Do you have a photo of Phineas? I am writing a family history book, and would love to include his picture, but I’ve never come across one. If you can help, please contact me at email@example.com.
Farmer Phineas Rixon and his wife Barbara had been out doing errands in town. After they returned home, he was getting ready to do chores when he was stricken by a heart attack. The doctor came, but Phineas never regained consciousness. He died two days later, age 78, on Friday, September 9, 1938, on the farm he had operated for almost 40 years.
The local newspaper, The Colborne Express, reported, “the large number floral tributes and friends present [at the funeral] showed the high esteem in which he was held.”1
These few facts about his last days are the most detail I found about my great-great uncle’s long life. Phineas seldom moved far from his birthplace in rural Northumberland County, Ontario, a few miles from the shores of Lake Ontario. However, considering that his first two wives and his daughter predeceased him, and that he married a third time at age 76, his home life must have had its ups and downs.
Phineas (also spelled Phinehas, Phenas, and other variations) was born on May 8, 1859,2 the son of Martha Rixon and probably of her cousin Thomas Rixon.3 His unmarried mother moved to the United States when he was about nine, leaving him and his sister Samantha (my great-grandmother) to be brought up by their grandparents, Thomas and Betsey Rixon, on their farm in Cramahe Township.
It is not clear where Samantha and Phineas lived after their grandparent’s deaths; by then they were teenagers, and they likely stayed with relatives.
In 1878, Phineas joined the militia and was listed as a private in the 40th Regiment Northumberland. He next appeared in the 1880 U.S. Census (as “Fenis Rickson,”) working as a labourer in Michigan. He must have stayed in the United States for at least a year as he was not counted in the 1881 Census of Canada.
At age 24, he married 18-year-old Almeda Warner, daughter of John Warner and Harriet Morden. Phineas’s and Almeda’s daughter, Samantha Almeda Rixon (usually known as Mattie or Medie,) was born in June, 1884. Almeda died of typhoid fever in December, 1897, aged 32, leaving Phineas with a 13-year-old to raise and a farm to run on his own.
Within four years, Phineas had remarried. The 1901 census showed Phineas, 41, married to Mary Leslie, 34. With them were his daughter, Mattie, 16, and Mary’s mother and her two sisters, both in their twenties. He had also moved from Cramahe Township to lot 6, Concession 4, Haldimand Township.4 An advertisement for an estate auction held soon after Phineas’s death said the auction would be held on the John Leslie Homestead, about a mile east of the village of Vernonville, so Phineas and Mary must have lived on what had been her parents’ farm.
Phineas and Mary were married for about 30 years. After she died in January, 1931, he remained single for the next five years. In May, 1936, he remarried. His third wife was a widow, Barbara Jemima (Haynes) Cowey.5
Phineas was buried in Castleton Cemetery, Cramahe, Northumberland County, with his first wife and his daughter. Medie, who was married in 1906 to farmer Claude Tweed and had six children, died in 1915. Barbara, died in 1939, age 73.
Photos: courtesy Gabrielle Blaschuk
1. The Colborne Express, Thursday Sept. 15, 1938, p. 1.
2. Year: 1901; Census Place: Haldimand, Northumberland (West/Ouest), Ontario; Page: 3; Family No: 26. Ancestry.ca, 1901 Census of Canada (database on-line, entry for Phineas Rixon, accessed Aug. 9, 2020,) citing Library and Archives Canada. Census of Canada, 1901. Ottawa, Ontario, 2004, Series RG31-C-1, Statistics Canada Fonds, Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556.
3. This complex story is recounted in the following two posts:
4. Reference Number: RG 31; Folder Number: 74; Census Place: 74, Northumberland, Ontario; Page Number: 7, Ancestry.com. 1921 Census of Canada (database on-line, entry for Phineas Rixon, accessed Aug. 9, 2020,) citing Library and Archives Canada. Sixth Census of Canada, 1921. Library and Archives Canada, 2013, Ottawa, Ontario. Series RG31. Statistics Canada Fonds.
5. Archives of Ontario; Registration of Marriages 1936; Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1938, online database, Ancestry.ca and Genealogical Research Library (http://ancestry.ca, accessed Aug. 4, 2020,) entry for Barbara Cowey, citing Ontario, Canada, Select Marriages, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
When Jessie Jean Forrester (1896-1961) married a Presbyterian minister, she committed herself to a very different life from the one she had been accustomed to growing up on the Manitoba prairie. For almost 25 years, the couple lived in India, where he served as a missionary. There they were surrounded by the soaring Himalayas and elaborate temples, they suffered the heat of the central plains and humidity of monsoons, and they enjoyed eating Indian food.
There were some scary moments too. On one occasion, they were staying in a camp, complete with tea service. Jessie got up to go to the bathroom during the night and, as she was passing through the privacy screen, she saw a tiger roaming the camp.
The youngest daughter of farmers Jack and Samantha (Rixon) Forrester, Jessie first left Manitoba as a teenager, accompanying her parents when they retired to Los Angeles around 1911.
The 1920 U.S. census found her at age 24, living with her parents and working as a book keeper for a hardware store. The following year, she and her mother were counted in the 1921 census of Canada, staying with Jessie’s older sister (and my grandmother,) Lillian Hamilton, and her family in Winnipeg. They were probably busy preparing for the wedding.
