Remembering My Dad

For the past twenty-five years since my Dad’s passing, a green bin containing documents he meticulously saved during his lifetime of ninety-two years have been carefully preserved. All these years it has been in my possession and carefully followed me during several moves. The photograph below shows some of these items including passports, monthly and pocket calendars.

With Father’s Day rapidly approaching it seemed fitting to prepare a story about one of my father’s many travels during his working career.

On a rainy dismal May afternoon, it was time to open the bin and gather some information about one story that came to mind about a trip he made to Russia many years ago. Amidst all his treasures, would it be possible to find what was needed to write the story I had heard? Upon opening the bin before beginning the search, a question arose, why had Dad so copiously preserved all these items? Did he plan to someday write his memoirs about all the wonders of the world he had seen over the years? Had time caught up with him and he was just too busy creating more stories and never had a chance to write them?  We will never know and so, it has come about that it is a task left for me to relate some of these stories about his life and travels.

After searching through the passports, I found the one about his trip to Russia in 1960 and noted that it also appeared in his July calendar.

Having gathered the information and photographs, along with several Google searches it was time to begin writing.

The map shows the area Dad and Ivan, the company lawyer visited.

Asbest, is in the Ural Mountains not too far from Moscow and relatively close to Ekatrinberg.

A portion of a map of Russia indicating the area of the open pit in Asbest, in the area of Sverdlovsk in the Ural Mountains.

A viewing platform at the quarry that supplies Uralasbest, a leading maker of asbestos.      Credit…James Hill for The New York Times.

In the above photograph we can grasp the enormousness of the open pit.

In an article in the New York Times written by Andrew Higgins “In Asbest, Russia, Making Asbestos Great Again” Published in April 2019.

“Uralasbest last year increased its asbestos production to 315,000 tons, 80 percent of it sold abroad, from 279,200 tons.

The city of Asbest, after more than 130 years of intensive mining, still has enough chrysotile asbestos buried in the ground to keep Uralasbest in business for at least another century, providing its customers, mostly in Asia and Africa, do not take flight.”

“Uralskii Asbestovyi Gorno-Obogatitelnyi Kombinat” (Ural Asbestos Mining and Processing Plant), commonly known as “Uralasbest” is a Russian company headquartered in the city of Asbest in the Sverdlovsk region. The company has been incorporated in 1918. The main activity of the company is asbestos mining. The plant is the largest Russian manufacturer of non-metallic building materials, which are available fo road and rail construction. The annual capacity 12 million tons..

Dad, along with the Canadian Johns-Manville Company lawyer, Ivan Sabourin, and his Russian counterparts visited the open pit in Asbest which was most definitively the largest open pit Dad said that he had ever seen.

They also had the opportunity to visit Moscow and take in some of the country’s cultural heritage. This was at a time after WWII and Stalin’s passing, during Nikita Khrushchev’s leadership, when Russia was in the process of change, before Gorbachev, and long before Putin.

Dad pointed out while relating this story of his experience in Russia that we were always under the impression that Asbestos, Quebec maintained the status of the largest open pit in the world.

When Dad returned home, he noted that all the billboards, tourist, and marketing information would need to be re-evaluated. Asbestos, Quebec could no longer claim the title of the largest open pit in the world. New indicators were prepared and posted:

“The open pit in Asbestos, Quebec, Jeffrey Mine is the largest in the free world”.

   Jeffrey Mine, Asbestos, Quebec 2019: Claire Lindell

Canadian Johns-Manville Company ceased operations in 2012 due to a national ban on the sale of asbestos.

Dad often brought home souvenirs, and, on this occasion, it was the wooden stacking dolls, known as matryoshkas. They were a big hit among his grandchildren who over the years spent many an hour playing with them.

Matryoshka –wooden stacking dolls
Matryoshka is often seen as a symbol of the feminine side of Russian culture.[14] 
        Furthermore, matryoshka dolls are used to illustrate the unity of body, soul, mind, heart, and spirit.

As Father’s Day approaches it is a good time to reflect on the many blessings we have received from our fathers. Although he spent hours, days, and weeks away from home on extensive trips, it never ceases to amaze me how he found time for his family. Many an occasion, one would have thought he was too busy with work, nevertheless, he found time and made it his business to be present at the special events in our lives. With six children, no doubt that took much juggling of his calendar to be present at these events.

Thank you, Dad.    Kiitos   

  Other Sources:

Once The Largest Asbestos Mine in the World – Canada – Open Pit – YouTube video

The Huguenot Families of the Hauts-de-la-France

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of French Protestants (1572). It was the climax of the French Wars of Religion, which were brought to an end by the Edict of Nantes (1598). In 1620, persecution was renewed and continued until the French Revolution in 1789.

François Dubois – Current valid link to file (same source): Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts; direct link to the image: [2] Original link (museum homepage only): Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts.

