In the issues of the Hamilton Spectator and the Dundas True Banner which hit the streets on Thursday March 9th, 1876, there were two stories containing very different attitudes towards and proposals for the coastal wetland known as Coote’s Paradise or the Dundas Marsh.
In the True Banner, the scenically-beautiful and ecologically sensitive marshland was touted as a great location for a railway line and carriage roadway:
“An “Old Inhabitant” writes advocating the taking of the Northwestern railway round by Carroll’s Point, head of Burlington Bay, running a branch up to Dundas alongside the present canal, which would be banked up on each side with earth taken from the hill cuttings. This, he contends, would make of the present marsh hundreds of acres of valuable land. He says : “We would hear no more of ague in this city, or in Dundas, and our market gardeners would soon convert this water waste into a very extensive paradise. The distance from the Desjardins bridge to the mouth of the Dundas creek is about two miles, and the average depth of water along the line of the canal is only a few feet. One bank of the canal could be used as a branch line of railway, while the other could be converted into a short, general thoroughfare between Dundas and this city, over which, if required, the street cars could be run, and by which about a mile and a half of road could be saved.”
In the Spectator, a reporter for that paper, covering a case at the police court had a different perspective :
“The Dundas Marsh, if properly protected, would become one of the finest shooting and fishing grounds in Ontario. Not only is it superior as a fishing ground, but it is the haunt of muskrats, the home of snipe and the sojourning place, in the proper season of wild duck and geese. Not half the game or fish are in it now as in years gone by, but the proper authorities are taking active steps to redeem the place and prevent further outrages. Today, Mr. J.W. Kerr, Inspector of Fisheries, issued summons against Christopher Case and Albert Lyons, the charge being that they did maliciously and in defiance of the law for the protection of game, break open and destroy Muskrat house on Dundas Marsh. They will be tried for the offence on Saturday morning at eleven o’clock.”
In the police court, a very odd case was the subject of an article in the Spectator :
“This morning one of the most peculiar cases that has come up in the Police Court for years, was tried before Police Magistrate Cahill. A negro woman named Louis Williams , nee Miss Adley, was arrested for obtaining money under false pretenses. She was charged with having received money for telling the fortune of a man named Geo. Jenkins, in which she professed to tell him about his private troubles, of where he had been and where he was going. It appears that Jenkins has had great trouble with his wife of late, all of which is traced to the fortune telling of the woman, Adley, as she is best known by that name. On Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Jenkins had her husband arrested and conveyed to the cells and on his return home after his release as the charge was not sustained against him, he found that his wife had left him nor could he find her anywhere. Jenkins who appears to be a simple, guileless Englishman, having heard of the fortune telling of the woman Adley went to her yesterday and asked her to tell his fortune. To his consternation, she told him all about his troubles with his wife, that he had been arrested by two policemen, that he had lain in the cells, that his wife had left him, that he had lost a little child – in fact she told him the greater part of his private history since he had come to the city of Hamilton. When she got through, Jenkins noticed an article hanging on the wall which he had missed from his house on his return from the cells. This aroused his suspicions that his wife had been there before him, and that it was not by card reading alone that Adley had discovered his secrets. He returned again this morning, when his suspicions were further aroused, causing him to lay the matter before the police. Miss Adley was arrested and brought up at eleven o’clock for trial. She pleaded not guilty and elected to be tried by the Magistrate. Miss Adley is rather a fine looking specimen of the negro, and displayed great intelligence during the trial.
