In 1794, according to the census-roll in the office of the Clerk of the Peace, the population of Cataraqui, as it was then still called, numbered but 345 souls. In 1829 it possessed 3,628 inhabitants, not including the garrison. Its growing time during the first quarter of the century had developed the infancy of Kingston into a vigorous youth. In 1817, as we have seen, it was no longer a primitive back-woods village, but a town with some substantial buildings, 450 houses, and 2,250 souls ; a cordon of defences bristling with cannon, fleets of men-of-war and merchant vessels ; at least three churches, a Government building, a theatre, a newspaper, and a public library; and if the streets and highways were not as yet all that was to be desired, they were at least showing improvement.
The personnel of the citizens had, however, undergone considerable change since the first patriarchs of the settlement had literally pitched their tents in the wilderness. Not a few of these had been laid to rest in the leafy “God’s Acre” surrounding St. Paul’s Church, where weather-worn monuments still witness to their worth. But in many cases the sons took up the places and the work the fathers had laid down, and still kept their names green in the life of the city.
The venerable Dr. John Stuart, justly styled the “Father of the Church in Upper Canada,” whose force made him a leading influence in the town from the first, and whose chequered career will be found outlined in connection with the story of St. George’s Church, went to his rest in 1811, his charge passing into the hands of his son, the Rev. George 0 ‘Kill Stuart, still affectionately remembered as “the old Archdeacon.” The Hon. Richard Cartwright, merchant, magistrate and legislator, as well as Colonel of Militia during the last years of his life, died at Montreal in 1815, deeply regretted by the many friends who appreciated his sterling qualities of mind and character. His name, also, was perpetuated in Kingston by two estimable sonsJohn S. Cartwright, a lawyer by profession, a Judge of the District Court, and latterly member for Lennox and Addington; and the Rev. Robert D. Cartwright, who became the beloved assistant minister of St. George’s Church shortly before it left its first humble abode for its present site. Captain Robert Macaulay had passed away with the old century, leaving behind a widow much and justly esteemed, and a son who soon took a leading part in public affairs, and was later known as the Hon. John Macaulay, members of whose family still dwell in Kingston. He has been already referred to as a leading and prosperous merchant, who for a good many years held the important office of Surveyor-General. In 1813 he succeeded, as Postmaster, Mr. Thomas Deacon, whose new duties in the Commissariat obliged him then to resign that position, which Mr. Macaulay filled till 1836, when he was succeeded by Mr. Robert Deacon, long well-known as Postmaster of Kingston.
Concerning Mr. Macaulay and other “prominent citizens” of that periodThomas Markland, John Cummings, Peter Smith, and John Kirby, all loyal and “honourable men”we find, in Dr. Canniff’s Mr. Macaulay is described as having a well-disciplined mind, possessed of great energy of character, and decided in his political opinions; in business transactions scrupulously exact, and extremely temperate in his habits. “John Kirby,” we are told, “was another fine specimen of an Englishman. He loved good wine and good dinners, was extremely affable, always in good humour, and universally respected. His highest ambition in the evening of his days seemed to be the enjoyment of domestic tranquility and a happy home, made happy to him by a wife of rare sense, intelligence and accomplishments. He was one of those who passed through life without exposing themselves to the obloquy of their political opponents.” In these few lines we seem to see and know worthy John Kirby, who, as will be seen later, was also ever ready to extend a liberal hand in aid of any good work, religious or philanthropic.
Regarding Peter Smith, we are informed that he “was highly respected, upright in all his dealings, and free from any moral or political reproacha fine specimen of an English gentleman,” to which, however, it is significantly added that he “carried with him evidence that he was no stranger to good dinners and understood the qualities of good wine.”
