Friday, 24 June 2011

1905-11-18 Saturday Musings

Saturday Musings Spectator November 18, 1905
        How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child, or words to that effect. Parents with young children look forward to the time when the boy or girl will become their mainstay. Parents never think it’s a burden to work and provide for their children, and are always ready to make any sacrifice rather than they should suffer for a moment. To the credit of our humanity, it can be said that if a majority of the children remember the obligations they owe to their parents, and under no circumstances forget those who cared for them in their childhood days. To this, however, there are some sad exceptions. Talk with Relief Officer McMenemy and he can tell you stories of parents in old age being forgotten by children and left to the care of public charity. Many years ago, a man was engaged in business in Hamilton, who prospered fairly well, and he might have done better had he only taken care of some part of his earnings. He was married and had a family, and while his children were growing up, there was nothing too good for them. His boys were given a good education in the public schools and business college, and were all prepared to make their way in the world. No money was spared in their education or in providing them with many of the luxuries of life. The boys went out into the world and prospered. Not so with the father. He built up a strong appetite for intoxicating liquors and in due course of time, the foundation was knocked from under his business. Look in the old directories that were published in the fifties and there you will find his name as one of the prosperous businessmen of the city. Whiskey drinking and business success never go hand in hand; you must love one and despise the other. A red nose and a bright eye never go together. The harder the man drank, the quicker his business went down. His good wife, who had prayed for his reformation and had suffered all the misery of living with a drunkard, one day laid down and died. The burden of life was too much for her. She could have bourn with poverty caused by misfortune in business, but to be dragged down from comfort and affluence through the depraved appetite of the man she loved in her youth and the father of their children was too much for the weary soul. The home was broken up and the boys went out, never to return. The business kept dwindling down but he only drank the more. Did you ever know a man who could not get a wife, even if he wanted one? Our old Hamiltonian, even though he drank deeply, was able to get another wife, for he still had his business and some property. He was insured in one of the fraternal orders and also was a member of other lodges.


          The crash came one day and the sheriff closed the business house, and the man who had a mortgage on his real estate foreclosed. The second wife, who had married him for a home, gathered up what she could of the remnants and left. Deserted by his children, the wife of his youth lying out in God’s acre at the end of York street, and wife No. 2 enjoying freedom from a drunkard’s home, he went down step by step until even old associates, and men who patted him on the back and called him a good fellow so long as he had a dollar to pass over the bar, dropped him. Only a few stood by him, and they were real friends indeed. His policy of insurance provided that after a certain age, a part of it would be available for his support, and it it that today that pays his board. The sons he had educated and spent money on lavishly in his days of prosperity, before whiskey had downed him, were appealed to by Relief Officer McMenemy to send even the smallest pittance to help their father to keep out of the House of Refuge, but their ears and their hearts were closed. The wife found out that he had a sum of money to his credit in the fraternal insurance order, and she has been making great efforts to secure it, but has failed. The old man still drinks whiskey when he can get it and people will give a man whiskey when they will not give him bread – and now and then his bilious habits run him into trouble with the police. Half a century ago that poor unfortunate who is now down at the lowest depths, was a prominent figure in social and business circles in Hamilton. Strong drink dragged him down from the heights of prosperity to be a gutter drunkard. His life is a lesson that might well be studied by young men who are educating their appetites to a love of intoxicants. There is nothing surer in this world than poverty and a drunkard’s grave for the man or woman who begins life in moderate dissipation. Appetite grows quickly, and before one knows it, the inevitable has come. A man died in Muscatine, Iowa, the other night of delirium tremens. When the reporters called the next morning, the wife and ten children were gathered about the kitchen fire. When asked for particulars, the released wife took pencil and paper and wrote te following for the reporters :
          “Please do not say that the family deeply mourn for their dead. For years he has been husband and father only in name. For affection given, only blows and curses have been given in return. It is better for him that he is dead and better for us. Now that the long dark chapter is ended, do not make us hypocrites by publishing that which is not true.”
          My tippling friend, save your good wife the necessity of writing such a terrible note for the Hamilton papers.


