Thursday 10 May 2012

May 11, 1876

A complete as well as handsome verandah has been placed around the new G. W. R. station in this city, which adds greatly to its beauty, and will conduce very much to the comfort of travellers during the hot summer months.”
Hamilton Spectator      May 11, 1876
As it was an area where huge numbers of passengers embarked onto, or disembarked from, trains from early in the morning until late at night, the management of the Great Western Railway decided to improve the appearance of its main passenger station and yards around it.
          First to be completed was a new verandah around the station itself, but, as the Spectator of May 11, 1876 reported that was just the beginning:
 “General improvements are being made in the yard, and ere the summer is spent, there will not be a single old building on the company’s property. The yard is now the best conducted in Canada.”
Competition between the Hamilton Spectator and the Hamilton Times for readership in the local daily newspaper realm was intense. On May 11, 1876, the Spectator had a sarcastic comment to make about an item which had recently appeared in its rival:
       The Times of Thursday evening contained a sensational article about a capsized yacht which was discovered in the Bay. There are several other superannuated scows floating about which would furnish several readable paragraphs, if the writer were to hint that several parties had been drowned.”
A sad tale of the terrible effects of alcoholism was recounted, with a moral intent, by a Spectator reporter :
       Blood will tell, but on the other hand if a man is determined to go down hill, and has no ambition to better his circumstances he will have plenty of chances to do so. Three years ago there came to this country a man named George Elder, who brought with him a capital of some three or four thousand dollars. Such a start to a young Canadian would have ensured his success in life, but in the case of Elder, instead of putting it to good account, he got into bad company, and in a short time was cheated out of the greater part of it. He, however, had a considerable sum left him out of the ruins, but, instead of taking warning out of his past experience, he commenced drinking, and squandering his funds, and this morning, found himself in the disgraceful position of a prisoner in the Police Court, being charged with drunkenness, he having been found very intoxicated in the yard of Wisker’s tavern. He spent the night in the cells, and was this morning fined $2 by the Police Magistrate.”
The Spectator also carried a stern warning to some unruly individuals who were making nuisances of themselves in the city’s west end:
       A number of young men whom society would call respectable are in the habit of prowling around at night in search of a certain unpretentious house of ill fame in the western part of the city, and very frequently mistake the door of respectable neighbours for the one they are in search of. On Tuesday night, a gentleman and his family were aroused from their sleep about midnight by the efforts of two of them clambering for admittance. The worthies discovered their mistake and made off just in time to save themselves from a pistol bullet, which was in preparation for them. Last night another family was disturbed by others on the same errand, and any repetition of their offence is likely to be attended with serious consequences to themselves. The forcible entry of a domicile after dark is called in law by the ugly name of burglary, and the attempt is but a lesser degree of the same, for which the guilty parties are liable to be sent to Penitentiary. “
          Ben Foulds, a very well-known character around the Beach and Bay, especially for his fisherman’s tales, but the one he recounted to a Spectator  reporter on May 11, 1876 was truly a whopper:
“This morning early intense excitement was caused among the fishermen on the bay shore on the report that a devil fish had been discovered in the bay, and that a popular fisherman, Mr. Ben. Foulds, had come within an ace of losing his life in coming in contact with it. At eight o’clock some of the leading mariners living at the foot of James st. went out in boats arms with guns, revolvers, and spears, determined, if possible, to discover the monster. Mr. Foulds led the men to the last place where he had seen the fish, but used all his efforts to prevent them from searching for it, declaring that it was a monster of such size and fury as to be capable of capsizing and destroying the strongest boat in the bay. A few minutes before the sun rose this morning, Mr. Foulds was rowing between Carroll’s Point and the Beach on his way home. He was accompanied by no one and there was nothing in the boat with the exception of a few fish, a large hook and line, and a shot gun. The water was very smooth, not a ripple disturbing the surface, and Mr. Foulds’ oars pulling very gently, he being somewhat exhausted, when his curiosity was awakened by seeing something floating in the water some yards off. It having, in the morning light, the appearance of a log, Mr. Foulds determined to take it in tow, and was in the act of flagging a line about it when, to his horror, he discovered that the object in the water was an enormous fish. It was quite still, and was rocking silently on the top of the water, evidently asleep. In his attempt to get away, Mr. Foulds allowed the boat to dash against the creature which instantly uttered a low and hollow sound, like a cough on a sick horse, and suddenly reared itself some distance out of the water. The appearance of the creature was frightful. The head in some respects resembled that of a cow, and in others that of a fish very much magnified. The head was thick with long black hair, the body was covered with large scales the size of a saucer, which stood erect, the eyes were large, flat and dead looking, the opened jaws disclosed no teeth, but the fore part of the nostrils were armed with a number of short, sharp, boney spikes. The creature rose some distance from the water, and then sank slowly again uttering a hollow, coughing sound. Unfortunately, Mr. Foulds had imagined at first that the monster was about to attack him, and raising his double barrelled shot gun to his shoulder, sent both of the charges into the throat of the creature. The result was terrible. The creature made a sudden rush under the boat, capsizing it, and with a fearful snort rose some five feet out of the water on the other side. The monster commenced to flounder in the water as if in great agony, and finally rushed off at a tremendous speed in the direction of Rock Bay. Mr. Foulds was in the water for an hour and a half, and finally floated ashore nearly exhausted. He lost his gun, a valuable piece, together with the fish. It is feared that his nerves have been shaken by the fright he received. He thinks that the creature was about fifteen feet in length, and the body had something of the appearance of an alligator. There were no fins or legs on the body that he could perceive which would lead one to the conclusion that it belonged to the serpent family. It appeared to be a subterranean fish which, being asleep, had floated to the surface in the light of the morning. Some of the fishermen believe that it will yet float ashore, dead, but this is improbable.
          The above is the story of an adventure as told by the hero thereon to our reporter, who gives it for what it is worth, not having seen the monster himself.”

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