Saturday, March 15, 2014

Martello Towers

    I discovered Martello Towers years ago on a trip to the east coast of Canada. We were heading for the Saint John to Digby ferry and arrived a little early in the evening with nothing to do. So I suggested we go and check out the Carleton Martello Tower. I saw a sign for it pointing up the hill and I was wondering what it was. Since it was evening the tower was closed, but I was able to come back another time and visit it when it was open.
    The concrete structure on the roof was added during WWII. It is ugly and should be removed. This Martello Tower was built to defend the Saint John Harbour during the War of 1812-1814. Construction began in 1813 and, since it took two years to build, it was not completed until the war was already over. It has been restored now and is operated as a historic site by Parks Canada. I have visited almost every Martello Tower in Canada that survives and this one has by far the best museum, great location and might be a contender for the most attractive tower if it did not sport that ugly top.
Link to the Parks Canada page for the Carlton Martello Tower here.
     The best looking tower is the Prince of Wales Tower in Halifax. Originally there were five towers built here in 1794 by Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, Victoria's father. He named them all after family members. This is the only remaining tower in Halifax. The Prince of Wales Tower suffers from a bit of neglect. You may visit the grounds at Point Pleasant Park. It appears from the Parks Canada website that there is a display on the first floor now. There was no entry on the time I visited it.  This tower has the distinction of being the only tower that was part of a fight. There was a famous duel fought on the grounds in front of the tower between Father of Confederation, Joseph Howe, and the son of Judge Haliburton (of Sam Slick fame), John C. Haliburton. Haliburton had taken offence to an article that Howe had published criticizing his father. Haliburton fired first and missed after which Howe fired his shot into the air and said "Let the creature live.". It would be lovely to see more done with this very cool tower.
You may look at the pages on the Prince of Wales Tower at Parks Canada here.
     The third tower that I am going to write about is Tower #1 in Quebec City. There were four towers built here and none were given a name. The tower was designed to be built quickly and, with a very small garrison, be able to keep up a very spirited defence in an attack by sea. So the first tower is placed correctly on the heights of the Plains of Abraham, overlooking the St. Lawrence. The other three were built inland in a line facing west, which is where the British command thought an American attack might come from. They were not completely wrong; the Americans did come at Montreal from the west and, had they succeeded, would have attempted to take Quebec City from that direction.
     Tower 1 is a museum to the War of 1812-1814 and is nicely done and worth a visit. Tower 2 is now a mystery dinner theatre. Tower 3 was destroyed to make a new wing for a hospital that is now gone. The Mckenzie Pavilion of the old Jeffrey Hale Hospital is there but I do not know what it is used for. Tower 4 still exists but is vacant and not restored or visitable.
As an aside, Google Maps has placed the opera on the site of the second tower. Street view will show that this is wrong. The fourth tower is smack dab in the middle of Rue Lavigueur around 171.
     The photo of Tower 1 below was taken by my father in the middle of the usual blustery Canadian winter. He lived in Quebec City for years and like many, did not know there was anything special about this tower. You might notice the cone shaped roof on it. This feature was peculiar to the Canadian towers only. They had a foldable roof which they put up in the winter to keep the weight of the snow from collapsing the tower. These would be removed in the summer so that the cannon on top could fire freely at anything approaching by sea. All three Quebec City towers and all six in Kingston, Ontario have this roof permanently placed on them.
Gives you the chills just looking at that snow. The link to this tower's page is run by the National Battlefields Commission.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Henry Scadding's House

