- Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 28 Mar 1953
- Full Text
- All aboard the "Oswego Peggy"
Schooner Days MXCVIII (1098)
Happier Bride's Diary - 1
Anne Smith MacDonell, "young society matron" (to borrow from future women's pages) on the evening of May 30th 1805, jolted and jounced in from her brother's Etobicoke establishment towards York.
That establishment is still standing scarcely recognizable among the swirling development of Toronto's western suburbs. It is part of the Dominion Stores property at Long Branch. Yet through the kindness of Mr. Robert Christopherson, whose family occupied the old mansion for three generations, only last week we had the, yes, affecting experience of following the footsteps of young Mistress Anne down the now deep-worn threads of the central stairway by which she passed that May evening. Our clumsy fingers thrilled to touch the friendly pine stair-rail on which her fingers and a thousand others had bestowed the patina of a century and a half's caressing.
Anne's brother, Col. Samuel Smith, later twice Administrator of Upper Canada and President of the Council, had served with Simcoe in the Queen's Rangers through the American Revolution. He came over from Niagara with the soldier-governor to found the provincial capital at Toronto and call it York. Samuel had hewn a home for himself where the Etobicoke river joined Lake Ontario. It was in bush so dense that in order to see the billows bursting upon his shore he had had to cut a square clearing, a picture-window framed in dark tasselled pin. It was ten miles from Simcoe's Castle Frank on its headland up the Don.
Young, Mrs. MacDonell, to give the name as is now general usage, had borne that honorable title five months. Like Mrs. Simcoe, she kept a diary. In it (and probably in her boudoir), she called her husband "McDonell." That was the contemporary spelling of the name, as well as contemporary good form, this being before the atomic era of Ike and Mamie manners.
Her husband was the Honorable Alexander MacDonell, second son of Allan MacDonell of Collachie. Alexander had been a lieutenant in Butlers' Rangers out of Niagara in the Revolution. He, too, came to York with Simcoe; was High Sheriff of the Home District, member of the Legislative Assembly for Glengarry and Prescott, Colonel of Militia, Deputy Paymaster General, Assistant Secretary of the Indian Department, present Speaker of the House of Assembly, and ultimately Agent for Lord Selkirk's Baldoon Settlement of Highlanders on Lake St. Clair.
In her husband's absence on his multifarious duties Anne had been living at Etobicoke, for the comfort of her sister-in-law and her niece, little Ann Smith. Acrimony of the Revolution, which had made expatriates of younger Loyalist, had faded into mutual mutterings. Britain had given up the last of the held-over frontier forts in 1796, Simcoe had gone to San Domingo and become a Lieutenant General, and the elder generation of Smiths were living undisturbed on their Long Island property in the State of New York.
Anne had not seen her father and mother for five years. It was to visit her old home and her aged parents for possibly the last time that she came in from Etobicoke, the fist stage in a 500-mile journey. It was an infinitely grater undertaking than going to Europe in this Coronation year.
Although Anne had started before sundown it was quite dark before she could on the bush road accomplish what is now a 10 minute motor spin. At the Garrison at Fort York it was two miles farther on to Commissary Capt. John McGill's abode (in the present Metropolitan Church Square) where she was expected. Mentally and physically exhausted she halted at the new Duncan Cameron mansion among the elms of Gore Vale where now the ruin of old Trinity College yet raises a modest reminder of Oxford's dreaming spires.
The Camerons were kith if not kin. Official York was already a compact family, if not the Family Compact of the next generation.
At Gore Vale the young bride was made much of by the chatelaine, the Hon. Duncan Cameron's maiden sister. Also, she encountered a future fellow traveller. This my have been the clerk of the House of Assembly, Mr Donald McLean or his son. The father was killed eight years later in the battle of York, fighting gallantly; not young but a gentleman volunteer in the grenadier company of Capt. Neal's 8th King's. His son also fought in the War of 1812, being aide de camp to Gen. Procter.
Young Mrs. MacDonell's diary does not particularize further than:
"Mr Mclean talked a great deal, and it was a punishment to speak. My spirits were low, and I was ill all night. Miss. Cameron was very kind to me-made hot drink-heated bricks for my feet. I slept tolerable."
The Provincial armed yacht, in which she expected passage, had not yet arrived from Kingston, though the wind was fair. But there was an American Schooner in port. The gallant Anne accepted a passage in her. Quoting further:
"June the 1st. Not well. Went on board the Oswego Peggy, for that place, in the evening at 9 o'clock, with Mrs McGill, Mr. McLean, Capt. McGill. Mr. Crookshank and Mr. Cameron attended us on board and sat an hour. The cabin was neat tho' small, with six berths, Mr. McLean's complaisance to us would not allow him to sleep in the cabin. The captain was obliging and we were very comfortable.
Next number, more about Anne and the Oswego Peggy.
- Snider, C. H. J.
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- 28 Mar 1953
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