          In Charles Durand’s reminiscences, one finds many interesting items about the early days in and around Hamilton. It was the custom in the first settlement of this country to bury the dead on their farms. There were no public cemeteries. One among the first burial in Hamilton was the block on the southeast corner of King and Wellington streets – now owned by the First Methodist Church – and among the old headstones will be found names of people who died early in the century. Many were buried in fields or small nooks in farms. Durand’s mother was buried near the home under the mountain ridge, and George Hamilton, who afterward bought the Durand farm, also sleeps in the same spot. One of the ancient owners of the Peter H. Hamilton farm by the name of Wedge was buried near where Wm. Hendrie’s residence stands. Out at Dundurn, Sir Allan Macnab had a family graveyard where he and his son are buried. In Dundas, there was no cemetery prior to 1835. Old Mr. Leslie, who kept a drug and book store in that village in the early days was buried on the hill to the south on the Hamilton road, and a number of the ancient citizens of Dundas were buried on the same hill. In 1832, a young man named Baby, belonging to a respectable French family, committed suicide by taking laudanum. He was the first body buried on the south hill. There is no more beautiful spot than the Hamilton cemetery, out on the Burlington heights, and since it has passed under the care of the cemetery board, it has become a credit to the city. There is no more sacred spot than where our beloved sleep. In the course of time when all the old fences are removed from the lots and the graves are leveled and sodded so that they can be kept neatly, then will the cemetery comfort the hearts of those who mourn and not be repulsive when one visits the graves of friends. Across the bay, the Holy Sepulcher cemetery is finely located and its maintenance is creditable to the church that controls it.


          In that venerable copy of the Hamilton Free Press, printed in 1836, of which we made mention in last Saturday’s musings, we find a prophecy which will read queer in these advanced days of the twentieth century. The prophet believed the time not far distant when steamships would run from Halifax to Valencia, on the coast of Ireland, in less than a week, and guests from New York might dine in London on invitations of a fortnight’s standing. This has been more than realized, for the ocean greyhounds now make the passage in five days, and even less. His prophetic eye could see the steam cars running from New York to Boston, to Portland and then on to Halifax. Canada had at the time about twelve to fourteen miles of railway, from Laprarie to St. John’s. With these great facilities of railroads and steamships, he prophesied that foreign travel would increase, and if the civilized world would only live in peace, its increased prosperity and wealth would supply unexampled means. Canada was then an undeveloped country, and had the Free Press prophet lived till now, he would be overwhelmed with the great mining industries; and, getting down to Hamilton, the manufactories in the northeast end would take away his breath and he would thank the good Lord for the protective tariff that has accomplished such marvelous results. Nations, said the seer of ’36, will yet become acquainted with one another, and feel the force of each others’ opinion, as districts of the same country had in times past. It will be a mighty power, and must be beneficial. It must act upon a broad scale, and not be, like village opinion, a vexatious and almost personal interference with private life. It must mainly be sound and wholesome; it cannot skulk into lanes and bypaths, like a penny newspaper; its rebuke will be flung abroad upon the winds of heaven, and no noble act of government that can bear the light need fear it. It must be powerful. Let every unrighteous government fear something more immediately than the faint echoes of distant history. Let the outraged rights of humanity speak in thunder tones from every quarter of the heavens. Ah! Those old dreamers of three quarters of a century ago lived in an era of Arcadian simplicity. Bossism rules our politics of today and the thoughtful men leave the irresponsible to fight out the battle. Let all summoning voice call the oppressors of humanity before the bar of public opinion to answer.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

