Category Archives: Canadian Province

Bon Soir et Dors Bien – Good Night Sleep Well

Rene Raguin & Beatrice Bruneau Wedding 1912

“Bonsoir et dors bien”, is how my mother ended her nightly phone calls with her parents. These were some of the few French words I ever heard her speak, which was strange as French was both her parent’s mother tongue. Why did we only speak English?

René Raguin my grandfather, was from Fleurier, Switzerland and came to Canada to teach at the French Protestant school in Pointe aux Trembles, Quebec. He later taught in Trois Rivieres and finished his career at Baron Byng, a school of the English Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. He also taught teachers how to teach French at McGill University’s summer school.

Beatrice Bruneau met René Raguin when they were both teaching at the Pointes aux Trembles school. This was the one French Protestant school in the Montreal area. Grannie as we called her, descended from French Canadian stock, although born in Green Bay Wisconsin. Her father Ismael Bruneau was a French Presbyterian minister. Her mother Ida Girod was a French speaker from Switzerland and also a Protestant.

René spoke English fluently but with a heavy accent. He always used English when talking with us, his grandchildren and we called him Grandfather. I always wondered why he never communicated with us in French as a French teacher. One much older cousin Don Allchurch, always referred to him as Grandpère as he did speak to him in French.

Beatrice’s father Ismael Bruneau, was “pure laine”, French Canadian through and through. His early ancestors arrived in Quebec from France in the 1630s. His family of Catholics converted to Protestantism in the 1850s and that is where the English crept in. Ismael wasn’t thrilled to speak English as he wrote to his youngest sister Anais, “I write to you in English, dear sister, not to show you I can write a few words in that barbarous language, but for your good as well as mine, for practice makes perfect.” Many of Ismael’s siblings moved to the United States, spoke English and married English speaking spouses.

French was spoken in his home but Ismael’s children all went to English Protestant schools as the French schools were all Catholic and they didn’t even allow Protestants to attend. In the family, religion trumped language. Most of his children also married English-speaking people. His two sons continued to speak to each other in French.

Beatrice Bruneau Raguin

My mother grew up in Dixie on the border of what is now Lachine and Dorval. It was then an English community. Because her father Rene Raguin taught for the English board they didn’t have to pay school fees and so attended English Protestant schools. The children didn’t want to speak that other language. Some evenings her father would say that only French would be spoken at the dinner table. The children wouldn’t say a word and only eat what they could reach.

Rene Raguin

The Scots and Irish immigrants who were my father’s family settled in Toronto and spoke only English. I don’t remember him speaking French to anyone. He always regretted that he couldn’t speak French. He too went to English Protestant schools.

Dorothy, Beatrice, Rene & Mary

We were schooled before French Immersion and though there was some talk about sending us to French Schools, they were still all Catholic and not a choice, so we also attended English Protestant schools.

So in a generation, the French family became English. We didn’t call my mother every night but as we left after a visit she had a new English saying, “Safe home.”


A Short History of the Bruneau-Girod Families: Ida Bruneau Ste. Agathe des Monts, Quebec May 1993. Forbes Publications Ltd. Calgary, Canada.

My sister remembers the phrase as “Bonsoir et dors bien Maman” but I said sometimes she was talking to her father.

Romeo and Maid Marion: A Rom-com Romance

August 18, 1918

30 York Avenue, Westmount

My dearest sweetheart,

I cannot express in writing how pleased I was to hear your voice over the telephone a little while ago and was very sorry when I learned that due to the circumstances, you were not able to come home.

Dearest, I have never written you on this strain since I have known you and before I say what I have in mind, I beg of you to please try and understand it in the light that I mean it.

 For Marion, dear, I love you with all my heart and it is because of my affection for you that I try to pave the way a little. I honestly, would not intentionally hurt you Marion. 

Now sweetest, here it is: You know, Dear, that you have left me alone at different times for indefinite periods, but may I say that I have never yet found one month to be as long as this one. 

Really, it has seemed to me almost like years. I would a thousand times rather be left entirely alone than to be left again with the girls, as I cannot get them to  do anything which appears to me to be reasonable. I have come home on several occasions and the front and back doors were not locked. They will not close the windows and the house is almost like an oven. They forget to order food. The refrigerator is left open; the ice is melting as fast as you can put it in. Cawlice. Water is running all over the floor and things are lying about. I am sick and tired of the whole place.  

Take pity on me Darling before I go crazy and come home to me to look after and love me. *but under no circumstances take chances (with mother’s health).  Take it from me, God help the poor man that gets either one of them, if they don’t change. You can do more in five minutes than they can do together in a day.  You have forgotten more than they’ll ever know. God bless you Marion and may it be God’s will that he can spare you to me for many long happy years.


PS. Don’t fail to burn this when finished reading.

This rather amusing letter was sent under duress by my husband’s grandfather, Hugh Blair, to my husband’s grandmother, Marion Nicholson Blair in August 1918.

It seems Marion had taken her daughters, 12 month old Marion and three-year-old Margaret, from their home in Westmount, Quebec to visit her mother in Richmond, Quebec leaving her husband in the care of his sisters-in-law, Flora and Edith.

Hugh, clearly, is at his wit’s end. He is feeling neglected. Of course, his sisters-in-law have more important things to do. They have busy day jobs as teachers. WW1 is raging. Over and above their tiring day jobs, the women volunteer for the war effort. Many of their friends have lost brothers or sons at the Front. They can hardly feel sorry for Hugh.

My husband’s grandfather, Hugh Christian Blair, born in Three Rivers Quebec in 1882, was a man of many faces. He could be a big baby, no question, but he was also a suave charmer, a savvy businessman, a talented carpenter and metalworker, a fine fiddler, a hockey player and curler and, ugh, judging from an album I have filled with photos of dead foxes and such, an ardent hunter.

