Wednesday, 27 June 2018



        There was a hot time in the old town last Monday. It began at daylight in the morning, and the boys and girls kept it up till well on toward daylight the next morning. In fact, the rumpus began on Thursday of last week, when the news came that the war was over. Not only in Hamilton, but throughout this broad American continent was the joyful news told that the armistice was signed, and New York and Dundas went wild over the glad tidings. It was a little premature, the news on Thursday, to be sure, but as all’s well that ends well, it was only a foretaste of the happiness to come four days later. It was a ‘seben come eleben’ as the darkey joyously shouts when ‘rolling the bones.’ Now this expressive sentence is all Greek to this old muser, but just ask your preacher what it means and he will tell you that he remembers hearing it when he was a boy at college and ‘gamboled on the green’ with the little square ivory cubes. It has reference to a purely Ethiopian pastime, occasionally indulged in by white boys, especially those in the army after the paymaster has visited the battalion. Let us explain. The first news of the close of the war came on the seventh of the month, and was repeated as a sure thing on the eleventh – ‘Seven come eleven.’ Do you see the point?

“Figure it out as you will, but the motive was glorious, and this old town just let loose for four days. It was a blessing that Premier Heart’s prohibitory law was in force, for if it had been otherwise, Chief Whatley and his hundred braves could never have been equal to the splendid order in the streets and to the preservation of life and limb where so many motorcars were flying hither and thither. It was glorious news for the wives whose husbands have been in the trenches for two or three years, and who, thank God, have been spared to hear the command, ‘Cease firing!’ and to the mothers who will look forward to the time ‘When Johnny comes marching home.’ It will be a great day in Hamilton when the boys come marching up the street with the bands playing Home, Sweet Home. Only those who have smelt powder on the field of battle can realize the joy of the home-coming, and the loving embrace of mother, wife and children.

          Make ready for the jubilee,

             Hurrah ! hurrah!

          We’ll give the heroes three times three

             Hurrah! hurrah!


          The laurel wreath is ready now

          To place upon his loyal brow,

             And we’ll all feel gay

           When Johnny comes marching home.

                   SIXTY-FOUR YEARS AGO

“Let us take a look backward to the time when Hamilton celebrated the close of the first war in its history. It was in the month of October, 1856, when the glorious news that Sebastopol had fallen was flashed across the sea, and that night Hamilton celebrated. This town then had only a small population, but it was full of pep and loyal to the core. It was a fight between the allied British, French and Turks against the Russians, and neither of the countries had large armies. Canada had recruited a regiment to go over and help the mother country, of which Hamilton furnished a part of a company, but the boys never got into the fight, as peace was declared while the regiment was awaiting transportation from an English port. One or two of the Hamilton boys, old men now, are still living in the city. Well, the night that Sebastopol had surrendered, Hamilton just let itself loose, and there was a hot time in the old town. The town band, under command of dear old Peter Grossman, assembled in what is now Gore park, near the old town pump, and they made the air ring out with all the patriotism that could be blown through those brass horns. Let us digress for a moment in order that may give the roll of the old band when it was mustered on the 16th of October, 1856. Peter Grossman, bandmaster; Gilbert Omand, William Riddler, August Grossman, L. Schwartz, John Pryke, David Jennings, M. Reichart, Robert Weston, D. Naismith, George Waite, R. Hooper, A. Bienerhassett, Wm. Omand, Julius Grossman, J. O’Brien, Charles Bamfride. Only one member of that band now survives, William Omand. Peter Grossman died in 1901, and his younger son passed away a couple of years ago.

“Now let us briefly tell how Hamilton celebrated the fall of Sebastopol on that October night sixty-four years ago. Tom Gray was then chief of the volunteer fire department, and early in the evening he had the fire alarm rung, and within a few minutes over 500 members of the different companies were at their engine houses waiting for the word of command. The boys were marched to the Gore, and there Chief Gray had in preparation hundreds of cotton balls and gallons of turpentine, and when the band struck up God Save the Queen, the chief sent hurling through the air the first fire ball, which was quickly followed by hundreds more; and this was kept up till a late hour. All Hamilton was out that night, and never was a happier throng assembled on the Gore.

“That was Hamilton’s first war celebration : the second being when the volunteers returned from the battle of Ridgway, having cleaned out the Fenians.

                   THE FALL OF LADYSMITH

“Hamilton was a larger town when the Boers in South Africa rebelled against the British protectorate. South Africa is a country rich in diamond and gold fields, and attracted the German greed. Hamilton sent to the assistance of the motherland a part of a company; therefore, it had more than passing interest in the South African war. When the news came that Ladysmith had fallen and that the Boer war was at an end, there was great rejoicing.


“But the greatest of all the world wars was the climax, It lasted 1,567 days, with a total casualty list estimated at 26,000, 500 men. As Hamilton and the world has been surfeited with stories and figures of the most destructive war that the world has ever passed through, why should we harrow up the feelings of our humble musings by a recital of what they have already read? The story of Hamilton’s celebrations of the victorious event has already been told by our local papers in the fullest detail, and we could add but little to it.