1905-10-14 Saturday Musings

Saturday Musings Spectator October 14, 1905

          The old boys and girls who attended the Central school along in the fifties will remember William H. King, an attractive-looking young fellow who came from the neighbourhood of Brighton and was engaged as a teacher in the Central under Dr. John H. Sangster. King was fond of reading theological works when a youth, and his parents were hopeful that he might enter the church, and to that end spared no money in giving him a good education. But he fell in love with a farmer's daughter and contracted an early marriage, which turned his thoughts from theology to the practical ways of earning a livelihood. He entered the Normal school at Toronto and prepared himself for a teacher, and upon his graduation, there being a demand for Normal graduates, he was selected by Dr. Sangster as one of the Central corps of teachers. While teaching in this city he began the study of the homeopathic system of medicine, went to Philadelphia and took a college course and settled down at his old home in Brighton to practice his profession. King was unfortunate in his selection of a wife; she was inferior to him intellectually, and while he was advancing educationally, she kept in the old ruts of indifference. One child was born to them, which only lived a short time, and as his wife was about to become a mother a second time he killed her in a most heartless manner. King had become infatuated with a handsome, vivacious and educated young woman, and he felt he must have her as his wife. To clear the way for his marriage to her he administered arsenic in repeated doses to his wife. After giving the arsenic for some time, he changed his plan and tried chloroform., but in his wife's enfeebled condition from the effects 0f the arsenic, the chloroform proved too much for her and she died under the influence of the first dose. He was arrested and tried and found guilty of murder, and on June 9, 1859, was hanged publicly at Cobourg, over 5,000 persons witnessing the execution. The sheriff who had charge of the execution and the minister who attended King to the gallows had been playmates with him in his boyhood days. King professed sorrow for his crime when they were about to put the rope around his neck, but he attempted to justify his act by aspersing the virtue of his dead wife. Two or three of the teachers who taught in the Central with King will remember him well. One who was present at his execution described him as a fine-looking man, with a full beard and mustache. He was dressed in black, looked the gentleman, and there was nothing in his appearance that would lead one to suspect him of the crime of murder.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

