Sunday, 18 August 2013



          On the 7th of November, 1820 – ninety-seven years ago last Wednesday – Mrs. Daniel Kelly, whose home is No. 444 Main Street East, was born in a frame house on King street, where the Stanley Mills company department store is now located. This makes her the oldest native-born Hamiltonian now living, and virtually the oldest resident of this city, for she has spent her long life within a mile of the house in which she was born. Connected with her life is a bit of ancient history. Her grandfather, Richard Springer, came to Hamilton about the year 1800, and located on a farm of about one hundred or more acres, from the mountain down to Main street. He built his log house in a grove in the rear of where the Woods Milling company have their mill on Hannah street. The Springer family descended from Charles Christopher Springer, who was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in the year 1650. He had one son, who was educated in London, England, for the ministry, and afterwards became Episcopal Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden. This bishop had also one son, who was educated for the ministry, who emigrated to Wilmington, Delaware, in 1696, where he built the first church, which is still standing. The Springers and the Beasleys were related by marriage. Colonel Richard Beasley, who married Henrietta Springer, was the original owner of Dundurn Park, which was part of his farm, and built the west wing of the castle, in which his family resided till 1832, when he sold the place to Mr. Allan N. Macnab. From the marriage of Colonel Beasley to Henrietta Springer, descended former City Clerk Thomas Beasley. Lee Wilson, the discoverer of acetylene gas, was also a descendant of the Springer family. It would be an interesting bit of history to trace the Springer family from Amsterdam and down through three centuries to Mrs. Daniel Kelly, now the oldest lady in Hamilton.
          Richard Springer’s daughter, Sarah, married Dey Knight, a native of Fryeburg, Maine, and they were the parents of Mrs. Daniel Kelly. We have before given a history of Richard Springer, the founder of Methodism in Hamilton, therefore it will only be necessary to refer to it at this time. Four years after Mrs. Kelly was born, her father, Dey Knight, had the contract to erect the first church building in Hamilton, which event occurred in the year 1824. From the time when Richard Springer held the first Methodist service in his log house in what is now known as the eastern part of Corktown, which was in the year 1801, till the year 1824, there was not a church building in Hamilton belonging to any denomination, and it was a number of years later before the Presbyterians came to occupy the land.
          When the first church (then known as the King street Methodist church) was dedicated, Mrs. Kelly was a girl four years old, and can possibly lay claim to be one of the first attendants and one of the first members of the Sabbath school. Her life has been one continuous part of the history of Hamilton, and now in her ninety-seventh year, her mind is clear and active, and it is a pleasure to hear her tell of the early days in this city. She has one sister living on Main street east, Mrs. McKerlie, who is ninety-three years old; two sons and one daughter. One of the sons holds a responsible position in St. Louis, the other son lives in Pierre, Dakota, and the daughter, Mrs. Rogers, lives at home with her mother. She also has living seven grandchildren. Almost a centenarian, and the Grand Old Woman is as bright and cheerful as she was in the years gone by. May she continue so to the end is the prayer of her host of friends.
Nearly eighteen years ago, William E. Curtis, one of the best-informed newspaper correspondents of his time, then the principal staff writer on the Chicago Record-Herald, wrote a history of the new Irish land act that forced the landlords to sell their estates to their tenants, so as to enable every tiller of the soil to become a prosperous farm owner if he so desired. This act was to be the deathblow to landlordism in Ireland, and the hope that with a sense of ownership of their homes would come peace with prosperity to the tenantry. It was intended to complete the land reform in Ireland, and to eradicate forever the evils of landlordism, which had for so many generations afflicted that country, and retarded its prosperity. The British government provided $900,000,000 to help Ireland become independent of what was known as “absentee landlordism,” as the greater part  of the land was owned by men who lived in England and spent part of each year on the continent, while some poor Pat lived in the tumbledown cottage in Ireland, unless he had made it habitable for his family at his own expense. No wonder why they lived in poverty, when all the agricultural wealth was stripped from Ireland to support the “landed gentry,” who left the gathering of the rents in the hands of agents, who, too often, were the essence of brutality. Under this galling yoke, the Irish renters were compelled to live until patience ceased to be a virtue, and they emigrated from the homeland to Canada and the United States by hundreds of thousands. The early settlers in Hamilton will remember the year 1847, when thousands of them landed at the wharves down at the bay, some to make their home in this town, and others to scatter to the westward. What pitiable plight were the poor immigrants in, scores of them dying in the sheds down on the wharves of that dreaded disease “ship fever.” Those who survived the perils were nursed to health and strength by the good women of Hamilton, and today their descendants are among the leading businessmen and citizens of the town. They settled in one of the quarters of town, built comfortable homes for their families, and that section was christened “Corktown,” and the name will stick to it forever. But what a change has taken place in the last thirty or forty years; the early frame four-room cottages have given place to hundreds of handsome brick houses, built in all the elegance and comfort befitting the prosperity of the people who own and live in them.
Nearly all of the city newspapers have some smart Aleck on the staff who delights in poking fun at the country paper. Peraps to the city reader it matters little whether Tom Jones and wife visited Dave Smith and wife last Sunday, or whether Tim Turnsod’s barn is not as big as some of the skyscrapers that are being built in our Canadian towns, but all the same, these little personal mentions tell a story of vital interest to the weekly readers of Dave Hastings’ compendium of home gossip.
          People in the country are interested in each other’s doings, and the people mentioned as a rule are of the substantial sort, and very few of them have their names connected with the scandals or divorce cases. It may that to one who does not known country life, these personal mentions may sound funny, but the little country paper, in reporting these simple things, and the clean, wholesome life in the community in which it circulates, is doing that which is worthwhile for the information and pleasured of its readers. It is in the quiet country and in the small towns where the strength of Canada is rooted, where its wealth is created, and where its most important and precious ideals are cherished. The country paper must be true to country life, of which it is an important part, if it is to live and do the work of highest value. Their continued efforts on behalf of community betterment is of more worth to the nation than all the efforts of the big city papers that are devoted to the building up of great cities. It is an old saying that “God made the country and man made the town,” and it must be admitted that the country editor has no small share in the country part.

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