“Hamilton’s part in the great world war is creditable to the loyalty of the old town. We can only give estimates of the number of men who enlisted. Not less than 12,000 men left home and wives and children and mothers as volunteers to fight in the great world war. Of this number, it is estimated that at least one thousand will never return. Colonel John McCrae’s, In Flanders’ Fields, tells the sad story:

                   In Flanders’ fields, the poppies blow

                   Between the crosses, row on row,

                   That mark our place; and in the sky

                   The larks still bravely singing, fly,

                   Scarce heard amidst the guns below.

                   We are the dead. Short days ago

                   We lived, flet dawn, saw sunset glow,

                   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

                                       In Flanders’ fields.

                   Take up our quarrel with the foe!

                   To you from falling hands e throw

                   The torch – be yours to hold high!

                   If ye break faith with us who die,

                   We shall not sleep, through poppies grow

                                       In Flanders’ fields.

“It is estimated that not less than 26,000,000 brave men sacrificed life and health and limb to satisfy the ambition and greed of one man. And, after all, he is now an exile from his country, and, with his six sons, passed through the more than four years of war without getting a scratch. Here is the list of casualties, as estimated : Germany, 6,690,000; Austria, 4,500,000; France, 4,000,000; Great Britain, 2,900,000; Turkey, 750,000; Belgium, 350,000; Rumania, 200,000; Bulgaria, 200,000. No estimate is given of the Russian casulaties. The United States casualty list numbered 69,420, of which 12, 460 were killed in action, and 150,000 maimed or ruined in health. It will be many months before a complete list can be obtained.

“Official reports give an army of 35,000 men in Canada ready for the field, but who have not been out of Canada. Recruiting has been stopped, and arranements are already being made to discharge from the service a part, if not all, of this 35,000 men. The men across the sea may be kept in service for many months, as the allied armies will remain on duty till after the final settlement of the war. The cost of the war is estimated at eleven hundred million dollars up to the end of October. When the bills are all paid, many more millions will be added. To this will be needed a large pension roll for the widows and for the maimed soldiers and for those who are unfitted to provide for themselves through loss of health.


                   THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

“Within the last century occurred the two greatest wars in history. The American civil war was only a skirmish compared with the world war just closed, yet for the number of men engaged it will take second place in war history. The civil war began on the 12th of April, 1861, with the bombardment of Fort Sumpter by the Confederates of South Carolina, and came to a close in the last days of the month of April, 1865, with the assassination of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, an English actor, who became a rabid secessionist during his temporary residence in the United States. A former Hamilton lady, whose home for many years has been in the United States, is in the city at present, the guest of Mrs. S. Glassco, 43 Robinson street, and she has in her possession a copy of an extra of the New York Herald, dated April 15, 1865, giving an account of the assassination, which occurred in Ford’s theater, in Washington on the evening before. The assassin entered the box occupied by the president and Mrs. Lincoln, and shot Mr. Lincoln in the back of the head. The assassin then jumped from the box to the stage, exclaiming as he made his escape, ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis!’ The president lived till the following morning when he passed away.

“In its scope, the civil war was one of the greatest struggles known to history down to that time. It made a record of 2,400 battles and combats. Eleven southern states seceded from the union. Jefferson Davis, a colonel in the regular army, deserted the flag under which he was educated and made a record as an officer, and was elected president of the Confederacy. The United States had but a small standing army, which was principally officered by southern men, graduates from West Point. President Lincoln issued his proclamation calling out 75,000 men, which was promptly filled many times over the number called for. But few realized that there was going to be a war. On the 21st of July, 1861, the first battle of the war was fought at Bull Ru. Raw troops were on both sides, but they fought with an obstinacy that foreboded the future battles of the war. The south had the advantage in having regular army officers to command its men. The battle of Shiloh was fought on the 6th of April, 18162. Gen. Grant had an army of 45,000 in his command. Gen. Grant was taken by surprise by the combined Confederate armies of Generals Johnston and Beauregard. It was a savage fight, in which the Union army was defeated. General Johnston, one of the ablest on either side, was killed at Shiloh. During the war, the Union Army numbered 2,778,304 men, whose ages ranged from ten years to forty-one years and over. The total loss of life was 359,528. Adding the many thousand discharged as disabled or otherwise unfit for duty, or who died from wounds or disease incurred in the army, the total casualties numbered about 500,000. No complete report of the number of men enlisted in the Confederate army or its casualty list is at hand. At the close of the war, the union army had over a million men under arms, and the Confederacy about half a million. The war expenses of the Union government were $3,400, 000,000. In 1864 a barrel of flour in Richmond cost $300, and a pair of boots commanded $150. But then Confederate money had no great value.

Monday, 18 June 2018






        The readers of the Spectator, and indeed every Hamiltonian, will, no doubt, read with pleasure the story of a colored boy who began life in the Dundas cotton mill, and who has become a celebrated surgeon and lecturer in the training camp activities of the war department of the United States in the social hygiene division of the army section. It reads like a romance, yet it tells the story of what ambition and perseverance will do in the training of a life.

