26 July 2015

The Day Horace Got Stoned




Horace Melvin Porter grew up on a farm in Ulverton, South Durham, Quebec, the 6th of 11 children. His parents sold the farm c1900 and Horace moved to the city, living in the boarding house of Mrs Fields in Verdun. Horace worked as a motorman for the Montreal Street Railway Company for which he was paid 17½¢ per hour. He loved and was proud of his job.


Friday, February 6, 1903 promised to be a fair day after yesterday's snow storm. It was a chilly 18°F in the early hours when the Montreal Street Railway workers called a strike,  wanting better wages and working conditions... and the Union. As soon as word of the strike got out there was rioting in the streets, pelting officials with ice and snow, and the workers attacking any tram car daring to be out on the streets. 

Horace attempted to drive a tram out of the Cote Street barn later in the day, once the rioting calmed down. Word got around quickly and he was immediately assaulted with stones and bricks and left for dead.

 
 
 
The article with pretty much the same wording was in newspapers across Canada and the United States.  I searched, but not one paper seemed to have followed up on the fate of the motorman. 
 
Horace did not die that day.  The assault left him alive but a brick had hit him in the head altering his mental state. He was later transported to the Protestant Hospital for the Insane in Verdun, where he "lived" for the rest of his life. He was 26 years old.
 
My great grandmother, Mary Jane Porter (Horace's sister) lived in Verdun, and by this time their parents and most siblings had moved to the United States. Mary Jane went once a week to visit her brother at the hospital for the insane. She would bring him bananas, which he would eat peel and all. Often she took along my pre-school age mother, who was not allowed to go in the hospital.  She had to wait on a bench outside on the grounds.
 
It is thankful that the administration of this hospital were forward thinking and compassionate.  They realized that keeping able patients occupied meant little to no medications were necessary. Horace worked in the laundry.
In 1937 there was an interesting survey done of the Verdun Hospital for the Insane and it included general info about the staff, salaries, provisions for patients, conditions, etc.

On 4 March 1948 at age 71 Horace died in the Verdun Hospital for the Insane, where he spent the last 45 years.



Mary Jane refused burial at Mount Royal and had him brought home to Ulverton and buried with his parents, who were also brought home when they died in the US.



The Street Railway strike was soon settled, but erupted again in May of that year.




Horace Melvin Porter, b 1876 to John Porter and Susanna Johnston
The bother of my great grandmother, Granny King.