Thursday 5 January 2012

January 6, 1876 - Rural and Dundas Perspective

For readers living in the smaller communities outside of the City of Hamilton in 1876, both daily newspapers, the Spectator and the Times, published weekly editions.
January 6, 1876 was the date of publication for the first issue of the Weekly Times for 1876.
Items concerning matters at the James street market were particularly on interest to readers in the rural districts, and there was usually something going on at the market to comment on.
The following items from the Weekly Times combines a news item and editorial in one paragraph :
“Complaints are daily being made of a certain class of dealers in marketable produce who crowd vulture-like around farmers’ wagons on market days, and seek to monopolise their entire contents to themselves, while individual housekeepers are hustled back and very often afterwards compelled to buy from these monopolists at an advanced price. This is very annoying, not to say unjust, and we think the authorities will make some move in this matter, so that our citizens in general will be secured against these cormorants.”

The mild weather that dominated the early days of 1876 were a topic of news focus, with a rural slant in the coverage in the following two items :

“It is not in the memory of the ‘oldest inhabitant’ of the old Gore District that the farmer was able to plough his fields on the 31st day of December; but such has been the case on the last day of the year 1875. Our reporter on passing Limestone Ridge noticed no less than three teams busily engaged on the farm of Mr. Marshall in ploughing and preparing the soil for next year’s crops. No doubt many others in the vicinity have taken advantage of the opportunity and we hope they will profit thereby.”

