trade of all kinds received a remarkable impetus. Happily the foundations then laid of the city's mercantile greatness w7ere sufficiently solid to resist the shock of the reaction that followed. In 1875 there set in a period of depression, reflected in great measure from other parts of the world, and more especially, owing to the close trade relations between the two countries, from the United States. But bad harvests, extravagant living, long credits, and persistent over importations had no small share in bringing about the change. The depression continued until 1878, when the city began slowly to recover from the effects of the evil times. As a measure of the volume of business at the present time the following figures may be acceptable, being those of the imports and exports for the year 1873 :—Imports, §18,-634,451; exports, §3,481,813.

A comparison of the city assessment figures m the year before the era of prosperity set in, and in that after the return to prosperity which followed the depression period, may also prove interesting. Thus in 1871 the realty was placed at $22,037,470; personalty and income, §7,239,665; total, $29,277,138. In 1880 the figures were:—Realty, $42,020,155; personalty and income, $8,14.6,484; total, $50,166,639.

Figures such as these tell their own story. As Dr. W. II. Russell says, describing his impressions of the city in 1881: "Toronto has increased m all the elements of wealth and consequence by springs and bounds ; and since 1861, when I was there, its population has doubled, and it is increasing still very rapidly." Of the future that is before it, a future of prosperity and greatness, to which its present prosperity and greatness are as very trifles, there can be little doubt. In that future its citizens firmly believe, and it is pleasant to know that their belief is shared by outsiders, and that, as the author above quoted says, "some day, surely, this ' place of meeting, which is, I believe, the meaning of the name, must be of greater importance than it is now, rapid as has been its growth, and great as is its present prosperity."

There remain yet two events in the city's history to chronicle, and our story is done. The first of these is the opening of the Industrial Association Exhibition in September, 1878, by Ford Dulferin. As the story of the circumstances under which the Association was organized is related in (the succeeding section of this work, it will be sufficient in this place, to record the fact. The second event—the latest in the history of the city up to the time of writing—was the great Semi-Centennial celebration.

The year 1884 being the fiftieth since the incorporation of Toronto, Mr. W. B. McMurichl ex-Mayor of the city, suggested the propriety of celebrating Toronto's Semi-Centennial in a manner worthy of the Provincial capital. The suggestion was received with enthusiasm, and arrangements were made during the latter end of 1883 for a great civic demonstration, to be held in June and July, and to extend over an entire week. 1 he actual date of incorporation was March 8th; but as that time of the year was unsuitable for out-door festivities, it was deemed advisable to postpone the celebration until the week within which Dominion Day should fall. The 6th of March, however, was not allowed to pass unheeded, the main events of the day being the opening of the Free Public Library by the Lieutenant-Governor in the afternoon, and a reception held by the Mayor m the City Hall in the evening. There was also a liberal display of flags throughout the city, and some firing of cannon and ringing of bells.

Monday, June 30th, was the first day of the great celebration proper. Its dawn found the city in gala array. Flags, bunting, mottoes and evergreens had all been pressed into the service of decoration, and the scene, looking down one of the principal streets, was simply a vista of fluttering colour, which almost hid the buildings on either side from view. From this day until the end of the week the city was wholly given up to pleasure, and was the rendezvous of thousands of sight-seers from all parts of the Province, from Montreal, and from many cities in the United States. The streets were thronged from early morn till late at night, and the hotels and lodging-houses were hard put to accommodate the immense influx of visitors. The event of the first day was the historical procession, of which the great feature consisted of a number of tableaux representing events in the early history of York. The Mayors of the City, of Philadelphia and Port Huron, the members of the existing and of past City Councils, of the Celebration Committee, of the School and Library Boards, the York Pioneers, the Police Force, the Fire Brigade, and seven bands of music took part in the pageant. The procession finally brought up at the Exhibition grounds, where addresses were delivered by-the Mayor, Mr. W. B. McMurrich, Dr. Daniel Wilson, the orator of the day, and Mayor Smith of Philadelphia. An address and medal were then presented to the Rev. Dr. Scaddmg on behalf of the York Pioneers. In the evening there was a fancy dress ball at the Horticultural Gardens, the city was illuminated, and the firemen held a torch-light procession.

