Sunday, 26 June 2016


Back in the year 1884, a couple of enterprising fellows got up an advertising pamphlet for a few of the leading business houses of Hamilton, and to make it spicy and readable, they devoted a number of pages to historical sketches of men who had done things in Hamilton, and whose enterprise should be handed down to future generations. Unfortunately, these paper-covered histories find their way to the wastepaper basket and are lost forever, except the parties interested may file them away never to be seen again till house-cleaning time, when the good wife bundles them off to the ragman. This old Muser feels that he is doing some good to the future historians in preserving  the sketches of these ancient Hamiltonians by reproducing them in this Great Family Journal. Senator Sanford, the founder of the great establishment  that bears his name, spent his early boyhood in Hamilton, and was fortunate that he had as a foster father a man of Edward Jackson’s large and generous heart, for he had not only the advantages of a good public school education, but when he was ready to begin the active duties of life, he had the large bank account  of Mr. Jackson to back him up. That he proved himself worthy was evidenced by his successful business career. Beginning in a small way, he was no loiterer by the way, for when his journey in life was ended, he left a handsome fortune and a business that keeps on making fortunes for his successors. As a recreation from business cares, he took an interest in the politics of his country and in the benevolent and local enterprise of his home city, and that he gave with a free hand to the church and benevolences was well-known. The sketch is worthy of being read even though it was written and published more than thirty years ago.


          This house was established in June, 1851 by W. E. Sanford and Alexander McInnes, under the firm name of Sanford, McInnes and company, with a capital of $20,000, and the senior member of the firm by his indomitable push and perseverance showing the samples of the manufactures of the house in every nook and corner of the provinces, built up a manufacturing trade, Mr. McInnes, taking charge of the office and warehouse.  At the date of the establishment of this house, no industry was at such a low standard as the readymade clothing business. The question of style and finish was not even thought of, price only was considered. Overcoats at from $2.25 to $5, any price beyond this excluded the goods from the market. Suits made up cheaply as possible were alone saleable, style and finish being altogether out of the question, goods were made up without reference to shape or form. Mr. Sanford, by his travels, having thoroughly felt the public pulse throughout the country, the firm realized that the day had come for a sweeping revolution in this department of trade. The firm set about in good earnest to fill the bill; they engaged the services of a number of skillful artisans from the neighboring republic, and from that day forward, Mr. Sanford’s chief study was to keep thoroughly up with the American standard of readymade clothing, and the standard of this house was universally accepted as being second to none in the world.

The warehouse in which the firm commenced business was the center of the three buildings now occupied by W. E. Sanford and Co.; it had a frontage of 25 feet, three stories high, and running back half the length of the lot, with a small extension in the rear. This small store has given way to a building of the first rank, with a frontage of 75 feet and 140 feet deep, four stories high, provides a commodious basement under the entire building. The partnership expired by limitation to 1871, and Mr. McInnes retired and joined his brother in the wholesale dry goods trade.

Mr. Sanford then invested two of his employees with a small interest in the business, which was carried on under the name Sanford, Vail & Riddley. The same indomitable pluck and perseverance which had in so marked a degree been displayed in the past continued, the business rapidly growing the next five years when Mr. Riddley retired in 1875. The business was then carried on for some years as Sanford, Vail & Co. Thus far we have given but a brief sketch of the business career of one of the most successful enterprises in the Dominion.

Whenin lies the secret of success? We shall see. As a good captain who is thoroughly skilled in navigation steers his shape safely past the shoals and rocks into port, so we shall find upon investigating the inner works going into the cabin as it were – that the man in command had mastered all difficulties and earned success as much as Wellington did in the field of Waterloo: read the rest of the story as see if the humble editors are correct. The chief of this great establishment, Mr. W. E. Sanford, being one of the men who, with a handful of others, have made Hamilton the thriving center of trade it is, the story of his life, briefly told, will be interesting. His birthplace was New York City; his father was an American and his mother English. But as both died during his childhood, the greater part of his early life was spent with his adopted father, the late Edward Jackson, who is mentioned in the historical sketch of Hamilton as one of the first men who opened business here.

As 16 years of age, young Sanford found employment in a wholesale publishing and stationery house in New York City, and now we shall shortly see the man in the boy as the old proverb has it. He continued in this house until his 21st year, and was to have an interest in the firm. Owing to the death of the senior member of the firm, and the consequent readjustment of the business, Mr. Sanford was thrown out. True worth finds its level, and the young Sanford’s abilities and talent as a commercial traveler were recognized by a rival house, and he was urged to make an engagement with them at a salary of $3,000 a year, which at the day was a figure seldom reached by the best men even in that city of large salaries. Young Sanford, however, feeling sore over his disappointment in not having secured an interest in the business of his late employers, thanked the gentleman who made him the generous offer, but declined, with the remark, “I am determined never again to accept a position of clerk in any firm.’ How doggedly he kept his resolution, the following lines will show. A week afterwards we find him in London, Canada, having entered the foundry business under the name of Anderson, Sanford & Co. Eighteen months later, Mr. Sanford withdrew from this firm and entered the wool business. In two years’ time, we find him in complete control of the wool market of the country, and generally known under the sobriquet of “the Wool King of Canada.”

