Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Nefarious Activities - 1884


Patience Athletic Club
        Early Sunday morning, about 3 am., October 13, 1884, Police Constable     Hawkins saw a young man come out of a doorway on John street near Main.
           When the young man noticed the policeman, he hastened away from the area. Suspicions aroused, Constable Hawkins called for fellow constable        Strongman and together they entered the doorway from which the young man had exited :
          “They went upstairs and tried all the doors but could not get in any of them. They did not hear any noise or see any light. When coming down stairs again, they heard low whispering and the noise of feet moving stealthily about.”
          “The Patience Athletic Club : Where Tables, Cards and Liquor Are the Athletic Apparatus”
             Spectator. October 15, 1884.
          After summoning another fellow patrolman for assistance, the three Hamilton policemen together were able to arrest three men located in the suspicious building. A key was found on one of those arrested, and with it, the police were able to enter the gang's club rooms and make a thorough search :
          “They found in the first room, a card table with a pack of cards on it and a lot of leather checks. A back room they found fitted up as a bar, with racks for beer barrels and a table fitted like a counter. They got over two dozen bottles of beer, two bottles of whiskey and a lot of old tom gin. The police found five more packs of cards and several pairs of boxing gloves.”
          The arrests made in connection with the Patience Athletic Club caused a sensation in Hamilton. On October 20, 1884, the Spectator published an article about young men's “clubs” in the city and how they operated.
          It was estimated that usually between two or three dozen young men would organize a club and proceed to rent a room or two in the upper flats of large commercial buildings in the downtown core :
          “The resort is familiarly known among the brotherhood as the 'dazh' and each carries a key which unlocks the door. The location, even the existence, of the place, are kept secret except to the few who bear the expense of it, and perhaps to a limited number of privileged friends. Now, it is a fact that there are many of these mysterious resorts in Hamilton, and it is also a fact that if their walls could speak, they could tell appalling tales of vice.”
          “Young Men's 'Clubs' : How Some Hamilton Youths Pass Their Leisure Hours”
             Spectator. October 20, 1884.
          Saturday night, October 18, 1884, a gentleman was walking along John street north, near King, shortly after midnight when he heard a young woman sobbing uncontrollably while another slightly older woman was both consoling and remonstrating her.
          The gentleman went up to the pair to ask what was wrong and was told by the older of the two that there was nothing wrong:
          “ ' It is something,' said the other, suddenly rising to her feet, 'and I'm going to tell all about it.' She was quite young – a mere girl, rather pretty, and nicely dressed. Her companion, who was evidently four or five years her senior, and was much more brazen in her appearance, appeared to be anxious to get her away, and said, threateningly, 'You'd better not give them away.'
          “ 'I tell you I will,' said the younger one, and she turned to the gentleman and began her story when her companion roughly interrupted her. 'Don't be a fool, Carrie,' sad she; 'You'll get yourself into trouble, as well as the boys if you don't hold your tongue.' “
          The gentleman persisted with is inquiries into the nature of the young girl's difficulties. She told him that she and her companion had met two young men that evening. Her friend went with one of the fellows, while she went walking with the other. After about an hour, the young girl was led to a door in a King street east building and was told that her friend was upstairs:
          “She went up with him and was taken into a room where she found the other girl and the youth whom she had gone off with when they separated. The girl here broke down, and could nor or would not proceed with her story. She only said, amid a flood of tears, 'It wasn't my fault – I didn't know.' She refused to give her name. 'My brother would kill me if he found out, and he mustn't know.' “
          The gentleman then questioned the older woman about what happened and was told :
          “ 'She went to the room of her own accord,' said she. 'She saw me and my friend go in together, and she and this other fellow followed us. The boys only treated us to some wine – that's all, and her head is a little turned, 'cause she is not used to it. That's all that's the matter with her. She'll be all right tomorrow – won't you Carrie?' “
          At this point, the measured step of a police patrolman was heard, and the gentleman threatened to have them both arrested if they didn't reveal their names. After their piteous pleadings to be let go, the gentleman agreed and the two guests of a young men's club hurried off down John street and disappeared into the darkness.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Garbage Site in Hamilton 1883


Caroline Gully – 1883, July

              “Cleanliness, says the Bible, is next to Godliness. The force of that remark is particularly appreciable just now.. From the East come reports of the ravages of a dread disease. It grows strong and flourishes in summertime. The hot weather is very favorable to it. Under the fostering care of heat, fever grows up strong and healthy as a country babe. It also draws heaps of nourishment from back yards and alleyways. In the festering slums of the poor quarters, where poverty reigns supreme and where want and sickness, disease and fever, stalk about like gaunt advance guards of death, the dread disease is born and inhales the noxious odors that give it life and strength.”
