Wednesday 16 May 2012

May 17, 1876

 “For some time back, complaints have been made by people in the east end to the Chief of Police that petty thefts were being perpetrated almost every night.”
Hamilton Spectator.     May 17, 1876
          It was a crime wave, with the number of break-ins and robberies spiking dramatically.
          After an intensive investigation by the Hamilton police, the source of the problem seemed to have been identified as detailed in the following item from the Hamilton Spectator of May 17, 1876:
“The Chief set himself diligently to work to discover the parties and discovered that the thefts were perpetrated by an organized gang of thieves. Yesterday afternoon he gained information to the effect that the gang would probably be working that evening. He detailed Constable Fenton to watch the premises which he expected would be robbed, and later in the evening sent Detectives Rousseaux and McPherson to assist him. They watched the premises closely and finally discovered the parties and succeeded in arresting one of them, John Shad, but the rest, on the alarm, escaped. It was found that Shad and his gang had been going through a grocery store belonging to a man named Glassey. They had broken through the window and taken two boxes of cigars, several packages of baking soda, raisins and, in fact, everything of value in the window. Shad is now in custody and the police are busily engaged looking up his accomplices.
Since writing the above, our reporter has gleaned further facts in regard to the affair. At the time of Shad’s arrest, he was accompanied by a suspicious looking character who carried two fowls under his arm. This fellow dashed down the alleyway from Ferguson avenue, hotly pursued by Detective McPherson. The latter soon found that his man was escaping from him and shouted to him to stop. This only accelerated the rascal’s movements, upon which McPherson drew his revolver and fired at him. The victim uttered an unearthly scream and fell forward on the sidewalk, but instantly regained his feet, and, darting into an alleyway, scaled a fence and escaped. Further search being made for him without avail, the officers went to the house of Gus Hebert where Shad boarded and found a quantity of groceries in the house. Hebert was arrested, and this morning a grocery keeper named Charles Bard recognized them by private marks on the boxes. Hebert is the son of Ann Hebert, who formerly kept a house of ill-fame in this city.”
At the Hamilton Police Court, the problem of illegally netting of fish was dealt with in terms of three particular fishermen:
“This morning Issac Blows, Robert McArdle and John Henning were charged by Inspector Kerr with fishing contrary to law. Mr. Kerr had taken up 1,300 yards of illegal nets, and determined to prosecute the parties owning them. They were all fined $12 costs and the nets were confiscated.”
The popular Thirteenth Battalion Band was in the news as the summer concert series at the Drill Hall was about to begin:
“This fine band will give their first summer concert at the Drill Shed tomorrow evening. The members of the band have spared no expense to make the shed comfortable, and there will be ample seating accommodation. They have also erected a platform to play on in the center of the shed. These concerts are worthy of all patronage, and lovers of good music will hear a splendid programme well rendered.”
Hamilton’s unofficial poet laureate, Alex. Wingfield penned a poem in honour of his fellow Hamilton poet Harriet Wilkins, whose newly publication, Wayside Flowers, was very popular at the time:
“Lines : To Harriet A. Wilkins, Author of a Volume of Poetry Entitled ‘Wayside Flowers’ ”
I have wandered along by the “Forest Strem,”
          And gathered thy “Wayside Flowers,
And dear to me are the gems I ween,
          That are culled from poesy’s bowers.
And sweet and pleasant are the joys they yield,
          When their petals are all aglow;
From the golden grain in the “Corn Field,”
          To the violets “Under the Snow.”

Sing on, sing on, like the “Emigrant Bird,”
          And pour thy sweet songs of love
In the ears of the poor “Old Fisherman,”
          Till their hearts are lifted above;
And sing to the fallen “Mada’enes,”
          Till their weary spirits are free,
And they cease to cry to the Lord on high,
          “How long shall my journey be.”

The crown of the poet may ne’er be thine –
          Tho’ you’ve earned an honoured name –
There is many a weary round to climb
          Ere we scale the ladder of fame.
But a fairer crown will in time be yours,
          Than a poet’s brows ever graced,
When you meet with some of those “Wayside Flowers”
          You have plucked from life’s dreary waste.
A.  H. Wingfield.
Hamilton. May 16th, 1876.