Mr. Sanford, in connection with some gentlemen in New York, at this period, made the first shipment of 29 carloads of Canadian butter to the gold mines of Fraser river, British Columbia, which at this first were in full operation.

A few months later, Mr. Sanford entered on the business, where for 22 years he so successfully carried on in the spot where the elegant warehouse now stands. The history of such men comprises the history of a town. The growth of such a man’s business is the growth of the city. From a small beginning, with the first year’s sales of $32,000, this great house had grown until its sales for several years reached nearly a million a year. It employed nearly 2,000 people in the manufacture of clothing. , without doubt the largest and leading house in that branch of trade in the Dominion, and unquestionably almost, if not quite doubled the business of any other house in Canada. One has only to gaze through their vast warehouse to see the piles of manufactured and unmanufactured clothing, together with their system of working, to see the method, almost like music, by which every department works under its proper head, to be convinced of its magnitude. The whole establishment is a model of order. The office and staff, the Canadian and foreign buyers, the warehouses, the shipping room, the manufacturing department, the retailing room, the buttonhole department, are all worked under proper heads, who employ and discharge all help.

One of the advantages of the firm was the system adopted, in the early stages of its career, of employing a large number of German tailors. These men took the work by lots of 19 to 30 hands. Each man having some part of the work to perform secured to the firm a uniformity of style and finish impossible in any other system. The Canadian government felt the want of having their military goods manufactured in a uniform manner. Now, it is patent that no firm in the country are in a position to handle this trade anything near on an equality with Sanford and company.

An interesting fact in the cutting room was the cost of these curious cutting machines, amounting to $1,000 each, which, with their surplus arms, are capable, in the hands of an expert, of being run in any direction; of these, Mr. Sanford had two in constant operation. One of the troublesome bits of labor on the part of cutters by the old hand shears is the cutting of notches in the cloth at certain points for the guidance of the tailor. An ingenious inventor had provided a notcher about the size of an old-fashioned candlestick to do this work, but carefully made his fortune by fixing its price high – at 50 cents each. Mr. Sanford’s establishment was, of course, fully equipped with all that mechanical art can supply. In the matter of buttons, a machine button is used, which is stronger than any thread could attach, and placed on garments with the speed of the ticking of a clock.

As an example of the perfect working of this system, Mr. Sanford himself pointed to a young girl in charge of the cash desk of the work room, saying: “There is a young lady who has amounts from 70 cents to thousands of dollars a day in paying out wages, and while she has handled from $150,000 to $200,000, never yet has she made a mistake of a penny.” The precision and regularity is so uniform in every department that no losses are incurred. The goods are entered in the workroom, and all work going out is charged to the parties who handle it; then the receiving department is chargeable until the work is paid for, and if the goods are not in the proper department they must show up in the sales, so that there is no possibility of loss. Every garment, from the time it is cut is followed until it is shipped to the customer, so that when 500 garments have been cut, there must have been 500 in stock or else the sales must account for them.

A very large proportion of Hamilton industries have been born and nursed by a few leading pubic-spirited citizens. Mr. Sanford, with the few in the front rank, took an active part in the boards of insurance, banks and educational institutions, until quite recently but found his own business growing so rapidly and demanding his entire time, and was obliged to withdraw and devote his whole energies to the huge concern he has so successfully created.

The great work of establishing the trade of the house was mainly done by Mr. Sanford himself, who pushed his trade from the east to the west. Mr. Sanford was the first commercial representative to visit the Red River country in the days of Riel, and in the early days of confederation, when a Canadian was received with the greatest coldness in the Maritime provinces. Mr. Sanford was foremost in pushing his business in that section. At the request of the Great Western railway, he went to British Columbia when it wa received into confederation and arranged for the shipment of freight through in bond; and hs early, energetic efforts being ably followed up by competent representatives, the great increase of business in these later years is the natural result of his in dominatable energy in that province. The firm now employs an army of commercial travelers, who periodically push their weat throughout the length and breadth of our great Dominion, visiting every one of its thousands of villages, towns and cities in British North America.

