“That reverend person, ‘the Oldest Inhabitant,’ says that he has never been woke up by the lightning this time of year in the thirty years before. Early this morning, peal after peal of thunder could be heard in quick succession, while the flashes of lightning were blinding. The rain fell in torrents and proved as warm as that which generally falls in the month of April.”
Spectator February 141876
The strange winter of 1876 continued in mid-February with a lightning storm and before that event, conditions favourable enough at the Crystal Palace grounds for a baseball practice:
“Last Saturday afternoon, the Standard Baseball Club met in the Crystal Palace grounds for practice. The ground was remarkably dry and the weather as will be remembered could not have been better for a game of baseball. The ‘b’hoys,’ turned out in force, and the way they wired into the same showed that they meant business and that they did not intend to let their chances like sunbeams pass them by. Some very pretty catches were made by the first nine, and the fielding was immense. Three new members Messrs. Hofferman, Coffee and Mullen took part in the game and their playing justified them in being rated as first-class amateurs. They formerly belonged to an amateur club in the States and have taken part in several notable games. The Standards deserve every credit for their pluck and enterprise. They intend to secure the best players in the country and will challenge the leading clubs of the Province next spring, and should they improve on their play as much next season as they did last summer, they will wear the champion belt at no distant day. “
On a more serious note, the unsettling work of an incendiary, or group of incendiaries continued :
“Yesterday morning at one o’clock the fire bell sounded and directed the fire brigade to a small stable in the rear of Mr. Copp’s block of houses on Hughson street, which had caught fire. The building was entirely consumed, but the flames were prevented from spreading to the more valuable buildings. Several tools and implements were burned with the building, which is a total loss. Hardly had the firemen got through with their work there before the alarm sounded a second time, flames having been seen issuing from the well known block of brick buildings, the property of ex.-Ald. Sharpe, on the north west corner of Queen and King streets. The fire burned with great fury, and the occupants of the building barely escaped with their lives. The centre house, which was occupied by Miss Goldsmith as a millinery shop, was completely gutted and not an article was saved. Miss Goldsmith’s property was insured for $1,000, being about half the value of the property destroyed. The building was completely gutted, and all perishable goods saved from the flames were ruined by the mass of water which was thrown on the building. The excitement around the fire was intense, but the firemen displayed great coolness and precision in all their movements. It is rumoured that $40 and a revolver were stolen from the building during the fire.
at one o’clock, a fire broke out in Mr. J.M. Williams’ re-tinning establishment on Gore street. The fire was caused by a pot of grease overflowing and setting fire to the wood work. In the same building were two tons of molten tin, and the greatest credit is due Messrs. Saxon and Angus, branchmen of No. 4, in not turning the water on the boiling mass, for had they done so, an explosion would undoubtedly have been the consequence. On the contrary, the water was confined to the roof and sides of the building and the flames were soon in subjection. The loss will be in the neighbourhood of $150.
Even in the fighting of a fire, some homour could be found:
“On Sunday morning, while the fire was raging on the corner of King and Queen streets, a black bottle was picked up from among the ruins. “Whisky,” shouted a fireman and he tossed it into the crowd. A long, lank looking individual seized it, took about three fingers out of it, and then dropped it with a groan. “I’m poisoned,” he yelled. “Get me some sweet milk.” The black bottle contained horse medicine, with anything but an agreeable taste. The long lank individual was carried home on a rail, and has since taken the pledge. Sam Howard, of the Nigger Singer’s Revenge, was present and appeared in a new act, leaping from a hose cart through a window in flames, after a pop bottle, shouting, “I’m hydrant man for the hooks.”
As can be seen from the following Spectator item, the open use of firearms, whether rifles or pistols, were not unknown in 1876 Hamilton:
“This morning as two young men were driving past a farm house above the mountain, they stopped and emptied their double barrelled shotgun into a flock of pigeons sitting on the top of the shed. They killed three pigeons and wounded several others. They then pit the whip to their horses and galloped out of sight before they could be recognised.”