Hughie the joker with the stylish signature

He was the son of a prosperous Three River lumber baron and he worked in the family business.

In 1912-13, Hugh was courting his future wife, Marion Nicholson, daughter of Norman Nicholson, a very respectable but down-on-his-luck businessman from Richmond, Quebec.

Letters I have reveal that their one year courtship, from May 1912 to October 1913, has all the earmarks of a modern rom-com movie with its many ups and downs and breakups and make-ups and misunderstandings.

Let me summarize the plot for you:)

In May 1912, in his mid thirties and with good prospects, Hugh Christian Blair is introduced by his landlady to Marion Nicholson, a teacher at Royal Arthur School in Little Burgundy. Hugh is instantly smitten by this attractive firebrand, a very distant cousin, but first he must give his current girlfriend, Jean, a Momma’s girl, the brush-off. “Of course, you must know that we were never engaged and as for any understanding it must have been entirely on your part as I myself was only thinking of you as a very kind friend.” 1

He pursues Marion with all of his energy, taking her out of her stuffy rooming house to church as well as to more exciting places like the Orpheum Vaudeville Theatre and Dominion Thrill Park.

Marion is secretive about her life but sisters Flora and Edith keep their mother Margaret up to date about the budding romance, cheekily referring to Hugh in their letters as “Romeo” or “Hugh Dear.”

At the end of the school year Marion organizes a party at her rooming house. She strategically invites Hugh as well as another male friend. Neither of them shows up. She is furious. So the romance stalls. Marion returns to Richmond for the summer months.

In August, 1912, Flora and Marion visit a kind doctor cousin, Henry Watters, in Boston who takes them to Norumbega Park and a Bosox game. Henry isn’t the marrying kind, but another Boston relative, a Mrs. Coy, is keen on having Marion marry her son, Chester. Hugh somehow senses this. He writes Marion two long-winded letters while she is in Boston.

“I notice by the advertisements that there will be quite a few nice plays out this fall in Montreal. So if I am here – and of course you also – and care to take them in, I will enjoy taking you along. Of course, I would not like to neglect our Old Standby at the Orpheum. But I suppose there is no use planning too far ahead as many changes can take place between now and then.” It looks like he’s hedging his bets, doesn’t it?

It’s September. School begins anew. Marion is totally fed up with her rooming house with its suffocating curfews, so she finds a large flat to live in with her sister Flora and two other teachers in Mile End.

This is quite the revolutionary feminist act. Mr. Blair is a frequent visitor, so says Flora in her letters. (How scandalous!) However, Chester, “A great Yankee” also comes to visit.

Marion drawn by a fellow teacher

In November, Marion writes her Mom: “Hugh is helping with the double windows. Sometimes I like him, sometimes I hate him, but I wouldn’t know what to do without him.” Now, doesn’t that sound promising!

But something happens at Christmas (likely a dispute with the dad, Norman) that once again pours cold water on the romance.

In a telling January 3, 1913 letter to Marion, Hugh acknowledges receipt of her Christmas gift of cuff links and in turn says that the teddy bear he sent her was probably lost in the mail or stolen. Hmmm.

In February, 1913, Edith tells her Mom she went out with Hugh and Marion and he was all suave charm, “not the Hugh you had at Christmas.” Things are definitely looking up.

Sure enough in May 1913, Marion sends a letter to her mom with a drawing of her engagement ring.

A month later Hugh sends a very formal letter to Norman, her father, asking for Marion’s hand. Norman sends a letter to Marion saying “I can’t give my consent for I am dead broke.” 2. (Clearly giving consent is about money here.)

The men finally come to some arrangement but first Marion has to sign a miserly marriage contract that stipulates she gets nothing should the couple separate FOR ANY REASON. This is, likely, Hugh caving to his parents who do not approve of the marriage.

The couple weds in Richmond in October 1913. Hugh’s parents do not attend the wedding. Hugh leaves the family business to set off on his own.

Edith, Flora Hugh, Floss and Norman Nicholson, I suspect on the wedding day.

Wedding on the cheap.

But a Great War breaks out and Hugh soon reconciles with his parents and returns to the family business. (They need him: production is ramping up. Canadian lumber is key to the war effort apparently.) Hugh and Marion, with a newborn daughter, move from NDG to a cottage 4 on York avenue in Westmount near Hugh’s Aunt and Uncle.

Marion invites Flora to come live with them (with Hugh’s approval):

“It seems rather foolish to me to have you alone at Mrs. Ellis’s when there is room here. It is not that I need you especially for anything, but that I would like to have you with us.”

Hugh and his uncle work on their Victory Garden:

“Hugh and Willie are making a garden. What success they will have I do not know. One thing may be sure, the beds are straight and square. I would prefer to have more in them myself.”

“Hugh’s mother rails against Conscription:

“Everyone here, that is the Aunts and Grandma B are terribly worked up about conscription. All they say would fill a book and some of the sayings I do not find very deep. I would like to tell them that they are not the only ones who have sons who will be called, or they may think that theirs are more to them.”

Letter from the Front. Flo’s friend, Ross Tucker. He survived, his brother Percy did not. Percey was killed just before Armistace. A sister died of the Spanish Flu. “That family is not the same,” says Edith in a letter.

And in July, 1918, just a couple of months before another scourge, the Spanish Flu, hits Quebec, Marion takes her two young daughters on a prolonged visit to her parents’ in Richmond and Hugh, left behind to swelter in the kitchen, has a meltdown. He writes her a long, plaintive letter he hopes his wife will burn after reading. Alas, she doesn’t burn the letter. BIG mistake!


Post war life is good for the Blairs. They have two more children, a girl and a boy, and spend a great deal of money, according to Edith. Marion’s father dies in 1921. Marion continues to regularly visit Richmond, a place her children come to cherish.