A few more words and we have done. This great institution, the structure raised by the vigorous and prudent push and enterprise of W. E. Sanford himself, is itself the greatest tribute and testimony to his genius, and while working himself, he abled in making others successful. While his talents were developed by his own efforts, others caught the fire. Some very bright men occupying eminent positions are not ashamed to say they have been in Mr. Sanford’s employ. One of the greatest railway men of this continent,  John Muir, general manager of the Northern Pacific railway, began life, as the first office boy in this establishment. The constant tribute to this city’s business in the distribution of salaries to the hundreds of employees of such a firm is not the least of the benefits Hamilton receives from the house.


Thursday, 16 June 2016


Digging up historical reminiscences is often better work than trying to write them, for then we get recollections of others. In the year 1883, when Frederick W. Fearman had rounded out fifty years’ residence in Hamilton, his wrote a very interesting story of events, dating back to the year 18-2. These will be interesting reading, not only to the old stagers but to the younger generations. It proceeds as follows :

“Fifty years ago this month in 1833, our family came from Norfolk, England in the New Post packet ship Ontario. We were on the ocean six weeks, and two weeks on the Erie canal to Oswego. Then we took passage on a schooner to Port Dalhousie, and from thence to Hamilton in royal style on a farmer’s hayrack. Hamilton was but a small place then. There were but three brick houses in it, and the bush came to the corner of Wellington and King. Wellington street was called Lover’s Lane. It was beautifully shaded with forest trees at that time, and for some years after. Mr. Peter Hamilton’s fields reached down John street close to the wood market, and the boys used to have grand times gathering hickory nuts. His residence was on the spot where Mr. W. Hendrie now lives, and the farm gate was on Main street. At Dundurn, the woods commenced again, and there was a crooked, narrow sandy road to the old bridge. Splendid duck shooting was to be had at the heights; black duck, mallard, teal and now and then a canvasback. Redheads and coweens were not carried home in those days. Thousands of wild pigeons also would fly over this place, as they would come up to the high ground from over the lake and bay, they could be knocked down by sticks or shot by the hundreds. This bird seems to have left this part of the country altogether now.

“On the southeast side of the city, there were but very few houses south of Main street. The old Springer homestead was located near thecorner of Hunter and Spring streets, and in the fall, in cider-making time, it was the spot where the boys most did congregate, and good long straws were in requisition. The lakeside was, in summer, a busy place then, as the wharves were building, and there were a good many hotels down there. Some of them have disappeared. The old hospital is one of them., and the Burlington glass works is another, and the roughcast building on the corner of Macnab and Burlington streets another, but the glory of that locality has departed. The opening of the Great Western railway changed the travel and traffic to other parts of the city. Hamilton was noted for its dust and dirt. On a windy day, it was almost unbearable.The clouds of dust would sweep down York and King and Main streets so as to put a stop to business and all trades suffered very much from this cause. It was after one of those days that I wrote a petition to the mayor to call a meeting to take into consideration what was the best plan to provide water for the city. The meeting was held. John Fisher, mayor, was chairman, myself secretary,  and from that meeting sprang our waterworks, which have been such vast benefit to the community.

“The Gore was a very Sahara – dust, sand and mud the most of the year. I have seen this spot nearly filled with long, white-covered emigrant wagons, on their way from the eastern states to the then far west of Illinois, Western Ohio and Indiana. They would come there for the night with their cattle and horses, sleep in the wagons or prairie schooners, as we used to call them, and at break of day, they were gone. Next evening, another lot would be resting there. What has been the result of this immigration? Look at the cities, towns and farms of these states today. I was told then that the farm was sold to the first man on it for one dollar an acre, and if not taken up the first year, after survey, then 75 cents, next 50 cents, and if not taken up them, they were called swamp lands, and sold to anyone who would give 25 cents an acre for them. But the first sale was to actual settlers only. It is evident that the railway scoops, temperance society society grabs, and ministerial boomers had not then come into existence, as almost all the tillable land of those states was taken up by actual settlers. I remember the day of the Queen’s coronation. It was the first celebration of the kind held here, and a jolly time we had – bonfires and fireworks of a primitive kind. I don’t think we had any firecrackers. Anyway,  the boys were better than they are now, and wouldn’t use if they had. There were some hotels of note. The old Promenade house was the principal one. It stood where the Bank of British North America stands now. It was the stage house. The arrival and departure of the stage was quite an event, and caused a great stir, as it was the most rapid and stylish mode of travel. This house was also the resort of commercial men, and the host (Burly) was well known by all travelers. The Cambria house was kept by a Mr. Cattermode, who was also an emigrant agent, whose books were very severely commented upon, as he, like those of that ilk of the day, was apt to draw the long bow. The house was situated at the corner of John and Main streets, and was principally patronized by old country emigrants of the better sort, and it was celebrated as a place where they got rid of a good deal of money and a good deal of whiskey which could be had pure at 16 cents a gallon. There was also another hotel on the spot where Wanzer’s factory is now, kept by Mr. Chatfield, and it was noted as the house where all the big bugs were put up, and at that time we stayed our first night in Hamilton. It was found on that occasion that individuals did reside at this establishment, and they nearly ate us up, and the reputation was a correct one.