  • Public Domain
  • File:La masacre de San Bartolomé, por François Dubois.jpg
  • Created: between circa 1572 and circa 1584 date QS:P571,+1550-00-00T00:00:00Z/7,P1319,+1572-00-00T00:00:00Z/9,P1326,+1584-00-

François Dubois
The Massacre of Saint-Barthélemy, circa 1572-1584

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  • François Dubois (Amiens, 1529 – Geneva, 1584)
  • The Massacre of St. Bartholomew, circa 1572-1584
  • Oil on walnut wood , 93.5 x 154.1 cm
  • Gift of the Municipality of Lausanne, 1862
  • Inv. 729
  • © Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts of Lausanne

This painting represents the massacre of Protestants started in Paris on August 24, 1572 and continued for several days, known as the Saint-Barthélemy massacre. It stages the main episodes of this bloody page of the Wars of Religion in a striking view of the city of Paris.

The topography is manipulated to show the main locations of this tragedy. On the left you can see the church of the convent of the Grands-Augustins (now gone) where the tocsin sounded which triggered the killings, the Seine and the Meuniers bridge. In the center, the Louvre and Catherine de Medici, the black widow, considered the main instigator of the massacre. In the foreground, the private mansion of Anne de Laval, in front of which Admiral de Coligny, leader of the Protestant party, was killed before being defenestrated, beheaded and castrated. Gathered around his corpse, the leaders of the Catholic party, the Dukes of Guise and Aumale and the Chevalier d’Angoulême. On the right, the Saint-Honoré gate and, on the hill of La Villette, the gibbet of Montfaucon, where the body of the admiral will be hung upside down. Bringing together more than one hundred and fifty figures,

This painting is quite exceptional because of the quality of its execution, but also because contemporary representations of Saint-Barthélemy are very rare. It bears on the first step of the steps of the hotel in front of which Admiral de Coligny is assassinated the inscription “franciscus Sylvius Ambianus pinx[it]”. The location of this inscription, the signature of the painter François Dubois, of whom it is the only painting known to date, says a lot about the convictions of this Protestant from Amiens who took refuge in Geneva after the massacre.

Find out more: web dossier

Click the above link to open in a new window.

Edward MacHugh, the Gospel Singer

During his lifetime, Edward McHugh made several trips back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, but there was a world of difference between his first trip and his last.1

Edward was 19 when he immigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1912 with his widowed mother, his two brothers, his sister-in-law and his brother’s seven children. Destined for Montreal, they traveled on the steamship S.S. Grampian in third class, or steerage. Edward would have slept on a bunk bed and shared his room with other family members, and meals would have been served at long communal tables in the dining room.2

Forty years later, in 1951, he traveled first class from Southampton to New York on the luxurious R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth ocean liner.3 He would have enjoyed a spacious stateroom, first class lounges and formal dining. He could have ordered anything he wanted from room service.4 There would have been plenty of space to store his eleven pieces of luggage.5

By that time, Edward had retired and was able to afford first class passage because of his successful career as a musician. This is the story of how a talented, working-class young man from Scotland and Montreal became famous in America as the Gospel Singer.

Edward, born in 1893 in Dundee, Scotland, came from a family of jute-factory workers of Irish heritage. His father was a yarn dyer.6 When the family arrived in Canada, they settled in Verdun, a district of Montreal located close to the factories that would have provided employment for the three McHugh brothers. Edward worked as a manual labourer in the rail yards on the locomotives.7

Shortly after his arrival in Canada, he made his public singing debut at Montreal’s Hunt Club, singing God Save the King. The Duke of Connaught, then the Governor General of Canada, heard him sing and was instrumental in sending him to study at London’s Royal College of Music.8 This college accepted both students who paid tuition and students who won entry through competitions.Given Edward’s humble background, it is probable he had a scholarship.

By 1919, Edward had decided to pursue a musical career so he left Montreal, settled in New York City and continued his studies .10

It took a few years for Edward’s career to take off, but in 1927, Edward was invited to sing The Old Rugged Cross, an evangelical hymn written in 1912,11 on Boston radio station WEEI.12 The next day, the station received 2,300 letters praising Edward’s baritone voice. His choice of hymn and the timing were excellent. Gospel songs had become increasingly popular as they were easier to sing than traditional hymns. 13

In 1938, Edward published a compilation of gospel hymns and poems.14 His fame grew and, by the 1940s, he was nicknamed the Gospel Singer and he was a regular on NBC radio.16

In 1947, an ad for Edward’s 15-minute radio program appeared in Billboard Magazine. It claimed, “Edward MacHugh, Your Gospel Singer, [. . .] who is said to have the most perfect diction of any singer without sacrificing warmth . . . ”19

It wasn’t just the quality of his voice that made him popular; he seems to have tapped into a need for comfort in troubled times. During World War II, his fans often requested he sing God Will Take Care of You,17 a song that must have soothed people whose loved ones were risking their lives serving their country.

