Saturday, 30 March 2013



At the fourteenth annual convention of the Association of Life Insurance Presidents, held recently in New York, T. B. Macaulay, president of the Sun Life Assurance company, gave an address on Life Assurance in Canada, portions of which will be of special interest to old-time Hamiltonians. The Saturday Muser is under obligations to Herb. Gardiner, a one-time editor of the Times, for a very pleasant historical story of the Canada Life Assurance company, which had its birth in Hamilton in the year 1847, with Hugh C. Baker as its president and chief financial manager. It might not be out of place, as an addition to Mr. Gardiner’s story, to give the names of the men who were the first officers and directors of the company. The Canada Life Assurance company was organized and established in 1847, its head office being located in Hamilton. The paid-up capital at the start was fixed at 250,000 pounds. Five years later, its accumulated fund had increased to 65,000 pounds, with an annual income of 22,500 pounds. Total liabilities 172,186 pounds. Total assets, 244,029 pounds. This was a good showing for a young life assurance company. The official roster of the company was as follows :
Hugh C. Baker, president; John Young, vice-president; Thomas M. Simons, secretary; George Sheppard, actuary.
Directors – Archibald Kerr, James Osborne, J. D. Pringle, Richard Juson, G. W. Burton, Hon. R. Spence, Hon. Adam Ferguson, Hon. J. H. Cameron, N. Merritt, John Arnold, Hugh C. Baker, W. P. McLaren, D. C. Gunn, J. McIntyre, Miles O’Reilly, R. P. Street, E. C. Thomas, John Young, James Hamilton, M.D. A pretty safe bunch of businessmen for the fathers of those days to insure their lives with for the benefit of their families.
Dr. Gerald O’Reilly was one of the founders and original stockholders of the Canada Life Assurance company, and his signature will be found on the first formal contract under which the business of the company was begun and before the charter was granted in April, 1849. He was the first medical referee and adviser of the company, and was numbered among the first policy holders, being No. 47.
Prior to 1847, Mr. Macaulay said, life assurance was almost unknown in the province of British America. The rest of the story was prepared by Mr. Gardiner from Mr. Macaulay’s address.
In that year (1847) the first Canadian life office was founded, the Canada Life Assurance company. When in 1867, the Canadian provinces were federated and became the Dominion of Canada, the total of the assurances in force was probably about $15,000,000, about one-fourth of the amount being in the Canada Life, the remainder being in British and American companies.
The circumstances which led to the founding of the Canada Life are of interest. Hugh C. Baker, of Hamilton, Ontario, a gentleman of considerable banking experience, desired to insure his life, and for that purpose applied to one of the British offices. Being a rather substandard life, there was a little hesitancy, and he was requested to go all the way to New York for examination, no small undertaking in those days when railways were unknown and the only means of transportation were stage coach and saddle. Mr. Baker was a thoughtful, studious man, and he decided to found a local company in his own town. He succeeded in interesting a number of others, and thus in 1847, the Canada Life Assurance company, the pioneer office of the Dominion, came into being. “I may be pardoned for injecting,” said Mr. Macaulay, “that my honored father joined the staff of the Canada Life as its accountant when it was eight years old, in 1855. I have often heard him speak of Mr. Baker, and always in terms of admiration, even of affection. He had a profound regard for Mr. Baker’s character, ability and devotion to the interests of his company. Those were the days when such men as he had to grope in the dark to a large extent when faced with actuarial and investment problems. Elaborate tables of policy values, with the multitude of other helps we now have, did not exist. Mr. Baker had to do much of his own calculating, using chiefly, if I remember it straight, the Carlisle six per cent tables for valuations. I have heard my father describe his voluminous calculations in connection with premium reserves and bond values.” Such work was congenial to him, and the Canada Life was indeed fortunate in having such a man as its guide in its earlier years. In those days, the public knew nothing of the principles of life assurance, and were indifferent to its advantages. In many cases there was even keen opposition on the ground that it was an interference with the workings of Divine Providence. The company had great difficulties to contend with, but Mr. Baker “builded” even better than he knew , and the Canada Life as it stands today is the monument to his enterprise and wisdom.
It was nearly a quarter of a century before any other Canadian company entered the field. The federation of the provinces, however, stimulated greatly the national consciousness of the enterprise. In the late sixties several companies were incorporated, and shortly afterwards began business, the Ontario Mutual 1870, the Sun Life and the Confederation in 1871. When these newly-organized companies began to compete for their share of the business in 1871, the Canada Life had in force slightly over five thousand policies, covering a little more than eight million dollars of assurance. In those days, however, these figures appeared very large. The company had behind it twenty-four years of prosperous business life and its prestige was indeed great. Its assets of a million and a quarter dollars were considered enormous for Canada, and it had a record for large profits such as few companies anywhere were able to sustain. Canadians were, and are, rightly proud of their pioneer company which has now, however, grown to a size and strength which would make the men of 1871 gasp with astonishment.
On the death of its founder, Mr. Baker, in 1859, the board of directors of the Canada Life sent a deputation to the old country to select a successor who would possess the advantage of the training of some British company. Their choice fell to A. G. Ramsay, at that time connected with the Scottish Amicable Life. I was privileged some time ago to read the interesting correspondence which these representatives of the board had with Mr. Ramsay, which led to his becoming manager of the company, and, ultimately, in 1875, its president. After twenty-six years of arduous service, Mr. Ramsay retired in January, 1900, on a liberal pension, which he enjoyed for many years.
He was succeeded by Senator Geo. A. Cox, one of the mosr forceful men Canada has produced. He had been connected with the company for thirty years before assuming the presidency. He in turn was succeeded by his son, E. W. Cox, whose career was cut short by death after but one year of office; his successor being our friend, his brother, H. C. Cox, president of the company at the present time.
Perhaps I may add that to those who remember the great part played by A. G. Ramsay in the development of te company, it is very pleasing to know that the name has not been allowed to drop out, for among those intimately associated with Mr. Cox is Mr. Ramsay’s grandson, another W. G. Ramsay.

