239 Days in America

A Social Media Documentary following 'Abdu'l-Bahá in 1912

Day
152
 | 
September 9, 1912
Hamilton, Canada
Storify Feature

The Golden Horseshoe Returns ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to America

“I CONSECRATED MY LIFE to making Canada a nation,” Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s former Prime Minister, said yesterday — Sunday, September 8, 1912 — in Marieville, Quebec. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá might have seen the news story on the front page of the Toronto Globe late this afternoon — Monday, September 9 — while he paced the platform of Toronto’s Union Station after a dusty seven-hour train ride from Montreal.

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Last night in Montreal was a night to remember. The new Prime Minister, Robert Borden, whose Conservative Party had defeated Laurier’s Liberals in last autumn’s election by opposing Laurier’s free trade agreement with the United States, disembarked from the steamer Lady Grey at Montreal’s Victoria Pier at about 8 p.m. He had just come from Europe, where he had joined other leaders from King George V’s empire in renewing Britain’s pledge to the Entente Cordiale with France. Flags and bunting lined the streets, marching bands played, and thousands of citizens gathered and cheered. Hundreds of automobiles clogged the parade route, as if trying to prove how eagerly the new transport revolution was sweeping the city. A mile-long procession accompanied the Prime Minister to the Windsor Hotel, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also happened to be staying on his final night in Montreal.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Montreal an hour ahead of Prime Minister Borden this morning, on a 9 a.m. train bound for Buffalo. It stopped in the town of Brockville, near the Thousand Islands, at about 10:30. It passed Kingston, and then Belleville at 1:47 p.m., from where the Great Peacemaker, Deganawidah, set out across Lake Ontario in a canoe hewn from stone to forge the Iroquois Confederacy among six warring nations in present-day New York state. Near Oshawa, at about 3:30 p.m., a four-year-old Mohawk boy, Jimmy Loft, saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wave to him from a window of the passing train.

They pulled into Toronto’s Union Station at 4:30 p.m. The station’s 200-foot-long south platform, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked for a while, was open to the waterfront. The front page of The Globe announced that construction on the new Union Station would not begin in 1912; in fact, the building wouldn’t open for another fifteen years. The final leg of the journey to Buffalo began when the locomotive of the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway (TH&B) puffed out of Union Station at 6:05. Then the tracks swung south through cities with climbing skylines that would soon comprise the bulk of Canada’s industrial and financial strength.

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‘Abdu’l-Bahá entered the city limits of Hamilton, Ontario, at the westernmost end of Lake Ontario, not long after 7 p.m. As the train crossed the narrow strip of land that skirted the western edge of Burlington Bay, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could see the last dull grey shimmer of evening light reflected from the waters of Cootes Paradise, a rich wetland on his right. A few minutes later the TH&B train pulled out of a tunnel downtown beneath Hunter Street, stopped traffic as it crossed Park and MacNab Streets, and came to rest for a few minutes beside the graceful Norman arches of a turreted, gabled, gingerbread castle of a passenger station, cased in natural stone and red brick at the corner of Hunter and James.

From there the train would head southeast along the TH&B rail line, hoist itself up the Niagara Escarpment on steel trestles between Stoney Creek and Vinemount, achieve Welland, and finally cross the international border at the Niagara River to arrive, after a fourteen-hour trek, in Buffalo, New York, at about 11 p.m.

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  • steve mclean

    could be a minor error but i heard that young James Loft was in Oshawa not in Belleville; but need to consult the recently published story of James and Melba Loft…….thanks for the fine article.

    • http://jmenon.com/ Jonathan Menon

      Dear Steve,

      Thanks so much for pointing this out. We had used an earlier source that reports Jim Loft watched the train go by in Belleville, but we went back and looked more deeply after reading your comment and we have changed the location to Oshawa. Thanks again.

  • Clark Donnelly

    What an artfully written article. Of course I’m biased, living here in Hamilton!

  • David Bulman

    Jonathan, i am Toronto born, and every year when i visit my Dad in Toronto, i go to the train bridge over the Red River which is now the border between Pickering and Metropolitan Toronto. And a little further on to the train tracks at Port Union Station. And i take the GoTrain from there to Union Station. And all along these areas, i frequently reflect that ‘Abdu’l-Baha was there. It is my private little pilgrimage in my hometown, annually. Shoghi Effendi named a book “God Passes By”, and indeed, His representative stopped in for a short visit as He was passing by, and it provides me with a wondrous link between the place of my birth, and the home of my heart.
    Now that i found time to read this, a few days after the event, i feel unexpectedly but distinctly sad. It is not at all that I missed the affair. Tony and yourself and your team have shared the whole Canada 9 days with us, and I feel a part of it. It is rather that it is over. Reunion is followed by separation.
    I am following to Buffalo and onwards, but the Centre of the Covenant of God was here, and has left. How can one not feel empty and sad.