Category Archives: Genealogy

The Harvester Scheme

When I was a little girl, I would spend hours with my grandfather in his home workshop. He would make all kinds of things and I used to love watching him at work. I still have some of the tools he made, as well as a cribbage board and a turntable that swings the Scrabble board around to face each opponent. He crafted a complete house of Barbie furniture for my dolls and, to my delight, he asked me my opinion about every single piece. I felt both the weight of responsibility for deciding what each bed and chair would look like, and pride in participating in this project with him.

My grandfather, George Deakin (1901 -1983,) born in Sheffield, England, learned these skills when he was a young man. His father was a miner and George also worked for the coal mining companies of Sheffield, which were significant employers in the early 1900s. Gramps was a fitter which means that he made parts either for piping or for equipment and machinery.1, 2

I used to ask my grandfather why he came to Canada and the answer was always the same and always emphatic. “I did not want to work in the mine.” Sometimes he would go on to explain that, when he left, he still worked above ground for the mining company. However, he was a very short man and he knew that it was a matter of time before he would be required to work underground. Small men were valuable in the low tunnels of the coal mines, but the work was dangerous and unhealthy. Gramps had no intention of ever working underground.

So in 1923, he came to Canada as part of the Harvester Scheme. That year, Canada had a bumper wheat crop and North America could not provide the labour needed to harvest the crop.  Under the Harvester Scheme, the two major Canadian railway companies entered into an agreement with the British government to transport 12,000 workers out west where they would earn $4.00 per day plus board. 3

He ended up in Manitoba and the Canadian west must have suited him because he used to enjoy talking about his time on the farm. The days were long and the men worked hard but Gramps found it satisfying to work so hard.  And how the workers enjoyed the hearty meals that the women of the farm prepared for them!

He only stayed one harvesting season in Manitoba because, once that bumper crop had been harvested, there was no more work. He took the train to Montreal and easily found work as a draftsman at the Northern Electric plant. He had learned to read and draft drawings in Sheffield and his skills were in high demand. He worked at the Northern Electric plant in Lachine all his life, even during the Great Depression.

When Gramps first arrived in Canada, he was not sure he would stay.4 But after he met and married my grandmother in 1925, they settled in the Montreal suburb of Verdun and raised two children.

Here, he was able to work all his life in a job that he loved. He especially enjoyed the attention to detail that went into designing. And when he wasn’t designing at work, he was making tools, games, and Barbie furniture for the family.

1 Canada. “Immigration Records (1865 – 1935)” Database. Library and Archives Canada.  BAC-LAC, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/passenger-lists/Pages/introduction.aspx#d: 2017.

2 http://www.occupationsguide.cz/en/POVOL/148.htm

3 Foster, John Elgin, The Developing West:  Essays on Canadian History in Honor of Lewis H. Thomas, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1983

4 Canada. “Immigration Records (1865 – 1935)” Database. Library and Archives Canada.  BAC-LAC, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/passenger-lists/Pages/introduction.aspx#d: 2017.

Refugees in Quebec

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/refugees/history.html

Canada: A History of Refuge

What Does “Refugee” Mean?

It is not as easy to define “refugee” as one might expect. In its simplest meaning, a refugee is a person who flees his or her home country because of fears of persecution or abuse, particularly by their own government. However, the meaning is affected by political change, public perception and history. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, refugees are people who have been forced to leave their country and who are afraid to return because of war, violence or persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Navigate through the exposition to learn more about refugees in Canada.

This above database prepared by Jacques Gagné consists of books, articles and theses written by numerous authors on the subject of refugees that have come to Quebec and their contributions.

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A VERY YOUNG MARRIAGEABLE GIRL

Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris, France

Over the years many authors have written about ‘les filles du roi, otherwise known as the King’s (Louis XIV’s) daughter’s. Eight hundred young women were part of a settlement scheme from 1663 -1674 in New France, now Quebec, Canada.

Much less was written and noted about a group of women who ventured into the new world. Prior to the King’s daughter’s arrival, the Company of One Hundred Associates between the years 1634 and 1662 recruited tradesmen, labourers and 262 young women. The purpose was to create a French settlement.