The Muser is one of the few surviving Hamiltonians who can remember Hugh C. Baker as the first president of the Canada Life. We can also remember him as one of the leaders in active life of Hamilton more than seventy years ago. He was the founder of three building societies, two of which he was the president, and the third one secretary-treasurer. Those societies helped to build up Hamilton, for carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers and painters could own their home by borrowing, at a low rate of interest, the money necessary to purchase the building material, and then the different trades swapped work with each other, and thus became homeowners. Although a busy man, he took the time necessary to attend to religious matters, being a warden in the Church of the Ascension, and treasurer of the City Tract and Missionary society. In public affairs, he was in general demand as a director of the board of trade. A director of the gas works company, vice-president of the Hamilton and Port Dover railroad; in fact, no enterprise for the upbuilding of Hamilton seemed to be complete without the helping hand of Mr. Baker.
Before, and some time after, the establishment of the Canada Life, Mr. Baker was manager of the Hamilton branch of the Bank of Montreal, then located on the south side of King street, a little west of James street, where the Royal Bank now stands. He lived on James street south, in the house now occupied by Dr. Rosebrugh, with grounds extending from Jackson street to Hunter street. Mr. Macaulay’s reference to the continuity of interest in the Ramsay and Cox families tempts us to add that Hugh C. Baker, son of the founder of the Canada Life, who was born in the old Bank of Montreal building on King street west, now lives on Herkimer street.. Like his father, he began his active career in the banking business, and like his father, he had the foresight and judgment to embark in new enterprises. It was the second Hugh C. Baker who built Hamilton’s first street railway. When most people regarded Alexander Bell’s newly-invented telephone as a toy, Hugh C. Baker realized its possibilities, and became one of the first stockholders in the Bell Telephone company, of which he was for many years manager of Ontario, performing essential service in perfecting the system and bringing the company to its presnt strong standing. The Muser is grateful to Herb. Gardiner, for his outline of Mr. Macaulay’s address to the association of life insurance presidents, which old-time Hamiltonians will enjoy.
The Canada Life has always been fortunate in its selection of local managers for its several branch offices. Mr. Hale, the presnt local manager of the Hamilton branch, is an enterprising man, who takes an interest in the social, religious and benevolent life of Hamilton.

