“The roads have become wretchedly bad within the last few days. The road between this city and Caledonia is in some places in an almost impassable state. Business is very dull in most circles and this is doubtless caused by the fact that farmers can hardly get to the city with any heavy load.”
Hamilton Spectator March 8, 1876
As March progresses, the weather had hints of the coming spring, setbacks to cold temperatures, and not a little amount of rain.
For travellers in the Hamilton area, the changing weather conditions meant that roads in the district, and within the city limits, were terrible :
“Last evening, a coal wagon was being driven around the corner of King and James streets, two youths were standing up in the rear of the wagon. A street car was coming up and the driver whipped his horses up to get out of the way, jerking the wagon from under the feet of the youths who had tumbled backwards and fell head foremost into the mud. They looked like large shovelfuls of sewer earth as they walked home.”
The weather of the late winter of 1876 was prompting concerns about farm production later in the year:
“The absence of snow and the continuous freezing and thawing of the winter months, has told seriously on the wheat and clover plants which have been “thrown out,” and in some soils lying like mown grass on the top of the ground. To some farmers who grow these plants, the loss will be deeply felt.”
Down at the Great Western Railway station on Stuart Street, the location of the horse drawn taxi cabs had been a persistent problem, as the cab drivers competed to get fares when trains arrived:
“The noise and racket made by the bus drivers at the several stations in the city is such that the railway companies have decided to keep the cabs and cars out of the yard altogether, and confine them to the street. This may be better for the railway companies but it will be worse for the public who will have the sidewalks at regular hours blockaded by a howling mob and ponderous omnibuses.”
A sad incident involving a runaway animal in downtown Hamilton prompted the following article in the Spectator of March 8, 1876:
This morning a yearling calf which had been tethered somewhere near the corner of King and Queen streets broke loose and commenced to run down King street at a tremendous rate of speed. It kept on the sidewalk on the south side first but finally crossed over to the north side on Bay street. It kept on its mad carreer until it reached the Gore when it ran full tilt against the iron fence. Con. McFaggan, able officer, arrested it at this point and had it conveyed to the cells with the assistance of Con. McElroy. The animal died there inside of an hour and has not been claimed by anyone.”
One of the major musical events of early 1876 in Hamilton was the presentation of the Messiah at the first Central Presbyterian Church on Jackson street. It received a warm, and very detailed review in the Spectator :
“Hamilton may well be proud of her musical talent when it is taken into consideration that in the opinion of the best judges of music in this country, Handel’s great Oratorio “The Messiah” was never better interpreted in this country than last evening when it was rendered by the Mendelssohn Society. The Mendelssohn have reached that position as a musical society that the Garricks have reached as a theatrical one, and the citizens of Hamilton are just as proud of them. The Central Presbyterian Church was well filled by a thoroughly musical audience among whom were the principal musicians of the city and county outside of the society; there were also several members of the Mendelssohn Society of Toronto present. It was somewhat late when the society took their seats in the choir., and it was half past eight before Prof. Garratt commenced the grandest overture in sacred music. As soon as the last strains of this splendid composition had died away, Mr. C. A. Thompson, of Detroit, sang the recitative “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith the Lord,” and the air (Tenor) “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low.” Mr. Thompson sang with great sweetness, but had by no means the compass of voice necessary for the part. Then followed a chorus by the society, “And the Glory of the Lord,” which was an agreeable surprise to the whole audience. No one before he had heard it would have thought that a local society could be brought to sing that sublime chorus with the artistic power and precision with which it was done last. The majestic chorus rolled through the great church irresistibly wrapping all present in a spell, and when they had finished, the audience could hardly resist giving the applause which was so well deserved. The next was a recitation (Bass) “Thus saith the Lord,” and air, “Behold who may abide,” sung by Mr. Warrington, of Toronto. This gentleman has a good voice, and some day will make his mark in the musical world. He also sang the air, “Why do the nations,” but in this he singly failed, it being evidently beyond his reach. Miss Walker sang the recit and air, “Behold a Virgin shall conceive,” and “Thou that tallest good tidings to Zion.” Miss Walker has a very pleasing and sweet voice, and sang the selections allotted to her faithfully and in good taste, but her voice is totally inadequate to fill such a large building. The recit and air, “For behold,” and “The people that walked in the darkness,” was entrusted to Mr. Egan. To these selections, Mr. Egan did full justice, and sustained his already earned reputation as a good and true singer. In his second, he was not quite so successful, viz : “The trumpet shall Sound.” He was evidently laboring under the disadvantage of a cold, still, withal, not very perceptible. We have heard this gentleman sing it much better at the oratorio given in Toronto, where he sustained te solos last year. Of the “Pastoral Symphony,” what shall we say of that? It was purely delightful, and we are at a loss for words sufficiently expressive in praise of this performance. Mr. Garratt evidently fully understands the intention of the composer, and never to our recollection did he deserve such praise as it is now entitled to, and this performance alone would stamp him as a first class musician.
Miss Crawford sang the aria,”He was despised” in a most charming manner, and to our taste was certainly the gem of the evening.
Mrs. Carpenter followed with the recit’s “There were shepherds” etc. These she sang very nicely and with good expression. In the airs – “Rejoice greatly,” and “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” she put forth her best efforts, and was quite successful. Still we find that Mrs. Carpenter’s voice is not as sonorous as in former times, and lacks the fire of three or four years ago. The air, “Came unto him,” was, in our opinion, her best effort.
The air “Thy rebuke hath broken His heart,” and “Behold and see if there is any sorrow,” by Mr. Thompson was totally unsympathetic and at variance with the idea of the composer, instead of being sung in robusto style, it requires an appreciation of the subject, which we failed to notice. In nearly all Mr. Thompson’s efforts, including the last, “Thou shall break them,” he was very wide of the mark of excellence. As to the Choruses, they were excellently rendered, especially “All we like sheep,” and the “Hallelujah Chorus,” these in our opinion were the best rendered and showed the immense amount of training and labour required to produce such a work, and reflects great credit on the members, and, particularly, on the director, Mr. Findlay, for the untiring labours required to produce such a successful performance, and we hope to have it repeated shortly. Of Mr. Garratt, we cannot speak too highly, as his performance last night stamps him as one of the best organists on this continent. We failed to see the audience join in that time-honoured custom of standing during the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Our gallant friend, the Captain, set a very good example, but was only supported by a few who know how such things are usually conducted. We hope that the performance will result in a substantial benefit to the organ fund. While congratulating the managers of the society on the success, we would recommend them to confine themselves to more home talent, not only as a matter of economy, but also as an extra inducement to our local talent to study and fit themselves for such performances, and the result will, if we mistake not, be more satisfactory financially and musically.”
Finally with just a touch of spring in the air, many minds among the sporting set in Hamilton turned towards the upcoming baseball season. The following article on the Standards Baseball Club must have whetted a few appetites:
“Last evening, a meeting of the Standard B.B.C. was held in the I.M.U. hall at which there were about a hundred present. Fifty new members were proposed and received. The greatest enthusiasm prevailed, and preparations for next season’s campaign on a larger scale than last year’s were agreed upon. Owing to judicious management, the club has a handsome balance in property and cash. Officers and directors were nominated and will be balloted for at the next meeting, two weeks from last night. Young men cannot do better than join this fine club. “
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