“There is now but one building on the Gore that was there then – I mean D. Moore Co.’s on King street east. The buildings in this section were all of one or two stories, of wood. I do not know of but two men who are in business now who were doing business then, and they are John Winer and Dennis Moore. All have passed away, and I now find more names of acquaintances in our city than I can in the city. Such is life.

“Times were hard soon after this. In ’34, ’35 and ’36, business was bad; no money, prices were low. All trade and truck; no cash for anything. The storekeepers used to print their own shinplasters, and each run a bank of his own. He was president, and board of directors both, until the government put a stop to it. Wages were very low. Laboring men, 50 cents to 75 cents per day, or less. Mechanics, not much more, paid in truck. Produce was very cheap. Butter 7 to 9 cents; eggs, 5 cents; whitefish 3 to 4 large ones for a quarter; potatoes 15 cents a bushel, wood $1 to $2 a cord, meats, grains and flour equally low, but still hard to get, as there was no trade, business or money.  General discontent prevailed, and the Rebellions of ’37 took place. The Family Compact were wiped out; responsible government became a fact, and the country prospered.

“Some years after this, the Indians surrended the townships of Seneca and Oneida, and they were surveyed and sold to actual settlers at $4 and $5 an acre. The lands were taken up at once, and many of the lands were paid for by half the pine timber on them. I helped survey this land under Mr. Kirkpatrick, P.L.S. I mention this to show the extraordinary rise in the value of timber since then. These fine large pines were often sold at from $1 to $2 apiece. Mr. Bradley, of the city, informs me that he pays from $80 to $1000 for each of them. There was plenty of very fine walnut , also cut into lumber at $15 and $20 a thousand, which is now worth $100 for the same quantity, and none to be had in this locality. These lands are now worth from $50 to $80 an acre.

“The churches were few and far between. Old King street Methodist was in use, although I have seen it full of sheep since then. It was afterwards repaired and used for divine service. There were no Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Catholic churches here. Rev. Mr. Geddes used the court house. As to schools, I first went to a school called ‘Miss Sewell’s Select Ladies’ Establishment’, where a few lads were admitted. It was kept on the corner of King and Walnut streets. I think the name is on it still, and the building has not had a coat of paint since then. A Mr. Randall also had a large school in the old Cambria house on John street, lately pulled down by Mr. Hoodless. Mr. Randall was a club-footed man, but could throw a ruler straighter than a shot. Most of the teachers then were men who were unable to make a living in any other way. I often think of them in comparison with the twelve schools, the 116 teachers and 6,000 scholars of Hamilton today. I give you a few extracts from the early public school records of a later date : ‘The earliest data of the public schools in this city go back to 1847 – a period of 36 years. At that time,
the city was divided into six sections each of which there was one schoolhouse, containing one school room, presided over by one school teacher. One of those schools is described as good, four as midling, and one as inferior. Two were 18 by 20 feet, and two 22 by 24 feet.The houses were all frame buildings, four in ordinary repair, two in bad repair. All were suitably provided with desks and seats, according to the idea of the time, four had special arrangements for ventilation, not one had a playground. Of these six school buildings, only one was owned by the board, the others were rented. There were no fewer than 28 private schools in Hamilton; today there are not two worthy of the name. Central opened in 1853, preparations occupied three years.’
“I do not remember by one wholesale house. This was Colin C. Ferrie and company’s, a large, white clapboard structure on the corner of King and Hughson, where the Bank of Commerce is situated. They did quite a large business. The manufacturers were slim. There was a Mr. Harris’ gun maker, where Myles’ coal office stands, and he would perhaps turn out a gun or rifle a month, but they were noted as good articles. There was also a man, on the corner of John and Jackson streets, known for making good augers, and I guess he could turn out a dozen or so in the year. There were no railways. The
first railroad meeting was held on the wood market, on John street, and an ox was roasted, or rather warmed, as when it was cut up was as raw as an east wind, and used as a baseball now; the catchers, however, coming off the worst. Long since then I have been 24 hours on the road between the Falls and here, and travel all the time, and twelve to fourteen hours between here and Toronto. I think that the first steamer we had was the John By, a small craft that was afterwards wrecked on Marygold Point, across the lake. When she came in at Land’s wharf, where the H. & N. W. elevators is now, there was quite a commotion.