However, in 1926, Hugh contracts a liver disorder and passes away a year later – but not before signing away Marion’s rights to his portion of the family business on his deathbed – “as a temporary measure to facilitate business.” Marion Nicholson Blair is left with nothing to live on so she goes back to work as a teacher, wheeling and dealing to find sponsors for her children’s McGill education.

A last minute letter reveals that Hugh attempts to to purchase a burial plot in Melbourne Cemetery beside the Nicholson family plot. That doesn’t happen. Hugh Christian Blair is buried with his family on Mount Royal in Montreal. The funeral notice in the Gazette reveals it is packed with Masons but fails to mention Marion and her family as mourners.


So, here we have the plot for a classic rom-com romance, but a movie with no happily-ever-after. Iron-willed Marion just rolls up her sleeves and goes back to work, despite great pressure put on her to remarry for the sake of her children. Indeed, she once told her children that being a lone parent wasn’t so bad: “At least I can make all the decisions for my family myself.”

Marion becomes a master-teacher and rises up to lead the Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers, or PAPT, during WW2 where she fights for teachers’ pensions.

In 1947, Marion dies of a heart attack before she can earn her pension.3 She receives a front page obituary in the Montreal Gazette, a major newspaper. “With the loss of Marion Blair the province, indeed, the whole Dominion has suffered a serious loss.”

In the 1960’s, the PAPT is one of the highest achieving public boards in North America and no doubt Marion Nicholson Blair had a role in making that happen.

1. This was the usual language used in such situations. I believe there must be a legal component to it. Indeed, the last line of the letter asks her ‘reply and tell me you have forgiven me.’

2. Many people believe this traditional gesture is romantic but it was practical, all about money. In Britain at least adults have been able to marry without consent for many centuries. However, without a dowry, most men couldn’t marry.

3. Marion’s heart condition first flares up in the year Hugh is dying. Edith suggests Hugh is very demanding and Marion, with four children, is run ragged meeting his needs. Edith also says Hugh’s eyes are yellow as yolk. A tube between the liver and stomach fell apart. It is a condition easily fixed nowadays.

4. 30 York Avenue is still there, a two story cottage. It’s on Google Maps.

Old Land Roll in Lower Canada

The database below entitled Old Land Roll in Lower Canada as noted in the BAnQ’s Directory of Townships was prepared in May of 1966.

Almost 60 years later, Wikipedia in March of 2023 updated a Directory of Townships with basically the same information, plus details relating to today’s current locations and regions.

List of townships in Quebec

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article lists the townships of Quebec in Canada. The townships (Frenchcanton) no longer represent administrative divisions recognized by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Quebec) (MAMH). Only municipal townships, formed from one or more townships, such as township municipalities and united township municipalities, are recognized.[1] Many geographic townships are still conterminous with municipalities.

Click on the link below to open.

The Great Volunteer Soldier Recruitment of 1653

Next month marks 370 years since my six times great grandfather and his brother volunteered to join a militia to protect the city of Montreal. Their voyage from France to our city would last five months and require two departures. They faced captivity, an epidemic and enough starvation and illness to cause the death of eight of their colleagues, but they survived.

Marin Hurtubise and his brother André were among 154 men recruited by New France Governor Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve to help protect the Fort Ville-Marie from Iroquois attacks. They signed five-year contracts with the Société de Notre Dame de Montréal to clear uncultivated land in New France for farming at a price of 100 livres per year1. Their employer, also known as the “Company of Montreal,” was originally founded in France in 1639 to establish a colony in Canada.

According to notes left behind by my grandmother, the Hurtubise brothers came from a town known as Sillé-le-Guillaume in Rouesse-Vasse, southwest of Paris in the Sarthe Departement in the Pays de la Loire region.

They travelled to St. Nazaire to join 120 other men and 14 women who set sail for New France on June 20, 1653. Among their ship mates was Marguerite Bourgeoys, a women with a desire to create schools in New France. She also founded the Notre Dame parish and set up housing for the filles du roi. In 1982, Pope Pius XII canonized her as Canada’s first female saint.

The trip in Captain Pierre le Besson’s ‘Saint-Nicolas-de-Nantes’ vessel2 did not go well.

Ships in that era were not the large luxury vessels we cruise on today. According to an unauthored essay that used to appear on the Maison Saint Gabriel website, they measured roughly 25-45 meters long and 8 meters wide. Passengers bunked in a single room at the back of the ship in unsanitary conditions in which everyone slept in their clothes. Buckets collected waste and vomit from those who couldn’t handle seasickness. Meals often consisted of dry biscuits, salt pork and fish.

In this case, the ship also leaked. The ‘Saint-Nicolas-de-Nantes’ took on so much water that after sailing 350 leagues (1600km), the crew had to return to Nantes. Passengers were left on an island off the coast of France to wait for another month until a replacement ship could be found. According to Marguerite Bourgeoys’ diary, some of the recruits deserted their posts and swam back to France.

“Sieur de Maisonneuve and all of his soldiers stopped on an island from which there was no escape. Otherwise, not a single one would have stayed. Some even set about swimming to save themselves since they were furious and believed they had been taken to perdition.”3

On July 20th, after a St. Marguerite’s day mass, the replacement ship set sail for the New World with the Hurtubise brothers and Marguerite Bourgeoys on board. This voyage, which featured many storms, an outbreak of the plague and eight deaths (Jacques Audru, Olivier Beaudoin, René Cadet, Jean Chaudronnier, Louis Doguet, Michel Lecomte, Joachim Lepallier and Pierre Moulières), doesn’t sound any better than the first, save for the sea-worthy vessel.

After 64 days, the ship landed at Cap-Diamant, on September 22, 1653. At that point, it seems that the ship was set on fire in the middle of the river. Bourgeoys’ writings imply that it got stuck so that high tide couldn’t even free it.