Jessie’s husband-to-be, Thomas Benjamin McMillan, was born in 1888 in Margaret, Manitoba. The McMillan family eventually moved to Winnipeg. Tom graduated from Manitoba College with a degree in economics, then served as a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. After the war, he returned to Winnipeg and completed a two-year course in theology.
Jessie and Tom were married on August 17, 1921.Three weeks later, the newlyweds left for India. Daughter Hazel Lillian (born 1922) and son Hugh Forrester (born 1924) were both born in India and attended Woodstock School, Landour, a school founded in the 19th century to educate the children of American missionaries. They also attended school in Winnipeg during extended visits to Canada.
Tom went to India as a Presbyterian minister, but after the creation of the United Church of Canada by Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregationalist congregations in 1925, he became a United Church missionary. Much of his work was based in the central Indian cities of Hat Piplia, Neemuch and Indore, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. When the weather in central India became too hot, the family retreated to the twin cities of Landour and Mussoorie, in the foothills of the Himalayas. When son Hugh McMillan and his wife visited Mussoorie in 1979, they found the cosmos flowers Jessie had planted many years before still seeding themselves and blooming.1
Besides serving as a pastor, Tom was also active on several committees. In central India, he served as chairman of the building committee for 10 years and secretary of the Evangelistic Commission for three years, and he was a delegate to the General Assembly of the United Church of North India and chairman of the Assembly Business Commission.
Tom and Jessie remained in India during World War II, but 19-year-old Hazel returned to North America in 1941 to stay her uncle and aunt in Los Angeles, and Hugh sailed to California in 1944. Both were accustomed to long sea voyages, having travelled back and forth with their parents every few years to visit friends and relatives in Winnipeg and Los Angeles, but it must have been frightening for them to travel alone in wartime. Tom and Jessie came back to Canada for good after the war ended and before Indian independence.
The McMillans settled in British Columbia, where Tom ministered to several United Church congregations. After he retired in 1960 at age 72, they settled in Victoria, where he continued to visit the sick and served as an associate minister at Oak Bay United Church until 1964.
When Jessie died in 1961, aged 65, her obituary in the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle called her “a woman of great dignity and artistic ability,” adding that the bazaars and festive occasions at the two local United churches where Tom had been minister for four years were made more attractive by her deft floral arrangements.
Tom died in 1965 at age 77 and was buried beside his wife in Royal Oak Burial Park, Saanich, B.C..
Walter Meyer zu Erpen, “Mrs. Jessie Jean (Forrester) McMillan (29 March 1896-16 September 1961), sister of Mrs. T.G. Hamilton (1880-1956), and Reverend Thomas Benjamin McMillan (26 June 1888-25 July 1965), BA (University of Manitoba). Draft research report, 2015/12/26. Note: Walter gathered his research from a number of sources, including telephone interviews with family members and United Church of Canada records.
(This article is also posted on Writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca)
After Stanley Clark Bagg (1820-1873) and his family returned home to Montreal from a year-long trip through Europe in 1868-1869, he wrote a small book about some of the places they had visited. Published in 1870, he called it Continental Notes for Private Circulation.1 The irony is that, 150 years after this book appeared, it is far from private: it can be found in university libraries, and it is also available on the Internet.
Continental Notes highlights 20 of the places the Bagg family visited, including Paris, Venice, Strasbourg, the Rhine River, Waterloo, the ruins of Pompeii and the French Riviera.
I was excited to find a copy of this little book on an open circulation shelf at McGill University a few years ago. I had read a lot about my great-great-grandfather, but I hoped to get to know him a little better by reading his own words.
At first glance, the book seemed dry and impersonal. This was disappointing, considering that SCB and his wife, Catharine, had made the trip with his sister-in-law and five children, ranging in age from seven to 20. The trip was no doubt considered an essential part of the children’s education. Surely there must have been some surprises or amusing incidents along the way that he could have described. But SCB explained in the introduction that the book was based on his personal notes, some of which were written before they even left Montreal. And this was a man of the Victorian era who had a reputation for being conservative, at least in politics. As a member of Montreal’s elite, his writing style was no doubt appropriately reserved.2
On closer reading, however, it became clear that Continental Notes reflected his personal interests, which included history (especially the Roman Empire and the early history of Christianity) and archaeology.
The Musée de Cluny, also known as the Musée national du Moyen Âge, is in the Latin quarter of Paris. JH photo
In the two pages he wrote about Paris, he gave more space to the Hôtel de Cluny, which he called “one of the finest remains of the ancient mansions of Paris of the 16th Century” than he did to the Louvre. He added that the Palais des Thermes, once the residence of the Roman Governor of Gaul, was connected to Hôtel de Cluny and housed a collection of antiquities that was open to the public. That museum of medieval art is still there, so when my husband and I visited Paris in 2010, we visited it. One of the treasures it houses today is a famous series of tapestries, The Lady and the Unicorn.
One of the other spots SCB visited was Hyères, a town located near the Mediterranean coast of France, between Nice and Marseilles. He mentioned its warm winter climate, which may have been one of its attractions, and went on to write, “The environs of Hyères abound in vineyards and olive gardens.… This reminds me of the good Samaritan who poured oil and wine into the wounds of the man that fell among thieves. Who can walk through these pleasant vineyards without thinking of our blessed Lord when he said, ’I am the true vine, and my Father the husbandman.’”