Elisabeth Radisson, my seventh great grandmother, along with her sister, Francoise and her half-sister Marguerite all signed contracts. What prompted them to sign these contracts, particularly when they were so young?
Elisabeth Radisson was born in about 1637 in St. Sulpice, Paris, Ile de France, France.

Pierre Esprit Radisson Sr, their father was a well-to do bourgeois. He owned a clothing store in Paris. He married Madeleine Henault, the widow of Sebastien Hayet, who died leaving his young wife with a year-old daughter, Marguerite, born in 1632. Several documents have indicated that the marriage of Pierre and Madeleine took place in 1635. Together the couple had 3 children, Francoise about (1636) and Elisabeth about (1637) and Pierre, the famous explorer. The dates of his birth vary. There are discrepancies indicating that it was sometime between (1636 -1640)

There are several dates given for the passing of Pierre Senior. There is a document explaining an inventory upon his death dated 1641.3. The year of his demise seems most likely to be is 1646. Most documents give his date of birth as 1590 and it appears he died at the age of fifty-six, on November 25, 1646, in Paris leaving Madeleine to care for four young people between the ages of 15 and 9. 4.

In 1646 these three young girls, Elisabeth, age 9, Francoise about 10 years old and Marguerite at 15 each signed a contract as ‘filles à marier’. They set sail for New France. 5. After a lengthy crossing they arrived and settled in Trois- Rivières. Pierre may have come with them although a document indicates “he immigrated from France to Canada on the 24th of May, in 1651”.6.

After her arrival little is written about Elisabeth settling in her new home. We do know Elisabeth was able to sign her name. During a ten-year period in Trois-Rivières very little is known about where she lived as a young girl. One might presume that she was with her siblings. The first record other than her arrival in Canada is 8-7-1657 in Trois Rivières when she was the godmother of Marie-Anne Chouard or Chouart. This child might have been the daughter of Elisabeth Radisson’s half-sister. Marguerite.

Later that year there was a notarial contract signing on October 8, 1657, before her marriage to Claude Jutras. At that point she would have been 19 years old.7.

Her husband to be, Claude Jutras dit Lavallée was also born in Paris about 1627 and he arrived in Trois-Rivières 1656 as a soldier. He was stationed at the garrison in Trois Rivières. 8.

Elisabeth Radisson and Claude Jutras dit Lavallée were married on November 05, 1657, 9. at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Trois-Rivières.10.

Within the first year of their marriage Elisabeth gave birth to a daughter, Madeleine. Over a period of twenty years, the couple had nine children, 6 girls and 3 boys. Most of the children lived to adulthood. Sadly, Marguerite died at the age of nineteen giving birth to twin boys. Young Claude was sixteen at the time of his death.11.

Five of the daughters married and Marie Joseph chose to enter the Ursuline convent. Pierre became a voyageur and acquired a seigneury.

The census of 1671 noted that Claude Jutras was no longer a soldier, but rather had become a habitant or settler. Life appears to have been kind to the family. By the year 1679 after a number of land transactions the Jutras had acquired wealth and were now considered members of the bourgeoisie, among the well to do families.12.

The above document is only one indication of the many financial contributions Elisabeth’s made to the Jutras family wealth.13.

Claude Jutras dit Lavallée died the 28th of November 1710 and was buried that same day in Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada.14.

Elisabeth Radisson lived for nearly twelve years after Claude’s passing. She died on the 11th of May 1722 and is also buried in Trois-Rivières.15.

Below is the church record of Elisabeth’s burial.

  • Sources:

1.https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Project:Filles_%C3%A0_marier# Bilingual_Biographies

2.https://www.worldcat.org/title/before-the-kings-daughters-the-filles-a-marier-1634- 1662/oclc/50411950?referer=di&ht=editionGAGNE, PETER J. Before the King’s Daughters: The Filles a Marier, 1634-1662. Pawtucket, RI: Quintin Publications, 2002. Pages 303-316. 

