Historical walking tours are a great way to walk in your ancestors’ footsteps. Even if you know a lot about the place your ancestors lived, you are sure to learn a few new facts. I recently visited Drummondville, where my dad, Edward McHugh, lived for eight years during the Great Depression. He, as well as his brother, Thomas, and his sister, Sarah Jane, had gone to Drummondville in 1933 after being out of work in Montreal. They were employed by the Celanese, one of the biggest employers in Quebec during the 1930s. The Celanese was a textile plant and my dad worked in the Silk Factory as an electrician. The Celanese plant in Drummondville was one of the main reasons why Drummondville hardly felt the effects of the Great Depression.
The walking tour I went on was a free tour offered by the Société d’histoire de Drummond (historical society of Drummondville).1 The tour started at Parc Woodyatt, named after James Blain Woodyatt, Director General and member of the Board of Directors of Southern Canada Power. Southern Canada Power built, owned and operated the hydroelectric complex In Drummondville. The public park Woodyatt opened in 1930 and included sports facilities such as a pool, a skating rink and tennis courts.2
My dad, who loved to skate and swim and was an avid tennis player, would have gone to this park regularly.
My dad also loved to go to the theatre and I can easily imagine him spending his Saturday evenings at the Théâtre Capitol, built in 1937. He would have been excited when the theatre opened. This lovely art deco building is currently a multi-screen cinema complex.3
Across from the town square is the impressive Roman Catholic Basilica Saint- Frédéric. When the McHugh siblings lived in Drummondville in the 1930s, this church was not yet a basilica. The first church was a chapel built in 1822 and demolished in 1879 as it became too small to accommodate the parishioners. The second church was situated where the Saint-Frédéric Park is now, just in front of the current church. The second church burnt down in 1899. The third church, built at the church’s current location, was completed in 1907 and was the victim of arson in 1921. The fourth church is the one currently standing and it was completed in 1922. It is truly magnificent. It was named a minor basilica by Pope Francis in 2015.4
In 1937, my uncle Thomas McHugh and Simone Cloutier, a young lady from Drummondville, were married in Saint-Frédéric.5 A Casavant organ, built in 1930, would have played at their wedding. Fourteen Stations of the Cross grace the church. Stained glass windows represent the life of Saint-Frédéric, an archbishop in France.6 The McHugh family was a large one, with nine siblings. They would probably have all attended the wedding, and would have most likely travelled from Montreal by train.
Sadly, they returned to visit this magnificent church less than one year later. Thomas McHugh died of an illness in the hospital.7 My father, along with his other brothers, signed the register as pallbearers.8 Thomas McHugh is buried in the Saint-Frédéric cemetery on Saint-Joseph Boulevard, not very far from the church.
From the outside I saw the Hôpital Sainte-Croix where, sadly, my uncle would have died. The current site of this hospital was founded in 1927 and, at the time of my uncle’s death, had 18 beds and one operating room. It was run by the Soeurs de la Présentation de Marie. 9
We finished our day by driving through the working class district of Drummondville where the workers of the Celanese lived. I know my dad lived on the top floor of a duplex. He had no car so he would have lived in walking distance from work.
It was truly a day of discovery and imagination.
A sincere thank you to the Société d’histoire de Drummond for this walking tour and for all of the valuable work that they do to preserve the history of Drummondville.
Société d’histoire de Drummond
Société d’histoire de Drummond
Société d’histoire de Drummond
Registration of the marriage of Thomas McHugh and Simone Cloutier, July 17, 1937, Paroisse Saint-Frédéric de Drummond, Registres photographiés au Registres de Arthabaska
Church pamphlet entitled Guide – Visite et histoire de la Basilique Saint-Frédéric de Drummondville
The Drummondville Statesman, “Thomas McHugh Passes Away,” May 27, 1938, accessed March 19, 2016
Registration of the death of Thomas McHugh, May 25, 1938, Paroisse Saint-Frédéric de Drummond, Registres photographiés au Registres de Arthabaska
My mother always tatted. She learned from her neighbour when she was 10 years old. If she would sit and tat for an hour on a Saturday, with Miss Proudfoot and her sister, she could then bring the funny papers home to her brothers.
Mom was never without a shuttle and thread. She tatted watching TV, waiting in line at the bank, in a doctors’s waiting room and even sat tatting with some fishermen in Portugal, as they fixed their nets.
