Thursday, 8 December 2011


It is true, as the Herald remarked the other day, that Rev. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, “wore his priestly garments and bands when preaching indoors,” but it is also true that the grand army of preachers that followed him never took to the gown and bands. Wesley began his ministry in a church that believed in robing its ministers during service, and force of habit clung to him even after he became a great leader of Methodism. It is a long distance between Mr. Wesley and the gown-wearing preachers of St. James’ Methodist church in Montreal. Wesley counseled against extravagance in dress and the building of costly meeting-houses, while the St. James congregation went to the extreme of building an expensive temple and dedicating it to the Lord with over half a million dollars plastered on it. There be churches in Hamilton where the ministers have always worn gowns during the Sunday services, and it is not amiss because it is the rule of the church, and the congregations are accustomed to it; but to introduce a gowned minister to a Hamilton congregation of Methodists would be an innovation rather startling. Leave ritualism where it belongs and to those who conscientiously believe in it; but let Methodism stick to the simplicity of the early fathers of the church. There is a tendency nowadays to introduce too many new fads into religious worship, and more worldliness than is beneficial is creeping into the membership of the churches. This part of the subject is a proper them for discussion for religious journals, not for one that caters to the world.


        Down one of the avenues in this city, a home was bereft some years ago by the mysterious disappearance of a bright boy, the idol of his parents. The boy was somewhere between 12 and 15 years old, and had every comfort and pleasure that his parents could provide for him. He was of studious habits, and was remarkably free from the wildness of boys his age. One afternoon, after returning from school, he went out to play with some of his companions, and from that hour his parents never set eyes on him. Those he went out to play with were not able to account for his mysterious disappearance. The last they saw of him was when they broke up their game and went home. Search was made everywhere but to no avail. Days and weeks and months passed by and the heart of the bereaved mother was well-nigh broken for the beloved son who came not. For years, the door of the home was never locked, and a lamp was always kept burning during the night for the wanderer’s return should he still be in the land of the living. The parents could not believe their boy had deserted the home where his every wish was gratified, and the conclusion forced itself upon them that he had met death. Still the mother is always looking for the return of her boy, and many times during the day does she look up and down the street from the door of her home hoping that at last he may be restored to her arms. “Where is my boy tonight?” is the sad refrain that goes out from her heart as she retires to rest. The world has lost its charms for that dear mother. Will her boy ever return or was his young life ended in some mysterious manner?


        Away back early in the sixties, when the war drums were beating across the river in the United States, and the young men not only of the republic, but of Canada, were enlisting to fight the battles of the north against the south, a party went over from Belleville to Buffalo, and enlisted in the union army. One of the number was a bright, young fellow, a book-keeper, and the main dependence of his mother, who was a widow. He was of sober, industrious habits, and frugal in his expenditures, for he seemed to live only that his mother might be made comfortable and happy, for the latter years of her married life had been blighted by a drunken husband. After his enlistment, the boy kept up a correspondence with his mother for some months, until after one of the heavy battles, his letters ceased to come. From that time on, she never heard from him, and at last was forced to the conclusion that he had been slain in battle, and she mourned for her brave soldier boy. For some reason, the mother could not learn from those who were his comrades anything about her son. Years rolled on and the mother moved from her home down by the lake to Toronto, where she earned a living for herself and family; and long after her children were able to provide for themselves, she kept on working till the burden of years became too great, and she was finally compelled to accept a home in Hamilton with one of her children. The old lady had an independent spirit, and preferred to make her own way through life while her health and strength lasted. She has now passed the four-score milestone on life’s journey, yet looks as bright and active as many one-third years younger. Some friend suggested to her that the United States government made provision for the parents of those who died in the service, and she applied to the commissioner of pensions at Washington. Then for the first time did she learn that the son she mourned as dead for nearly forty years was supposed to be alive, and tha6t for many years he had been drawing a pension from the government, and that the last place he had reported from was the Soldiers’ home at Dayton, Ohio. She then corresponded with the governor of the Dayton home, and traced her son to the Soldiers’ home at Bath, New York, and from there learned that a comrade in Buffalo might be able to furnish the desired information. She wrote to Buffalo, and a few weeks ago received an answer that her son had but recently died, and that for years h had made his temporary home in Buffalo. Here he was living within sixty miles from the mother who mourned his death, and the probabilities are that more than once he visited Hamilton. So far as the mother and son were concerned, there was no reason why he should keep under cover during all the forty years since he left home to enlist in the union army. It was a sad blow to the aged mother, for now she mourned her boy as one having recently passed over the river of death. Strange things happen in this world.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


It is altogether too absurd, said an old-time Hamilton newspaper reporter, to say that man is not perfect. Who is there who has not met with perfect strangers, some who were perfect rascals, and not a few who were perfect fools. The world has not changed much in this matter of perfection since the writer of the above gave vent to his feelings. The perfection most desired is never attained in this world, for it would be contrary to human nature when a man smites you on one cheek to turn unto him the other that he may swat you a second time; and until we can get up to that condition, perfection is impossible. But of perfect rascals and perfect fools, there is no end, the world is full of them, and each one of us must be mighty careful in our daily life if we are not placed in one of the lists. Charity suffereth long and in kind, but one never gets over the idea that he ought to be placed in the list of angelic beings.


