Category Archives: Quebec

MY GRANDFATHER’S BRILLIANT CITY HALL CAREER – IN FOUR SCANDALS: Part 1

Bonsecours Market, Montreal, circa 1900.

If a British novel penned in the first part of the 20th century contains a Canadian character (for example Brideshead Revisited, or Bridge on the River Kwai) that character is inevitably English and from Montreal. Most UK readers of the era would have been unfamiliar with any other Canadian city, including Toronto.

Founded in 1642 as a fur-trading fort, Montreal’s port is strategically located on the St. Lawrence River. By 1900 the city was the financial and industrial capital of Canada– and only increasing in wealth and influence as the rest of the country became more and more industrialized.

The city (majority English in the early going) expanded greatly around that time, gobbling up the mostly French suburbs and flipping the balance of power at City Hall. This expansion also put a strain on city services, especially the housing, water works and transportation systems. Businessmen of all stripes scrummed for the right to improve these services – and make a bundle in the process. The question of the day: were water and power and transportation monopolies good or bad for the average citizen.

The city saw unprecedented immigration in the 1910 era, the numbers peaking in 1912. This influx of mostly poorer people from both Northern and Southern Europe further strained the already inadequate city infrastructure, generating some scary, well-publicized urban problems (including typhoid and ‘the social evil’ of prostitution) and giving rise to a prominent social reform movement. This reform movement was led by McGill professors, clergymen and the elite wives of successful businessmen whose good intentions, often handicapped by an intransigent value system5, inevitably got entangled with the dirty politics and deep dark prejudices of the day.1

The Beck Detectaphone Affair: Tawdry Tabloids and Tasty Tortieres

Jules Crepeau’s first scandal of record at Montreal City Hall was small potatoes. In 1900, as Secretary in charge of Bonsecours Market (the main farmer’s market in the city) he was called to testify on behalf of one Germain Tessier, Clerk-in-Chief, who apparently forced vendors to pay ‘bonuses’ to him for the rental of stalls. It was all on the up and up, said my grandfather. Mr. Tessier was honest and these costs arise naturally and are not, as some butchers were claiming, ‘a surcharge to pay for the next municipal elections.’

My grandfather’s second scandal was much more substantial, a meaty pulp fiction style fiasco involving all levels of government that almost put an early end to his brilliant City Hall career.

Indeed, as the Toronto World tabloid loudly reported in a March, 1914 headline: “Most highly-seasoned stew that has ever been uncovered in Canada. Beats all other scandals put together.”

Jules, along with a handful of members of the provincial legislature, allegedly got caught accepting bribes in a sting set up by journalist Edward Beck, former Editor-in-Chief of the Montreal Herald who had recently started his own tabloid Beck’s Weekly with the help of former Herald publisher Lorne McGibbon,2 just so he could write about it.

McGibbon was livid over a proposed 40 year tramways deal that would greatly benefit his arch-rival, Montreal Star publisher, Hugh Graham. McGibbon and Beck hired Burns detectives from the US armed with ‘detectaphones’ in the hope of proving that the tramways people were bribing members of the legislative assembly.

That didn’t work out. Instead, the American detectives posed as members of the Montreal Fair Association, a group hoping to get a private bill passed at Quebec so that they could start up a horse-racing and liquor business. They allegedly got my grandfather to accept 3,500 dollars a year in return for insider help, effectively doubling his salary as second assistant city clerk – were the charges true.

Sir Hugh Graham nuturing his aldermen from La Patrie 1914.

This all came down a month before the 1914 municipal election where it looked like the municipal Reform party, that had been elected in 1910 with help from Montreal suffragists, would be thrown out paving the way for the much despised tramways deal.

Now, it helps to have a background in the complicated Montreal/Quebec politics of that era -and thanks to a 1972 Masters thesis, my own decade-long research as well as BANQ fonds, I do.3

But let this excerpt from the Toronto World summarize the bribery situation (and its myriad mysteries) for you.

Yes, my grandfather got caught up in something much bigger than himself:a series of feuds between the municipal reformers, mostly ‘benign’ English businessmen who wanted to clean up what they saw as a corrupt political system and the ‘machine,’ an informal alliance of aldermen arranged in a hierarchy, who made sure their poorer wards got all the infrastructure improvements while they allegedly pocketed pork, as well as much bitterness between two English publishing titans, Hugh Graham and Lorne McGibbon, who had once been partners in a scheme to control Montreal’s newspapers.4

My small potatoes second assistant city clerk of a grandfather was held up to the voting public5 by Beck as an example of a corrupt (see “impure”)4 French City Hall when the real flash point was a transportation mega deal that would pour millions into the coffers of various Square Mile multi-millionaires, most of them Anglos.5

My grandfather’s name was dragged through the mud in many English and French tabloids, all of whom quoted Beck’s Weekly.

By the look of Beck’s purple prose, he really had it in for my grandfather. It seems personal.

“The City Hall is a sweet-scented sink hole of pollution if men like Crepeau speak the truth. Their greedy official hands take toll of contracts, levy tribute on ordinances, and prey upon the poor city labourers. Graft, graft, graft is written over the doorways, the lintels and on the doorposts.” 6

According to the newspaper Le Devoir, my grandfather’s mustachioed face filled up the entire front page of Beck’s first edition. Ouch! La Patrie tabloid put a smaller pic cropped from grandpapa’s official City Hall picture in their newspaper the next day. (It’s probably the same pic.)

The Beck’s Weekly account also made my grandfather look very stupid. “The endurance of the operators (of the detectaphone) were sorely tried by the gabbiness of the Handy Man of City Hall.”

Now, Jules Crepeau was anything but stupid. He was an energetic man – with complete recall – who hustled and muscled his way up the municipal ladder over a 32 year period. “Affable, intelligent, ambitious and active, with pride of purpose,” were words used to describe him*7, as were “a model of courteousness and a living encyclopedia of municipal affairs.” Apparently, he didn’t join the civil service for “security and repose.”8 He also had powerful people in the Liberal Party of Canada on his side.10

In 1888, Jules was a message boy in short pants in the Health Department (my mother like to say he started out ‘sweeping the floors’) and by 1921 he was Director of Services in a dark power suit, his office overseeing basically everything that came down in the city.

Back in 1914, my ‘handyman’ grandfather had clearly earned a reputation for being useful, but I think he was merely a willing (?) pawn of ‘the machine’ and of some very powerful politicians and industrialists – on both sides of the English and French divide and at all levels of government.

If he were greedy, as Beck so salaciously writes, he didn’t seem to prosper above his salary grade. *9. Even at the height of his career in the 1920’s, my grandmother Maria Roy was no ermine-draped socialite. She herself swept the floors in their three storey grey stone at 72 Sherbrooke West (right beside the Liberal Reform Club of Canada, a watering hole for political bigwigs); she herself rolled out the dough on her fabulously fatty tourtieres; and she gave away to Catholic charities most items from the roomful of ‘gifts’ Jules received at Christmas – keeping only the cigars and certain beautiful pieces of Chinoiserie.

