ANGELS OF MERCY
We will have to go back a matter of sixty years to find the time that the Angels of Mercy came to Hamilton and made their home in this city. But let us briefly tell how they happened to make Hamilton their home. Away back early in the sixties, three Americans, H. L. Higby, James Rockewell, and A. L. Woodruff came over from the State of New York for the purpose of starting a felt hat factory, there being nothing of that kind in Canada in those days. The situation of Hamilton made it a desirable place for manufacturing industries, being located at the head of navigation and the Great Western railway opening up western Canada and the great west of the neighboring republic. Hamilton rejoiced because the American capitalists selected it as the home of such an important industry. The site selected for the factory was at the north end of Wellington street, formerly occupied by the Sawyer’s, manufacturers of agricultural implements. The new industry was considered to be one of the most important in Canada. It gave employment to not fewer than 150 persons, male and female, paying an average of $3 a day, who were constantly employed in the manufacture of felt hats, and the success which attended the enterprise promised much for the future. It was only a year previous to the establishment of the Hamilton factory that felt hats had to be imported from New York or Europe to supply the Canadian market. The new industry turned out from thirty-five to forty hats everyday of superior quality, for which a home market was readily found. The firm used 100,000 skins of the finest wool, 500 cords of wood, 600 tons of coal, and 300 barrels of alcohol each year. The value of the hats manufactured in a year amounted to about $150,000, which at that early date of Hamilton industries was considered to be a great and prosperous enterprise. The temporary embarrassments under which Hamilton labored after passing through the great commercial and industrial panic of 1857 was enough to disheartened any people, but Hamilton had in those days a class of men of business enterprise. Had they not built the first important line of railway in Canada, from the Niagara to the Detroit rivers, a few years previous, 220 miles; Hamilton to Toronto, 37 miles; Harrisburg to Guelph, 28 miles; Komoka to Sarnia, 81 miles; making in all 345 miles? The total amount of capital raised and spent in the construction of the railways was $25,195, 727, and the Great Western began paying dividends in less than five years after it was opened for traffic. Now the government, after paying millions of dollars of the public money in paying running expenses, are discussing the question of buying up the old road.
THE FIRM OF LONG & BIGBY
There came with the firm of A. I. Woodruff and Company, as a Bookkeeper and financial manager, a bright, young business fellow from Utica, New York, George Harvey Bisby. In time, the company added to its business of felt hats making, the buying of wool. And here is where William Dubert Long came into the life and enterprise of Hamilton. Mr. Long was a native of the state of Missouri, being born in Farmington, in November, 1846, which brings him up to the ripe age of seventy-nine years – and he is not what might be called an old man yet, for his business faculties are as bright as when he landed in Hamilton in the month of July, 1862, with only $12 of cash capital to begin a home in a strange country. A bit of Mr. Long’s history may not be out of place in connection with this story. His father owned a laundry in Farmington, Missouri, in which Mr. Long worked during his boyhood years. Not having a liking for that business, he secured employment as a steamboat hand on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and like Mark Twain became a river pilot in time. Early in the beginning of the American civil war, he quit the river and came to Hamilton where he secured employment with the firm of A. L. Woodruff and company at the munificent salary of $18 a month, out of which he paid $17 a month for his board. When he left St. Louis, he had about $135, with which to pay traveling expenses, and by the time he got employment, his cash capital was seriously diminished till it got down to around $15. He brought a letter of introduction to A. Murray, which he never presented. He began as a clerk in a store, receiving his board, but no wages, where he remained till the opening came in the hat factory. Being brought up on a Missouri stock farm, Mr. Long was an expert in sheep and wool, and when the Woodruff company started purchasing wool, Mr. Long was substantially put in charge of that department. During the American civil war, Mr. Long was made an agent of the United States government for the purchase of horses for the cavalry and artillery service; and here knowledge gained in his youth on the Missouri farm was brought into play to its fullest extent, as every man who had an old plug of a horse tried to palm it off on the government, but the farm lad was too expert a judge of horses to permit of the grafters getting in their work.