Maple Stars and Stripes — Click and open in a new window

3.https://www.sgq.qc.ca/images/_SGQ/BD_web_libre/Actes_notaries_des_pionniers_de_Paris.pdf  page  169

4.https://www.geni.com/projects/Marriageable-Girls/14207

5.https://www.amazon.ca/Histoire-Nouvelle-France-3-Marc-Lescarbot/dp/114403213X

6.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Esprit_Radisson#Birth_and_emigration_to_New_France

7.https://www.geni.com/projects/Marriageable-Girls/14207

  https://genealogie.quebec/stemma4web/info/index.php?no=37300

8.http://www.apointinhistory.net/jutras.php

   9.http://www.migrations.fr/FILLE_A_MARIER/fm_mariage_R.htm

10.https://huntingtonfamily.org/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I3940&tree=johnandtuly

11.http://www.migrations.fr/FILLE_A_MARIER/fm_mariage_R.htmIbid

https://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/3313859?docsearchtext=ELisabeth%20Radisson

12.http://www.apointinhistory.net/jutras.php

13.https://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/3313859?docsearchtext=ELisabeth%20Radisson

14.https://greenerpasture.com/Ancestors/Details/31555  & https://www.myheritage.com/names/claude_jutras

15.http://www.migrations.fr/ACTES_SEPULTURES_FM/sepultures_filleamarier.htm#R

Plaisance (Placentia) 1655-1713 & Le French Shore 1713-1783

The European presence in Newfoundland goes back to the early 16th century. In their autobiographies, John Cabot and Jacques Cartier, explorers, both indicated the presence of Basque fishermen along the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Strait of Labrador, the southern and northern regions of the Island of Newfoundland.

The extraction of oïl from whales caught off the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the cod fish industry along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador were major industries with market places in Continental Europe, the British Isles.

This database contains a selection of authors who have written books, articles, and dissertations about the great fishing era off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Plaisance
(Placentia)
1655-1713
&
Le French Shore
1713-1783

A History of Québec
Québec Past and Present 1608-1876 Part Two

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51lu9dojs3l._sx331_bo1204203200_-1.jpg

Sir James MacPherson Le Moine, author of Quebec Past and Present was born in Quebec in 1825 and was a Law Professor at Laval University. From 1869 to 1899, he was an inspector of revenue for the district of Quebec.

He was also a founding member of various organizations such as the Institut Canadien de Québec, the Royal Society of Canada and the National Archives of Canada.

He was an accomplished author and wrote many books. One of those that garnered much attention,  Maple Leaves, Les Pêcheries du Canada, and several books on Canadian history. He was a true fact finder and  his eyewitness accounts were of interest to his readers.

Sir James MacPherson Le Moine was involved with the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. He served as president in 1871, 1879–1882, and 1902-1903.

Click the link to access the file. Open in a new window

Canadian Tourists in India, 1900

When Helen Frances (Bagg) Lewis and her husband Edward travelled from Shanghai to Canada in 1900, they took a circuitous route through India, sightseeing along the way. In a travel journal written 25 years later, Helen described the highlights of that trip, including three frightening encounters with snakes.

Helen was my great-grandfather Robert Stanley Bagg’s youngest sister. She and Edward lived in Shanghai for several months in 1899. They even considered staying there, but decided instead to relocate to Canada’s west coast, rather than return to their hometown of Montreal.

They left Shanghai aboard a P&O steamer and explored Hong Kong for a month before taking a second-class cargo ship to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), arriving in Columbo on New Year’s Day, 1900.

Helen Lewis’s photo of runners in Ceylon was published in Wide World Magazine.

Their first stop in India was in the southern city of Madura, and Helen wrote that the timing of their visit was perfect.

“It happened to be a gala day at the Temple of Madura, so all the sacred elephants were out in procession, bedazzled with garlands of flowers and state paraphernalia. The procession over, we were allowed to mount a couple of them, and never shall I forget my first experience of riding on the back of one of those stately animals….”

Luck was with them again in Puri, a city famed for what Helen called the “Juggernaut” Temple, an elaborate Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Jagannath. But seeing the dirty exterior of the bungalow where they had arranged to stay, Helen felt disappointment.