“As a most remarkable instance of the extraordinary and unprecedented mildness of the weather for this season of the year, a correspondent informs us that when driving into the city this morning he saw two men ploughing in one field near Ryckman’s Corners. This is a circumstance not known in Canada for over thirty years.”
In the Valley Town of Dundas , the True Banner and Wentworth Chronicle was a weekly publication.
The sensational attack by Michael McConnell had only happened the day  before the True Banner was published so the only the following brief summary of the event appeared as follows :
“Yesterday morning at about ten o’clock, Mr. Nelson Mills, a respectable citizen of Hamilton, was stabbed near his own residence on King St. by a man named Michael McConnell, a butcher by trade, who had been one of Mills’ tenants and whose goods had been distrained for rent. It appears that McConnell’s wife went to the market and told him that Mills had put a constable in the house, when McConnell deliberately took up a butcher’s knife, sharpened it and slipping it up his sleeve, went to find Mills, which he succeeded in doing near Mills’ residence, when he at once rushed on him and stabbed him in the face. Mills ran and fell, and was followed by McConnell who again stabbed him when down, in the back and side. McConnell then coolly walked home and when arrested the knife was lying on the table and he was washing the blood off his hands. Mills, it is said, cannot recover as the knife entered his stomach and lungs. He made a statement to the Police Magistrate, and identified the murderer who has been committed awaiting the result of the injuries he inflicted on Mills.”
In turn, the Hamilton newspapers had carried a brief account f what the Spectator had termed a “riot” on election day.
The full details of the matter were duly documented for the readers of the Dundas True Banner who would undoubtedly be much more familiar with the all the actors in that play :
“On Tuesday evening, a complaint of Chief Constable McDonough, George McConnell, appeared to answer the charge of assaulting him as a Peace Officer in the execution of his duty.
Thos. McDonough, sworn : About twelve o’clock noon on Monday 3rd, was on duty on King St.; when at the corner of Sydenham, saw a crowd standing across the sidewalk in front of Hopkins’ drug store; George McConnell was among them; ordered them to stand either on the inside or the outside so as to allow room for the public to pass; they all moved to the outside of the sidewalk, except McConnell; he stood on the middle of the sidewalk, and said he was 25 years paying taxes in town, and that I could not move him; he said he didn’t care for any d----d policeman; told him again to move on, and he shoved his should right up against me; I shoved him back, when he grabbed hold of me by the neck; he tried to choke me; he also kicked me at the same time and tried to trip me up; asked him two or three times to let go of my neck; he did not let go, but tightened his hold on my neck; found I could not extricate myself from him; struck him with my cane; he did not even then let go until such time as Constable Johnson came over and assisted in taking his hand from the hold he had on my neck; while striving to get his hand out, he tore my coat and vest; brought him to the cells with the assistance of Johnson.
To Mr. Wardell : There were seven or eight standing across the sidewalk, which was completely blocked up so that no one could pass.
To Mr. Barton : Spoke to McConnell today about his having attempted to shove me off the sidewalk near Mercer and Casey’s on Monday morning; this was after he told me I had no right to strike him; told him it was not the first time he had tried to pick a quarrel with me; my purpose was that they should all move to one side of the sidewalk so as to let the public pass; after the others had moved, I ordered McConnell to move on from where he was standing on the centre of the walk; John Boyle, Cornelius Sullivan, and others were in the crowd who moved off; McConnell shoved his shoulder against me before I touched him; McConnell moved towards me; did not go towards him; after he shoved against me, I put my hand on his breast and pushed him back; he had hold of me by the neck two or three minutes; struck him after repeatedly asking him to let go his hold of my neck, with my cane, which is not heavy or loaded; tapped him on the wrist to make him let go of my neck; afterwards struck him on the top of his hand; at the time McConnell was arrested the crowd increased; McConnell was drunk when he met me in the morning, and I stepped to one side; told McConnell this morning, when he said I had no right to strike him, that I had to do so in order to make him let go his hold of me.
To Mr. Wardell : McConnell was not sober; it was after he said he didn’t care for any d----d policeman that I told him to move on; he had me by the neck some time before I struck him, and also after I struck him.
To Mr. Barton : McConnell was not drunk enough to be put in the cells; knew from his actions and appearance that he wasn’t sober.
Cornelius Sullivan, sworn : Remember Monday morning; was standing near Hopkins’ drug store; saw McDonough; he ordered us to move off the sidewalk, so that the people could pass; e were standing in a crowd in the middle of the sidewalk, so that the people could not pass, except inside or outside; we moved to the outside except McConnell, who did not move at all, and said he was paying taxes for the sidewalk; McDonough told him to move on the same as the rest, when McConnell struck him about the breast; he said he didn’t care a d--- for any policeman; just about then he struck against McConnell; McConnell then caught a hold of McD by the neck or the breast; McDonough said nothing more to McConnell than to the rest of us; McDonough told him two or three times to let go his hold; he did not when McDonough hit him on the hands and afterwards on the head when he wouldn’t let go; he was asking him to let go his hold all the time he was hitting him on the hand; McConnell had still hold of McD. When Johnson came to McD.’s assistance; think McConnell had a hold of the breast of the coat; Johnson helped them to the Hall; did not see Johnson help to separate them; McDonough had a piece of a cane; saw Johnson catch hold of McConnell by the body; McConnell had hold of McD. About the breast or neck, when Johnson came up; Johnson helped to pull them apart and help them along; Johnson loosened McConnell from McDonough’s throat; McConnell was asked to move on twice before the scuffle; think McConnell’s hat was on when he was struck.
The Court adjourned until 10 a.m, yesterday , at which hour McDonough was recalled, but nothing new or material was elicited in his examination.
Cornelius Sullivan, recalled and cross-examined : The crowd was not noisy, they were only talking; it was election day, and there were crowds all along the streets; passengers passed to and fro and heard no complaint until McDonough came up; did not think McConnell was drunk; he was quick in getting hold of McDonough; heard the crack of the stick on his head; it was loud; do not swear that I saw everything that took place; do not know whether McConnell had hold of McConnell throat, coat or vest.
