Sunday, 13 October 2013


Die poor and your relations will never bother their heads about you, but leave a bit of property, no matter if it is only a thousand or two dollars, and no will, claimants who never heard of you when you were fighting your way through life will spring up from every quarter and rush to the law courts for a share. Now this does not apply to the direct descendants such as wife, and children, to father and mother, brothers and sisters, for the law takes care of them unless the head of the family should take it into his head to make a will and cut his wife and children out of all he can under the law, and in a malevolent spirit, leave them penniless. This has been done more than once in this blessed city, and is likely to occur again. Men with good-looking wives and no children have been known to make a will and leave their wives, who have helped to create the wealth, with barely what the law recognizes as her her share, and divide it among even distant relatives who probably never gave them a crust of bread during their lifetime. A lawyer was once called in this city to make the will of a dying man, who had saved a handsome fortune, as riches were counted in his day. He worked long hours everyday at his business, never spent a cent willingly for benevolent purposes, and his wife was a frugal woman who might spent more in home comforts if she only had it. When his sands of life were running out, his wealth became a burden to him. He could not take it with him, as shrouds have no pockets, and he worried till almost the last moment before he could decide to whom it should go. One thing certain, the good wife who had made his home life as happy as it was possible for him to enjoy, and who had helped by her economy in creating the wealth, was not going to get her hands on any more of it than he could help, for she might marry again and some other fellow would have the spending of it. At the last moment he called for his lawyer and spent the last afternoon of his life in dividing the estate among relatives whom he had not seen since his younger days when he left his fatherland to come to Hamilton. He was careful to keep within the law as to the portion to be allotted to his wife. When the will was ready for the signature of the dying man, he was too weak to held the pen with which to sign his name, and on the advice of his lawyer deferred this important part till the next morning. The undertaker, however, was at the house before the lawyer the next morning, and the will was never signed. The lawyer, in telling the story afterward, said he was never so happy as when he saw the undertaker’s emblem of mourning on that door, and he returned to his office, without entering the home of death, rejoicing that there was victory in the grave. The wife got half of the estate, which left her substantially wealthy during her lifetime, and she had no desire to enter again the matrimonial market. That she loved her husband goes without saying, for her married life was devoted to his comfort and happiness.