Her spirits “sank to zero” when she realized that the rustling they heard came from a nest of cobras on the roof. While inspecting the property further, she encountered a government officer, Major H.. The only white man in the district, he was so pleased to meet some English-speaking people that he invited them to stay with him for three days.

Early in the morning of their last day in Puri, a messenger arrived with the news that a tiger had entered a nearby village and carried off a woman. “Major sahib” was asked to immediately go and kill the animal. Both the major and Edward agreed, leaving Helen in the house with a number of servants, none of whom spoke English.

She decided to explore the rambling bungalow and found herself in the “snake room,” where the major kept an enormous collection of “vicious reptiles in tanks and cages, for scientific purposes. At my entrance, these monsters almost simultaneously rose up and hissed at me, so that my retreat was by no means leisurely.” She was much relieved when the two men returned after a successful hunt, and she noted in her journal that she still treasured the tiger’s claws, a souvenir of their visit.

From Puri, the couple continued by train to Calcutta and Darjeeling, where they were thrilled to view the Himalayas in perfectly clear weather. They then moved on to the sacred city of Benares, on the banks of the Ganges River.

In their next destination, Lucknow, Helen experienced “a narrow escape from a venomous cobra who was coiled up on the stone parapet, enjoying his noonday siesta.”

“On bending over the parapet to peer down, I accidentally touched his head, when he reared and stretched out his neck to strike. Terror lent me wings and I made for shelter. The driver was as keen as I to move on, as the Hindus consider it desecration to kill any animal, and I urged him forward fearing lest Edward — who was on the beach below, photographing sun worshippers, — might return at that moment and insist upon starting off on a cobra hunt. As it happened, I did not say a word about the episode to him until some days later in Agra, where I met with my second cobra adventure.”

Helen found Agra and its famed Taj Mahal interesting, but her encounter with the snake was even more memorable.

“Whilst driving close to the river one afternoon, one of our wheels must have grazed his slumbering body, for suddenly sprung to his full length, he struck with such force at the hood of our open gharry [a horse-drawn cab] as to hit the brim of my broad sun hat, and send it forward over my face. Luckily at the moment I did not realize what a narrow escape I had had.”

Over the next few weeks, the couple continued their explorations. Finally, in March, they sailed from Bombay, through the Suez Canal to Venice and Trieste. From there, they made their way via Paris to Cherbourg and crossed the Atlantic to New York. Edward continued to Vancouver to arrange for their new home, while Helen stopped in Montreal for several weeks to visit family and friends.

Note: This account is part of a series of journals Helen wrote later in life, handwritten in black ink in a lined, leather-bound book. These excerpts are from Book III, The Orient:  A New Life in a New Land. She did not complete this volume and I do not know whether the others have survived. This one now belongs to a descendant of Helen’s niece, Ada Lindsay.

James Sutherland Music Man

James Sutherland’s death from apoplexy (cerebral hemorrhage) was noted in The Music Trade Review published in New York in 1915. The Sutherlands were not known for their musical abilities so discovering that James had been the well known proprietor of Sutherland’s Old Reliable Music House in Toronto, was a surprise.

Music Trade Review 1915

James was born in Toronto in 1850. He moved with his parents, William Sutherland and Elizabeth Mowat to West Gwilliambury and then to Carrick, Ontario where his father had obtained crown land. He worked on the family farm and attended school until 1867, when he returned to Toronto. He was seventeen and lived by himself in a boarding house.

His brothers William and Donald, soon followed him to Toronto. All the Sutherlands, it seems, preferred being merchants to farmers. He and Donald were first book sellers. There was no mention of a music store until 1884. The store was then situated at 292 Yonge Street and perhaps a complement to Donald and William’s book store, Sutherland’s Dominion Book Store at number 286. In the late 1800s, music stores sold mostly sheet music rather than instruments. They sold some pianos but they were not an everyday purchase. In the early 1900s, gramophones became popular and so stores also sold the wax coated cylinders and vinyl discs.

James married Elizabeth Bridge in 1882. He was 32 and she only 17. She wasn’t a Toronto girl but from back home, born and raised in the Carrick, Ontario area. They had four children; sons James Russell, Alexander Uziel, Neill Clarence and a daughter Verney. James, according to his obituary, was an upstanding citizen and business man as his memberships show. He was a member of Knox Presbyterian Church, the Yonge St Mission and the Order of the Canadian Home Circles.

