Explanatory Notes




Galt  The Scottish-born novelist and promoter of colonization John Galt (1779-1839) served as Superintendent of the Canada Company from 1826 to 1829, in which capacity he founded the town (now city) of Guelph, Ontario in 1827.   Two of Galt's subsequent novels of emigration and settlement in North America, Lawrie Todd; or, The Settlers in the Woods (1830) and Bogle Corbet; or, The Emigrants (1831), as well as his subsequent Autobiography (1833), contain accounts of the founding of a settlement and the ceremonial cutting of the first tree and both exerted a considerable influence on Canadian poems of emigration and settlement such as Alexander McLachlan's The Emigrant (1861) (see Explanatory Note to Chapter IV: Cutting the First Tree) and Isabella Valancy Crawford's Malcolm's Katie (1884) (see 2: 147-164).  "It was consistent with my plan to invest our ceremony with a little mystery, the better to make it remembered," recalls Galt in the chapter on "The Founding of Guelph" (Chapter 9) in his Autobiography: "[W]e walked to the brow of the neighbouring rising ground, and Mr. Prior having shewn the site selected for the town, a large maple tree was chosen; on which, taking an axe from one of the woodmen, I struck the first stroke.  To me at least the moment was impressive,—and the silence of the woods, that echoed to the sound, was as the sigh of the solemn genius of the wilderness departing for ever.  The doctor [Dunlop; see the note to 2, below] followed me, then, if I recollect correctly, Mr. Prior [see 11, below], and the woodmen finished the work.  The tree fell with a crash of accumulating thunder, as if ancient Nature were alarmed at the entrance of social man into her innocent solitudes with his sorrows, his follies, and his crimes.  I do not suppose that the sublimity of the occasion was unfelt by the others, for I noticed that after the tree fell, there was a funereal pause, as when the coffin is lowered into the grave; it was, however, of short duration, for the doctor pulled a flask of whisky from his bosom, and we drank prosperity to the City of Guelph" (58-59).  For a full and detailed account of the planning, founding, and building of Guelph with numerous illustrations, see Gilbert A. Stelter, "Guelph and the Early Canadian Town Planning Tradition," Ontario History 77 (June 1985): 83-106.


Dunlop  Also a Scottish-born employee of the Canada Company, William "Tiger" Dunlop (1792-1848) served briefly in Canada during the War of 1812 and returned in 1826 after working for several years in India (hence the nickname "Tiger").  Best known for his Statistical Sketches of Upper Canada, for the Use of Emigrants (1832), he also published his "Recollections of the American War, 1812-14" in The Literary Garland (Montreal) in 1847.  In his Autobiography 2:59, Galt records that after the felling of the "large maple tree," Dunlop "christened the town" Guelph and drank to its future from a whisky flask.  


Galt struck the monarch of the woods. . .  See the note to 2, above.


Prior  Charles Prior was the superintendent of operations for the Canada Company in 1827.  The building in which settlers were temporarily accomodated after their arrival in early Guelph was punningly designated "The Priory."


good King George, our patron saint  King George IV (reign: 1820-1830).  Galt named Guelph in honour of the Royal House of Hanover, who were descended from the Guelfs.


Shakspeare. . .death. . .  William Shakespeare (1564-1616) died on April 23 (St. George's Day) and his birthday, though unknown, is traditionally celebrated on the same day because he is known to have been baptized on April 26.  In his Autobiography 2:54, Galt records that the choice of St. George's Day to "commence operations" was "not without design" because "[t]he founding of a town" was an event "like the launching of a vessel, or the birth of an enterprise," that required "solemnity" and a sense of "boding" and "destiny."


Galt gave England's royal honored name. . .  See the note to 13, above.


Our Queen Queen Victoria (reign: 1837-1901).


Her Churches, gems of modern art, / With their lofty spires  In 1877, Guelph boasted several churches in the Gothic Revival style: St. Andrew's (1857) (architect: William Hay), Knox (1868) and Dublin Street (1872) (architect: James Smith), and St. George's Anglican (1869-73) and First Baptist (1871-74) (architect: Henry Langley).  For discussions and illustrations of the first two, see Stelter, "Henry Langley and the Making of Gothic Guelph," Historic Guelph 28 (September 1989): 4-30.


Agricultural College  The Ontario Agricultural College was founded in 1874 and existed independently until 1964, when it became a founding component of the University of Guelph (now Guelph-Humber).


A home for the aged and the maim. . .  Probably a reference to St. Joseph's Hospital and House of Providence, which was established in 1861 in a two storey house in Guelph and moved in 1862 to a larger building, a matching addition to which was planned and completed in 1877.


From our Senate Halls. . .a resident of our town  To date, the senator to whom these lines refer has not been identified.


Brave Galt. . .Now Sleeps on Scotia's shore  John Galt died at Greenock, Scotland on April 11, 1839.