Mr. Cummings, we are told, “was a man of great energy, a magistrate, and filled other offices under the Government, as we shall see later ; while of Mr. Mark-land, this narrator remarks only that “he left a son.” We know, however, that he also was a public-spirited man, taking an active part in promoting worthy enterprises of various kinds in the town. Then there was Joseph Forsyth, another public-spirited man ; and the Herkimer family, Joseph Herkimer being now “gone to the majority.” Captains Earl and Murney, also, were citizens of Kingston about this period, the first being married to a daughter of Sir John Johnston, and both have left their mark on Kingston nomenclature. *Christopher Hagerman, future Attorney-General and Kingston member, was a temporary resident, as was his future doughty opponent, Barnabas Bidwell, a remarkable figure in the coming Constitutional struggle, whose letters to the Kingston Gazette, on practical agriculture and political economy, were afterwards published in pamphlet form, under the title of “The Prompter.” Nor should we forget the two Macleans, father and son, already mentioned, nor Sheriff John McLean, nor the two able and esteemed physiciansDoctors Armstrong and Sampson, the latter becoming one of the earliest Mayors of Kingston when incorporated as a town, and a man of marked originality and dry humour. If we add to the figures above mentioned that of the tall, athletic young rector of St. George’s Church, deriving his second name of 0 ‘Kill from his Irish mother, and possessing a most estimable American wife, whom he had brought from Portland ; and that of the venerable and venerated Bishop McDonell, the father of the Roman Catholic Church in Upper Canada, we shall have a fair idea of the leading citizens of that period.
In 1817 there were, in the township of Kingston, sixty-seven shops or “stores,” the greater number, naturally, being situated in Kingston, the premier town of the Province, and the third place in the Canadas, coming next after Quebec and Montreal. The supply of specie had been scanty in the Province, barter being necessarily a frequent report. Such coin as was in circulation was of a very heterogeneous natureBritish guineas, crowns and shillings, American eagles and dollars, French crowns, Spanish doubloons and pistoreens, and Portuguese moidores, being all in circulation together, and being rated by law at a certain current value. Army bills were also current during the war, as payment for Government purchases, thus providing paper money for circulation. The first bank established in Upper Canada was the Bank of Kingston, incorporated in 1819, and afterwards the “pretended Bank of Upper Canada,” apparently so called from the forfeiture of its incorporation by “non-user,” although the bank was actually for some time in operation. In 1823 an Act was passed to settle its affairs, the commissioners appointed for the purpose being Messrs. George Herkimer (latterly written Herchmer), Markland, Kirby and Macaulay. In the same year some Kingston shareholders helped to found the Bank of Upper Canada, whose unfortunate collapse is still well remembered by many who suffered by its fall.
The roads of the countryso vital a point in its settlement and prosperityhad, by force of circumstances, been left very much in abeyance, and it was only after the War of 1812, which had so strongly demonstrated their need of improvement, that an attempt was made to open a line of stage travel from Kingston to York, over roads which as yet had certainly not been “made.” A stage had been running between Montreal and Kingston since the first years of the century, but in the primitive condition of the road, we are not surprised to hear that “it did not run so regularly in summer as in winter,” when the snow-clad shore or the frozen river supplied a temporary highway. Captain Hall, in 1817, found the stage-waggon going no farther than Prescott, whence the mail was carried on horseback to Kingston, and declared it to be “the roughest conveyance on either side of the Atlantic.” Even in 1837 this stage was described as “a heavy, lumbering vehicle, reeling and tumbling along, pitching like a scow among the breakers of a lake storm. At hills and bad roots travellers would alight and trudge ankle-deep in the mud !” From the Kingston Gazette we find that in June, 1817, “a stage commenced running from Kingston to York, leaving Kingston every Monday morning at six o ‘clock, and York every Thursday morning at the same hour.” Each passenger was allowed from twenty to twenty-eight pounds of baggage, and charged for any surplus. The fare was eighteen dollars, and the journey necessarily occupied about three days, rates which modern travellers, accustomed to cover the distance in four or five hours, for about five dollars, would vote somewhat “slow” as well as dear ! Yet it was a great improvement on the old-time tramp, on snowshoesor without them. Lord Sydenham is said to have been conveyed by relays of horses from Montreal to Toronto in twenty-six hours, as a triumph of fast transit ! It is clear that, in such circumstances, commerce in so sparsely settled a country could scarcely be expected to flourish.
