“The Tolls to be collected for one year at the three gates on the Dundas and Waterloo Road will be sold by Public Auction at the Town Hall, Dundas, on Saturday next, at two o’clock. Who wouldn’t like to be a toll keeper these hard times?”
True Banner and Wentworth Chronicle February 17, 1876
While railroads were a major topic in the local press in mid-February, 1876, another type of road was also a focus of newspaper comment, the toll road.
At a time when a good job, even steady employment of any kind, was hard to come by, the management of a toll road was attractive.
Individuals, as noted above, would bid to takeover a toll road and, hopefully turn a profit from the tolls charged to travellers wishing to use the road.
The managers of the toll roads were expected to keep them in good repair but if revenues were falling short, the expenses of road repair.
The True Banner of February 17, 1876 detailed how a search was conducted for a toll road keeper :
“Ancaster Township Council is just now industriously engaged looking for an honest man to keep the toll house they propose establishing on the Ancaster and Hamilton Road – so soon as the Engineer is prepared to give them permission to collect toll, which we are afraid will not be for some time yet if the present very unfavourable season for roads continues. Ancaster Township has spent about $5,000 on this road already and fully intends to make it a good road in time. We hope they will succeed in finding the honest man they are looking for by the time they require his services.”
The local court were supposed to protect toll road managers in that charges were applicable to anyone whose chose to pass through the toll gate without paying.
As described in the True Banner, one parcel deliveryman tried to bend the rules while on his rounds on the Dundas and Waterloo Road:
“On Monday last, before Mr. Mayor Wilson, on complaint of Margaret White, keeper of Gate No. 2 on the D. & W. Road, Wm. Burns was fined $2 and costs for evading the payment of toll by leaving his horse at the gate, while he passed through to deliver goods at Mr. Peter’s store.”
It was probably a relatively slow news week in Dundas in the days leading up to February 17, 1876 as evidenced by the following item included in the True Banner:
“Chief Constable McDonough has in his possession a number of pairs of woollen mitts which were found thrown into a vacant lot – no doubt by the thief who stole them from some store. They were purchased at McInnis’ wholesale store and have the retail dealer’s private mark attached to a ticket. R. T. Wilson & Co. have also a package of dry goods which was found on the street the other day and which may be had by the owner.”
Another story in the True Banner about an incident at a meeting in the Dundas Town Hall surely provoked a few laughs, although the mayor did not seem very amused:
“We see that the Mayor Mitchell has offered a reward of $25 for the discovery of the party who put red pepper on the stove during the meeting of the Town Council. In Dundas, our Town Council provide the public with sufficient entertainment without driving them to the use of red pepper. The “great unwashed” in this burgh laugh and grow fat at our council meetings – the amusement being furnished, “free, gratis, for nothing,” by our model west end Councillor, who delights in slinging in periods in his notices of motion, but who never thinks of putting a stop to his everlasting chat at the Council board.”
Finally, the topic of convicted Hamilton murderer Michael McConnell continued to draw attention even in the Dundas True Banner, particularly the debate as to whether he was insane, and if so should he be executed :
“The Spectator the other day contained a very long letter from Dr. Workman,of the Toronto Lunatic Asylum, with reference to the case of the convict McConnell, sentenced to be hung for the murder of Mr. Mills. Dr. Workman does not affirm he believes McConnell was insane when he killed Mr. Mills, but his arguments and deductions lead up to the suspicion that he believes he was, although he does not say so directly. The question of McConnell’s sanity or insanity cannot be established by Dr. Workman or any other person by such non-committal productions, and there can be no doubt that McConnell will not be reprieved on any such grounds. The majesty of the law must be vindicated in this case, and if McConnell be not hung, “There can be no doubt that there then we should have a law passed forthwith to do away with capital punishment altogether."