Thursday 26 January 2012

January 27, 1876

“It is said that Mr. Simmons, of Hamilton, is again attempting to secure the Dundas Marsh from the Crown Lands Department at Toronto, but we understand the member for North Wentworth has given the Department such information as will prevent the accomplishment of Mr. Simmons’ scheme. If a patent is to be issued at all, it should be to Dundas or some of the adjoining municipalities, and not to a private individual.”
               True Banner and Wentworth Chronicle   January 27, 1876
          For some reason, no copies of the Hamilton Spectator for January 27, 1876 survived, but the weekly True Banner and Wentworth Chronicle did.
          An interesting item, quoted above, appeared concerning the Dundas Marsh, or Coote’s Paradise. Not for the first time, nor for the last time, would private interests attempt to purchase the area and drain the marsh in order to use the property for commercial purposes.
          The Ancaster lobby against the granting of a charter to the promoters of the Hamilton and Dundas Railway scheme won a partial victory. The promoters of the street railway had proposed to include a toll road for horse and wagon traffic in the same right of way to be developed for the interurban railway :
          The Hamilton and Dundas Street Railway Bill was up before the Private Bills Committee the other day, when Committees from the City and the Township of Ancaster were present to secure certain amendments to the proposed charter. The Ancaster people succeeded in having the clause struck out which empowered the Company to construct a toll road along the line of the railway track, urging that such a road would very materially injure the toll roads now constructed and which are owned by the County and Township of Ancaster.

          With Professor Linder having relocated to Dundas for demonstrations of his abilities as regards phrenology, psychology and mesmerism, The True Banner   reprinted a detailed account, originally from the Hamilton Times, of the stage activities of Professor Linden at Hamilton’s Mechanics Hall :
“Professor Linder gave an exhibition of his wonderful and incomparable exemplification of the power of mind over matter. Of all the Phrenologists and Psychologists who have visited this city, he is certainly the ablest and most proficient professor in the art. The audience last night, though not numerous, was composed of the most respectable and intelligent citizens. The Professor’s lecture before he commenced his practical illustration was highly interesting, but when he introduced his subjects selected from the audience, and after “placing them under the influence,” those who witnessed the examination acknowledged that the Professor thoroughly understood his avocation. A number of gentlemen well known to the public volunteered to go on stage to be manipulated by the Professor, and from their position in social life, we are satisfied that they would not lend themselves to any deceit. One gentleman was made to believe that he had a snake in his bosom, and his contortions on stage were most remarkable and created no end of amusement. Another subject whom the Professor had under his control was made to believe that he was a pious and praying man, and caused him to lay prostrate and believe himself dead. Drs. Woolverton and Locke, who were in the hall, were asked to go upon the stage and examine the gentleman. After feeling his pulse and otherwise examining his body, they pronounced the man to be in such a state that his leg could be amputated without his knowledge or any sense of feeling. The ball of one of the eyes of the subject was touched and yet no feeling was manifested. The science is, beyond all doubt, one of the most interesting and instructive that we have seen in the Mechanics’ Hall for some time. Professor Linder is well deserving of a liberal patronage, and we hope to see the hall crowded to excess this evening. As an evidence of the superiority of the entertainment we may only mention that the audience on the first and last night was composed principally of scientific and literary ladies and gentlemen. To our readers, we would suggest that, if they want to spend a pleasant, instructive evening, they visit the Mechanics’ Hall tonight. – Hamilton Times.
Private examinations at the Elgin House for a few days.”
      Finally the True Banner was able to obtain and reprint in full, the affidavit  that Nelson Mills and his lawyer had written in an attempt to delay his trial :
 “Mr. Crerar, the Counsel for McConnell, who stabbed and killed Mr. Nelson Mills in Hamilton a few weeks ago, has been exercising every influence that could be brought to bear to induce the Judge at the Assize Court to postpone the trial of McConnell until the Spring Assizes., but the Judge refused to comply with his request, and has finally fixed the trial for Monday next at noon. The following affidavit, made by the prisoner, which was put in for the purpose of securing a postponement of the trial, will give our readers an idea of the line of defence to be set up for the prisoner.
I, Michael McConnell, of the City of Hamilton, in the County of Wentworth, now incarcerated in the jail of said County do solemnly upon oath say : 
1. That I am the Michael McConnell named in the indictment above referred to.
2. That I am informed by my counsel, Mr. John Crerar, of the said City, Barrister, that I am accused of having deliberately, with premeditation, and with malice aforethought, murdered the late Nelson Mills, of the said City, my former landlord.