He died in 1915 at 65 years of age and his wife Elizabeth not long after, in 1921. They were buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery but not in the same plot. They are both lying in adult single graves.

With three sons, I was hoping to find a living relative with the Sutherland name. The eldest son, James Russel married Laura Bansley in 1914. He died of influenza in 1918. They had no children.

Alexander married Florence Petherbridge in 1915. He was an electrician and signed up for military service during WWI. He survived the war but like his brother died of influenza, in 1919. Florence then went back to live with her parents, Charles and Elizabeth Petherbridge taking baby Douglas with her. Twenty years later Douglas visited a friend in the US. His border crossing is the only further mention of him.

Neill Sutherland married Mabel Ashby July 9, 1926. His marriage certificate listed him as a 22 year old chauffeur and she was a 16 year old spinster. John their son, born in September 1926 unfortunately died in July 1927. I have not found any other children.

Daughter Verney born in 1891 leaves even less of a trail. She only appears in two census and her father’s 1915 obituary. Her name is spelled many different ways on the documents. While I would like to find out more about her she would not leave Sutherland named descendants.

I still find the Music Store a strange occupation for James. His brother Donald left a Presbyterian church when they were considering buying an organ as he felt the human voice was all that was needed to praise God. I wonder what he thought about his brother selling gramophones? At least he didn’t sell on Sunday.

Notes:

The Music Trade Review Vol LX No. 15 April 10, New York 1915

Toronto City Directories 1879 – 1915.

Toronto Daily Star: Obituary Mr James Sutherland. Page 11. Friday March 25, 1915.

Ancestry.com. 1871-1921 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2013.

Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familiarization/ark:/61903/1:1:2763-347 : accessed 18 May 2016), James Sutherland, 30 Apr 1915; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot Adult Single Grave 8 4954, line 33082, volume Volume 03, 1908-1919, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,617,217.

Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2763-8FM : accessed 18 May 2016), James Russell Sutherland, 14 Dec 1918; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot Adult Single Grave 8 4954, line 38164, volume Volume 03, 1908-1919, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,617,217.

Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2763-683 : accessed 18 May 2016), Alexander U Sutherland, 19 May 1919; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot Adult Single Grave 8 5404, line 38405, volume Volume 03, 1908-1919, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,617,217.

Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/2763-JZH : accessed 05 Dec 2014), Elizabeth Sutherland, 23 Feb 1921; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot Adult Single Grave 8 5404, line 41137, volume Volume 04, 1920-1931, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, Toronto; FHL microfilm 001617217.

Single graves aren’t necessarily single, as James and James Russel were buried in the same adult single grave and Alexander and his mother Elizabeth were also buried in another adult single grave.

Douglas Sutherland gave his Aunt Kate Petherbridge as his Canadian contact when he crossed the US border in 1938. Kate had visited her sister Florence Hatler, who I assume had remarried, in Detroit Michigan in 1928.

Sovereign Council

&

Superior Council of New France

Sovereign Council & Superior Council of New France

1663-1769

The following database consists of books, and documents relating to the Sovereign Council.

The Canadian Encyclopedia’s defines Sovereign Council as noted below.

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/fr/article/conseil-souverain

Court of appeal in civil and criminal matters where cases arise from lower courts of justice, its judgments are revocable only by the King’s Council.

Sovereign Council

 In 1663, the Compagnie des Cent Associés surrendered its rights to NOUVELLE-FRANCE . Louis XIV then established a royal government. He thus endowed New France with a complete administrative apparatus, on the model of those who manage the provinces of France. The Sovereign Council, which became the Superior Council in 1717, compared itself to the parliaments of these provinces. The Council is initially made up of the GOVERNOR , the bishop, the STEWARD and five councilors. In 1703, this number was increased to 12, to which were added in 1742, four assessors. Its members are generally recruited from the French gentry and are appointed initially by the governor and bishop, then by the king.