Forty years ago, long before I knew anything about Stanley Clark Bagg, I spent a month in Hyères, taking classes at a French language school there. Hyères was not the area’s most attractive town and I wondered what my great-great-grandfather would have found of interest there. Then it occurred to me that, besides the weather, he was probably attracted by the ruined medieval castle. SCB noted, “The ruined walls and towers of the Castle of Hyères stand on a hill above the town. It is probable that this Roman fortress dates as far back as the sixth century.” I walked up to the ruins one afternoon, but was not as excited about the castle as he was.
Many years later, I came across some notes that probably referred to that European adventure. Someone had put them in the Bagg family Bible, perhaps so they wouldn’t get lost.3 The notes reveal that the family not only visited France, Belgium, Prussia, Switzerland, Italy and the Papal States, but also Ireland, Scotland, England.
These little reminders probably reveal as much of SCB’s attitude on the road as his book does, and most of them remain good advice 150 years later:
Do not fill trunks, nor take too many. Look after luggage.
Read up references, prepare routine, currency, etc.
SCB’s most personal writing is probably his poetry. The title, Leisure Moments, seems something of a misnomer, however, given that this small collection of poems he had printed in 1871 features melancholic themes such as grief for deceased loved ones and assurances of a beautiful afterlife. Leisure moments [electronic resource] : a few poems, by Stella [i.e. Stanley Clark Bagg], Bagg, S. Clark. Montreal, 1871 https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100248153 (accessed Jan. 5, 2020.)
I found these notes in the family Bible at the McCord Museum, Montreal, and copied them then, but when I looked again a few years later, they were no longer there.
When Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB) and his father, Stanley Bagg, of Montreal, visited England in 1842, they were combining business and pleasure. The business involved selling property that SCB’s maternal grandfather had owned in Durham, England, and the pleasure involved a whirlwind tour of London, Scotland, Ireland and France, as well as visits with various great-aunts and great-uncles who still lived in England.
It was a good time for a trip: SCB had just finished a four-year apprenticeship with a notary and could now practice as a notary himself. It made sense to travel before he opened his own office.
A few months after his return to Montreal, SCB wrote to his cousin in Philadelphia, outlining the trip. Unfortunately, he did not include any details or impressions of their adventures, but the list of places they visited sounds exhausting. Passenger rail services were expanding in England at the time, but much of their travel would have been done by horse-drawn coach.
Crossing the Atlantic, however, was fast. The age of the trans-Atlantic steamship had arrived in the 1830s, and SCB wrote, “We made the passage to Liverpool from Halifax in the incredible short space of nine days and six hours, which was I believe the shortest passage ever made across the Atlantic. From Liverpool we went to London, thence to Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, York Darlington, Durham, Stockton, Sunderland, Newcastle, Shields, Tynemouth, Otterburn …. ”1
As they moved north to Scotland, they passed though many small towns, including Lesmahagow, and they explored both Glasgow and Edinburgh. On the way back to London, they stopped in Carlisle, in the north of England.
After a few days in London, they crossed the Channel to France, where they visited Boulogne, Paris, Versailles, Le Havre and several other spots before returning to London. SCB wrote, “We left London shortly afterwards for Ireland, and having visited Kingstown, Dublin and Kilmainham, returned to Liverpool, where … we embarked on board a steamship and after a boisterous passage of 14 days arrived at Boston exceedingly gratified with our tour.”2
Anchor-maker William Mitcheson, brother of SCB’s grandmother Mary Mitcheson Clark, lived in London, and the Baggs visited him there. While in County Durham, they visited more Mitcheson relations, including Mrs. Dodd (Mary Mitcheson’s sister Margaret) near Ryton, and Mrs. Maugham (Mary’s sister Elizabeth) at Sunderland.
It is clear that the visit to Durham was the highlight of the trip, but not because of the business they finalized there. In fact, SCB did not mention it at all in his letter. When SCB turned 21 in December, 1841, he gained control over the properties in Montreal and Durham that he had inherited from his grandfather John Clark (1767-1827). (He was just 14 when Clark died, so his father acted as executor of the estate until SCB became an adult. The property in Durham was generating rental income, but SCB wanted to sell it. In a notarized document dated after their return to Montreal, SCB’s father listed the sales of three properties in Durham.3
Meanwhile, SCB was interested in ancient legends, old coins, Norman castles and the like, and was enthralled with Durham. More than 20 years later, he presented a lecture to the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal on “The Antiquities and Legends of Durham.”4
He described the legend surrounding the founding of Durham city by 9th century monks. When Danes attacked England’s northeast coast, the monks fled their monastery on the Island of Lindisfarne with the miraculously well-preserved body of their former bishop. Eventually they built an abbey at the future site of Durham city and buried him there. Today, that bishop is remembered as Saint Cuthbert and pilgrims still visit the abbey church, Durham Cathedral.