For the next two months, New France Governor Jean de Lauzon tried to keep the voluntary soldiers and marriageable women in Quebec to defend that city, in part by refusing to provide the barges needed to sail the Saint Lawrence River to Ville-Marie.

Eventually, de Maisonneuve prevailed. The group arrived at Ville-Marie on November 16th.4 They were all given land grants next to the Saint Laurence River. Later, Marin and five neighbours settled in Côte St. Antoine.5

André Hurtubise died six years after the brothers arrived in Montreal. Marin lasted 19 years, successfully marrying and having six children during that time. He died in Montreal on May 12, 1672.6


1Aubry, Louis, Famille Hurtubise Gendron,, accessed May 2, 2023.

2“Ancestors on the World Stage,”, accessed May 2, 2023.

3Les Écrits de Mère Bourgeoys, p. 46

4“La Grande Recrue de 1653.”, accessed May 2, 2023.

5MacKinnon, Janet S. The Settiement and Rural Domestic Architecture of Côte Saint-Antoine, 1675—1874, thesis 2004

6Find a Grave, database and images ( accessed 02 May 2023), memorial page for Marin Hurtubise (26 Oct 1631–12 May 1672), Find a Grave Memorial ID 144617536, citing Ancien cimetière Notre-Dame (1672-1830), Montreal, Montreal Region, Quebec, Canada; Maintained by AW (contributor 47829810).

Photo of commemorative plaque courtesy of Jean Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Aunt Amelia’s Ledger

with additional research by Justin Bur

Some of my female ancestors are almost invisible. They got married, had children and left no other traces of their lives. But a few left paper trails such as letters, journals and drawings. My two-times great-aunt Amelia Josephine Bagg (1852-1943) was one of them. Married twice but with no children of her own, she became deeply involved in the family real estate business.

Amelia was the third of the five children (one boy, four girls) of Montreal landowner Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB) and his wife, Catharine Mitcheson Bagg. The children grew up in the family home, Fairmount Villa, near what is now the corner of Sherbrooke and St. Urbain streets. There, they had a big garden to play in and no doubt a nanny to care for them when they were little and a governess to educate them.

Unlike many women of her time and class, Amelia found the opportunity to use her education.

Amelia Mulholland’s ledger, McCord Stewart Museum, p. 5.

SCB had inherited several large properties on the Island of Montreal, extended along the west side of St. Lawrence Street (now busy Boulevard Saint-Laurent). During his lifetime, this was agricultural land and, although he was trained as a notary, SCB made his income by leasing his properties to farmers.

He died unexpectedly at age 53, in 1873, when Amelia was just 21. SCB named his wife and her brother (who was a Philadelphia lawyer) as executors of his estate.1 Son Robert Stanley Bagg (RSB), a recent law graduate from McGill University, took on the responsibility of managing it. Over the years, the widowed Catharine and her daughters had a great deal of input into decisions about the estate, with Amelia being the daughter who took the greatest interest.    

Around the end of the century, Montreal grew rapidly. Business leaders developed new industries, founded banks and built railways, and immigrants arrived to fill newly created jobs. Property belonging to SCB’s estate could now be divided into lots and sold to people who wanted to build homes or invest in rental housing. Around 1890, some legal hurdles prevented the family from selling the most valuable properties, however, the family managed to resolve these problems. That will be a story for another time.

Amelia’s letter to brother Robert Stanley Bagg, McCord Stewart Museum,  p. 43

With these issues resolved, Amelia and her siblings divided up some of the land and became owners of lots that they could sell or buildings they could rent out themselves. Amelia became an independently wealthy woman.

She also developed an interest in the details of the family real estate business, keeping track of land prices, interest rates and other factors influencing real estate sales. In the fall of 1890,2 while her brother took his wife and children on an extended trip to England, Amelia coordinated decisions on new property sales. She wrote to ask for his advice and to bring him up-to-date on family news.3

“Fairmount, Nov. 6th

“My dear Brother,

“I thought I would write and tell you that we are about to sell some lots on the ‘Clark Estate’ but I do not know whether you will be quite satisfied or not. They are twelve lots on St. Urbain Street, from Guilbault St. down, and we are taking 50 cents “en bloc” for the twelve lots. I know that you said 60 cents per foot for single lots but as this is for twelve lots we thought perhaps it was better not to lose the sale.4 Bob said that you told him we could take less than the price named, and McMann said he was selling lots of Park Avenue for 45cts.7 I hesitated for a long time as I did not wish to make a sale that you would not approve, but Kate was in favor of selling, so also was Bob, and Helen and I did not know what to do….5

“Vipond has paid his interest today which I will deposit in Merchant’s Bank. Thomson has not yet paid but I had sent him another bill before hearing from you. Of course for the present all money both interest and capital will be deposited in the bank, but when you return we think it would be better for us to draw the interest and leave only the capital in the bank.….”

Row houses on St. Urbain Street near Prince Arthur. Google Street View

Much of the Bagg estate was still leased out to farmers at that time, and one day a month was reserved for tenants to deliver the rent. In the same letter, Amelia referred to this so-called reception day, but she was actually describing the arrival of her sister Mary Heloise Lindsay’s fifth child on Nov. 3, 1890. Mary and her husband Robert Lindsay lived at 436 St. Urbain. Amelia told her brother:

Kate and I made out the Nov. statements of rents due and gave the list to Bob so that when the people paid he could check them off. We were surprised at an unexpected arrival at 436 St. Urbain Street on Monday. It is true that is the reception day there now, but this particular visitor was not expected just then. It was a dear fat little girl! She arrived at 8 o’clock in the evening.”

Amelia also kept track of the sales of lots from the estate between 1890 and 1900 in a hardcover ledger with ruled pages. My mother eventually inherited that ledger. Her cousin had given numerous family letters, business records and other documents to the McCord Stewart Museum (a Montreal museum of social history) some years earlier, but my mother hung on to the ledger. After she died, I found it in a desk drawer in the spare bedroom.