                                                “Health of the City : What the Inspector Has to                                                                   Say About It”
                                                Spectator.  July 26, 1883.
         
          The spread of contagious disease via the cesspools, and dirty back yards and alleyways, was a major source of concern during the summer of 1883 in Hamilton.
          On Tuesday, July 24, 1883, a reporter for the Spectator conducted the following interview with Assistant Health Inspector        Ford:
          “Do you have many complaints of places around the City?
          “No, we have very few this year, and they are getting less every day. When we get a report, we attend to it promptly, and don't let our work get ahead of us.
          “Is there much sickness in the city among the poorer classes?
          “Well, I don't think there is. Dr. Ryall looks after that. But he is away in Muskoka just now.
          “Yes, there are some parts of the city worse than others. The worst report comes from about the flats around the Northern and Northwestern railway. But the backyards on the principal streets need a good deal of looking after too.”

          The reporter was somewhat dubious about the assistant health inspector's opinion that the general health of Hamilton's citizens had never before been so good :
          “Is this a phenomenally healthy city? Some close observers seem to think not. This city has its slums as well as other larger places. Almost at the foot of Caroline street, there is a deep gully. Here, refuse of all kinds is thrown. The decaying forms of dead cats and other animals decorate its sides. Rotten refuse of all sorts finds a resting place there. Along the bottom a sluggish stream of refuse water winds its dismal way. Stagnant pools border it. The place is disgusting to look at.
          “The fouls smell that arises from this festering hole is something awful. It is stifling. Like the deadly upas tree, its odors and vile vapors are poisoning. Yet any afternoon, the forms of children can be seen on its banks inhaling the noxious gases which breed pestilence and death.
          “These children do not look very healthy. The majority of them have pale thin faces and wretched attenuated forms. Red festering sores on their cheeks. Sore, inflamed eyes, with a sickening lack lustre in such young children, gaze up stupidly from their unwashed faces at passersby. The wailing cry of sick children is constantly heard. Does this look like a healthy city?
          “Does Mr. Ford want more of these instances to assure him the denizens of Hamilton’s slums are not living in a Utopian health pot? If he does, it is not at all a difficult matter to oblige him. Near the foot of Simcoe street, right off Bay, there is a gully that is, if anything, worse than the other. The foul odor that arises from this receptacle for putrefying garbage and decaying flesh floats out on the air that blows pure and sweet from the bay, and poisons it. It goes on, carrying the germs of fevers, spreading its contagion to all winds that blow.
          In the summer of 1883, there were concerted efforts by many citizens and local health organizations to pressure the municipal government to legislate and enforce strict health bylaws, especially regarding the draining of cesspools and water closets.
          The local newspapers took up the campaign, and on Friday, July 27, 1883, there appeared two articles describing two of the major problems in the city as regards unsanitary conditions.
          The sewer on Cathcart street, north of Robert street, had made the area barely habitable :
          “The neighbourhood is in a most disgraceful condition, presenting as it does the appearance of an immense sewer without any restrictions and it is a great wonder that pestilence and sickness do not rage there to an alarming extent, as there is certainly nothing to prevent it doing so, and everything to favour the spread of disease should one get a start there.”
          “A Terrible Sewer : Disgraceful State of Things on Cathcart Street
            Spectator. July 27, 1883
          The Cathcart street sewer was box-type, designed to carry raw sewage into the bay. Whenever there was an excessive amount of sewage passing through, the seams of the sewer would give way to the pressure and open up in the areas where the sewer ran above ground, the raw sewage collecting in stagnant pools in the nearby ditches and low-lying areas :
          “These ditches and pools are filled with all kinds of cotton garbage and weeds to which they give growth, and the whole has the appearance of a swamp in the depths of some forest rather than a public thoroughfare in a city.”