“Charles Victor Roman was born at Williamsport, Penn., on the 4th of July, 1868, the child of colored parents. His father was a slave in the state of Maryland, but made his escape from bondage along in the fifties and after many serious adventures finally landed in Canada, by way of the underground railroad. Here for the first time in his life, he could breathe the air of freedom. After the close of the civil war, which gave freedom to over four million slaves under the proclamation of the greatest benefactor of the century, President Abraham Lincoln, he returned to the United States with his young Canadian wife, and located at Williamsport. Dr. Roman’s father was a broom maker, a trade he had learned while in slavery, at which he was an expert workman. The Pennsylvania atmosphere was not quite clear in those early days after the war for a colored man, so the father, with his young wife and baby boy, hiked back to where freedom was alike for black and white, and they made their home in Burford, in the county of Brant, where his wife’s parents lived. Dr. Roman’s parents lived in Burford until 1876, when they moved to Dundas, where young Roman began life as a worker in the cotton mill. That young colored boy had ideas of life beyond a weaver’s shuttle, and when the opportunity for a education in the Dundas night school he took advantage of it, and after his day’s work in the cotton mill, he spent a couple of hours every night at school, and on his return home, studied far into the night.

“The colored boy worked in the Dundas mill for some four or five years, when his parents made their home in Hamilton, and here he entered the Cannon street school having for his teacher Professor Morton, who took more than ordinary interest in his colored student because of his bright intellect and his ambition to acquire an education. In the course of time, he became a student in the collegiate institute, graduating from there in 1883.

“To show the nerve and ambition of the boy, from his early days in the Dundas cotton mill, he had made up his mind to become a doctor of medicine, and with that end in view, all of his studies were directed along that line, and that he has reached the height of his ambition, the sequel will show. The story of his life can the better be told in his own way. After graduating from the Hamilton collegiate institute, the young cotton mill boy went south, and in the state of Kentucky began life as a school teacher, having for his pupils the children of black and white parents. While engaged in teaching in the daytime, he elevated himself with elementary medical works and spent the long nights in their study, till finally he gave up school teaching and entered a medical college, from which he graduated in the year 1890.He then entered a college in Nashville, Tenn., under the presidency of the Rev. John A. Kumler, where he took a full literary course, graduating with honors in his class.

“In order to come up to his ideal of what a doctor should know to become a master in his profession, Dr. Roman went to Europe and took a post-graduate course in the Royal London Opthamimic hospital in the diseases of throat and ear. Then he went to Paris, in France, to pursue other lines of study in a post-graduate course. Feeling that he had the foundation for a life study in surgical and medical research, he returned to his home in Nashville, where he was at once called to a professor’s chair in the medical college in that city. One of his pet research studies was in the line of social hygiene, in which department he is now engaged as an inspector and lecturer in the United States army. Dr. Roman has had conferred upon him by leading universities in the United States the degrees of A.M., M.D. and L.LD., none of which he would accept until he passed the most severe examination. He is proud of his degree titles because they have come to him as a recognition of his scholarship and his research in medical science.

“What better illustration of the actuality for the democracy for which the world is now contending on the battlefields of France and Belgium than that furnished by the career of Dr. Charles Victor Roman in his life history, beginning from his birth as the son of a Maryland slave who escaped to freedom via the underground  railroad to Canada, whose young life was spent as a boy in the Dundas cotton mill and worked his way to an education, graduating first from the Hamilton Collegiate institute into the ranks of a Kentucky school teacher, preparing himself for the special work of a surgeon and doctor of medicine; passing through all the preparatory departments till he reached the height  of his boyish ambition, and finally being called into the service of his native land as an official lecturer to the American army?

                    FROM A BOY IN THE DUNDAS

                      COTTON MILL TO BEING

                        RECOGNIZED AUTHORITY





“Here is the doctor’s story, as he told it to the General conference of the Methodist church in Canada the other afternoon as the representative of the African Methodist Episcopal church of the United States :

‘ A defense of democracy may justify a personal allusion, and a message may be illuminated by the knowledge of the messenger. The past rises before like a dream. The years recede. I am a boy again. The Dundas Cotton mill is a thriving actuality. It is the noon hour. A group of boys ranging in years from 8 to 16, discussing the night school just opened. Ambition is rife and imagination is active. Talk about your sunset of life and its mythical lore! Give me the golden decorations of youthful hope, when every byway is bowered with roses and every highway is arched with a rainbow of promise. The drama of the ambitious run from departmental bosses to managers, directors, even owners of mills. The hour is drawing to a close, and two boys have said nothing. ‘Arthur, what are you going to be ?’ was asked of the handsome-faced little fellow with curly hair and deep, dreamy blue eyes. There was a tinge of sarcasm in the question that showed the general resentment at the individual silence during the general discussion. It was given with a deliberate, if not defiant, clearness, ‘I am going to be a professor of music,’ he said amid uproarious and derisive laughter.