Tuesday, July 1st, was Dominion Day, and consequently the crowds who turned out to witness the festivities were enormous. This was "Military Day," its main feature being a march through the city of all the available troops, including the Governor-General's Body Guard, the Toronto, Hamilton, and Welland Canal Field Batteries, "C " Company, Infantry School, the Governor-General's Foot Guards (Ottawa), the 6th Fusiliers (Montreal), the 7th Fusiliers (London), the Tenth Royals, the 12th, "York" Rangers, the 34th, 36th and 77th Battalions, the Queen's Own, 14th, " Prince of Wales" Rifles (Kingston), and the 13th Battalion (Hamilton).

There were also minor attractions in the form of bicycle races and athletic games; and in the evening a promenade concert and fireworks display at the Horticultural Gardens.

On Wednesday there was a Trades' and Industrial Demonstration, in the form of a procession illustrative of the trades and industries of the city. It consisted, in part, of wagons in which various mechanics were plying their daily avocations, and also of displays of manufactured goods and raw material. The procession was fully four miles in length, and occupied two hours in passing a given point. In the evening the oratorio of "The Creation" was performed at the Horticultural Gardens.

On Thursday morning the U. E. Loyalists and their descendants from all parts of the Province held a gathering ;n the Horticultural Gardens in honour of the 100th anniversary of the settlement of Upper Canada by their ancestors. Dr. Canniff occupied the chair and delivered an appropriate address. In the afternoon the Loyalists attended a reception held up their honour by the Lieutenant-Governor at Government House. In the evening there was a brilliant display of fireworks on the Pay, and at the Horticultural Gardens the Pilharmomc Society rendered Gounod's oratorio, "The Redemption," before the largest audience of the week.

Friday had been set apart for a parade of the benevolent societies, but a steady downpour of rain rendered this impossible, and the procession was postponed until next day. This was the more unfortunate as nearly ten thousand people were to have taken part in the parade, hundreds of whom were compelled by their engagements to return to their homes the same night. In-the evening the Semi-Centennial Committee entertained the visiting uniformed societies in the dining-hall on the Exhibition Grounds.

Saturday morning brought with it another deluge of rain, but towards eleven o'clock the storm had sufficiently abated to allow of the postponed benevolent societies' parade taking place. The societies represented were the Oddfellows—uniformed and otherwise—the Knights of Pythias, the Ancient Order of Shepherds, the Foresters and the Sons of England. In the afternoon the uniformed societies held a drill competition on ihe Exhibition Grounds. Put the feature of the day was the children's parade. The little ones mustered shortly after noon in the Queen's Park and marched to the Lacrosse Grounds, where drill and calistheuic competitions were held ; and in the evening a children's festival— in which six hundred took part— was held in the pavilion in the Horticultural Gardens. This closed the celebration, which fully realized the expectations of its promoters and passed off without any hitch in the arrangements.

In connection with Toronto's Semi-Centennial it will not be out of place to refer to an interesting relic which was discovered by Mr. T'homas Hodgins, Q.C., in 1884, while engaged in making researches for documents bearing upon the Ontario Boundary question, and which he at once for warded to Mr. W. B. McMurrich, Chairman of the Semi-Centennial Committee. It is a curious plan of the Harbour of Toronto in 1788, executed by Captain Gother Mann, of the Royal Engineers, and dated Quebec, 5th December, in that year. It was accompanied by a report by the same officer, which was sent to Lord Dorchester, and in which the author describes the conditions and bearings of the harbour. He says: "The Harbour of Toronto is nearly two miles in length from the entrance on the west to the isthmus between it and a large morass on the eastward. The breadth of the entrance is about half a mile, but the navigable channel for vessels is only about five hundred yards, having from three to three and a-half fathoms water." After describing the peculiarities of the Bay he goes on to say: "From what has been said it will appear that the Harbour of Toronto is capacious, safe and well sheltered; but the entrance being from the westward is a great disadvantage to it, as the prevailing wind is from this quarter, and, as this is a fair wind from hence down the lake, of course it is that with which vessels in general would take their departure from this place; but they may frequently find it difficult to get out of the harbour. The plan also shows "the proposed town and post by the settlement,' a perfectly square plot, with a broad esplanade on each of the four sides. 1 he document will form a valuable addition to the historical relics of the city whose story has just been related.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus