“A thaw has commenced
The farmers report bad sleighing.
A billiard tournament will shortly take place at the Royal for the championship of Hamilton.”
Hamilton Spectator. March 1, 1876
As can deuced from the above brief quotations from the first Hamilton Spectator of March 1876, that month came into the area like a lamb, setting up the concern that it might well exit like a lion.
The story of murder of Nelson Mills by Michael McConnell was nearing its climax.
The Canadian Illustrated News was a national publication containing stories and lithograph illustrations relating to stories of interest.
Hamilton artist Mackay was assigned the task of drawing a series of images to accompany an article about the Mills murder. The Spectator was given a preview of the drawings a week before the magazine was to be published:
“Mr. J. G. Mackay has taken sketches of the prisoner McConnell in the box; his Lordship Judge Moss delivering sentence; the act of the murderer, representing McConnell, in the act of striking his victim; the arrest, representing Detective MacPherson seizing his prisoner; Dr. Campbell giving his evidence; and the crowd beside the Court House. All the sketches are exceedingly well executed, and will appear in next week’s Canadian Illustrated News.”
With the huge numbers of horses on downtown Hamilton streets in 1876, it was inevitable that with all the noise and confusion, that runaways would be frequent, and they were. This one recounted in the Spectator was particularly notable:
“This morning a span of horses attached to a coal sleigh ran away down James street at a furious pace. The St. Nicholas Hotel bus was ahead, and the driver, on seeing the run away, sprang in front of the horses and stopped them. The deed was a daring one as the horses were large animals, and going at a great speed.”
A weekly report on the collective efforts of private charities to alleviate the distress of the poor in Hamilton in 1876 was published in the Spectator, the report noting that only meals were being provided after the closure of the dormitory:
“The statistics of this charity for the past week are as follows : 500 meals distributed, principally to families, 67 lodgings furnished to 22 applicants, numbering 1 bricklayer, 1 carter, 1 clerk, 12 labourers, 1 moulder, 2 painters, 2 sailors. Some of the above are able to pay a trifle for their night’s accommodation, and are thus permitted to occupy their quarters for a longer period than the more casual paupers. The partial closing of the Dormitory has had a good effect in reducing the number of this latter class who have for some time been frequenting the city.”
The roving Spectator reporter walking the city’s downtown street noticed a new decorative element at one of the businesses:
“A magnificent gold lettered sign has been placed above the door of the new offices of the Canada Southern Railway on James street. The sign is 20 feet long, and the letters are very large and handsomely finished.”
In early 1876, Locke street, both the northern and southern sections of the street were on the outskirts of the city proper. Some homes, businesses and churches had been starting to be established on Locke street by late winter 1876 prompting a call for improvements:
“Monday evening, Mr. Blasdell and several other ratepayers handed a petition to the City Council, asking for improvements on Locke street in the shape of crossings, sidewalks and drains. Mr. Blasdell had fifty of his neighbours with him ready to urge Council to make the alterations. The petition was referred to the Board of Works, and the petitioners will be heard at their next meeting.”
The subject of excessive use of alcohol was of great public interest in March 1876 as evidenced by the following Spectator account of a public meeting on the topic:
“About one thousand people assembled in the Centenary Church last evening to listen to Mrs. Youmans’ temperance lecture. The pastor of the church, the Rev. Hugh Johnston, called upon the Rev. Mr. Benson of the M.E. Church to offer prayer.
The Rev. Mr. Johnston said he was glad to see such a large audience present, and it cheered his heart to see the great interest that was being taken in the temperance movement. He believed the cause to be the cause of God, and consequently the cause of the church, and was delighted to see the great interest being taken in it by the members of his own church and congregation, both ladies and gentlemen. He then introduced D. B. Chisholm, esq., and old and tried temperance man who had been requested to act as chairman of the meeting.
Mr. Chisholm said it gave him great pleasure not only to occupy the chair, but also to be permitted to take any part, however humble, in a cause which was so good, and which was so intimately connected with the church. Before proceeding further, he wished without entering into the matter at any length, to take advantage of the opportunity afforded him, of giving an unqualified denial to the charges made against him at a public meeting on the previous night. He was satisfied that the gentleman who made them, a gentleman who he highly respected, had been imposed upon by some persons, enemies to the cause of temperance, and he trusted that this gentleman would, and knowing him to be an honest man, he felt sure would take the first opportunity of stating that he had been misinformed. He said he mentioned this with a good deal of delicacy, but, in justice to the ladies for whom he spoke, to the cause which he advocated and justice to himself, he felt it his duty to make this statement. He said he had taken a temperance pledge when a boy in 1851, twenty-five years ago, he joined the Sons of Temperance, and he regarded that pledge as sacred as an oath, and taken for life, and by it he was pledged “ neither to make, buy, sell, nor use as a beverage, any spirituous or malt liquors, wines or cider,” and hitherto by the blessing of God, he had been able to keep that pledge, and by the same blessing, he would keep it till the day of his death.
After referring to the origin of the meeting, which he said originated with the ladies of the church, he next gave reasons why ladies should be diligent and earnest in their work. He said there were some people so extremely sensitive that they ould not begin to think of ladies being public speakers, or occupying public positions, forgetful entirely of the fact that the highest position of place that anyone could occupy in the British Empire was filled by a woman, and been so filled for nearly forty years in a manner that challenged the admiration of the whole civilized world. He trusted he would live to see the day when ladies would have the right to vote. If in England, they have the right to vote for School Trustees, why should they be deprived of the right to vote in other matters? The ladies have brains to think, hearts to feel, and hands to work, and very many of them own large amounts of property upon which they have to pay taxes, and the time must come, before long, when in this country and in England, freedom in this matter as well as in many others, shall be granted to them.
After paying Mrs. Youmans a very high compliment for the great work she had done throughout Canada in the temperance cause, he introduced her to the audience amidst loud applause.
We wish we had space to give a full report of this admirable lecture. It was based upon the Bible, and without a single irrelevant remark, or without attempting to please the audience by jokes and satires as too frequently is the case, she kept her audience in perfect interest for an hour and a quarter, by the soundest argument, and the most solemn facts and incidents that had come under her own observation. Mrs. Youmans spoke without notes, and without hesitation, and her eloquent appeals seemed to go to the hearts of her audience. She handed the question of revenue in a manner that showed she had given it much thought, and gave many reasons why the question of revenue should not be put in the balance as against the ruin of men, women and children, with fortune and eternity. She was particularly severe on the license system, the money derived from which she characterized as “the price of blood.”
The Rev. Mr. Benson moved, and the Rev. Mr. Lewis seconded, a vote of thanks to Mrs. Youmans, and in doing so stated that it was the best lecture on the subject to which they had ever listened.
After the Benediction was pronounced, a book was opened containing the Temperance pledge, and large numbers remained to sign it.
As we go to press, Mrs. Youmans is holding a ladies’ temperance meeting in the rooms of the Y.M.C.A., when it is intended to organize a Ladies Temperance Association. We are sure that Mrs. Youmans visit to the city at this particular time will give a fresh impetus to the cause of Temperance.”