“The colored boy at his side was forgotten, but not for long. The same interrogation reached him from the same source, with added sarcasm. ‘I am going to be a doctor of medicine,’ he answered. It broke up the meeting.

“More than two score have passed, and many tomorrows have become yesterdays. Dread consumption’s ghastly form has borne away the aspiring young musician, not, however, before he led an orchestra. And the colored boy who wanted to be a doctor of medicine? He is an official medical lecturer to the soldiers of the greatest republic the world has ever seen. Just now he is a fraternal delegate to a religious body in session near the scenes of his youthful dreams.

“One other biographical fact. My forbearers reached Canada by the mystical underground railroad. Need I say anything more to interpret to you the spirit of the message I bring? My soul is full of music, and I bring to you a fraternal message from a million hopeful hearts whose parents in the dark days of chattel slavery had the courage to sing ‘Ride on, Jesus, ride on.’

“The African Episcopal Methodist church is one of the spiritual lighthouses of the twelve million colored Americans who now have 350,000 of their number marshaled for the right to be free. The African Methodist Episcopal church not only desires fraternal relations with the great Canadian church, but desires this great church to take a fraternal interest in harmonizing and energizing colored Methodism in Canada.”


“Dr. Roman closed his hearty fraternal greeting to the conference by expressing the sentiment that is a universal longing of the human heart : it is the soul of democracy, and is free from the taint of selfishness or desire to dominate the sense of superiority, by quoting the thought happily expressed by Kipling:

                   ‘When earth’s last picture is painted,

                      And the tubes are twisted and dried,

                    When the oldest color has faded

                      And the youngest critic has died

                    We shall rest; and faith, we shall need it;

                        Lie down for an aeon or two

                    Till the Master of all good workmen

                      Shall set us to work anew.

                    Then those that are good shall be happy,

                       Shall sit in a golden chair,

                    And splash it at a ten-league canvas

                       With brushes of comet’s hair.

                    They shall find real paints to draw from,

                        Magdalene, Peter and Paul.

                    They shall work for an age at a sitting

                        And never get tired at all.

                    Then only the Master shall praise them,

                       And only the Master shall blame.

                    And none shall work for money,

                       And no one shall work for fame.

                    But each for the joy of working,

                       And in each in a separate star,

                    Shall pint the thing as he sees it,

                       For the God of things as they are.


          At the conclusion of the fraternal greet to the General conference on that afternoon, Dr. Roman was agreeably surprised by a group of ministers and laymen who had been boy students with him in that Dundas night school long ago. What is more fraternal of hearty than a meeting of old boys renewing their youth as they come together after many years? Dignity of titles or conditions are forgotten, and instead of reverend or doctor, or even a common mister, it was Charley and Josh, Tom and Bill, and so on. It was a happy half hour those ancient Dundas boys spent in the church vestry, and it will never be forgotten by them. Blest be the ties that unite old boy friendships.”

Thursday, 3 May 2018


Usually, Richard Butler, aka the Old Muser, confined his writings in the Hamilton Spectator to his weekly column, Saturday Musings.

However, on October 29, 1918, a review of recently-published booklet appeared. The review was not credited to anyone, but the style and reminiscences were completely in the Old Muser style.

Richard Butler had lived in Hamilton in the 1850s, and worked as a printer, before leaving the city soon after the beginning of the American War between the States in 1861. Butler served in the Union Army, and after the war entered in the newspaper publishing field, first as an editor, later as an owner. After his retirement, Butler returned to Hamilton as the American Consul. In the 1890s, not long after returning to the city of his youth, Butler started writing the Saturday Musings column which dealt with aspects of the City of Hamilton’s history, including a number of personal reminiscences.

The booklet review which appeared in October 1918 contained references to the first arrival of a Great Western Railway train to Hamilton (an occasion which Butler surely witnessed), plus a look at a photograph taken in 1864, and finally memories of a Hamiltonian, Jack Quirk.

The Review follows :

“The Trail of the Swinging Lantern is the title of a bright booklet of 150 pages, the author of which is J. Copeland, traveling agent of the Chicago and Northwestern railway, 45 Yonge street, Toronto. Mr. Copeland is one of those Canadian boys who took to railroading with the Grand Trunk company, and whose fund of railroad history and humor makes a charming chapter that one can take up at any time and put in a pleasant hour reading over the names of Canadian boys who have made their mark in the railway world. The names of well-known Hamilton men take one back beyond two generations, when the Great Western was built from the Niagara river to the Detroit river.