When asked about gospel music, Edward replied, “A lot of people think that hymn-singing is ‘corny.’ That’s okay with me. I get my satisfaction in giving real pleasure to a great number of people and perhaps in being some small help in times of trouble and affliction.”18

It is clear that Edward’s beautiful baritone voice moved many listeners. He popularized hymns and gospel songs through his radio shows, compilations, records and concerts,20 and he sang songs of simplicity, devotion and encouragement in times of pain.

After he retired in the 1940s, Edward and his wife Jennie lived a quiet life in Norwalk, Connecticut. They had no children. During his retirement, Edward continued to make records and take part in religious festivals and church anniversaries. He passed away in 1957 at the age of 63 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.21

Note: At some time in his life, Edward changed his name from McHugh to MacHugh

  1.  “UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960,” database,, Edward McHugh, Grampion,  Glasgow to Quebec, leaving May 11, 1912.
  2.  Gjenvik, Paul K., Glenvick Gjonvik Archives (GG Archives), Collection of Travel Brochures, online <>, accessed 13 February 2017.
  3.  “UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960,” database,, Edward McHugh, Queen Elizabeth, Southampton to New York, leaving October 6, 1951.
  4.  The National Railway Museum, York, England, U.K., photo and description of a first-class cabin on the Queen Elizabeth, 1950, online <>, accessed 13 February 2017.
  5.   “UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960,” database,, Edward McHugh, Queen Elizabeth, Southampton to New York, leaving October 6, 1951.
  6.  McIntyre, Alistair, “Significant Scots, Edward McHugh.” Unknown posting date. Electric Scotland, online <;, accessed 13 February 2017.
  7. “Edward MacHugh,” obituary, Ottawa Journal, 6 February 1957, p. 5.
  8.  “E. MacHugh Ex-Gospel Singer Dies.”Undated clipping, ca.1957, from unidentified newspaper. Privately held by Sandra McHugh, Montreal, Quebec
  9. Wikipedia, Royal College of Music, Early Years, , accessed 13 February 2017.
  10. 1920 United States Federal Census, 1920, Manhattan, New York City, New York, Enumeration District (ED) 829, sheet 2, Ward 11 a.d., Dwelling 250, apt. 39, Edward McHugh: digital image, (http://www.ancestry.comaccessed 27 February 2017)
  11. Wikipedia, The Old Rugged Cross,, accessed February 13, 2017.
  12. McIntyre, Alistair, “Significant Scots, Edward McHugh.” Paragraph xx
  13. Wikipedia, Gospel music,, accessed February 13, 2017.
  14. MacHugh, Edward, compiler. Treasury of Gospel Hymns and Poems.  Winoa Lake, Indiana: The Rodeheaver Hall-Mack Co., 1938.
  15.  “U.S. Border Crossings from Canada to U.S. 1825 1960, database,, Edward McHugh, Buffalo, New York, U.S.A, June 16, 1935.
  16. McIntyre, Alistair, “Significant Scots, Edward McHugh.” 
  17. “E. MacHugh Ex-Gospel Singer Dies.” Privately held by Sandra McHugh.
  18. E. MacHugh Ex-Gospel Singer Dies.” Privately held by Sandra McHugh.
  19. The Billboard Magazine, 7 June 1947, p. 11.
  20. Concert poster Jordan Hall, October 15, year unknown.
  21.  “Edward MacHugh,” Ottawa Journal, 6 February 1957.

Bon Soir et Dors Bien – Good Night Sleep Well

Rene Raguin & Beatrice Bruneau Wedding 1912

“Bonsoir et dors bien”, is how my mother ended her nightly phone calls with her parents. These were some of the few French words I ever heard her speak, which was strange as French was both her parent’s mother tongue. Why did we only speak English?

René Raguin my grandfather, was from Fleurier, Switzerland and came to Canada to teach at the French Protestant school in Pointe aux Trembles, Quebec. He later taught in Trois Rivieres and finished his career at Baron Byng, a school of the English Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. He also taught teachers how to teach French at McGill University’s summer school.

Beatrice Bruneau met René Raguin when they were both teaching at the Pointes aux Trembles school. This was the one French Protestant school in the Montreal area. Grannie as we called her, descended from French Canadian stock, although born in Green Bay Wisconsin. Her father Ismael Bruneau was a French Presbyterian minister. Her mother Ida Girod was a French speaker from Switzerland and also a Protestant.

René spoke English fluently but with a heavy accent. He always used English when talking with us, his grandchildren and we called him Grandfather. I always wondered why he never communicated with us in French as a French teacher. One much older cousin Don Allchurch, always referred to him as Grandpère as he did speak to him in French.

