It is always interesting when my husband shows his American passport as we go through customs. He was born in Biloxi, Mississippi and that always gets comments.
His parents, Arline Raebeck and William Baker were northerners from Belle Harbor, Long Island and Dedham, Massachusetts, so to have their son born in the deep south was unusual but it was wartime and they were both in the US Army.
Arline graduated from Brooklyn Friends School and Centenary College. She decided against a job at the Stock Exchange as typing with a dictaphone jack in her ear wasn’t for her. Wearing her white gloves and hat, as she learned at college, she got a job at the Personnel Finance Company on Long Island, then later at the Head Office of J.P. Penney’s in New York. All the young men around her were joining the military. She was getting restless and none of these jobs, “were the real me,” so one day she went to the recruiting office and signed up. She needed her birth certificate and had to ask her father, for it. William Raebeck thought she wanted to get married but she joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).
She traveled down to Daytona, Florida by train to attend basic training and Administration School. The Army wasn’t ready for the women. They had no uniforms, no barracks and so slept eight to a room in little nothing hotels. They were right on the ocean but, “it just wasn’t perfect!”
After their training, Arline and over a hundred other WAACs boarded a train to Keesler Field, an Army Flight Corp base in Biloxi, Mississippi. The base already had some women, nurses and civilian secretaries but the Base Commander sent a letter to all officers saying, “these WAACs were not going to ruin our field’s reputation.” He expected these 100 or so women to lead the 40,000 – 60,000 men down the road to ruin. They initially had guards around them everywhere they went. There was to be no fraternization and special permits were required to meet with individual soldiers.
Arline was posted to the Classification office where the recruits received their postings. Here she had her first contact with William Perry Baker. Bill Baker had graduated from Harvard and worked in several jobs including administering aptitude tests before signing up as a conscientious objector. He refused an officer’s commission and was a Master Sargent. It was only a three-person office and Arline had more in common with the office Sargent than with Bill.
All the squadrons had parties to keep up morale. At one event in a small hotel on the gulf, Arline couldn’t reach the refreshments on the table and asked the man in front of her for a piece of celery. It was Bill. Later, while she was dancing with her date he came and tapped him on the shoulder. He offered Arline stalks of celery and had the salt and pepper shakers in his back pocket. That was the beginning but according to Arline, “It was a little more complicated. It didn’t happen as easily as all that!”
While she dated Bill a few times she also visited two soldiers she knew from home, one in Florida and one in Dallas but, “The whole thing was a mess.” After her Dallas visit, Bill came by and while leaning against a tree outside her barracks said to Arline, “Consider yourself engaged!” She wasn’t sure of this proposal and asked one of her friends, “What kind of a husband do you think Sargent Baker would make?” The answer must have been good as two months later they were married. Only Mildred Raebeck, Arline’s mother came down from Belle Harbor for the wedding. She liked Bill the first moment she saw him. Her husband didn’t come. He didn’t like travel or the hot humid weather in Mississippi so Major Harrison in his white dress uniform, gave Arline away.
They only took a weekend for their honeymoon. They drove a few miles west in a borrowed car to Pass Christian and stayed at a closed golf course. Her mother wanted to get home but most seats were reserved for servicemen. She did manage to board a train and then the soldiers were nice to her and made sure she had a room.
Arline, then a corporal, continued to work after their marriage but had to resign when she became pregnant. William Perry Baker Junior was born September 20, 1945, in Biloxi Mississippi. Bill hadn’t yet been discharged although the war had ended.
The one item my husband wished he got when his mother downsized was her celery dish. His father won the little oval glass dish at a penny arcade.
Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) began May 15, 1942, as an auxiliary Army unit and on July 1, 1943, became an active unit, Women’s Army Corp (WAC). Everyone had to sign up again. Arline said it was like being asked after six months of camp, do you want to go home or do you want to stay. She took a long time to sign again because she was worried about her parents being home alone and what if something happened.
Arline Baker Wahn interviewed by her son Jonathan W Baker, March 19, 2010, in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Video of Arline Wahn at Thanksgiving dinner by William Baker, November 24, 2011, in Sudbury Massachusetts.