“In 1853, Hamilton heard the joyful scream of the locomotive that hauled the first passenger train into the Stuart street depot, loaded with passengers from across the Niagara river and from the towns that intervened between the river and this blessed city, which causes every native-born Hamiltonian proudly to lift his head and throw out his chest when he hears its name mentioned. Those strangers from the outside world wanted to see the town and the people where the first important railway had its inspiration. Every man, woman and child in Hamilton was down at the Stuart street depot that forenoon to cheer themselves hoarse when the signal was given and the smoke of the coming locomotive was to be seen climbing the hill in the east and then descending like a frisky young colt for the home run into the depot. It was a wonder that half the population was not maimed and slaughtered, for they crowded the track and could hardly be entreated to give the locomotive a chance. That was a history-making day for Hamilton and for Mr. Copeland, in the Trail of the Swinging Lanterns, has caught the spirit of it and revives for his readers a delightful picture of an almost forgotten past.

“There are not many of the ancients of the Great Western walking the streets of Hamilton today: probably only two who are prominent in the photograph reproduced of the first mogul built in D. C. Gunn’s railway engine shops. When Sir Thomas Dakin, English chairman of the Great Western, and whose name appears on the mogul, made an official visit to this city in 1864. It was made a gala day down at the shops, and the photograph in question was taken. As a matter of ancient history, we will call the roll of them who proudly stood on and in front of the locomotive that their happy faces might be handed down to prosperity fifty-four years later in Mr. Copeland’s booklet : W. A. Robinson, assistant mechanical superintendent; George Forsyth, general foreman of the shops; Wm. McMillan, fuel purchasing agent; Samuel Sharp, mechanical superintendent; William Paine, locomotive foreman; Dick Furness, conductor; Aaron Penny, messenger official car; Geo. L. Reid, civil engineer; William Wallace, traffic agent; G. Harry Howard, booking agent; William Orr, district freight agent; George B. Spriggs, through freight agent; John Howard, general purchasing agent; Thomas Swinyard, general manager; Brackstone Baker, English secretary; Thomas Bell, treasurer; John Hall, foreman running department; John Weatherston, track superintendent; John A. Ward, mechanical accountant; Peter Neilson, station agent; William Wilson, track foreman, James Fawcett, call boy. They were a proud lot as they stood before the camera, to be handed down with that Gunn engine to posterity as being part of Canada’s first great railway

Of the above list of officials who were alive and active, only two are left – W. A. Robinson and John Hall. Mr. Copeland, the author of the booklet, must have a warm heart for John Quirk, an old Hamilton boy, who was a shoemaker by trade, and who was in partnership with George Steele. They had a shop on York street sixty years ago. Added to his ability to pull a wax end, George Steele was Hamilton’s fiddler in those days, and as there were balls and parties two or three nights a week. George did the fiddling while Jack Quirk took care of the shop. Jack was a stuttering Irish lad, and one of the most genial cobblers that ever hammered a sole of a shoe, and left the pegs sticking up to torment the feet of the unfortunate customer. But we are not writing a history of Jack Quirk; this is only an introduction to the days when he began as a baggage smasher on the Erie and Niagara railway, running from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake. That was in 1867. After Jack had smashed up about half the trunks on that line, the managers said, ‘Well done, good and faithful baggage master, we will make a conductor of you before you bankrupt the company in paying damages for broken trumps.’ Well, to shorten the story, Jack punched tickets on the Great Western and the Grand Trunk roads till it was time for him to quit, and now he is living a life of leisure at Wingham.

        “The book is a good history of railroading in Canada.”1

1 “Swinging Lanterns : When Hamilton First Heard the Shriek of a Locomotive”

Spectator October 29, 1918.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018


Saturday Musings

Spectator October 26, 1918


        Seventy years ago last March, there passed away in Hamilton a great and good man – eminent in his profession and generous to the poor. Dr. William Case, a native of the United States, settled in Hamilton long before the town had even a name on the map, save the designation, the Head of the Lake. He came to Canada in the days when the United Empire Loyalists were seeking a home where they could enjoy such political rights as was at that time denied them, although they were mainly natives of the United States. Dr. William Case was born in the state of New Hampshire, studied medicine in Philadelphia, and practiced in his native town till about the year 1810, when he came to the Head of the Lake, and bought a farm in Barton township, about one mile east of the then limits of this village, but years ago taken in as part of the corporation of Hamilton, where he practiced medicine, and looked after the cultivation of his farm. There was not much profit or demand in those days for the services of a doctor, and Dr. Case had to do quite a bit of farming on the side to pay the family expenses. Although an American born, he took sides with Canada in the war of 1812, and for two years, his house was converted into a military hospital for the care of sick and wounded soldiers. The patriotic doctor not only physicked the sick and dressed the wounds of his patients, but his good wife prepared the nourishing food that restored them to life and health. This was done without expectation of fee or reward from the Canadian government, but as an act of humanity by the doctor and his wife. Sometime after the close of the war, the government made an appropriation to repay the doctor for his outlay, but the doctor positively refused to accept a dollar more than the actual costs. A few years ago, the ancient home and hospital was torn down in the march of improvement, but fortunately we are permitted the use of a photographic view of the old homestead, taken by Colonel McCullough, of the Ontario Engraving Co., a week or two before the house was demolished.


