Monday 23 January 2012

January 24, 1876

“The Court resumed this morning at ten o’clock, Hon. Justice Moss on the bench.
          Mr. Crerar renewed his application to have this case put off till the next  Assizes on account of the public feeling against the prisoner. His Lordship said it would be better to make the application to Justice Patterson who was better acquainted with the matter, and who would be in the Court at 3 p.m.”
                                                          Hamilton Spectator. January 24, 1876

The Winter Assizes were in their sixth day when court opened on on January 24, 1876.
Two McConnell cases were on the docket.
The infamous Michael McConnell trial was nearing but his lawyer was trying to delay the date of the trial, citing the hostile public feeling towards his client which he would later argue was a result of reporting in the local press.
The other McConnell case involved George McConnell, the man who fought with Dundas Police Constable McDonough on municipal election, January 3rd.
The Spectator detailed how that case was resolved :
          The prisoner was arraigned on the charge of committing an assault on Constable McDonough on the 3rd day of January last.
          Mr. Barton conducted the defence. He said the circumstance attending the case were very painful and had caused considerable excitement and party feeling in Dundas, and should this case be continued in Court, this feeling will be kept alive for a long time to come, and he hoped that, in the interest of peace, the prisoner would be discharged. The assault was a very insignificant one, no one being hurt but the prisoner. McConnell was very poor and unable to employ defence, and he (Mr. Barton) had been retained by a number of citizens who were determined to see that the prisoner got justice, and who intended to employ Mr. Cameron of Toronto should the case be retained.
          His Lordship thought that it was a case that should be settled.
          Const. McDonough said he would not proceed with the case if the prisoner would express regret for what he had done, and pay the costs already incurred. The defence agreed to pay the costs. The prisoner was then discharged.”
Citizens in the Township of Saltfleet, east of Hamilton, were scandalized by a sudden disappearance of a young girl with an older man :
“An extremely painful case of elopement has recently occurred in the Township of Saltfleet, by which a young girl named Matilda Springstead, aged fifteen years, was induced to leave her home by a designing scoundrel named John Crawford, who is over forty years of age. The elopement took place sometime between Christmas and New Year’s and neither of the parties have been heard of since by those interested in their case. The almost broken-hearted father of the girl has been searching for her ever since with no success, and he is now about giving up the search as useless. The young lady is tall and slight, is five feet, six inches, with long brown hair, dark brown eyes and a full face. Crawford is a man apparently forty-five years of age, five foot five inches in height, and has a large scar on his left eyebrow. The scoundrel no doubt induced his young and inexperienced victim to flee the country with him, and the discovery of their whereabouts will no doubt be a difficult matter.”
On James street north, the enlargement of the former Christ’s Church into Christ’s Church Cathedral was nearing completion
          To garner some needed publicity, members of the congregation approached the Spectator to help them publicize their find-raising initiative in connection with needs for the new Cathedral:
       “We are requested to state that members of the Cathedral congregation propose to hold a series of friendly gatherings at private residences during the ensuing season for the purpose of aiding the organ fund. The cathedral is rapidly approaching completion. Sunday, the 20th of February, has been fixed for the opening services, and the organ is expected to be erected by the 12th of the same month. As soon as it is delivered, a heavy instalment becomes payable, and it is with a view to meet this engagement that the entertainments we have mentioned are proposed. The first is to be given at Mrs. Grant’s, King street east, on Thursday evening, the 27th inst., at 7:30 o’clock, when the members of the congregation, and others friendly to the object, are invited to attend. It is generally understood that contributions to the fund are not to be less than 25 cents, but they are not limited in the other direction. The next succeeding conversazione will be held at the residence of Mrs. Winer, Main street, on Thursday, February 3rd.”

The plight of Hamilton’s poor prompted a reader to forward the following letter to the editor of the Spectator :
Sir : I but recently came to Hamilton to live, but yet have already found that the Odd Fellows and St. George’s Society (as well as others, probably that I don’t know of) are doing much for the relief of the poor. But these are exceptionally hard times, and “Destruction of the poor is their poverty.”
Wanting to engage several women for a few days, the very first one I applied for could scarce leave her husband who had once broken his leg and was now very sick from another cause. Learning that a whole day’s work could be had, that several were in prospect, the poor woman was over-anxious to go, and asked her husband, who replied, between most evident and trying pains, that “he didn’t know if he should live through the night,” but after a long time he tried to arrange with another woman standing by that she might go. Well, sir, I could not, with such sincere evidence before me, do otherwise than pay the impoverished and helpless wife as if she had gone, and look elsewhere for my labour.
Doubtless, every one this winter is puzzled more than commonly “how to make ends meet;”  but how can such a woman, who is so often heart-broken and in tears, survive without more help than the $1.25 per week her little boy earns, and the eighty or ninety cents in groceries so kindly, but inadequately ,supplied her by St. George’s ? No wonder, indeed, if hungry men should be driven to burglaries, and shabby women disgrace themselves for a living, if they be not encouraged while passing through such a terrible ordeal. Cannot there be more “Benefits for the Poor” in entertainments, in church collections, in temperance and other societies; and more than these, which are so continually drawn upon, cannot some rich people give to the deserving – to “God’s Poor” – as the Lord hath prospered them, cannot we all save in cigars, in drinks, in luxuries, in comforts, even in necessities for the relief of our poorer brethren ? Let us try !

Finally, Michael McConnell’s crime had an ongoing effect on his own family who had to cope with their life without the household’s source of income:
 “Since the Mills’ murder, McConnell’s boys, two bright intelligent children, have been keeping their father’s stall, and have done a good business. They keep it well stocked with meat, and our reporter was told today by one of the butchers that they do a larger business than their father did. The oldest boy resembles his father somewhat, but has a more humane and intelligent face. He seemed perfectly happy today, and appears to enjoy the rather responsible position he occupies as the proprietor of a butcher’s stall. He conversed freely with our reporter about the stall and the business he was doing, but the moment the subject of his father was breached, he became silent. He is much bothered by people insisting on examining his stall and asking questions about his unfortunate father.”

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