Did you ever count them up? You will no doubt be surprised to know that there is one automobile owned in Hamilton for every seventeen people, counting every man, woman and child. This is no fancy statement, for we give it on the authority of Chief of Police Whatley, and he says that Hamilton beats the world, so far as he can learn from official reports in its number of cars. Just fancy, one car for every seventeen people in this industrial town, and they do not all belong to the ‘bloated capitalists,’ either, for there are not enough of them to own the thousands of cars that are flying through the streets every hour, day and night, running over the unfortunate few who do not belong to the charmed one in seventeen. Now, that is not a sign of poverty when this old town can boast of owning the largest number of cars of any city in the world in proportion to the population.

In last Saturday’s Musings, we told of the ancient Central School, in which we were fortunate in being able to recall the names of the first staff of teachers under Dr. Sangster. We told in brief the unfortunate ending of one of the staff, a man named King, and of his murdering his wife, who had spent a legacy from her parents in educating him for the medical profession. Dr. King located down about Cobourg, where he became enamored of a woman who had a larger bank roll than his wife, and being avaricious to command both rolls, he gradually murdered his wife by dosing her with ground glass, intending to take the other woman as his wife. An inquest was held on the murdered wife, and in the meantime Dr. King skipped out, and left the country, going to California. The coroner’s jury found an indictment against King, and immediate efforts were made to capture him. It is said that “conscience makes cowards of us all,” and this must have been King’s condition, for after wandering around for a few months, he returned to his old home, intending to give himself up to the officers. The night before his arrest, he slept in a hog pen, and was a sorry-looking sight when discovered in the morning. Short work was made of his trial, resulting in a verdict of murder, for which he was sentenced to be hanged. When the day for the execution came, a young boy named Marshall, who was born on a farm near Cobourg, begged his father to take him to see the hanging. Every road leading to Cobourg that morning was crowded with sightseers, and among them was young Marshall., and he is living today in Hamilton to tell the story of that tragic event. He says that King impressed him as being a handsome young man, and he has never4 forgotten the speech he made from the gallows. Probably Mr. Marshall is the only living witness in Hamilton to that tragic scene, and he recalls it as vividly today as when he witnessed it more than sixty-five years ago in front of the Cobourg jail. Mr. Marshall is an old resident of Hamilton, having more to this city when he was a young man. For many years, he was manager of the Slater Shoe company when it had a branch in Hamilton. He is now employed by the F. F. Dalley company. It is strange how memory calls back the wandering ghost of the past.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013



          How few of the present generation know anything of the early history of Hamilton; and, indeed, but few of the old-timers can tell you much about it. It is only the old musers who dig into ancient history and gather up bits of the past here and there who manage to keep in touch the past with the present. Many years ago as one of the ancients, gifted as a poet and in literature, wrote a very interesting sketch of Hamilton for an historical atlas of the county of Wentworth, and although that atlas was published only forty-four years ago, it is doubtful if many of them have been preserved, and yet it tells more in brief of the early history of Hamilton than can be gathered from any other source. To gather up the threads will be one of the pleasures of the Saturday Muser and we will make good use of the atlas to while away an hour now and then in telling the present native generation something of the early history of the town in which they were born.

          The old-time muser from whom we quote tells us that Hamilton was originally covered with a dense growth of tall, rank, coarse, serrated Indian grass which, when drawn the reverse way across the hand, cut like a sharp saw. Between the mountain and the bay was cut here and there with deep ravines and dotted with patches of swamp or swale – a favorite haunt for quail, rattlesnakes and frogs . On the spot now occupied by the market square was a dense growth of shrubbery which formed a safe shelter for wolves. This same market square was later a fine orchard, planted by Andrew Miller, and he kept a tavern on the corner of Macnab and Market square in the building now owned by Parke and Parke, druggists. When the first settlers came into this part of Canada, a deer trail extended over the brow of the mountain brow, from where the reservoir of the waterworks is now situated down to the bay. A well-beaten Indian trail extended from the Indian villages near Lake Medad and the Grand River, through the valley of Dundas, down to the bay near the foot of what is now Emerald street, where the Indians had a burial mound, evidently used for the internment of the chiefs. This mound was fifteen feet high and fifty feet in diameter. The sides were quite steep, and there was a dip or slight hollow in the mound on top. The mound was covered all over about two feet deep with cinders and ashes, the remains of funeral pyres which the Indians had built in honor of the dead and for the purpose of destroying the scent of the dead body, and so prevent the wolves from desecrating the tomb. The remains of the mound could be seen at the foot of Emerald street as late as the year 1874, though almost leveled by nearly a century of cultivation. The early settlers turned up with the plow great quantities of arrow and spear heads, detached skulls and bones, pieces of pottery, wampum, stone hatchets, etc. giving evidence of a probable Indian battle having been fought in that locality at some remote time.