Court of appeal in civil and criminal matters where cases arise from lower courts of justice, its judgments are revocable only by the King’s Council. It crowns a judicial structure established in each government of the colony: the provost of Quebec (1663), the royal jurisdiction of Trois-Rivières (1665), that of Montreal (1693) and the Admiralty (1703)

Click the link to access the database:

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My grandfather’s brilliant city hall career in four scandals – part 3

The Coderre Police Corruption Inquiry/Laurier Palace Fire Scandal

The Crepeaus in Atlantic City probably 1927. Working vacation?

If you are a Quebecker of a certain age, it is possible that as a child you never went to the movies. Everyone under sixteen years of age in this Canadian province was banned from attending the motion pictures even in the company of an adult from 1927 until 1962 *1

This is because of the tragic Laurier Palace movie house fire in January 1927 where seventy eight children perished in a crush at the downstairs doors, doors that only opened inwardly.

These 78 children were among a larger group of working class kids crowded into the upper balcony of the ramshackle Laurier Palace watching a Western on a Sunday afternoon.

A slew of high-profile inquests and hearings followed the tragedy. My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services, was the first to testify at both the initial coroner’s inquest and subsequent hearings. It is unclear what exactly happened in the balcony as only children came forward to testify. All seven or so adults seated there seemed to disappear into the ether. There was talk of two men purposely closing the doors on the desperate kids. At least one older boy had time to go up and down the stairs a few times before the smoke got dangerous. The origin of the fire was never discovered. *2

Most parents, afraid of legal reprisals, testified that they thought their children were at church that afternoon. But parents of the era could hardly be blamed for allowing their children to attend the movies by themselves– against the by-laws. Many of their male children were already out in the workforce earning their own discretionary income and many of their young daughters were already ‘little mothers’ in charge of even younger siblings. With the traffic chaos on the streets in 1927, the movie house probably seemed like a relatively safe place for their children.*3

Just as special ‘kiddie matinees’ were taking off in the US (late 20’s early 30’s) Quebec banned all children from going to the cinema – for 4 decades. Crazy!

On January 10, 1927, the day after the Laurier Palace Fire, the front page of Le Devoir newspaper ran two related stories side-by-side. One was a dry report where my grandfather Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services, admitted that the Laurier Palace Theatre had been operating without a license.

“This will all be explained at the Coroner’s Inquest,” he said.

The second story was a shocking side-bar rehashing testimony from a two year old inquiry into police corruption, testimony that also mentioned my grandfather.

“Our readers will no doubt be interested in re-reading these extracts from testimony at the 1924 Coderre Inquiry into Police Malfeasance and Corruption, 4 that bear on motion picture theatre attendance.”

The side-bar included bits and pieces of testimony given in December, 1924 at this hearing by a certain Constable C.T. in the ‘special services’ division of the Montreal Police Department. The cop railed against City Hall. He was angry because members of the Executive Committee, he said, as well as my grandfather, repeatedly forced the police to cancel citations against motion picture houses that allowed children into the shows, unattended.

Constable CT gave specifics, naming each of the movies houses (the Ouimetoscope!) and the dates when citations were cancelled. He said, “One of these moments there’s going to be a catastrophe that will wake up the authorities.” Le Devoir put that quote in all caps.*5

Despite this sensational after-the-fact finger-pointing at a sensitive time by an otherwise respectable publication, no one took the bait. My grandfather Jules was once again called to testify at the Coroner’s Inquest as well as the other inquiries into the fatal fire but was never asked about Constable CT’s earlier accusations.

Indeed, a while later, when the Taschereau Government was deliberating whether to ban all Sunday showings in Quebec, my grandfather testified once again. He even brought in Ernest Cousins, Vice President of United Amusements, Montreal’s largest movie chain, to talk about the importance of Sunday showings to the movie distribution industry.*6

Isadore Crepeau, my grandfather’s brother, who just happened to be another Vice-President of United Amusements, was not called in to testify at this time, nor was my grandfather’s family connection to United Amusements ever mentioned.*7

So, why wasn’t my grandfather pilloried back in 1927, when passions over the tragedy were at a high boil, for these two year old allegations of interference with the policemen who patrolled motion picture houses (and who, btw, regularly accepted free tickets for their kids.)

