“This morning Officer Begley arrested two boys for stealing a ride on the G.W. Railway. They were sent to jail for 10 days.”
Hamilton Spectator. February 25, 1876
As evidenced by the treatment of two young boys at the police court, sentences could be very heavy for even seemingly minor offenses in the Hamilton of 1876.
Another case at the Hamilton Police Court which drew attention in the February 25, 1876 edition of the Hamilton Spectator, was a case which prompted a performance which was labelled a “disgraceful scene” in the headline :
“This morning, a charge was brought against a Mrs. Adcock, by Rachael Allan of assault. The case fell through, and Mrs. Adcock was honourably acquitted, the costs falling on Allen. Mrs. Adcock and her husband have separated by mutual agreement. Adcock retains the children and allows his wife seven dollars a month for her support. He employs the woman Allen to keep his house, and yesterday Mrs. Adcock went there to visit her children. Mrs. Allen refused and a police court scene was the consequence. Mrs. Adcock got out a warrant for the arrest of Mrs. Allen.”
On a happier note, the prolonged below freezing temperatures of late had allowed the opening of several ice skating rinks in the city core, including Webber’s :
“A grand dress skating carnival took place last evening on Mr. Webber’s skating rink, and proved a complete success. Over three hundred were present, all being dressed in the most beautiful and fantastic costumes. The negro and Indian masks predominated. A few members of the Caledonian band furnished music, and the affair passed off quite pleasantly and harmoniously. Another will be held shortly.”
The Hamilton Opera House had been closed for a short spell but it reopened on February 24, 1876. A full house was on hand to see one of the most popular entertainers of the day:
“Last evening, the Hamilton Opera House was reopened to the public by the presentation of the great drama of “Sull Guir,” Mr. T. Grattan Riggs, the celebrated Irish comedian, taking the principal character. The audience was large and highly enthusiastic ere the entertainment was brought to a close. Of course, Mr. Riggs was the attraction of the evening, and his success was as great and even more than the most sanguine had predicted for him. A Hamilton audience is, as a rule, hard to please; any man in show business will tell you that: but Mr. Riggs, by his superior acting kept the audience in roars of laughter from the first moment he appeared on the stage till the curtain fell on the expected death of Martin Doyle. Mr. Riggs took four characters, all of them equally irrepressible. Sull Guir, a representative Irish peasant, Con the Simpleton, Tinkering Tom, and Mrs. Hanbury, a New York boarding house keeper, showed Mr. Riggs’ fine powers of acting, especially in the latter, in which he is immense, his make up being faultless and his acting magnificent. The play will be reproduced tonight, when every person who can get a seat should go. The rest of the company performed their parts very well. Miss Ida Murray as Ellen Curran, Miss Nellie Willson as Molly Sullivan, Mr. James Harrison as Martin Doyle, Mr. Geo. Hill as Pierre Curran, and Robert Baird as Shawn Rhyus were very good.”
The most prominent story carried in the February 25, 1876 edition of the Hamilton Spectator was the lengthy coverage of the discovery of legal document concerning the property bounded by Main, Hughson, Jackson and John streets. That full city block was occupied by the Court House and the popular open space in front of that building called the Prince’s Square:
“One of the most important discoveries which as been made in legal circles for some years was made yesterday in the office of the Clerk of the County Court. It is well known to all our readers that for the last few years the City of Hamilton and the County of Wentworth have been at loggerheads about matters in general, and the right to Prince’s Square in particular. Both corporations claimed an equal right to the valuable and beautiful property, and the case finally became a weary source of annoyance to both. Neither corporation could find the proper deed, nor could discover such papers as would give them undisputed title to the property. During the past years, the County has had the property under its care, but the city has supplied it with water and lamps and contributed much to make Prince’s Square what it is - one of the prettiest Squares in Canada, thus both parties have had a finger in the pie, as was natural when both claimed a right to it. Of late, however, the case came to an issue, and it was decided who had a greater right to the property. The county went to the expense of getting the advice of Mr. R. A. Harrison, now Chief Justice of Ontario, on the matter, and that learned Counsel gave it as his legal opinion that the city and county were equally interested in the property. The county was not satisfied, however, and instructed their solicitor to follow the matter up. Yesterday morning, Mr. R.R. Waddell, the County Solicitor, came into the office of Mr. S. H. Ghent, the Clerk of the County Court, to attend to some professional duty, and while there he incidentally observed that he had been instructed y the Corporation of Wentworth to report on the Prince’s Square business. He said he was considerably puzzled, as the matter was peculiarly obscure and difficult, and he did not know how he could make a report as he had searched the registry office thoroughly., but on account of the manner of registry at that time practised, a mere note of the old memorial or deed could be found, which afforded little or no information. He also mentioned s a difficulty that the original conveyance or deed had gone into the hands of a former solicitor of the county and had been lost.
