Tuesday, 24 May 2016


In giving our recollections of the Desjardins canal accident which occurred on the evening of March 12, 1857, the Muser endeavored to tell the story as correct as memory would help, yet two or three minor errors may have crept in, but nothing serious to mar the historical part. Memory at times plays it false; but think of nearly sixty years having elapsed since that memorable night, and is it any wonder that one is apt to get confused? How many people living in Hamilton today, who were her sixty years ago, can remember clearly every incident connected with the accident? We do not claim to be immaculate in writing these Musings for we are but human after all. A correspondent to the Spectator last week attempted to correct what he deemed was an error in our statement that the cause of the accident was the shifting f the bridge a few inches so that the rails on the bridge were out of gear with the rails on the main line, thus sending the engine bumping across the ties, cutting the ties and weakening them. The Spectator correspondent got his story secondhand from his father, probably years afterward. To corroborate our statement, a gentleman who was then living in Dundas was coming by train to Hamilton shortly after the new bridge had been built across the canal when the bridge veered a few inches from the rails of the main line and the engine left the track and went bumping on the ties. Fortunately, the driver was running slow and was able to check his engine immediately. The cars remained on the track, the coupling of the engine breaking away from the train, thus preventing a second accident which would have been even more disastrous than the first, for there were more cars in the train. The swing bridge was considered unsafe, for it was liable to be moved a few inches by the wind blowing down the valley. It was a short time afterward that the Great Western made terms with the people of Dundas to have a permanent bridge built across the canal. It put an end to steamboats and sailing craft running up to Dundas through the canal, and took from Dundas the proud distinction of being the head of the lake. It was a loss to Dundas as a shipping point.


          One night last week, a vagrant was arrested on Broadway, New York, for begging. Five years ago, the young man’s father died leaving him a fortune of half a million dollars. While the money lasted the son lived high, but the time came when he parted with his last dollar. He was well-educated and a graduate of a university. He had a rich father and there was no need for him to work, and while the father lived, he was liberally supported with pocket money. Brought up in idleness, when his fortune came to him on the death of his father, he had formed dissolute habits that unfitted him for any employment, he ran the pace while the money lasted and ended in being arrested as a street vagrant. Money is a blessing when rightfully used by its possessor, but a curse when squandered in riotous living. More than one bright young fellow in Hamilton has gone down to his grave in poverty who began life with every promise of usefulness. The old registers in the house of refuge would disclose some startling secrets. The young man who takes an occasional glass of liquor never thinks of where that appetite will land him. He scouts the idea that he will ever become a drunkard or a vagrant. He thinks he can control himself; and probably he does for a few years, but the appetite increases slowly but surely till at last he becomes an outcast. His friends may strive with him for a time, but constant dropping will wear a stone, and their patience gives out. He is joined to his idols; let him alone. While his mother lives, he has a friend, no matter how debased he may become, but when death releases her from the disgrace and sorrow of a drunken son, his last hope is gone! Think of the young man of whom mention is made in this item spending half a million dollars in five years in strong drink and riotous living, and at the end spending the night in a police station for begging in the streets for five cents to buy a drink to quench his thirst!


          Every now and then the question arises as to who was the first white man that settled at the Head of the Lake. The Beasley family claim the honor for their illustrious predecessor, Colonel Richard Beasley; then along come the descendants of Colonel Robert Land with proof that can hardly be doubted, claiming the honor for the colonel, and there you are. Daniel Defoe wrote a very interesting story in the long ago about a shipwrecked sailor, Alexander Selkirk by name, the title of the book being Robinson Crusoe, a castaway on a desert island, who boldly proclaimed himself as monarch of all his surveyed, and nobody to dispute his rights, when along came one day a savage brother whom Robinson Crusoe christened Man Friday, to dispute the ownership of the island and likely would have made a meal of poor Robinson if the quick-witted sailor had not climbed into his fort and pulled the ladder after him. In course of time, Robinson Crusoe patched up a peace with his savage brother, and no doubt they agreed not to disagree about which it was that claimed priority to the discovery of the island, but they lived on in their solitude till such time as an exploring party came along and rescued them. Now, this may be a parallel case with the Beasley and the Land occupancy of the Head of the Lake. Colonel Beasley came in at the west end of the Head of Lake and Colonel Land came in at the east end, and they may have come in about the same time, and neither knew that there was another white man on these shores. At any rate, there is no documentary proof of who was first, and the only way out of the difficulty is for the Beasleys and the Lands to get together and shoot craps for the title of being the descendants of the first white man that tread the virgin soil of the settlement called the Head of the Lake. Ancient history cannot always be relied on, as recent events have shown. Defoe in his novel tells us that the island on which the shipwrecked sailor spent many years of his life was down in Chile, and was named in history as Juan Fernandez. Who that has read the capitivating story of Robinson Crusoe will ever forget Robinson and his man Friday, and what a lonely life it was for the first white man that set foot on that lonely island. The boys and girls of the present age know naught of the thrilling description, for they do not read high-class literature of the bygone age. They can tell you all about bridge, whist or the latest thrillers in the movies, but ask them about Jack, the Giant Killer, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, the Swiss Family Robinson, or even Old Mother Goose’s Melodies and they will promptly tell you that they never heard of such characters. It is nip and tuck if they ever read Dickens or Thackery, or any other the other standard story writers. The Penny Dreadfuls sre good enough for them. Well, to get back to where we started, history will not always do to bet on, for along comes some fellow who thinks he knows more than the original author of the story and the whole thing is knocked into a cracked hat. Defoe told us that Robinson Crusoe was the first white man that inhabited the island of Juan Fernandez, and along comes a newspaper reporter the other day and makes the broad statement that Dan did not know what he was talking about. You that have kept in touch with the reports about the Dresden, a German war vessel, being chased into the harbor of Juan Fernandez, and there found a watery grave, will remember that the newspaper fellows tore to piece’s DEefoe’s story, which was written before any of them were born, for Daniel Defoe has been dead awhile now, and his body lies in a vault in Bunhill Fields, in the City road, London, England, with all the other literary and historical characters of his day. They tell us now that Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday never lived on that island, and that the old story is either a myth or a pipe dream of the ancient author. Well, what is one going to do, when such iconoclasts are already giving history a black eye ?