In his 1866 lecture to the Numismatic Society, SCB opened up about his feelings on the trip. He recalled, “The first time I had the privilege of attending a divine service in Durham Abbey, I was enraptured with the sweet and masterly chanting, unsurpassed in the empire. My father and I obtained seats in the choir. The service was exceedingly impressive, so much so, that …. whenever the portion of the Psalter chanted upon that occasion recurs in the services of the church, it carries me back in imagination to the first service I attended in the venerable abbey of my mother’s native city.”4
This article was also published on Writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com
Letter from Stanley Clark Bagg to Rev. R. M. Mitcheson, Dec. 6, 1842, probably transcribed by Stanley Bagg Lindsay; Lindsay family collection.
Record in a passenger list of Stanley Bagg and S.C. Bagg travelling from Liverpool to Boston aboard the Acadia. Boston Courier (Boston, Massachusetts, Monday, Sept. 19, 1842, issue 1921;) 19th Century Newspapers Collection, special interest databases, www.americanancestors.org (accessed April 18, 2019.)
Joseph-Hilarion Jobin, “Account and mortgages from Stanley Bagg Esq to Stanley Clark Bagg,” 8 October 1842, notarial act #3537, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
The itinerary of my grandparents’ 1906 honeymoon sounds more like a business trip than a romantic get-away, nevertheless, they both seemed to enjoy their trip to Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.
The bride and groom were Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton 33, a Winnipeg physician (usually known by his initials, T.G.,) and Lillian May Forrester, 26, a nurse. Lillian trained at the Winnipeg General Hospital, graduating in May, 1905, but she resigned from nursing when they became engaged.
The wedding took place at the Winnipeg home of the bride’s uncle, lawyer Donald Forrester, at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 26, 1906: According to the newspaper, “The bride, who wore a pretty gown of white net over taffeta and carried bride’s roses, was given away by her father, Mr. John Forrester, of Emerson…. There were no attendants, only the immediate relatives of the happy couple being present.” Following the brief Presbyterian service, the bride changed into a red and grey travelling outfit and they left for their honeymoon on the 5:20 train.
Lillian kept a diary of the wedding trip, leaving out any romantic details. They spent their wedding night on the train to St. Paul and reached Chicago late the following evening. Staying at the 16-story Great Northern Hotel, they visited Marshall Field’s department store, viewed the impressive tower of the Montgomery Ward Building and attended a play. They also visited the 1,400-bed Cook County Hospital which, Lillian noted, treated 25,000 patients a year and did an average of 10 operations per day. They then headed to Detroit for a brief stopover, and Toronto, where they began by exploring the area around Queen’s Park and the University of Toronto.
Niagara Falls was on their honeymoon bucket list. T.G. and Lillian spent a snowy day there, seeing both the Canadian and American falls. They dressed in waterproof clothing to access the back of the falls, and took a cable elevator car to view the Whirlpool Rapids.
After several nights in Toronto with T.G.’s Aunt Lizzie Morgan, they boarded a train for Montreal. Lillian noted some of the towns they passed through en route, including Belleville, where she was born.
It was now early December, and there was a heavy snowfall in Montreal, nevertheless they took the street car to Notre Dame Cathedral, which they found to be “as grand and beautiful as we anticipated.” Lillian ordered 50 visiting cards – she would need them in her new social role as the wife of a busy physician – and she visited several stores “and spent her first pin money.” She described Morgan’s department store as “the most beautiful store we have ever seen. The art gallery, glass room, electrical room and furniture department are all exceedingly fine.”
T.G. was planning on running for election to the school board in Winnipeg, so he took advantage of the trip to do some research. While Lillian was shopping, he interviewed the Superintendent of Schools.
No visit to Montreal is complete without a trip up Mount Royal. T.G. and Lillian went to the top in a sleigh and enjoyed “a splendid view of city, canal, river and Victoria Bridge.” On the way back downtown, they visited the Royal Victoria Hospital, ”a beautiful, well equipped building” with 300 beds. The next day they explored the Redpath Museum, had dinner at the Windsor Hotel (one of the city’s best) and took the overnight train back to Aunt Lizzie’s in Toronto.
It was a Sunday so, after church, T.G.’s cousin accompanied them to visit relatives. The following day, T.G. met with the Superintendent of School Buildings in Toronto and with a former principal of Wellesley Public School, said to be the most handsome and modern school building in Toronto.
Over the next few days they visited more family members and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Scarborough, where T.G.’s father and grandparents were buried, as well as the farmhouse where T.G. spent his childhood. On their final day in the city, they attended a lecture on new developments in vaccines.
Finally, they headed west to Chicago and Minneapolis. Back in Winnipeg, Lillian’s brother picked them up at the train station and they went to buy furniture.
The last entry of the trip diary was dated almost a month after their wedding: “Dec. 22. Had tea at 8 a.m. in our own house.”
Note: a slightly longer version of this article is posted on my family history blog, writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com.
I was just eight years old when Grampy, my mother’s father, died, so I have few memories of him, only photos. There’s one of him holding me on his lap when I was about a year old, and another that shows him playing a toy musical instrument. A shot of him demonstrating his stone-skipping skills on a Maine beach was probably taken in 1956, during the last summer of his life.
At that time, children were to be seen and not heard; not all grandparents were as involved as he was, and that makes these photos all the more special.
In fact, he was close to all the women in his family, young and old, as he provided moral support and financial guidance to his mother and his three unmarried sisters, as well as to his wife and his daughter.