          Below the Grand Trunk Railway line, the Cathcart street sewer was joined by another sewer from the Barton street and Ferguson avenue area:
          “At the junction of these two rivers and in the culvert formed by the embankment of the two railroads, there is an extensive cesspool, some three feet deep, reveling in all the luxury that filth and reeking odors can ensure.”
          Another tour of inspection by the Spectator reporter was directed towards the Caroline street gully. The gully, once an inlet from the bay, was a low-lying swamp which had been designated as a location for refuse disposal to fill it in.
          Caroline street north, near Stuart street, had  a row of houses on the west side, facing the gully :
           “Looking over the edge into the hole, the observer finds a sink of dirtiness which should not be allowed o exist. The residents in the vicinity have been trying to fill that gully up and have used dead cats, dogs and chickens, rotten potatoes, onions, cabbage and other vegetable refuse, old tin cans, bottles and discarded and household utensils”
          Caroline Street Gully : What an Eyewitness Has to Say about It”
             Spectator. July 27, 1883.
          To add to the stench produced by the rotting refuse, another dilapidated box sewer emptied into the gully and, not being able to run off into the bay, collected in fearsomely stagnant pools:
          “The sewage at the bottom and the refuse of fish cleaners and hog pens which decorate the sides, vie with one another in causing the most nauseous odors and the whole combined makes their neighbourhood abominable.”
          While the reporter at first guessed that “no bird or beast, to say nothing of a human being” could exist near such disgusting smells, he was surprised to find that such was not the case :
          “Cows and goats are turned out into this gully and are fed upon the grass which flourishes from the cesspools that abound there. All along the sides of the dump and raking among the stinking refuse may be seen little children.”
          The reports about the unsanitary conditions at the Caroline street sewer and the Caroline street gully caused widespread reaction. On the Sunday afternoon following the publication of the reports, a Spectator reporter was sent back to the Caroline street gully to gauge the reaction of the residents.
          “Well,” said one of them, “I read your article in the Spectator and if anything, the gully is worse than described there. A person can't have any idea of the state of this place, unless they live down there.”
          “The Caroline Street Gully : What Residents in That Locality Say About It”
             Spectator. July 30, 1883.
          Another resident was quoted as saying “the smell from decayed vegetable matter is bad enough, but there are three sewers running into it, one from Grant's Brewery, one from the soap works, and another from the gas works, and when all these are running the stench arising from them is simply unbearable. As soon as I can possibly get another place, I am going to leave this locality.”
          When another man was asked about the smells, he claimed not to be bothered by them :
          “I don't smell anything, and I have lived here ever since it was a street.”
          When the reporter discovered that the man owned his Caroline street home, he assumed that the man had a vested interest in not running down the locality in case he might want to sell his house.
          On the following Monday, the Spectator reporter was granted an interview with Alderman Carruthers, chairman of the health committee. When asked whether anything had been done about the two unsanitary localities described in the previous week's Spectator, Alderman Carruthers replied that nothing had been done.
          “Do you intend to do anything with”?”
          “Well, no; there is nothing to be done there. The place does not smell at all.”
          “Ought there not to be some notices put up round the gully to prevent persons from putting refuse matter there?”
          “Yes. There should be. I have thought it advisable to have notices put up, prohibiting people putting any more there. The chairman of the board of works is having the stagnant water that has accumulated in the gully below Barton street drained off. That is the only place there, and when that is cleared away, the gully will be alright. There was one thing I saw there, and that was a bed of watercress that I should have liked to have had some of.”
          “Is anything being done to the Cathcart street sewer, do you know?”
          “No, I don't. I spoke to Ald. McLagan, the chairman of the sewer committee, and he said they were getting along with it as fast as possible.”
          Both Hamilton's daily newspapers, the Spectator and the Times, urged the health inspector to do something about the disgraceful state of affairs in various parts of the city.
          The editorial on the subject in the Times wanted “an infusion of activity into the health department. Renovate the sewers, clean up all alleys and back yards. See that no stagnant pools remain, make strict regulations about the disposal of rubbish.”