          And here we are again at the point from which we started, and still the question arises, was Colonel Beasley or Colonel Land the first white man who tramped the wild grass that grew so luxuriantly at the Head of the Lake? Some of the ancient red men, who used to fish in the bay or scalped white men who out on a little frolic might be able to decide it; but they are all dead now. The records in the county registrar’s office ought to tell the story, for in them are the names of the early settlers from the days when the U. E. Loyalists hiked from the country across the Niagara river. The other day the Muser thought he would go to the fountain head of information and made an early morning call on the young ladies who faithfully guard these ancient records and find out which was which. They searched the musty tomes, beginning with the letter B and then on through L. The first entry made by Colonel Beasley was the land now known as Dundurn park in the year 1790. Matthew Cain located on the first concession in 1798, and these was afterward deeded to one of the Lands in 1800. The registrar’s books could not settle the question as Colonel Land may have entered his land on a squatter’s title before the government survey was made. The earliest history we have of Colonel Beasley is given in Mrs. Simcoe’s diary, which has been put in readable shape by John R. Robinson, the Toronto editor, who can tell you all about the building of Solomon’s Temple and of Freemasonry in Hamilton. In Mrs. Simcoe’s diary, the claim is put forth flat-footed that Colonel Beasley was the first settler at the Head of the Lake. Nowhere is the descendants of Colonel Land’s chance to call on John B. Robinson to prove and settle forever this vexed question. Colonel Beasley was an Indian trader, but none of his descendants that are now living can tell from whence he came. All they know is that he was the owner of Dundurn park, when it was part of the forest, washed at its base by the waters of the bay, or Macassa as it was called by the Indians. It is stated that the house of Richard Beasley was west of the present site of Dundurn Castle, and that the building was afterward incorporated with the castle; but this is not likely, as the first dwelling must have been built of logs, and the west end of the castle is of brick. It is hardly possible that there was a brick building in this section in those early days. The so-called castle is a substantial brick building and well-proportioned. Senator McInnes, the last owner of Dundurn Castle told our informant that the stone building at the western part of the castle, once used as a gymnasium, was built prior to the main structure. The descendants of the Beasley family claim that the colonel moved into his house at Dundurn immediately after his arrival at the Head of the Lake, and that his sons, Richard, George, David C. and Henry were borne in the house, the last born in 1793. Without documentary evidence, it is believed that the colonel’s first home was on the site of Coote’s Paradise, so-called from a Captain Coote, who spent a great deal of his time duck shooting in the marsh below the hill, which abounded with wild fowl and tortoises. Governor and Mrs. Simcoe were frequent guests of Colonel and Mrs. Beasley.


          Teach the boys and girls to be loyal to the flag of their country. In the United States, the Stars and Stripes is raised every morning at the school house and at the close of the day, it is hauled down with all the pomp and ceremony observed by the army and navy. When the flag is raised one verse of the Star-Spangled Banner is sung by the children, and the same is done when the flag is lowered in the evening. The children enter into the spirit of it, and it brings them closer to the flag than it would be possible by any other means. No wonder that our Canadians call the Americans flag-worshippers, for it is instilled into the heart of an American child from its birth. When the civil war began in the United States in 1861, there were less than 25,000 soldiers to defend the flag. Within a week from the time President issued his call for 75,000 men, the call was answered by twice and thrice 75,000, and there was sore disappointment to those who were not mustered into the service. In Cincinnati, this old Muser was employed by the Daily Enquirer, and from that one building alone nearly fifty men gave up good-paying situations and took the oath as volunteers for $11 a month. The Muser heard the call of Father Abraham and responded with the others. Within a day or two, more than two hundred printers had signed the roll, and two companies of printers went out with the first two regiments, the Fifth and Sixth Ohio. Before the war ended nearly three million men were on the firing line in the northern army, and at least half that number under the Confederate flag. Those volunteers had been taught from childhood, Hats off to the Flag! The boy scouts in Canada are being taught , Hats off to the Flag! And the time may come when the lesson taught now may be of value to their native land. The derisive term, “flag flappers” is not evidence of loyalty at least, and the expression may in time come back to plague those who sneer at the flag of their country.


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