Beatrice’s father Ismael Bruneau, was “pure laine”, French Canadian through and through. His early ancestors arrived in Quebec from France in the 1630s. His family of Catholics converted to Protestantism in the 1850s and that is where the English crept in. Ismael wasn’t thrilled to speak English as he wrote to his youngest sister Anais, “I write to you in English, dear sister, not to show you I can write a few words in that barbarous language, but for your good as well as mine, for practice makes perfect.” Many of Ismael’s siblings moved to the United States, spoke English and married English speaking spouses.

French was spoken in his home but Ismael’s children all went to English Protestant schools as the French schools were all Catholic and they didn’t even allow Protestants to attend. In the family, religion trumped language. Most of his children also married English-speaking people. His two sons continued to speak to each other in French.

Beatrice Bruneau Raguin

My mother grew up in Dixie on the border of what is now Lachine and Dorval. It was then an English community. Because her father Rene Raguin taught for the English board they didn’t have to pay school fees and so attended English Protestant schools. The children didn’t want to speak that other language. Some evenings her father would say that only French would be spoken at the dinner table. The children wouldn’t say a word and only eat what they could reach.

Rene Raguin

The Scots and Irish immigrants who were my father’s family settled in Toronto and spoke only English. I don’t remember him speaking French to anyone. He always regretted that he couldn’t speak French. He too went to English Protestant schools.

Dorothy, Beatrice, Rene & Mary

We were schooled before French Immersion and though there was some talk about sending us to French Schools, they were still all Catholic and not a choice, so we also attended English Protestant schools.

So in a generation, the French family became English. We didn’t call my mother every night but as we left after a visit she had a new English saying, “Safe home.”


A Short History of the Bruneau-Girod Families: Ida Bruneau Ste. Agathe des Monts, Quebec May 1993. Forbes Publications Ltd. Calgary, Canada.

My sister remembers the phrase as “Bonsoir et dors bien Maman” but I said sometimes she was talking to her father.

Romeo and Maid Marion: A Rom-com Romance

August 18, 1918

30 York Avenue, Westmount

My dearest sweetheart,

I cannot express in writing how pleased I was to hear your voice over the telephone a little while ago and was very sorry when I learned that due to the circumstances, you were not able to come home.

Dearest, I have never written you on this strain since I have known you and before I say what I have in mind, I beg of you to please try and understand it in the light that I mean it.

 For Marion, dear, I love you with all my heart and it is because of my affection for you that I try to pave the way a little. I honestly, would not intentionally hurt you Marion. 

Now sweetest, here it is: You know, Dear, that you have left me alone at different times for indefinite periods, but may I say that I have never yet found one month to be as long as this one. 

Really, it has seemed to me almost like years. I would a thousand times rather be left entirely alone than to be left again with the girls, as I cannot get them to  do anything which appears to me to be reasonable. I have come home on several occasions and the front and back doors were not locked. They will not close the windows and the house is almost like an oven. They forget to order food. The refrigerator is left open; the ice is melting as fast as you can put it in. Cawlice. Water is running all over the floor and things are lying about. I am sick and tired of the whole place.  

Take pity on me Darling before I go crazy and come home to me to look after and love me. *but under no circumstances take chances (with mother’s health).  Take it from me, God help the poor man that gets either one of them, if they don’t change. You can do more in five minutes than they can do together in a day.  You have forgotten more than they’ll ever know. God bless you Marion and may it be God’s will that he can spare you to me for many long happy years.


PS. Don’t fail to burn this when finished reading.

This rather amusing letter was sent under duress by my husband’s grandfather, Hugh Blair, to my husband’s grandmother, Marion Nicholson Blair in August 1918.

It seems Marion had taken her daughters, 12 month old Marion and three-year-old Margaret, from their home in Westmount, Quebec to visit her mother in Richmond, Quebec leaving her husband in the care of his sisters-in-law, Flora and Edith.

Hugh, clearly, is at his wit’s end. He is feeling neglected. Of course, his sisters-in-law have more important things to do. They have busy day jobs as teachers. WW1 is raging. Over and above their tiring day jobs, the women volunteer for the war effort. Many of their friends have lost brothers or sons at the Front. They can hardly feel sorry for Hugh.

My husband’s grandfather, Hugh Christian Blair, born in Three Rivers Quebec in 1882, was a man of many faces. He could be a big baby, no question, but he was also a suave charmer, a savvy businessman, a talented carpenter and metalworker, a fine fiddler, a hockey player and curler and, ugh, judging from an album I have filled with photos of dead foxes and such, an ardent hunter.

Hughie the joker with the stylish signature

He was the son of a prosperous Three River lumber baron and he worked in the family business.

In 1912-13, Hugh was courting his future wife, Marion Nicholson, daughter of Norman Nicholson, a very respectable but down-on-his-luck businessman from Richmond, Quebec.

Letters I have reveal that their one year courtship, from May 1912 to October 1913, has all the earmarks of a modern rom-com movie with its many ups and downs and breakups and make-ups and misunderstandings.