          The Spectator editorial was mainly a direct attack on the competency of Mr. Murison, who was in charge of health inspections :
           “It appears that this locality is in a condition not only disgraceful to the corporation, but scandalous to the gentleman who is supposed to enforce the health bylaw. It is the duty of this gentleman (and he is paid to protect the inhabitants from any possibility of contagion or infection) to look after the welfare of the citizens. If he has not done so in the past, he should make a pretense of doing so now, so that the council may believe that he is fulfilling the requirements of the position.”

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Professor C. Astronomical Johnson


1882 – Professor Johnson
        On Tuesday May 2, 1882, a good-sized crowd gathered at Hamilton’s  MacNab Street (Colored) Baptist Church, located near the corner of MacNab Street North and Cannon Street West.
          The occasion which prompted the assembly of that crowd was the first Hamilton public lecture by a man who would go on to become of the city’s most well-known and, occasionally, controversial characters.
          Known at the time as Reverend C. A. Johnson, the lecturer was later be better known as Professor C. (Astronomical) Johnson, a black man who published a periodical known as The British Lion, a vehicle by which he disseminated his rather unique theories on his main interests, astronomy and religion.
          Professor Johnson believed that the earth was a stationary object and that the sun moved across the sky. By the spring of 1882, he had already gained a wide reputation in many cities in both the United States where his personal appearances had gained wide publicity.
          The gathering at the MacNab Street (Colored) Baptist Church would be the professor’s first appearance in Hamilton, a city which he later made his home. The vast majority of his audience on May 2, 1882 was white, and for most it would have been the first time they had entered that particular church building.
          After the Rev. Mr. Harrison, pastor of that church began proceedings with a prayer, the church’s choir energetically performed a jubilee song “Join the Union,” to a rousing reception.
          Then after being introduced, Professor Johnson took the lectern and delivered the following speech which was reprinted the following day in the city’s press.
          “I have given this lecture in almost every city in the United States, and when I determined to deliver it in Canada; I made up my mind that I would give the people of Hamilton the first chance.
          “I advertised this lecture and gave those who wished it an opportunity to come hear and confute my arguments. I am ready to hear at the close of my lecture any objections, and I want those who are not quite sure of the points I will touch on to relieve their minds about them before they go away.
“I am set in my opinions that the earth stands still and that the sun moves around it. (Cheers.) And I will continue to think so until my friends, the scientists convince me otherwise.
“Now, I propose to prove that most to prove that the sun does move. I know that most people think this is not so, but it is. (Cheers.) I have made a new discovery! (Cheers.)
“I have found that there always have been more suns than this great luminary which now lights up the world. There have been other suns which shone just as brightly. But I refer now to the sun which rises and sets every day as the great central sun.
“Somewhere in space, there are invisible suns, though we can see but only one. In a few years some of these will come out again, and light up the earth, and the result will be a complete disarrangement of the planetary system.
“This sun which is moving now, will probably collide with the earth, and the result will be disastrous to the earth. Scientists say that the sun stands still, but I never could find out how they know that. Though they are a very reliable class of men, they disagree among themselves so much that I have not a very good opinion of their reliability.
“They say the sun stands still, and the next minute, they say its turns of its axis. I don’t believe that it is a fiery mass, as they say. Again, one says that it is 95,000,000 miles away, and another that it is only 90,000,000 miles distant.
“I don’t believe that they ever measured the distance, and I never heard of the man who went to the sun and brought back the information. I can get more reliable information than the scientists have.
“A man will say the rising and setting of the sun is only an appearance, caused by the revolution of the earth, but I don’t believe it has any revolutionary movement. I believe what I see, and I see the sun move; it goes down one side and hurries around to come up their other side.
“It is recorded in the Bible that the sun rises and sets. Doesn’t that prove that it has motion? When Joshua was in trouble with his enemies, he managed to get divine influence on his side, and he commanded the sun and moon to stand still. What was the good of calling on it to stop if it was not moving? (Cheers.)
“It did stand still, and I believe the Scriptures before the scientists. I claim that the earth stands still, and someday it will come into collision with some heavenly body. Scientists say they have found the interior is filled with fire, but these men are mistaken about that; the earth is solid. All the theories of geography and astronomy have got to be reconstructed. I am quite certain of this – in my own mind. There is a German clergyman in the States, and people in England who think like I do.
“All the ancients, too, had the right theory about the earth being flat. I met a man in Washington, a State official, and he said to me : “What do you think about this matter?”