          There are two families who claim this distinction for their ancestors – the Beasleys and the Lands. This muser has heard both sides and told the story in the Spectator. Here is the story as told by the Khan, the ancient muser of the Wentworth atlas.

          “In the part of the year 1778, Robert Land settled on three hundred acres of land, stretching from the bay to the foot of the mountain. It is on about one acre of the original farm, on the corner of King and Wellington streets, that Richard Springer and his fellow trustees built the First Methodist church in Hamilton – and, indeed, it was the first church building of any denomination erected in this old town, That was in 1823. Robert Land was born on the banks of the Delaware, in the United States, and on the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, he took sides with the British. One night, while carrying dispatches for his general, he was fired upon by the enemy and was struck on the back by a spent ball, knocking him down. In falling he cut his hand on a sharp stone, and the wound bled profusely. He was too much hurt to get on his feet, but he succeeded in creeping on his hands and knees into the underbush, where he hid till morning. That same night, while he lay helpless in pain from the wound in his hand, the Indians burnt down his cabin, driving his wife and family forth homeless, his wife believing him to having been murdered by the Indians followed the retreating British into New Brunswick.

          Not being able to any tidings of his family, Mr. Land came to Canada and settled on two hundred acres of land near Niagara Falls. Later he moved to the Head of the Lake, the present site of Hamilton and located on three hundred acres of land. Seven years afterwards his family, not liking New Brunswick as a home, came to Niagara Falls with the intention of settling on a farm in that locality, where they heard that a man named Land, who had formerly lived there, was living at the Head of the Lake, they walked all the way from Niagara Falls on foot, carrying their personal effects with them, and the long-separated family were agin happily reunited. Mr. Land sowed the first bushel of wheat on the soil of Hamilton. The house in which the family lived was a little log hut with a mud floor, on the corner of William and Barton streets. It had a birch bark roof, and the logs that composed the wall were neither hewn nor finished, but were cut in irregular lengths. The chinks in the wall were stopped with swamp moss. A huge fireplace extended across one end of the house. Dried venison hung from the ceiling at all seasons of the year, and the trusty rifle was suspended above the fireplace. There was but one window, a dried wolf skin being stretched as a substitute for glass. After Land and his family settled here, others followed, but immigration was very slow, especially to the present site of early Hamilton, the early settlers preferring the higher land in Ancaster and Barton. It was her geographical position at the head of the lake that built up Hamilton, and not the inviting character of her soil for agricultural purposes. The immigrants for a long time shunned the swampy margin of Burlington bay some going east of Hamilton, where they built up Stoney Creek long before Hamilton had a name. Others settled on the rolling lands of Ancaster, and Ancaster village in 1825 was nearly as large as it is now.


          The first lodge of the Masonic order (The Barton No. 6) was organized in 1795, the meetings being held in Smith’s tavern, which stood at the corner of King and Wellington streets, the members attending from Ancaster, Barton and Saltfleet. Ancient history tells us that Davenport Phelps, a Connecticut Yankee, was sent as a missionary and lay reader to the Niagara district from the Trinity church in New York city, in order to establish and organize branches of the English church. Being a member of the Masonic order at his old home, he naturally made the acquaintance of those brethren who had settled at the Head of the Lake, and in 1795, The Barton Lodge was instituted. Smith’s tavern was the first tavern built on the site of Hamilton. In later years, it was known by the name of The Poplars from a grove of poplar trees in front yard facing King street. It is now the site of the east end branch of the Bank of Hamilton.