But a force was already at work, destined to “change all this.” The age of steam-power had begun, and was already extending its revolutionising power to the New World. Already the steamboat Accommodation, built by John Molson, had been launched at Montreal, and had carried passengers from Montreal to ,Quebec in thirty-six hours, breaking the record. Kingston was not to be left behind in the tide of progress. Her leading merchants, already mentioned by name, with some others from Niagara, Queenston, York and Prescott, formed a company in 1815 to build a steamboat for service on Lake Ontario and the navigable waters of the St. Lawrence. It was built by Henry Teabout, the apprentice of the master-builder of Sackett’s Harbour, at a cost of some £20,000, at Finkle’s Point (later Bath), and was launched there on September 7th, 1816, in the presence of a numerous concourse of interested spectators. The event is duly chronicled by the Kingston Gazette, which informs us that the length of her keel was 50 feet; of her deck, 70 feet, and her tonnage about 700; that she appeared well-proportioned, and was pronounced by good judges “the best piece of naval architecture of the kind yet produced in America,” doing credit to the contractors, workmen and proprietors. She was appropriately named the Frontenac, a name which sends our thoughts back a century and a half to the time when the first small sailing-vessel was named in honour of the masterful Governor. She had two paddle-wheels of about forty feet in circumference, and was somewhat slow in answering to the helm. The Gazette tells us, also, that a steamboat had lately been launched at Sackett’s Harbour, which seems to have been named the Kingston, and that the two rival dockyards, “lately emulating each other in building ships of war, seemed now to be equally emulous of commercial superiority.”
On the 24th of May in the following year, we are told by the same authority, that on the previous afternoon the Frontenac had “left Mr. Kirby’s wharf for the dock at Point Frederick.” It was not, certainly, a long cruise, yet we learn that “through some accident the machinery of the wheels became somewhat damaged, notwithstanding which, however, she moved with majestic grandeur against a strong wind.” On the 31st, this wonderful steamer, “after having completed the necessary work at the Navy Yard, left this port yesterday morning for the purpose of taking wood at the Bay. A fresh breeze was blowing into the harbour, against which she proceeded swiftly and steadily, to the admiration of a great number of spectators,” and on June 5th she left Kingston for her first trip to the head of the lake. There, no doubt, all Little York came out to see her, as all Quebec had come to view the Accommodation on her first arrival. She continued to ply up and down the river to Prescott once a week, under her commander, Captain James Mackenzie, of the Royal Navy, who was justly called the father of steam navigation in Upper Canada, her purser being Mr. A. G. Petrie, of Belleville. Another steamer, bearing the quaint name of Walk-in-the-water, began her “walk” on Lake Erie about the same period.
A second Kingston steamboat was soon on the stocks, built in part of the unused material collected for the first. She was owned in part by Mr. Henry Finkle, and her builder and eventual captain was Mr. Henry Gildersleeve, who arrived in Canada from his Connecticut home a month before the launch of the Frontenac. Himself the son of a skilful shipbuilder, he helped to finish the Frontenac, and became master shipbuilder of the second steamer, named the Princess Charlotte, in honour of the heir-apparent to the British throne, whose early death awoke such national sorrow. This steamer plied between the Bay of Quinte, Kingston and Prescott, doing great service to the whole district. Mr. Gildersleeve, at the same time, built on his own account a packet named the Minerva, using his knowledge and experience to such good account, that when taken to Kingston to receive her furnishings, Captain Murney, “after examining her inside and out,” declared her to be the best craft that ever floated in the harbour of Kingston,” thus excelling even the Frontenac. Mr. Gildersleeve further built, also at Finkle ‘s Point, another steamer called the Sir James Kempt. About the same time he married the daughter of Mr. James Finkle, who had recently died, and removed his headquarters to Kingston, where his name became associated with nearly all the steamers plying on the Bay of Quinte, and where his descendants have long perpetuated the associations of the name with the building and ownership of steamboats on lake and river. Could these forefathers of our present extensive navigation system return to behold some of the magnificent steam vessels with which we are to-day familiar, they would marvel, we may be sure, at the dimensions to which such comparatively small beginnings have since grown.