1905-10-07 Saturday Musings

Saturday Musings Spectator October 07, 1905
 We have worked together away back in the ‘50’s, my old friend and I, setting bourgeois type at twenty cents a thousand on the old Rochester American. He could “stick type” with the best of them, and his “string” at the end of the week measured up among the highest; but imagine if you can the yards of bourgeois one would have to get up in a week, at the union price of twenty cents a thousand, to pay board and wear decent clothes. And then when pay day came we got half we earned in cash and the other half we had to trade out of the store that advertised. Many years later we met in a western city. The years had dealt gently with him. His clothes were good, of the latest pattern and most fashionable cut. His watch chain was the heaviest of the heavy, and as fine as the purest gold. It surpassed in richness the gold chain that the King hung about the neck of the young prophet Daniel. His diamond pin twinkled like the evening star in a summer sky. His shirt bosom was as white as an infant’s soul, but his voice was sad and sorrowful. His boots were highly polished, and casually glancing at him from the ground up, one would swear that life for him had been one sweet song. It was a pleasant meeting for both of us, for we had not met since the day we parted in Rochester in ’52, when the union made a demand for twenty-three cents a thousand and as a result of our pernicious activity, both of us lost our cases. Tom drifted westward and I turned my toes eastward. The war of 1861 came on. He enlisted in an Illinois regiment and I sought glory at the cannon’s mouth with an Ohio regiment. While in the army, Tom spent his leisure hours studying the fascinating game of poker, and by the end of the war he was an expert. No more type setting for him. He was a cool-headed fellow, gentlemanly in his habits, but a typical gambler of the higher class. We were sitting in the rotunda of the hotel, talking over old times. He had never married; the girl he loved in his youth turned him down and married a man that made life miserable for her. Poor Tom was in a reminiscent mood, and tapping his boot with his natty ivory-headed cane, slipped down in his chair to give the base of his spinal column a rest, pulled his hat over his eyes, and languidly talked of his past life. He had given up the printing business because of the slavish life of setting type in a morning newspaper office. There was an infatuation about cards that drew him on, and as he was alone in the world, crippled by a rebel bullet during the war, for which Uncle Sam allowed him a pension, it mattered little to him what avocation he followed. Naturally he drifted into the story of his life as a gambler.
        “Faro,” said he, “is a fascinating game. In all the games for gambling it has no equal. A man is a fool to play, but it catches the oldest of ‘em. The chances, on the closest calculations, are three to one on each play at the outset against the player, but I would rather run that chance than set twenty cent bourgeois as we did in Rochester. Occasionally the player strikes a winner, but we only win to lose. The most prosperous gamblers die in the gutter – unknown, forgotten and deserted. I wonder if fate has such luck in store for me! Luck only smiles on us for a brief season, and when fickle fortune deserts us, she never roosts over our doors again. Few of us are wise enough to save in luck in order to live in a rainy day. The pension Uncle Sam gives me and the soldiers’ home will always stand between me and a pauper’s home. But while we live, we live; and, after all, that is all there is in life. The hereafter is a chance, and the old man has put up the cards so well that nobody has called the turn. It’s a cat-hop at best. Gamblers are not utterly heartless. It makes my heart ache to see how many young men are drawn into the whirlpool and down to ruin. They begin betting on a game of baseball. They play the horses, and while they may make a killing now and then, the bookies generally get all the money there is in it. They get caught at a friendly game of draw, and in an evil hour try to even up on faro. They often win on the first venture, but it is a terrible success. They always pay one thousand per cent on the first winning, and often they pay life and blood in the investment. Some day there is a reckoning; they have tampered with their employer’s till or doctored the day book and ledger to cover a shortage in cash, and they skip out, leaving wife and family, or father and mother to bear the disgrace of a dishonest husband or son. The first winning opens a fascinating road to hell; builds up a barrier behind them which few ever climb over to reformation.
        “A little sentimental, ain’t I?” Let’s go and have something. You don’t drink? Good. Barkeep, give me a whiskey punch light. I’m blue today, Dick. Gambling and its attendant excitement burn all the stamina out of a man. I wish I had never touched a card. Better for me had I stuck to the cases, even though it was setting solid bourgeois at twenty cents a thousand. But I am a born gambler. It’s in me; it always was, even when we used to “jeff” for pennies in the old American office, and I’m in it till the deal is out. I hate to see young men of promise at a gaming table or in a pool room chasing the ponies. They have wives and mothers who love them; they have good situations, and employers who trust them; the day they set foot in a gambling room, their fate is sealed. I have a case in mind now of a young fellow who was agent for a prominent firm and commanded a salary of $5,000 a year. In traveling, he got lonely; he played poker for amusement when business was over. He fooled with the tiger and found himself torn to pieces. To boost up his courage he drank too much budge. Today he is an outcast – drunken, broken, deserted. Only one out of thousands of cases. His wife was brought down from comfort to poverty, and she died of a broken heart. I would advise every young man and old man never to cross the threshold of a gambling house. I have made big winnings and I have had big losings. I was broke and down, but I am up in funds again. If I owned a good country printing office and had a wife and children, you would never catch me gambling again. But I’m in it and will be there till the taps sound “Lights out!” Good-bye Dick. This reunion brings back old times in Rochester when we set solid bourgeois for twenty cents a thousand.
        On the morning of July, 7, 1859, John Mitchell was hanged in the jail yard in this city for the murder of Eileen Welch, a woman with whom he had been living. In January the couple came to this city from Toronto and secured lodgings in a tavern on York street. A few mornings after their arrival here, Mitchell and the woman had a row, and the wife of the tavern keeper and the servant girl heard screams and ran up to the room, where they found Mitchell and the woman struggling. Mitchell had cut the woman's throat from ear to ear with a razor, and she died within a few minutes. Mitchell came from Limerick, Ireland, where he had left a wife and children. He was arrested for the murder, and at the next assize court was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. A girl had been born to the unfortunate couple, and on the night before the execution Mitchell asked to see the child. For the first time since the murder, he displayed sorrow for his crime. The execution took place between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, and even at that early hour fully 3,000 people had gathered in the vicinity of the court house. The housetops were covered with a morbid crowd, anxious to get a glimpse of the allows. Only those on the housetops could see into the jail yard, and after the drop fell they could not see the victim. This was the first execution that had taken place in Hamilton for twenty years. During the months of May and June of that year, no less than seven men were executed for murders committed in this section of Canada.

