Tuesday 28 February 2012

February 28, 1876

 “About nine o’clock yesterday morning, the storm of the season commenced.”
Hamilton Spectator. February 28, 1876.
          It took until Sunday February 27, 1876 for the first major winter storm of the season to hit Hamilton :
“The wind blew strongly from the north east, carrying with it drifts of hard snow, which pelted against window panes and people’s faces like showers of hail. The wind increased as the day grew older and swept through the streets with extraordinary fury, driving pedestrians into their houses and causing horses in numerous instances to turn their tails to the storm. The gale continued all night, blockading many sidewalks and filling numerous lanes.”
Maybe it was just the fact that James McDougall had imbibed too much alcohol and couldn’t find his way home in the storm, but somehow he ended up at the Centenary Methodist Church for the Sunday evening service :
“Last evening, Rev. Mr. Johnson’s sermon in the Centenary Church, on “The Nature of Future Punishment,” was rudely and disgracefully interrupted by a drunken man named J. McDougall. Mr. Johnson had only proceeded for about ten minutes and speaking of the mysteries of heaven, had asked who could fathom them, when a deep, loud voice broke the stillness by prompting answering, “I can.” All eyes were turned towards the gallery where the sound appeared to come from, where seated in a prominent place in the far left hand corner from the pulpit, a man was seen in a state of beastly inebriety. No particular notice was taken by Mr. Johnson of the interruption. He proceeded with his discourse which was interrupted, about every five minutes by exclamations from the man of “pshaw” but in a tone not so loud as before. At nearly the conclusion of the sermon however, and when the congregation had become somewhat used to the interruptions a sound that fairly reverberated the building came again, and “pshaw was again heard from the same source. The effect was electrical. All eyes were now turned to the man where he was sitting shaking his head in a solemnly drunken manner that set the younger members of the congregation off in a snicker, while on the faces of the older was seen a look of thorough annoyance. Mr. Johnson was compelled to stop in his sermon, and to request that the man leave the church. Several of the ushers went up to him, and requested him to leave, but he silently refused; when finding persuasion was useless, Mayor Roach, who was in the church at the time, was sent for a wrote out an order for the police to come and remove him. The sermon was then ended, Mr. Johnson stating that there would be no use continuing, but that at some future time, he would resume the subject. McDougall was allowed to stay so long as he kept quiet, which he did until the congregation dispersed when he was removed by the policemen and conveyed to the cells.”
At the Monday morning, McDougall, undoubtedly hung over, was brought before the police magistrate and fined twenty dollars for his escapade.
          In another case that morning, focus was brought on the jail on Batron street:
“This morning, Mr. James Morrison, head turkey at the jail, had James Cauley up at the police court on the charge of wilfully destroying jail property. Mr. Morrison says that the prisoners while scuffling with one another tear their clothes sometimes wantonly when they have nothing else to do. They also tear up the sheets and make long ropes out of them, which they throw over the wall, or out of the windows and then haul up tobacco and other luxuries. Morrison wants to put a stop to it. The case was adjourned until this afternoon at 4 o’clock. “
The highlight of the weekend was the appearance of the famous American lecturer, former newspaper man, associate of assassinated president Abraham Lincoln and an abolitionist who had worked extensively with Preacher Stowe in Brooklyn :
“On Saturday evening last, a highly respected and unsympathetic audience, which, considering the evening and the absence of local influence, must also be considered a large audience, assembled at Mechanics’ Hall for the purpose of listening to Theodore’s lecture upon the “Problem of Life.” Upon making his appearance on the platform without formal introduction, Mr. Tilton seated himself upon a sofa until the applause with which he was greeted had subsided, after which he drew up his long form, and commenced his address, in the earlier passage of which he discriminated between character and reputation – a discrimination to which he might have added point by citing his own case, as two-thirds of his audience were attracted rather by his “reputation,” as the intellectual and social and legal foe of Beecher, than by his “character” as an able journalist and eloquent platform speaker. In appearance, he is all that the “scandal” pictures represent him to be, and he would attention and recognition in any assemblage of people. His style of oratory, judged by this single instance, is at times impressive, at times affected, and, to Canadian listeners, always more or less stagey. His lecture consists of a series of brilliant generalizations of historical facts, literary merceaux and mythological illustrations, applied to or contrasted with the modern state of affairs. AS the lecturer more than once hinted, his discourse had been prepared for American audiences, and dealt severely with the social follies, religious hypocrisies, political corruptions and business frauds of the United States, but as human nature is pretty much the same on both sides of the Lakes, many bullets found their billets in our own good city, as the laughter and applause of the audience testified. His sarcastic allusions to Brooklyn, “the city of churches,” were received in a manner which showed that his listeners believed him to be talking at his own grievances although not of them. He speaks for nearly two hours, to the manifest entertainment of his audience, but so far as the problem of life or its solution were concerned, he might well have taken for his text the problem of peanuts. He is not evidently one to brook silly interruptions, for the manner in which he sat on one individual who signaled his utterances as “nonsense,” was largely amusing to everyone except the individual aforesaid. We should say that Theodore is not the most mild-mannered man in the world. On the whole the lecture was well-worth listening to, and no doubt Mr. Tilton could be even more interesting with a narrower text and in a less speculative field. He left this morning for Toronto, where he lectures tonight.”