Let me summarize the plot for you:)

In May 1912, in his mid thirties and with good prospects, Hugh Christian Blair is introduced by his landlady to Marion Nicholson, a teacher at Royal Arthur School in Little Burgundy. Hugh is instantly smitten by this attractive firebrand, a very distant cousin, but first he must give his current girlfriend, Jean, a Momma’s girl, the brush-off. “Of course, you must know that we were never engaged and as for any understanding it must have been entirely on your part as I myself was only thinking of you as a very kind friend.” 1

He pursues Marion with all of his energy, taking her out of her stuffy rooming house to church as well as to more exciting places like the Orpheum Vaudeville Theatre and Dominion Thrill Park.

Marion is secretive about her life but sisters Flora and Edith keep their mother Margaret up to date about the budding romance, cheekily referring to Hugh in their letters as “Romeo” or “Hugh Dear.”

At the end of the school year Marion organizes a party at her rooming house. She strategically invites Hugh as well as another male friend. Neither of them shows up. She is furious. So the romance stalls. Marion returns to Richmond for the summer months.

In August, 1912, Flora and Marion visit a kind doctor cousin, Henry Watters, in Boston who takes them to Norumbega Park and a Bosox game. Henry isn’t the marrying kind, but another Boston relative, a Mrs. Coy, is keen on having Marion marry her son, Chester. Hugh somehow senses this. He writes Marion two long-winded letters while she is in Boston.

“I notice by the advertisements that there will be quite a few nice plays out this fall in Montreal. So if I am here – and of course you also – and care to take them in, I will enjoy taking you along. Of course, I would not like to neglect our Old Standby at the Orpheum. But I suppose there is no use planning too far ahead as many changes can take place between now and then.” It looks like he’s hedging his bets, doesn’t it?

It’s September. School begins anew. Marion is totally fed up with her rooming house with its suffocating curfews, so she finds a large flat to live in with her sister Flora and two other teachers in Mile End.

This is quite the revolutionary feminist act. Mr. Blair is a frequent visitor, so says Flora in her letters. (How scandalous!) However, Chester, “A great Yankee” also comes to visit.

Marion drawn by a fellow teacher

In November, Marion writes her Mom: “Hugh is helping with the double windows. Sometimes I like him, sometimes I hate him, but I wouldn’t know what to do without him.” Now, doesn’t that sound promising!

But something happens at Christmas (likely a dispute with the dad, Norman) that once again pours cold water on the romance.

In a telling January 3, 1913 letter to Marion, Hugh acknowledges receipt of her Christmas gift of cuff links and in turn says that the teddy bear he sent her was probably lost in the mail or stolen. Hmmm.

In February, 1913, Edith tells her Mom she went out with Hugh and Marion and he was all suave charm, “not the Hugh you had at Christmas.” Things are definitely looking up.

Sure enough in May 1913, Marion sends a letter to her mom with a drawing of her engagement ring.

A month later Hugh sends a very formal letter to Norman, her father, asking for Marion’s hand. Norman sends a letter to Marion saying “I can’t give my consent for I am dead broke.” 2. (Clearly giving consent is about money here.)

The men finally come to some arrangement but first Marion has to sign a miserly marriage contract that stipulates she gets nothing should the couple separate FOR ANY REASON. This is, likely, Hugh caving to his parents who do not approve of the marriage.

The couple weds in Richmond in October 1913. Hugh’s parents do not attend the wedding. Hugh leaves the family business to set off on his own.

Edith, Flora Hugh, Floss and Norman Nicholson, I suspect on the wedding day.

Wedding on the cheap.

But a Great War breaks out and Hugh soon reconciles with his parents and returns to the family business. (They need him: production is ramping up. Canadian lumber is key to the war effort apparently.) Hugh and Marion, with a newborn daughter, move from NDG to a cottage 4 on York avenue in Westmount near Hugh’s Aunt and Uncle.

Marion invites Flora to come live with them (with Hugh’s approval):

“It seems rather foolish to me to have you alone at Mrs. Ellis’s when there is room here. It is not that I need you especially for anything, but that I would like to have you with us.”

Hugh and his uncle work on their Victory Garden:

“Hugh and Willie are making a garden. What success they will have I do not know. One thing may be sure, the beds are straight and square. I would prefer to have more in them myself.”

“Hugh’s mother rails against Conscription:

“Everyone here, that is the Aunts and Grandma B are terribly worked up about conscription. All they say would fill a book and some of the sayings I do not find very deep. I would like to tell them that they are not the only ones who have sons who will be called, or they may think that theirs are more to them.”

Letter from the Front. Flo’s friend, Ross Tucker. He survived, his brother Percy did not. Percey was killed just before Armistace. A sister died of the Spanish Flu. “That family is not the same,” says Edith in a letter.

And in July, 1918, just a couple of months before another scourge, the Spanish Flu, hits Quebec, Marion takes her two young daughters on a prolonged visit to her parents’ in Richmond and Hugh, left behind to swelter in the kitchen, has a meltdown. He writes her a long, plaintive letter he hopes his wife will burn after reading. Alas, she doesn’t burn the letter. BIG mistake!