George Jenkins, sworn : I live on Ellen street in this city; am a cabinet maker; know the prisoner; the first time I saw her was yesterday at her house on the corner of Park and Merrick streets; I called at her house; I asked her if she could tell fortunes and she said yes; I said I had heard she was a good hand at telling fortunes; she said it was by card reading; I took a chair and sat down; she took another; I put my hand in my pocket and offered her 25 cents; she said it was 50 cents for gentlemen and 25 cents for ladies; I paid her before she began (a 50 cent piece); she told me to cut a pack of cards she had, and make a wish; she then went on to tell my fortune; she spread the cards all over the table; she told me much about the death of my child, its age, where my wife had been to; she also said my wife wanted to get away from town but was afraid; at this moment I noticed an article hanging on the wall which had formerly belonged to my wife; I suspected that my wife had had her fortune told, and that the prisoner was the cause of all the trouble between us; the prisoner told me that my wife and I would live together, and that I would be left a fortune; a young lady came in to get her fortune told, and the servant brought her upstairs; she told me that a dark young lady wanted to speak to me, and would meet me in a few days; she that there was a dark gentleman, taller than me, that was wanting to get my wife to go away with him, and that he would do me violence if he could; she said I would receive a blow with a club from behind; that was all that occurred yesterday; I went there again this morning and she said my luck was better today – turning the cards in a different way; she told me my wife was in great fear on account of my being arrested and locked up; she said the satchel was at one place and her bundles at another, and she was running from place to place; while I was there the Chief of Police came in; I told him that the article on the wall belonged to me and that it was taken out of my house when I was in the cells.
The case was then adjourned until four o’clock for further evidence.
It has been discovered by the police that the woman has been practising her nefarious trade for some time, and that numberless young ladies and gentlemen in the city have come to her to get their fortunes told, causing them in many instances great harm. She denied that she was a fortune teller, and insisted that she only tossed cups and read cards. “
Out in the rural district west of Hamilton, a unnerving incident took place in a barn :
“Yesterday morning a farmer named Morgan residing near Copetown, and his chore boy, an English lad named Rees Davis, went into the barn for the purpose of cleaning grain for a grist. After working about an hour, Mr. Morgan sent the boy into the hay mow for the purpose of throwing down fodder for the horses. The lad went up and had been but a few minutes in the mow before he uttered a frightful shriek, and leaped into the barn floor, the next moment falling into convulsions. Mr. Morgan called for help and had the boy carried into the house, where, after some difficulty, he was brought out of the convulsion. It was found, however, that his nerves had received a serious shock, and he appeared quite stupid and even idiotic the remainder of the day, giving no reason for his fright. As soon as all fears for the lad had been dispelled, Mr. Morgan determined on searching the mow, and on going up he was horrified to see coiled, near one corner of the barn a large black snake. As the morning was rather warm, the reptile was able to move itself slightly, but was quite incapable of active motion or defence. Mr. Morgan took it on the end of his fork, like a coil of wire, and carried it to a fire where his was boiling pig feed. The reptile soon became supple and finally glided swiftly in a south westerly direction. Before it got two hundred yards, however, the cold chilled it and it became stiff and helpless. It was then killed and found to measure seven feet in length. Late last night the boy Davis said that while he was pitching the hay, he lifted a large bunch and discovered the reptile under it. The question is, how did the serpent get there. There are only two theories for it, and they are : 1st, That the snake was brought from the fields at the time of drawing in the hay; and 2nd , That it crept into the mow of its own accord on the approach of winter. The latter theory is probable.”
In the Dundas True Banner, reference was made to what the Dundas men considered the poor reputation of Hamilton and Hamiltonians:
“Another farmer from Grimsby writes to the Times complaining that he was deliberately cheated in weight by a Hamilton dealer the other day, and when the attention of the dealer was called to the fact, it was not disputed, but no restitution was made. As a remedy the Times suggests that farmers should be careful to sell only to honest dealers. This is certainly a good joke when the reputation of Hamilton men is taken into consideration. Honest dealers ! Indeed ! The Times people had better hire a regiment of detectives to find them and then when one is found let his name be emblazoned on the portals of the city gates, so that he who runs may know that Hamilton has one honest man within its borders.”
Finally as the time grew short before Michael McConnell was scheduled to be executed, the following item appeared describing his state of mind and behaviour during the last week of his life:
“The prisoner McConnell is engaged in preparing a statement in regard to the late horrible murder in which he says he feels quite justified in doing what he did. He adds that he is prepared to meet his God and that he will die as he becomes a Christian. His conduct since he has received the fatal news that there was no hope of a reprieve has been very ordered and in no instance has he shown the slightest remorse. He reads regularly from religious works and is evidently quietly preparing for his death. The gallows has been erected and the workmen have nearly completed their duties. Only the platform of the old gallows will be used. The scaffold is of very simple construction, but has been put together with great care. Large numbers of persons are applying to the Sheriff for passes, but all have been refused. Those admitted will be very few, in fact none but the necessary officials and members of the press.”