The ancient Hamiltonians take a look backward in memory now and then and dream of the bucolic days when nearly every well-to-do home was provided with a melodeon in the parlor, and after prayers, the winding of the clock and the putting the cat out at nine p.m., then out went the tallow or candle, and the family retired to peaceful rest, and got up refreshed with the song birds in the morning to take up the daily routine of life. The good old bossy, after giving her morning pail of milk, could be heard bellowing her song of peaceful content as she turned her head toward the succulent pasture fields east and west to browse during the long, hot summer day, and then return home at eventide to replenish the pantry with more pans of sweet, fresh milk. There was no hint of the milkman having crossed a creek with his wagon to supply his customers with the pure lacteal fluid, for milk was so plentiful in those days that it was almost as cheap as water, hence there was no temptation to the honest milkman to fill up his cans from the creek. Now, it might be inferred that people were more honest half a century ago than they are now. Forget it. Human nature has been built on the same plane since the time Noah landed his passengers and freight from the ark on dry land before Hamilton had a place on the map. Do you know that people are apt to live in the past after they pass a certain stage in the journey of life? Well, that is just the case of this old Muser, whose memory flies back now and then to the time in Hamilton when the cat went out for the night, and boys and girls were not allowed to roam the streets after old Peter Ferris would ring the nine o’clock bell.
The congregation of the First Methodist church dedicated their handsome temple last Sunday, and on next Sunday, a like service will be held in connection with the Sunday school building. It required a deal of courage for the members to build such a handsome and costly edifice, but the location deserved it, for on that lot and corner was built not only the first church in Hamilton, but also the first Methodist church. The corner and the lot are historic ground. Sometimes it seems like plowing over the old ground for any mention to be made in these musings in connection with church, especially that of First church. At a venture we will recall the story, and if the reader should say that he or she read it before, then they can skip this page and read “Bobby’s” hot stuff on the sporting page about the latest prize fight. One hundred and fifteen years ago there landed in the region, now known in history as the Head of the Lake, but later christened Hamilton, a man by the name of Richard Springer. He was of German descent, but was born in the United States. In the year 1801, he located a farm south of Main street and up to the mountain, better described later as the site of the St. Patrick’s school on Hunter street, now turned into a flour mill by the Wood Milling company. The Springer homestead stood in the rear of the present site of the mill, and the first thing that the owner did was to rect an altar in his home to the Great Father who directed his life, and then he planted an orchard with the choicest fruit grown in this region in those days. A few trees of the old orchard are still yielding fruit. He invited his neighbors to attend the weekly prayer meeting held in his house, and on Sundays he would have a class meeting and preaching service. When the farm kitchen became too small to accommodate the increased attendance, he fitted up his barn for the meetings. Now and then a wandering itinerant preacher would drift toward the Head of the Lake, and then there was a regular Pentecostal feast among the ancient Methodists. When quarterly meeting time came, these old Methodists would journey out to Bowman chapel on the mountain or to the chapel at Stoney Creek, which was riddled with bullets in the war of 1812, and there they would devoutly listen to the gospel sermons, relate their experience and “sing the hours away in everlasting bliss.” In those days, Elder Ryan and Rev. Nathan Bangs were the best known itinerants in these parts, and Elder Ryan travelled from one end of Upper Canada to the other, organizing circuits. For years, Richard Springer’s barn accommodated the congregations in winter, and during the summer months, services were held under the forest trees. The first and oldest regular place of public worship was a little frame school house on the lot near the corner of King and Wellington streets. Here Mr. Springer continued his regular class and prayer meetings, and in the absence of an itinerant preacher, he would conduct the Sunday service. As an exhorter, it is told that Mr. Springer was a man of great power, somewhat quaint in his manner, which was very effective in those early days of Methodism. It is said that most of the farmers living at the Head of the Lake (now the city of Hamilton0 were Methodists, among them being the Springers, Lands, Aikmans, Fergusons, Hughsons, Beasleys,Hesses, Kirkendalls and others whose names are