        There was a suspicion in the long ago that now and then some man of business who was pulling against the tide would dispose of his stock of goods to a fire insurance company, and thus get out of his financial difficulties. In looking over an old Hamilton newspaper, a suggestive item shows up. A merchant engaged in the rag business was about to remove, and as he had $1,000 insurance on his stock, the night before he was to give up possession, the building and stock were consumed by fire. There had been no fire in the premises and the only way to account for the conflagration was to charge it up to some wicked incendiary who wanted to see rags go up in smoke. The rag merchant got his insurance, but the owner of the building, not having it insured, had a total loss. Such things have often happened since insurance companies were first organized, and were likely to continue to the end of the chapter.

Monday, 5 December 2011


Saturday Musings Spectator December 09, 1905
        The subject matter is rather gruesome, but as a matter of ancient history it may not be out of place to let the present generation into some of the secrets of the doctor’s office in bygone days. The old-time doctors had a harder time of it to get thorough knowledge of their profession than boys do nowadays. They had not the help of well-equipped medical colleges nor the dissecting room, but had to dig out of the text books the material or substance used in the composition of remedies for the cure of disease. Then a doctor had to compound his own prescriptions and every office was a well-stocked drug shop. What a time the unfortunate patients had in swallowing the mixtures of half a century ago! Now the doctor carries a few remedies, compounded and prepared by manufacturing chemists, and the patient and the disease do the rest. Happy doctors. But it was in the study of surgery that the old boys had to get down to business, for they had to find their own subjects on which to take lessons in dissecting. The law now furnishes to medical colleges the unfortunate poor who may happen to die and have no one interested enough in their bodies to give them decent burial. When you and I were boys, my venerable friend, every student had to either rob a graveyard or hire someone to do it for him. The professionals were known by the name of body snatchers; and indeed at an earlier period they did not even take the trouble of robbing a grave but were guilty of the crime of murder by suffocation so as to leave no marks on the bodies they had to sell to the students. This was called burking, after a man of the name of Burke, of Edinburg, who was the first known to have committed the crime in 1819 for the purpose of selling the bodies for dissection.


        It was not an uncommon thing even as late as half a century ago for families to find that the graves of their dead had been desecrated by the resurrectionist; and it is well within the memory of some, that a well-known physician in Hamilton was riddled with shot while robbing a grave. Undertaker Blachford had charge of the doctor’s funeral. No questions were ever asked as to how the shooting occurred, hence the matter did not appear in the police court records. There was a doctor living in Berlin, Ont., a few years later, who made it a regular business to raise bodies. The doctor had an assistant and the pair robbed the graves, boiled the flesh from the bodies and sold the skeletons. At first, the doctor observed secrecy, but after awhile, he became bolder and carried on the trade in a disgusting manner. A child died and was buried and the parents, noticing that the grave had been tampered with, they opened it and found that the child’s body had been stolen. The doctor being suspected, a search warrant was obtained, and the officer and the father of the child went in upon the doctor and his assistant while they were in the act of preparing the body for the boiling process. The two men were arrested, and on trial by jury, a verdict of guilty was rendered. The doctor and his assistant escaped with the light punishment of only three months in jail.


        Isolated graveyards in country places were the ones most frequently visited by the resurrectionists , and it was no uncommon thing for friends of the deceased to keep guard of the graves for weeks after the internment. When the writer was a boy in Quebec more than 50 years ago, there was a comical ending to a country graveyard robbery. A couple of medical students had to furnish a subject for dissection, and on a cold, wintry night they made a raid on a new-made grave in a country churchyard. It was bright moonlight, and to avoid suspicion should they be met on the road to the city they put a fur coat and cap on the corpse. Coming to a wayside tavern, the students concluded that a little something warm would cheer them up after their toil in digging and their long drive, so they invited the driver of the sleigh to go in with them and warm the cockles of his heart with a whiskey hot. A couple of wags sitting in the barroom, who knew the students and suspected their mission out in that direction on such a cold night, slipped out and saw a man sitting in the sleigh, and going over to speak to him, found that it was a corpse. They lifted the corpse from the sleigh and took it into the barn, and then one of the fellows dressed himself in the fur coat and cap and took the dead man’s place in the sleigh. The students and the driver having imbibed several times of the steaming hot whiskey got into the sleigh and started on their journey cityward. When they were nearing their destination close by St. John’s gate, the corpse asked them how much farther they were going to take him. This was too much for the students and the driver, and out they jumped from the sleigh and made rapid time in getting away. The supposed corpse turned around the horses and drove back to the country tavern by the roadside, and next day sent word to the students where they would find the horse and sleigh. The friends of the deceased were notified, and the corpse returned to the grave.