Tatting is handcrafted lace made of knots, rings and chains using a shuttle. Shuttles are small oval objects that thread is wrapped around and they fit easily in your hand. Tatting is la frivolité in French and the shuttle is a navette. It was very popular in the late 1800s when shuttles were almost jewellery. It used to be considered a dying art but the internet has reintroduced tatting to many people.
Shuttles come in many forms and materials. They have been made of silver, bone, ivory, carved from wood and moulded from plastic. Celluloid, one of the first plastics, was used for shuttles. Some of the newer ones have bobbins making winding the thread much easier. Some have pics on one end, some little metal hooks and some smooth ends. The hooks are needed to join rings but this can also be done with a separate crochet hook.
Much of Mom’s tatting was for note cards she and Doris Ward made or the Catherine Booth Hospital. For almost 30 years, Mom tatted yards of little flowers and Doris drew, cut and pasted the cards. Mom was spotted tatting a lace edging for a hanky at an auxiliary meeting and the Brigadier thought tatted cards would be very salable items. When Doris retired at 93 other ladies volunteered to take her place. They weren’t as prolific or exact, still, many more cards were made. Mom kept count and made over 75,000. She also tatted many snowflakes. These dainty items hung on Christmas trees and in windows of many friends and family.
My mother tried many times to teach us how to tat but without much success. She even learned to tat left handed to show me but I still couldn’t get it. Then one summer, at a Flea Market in Sutton Junction, I spied a box with a plastic shuttle, tatting thread and some other sewing stuff. The box was $5 but as I didn’t want everything she sold me the shuttle and the thread for just $2. My thought was to give it to my mother but my husband said, “You should keep it.” So with my own shuttle, I asked my mother to show me again and “Bingo” I got it!
If I was going to tat, I figured I would collect tatting things. In a booth at the St Lambert Antique Show, an aqua celluloid shuttle caught my eye and as it only cost 50 cents, I bought it. It had thread in it, no removable bobbin and no hook but a pretty colour and it felt good in my hand.
I put it in my pocket. We visited a few antique stores on our way to our cottage. When we got to Sutton I looked for the shuttle but it wasn’t in my pocket and I didn’t remember putting it anywhere else. I finally decided it had fallen out when I took out my car keys. My husband wanted to go and look for it but driving 20 km for a bit of plastic was silly. Still, I felt bad about losing it.
The next morning we were going to play golf at Cowansville and did retraced our steps. At Le Relais, the owner didn’t know what it was but would keep her eyes open. At the next stop, nothing in the parking lot or in the store. The last place wasn’t open but we looked around the ground and there in the grass was my shuttle.
In her last few years, my mother didn’t tat much. In the year before she died at 95, I took one of her shuttles downstairs to her. She took it and made one little flower, then handed the shuttle back to me and said, “That’s enough, you do it.
My mother Dorothy Raguin Sutherland told me stories about learning to tat.
The Catherine Booth Hospital in Montreal sold the cards in their hospitality shop for almost fifty years. They were a very good money maker. After Doris Ward retired from card making Moira Reynolds and Eileen Rhead took it up.
Mom visited the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec and in the craft sections didn’t see a tatting shuttle so she donated one complete with tatting
It used to be very difficult for my mother to find tatting thread. Thin 80 weight thread makes much finer lace. Everywhere we went we would looked for thread hoping to find new colours. Now one can find many, many colours of plain and variegated threads online.
I can make little flowers and I have made a number of snowflakes but mistakes are hard to fix as the thread is thin and the knots are tight. I don’t quite have my mother’s patience.
During my tatting item collecting I found this tatted christening dress in an antique store in Bromont, Quebec. I had never seen anything with so much tatting, so I had to have it.
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 growthled 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 Theatrein 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!
Over the last few weeks, Genealogy Ensemble has posted a series of research guides on the merchants, ship owners and others who were involved in the lucrative fur trade based in New France. This week, I have put together a list of archives, web site addresses and other resources that you may want to consult as you dig deeper into your research on these merchants.
The first repositories on this list are Quebec’s provincial archives, la Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. The links I have included will not only help you find the main archives in Montreal and Quebec City and other regional branches, but show you how to e-mail a question to an archivist.
Other resources on the list include university libraries and museums. I have also included links to various genealogy and history societies in North America and Europe. Several of these, such as the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, provide a great deal of background information on the fur trade era. Don’t forget that the merchants of New France were scattered from Acadia (in Canada’s eastern provinces) to Louisiana. Finally, I have included the names of several publishers and booksellers that could prove of interest.
