An ongoing research project of the Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch

Warming up cold January nights… in 1799

Research for the Simcoe’s Gentry project has given us some intimate glimpses of what life was like in the early Town of York for the Park Lot owners.

For instance, we know from the diary of Alexander Macdonell (Collachie), that on January 2, 1799—“a fine, clear, cold day”—that he had both lunch and dinner in the officers’ mess with fellow Park Lot owners David Shank, Samuel Smith, David Burns, and Robert I.D. Gray. (The entries from Macdonell’s diary for this January week are extracted in: Firth, Edith G. The Town of York, 1793-1815. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1962. p 226-8.)

This group of men, along with Alexander Macdonell’s brother Angus and David Burn’s brother Alexander, socialized frequently over the next few days—including at a bonfire on January 4 to celebrate Admiral Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile. (The battle had taken place in August 1798, although the official news of the outcome had arrived in York only the day before.)

On the evening of January 6, Macdonell dined with David Burns and Robert I.D. Gray. He notes that dinner was indifferent, but they “drank nearly a bottle of port each besides two bottles of porter”. (There was even more good cheer after dinner.) Now, Alexander Macdonell was Sheriff of the Home District; David Burns was Clerk of the Crown and Common Pleas, and Official Principal of the Court of Probate; and Robert Isaac Dey Gray was Solicitor General and a member of the House of Assembly.

There may not have been too much official work done on Monday, January 7!

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