Saturday, 20 May 2017

1886 - Emancipation Day

“The colored people of Hamilton celebrated the day dear to their hearts at the Crystal Palace yesterday in right royal style.”
Hamilton Spectator. August 3, 1886.
Held under the auspices of Mount Brydges Lodge, No. 1861, G.U.O. of O.F, the annual celebration of Emancipation Day in Hamilton on Saturday, August 1, 1886 was unusual in that Hamilton was selected as the location for visitors from many places:
“Trainloads of brethren from other cities came in during the morning. Three or four crowded cars came in from Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and St. Catherines, four cars from Toronto, Oakville and Bronte, and as many more from Chatham and London.1
1 “Emancipation Day : Demonstration Under the Auspices of Mount Brydges Lodge, G.U.O.O.F.”
Hamilton Spectator.   August  03, 1886.
          The Hamilton hosts had planned a full day of special events to take place throughout the day, the first beginning soon after all the visitors had gathered in the downtown core:
          “About 11 o’clock in the morning, the procession formed at the Gore, and after parading the principal streets, moved to the Palace in the following order:
                   James Lawrie, grand marshal, mounted
                             Chatham Brass Band
                   Hacks containing George Morton, district secretary
                   Rev. J. A. Johnson and prominent visitors of the order,
                             and members of the Household of Ruth.
                             Mount Brydges Lodge, G.U.O.O.F.,
                   Members of the House of Ruth in carriages
                             London Brass Band
                             Visiting brethren.
          “The crowd was augmented by another large party from Toronto carrying a brass band, and altogether over 1,000 people participated in the celebration of the day on which slavery’s shackles were broken and the descendants of Ham became free.”1
          The Spectator account of the day was published on August 3, 1886:
“A splendid programme of games, including a couple of baseball matches, were prepared, and nothing was left undone to make the day thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable. But that is something Mount Brydges lodge invariably does with whatever it takes in hand.
          “At the Crystal Palace, eloquent addresses were delivered to the assembled throng by Rev. J.A. Johnson, of the A.M.E. church of the city; Henry Thompson, of Buffalo; and Rev. J.B. Roberts, of Oakville, formerly of Hamilton.
          “The addresses were all excellent and met with liberal applause. Rev. Mr. Johnson reviewed the history of emancipation, his remarks embracing an exhaustive study of the causes, men and influence that led to the freedom of the race.
          “After the speaking was concluded, the games were commenced with a baseball match between Brantford and Hamilton nines. Two juvenile clubs played a team of white-skinned lads against some dusky youngsters. The white boys won and the score was 21 to 3.
          “The ball in the evening was a grand affair. The Palace roller rink was secured for the occasion, and before 9 o’clock, the place was so crowded that it was almost impossible to get around – except on that portion of the floor reserved for promenaders.
          “And then the dance. Prof. J. Gant was the chief floor manager, and was distinguished by a white rosette.
“The whole day passed off peacefully and quietly. Everybody attending got the full measure of enjoyment, and when that is said, what more is there for a reporter to chronicle?”1