In April 1914, my grandfather sued Beck and McGibbon (and Tarte of La Patrie) for libel and won. He was awarded 100 dollars in reparations and two thousand in legal costs by the Court. He donated the 100 dollars to a children’s hospital, as reported in the Liberal l’Autorite newspaper. (See bottom)

It is no coincidence that Jules was defended by R.L Perron11, distinguished Montreal lawyer, Quebec Liberal MLA, lawyer for the Tramways people and President of the Reform Club (Liberal) of Canada. Thanks to Perron, the detectives’ evidence was deemed inadmissable in court. Of course, it had already been printed word-for-word in numerous newspapers.

Beck’s Weekly ceased publication in 1915 during WWI. It is said that Hugh Graham made sure Beck couldn’t get the newsprint.

In 1916 Beck went West to work for a Winnipeg newspaper12 (where he was sentenced to prison for contempt of court – but won an appeal) and then he left journalism and moved into public relations, working for the pulp and paper industry headquartered in Ste Anne de Bellevue, Quebec. He stayed there until his death in 1930, occasionally planting stories in the Toronto Press about corrupt Montreal politics.

My grandfather kept his job as second assistant city clerk, soon rising to first assistant city clerk, occasionally earning some strategically-placed praise in the left-liberal newspapers l’Autorite and Le Canada until in 1921 he was unanimously appointed Director of City Services. This was a new post created with a new city charter – and after broad public consultations. This lofty post was specifically created to ensure that the city services were distributed evenly between the wards. Ha ha.

But this politically sticky post (being at the centre of all municipal activity; the designated liaison between top elected officials and the seven city department heads, including the Chief of Police) put my dear grandpapa in the way of other ugly scandals.

I will write about those in parts 2, 3 of this series: My Grandfather’s Brilliant City Hall Career in Four Scandals.

1.https://archive.org/details/lamtropolededema00nant/page/8/mode/2up?q=%22Jules+Crepeau%22

For more information: Montreal, City of Tomorrow (in French) by Honorable Nantel, 1910. Internet Archive. I found this book entering my grandfather’s name. The author is describing the city in 1910 and how its recent vast expansion has created opportunities and problems. He wants to pattern Montreal after Paris. He thanks my grandfather, among others, for providing him with information.

2. Lorne McGibbon was a prominent Conservative Party organizer who had brought the bribery scheme idea to a certain Thomas Chase Casgrain, Postmaster General in Borden’s Conservative party, who claimed it was ‘criminal’ – so he went it alone. During WW1 McGibbon spoke at Win the War rallies in support of Premier Borden and conscription. Indeed, he claimed in a speech, that any man who didn’t serve in the war shouldn’t be given work at home.

Cap-aux-Diamants, revue d’histoire de Quebec.L’annee memorable 1914. Issue 117. 2014 Page 49.

3.. The Municipal Reform Movement in Montreal: 1886-1914, University of Ottawa Master’s Thesis by Michel Gauvin. 1972.

4. The terms ‘benign’ and ‘machine’ from the Gauvin Thesis. ‘Machine’ refers to an earlier administration, but I think it still applies here. “Benign” is used in the sense that these businessmen believed their motives to be pure and beneficial to both their pocketbooks and the citizenry.

5. Montreal had universal male suffrage with exceptions. It could be said that many (most?) male British citizens could vote in municipal elections: they had to live in a house above a certain rental price, pay off their water tax. There were other stipulations. Widows and unmarried women with property could also vote.

In 1910, inspired by a 1909 visit from Britain’s Ethel Snowden, a moderate ‘maternal’ suffragist, the Montreal Council of Women mounted an effort to get the female vote out and ‘purify’ City hall. Their words. Widows and unmarried women of property could vote in the municipal elections. Council of Women volunteers went door-to-door and sure enough, their Reform candidates and Mayor, John James Guerin, was elected. The women were elated, assuming they had won the battle for their key interests, child welfare, temperance, etc. Guerin gave up the post within two years, claiming that as Mayor he was powerless do to anything.

In 1914, populist Mayor, Mederic Martin, a cigar manufacturer, won the election. He would remain Mayor for many years.

It was these women reformers who liked to refer to City Hall as ‘impure.’ Martin, irked by a letter they sent to him about the Tramways Affair, dared call them out in the press as women of leisure, “idlers” but he had to publicly retract his statement. These women were anything but lazy. He got them back: at the public consultations into the Tramways Affair the Council of Women was asked only silly questions: “Why can’t women get the ticket from their purses before getting on the tram instead of holding up the line.” Why can’t women shoppers shop outside of rush hour?” OUCH.

When the Montreal Council of Women helped get the Reform ticket elected in the 1910 municipal elections, Carrie Derick, President of the Council and Montreal’s No. 1 suffragist, wrote an ecstatic piece in The White Ribbon (the magazine of Christian Temperance Union) about how they had cleansed City Hall of impurities. Purity was a loaded concept in 1910, an era of tainted water and milk and of heavy immigration from Southern Europe. Here’s a bit from her article:

Self-seeking and dishonour, which would have been scorned in private life, long characterized the Municipal Government of Montreal.

The Citizens appeared to be indifferent or helpless, allowing corrupt officials to display open disregard of all right principles. Associations and leagues to purify the administration of Municipal affairs sprang into being and died.

The result of our united efforts and public-spiritedness paid off (in the election of 1912). An unusually heavy vote was registered. Practically the whole of the reform candidates were elected.

Men united with women in urging women electors to do their duty by voting in order that civic reform might be secured, reform which alone would diminish the unceasing supply of sick, poor, the weak and depraved...”

Derick’s ideas were inspired by the eugenics theory. She was a gold-medal McGill geneticist, educated in Europe, and she gave many lectures, some of them mixing her areas of expertise, social reform, suffrage and social engineering. Her stature lent these ideas weight. The movement would accelerate after WWI and culminate in 1924 in the Coderre Inquiry into Police Malfeasance which would again ensnare my grandfather Jules, by this time the Director of City Services. I will write about that in Part 3 of this series.

5.The group included McConnell and Sir Rodolphe Forget who supported Mayor Martin in in 1914. (My grandfather was kin to the Forget’s, supposedly, but he was a Conservative Senator and my grandfather was aligned with the Liberals, so…)

6. Beck’s Weekly was quickly founded when Sir Hugh Graham bought the Herald from under McGibbon after Beck, as Editor in Chief, complained about the Tramways Deal in the Herald in March 1913, with a full page rant in huge 20 point enboldened type. “The Tramways Company’s Brazen Demands: It is well-known that the Tramways Company has City Hall under its thumb and works its sweet will with the people working there. It is known to have an alliance with a sector of the newspaper industry, stifling public opinion. The President of the Tramway and his henchmen occupy seats in the legislature and vote away people’s rights.”