Frederic Edmund Murray Smith was born in Montreal in 1879 to Jane Mulholland and her husband, John Murray Smith, a bank manager. Fred was the third of their six children. His was a life of privilege, as the family lived in a grey-stone house on McGregor Avenue (now Dr. Penfield Avenue), on the slope of Mount Royal. They also had a summer cottage on the shores of Lake St. Louis, in what is now one of Montreal’s West Island suburbs.
In 1891, Fred’s seventeen-year-old brother, Henry, died of appendicitis. Three years later, when Fred was just 15, his father succumbed to a heart attack, and Fred became the man of the family.
Women supposedly did not understand money matters, so his mother and sisters looked to him for advice. For example, many years later, when his sisters finally sold the house on McGregor, the task of handling the sale and helping them move to an apartment fell on Grampy’s shoulders.
Fred decided not to attend university, but started his career as a messenger. It did not take long for him to move up the corporate ladder. In 1918, he was a manager with the Royal Bank of Canada, and in the late 1920s, he was with Verret Stewart Co., a firm that was an agent for Windsor Salt. Between 1930 and 1936, there was no profession listed beside his name in the Montreal Lovell’s street directory, but he went to work as treasurer of Champlain Oil after the depression and stayed there until he retired.
He lived at home with his mother and sisters and remained an eligible bachelor until age 37, when he married Gwendolyn Bagg. Their only daughter, Joan, was born two years later, in 1918.
Fred and Gwen were both quiet people, more interested in spending time with family than in enjoying Montreal’s night life. In fact, Fred was a strict Presbyterian who never appeared at the dining table without a jacket and tie, and would not allow my mother to play cards on Sundays, but my cousin who is 10 years older than I am remembers him as kind and having a good sense of humour.
In a 1946 letter to my father, Fred described his view of marriage: “We … hope that you both may have as happy a life together as your future father-in-law had in his married life, keeping in mind that it is a partnership, which means both of you have to give and take, and that in the home, it is the woman’s department.”
For the first dozen years of their lives together, the Murray Smiths lived on tiny Selkirk Avenue, near the corner of Cote des Neiges and Sherbrooke streets, two short blocks away from Gwen’s mother’s house and several long blocks from Fred’s mother’s house.
In the late 1920s, my grandparents decided to build a larger house. According to my mother, when they looked at the architectural plans, they did not realize how big it would be. Not only was the house more than they needed, but their timing was bad since Fred lost his job during the depression. Fortunately, Gwen’s Aunt Amelia Norton helped out financially, but this must have been hard for Fred. He was accustomed to helping others. My grandparents lived in that house for the rest of their lives, and he died there, of a heart attack, at age 77.
Grampy is buried in the Murray Smith family plot at Mount Royal Cemetery with his father, mother, brother, three sisters and wife. My mother is buried with them.
This article is also posted on writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com
Legally, the family name was Smith, however, because Smith was such a common name, the family used Murray Smith as if it were a hyphenated last name.
The row house on Selkirk Ave. is still there, the Murray Smith family home on McGregor was demolished to make way for a high-rise apartment building, and my grandparents’ house on Saint-Sulpice became the Iraqi consulate.
“10 Foreigners at Woods Hole: Summer Students From Europe, Asia.” This was the headline on a story in the Cape Cod Standard-Times, Thursday, June 19, 1947. The story added that seven of the 10 students were from Canada. My father, Jim Hamilton, was one of them.
World War II had been over for two years, and people were starting to put their lives back on track. My parents had been married for a year, and I wouldn’t make my appearance for another year, so this was an opportunity for him to study physiology for six weeks at the famous Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory on Cape Cod.
At the time, Dad was working on cancer research at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario. Cancer research was in its early days then, and the aim of the project was to learn more about the fundamental character of cancerous cells. According to an article in the London Free Press describing the study he was involved in, “the methods employed in physical chemistry are to be used wherever they are applicable…. The services of a well-trained physical chemist, J.D. Hamilton, have been obtained for the research project.”
My father had an M.A. in physics, mathematics and chemistry from the University of Toronto, but he needed to improve his knowledge of the biological sciences, hence the summer course at Cape Cod.
Every summer the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), founded in 1888, attracted graduate students, as well as some of the world’s best biological scientists, to carry out research and share ideas about invertebrate biology, botany, embryology and other subjects, focusing on the marine life found in the waters around the institute. (The MBL still exists today, affiliated with the University of Chicago, and its research and educational programs are now year-round.)
My father had endless curiosity about esoteric facts and was interested in everything from history, philosophy and psychology to mathematics. I can imagine him thoroughly enjoying himself as he dissected a starfish or watched a sea urchin egg multiply under the lens of a microscope, and the knowledge of physiology he acquired during that six weeks no doubt helped him when he studied medicine several years later.
My mother, Joan, accompanied him on this trip. Now that the war was over, she, like many other married women, had left the workforce, so she had the time to travel. Fortunately, the institute had accommodations for married couples and even children. She was also an intelligent and curious person, and she aspired to be a writer, so rather than just sit on the beach, my mother wrote her own article about the lab. It was never published, but she kept a copy of the draft article, along with clippings and photos.
