Sunday 22 January 2012

January 21, 1876

The “beautiful” which fell this morning will be a delightful surprise to many people, especially lumbermen throughout the country. During the last six weeks, vast quantities of timber have been cut throughout the surrounding district, but on account of the wretched state of the roads, it was next to an impossibility to cart it into port.”
Hamilton Spectator. January 21, 1876
At last.
A snow event was definitely a not unwelcome occurrence in the Hamilton in the 1870s, and with the winter of 1876 having been so mild and wet, the snowfall  and cold temperatures of January 21, 1876 made more than a few citizens pleased.
For the lumbermen in various locations throughout Wentworth County, they could now start hauling the trees which had been downed in the forests, particularly in the East and West Flamborough Townships, as well as Glanford and Binbrook out to market. One firm alone had over six thousand tree trunks ready to be put on sleighs and taken away
For men seeking work at wharves on Hamilton’s bayfront, the arrival of the large quantities of lumber meant employment for them as they started to assemble large rafts of tree trunks. The rafts would be pulled across Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence River and eventually to markets, particularly shipbuilders  in eastern Canada, the United States and even across the Atlantic in England.
The arrival of cold weather meant that the parts of the west harbor would soon freeze over, a welcome situation for the winter fishermen who used their spears to catch their prey. The frequent freeze/thaw fluctuations in January had played havoc with their fish huts as described in the press :
       During the late thaw, several spearing boxes which were on the ice were floated to the east end of the bay where, unfortunately, they were crushed to pieces between the heavy blocks of ice. Several valuable spears and other fishing apparatus were lost.”
The Hamilton Street Railway was in its infancy in January, 1876. The practise of having specific stops for the cars had yet to be instituted. The cars would stop for passengers whenever hailed.
The Spectator carried what it called a “suggestion” to street railway drivers who might the need a reminder as to their duties :
       The street railway authorities would obtain many passengers which they now lose if they would instruct their drivers to look up and down each cross street as they pass it for passengers. A gentleman informs us that twice within the last three days he has lost the street cars when he was within thirty yards of them, owing to his inability to attract the attention of the driver, and he could tell of many other cases of the same kind. The remedy is simple, and would be profitable to the company.”
          The arrival of a plumber is always a welcome sight when there are problems requiring their service. But in a lengthy article, a Spectator reporter rather humorously pointed out the characteristics of plumbers and their work which resonated with many readers :
          “The plumber is specially ordained as a disciplinary affliction to the human race. His chief mission is to teach the beauties of patience and long suffering in the children of men. He can neither be dispensed of nor suppressed. He comes to your house, or place of business,  when repairs are need in his line, carrying over his shoulder a bag filled with an infinite assortment of tools, such as wrenches taps, dies, hammers, and what not, together with fragments of pipes, joints, gas burners, a pot of red paint, a coil of gas pipe and the like. His face is almost  grand in its unruffled composure. His step, as he walks through the premises for the purpose of inspection, is decorously slow, and almost rhythmical in its regularity. He peers first into one corner, then into another, with a look of supernatural wisdom on his countenance, and an expression of calm resignation in his eye. Having finished his inspection, he comes to you and prepounds incomprehensible theories of what is wrong ; the sewer pipe which you were in blissful ignorance of the evidence of and which is situated in a locality you never heard of before, and which, moreover, is connected with a system of pipes of bewildering complexity – that sewer pipe has got choked up, owing to the reprehensible carelessness of Frank Penman , your next door neighbour. After much solemn exertion, he pulls out one of your steam pipes out of its place and examines the end of it, first holding it close to his face, and then at arm’s length, finally he shuts one eye and peers into the pipe with the other, which threefold movement brings him to the conclusion that he must go back to the shop for more tools. Accordingly, he goes back, and returns after a lapse of time, which harmonises with his ordained mission to be an apostle of patience. This time he brings two or three assistants with him, and if the work on hand be the heating of your premises with steam, your floor is soon littered with a shapeless confusion of metallic matter which makes you sigh for a prohibitive duty upon iron pipes, and all their belongings. The weather is not very cold it is true, but a room without heat is a comfortless one; your window panes break - or seem to break out – into a cold clammy sweat, and your walls look and feel as if they had been a field for extensive experiments in artificial irrigation. You’re are soon troubled with a cough, and your wife who is a woman of practical common sense, and an attentive reader of the latest edition of “Domestic Medicine,” tries to convince you that you are on the verge of consumption. In her solicitude, she doses you with Cherry Pectoral, Anti-Consumptive Syrup, and Holloway’s Pills. Meantime your plumber and his assistants are pursuing the even tenor of their way. Every now and again you come upon them