        Students do not have to do such things now, as the medical colleges are always supplied with subjects for dissection from the hospitals and from those who have neither friends nor money to secure their burial. Back in the latter part of the ‘50’s, when the writer was setting type on the Cincinnati Enquirer, he made the acquaintance of a young Canadian who was a student in the Ohio Medical college in Cincinnati . Have you ever been away from home and met one from the same part of the country where you once lived? Why, it is like meeting an old friend even though you never set eyes on him before. This student was not a Hamilton boy, but he came very close to it. He was reared on a farm within sight of the blue waters of old Ontario, and having no liking for farm work and some inclination towards medicine, his good old father made many sacrifices to give him an education to that end. Having spent a portion of his time in a country doctor’s office, the young fellow was sent to the medical college in Cincinnati to prepare for his future profession. The young Canadian was charmed with city life and dipped lightly into some of its vices, and as a consequence did not make that progress in his studies necessary to a successful graduation. Having a retentive memory, he was able to follow closely the lectures of the professors and in that time kept up his record, but the time spent in the dissecting room was irksome to him, and his absences were far more frequent than his attendance. His letters to the old folks at home were full of cheer, but they were looking forward to the time when their boy would return a full-fledged doctor. As the time was drawing near for the closing examinations at the college, the young fellow began to feel his deficiency in the science of surgery, and if he was to pass it behooved him to get a move on himself. It cost money to hire a resurrectionist to furnish him a subject, and he was not brave enough to run the risk of going into the country to rob some quiet churchyard. He was in a dilemma. One night he attended a dance in a disreputable house, and while lounging around the rooms he opened the door of one room where one of the inmates was lying dead. Quick as a flash the thought came to him that here was his opportunity. There was a large crowd of men and women in the house, and the sound of revelry rang out as the music, the clinking of glasses and the coarse jest was bandied from one to the other. Locking the door of the room where the dead girl lay, his plans were soon matured. Making a rope of the bed sheets, he lowered the body from the second story window to the side alley. The hour was in his favor as it was just before the dawn of morning. He quietly left the house  and securing his prize, he beat a hasty retreat to his room, which was not too far distant. He had a room-mate, a young southern student, and as the southerner had been a close attendant in the dissecting room, he was sure of his help. Our young Canadian made good use of his time and of his subject, and gave up the bad habits he had formed. By the time when his student days were closing, he became proficient in the use of the surgeon’s knife, and passed a creditable examination. He came to his old home to visit his father and mother, but as the outlook was not encouraging for a young doctor in this part of Canada, he returned to Ohio and began practice in a country town. When the war broke out in 1861, he was one among the first to respond to the call of President Lincoln for 75,000 men, and was commissioned on the medical staff as assistant surgeon of his regiment. As the war progressed, he was advanced till he finally became chief surgeon on the staff of a distinguished general in the army. After the war, he located in Illinois. His early habits have been forgotten, and the doctor is not only a pillar in the Methodist church, but is also prominent in the affairs of the county in which he lives. The last time I saw him we talked over old times in Cincinnati before the war, and his escapade in procuring a subject for dissection.


        Once or twice before, we have referred in these Musings to the fact that Robert Young was the first manufacturer in Canada of burners for coal oil lamps. The old lathe that was used in making the first burners is stowed away in the storehouse of James Stewart, on John street, in the same building in which it was first used in 1858. A reporter of the Spectator visited Mr. Young’s workshop in 1859, and it may be interesting to now read what he briefly said of one of the infant industries that Hamilton’s enterprising workmen were nursing into life. That was in the old free trade days, when Canada had to compete with the United States for its own market : “There would seem to be no further necessity for importing coal oil lamps, now that R. Young, of this city, has entered extensively into the manufacture of them. We visited his establishment yesterday, and were shown the various processes the lamps undergo in their manufacture. They are manufactured and sold here by Messrs. Hilton, by wholesale at about 10 per cent less than the actual cost price of those imported from the United States. The article is not only cheaper, but better than that of American manufacture; and, besides, Mr. Young makes a greater variety of lamps, any of which are more endurable than those imported. We understand that there is just now a large demand for these manufactured lamps, and there is not the least doubt that they will soon force the imported ones out of the market.” Robert Young came to Hamilton in 1854, and during the next forty years was a prominent factor in the manufacturing enterprises in this city. A few years ago, he retired from active business, but, even now, when he has passed his four score years, he keeps himself in touch with his trade in a limited way.