          Up on the mountainside, at the head of Ferguson avenue, the Hamilton family had a private graveyard, for in those days such a place as a cemetery was not even dreamed of as a burial place for the early settlers. It was first used as a sepulcher for the wife of Captain Durand, the original owner of what was afterward the farm and homestead of George Hamilton. The Durand farm, of one hundred acres, descended from the mountaintop down to Main street, and in the year 1813 was platted and sold in town lots to comprise the original town of Hamilton. When Captain Durand and his wife, in 1805, were moving from Simcoe to this farm, in driving down the mountainside, Mrs. Durand was upset from the carriage, and the lady killed, dying almost at the moment of the accident. She was buried on the farm in that mountainside graveyard. Captain Durand, some years afterward, had his wife’s remains to the Ancaster graveyard, where he is also buried. After George Hamilton bought the farm, he continued that spot as a family graveyard, and also permitted a few of his personal friends to bury their dead in it. Dr. Case was the Hamilton family physician, and when he died in 1848, the only cemetery in Hamilton was owned by the English Protestant church. For some reason, Canon Geddes, who was then incumbent of Christ’s church, would not give his consent to the burial of Dr. Case in the cemetery, and George Hamilton tendered a place in his private graveyard. It was a costly place in which to dig a grave, as the mountain stone came up close to the surface, with not more than a foot of earth as a covering. So popular was the good doctor case that the people came from far and wide to do honor to his memory.

It was a bright, sunshiny day in the closing days of the month of March when the funeral cortege climbed up the John street hill to the place of burial. Hundreds were there to pay the last token of respect for one who was not only a friend of everybody, but especially to the poor, for no night was so stormy that the good doctor would not turn out to answer a sick call. If the patient was able to pay, the doctor got his fee, but there were scores in Hamilton in those days who were not able to pay much; but they got the same care and attention as the wealthiest class. After the burial service was read and the pallbearers were about to consign the coffin to the rocky sepulcher, the sky suddenly became overcast, the thunder rolled, vivid lightning flashed, and the rain came down in torrents. There was a wild scattering of the audience, and the coffin was left unburied. Some of the superstitious ones attributed the fierceness of the storm as evidence of the Almighty’s displeasure at the burial of the good doctor in unconsecrated ground. When the storm passed over, a few of the mourners returned and consigned the remains of the doctor to his rocky grave. Many years later, the remains of the Hamilton family that had been resting in that mountainside graveyard were moved to the cemetery, where stands a monument to the memory of George Hamilton and his family.


In that lonely grave on the mountainside, the remains of Dr. Case have rested for seventy years as peacefully as though he had been buried in Canon Geddes’ consecrated graveyard. The passersby are attracted to it and ask many questions about it. Some old Rip Van Winkle, whose head is frosted with a few score Hamilton winters, delights to sit on the stone wall at the head of Ferguson avenue and tell the story of that stormy day seventy years ago and recount the charitable deeds of mercy performed by the good doctor in caring for the indigent sick. As a covering to the rocky sepulcher there was placed a slab on which was carved, ‘Sacred to the memory of William Case, M.D., who died on the 24th of March, 1848, in the 72nd year of his age.’ Only that and nothing more. As the good old doctor was simple in his habits, living only that he might do good in his day and generation, may it be as well that no eulogy should be placed on the stone.

Dr. William Case was the father of the venerable Dr. William I. Case, who died a few years ago. From time immemorial the doctor the later generations knew occupied an ancient frame house on the southwest corner of King and Walnut streets. Old timers involuntarily look across to where the frame building stood in full expectation of seeing the face of the doctor, with his long white beard, peering through the window facing Walnut street. Mrs. Robert Land, who was close to one hundred years old when she died, was the daughter of Dr. William Case and the sister of the Dr. Case that later generations knew. A granddaughter, probably the last one of the family, still survives and makes her home in Hamilton.


The Hamilton vandals, some of whose grandmothers Dr. Case many a time attended in sickness and never received a penny for his services, cannot keep their vile hands from desecrating the grave that has for seventy years been his resting place. Recently the stone slab was ruthlessly torn from the grave and broken, and leaving a gaping hole in the rocky sepulcher. It is not creditable to the city officials of Hamilton that this condition should exist. The patriotic doctor of the war of 1812, who freely gave his professional services to the sick and wounded Canadian and British soldiers, and also opened his home for a hospital, deserves better treatment from a community in which he spent his life in doing good to the afflicted. His grave should be the care of the city and protected by a substantial mausoleum, carved to tell the story of his life, and so surrounded that the vandal and ghouls of Hamilton can nevermore despoil it.
Case Sepulcher Date of photo unknown



It is with pleasure that the Muser tells the story of a thoughtful son who has provided for the future comfort of his father and mother. The son is a young man in years and is the loving husband of a dear wife, their joint possession being the sweetest baby that ever was born. Naturally all parents think the same of their babies. We are not going to tell the name of the son, for the reason that we do not think he would like to be made a hero of, though he is a hero all the same. He is not a native of Hamilton, but was born within fifty miles of this town, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. He was an ambitious boy when in his teens and declared that as soon as he arrived at man’s estate, he would hie him to some foreign country and make a name for himself as well as some money, both of which he has been successful in doing. He is an architect by profession, and in the years of his foreign residence has had charge of the construction of many costly public buildings as well as private residences. That he has made money goes without saying when we consider the handsome provision he has made for his father and mother, as well as laying by for the future of his own family. He has two sisters, one married and one single, the single one holding a responsible position in Hamilton.

