Monday 9 April 2012

April 10, 1876

Three organ grinders were on the streets today, who favored the admiring public with choice selections of home and foreign music.”
          Hamilton Spectator    April 10, 1876.
          One very definite sign that spring had struck Hamilton to stay in 1876 was the appearance of street musicians on the city streets on April 10.
          Other spring markers included conditions on the bay and the movement of migrating waterfowl as noted in the following two stories from the Spectator:
       “The ice has now almost completely left the bay, and a good wind from the west would carry all floating blocks to the Beach and out of the canal. There are any number of wild ducks in the neighbourhood of Dynes’ Point and along the beach. The best time to shoot them is in the evening.”

       “A wild goose was shot while passing over the village of Ancaster, going north, this morning. It was very fat and plump, and was in company with three others. A crane was observed flying over this city at three o’clock.”
          The presence of numerous tramps and vagrants in Hamilton in early 1876 had been an ongoing problem for the police, for the charitable institutions of the city and for citizens generally.
          The economy generally in the city, as in the whole country and in the United States, had been sluggish and that was thought to be part of the reason for some many homeless men seeking shelter.
          However as seen by the following two Spectator reports, it can be seen that the tolerance of local authorities had been exhausted and that another reason for the situation besides the poor economy was suggested as a cause:
       “Into this horrid place sixty three people, besides the prisoners, were crowded in one night last week. The police state that the stench of the place during the night was terrible, and the condition of the steaming mass within was pitiable. Something ought to be done, and that soon, to provide better accommodation for the poor wretches who are obliged to trust to the police for a night’s lodging.”

Within the last few weeks no less than sixty-three people have sought refuge in the police cells in one night. The thing became monotonous, and His Worship the Police Magistrate determined to try the effect of jail on some of them. As will be seen by the police reports of the last few days, vagrants were fined $5 or 100 days in jail. The result has been very satisfactory and last evening not over twenty-six sought refuge. What the magistrate said upon the bench this morning is very true. Hamilton this winter has been an asylum, so to speak for the homeless and unemployed of every city and town within an easy distance of her. Hoards rushed from Toronto, St. Kitts., and Brantford especially, filling up the police cells and soup kitchen who do not belong to this corporation at all. Their invariable excuse was that they had come to Hamilton to search for work on the Hamilton and Northwestern Railway, which they said they heard was going to be started in this city. Once here, the soup kitchen during the day and the cells by night afforded them too much relief and shelter for them to leave, and they hung round this city to the number of several hundreds. This morning, as usual, a host of them were behind the rail, watching with great interest the several cases. When His Worship sentenced six of them to 100 days in jail, they left, and even as we write, the police informs us that on every road leading out of the city, the sorrowful vag is on his way looking for pastures new.”
Finally, a positive act of kindness was displayed at the Stuart street railway passenger station by one of the railway employees there :
       “Mr. Tom Thompson, baggage checker at the G.W.R. Station, performed a kind act on Saturday evening. Observing a young and respectable stranger from the States getting off the train in a state of intoxication, and seeing that he was surrounded by a rather questionable crowd, he took the stranger’s watch, a valuable gold one, off his vest and placed it in an inside overcoat pocket. On sobering up, the young man missed his watch, and instantly applied to the Police authorities for assistance in recovering it. Detective Rousseaux and a reporter accompanied him to the station, where Mr. Thompson explained the affair by diving into the young man’s pockets and resurrecting the watch. The delight of the American man can be better imagined than described.”

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