On a November morning in 1920, Christina Sutherland was hit by a car. She was hurrying along King Street in Toronto and stepped out from between two wagons into the path of the vehicle. The driver, Joseph Stern, couldn’t stop in time and knocked her down. Extremely upset, he picked up her unconscious body, placed her in his car and rushed her to the Toronto General Hospital.
Christina died the next day of a fractured skull and brain concussion. The circumstance of Christina’s death, written up in the Toronto Star was the most noteworthy event in her life.
Mr Stern reported the accident to the Court Street police station. He wasn’t detained after he explained what had happened. Christina’s death was the third one in six days caused by a motor car.
As late as 1910 pedestrians still had the right of the road. The streets were busy with automobiles and horse drawn wagons but people crossed where ever they pleased, with hardly a look. Toronto police began directing traffic in 1918 as yielding the right of way at intersections didn’t work any more. By 1920 Toronto had a population of 500,000 and cars were becoming more and more popular. Police now claimed that most accidents were the fault of the pedestrians and jaywalking became a word.
Little else is known about Christina. The only mention of her is in her nephew William Harkness Sutherland’s diary and that too is about her death. “ Received a special delivery letter from Wilson this morning just as we were starting out to church giving news of Aunt Christina’s death.” There weren’t any photographs of her, she isn’t mentioned in any surviving family letters and the record of her birth hasn’t been found.
She was born in Ontario around 1854, the fourth child of William Sutherland and Elizabeth Mowat. They followed the Scottish naming pattern and so she was named for William’s mother. William purchased crown land in 1855 in Carrick, Bruce County, Ontario. The land had to be cleared, a house built and crops planted, so there was always a lot of work to be done as Christina grew up. All the Sutherland children went to S.S. #9 Carrick. The school, built of hand-hewn logs by the original settlers was opened in 1859. Parents had to supply half a cord of wood for each child attending. Christina continued to live at home at least until she was seventeen.
In 1881 she was living in Toronto and working as a domestic for William Johnston, his wife Mary and their two children. He was her aunt Jessie Sutherland’s brother. Some of Christina’s brothers had also moved to Toronto at this time, but she wasn’t living with any of them.
She wasn’t found on another census until 1911 when she was a lodger at 381 King St West. This appeared to be a boarding house owned by an Alice Dawson, who lived there with her daughter and grandchildren. There were ten lodgers on the census; four women and six men. Christina was listed as an operator at a factory, working 48 hours a week with a two week holiday and all for three hundred dollars a year. She must have had an independent streak as she worked to support herself and still wasn’t living with any family members.
She never married and was reported to be 66 at the time of her death. She was still living on King Street, although at number 391. There was contact with her family as it was her brother George Sutherland who was the informant of her death and her funeral was from her sister Isabella’s house.
Christina was buried in Mount Pleasant cemetery in a plot with her parents, two young nephews and a niece. Even there she didn’t leave a mark, as her name is not on the tombstone.
“Hit By Motor.” Toronto Star 4 Nov. 1920: n. Pg. 2 Print.
Toronto Star 6 Nov. 1920 Print.
Ontario Census, 1861,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQQ6-V4G : 8 November 2014), Cristenik Sutherland, Carrick, Bruce, Ontario, Canada; citing p. 4, line 18; Library and Archives Canada film number C-1010-1011, Public Archives, Toronto; FHL microfilm 349,251.
“Canada Census, 1871,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M4QW-JX5 : accessed 30 Mar 2014), Christena Sutherland in household of Isabella Sutherland, Carrick, South Bruce, Ontario, Canada; citing p. 28, line 8; Library and Archives Canada film number C-9935, Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 4396334.
“Canada Census, 1881,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MVFS-GNB : accessed 30 Mar 2014), Christina Sutherland in household of William Johnston, St-John’s Ward, Toronto (City), Ontario, Canada; citing p. 51; Library and Archives Canada film number C-13246, Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 1375882.
Canada Census 1911 Ontario, Toronto South, 38, Ward 4, page 16 Archives Canada.
Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDT9-6H8 : 11 December 2014), Christina Sutherland, 05 Nov 1920; citing Toronto, York, Ontario, yr 1920 cn 8083, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,863,282.
Historical Walks through Carrick and Mildmay. Owen Sound, Ont.: Mildmay-Carrick Historical Society, 1989. 48-51. Print.
Plummer, Kevin. “Historicist: Those Vicious Devilish Machines.” N.p., 17 Jan. 2009. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Sutherland, William Harkness. Diary from January 1920 to December 1924. In possession of the author.