Arline Raebeck Baker Wahn 1921- 2016. William Perry Baker 1914 – 1963.
In the early days of New France Robert Giffard, a doctor and a seigneur living in the new colony of Beauport was recognized for his determination to fulfill a specific role. The Company of One Hundred Associates was instrumental in requesting him to establish the new colony. At the time there were approximately one hundred people living there. For it to become a viable settlement they needed to attract new immigrants. Giffard was up to the task. He set out to recruit the most skilled and talented craftsmen in Perche, Basse Normandie. Men signed contracts with Giffard and emigrated to New France in the first wave of settlers.
Zacharie Cloutier, my ninth great grandfather, a master carpenter, in his mid-forties, along with an ever-growing family were eager to participate. He and his great friend, Jean Guyon, a master mason both signed three-year contracts with Robert Giffard on March 14th, 1634.
There were several stipulations in the contract:1. Robert Giffard
would pay passage from France to Canada for Zacharie and Jean
plus one family member each.
promised them 1,000 arpents of land on which they could hunt, fish, and build a home
also promised to foot the bill for all their living expenses for the duration of the contract.
After two years, Seigneur Giffard would pay passage for the rest of the mens’ families to join them.
There was also a clause indicating that the men would be required to render fealty and homage to Giffard.
Although Zacharie did not know how to read or write, his signature was not the regular X, that was used by many, but, rather a unique, distinctive, creative drawing of an axe.
The marks of Martin Grouvel (left) and Zacharie Cloutier (right)2
The ship carrying the men arrived in New France on June 4,1634 after a two-month journey at sea.3.Historians did not appear to agree on the time the men’s families arrived. Some indicated that they brought their families–in their entirety on the initial voyage, whereas, others noted that a passenger list for ships arriving in1636 contained the names of Zacharie’s wife and children. We do know that his family is among the first to settle in Beauport along with the Guyons.
Zacharie was born at the close of the 16th century about 1590 in Mortagne-au-Perch (Orne)and married a widow, Xainte Dupont July 18, 1616 in Saint Jean in the same village.4. Together they had six children, 3 girls and 3 boys. A young daughter, Sainte, sometimes spelt like her mother Xainte, died in France. She was only ten years old.
Within a short period after their arrival in Quebec City, June 4th,1634 our master carpenter set to work. He began building Robert Giffard’s manor home in Beauport.5.
Once his contract was terminated, he continued building the parish church in Quebec City, and the Saint Louis Fort. Meanwhile he worked for the nuns and others at their request and in his free time began clearing and cultivating his land that was granted February 3rd, 1637. La Clouterie, the arriére fief measured 322 metres in width and 7.4 kilometres in length.6.
An arriéve-fief is a subdivision of a seigneurie.6.
Zacharie was not from a noble family. These titles were given by the King, however, as a seigneur he became known as a ‘bourgeois seigneur’ with the same duties and titles of noble seigneurs.7
The issue of fealty and homage rose to the forefront between Giffard, Cloutier and Guyon., There was a parting of the ways caused by a dispute over the clause in their contract that requested fealty and homage to Giffard. Zacharie Cloutier and Jean Guyon resisted for several years and were adamant. They refused to pay tribute to Giffard. Court actions ensued. Zacharie chose to sell his land in Beauport to Nicholas Dupont and moved to Chateau Richer where Governor Jean de Lauzon had granted him land.8.
On the 12th of May 1669, Zacharie and Xainte, his wife, made their will and placed themselves in the hands of their son Zacharie.
In 1670 Zacharie and Xainte were now about 76 and 70 years of age. They chose to prepare an “Actes de Donation”.9 Their sons and families had settled in Chateau Richer. The act consisted of a donation of all their possessions. Land and goods were given to their son and his family. In return, they were to provide the parents a home, food, clothing, and all that comes with caring for their parents for the remainder of their days.
Zacharie died on September 17th, 1677 at the age of 87 or 88 and was buried the following day in Chateau Richer Cemetery.10 Xainte succumbed on the 13th of July 1680. 341 years ago today, as I put the finishing touches on this story. She too is buried in the same cemetery.