Post war life is good for the Blairs. They have two more children, a girl and a boy, and spend a great deal of money, according to Edith. Marion’s father dies in 1921. Marion continues to regularly visit Richmond, a place her children come to cherish.

However, in 1926, Hugh contracts a liver disorder and passes away a year later – but not before signing away Marion’s rights to his portion of the family business on his deathbed – “as a temporary measure to facilitate business.” Marion Nicholson Blair is left with nothing to live on so she goes back to work as a teacher, wheeling and dealing to find sponsors for her children’s McGill education.

A last minute letter reveals that Hugh attempts to to purchase a burial plot in Melbourne Cemetery beside the Nicholson family plot. That doesn’t happen. Hugh Christian Blair is buried with his family on Mount Royal in Montreal. The funeral notice in the Gazette reveals it is packed with Masons but fails to mention Marion and her family as mourners.


So, here we have the plot for a classic rom-com romance, but a movie with no happily-ever-after. Iron-willed Marion just rolls up her sleeves and goes back to work, despite great pressure put on her to remarry for the sake of her children. Indeed, she once told her children that being a lone parent wasn’t so bad: “At least I can make all the decisions for my family myself.”

Marion becomes a master-teacher and rises up to lead the Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers, or PAPT, during WW2 where she fights for teachers’ pensions.

In 1947, Marion dies of a heart attack before she can earn her pension.3 She receives a front page obituary in the Montreal Gazette, a major newspaper. “With the loss of Marion Blair the province, indeed, the whole Dominion has suffered a serious loss.”

In the 1960’s, the PAPT is one of the highest achieving public boards in North America and no doubt Marion Nicholson Blair had a role in making that happen.

1. This was the usual language used in such situations. I believe there must be a legal component to it. Indeed, the last line of the letter asks her ‘reply and tell me you have forgiven me.’

2. Many people believe this traditional gesture is romantic but it was practical, all about money. In Britain at least adults have been able to marry without consent for many centuries. However, without a dowry, most men couldn’t marry.

3. Marion’s heart condition first flares up in the year Hugh is dying. Edith suggests Hugh is very demanding and Marion, with four children, is run ragged meeting his needs. Edith also says Hugh’s eyes are yellow as yolk. A tube between the liver and stomach fell apart. It is a condition easily fixed nowadays.

4. 30 York Avenue is still there, a two story cottage. It’s on Google Maps.

Old Land Roll in Lower Canada

The database below entitled Old Land Roll in Lower Canada as noted in the BAnQ’s Directory of Townships was prepared in May of 1966.

Almost 60 years later, Wikipedia in March of 2023 updated a Directory of Townships with basically the same information, plus details relating to today’s current locations and regions.

List of townships in Quebec

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article lists the townships of Quebec in Canada. The townships (Frenchcanton) no longer represent administrative divisions recognized by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Quebec) (MAMH). Only municipal townships, formed from one or more townships, such as township municipalities and united township municipalities, are recognized.[1] Many geographic townships are still conterminous with municipalities.

Click on the link below to open.

The Great Volunteer Soldier Recruitment of 1653

Next month marks 370 years since my six times great grandfather and his brother volunteered to join a militia to protect the city of Montreal. Their voyage from France to our city would last five months and require two departures. They faced captivity, an epidemic and enough starvation and illness to cause the death of eight of their colleagues, but they survived.

Marin Hurtubise and his brother André were among 154 men recruited by New France Governor Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve to help protect the Fort Ville-Marie from Iroquois attacks. They signed five-year contracts with the Société de Notre Dame de Montréal to clear uncultivated land in New France for farming at a price of 100 livres per year1. Their employer, also known as the “Company of Montreal,” was originally founded in France in 1639 to establish a colony in Canada.

According to notes left behind by my grandmother, the Hurtubise brothers came from a town known as Sillé-le-Guillaume in Rouesse-Vasse, southwest of Paris in the Sarthe Departement in the Pays de la Loire region.

They travelled to St. Nazaire to join 120 other men and 14 women who set sail for New France on June 20, 1653. Among their ship mates was Marguerite Bourgeoys, a women with a desire to create schools in New France. She also founded the Notre Dame parish and set up housing for the filles du roi. In 1982, Pope Pius XII canonized her as Canada’s first female saint.

The trip in Captain Pierre le Besson’s ‘Saint-Nicolas-de-Nantes’ vessel2 did not go well.

Ships in that era were not the large luxury vessels we cruise on today. According to an unauthored essay that used to appear on the Maison Saint Gabriel website, they measured roughly 25-45 meters long and 8 meters wide. Passengers bunked in a single room at the back of the ship in unsanitary conditions in which everyone slept in their clothes. Buckets collected waste and vomit from those who couldn’t handle seasickness. Meals often consisted of dry biscuits, salt pork and fish.

