Great Granny Bagg (Kittens on the Wedding Dress)

Mary Heloise Bagg Lindsay (1854-1938)

Mary Heloise’s church life was most probably her refuge from ongoing family sagas! It is my belief that as the educated daughter of a wealthy Montreal real estate tycoon, the wife of a successful Montreal stockbroker and the mother of six challenging children – she appreciated the solitude of her Sunday morning church service. Her obituary, in 1938, summarized Mary Heloise Bagg Lindsay’s life as having “been a member of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Church of England and having belonged to St. John’s Church”[1].

My great grandmother, Mary Heloise, was one of the four surviving daughters of Stanley Clark Bagg and Catherine Mitcheson.  Born in 1854 at the Fairmount Villa, in the Golden Square Mile of Montreal, she grew up to marry Robert Lindsay in 1881.  Her only brother, Robert Stanley Bagg, was heir to the family fortune, her two older sisters married men in the clergy and her younger sister married a scandalous real estate tycoon who mysteriously disappeared when his debts caught up with him.

Her first matrimonial home, in 1881, was located at 436 St-Urbain[2], which was a subdivision of a very large villa lot stretching down to Sherbrooke, where Fairmount Villa stood and where her mother still lived. From 1910 -1928, she and Robert resided at 455 Sherbrooke Street West and then finally they lived at 1009 Sherbrooke Street West, where she died at age 84.

Ada was her firstborn child. On her wedding day, it was discovered that the family cat had had her litter of kittens on the wedding dress that had been laid out on the bed![3]  Olgivy’s, the local department store, was persuaded to open on a Sunday so that they could quickly acquire another dress. Lionel, her eldest son, became a well-loved family doctor and raised a large family of his own. Her second son, Sydenham, (my grandfather) was called into the Anglican ministry, much to the dismay of his father who was quoted as saying:  “Not much money in it!”  He managed to raise four children, so it seems he did alright.

Her last three children did not marry.  Stanley followed in his father’s footsteps becoming another successful Montreal stockbroker, after serving as a captain in WWI. He doted on his nieces (especially my mother) and nephews.  Marjorie remained a spinster when permission to marry her one true love was denied[4].  And sadly, her youngest child, Marguerite, died tragically at age 25.

Marguerite was a volunteer teacher in Labrador’s mission schools. Presumed drowned in August 1922, they found her body in December of that same year, and discovered she had died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.  It was rumoured that the cause was connected to a love affair.

Thankfully, the church was indeed a big part of Mary Heloise’s life.  Without it, she might not have been able to survive the trials and tribulations of motherhood.

[1] The Montreal Gazette, August 15, 1938.

[2] Lovell’s 1890 – 1906.

[3] As told to me by my aunt, Katharin Lindsay Welch, telephone conversation – June 2013

[4] As told to me by my aunt, Katharin Lindsay Welch, telephone conversation – June 2013

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