“The lovely New England setting of Woods Hole provides a working example of the internationalism of science. In the lab mess hall you may hear Dr. Jean Brachet of Belgium discussing his experiences as a scientific hostage of the Nazis. At another table Dr. Dashu Nie may be telling some of his companions how scientific terms are described in the Chinese language. Still another group may hear Dr. Mohan Das, Professor of Ecology at the University of Lucknow [India], tell how marine life in India differs from that found on the U.S. Atlantic coast.
“On the beaches, in the dorms, or over a cup of coffee at Cap’n Kids, one hears shop talk. For students and research workers alike, the conversations with some of the best scientific minds of many countries provide tremendous inspiration and encouragement, and from a word dropped at such friendly conversations may come the germ of an idea which will lead to the answer to one more problem.”
Both my future parents found Woods Hole to be a stimulating place. They also enjoyed the social activities, which included Thursday night square dancing and Monday’s traditional record night, when, my mother recalled, “it is very peaceful to sit in the darkness, watching the lights come out across Vineyard Sound and listening to Bach or Beethoven.”
After the course ended, they drove up the coast to Boston and to Maine before heading back to Ontario.
This article is also posted on writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com
Clark Street in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood features two-storey row houses, most of them red brick or grey stone, set back a few feet from the sidewalk. Two hundred years ago, this now densely populated street was just a gleam in the eye of my four-times great-grandfather John Clark (1767-1827), who owned that land. Today, Clark Street looks remarkably similar to the way he envisioned it.
John must have foreseen that his farmland would someday get swallowed up by the expanding city. He wanted to see it developed properly, and he wanted his descendants to profit from it. Thus, he carefully outlined his development vision in his last will and testament.
A native of County Durham in northeast England, John Clark1 immigrated to Montreal with his wife, Mary Mitcheson, and their young daughter around 1797, and he became a butcher and an inspector of beef and pork.
He probably had a nest egg of cash because he soon bought property here. In 1799, he purchased a property on Montreal’s La Gauchetière Street. Perhaps the Clark family lived there. When he sold it 11 years later, the deeds showed it to be a double lot including two houses and several other buildings..2
Between 1804 and 1814, John purchased several neighbouring farms north of the city limits of Montreal.3 He purchased these properties from French Canadian farmers, then named them Mile End Farm, Blackgate Farm and Clark Cottage Farm. The land, including several houses, barns, stables and outbuildings, was on the west side of Saint Lawrence Street, now known as Saint-Laurent Boulevard and one of the city’s major arteries. At the time, this was the main road to the countryside, leading past the eastern flank of Mount Royal to the Rivière des Prairies on the north side of Montreal Island.
The area was rural, consisting primarily of fields of wheat, oats and peas, as well as pastureland, fruit orchards and woodlots. Both John and Mary had grown up in rural England, so they preferred to live in the countryside rather than in the crowded city. The Clarks’ grey stone house, called Mile End Lodge, was built around 1815 on Saint Lawrence Street, between what are now Bagg and Duluth streets. They had few neighbours: most Montrealers, especially recent immigrants from Britain like them, lived in town.
Land ownership was important. It conferred social status, it carried the right to vote, and land was a financial tool, commonly used as security for loans. I do not know for sure why John purchased so much land, but even in the short term, it was a smart decision: the soil was fertile and the area was close to the city, where there was a growing demand for meat and produce. John no doubt wanted to graze his own cattle on that land, and to grow timothy hay for them. Meanwhile, in 1816, he placed an advertisement in the Montreal Herald saying he was willing to pasture cattle on his property for between eight and 10 shillings per cow.4
John probably collected rental income from these farms. It was not uncommon for members of the city’s elite, and for skilled tradesmen such as John, to purchase land and rent it to local farmers. He went one imaginative step further and, in 1810, leased a two-storey house on the Mile End Farm to father and son Phineas and Stanley Bagg to operate as a tavern.5 The building was located at a major intersection on St. Lawrence Street, so it was in an excellent location for thirsty travellers.
Phineas and Stanley ran the Mile End Tavern until 1818. The following year, Stanley married John’s daughter, Mary Ann. As a wedding present, John gave them a lot on St. Lawrence Street, including a two-storey house he named Durham House, that he had purchased in 1814.6
John may have had an emotional attachment to the Mile End Farm and Durham House, but he certainly saw his land as a long-term investment. The population of Montreal had increased from about 6000 in 1780 to 20,000 in 1820, and he foresaw this area would eventually be developed.
In 1825, at age 58, John wrote his will, leaving his properties to Mary Ann and to his young grandson, Stanley Clark Bagg.7 He added a codicil a few months later that included a plan for housing lots on St. Lawrence Street and on the yet to be created Clark Street, one block west. He specified that the lots should be 44 feet wide by 90 feet deep, and that the buildings should be built of stone or brick and set back from the road.8
John’s codicil also specified that the sale of the lots were subject to a rente constituée, meaning that, in addition to the initial cost of the property, the buyer was to pay the vendor an amount every year, usually about 6% of the property’s value. This was a common practice in Quebec, designed to provide funds to the seller’s family members for several generations. However, when Clark Street was finally developed decades after John’s death, buyers were not interested in this old-fashioned practice and the rente constituée was eliminated.9
Meanwhile, most of the property lines and all of the street rights-of-way shown on the plan in John’s will are still in effect today. Also, the specifications for building quality were respected, and similar conditions were imposed by neighbouring landowners.
