“The business of taking ice from the bay is becoming a dangerous one as the ice has become very rotten and honey combed. Several instances have occurred already where workmen have fallen into holes in the ice, but luckily escaped.”
Hamilton Spectator. March 7, 1876
It had been a very mild winter at least as far as March 7, 1876 was concerned. Temperatures rarely stayed below the freezing mark long enough to allow sufficient good quality ice to be formed on the bay. While ice harvesting was usually a cold, laborious task, in March 1876, it was also a dangerous one given the poor ice conditions.
The days were getting noticeably longer and the nights shorter by March 7, 1876, and some gentle signs of the coming spring were in the air in Hamilton as beautifully expressed by a Spectator reporter:
“This morning a flock of wild pigeons passed over the city going southwest. Innumerable robins were heard singing on the mountain in the neighbourhood of Hannah street, making the air heavy with their sweet and almost forgotten music. The blue birds, the sure harbingers of spring, have come and were seen in the garden of a private citizen this morning. Although we cannot immediately hope for spring, still it is not probable we will have long spells of cold weather.”
By the time the afternoon edition of the Spectator hit the streets, the theft at Prof. Gant’s barber salon was still in progress. Already, the professor had become a notable citizen for his colourful flamboyant personality, and this was just the beginning of his impact in Hamilton :
“This morning the trial of Percival Young, on the charge of stealing from Prof. Gant, was resumed in the Police Court. The property stolen was about $35 worth of tools. The loss was a severe one as Prof. Gant is just starting in business, but the indefatigable professor will no doubt come to the surface and float along as well as ever.”
As the weather gradually became somewhat warmer, the Hamilton downtown streets in March 1876 were enlivened by a couple of street musicians :
“The most successful Italian players that have ever come to this city are two youths named Rocco and Paolo Bronocciere. They play the violin and harp with great success, and have constituted themselves great favourites. Paolo the violinist plays the “mockingbird” with variations, and the “Anvil Chorus,: in a manner which marks him as a player of no mean ability. They go to Troy, New York State, by request, next week.”
Michael McConnell was still in the Barton Street Jail, hoping for some clemency as regards the sentence of execution which was the judge’s decision after his conviction for murdering Nelson Mills. His hopes were dashed by a telegram received as reported on by the Spectator,
“For some time past there has been considerable discussion as to whether or not McConnell would be hung, but all doubt is set at rest by the following telegram :
Ottawa. March 6th, 1876.
In the case of McConnell under sentence of death, it is my duty to inform you that the law be allowed to take its course. Please convey the sad intelligence to him at once. Acknowledge on receipt by wire.
(Signed,) E.J. Langevin,
Under Sec’y of State.
To Sheriff McKellar, Hamilton.
Immediately on receipt of the telegram, Sheriff McKellar proceeded to the jail and informed the wretched man of the substance and intent of the above telegram. The doomed man received the terrible intelligence without wincing or changing colour in the least, nor has there been any change in his conduct since receiving the awful news. The hanging, as will be remembered, is fixed for a week from today.
Orders have been given for the erection of the scaffold. Part of the old scaffold will be used and will be in readiness on Saturday afternoon.”