“Now all this is changed. We live in the best age the world ever saw. An age of steam railways, telegraphs, telephones, quick transit and passage, low postage and a greater share of comforts to the whole people; less political wrangles and greater catholicity of spirit amongst the different denominations of the land : churches and schools everywhere, and a regard for the Sabbath that is observable by everybody. Our merchants and manufacturers, with equal railway facilities, ask odds from no one. They are princes in their calling, and their motto is, as it always has been, ‘I advance.’ I consider Hamilton to be the most pleasantly and favorably situated city in Canada. Its location at the brink of the lake and bay is beautiful. It is now clean and well-provided with water, and there are as fine buildings, residences, churches and public offices as are to be found anywhere, and also thousands of houses that are principally owned by the people who live in them – built out of their earnings since they came here. Most of the streets are well-planted with shade trees and well-dranied. The soil is excellent. All varieties of fruit and vegetables suitable to this climate are grown here and vicinity to perfection, as our market will demonstrate. I joined with a few of the people on Park street in planting the first street with shade trees and now almost all the private streets are planted with them. We have copied a good deal in the matter from the States, and we have considerable to learn. The habit of throwing old boots, stovepipes, etc.into the street will have to be got rid, many of the ugly high fences taken away, and the old leaves from trees swept  up tidily, good asphalt sidewalks provided, and the streets kept in better repair, and last and most important of all, two or more good parks set apart and made free to the people before we can be called a first-class city. I hope to see this done. We had once the opportunity to purchase Dundurn for less than $25,000. It was prevented by a few who would oppose any improvement, and though we could have been greatly benefitted by the purchase, the opportunity was lost, and now we must do the next best thing.”


It is like looking backward into some other world to read Mr. Fearman’s letter, written thirty-three years ago, of incidents occupying in Hamilton away back in 1833. Probably no man in his day knew more about Hamilton than did Mr. Fearman. For long years, he was connected with its business and social interests, and he organized a business, now conducted by his sons, that was not only profitable to himself, but of great value to producers on the farm and to city consumers. Such a letter should not be lost or forgotten in the future history of Hamilton, and therefore we gave it a place in the Saturday Musings.  


Wednesday, 1 June 2016


A Methodist minister in this city on last Sunday preached a practical sermon on giving help to others. He quoted that passage which tells us that we brought nothing into the world and we take nothing out of it, therefore the folly of hoarding up money for others to squander. While it is true that we can take nothing out of this world, yet it is a duty as well as a pleasure we owe to ourselves as well as to those dependent upon us to lay by a portion of our earnings as we journey through life, so that when age or infirmity come upon us we will not have to call upon the city for relief. And if there is no one depending upon us, or if we have to leave it to distant relatives, what a delightful scramble they have over it, and what pickings there are for the lawyers! An old bachelor married a young woman whose home was within sound of St. Paul’s chimes. It was a case of May and December, but December had the wealth and May had youth and good looks. The old man left quite a fortune to his young wife, and, besides that, her husband’s brother left a few thousands which came to her. But a cousin of her husband’s, two or three times removed, hankered after some of her wealth, and she butted with a lawsuit when the will was being probated, declaring that the old man was not as sound of mind as he ought to be, and the result was two or three years’ delay, a bench of judges, and all the lawyers that could possibly get into the case, all doing their level best to beat the young widow. To make a long story short, the case was finally settled by the payment of a certain amount to the cousin, $15,000 court expenses, and a few of the thousands to the lawyers. It is a hard matter to make a will that will stick, so after all, so after it was not bad advice the parson gave when he suggested that to spend a little in benevolence as one passes through life is not an bad idea. Captain J. R. Foraker, of the United States army, made a will in 1910, dividing his estate among his sisters and a brother. A year or two afterward, the captain got married, but neglected to make a new will or provide for his young wife, and when he died recently, the will came to be probated, and his father, formerly Senator of Ohio, and his sisters and brothers learned for the first time of its conditions. Did they grab the estate, which amounted to $50,000, and leave the young wife penniless? Not much. They promptly signed a voluntary waiver by which they relinquished all claim to the estate, and the father is administering the will in the interest of his daughter-in-law.