          Here are the names of a few of the early settlers who owned and occupied land on the site of Hamilton in 1812. Abel Land lived on two hundred acres of land north of Barton and east of Wentworth streets. Colonel John Aikman occupied the next farm and his log house stood on the corner of Burlington and King streets. Ephraim Land owned four hundred acres east of Wellington and south of Main streets. Robert Land’s farm was north of King and east of Wellington streets, and his house stood on the southeast corner of William and Barton streets. Peter Ferguson, after whom Ferguson avenue was called, owned two hundred acres of land east of Mary and north of King streets. His house stood on the street near the corner of Robert street and Ferguson avenue. Nathaniel Hughson, after whom Hughson street was named, owned two hundred acres east of Mary, west of Wellington and north of king streets. Captain Durand occupied the only farm south of Main street. His house stood on the middle of Upper John street. He sold the farm to George Hamilton, who laid it out into town lots in the year 1813, and from which Hamilton dated its first centennial anniversary in June, 1913. George Hamilton donated the court house square and Gore park to the city in consideration of the town being called Hamilton. Richard Springer owned a farm of one hundred acres from Main street to the mountain, bounded by Wellington street and the line between Walnut and Catharine streets. It was in Richard Springer’s log house that the first Methodist church was organized in 1801, and where Nathaniel Bangs, one of the early circuit riders, reached his first sermons in 1802.

          A man named Barnum kept tavern on the northwest corner of James and King streets, the present site of the C. P. R. ticket office. Barnum also owned a farm extending from James to Merrick streets. Daniel Kirkendall owned a farm of two hundred acres north of King and west of Bay. His house stood above the hollow near the Grand Trunk shops.

          Here are a few of the first men who laid the foundations of Hamilton as an industrial city. “Black” Carpenter and Knight and Shute were the first cabinet makers. Knight and Shute’s factory was King Street, about where White’s block stands. There were no undertakers then, but the cabinet makers supplied most of the coffins. Colonel John Aikman was the first wagon maker, and Edward Jackson was the first tinsmith. Their shops were on the south side of the Gore on King street. The first foundry was started by John Fisher, on the corner of James and Merrick streets, on the lot now occupied by the old Royal Hotel. He was later joined by Dr. C. McQuesten, a practicing physician from the State of New York. And it did not take this man many years to make a fortune, when John Fisher retired and returned to his home in the States. Dr. McQuesten remained in the business a few years longer, when he turned it over to L. D. and Samuel Sawyer. The old foundry and agricultural implements are now doing business at the old stand, northeast of the Grand Trunk tracks under the company name of Sawyer Massey. John Fisher built the first threshing machine made in Canada. The first blacksmith shop was owned by John Reynolds and it stood on the southeast corner of King and Ferguson avenue. The first district school in Hamilton was kept by John law said to be in a building on the First Methodist church lot and was occupied by the janitor of the church as a residence till recently when it was torn down, thus removing one of the ancient landmarks, but its removal has improved the appearance of the church lot. The old town began with six industrial shops and one tavern. It now has over 400 industries, the largest ones furnishing labor for 2,500 to 3,000 men and women. The nearest saw mill was on Big Creek in Barton.


          In 1813, George Hamilton bought from Captain Durand his hundred acre farm, running from Main street to the base of the mountain on Upper John street, for which he paid 3,000 pounds. Hamilton was the member of parliament for this district, and was a man of energy and public spirit. The lots were slow of sale, and the population of slower growth, for twenty years later in 1832, the whole town could not muster two thousand people. There were only 841 acres of cultivated land in the town and 1,357 uncultivated acres; the assessed value of property was $71,928. When it came to the christening of the town, a large number wanted to call it Burlington, but the majority was in favor of Hamilton, for the reason that Mr. Hamilton was liberal in donating land for the court house square and for Gore park. Unfortunately, there are no attainable records of Hamilton for its first twenty years. The first sign of progress was when parliament, on the 19th of March, 1823, passed an act to authorize the construction of  a canal between Burlington bay and Lake Ontario. The canal is three-quarters of a mile long. It was commenced in 1823 and completed in 1832, when Hamilton became the head of navigation. The Desjardins canal was chartered on the 30th of June, 1826, and was completed about the same time that the Burlington canal was opened for navigating. Prior to that time, the entrance to the bay was at the north end of the beach.