Beck also invited the Montreal Suffrage Association to create a multi-page insert in return for their support of his point of view. That group passed a resolution against the deal (not in their usual purview) soon thereafter. The suffrage insert was published, with a front page letter from Christobel Pankhurst hiding out in Paris. The Montreal Suffrage Association and Beck then had an argument over the profits.

7. From his obituary in Le Devoir, 1938. It was here where it is said that grandpapa had complete and utter knowledge of every detail, however minuscule, of municipal government “like a bank vault.” (This sentiment was widely held.) He was the go-to-guy even at the Quebec legislature, the most influential man when it came to private bills, said the obit.

Another newspaper article said, “Jules Crepeau went grey teaching aldermen their jobs.” In those days, the federal Liberals were aligned with the provincial Liberals who were aligned (claimed the Editor of Le Devoir in 1930 upon the force ‘resignation’ of my grandfather) with Mederic Martin’s regime. Of course, my grandfather, as a civil servant, was supposed to be neutral in his allegiances, but the very nature of his job as defined by the City Charter made this next to impossible.

8. From an article in L’Autorite newspaper upon his installation as Director of City Services in 1921.

9. I met someone online whose grandfather, a corrupt cop-on-the-beat of the era, had managed to buy four homes, at a time when few working class men in Montreal owned their own homes. It is possible that my father needed money to buy his way up the ladder, but it also seems unnecessary, considering his connections and his boundless energy and sharp mind.

My grandfather’s home at 72 Sherbrooke West was right beside the Liberal Reform Club of Canada, where Canada’s Liberal Party power brokers socialized over the decades. No coincidence, I suspect.

I can see that Mme Guerin-Lajoie also lived a few doors down. She’s the famous Quebec suffragist. I wonder if my grandmaman knew her. I assume my grandpapa did.

10. https://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/3584769?docsearchtext=Jules%20Crepeau%20Beck L’Autorite newspaper’s explanation of the Beck affair, March 1914. It’s all bait and switch tramways business, apparently. The story is put on a back page with the headline being “A tissue of lies,” my grandfather’s quote. This liberal anti-clerical newspaper was started in 1913 by one Tancrede Marcil, who was a disciple of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. BANQ’s blurb claims Laurier was the real ‘chef’ of this newspaper. Marcil also worked on the start up of Le Devoir newspaper.

The elite newspaper praised and promoted and acted as cheerleader for my grandfather throughout his late City Hall career. I’m not surprised that the Liberal Party of Canada was on my grandfather’s side. I just wish I knew more. It looks as if my grandfather was part of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s plan to rebuild the Liberal Party of Canada and get re-elected. The party had been turfed out in 1911. That was working for Laurier at the beginning, but then WWI happened and the infamous Conscription Crisis killed his chances. He died, anyway, in 1919. WWI broke out a few months after the Beck business, in August.

The article at bottom appeared in l’Autorite in1915, when it seemed that the Chief City Clerk, Patrician lawyer/journalist/scholar L 0 David, my grandfather’s boss, might win a seat in Parliament. (He didn’t). (I got it off BANQ). They are rehabilitating Jules’ reputation after the Beck scandal. LO David, a Senator, made some unsuccessful attempts at winning political seats federally and provincially. It is said that this cultured, learned man preferred writing his histories over the day-to-day minutia of his important day job as Chief City Clerk. That allowed my grandfather, a self-made, humbly-educated ‘detail’ man, son of a mere house painter, to punch above his weight at work.

In a front page editorial in March 1914, Publisher Marsil derided those people who said his newspaper was started up by Pro-Tramways people, much as Beck’s Weekly was started up by anti-tramways people. Nonsense, his newspaper was independent, Marcil said.

Louis Dupire Editor of Le Devoir wrote in 1930, upon Jules’ forced resignation from his position at City Hall that attacks such as Beck’s only served to increase his prestige.

11. RL Perron would benefit, it seems, in 1927 from the Montreal Water and Power Deal, my grandfather’s next scandal.

12. This was during the Galt Inquiry into some Conservative Government impropriety involving legislative building contracts. Beck refused to testify claiming the inquiry was illegal. He died in 1930, after an appendicitis operation, but he lived to see my grandfather turfed out of City Hall by Camillien Houde, so he likely died happy. He got a short obit in the New York Times, where where the bribery scandal was mentioned as his crowning achievement.

Below: Young Grandpapa and Edward Beck. Archive.org. Bitter adversaries or politics as usual? I suspect Beck hated my grandpapa because they were equal in social standing, pretty much earning the same salary.

My grandfather “The Handyman of City Hall.” According to Beck, my second-assistant city clerk of a grandfather ran the show. This is from Beck’s Weekly as republished in the Quebec Chronicle. BANQ
My unique story of the 1910 suffrage movement in Montreal.
My Story about Montreal during Prohibition, using two families, mine and my husband’s.

Saint-Constant Militia Captain: Antoine Bruneau

One night in 1837, a party of twenty-five to thirty masked men, armed with rifles, axes and sticks invaded the home of Antoine Bruneau, my three times great grandfather. They forced him to renounce his commission as a Militia Captain by threatening to destroy his life and the lives of his wife and family. “That the said party, the same evening compelled the depositor to say that he was a Patriot and to shout hurrah for Papineau three times.” 2

Antoine Bruneau, probably participated in the War of 1812 but definitely served as a Militia Captain during the Rebellions of 1837-38. He did not fight with Les Patriots under the leadership of Louis Joseph Papineau, rather his loyalty was to the governing British.

He was born in La Prairie, Lower Canada, now Quebec, in 1773. The French had earlier been defeated on the Plains of Abraham, so he grew up under British rule. Antoine farmed in St Constant south west of Montreal, married Marie Josephte Robidoux, raised his family of ten children and attended the local Catholic Church. A seemingly simple life.

When war with the United States seemed imminent in 1812, all citizens of Upper and Lower Canada banded together to fight the Americans. Sedentary Militia were organized and men 16-60 were called upon to serve. Most of the Militia Captains were career officers. Others were doctors, lawyers, notaries and seigneurs, all people of “superior backgrounds”. It was a chance to improve ones social standing and gain power. Few farmers became Militia captains so did Antoine at this time? Initially, the best, healthiest and strongest men continued to work on the farms while the unproductive men were sent to the military.

After the war, Louis Joseph Papineau, then the elected speaker of the Assembly of Lower Canada wanted self government. The Governor General of British North America ignored all demands for more local control of the Legislature. Members were elected but Britain had veto power over all legislation. Papineau began organizing protests and rallying the French citizens who became know as Les Patriots. The French farmers suffered through an economic depression during the 1830s so many willingly joined the armed insurrection. These men wanted to free themselves from British rule. The continued protest rallies and calls for armed conflicts from the radical Patriots lost the support of the French moderate wing, most of its anglophone support as well that of the Catholic Church. The Church wanted a return to calm so as to continue their control of the population and preached their position to their congregations. The revolt came to a head in 1837 with the battles of St Denis and St Charles in the Richelieu Valley and later the battle of Ste. Eustache, just north of Montreal.