Many books and articles have been written about the history of New France and the merchants who were involved in the fur trade there. If you discover one of your ancestors worked for a trading company, was a coureur de bois or owned ships that transported furs and goods across the Atlantic, these publications could be of interest to you.
To see the research guide to these publications, click here: The Authors
This is one of a series of posts on Genealogy Ensemble about the merchants, fur traders and ship owners of New France, the trading companies they were associated with and their ports of departure in France.
My grandmother was seventy-one, barely five feet, less than ninety pounds, and very frail. She lay propped up with pillows as family hovered around her hospital bed. Her eyes were rimmed with purple with the bruise spreading down across her cheeks. Her arm was in a cast and her smashed glasses had not yet been replaced. At nine years old, I could only stand and stare in horror.
I’m sure the mugger had thought Jean was an easy mark – a quick shove, grab the purse and run. But the mugger didn’t know my grandmother. She had fought for years to keep food on the table and she was not going to relinquish her grocery money without a fight.
My grandmother was born Jean Jamison Brodie (1884-1971 , the daughter of wealthy Quebec City flour merchant. She was sickly as a child and, strangely, given into the care of her mother’s spinster sister. In 1902, Jean trained as a teacher at MacDonald College in Montreal. Controlling students bigger than she was proved to be too strenuous and she gave up teaching after only a year.
In 1911 Jean married James Rankin Angus (1878-1964) from Glasgow, a naval carpenter who immigrated to Canada. James opened The Angus Bookstore within the walls of the old city. The couple had two boys a year apart, Colin (1912-1943) and Oswald (1913- 1977), and a third son, Ian (1918-2003), five years later.
Their home was a spacious flat on Fraser Street. Jean’s aunt moved in with them, the boys grew, and the book store prospered. All was comfortable until the stock-market crash of 1929, the year the two oldest boys graduated from high school. James struggled to keep the bookstore afloat, adding a branch store in a more affluent part of town to attract new customers. He downsized his family’s living quarters. Colin and Oswald found jobs and contributed to the household finances. Jean learned to be very frugal. She walked miles to save five cents on a bunch of carrots. My father Ian claimed his mother could create a dinner with five chicken wings and make it look like a feast.
In 1935, the inevitable occurred. Both bookstores were lost. My grandfather joined the ranks of the unemployed. But not my grandmother! One would think, given her frailty, she would simply collapse from the weight of the stress. Instead, the desperate situation seemed to galvanize her strength. She collected the books from the bankrupt stores and set about running a lending library from her home.
It was not easy for Jean to deal with the public – she was a private person and the family’s financial downfall was very humiliating. How difficult it must have been for her to collect dues, particularly late payments, and suffer petty complaints from customers who, once her equal, now looked down on her as merely a sales clerk. But she had a family to feed and so she persevered.
Twenty years later, in 1955, Jean was mugged on the way to the grocery store. By then, my grandfather had found employment, the children were grown and had children of their own. Jean no longer had to worry about money for the next meal. Still she refused to give up her purse. Never would she allow herself to become a victim.
Birth certificate of Jane Jamieson Brodie – on file with author
Certificate issued to Jean Jamieson from the McGill Normal School – on file with author
Wedding Announcement, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph June 1911 – on file with author ; Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621 – 1967
Death to the Ashes. A self-published memoir by Elizabeth Craig Angus, daughter-in-law to Jean Brodie Angus, in which she reminisces on various incidents in the life of the Angus family.
During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the French competed with the British and Dutch for control of the fur trade in North America.
British merchants traded in Massachusetts and coastal New England from the 17th century until the American Revolution. The British also carried on trade in the Hudson River valley, and they controlled much of the trade out of Hudson’s Bay in the north.
Early on, Dutch merchants were in business in what is now the New York City area. Between about 1830 and 1842, the American Fur Company of New York City, owned by John Jacob Astor, monopolized the fur trade in the United States.
From the late 16th century until New France fell to the British in 1759, merchants from France, New France and Acadia (in today’s Maritime provinces) dominated the fur trade throughout a vast area. They were the leading fur trading merchants in the St. Lawrence River Valley, the Great Lakes region (Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin), the Missouri River Delta, the Mississippi River Delta and the Great West regions in present-day Canada and the American States bordering Canada. French merchants were also present in the Hudson Bay and James Bay regions of northern Quebec in the 17th century and early 18th century.