          Since the old market-house was destroyed by fire about a year ago, there has been talk of building a new one to cost $100,000 or more. It has only been talk thus far, for there is some opposition to erecting a new building on account of the cost and the scarcity of money. Here is a bit of ancient market house history. On the 12th of February, 1833, and act was passed “on account of the great increase in the population of the twn,” to define the limits of the town of Hamilton and to establish a market house. The town was laid out into four wards, and it was decided to put an assessed valuation of $1,000 on each lot. The corporation was also authorized to fix the location of the market and power given to borrow $4,000 for the purpose of building a market house, and for purchasing one or more fire engines as might be deemed necessary. In 1832, a considerable portion of the business part of the town was destroyed by fire. That same year, cholera swept off a large number of the inhabitants. A history of the fire and the visitation of the plague was published in the Canadian Wesleyan and the Western Mercury, the two papers published in Hamilton at that time. The post office consisted of one room in the second story of the building over the Mercury office and only one man was employed to handle all the mail.

          In 1839, another act was passed giving the corporation the authority to build a second market not to exceed three acres in extent, and power given to borrow $4,000 with which to build a market house. A bylaw provided that no butter, meat poultry, nor fish should be exposed for sale except in the market on John street, with the exception of Tuesdays and Saturdays when farmers were allowed to carry their wares about the town for sale. The market fees were 12 ½ cents.

          On the 24th day of July 1850, an act was passed to incorporate the Hamilton Gaslight company, the capital to be $50,000 in shares of $40 each, but with power to increase it to another sum not exceeding $50,000. The city of Hamilton might, in fifteen years, assume control of the whole property on paying back the sums expended.