Antoine didn’t remain silent. He spoke out against the rebellion and gave numerous depositions to the government against his neighbours. These depositions were all signed Antoine Bruneau with his mark and an “X”.

One deposition recorded a time when his son told him that his life was in danger so Antoine loaded his gun and kept watch all night as at least 350 men engaged in the revolt passed by. He knew which of his neighbours were rebels and that they had secret signs he wasn’t party to.

In December of 1837 Antoine reported that after a reading of a proclamation from the Governor-General and the loyalist’s address to the Queen, Etienne Longtin, a member of his militia, responded with the coarsest expressions against the Queen and the British government. Antoine said that Longtin forgot his duties as a Militia officer and attempted to excite the people by the most seditious and revolutionary speeches that one could imagine. “He is a dangerous man in a word a rebel who seeks harm at every opportunity to help the revolutionary party.” 3

Later after another revolt, he reported that Augustin Beauvais, a tanner from La Prairie, was using his utmost influence to effect a rising of his neighbours to overthrow her Majesty Queen Victoria. Antoine believed Augustin Beauvais to be a determined rebel to anything British and the British government. He knew Beauvais left the province the previous winter during the troubles and had only recently returned. Last winter he was a principal leader and disturber in furthering the view of the rebel agitators to annihilate the British population of the province. 5

Antoine wasn’t deterred by attacks on his person or beliefs and continued to serve in the St-Constant militia as did his sons Barnabé and Medard. After his flurry of depositions the depositor said nothing more.

Notes:

All I knew about Antoine Bruneau, my three times great grandfather besides the BMD facts was that he was a Militia Captain. In looking to prove this fact I entered his name in the search function Advitam on the BAnQ (Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec) website: https://www.banq.qc.ca/accueil/. After limiting the time frame to his life, up came all the depositions around the time of the Rebellions of Lower Canada.

These documents are difficult to read as they are hand written and mostly in French. Some had been transcribed and typed. The quotes are my translations of these documents.

1.Affidavit d’Antoine Bruneau, capitaine de milice, de Saint-Constant, contre Edouard Lanctot et Joserige, (dit Laplante) de Saint-Constant. 11 Decembre 1837. E17,S37,D79 Fonds Ministere de la Justice – BanQ Quebec.

2. Affidavit d’Antoine Bruneau, capitaine de Milice, Saint-Constant de de Saint-Constant, contre Charles Allard, meunuisier, de Saint-Philippe, maintenant de Montreal. 17 Decembre 1837. E17,S37,D87 Fonds Minirtere de la Justice – BanQ Quebec.

“Que le dit parti aurait le meme soir contraint le deposant de dire qu’il etait Patriote et crier Houra pour Papineau trois fois.”

3. Affidavit d.Antoine Bruneau, capitaine de milice, de Saint-Constant, contre Etienne Longtin, cultivateur de Saint-Constant, un homme dangereux. 6 Fevrier 1838. E17, S37, D78. Fonds Ministere de la Justice – BanQ Quebec.

” Que le dit Etienne Longtin est un homme dangereux en un mot un Rebelle qui ne cherche en tout que l’occasionde nuire et aider le parti revolutionnaire.”

4.Deposition d’Antoine Bruneau père, de Saint-Constant, contre Francois Camire et A. Dugas. 16 Novembre 1838. E17, S37, D1926. Fonds Ministère de la Justice – BanQ Quebec.

5.Deposition d’Antoine Bruneau pere vcontre Augustin Beauvais, de Laprairie. 20 Novembre 1838. E17, S37, D1899. Fonds Ministere de la Justice – BanQ Quebec.

Antoine Bruneau born June 2, 1773, La Prairie, Quebec to Joseph Bruneau and Marie Anne Longtin and died February 1847 in St Constant, Quebec.

He married Marie Josephte Robidoux April 15, 1796 in St Constant, Quebec. She was born Feb 10 1775 in St Phillipe, Laprairie, Quebec to Francois Robidoux and Marie Josephte Bourdeau and died in St Constant, Roussillion, Quebec.

They had 10 children:

Marie Josephte 1796-1880 m. Basile Emond

Marie Louise,1798-1885 m. Basile-Leon Lefebvre

Antoine, 1802-1844 m. Adelaide Dupuis

Julien 1804-1837

Vincent de Paul 1805

Joseph Barnabe 1807-1880 m. Sophie Marie Prud’homme

Medard 1811- m. Louise Dupuis then Seraphine Maigret

Simon 1813

Leon 1815- 1839

Marie Marguerite 1816-1834

The British defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham in 1759.

The Patriots took refuge in the church in Ste. Eustache which was fired on with cannons and cannon ball damage can be seen to this day.

Queen Victoria ascended the throne June 20, 1837.

Why the Second William Lindsay Maintained Two Careers

(The Three William Lindsays – Part 2)

About a year ago, my cousin and I were invited to luncheon with a distant family member who wanted to share her inherited Lindsay papers. The delicious luncheon filled our bellies and the precious family papers filled our souls. Among the papers were copious legible (!) handwritten notes by my great uncle, Stanley Bagg Lindsay, with some details of the lives of all three William Lindsays.

A Sample of Stanley Bagg Lindsay’s Notes (my great-uncle)

Why the second William (Burns) Lindsay (1796-1862) mantained two careers

In many families the eldest son often follows in his father’s footsteps when choosing a career. However, the second William Lindsay’s older brother died in 1817 when William was only 21.

Before then, in 1808, 12-year old William actually began work as an apprentice writer* in his father’s office, who was the recently appointed Clerk of the House of Assembly for Lower Canada. However, instead of eventually following in his father’s footsteps full time, William first pursued a career in banking.

William worked as one of three employees when the Bank of Montreal first opened in Quebec City in 18171. He began as the bank teller and eventually worked his way up to became an officer of the bank. During his time at the bank, William requested and obtained leaves of absence to attend to his duties at this father’s office during the Assembly sessions.*

At the age of 23, William married Maria Jones in Quebec City in 1819 and eventually they had 11 children. Their first son was his namesake, William Burns Lindsay, who would also continue the family tradition as the Legislative Clerk (see next story).

William Burns Lindsay and his wife Maria Jones

About ten years after they married, William’s father resigned from the Assembly in 1829 due to his failing health. (see The Three William Lindsays part 1) Not surprisingly, thirty-three year old William was unanimously appointed Clerk of the House of Lower Canada thus providing a fairly smooth transition and continuity of management. After 12 years establishing his own career in banking, he ultimately did step into his father’s political shoes.