The French also exploited other resources, such as fish, in North American waters, and they supplied household goods to the farmers who settled in New France as well as goods to trade with the First Nations people.
The merchants who carried on this busy trade had operations at the ports of Quebec City, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, and Louisbourg in North America, and they were associated with fellow merchants at various port cities of France.
La Rochelle was one of the most important French ports for trade with New France, along with Bordeaux, Rouen and Caen. Saint-Malo was the home port of explorer Jacques Cartier, while Samuel de Champlain, recognized as the father of New France, was based at the port of Honfleur in Northern France. Other French port cities with connections to the new world included Brest, Calais, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Dunkerque, Fécamp, Le Havre, Lorient, Rochefort, Royan and Vannes, while a few ships sailed from Marseille in southern France.
The research guide attached below provides more information about these French ports. Some of the articles are in French, so if you have trouble following them, use an online translation tool such as Google Translate.
This is the fourth in a series of weekly posts about the merchants, fur traders and ship owners who did business with New France, from the time Jacques Cartier planted a French flag on the shores of the Gaspé in 1534 until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 and New France became a British colony.
I never asked my great granny Charlotte about her wedding, but the records I’ve found hint at lots of intrigue.
Did they plan a summer wedding and then rush things to avoid conscription? Had they initially hoped to marry in the church next to her home but lost the opportunity due to community infighting?
Probably, but not yet proven.
What I do know is that my great grandparents—then 23-year-old groom Arthur Johnson and his 22-year-old bride Charlotte Charbonneau—chose to marry on Friday, February 9, 1917 in an unfinished church basement blocks away from her home instead of in the church right next door.
The direct information I have about that day appears in an affidavit filled out by Arthur on January 22, signed by the witnesses and solemniser, and turned in to the Registrar on February 17.
When looking at it, I couldn’t help wondering two things: why then and why there?
She wasn’t pregnant—their first son wouldn’t be born for another two years.
Money would be tight later, but at that point both had jobs. Arthur worked as a machinist and Charlotte served as a fore-lady, probably supervising women at a factory producing something for the war.
Did the impetus to marry early in 2017 have something to do with federal government musings about conscription at that time? Prime Minister Robert Borden promised publicly that he’d send 500,000 Canadian soldiers to Europe by the end of 1916. Only 300,000 men volunteered by December 2016, and numbers dwindled as horrific details about the Battle of the Somme reached Canada.
Borden passed conscription in August the summer after Arthur and Charlotte wed. Had they married after July 6, 2017, Arthur might have been conscripted. I might not exist.
I’m not sure why Arthur didn’t serve. He certainly had close ties with Europe having immigrated to Canada from Lancashire England ten years earlier. He came to Canada with his brother Albert and his parents, Mary Young and William Johnson.
Neither Arthur nor Albert volunteered for the Armed Forces and the family remained close. Albert and his wife Amie served as witnesses at Arthur and Charlotte’s wedding.
I also wonder how they selected the location of their marriage.
Both families worshipped in the Presbyterian faith. At the time, Charlotte still lived with her parents on Cross Street in Weston, right next to a Presbyterian Church called the Old Kirk at 11 Cross Street.
Why didn’t the couple get married in the Old Kirk?
Turns out that the building couldn’t offer a legally-sanctioned marriage between March 2013 and June 2017, despite more than 200 of the 247 congregation members working hard to keep the place open.
The problem began in March 2013, when fewer than 38 people voted to close the facilities and sell the Cross Street building. Given that the snow kept 209 people at home that day, I suspect that the meeting in question took place in the Main Street building purchased for Sunday School services a year earlier.
The sordid affair appears in a wonderful history of the Church in Weston called “From Then to Now.”
At a congregational meeting in March 1913, bad weather kept attendance to 38 out of 245 members. A majority of the 38 voted to hold all future services at the new facility and to sell the Cross Street site. Westminster Presbyterian Church was then fully established on the new site and the Cross Street site was sold.
The church on Cross Street was then re-purchased by some of the old members and services resumed on January 18th, 1914. Presbytery refused to recognize this congregation though, so it operated as an independent Presbyterian Church known as The Old Kirk The group continued to worship steadfastly and endured three failed petitions to Toronto Presbytery asking to be recognized as a second Presbyterian congregation in Weston (one petition was signed by 259 members). They appealed to the General Assembly, held in Montreal in June 1917, and the appeal was sustained. The church was then named The Old Presbyterian Church. From June 1917 to 1925 there were two official Presbyterian Churches in Weston.