Saturday, 9 March 2013


Of course, it is not expected that the ancient musers of today have personal knowledge of the events of which they tell, and the only means they have of knowing is by delving into ancient local histories, of which, unfortunately, there is but few in existence. A hundred years from now the musers will have the files of the daily papers from which to gather facts that may be interesting to those who come after us. The history of the township of Barton is, to a certain extent, associated with the city of Hamilton, as the present site of the city originally composed part of the township, and the history of one is substantially the same as the other, so far as the early settlers were concerned. In 1815, Richard Beasley was assessed for 13,350 acres of land, of which only 150 acres were cleared. In 1815, there were only 162 ratepayers in the township of Barton, which included the town of Hamilton. There were 75 log houses of one story, 25 frame houses, and none built of brick or stone. In the way of farm stock, there were 150 horses, 64 oxen, 316 milch cows, and 74 bulls and steers.
          In 1832, the Gore of King street was the favorite resort for promenaders. The Western Mercury, published by James Johnson, contained an advertisement informing the public that “Plumer Burley,” formerly of the Ancaster hotel, has rented the new tavern stand in Hamilton, on the southeast corner of James and King called the Hamilton Promenade, directly opposite McNab’s office, and expects to commence business three weeks from the present date.” The advertisement was dated July 4, 1832. The Promenade hotel occupied the corner where stands the Canada Life building and took in part of the lot of the Bank of British North America.
          On the 16th of November, 1832, the tavern built by Mrs. McNab caught  fire. It was located opposite the Gore, and was the center of business. In less than an hour, five other buildings, including the stores of Ferguson and Co. and Mr. McNab, the post office, the Desjardins canal office, the Western Mercury office, the dwelling house and shop of Mr. Scoble, “Yankee Miller’s” tavern and outbuildings – all were consumed in less than three hours from the first appearance of the fire.
          At the beginning of the year 1833, the following advertisement appeared in the Western Mercury :
“The Gore district school will be opened after te present vacation on Monday night, the 14th inst., in the new building on Mountain, fronting the court house square (Mountain street is now John.)
“Terms of tuition for day school are : In classics, 1 pound, in the common branches 16 shillings. For boarders, who must supply their own beds and bedding, 12 shillings, 6 pence per week or 32 pounds per annum.
“An evening school will be opened by Mr. Randall from 7 to 9, so soon as twelve applications are received. Terms 4 pounds per quarter, payable in advance.
Stephen Randall.”
The fire did not seem to depress trade very much for on the 3rd of January, 833, “Yankee” Miller had a flaring advertisement in the Mercury announcing
“Andrew Miller’s extensive Steamboat Hotel and Barn, that were burnt on the 16th of November last, at a loss of $6,000, are now partly restored. He has erected a new barn, 60 feet by 40, and a shed 45 feet long, and an addition of 30 feet to his small white house next door to his old stand.
“He can now render travelers as comfortable as before. He intends by tenfold more industry, persistence and economy, to give better satisfaction (if possible) to his customers and hopes the indulgence of a generous public to be able to replace his house in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the author.
                                                              “ANDREW MILLER.”
The construction of the Great Western railway was the crowning event toward the building of Hamilton into a city. As soon as the bill chartering the road was passed by parliament, the board of police ordered a general illumination, and a grand jubilee was kept up for some time. This was the death blow to the future growth of Dundas, for prior to the building of the railway, all the produce from the back country, such as flour, meat, grain, cattle, lumber and staves, were shipped at the head of the Desjardins canal and passed through Burlington canal to the lake without benefitting Hamilton in the least. Considerable influence was brought to bear on the directors of the Great Western to run the railway straight down through the center of Ancaster township, so that the road would connect with the Dundas and Waterloo and Guelph roads, and so not take away from Dundas the trade of back counties. This the company refused to do, and the people of Dundas contend to this day that Hamilton was responsible for the loss of business to Dundas.
On the 24th of July, 1850, an act was passed by parliament to empower the town to subscribe for stock in the Great Western railway, and on the 10th of November, 1853, the Hamilton Orphan asylum was incorporated, and the Gore was declared the property of the town for public purposes. The Khan tells us in his history written for the atlas that Hamilton had plunged into a heavy debt on account of the waterworks and the building of the Port Dover railway. The corporation was compelled to negotiate a loan of $200,000 to consolidate its indebtedness. At the same time, a further sum of $200,000 was borrowed to pay for 2,000 shares of the Great Western stock. Prosperity seemed to come with the indebtedness, and for the next four years, the town grew with a rapidity that was astonishing. Houses were so scarce that it was almost impossible to buy one for love or money, until the great panic of 1857 when everything changed. It was in the year 1857 that the waterworks were being constructed, and times were so hard that first-class mechanics, representing all trades, walked the streets from day to day, and were glad to get a job with a shovel and pick ax to work in the trenches for laying the water pipes. The debt was mounting higher and higher every day, till finally in May, 1861, an act was passed to consolidate the debt and authorizing the corporation to issue debentures to the amount of $2,327,000 to redeem the debentures already issued.
Hamilton at this time was almost in the shadow of despair. Whole blocks of houses were unoccupied, ad for several years but very few houses were built within the city limits. Trade was paralyzed, and the few factories that were in existence were either closed or working on short time. At the close of the American war, business began to brighten a little, but it took years before there was work for everybody. In 1867 the population of the city was 21,185, and in 1874, it crawled up to 31, 957. The total amount of taxes collected in 1874 was $26,746 on an assessed valuation of $13, 850,042 worth of property.
For some unexplained reason, Hamilton was dependent on Toronto and Montreal for branch banks, apparently never being able to build up a strong bank of its own. There were several attempts to create a local bank, but some cause failure was the result. The Bank of British North America controlled by capital and directors in the old country, was the only successful institution till 1872 when the Bank of Hamilton was incorporated with a capital of $4,000,000, and it has grown with the growth of the city and now stands in the front rank of the banks in Canada. Hamilton’s Wall street is comprised in the block from the corner of King and James to the corner of Main on the west side and from Main on the east side down to the Canada Life building, and then across the south side of King to the corner of Hughson and king, where stands the reliable Provident and Loan. There is lots of money in Hamilton and stockholders galore in the local institutions. There has been only one bank failure in the past twenty-one years and that a private bank that in its day had the confidence of every Hamiltonian from the day it was established in 1847. In 1856, the Gore bank was the only regularly organized local bank in the city, besides which there were two savings banks. The Gore bank was chartered in 1836 with a capital of 200,000 pounds, the officers were Colin C. Ferrie, president; Andrew Stevens, cashier; H. S. Strathy, chief teller; Robert Park, junior teller; W. G. Crawford, bookkeeper; Edward Ambrose, Thomas McCracken and Chas. Murray, clerks. The banking was on the corner of King and Hughson streets, now occupied by the Bank of Commerce.
In the Wentworth county atlas printed in 1874, there were personal sketches of prominent men in those days, all of whom have passed away, and the cards of thirty-one men, not one of whom is in business today.
                   THE HAMILTON WATERWORKS
          As early as April 20, 1836, the Hamilton Water Works company was incorporated by act of parliament. This gigantic enterprise for a town of small population was compared with the waterworks in Montreal, which city had the largest population in Canada. Actual work on the construction did not really begin until about the year 1856. The system was completed about the year 1860, at a cost of $800,000. The machinery was made at Dundas in the Gartshore foundry, and was said to be the finest of any manufactured, not only in Canada but in the United States. James McFarlane was the first engineer in charge of the system and he continued with it till a few years ago, when feeling that old age was telling upon him and he reluctantly tendered his resignation, and it was as reluctantly accepted by the city. The chimney of the works looms up 150 feet, and can be seen by sailors leagues away across the lake. Two double-cylinder engines of 100 horses power each, and four immense boilers furnished the motive power. The water comes from Lake Ontario and is filtered through 31 feet of sand, making the water the purest and cleanest of any city system in America. The water was originally pumped to a reservoir on the side of the mountain, which is 185 feet above the level of the lake. It now comes by direct pressure from the pump house into the homes of Hamilton. The water system has always been a great source of revenue to the city, and the consumers pay higher for its use than does any other city in Canada for their system. The Hon. Adam Brown is the only survivor of the original board of water commissioners.

