Tuesday 3 April 2012

April 4, 1876

“The near approach of spring can be seen in the large flocks of crows and wild geese and ducks that can be constantly observed flying northward. In the county townships, the grass is growing thickly under the ice, so that one week of warm weather will furnish plenty of green feed for the cattle.”
                   Hamilton Spectator. April 4, 1876.
By Tuesday April 4, 1876 it seemed like spring was really about to arrive and stay, the severe snow storm of just the week before was becoming a distant memory.
Post storm clean ups were still underway in Hamilton, but one location seemingly untouched by human hands was a sidewalk on the John  street of the public square in front of the Wentworth County Court House. A Spectator report explores the reason why that sidewalk was still covered with melting snow :
“The sidewalk on the east end of Prince’s Square is in a shameful state with snow and slush. It is a question whether the sidewalk belongs to the city or county. It evidently does not belong to the city or it would be cleaned by the corporation men; and if it belongs to the county, why do not the authorities compel that municipality to clean it? The county should be asked to comply with the snow by-law as well as any other man.”
Getting about the Hamilton city streets was a challenge for beast and man in early April, 1876 as the following two newspaper reports indicate :
“On Park street, near the corner of Maiden Lane, there is a dangerous hole caused by the closing in of the ground in the sewer drain lately put down on that street. It is an ugly place, and should a horse step into it, the results might prove fatal.
“The several lines of stages leading out of the city are all delayed on account of the state of the roads, which are in some places impassable.”
          Even if the roads were perfectly dry, the following two incidents, as reported in the Spectator could have occurred anyway:
“A dangerous runaway took place on King street today. The wagon ran over a lady’s black-and-tan terrier in the street and killed it instantly. The rig was stopped on the corner of Bay street. No damage was done to it.”
“Last evening as a farmer named Gregory, from Walpole, was driving towards this city, he strayed from the road, and driving rapidly along, his horse tumbled precipitately over the mountain and was dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Fortunately, Mr. Gregory had the presence of mind to jump out and obtain a safe footing ere the rig got too much headway, or he, too, might have been killed in the fall, which was certainly a terrible one. The rig was pretty badly smashed, and will never be of much use again. Steps ought to be taken to protect the brow of the mountain in the neighbourhood of the road, as there is every chance of a team being driven over the precipice by a drunken driver, or by a person unacquainted with the neighbourhood.  There are numberless places along the roads leading up the mountain which require protection, and which will never be given until several innocent people lose their lives by falling on the rocks below.
The Hamilton Police Court sessions reported in some detail in the city press were often sad even harrowing at times, because of the nature of the crimes committed, the perpetrators charged and the victim’s testimony.
But some times, there were light moments such as the following:
“Considerable amusement was caused in the Police Court this morning by the trial of a young lad named Issac Reynolds for stealing a pigeon. Half a dozen other lads were called for the defence and prosecution, each of whom told a different story in regard to the pigeon, and by the time the case was half-finished, each lad had a claim on the bird. A claim to the ownership of the bird was made by so many that His Worship gave Sergeant Kavanaugh orders to throw it out the window, whereupon it would fly to its proper home. The boys all seemed disgusted with this decision, and started out in pursuit of the pigeon as fast as their legs could carry them.”
          At Zion Tabernacle in Hamilton’s west end, Reverend William Stephenson , from the downtown John Street Wesleyan Church was the guest lecturer, and despite a heavy downpour of rain, a good-sized audience came to hear him speak:
          Rev. Stephenson choose as his topic, “Our Wondrous Age” in which he argued that the age, to which the reverend gentleman referred to in the female,  in which he and his audience were living, the mid-1870s, was a unique and extraordinary time:
“She trumpets on wharf and exchange, she bawls it on platforms and markets; she proclaims it in clubs and reading rooms; she placards it in railway carriages and on steamboats; everything she buys, everything she sells, everything she says and does is docketed “wondrous.”
“This “Wondrous” Age has its distinctiveness  and in many senses stands alone. It has appropriated and utilised the treasures of the past, and opened up some of the richest mines of intellectual powers.
“Science, even in this age, has been pushing her conquests in every direction, and the sphere of her action is crowded with the monuments of her power. She had grappled with the forces of nature and rendered them subservient to her own advancement. With unblanched eye she looked into the deep blue of the limitless ether, and descried new wonders rolling in azure deeps. She has dug into the earth, dived into the ocean, pursued the flying storm, ridden upon the lightning flash, and walked upon the wings of the wind. The rocks to their base have acknowledged have acknowledged her power and have unfolded the remote secrets of their being.
“She has linked together distant cities and made them one; she has levelled mountains, elevated valleys, and brought the ends of the world into neighbourhood. Unabashed, she has confronted the deep, the vast, the awful, the sublime – her spoils she has brought from afar, and her tropics are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
“The lecturer then drew a vivid picture of electricity as a branch of science, and how the very lightnings, obedient to the lordly soul of the age, had become the flashing couriers of thought, the messengers of the million.
“Next passed in review steam as a locomotive agent, while the work of George Stephenson was described as more spirited than the war horse, fleeter than the mountain roe, narrowing continents to a hand-breadth. Telegraphs, railroads, ocean steamships, etc. were all noticed with striking effect. He regarded our “wondrous” age as utilitarian and essentially practicable, as an age of cheap books and widespread information. He also spoke of it in a theological sense, as being latitudinarian. Old limits are giving away, old bondages are crumbling. He passed a high eulogium on our mechanics, temperance associations, etc.
“The rev. gentleman was frequently and deservedly applauded during the deliverance of his fine discourse.”
The temperance associations to which the reverend referred were certainly needed in 1876, as the following anecdote reported in the Spectator indicates:
“Today at noon, an old man named James, frightfully paralysed with drink, and cold, was found in the alleyway in the rear of Turnbull’s saloon,. He was utterly unable to help himself, and had lost all sense of feeling and sight, and the power of speech. He was conveyed home in a cab.”

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