Sunday, 30 December 2012


        On the 27th of April, 1852, James Marshall announced himself for the first time in an ancient log house on the mountain top, overlooking what has since grown into the great electrical and manufacturing town of Canada. Hamilton had just started to grow, having a population of ten thousand, and it has kept on growing ever since, till now the assessors have figured it up to over 100,000, and then some. Nature platted this old town with the mountain as a background, and a gentle rolling declivity down to the bay, that has no equal on the map of North America. It was a picturesque town, where every house had a lot of half an acre or more, with fruit trees in the backyard and climbing roses and vines, and flower beds in the front, bordered with mignonette, sweet Alyssum, Portulaca, candytuft and other bright and fragrant flowers. The growth in population and the increase in the number of houses has destroyed all the rural beauty, for now the houses are so closely built together that there is neither breathing space nor light. Thirty feet front lots are considered to be an extravagance where land is measured by the foot instead of by the acre. James Marshall came into this beautiful world in a location of broad acres and trees, and he has abided within a stone’s throw of the old log home in which he was born through youth and years for sixty-five summers and winters. His home is on the 7th concession, lot 16, northwest corner of the township of Barton. His parents came from Ireland in the year 1834, and were united in marriage in the town of Ancaster, having been pledged to each other before leaving the old home across the sea. The elder Marshall began life in Canada on what was known as the Tiffany farm, near the Tiffany Falls. Alexander Marshall was the name of the head of the generation of Marshalls. He was the father of eleven children, seven boys and four girls, of whom James Marshall, the one we are writing about, was the youngest boy. Nine of the family married, and all had families, the dear old grandmother being blessed with forty-five grandchildren. She was left a widow, her husband, familiarly known as “Sandy,” dying in the prime of life as the result of an accident. He was riding to his home on a bobsled with a neighbor, the horses running away when about a mile and a half from Hamilton, throwing him against a pile of stones on the roadside, injuring him so severely that he died within three months.


          James Marshall worked the home farm on the mountain during the life of his mother, and at her death in 1897, he bought the interests of his brothers and sisters in the family homestead, and this secured for his future home the place near which he was born. Since 1897 he has added acre by acre to the old homestead, till now he is the owner of 325 acres of as valuable land as there is in Wentworth county. Three hundred acres are kept up to a high state of cultivation. Limestone ridge runs through part of the farm, which has furnished rock for lime burning since 1847, his father being one of the pioneers in the lime business, having sold lime in Hamilton over seventy years ago.


          James Marshall’s father began life in Canada like many a poor young Irishman who came to this land of promise eighty and ninety years ago. About the year 1840, he was working as a day laborer out at the Albion Mills, excavating a cellar for the foundation of an addition to the mill. Then natural gas was first discovered in Canada, according to an account given in the Historical Conquest of Canada, published in 1849. Evidently the writer of the history did not give much thought to what has proven to be one of the greatest discoveries of the age, for he dismisses it with merely a brief mention.
          “There are many strong mineral springs in different parts of Canada, the most remarkable of these is the Burning spring above Niagara: its waters are black, hot and bubbling, and emit, during the summer, a gas that burns with a bright flame; this sulphureted hydrogen is used to light a neighboring mill.”
          That was the discovery of the first vein of natural gas in Canada, and it was used from the year 1840 to furnish light to Albion Mills. There was a sufficient flow of gas to run the machinery, but the owners of the mill did not think it worth the expense of changing the furnace and boilers, which were only used occasionally, as the water power was of sufficient force during the greater part of the year. It was many long years afterward that natural gas was discovered in paying quantities in the Niagara district and along the mountain top to the oil regions in western Canada. Fortunes have been made by a lucky few, while other fortunes have gone into holes never to yield gas enough to boil a tea kettle.