Mile End Lodge, watercolour by John Hugh Ross, copyright Stewart Museum, 1970, 1847
Codicil to the last will and testament of John Clark, December 1825, BAnQ, CN601 S187.
Notes and Sources:
John Clark is usually identified as an inspector of beef and pork. There was another John Clark, a master butcher, living in Montreal at the same time. That John Clark made a will in 1804, while my John Clark made a first will in 1810 and a final one in 1825.
Thomas Barron, notarial act #2876, “Deed of sale John Clark to William Scott,” 18 Oct. 1810, BAnQ.
These properties are listed in John Clark’s will, (Henry Griffin, notarial act #5989, “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” 29 August 1825, BAnQ) and in the inventory of his grandson’s estate (Joseph-Augustin Labadie, notarial act #16733, “Inventory of the Estate of the Late Stanley Clark Bagg Esq.” 7 June, 1875, BAnQ.)
J.A. Gray, notarial act, “Lease for five years John Clark to Phineas and Stanley Bagg,” 17 Oct. 1810, BAnQ.
Records for lot 110, Saint-Laurent Ward, Montreal, p. 395, Registre foncier du Québec online database.
Henry Griffin, notarial act #5989, “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” 29 August 1825, BAnQ
Clark Street as laid out in the plan attached to John’s codicil ran from just south of the city limits (Bagg St. near Duluth) to Saint Catherine Road (now Mont-Royal Ave). Clark Street was developed in segments throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with the first part, around Mile End Lodge, subdivided in 1873. In the early days, a section of Clark Street was called Mitcheson Street (Mitcheson was John’s wife’s name), but by 1912, it became Clark Street along its length.
The rente constituéewas often used in France, England and French Canada. In those days, there was no modern money-lending system, so people could rent land for an annual sum. The borrower/purchaser could redeem the rent, however, the capital value of the property was not reduced by previous rent payments. John Clark and his grandson Stanley Clark Bagg complicated things by using testamentary substitutes to require that their real estate be subject to such arrangements far into the future. Their wills specified that the actual beneficiary was three generations down, while the intervening generations were responsible for keeping the estate in good shape for their children. When the Bagg and Clark properties were subdivided in the late 19th century, the Quebec legislature passed an act to end the substitution.
Justin Bur, Yves Desjardins, Jean-Claude Robert, Bernard Vallee and Joshua Wolfe, Dictionnaire Historique du Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal, Les Éditions Écosociété, 2017.
Yves Dejardins, Histoire du Mile End, Québec: Les éditions du Septentrion, 2017.
Justin Bur, “À la recherché du cheval perdu de Stanley Bagg, et des origins du Mile End,” Joanne Burgess et al, Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections, Montreal: Éditions MultiMondes, 2015.
Sherry Olson and Patricia Thornton, Peopling the North American City, Montreal 1840-1900. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2011.
Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton (1873-1935) became internationally famous because of his investigations into psychic phenomena.1 But his more mundane activities probably had a greater impact on the lives of his patients, friends and colleagues than his psychic research did.
TGH, or T. Glen Hamilton, as he was known, grew up in a farming family, first in Ontario and then in Saskatchewan. He graduated from Manitoba Medical College in 1903, at age 30. After interning for a year, he set up a practice in medicine, surgery and obstetrics in Elmwood, a suburb of Winnipeg. Several years later, he and his wife, Lillian, moved into a large house in the neighbourhood. They raised their family there, and he had an office on the ground floor.
Elmwood’s first doctor, he was the kind of old-fashioned physician who made house calls (by horse and buggy in the early years) and delivered babies at home.3 According to his daughter, Margaret, his outstanding quality was his genuine concern for people: “To his many patients, he was not only the beloved physician, but he was the staunch friend and wise counsellor as well.”4
He plunged into community involvement and was elected to the Winnipeg Public School Board in 1907. Perhaps his experience as a teacher before he went to medical school inspired his interest in education. He remained on the school board for nine years, serving as chairman in 1912-13 and helping to guide the board as it built several new schools in the fast-growing city. He helped to establish fire drills and implement free medical examinations for public school students, and he believed in the benefits of playground activities.
He was a member of Elmwood Presbyterian Church (later known as King Memorial United Church) from the time he settled in Elmwood. An elder for 28 years, he was chairman of the building committee and helped raise funds for the construction of the church.5
In 1915, TGH resigned from the school board after he was elected to the Manitoba Legislature as the Liberal member for Elmwood. At that time, his riding stretched all the way to the Ontario border.
These were times of social change. Manitoba’s Liberals brought in several landmark bills, including the right to vote for women, the mother’s allowance act and workmen’s compensation. Nevertheless, a strong Labour vote swept the Liberals from power in the 1920 provincial election and TGH lost his seat.
He then shifted his energies to the medical field. He was a lecturer in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine, and a member of the surgical staff of the Winnipeg General Hospital. He wrote several articles that were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the treatment of hand injuries, on the incidence of goiter (enlarged thyroid) in children, and on ulcerative colitis. He served as president of the Manitoba Medical Association in 1921-1922, and he was a member of the executive committee of the Canadian Medical Association from 1922 to 1931. He founded the Manitoba Medical Review and he was the first president of the alumni association of the University of Manitoba.6
All these volunteer activities in addition to his medical practice must have made him a very busy man. Nevertheless, after the death of his three-year old son Arthur from influenza in 1919, he found time for a new passion: psychic phenomena. His ultimate question was whether some part of the human mind, consciousness, or personality survives bodily death.