Albert Bigelow, at one time a leading merchant in Hamilton, brought nothing into the world, nor even to the city of Hamilton when he came into it a young man from his home across the seas. He began his business life in this city in a humble way, but by careful management he accumulated a fortune of over $86,000 in the crockery business. His store was on the south side of King street, between James and Hughson. Albert Bigelow was an active man in the affairs of this city sixty and seventy years ago. He was not much of a mixer among men outside of business matters, but was always liberal in giving to worthy objects. He kept a bachelor’s home on upper James street, and one of his greatest pleasures was to lay in a hammock, swung on the verandah of his home, and keep time to the sound of the chimes of the Church of the Ascension. Richard Juson, who owned the nail factory on the corner of Cannon and Hughson streets, and also a hardware store on James street, where now stands J. W. Robinson’s department store, was one of the leading members of Ascension church, and presented the church with a chime of bells, but through an error somewhere one of the bells was left out. Albert Bigelow was a Presbyterian, and he had a horror of a chime of bells, as much so as did the ancient Presbyterians object to the introduction of a “kist of whistles” into the services of the church. But the chimes grated harshly on his ears on the calm summer Sabbath mornings, and he would lay in his hammock and keep time to the Runic rhyme of the bells. “Damn-Dick-Juson-and-his-chime-of-bells!” The good angel no doubt marked out that little damn, considering his beneficent gifts to the three homes for poor children which were then in existence in this city. We have heretofore given a brief history of Mr. Bigelow, so it will not be necessary to retell the story. On the 5th of July, 1873, Albert Bigelow thought it about time to settle his worldy affairs according to his wishes, so that there would not be any litigation about the disposition of his property after he would pass away. He had neither wife, nor children, having spent his life as a single man. It used to be told of him that in his youthful days, he loved a beautiful girl and that all arrangements were made for their marriage when the angel of death called her home. He never loved again. Mr. Bigelow selected as executors of his estate two prudent men, T. M. McKenzie, of Dundas, and William Proudfoot, one of the leading attorneys in Hamilton, having full confidence in their business ability that the trust would be carefully handled. He had two sisters living in the city of New York, and to each of them he willed $10,000, and to his faithful housekeeper, Margaret Hefferman, he left $1,000. The balance of the estate, amounting to $65,106, after the repayment of the court costs and the fees for the administrators, was to be divided equally between the Childrens’ industrial school, the Hamilton Orphan asylum, and the Boys’ Home. The Industrial school is now known as the Girls’ home, 179 George street, the orphan asylum is now known as the Aged Woman’s Home, 195 Wellington street, the Boys’ home has kept its original name. Nearly $60,000 was divided among these institutions through the beneficence of Mr. Bigelow, and yet the name of the generous donor has long since been forgotten, and as none of the anniversary occasions is even mention made of him. Rip Van Winkle said after his twenty years’ sleep in the Katskill mountains, on his return to the village of Falling Waters, ‘How soon we are forgotten when we are gone.’


One day last week the board of managers of the Aged Women’s home invited the public to attend the dedication of the new wing that had lately been completed to the building. This enlargement now increases the accommodation so that fifty or more old ladies will have a happy home in which to spend the remaining years of life. It was through the benevolence of Mrs. John Thompson, who died recently, that this was made possible at this time. Mrs. Thompson provided in her will a gift of $10,000 for the enlargement of the home, and an additional sum as a trust fund, the interest of which was to pay the entrance fee of old ladies without money or friends to pay for them. What better use could the kind-hearted Mrs. Thompson make of her money than to provide for the comfort of those who might otherwise be homeless. It beats giving to foreign missions. The other day when William Vallance’s will was probated, the Aged Women’s home was not forgotten, for he left $1,000 towards its endowment fund. The management of the home is in the hands of a careful board of trustees of men and women, who not only give of their time, but are generous givers of money. They will always be glad to receive gifts of money to perpetuate one of the best institutions in the city.


The Aged Women’s Home, with the new wing added, is said to be one of the finest homes of the kind in Canada, and the manner in which it is conducted and provided for is a credit to the thoughtfulness of the men and women who have been its managers from the day it first opened  its doors for the admission of its first occupants. Every comfort that money can supply is provided for the dear old ladies, who otherwise might have suffered because of their lonely condition. Mrs. W. C. Brekenridge, who has been an active members of the board of managers for many years, read a very interesting history of the institution from its beginning. While the names of some of the early donors to the home are recorded in the minutes, from which Mrs. Brekenridge briefly quotes, no mention whatever is made of the liberal donation made by Albert Bigelow, which we learn amounted to over $17,000. Everybody in the early days was interested in the orphan asylum, and liberal donations were made. As the cost of the new wing was greater than Mrs. Thompson provided for in her will, the managers have a deficit of some $6,000 to provide for.

Here is Mrs. Brekenridge’s paper :

The erection of our new wing has led to many questions being asked regarding the history of this building. There seems to an impression with not a few that this home was once a private residence, so perhaps a few extracts from our early records may be of interest at this meeting.