At the time of his resignation from the Bank, “he had earned and obtained the good will and esteem both of his employers and of their customers, the merchants of Quebec.”* His unique combination of careers would have provided him with useful contacts with not only the elite “but young Canada’s most enterprising merchants and aspiring financiers”2 at that time. It must have placed him in a very powerful position indeed.

His work continued as Clerk of the Assembly right up until the 1837 rebellions (also known as the Patriots’ War)3, pitting the rebels against the colonial government of Lower Canada in an armed conflict, that had been brewing for nearly three decades. For the next few years, William commanded a volunteer artillery company*, until the restoration of order.

At this point, William was appointed Clerk to the Special Council4 set up to administer the affairs of Lower Canada until the Act of Union of 1840 when Lower Canada and Upper Canada were united into the one Province of Canada, as a result of these rebellions.

Lord Sydenham5, the first Governor General for the United Province of Canada, convened the first Parliament of Canada in 1841 in Kingston, Ontario6, and appointed William to be the clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Perhaps the Grand Trunk Railway enabled a commute between Assembly sessions while Kingston was the capital, as the 1842 census listed Quebec City still as his home.7 William held this office for the next 21 years until, according to his obituary, he died “almost in harness: for, though very unwell, he attended his place in the House … and within a few days of his death he signed official papers.”*

William died in Quebec City in 1862 at the age of 65 years.

The funeral took place from his residence in Quebec City while the flag on the Parliament Buildings flew at half mast during the funeral. An eloquent tribute to his worth was paid by the premier Hon. Mr. Cartier8 and the House of Assembly adjourned to testify respect to his memory. The members attended the funeral together putting any differences aside for that day. “As an efficient public officer, Mr. Lindsay was a very remarkable man…he was emphatically the right man in the right place … he never suffered himself to become a political partisan or to show more favour or grant more facilities to one side than the other.”*

Upon his death in 1862, William’s namesake (the third William Lindsay), succeeded to the clerkship of the Legislative Assembly thereby taking his father’s place and continuing the family history.

My great great grandfather, Robert A. Lindsay, was the brother of the third William Lindsay

Next: Why the third William Lindsay gave up a promising career as a lawyer

Notes:

As the family genealogist, I research my ancestors and write their stories. Recently, I found three generations of ancestors with the same name and the same role in an evolving Canada.

Their birth and death dates were vital as the first step to sorting them out. I noticed, however, that previous genealogists also struggled to sort them, as two of the three were sometimes labelled “Senior” and “Junior” (and sometimes in reverse order) and then “The Elder” and “The Younger” were assigned to another two. To keep things simple in my story, I will label them first, second and third – in the order of their births.

* Handwritten notes – Stanley Bagg Lindsay – dated March 1939

1https://wiki2.org/en/Bank_of_Montreal – referenced 2021-04-26

2https://history.bmo.com/pragmatic-visions/ – referenced 2021-05-04

3https://wiki2.org/en/Lower_Canada_Rebellion?wprov=srpw1_0 – referenced

4https://wiki2.org/en/Special_Council_of_Lower_Canada – referenced 2021-04-26

5https://wiki2.org/en/Lord_Sydenham – referenced 2021-04-26

6Kingston was named the first capital of the United Province of Canada on February 10, 1841. While its time as a capital was short (ending in 1844), the community has remained an important military installation.

7The capital moved from Kingston to Montreal in 1844 and then alternated between Quebec City and Toronto from 1849 until Queen Victoria declared Ottawa the permanent capital in 1866.

8https://wiki2.org/en/George-%C3%89tienne_Cartier – referenced 2021-04-26

The Cipher

When I say that my grandfather, Thomas McHugh, worked as a cipher, Bletchley Park, MI5, and Russian spies immediately come to mind. He was neither a Russian spy nor did he work as a cipher during the war. His employer was the Bank of Montreal and it was his first job when he came to Canada in 1912.

The decision to immigrate to Canada was not easy for Thomas. He was in his mid-30s and already had seven children, between the ages of one and fifteen. For over 40 years, the jute manufacturers of Dundee, Scotland had been providing employment for his parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, wife, and for him. However, by the early 1900s, he was facing a precarious future for his children.

By the early 1900s, Dundee had suffered a serious decline in the textile industry and more significantly, the jute industry.  Jute was imported from India, however, the mill owners realized that it would significantly lower the cost of production to open mills in India to prepare the jute and import the finished product to Scotland. Once mills were established in India, the jute production in the mills in Dundee decreased substantially.1

So when Thomas arrived in Canada, a little ahead of his wife and his children, he was eager and prepared to do any job so that he could. The Bank of Montreal had its headquarters in Montreal, Quebec. In the early 1900s, the bank had significant dealings with Great Britain and there were correspondence and banking instructions back and forth between Canada and Great Britain daily. These instructions were mainly sent by telegraph overnight. There were two reasons for this. Some of these instructions were confidential and it was preferred that they remain so. Overnight instructions reduced the number of people who would have access to them. Another reason was the time difference between Montreal and the United Kingdom. The banks in London and Edinburgh were open for business while Montreal was still asleep.

Thomas McHugh with Pal

Even in those days, the banks were concerned about security, privacy, and confidentiality. The banking instructions and transactions were submitted by telegraph and were encrypted. It was the job of the cipher clerk to decipher them so that the bank staff could then ensure that the instructions were carried out as required.

To be a cipher clerk, one had to be reliable, meticulous, and honest, and ensure the confidentiality of the bank’s business. The cipher clerk used a cipher handbook to decipher the information. Also, the cipher clerk worked overnight, so it was a difficult job for a man with a family.

So while my grandfather, the cipher, did not work in espionage, I still think that his first job in Canada was rather interesting.2

1 Wikipedia web site, The History of Dundee, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Dundee, accessed February 19, 2017

2 McHugh, Edward. Personal knowledge. [Father of writer].

What legacy stems from our Quebec pioneers?

Can someone leave a lasting legacy in less than 26 years? That’s the first thing I thought about when I began researching my seven times great grandmother on my fathers’ side.

I think so. The era they lived, the names they called their children, the way they responded to pressure—it all combines to create the culture that immediately follows them. Every generation leaves a mark on its culture. We today are artifacts of our ancestors, even those born more than 300 years ago, like my ancestor Barbe Dodier.

It’s hard to tell, but names definitely continue throughout families. Several of the people in my family still carry names from our ancestors.

My middle name Louise has been used on both sides of the family beginning with Barbe, since it was her middle name. Her husband Gabriel Robert Dufour passed monikers down to my son, my dad, his dad and his grandfather. I can’t help but wonder what other cultural remnants remain in our family.

Some of us are still Catholic and others French-speaking. Many others are not–and that’s a legacy too.

But what of less obvious legacies? The way we shake a head, a hand shake or a practical sense? These are evident three generations back. My son rubs his neck when he’s tired, just as I do. My father has the same habit, as did his father before him. How many generations does that go back? I don’t know.

Did Barbe share that trait? I don’t know that either. In fact, I know very little about her.