For more than a decade, he and Lillian organized weekly séances at their home, watching tables that moved on their own and communicating with spirits. He tried to take a scientific approach to his observations and to prevent fraud, so he took hundreds of photos of these events.
When TGH addressed an audience of Winnipeg physicians about his research in 1926, he was afraid he would lose his professional reputation as a result, but they listened to him with what he later acknowledged was “a tolerant and good-natured skepticism.”7 Most of them probably did not agree with his comments, but he had accumulated a bank of good will through his many professional and volunteer activities, and he had a strong reputation for integrity.8
When he died of heart attack in 1935, at age 61, hundreds of people filled King Memorial United Church, where he had been active for so long, to say goodbye to this man who had been such an important part of the community.9
This article is also posted on https:writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com
2 Although TG was my paternal grandfather, I never met him. He died many years before I was born.
3 “Elmwood’s First Doctor,” TheElmwood Herald, June 10, 1954.
4 Margaret Hamilton Bach. “Life and Interests of Dr. T. Glendenning Hamilton.” Proceedings of the First Annual Archives Symposium. University of Manitoba Department of Archives and Special Collections, 1979, p 89-90.
My father’s mother was born in rural Ontario and grew up on a farm on the Manitoba prairie, but that doesn’t mean she wanted to live on a farm all her life. In fact, she had other plans.
There were basically two career paths open to women in the early 20th century: teaching and nursing. She pursued both. Then, when she married a Winnipeg physician, her future in the city was assured.
Lillian May Forrester (1880-1956) was the daughter of John Macfarlane Forrester (known as Jack) and his wife, Samantha Rixon (known as Mattie).1 Lillian’s twin brother, Arthur, died the day of their birth, but, according to a family story, Lillian was placed in a box behind the woodstove to keep warm, and she survived.
The Forrester farm was located in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ontario. The property was quite small and the Forresters were a large and expanding family. They needed more land. Good farmland was becoming scarce and expensive in Ontario, while Manitoba, which had recently been opened up to settlement, looked very attractive.
In 1881, the Forresters bought land near Emerson, close to the American border and the Red River. Lillian’s parents farmed one property, her uncle William farmed the property across the road and her grandparents, James and Janet Forrester, farmed an adjoining half section with their son Donald. Lillian grew up with her five younger brothers and sisters and many cousins. According to Lillian, the Forresters “loved” their new home on the prairie.2
There was always work to do and, as the eldest of the children, Lillian must have had to do chores, such as helping to care for the animals. She had a bossy personality (years later she was nicknamed The Duchess), so she probably liked to tell the younger children what to do.
In a memoir, Lillian’s cousin Charles Reid Forrester wrote that the Forresters had their share of hardships. One year the crops were flattened by a hailstorm, and another time, lightning struck Grandpa Forrester’s stable, killing two horses, a cow and a sheep. 3
Lillian may also have remembered her grandmother’s flower garden, her mother’s freshly baked bread, and festive family parties when everyone danced to the music of the piano, violin and mouth organ and her father sang his favourite Scottish ballads.
She was exposed to many books and ideas at home. Cousin Charlie described Jack Forrester as very intelligent and a student of American and Scottish history, 4 while Lillian later wrote that she owed a special debt to her grandmother, who was an avid reader and a poet.5
Lillian attended the Des Marais school, a one-room schoolhouse that served the area. After graduating, she became a teacher herself,6 but she must have decided that teaching was not the right career for her.
By the early 1900s, nursing had become a modern, well-organized profession, with nursing schools open across Canada.7 Perhaps Lillian thought there was a need for better medical care in rural communities, or maybe she saw this as an opportunity to move to the city. Whatever her motivation, she applied to the Winnipeg General Hospital School of Nursing.
She was 25 years old when she graduated, however, she did not work as a nurse for long. A year later, she married Dr. Thomas Glendenning (T.G.) Hamilton. T.G. practised medicine, surgery and obstetrics just across the river from the expanding city of Winnipeg.
The wedding took place in November, 1906 at the Winnipeg home of Lillian’s uncle. Three years later, the first of the couple’s four children was born, and in 1910, the Hamiltons’ newly built three-storey house in suburban Elmwood was ready for them. It was Lillian’s home for the rest of her life.
Lillian Forrester Hamilton, “Our Ancestors,” photocopy of a four-page typed document, in the author’s possession.
Charles R. Forrester, My World in Story, Verse and Song, self-published, Altona, Manitoba, 1979. p 29
Charles Forrester, Ibid, p 109-110
Lillian Hamilton, Ibid.
1901 census of Canada, Montcalm, Provencher, Manitoba, population schedule, page 3, family no. 25, Lillian Forester; digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://ancestry.ca, accessed 26 Nov. 2009); citing Library and Archives Canada, Census of Canada, 1901, Ottawa, Canada: Library and Archives Canada, RG31,T-6428 to T-6556.