Thursday, 15 August 2013


        I am dreaming ‘a dream’ of the olden time,” when Hamilton was but little more than a village in population, and its boundaries were Wellington street on the east and the Bowery (now Bay street south) on the west, and all on the other side was farms and cow pasture. From the mountainside down to the bay was a gentle slope, with here and there a gully to carry off the surplus water that at times flowed down from the mountain in torrents. What a delightful picture would the old town have made for later generations to feast their eyes upon, had there been some technical student to put it on canvas. But then we had no technical schools in those days, nor indeed did Hamilton have a respectable common school, for it was before the building of the Central school, or the coming of Dr. Sangster. And this calls to mind that only a few weeks ago, the last of that small galaxy of learned women, who was one of the first teachers under Dr. Sangster, ended life’s journey. Not one of them is left to tell the story of the early days in the Central school, and even of pupils but few are left to answer at roll call at the next reunion. Boys and girls were not privileged in those days to spend long years in the school room, except in the case of the children of parents who were fortunate in business, and could stand the expense, for it was necessary to have the boys learn a trade and help in support of the family, for the families were larger and the earnings of the father smaller than they are now, and the girls were needed in the homes to help mother care for the younger children. My ancient Hamilton readers will recall those days, for it was in their younger days that the foundations of the wealth and prosperity were laid that the children of the present are enjoying.

What is more natural for an old-timer than that he should go back to his youth when he fails of anything interesting to talk about? He thinks that there is nothing like the old times and the old town in which he spent his boyhood days. They are pleasant memories  to him, even if they do not interest those who are living in this new world of the present. The time will come when they will be retelling to the future generations of the days when Hamilton had a Goodenough mayor, and when the railroad corporations were trying to gobble up what was left of the ancient mountain that was the pride of this old town away back in the early days when Lady Simcoe, the literary wife of the first governor-general of Canada, so beautifully described it in her history of the Head of the Lake, when she came sailing into Burlington bay through a shallow entrance in the north end of the beach. How many of the present generation are aware of the fact that the bay was originally called Geneva lake or Macassa bay, and that it was on the 16th of June, 1792, that the name was changed to Burlington bay by proclamation of Governor Simcoe? In the topographical description of Upper Canada, issued in the year 1813, it was said of Burlington bay that it was as “beautiful and romantic a situation a any in the interior of America, particularly if we include with it a marshy lake which falls into it, and a noble promontory that divides them.” From unwritten history, it has been handed down that Captain Zealand was the first sailorman to enter the bay, with the good rig Rebecca and Eliza, through the creek that wound round from Wellington square into Macassa bay. It was also said that in the early days, there existed a barracks or fort on the sand strip on the north end somewhere in the vicinity of the power house of the beach trolley line. Sixty or seventy years ago there were some evidences of a fort having once been located there, but the advancing civilization blotted them out. Lady Simcoe in her diary speaks of an Indian encampment having once been located in the neighborhood. Somewhere in an old encyclopedia, the story is told that thousands of years ago the waters from Lake Erie and its tributary of streams came down through Dundas Valley, out into the bay, and then over the sand strip into Lake Ontario, and on ward flowed to the sea, and that at the time, there was no Niagara Falls beyond the overflow of water from the lower end of Lake Erie. Be that as it may, the ancient geologist who told the story has been dead so long that there is nothing in the present histories to prove to the contrary. However, in Lady Simcoe’s day, Burlington bay was bountifully stocked with fine sea salmon, and was the favorite fishing grounds of the Indians who had settled at the head of the lake. Then it was that the mountainside was covered with a wealth of forest trees that added beauty to the picture, and was the pride of the early settlers. The greed for money despoiled the forest trees and changed the green verdure into a bald-faced stone quarry. For the love of Mike, don’t permit the further despoliation by the railroad company turning what is left as a beauty spot into a freight yard.


Our kind friend, Mr. William Murray, never forgets the Muser on anniversary occasions, and with pleasure, we give his greeting:

Athol Bank, Hamilton, Oct. 19
Congratulations, free from froth,
To Colonel Richard Butler, both
  Our Muser and amuser,
Upon his reaching eighty-three
(The very age of merry me),
  With never an accuser.

And joy to both himself and wife,
So long without a streak of strife,
  On this their wedding day;
(The sixtieth no less), with love
From all there’er they write or rove,
  Or with Spectator’s play.

And may the wondrous couple still
Continue marching up the hill,
With ne’er an ounce of strength decreased.
For twenty annunis more, at least,
  Free from worry.
                   WILLIAM MURRAY

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