        That Hamilton has had to fight for its existence from its incorporation down to the present is an old, old story. When the building of a line of railway from Niagara to the Detroit river was first conceived nearly 70 years ago, although it was Hamilton men and Hamilton money that worked up the plan, rival points did everything  to obstruct it, even going so far as to appeal to legislative influence to sidetrack the city. But the men who were laying the foundations of this great manufacturing center were not to be defeated in their purpose, and the Great Western was built on the original lines. It was the first great through line built in Canada, and it made money from the start. The city of Hamilton took stock and borrowed the money to pay for it, and it was not many years before the dividends were larger than the interest. In an evil hour, the city council disposed of the railway bonds to speculators, and sold them on credit and what power the city had in the board of directors was lost forever. The first move made by the Great Western to the injury of Hamilton was when the shops were transferred to London. Then the company struck a body blow at the wholesale grocery trade in this city by exorbitant freight charges. On all goods denominated general groceries the charges were as follows:
        From Hamilton to London, per 100 lbs..............................30c
        From Montreal to London, per 100 lbs..............................25c
        From Buffalo to London, per 100 lbs.................................15c
        Such discrimination substantially put Hamilton in a hole, and its wholesale merchants were unable to compete for the trade which rightfully belonged to them on the point of location. The trade of London was entirely lost to Hamilton, as very naturally its merchants would not stand for the increase in freight charges. In the old days of wagon roads, before the Great Western was built, Hamilton was the natural source of supply for the merchants of Western Canada,, and at almost any hour of the day, lines of loaded wagons, with merchandise of every description, headed out of the city in every direction. It was then that Hamilton was in its glory as the great wholesale center, and while no great fortunes were made – for men did not make great fortunes in those days – its merchants were as solid as the rock in our far-famed mountain heights. It is unfortunately true that Hamilton has got the worst of it from nearly every great enterprise it has brought into being. It is about time the city had cut its eye teeth. Even in the piping of natural gas into the city, the consumers must pay a higher price for it than do towns where longer miles have to be laid from the base of supplies. And so it is with all the blessings that our natural location have endowed the city with. The next thing some company of financiers will be getting a monopoly of the bay. 
That grand old man of the Salvation army, Gen Booth, prayed as follows the other day :
        And now, dear Lord, bless the reporters, whose nimble pens catch every word almost before it is uttered. Like Thyself, they are omnipresent and almost omnipotent. If we take the wings of the morning and fly off to the uttermost parts of the earth, they are there. They meet us in the jungles of Africa, they way lay us even on the Atlantic ocean, and when we tread the prairies of North America, behold! they are there. May their light and their goodness be equal to their power, and in the general assembly of heaven, let no reporter be excluded.

1902-05-02 Saturday Musings

Saturday Musings Spectator May 03, 1902

“Marriage is a solemn matter, but single life is much more so,” says Rev. Thomas B. Hyde, Cincinnati, Ohio. What with wars killing off the men, and the majority of births being girls, it is getting to be a serious question where the husbands are to come from. The last Dominion census shows that Hamilton has a population of 3.000 more females than males; and the chances are, when the footings for the whole Dominion are given, the same preponderance will exist in nearly all the cities and towns. The young men of the present day certainly have a large circle of fine-looking girls from which to make choice of life partners, and they are responsible for the dearth of marriage. Only give the girls a chance, and there will not be an eligible man in Hamilton without a wife at the end of sixty days. But the poor girls cannot propose, nor can they even hint to the young men that married life is more desirable without being charged with forwardness and immodesty. The chances are that there are dozens of young men in Hamilton today who would be glad to have homes of their own, and a good wife to make life one perpetual round of happiness, if they could only muster up courage to pop the question. Married life is the natural condition for healthy men and women, and it seems to be a crime against nature for so many bright young people to be living apart when a little finesse on the part of the girl could straighten out the tangle and create an immediate demand for marriage licenses and the services of a minister of the gospel.
Have you ever noticed the crowds that promenade King and James streets on Saturday night? The large majority are young people who are enjoying themselves at the close of the week’s work. It is their night off, and nothing is allowed to interfere with the pleasure of the promenade. The oldest inhabitant cannot remember when the custom began. Man may come and man may go, but the Saturday night promenade goes on forever. Away back, when the sexes in Hamilton were more equally divided than now, every boy had his girl to walk with, but nowadays one meets a cluster of girls wandering to and fro by themselves, and off in another gang is a lot of young men. It looks unnatural to say the least. The trouble with the young men of the present day is either backwardness in making the acquaintance of the girls, or a selfish spirit that fears the expense of keeping a wife. And it may be that the girls are not altogether without fault, for since they have been making their own way in the world, a feeling of independence has grown with their years, and they object to the cares and responsibilities of married life, unless they can begin house-keeping in an elegantly furnished house, with a piano in the parlor and a girl to do the kitchen work. Of course, all girls are not like those, but the young man, earning only small wages, does not feel like taking the risk.
The truth of the matter is the boys and girls of the present generation want a little more of the get-up-and-go spirit of their fathers and mothers, who married early and then went to work to accumulate enough of this world’s goods to keep them comfortable as they journeyed down the western slope of life. The old stagers who lived in Hamilton long before this great family journal was ushered into existence tell us of the good primitive days when young men began to brush up to the girls as soon as they became of age; and hat a young girl of eighteen who had not rejected half a dozen lovers was almost rare enough for the parks board to put into the museum of curiosities out in Dundurn Castle. Marriage licenses those days cost $1 each, but cared a young man; he could afford to pay it, as people did not fool away their money on bridal tours, but remained at home and began life in modestly furnished houses.
But things have changed since Hamilton passed the fifty thousand mark, and instead of every girl having at least one lover all to herself, the census shows that the city has a surplus of nearly three thousand women. Marriage may be a solemn matter, as the Cincinnati parson says, but certainly single life is much more so as viewed from the standpoint of the girls who are passing through the third decade of life without any brilliant prospect of making some bashful son of Adam happy. If the Spectator could only hit upon a plan o change the present order of things, we would gladly do so, but fate has placed this whole machinery of life in the hands of unmarried young men and women, and they must work it out as best they can. Of late years there has been a great deal said about marriage being a failure, but the facts are it is nip and tuck nowadays to find a young couple with nerve enough to get married. The young men must see to it that the surplus of unmarried girls is reduced. Hamilton wants more homes and fewer boarding houses.

