Friday 10 February 2012

February 11, 1876

The appearance of the trees and bushes this morning was indescribably beautiful, and had the sun come out, the effect would have been one of surpassing splendour. The trees were covered with a coating of ice, and in some instances, branches were broken off by the great weight. “                                          Hamilton  Spectator  1876-02-11
        February 10, 1876 had been a rainy day in the Hamilton area, but after sundown, the temperature dropped quickly and the rainfall became a freezing rain event.
          In another weather-related item, the following warning was issued:
“The rain which has fallen within the last few days has swollen the several creeks and streams of the county to a dangerous extent – culverts, bridges and fences being swept away in some places.”
In the city’s west end area two incidents, both described in the Spectator, occurred in close proximity to each other, crimes which may or may not have been related :
“Yesterday about half past two, a disreputable house on Pearl Street south came to grief. Two young men kicked in the doors, smashed the cistern cover, and raised a rumpus generally. The young men were arrested, and fined $5 and costs in the Police Court this morning.”
 “This morning about 3 o’clock a fire broke out in a vacant cottage on Queen street south, between George and King, belonging to Mr. Grenville, of the G.W.R. Shops. The fire raged with great fury, and the flames were distinctly visible from the hill this side of Dundas. The alarm was sounded the instant the flames were discovered, and the firemen were on the ground in an extraordinarily short time, and by their determined efforts prevented the flames spreading to the surrounding buildings. The property destroyed was valued at $1400, and was insured for $800. The origin of the fire remains a mystery.”
          A major stage had been reached in the extension of the Hamilton and Northwestern Railway. The railway was only running from Port Dover to Hamilton, but with a new name and an infusion of financing, the railway was to be extended northwards to Collingwood.
An account of the route chosen to provide a right of way for the line out of downtown Hamilton and across the Beach Strip was detailed in the Spectator :
“The route of the Hamilton and Northwestern Railway to the Beach has now been decided upon, and Messrs. Staunton and Franks, Provincial Land Surveyors, are now engaged in staking out the land to be used for the track as required by law. The station and freight sheds are to be on the corner of Ferguson Avenue and Barton streets, and the track is to run one hundred and fifty feet south and parallel with Barton street, cutting through the market gardens in the east end. The track will cross the Great Western Railway about two miles from this city, and will continue in a direct line to the beach. As soon as the land surveyors get through with their duties the first sod will be turned and work commenced. This will probably be very soon, and will furnish work for those out of employment, and no excuses for the vagrants who daily ask to be sent to jail because they cannot get any work.”
Related to the pressing crisis of unemployment was the publication of the month’s statistics from the City Aid Society. Also included in the report was a foreboding reference to the future of the Soup Kitchen and Dormitory:
       The City Aid Society has received the following donations during the past week: Messrs. Simpson, Stuart & Co., 10 pounds coffee; Mr. Mitchell, tea, sugar and beans; Mr. Gaviller, $2; Mr. M. Howles, men’s clothing. 473 meals have been distributed during the same period, and 163 nights’ lodgings have been enjoyed by 73 applicants whose occupations are as follows : 1 book-binder, 2 blacksmiths, 3 clerks, 2 carpenters, 1 cooper, 1 engineer, 1 farmer, 1 file cutter, 45 labourers, 5 moulders, 1 machinist, 1 plasterer, 1 pilot, 3 sailors, 2 shoemakers, 1 tool grinder, 1 tailor. It is in contemplation to close the dormitory except to the most urgent cases of known distress, as several very unworthy characters have lately been discovered among those who are applying for admission, and have on two occasions endeavoured to make matters unpleasant for the parties in charge,”
          A brief follow up item regarding the swindling case on the Grand Trunk railway follows :
       Last evening at 4 o’clock, the trial of Harmon, who had so cruelly swindled the boy Mathews was resumed. The Magistrate, not thinking the case sufficiently proven, allowed the parties to settle it, Harmon agreeing to refund the money, pay for the watch, and pay costs.”
          Two entertainment, one at the Rockton Town and the other at the Theatre Comique in downtown Hamilton, were reviewed in the Spectator. A careful reading of both reviews will show that racist attitudes were not unknown in the city and county in 1876:
“Good houses greet the performers at this theatre every evening. The entertainment is good, some of the best variety entertainment that ever appeared in Canada being engaged. Sam Howard and Sage and Johnny Richardson appear tonight in a new act which those who love a laugh at droll negro character should see.”

“Last evening, in spite of the damp weather and the bad roads, the Town Hall, Rockton, was filled to the doors by a highly appreciative audience. The evening’s entertainment began at eight o’clock, Mr. R. S. Radcliffe in the chair. After stating the object, the chairman called on the choir of All Saints’ Church, of this city, who sang “Hail Smiling Morn.”  Mr. Herald, of Dundas, gave a reading, and Masters Jefferson and Harry Fairclough, and Mr. Davis, sang several capital songs. Mr. J. G. Buchanan of the Times sang, “When I Was a Little Picaninny,” with great success, and in response to a rapturous encore, he read a very able and interesting essay on the future of the Beverly Swamp. Miss Brown, of Rockton, was received with unbounded applause, and sang, “The Kiss Behint’ the Door,” with great taste and sweetness. Mr. H. McKillop, of this city, sang, “Angels Ever Bright and Fair,” and in response to a rapturous encore recited the “Charge of the Light Brigade.” The National Anthem closed the evening’s entertainment.”
          The Spectator related a story which, although somewhat humorous in retrospect, could have ended tragically:
       Last evening, two horse sleighs, loaded with members of the Caledonian Assembly, left the Revere House, on King street east, for the Elgin House, Dundas. They arrived there safely, and the ballroom was cleared for dancing, which was kept up till half-past twelve, when the company adjourned for supper, got up as Col. Jones’ steward so well knows how.. After supper, Clansman Mathieson danced “Gillie Callum” and the Highland Fling in full Highland dress. Dancing was kept up till four o’clock, when the company re-entered the sleighs for the purpose of returning home. It was raining very hard, and when about half way home, the sleighs broke down and it was found to be an impossibility to proceed any further. Two young men were dispatched to this city for rigs, and the rest of the company went up to a farmer’s house a short distance off the road. When the farmer saw the crowd before his house, he imagined them to be burglars, and caused a general stampede by threatening to shoot. However, matters were soon explained and the people taken in. An hour afterwards a fresh rig arrived from the city and the party resumed their journey, reaching Hamilton thoroughly drenched at seven o’clock this morning.”
          Finally, Michael McConnell was never far from public consciousness in early 1876 :
“It is rumoured that orders have been issued from the Sheriff’s Office for the erection of the scaffold for the execution of the man McConnell, convicted of murder. The scaffold will be constructed in Toronto and brought to this city ready to be put together within a few hours”

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