          About the year 1864, John Finton, whose farms adjoins the Marshall land, bored for oil on his farm, and, at a depth of 450 feet, a good flowing vein of gas developed. Finton, not thinking of the value of the gas, bored down to a depth of 870 feet in hopes of finding the precious oil. There was no oil. Twenty years later, Finton uncapped the pipe to see if there was any gas, as by that time there were indications of natural gas in many places between the mountain top and Lake Erie. To his great joy, the gas came rushing up, and he had it piped to his house and has used it ever since for light and heat. James Marshall thought he would try the experiment of boring for gas on his farm, seeing the success that had crowned the efforts of his neighbor, and was rewarded with an abundant supply to light and heat his home.
          The gas worked so well in his home that Mr. Marshall bored wells at Tynside and on the farms near Caledonia, where he had lime kilns, using the gas from fifteen wells at a great profit in the making of lime, and a greater saving in labor, for it did away with the necessity of keeping men at the kilns during the night to watch the burning. Mr. Marshall has been engaged in the lime business from his childhood, beginning as a helper to his father, and the past forty years being engaged in it for his own profit to himself and his sons, who are at home. The boys work and manage the farm during the season and fill in their leisure time at the limekilns.


          These two farmers were the pioneers in developing the gas fields in the vicinity of Hamilton, yet Hamilton waited for a few enterprising Americans to come in and occupy the land and supply the city with cheaper fuel and light than it ever dreamed of possessing. Before the advent of the natural gas system, Hamilton paid as high as $4.00 per thousand feet for its light, and then don to $2.00, and from $1.50 to 90 cents for its fuel for gas stoves. The natural gas company started in at 45 cents a thousand feet. When i was that the gas wells were giving out, and that no dependence could be placed on them for future supply, the company made a proposition to the city that it would built a battery of coke ovens, and thus insure a never-failing supply, but to do this would cost an investment of $2,000,000 or more for which they would have to increase the price of manufactured gas to 60 cents per thousand feet. The wise board of controllers declined the proposition. During the last winter, and at the present time, the supply of gas was so low that the people suffered. The company renewed its offer. The controllers still refuse, but instead talk of having the city invest in a local coke oven plant at an expense of $2,000,000 and over. As the future supply of gas is in doubt, the mayor suggests that every householder go to the expense of buying a coal cooking stove and pay from $9 up a ton for coal, and thus lay aside hundreds of thousands of dollars that the householders have invested in gas heating and cooking ranges. “And there were giants in those days.”


          For seventeen years Mr. Marshall has been experimenting in peach culture, and with great success and profit. The farmers on the mountain who had attempted to raise peaches did not have much success, as the trees did not live long enough to come into profitable bearing. They became discouraged and abandoned all efforts in that line of fruit culture, so that when he began to plant an orchard there was scarcely a peach tree in that neighborhood. Mr. Marshall fell into the mistakes of those who failed, by not selecting a suitable site for his orchard. He discovered that by planting the trees in low-lying land where fog and heavy dew is seen in the morning. The site was not suitable, no matter how rich the soil. He made that mistake when he first started, and the only peach trees that are alive yet and bearing well are those which he planted on the higher land, sloping toward the north. He changed his tactics and began planting each year on higher land, and now he has his peach trees on the highest fields on his farm. Mr. Marshall has the distinction of being the first successful grower of peaches on the mountain top. He has in his orchards not less than 9,000 healthy bearing peach trees, and 2,000 plum, pear and cherry trees. He is cultivating over fifty varieties of peaches, the first coming into the market in July and ripening on until November. He usually has the first load of peaches on sale in the Hamilton market, two years ago being as early as the first week in July. The hot weather last fall had a bad effect on a large portion of his orchards, owing to the exposure to the wind currents, and he thinks it doubtful if he will have more than one-third of a crop this year. His pears, plums and cherries are usually a prolific crop. Last year his plums went to waste, thousands of baskets not being picked, there being a poor market for them. From 2,000 trees, planted six years ago, they gathered about 12,000 eleven-quart baskets of as fine peaches as ever were sold in the Hamilton market. His youngest orchard has about 5,500 peach and 500 plum, pear and cherry trees. If the season is good this year, he expects great results from this orchard. The spring frosts do little or no injury to the peach trees or fruit buds. The time when they are injured is in the winter, chiefly in February. Ten or twelve degrees below zero does not seem to injure them, and even if it goes fifteen below, there may be a good crop. In 1914, when the temperature was twenty degrees below zero, the peach crop was a failure and the only failure in eight years.
          Mr. Marshall manages his large farm on scientific principles, and he finds that it pays him to do so. He has twenty-five miles of drainage, and while it costs a lot of money and labor, he gets his profit every year in abundant crops. It doesn’t pay a farmer to own wet and siggy land, for in wet seasons it cannot be worked as in the proper season, hence crop failure. Every mile of tile drainage adds twice its cost to the value of the land. Mr. Marshall has studied and tested the tiling system, with the result that he has little, if any, waste land, and he never fails to raise a paying crop.



