“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
“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