        The Great Western railway was nurtured into life by the citizens of Hamilton, and its slightest request to the city council was promptly acceded to; but the officers of the company never granted a favor to Hamilton if it were possible to avoid it. At the time of the great cricket match in this city in 1859, when the All-England eleven played against a picked Canadian club of twenty-two, Hamilton had put up a large bonus to secure the game, and it was natural for the contributors to the purse to expect that the number of people that would be attracted here would spend money enough in part to reimburse the subscribers. It was a big thing for the Great Western, as hundreds of people came from every direction over its road to see the game, and reduced fares were promised by the officers of the company. That all did not receive this favor is evident by the following card that appeared in the Spectator of Oct. 17, 1859 : “Several gentlemen who came up from Oakville by the midday train today, for the purpose of seeing the cricket match, beg leave to express their thanks to the responsible officer of the Great Western railway company for the discrimination used in refusing them return tickets, while the other passengers from Toronto, on the same train, had return tickets.” Perhaps there are some of the old residents of Oakville now living who were in the party that was treated so shabbily by the railway company.


        In the year 1859, the Canadian synod of the Church of England recommended that an improvement be made in congregational singing, and to carry out the plan, each congregation in Hamilton subscribed a portion of the expense of opening a singing school in the Temperance hall, with Mr. Clarke as the appointed teacher. The admission to the class was free to members of the subscribing congregations. It was deplored by the movers that sacred music was cultivated by so few, and that the congregations had little more to do than turn around and stare at the small choir that assumed part of the devotions. There were no paid choirs in Hamilton then.

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Saturday Musings Spectator October 08, 1904

        The second annual provincial fair in Upper Canada was held in Hamilton on Thursday, Oct. 7, 1847, just 57 years ago yesterday. As usual, the weather was in an unsettled condition, being cool, rainy and stormy, and the officials of the society were in anything but a happy mood. Visitors were in attendance from all parts of the province, and as the hotel accommodation was meager, private citizens had to open their houses to entertain the strangers. In those days, the fair was only of short duration, lasting not more than two days, so the visitors came the day before. On Wednesday afternoon, the steamer City of Toronto arrived at the wharf at the foot of James street, and as it entered the bay, the people uptown were notified by the ringing of bells, and many went to the bay to meet his Excellency the Governor-General and the distinguished retinue with him. Col. Gourlay was marshal of the day, and on arrival of the steamer at the wharf, a procession was formed to escort the governor-general and his party to the fair grounds. And what a procession it was! Nowadays it would take something greater than a provincial to get such a turnout. It may be interesting to present the list of societies and the eminent bodies represented, and we give the order of procession as we find it in an ancient copy of the Spectator:
        Constables of the Gore District
        High Constable
        Deputy Marshals
        St. Andrew’s Society
        St. Patrick’s Society
        St. George’s Society
        Highland Society
        His honor he mayor, with His excellency The Governor-General and Lady Elgin.
        His Excellency’s suite in carriages.
        The honourable, the Speaker of the house of Assembly
        The chief justice.
        The president, vice-president and members of the Agricultural society
        Members of the executive council
        Members of the legislative council
        Members of the house of assembly
        The district judge and members of the bar
        The high sheriff
        The warden of the district
        District council
        City council
        Grand marshal on horseback
        The Abolition society
        The police.
  Lord Elgin, being a Scotchman of the Highland society, was accorded the honor of a personal escort to his Excellency. By the time the procession was formed, the rain poured down in torrents, and continued until Young’s property was reached. On the corner of King and James streets was a triumphal arch, erected with evergreens, reading “Welcome to the Earl and Duchess of Elgin” On Thursday, welcoming addresses from the city council and the Mechanics’ Institute were presented to the governor-general in the council chamber by the mayor, Sir Allan Macnab and Dr. Billings. The afternoon was spent at the fair grounds, and at five o’clock supper was served by the late George Inch in a temporary pavilion on the court house square at which more than a thousand persons were guests. As the governor-general entered the pavilion, he was heartily cheered. Later, when Lady Elgin arrived, she received even a more loyal welcome. After the feast came the toasts and speeches. Lord Elgin made a rattling good speech, in which he was complimentary to this blessed city and made every Hamiltonian his sworn friend from that moment. The Hon. Robert Baldwin, who was one of the most reviled men in public life in those days, heaped coals of fire upon his enemies by proposing the health of the Press, in which he said very nice things about the fourth estate. He exhibited a copy of the Canada Gazette, published in 1796, being the first newspaper printed in Upper Canada. It was about the size of a sheet of foolscap. George Brown, of the Toronto Globe, and Robert Smiley of the Spectator, were called upon to respond, but by the time that part of the toast list had been reached a number of the guests had partaken of more than their share of the drinkables and they became so noisy that the distinguished editors could not be heard. Friday closed the festivities and the fair, and His Excellency held a levee in the city hall, where the notables of the town and others were presented to him.