In this case, the ship also leaked. The ‘Saint-Nicolas-de-Nantes’ took on so much water that after sailing 350 leagues (1600km), the crew had to return to Nantes. Passengers were left on an island off the coast of France to wait for another month until a replacement ship could be found. According to Marguerite Bourgeoys’ diary, some of the recruits deserted their posts and swam back to France.

“Sieur de Maisonneuve and all of his soldiers stopped on an island from which there was no escape. Otherwise, not a single one would have stayed. Some even set about swimming to save themselves since they were furious and believed they had been taken to perdition.”3

On July 20th, after a St. Marguerite’s day mass, the replacement ship set sail for the New World with the Hurtubise brothers and Marguerite Bourgeoys on board. This voyage, which featured many storms, an outbreak of the plague and eight deaths (Jacques Audru, Olivier Beaudoin, René Cadet, Jean Chaudronnier, Louis Doguet, Michel Lecomte, Joachim Lepallier and Pierre Moulières), doesn’t sound any better than the first, save for the sea-worthy vessel.

After 64 days, the ship landed at Cap-Diamant, on September 22, 1653. At that point, it seems that the ship was set on fire in the middle of the river. Bourgeoys’ writings imply that it got stuck so that high tide couldn’t even free it.

For the next two months, New France Governor Jean de Lauzon tried to keep the voluntary soldiers and marriageable women in Quebec to defend that city, in part by refusing to provide the barges needed to sail the Saint Lawrence River to Ville-Marie.

Eventually, de Maisonneuve prevailed. The group arrived at Ville-Marie on November 16th.4 They were all given land grants next to the Saint Laurence River. Later, Marin and five neighbours settled in Côte St. Antoine.5

André Hurtubise died six years after the brothers arrived in Montreal. Marin lasted 19 years, successfully marrying and having six children during that time. He died in Montreal on May 12, 1672.6


1Aubry, Louis, Famille Hurtubise Gendron,, accessed May 2, 2023.

2“Ancestors on the World Stage,”, accessed May 2, 2023.

3Les Écrits de Mère Bourgeoys, p. 46

4“La Grande Recrue de 1653.”, accessed May 2, 2023.

5MacKinnon, Janet S. The Settiement and Rural Domestic Architecture of Côte Saint-Antoine, 1675—1874, thesis 2004

6Find a Grave, database and images ( accessed 02 May 2023), memorial page for Marin Hurtubise (26 Oct 1631–12 May 1672), Find a Grave Memorial ID 144617536, citing Ancien cimetière Notre-Dame (1672-1830), Montreal, Montreal Region, Quebec, Canada; Maintained by AW (contributor 47829810).

Photo of commemorative plaque courtesy of Jean Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Archives of the Old Regime

Features :

  • Archives nationales d’Outre-Mer &  Biblothèque Archives Canada (Library Archives Canada)
  • France Archives – Regional & Local
  • BnF Gallica – Revues savantes in 95 départements de France (95 regions) – The latter dossiers will not describe your own family or families but will tell you about the life of your ancestors in ancient France.

Aunt Amelia’s Ledger

with additional research by Justin Bur

Some of my female ancestors are almost invisible. They got married, had children and left no other traces of their lives. But a few left paper trails such as letters, journals and drawings. My two-times great-aunt Amelia Josephine Bagg (1852-1943) was one of them. Married twice but with no children of her own, she became deeply involved in the family real estate business.

Amelia was the third of the five children (one boy, four girls) of Montreal landowner Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB) and his wife, Catharine Mitcheson Bagg. The children grew up in the family home, Fairmount Villa, near what is now the corner of Sherbrooke and St. Urbain streets. There, they had a big garden to play in and no doubt a nanny to care for them when they were little and a governess to educate them.

Unlike many women of her time and class, Amelia found the opportunity to use her education.

Amelia Mulholland’s ledger, McCord Stewart Museum, p. 5.

SCB had inherited several large properties on the Island of Montreal, extended along the west side of St. Lawrence Street (now busy Boulevard Saint-Laurent). During his lifetime, this was agricultural land and, although he was trained as a notary, SCB made his income by leasing his properties to farmers.

He died unexpectedly at age 53, in 1873, when Amelia was just 21. SCB named his wife and her brother (who was a Philadelphia lawyer) as executors of his estate.1 Son Robert Stanley Bagg (RSB), a recent law graduate from McGill University, took on the responsibility of managing it. Over the years, the widowed Catharine and her daughters had a great deal of input into decisions about the estate, with Amelia being the daughter who took the greatest interest.    

Around the end of the century, Montreal grew rapidly. Business leaders developed new industries, founded banks and built railways, and immigrants arrived to fill newly created jobs. Property belonging to SCB’s estate could now be divided into lots and sold to people who wanted to build homes or invest in rental housing. Around 1890, some legal hurdles prevented the family from selling the most valuable properties, however, the family managed to resolve these problems. That will be a story for another time.

