Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Evening Telegram's Interview with James Beaty

Born 1798 in Killishandra, Ireland, James Beaty emigrated to New York at the age of seventeen where for a while he practised his trade as a shoemaker. Though he made money quickly in New York Beaty, a loyal subject of the King, preferred to live where the Monarchy still reigned and this prompted him to move to Canada, where at first he settled in Kingston. In Kingston he began to hear good things of the new settlement of Muddy York, as Toronto was then known. Sometime later, in an interview with the Evening Telegram newspaper, Beaty recalled his arrival in Toronto on Saturday March 17, 1818.

"I waited a long time for a chance to ride west, and at last the man who used to carry the mail agreed to take me in his rig. It was the month of March, but there was no snow in Kingston all that winter. A storm came on while we were on our journey, and when I reached York there was four feet of snow on the ground.

"We put up at a hotel kept by a man named Jordan, near where the market (St. Lawrence Market) now is. The Parliament of Upper Canada was sitting in an upper room of the inn at the time. I was introduced to the house as a leather merchant from New York. Toronto was then a little village (population 500) hemmed in on all sides by woods. I looked around and rather liked the place, so I concluded to open up a leather store. I rented a place and commenced business. After getting started in my shop I went back to New York and was the first man to purchase leather there for use in Toronto. Business was good in those days and as the people here wanted leather I made lots of money. I soon sold my business in New York and settled here, and here I have since remained."

169 King Street East, Site of Former Leader Newspaper

As the interview continues, Beaty affirms his strong belief in the future of Toronto and his adopted country:

"I always believed Toronto was going to be a great place, so I went into building houses on a large scale. Altogether since coming to Toronto I have had 57 houses built, so one can see I have done something to make the city what it is today. When the city council was elected in 1834 I was in New York, so did not take any part in the election; in 1835, I think, I was elected a councillor.

"What about 1837?" was asked. "Of course I was a loyalist; but mind you, I have always said we owe a great deal to William Lyon MacKenzie, who with all his faults, loved his country. I was one of those who went out as ambassadors, I suppose, when the rebels were at Montgomery's Tavern, to try and induce them to give up here when Lount and Matthews were hanged.

"You were deeply interested in public affairs in the early days, Mr. Beaty?"

"Yes. Since I first came to Toronto. Didn't you know I carried the first Orange flag through the streets here when the brethern marched on July 12. We were very few in number then. At a meeting the night before the 12th some of the members were against walking, but I stood out for the walk and the next day no one dare molest us. The Orangemen then were few in numbers, but we were backed by all the Protestants in the town. I have always thought it was a good omen for the city's success that the founders were not ashamed to carry the open Bible, with the words on their banners - The Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible. After 1837 I had something to do with nearly every movement in the city. I was one of the directors of the General Hospital and an Asylum Commissioner. I looked after the building of the Asylum, and remained in office until they commenced paying the Commissioners; I then resigned.

"I was a director of the Grand Trunk Railway, and was present at the opening of the Victoria Bridge, when the Prince of Wales gave me a silver medal. After I started the Leader and Patriot I was brought more prominently before the public, and had many a warm argument with my greatest antagonist, George Brown. He never agreed on any question, and although he used to make a great cry about 'Beaty and the York Hoods', I believe he was a great and good man. We were opponents, but I always respected him.

After Confederation I stood for the Dominion House in East Toronto and defeated Dr. Aikins, but I forgot the exact majority. I sat in Parliament until the next general election in l872, when John O'Donohue (now the senator) was put up against me. That was a hard and bitter fight, but my friends stuck with me, and I was elected by 84 majority. Then Sir John MacDonald went out of office in 1873 on the Pacific scandal issue, I retired from politics and gave my time to my papers until a cataract on my eye forced me in 1875 to give up business.

Since that time I have been doing nothing of public interest, but I am hopeful that I will be spared to see Toronto become a still greater city than it is at the present."

(Source: The Island Register

According to Wikipedia: The Toronto Telegram (previously the Toronto Evening Telegram) was a conservative, broadsheet afternoon daily newspaper published in Toronto, Canada, from 1876 to 1971.