Tuesday, 7 May 2013


In last Saturday’s Spectator was a very fine write-up of the town of Milton of the present day. Before us we have a copy of the Halton Journal of the date of August 15, 1856 – fifty-six years ago. The Journal was published in the town of Milton by Rowe & Graham, price $2 a year if paid in advance. For advertisements the publishers charged fifty cents for the first insertion of six lines and under, and twenty-five cents for each subsequent insertion. If the country papers of the present day could command such prices, and have as many columns of local advertising in each issue, the proprietors would be riding around the country in $1,000 motor cars and smoking ten cent cigars. The Journal was printed on all rag paper which accounts for its good condition after all these years. The editors were evidently prolific writers, for there are five and one-half columns of editorial devoted to political questions and one solitary local item announcing the death of the young son of Mr. Vannorman, who was scalded  by the upsetting of a kettle of boiling lye. Boiler plate had not come into vogue in the old-time country newspaper offices, and all the matter was set in long primer and brevier type. The size of the paper was eight columns of which the advertisements filled a little more than seven columns. The first page had a story written by Sylvanus Cobb, jun., and to fill out there was a little miscellany. The second page had selections of foreign news and an account of a political meeting in Hamilton, which had been called to denounce the Tory government, and a request to the governor-general to dissolve the house of assembly. Even in those early days the people were demanding the referendum and recall. One item may be interesting now. It told of a miraculous escape from death. A young farmer, named William Symington, aged nineteen years, was cleaning out a well on the farm of John  Weir, West Flamboro. The well was forty-five feet deep, and having taken out a number of bucketsful from the bottom, he attempted to push in a stone that projected too far out. In doing so the whole side of the well from top to bottom caved in and he was a prisoner under forty-five feet of earth and stone. A crowd soon collected and they began to dig down to his relief. After four or five hours’ digging they heard him moan. All through that night and Sunday did the workers toil, and about ten o’clock on Sunday night, they were successful in reaching him. For twenty-eight hours was he entombed under forty-five feet of earth. When the earth and stones were taken off him, some good Samaritan handed him a glass of beer, which he gulped down in one draught, and then became unconscious for a time. Fortunately no bones were broken, but he was severely bruised on several parts of his body.


          The advertisements in an old newspaper are generally a sort of directory of the prominent men of the community. We will take a run through the advertising columns, and let the Milton people compare the names of the past with the present. In 1856, Milton had not yet become an incorporated village, and a public meeting was called at Hampton’s inn on Tuesday evening, Aug. 19, to take into consideration the propriety of petitioning the governor-general to declare Milton an incorporated village. Alfred Galbraith had a jeweler’s shop in Georgetown, and he announced that he had also opened a branch shop in Milton. Culver, the daguerrean artist, had made pictures of everybody in and around Milton, and he invited those who had not availed themselves of the opportunity “that now was the accepted time,” as he was about leaving the village. George Phillips concluded that there was room in Milton for a first-class tinner, and he announces his readiness to do any class of work as cheap as any other man in Halton county. Just think of what a boy had to be in order to learn the printing business! He must have a good English education and furnish testimonials as to character. Of course, the Milton woods were full of such boys. Robert Todd invited inspection of his stock of groceries and provisions, especially his brands of wines, brandy, Old Tom gin, Jamaica rum, Scotch and old rye whiskey. He had a little common Canadian whiskey for customers who had spent all their money on the fine grades of booze. The Nelson woolen mills, owned by George Reid & Co., called attention to its fine stock of cloths, satinets, tweeds, blankets, and flannels. The same firm wanted to buy 10,000 pounds of good, clean wool and 500 barrels of soft soap. James Laidlaw called attention to his stock of books, stationery and groceries; also, to the fact that a large portion of the stock of the Milton branch Bible society was still on hand. Mrs. Noble taught school in Milton, and thanked the parents for sending their children to her. The next term began on Aug. 18. Daniel Noble had a number of valuable horses to sell cheap for cash or on joint notes. Evidently the Scott law was not in force in Halton county in those days for George Clarkson sold groceries on the side, but made a specialty of his liquor trade. To show that he was broad-minded, he also sold temperance drinks. The sheriff had his customers, for several unfortunates were having their land sold by that official. Dr. Freeman, the county coroner, W. Hume and A. Buck were the local doctors, and besides those the doctors in neighboring villages advertised for a share of the sick trade in Milton. Gilbert Bastedo was the village attorney, but lawyers in Hamilton and Oakville reached out for their share of the litigation. C. A. Baker and Peter McKay were the licensed auctioneers for the county. Winter & Howitt, provincial land surveyors, did a joint business in Milton and Oakville. Hill & Bowers sold dry goods, groceries, hardware and everything else, and Miss Hill made the lids for the ladies to wear on their heads as well as dresses and mantillas. Thomas B. Ross and William Armstrong were rival village tailors, and Robert Vigeon was the only shoemaker that advertised. Smiley & Robson owned the steam saw mill and planning machine; John J. Humphrey and William Adamson did the contracting and building, and William A. Agar put the finishing touches with the paint brush and paper hanging. Once upon a time they had a foundry in Milton, but that must have been in the early ages, for there was nothing of the kind nearly sixty years ago. The only reference to it in the Halton journal is that it was then being used for smaller workshops. Little & Gould had a carriage shop, and their shop was in the old Samuel Morse foundry. An advertisement  that was overlooked when the preceding paragraph was written tells us that Samuel Morse was going to build a new foundry, which he hoped to have in operation before the close of the year 1856, but in the meantime he kept constantly on hand plows and other standard castings. He was also prepared to take contracts for the erection of buildings. Charles Gardner, M. D., besides practicing the healing art, devoted his leisure time to the insurance business. J. Riach conducted the Milton saddler establishment, and George Craig was prepared to supply from his quarry cut stone and rubble for building purposes. John Kennedy advertised cooking, parlor and box stoves at reduced prices. Dentistry must have been a thriving business for R. Trotter, J. Zimmerman, and J. Bastedo were after the afflicted trade. The three dentists had regular circuits in the nearby towns, and announced that they would treat patients at their own homes. George Hurlburt, having purchased the patent of Briggs’ celebrated washing machine for the county of Halton, had opened a factory in which to build the machines. One whole column was devoted to the sale of farm lands, and great bargains were offered. Hamilton business and professional men patronized the advertising columns of the Journal.


