Early in the 20th century, just before World War I, the city of Montreal was booming!
During this time the population of Montreal grew to half a million people. Immigration surged setting new records. Skilled workers from England found employment in the city’s factories. European immigrants, especially Jews fleeing persecution, made up the biggest group. Many others came escaping the economic misery back home. And people were also migrating from rural areas attracted by the city’s remarkable economic growth and the available opportunities.
Montreal offered all these people hope of a better life.
The Montreal Stock Exchange, founded in 1832, was Canada’s first exchange and grew to be its most prestigious during this time of great expansion. In 1910, the total number of trades was more than double that of The Toronto Stock Exchange. This growth led to the merger of several small companies creating several large corporations such as Dominion Textile and Montreal Light, Heat and Power which in turn traded their shares on the Exchange.
My great grandfather, Robert Lindsay (1855-1931), was a stockbroker during this exciting period of Montreal history and its prosperous growth. Robert was the son of the successful banker, Robert A. Lindsay (Bank of Montreal), as well as the nephew of the prominent politician, William Burns Lindsay. Wisely, he left banking and politics to his elders and forged his own career in finance.
Robert most likely worked in Old Montreal where many major financial institutions established their Canadian headquarters on and around Saint Jacques Street. The impressive old building on St. Francois-Xavier Street, just off Saint Jacques Street, which housed the Montreal Stock Exchange since 1903 became the home of the Centaur Theatre in 1964 when the Exchange moved to a skyscraper on Victoria Square.
Robert was born in Montreal in 1855, the oldest of four children, three boys plus a girl who died in infancy. His mother, Henrietta Dyde, passed away in 1864, ten weeks after her baby daughter died. Robert was only nine years old. His father remarried two years later and he and his new wife, Charlotte Anne Vennor, had six more children.
Robert married Mary Heloise Bagg Great Granny Bagg (Kittens on the Wedding Dress), one of the daughters of Stanley Clark Bagg and Catherine Mitcheson, in 1881 at the age of 26. The Baggs, a prominent Montreal family, never before had a stockbroker in the family.
Robert and Mary Heloise named their first daughter “Ada” after his sister. Eventually, even though Mary Heloise was considered “frail”, they had a total of six children.
Their son Sydenham (my grandfather) and their youngest daughter Marguerite both followed their religious callings. Sydenham The Priest became an Anglican priest in Montreal. However, Marguerite died tragically at the age of 26, as a volunteer school teacher and missionary in Labrador.
Their eldest son Lionel became a well-loved Montreal family physician. Their daughter, Marjorie, was denied dangerous travel to England during the war to be with her one true love and remained a spinster, despite being a real beauty.
Stanley followed in his father’s footsteps and also became a stockbroker. He must have had a dreadful time during the Great Crash of 1929. Robert, although retired by then, probably followed his son’s career closely during that terrible period of panic and chaos.
For some unknown reason Stanley predicted the market’s collapse and withdrew the family money from the stock market prior to the Crash. Lucky him!