One record that remains of her life comes from her marriage, clearly recorded on page 97 of the Sainte-Anne de Beauprés church register. She married Ignace Gasnier on November 5, 1680.1

After they were married, Ignace and Barbe rented a two-arpent-sized lot in the Seignerie de Beaupré (Beaupré Manor). I know this, because the 1681 Census by New France Intendant DuCheseau lists Ignace and Barbe, along with their rifle and a cow.

Ignace Gasnier 25 ; Barbe Dodier, sa femme 18 ; 1 fusil ; 1 vache ; 2 arpents en valeur.1

Part of the Beaupré Manor still exists today. Now run jointly by the l’organisme de bassins versants charlevoix-montmorency (obv-cm) and the séminaire de québec – seigneurie de beaupré, the territory covers a 20 by 95 km band north of the Saint Lawrence River. Today, the manor spans 1,600 square kilometres west of Stoneham and east of St-Urbain in Charlevoix. Hunting, fishing and outdoors clubs share the space with loggers, Boralex and Gaz Métro/Valener.2

My ancestors probably lived much closer to the river near the current Beaupré, but I’m not sure. A circa-1680 map of the area shows the long settlement patterns typical of Quebec between 1627 and 1850, but the date isn’t precise. Ignace’s brother, Louis Gasnier, appears on the map next to the date 1683.3

Ignace and Barbe don’t appear on that map, but many Manor residents aren’t there.

The seigneurial land management system came to Quebec and the rest of New France in 1627. At that time, New France extended from the Arctic to Florida.

The Compagnie de Cent Associes (Company of 100 associates) granted important colonists and groups, including religious ones like the Seminaire de St. Joachim, land masses extended one by three leagues (5 by 15 km) along major rivers, including the Saint Lawrence. The land would then be divided into 3 x 30 arpent sections perpendicular to the river so that everyone had access to boat transportation. Arpents measured 190 feet (58m).

In 1663, French King Louis XIV gave New France a new constitution but it didn’t interfere with seigneuries, like the one Gasnier leased from the Saint-Joachim Seminary.

Pioneers like Barbe and Ignace probably survived using subsistence farming and hunting. My direct ancestor Louise was born two years after that census. Her little sister Geneviève came along when she turned three years old and her brother Jacques arrived when she was five.

By the time she died on February 7, 1689 in Petite-Rivière, Capitale-Nationale Region, Quebec, Canada, my ancestor went by the name Barbe Gagné. She’s buried in Baie-Saint-Paul Cemetery in Charlevoix. The Tanguay dictionary of French families lists her birth year as 1665, but if the 1681 census was correct, she would have been born in 1663.4

In that case, she was either 25 or 26 years old when she died.

Sources

1Sulte, Benjamin. Histoire des Canadiens-Français 1608-1880, Tome V, Montreal, Wilson @ Cir, Editeurs, 1882, p78.

2Séminaire du Québec, http://www.seigneuriedebeaupre.ca/, https://charlevoixmontmorency.ca/portraits-seminaire-de-quebec/, accessed October 21, 2020.

3Renaud, Alain. Plan de propriété des terres à Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré en 1680, Archives de Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

4Register of Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul-de-Baie, Quebec, 1689, p8 viaFind a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 21 October 2020), memorial page for Barbe Dodier Gagné (1665–7 Feb 1689), Find a Grave Memorial no. 93294269, citing Baie-Saint-Paul Cemetery, Baie-Saint-Paul, Capitale-Nationale Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Pat and Billy (contributor 47767337).

The Three William Lindsays

As the family genealogist, I research my ancestors and write their stories. Recently, I found three generations of ancestors with the same name and the same role in an evolving Canada.

Their birth and death dates were vital as the first step to sorting them out. I noticed, however, that previous genealogists also struggled to sort them, as two of the three were sometimes labelled “Senior” and “Junior” (and sometimes in reverse order) and then “The Elder” and “The Younger” were assigned to another two. To keep things simple in my story, I will label them first, second and third – in the order of their births.

How the First William (Robert) Lindsay Founded a Public Service Dynasty

Like many first generation Canadians, my 4x great grandfather established an impressive personal and professional life in his adopted homeland. I can’t help but wonder, however, if he paid too heavy a price for his success.

In November 1828, a doctor confined him to his room writing that he needed more “rest, mentally and physically, than he has had up till now.”1

How could such a thing happen?

The First William Lindsay (1761-1834) came to Quebec, Canada from England in 1773 as a 12-year old boy to live with his uncle. Ten years later, at the age of 22, he opened a dry goods business with a partner near the St. Lawrence River harbour in Quebec City.2 At the age of 29 years in 1790, he married Marianne Melvin and they had nine children in 14 years.

While still operating his retail business, William also served as Justice of the Peace for the district of Quebec. Then he entered the public service in 1792 as clerk assistant of the new Lower Canadian House of Assembly, after the Constitutional Act of 1791 divided the British colony called the Province of Quebec,3 into Upper and Lower Canada.

William Lindsay’s Signature

In 1805, he assumed the role of registrar for the newly founded Quebec Trinity House which oversaw the safety management of the burgeoning port facilities and navigation in the harbour of Quebec.4 Also during this time, he held a position of Grand Officer with the Free Masons in Quebec, eventually becoming their Grand Secretary by 1807.5

And then life got really busy.

This first William was known above all for his role in the assembly. At the age of 48, and having gained sixteen years experience as clerk assistant since 1792, he was commissioned as clerk in 1808 and was the second person to hold that office in Lower Canada.

Initially, he received the oaths of allegiance of the members of the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly, revised and printed the rules and regulations as instructed and produced numerous reports.

Before long, his duties included purchasing needed items, hiring workmen and overseeing their work, collecting debts, and paying accounts. By 1812 the clerk’s job had become more administrative than secretarial. This new job description, however, did not include an increase in his salary.

By the time William finally received his requested wage hike three years later, he also had the added responsibility of overseeing a staff of extra workers needed to complete the required duties.

Ten years later, in 1824, when William’s obligations were already overwhelming, the salaries of all officials and writers were cut by 25 per cent and he had to enforce the work schedules as well as prevent his employees from attending to personal matters during working hours. A few years after that, William also became responsible for “filling the empty positions in the house.” However, the assembly members reserved the right to approve or reject appointments!6

Although William always managed to satisfy the members of the House of Assembly, there was a heavy price to pay. The stress from his job wreaked havoc on 67-year old William’s health. In 1828, his doctor ordered immediate bed rest, and delivered a medical certificate to the speaker.

Nowadays, we call it “burnout.”

The prestige of the job must have outweighed the ill effects on his health because, around this time, the first William recommended his son, William (Burns) Lindsay, to the assembly for the deputy clerk position. In September 1829, the second William Lindsay officially succeeded his father who then died five years later at the age of 73.

The first William Lindsay not only faithfully served the assembly for half his life but left a dynasty of loyal hard working clerks for, first his son and then his grandson, succeeded him in that very same public office.