Henry Morson, sworn : Was in Dundas on Monday; saw McDonough and McConnell having hold of each other; was not there at commencement; McDonough spoke to McConnell more than once to take his hands off; he refused to do so; saw McC. Have hold of McD. Somewhere about the breast; did not see the blow struck, but heard it; as far as my recollection serves me, Mcd. Asked McC. To let go before the blow was struck; saw Johnson come up and, with McD., take McC. Away; there were some half dozen people round where the row was; will not say that McC. Had not hold of McD. by the throat; am quite positive McC had hold of McD. Before the blow was struck, and after that each had hold of the other; when I first saw the disturbance the sidewalk was obstructed. The cross examination of the witness elicited nothing further in addition to the above.
This closed the case for the prosecution.
The Mayor declared that as the prosecution did not desire to dispose of the case summarily and they having closed their case, he could hear no further evidence, and had no power to try the case. He was of opinion that the evidence disclosed a prima face case for the prosecution, and he could therefore do nothing but send the case to a competent tribunal. He also desired to intimate that he formed his opinion on the enquiry altogether, irrespectively as to whether there was or was not a legal obstruction of the street, or of the passengers passing to or fro thereon; nor did he consider it necessary to determine whether or not the Chief’s Constable’s action was in the circumstances justified. He considered these points were not in issue on the enquiry.”
The first week in January 6, 1876 certainly had more than a few notable happenings to record in the True Banner, including a near fatal accident for a resident of Lynden as he was coming down the mountain into Dundas :
“Mr. Edwin Chambers, of Lynden, was driving down the Flamboro’ mountain on Tuesday, and when passing under the railway bridge, his team started to run and Mrs. C., who was in the wagon with her husband, was pitched out and had one of her legs severely bruised. Mr. C. was also injured, his wrist being bruised in his efforts to retain command of his horses, which he succeeded in doing before they had run any great distance. Parties driving on the Flamboro’ mountain road cannot be too careful, as accidents are continually occurring by horses being scared at the passing trains.”
Finally, the most drama in Dundas that week took place in the Town Hall at the final meeting of the Town Council of 1875.
As described by the words of the True Banner reporter, it was a council meeting to remember :
The last regular monthly meeting of the Council for 1875 was held on Monday evening. Present, the Mayor in the chair, and all the members except Mr. Cody.
The minutes having been read, the Clerk read the Treasurer’s statement for December, and when reading the item of $16 paid to Enright & Bro. for buggy hire for the Commissioners of the Dundas and Waterloo Road, Mr. Fields rose in his usual excited state and ordered the Clerk to “stop that!” while he gesticulated in the most enthusiastic manner towards the chair, declaring in tones of thunder that “this d----d hunkersliding must be stopped.” The Clerk endeavoured in his usual quiet and unostentatious manner to continue reading, when Mr. Fields declared that he “must understand this thing or the show would have to stop, as he’d be d----d if the Mayor was going to rule this Council as he had done any longer and there would be no more sundries or horse hire allowed.” Councillor Hayes tried to pacify the irate Daniel, but he persisted in his violent demonstrations and pitched pen and paper about his table with great gusto. The utmost confusion prevailed for some time, Mr. Fields persisting in his athletic demonstrations and swearing and damning promiscuously at everything and everybody, declaring that “the d----d Commissioners went over the road and got drunk at public expense.” The Mayor exerted his authority without avail in trying to secure order, and Councillor Thomas Wilson called the attention of the Mayor to the unseemly conduct of Mr. Fields in cursing and swearing as he was doing. The Mayor warned Mr. Fields that he would have him arrested if he did behave himself, when Fields said “he didn’t care a G-d d—n for him or anybody else.” He was there to see that the rate-payers were not robbed as they had been , and he was elected for another year, and he care a d—m for Wilson either, as he would should him when he took “his seat as Mayor.” He further defied the Mayor to arrest him and said he would have to get out a Mandamus before he could do that. The Mayor said that if he did not cease interrupting the proceedings, he would be compelled to enforce order by putting him (Fields) under arrest, and Councillor Brown remarked that it was about time Fields was taught a lesson as he had been interrupting the proceedings of Council for the entire past year. Mr. Fields then “went for” Mr. Brown and said he had been defeated anyway, and when Mr. Brown remarked that he was well satisfied, as if he had been elected he would have resigned rather than sit at the same Board with Fields, who was a disgrace to any public body. Fields then continued his demonstrations, when the Mayor, who had borne with the insolence of Fields with great patience, ordered Chief Constable McDonough to arrest the obstreperous Councillor and remove him. The duty was promptly discharged by Mr. McDonough, assisted By Mr. Johnson, who laid hold of Mr. Fields as tenderly as possible and marched him off to the cells, where he was left to ruminate on municipal affairs at his leisure.
The proceedings of the Council were then resumed. An account for $3 from Dr. Walker was referred to the Finance Committee, and an application from Mr. Chegwin, collector of taxes, asking $100 additional to his salary in consequence of the difficulty experienced in collecting the taxes this year, was received and laid over. The Finance Committee’s report was adopted, after which a discussion arose on the report of the street committee, recommending the payment of $15 to Wm. O’Grady for work done on Mountain street, which had not been authorized, the question finally settled by the adoption of a motion presented by Mr. Hays, to the effect that $15 be granted to O’Grady for volunteer work done on the streets as charity.
A letter from M. Begue, respecting Willett St., was referred to Committee.
At this stage of the proceedings several members of the Council sought to have Mr. Fields liberated from the cells, but the Mayor very properly decided that he must remain where he was until the proceedings of Council closed, when he would then take the matter under consideration.
A letter was read from Osler, Wink and Gwyn, respecting the Boyle suit against the town, as also the judgement given by Mr. Justice Haggarty in the case, which was a very lengthy document – a new trial being ordered, the costs to abide the event.
The Council then adjourned until Wednesday, the 12th inst., after which the Mayor ordered the release of Mr. Fields, to appear before him when called upon to answer for his disorderly conduct and profanity. As yet, Mr. Fields has not had is trial in consequence of the Mayor’s time being fully occupied with other magisterial business which is reported elsewhere.
We give Mr. Fields’ coarse and obscene language as it was uttered so that the 69 intelligent ratepayers who voted for him on Monday last may be able to form a proper estimate of his fitness for the position to which they elected him.”

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