                                   MISER TODD
Some years ago, a miser who had spent his lifetime wandering between St. Catharines and Hamilton, hoarded every cent that came to him till he accumulated quite a large sum of money. He did not even supply himself with the commonest necessities of life. The poor old fellow was even too mean to get married, for some woman would be glad to share his fortune even if she could not give in return the ordinary respect and love that should be a home. The old miser was not known to have a relative, but sadly and alone he plodded on through life, his only desire being to add dollar upon dollar. The time came for him to answer the last roll-call in life, and to die decently he beat his way on the Grand Trunk road from St. Catharines to Hamilton and at the station in this city was removed from the train to the city hospital in a free ambulance. The ruling passion was even strong in the closing hours of life. For the first time in many years, he enjoyed the luxury of a bath and clean clothes to sleep in, and then quietly ended the journey without telling even the nurse who attended him in the hospital who was to pay the bill. But he was rich. In his ragged old clothing, bank books were found, and the more the officials hunted the greater was the wonder at where the old Todd got it all. There were no relatives to attend his burial, although the hospital officials made due inquiry in the vicinity of Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, but when it became known that the old fellow left a large estate in money, an army of relatives and claimants swarmed into the courts to get a share of it. Some people who had never heard of Todd during his lifetime were among the most persistent of the claimants. And the final result was that the lawyers got fat fees while the claimants were fighting. “The lawyers will get it,” as the old man in the play of the Chimney Corner said wen he was hiding his money in the chimney. And the lawyers did get a generous share of Miser Todd’s fortune after all.
                                             HONORA N. CAHIL-PEELE
          And this brings us down to the point we had in view when we started this bit of ancient history. Just think of what a stir this poor little Irish baby, born in Dundas more than seventy years ago, is making today. It is a “Tale of Two Cities” – Hamilton, Canada and San Francisco, California. It dates back to when Hamilton was but little more than village, and now it comes into full bloom when this great industrial city, with a population of more than one hundred thousand and then as many more as Assessment Commissioner McLeod and his army of assessors feel like adding so as to keep just a little ahead of ancient Bytown. There is rivalry in cities as there is in love. Of course, we might go on with that kind of camouflage till our allotted space was taken and then the reader would not know a bot about the “Tale of Two Cities.” And here we are again at the resurrection of that dear little Irish girl who first saw the light in Dundas nearly three quarters of a century ago. Honora Cahill would never have been heard of again in Hamilton or Dundas, although she has relations galore who now claim to know all about her child history, had she not left diamonds and jewels enough to almost fill all the show cases in Thomas Lees’ jewelry store; and besides the jewels there was gold and silver enough to enrich the coffers of the Bank of Hamilton and make Manager Bell monarch of all he surveyed.
          It is astonishing what a memory reviver a rich relation becomes after passing through the undertaker’s hands. We give a bit of Honora’s child history, as we learned it from a first cousin, who said it was but little he knew except that when he was a child, living in Dundas, his mother who was the only sister of Michael James Cahill, Honora’s father, would often wonder what became of her brother “Mick”  after he left Dundas, foe she “never heard hide or half of him or his family.” In the old days, when the postage on a letter cost from eight pence to fifteen pence, poor families did not keep up much correspondence with the absent ones, especially as not many poor Irishmen could read or write; and there were not many scholars who left old Ireland seventy-five years ago. “Mick” Cahill came to Hamilton when he was a bit of a gossoon, and he came to pave the way for the remainder of the family of the family if they could ever raise the passage money to bring them across the sea. Only one sister came, and she died in Dundas many years ago, after raising a family of boys and girls. Before “Mick” Cahill moved to Dundas, he married a young Irish girl, who, it is said, was born in this old town, but some of the relatives claim that she was a native of the county of Derry and came across the sea when she was a very young child. Be that as it may, for it is neither here nor there, “Mick” Chaill and this girl fell in love with each other, as it was a natural event in those days with Irish boys and girls, and they moved out to Dundas, where work was plenty at five shillings a day. Dundas was a busy town in those days, with its paper mills and factories, and other industries; and, by and by, the Great Western road was started, and every husky fellow who could handle a pick or a shovel was in demand. The Cahills had two children born to them in the Valley Town, a boy and a girl. The boy died in infancy, and when Honora was about two years old, the Cahills had a falling out, which resulted in a separation, and “Mick” went his way the mother went hers, and they never lived together afterwards.
          When Mrs. Cahill bid farewell to “Mick” forever , she came back to Hamilton, bringing with her the two year old Honora, and not knowing which way to turn, she went to the home of Mrs. Tangney, an Irish widow, who lived at No. 9 O’Reilly street, and that old friend advised her to take her child and go to Cleveland, Ohio, and she would give her a letter to a friend of hers, and by this means she would not be lonely in a strange city. When Mrs. Cahill went to Cleveland, she fortunately fell into the hands of a motherly old Irishwoman, who was a housekeeper in a good hotel, and there she got a home for herself and child. How many years she lived in Cleveland is a blank in her history, but the next heard of mother and daughter was that they were in California, and that Honora had married a noted horseman of those days by the name of Peele, and he was very successful on the race track. Then we have the story that Honora and her husband went to China, where Peele was noted for his “string” of races and added to the fatness of his bank account. The next we hear of Honora is that she was back again in San Francisco, California, but Peele seems to have dropped out of sight.
          It is said that Honora’s mother died about thirty years ago, but that neither mother nor daughter were again heard of in Hamilton, nor is it known that they ever visited here. “Mick” Cahill made several efforts to be conciliated with his wife, visiting her in Cleveland, but of no avail, and in time he drifted out, never to be heard of again in Hamilton.
          Some years later, there appeared in a directory of 1857 of Hamilton the names of Cornelius Cahill, a gardener, who lived on Catherine street, between Augusta and Peel, and Dennis Cahill, a laborer in D. C. Gunn’s locomotive works. Whether they were related to Michael James Cahill deponent saith not. Mrs. Michael McKenna, “Mick” Cahill’s sister, spent the greater part of her life in Dundas. One of her sons is living in Hamilton and is employed at the Westinghouse factory, and from him we have gathered a bit of family history to make up the “Tale of Two Cities.”
          On the 19th day of January, 1909, Honora Cahill-Peele evidently came to the conclusion that she could not take with her to the grave her wealth of diamonds, jewelry and cash, and that the most sensible thing she could do was to make a will so that the lawyers would not get it. The good soul never dreamed what was to be the final result after all. A couple of weeks ago, we published a copy of her will, and it will be seen from it that she was careful in providing for a distribution of the diamonds and jewels and a good share of the cash; but she had too much money to give away and no one to leave it to, and she finally bunched the residue by providing that her executor “shall distribute the same among the various Protestant institutions located in Hamilton, Canada.” Evidently she had no knowledge of having any relatives in Hamilton, for no mention is made of them anywhere in her will. Further, she provided that her executor “shall determine what Protestant institutions are so located, and how much of this bequest shall go to each institution. His decision as to what Protestant charitable institutions exist in Hamilton, and the amount each one shall receive out of this legacy shall be absolute and binding on all parties interested.”
          And here let us suggest to the readers of these musings, if you have not already made a will, so that what you leave after paying funeral expenses will go to those you intend to provide for, do it now and don’t put off till you are so far gone that you cannot sign your will, for an army of relatives, of whom you have never hear, will come out of the clouds to get a share of it. And what they don’t get, the lawyers will.
          Now that is the case with Honora Cahill-Peele fortune. She died on the 15th day of December, 1916, and her executors, the Mercantile Trust company of San Francisco, in order to close up the estate, and divide it as directed in her will, sent agents to Hamilton to hunt up the history of Mrs. Peele. The records in Hamilton and Dundas were searched, and it was found that fifteen or more relations came forward as claimants, not one of them having any personal knowledge that the poor little Irish girl, born in Dundas nearly three quarters of a century ago, was the fountain of great wealth that was to put them on easy street for the remaining years of their lives.
          Again the Trust company sent an agent to hunt for further proof, and this renewed the flame of expectancy. And now the case is being heard in the San Francisco courts, and if the relatives will only act with prudence, there may be a speedy settlement, and each one get a bite of the fat things. The Protestant charities of Hamilton, if we may except the Salvation Army, had taken no part till their attention was called to the papers received from San Francisco by T. H. Pratt. Then Mayor Booker became interested in the outcome of the charities of Hamilton, and got into communication with the British consulate-general in San Francisco, and an attorney has been employed in the city’s interest. The mayor has handed the matter over to Mr. Waddell, the corporation solicitor, and now things are getting shape so that the Protestant charities in Hamilton will soon be able to find out where they are at.
          Well, there you are, and as the prize fighters say, when they shy their castors into the ring, “May the best man win!” Strange things happen in this world. A poor little Irish baby born in Dundas in comparative poverty three quarters of a century ago, furnishes a sensation that interests a continent.

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