forgotten by the Muser. Some of those named united with the Church of England when the Rev. James Gamble Geddes first gathered a congregation here, about 1825.In 1822, Richard Springer, Charles Depew, Col. John Aikman, john Eaton and Peter Ferguson, acting as trustees for the Methodist Episcopal church, purchased the present site on the corner of King and Wellington streets from Col. Robert Land, paying twenty pounds ($80) for about one acre and a quarter of land for a burying ground and a church. One of the first burials was Samuel Price, a tavern keeper, whose gravestone bore the date 1822. In 1823, the deed was made to the trustees and immediately after getting possession, the trustees built the first church in Hamilton, and in May 1824, it was duly dedicated. The contract for the erection of the church was given to Day Knight, a brother-in-law of Richard Springer, and the father of Mrs. Daniel Kelly, 444 Main street east, who is now in her ninety-fourth year, and as bright in intellect and activity as a woman of sixty. The building cost about $1,700; the dedication sermon being preached by Presiding Elder William Case. Soon, after the church was built the congregation withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and assumed the name of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada. This was known as Ancaster circuit, the Reverend Issac B. Smith and the Reverend David Culp being the ministers in charge of the circuit. The writer of these Musings had the pleasure, in his youth, of hearing the Rev. David Culp preach in the old Methodist Episcopal Church on Nelson street, now Ferguson Avenue. The church property was afterwards sold to the government, and on it was built the gun sheds for Captain Booker’s artillery. The Rev. Dr. Ryerson, then a young fellow of twenty years, came from his farm home in Ancaster to study the classics under Mr. Law. He was a Methodist and Mr. Springer finally captured hi and got him into the ministry.
The first Methodist church built in Hamilton, and dedicated in 1824, cost $1,700, and the early Methodists felt proud of it. It cost much self-denial in those early days even to raise that small amount. The church that was dedicated last Sunday cost $105,000, and the Sunday school building that will be dedicated tomorrow cost $35,000 more, making a grand total of $140,000. When it is considered that there are but few wealthy men connected with the First Methodist, while the majority of its membership is in comfortable circumstances, it required a deal of faith in the future for the congregation to tackle such a proposition, especially in these days of financial stringency. There is no such word as fail in the lexicon of the First church, and while the present generation may not be able to pull the whole load, there are future generations of Methodists to finish the job. The new church is a credit to Hamilton, and to the denomination in Canada. It is to be presumed that the first Methodist bishop in Canada, Bishop Reynolds, dedicated the old King street church in 1824, though we have no authentic data to prove it. The new church was dedicated last Sunday morning by Bishop Chown, and in the evening by the Rev. E. B. Lanceley, who may be in effect called the father of the new church, for it was during his pastorate that the enterprise was started. We will close with a little item of history. In 1824, the first missionary collection taken up on the Ancaster circuit, comprising about thirty miles in circumference, in which the Head of the Lake was included, amounted on the entire district to $32. This would not go very far toward the conversion of even one heathen in these days of high prices of living.
It is estimated on reliable authority that not less than $2,000 a day crosses the bars of the hotels in Hamilton; and this seems to be a new estimate considering that there are sixty-two licensed hotels, the average receipts being over $32 a day. Added to this, there are sixteen retail stores where liquor is sold by the quantity, not to be drunk on the premises. As there is a good profit on liquors, it is reasonable to suppose that the retail dealers take in quite a large amount in the course of a day’s business for what are called bottled goods. But take the incomes of sixty-two licensed hotels at $2,000 a day and it amounts to $32,000 a week. Count it up for a year and it costs to quench the thirst of the hotel customers $804,000. These figures are low if we consider a semi-official estimate that appeared in the local columns of the city papers some months ago. That statement gave in round numbers $1,000,000 as the estimated receipts that crossed hotel bars in one year. Take your choice of the $2,000 a day or the one million dollars a year and either is certainly a great waste of money for the momentary pleasure of tickling the palates of the few hundreds or more who indulge in that luxury. It is not the intention of the Muser to berate the hotel keeper or his customers. The man with a liquor appetite and his helpless wife and children are the sufferers.