When I started to research the Bagg family and their role in Montreal history, the ledger’s importance as a record of those land transactions became clear, so I donated it to the McCord.6 I hope Amelia would have approved.

This article is also posted on

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Clark Bagg’s Four Forgotten Daughters,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Sept. 30,2017,

Janice Hamilton, “My Great-Great Aunts, Montreal Real Estate Developers,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Oct. 11, 2017,

Janice Hamilton, “John Clark, 19th Century Real-Estate Visionary,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 22, 2019,

Notes and Sources

  1. City of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills Office; Wills, No 772-802, 1887, Pennsylvania, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 [database on-line, entry for Catharine Mitcheson Bagg, accessed April 2, 2023], original data: Pennsylvania County, District and Probate Courts. This is a copy of the will that is very easy to read. It was probably copied in Philadelphia because McGregor J. Mitcheson, Catharine’s brother and an executor of SCB’s will, died in 1886. About a month after SCB’s 1873 death, notary J. A. Labadie deposited at the land registry office in Montreal a copy of the 1866 will and the 1870 codicil and a declaration of death. Bureau d’enregistrement Montréal-Ouest, no 74545, registered 6 September 1873; at Registre foncier du Québec, online.
  2. Amelia did not note the year on her letter, but we know it was written in written in 1890 because that was the year her niece Marjorie Mary Clark Lindsay was born. 

3. Correspondance de la famille Bagg. McCord Museum, Fonds Bagg, P070/B08,  p. 43 (accessed April 3, 2023)

4. RSB must have told them to hold out for the full price. The lots were not sold until the following year. On Nov. 18, 1891, real estate agent and furrier Robert Lamb purchased not just the 12 lots mentioned here, but an extended row of 22 lots, paying 60 cents a square foot.

5. The people mentioned here are probably Amelia’s sisters Katherine Sophia Mills and Helen Frances Lewis. Bob was likely Robert Lindsay, her sister Mary’s husband. McCann was a real estate agent.

6. Amelia Josephine Bagg Mulholland, Grand livre, 1891-1927, McCord Museum, Fonds Bagg, P070/B07,1. (accessed April 3, 2023)

Ypres Gas Attack Survivor Returns Home

Part Two of Two

Six months after surviving the battle at St. Julien, Belgium, and the German gas attack in 1915, something entirely different brought Captain Stanley Bagg Lindsay (1889-1965) to his knees. He slipped and fell in the trenches while on active duty, and needed surgery on a hernia on his left side. He was officially declared unfit for duty and was granted sick leave to recover back home in Montreal, Quebec, for the winter.

Stanley Lindsay – winter 1916

Within months of his return to England, the hernia recurred on his right side needing immediate surgery and his health never fully recovered after that. Several bouts of influenza also plagued him throughout the war, before and after his hernias, and weakened him for the rest of his life.

He was 29 when the war ended. He returned to Montreal, but did not resume his studies at McGill University, choosing instead to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a stockbroker. His salary as a Captain had brought in an average of $142 per month during his four years of service. This translates into $3900 per month in today’s dollars. He quite possibly returned to civilian life with a decent nest egg with which to begin his new career.

Stanley’s health issues did not appear to hinder his long career as a stockbroker and eventually he became a partner at Crutchlow, Deare & Co. According to family lore, he purposefully sold off the family’s portfolio of stock investments just before the Great Crash of 1929.1 Perhaps his war experience left him with some kind of sixth sense.

Although Stanley never married, he remained close to his two brothers (and their families) and his three sisters.

Two of his sisters, Marjorie and Marguerite, had been nurses during the war with the Information Bureau,2 a Canadian Red Cross organization in London which cared for Canadian soldiers. Marguerite died young in Cartwright, Labrador, in 1926 while volunteering with the Grenfell Mission.3

Stanley lived with Marjorie and their parents at 455 Sherbrooke Street West (previously known as The Prince of Wales Terrace) until their father’s death in 1931. Then they moved with their mother into an apartment at 1009 Sherbrooke Street West until her death in 1938 and remained there until their own deaths: Marjorie in 1961 and Stanley in 1965. His eldest sister Ada lived in Vancouver with her husband Julius Griffith and their only son, Julius, who became a well known Canadian artist.4

Stanley’s two brothers – my grandfather Sydenham5 (an Anglican priest) and Lionel (a pediatrician) – provided him with ten nieces and nephews to spoil. He absolutely adored my mother Ann and showered her with his love and gifts. He must have been devastated when she died of Hodgkin’s Disease at the age of 36 in November, 1961, having lost his sister Marjorie earlier that year.

Stanley Lindsay (far right) at Ann’s baby’s christening party 1953

Luckily for me, he devoted his free time to the family history. I have pages upon pages of his beautifully (legible!) handwritten notes about that side of our family. All the usual dates and facts were recorded, but in a clear, more descriptive fashion.

One of his pages about his grandmother, Catherine Mitcheson Bagg, recalled a visit to her home as a boy:

We can remember her well sitting at the front drawing room window at Fairmount with her white lace cap on, looking out at the people passing.

We used to play in Granny’s garden. There were apple trees, especially one which was easy to climb and play house in. There was an iron bench under it, painted blue green…. There was a chestnut tree which we loved, the summer house, the white statutes of Adam and Eve with no arms, … the bleeding hearts, snowballs and lilacs … Nora the housemaid and Jessie the cook, who made good ladies fingers and sponge cakes and who we could always see through large sunken window which gave light to the kitchen.

There were the stables, the horses, the rockaway and the brougham and Willis the coachman with white mutton chop whiskers whom we liked and who afterwards drove a wagon for Joyce the confectioner. We were very fond of Odell Comtois who did sewing…. She was practically one of the family.