Finally, some details concerning the death of Victoria Mcrae were made public in the following report of the public session of the coroner’s inquest into her death:
“The adjourned inquest on the body of the late Mrs. Macrae was held last evening in the Police Court. The room was crowded, and the deepest interest was displayed in the proceedings. The same counsel appeared as on the previous sitting. Mr. Osler, Q.C., watching the case for the Crown.
The first witness was Dr. Geo. MacKelcan, M. D., recalled, sworn : Have attended as family physician to Mr. Macrae’s family for about five years; no other physicians that I know of attended the family; the first visible effect of a violent blow on the temple would be first of all swelling and dark discoloration, which would depend upon the violence of the blow; the next change would gradually fade from  purple or dark blue to green and yellow; the yellow colour would set in in about two weeks in a severe bruise; I would judge of the age of the bruise by the amount of yellow in the rim of the bruise and by the general color; the effects of a blow would disappear internally by absorption or suppuration; if suppuration is to take place, it would show itself in about three weeks; the term organization means that the fluid is being absorbed and the fibrin becomes a living part of the body; organization in a blood is incidental to the process of absorption; suppuration had not set in in this particular instance; the first symptom of blood being suffused on the brain is loss of consciousness, which takes place sometimes immediately, often after some hours and sometimes not for several days; I know of no case in my practice where unconsciousness is delayed more than 24 hours after an injury; on examination after death, it would be difficult to judge how long suffusion had been going on; it depends very much upon the size of the clots; I have seen very small clots that have remained in the brain for some time; if the clot is organized in the way I have described, on examination after death, I would imagine it had been there for some time; in case a man received a blow on the head, and became gradually unconscious in twenty-four hours, I could not distinguish between the clot formed at the time of the accident and that formed immediately before death; the exterior wound in deceased was about an inch to the centre of the clot internally; the clot formed more immediately over the eye extending back and the bruise was more the templar muscle; the clot extended from the central line of the head in front and gradually extended back till one inch and a half behind the ear; the clot was thicker in some places than in others; the thickness depended on the consistency of the brain, that is to say, it would be thicker where the brain was more easily compressed; from an external blow, the clot would be thickest where the brain would most easily be compressed and not immediately under the bruise; a blow capable of producing an external appearance of a bruise on the head would be capable of producing the internal appearance; in this case, I would not further for a reason for the internal appearance; the age of the outside bruise on the head of the deceased precludes the idea of the internal injury being caused by it; I am not able to swear that both injuries in deceased’s head were not caused by the same bruise; it is possible but not probable that the internal clot was caused by the external injury; that clot was formed by the rupture of a vessel contained in the membranes of the brain, that is between the skull and the brain; we were not able to find where the rupture had taken place in the brain; this was caused by the vessels giving way in taking off the skull cap; there were twenty or thirty places where the membranes gave way and the blood oozed out; the brain itself was healthy; that would not necessarily indicate that the blood vessels leading to the brain were healthy; did not particularly examine the tissue of the brain vessels; the blood vessels gave way because of their adhesion to the skull; they must have been weak else they would not have given way; I did not make any particular examination of the veins, I merely noticed that they were weak; the first time I noticed the external injury was on the 30th of April;  I speak from memory and notes taken afterwards; the notes were taken after death, so that I would be prepared for the inquest; I jotted the notes down on Sunday or Monday last; as a rule, I do not take notes; it was my own idea to take these notes; I wrote them all down at one time; I fix the 30th by an effort of memory; it was either a Saturday or a Sunday I noticed the injury first; as a matter of memory, I would not swear it was the 30th; the next day I brought my father with me to consult about the injury, as I did not know what to make of it; I called his attention to it, and that was the reason he went with me that day, and on looking over my visiting list, I fix the 30th as the day before my father accompanied me to consult about the injury; my father saw the effects of the blow twice, if not more; there was no discoloration of the wound when I first saw it; there was nothing to indicate its age; there was but a slight change in the wound from day to day; at the time of death, the want of discoloration would show that the wound was more than a day old; the absence of color would indicate to a medical man that the wound was an old one; there was no change in the color of the wound from the first time I saw it until death; there was no external guide to the age of the injury; there was suffusion of blood in the cellular tissue; my theory is now that the color had disappeared before I noticed it; the immediate cause of death was the suffusion of blood on the brain; I had given it as my opinion that no other disease would cause death; on taking the matter into consideration the appearance of the injury internally it had all the symptoms of apoplexy; if the blow had been of longstanding I would have supposed that the death was caused by apoplexy; had the deceased received a blow at four o’clock on the day of her death, producing such a clot as I found, it is possible that there would be no external mark of violence; there was no other physician with me except my father at the post mortem examination.
To Mr. Martin – My opinion as to the cause of death remains the same as I expressed last evening.
No further evidence was taken.
Mr. Osler said that several jurymen had asked for further medical evidence, and he asked for an adjournment to take this into consideration, and, if necessary, to have further medical testimony.
Mr. Robert Evans, foreman of the jury, said that it was the almost unanimous wish of the jury to have further medical examination. There was considerable talk in the city about the affair, and they could not conscientiously give a verdict on the testimony already heard.
Coroner White then adjourned the inquest till 4 o’clock Thursday afternoon.
Following the inquest, steps were taken to gather more detailed evidence as to how and why Mrs. Mcrae met her death:
“This morning, Mr. B. B. Osler, County Attorney, went to Toronto ad consulted with Attorney General Mowat as to the investigation following the demise of the late Mrs. Macrae. The Attorney General must have taken a serious view of the matter, as at noon, Mr. Osler telegraphed the Chief of Police to have the body exhumed, which is being done as we go to press.”

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