Category Archives: Montreal

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.

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].

Water, Water Everywhere: North America’s First Bottled Water Company

Pic above: Bottled water on an assembly line of large glass water bottles at the Laurentian Spring Water Company, circa 1986.

The image above was captured from a 1986 television news report aired on the centenary of the founding of the landmark Montreal company, Laurentian Spring Water. Laurentian was the first bottled water company in North America!

Laurentian was a family business and my father-in-law was a shareholder. His father, Thomas Wells, or Fuddy, had been President of the Company in the first part of the 20th century.

Thomas Fuddy Wells 1868-1951

This homage didn’t make for the most exciting news item: an assembly line and a talking head, the current General Manager discussing the history of Laurentian.

The GM said that the company was founded a century earlier when a certain Mr. Robert C. White, a shoe manufacturer, accidentally discovered a wonderful gusher of fresh water 250 feet down while digging under his business on Craig Street. Lots of water was needed in shoe manufacturing.


But, as it happens, this water was especially fresh, from a 5000 year old aquifer the man on the TV said, originating far away in the Laurentian Mountains, hence the company name.

He explained that horses were used to power the drill down into the earth. By the 1980’s, there were two wells, one 250 feet down and one 500 feet down.

While researching my story MILK AND WATER (where I have Thomas Wells and my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services, discuss water and Montreal politics in 1927 while waiting for the Prince of Wales outside a speak-easy) I learned that Montreal island has many such aquifers. Whether or not they originate in the Laurentians is debatable.

Around 1900, during a time of typhoid, Robert White exploited this wholesome mountain imagery to break into the home-water market, by advertising that he had the PUREST water in town. The scientists out at Macdonald College in Ste Anne de Bellevue had tested it, apparently.

Up until then, White had used his glorious geyser to create a ritzy public bath where City aldermen from around the corner at City Hall conducted private meetings while sweating it off – and an elite swimming pool for water polo competitions and such. Women were allowed in on Wednesdays.

“PURITY” was a loaded concept back in the early 1900’s in North America. It had to do with tainted food, a genuine issue, tainted alcohol, typhoid and cholera epidemics, and also fears and racist beliefs about immigrants from Southern Europe and elsewhere. Ivory Soap and its 99.9999 percent pure slogan was born in that era, one of many, many new products advertised as pure in places like the Ladies’ Home Journal.

Robert White, who died in 1904, was Fuddy’s Uncle, it appears. According to family lore, he had a disinterested son so he brought Fuddy in from Ingersoll, Ontario. Fuddy was the son of a top Ingersoll lawyer who was from Cambridgeshire, England.

My husband’s grandfather had a gift of the gab, but the 1911 census has him down as an accountant for the company earning 7,000 a year, a lot of money in those days.

It is said that 1,500.00 a year was the minimal salary to keep a family of four in dignity. Few families in the City made that amount of money, even with both the Mom and Dad working. And even fewer had such small families. Still, my father-in-law maintained that it was Fuddy’s wife’s dowry that allowed them to live the high life in tony Westmount in the Roarin’ Twenties.

By that decade, Fuddy was a member of many prestigious clubs, including the St. George’s. Back in 1903, the St George’s Club had sued the city of Westmount, a dry city, claiming that as a private club they had every right to serve alcohol.

Fuddy participated in lawn-bowling and curling (and boozing) all in the name of the big schmooze.

My father-in-law claimed Fuddy regularly visited the restaurants around the Mount Royal Hotel and greased the palms of the waiters so that they would serve Laurentian brand soft drinks. Soft drinks were originally created to cut the bad taste of bootlegged liquor.

Fresh water was not considered a human right or even a necessity in the big city in the Victorian era. Water pipes were brought in to keep fires at bay and preserve businesses. Water fountains were placed on Mount Royal only to keep fathers from heading off to the tavern to quench their thirst.

Private homes had to find their own water, either digging a well or getting it from the St. Lawrence River. The poor people of Montreal, many of whom lived ‘below the hill’ in Griffintown, often had no source at all of drinking water, and many still used privies, holes in the ground, as toilets. But filthy water they had a’plenty, every Spring, when their homes flooded. Montreal had the highest infant mortality rate in the Western World due to intestinal diarrhea from contaminated water and milk and the working class suffered the most.