But a new channel of navigation, hitherto almost unthought of, was now to be opened up, to Kingston’s great advantage. The War of 1812, among other lessons, had impressed the importance of securing inland navigation out of the range of a foe on the frontier.
To this end a new route was planned, and eventually became a fait accompli in the splendid Rideau Canal, though it was not actually begun until 1826, when the Duke of Wellington, then in office, was said to have had a share in designing it, with a view to military needs. Its cost, amounting to more than half a million sterling, was defrayed by the British Government. This magnificent waterway, which, including the navigable courses, is 126 miles in length, and whose massive 46 limestone locks can still claim a place among the finest existing structures of the kind, connects the short course of the Cataraqui River, flowing into the St. Lawrence at Kingston, with the long chain of lakes in the back country, and finally with the Rideau River, which, rising out of these lakes, falls in a fine cascade into the Ottawa River, close to the city of Ottawa. The canal, rising from Ottawa 283 feet, follows a south-westerly course to Kingston in a descent of 162 feet, linking many lovely little lakes, some of them picturesquely studded with islands, and, from the variety and beauty of its scenery, supplying one of the most charming water excursions that a traveller can enjoy. It was constructed under the superintendence of Colonel By, from whom the now flourishing city of Ottawa, then a small backwoods village, received its first name of Bytown, by which it was long known. In the solidity and permanence of its splendid stone work, no less than in the engineering skill of its construction, this great work is a noble memorial of its able and thoroughgoing contractors and builders. Among the former were the late John Redpath, founder of the Sugar Refinery of Montreal ; his partner, T. McKay, of Ottawa, and .. Phillips, of Montreal. The contractor for the section next Kingston was a Scotchman named Robert Drummond, who came to Kingston in 1828 and became one of the largest land owners and shipbuilders in the place. He was followed to Canada by three nephews, one of whom is the well-known Senator Drummond, while the other two, Messrs. Andrew and Thomas Drummond, were long esteemed citizens of Kingston ; the former, who was the eldest of the three, being for many years the respected Manager of the Bank of Montreal, first in Kingston and afterwards in Ottawa.
The Rideau Canal was formally opened on the 21st of August, 1831, the date being recorded on a silver cup presented by Colonel By to Mr. Drummond, in token of his “complete satisfaction” with his performance of his contracts, which included the locks at Kingston Mills, Brewer’s Mills, and the point now called Washburn. A surviving daughter of the contractorMrs. Hugh Fraser, one of Kingston’s oldest and most esteemed citizenswell remembers the occasion of the “opening,” when her father took his family, with Colonel By, on a trial trip through the locks on his own steamer, the Pumper.
Sir James Carmichael Smyth, who is said to have originated the idea of the canal, thus refers to it in a work published while it was in progress :
“Our harbour and naval establishment at Kingston are very good indeed, and infinitely beyond what the Americans possess at Sackett’s Harbour. There cannot be a finer basin in the world than the Bay of Quint & When the Rideau Canal is completed, there will be great facilities for forwarding stores to Kingston.”
This was the more necessary, as there were only some small canals on the St. Lawrence, the bateaux and Durham boats being the chief means of navigation. The freight on a barrel of flour from St. Catharines to Montreal at that time ate up a third of its value ; the freight from Montreal to the upper end of the lake averaging from twenty to twenty-seven dollars a ton, while that from Liverpool to Montreal averaged only from four to seven dollars. The Rideau Canal, therefore, became an important highway for the transit of merchandise from Montreal and Quebec, and as transhipment at Kingston was necessary, its opening gave a strong impetus to the forwarding trade and other business of the town, while the shipyards were kept busy. Mr. Drummond above mentioned, who fell a victim to the cholera visitation of 1832, had a large shipyard on the site of the present Locomotive Works, and another at Portsmouth, and built two steamers for the Rideau route, the Rideau and Margaret, and the John By, which ran from Toronto to Hamilton. He purchased, towards the close of 1831, the fine ship St. Lawrence, the last and largest launched at the Navy Yard, which never sailed, owing to the international reduction of armament on the lakes arranged in 1817. She cost the British Government the enormous sum of £500,000, partly owing to the heavy cost of transporting stores and equipment from Montreal. On a calm, frosty day in December, she was towed across the bay to the spot where she was to be transformed by her purchaser into a wharf ; but a stormy night ensued, and in the morning the good ship was lying sunk, like many other once stately hulls, beneath the blue waters of Kingston Harbour !