          There is nothing like going through the advertising columns of a venerable newspaper or through the pages of an ancient directory. It is like passing through a graveyard and reading the names on the tombstones. The people who were on the active force in Milton sixty years ago have finished life’s journey, only now and then some one may be found who has any recollection of them. It is the same everywhere. The poet’s corner was a favorite department in every newspaper in the old days, and the selections were generally from the best writers. The Singers, by Henry W. Longfellow, and Don’t Be Downhearted were the favorites of the editors of the Journal for that week. Perhaps some lover of Longfellow’s sweet songs will appreciate The Singers, therefore we copy the verses:
          God sent his singers upon earth,
          With songs of sadness and of mirth,
          That they might touch the hearts of men,
          And bring them back to heaven again.

The first, a youth, with soul of fire,
Held in his hand a golden lyre,
Through groves he wandered and by streams
Playing the music of our dreams.

The second, with bearded face,
Stood singing in the market place,
And stirred with accents deep and loud
The hearts of all the listening crowd.

A gray old man, the third and last,
Sang in cathedrals dim and vast,
While the majestic organ roll’d
Contrition for the mouths of gold.

And those who heard the singers three
Disputed which the best might be;
For still their music seemed to start
Discordant echoes in each heart.

But the great Master said, “I see
No best in kind, but in degree;
I gave a various gift to each,
To charm, to strengthen and to teach.

“These are the three great chords of might.
And he whose ear is tuned aright
Will hear no discord in the three,
But the most perfect harmony.”


In looking over an old directory of the town of Milton for the year 1869 the only name we find that was in business in that town in 1856 is that of Dr. Freeman. Evidently Milton was not a growing place fifty years ago, for, in 1869, the population was only 1,000. In the latter year there were 67 business and professional men in Milton. The name of John White, M.P.P., appears in the directory. Sixty years ago, the White family, of Milton, was largely interested in King street business property in this city., and the White block now occupied by the Brewster store and the empty room adjoining is still owned by the family. In 1869, the Champion was the name of the paper, the Journal having passed in its checks. It had four taverns in 1869 and four churches to offset the booze business.
However, Milton’s sun is beginning to shine, and if the oil wells only hold out as they now give promise, it will become one of the boom towns of Canada. Away back nearly sixty years ago, oil was discovered in the country between London and the Detroit river. Frederick Watkins, who was raised on a farm somewhere in the vicinity of Milton, was one of the chief promoters. At that time he was in business here in Hamilton with his two brothers. Visions o wealth lured him from the counter to the oil fields, and being an enthusiastic believer in the flowing wells, he invested his bottom dollar in and around Petrolia. George Brown, the editor of the Toronto Globe, was another enthusiast, but unfortunately the men who did the promoting were not the ones to reap the benefits. After the Standard Oil corporation came into existence that body absorbed all the oil lands in that section, and the money that should have gone into the pockets of the early promoters and their children went to enrich the coffers of John D. Rockefeller and his partners. It might be a profitable  study for the owners of the oil fields around Milton to take a leaf from the experience of the past, and, instead of turning over their land to the speculators, form companies among themselves  and keep the profits at home. Probably a kind Providence has opened the bowels of the earth and poured out this oleaginous richness in order to recoup the unfortunate people in that neighbourhood, who had so much faith in Beattie Nesbitt, Travers and other promoters of the defunct Farmers’ Bank as to lose their hard-earned money in a wildcat speculation. Oil is valuable as a fuel, and the four or five hundred factories in Hamilton will afford a close and ready market for the Milton output.

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