in grave consultation over the end of an iron pipe, debating its case in an undertone. Presently one of them seizes a tap and gives it a few turns, while the others look on with countenances which betoken a deep profundity of practical intelligence. You ask your plumber, timidly, when the steam can be turned on; he shakes his head doubtfully, and expresses a fear that it will be very late in the afternoon, perhaps not even until tomorrow morning, and this answer repeated from day to day, at length maketh the heart sick with hope deferred, but also it maketh the angry passions rise, and you calculate the probability of being able to throw your plumber out of the third story window. A prudent fear, however, that the wrong man might get “spilled” in the encounter restrains your laudable desire, and you content yourself with mentally offering a large reward to any man who would murder a plumber.
          To be artistic, this little sketch ought to conclude by describing the finish of the plumbers work, but it is not within the experience of this writer that the work ever gets finished, the sketch must be left without what would prove its most interesting feature if the materials for it were on hand.”
          The Wentworth County Court House, preparations was being readied for the trial of Michael McConnell on January 21, 1876. The steps being taken included some unusual arrangements given the intense public interest in the case :
          “Active preparations are being made in the Sheriff’s office for the approaching trial of McConnell, which will be the most important held in the City of Hamilton for years. To prevent the overcrowding of the court room, which otherwise would be sure to take place, none will be admitted save those holding passes signed by the Sheriff. Only two hundred of these will be issued and these will be equally distributed throughout the county and city. This the officers of the court deem a necessary step, as within the last few days the court has been overcrowded by lookers on, who not only caused a constant hum throughout, but on account of their packed condition, kept the atmosphere close and unhealthy.
          Yesterday, however, a constable was placed at the door, who kept loungers out, and a marked improvement could at once be noticeable in the appearance as well as the atmosphere of the room. The sheriff’s action in the McConnell matter will be understood and appreciated by every one as many people out of employment would flock to the Court House to spend the day and to satisfy themselves on the merits or demerits of the prisoner’s case.”
          At the court house, a case the previous day included a bit of theatrics on the part of a lawyer:
       Yesterday morning, Mr. Crerar was defending a prisoner who was charged with uttering counterfeit fifty cent pieces. The principal witness against him alleged that he knew the pieces to be counterfeit, when he received them from the prisoner, because they felt lighter than the genuine ones. The two pieces alleged to be counterfeit were laying on the table and the counsel for the defence picked them up with the thumb and forefingers of each hand. He then requested the witness to close his hands on each of the pieces and tell him which of the two pieces felt the heaviest. The witness did as requested, and very confidently pronounced them to be both of the same weight. On opening his hands he was very badly nonplussed to find that in one of them he held an unquestionably genuine piece instead of the supposed counterfeit. The counsel is a very expert amateur performer in the art of legerdemain, and by one of its tricks he had made the genuine fifty cent piece take the place of the supposed counterfeit in the head of the unsuspecting witness, whose confusion was greeted with roars of laughter in the court room.”
          The hypnotist, Professor Linder continued to draw large crowds to his exhibitions of “mesmerism” :
“Professor Linder, the mind reader and mesmerist, gave another of his entertainments at the Mechanics’ Hall last evening. There was a very fair audience and the various experiments given were received with great favour. The Professor’s feats in psychometry continue to create the great astonishment. The antic performances of the subjects who were mesmerised afforded a great deal of amusement to those present. It is quite evident that Professor Linder is no charlatan, but that he is well versed in the scientific subjects with which he deals, and is capable of performing all that he claims to be able to do.”
There was almost always so action and unusual happenings in and around the market square in central Hamilton.
As well as the open air market space itself, there was a densely packed collection of taverns, stores and stables in the immediate area.
One of those establishments was the scene of an odd occurrence:     Yesterday morning, a party entered Mr. MacIntosh’s store on the corner of Market and James street, accompanied by a large white bull dog. They went out again, leaving the dog behind, which upon finding that its master was gone, backed into the middle of the room, made a rush at the door and jumped clear through a pane of glass into the street.”
          At a nearby tavern a few of the regulars decided to form a social club with an unusual twist:
“A number of the b’hoys in this city have established a club in rooms above Frank Harrison’s place on the Market Square. Each member is known as Jim was some sobriquet prefaced suggestive of the appearance, character or nationality of the bearer. For instance, there are Pretty Jim, Noble Jim, Nixy Jim, Dumpy Jim, Slim Jim, Curly Jim, Fatty Jim, Dutch Jim, Club-Footed Jim, Splaw Foot Jim, , Railway Jim and several other Jims. Their rooms have been neatly fitted up and supplied with books and papers. “

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