Bio-History Notes – Harrison

The Dundas Star, September 22, 1954

Historical Dundas – A Series of interesting articles prepared by T. R. Woodhouse and published in co-operation with the Dundas Historical Society

Wick Harrison Comes Back
    One of our town’s best known old timers, and one who had gained the friendship and respect of all who knew him, was back in Dundas for two or three weeks after many years of absence. He is Henry Wickliffe Harrison, but everyone fondly called him Wick.
    Wick was born on a farm near Tansley in Nelson Township on September 25th, 1870. His father was a carriage maker who had his own shop where he made wagons, cutters, sleighs and buggies, with the help of several employees. Wick says that the hired men all smoked clay pipes, so he thought there must be pleasure in smoking, consequently Wick sneaked a pipe when its owner was not watching, and tried it out behind the shop. There were three results. The strong French Twist made Wick sicker than he had ever been before. The pipe owner caught him and gave him a tongue lashing; and Wick’s mother finished it off with a harness strap. Wick slept on his stomach for a week.
    Wick had to stay on the farm, and go to school (when farm and shop work was slack) until he was fourteen, but in 1884, feeling himself to be a man, he emigrated to Dundas where he got a job with the Hamilton and Dundas Street Railway.
    This railway had been organized in 1876 at a meeting in Bamberger’s Half Way House – a tavern that stood for years on the south side of the Hamilton-Dundas Highway, just east of the present T.H. & B. Ry. crossing at West Hamilton. The Railway was to have been a horse railway with a toll road alongside; but, instead, it was built as a steam railway without the road. Construction was started August 7th, 1877, and the line was officially opened on May 22nd, 1879, with a big banquet in the Elgin House in Dundas.
    Wick Harrison says that the first station in Hamilton was in the Kronshein block, No. 6 Main Street East, next door to the Hamilton Club. Here, A.A. Anderson, the first Manager of the Company established his office and a waiting room. The station was later moved to a low building on the same (south) side of Main Street, half way between James and Hughson Streets – or just east of the Bell Telephone Company’s Regent office. It was moved again about fifty yards easterly into the second building west of Hughson Street, now part of the Wentworth Arms Hotel. About 1891 the office was moved across the road to a one story brick waiting room on the northeast corner of Main and Hughson Streets, next door to the Myles Building.  This move was caused by the leasing of the railway by W.N. Myles, who became its manager. The next move was to the South East corner of James and Gore Street about 1905, and finally to the Terminal Station at King and Catharine Streets. There was also a turning switch at Main and Ferguson Avenue.
    In Dundas, there were only two stations during the railway’s lifetime, first at the rear of the Elgin House, and second at the northwest corner of Hatt and Foundry Sta.
    The Railway’s Directors, in an effort to avoid lawsuits caused by horses being scared by the steam and smoke of the locomotives, had special engines designed. They used smokeless hard coal, and used a bell instead of a whistle with its startling plume of white steam, and they disguised the locomotives to look like passenger cars. Consequently they quickly got the name of Dummy Engines, from which the whole train acquired the name of “The Dummy”.
    Wick got his first job on the Dummy as a brakeman in 1884 from John Wetherstone who was then the Manager and Lessee of the railway; and four years later Wick offered to purchase from Mr. Wetherstone the privilege of selling newspapers, candies and tobacco on the Dummy. Mr. Wetherstone refused to sell this privilege but gave it free of charge to Wick so that henceforth Wick became both Brakey and Candy Butcher. He used to sell cigars called “The Brakeman’s Favourite”, manufactured by B. Cauley on King Street East in Hamilton.
    In the latter part of 1888, Dennis Camp, who had been conductor up to then, secured an appointment as a policeman in Dundas, and Wick, at the age of eighteen was promoted to the conductors post, which was quite a promotion because his former salary of seventy-five cents a day as brakeman now became a dollar and a quarter a day as conductor. Wick was an extremely happy and proud young man when he got the news. He became happier and prouder yet when Col. J.J. Grafton had a blue serge uniform and cap made for him, and gave it to Wick as a present. Already Wick was making friends in Dundas. The uniform jacket was double breasted and had two rows of gold plated buttons with the word “conductor” pressed into them. The cap was a military type cap with the word “conductor” in gold braid across the front. It was an event in his life when Wick wore this uniform for the first time. His cup of happiness was full and running over. Wick still remembers this friendly gesture which was so typical of Colonel Grafton and his eyes still light up with pride when he tells of it. (to be continued)
    While the newspaper article indicated it was to be continued, there was no indication that Wick’s story went any further and nothing was indicated in the index of another paper’s article.
    The J.J. Grafton mentioned, who presented Wick with the beautiful uniform, was most likely the owner of Grafton’s clothing manufacturers in Dundas, who ran large ads in the Dundas Star with pictures of the latest in men’s clothing. He had a son “J.J.” but that son would be only a few years older than Wick. The “Colonel” appellation also bespeaks a man of considerable respect about town, a carry-over from the militia of years gone by. At the time of the papers I was reading, (circa 1899) Grafton & Co. Clothing manufacturers had branches in London, Hamilton, Petersboro, Owen Sound and Dundas.
    J.J. Grafton also had a son, Charles, who became a doctor and married Jean Douglass. Perhaps Jean, who lived in Pt. Elgin which was some distance from Dundas, met Charles Grafton when she was visiting her Harrison cousins.

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