Friday, 19 May 2017

1886 - Prize Fight

As a crowd of well-known Hamilton ‘sports’ gathered in the downtown Hamilton, they were joined by a reporter from the Hamilton Spectator. Whether that reporter had been informed of the purpose of the gathering, his counterpart was not present and maybe not have been informed of what was about to transpire.
The following is the account of the event as reported in the Spectator of August 3, 1886:
“In the faint gray of dawn yesterday, groups of men emerged from the houses and streets of the city and climbed the James street mountain steps. When the summit was reached they waited around for upwards of an hour, glancing suspiciously at one another and exchanging remarks under their breath. Their talk was evidently about a fight that was going to take place and which they had come to witness.
“Presently the crimson in the eastern horizon brightened into gold, and suddenly the sun loomed majestically up and poured a flood of light over the city that lay peacefully nestled at the foot of the mountain. The bright light of day seemed to have an awakening influence on the two or three score gathered on the mountain brow. They talked louder and with greater confidence, and some began to inquire, in a bustling way, how much longer would they have to wait anyway. There was evidently some difficulty about money, for the half dozen or so sports who appeared to have the thing in charge, eagerly and rather sullenly, discussed among themselves whether it was worthwhile going on with it before such a small crowd. It was finally decided to go on, and the crowd was invited to enter a large barn nearby. Most of the crowd did so, and each person who went in, was obliged to show a red ticket for which he had paid one dollar.
“But the event did not take place in the barn. The invitation into that convenient edifice was merely a bluff to draw money from several persons who waited to see the show for nothing. The crowd filed out again. Presently two men drove up in a buggy and told the crowd to follow them. They drove up the stone road running south from the Mountain View Hotel, and, about a quarter of a mile from the hotel, alighted, tied the horse to a fence, and crossed the field to the left. A straggling procession followed them. There was another field to cross, then a wooden shed was entered; and here, in a small, cleared space, surrounded by trees, was gathered a group of men with eager, expectant faces. It looked like a prize fight. Stakes were driven into the ground and ropes stretched from stake to stake until a 24 foot ring was completed. It certainly was to be a prize fight. Yes, it was a prize fight.
“While by far the majority of Hamilton’s citizens were in bed, a stubbornly-contested fight was fought in a 24 foot prize ring with two ounce gloves, according to Queensbury rules. It was a 10 round battle. The principals were Jack Dempsey, of Detroit, Mich., and Enoch Taylor, of Hamilton. Dempsey is the man who fought with Harry Gilmore near Detroit early this year and was badly beaten by the redoubtable little Canadian.
“Taylor is a young Englishman,  a mechanic, who works regularly at his trade of file making, but who is also well known in local pugilistic circles as a semi-professional and a very expert sparrer. Yesterday’s work proved him to be not only a capital sparrer, but a gamey little man, with good staying powers.
“Nearly a hundred men were gathered about the ring, nearly all of them fairly competent judges of sparring; but, each one who was asked as referee, refused point blank. Another long delay occurred on this account. Then the men stripped and declared their intention to fight anyhow, and leave the decision to the crowd. At length, an east end merchant, who is a strong admirer of this branch of sport, reluctantly consented to officiate as referee and as this was the only preliminary that remained unarranged, the fight proceeded.
“The men were not well-matched in size and weight. Dempsey is 5 feet 6 inches high, and weighs about 130 pounds; Taylor is only 5 feet 2 inches in height, and on Saturday weighed exactly 110 pounds. Taylor, who is 22 years old, is a younger man than Dempsey by at least two or three years. Both men went into the fight handicapped – Dempsey with a stiff right arm, one of the lower bones having been broken in a fight some six weeks ago; and Taylor said to the SPECTATOR reporter (who, by the way, was the only newspaper man on the ground), ‘I haven’t had half an hour’s training for this fight. My brother is the only person in Hamilton I care to spar with for practice, and I haven’t been able to practice with him on account of an accident that happened to his hand two or three days ago. If I’m beaten, it’s because my wind won’t hold out – that’s all I’m afraid of.”
“Both men stripped to the buff. Dempsey appeared to be in better condition than Taylor, his skin being pinker and his muscles apparently harder. Dempsey’s right forearm was purple and sore-looking, but for the first four rounds, it didn’t seem to bother him much. Taylor wore dark blue breeches, and Dempsey linen ones. Taylor’s seconds were his two brothers, who seemed to understand the business thoroughly; Fred Bell, a sparrer of local celebrity seconded Dempsey.
“At the outset, it looked very much as if Dempsey were going to have it all his own way. He looked so much bigger than his adversary, and his reach was much longer, that the odds appeared too great in his favor. In the first three rounds, Dempsey had a decided advantage. He forced the fighting, and his tactics appeared to wind Taylor. This he nearly succeeded in doing in the second round. One of his tremendous body blows caught Taylor just above the belt. Taylor gasped and uttered a long groan, and twitched as if about to vomit; he staggered back and reeled, but recovered just in time to dodge a blow that would have landed on his jugular and probably have laid him out. Time was called at this critical juncture, and Taylor had a chance to recover his wind.
“In the next round, Taylor guarded his body carefully, and fought on the defensive, Dempsey forcing him several times to the ropes. First blood was drawn from Taylor in this round : he received an ugly cut on his left temple. Though the fighting was in Dempsey’s favor throughout the greater part of the third round, it was evident that Taylor was rapidly pulling himself together, and when time was called, he turned tables on the big fellow and forced him on to the ropes near his own corner. There was very hard in-fighting in the fourth, and before it was over, blood was flowing freely from a cut on Dempsey’s under lip. After this, the fighting was very savage, but most of the heavy punishment was received by Dempsey. Each round was repetition of the last until the close; Taylor pounding Dempsey in the face until it was covered in blood – a sickening sight; Dempsey aiming savage body blows at Taylor and countering rather lightly, evidently getting in distress towards the last, while Taylor appeared to grow fresher with each round.
“When the fight was over, Dempsey’s face, neck and breast were covered with blood and his neck were covered with blood, and his face was puffy and bruised; the only mark on Taylor’s face was the cut on his left temple, but his chest and sides bore the marks of hard punishment. It was noticed that after the fourth round, Dempsey used his right very little. The reason was explained when the fight was over.
“After he and Taylor had shaken hands, Dempsey said to his antagonist : ‘Say, I’ve been fighting you ever since the fourth round with a broken arm.’ This was true. His right forearm which was still weak from the last fight, was broken into places by a blow which he aimed at Taylor’s neck, but which Taylor dodged and took on the head. The arm was terribly swollen. Dempsey had said nothing about his misfortune, but had fought six rounds with his arm useless before him.
“The fight resulted in a draw, the referee deciding that Dempsey had had the advantage in the first four rounds, and that Taylor had not shown sufficient superiority in the following rounds to outweigh this advantage. Both men took the decision philosophically. With the assistance of their seconds, they dressed hastily; the stakes were drawn, and the crowd had dispersed before the mists had rolled away from the hillside.
“The fight proved that Taylor is more than a match for Dempsey in science, and can hit as hard. If the fight had been to a finish, Taylor would undoubtedly had won it. Even if Dempsey had complete use of both arms, it is probable that Taylor with his superior skill, would prove more than a match for him.
“If it had been arranged that the winner should get 60 per cent of the receipts, and the loser 40 per cent; but as the fight resulted in a draw, the receipts were divided equally.”1
1  “In the 24 Foot Ring : Prize Fight Near Hamilton Yesterday.”
Hamilton Spectator.   August  03, 1886.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