Mr. Ghent remarked that there was an old statute in which the deed of which he spoke was recited. By referring to the index, it was found that the Act of which Mr. Ghent spoke was not in the Consolidated Statutes. Nothing discouraged, Mr. Ghent and Mr. Waddell proceeded to the Sheriff’s office to examine the old acts and statutes. The Sheriff kindly allowed them to search through his library, and in his presence and in the presence of a deputy, a book of statutes was fund which contained a private Act which will settle a long disputed question and bring a tiresome dispute to a close. The probable reason that it was never discovered is that it is a private Act not included in the consolidated statutes which contain only the public general statutes, further that the Act is not indexed in the volume in which it is published. The following is the Act : 14 x 15 VICTORIA, Cap. 133, 1851, Cap. CXXXVII. An act to authorize the Municipal Council of the United Counties of Wentworth and Halton to dispose of the present Court House Square, 30 August, 1851.
Whereas the late George Hamilton, Esquire, did, on or about the thirtieth day of December, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixteen, duly execute a deed of surrender unto His Majesty George the third, his heirs and successors, of a certain piece of land then in the Township of Barton in the District of the Gore, in order that the said District of Gore might be accommodated, with a convenient site or piece of land whereon to erect a jail, court house and other public buildings for the uses of said district of Gore; And whereas the situation of the said piece of land being in the centre of the said city of Hamilton, renders it unsuitable for the site of a jail; and whereas the municipal counties of the united counties of Wentworth and Halton have, by their petitions, prayed that authority may be given them to dispose of said premises or a portion thereof, the proceeds to be applied to the purchase of a new site and erection of a new jail in a situation where prisoners might be put to labor, and thereby contribute towards their maintenance, instead of being a burden on the public; and whereas it is expedient to grant the prayer of the said Council; be it therefore enacted by the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice of the Legislative Council, and the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, constituted and assembled by virtue of of and under authority of an Act passed in the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and entitled An Act to Reunite the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, and for the Government of Canada, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of same, that for and notwithstanding anything said in the deed of surrender, or dedication therein made, or any law to the contrary, it shall and may be lawful for the Municipal Council of the said united counties of Wentworth and Halton and their successors, and they are thereby empowered to lay out the said piece of land, or so much thereof as they may deem expedient, in lots, to sell, dispose and convey the same by an absolute title, at their pleasure, the proceeds of such sale to be applied solely to the purchase of a suitable site within one mile of the present jail and court house, and to cause the erection of a new jail thereon and other public buildings for the use of the said counties :
Provided, always that before offering the said piece of land or portion thereof to public sale, it shall be the duty of the said Municipal Council to offer the same to the Corporation of the City of Hamilton, at or for the price or sum of 6,000 pounds currency, and it shall be the duty of the Council of the City of Hamilton within three months of any such offer to accept or reject the same, failing in which the said Municipal Council of the United Counties of Wentworth and Halton shall be at liberty to dispose of the said premises, or part thereof, to such person or persons, or bodies corporate, or company, or in such mode as they may determine by by-law or otherwise ; provided also, that nothing in this act contained, shall in any manner effect or prejudice any claim which Robert J. Hamilton, eldest son and heir of the aforementioned George Hamilton, shall or may have in law or equity to the piece or parcel of land surrendered by his father for the purpose aforesaid, and the amount of compensation to be paid to the said Robert J. Hamilton, and a third to be named by them, the said arbitrators, should they not agree; and their award shall be final.
II. And be it enacted, That the said Municipal Council shall on completion of the said new jail refer to the Provincial Government a detailed account of the monies received and expended on account thereof; and if any surplus shall remain after the purchase of a suitable site, and the erection of a new jail, and payment of incidental expenses, such surplus shall be invested in such manner as the Government and Council for the time may direct; the interest on such investment to be applied by the said Municipal Council in the maintenance of said jail, or repair or extension of the same, rendering to the Provincial Parliament an annual account thereof.
The following is the Chief Justice of Ontario’s
On this (formerly) perplexing matter :
The title to the Jail and Court House Block in the City of Hamilton is under the operation of George Hamilton’s surrender vested in the Queen as a site for a Jail, Court House and other public buildings and the City of Hamilton is as much entitled to the use of it for such purposes as the County of Wentworth, both municipalities being still united for judicial purposes and both forming part of the old Gore District.
There is nothing to prevent the County erecting a jail for its own use on its own property; but such jail if erected by the County would, the operation of section 402 of the Municipal Act, be the jail of the city and so continue until the Council of the city otherwise directs; while so used it would – under the same section – be the duty of the jailor to receive and safely keep, until duly discharged, all persons committed thereto by any competent authority of the city. For such use, the city is under section 403 of the Act bound to pay such sum as may be mutually agreed upon, or rather by arbitration under the Act.
The County may, of course, obtain an Act separating it for all purposes from the City, in which case the City would have no right to make use of any jail erected by the County, but until such separation the County cannot, without the consent of the City exclude any class of prisoners from the jail that may be erected. The law affords compensation to all classes of prisoners sent by the City to the county jail without affording any power of exclusion to any class of prisoners.
Proceedings S. 15 of the Statute Ont., 31 Vic., Cap. 21, should I apprehend so far as the Hamilton jail is concerned, be taken both against the City and the County.
The liability to keep the jail in repair, considering the ownership of the land, is a joint liability. It would be unfair to compel either municipality to assume the full burden of repairing the joint property.
There is no reason why the one municipality should be selected and the other excluded where the obligation is a joint one. Both municipalities should be before the Court.
Robt. A. Harrison.
Toronto, Feb. 6, 1871.
It will be seen by this date this advice was given some five years ago. It cost the county $20.”