Well, the truth is, Constable CT’s testimony was hardly gold-standard. Under cross-examination a day later, the cop admitted rather glibly to having lent the Chief of Police large sums of money at different times, for reasons he refused to elaborate on. He also admitted to depositing more than five thousand dollars into his five bank accounts over a short period of time. “Rents and winnings on horses” he said.

Constable CT was just another corrupt cop, put on the stand specifically to threaten my grandfather by bringing up, out-of-the-blue, the fairly benign subject of children and the motion pictures, when the Coderre Inquiry was mounted to deal with much more dire and dark issues: police involvement in prostitution of women and girls, drug rings and organized crime and illegal booze smuggling in the era of American prohibition.

Taken in that light, Constable CT’s statement “One day there’s going to be a catastrophe” uttered in December 1924, a full two years before the Laurier Palace fire, could be construed as a threat.

My grandfather, at the time, certainly felt threatened. He had Constable CT fired the very next day.

“Who is this Jules Crepeau who can tell the Chief of Police what to do?” asked Juge Coderre in his summary report in March 1925. As if he didn’t know.8

Three years later, in September, 1930, as explained in Part Two of this series, Mayor Camillien Houde was speechifying at the City Hall meeting where the aldermen debated whether or not to accept my grandfather’s coerced letter of resignation.

“The people want revenge,” Houde said. “They want revenge for the Montreal Water and Power Purchase (the purported reason for wanting my grandfather out) and for the Laurier Palace Fire.”

This was a sneak attack of some sort because never before had the Laurier Palace Fire been brought up as a reason to oust my grandfather from his lofty post at City Hall, at least not in any news clipping I have read.

With all the Houdist’s voting against him, my grandfather was, indeed, forced to resign his post of Director of City Services in September, 1930.

At the time, Grandpapa Jules negotiated a huge life pension that would make him the second highest paid employee at City Hall, without working. Seven years later, during the Great Depression, his huge pension would be rescinded by the City.

Two weeks after that, Jules was hit by a car near his home in Notre Dame de Grace, a car driven by an off-duty police officer. I guess my grandpapa threatened someone with a long reach.

He would die a year later of complications.

As it happens, Le Devoir was the only Montreal newspaper to give Jules a lengthy front page obituary. They even called out the other Montreal papers on this point.

The other day a noted public servant was put in the ground. The newspapers only published laconic biographical notes about him that don’t give a just idea of the role he played in municipal politics.”

The obituary didn’t mention the suspicious nature of my grandfather’s death, but it did allude, rather kindly, to the many scandals in his career:

He was too passionate not to occasionally take sides between two rivals, often creating his own enemies. Indeed, he received some knocks, some devastating knocks, but we must say upon his memory, that none of these accusations stuck.

Read the entire obit here.

Notes:

  1. The city by-laws forbade children to attend movies unless in the company of an adult, not because of a fear of fire-traps but for a fear of the morality of pre-code Hollywood. Indeed, exceptions could be made for films vetted by the Censor. A year later, a similar fire happened in a motion picture house in Scotland – also caused by a crush at doors that opened inwards. The only change that came of that was a law forbidding such doors in motion picture houses. But, in Quebec, everything becomes political. A parade of Montreal citizenry testified in the sad affair: the theatre owners (who were eventually exonerated) and employees and the firemen and the victims’ parents; then followed moguls in the theatre business, small independent theatre owners, union activists, more parents and more firemen, also educators and church officials and representatives of various community groups – anyone with a stake and an opinion – showed up to testify . Fire safety became a mere side issue: it was all about the morality of the motion pictures. The government ended up banning children from all showings, in return for allowing the controversial Sundays showings for adults. (Children could not vote, but their parents could.) I personally think the new “Talkies” coming in right then in 1927 had something to do with the decision. They were English talkies after all. Despite all this, Quebec children over the decades often evaded the rules by dressing up and acting like adults. There were also special children’s showings at various theatres over the years.

2. “It must have been a cigarette.” Most movie house fires of the time started in the projection booth. This wasn’t the case here, so they took a wild guess. A fire station was across the street, but firefighters could do nothing upon arrival to save the children.