The other day, the younger sister was happily surprised on receiving a letter from her brother, containing a foreign draft for $15,000, with instructions that his sister invest in some long-time bonds of undoubted security. Now this dear young lady has all the confidence in the world in the financial standing of the city in which she is making her home, so she called City Treasurer Leckie on Tuesday last and subscribed for $15,000 worth of long-time Hamilton bonds, making them payable to her father and mother jointly or to the survivor, thus insuring to them an income during their lives of $900 per annum. This, added to what his father and mother have laid by for a rainy day, as well as being the owner of a good home in the town in which they live, will make the burden of years fall very lightly on them, and provide them with not only the comforts but many of the luxuries of life.

Then there was no string attached to that splendid gift, for when it has done its beloved work for the care of father and mother, that loving son and brother directed that after their death, the money be divided equally between the two sisters, so that it would continue to be a blessing and a provision for those near and dear to him. On that foreign draft was a premium exchange of $285. The young lady will add to that the balance of $15 and purchase Victory Bonds worth $300, and the interest on those bonds will be payable to father and mother.

Those dear parents can never cease thanking God for being the father and mother of such a son and such loving daughters. This little story is told in the hope that other sons and daughters will not forget the father and mother who cared for them during the years of childhood, providing them with every comfort.



The T. H.& B. railway company must have more room in its freight yards to accommodate its increasing business in Hamilton. The only that stands in the way is the elegant Aged Women’s Home at the head of Wellington street, and this the company must have to carry out its plan of engagement. Probably it may not be a bad move after all that the managers of the home must search for a new location, for the freight yard is certainly a detriment to the property. There no doubt will be regret that a change must be made, for the home is fitted up with all the comforts to make it attractive and desirable to the dear old ladies who are spending the declining years of life free from care and worry. When Albert Bigelow endowed the Girls’ Orphan Home with $20,000, and which served its day and purpose till there were no orphan girls to need a home in That building, he probably never dreamed of the benevolent use that home was to be put to in the future.

Added to the $20,000 given by Albert Bigelow, there was another good angel to increase the power of the home to do good. When Mrs. John Thompson died, she provided in her will the sum of $10,000 for the Aged Women’s Home, and with this added income the managers were able to make improvements that have added to the comfort of its inmates. The property has largely increased in value in the past twenty or thirty years, and it will be difficult to find another location equal to it before the railway company occupied that part of town. There is one other location that would be desirable if it can be purchased at a price within the means of the managers, and that is the George Rutherford property, on the corner of King street and Sherman avenue. It has all the desired requisites on which to build such a home that would be an ornament to the city.

It may be interesting to give some items from the report of Mrs. W. C. Breckenridge, who had been treasurer of the Aged Women’s Home for many years. Before going into the report, let us state that in addition to the $10,000 given by Mrs. John Thompson for improvements on the building, she also gave $5,000 towards a trust fund, the interest on which was to pay the entrance fee of old ladies without money or friends. William Vallance generously provided in his will the sum of $1,000 to be invested as an endowment fund. No mention seems to have been made of the donation of $20,000 given by Albert Bigelow, and which was really the foundation upon which was built the Children’s Industrial school, the Hamilton Orphan asylum, and the Boys’ home. The Industrial school is now known as the Girls’ home, on George street, the Orphan asylum is now known as the Aged Women’s home, the Boys’ home has kept its original name. To each of the institutions named Albert Bigelow left $20,000.

Let us go back seventy years ago, when the Ladies’  Benevolent society, which was organized in 1846, established an orphan asylum, and I connection with it a day school for the children of the poor. The ravages of the cholera in 1847 left many destitute orphans who found a home in the asylum. A larger building was needed than was then occupied to accommodate the number of orphans and children attending the day school, and in 1851, Mayor John Fisher, the proprietor of the first foundry built in Hamilton, gave his year’s salary as mayor, $400, towards building an orphan asylum, to which was added a number of donations from the churches, and the surplus from a firemen’s ball. The city council voted $3,2000 toward the building fund, but for some reason it was not accepted by the board of managers. The site of the present Aged Women’s home was selected, and it was a lovely spot before the railroad came and despoiled it, and in 1854, the building was finished and occupied, at a cost of $6,408. The government gave a grant of $400 a year. When the Central school was opened, there was no necessity for the continuance of the day school. The home was liberally supported by the contributions of the people. It was in the year 1873 that Albert Bigelow made his will and made glad the hearts of the lady managers of the home by a contribution of $20,000. Mr. Bigelow was a prosperous businessman in Hamilton, being a dealer in china, glass and earthenware. He was a bachelor, but not from choice for it was told of him that in his younger days he was engaged to a beautiful young lady, and that all arrangements were made for their marriage when the prospective bride sickened and died. He had two sisters tgo whom he left $10,000 each, and to his housekeeper he left $1,000. The remainder of his fortune was left to found homes for the unfortunate. From all indications the Aged Women’s home will pass from its present location.  
Aged Women's Home ca 1878

Wednesday, 4 January 2017


Saturday Musings

Spectator December 21, 1915

        "Marley was dead, to begin with.” It was thus that the gifted Dickens began his Christmas Carol. “Old Marley was as dead as a door nail … Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. Scrooge and he were partners for many years.”