Next: Why the second William Lindsay changed careers (to be published May 5, 2021)

1Yvon Thériault, “LINDSAY, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 23, 2021

 http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lindsay_william_6E.html.

2Yvon Thériault, “LINDSAY, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 23, 2021

 http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lindsay_william_6E.html.

3https://wiki2.org/en/Province_of_Quebec_- accessed 2021-03-04

The Province of Quebecwas a colony in North America created by Great Britain in 1763 after the Seven Years’ War. During the war, Great Britain’s forces conquered French Canada. As part of terms of the Treaty of Paris peace settlement, France gave up its claim to Canada and negotiated to keep the small but rich sugar island of Guadeloupe instead. By Britain’s Royal Proclamation of 1763, Canada (part of New France) was renamed the Province of Quebec. The new British province extended from the coast of Labrador on the Atlantic Ocean, southwest through the Saint Lawrence River Valley to the and beyond to the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Portions of its southwest (south of the Great Lakes) were later ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Paris (1783) at the conclusion of the American Revolution although the British maintained a military presence there until 1796. In 1791, the territory north of the Great Lakes was divided into Lower Canada and Upper Canada.

4Ancestry, Canada – Quebec Past and Present: A History of Quebec, 1608-1876, in two parts, by J.M. Le Moine, (Augustin Cote & Co., 1876), 241.

5Ancestry, Canada – Outlines of the history of freemasonry in the Province of Quebec, Chapter V, “Ancient Freemansonry in Lower Canada”, by John H. Graham, (John Lovell and Son, 1892), 75.

6 Yvon Thériault, “LINDSAY, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 23, 2021  http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lindsay_william_6E.html.

Fly Me to the Moon: Why I am not an Astronaut

This week Perseverance landed on Mars, the latest rover sent to explore the Red Planet. The excitement of space exploration always stimulates my imagination.

When the first astronauts went up in space I attended elementary school. Televisions on tall carts were wheeled into our classrooms and we watched wide eyed as the rockets took off. The excitement of the count down kept us all on the edge of our seats; three, two, one, blast off!

With only male astronauts, most little girls didn’t even consider going into space, myself included. Still, as men first circled the earth and then the moon, finally landing there in 1969, dreams of space travel were limitless.

In 1983, Canada chose their first astronauts and among the men, a woman, Roberta Bondar. She followed Marc Garneau as the second Canadian in space flying on the Space Shuttle Discovery. In 1992, the Canadian Space agency wanted a new group of astronauts. How did they look for astronauts? They put advertisements in local papers. There in the Career’s section of the Saturday Gazette it said, The Canadian Space Agency Seeks Astronauts.

I had been working as a technician in a cancer research laboratory. My boss’s research grants were not going to be renewed and so I needed another job. A fellow at the camera club who applied on to be an astronaut in the previous search expressed pride at his rejection letter. So I thought, why not.

Surprisingly, I could say yes to all the qualifications to become an astronaut. You had to be a Canadian citizen, have at least a Bachelor’s degree from a recognized university in engineering, physical science, biological science, medicine or mathematics. They only wanted at least three years of related professional experience and the candidate needed good communication and presentation skills and would undergo demanding physical and psychological examinations. So I applied, highlighting my background in a scientific lab with expertise working with instruments, biological and immunological assays, designing experiments, trouble shooting and working both independently and in a a team all abilities suitable for a payload specialist.

When I received the ‘we regret to inform you letter’ from the Canadian Space Agency, I expected it. Over 5000 Canadians applied and according to the letter; “ the Agency has had the challenging task of selecting a relatively small number of candidates from among the many diverse and interesting applications received. Your submission was carefully considered, but we are unfortunately unable to offer you employment. However, your application form will be kept on file for a period of six months. Should a suitable position become available within this period we will be pleased to communicate with you again.” I had no further communication.

The Canadians chosen to train as astronauts in 1992 included Chris Hadfield, Michael McKay, Julie Payette and Dave Williams but not me.

I must admit in my heart of hearts I didn’t really want to go into space. It is fun imagining being there but after training for years, the end result of all your work is to climb into a tiny capsule above a bomb to be blasted into space. I will be happy to watch from my armchair as a Canadian astronaut flies to the moon in 2023 on the Artemis II mission.

Sugarplum Tree

As Christmas fast approaches it stirs memories of my childhood holidays. The pungent smell of the balsam fir ready to be decorated, Christmas carols playing in the background, especially Joan Baez, the bright paper and ribbons waiting to wrap presents and the kitchen noises as my mother prepared all the holiday foods, including our favourites, the sweets. My mother baked all year round so we always had dessert but Christmas meant special treats.

November found my mother chopping dried fruits and nuts and mixing them in a big enameled wash pan, also used to bathe babies and soak feet. The fruit cake had to be started early so that after baking it could be wrapped in cheesecloth and regularly doused it in brandy. We liked fruit cake but we liked other things more.

Next came the shortbread cookies. I am not sure how much she enlarged the recipe because we seemed to have a mountain of cookies. While I make a log and cut slices or balls that I roll and flatten with a fork, my mother would roll out the dough and cut Christmas shapes. Stars, bells, candy canes and holly leaves all decorated with red and green cherries and silver balls would appear. Layers of cookies, laid between sheets of wax paper, filled a large canning pot put on the top shelf of the pantry to keep the cookies away from little hands. Luckily, with a step stool and a good reach, cookies could be extracted and enjoyed in ones own little space. Of course, many still remained for Christmas.

Cherry Bonbons made by my brother

We loved the Cherry Bonbons, a candied cherry covered in cookie dough, rolled into a ball and coated with pink icing. Then the Gumdrop Squares, a chewy and spicy cake fill with chopped gumdrops and nuts topped with white icing and more gumdrops filled another tin. Another favourite, Cornflakes Meringue cookies with chocolate chips and a cherry on top quickly disappeared. Lastly, the Christmas pudding, steamed on the stove ready to be served with hard sauce. Never my favourite!

The day before Christmas was the time to make the Sugarplum Tree. I am not sure when my mother started making this treat. She rarely baked with yeast. The recipe had been cut out of a magazine and stuck into her book, spotted with years of flour and greasy fingers. The dough, filled with raisins and citron raised in a warm corner, rolled into a rectangle, spread with sugar and cinnamon, the corners folded in and cuts made on the sides to form branches magically appeared. She iced it, added more gumdrops for decorations including one flattened yellow gumdrop cut to form a star. All done ready for Christmas.

Mom’s Recipe Book

In our house, when we woke up Christmas morning, we didn’t hurry downstairs in our pajamas. We had to brush our teeth, get dressed, make our beds and then sit on the stairs waiting until everyone was ready. My father would go down and light the tree and then we rushed to see if Santa had come. We could play with our Santa Claus present while my mother made breakfast. Along with the Sugarplum bun we had half grapefruits with crushed pineapple, red and green cherries in the center and Santa mugs for our milk. Some people would even eat cereal!