The Ladies’ Benevolent society was organized in 1846, and in 1848, these ladies established an orphan asylum, and in connection with it a day school for the children of the poor. Through the ravages of the cholera in 1847 there were many destitute orphans left upon the town who found a home in the orphan asylum, and over 100 children attended the day school; and we read that the public examinations at Christmas in the city hall, showed the progress both in religious and in general knowledge the children were gaining. With such numbers there was urgent need for a larger building, and in 1851, the mayor, John Fisher, gave 100 pounds toward the erection of an orphan asylum. There were also donations of 20 pounds from John street Presbyterian church, 35 pounds surplus fund from the Hamilton assemblies, and 10 pounds, 5 shillings from the Historic society. In all, 681 pounds and 2 pence were subscribed, and the building committee – Sheriff Thomas, John Fisher, John Young and Edward Jackson – elected the site where we now are.

In the fall of 1854, the building we now occupy was completed at a cost of 1,602 pounds, 12 shillings and 7 ½ pence, Mr. Fisher adding to his first gift 94 pounds for fences and outbuildings, and Nehemiah Ford 10 towards the cost of painting and glazing. The churches – Wesleyan, Knox, St. Andrew, Christ, Ascension and Park street and John  street Baptists – sent their contributions to the work, and 8 pounds, 2 shillings and 6 pence were received from the firemen’s ball. Through the influence of Sir Allan Macnab, M. L. A., the first grant of 100 pounds was received from the government. In 1854, free education having been provided by the city council and the Central school opened, the day school for destitute children (or, as it was then called, the destitute school) was given up and the orphans received the undivided attention of the valuable superintendent and matron, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. The work of the Benevolent society was actively carried on. Over 5,000 loaves of bread, 161 cords of wood, groceries, bedding and clothing were given to those in need.

The work was then, as now, supported by the generosity of the public.  In 1850, the ward collections amounted to over 200 pounds, and in 1854, in addition to the Building Fund, there were donations of almost 600 pounds.

These few extracts taken from the records of 60 years ago are perhaps of greatest interest to those among us to whom the names of the early workers in this society bring remembrance of kindred and friends.

In 1877, through the bequest from Mrs. Edward Jackson, who had been treasurer from the beginning of the society, with the addition of money bequeathed to the home years previously by Mrs. Hess, additions and alterations were made for the Aged Women’s home department of our work.

In the intervening years, changed conditions brought changes in the character of our work. Many societies have arisen for the care of the poor. The orphan now finds a home through the work of the Children’s Aid society, and to us remains the care of the aged and infirm.

The outstanding events of this year’s work have been given to you in the reports just received, with an account of the receipts and expenditures.


On last Sunday the congregation of the Macnab street Presbyterian church celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of its organization, and a brief sketch of its history in these musings may not be out of place. Nearly ninety years ago, the first Presbyterian congregation was organized in this city, and a frame church was built on John street, about the middle of the block where the Gurneys afterward built their foundry. The members were mainly composed of Americans, and the church was known as the Revival Presbyterian. John Fisher and Dr. Calvin McQuesten, proprietors of the first foundry built in Hamilton, on the site where now stands the Royal hotel, and J. P. Dickerman, were the founders of the church, and the Rev. David Marsh was its first pastor. Dr. Marsh continued   as pastor until 1835, when he was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Firman, who was pastor for about three years, and shortly afterward the church ceased to exist. When the Methodists decided upon having a central church down town, for the King street church was then far out, being on the corner of King and Wellington streets, a number of members  from the King street church leased the White church on John street, as the Revival Presbyterian was then known by that name, and what is now the Wesley church was organized. In the year 1833, the Rev. Alexander Gale, at the invitation of seven persons, two of whom were Episcopalians , came to Hamilton, and he held his first service in a private home, the small congregation sitting around a table. In 1835, a frame building was built on the site now occupied by St. Paul’s, and in this building Mr. Gale preached acceptably until 1844, when the church in Canada was divided, and he severed his connection with the Church of Scotland, and was one of the twenty-three ministers who organized the Presbyterian church of Canada. The majority of the congregation of St. Andrew seceded with their pastor, and out of this condition Knox church was organized, the building on James north being erected in 1845, the cornerstone of which was laid by the Hon. Issac Buchanan. Mr. Gale occupied the pulpit of Know church until 1847, when he accepted the chair of classical literature in Knox college, Toronto. Two other ministers succeeded Mr. Gale as pastors of Knox church, and in 1854, the Rev. Robert Irvine was inducted as pastor.