1884 - Journalist and the Salvation Army

In 1884, Hamilton’s Salvation Army often rented out the Grand Opera House on James Street North for their Sunday services

Sunday, March 23, 1884 was no different at first as a quiet and orderly crowd nearly-filled the theatre auditorium as the services began..

However something unexpected occurred:

“The services were somewhat rudely disturbed by the antics of a man, who, truthfully or otherwise, claimed to be a journalist. During a lull in the entertainment, he suddenly sprang up in his seat and gave out the startling information that he was a servant of the enemy of mankind.

“Shaking a handful of paper in his hand, he said that he had been writing a wicked report of the proceedings of the meeting for the devil’s paper.”1

1 “A Victim of the ‘Power’ or the Snakes’ Creates a Sensation at the Opera House”

Hamilton Spectator.    March 24, 1884.

While the Spectator never identified the “journalist” or the newspaper he worked for, it could well have been a reporter with the only other daily newspaper in the city, the Hamilton Times.

The Salvation Army generally, and certainly the leader of that afternoon’s services, Captain Happy Bill Cooper, were no shy to create, or react to sensations :

“There is nothing Capt. Happy Bill likes better than candor, and upon hearing this self-confessed statement of the depths of depravity in which this unfortunate was living, he at once opened the whole force of Salvation artillery upon the devil which lodged in this man’s soul. He was brought down to the penitent bench and whole broadsides of hot shot fired into him.”1

However, the ‘journalist’ soon had second thoughts about the whole business of publicly confessing his sins and turning his life over to God. The prayers and urging of the Salvation Army had little impact on him:

“It was of no use. His career as a journalist, no doubt, had caused his heart to become too case-hardened for the fiery shower to have any effect, and he passed away into the great unknown, or wherever he came from, with the remark that he was lost.”1

The Spectator was unsure what provoked the journalist to create the incident and ended his account of it as follows:

“Whether his curious actions were the result of the captain’s eloquent words, or from frequent libations of the ardent, it does not appear.”1


Monday, 1 May 2017

1885 - Vagabonds

“Vags and Vagabonds  : The QueeR Philosophy of a Poetic Tramp”

Hamilton Spectator.   September 16, 1886.


                   “Homeless, tattered and tanned,           

                             Under the changeful sky,

                    Who so free in the land,

                             Who so contented as I”

          “The last time I heard the words of Molloy’s charming song was in the Opera House in the winter, and it brought back to the memory of one summer afternoon, a couple of years back, when I heard a rich baritone voice rolling them out beneath the shade of a maple tree on the mountain side.

          “I had walked up the Northwestern track that afternoon, and was calmly reposing myself, watching the ashes grow on a cigar, when I heard the song above me. Looking up, I saw the singer. He was a tall, slim man, dark of complexion he, brown hair and eyes, and crisp, curling brown beard. He was decidedly good-looking. He pulled nonchalantly at a clay pipe, black from constant use. His clothes had seen better days years ago, but no matter how poorly he was dressed, he looked what he was – a gentleman. I found this out when I talked with him. More, he was intelligent, well-read and a philosopher. Charming acquaintance!