     I always knew about Holy Trinity Church, an old church that survived the building of the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto by being incorporated into the plans. The centre went up and the church was preserved where it stood but it is close to the walls of the mall. The Toronto library has some amazing photos of the church including one that shows the little cluster of buildings and a huge pit where the mall foundations were going.
    It was on a trip to a washroom that I passed by the doors that lead to the church and I noticed a house right up against the walls of the centre. So, I took a closer look and noticed the name on the plaque: Henry Scadding's house. I knew he had been the author of Toronto of Old and the founder of the York Pioneers, plus his father's log cabin is preserved at the CNE grounds but I had no idea his house had been saved. I also did not realize that he was the first pastor assigned to Holy Trinity by Bishop Strachan, the man who negotiated a surrender to the Americans when York was overrun on April 27, 1813. Scadding was a member of the Family Compact that ruled Upper Canada until William Lyon Mackenzie's rebellion caused Victoria to send Lord Durham to discover why there was unrest in the colony. He recommended greater self rule which gave us our first combined Canadas parliament.
Here is a photo that I took with my cell phone of the house, Henry lived in:
    In his book on Toronto (1873), Henry wrote that the land had belonged to Dr. Macaulay and that Albert Street which entered Yonge Street was in 1833 know as Macaulay Lane and the area was still all fields.  Toronto, at the time, was actually a little east of Yonge Street, nearer to the Don River. The place that Macaulay's homestead occupied is now Trinity Square. Even as Scadding was writing, he said that the area was now surrounded by buildings, although from his attic he could still catch a glimpse of Lake Ontario to the south and the still green and untouched Yorkville area to the north.
     He wrote that the church was a gift of benevolence from two sisters in England to Canada. They made their gift anonymously to Bishop Strachan with the proviso that the pews are free and therefore the first pastor had to have means of his own. Henry lamented the loss of the fine trees that had lined Yonge Street along Macaulay's estate, victims of 'progess' and development.
     The church rectory has also survived development which is beautiful to see. It looks like an island of tranquility in a busy, busy place and a little pocket of historical Toronto, obliterated almost everywhere else. I can just imagine the battle the historical groups had to save the place.
I expect this place is an oasis in the summer. Notice the address on the rectory is 10 Trinity Place. Judging from the preface to Scadding's book, this is where he wrote it. I do not know when he built the other house, which now houses not for profit organizations.
     There are many photos on the net of Holy Trinity Church but I will add one of my own. I thought the interior was worth seeing. Yes it is a small church and doesn't have the feel of antiquity like Notre Dame or other medieval churches but it was delightful to me.
I tried to take a good photo of the faces in stone here. This window is directly behind the altar. Unfortunately the good doctor did not say whose faces these two kings represented.
      If you ever do stop in and have a look at the church, please put a few dollars in the donation box at the front for the maintaining of the space. I did.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Days of Lent

One of my favorite books on Medieval History is Clifford Backman's The Worlds of Medieval Europe. He wrote about fasting for Lent: 
" A fellow named Macarius of Alexandria, for example, once tried to stand upright in prayer, nonstop throughout the entire forty day season of Lent, while eating nothing but cabbage leaves (Presumably the gas he produced helped keep him aloft.)" 
Love a historian with a sense of humor.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Whitby Company, Part II

page 2 of Ely Playter's diary listing the men in the Whitby Company of the 3rd Regiment of the York Militia.

#           Names                       rank       arms and nature of                  remarks
                                                            musket/fusil  /rifle
24        John W. Covel           private
25        Phestus C Wolf             "             1                                      gone to the States
 (I am not sure the name is Phestus, Ely has terrible handwriting and he scratched this one out.)
26        Richard Martin           3rd                       1
27      George Willson                                                                    gone to States
not 100% certain he wrote Willson
28      John Groat (?)                                                                      moved to Darlington
26       Samuel Jemerson X      2nd
27      Charles Jemerson  X      2nd
31      William Dobb                                           1                        gone to Darlington
32       Elijah A. Webber X     3rd    
29       Henry Smith                 2nd
34      George Mc Gaham X     "
30       David Annice X           private                                 deserted from M. McRuther
31       David Dehart
32       Thomas Cross                                           1
33       Timothy Nightengale                        Over 50 years of age (applies to #31 to 35)
34       Thody Cole Snr. X
35       William McCue X
35       William McDue Junior X  3rd
37        Willard Hall                      1st
38        George Hall drafted         1st
            Adam Stefhour                              1                 1              over 50 years of age
39        John Quick                       2nd
40        William Farewell           3rd      
41        Ezekiel Crane                3rd
42        John Smith                                                                        over 50 years of age
            Benjamin Vernon

It must have been a challenge to raise an army when people did not want to fight.
Ely's diary is available at the Ontario Archives where it can be viewed on microfilm.
If you want to see it, bring some eye drops and a magnifying glass.