The congregation of Knox church being too large for the building, it was decided to buy a lot in the south end, and Adam Cook, Robert Ewing and Donald McLellan were appointed a committee to open a mission, and the present location of the Maccnab street church was selected. The congregation was organized on the 29th of August, 1854, and the first regular service was held in the old mechanics’ hall, now the Arcade department store. Forty-six members united in the first communion service. Before the close of the year, a house of worship, capable of accommodating four hundred people was built, only six weeks having been occupied in its erection. In a little more than a year the house was found to be too small to accommodate the increasing congregation, and in April, 1856, the cornerstone of the present church was laid by the Hon. Issac Buchanan, and it was dedicated in June the following year. The American Presbyterian organization on John street, having sold its property, the proceeds amounting to $6,000, were donated to the Macnab street congregation towards its building fund.

When the disruption in the Church of Scotland took place, the congregations which espoused the cause of the Free church were left without houses of worship. Mr. Buchanan, who was then the wealthiest merchant in Hamilton, announced that he would give $250 to every congregation which would built a church, the condition being that it should be called Knox. When Knox college was established in 1845, Mr. Buchanan gave a liberal sum towards its building fund.


The Rev. David Inglis was the first settled pastor of Macnab street Presbyterian church. Previous to coming to Hamilton, he was pastor of St. Gabriel’s church, Montreal. In 1855, he began his pastorate in Hamilton, and served the congregation till 1871, when he was called to the chair of the systematic theology in Knox college. He was one of the most lovable men occupying a pulpit in this city, and his congregations on Sunday night were largely made up of young people who were drifters, having no special church home. He had the happy faculty of drawing this class to him and finally, many of them became members of his church. This Old Muser often heard Mr. Inglis, and even till this day we have pleasant recollections of the sermons he preached. When the new central school was opened, with Dr. Sangster as head master, every Friday afternoons was given to religious instruction of the children. The minsters of the city took it by turns to talk to the children, and when it came Mr. Inglis’ afternoon the scholars were delighted because they loved to listen to him. One of the old boys told the Muser that he had never forgotten the kindly manner of Mr. Inglis, and, often, when as a boy, when he was tempted to do some foolish act, he would be restrained because he thought Mr. Inglis might not approve of it. Mr. Inglis had the love and respect, not only of his own congregation, and when he resigned his pastorate here to go as a professor to Knox college, a farewell was tendered to him in Centenary  Methodist church, at which all denominations were represented, and he was presented with an address and a purse of one thousand dollars in gold. He only remained with Knox college for a year, when his ability as a preacher attracted the attention of the Dutch Reform church in Brooklyn, New York, to which he accepted a call, and remained there till he was called up higher by the Master.


The Rev. D. H. Fletcher, who was then a young minister at Scarboro, Ontario, where he had labored for 12 years, was then called by the Macnab street church in February, 1872, and was inducted into the pastorate in the following May. When his alma mater conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, upon his return home the congregation gave him a cordial welcome and presented him with an address. The young people of the church also took part in the pleasant services, and added as their mite a valuable gold watch, which the good doctor always prized. On the 25th anniversary of Dr. Fletcher’s pastorate, the congregation showed him their good wishes by presenting him with an address and a purse of $800 in gold. At the close of the year 1904, Dr. Fletcher resigned the pastorate, which was accepted the following January. The congregation in appreciation of Dr. Fletcher’s log pastorate provided in part for his future by making him an annual allowance of five hundred dollars a year.


It is not often in these days of changes that a congregation will sit for fifty years under the ministrations of only two ministers This the Macnab street congregation has done. Mr. Inglis and Dr. Fletcher rounded out fifty years, and now the third minster, the Rev. H. B. A. Ketchen, has put in ten years of his ministry with the people of Hamilton. He came here as a young man, this being his first charge, and the congregation have taken so kindly to him that the prospect is good for him to spend the remainder of his ministerial days here. It is like getting back to the old days of Presbyterianism where the pastor begins his work when a young man with his first or second congregation, christening the babies, taking them into church membership at the proper time, and when the summons comes standing by the grave to say farewell and speak words of comfort to those who mourn. Mr. Ketchen is a preacher of ability and under his ministrations the congregation keeps on growing, and by-and-by the church may get too small to accommodate the increase.


Macnab street church has been a blessing with liberal givers all through its history. When a new Sabbath school room, or a new vestry was needed, this money was forthcoming, and when a bell was thought necessary and an organ for the church, generous men and women furnished the necessary funds. The bell was the gift of James McMillan of Detroit, who in his youth attended the church. The handsome manse, costing $4,000 was built during the last year of Mr. Inglis’ pastorate, and was occupied by his family.

Of the original membership of the church and who partook of the first communion service held in the Mechanics’ hall, only two survive – Mrs. J. R. Cook and John Taylor. Macnab street church is the mother of two churches, St. John on the corner of Emerald and King street, and St. James, on Locke street.