The garden became very shabby. It seemed a large garden to us. It went as far as our house which was at the corner of Milton Street. The west side adjoined the Wilson-Smith property. Long before our house was built, a large house called Tara Hall stood just north of Milton Street. Mother [Mary Heloise (Bagg) Lindsay] remembers it burning down one night when she was a child. Where the house used to stand is a street called Tara Hall.”

As well as being everyone’s favourite uncle, an excellent family historian and a successful stockbroker, Stanley belonged to several local clubs including the Canadian Club, the University Club and the Royal Montreal Golf Club.6

After almost dying at Ypres during the Great War, Stanley lived another fifty years.

1 – as referenced 2023-02-23



4 – as referenced 2023-02-23


6Obituary – The Gazette, 1965-03-03

Mathilde Bruneau Career Woman

Marie Mathilde Bruneau

I never expected to find much information about my great-grandfather’s sister, Mathilde Bruneau. I knew her name, dates, the fact she had a twin brother and that she never married. That was all. Then when searching, Mathilde, born on a farm in southern Quebec appeared on the social page of the Fall River, Massachusetts Daily Herald. It was reported that she had been visiting her brother Aimé Bruneau and then returned to her teaching duties at the Rhode Island Institute for the Deaf in Providence, Rhode Island, only twenty miles from her brother’s home.

Sophie, Helene & Mathilde Bruneau in New York

Mrs. Mary Ann Lippitt founded the school in 1876. Her daughter Jeanie became deaf after a bout of scarlet fever so her mother taught her daughter to speak and read lips, as no schools for the deaf existed at that time. Mary Ann’s husband Henry Lippitt was the Governor of Rhode Island and had political influence, so he persuaded the state to take over the operation of the school. In 1893 the school moved to a large new building which could hold 60 students. This might have been the time Mathilde began teaching there. The school is still operating today.

I don’t know how Mathilde ended up teaching deaf students. Did she answer a newspaper ad while visiting her brother? Before teaching the deaf, Mathilde had been a French teacher in New York City along with her sister Virginie. Virginie didn’t stay there but returned to Quebec to marry.

Mathilde had not yet moved to Rhode Island 1887 when the social page reported on an earlier visit to her brother Aimé, in Fall River. I don’t know where Mathilde obtained her teaching credentials as I haven’t found records of her training. Her sister Virginie attended McGill Normal School. Did Mathilde begin her teaching career in Montreal before moving to New York?

Mathilde was one of thirteen children of Barnabé Bruneau and Sophie Marie Prudhomme, born in St-Constant, Quebec, south of Montreal, in 1844. She had a twin brother Napoleon, one of very few twins in my family tree. In the 1871 Canadian census, she was listed as living with her parents in St-Constant (and two years older than her twin brother), so she was at least 27 when she moved to New York City. Napoleon stayed on the farm but he also had a career as a veterinarian and a Justice of the Peace.

Sisters Sophie, Mathilde& Elmire with Washington Huntley

Although some of her siblings became American citizens, it seems she never did. After Mathilde retired from teaching, she moved back to Quebec. She maintained her independence and didn’t live with her twin brother in St-Constant or even with one of her sisters, instead she was a lodger in John Dooley’s house on Bordeaux Street in Montreal.

Mathilde Bruneau

She appeared again in a newspaper in April 1912, “Miss Matilda Bruneau 68, 1149 Bordeaux St. fell on the sidewalk corner of Mary Ann and Erables last night and broke her left leg. She was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital” reported the Montreal Gazette. The weather the day before, Easter Sunday, had been very rainy and well above freezing so an icy sidewalk probably wasn’t the cause of her fall.

She died only four months later. PerhapsHer her leg never healed. I didn’t find a death certificate or cause of death, just a certificate of burial signed by two of her sisters. Marie Mathilde Prud’homme Bruneau was buried with her parents in the Baptist cemetery in Grande-Ligne, Quebec.


Rhode Island School for the Deaf

Mabel Hubbard, who later became the wife of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell was deaf and also taught by Mrs. Lippitt. Jeanie Lippitt later went to Dr. Bell for voice training lessons. Dr. Bell had to discontinue these lessons to devote himself full-time to the development of the talking machine.

Fall River Daily Herald June 30 1898, Page 7. accessed Jan 12, 2023. Miss M P (Prudhomme) Bruneau was an instructor at RI School of the Deaf.

The Providence News February 21, 1893 accessed Feb 17, 2023. A new school building was dedicated. 35 pupils enrolled with a capacity for 60. 

In the 1911 Canadian census, Matilde was living on Bordeaux Street in the Maisonneuve district of Montreal as a lodger with a Mr John Dooley and his family.

Fell and Broke Leg: Montreal Gazette April 8, 1912, page 3. accessed Jan 23, 2023.

Her sisters Virginie and Sophie signed her burial record. There is no cause of death April 15, 1912.

Laura Lacombe, Who Were You?

Perhaps the only picture of my mother’s cousin, Laura Lacombe, fourth from left in a Crepeau family picture circa 1914.

Genealogy is a gift that keeps on giving. A few years ago, when the 1921 Canadian census came online, I anxiously consulted it to see a Crepeau listing for my mother (4 months old), my uncle Louis, my aunts Alice and Cecile (20 and 17) and my 15 year old Aunt Flo, listed as adopted under the name Florida St-Martin.

Bingo! That’s what I had been waiting to see for 10 years!

In the 1911 census, my Aunt Flo is listed with her birth family, the St-Martins but I wasn’t 100 percent sure the listing was hers. (I had only a vague recollection of her birth family’s name. The family name St-Martin had come to me in a light-bulb moment in the middle of the night!) So this 1921 listing confirmed my subconscious’ powers. I suddenly felt very smart.

Aunt Flo peeking out at my mother in around 1925.

