Monday 26 March 2012

March 27, 1876

“Large numbers of crows flock over the country towards the north every day, which is considered by many as a sign of an early spring. Flocks of wild ducks also can be seen wending their way through the blue, or rather, grey empyrean. Woodpeckers and a few robins have also made their appearance.”
                    Hamilton Spectator.  March 27, 1876
There were certainly signs that not only had spring arrived in Hamilton on March 27, 1876 technically, but in addition to the calendar, migrating birds on the move presaged the change of season.
          For the ice harvesters, there was resignation that their season was a bust, because of the mild winter :
       “Considerable quantities of ice are yet being taken out, but all of a very poor quality. Not half as much ice has been taken out this winter as last, nor has any of it been up to the quality of last year.”
Reckless driving by young men was an occasional danger, as a case reported in the Spectator of March 27, 1876 highlighted :
 “Yesterday evening as two young men were driving through West Flamboro’, one of them holding the ribbons over a span of fiery horses, and the other managing a single livery rig, they commenced racing though the roads were very heavy. Both of the young men appeared perfectly reckless, and laid on the whip with the fury of two madmen. The young man driving the single rig seeing that the team was going to pass him pulled in and locked wheels. The consequence was that the drivers lost control of themselves and commenced belabouring each other with their whips. They soon lost control of their horses and the team swinging off the road upset the single rig into the dig, fortunately throwing the driver into a high drift of snow. Nothing was broken, however, except the spring of the single buggy, and three spokes out of the double rig.”
That same day, the Spectator updated Hamiltonians on the plans of the Hamilton Street Railway Company to upgrade their service in the city’s west end:
“The Street Railway Company are making preparations to lay a double track from James Street up King as far as the Crystal Palace, for the accommodation of visitors during the Provincial Exhibition. This will prevent the provoking delays which happened so frequently on the track last fall during the time of the Central Fair.”
Two stories, one brief and one very long appeared in the Hamilton Spectator of March 27, 1876, relating to the Native people’s reservation located south of the city.
The first dealt with a ceremonial visit of tribal chiefs to the grave site of Joseph Brant:
“A number of chiefs of the Six Nations visited the grave of the late chief of the tribes on the Grand River today at Wellington Square.”
The second article concerned the concept of removing all the native peoples from the Six Nation reserve :
It is a well known fact that the grounds possessed by the Six Nation Indians on the Grand River are the most fertile in Ontario. Further than that they are in the centre of a very populous county to which they certainly add nothing in the way of wealth and beauty. The Indian country is one hundred years behind the surrounding townships, both in an educational, commercial and agricultural point of view, and a feeling of disgust overcomes a businessman when he looks upon the howling wilderness occupied by the Indians, which, in the hands of white men could be made a Paradise. There are certainly a number of thriving Indian farmers on the reserve, but that number is few, and it is well-known that the great majority of Indians eke out a wretched subsistence by chopping and selling their wood, hunting and trapping, making baskets and trinkets, and farming in a miserable way a few acres of land. Last fall, a number of American gentlemen visited this part of Canada, among them were several who had been “immediately acquainted” so to speak with the savages of the far West, and while in the city they determined to pay a visit to the Indian reserve. They did so and stayed in the neighbourhood of Cayuga, Caledonia and Brantford for over a week, which showed they were not proud and had plenty of patience. They were Americans astonished that such a beautiful and fertile county could be occupied by such an ignorant and listless class of people, and were not slow in saying that, were that strip of the land in the centre of New York State in the same position  and with the same surroundings as in Ontario, every effort would be taken to remove the occupants to another part of the country, where their talents for lying in the snow would be more appreciated. The Americans were shown that this would not work in Canada, that the government and the Canadian people generally had the kindliest feelings possible towards the redmen, and moreover that the Indians had a life lease of the country, and that a white man could not buy an acre of land or a stick of timber inside the limits. The Americans were not satisfied, and believed that if the Indians could be induced into a better hunting country, the ends of justice would be met all the same, and the Indians would be just as well satisfied. Since then, together with a number of Canadian speculators, they have been working their scheme with the most flattering success. They have been discouraged as much as possible by the more intelligent Indians, but are still of the opinion that they can induce the majority of them to remove to the fishing and hunting grounds of Muskoka and Algoma. It is very possible that these gentlemen who are working in the scheme will yet be disappointed. They will have to conclude a treaty with the Indians to give up their property which would not become binding without the consent of the leading Indians which will perhaps never be given, and if they should succeed in this matter, they could not occupy the country without a bill from the Legislature. Most of the Indians wish to remain, but fear to do so as they are afraid they will lose the Government bounty of $14. The company of whom a Mr. W. Scarce of Bay City, is the President, and a Mr. Waller of Quebec is the Secretary, offer the Indians $6 an acre for their land, pay the expenses of their removal and agree to give them twice the expanse of ground in the back country. It is a large venture, and it is hard to say whether it can be successfully carried out or not.”
Finally, Hamilton theatregoers turned out in large numbers to the Mechanics’ Hall to see the internationally famous English comic actor Edward Askew Sothern in the play, Our American Cousin.
The Spectator review follows :
“The appearance of Mr. Sothern at the Mechanics’ Hall on Saturday evening as Lord Dundreary, in the drama of “Our American Cousin” was unquestionably the greatest histrionic success of the present season in Hamilton. From a quarter past seven until long after eight o’clock, there was a steady stream of people passing into the hall, and at a few minutes past eight the curtain rose to one of the largest audiences ever assembled in this city. The interior of the building was crowded to its utmost capacity, every seat was occupied and large numbers were obliged to stand during the performance, while, owing to the immense crowd, many were turned away from the door. The drama of “Our American Cousin” is not possessed of any great merit in itself, and while serving to illustrate some phases of English social life would be, in the hands of ordinary performers, comparatively uninteresting, But Sothern is no ordinary performer. His acting is simply indescribable, and, in order to be understood and appreciated, he must be seen and heard. Again and again during the evening, he was greeted with the most vociferous applause, and several times he was called before the curtain. Concerning the audience, it may be said it seemed as if they had come for the purpose of giving vent to the accumulated mirth of several months. On no former occasion have we seen such an uninterrupted flow of laughter and good humour as on Saturday evening at Mechanics’ Hall. The support throughout was very good, the setting of Mr. Harry Linden as Asa Trenchard, Mr. M.C. Daly as Binney, and Mr. H. Daly as Buddicombe being especially good. We understand that it is the intention of Mr. Sothern to visit Hamilton again in May, on which occasion he will be sure of another bumper house.”

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