3. 1927 was a pivotal year in traffic safety in North America. The horse and wagon era was literally colliding with the era of the automobile – and their were no road rules yet. The same edition of the Montreal Gazette that covers the Laurier Palace Fire has a story of a toddler being run over in front of her house. This was a daily occurrence in North American cities at the time.

4. The Coderre Inquiry into Police Corruption and Malfeasance was launched after a record-breaking Brinks robbery in the Hochelaga district where it discovered that policemen were involved, but it had long roots back to WWI and prostitution around the Montreal Barracks. A Committee of Sixteen mostly Protestant groups organized an all-court press on Montreal City Hall in 1921, to protect the sad girls working in prostitution in the city after a prominent doctor gave a speech to the elite members of Canadian Club. They focused on the Baghdad Cafe, a sleazy dive serving US tourists located across the street from the ritzy Mount Royal Hotel, Tony Frank, Montreal’s leading mobster and top drug dealer was also implicated in the Brinks robbery. He thought he had the perfect alibi, but he and his henchmen were quickly hanged on circumstantial evidence. Judge Coderre, a religious conservative, used the Inquiry as his bully-pulpit. “Vice spreads its tentacles into every aspect of Montreal life, ” he wrote in his final report. He made many recommendations, all of which were ignored.

New York Times article: “300 to 600 houses of vice in Montreal, many owned by respectable women who live in good districts and seldom visit the brothels except to do administration.”

5. The Montreal Gazette’s quote at the time was “One day there’s going to be a catastrophe and if a fire breaks out one of these days no one will be able to get out.” These may or may not be the same quote. Unfortunately, the newspapers used creative license when transcribing the testimony and no full 10,000 page transcript of the Coderre Inquiry still exists, although Montreal City Hall has some original documents. https://www.archivesquebec.com/montrealp045.html . I visited there a few years ago and was shown a transcript on pdf that had been prepared for JAAA Brodeur and the Executive Committee. It was edited down and did not include Constable CT’s ‘prescient’ quote. From what I read, it appears that Constable CT brought up the incriminating evidence against my grandfather without even being asked. He changed the subject himself in mid interview. This transcript did contain a vivid account of a visit to a house of prostitution made by an undercover American. All he had to do was to ask the cabby and he was guided to this brothel (that was said to be under the protection of the police) where a dozen of drug-addled girls wearing ‘handkerchiefs’ were displayed before him.

6. The UA chain did not have children as customers, said Cousins, but Sunday was the company’s biggest day at the box office for adults. If Sunday showings were cancelled, United Amusements would have to close down their entire operation…. United Amusements was a movie distribution chain founded by Greek immigrant George Ganetakos during the WWI years.. He started out small, showing ‘flickers’ on the wall o f his uncle’s ice cream shop, then took on Ernest Cousins (an ice cream man) and my great uncle Isadore Crepeau when he expanded. Eventually his company became part of Famous Players. United Amusements built many of the gorgeous Montreal movie palaces of the day. Greeks were big in the movie biz as they were entrepreneurial by nature and this new movie revolution presented a big opportunity for them. In his testimony, as reported in the Montreal Gazette, Constable CT accused Greeks of corralling children into the movies. The Laurier Palace was owned by Canadians of Syrian origin, a group often back then conflated with Greeks. On the morning after the fire, as reported in Le Devoir, George Ganetakos, using the name George Nicholas, set up an emergency fund for the victims.

7. My Mom’s Uncle Isadore was a glass manufacturer/insurance agent whose elegant stained-glass window graced the Rialto Theatre on Park Avenue for many years. It’s still there – in what is now an entertainment venue. In 1933, Isadore ‘fell’ out of his office window, seven floors up, and met his death. The police deemed it an accident relating a ridiculous story and citing unnamed witnesses. Isadore was very likely hired by Ganetakos because of his connection to my grandfather. A survey of movie industry magazines, like Box Office, reveals that my grandfather’s name came up much more often than Isadore’s.

8. Juge Coderre and his wife often attended City Hall events like the soiree for the Royal Princes held in August 1927.