The Cloutiers are one of the foremost families of Quebec, noting that over the years there have been between 5 and 6 million descendants.11. I’m in good company, Prime Minister Louis St Laurent is also a direct descendant.
The name ‘Cloutier’, itself, supports the contention that Zacharie was a skilled person. It appears the name is a contraction of the French word “clou” meaning nail and “métier” meaning to make; thus, a Cloutier being a ‘maker of nails’
Zacharie and Xainte were the first couple in Canada to celebrate their diamond and golden wedding anniversaries in New France.
The Fur Traders and Coureurs de bois of Quebec, Northern Ontario and Labrador
This is the first part of a two part series The first part of this database consists of an extensive list of authors who have written on the subject of the fur trade in the specific areas of Quebec, Northern Ontario and Labrador.
The second section consist of historical documents on the fur trading industry. While the third section lists the many repositories containing information on the fur traders.
Part two will follow in the next session.
Please note that this database contains numerous books, documents, articles and reports that are free to either read online or download. These are highlighted in green text for easy recognition.
Have you ever heard of Star Gazey Pie?Me, neither, but soon after their marriage, my Dad, from Cornwall, asked my Mum, from Devon, to make him a Star Gazey pie. I think it was a sneaky request as she had absolutely no idea what he was talking aboutand I think he knew that!
The main ingredients are Pilchard – or Sardines – a small, tasty fish high in omega 3 oils. Today we buy them in tins, submerged in water, tomato sauce or mustard. In England, we usually serve them on hot buttered toast.
Star Gazey Piewas created in Mousehole, Cornwall UK, where ‘Mousehole’ is pronounced as ‘Mow-Zul’
A legendary character by the name Tom Bawcock appears to have been a local fisherman in the 16th century, and according to the legend one winter was extremely stormy and the fishermen could not leave the harbour to fish.
Christmas was approaching and fish was the main source of food. The villagers were facing starvation but Tom Bawcock decided to brave the storm.
He safely returned with enough fish to feed the entire village and the whole catch was baked into a pie, which was named ‘Star Gazey Pie’ in his honour, and is now a festival called “Tom Bawcock’s Eve” held on the 23rd of December. (1)
Pilchard, or sardines were fished using ‘seine nets’ all around the coastline of Cornwall and in the early days of fishing the seine nets used were large and very expensive, so they were owned only by the wealthy noblemen.
The shoals appeared in late summer and autumn in North Cornwall following warm currents and planktonic food. The shoals were so huge, the fish could be seen from the cliff tops. ‘Huers’ were employed to keep watch and when the enormous shoals were spotted the Huers would shout ‘HEVVA!’ and alert the village into action.
On Newquay’s Towan Headland, thought to have been built in the 14th century,there stands a huers hut.
Huers Hut Towan Headland, Newquay, Cornwall
Pilchard seines nets were huge cotton nets with small mesh, in a horseshoe shape and were used in shallow waters. A cox and four oarsmen in 40 foot length rowboats, were used to set up the nets.
Then, the ‘stop net’ was set, this was a smaller wall of net, which trapped the fish in shallow water. This net would be hauled until the fish were now in a smaller, concentrated area. The fish were then scooped out of the shallow water into baskets. (See the drawing below).
This way of fishing was used for hundreds of years until the late 1890’s when the fishing industry begun to decline. The seine nets were hugely expensive, and if a fisherman wanted to be his own boss, he used the smaller drift nets, which became the mainstay of pilchard fishing. During the First World War motors began to be installed which was safer and much more practical.
However, by the 1970’s pilchard fishing ceased in Cornwall, until the 1990’s when an enterprising skipper began experimenting with ring netting for pilchards. Others followed and once again there is a thriving industry in pilchards or, as they are now known, Cornish Sardines.(2)
And now for the most interesting bit , a photo of an unbaked a Star Gazey Pie.….
Here is the recipe and how you make it; go on, have a go!
STAR GAZEY PIE
454 grams (1 pound) of shortcrust pastry.
6 pilchards – or 8 large sardines gutted and filleted BUT with their heads left on and tail fins removed.
171 grams (6 ounces) of brown breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
One small onion
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
4 teaspoons single cream, and 4 table spoons chopped parsley.