        The day after the lecture, a Spectator reporter made his way to the hotel where Tilto9n was staying to conduct an interview :
“Yesterday afternoon our reporter called upon Theodore Tilton at his room, parlor K, in the Royal Hotel. Mr. Tilton was engaged in writing, but rose courteously and remarking that he was always glad to meet a newspaperman, as he had been one himself for twenty years. After talking for a few minutes on commonplace topics, our reporter remarked that he regretted that the weather was such as to prevent Mr. Tilton having a stroll through the city. Mr. Tilton replied : “You cannot regret this more than I. However, yesterday afternoon, I had a short walk, and during it made up my mind that Hamilton was one of the prettiest cities I was ever in. The streets are so regular, and there is an air of refinement and luxury about most of the houses which is enchanting. I strolled as far as the mountain and there witnessed one of the most graceful landscapes I have ever beheld. The sky was lowering, and did not at all favour the view, still I pictured to myself the countless trees below me covered with green leaves, the land-locked bay dotted with sails and the hills beyond hung with haze, and one of the prettiest pictures imaginable arose before me.”
Reporter – Do you distinguish any difference between the Canadians and the people across the border?”
Mr. Tilton – “None in particular except, indeed, they appear more kind-hearted and less absorbed in business. I shall never forget the courtesy with which I have been treated since I came here. When I was walking on the street, people who recognized me have come forward, shaken me by the hand, spoken to me kindly, and welcomed me to their city. Several parties have called on me in my room here, and all of them have helped to make my visit and extremely pleasant one.”
Reporter – “When do you propose returning to the States, Mr. Tilton?”
Mr. Tilton – Next Thursday, after my lecture in Toronto. I have received a letter from a local committee in Ottawa, inviting me to deliver my lecture there, but I don’t think I will have time. Bye-the-bye, have you heard the circumstances under which I came here?”
Reporter – “No.”
Mr. Tilton – “It was rather a cruel jest with me, in as much as it has put me in an awkward position. I received a letter in Brooklyn, as did also the Literary Bureau, enquiring if I could be engaged to lecture one night in Hamilton either immediately before or after the Toronto lecture. I replied that I could, and shortly afterwards received a note informing me of the date. I came straight on, believing, of course that I was coming at the invitation of a local committee in this city. On my arrival at the Hamilton station, the prospect was anything but cheering, and after standing on the platform for some time, a youth of about twenty years came forward and pushed a card in my hand which bore the name of Tracy Niles, which I recognized at once to be the name of the party who engaged me. I was somewhat startled, but thinking it all right, and that it was the way they did things in Canada, I asked him if I was to go to a hotel or a private house. Mr. Niles replied that he didn’t know any private parties in the city, and he rather thought I better go to an hotel. This statement completely staggered me, and on asking him a few questions, I found that he had never been before, and that he knew nothing whatever of the lecturing business. I turned on him sharply, and asked why he had brought me here under these circumstances when he replied with an irresistible grin that it was his Yankee enterprise. I heartily wished his “Yankee enterprise” turned to better account, and made the best of my way to the hotel. After the lecture, I waited in the hall till all the people were gone, but Niles never came near me nor have I seen the young man since.
Reporter – It was an unfortunate affair; but showed a talent for such things in the young man, which, if cultivated properly, will make him famous.”
Mr. Tilton – “A local committee are always jealous of a man coming amongst them a stranger, and on his own merits. The people of this city, I suppose, imagine that I came here on my own hook to speak; on the contrary, I am here unfortunately in connection with a business transaction of an enterprising “Yankee.”
Reporter – “Mr. Niles ought to be annihilated.”
Mr. Tilton – “Very good indeed.
          Mr. Tilton became very uneasy, glancing anxiously at the windows and doors, and after wishing him every success in Toronto, our reporter retired.”
Finally a court case involving respected members of the rural Saltfleet township community, just east of Hamilton was brought to a conclusion :
“At no Interim Session during the past year have there been as much interest taken as on Saturday last, when Wm. Terryberry, James Terryberry and Simon Peter Springstead were put upon their trial on the charge of stealing grain. The court room was filled, almost every seat in the gallery being occupied. Nine-tenths of those present were from the township and deeply interested in the case. The greater part of the evidence was given on Saturday, but it would not be out of place to repeat that the prisoners were charged with stealing grain, a crime of a serious nature in the country. The Terryberrys are men who have borne unblemished characters so far, and were highly respected in the community in which they live, and when the news got abroad that they had been arrested for stealing, the whole country was shocked. Sympathy was felt for them at first, but this oon changed to indignation as the evidence at the preliminary examination went very strongly against them. It was proven that the prisoners were out at a late hour that night, that Simon Peter Springstead had asked for a dark lantern and had not slept in his accustomed place. Samples of the grain stolen and that found in Terryberry’s bin had a remarkable resemblance and the tracks in the mud were such as might have been made by Terryberry’s horses. On Saturday the prisoners brought respectable people from Saltfleet to testify to their good characters, but when the case closed, Springstead was sentenced to eighteen months in the Central Prison, William Terryberry to twelve months in the Central Prison, and James Terryberry to six months in jail. A very respectable looking girl, a relative of the Terryberrys, on hearing the sentence of the court, burst into a perfect storm of grief, and wept as if her heart would break.”

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