          “ ‘ You don’t know what life is, my boy!’ he said to me. ‘Cooped up in the smoke and dust of a city, you are like a bird in a cage. Don’t you ever pine for the freedom of the country – the hills, the valleys, the lakes and rivers, and overall, the wonderful blue that hides us from heaven? I go where I like, work when I have to, and spend the rest of my time enjoying nature’s wonderful beauty. Here are my friends, the trees and flowers; the drowsy hum of insects is music to me; my couch, my mother the earth, and the moon and stars my guardians. I fear no man, and seek no man’s favor. I care for no one, and no one cares for me. I am as free and unfettered as the birds of heaven.’


          I thought my friend was getting a trifle too high-flown. I suggested constitutional laziness, and he laughed. ‘I work more than you do,’ he said. ‘Walking is tough sometimes.’

          “ ‘What about the police?”

          “Why, what about them?

          “ ‘They have a way of arresting vagrants.’

          “ My strange friend laughed again. ‘They never interfere with me. I don’t give them a chance to. Your vagrants are the men who loaf and beg about the city. I would scorn fellowship with them. I am a vagabond, and I glory in it. You say it is wrong for me to escape from the responsibilities of society – that if I were a man of honor, I would bear my share of the burdens of the social fabric’

          “ ‘Bosh. The social fabric has no burdens except those of its own creation. If men are foolish enough to bake brick for their own shoulders, let them. I will have none of them. I am content to live and die, unwept, unhonored and unsung. Nature gives me all I need. I love her in all her moods, and in all her varied loveliness, and leave the towns and cities with their dust, their rows of villainously-built and uncomfortable houses, their procession of painted women and badly-dressed men to those who care for them. I don’t !


          “ I began to suspect that my friend was slightly crazed on this point, though he talked intelligently otherwise, and having given him a cigar, walked away. And the last I heard of him, he was singing the same old song as lustily as ever.


          “Some time after that, I had occasion to go away down east one night to rout a man out of bed for something. I forget now what it was. He lived very close to the city limits, and his house was near the mountain. As I walked up the street, I was surprised to see a gang of six or eight fellows sleeping beneath a tree. This was about two o’clock in the morning. They were tough-looking characters, most of them, as I could see by the moonlight that filtered through on their faces. I mentioned the matter to the gentleman I had gone to see, and was quite surprised to hear him say, ‘Oh! that’s nothing. They’ll do no harm. We are quite accustomed to that. I daresay if I was to go out to my barn now, I would find one or two fellows sleeping in the hay. There is very seldom any trouble with them. If you don’t interfere with them, they’re alright. All the people in this neighborhood know of them. Walk around East Hamilton any summer night and you find them by the score.’


          “ ‘My experience since then has proved the words correct to a great extent. A large number of these vagabonds are lads who sneak from their homes expressly to do it. Others have no homes to sneak from. They commit small depredations constantly. Residents of the east end are frequent sufferers. Fruit, vegetables, chickens and small articles that are easily carried, form their customary prey. On several nights since then, I have seen gangs around small fires waiting patiently for the cooking of a stolen chicken or the roasting of some potatoes.


          “The east end is not alone in this respect. The prowler can find these pariahs along the mountainside, down around the wharves and up in the west end. Anyone who is curious can walk around the shores of the Dundas marsh. If he goes in the daytime, he will find traces everywhere – bottles, bones, bits of bread, maybe a smoldering fire. At night, fires are all ablaze. One night recently I counted six at once. I ventured to draw near to two of them. Squatting around one were three men, a woman and a lad of tender years. A black bottle was on active duty among them, and all were evidently on a fair way to a night’s debauch. At the other fire, three young men were sitting, and two were sleeping calmly on the grass. An empty bottle lay beside them, and another was in circulation. The three awake were rapidly getting ready to join their companions and sleep the sleep of the truly drunk. The policeman who was with me remarked that more drunken gangs hold out there than at any other camping ground in the city.


          “I was told by another policeman that an open vault in the Roman Catholic cemetery was the regular abiding place of another gang, but of this I have no personal knowledge. The reader of the police court reports in the newspapers will constantly find allusions to this sort of thing, for many of these night hawks are caught and jailed. Only yesterday, one story of this sort was told in the court – a story of perhaps more than ordinary interest as it shattered the hopes of the criminal theorists who prophesied that the traces of the terrible tragedy might be found beneath the weeds and waters of the Dundas marsh. It seems incredible to think that people who might enjoy the comforts, if not the luxuries of civilization, can throw all the advantages of that civilization so carelessly away. My friend the singer represents the highest type of the vagabond, the drunken wretches of the west end, the lowest. Between the two there is but a step. The high-toned vagabond will surely halt in time. It all shows how purely superficial civilization, refinement and culture is. Human nature, pure and simple, is just as strong in the breasts of the most polished ballroom habitue, as in the poor, unlettered, dusky sons and daughters of the forest.”1