1905-11-11 Saturday Musings

Saturday Musings Spectator November 11, 1905
About two o’clock on the morning of August 30, 1858, an alarm of fire was sounded for a small house fire on Catharine street. It was an incendiary fire, for it had been started in the weather-boarding. The hose company was prompt in getting there and laying out a line of hose, and the blaze was soon extinguished. The fire had the effect to draw the department to Catharine street, and while the hose was still stretched out on the ground from the hydrant to the building, a second alarm pealed out. This time it was the Catholic church on Park street. It took the firemen nearly half an hour to reel up the hose and run to the second alarm, and in that time the fire in the church had made good headway. It broke out under the stairs that led up to the gallery and soon burst out of the windows, along the eaves, and up the steeple. The heat prevented the ringing of the bell in the church tower, and this delayed the giving of the alarm. The old church was built of lumber, and the interior fittings being of the same material, the organ and the spire were soon enveloped in flames. It was a costly illumination for the blaze lit up the whole city. His lordship Bishop Farrell, saw that there was no hope of saving the building, so he directed Harcourt Bull, the editor of the Gazette, who was a member of the hook and ladder company, and a few firemen to the place where the safe was with the altar plate and sacred vessels, and it was moved, but not until the safe was so heated that the vessels could not be handled without gloves. By this time, the hose company arrived and connections were made with the hydrants in the neighbourhood, but the fire had gained such headway that the sacred edifice was doomed. All that could be done was to save the school building adjoining the church, not so much as a pane of glass being broken. The people had to look on while the church was burning, notwithstanding the new waterworks system poured in streams of water. The bell tolled its own requiem as the steeple came tottering down. Just before the fall of the belfry, the lofty cross on its top made a magnificent spectacle, like the pillar of fire we read of in Bible history. There was no insurance on the property, which included valuable paintings, the bishop’s chair, and the fine organ. The loss was estimated at between $15,000 and $20,000.


After the fire, it was the desire of the Catholic community to build a cathedral on Upper James street, on the lot known as the Priests’ Field. It was donated to the church by Father Gordon for a cathedral site, and it was a fine location. Corktown was the home of the Catholic population and it was a far walk from there down to the foot of Park street. Bishop Farrell, however, decided that the church should be rebuilt on the old site, and that ended the discussion. The Irish in those days were proverbially rich in children but poor in purse, and their fellow citizens of other denominations generally went to the rescue and gave liberally toward the building fund. A public meeting was held in the hall of the Mechanics’ Institute, which was presided over by the bishop. On the platform were the mayor and a number of gentlemen, lay and clerical, of other denominations. A number of short speeches were made, when on motion of the mayor of the city, a subscription was opened for the purpose of building a new church. A goodly sum was raised at the meeting, and a committee was appointed to solicit subscriptions throughout the city.