But, I also noticed another name in the Crepeau household on the 1921 census, Laura Lacombe, niece, born 1892. I had never heard this name before, so I took another peek at the 1911 census. Laura Lacombe is listed there, too. I had missed it.

Now I was really confused. (I suddenly didn’t feel so smart.) I rationalized that I might have missed Laura ten years earlier when the 1911 census came online because the Crepeau family listing is at the bottom of one page and Laura’s name comes up on the top of the next. Or maybe I did notice Laura’s presence on the census and just assumed she was one of the many young girls brought in over the years to help my grandmother, Maria, keep house.

Whatever the reason, it did not take long before I figured out who this Laura Lacombe was. She was the daughter of my grandmother’s sister Melina Roy Lacombe who had died in the mid 1890’s leaving behind two young children, Raoul and Laura.

On the 1901 census Laura is living with her grandmother (my great-grandmother) Melina Gagnon Roy and my grandmother, Maria; also Maria’s brother Louis and sister Eugenie who is married to a James Deslaurier. Maria and Louis are mistakenly listed under Deslauriers. (For this reason, I had a lot of trouble finding Maria on the 1901 census at first. ) Melina Gagnon Roy is listed as chef or head of the household.

So, when Maria, my grandmother, got married later in 1901 to the ambitious Jules Crepeau, she took in the twelve-years-younger Laura. Or maybe Laura moved in with them in 1906, after the death of the grandmother.

Now, the real question begs: how come I never heard about Laura before? Was she for some reason a family secret?

Over the decades, I never heard my Aunt Flo or my own mother speak of this cousin – and they both liked to talk about the Crepeau family in the early days.

The answer might lie in another document I found: Laura’s death certificate. You see, she died only a few months after the 1921 Census man came around – and a few months more after my mother’s birth. My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, signed her death certificate. No reason for the death is given, which makes it all very sketchy. (I’m not embarrassed to say, I looked for the name “Lacombe” among my many French Canadian DNA cousins on Ancestry. The name hardly appears at all. Phew!)

Still, I have to ask. Why the silence surrounding Laura’s life. A real mystery, it is.

Home Service During the War

My grandfather was 26 years old when Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King recommended the country declare war on Germany in a radio speech on Sunday, September 3, 1939. Seven days later, Canada officially declared war on Germany and created the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Special Reserve, which was placed on active service.

I’m not sure what Grandpa Joseph Isidore Alfred Gabriel Arial was doing that year, but he probably lived in Edmonton after his last known job as a radio inspector ended in February 1936. He may have built and renovated houses with his cousins.

Eventually, he would contribute to what would become the world’s largest flight training program, although like many military volunteers, he never considered his contribution worthwhile. I remember standing in his garage as a 12-year old hearing him tell me how he regretted not doing his part during World War II. It never occurred to me that he had actively served in the RCAF until decades later when I found his release papers. It turns out that he honourably served for from February 20, 1941 to September 5, 1945.

It turns out that he’s among a great many men who volunteered to go to Europe to fight and ended up staying in Canada to keep the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) operational.

Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand officially created the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan on December 17, 1939, King’s 65th birthday but efforts to get it going began even earlier than that.

According to Dunmore, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan began just after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in January 1933. “The Air Ministry suggested a scheme whereby Canadian, South African, and New Zealand air force cadets could be granted short-service commissions, serve five years in the RAF, then return home for reserve services.”1

Shortly thereafter, in 1936, Vincent Massey, the Canadian High Commissioner to Britain presented British Air Minister Lord Swinton’s suggestion that some airmen be trained in Canada prior to joining the RAF.

Later in 1936, Scottish pilot RAF Group Captain Robert Leckie described a plan to create “a Flying Training School formed in Canada” in a memo to Air Commodore Arthur W. Tedder. In this memo, he pointed out that more than a third of the RAF officers in WWI had been Canadian. The idea was proposed, but the Canadian Cabinet rejected the plan in favour of a Canadian-run training school instead. 2

In 1937, 15 Canadians were trained under the plan.

When Germany annexed Austria to the Third Reich in 1938, the Canadian government increased the number of Canadians able to join the RAF to 120 per year and later it went up to 138. That plan attracted a total of 400 Canadian pilots to the RAF.

It took from May 1938 until April 1939 to convince the Canadian Government to train up to 50 British pilots and 75 Canadian pilots. Eight flying clubs, in Calgary, Hamilton, Montreal, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg were recruited to do the training. In August 1939, five RAF officers (Ken McDonald, Dick Waterhouse, Jackie Mellor, Desmond McGlinn and Leslie Smallman) crossed the Atlantic by ship from Southhampton, England to Montreal and then to Trenton to help set up navigation training in Canada.

By April 29, 1940 the first 168 RCAF recruits entered No. 1 Initial Training School in Toronto getting the BCATP air training plan fully underway. Just in time too. By June that year, France fell to the Nazis.

Over the next four years, Canada built more than 100 pilot training facilities in every province and territory.

“Looking back it is difficult to grasp the BCATP in all its dimensions,” wrote J.F. Hatch, in his 1983 book describing the project. “In themselves, the statistics are impressive: 131,553 [plus 5,296 RAF and Fleet Air Arm personnel trained prior to July 1, 1942] aircrew trained for battle, through a ground structure embracing 105 flying training schools of various kinds, 184 support units and a staff numbering 104,000. When war was declared the RCAF had less than two hundred aircraft suitable for training, many of them obsolete. In December 1943 there were 11,000 aircraft on strength of the BCATP.”3

I suspect that my grandfather kept many of those planes flying as an air mechanic in Fort William. Clearly this work contributed greatly to the allied war effort, but most of the stats about its importance talked about front-line combatants, not the 6,000 behind-the-scenes people who made the project operational.