          It may be of interest to give the names of a few of the ancient Hamiltonians who took part in the second Provincial Fair held in Upper Canada: Capt. Stewart, M. O’Reilly, Col. Gourlay, W. A. Harvey, Rev. J. G. Geddes, George W. Baker, Mr. McKinstry, Daniel M. Gilkinson, Archibald Gilkinson, Capt. McDougall, George S. Tiffany, Edmund Ritchie, J. T. Gilkinson, D. C. Gunn, D. Nelligan, Rev. Dr. Ryerson, E. Stinson, Dr. Duggan, Dr. Craigie, W. E. Murray, Col. Robert Land, Dr. G. O’Reilly, David Thompson, Hugh B. Wilson, Hugh C. Baker, G. Duggan, J. Larkin, D. C. VanNorman, Capt. Armstrong, William Gage, Thomas Lottridge, Mr. McKeand, E. Batersby, Phillip Sphn, Jacob Bastedo, C. H. Stokol, John Applegarth.


          There was not much money given away in prizes, for all of the awards filled less than four columns of the Spectator, set in large type. Among the successful competitors, Hamilton had a few. John Smith took two second prizes in Durhams, and Mr. Peleg third in brood mares, a Hamilton firm was awarded the first premium on a horse-power thresher and separatory; Gurney & Carpenter had the best corn and cob crusher; William Davidson and Edward McGiverin, the old-time harness makers, took all the prizes in that class of goods, and Clement & Moore made the best sides of upper and sole leather and tanned calfskins; Joseph Mills topped them all in fur hats; J. B. Dayfoot was awarded all the prizes in shoemaking, and James Reid had the finest display of cabinet ware. In garden products Hamilton’s amateur agriculturists made a fine display, and got their share of the prizes. Robert Bleazard was evidently one of Hamilton’s pioneer manufacturers in woodenware, for he is credited with quite a number of awards. Gurney & Co. made the best cooking stoves. Juson & Co. took all the prizes in cut nails. In the ladies’ department, Mrs. J. Martyn and Miss Ryerson had the best raised worsted work; Mrs. S. Whipple, woolen socks and mittens, and Mrs. D. C. VanNorman embroidery and wax flowers. In fine arts, Mrs. VanNorman  and Miss Thornton excelled, and our old friend, Joseph Faulkner, made perfect bricks. In the extra department, Robert Ecclestone took the cake in confectionery, and Mrs. Galbraith had the finest handmade lace veil and worked lace bag. Hamilton’s old-timers were proud of their handiwork, and its mothers and daughters were not only skilful in the management of domestic duties, but also in fine arts and in the useful and ornamental.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

1905 - 12 - 16 Saturday Musings (Partial)

 Saturday Musings (Partial Column Transcribed)
December 16, 1905
An amusing incident occurred in the court room in this city nearly a half century ago, during the Wentworth fall assizes. While S. B. Freeman was addressing the jury, in one of the most eloquent portions of his speech – and there was no man at the Canadian bar in those days who could hold a candle to him for eloquence – he saw a broad grin on the faces of the jury; then the twelve good men and true burst out in hearty laughter. The learned counsel seemed for the moment to be nonplussed, not understanding the cause of such unseemly merriment. On turning to the bench, the reason was self-evident. The chief justice had retired to his room for a moment, and there in the official chair, in all his majesty, sat Bob Innes, a simple-minded fellow, who was a well-known harmless character in Hamilton. Bob looked down on Mr. Freeman and said  : “Go on, Sam, it’s alright; I’ll see that justice is done.” The members of the bar, the jury and the auditors were convulsed with laughter, in which the good-natured attorney joined, even though it was at his own expense. When the judge returned, Bob Innes did not feel inclined to vacate his position on the bench, and it required a number of constables to remove him. It was some minutes ere the court settled down to its customary solemnity and the eloquent pleader was to continue his speech.