3. That I admit under great provocation, as I then supposed, and under great mental excitement to which I have been subject under certain circumstances for the past two years, from causes hereinafter set forth, having inflicted with a knife upon the body of the said Nelson Mills certain wounds on the morning of Wednesday, the fifth day of January instant, but I do solemnly declare that I cannot from memory tell the number of these wounds, and I further declare that I did not inflict the said wounds with any intention to destroy the life of the said Nelson Mills; neither did I believe after the said wounds were inflicted that they would cause the death of the said Nelson Mills; neither do I now that the death of the said Nelson Mills was produced by the said wounds and by no other cause.
4. That the following is a true history of my motives, intentions and actions relating to and concerning the infliction of the said wounds as they rose and occurred on the said day.
That on the fifth day of January, I was indebted to the said Nelson Mills in the sum of Fourteen Dollars for the two preceding months’ accrued and overdue rent for a dwelling house situated on Concession Street, which I had rented from him; that the said Nelson Mills had promised to make necessary improvements in and about said property but had failed to do so, and I had refused to pay said rent until said improvements were made; that on the Fourth day of January the said Nelson Mills, by his agent, an old gentleman who, I think, staid in his house, made a demand upon me for said rent; that I told him I wished to see Mr. Mills himself about it; I went up shortly after on the same day to see Mr. Mills when Mrs. Mills said he was not at home; I called again at noon, but he was still absent; Mrs. Mills then asked me to call again the next morning at nine o’clock, and I replied that I could not so early, but would call again that day; I then called a third time the same day and saw Mr. Mills and told that he need not be in such a hurry about his rent, that he knew the times were hard, and that he had not kept his bargain about the fence; he made no reply but shut the door in my face; that on the morning of the fifth day of January, my wife came into my stall in the market place of Hamilton, and gently informed me that the bailiffs  were in my house, and that they refused to leave until the said rent was paid, and that if not paid at once, they would carry off all my household furniture; that my wife asked from me sufficient money to pay the said rent, but I replied to her that I would go home and see the said Mills, and settle the matter myself; that this interview with my wife occurred I believe about ten o’clock in the forenoon; that prior to my wife’s arrival as aforesaid, I had completed the principal part of my morning’s business, and feeling very unwell, as I had done for two day’s previously, I had resolved to go home within a short time of my wife’s said arrival; I thereupon hastened my departure, and took up a knife which I was in the habit of using for boning beef, and sharpened it with my steel with the intention of so using it upon a quantity of beef which had been frozen and was then in my house, being thawed out, and which I desired to prepare for Thursday the following morning’s market; that I put said knife within the sleeve of my coat, where, in the absence of a bag, I had often previously carried when taking it home for use; that I solemnly declare that the sole object I had in view in carrying away the said knife was as aforesaid, was to bone the said beef as aforesaid, and for no other purpose whatever.