Set the oven to 220 C or 425 F
Wash the fish and pat dry then open them out.
Make the stuffing with bread crumbs, cloves spice and pepper mixed with finely chopped onions bound together with beaten egg.
Fill the opened fish with stuffing. Close up, reshape and leave in a cool place.
Grease a flat pie-dish about 25.4 Cm. (10 inches) in diameter. Line with 113 grams (1/4 pound ) pastry.
Arrange the stuffed fish like the spokes of a wheel with their heads on the fin and tails in the centre. Cover with hard boiled eggs, cream parsley and pepper; finish with the rest of the pastry and pinch the two layers firmly together between the heads but roll back the pastry round the heads to reveal their eyes gazing starwards. Brush with beaten egg.
Bake for 15 minutes reduce heat to 180 C (350 F) and continue for a further 20 minutes until the pie is golden brown. (3)
The baked Star Gazey Pie.
And, no, I have not baked one myself, however, I think I may now have to try. However, when I asked the family, their response was not the most enthusiastic! I wonder why??
The following database consists of a compilation of information with extensive links to The Company of One Hundred Associates of New France. 1627-1663.
The fur industry attracted investors , bankers, administrators, ship owners, fur traders, explorers, military officers, merchants, notaries, first nation language interpreters, civil servants, seigneurs, governors and coureurs de bois of the French colonies of Nouvelle-France and Acadie.
The database is divided into sections:
Page 1-5 Various Companies, the Elite, Pioneer Families, Census, of families.
Page 6-78 Leaders, explorers, fur traders, officers, merchants, etc.
Page 78-125 Authors noting where complete documents are available online.
Page125-148 History – reference links to biographies, publishers, socieities, universities, etc.
Page 148-159 Repositories in France
Page 159-163 Repositories in Canada
Complete document available online is written under any link that opens up to a document that can be read online or is available for download. Where restrictions apply, they are indicated.
Circumstances beyond his control* compelled the third William Lindsay to abandon a brilliant career as a lawyer. In 1841, at the age of 17, he entered the public service as an Extra Clerk in the Legislative Assembly of Canada while also studying law.
I wonder what those circumstances may have been?
The third William Lindsay (1824-1872), my three times great-uncle, exhibited great potential in his law studies as well as becoming an accomplished scholar. He spoke French as fluently as English – a must as the Clerk – but could also speak Latin and Greek as well.
William studied law with such an impressive ability that even before his admission to the Bar many of his teachers predicted a very successful career ahead of him.
But why did he never practise law in the end ?
Perhaps the established family tradition influenced his decision. Like his father and grandfather before him, he became the third William Lindsay to progress to the senior positon of Clerk for the Legislative Assembly. It’s certainly the most plausible explanation. But who knows, maybe there were lucrative perks that came with the “clerkship” that enticed him.* It seems we will never know for sure.
All that to say he certainly had big shoes to fill! There must have been high expectations placed on him not only as the son of the most recent Clerk of the Legislative Assembly but also as the grandson of William Robert Lindsay who held the same office for twenty years in the early 1800’s during the time Lower Canada possessed a separate government and legislature. A multitude of historical changes in the structure of today’s Canada have all been recorded by the “Lindsay” hand.
William was born in Quebec City. He had six brothers and five sisters. One of his brothers, Robert A. Lindsay (1826-1891), was my two times great grandfather who followed their father’s other profession and enjoyed a life long banking career with the Bank of Montreal.
In November 1845, at the age of 21 and just after completing his law studies and passing his Bar exams, William married Marie Henriette Bourret in Quebec City. Eventually, they had 13 children, although four of them died in infancy.
William’s career as a clerk progressed quickly. He was promoted from Extra Clerk to Assistant Law Clerk and Translator to the Legislative Assembly of the then Province of Canada. The progression continued until he ultimately became the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
In 1867, The House of Commons came into existence, when the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, uniting the Province of Canada (which was divided into Quebec and Ontario), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a single federation called the Dominion of Canada.
William was appointed the first Clerk to this newly established House of Commons1.
The multiple steps taken toward Canadian independence in the past, during the clerkship of William’s father and grandfather, had finally come to fruition.