          Not alone in lime has he been a success, but he was the first cement maker in this part of Canada and the discoverer of the first cement rock. In the year 1874, when he was the assessor for Barton township on the mountain range, he was out in the neighborhood of Albion Mills and got caught in a heavy rainstorm. He sought shelter under an overhanging rock, and while there noticed the peculiar proportion of one of the rock. Being somewhat a student of geology, he examined the rock and came to the conclusion that it might prove to be of value in making cement. This land belonged to John Rousseaux, and was part of 150 acres that Mr. Marshall was negotiating to purchase. He made known his discovery of the cement rock, and suggested to some of his neighbors that it might prove to be a valuable investment, but none of them had the courage to risk so much money on an untried experiment. Mr. Marshall, having faith in his judgment, and believing that it would be a paying investment, bought the land, having to go into debt for a large part of the purchase money. He has always looked upon that day’s work as one of great value in his study of geology in his study of geology in the old collegiate institute in Hamilton. This was the beginning of the cement industry in this section of Canada, and it has grown to be one of importance.
          Mr. Marshall built his first cement mill in Dow’s wood and coal yard in Hamilton, and thus got the contract for the first supply of cement used in constructing the city drainage system when Mr. Haskins was the city engineer. After twenty-five years, the same sewers were opened for repairs and the cement was found to be as hard and firm as the day on which it was first used. The demand for cement came in so fast from other places that the capacity of the mill in Dow’s yard proved too small to fill the orders, and Mr. Marshall decided to build a mill out near Albion Mills, capable of turning out one hundred barrels a day. This mill he sold to F. W. Schwendiman, who was an industrious fellow, but not much of a manager. Fortunately Schwendiman had a sister of good business ability, and when she assumed the management, it paid big dividends. The sister married a lawyer out in Minnesota, and the brains of the business was lost to the mill, and finally Schwendiman sold out. Mr. Marshall is still in the lime and cement trade, and is piling up a bank account for future generations of the Marshall family.


          We started this bit of history by telling that James Marshall was born in a log house on the mountain top, and that his father and mother were natives of the Emerald Isle. His father laid the foundation of the home farm that now belongs to James, and it has proved to be a mine of wealth. But it has taken hard work and steady habits, and cultivated brains. Mr. Marshall attended country school during the winter months, with P. C. Blaicher, a former mayor of Hamilton, as his teacher. When not in the schoolroom, he was at the lime kiln assisting his father. In time he came to Hamilton and attended the old collegiate institute, on the corner of Main and Caroline streets, where he had as a few of his companions; Mr. McLeod, the assessment commissioner; A. C. Turnbull, the book shop man; William Wood, head of the hardware firm of Wood, Vallance & Co.; E. D. Cahill, Major Chisholm and R. A. Pringle, disciples of Blackstone. When his schooldays were over, like all sensible young fellows, he fell in love with Miss Agnes Ann Heard, a native of Rainham Centre, on the Lake Erie shore, to whom he was married on March 12, 1879. Seven children were born to them, of whom three boys and three girls are living. The oldest son, Robert E., has a farm near Miami, Man; Marcella G. is a teacher in the collegiate institute at Ingersoll; two sons and one daughter are at home, and one daughter, Edna V., is married and lives in Binbrook. Mrs. Marshall died Oct. 7.1913. Mr. Marshall is a total abstainer, and never drank a glass of intoxicating liquor in his life. He has worked hard most of his life on the farm, in quarries, at limekilns, and pruning fruit tees. For twenty-two years he was a regular attendant at a Presbyterian Sunday School, and for thirty-six consecutive years was superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school, rarely ever being absent. He is a hale and hearty man for one of 65 years, and attributes his good health to careful habits and working in the fresh air in all kinds of weather.
          For thirteen years, he has served the people of his township and county in public office, beginning as assessor and ending as Warden of Wentworth county. His work as a public officer has been a benefit not only to his township, but to the county. He is an expert bicycle rider, and rarely ever drives a horse. Four times within the past few years he has wheeled from his home to the great west, visiting Brandon in Manitoba, and other points, making his last round trip in seventeen days. He has often wheeled to Sarnia, 147 miles, in twelve hours.

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