As was noted previously, an unfortunate ramification of the mild weather in February, 1876, was the effect on the ice harvesting business :
“The ice is completely rotten in the Bay, and it is feared that the regular supply cannot be got out. The ice dealers of Montreal are getting in an extra supply in order to meet the demands of less fortunate cities in case the ice crop should prove a failure.”
Probably, there was no other Hamilton resident of the 1870s who made more frequent appearances at the police court than John Henry Livingstone. He was back into his usual pattern after a brief attempt at sobriety:
“For the first time after a long interval, John Henry Livingston got drunk last night and was found under a gas lamp yelling like a young Indian. He was picked up by a policeman and conveyed to the cells, where he spent a good night’s rest. He stepped into the box this morning with a business-like air and received his sentence of fifty days as a matter of course.”
In 1876, the Young Men’s Christian Association had nothing to do with gymnasiums or athletics generally. It was a Christian missionary organization and following is the Hamilton Y.M.C.A.’s monthly report as published on February, 16, 1876:
“At the regular monthly meeting of the association for the transaction of business, reports were received from the various committees into which the work is divided, all showing that the association is silently doing its noble work in our midst, the importance and extent of which are little known to the general public. We extract the following statistics from the report to the mission and tract committee. During the month of January, the following meetings have been held :
20 Services at the Dormitory.
5 Sunday Services at House of Refuge
5 “ “ Boys’ Home
5 “ “ Association rooms
10 “ “ Jail
6 Week evening services at Jail.
5 Meetings of Association Bible Class.
4 Saturday evening prayer meetings
5 Services at Home of the Friendless
5 Meetings of Tract and Mission Committee
2 Visits to City Hospital
Besides a daily noon prayer meeting at the rooms. Surely such a record as this must commend the work of the Y.M.C.A. to the prayerful and liberal support of a Christian public. Tracts have been distributed among individuals and families, at saloons and boarding houses, livery stables and on the street since the issue of the last tract report to the number of 4,250, and their delivery has been accompanied with many a faithful exhortation and pleasant conversation which will doubtless bear good fruit. “
There was yet another swindler on the make in the area in February 1876, and here was his method of operation.
“A youth who has victimized the people of Dundas appeared in this city today. He represents himself as a Scotch emigrant on his way to Detroit where he has friends, but that his funds ran short when he got to this city, and he cannot get any further. He pulls out a handsome gold chain which he says his mother gave him, and which is apparently worth $35, and says he will part with it for $10, enough to take him to his destination where his friends will return the money and redeem the chain. He chooses Scotch families on whom to practise his “little game,” and his anxious and innocent face, and broad Scotch district dialect often work on some kind matron’s heart, bringing back old recollections, and he gets his money as a rule. He tried his little game on a family today, but instead of letting him have the money, they offered to keep him until he wrote to his friends and got some assistance from them. He accepted and shortly afterwards went out for a walk, and was seen this afternoon taking the afternoon train going west.”
In any community there are always jerks, and here is a report on the behaviour of two of them in February 1876 Hamilton:
“Last evening, as three young ladies were walking home from church up Main street, they were met by two young men smoking cigars. The men forced their way between the ladies, pushing one of them off the sidewalk into the mud. In jostling through, one of the ruffians stuck his cigar into one of the ladies’ hats, burning through it.”
Finally, Saturdays at the Hamilton Market was always a location where a good story worthy of relating to Spectator readers would take place. Here is a good one:
“Saturday morning, a laughable scene was enacted on the Market Square. A Huckster went up to a quick-tempered farmer’s wife to buy some butter and commenced to run down the article offered for sale. She annoyed the farmer’s wife to such an extent that the latter in a loud voice said she could have it for nothing, and taking up a pound roll dashed it in the face of her tormenter. As the morning was warm, the butter was soft, and cast itself about the huckster’s face like a mask. The effect on the crowd was electrical, but, strange to say, the huckster walked off without saying a word.”