Kingston, it may be remarked, ranks in Canada second only to Quebec in the extent of its shipbuilding. Its shipyards and marine railways, including Portsmouth and Garden Island, have launched, on lake and river in Ontario, the greatest number of vessels and the greatest weight of tonnage ; while even in the smaller department of yachts and skiffs it has attained considerable renown, some of its pleasure boats having been found floating on the Lake of Geneva. The names of Hamilton, Gildersleeve, Macpherson and Crane, Glass-ford and Jones, Calvin, Cook, Hunter, Breck, Ives, Gaskin, Kinghorn, Gunn, Richardson, Berry, Folger and Ault have long been familiarly known as identified at various periods with its navigation interests and larger shipbuilding concerns.
Another much-needed enterprise was initiated in 1827, when an Act was passed to incorporate “the Cataraqui Bridge Company,” its members including the names of almost all the contemporary citizens who have been named, along with others more recently arrived, such as John Marks, Donald McPherson, and F. A. Harper, long the respected Manager of the Commercial Bank in Kingston. Their petition showed that stock had been subscribed to the amount of £6,000, and that arrangements had been made with His Majesty’s Government for the conveyance of officers and men, as well as stores, by means of the proposed bridge, which was to supersede the stout oaken scow so long used as a ferry. The Act of Incorporation empowered the company to build “a good and substantial bridge over the great River Cataraqui, from the present scow landing on the Military Reserve, opposite to the northeast end of the continuation of Front Street, to the opposite shore on Point Frederick, etc.” The bridge, 600 yards long, was to be at least twenty-five feet wide, way to be provided for the passage of vessels, with forty feet of space between the piers.” The amount of toll for all cases was specified, and it was provided that no other means of transit by ferry should be permitted. The present substantial bridge, which has been occasionally repaired, is still in serviceable condition. It was not completed till August, 1829, just two years before the completion of the Rideau Canal.
In 1814 Government appointed John Cummings to issue marriage licenses in Kingston, similar appointments having been made at York, Queenston, Williamstown and Cornwall, and as this formality was still a novelty, it was considered comme-il-faut to insert in the marriage notice the words, “married by license.” The issuer would sometimes run short in his stock, in which case he would satisfy the impatient swain with a certificate enabling the marriage to proceed, the license being forthcoming later!
During the first years of the existence of the Province, as has been already said, clergymen of the Church of England alone were permitted to perform the marriage ceremony, all others being debarred under pains and penalties, unless no privileged clergyman could be found within a distance of eighteen miles, in which case the ceremony might be performed by a Justice of the Peace, after affixing, in some public Plane. a notice of the intended union. As a Church Establishment on the model of the time-honoured English one had evidently been contemplated by the Imperial authorities, probably by the King himself, as the ecclesiastical equipment for the new Province, this rule resulted as a matter of course. But it had not then been taken into account that, in the new Province, Americans would prove at first to be greatly in the minority ; many members of the old Scottish Establishment, as well as English Non-conformists, being soon actively in evidence. And, as Mr. Cartwright pointed out, a population, nine-tenths of which belonged and were strongly attached to other Communions, were not likely tamely to submit to arbitrary religious disabilities, especially as some of them were the descendants of early English Non-conformists, who had emigrated to America mainly in order to escape such restrictions. Common sense, however, soon set this matter right. As early as 1795 the first Act was modified to permit marriages to be solemnised by the clergy of the Church of Scotland, as the Established Church of North Britain, and also by Lutherans, or “Calvinists,” special proof being given of ordination and office. But it was not till 1831, when the Methodists, who had become very numerous as well as zealous in the Province, had grown to feel their exclusion an intolerable injustice, that the permission to solemnise marriages was extended to all denominations alike, on the ministers of such bodies applying for a license to do so. The first record of such a license being granted at Kingston is that to the Rev. Prasto Hetherington, “a minister of the people who profess and call themselves Methodists.” About the same time it became no longer permissible for a magistrate to perform the ceremony, there being then five Anglican clergymen reported within the “Midland District ; “- this circumstance, with the extension of the power to other denominations, terminating the privilege.