My sisters continued the tradition of making sugarplum trees. My older sister had Christmases at her home after she married so she has made many buns. My younger sister began her own tradition after my mother stopped visiting her and making the bun at Christmas.

I never made the treat until the Christmas after my mother died. I had her recipe book with the original magazine recipe, so in her memory, I made the bun. Not quite like hers, as I used ginger, no gumdrops and a cream cheese icing. Still, the delicious sweetness evoked fond memories and so I will make it again this year. I did and a few pieces are still in the freezer!

O’ Christmas Tree

Last weekend, we grabbed a bunch of boxes from the basement and spent a few hours decorating the house for the holidays. We also played carols, drank rum and egg nog and laughed a lot. Most of our decorations are a little kitschy. Others are touching, like the reindeer horns made of our hands and feet when our now adult children were little.

One of the ugliest things we pulled out is an old Christmas tree that once belonged to my grandmother. Made of wire and green plastic that looks a bit like garbage bags, the thing is only about three feet high. We put it on a table so that the lit angel on top almost touches the ceiling.

I love that ugly tree. It came into my possession 36 years ago from Nanny, who used a tiny ceramic tree my mom made her for her apartment from then on. Using her gift over and over makes me feel ecological. Yes, it’s plastic and convenient but it’s being reused, so it isn’t filling up land fill yet.

It brings to mind Charlie Brown’s Christmas, holidays as a child and imaginary visions from the Victorian era.

Canada’s First Christmas Tree Decoration Party

Christmas-tree decorating has been popular in Canada since at least 1781. That year, General Von Riedesel (Freiherr Friedrich Adolf Riedesel Freiherr zu Eisenbach) and his wife Frederika Charlotte held a Christmas Eve party in Sorel, Quebec. During the event, they decorated North America’s first documented Christmas tree. Wikipedia cites his wife’s diary for this fact.1

Von Riedesel grew up in Germany, fought in London, and ended up in North America with thousands of other German soldiers fighting for the British during the American Revolution. His wife brought their three daughters to join him. The couple got captured during the Battle of Saratoga.

It took two years before the British traded them for an American prisoner of war. They lived in Sorel, Quebec for another two or three years before returning to England.

That party also included plum pudding,2 another tradition from my childhood. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate the recipe for granny’s yummy rum sauce.

My family and others continue decorating Christmas trees, just as the families of German and British pioneers have done for more than 200 years.

For the first hundred years, as in my house now, the trees stood on a table covered with a white cloth that served as snow.

Christmas trees became full-sized self-standing around 1900, when someone invented cast iron tree stands. The stand I use almost looks old enough to date from that era.

Of course in those days, the trees were lit with candles, which is why the Christmas tree decorating occurred only on Christmas Eve. That way, the freshly cut tree still retained enough moisture to prevent being a fire hazard.

For years, I used electric lights that got warm enough that I lit them rarely. I now have LEDs so that my ugly little tree can decorate our home with the only risk being one of fashion.

Sources

  • 1Riedesel, Friederike Charlotte Luise; Riedesel, Friedrich Adolf (1801). von Reuß, Heinrich (ed.). Die Berufs-Reise nach America: Briefe der Generalin von [sic] Riedesel auf dieser Reise und während ihres sechsjährigen Aufenthalts in America zur Zeit des dortigen Krieges ín den Jahren 1776 bis 1783 nach Deutschland geschrieben. Haude und Spener Berlin, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Adolf_Riedesel#cite_note-9, accessed November 24, 2020.

Christmas Trees Over Generations

Montreal Transit

“Eddie! Come on, Ed. Frank forgot his lunch and you have to take it to him.”

Ed’s heart sank. He had no school today but, instead of playing with his friends, he would have to make his way all the way from Verdun to Montreal West so that he could give Frank the lunch he forgot. It was sitting right there, on the kitchen table when Frank left – and he forgot it again!

My uncle, Frank McHugh, worked as a tramway driver and he drove the tram on the 63 or 64 route that went along Sherbrooke Street West in Montreal. The unlucky little boy who always had the job of taking him his lunch was my dad, Edward McHugh.

Uncle Frank’s full name was Francis Strachan McHugh. He was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1904 and emigrated to Canada with his parents and six siblings in 1912. His younger brother, Edward, was born in 1914. So, by the time Frank had found work as a tramway driver in the 1920’s, Edward was old enough to travel across the city and bring him his lunch.

Thomas McHugh with sons, Edward (left) and James (right). Edward was about eight years old in this picture, about the time he would have carried Frank’s lunch to him.

The first public transportation company in Montreal, The Montreal Passenger City Railway Company (MPCRC) was established in 1861 when the first horse-drawn tramway came into service along Notre Dame Street. The horse-drawn tramway had two employees on-board, a driver and a conductor who collected the fares. The passengers simply hailed the tram when they wanted to get on and signaled to the driver when they wanted to get off.1

Horse-drawn winter tramway on St. Catherine Street (around 1877), Société de transport de Montréal (STM) website, Tramways History

The MPCRC eventually became the Montreal Street Railway Company (MSRC). The MSRC introduced the first electric powered tramway, The Rocket, on September 21, 1892. The electric tramways immediately became very popular as they were much faster than the horse-drawn tramways. 2

By the time Uncle Frank became a tram driver, his employer was the Montreal Tramways Company (MTC). The MTC, created in 1911, acquired all the other transit companies on the island at that time. The citizens of Montreal, concerned that a private company had a monopoly over the public transit in the city, put pressure on the city, and the Montreal Transit Commission was created in 1918 to oversee the MTC. 3


Electric trams, Ste-Catherine Street, Montreal, McCord Museum, Wm Notman and Son, 1895

At the time that Uncle Frank worked as a tramway driver in the early 1920s, it was the peak of the operation of the tramway system in city. At that time, the MTC carried nearly 230 million passengers per year. 4 In 1924, the company published this map of the Montreal Transit system.5


Route map of bus and tramways in Montreal, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, collection numérique

By the mid-1920s, the city began transitioning to buses, with the first major replacement of the tramway in 1936 in the city’s east end on Notre Dame Street. 6 Uncle Frank followed suit and drove the bus that went along Sherbroooke Street West. But by that time, if he forgot his lunch, he was out of luck.

When cars became popular in Montreal in the 1950s, Uncle Frank quit his job as a bus driver and became a taxi driver.


Frank McHugh and his wife, Molly Baxter
.
  1. http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered, accessed October 18, 2020
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid
  5. Société de transport de Montréal (STM) website, Tramways History, http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered,accessed October 18, 2020
  6. http://www.stm.info/en/about/discover_the_stm_its_history/history/tramways-history#:~:text=Created%20in%201911%2C%20the%20Montreal,quality%20of%20the%20service%20offered, accessed October 18, 2020