Amelia’s letter to brother Robert Stanley Bagg, McCord Stewart Museum,  p. 43

With these issues resolved, Amelia and her siblings divided up some of the land and became owners of lots that they could sell or buildings they could rent out themselves. Amelia became an independently wealthy woman.

She also developed an interest in the details of the family real estate business, keeping track of land prices, interest rates and other factors influencing real estate sales. In the fall of 1890,2 while her brother took his wife and children on an extended trip to England, Amelia coordinated decisions on new property sales. She wrote to ask for his advice and to bring him up-to-date on family news.3

“Fairmount, Nov. 6th

“My dear Brother,

“I thought I would write and tell you that we are about to sell some lots on the ‘Clark Estate’ but I do not know whether you will be quite satisfied or not. They are twelve lots on St. Urbain Street, from Guilbault St. down, and we are taking 50 cents “en bloc” for the twelve lots. I know that you said 60 cents per foot for single lots but as this is for twelve lots we thought perhaps it was better not to lose the sale.4 Bob said that you told him we could take less than the price named, and McMann said he was selling lots of Park Avenue for 45cts.7 I hesitated for a long time as I did not wish to make a sale that you would not approve, but Kate was in favor of selling, so also was Bob, and Helen and I did not know what to do….5

“Vipond has paid his interest today which I will deposit in Merchant’s Bank. Thomson has not yet paid but I had sent him another bill before hearing from you. Of course for the present all money both interest and capital will be deposited in the bank, but when you return we think it would be better for us to draw the interest and leave only the capital in the bank.….”

Row houses on St. Urbain Street near Prince Arthur. Google Street View

Much of the Bagg estate was still leased out to farmers at that time, and one day a month was reserved for tenants to deliver the rent. In the same letter, Amelia referred to this so-called reception day, but she was actually describing the arrival of her sister Mary Heloise Lindsay’s fifth child on Nov. 3, 1890. Mary and her husband Robert Lindsay lived at 436 St. Urbain. Amelia told her brother:

Kate and I made out the Nov. statements of rents due and gave the list to Bob so that when the people paid he could check them off. We were surprised at an unexpected arrival at 436 St. Urbain Street on Monday. It is true that is the reception day there now, but this particular visitor was not expected just then. It was a dear fat little girl! She arrived at 8 o’clock in the evening.”

Amelia also kept track of the sales of lots from the estate between 1890 and 1900 in a hardcover ledger with ruled pages. My mother eventually inherited that ledger. Her cousin had given numerous family letters, business records and other documents to the McCord Stewart Museum (a Montreal museum of social history) some years earlier, but my mother hung on to the ledger. After she died, I found it in a desk drawer in the spare bedroom.

When I started to research the Bagg family and their role in Montreal history, the ledger’s importance as a record of those land transactions became clear, so I donated it to the McCord.6 I hope Amelia would have approved.

This article is also posted on

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Clark Bagg’s Four Forgotten Daughters,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Sept. 30,2017,

Janice Hamilton, “My Great-Great Aunts, Montreal Real Estate Developers,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Oct. 11, 2017,

Janice Hamilton, “John Clark, 19th Century Real-Estate Visionary,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 22, 2019,

Notes and Sources

  1. City of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills Office; Wills, No 772-802, 1887, Pennsylvania, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 [database on-line, entry for Catharine Mitcheson Bagg, accessed April 2, 2023], original data: Pennsylvania County, District and Probate Courts. This is a copy of the will that is very easy to read. It was probably copied in Philadelphia because McGregor J. Mitcheson, Catharine’s brother and an executor of SCB’s will, died in 1886. About a month after SCB’s 1873 death, notary J. A. Labadie deposited at the land registry office in Montreal a copy of the 1866 will and the 1870 codicil and a declaration of death. Bureau d’enregistrement Montréal-Ouest, no 74545, registered 6 September 1873; at Registre foncier du Québec, online.
  2. Amelia did not note the year on her letter, but we know it was written in written in 1890 because that was the year her niece Marjorie Mary Clark Lindsay was born. 

3. Correspondance de la famille Bagg. McCord Museum, Fonds Bagg, P070/B08,  p. 43 (accessed April 3, 2023)

4. RSB must have told them to hold out for the full price. The lots were not sold until the following year. On Nov. 18, 1891, real estate agent and furrier Robert Lamb purchased not just the 12 lots mentioned here, but an extended row of 22 lots, paying 60 cents a square foot.

5. The people mentioned here are probably Amelia’s sisters Katherine Sophia Mills and Helen Frances Lewis. Bob was likely Robert Lindsay, her sister Mary’s husband. McCann was a real estate agent.

6. Amelia Josephine Bagg Mulholland, Grand livre, 1891-1927, McCord Museum, Fonds Bagg, P070/B07,1. (accessed April 3, 2023)

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