That when I left my said stall I had no intentions whatever of assaulting or wounding the said Nelson Mills or any other person, either with my hands or with any other weapon; that at the time I left said stall as aforesaid I had on my person in a special pocket a seven barrelled revolver pistol fully charged with a bullet in each chamber and capped; that said pistol so loaded had been continually carried by me about my person for the space of about two years prior and up to that time; that I then instructed my eldest son to attend to the stall and to close up as usual, as he was in the habit of doing, and immediately thereafter proceeded towards my own home and on the way I necessarily passed the dwelling house then occupied by the said Mills on Queen street along which was the direct road to my said home; when I came to the said Mills’ house, I went in and asked a colored girl, his servant, whether Mr. Mills was at home; she replied that she would see; she then went in, and in a few minutes, she came back and informed me that he was out or words to that effect; I then turned to retire by Mr. Mills’ gate; I solemnly declare that my sole object in trying to see the said Mills was to ask him why he had put the bailiff into my house when he had only sent a demand for the money the day previous at my stall; that I had no other object in view whatsoever, and I deny most pointedly that I then contemplated upon inflicting upon said Mills any personal injury or of making any attempt to do so; immediately after I left Mr. Mills’ premises, I turned in the direction of my home; when outside his gate, but a few yards beyond the gate, coming from the direction of my said home, I met the said Mills; that I at once went up to him and said, as nearly as I can recollect, the following words,” Why have you put the bailiff on me for two months’ rent ? That is too sharp.” He at once replied, “I don’t wish to have anything to do with you.” We then had some hot words together about a fence he had promised to put for me but had failed to do so; he then suddenly put his hands upon my shoulder and threw me violently against the rough stone wall which is in front of his house. At this time, the handle of the knife before alluded to was in my left hand, the blade lying upwards along my left arm beneath my coat sleeve. When the said Mills pushed me over, as aforesaid, I could not, owing to the position of the said knife and the danger of being cut, throw back my hand to break my fall, and my knuckle struck the wall with great force, both my thumbs and the two middle fingers of my right hand were peeled at the knuckle joints and bled profusely. Immediately after pushing me, as aforesaid, he started to run towards his own house. Smarting under the pain of my bruised fingers, I became terribly excited and filled with rage, and immediately upon recovering myself, I shouted aloud, “You old rascal,” and ran after him. I came up to him about the corner of George street, on the opposite side from his own house, and then I drew the knife and struck at him wildly several times about the head. I solemnly declare that at this time I believed I was striking him with the butt end of the knife, for my right hand was streaming with blood from my knuckles, but I remember as he ran from me in another direction, when I was close behind him, driving forward with the point of the knife directed towards his back. That I have no recollection of how or in what manner I inflicted the remaining wound. My last recollection is that after I turned from the said Mills to go home, I saw him walk into his own gate, on George street, without assistance, and I then proceeded up Queen street to my ouse. I solemnly swear that when I went home, I did not believe  that I had fatally wounded the said Mills; that I cannot think – though I cannot tell – that I would have become so infuriated had I been at this time in sound health; that about two years previous to the above sad occurrences I was within my own house felled to the ground by a stroke from some sharp instrument in the hands of and inflicted by some unknown person, that is by some person whose identity I could never prove, and my forehead was cut open; that since that event, I have been subject to excruciating pains at short intervals and to great heat in my head; that on the Monday preceding the said fifth day of January, that is two days previously, I was seized in my stall with fearful piercing and shooting pains in my head; that I could not stay in my stall and walked and then ran around the market square several times in the hope that the sharp air would cool my head; that ever since the said attack upon my life, I have not been able for any length of time to keep my head covered with a hat ever during the most severe winter weather. That on the said Monday I went home early in the day and got into bed and was ill, that I could not attend to vote in the municipal elections. That on the Tuesday I was little if anything better, and in the afternoon of that day, I went up to the mountain in hopes that the fever in my head would subside. That I then called upon Mr. Sarcen who lives on the mountain, who advised me to go home at once and get some medicine or go to bed. That on the fatal Wednesday morning, I was but little better and had arranged to go home early when my wife appeared with the tidings  about the bailiffs, when I hastened my departure towards home as already stated. That I solemnly swear that every statement made by others and every rumour which may prevail regarding the above sad events inconsistent with the natural points of the foregoing narrative are untrue. That I am informed by my counsel that the prosecution intend to prove that before I left my stall I uttered threats against Mr. Mills, but I again swear that any evidence which may be adduced against me to that effect is utterly false. That the information given me in my stall could not have possibly been heard by others, and I neither by word, or in my mind, gave any expression to, or felt any desire to inflict bodily injury on Mr. Mills or on the bailiffs, and I believe that all the butchers in the market and all who have known me know that except with my fists, I was never known, even in self-defence, to attack anyone. That if I could have contemplated so horrid a deed as the murder of Mr. Mills, I would never have selected broad daylight or a butcher’s knife as the time and weapon. That ever since the attack upon my life, I carried on my person during the day and kept under my pillow during the night, a seven barrelled revolver, loaded and capped.
That I beseech the judge who presides at the Assizes to give me a chance to clear my name of having committed wilful and premeditated murder. That my counsel has explained to me what evidence is required to be adduced on my behalf so as to fairly set before the jury all which they should know, and I am at resent totally unable to furnish the means to pay the expenses required. That I honestly believe my wife’s relations in Scotland will remit money to pay all reasonable outlays, and she informed two weeks ago that she had written them to do so. That if, as I am informed, the public generally believe that I did deliberately and with premeditation commit a murder upon Nelson Mills I am not surprised at the cries I heard.”

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