The United Relief association of Hamilton is now spending between $5,000 and $6,000 a week in furnishing food for 2,000 or 2,500 families of men out of employment. The families cannot starve, and there is no work for the men to do to provide the food and fuel and house rent. This condition of affairs is not peculiar to Hamilton alone; it is world-wide. The people of Hamilton are generous givers, and they not only contribute liberally from their private purses toward every benevolent enterprise, but they are loyally backing up the civic authorities to appropriate from the public treasury all the money necessary to provide for the wants of the less fortunate.
But, just think of it, from $5,000 to $6,000 a week to furnish food and fuel and clothing to the families of the unemployed of Hamilton, and not less than $12,000 a week to quench the liquor thirst of the men who have acquired an appetite for strong drink!
In the recent war in which the Japanese and the Russians were trying conclusions, the little brown brother was more than a match for the Russian bear. There was a reason for this, for the men of Russia were as brave and courageous as the Japs. The Japanese are a temperate people, while the Russian soldier of that war drank heavily of his native vodka. The sober Japanese was more than a physical match for his Russian opponent under the demoralizing influence of vodka, and the result was victory for the little brown brother on every battlefield.
When the present unpleasantness between the Kaiser and his neighbor rulers began, the Czar of Russia issued an order prohibiting the sale of vodka in his Dominions. At one fell swoop, he wiped out $500,000,000 of revenue, for the government of Russia had a monolpoly of the liquor business. Every place where vodka was sold was immediately closed and no liquor could be had for love nor money. It was prohibition that prohibited. It was intended for a war measure, and its results were immediate. There is no more drunkenness or demoralization in the Russian army, and these brave fellows are fighting like heroes and whipping everything before them. Tally one for a sober army! Not only has Russia a sober army now, but the men at home are sober and industrious and their families are not only well-fed and clothed, but the rioting and the drunkenness that prevailed have passed away.
If Hamilton had a czar that could do like the Czar of Russia, there would be no $12,000 a week crossing the hotel bars, and the city would not have to raise $5,000 or $6,000 a week for a relief fund.
Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you go it alone. It was Ela Wheeler Wilcox that gave expression to this trite saying, or words to that effect. We all like the plaudits of friends, especially those of us who dabble in printer`s ink. This old Muser may be pardoned if he gives to the readers of these Musings a couple of very complimentary letters, congratulating him on having lived four score years, and saying very nice things about our humble contributions to the columns of the Spectator. The first is our old friend, Judge Jelfs, and the second from an old Burlington boy who obeyed the call of the wild west and is now the sales manager in the J. H. Ashdown Hardware company, in the city of Winnipeg. We have not had the pleasure of being acquainted with Mr. C. H. Bamford, and that makes his kind words the more acceptable. Many friends told us how glad they were that the Muser was getting up in years, though he is only a boy yet.
Office of Police Magistrate,
November 18, 1914
Dear Sir, - Allow me, as one of the many thousands who have enjoyed and been entertained by your able contributions to the press, to congratulate you on your reaching, with God`s approval, an age in advance of the allotted span, enjoying ,as I am sure you must, the consoling and comforting thought that your life must be pleasing to God because it has been useful to your fellow men.
Geo. Fred. Jelfs
November 18, 1914.
Dear Mr. Butler, - Permit me to congratulate you on reaching the four score mark, and to express the wish that you will long be spared to contribute Saturday Musings to the Spectator. Your articles I read with pleasure. While they are reminiscent, their diction has a charm that sustains from the first to the last word. Truly, the boys and girls of Hamilton are to be congratulated on their good fortune in having the early history of their city presented to them so interestingly, and interspersed with such ripe common sense. I am an old Burlington boy, and know Hamilton well, hence your articles have an added interest. Yet even were I a total stranger to Hamilton, they would still be looked upon as articles worthwhile.
I ask you to accept this slight appreciation of your worth and work, and wish that the year you are just entering will be a record one in good health and happiness.
Believe me, yours sincerely,
C. H. S. Bamford.