As a large proportion of the U. E. Loyalists were Methodists, their preachers were early found itinerating throughout the Midland District, and we are told that the first of these were connected with the British army ; also that the first native Canadian preacher of any denomination was the Rev. Andrew Pringle, who entered the Methodist ministry in 1806. It is also recorded that, as the people in those days had not much money to spare, their little wooden sanctuaries were built principally with their own hands, the whole work, from the felling of the trees to the internal fittings, being done by the joint labour of the zealous worshippers, a manner of building that precluded church debt, and surrounded these little “meeting-houses” of the early days with a halo of loving enthusiasm which the more ambitious modern edifices can scarcely possess. This plan does not, however, seem to have been adopted in the case of the Wesleyan Chapel, in the town of Kingston, duly registered at the Quarter-Sessions in November, 1816 ; as tenders for its building had been previously called for by Thomas Catterick, the local preacher appointed by the English Conference. This was to be erected “near the North Gate,” probably about Bay Street ; and the Gazette of May 24th, 1817, contains an evidence of the good feeling prevailing between the denominations in the place in a subscription-list for the building fund, which included the names of most of the leading people, civil and military.
As early as 1820 the Scotchmen resident in Kingston, already numerous and strongly attached to their national Church, had built on the site of the present St. Andrew’s Church, which as yet the growing town had scarcely reached, the first stone church in Kingston, with the exception of the small R. C. church of rough stone already mentioned as having been built in 1808. It was a substantial stone building with a front of hewn stone, handsome for the period, and indeed a great advance on the primitive frame building then called St. George’s. The first clergyman who came from Scotland to fill the charge of St. Andrew’s was the Rev. John Barclay, so much beloved by his parishioners, that. on his early death, exactly five years from the time when he began his duties, they sent to Scotland a request that a successor should be sent them, who should, as far as possible, resemble the pastor they had lost ! This request was fulfilled in the choice of the Rev. John Machar, who, arriving in 1827, was for considerably more than a generation the beloved and devoted minister of St. Andrew’s, and, along with his colleagues of other churches, a strong force in promoting the spiritual and moral good of the town and the Province.
Meantime the spirit of progress stimulated the congregation of St, George’s to erect a worthier edifice, the corner-stone of which, as elsewhere described, was laid in 1825, under the rectorship of the Rev. George O’Kill Stuart, his assistant at that time being the Rev. Robert D. Cartwright. who resigned on account of ill-health. when. in 1843, the Rev. William Herchmer succeeded to the office. And thus the little Kingston of the thirties. in addition to the more material progress recorded, was supplied with four or five places of worship and with six ministers of the Gospel, as well as with schools, to be hereafter described. At times it had also a military and naval chaplain, but in the absence of one, the duties were performed by the Rector of St. George’s, or in the case of Scottish troops in garrison, by the incumbent of St. Andrew’s If, therefore, the people of Kingston had been one( found by Dr. Stuart to be “not very favourable to morality and industry,” and if Sunday labour had as we are told, been “too much practised among them.” we may well believe that the “growing-time’ in mundane matters, recorded in the foregoing pages had been a growing-time also in the higher sphere of moral and spiritual life.
The Story Of Old Kingston:A Growing TimeA Political CrisisKingston As The Capital Of CanadaAn Educational CentreChurches And CharitiesSixty Years AgoDecree Of Louis Xiv. Granting To La Salle The Seigniory Of CataraquiRead More Articles About: The Story Of Old Kingston