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.



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