In 1925 Westminster Presbyterian voted for church union and The Old Presbyterian Church opted to remain Presbyterian. It was then named Weston Presbyterian Church and Westminster became Westminster United Church. 
I haven’t yet found definitive proof that Charlotte and her family took part in the purchase or petitions of the Cross Street building. Given that Arthur and Charlotte married within a completely different congregation, however, it’s likely that they did.
Perhaps the couple hoped to be the first marriage in the renewed building, but then chose to wed rapidly so Arthur could avoid conscription. They needed a legally-sanctioned marriage.
They Chose St. David’s Church in Toronto
Arthur’s affidavit provides the address. It indicates that Reverend Charles A. Mustard presided over Charlotte and Arthur’s wedding ceremony at 38 Harvie Avenue, a building at the corner of St. Clair Avenue.
Information contained within a Presbyterian Museum article about the Church after it was torn down in 1999 gives context. The St. David’s Church congregation purchasing the Harvie site in 1911. They began operations by moving an original frame church from the south side of St. Clair Avenue opposite McRoberts to the new site. That building opened in 1912.
The community grew rapidly. By 1914, they hired Toronto architect Herbert George Paul to incorporate their original wood frame structure into a new larger building. He finished constructing only the basement, however, when the bank pulled the Church loan due to World War I.
A speech by John Barron in June 1918 describes what happened.
In the year 1911 the present site was secured. Seventy-two feet of the frontage being presented by Westminster Church, to which the Church building was moved and alterations made. This building was opened on Nov. 12, 1912.
The congregation outgrew this accommodation, and in the year 1914 plans were prepared and the present building was commenced, but owing to conditions brought about by the war, the basement only was finished and used for services to the present time.
So, instead of getting married in a perfectly good building on Charlotte’s street, community infighting and a war forced the couple to wed in an unfinished basement in St. David’s Presbyterian Church.
 Johnson, Arthur. Affadavid, 022461, loose paper, Office of the Registar General Ontario. Rec. Date: Jan 22, 2019. Ontario Canada Select Marriages. Archives of Ontario. Toronto. MS932, Reel 440, Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Ancestry. http://www.ancestry.ca : 2010.
The fur trade between the First Nations people of North America and the Europeans was central to the history of Canada and the United States. The commerce in furs made fortunes, it changed the lives of the First Nations people forever, it encouraged the French to explore deep into the interior of the continent, and it gave work to hundreds of people.
The names of some of the companies that controlled the trade in beaver pelts are still remembered today. The early trading companies that operated as monopolies in the days of New France included the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (Company of One Hundred Associates), 1627-1645, and the Compagnie francaise des Indes occidentales (French West India Company), 1664-1674. Later, the North West Company, 1789-1821, and the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670-1870s, competed for dominance.
The Company of One Hundred Associates was created in Paris in 1627 by Armand Jean Duplessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu. Among the leading members of this trading company were explorers, fur traders, merchants, ship owners, bankers, governors of New France and Acadia. They included Samuel de Champlain, Martin Anceaume, Thomas Bonneau, Jacques Bulteau, Henry Cavelier, Antoine Cheffault, Sébastien Cramoisy. Charles Daniel, Jean David, Jacques Duhamel, Arnault Dumas, Thibault Dumas, Jean Guenet, Charles Huault, Pierre de La Haye, Gabriel Lattaignant, Claude de Launay-Razilly, Jean de Lauzon, Simon Lemaistre, Raoul L’Huillier, François de Magny, Adam Mannessier, Georges Morin, François Mouet, Antoine Nozereau, Jean Papavoine, Claude Potel, Guillaume Prévost, Isaac de Razilly, Claude de Roquemont, Jean Rozé, Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour, Jean Taffet and André Terru.
Perhaps your ancestor owned or helped to run one of these trading companies. Perhaps he was a coureur de bois who traveled by canoe into the interior of the continent to trade with the indigenous people, and perhaps he married an indigenous woman. Whatever your interest, the attached compilation can help you better understand the roles these companies may have played in your ancestor‘s life.
Next week’s post will cover the ports of departure in France associated with the merchants who traded with New France. Following that, I will look at authors who have written about this period and archives where you can find more information.
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.