          Dickens’ stories are not read nowadays like they were by the ancient Hamiltonians of the past century; and the more pity it is, for their reading would make a better world. The Christmas Carols tell us that old Scrooge was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, “ a squealing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!”

Hamilton may have a few of the Scrooge tribe, but they are mighty few, as the history of the past four years can cheerfully give testimony. Very few have suffered from the high cost of living, for there has been hard work for everybody that wanted it, wages were good and liberal.

God bless the generous-hearted people of dear old Hamilton! They have always responded to every call from the time it was but a village and called the Head of the Lake. There has never been any need of suffering if the wants of the unfortunate were known, for the women of Hamilton responded to every call for help, especially for women and children. Every church and every society of women have their relief corps. When the influenza became epidemic, how quick the S.O.S. was organized, and the pastor nd official board of the First Methodist church promptly tendered to the ladies the use of their kitchen and outfit, and hundreds of baskets of delicate food were sent out every day to the homes of the afflicted. Those grand women of the S.O.S. left their homes, by units, happy in the thought that there was work for them to do, not only giving their time but also carrying to the church baskets of delicacies from their own larders. And the people who owned motor cars placed them under the direction of the S.O.S. to distribute their bounty in the homes of the afflicted. Let us change Tiny Tim’s prayer just a little, God bless them, every one.

This is not an unkind world after all, and dear old Hamilton stands in the front rank in every good work. Count up the tag days for the Red Cross, and for other benevolences since the dark days of 1914 overshadowed every home and country, and Hamilton has more than met every call made upon it, not only in brave men to answer the bugle call, but for money to provide for the dependent wives and children and parents of those who left home and comfort to create a new world of liberty.

Let us be thankful that the worst is past, and that

“When Johnny comes marching home again,

 We’ll give him a royal welcome then,

 The girls will cheer, the boys will shout,

 The people will all turn out,

 And we’ll feel gay,

 When Johnny comes marching home.”

Hamilton sent more than its quota – nearly 12,000. Many of the bravest and best will never return home again!

“In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow,

 Between the crosses, row on row,

 That mark our place; and in the shy

 The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

 Scarce heard amidst the guns below.

 We are the dead. Short days ago

 We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

 Loved and were loved; and now we lie

   In Flanders’  fields.


 Take up our quarrel with the foe

 To you from failing hands we throw

 The torch. Be yours to hold it high!

 If ye break faith with us who die

 We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

   In Flanders’ fields.”


In Flanders’ Fields is the tribute of the brave Lieut.-Col. John H. McRae to his Canadian comrades who have been “mustered out” on the firing line. Col. McCrae was born in Canada in 1872; passed from the glory of the battlefield in France in 1918. What a brave answer came back from an American comrade-in-arms, R. W. Gillard, herewith given !

The Red Cross society in Hamilton have done a service that will live forever in publishing the booklet, containing the original poem and the answer, with a handsome sketch of the growing poppy in Flanders’ Fields, drawn by Hamilton lady artist, and a photo of the gifted Canadian author.

Here is the answer:

“Rest ye in peace, ye Flanders dead.

 The fight that ye bravely led

 We’ve taken up. And we will keep

 True faith with you who lie asleep

 With each a cross to mark his bed

 And poppies glowing overhead

 Where once his own life-blood ran red.

 So, let your rest be sweet and deep

   In Flanders’ fields.


 Fear not that ye have died for naught,

 The torch ye throw to us we caught.

 Ten million hands will hold it high,

 And Freedom’s light shall never die!

 We’ve learned the lesson that she taught

   In Flanders’ fields.


The glory won by our Canadian boys will be told by future historians when recounting the story of the great war of 1914-1918. It cost the blood and the lives of the bravest and best of all in the allied ranks. In thousands of Canadian homes, there will be at least one vacant chair at the coming Christmas feast.

“At the fireside, sad and lonely,

   Often will the bosom swell,

 At remembrance of the glory,

   How their noble Willie fell;

 How he strove to bear our banner

   Thro’ the thickest of the fight,

 And uphold our country’s honor.

   In the strength of manhood’s right.”

The boys who responded to the bugle call, and will return home to future years, will proudly tell their children of the humble part they took in the great world war.

Cheers for the returning soldier! Tears for the dead !