William’s main duty as the Clerk of the House began with the reading of petitions and bills, and later progressed to recording the House’s proceedings. Those notes on the proceedings were kept in journals which tracked the decisions and other important transactions of the House.
In September 1872 at age 48, just five years after becoming Clerk to the House of Commons, William’s career ended abruptly. He died in Ottawa during the smallpox pandemic2. He left a family of several children and a widow who then died two months later. His mother-in-law also succumbed to the disease at the same time. The youngest of their orphaned children was only five years old at the time.
Nine years later, according to the 1881 Census, William’s eldest daughter Maria Louisa (then aged 30) was still looking after her three teenage siblings and living in Quebec City. Her older brothers Crawford (and his family) and Lionel (a priest) also lived nearby and perhaps offered support of some kind.
William was the third and last of the Three William Lindsays. His eldest son “Crawford William” went by the name Crawford and did not become a clerk, however, he did inherit his father’s talent with languages and became a translator.
1.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.
2.* Handwritten notes – Stanley Bagg Lindsay – dated March 1939
3. My cousin Ian Lindsay recently shared the following in an email 2021-05:
Somewhere I saw the report of the parliamentary committee that looked into the work of the Clerk’s office. By that time, while it was never going to be a sinecure, it was an opportunity to make friends, at the very least with stationers. (An old friend explained the best job was Minister of Supply and Services, where one could feather all your friends’ nests, and bide your time.) In any case, the Committee asked about the qualifications for the job were, and WBLII explained that the clerk had to be fluently bilingual and versed in all the relevant technical terms of both languages. Here, I point out that his son was fluently bilingual and versed in technical terms. The Committee next asked the same question of the Assistant Clerk, who explained that, when needed, he just asked one of the French guys for help. I think a grave injustice was done.
It has been almost 200 years since my paternal ancestors came to Upper Canada from Scotland and took up farming here. It has been about 12 years since I started researching and writing about them. Now that I have pulled all their stories together into the pages of a book, it is time to celebrate.
Earlier this week, relatives and friends helped me launch Reinventing Themselves: A History of the Hamilton and Forrester Families. We got together on Zoom, a solution that was perfect considering that the descendants of this family are spread from Montreal to Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and across the United States.
This collection of short articles traces the descendants of weaver Robert Hamilton and carpenter David Forrester. The two Scottish immigrants and their families came to Upper Canada in the 1830s and became part of strong farming communities. Fifty years later, both families moved west. The Hamiltons were founding settlers of a temperance community that eventually became Saskatoon. The Forresters took up prairie farming in southern Manitoba.
The following generations continued to reinvent themselves, with several pursuing careers in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Among them were physician Thomas Glendenning Hamilton and his wife, nurse Lillian Forrester – my grandparents. After their young son died in the 1919 influenza pandemic, the couple began holding seances, and their research into psychical phenomena brought them international fame.
Many of the articles about the Hamilton family have previously appeared on my blog, Writing Up the Ancestors, but pulling them together into a cohesive thread makes the ancestors’ story easier to follow. Much of the material about my grandmother’s family, the Forresters, will be new to most readers.
The process of reinvention is continuing, as the book has inspired two videos. Tracey Arial interviewed me for her podcast Unapologetically Canadian (the link is coming) and Frank Opolko, a friend who recently retired from the CBC, also interviewed me. Here is the video he made, incorporating some my photos of Scotland and some of the photos that appear in the book:
I learned a great deal while doing this project, best of all I discovered several living cousins who were previously unknown to me. One new cousin instantly felt like an old friend, and the mystery person who is my closest match on Family Tree DNA has turned out to be a Forrester descendant from Michigan.
This project reminded me how challenging it is to write about genealogy. All I know about many distant ancestors is their dates and places of birth, marriage and death. While this is essential information, such lists can make for boring reading. The family stories are the good stuff, and they have been the focus of the articles on my blog. Of course, there are two types of family stories: anecdotes that may or may not be true, and well-documented facts.