“I told him, and he said : “Those are my opinions exactly, send me your paper for one year.” (Cheers and laughter.)
“It’s a grand mistake, this alleged revolution of the earth. God created the darkness and the light separate, and the revolution of the earth has nothing to do with it. It is far more reasonable to think the earth is flat than to suppose it is revolving in space, supported by nothing.”
“If the earth turns upside down, the people on the other side must be in an embarrassing position. (Laughter.) I don’t remember ever having stood on my head. That theory is all wrong.
“John the Revelator saw angels at the four corners of the earth, which could not have been if the earth was round.
“Then there was a man named David, who got into a scrape once, though we won’t say anything about that. (Laughter.) He found that somehow that there were ‘ends of the earth.’ Where are the ends if the earth is round? (Cheers)
“I think I have demonstrated that the earth is flat and the sun moves! (Cheers and laughter.)
“If I have not quite satisfied you, I have given you food for reflection, and if you will buy the British Lion, you will probably be convinced, as I give a column to this subject in every issue.
“Now I am ready to hear your questions.”
“If Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and did not tell it to go again, isn’t it standing still now?”
“Does the gentleman wish me to answer that question now?”
“Well, I’ll give you three weeks.” (Laughter.)
“All right, thank you. Now, is there any other question?”
A voice from the choir – “If the sun is moving, why doesn’t it move away, and let the earth fall?” (Cheers)
“Do you want me to answer that now?”
“Yes”
“Thank you,” said Prof. Johnson, sitting down without answering it.
In conclusion, Professor Johnson rose to inform the audience that while he had invited them to ask questions, he had not promised to answer them.
With that, he declared the meeting adjourned.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Opening of Dundurn May 1881


May 3rd was the date selected for the reopening of the grounds of Dundurn for public events for the summer season of 1881.
          The headlights of the reopening day's festivities were to be a personal appearance by Edward Hanlon, a world champion oarsman, and a grand pyrotechnic display in the evening by Hamilton's own Professor Jesse Gant. A crowd of at least 5,000 paid entrants was anticipated if the weather was fair.
          The popular world champion rower, Hanlon, arrived in Hamilton from Toronto on the five o'clock afternoon express train. After disembarking onto the platform of the Grand Trunk railway station, Hanlon was officially greeted by Hamilton mayor     O'Reilly, who was accompanied by Professor Hand and a number of other prominent citizens. The famous athlete was then driven to George Lee's popular restaurant on   street for a hearty meal before his appearance at Dundurn.
          Beginning at 7 p.m., Hanlon was formally driven through Hamilton's principal streets to the grounds of Dundurn :
          “On the arrival of the procession at York street, it was met by a lorry illuminated with Bengal lights and other fireworks which threw a light on the proceedings by no means unpleasant to the immense throng of people who lined the street.”
          “Hand and Hanlon : Successful and Brilliant Opening of Dundurn Park”
          Spectator. May 4, 1881.
          After arriving at the grounds, the mayor and Hanlon were then driven to the amphitheater stage where the Sportsman Cup was displayed.
          Mayor O'Reilly in introducing the world champion, told the crowd that “not only was Mr. Hanlon a skilled oarsman, but he had so modestly and honourably conducted himself that he was also entitled to their esteem as a gentleman.”
          When Hanlon was introduced, a storm of applause greeted his appearance on the stage. Thanking the crowd for their welcome, Hanlon said that he found it difficult to express his gratitude, but that he would always do his best to uphold the aquatic honour of Canada against the world.
          Saying that he was a man of deeds, not words, Hanlon ended his speech with the announcement of his impending retirement from competitive rowing.
          After three rousing cheers and a tiger for the the famed oarsman, there were three more delivered with enthusiasm for Mayor O'Reilly and Professor Hand, who then proceeded with his fireworks display :
          “Beside innumerable Bengal lights, rockets, mines, shells, maroons, balloons, etc., the following set pieces were given: Niagara Falls, cascade and wheel, united diamonds, equilateral triangle, double turning pieces, Maltese cross, ship and fort, tree pieces with double side wings and batteries, and a revolving globe with a crown in the center.”
          After the fireworks, the dancing became very well-patronized, as was the concert given by the Independent band.
          The evening's proceedings being so well-attended and well-organized augured well for a successful 1881 season at Dundurn Park.