The Canadian Government post about the project, for example says: “Of the Canadians trained in the BCATP, 25,747 would become pilots: 12,855 navigators; 6,659 air bombers; 12,744 wireless operators; 12,917 air gunners, and 1,913 flight engineers.”4

Also, several of the daily diaries for this period include the arrival of billiard tables, the building of skating rinks, sports tournaments and multiple leisure activities,5 so perhaps it’s no wonder that volunteer soldiers who served on these bases felt like they sat out the war.

1 Dunmore, Spencer. Wings for Victory: The Remarkable Story of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada. Toronto, Ont.: McClelland & Stewart, 1994, p10.

2 Dunmore, Spencer. Wings for Victory: The Remarkable Story of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada. Toronto, Ont.: McClelland & Stewart, 1994, pp24,25,26.

3 Hatch, F. J. The Aerodrome of Democracy: Canada and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 1939-1945. Ottawa: Directorate of History, Dept. of National Defence, 1983, 222 pages.

4Veterans Affairs Canada, Historical Sheets, The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan,, accessed March 7, 2023.

5Daily Diary – Links – No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School,, accessed March 7, 2023.

Auntie Madge, the Riveter

Page one of the Montreal Star read “Canada is Now Officially at War.” The article goes on to describe the declaration of war on Sunday, September 3, 1939:

“The declaration of war called forth a feverish activity, disturbing the quiet of a mellow Sabbath day on the very edge of autumn. … Thousands of people … heard the roll of bugles and drums, but, this time, with a martial motive. The Army Services Corps were parading with placards calling for volunteers in their vital lines of military service.” 1

Both my dad, Edward McHugh, and my uncle, James McHugh, volunteered to serve in the Canadian military. Edward went into the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and James joined the Royal Canadian Hussars, the armoured car division of the Canadian Armed Forces. Edward was stationed in Yorkshire, England and James saw active duty in France.

While the McHugh brothers were in Europe fighting the war, Canada was being transformed. Madge Angell, James’ wife, worked in one of the many factories that manufactured armaments for the war effort. She was a riveter and one of the one million Canadian women who worked in plants that produced munitions, weapons, and equipment during the Second World War. Veronica Foster, Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl, represented these women and became a Canadian icon. Foster worked for the John Inglis Company Ltd. on the production line for the Bren light machine guns. She was photographed for a propaganda campaign under the direction of the National Film Board of Canada. These pictures were used to encourage Canadian women to participate in the war effort.2

Unknown photographer, Veronica Foster, an employee of John Inglis Co. Ltd. and known as “The Bren Gun Girl” posing with a finished Bren gun in the John Inglis Co. Ltd. Bren gun plant, Toronto (May 10, 1941), contemporary print from vintage negative. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada e0007604533

Canada not only needed women to directly support the war and work in the munitions industries; it was also essential that they fill jobs traditionally held by men. Women worked on airfields, in factories, and on farms. They developed a reputation for fine precision work in electronics, optics, and instrument assembly. With the men away from the farms, the women took on the extra work. Lumberjacks became lumberjills. They also drove buses, taxis, and streetcars. Notably, Elsie Gregory MacGill was the first woman in the world to graduate as an aeronautical engineer. She worked for Fairchild Aircraft Limited during the war and in 1940, her team’s design and production methods were turning out more than 100 Hurricane combat aircraft per month.4

Elsie MacGill. Source: Library and Archives Canada 5

Canadian women wanted to play an active role in the military and lobbied the government. As a result, more than 50,000 women served in the armed forces:

  • The Canadian Women’s Army Corps;
  • The Women’s Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force;
  • The Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (Wrens); and
  • Nursing sisters. 6
Second World War painting, Private Roy, Canadian Women’s Army Corps, by Molly Lamb Bobak.7 

For women who did not work or were not members of the military, there were also many opportunities to contribute to the war effort. Women were asked to reduce their consumption of goods that were in short supply and to recycle. Goals were set to collect tons of rubber products to transform them into tires and other needed items for the war. Ration books were assigned.8 My grandmother, Grace Hunter, loved to cook and bake and she would often speak about the challenges of rationing during the war. At that time, all baking was home made, so the rationing of flour, butter, and sugar was difficult.

Scarcity of food lead to rationing.9

My grandmother also knit socks, gloves, and other knitted clothing for the troops that were delivered by the Red Cross. Women made warm clothing for the soldiers at the front, as well as quilts and bandages. As well, women groups sent books, newspapers, and treats to military hospitals.10 Nana was also active in organizing the “send off” and “welcome home” parties for the Montreal servicemen. My mom, Patricia Deakin, was a teenager during the war and her mother recruited her to help at these parties. She enjoyed these parties and felt that she was doing something for the war effort. An extra bonus was that she thought that the servicemen were very handsome.

  1. The Montreal Star, 4 September 1939, page 1,, accessed 4 January 2023.
  2. Wikipedia web site, Veronica Foster,, accessed 9 January 2023.
  3. National Gallery of Canada web site, The Other NFB: Canada’s “Official Portrait,” Rynor, Becky,  1 March 2016,, accessed 16 February 2023.
  4. Government of Canada web site, Women at War,, accessed 16 January 2023.
  5. Goldstream News Gazette, Canadian women making history: A life of firsts in flying colour, 29 April 2017,, accessed 30 January 2023.
  6. Government of Canada web site, Women at War,, accessed 16 January 2023.
  7. Private Roy, Canadian Women’s Army Corps, painting by Molly Lamb Bobak, Beaverbrook Collection of War Art (online), Canadian War Museum, 19710261 1626, accessed 16 January 2023.
  8. Government of Canada web site, Department of Veterans Affairs, Timeline – Women and War, accessed 30 January 2023.
  9. The Montreal Gazette, 1943, Library and Archives Canada, PA 108300, accessed 30 January 2023.
  10. Government of Canada web site, Department of Veterans Affairs, Women on the Home Front,, accessed 30 January 2023.