No time was lost in clearing away the debris and beginning work on the erection of the new cathedral. On Sunday, Oct. 9, 1859, the ceremony of laying the cornerstone took place, in the presence of between 3,000 and 4,000 people. The services began at half past ten in the morning and were not finished till half past two in the afternoon. A temporary altar had been erected at the south end of the church, where Bishop Farrell, assisted by the Very Rev. E. Gordon, Rev. A. Carayon, Rev. Mr. Holzer, Rev. Mr. O’Reilly, and the Revs. Mehutt and Sherry, of Hamilton, conducted the service. In the cornerstone were deposited American and Canadian coins, a copy of the Spectator, and a document in Latin and English, reciting the events of the occasion. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Farrell, and the Rev. Mr. Edward Maginnis delivered the sermon. Father Gordon, assisted by Revs. Carayon and Mehutt, celebrated high mass. The people were liberal in their contributions, over $1,000 being collected.


In connection with the burning of the church, some imaginative newspaper correspondent in Toronto sent what he called a “Romantic Story,” to the New York Times, in which he told of a “beautiful girl, the only daughter of a most respectable and loving father,” who, having entered a preparatory society in the church, fell in love with a young man, who in a spirit of revenge, because the young lady was not permitted to see him, set fire to the church. The story was so skillfully constructed that a number of Canadian papers copied it, among others the Montreal Pilot, the editor of which gravely said that the facts stated might be the means of discovering might be the means of discovering the incendiary.


One Sunday morning, about three o’clock, a few months before the burning of the Catholic church, the fire alarm called out the department to a fire in the east end. The location was on West avenue, below Cannon, where three new frame houses were in the course of construction. But few houses were built in that neighbourhood at the time, and the three mentioned were isolated, standing out alone. There were no sidewalks , and the roadways were the open fields. The new houses were open and filled with shavings and other combustible matter incident to the building. One of the houses had been fired, and it was but a few minutes till the flames lit up the sky in the east. By the time the firemen got there the building was beyond salvation, and as there was no water for the engines, the men fought the fire and kept it from burning other houses. While the firemen were at work, another alarm was sounded and Chief Hugh Boyd and the department had a run for the west end. Near the Catholic church was a carpenter shop, filled with inflammable material, and this had been set on fire, no doubt with the intention of the flames getting such headway that the whole block would be endangered before the arrival of the firemen. Incendiarism was rife in Hamilton about that time, and there was no question but that both fires were the work of the same gang.


The old-time bakers in Hamilton were about as wicked as bakers run generally, and to save the bread eaters from short weight the council in August 1859, passed an ordinance providing that “all loaves hereafter sold must be quartern loaves of four pounds; and half quartern of two pounds. No allowance will, in future, be made for short weight in flat loaves called (ILLEGIBLE) bread.

The old-timers of half a century ago will remember the Gore as it was in those days, a dumping ground for the stores on King street. It was a sorry-looking place, and although efforts were every year to have something done to improve the condition, the city council was not certain of the (ILLEGIBLE) by which the city owned the Gore, and did not deem it advisable to extend any money on it till the legal cobwebs had been brushed away. Mr. Robb, a civil engineer, submitted a plan for the proposed ornamentation of the Gore, which in addition to a fountain was added a clock tower on the site of the old town pump, facing James street. The clock tower and fountain were not to be at the expense of the city, for private individuals guaranteed the necessary funds. Robb’s idea did not take with the council, so the clock was allowed to run down. A number of schemes were proposed to turn the mud hole into an ornamental park. One was to have the waterworks commission take the park under its care, and expend $1,200 in beautifying it; another was that from appropriation made to each of the five wards in the city for streets and sidewalks $400 be applied to the park. There was great contention, especially as the Prince of Wales was expected in 1860 and there was a desire to have the work done so that the Gore would be in a presentable condition. Finally the title to the Gore was established, and then the improvements began. The fountain in the centre was a donation from the Bank of British North America, and the drinking fountain was the gift of Archibald Kerr, a retired merchant, who was then living in Scotland. When it was decided to redeem the Gore and turn it into a park and flower garden, Adam Brown, then chairman of the waterworks commission, wrote to Mr. Kerr, suggesting that he perpetuate his name by donating a drinking fountain to take the place of the old town pump. Mr. Kerr promptly sent back answer that he would gladly pay the cost of it. The upper part of the fountain was cast at a foundry in Glasgow, under the direction of Mr. Kerr, who gave it his personal attention, and was shipped to Hamilton. The fountain in the centre of the park, presented by the two banks was modeled by Meakins and Sons and cast at the Gurney foundry. It was designed by engineer Robb. Adam Brown and his fellow commissioners carefully invested the money appropriated by the city and the donations by the citizens, and today the Gore park is evidence of the generosity of some of the men who lived in Hamilton in 1859.


