Tuesday 12 June 2012

June 13, 1876

“Bradley and Flatt’s enormous raft, containing over $75,000 worth of square timber, leaves this port tomorrow morning for Quebec. “
                                       Hamilton Spectator   June 13, 1876
Other than a final reference to the major rafting effort of the past few months on the bay, the June 13, 1876 issue of the Hamilton Spectator was dominated by stories about crime and criminals in the city and vicinity.
Out Jerseyville way, a robbery was interrupted in progress and the perpetrator was taken to the jail on Barton street, which was mandated for city and county criminals:
“On Sunday morning an Indian was committed to the county jail in this city on a charge of committing a robbery in Jerseyville. On Saturday night, a Mr. Obed Howell, of Jerseyville, shortly after retiring, was awakened by a noise downstairs, and on going into the parlour, was surprised at finding a strapping Indian there, who with an axe and club was preparing for an attack on the safe which stood in the corner. Mr. Howell tackled the Indian and taken him taken before Mr. Sexton, a Justice of the Peace, who committed him to Hamilton jail, where he arrived early on Sunday morning.”
That aboriginal man probably encountered the subject of the following item:
“There is no individual name since the days of John Henry Livingstone, that appears so often in the Police Calendar as the above. He and his wife and the miserable crowd who live in their neighbourhood are constantly in trouble, and almost constantly before the Police Magistrate, charged with drunkenness, disorderly conduct or assault. They are always drunk when they come to the Police Court, and are very seldom sober when they are out of it. This morning Searles was sent to jail for assaulting Mrs. Fink and destroying her property, and there will be more quiet in the neighbourhood of the Searles estate, for at least the next 30 days.”
As reprehensible as Searles was, even he was outdone in rascality by the man described at length in the following:
“Perhaps there is no character in Corktown so much dreaded, and in reality, so much to be feared, as Wm. Thornton, alias Poney Spriggs, the subject of this sketch. He is a man of powerful frame, broad shouldered and well knit, a small bullet head covered with short bristly hair, a low retreating forehead, piggish eyes, flat nose, heavy jaws, dull, sensuous mouth, swollen and discoloured by the use of tobacco, a big brutal neck, and a shuffling gait, is the make up of a man who has never been known to do an act of humanity, and who is quite capable of doing the most brutish and cruel things. In days gone by, Poney was the bully of Corktown; peaceable citizens shrank from him as from a reptile on the sidewalk. The rowdies of the city either cultivated his friendship or kept aloof from him altogether. Everyone shunned Poney, and perhaps it was as well for them. During the last ten years, Poney has been convicted of thirty-five crimes, including some of the worst – rape, arson, robbery, house-breaking, and murderous assault, and has served terms of imprisonment for each. At the Fall Assizes he was tried on the charge of brutally assaulting a poor wretch whose name does not now occur to our reporter, and disfiguring him badly. The Chief of police made out a record of his crimes, and pointed out to Judge Burton, who presided, the necessity of having Poney withdrawn from society. Judge Burton, with remarkable leniency, only sentenced Poney to six months in jail. He had been but a short time released from durance vile when he commenced to show his hand in Corktown once more. He commenced his antics on Saturday evening by entering a house occupied by a man named Egan and his mother, an old and decrepit woman , who is not only blind, but deaf. He struck the woman in the mouth, and when the poor creature was lying on the floor he kicked her savagely on the ribs. The woman cried murder, and her son who was sleeping on the floor was in the act of rising to defend her, but had hardly gained his feet when he was knocked down and brutally beaten. Flushed with victory he entered another house, turned the inmates out, smashed the stove, and threw the tea kettle threw the window. Being somewhat exhausted, and as it was too late to conquer other world, he went to rest. In the morning, early, he opened the campaign by throwing stones at a young man named Canary. Canary, not sufficiently appreciating this, stepped across the street, and put a head on him, to use a fighting phrase. Canary followed the matter up by having Poney arrested for assault.”

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