THE HERITAGE OF HAMILTONIANS
If the ancient Hamiltonians who lived in the first half of the last century could only see with the natural eye the heritage they planned and provided for the Hamiltonian of the present day, it would certainly be a surprise to them. A few of the old-timers are still living, but it is doubtful if many of them even know or appreciate the changes that have and are taking place everyday. It is not many years since the went end was almost a desert waste, given over to the town cow for a pasture lot and to the brick makers by day, and to the burning kilns and the unfortunates who sought their warmth by night as they crouched around the hot kilns and slept and dreamt of the happy days of childhood when home and comfort were theirs. All is changing now, and the fine homes, broad streets and concrete walks, brilliantly lighted by night by electric power from Niagara Falls, are making a paradise out of what was once the most forlorn spot in this beautiful valley. An enterprising man who saw the possibilities in the future of that waste territory bought up a few tracts of land and spent money freely and judiciously in laying blocks and streets, building sidewalks, sewer, water and gas mains, and when he had changed the whole landscape and made it fit for the homemaker, then he parceled it out into building lots and invited the Hamilton out to see what a charming place he had prepared for them. Conditions were put in the deeds that would make it impossible for one neighbor to interfere with the rights and comforts of the other, and indeed every reservation was made to guarantee a location for a desirable home. There were doubting Thomases a plenty who said the enterprising shorthorn breeder was wasting his good money to no purpose and that it would be many a long day before people would be lured to make a home in the west end. But he had the faith that builds up cities, and in less than half a dozen years, nearly every lot was sold, fine houses built for first-class citizens, and the man who planned all this laid the foundation for the fortune he has made in less than a dozen years, for he did not stop his promotion of land projects with his west end deal, but is extending his conquests to the north shore of the bay and of old Ontario.
Now the McKittrick syndicate is putting the finishing touches in the way of improving the remainder of the west end valley and preparing it for the present and future of Hamiltonians. There is money galore behind this syndicate, and what has been left undone by the former proprietor will be enlarged upon. A trip to the west end will open one’s eyes as to the possibilities at no late date of joining hands with the ancient town of Dundas, and bringing it into the sunlight of this growing and ambitious city. The time was when Dundas was IT, and Hamilton was only the Head of the Lake. After Desjardin built the canal, Dundas was the principal shipping point for all the country west and north of it. The first sailing vessel that was built in this section was the work of a Scotchman whose son is now at the head of the Lake Carriers’ association, and lives in Detroit, and it was a proud day for Dundas when it came floating down the raging Desjardin canal and out into the broad bay at Burlington. Old Captain Peace, who spent his life as a sailor on the upper lakes, made Dundas his terminal point, and young Dan, Hamilton’s ancient tobacconist, slept many a night at the masthead to get beyond the reach of the mosquitoes that bred by the million in the broad bosom of the “Dundas marsh.” Well, the ancient marsh will be drained in time, and may become an extension to the McKittrick syndicate, and through the canal furnish an outlet to the west end to the open sea of Burlington bay. Who knows?
Hamilton is a city of great possibilities, for it is not only building in the valley down to the waterside, but is climbing the mountain heights and reaching out toward the Grand river, and in time may take the shores of Lake Erie in as one of its suburbs. There are as many families living on the mountain brow today as the assessors could count up for the entire population of ancient Hamilton when John Fisher was elected the second mayor. Who was John Fisher? Some belated Hamiltonian may ask. John Fisher was an enterprising Yankee boy who crossed the Niagara river long before a suspension bridge joined New York state to Canada and came to Hamilton and started the first foundry and machine shop, and built the first threshing machine in Canada. That was John. Count up the number of factories today in this progressive town and the thousands of hands employed, both men and women, and you can figure out the results of that one little foundry and machine shop, on the corner of James and Merrick streets, the present site of the Royal hotel, that John Fisher built away back in the year 1838. Hamilton was the home of the stove foundry business when you and I were boys, my old Hamiltonian; and it was with a feeling of sadness that I took a stroll through the northwest quarter of the town the other day and saw more than one of the old shops deserted, with the windows boarded up and the neighbourhood in which they are located as quiet as a country graveyard. But the men have fooled away this profitable branch of the molder’s trade. And from all appearance, it has gone forever. Still, there is something doing over in that quarter, and to take the place of the foundries, there are numerous large factory buildings occupied by other trades. The star of enterprise has arisen in the east end, and all along the bay front, down as far as the sandstrip (now politely called the Beach) that used to join this old town and the ancient village of Wellington Square, the line of smokestacks gives one an idea of the present and future greatness that is possible for the home of our youth. Hamilton is the nursery for the factory wealth of Canada, and Montreal pops in and walks away with all the profits. Montreal deserves all it can rake in if our own capitalists will sit idly by and see the rich cream of industry float down the St. Lawrence. And speaking of Montreal reminds us that its enterprising moneyed men are spending their wealth broadcast and gathering in a harvest of dividends. Out in the central part of Illinois, which this old Muser called home for a quarter of a century, Montreal capital has constructed hundreds of miles of electric railway that covers the richest part of the state.
But now let us get back to Hamilton and to what it is doing as a manufacturing town. The ancient ones will remember when Lover’s Lane was the eastern terminal of the corporate limits. The present generation will not know it by that name, but if we tell them that it is now better known as Wellington street, then they will be able to locate it. Lover’s Lane was a dear old name to the ancient bucolics who used to do their sparking, by the silvery light of the moon, till such time as they could see their way clear to take each other for better or worse. It required $6 then to buy a marriage license and at least a one note to pay the preacher for the marriage ceremony. And, by the way, we see that by the late law the marriage license fee has been raised again from $2 to $6, only part of which goes to the government and part to some political appointee for issuing it. Why should the issuing of such an important document be given to some favorite shopkeeper? Really, the government might better offer a premium to the young man who has courage enough to marry in these days, when it takes seven cents to buy a one pound loaf of bread and forty cents a pound for butter to make it palatable. If you are rich enough to own a motor car, or even a faithful old horse, take a trip down Main street east – which, by the way, is one of the finest residence streets in the city, take it and by and large out as far as the Delta, where Jackson, an old negro slave made his home nearly a century ago, and you will be surprised at the growth of your home town; and, mind you, it has nearly all been accomplished within the past fifteen years, during which time the population has more than doubled. Broad avenues, lined with handsome homes, with beautiful lawns and flower beds, where only yesterday, you may say, the town cow used to chew its cud and lazily dream of the time when the owner would call to drive it home, with its rich bag of milk to trickle down the family throat. Ah! these are memories of the past that will never return. Turn your motor to the north and get down into the factory district, where you will find massive buildings covering acres of ground, and wanting still more of mother earth for extensions. You, my old Hamiltonian, can remember the time when land down there could be bought at ridiculously low prices : now you might cover an acre of it with one-dollar Dominion bank bills and the owners would only laugh at you for thinking he was going to throw away for nothing. The early pioneers who located that land thought it dear at almost any price. It was old Colonel Land, if our history is not forgotten, who purchased a hundred acres of land in the early days, not far from King and Wellington streets, for a barrel of salt pork and some other trifles. Down in that district are more than four hundred factories, representing hundreds of millions of wealth, and giving labor to thousands of skilled workmen, who have prospered so that they are able to live well on eight and nine hours for a day’s work when their fathers found it hard scratching to make both ends meet with a ten and twelve hour day. This old town is prospering, and with no serious setbacks it will yet become the greatest industrial city in Canada.