I was also reminded how much discipline it takes to complete a project of this magnitude. I recently overheard my husband tell someone that he didn’t dare come near my office while I was working on the book because I would chase him away. There are so many distractions, especially on the Internet, that it really takes discipline to stay focused, and a project this size inevitably takes longer than expected.
Now it is time to take a break from family history, catch up on reading novels and enjoying summer before turning my attention to my mother’s family.
“No Hope for 20 Men Entombed in Mine Afire,” declared the headline in the September 29, 1918 edition of the Chicago Tribune.1
Sadly, 21 men died in the gas explosion on September 27, 1918 in the mine of the Franklin Coal and Coke Co. in Royalton, Illinois. On the preceding night a fire had been discovered and the firefighters sealed off two of the rooms. They had nailed a door shut but an employee pried it open and ignited the fire with his naked light. He was blown back and he survived until the next day and was able to explain how the explosion happened.2
My great-uncle, John Hynd, a mine examiner, died in this explosion. He was forty-nine and had three young children.3
John came from a long line of coal miners and was born at the Wellwood Colliery in Dunfermline, Scotland. This means that his parents lived on the site of the mine. John’s father, also John Hynd, was illiterate and signed his son’s birth registration with an X.4 Most sons of the miners in the colliery also worked there and started at a young age.
Parliament in the U.K. established the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842 to investigate the conditions of children in mines and factories. With respect to the Wellwood Colliery, James Spawort testified that “the age at which children are taken down depends on the circumstances of their parents, if they are destitute, they are taken early. “ The schoolteacher, William Craig, further testified that “there is no hope of the children being better instructed until some stoppage is put to the practice of working infants in mines. “5
While conditions were still grim, John, born in 1869, had better employment circumstances than his father and forefathers. As a result, the Mines and Collieries Act arising out of the Commission inquiry prohibited girls and women to work down the mine, and ruled that males could only start working at 10 years of age. The work day for any child under 13 was limited to twelve hours.6
The 1881 census shows that John was already working in the mine at the age of 13. He was a doorkeeper in a pit.7 Ten years later, John had been promoted to coal miner. His brother, James was also working at the mine by then and his sister, Mary, was a pit head worker at the mine in Cowdenbeath, Scotland.8
John Hynd arrived in the U.SA. in January 1905. He arrived with a friend.9 He probably came to the U.S. looking for work in a mine. Mines in the U.S. needed qualified workers and hired employment agents in the U.K. to attract workers. It was also usual to advertisement on public bulletin boards. Perhaps this is how John knew about opportunities for miners. 10 While he travelled only with a friend when he arrived, his wife, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Milne and child also immigrated. 10 He possibly settled in Illinois because of the many opportunities for employment in the coal mines and he was living in Benld, a small village that happened to have a coal mine. However, at the time of the census it says that John was working as a bartender. His brother, William was also living with him and working as a miner. William had arrived in 1908 and had also been a miner in Scotland.12 U.S.A. naturalization records show that John’s two other brothers, Andrew and James also immigrated to Benld and probably worked in the mine.13
By 1918 John is back in the mine working as a mine examiner at the Franklin Coal and Coke Co. in Royalton, Illinois, about 130 km away from the village of Benld. This was a supervisory job that meant he was responsible for assessing the risk of danger in the mine, such as gas leaks and fires. It is not clear whether he lived in Royalton at the time of explosion or he traveled for work. He was buried close to the village of Benld, in Gillespie.14
After John’s death, Elizabeth did not stay in a small village in Illinois. As she had three small children to take care of, she would have had to work. The 1920 USA census tells us that she was living with her three children and working as a confectioner in St. Louis, Missouri.15 Elizabeth died 43 years later in 1961 and was buried beside her husband, John.16
John’s death was the third tragedy in the Hynd family in three years. His father, John, had to bear the burden three deaths. John Hynd’s (senior) wife, Euphemia, died in 1916 of abdominal cancer.73 Then his daughter, Mary Hynd, my great-grandmother, died of liver cancer in 1917.18 And then John’s shocking and tragic death in 1918.
Clipping from Newspapers.com, accessed May 22, 1921.
If a British novel penned in the first part of the 20th century contains a Canadian character (for exampleBrideshead 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.
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.
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.
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%20BeckL’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.