Talk about Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop (ILLEGIBLE) not in it with the auction rooms of that veteran crier Tom Burrows, whose life history almost runs parallel with the history of this city. Not that Tom is an old man by any means, for he is as frisky as a young colt and is up-to-date in everything except that he lives in the memories of the past. Ask him about men and things of 50 years ago and he has the answer at the end of his tongue. But about that old curiosity shop of his, one can find almost anything there from the old brass candlestick and the tray and snuffers to the modern gas and electric fixtures. Evidently the old man hates to part with any of his treasures, for if you go through his rooms, away off in a nook will be some ancient piece of furniture, probably made by “Hickory” clark when he came to Hamilton early in the ‘30’s, and had his cabinet shop on the corner of John and Rebecca streets, which was afterward converted into a theatre. The old boys and the old girls will remember that theatre when John Nicholson, of Toronto, was the manager, and when Couldock and Denman Thompson and Simcoe Lee and Charlotte Nickinson, and many others who were famous in those days and since, strutted their brief hour on stage to go hence like ships that pass in the night. And then Hamilton had its ambitious young amateurs who were competent, in their minds, to take any part from Macbeth down to the characters in Box and Cox. Old people are garrulous when the dreams of the past are resurrected, and the writer of these musings must not forget that he started to tell about Tom Burrows’ old curiosity shop. Keep to the text, Old Muser; keep to the text. It is not the purpose of these reminiscences to give a free puff to Tom Burrows. Bless you, the old man doesn’t need it, for as long as he lives that old curiosity shop will live and people will go to him with their joys and their sorrows, and he will continue to be the great auctioneer that learned his business under Thomas Best more than half a century ago. It is not in the old furniture and bric-a-brac that the curiosity shop excels, for in the thousands of sales he has conducted in this city, he has picked up rare books and copies of old newspapers that have long since passed from the memory of the oldest inhabitant. Once the old man undertook to catalogue and take stock of what was stored in that old curiosity shop, and after working for days in making up a list, he came to the conclusion that the job was an endless one and that the game was not worth the candle, so he gave it up and concluded that when he was safely stowed away at the end of York street, his children and their children might have all they wanted in dividing up the stuff among them.


The other day Mr. Burrows came across a venerable copy of the Hamilton Free Press, probably the only one that is in existence. The date of the paper is Aug. 4, 1836. It was a new paper for it is volume one, number 5. The advertisement of the paper reads, in part : “The Free Press is published at Hamilton Gore District, U. C., on Thursday of each week by ___ Smith, editor and proprietor.” The subscription price was one pound a year payable either in advance or at the time each number was delivered. Single papers, 5d. There were but five short local advertisements in the paper, which is evidence that the business men of those days had not learned the value of the priners’ ink. It was four pages of five columns to the page. Charles Durand, then a young lawyer, who died recently in Toronto, was an editorial and poetic contributor to the columns of the Free Press. The Gazette, owned and edited by the father of the Rev. George Bull, and the Express, owned by Solomon Brega, were then the recognized organs of the Tories and Reformers. The Free Press was a follower of William Lyon Mackenzie, the instigator and leader of the rebellion of 1837. We shall make further use of the Free Press in these Musings.