          There is not many of the boys and girls now living who attended the private schools in Hamilton prior to 1845. At the time in 1853, when the present school system was inaugurated, there were no fewer than 28 private schools in Hamilton and it was said that the buildings occupied as schoolhouses were so filthy and degrading in their character that the children blushed at being obliged to enter them. When Mr. McCallum was inspector of public schools he gave a brief review of the condition in which he found the school-houses . The earliest official data of the public schools went back to 1847. At that time, the city was divided into six school sections, in each section there was one school-house  containing one room, in which all the children assembled to be taught by one teacher. The houses were all frame buildings, and only one of them was owned by the town. Four were in ordinary repair, and two in bad repair without proper facilities for ventilation, and not one had anything in the shape of a playground. Of these six school buildings, one alone was an actual school-house, the rest being rented for school purposes, and the facilities that were offered were of the poorest kind. Such things as a school library, maps and apparatus had not been thought of. In 1850, the present system was introduced and preparations for erecting the Central school commenced; old things were passing away, and all things were to begin anew. The Central was opened on the 3rd of May, 1853. Its fourteen rooms and teachers were supposed capable of instructing the school-going population of Hamilton for the next ten years. In 1860, there were the Central and six primary schools in operation, and the staff numbered thirty, including a principal, a classical master and a music teacher. The whole number of school population was estimated at 5,500 and the average daily attendance for the separate and public schools  was 1, 790. The cost per pupil on average attendance and amount paid teachers was $8.33, and including current expenditure amounted to $13.07. Now Hamilton can justly boast of the best system of school-houses, arrangements, teachers and results of any city in Ontario, and all due to the first-class men elected as trustees, and the liberal policy pursued in giving to the rising generation an education to fit them for the battle of life.


          In 1830 the town authorities bought a bell for which $400 was paid. Not having a tower in which to hang the bell, arrangements were made with the trustees of the American Presbyterian church on John street, in the center of the old Gurney foundry block, to hang it in the belfry of the church, where it remained till it was moved to the engine-house on King William street. When the new city hall was built, it was again moved to the clock tower, where it now does duty as occasion demands. The first police court was established in 1846, with Captain Armstrong. He was succeeded by the late Magistrate James Cahill, who in turn was followed by the present magistrate Mr. George J. Jelfs, who has recently rounded out his first quarter of a century on the bench. During its history of more fifty years, Hamilton has had but three police magistrates, and each one of them with a heart that sympathized with the erring ones, in many cases adopting the language of the Saviour, “Go and sin no more.” Governor Ogilvie’s castle of retirement on Barton street was opened for boarders in 1875. It cost $40,000 to build it.