Wealthier people could pay private water sellers to lug barrels up from the river for them. If you did have a tap at your disposal, the water was suspect as the City disposed of its waste very near where it accessed its tap water.

No surprise then that in the early 1900’s Montreal had a series of game-changing typhoid epidemics that took a toll on both rich and poor communities. This made it easy for Laurentian to start selling water to homes. They played it up in the newspaper.

My father-in-law also claimed that during one of the epidemics Laurentian gave water away to anyone who wanted it. I found no newspaper ads suggesting this.

The man on the TV in 1986 said something very interesting. He said that by the 1980’s, thanks to enormous efforts over the decades by the City to provide all households with potable water, Laurentian was selling only to offices, but they were hoping to once again sell to households.

Hmmm. Something was happening here! There were no typhoid epidemics in the 1970s’. Walkerton would only happen a decade later.

It was all about finding new markets. And, as we all know, new markets were found, with the help of a widely-circulated myth (with iffy origins) that everyone needs to drink eight glasses of pure water daily to clear out their kidneys. Meanwhile plastic water bottles fill the oceans and the relatively new idea that fresh water is a universal human right and not a commodity to be hoarded and exploited, is being challenged.

The family-owned business was soon sold to the Labrador company, now Labrador Source. My father-in-law inherited a small fortune and helped us buy our first house.

Family heirloom: A Laurentian Crate in our living room. Glass bottle of course.

Michele Dagenais of the University of Montreal is the expert in Montreal’s Water history. I used many of his papers to write my own book. You can buy Montreal:City of Water here. As it happens, Professor Dagenais also wrote a book about early Montreal CIty Hall, where he discussed my Grandfather, Jules Crepeau and his job as Director of City Services.

Good wages, employment guaranteed

Good wages. Employment guaranteed. These words echoed over and over again in Mary McHugh’s head. And only some domestic experience required. Mary thought that she had quite enough domestic experience, thank you, as she was the only daughter still at home.

It was 1910 and Mary had turned 20 in February.1 Old enough to be married. No prospects in sight. She had been working at the jute factory since she finished school at 14.2 Like her older brother, Thomas McHugh, she immediately got a job in the jute factory as soon as she could. Mary’s mother, Sarah McLaughlin, was happy that Mary was working as Sarah was a widow and still had three children at home. Her husband, Michael McHugh, had died of tuberculosis when Mary’s brother, Francis, was just three months old.3  It had been a struggle for Sarah to make ends meet. Even though Sarah had managed to get a job as a charwoman,4 it was not easy. Sarah was exhausted when she got home, too, and it was up to Mary to help with the housework and cooking for her younger brothers. Mary’s older brother, Thomas, was already married with six children. He helped when he could but he had his own worries.

Mary thought ruefully about her job. She was a jute spinner at the flax mill.5 The mill was noisy and crowded. Mary worked twelve hours a day and it was back-breaking work. The women worked hard in the mills but made less wages than the men. The machines were dangerous. Accidents happened often.6 And then there was mill fever or brown lung. Most people who worked in the mill had a dry cough and sometimes even a fever.7

Mill Workers

Photograph from the BBC8

Mary liked the idea of being a domestic. The hours would be long and she would be on her feet all day but the air would be clean and it would be quiet. But Canada? So far away? All by herself? Could she do it?

These thoughts were the beginning of Mary’s plan to emigrate to Canada. Mary McHugh was my great aunt and she arrived on the S.S. Grampion that sailed from Glasgow and arrived in Quebec City in July 1911.9

In the early 1900s the demand for domestic servants in Canada exceeded the number of young Canadian women willing to do this type of work. Governments, employers, and women’s organizations made a special effort to encourage the immigration of household workers.8 More specifically, British immigrants were considered as desirable immigrants to Canada. As of 1888, steamship agents received a bonus for selling the passage of a female immigrant whose intent was to work as a domestic servant in Canada. This was called the British Bonus and it came into effect by an Order-in-Council on September 27, 1890. Its purpose was to offer an incentive to desirable British immigrants. Often the Canadian employer would pay the fare of the immigrant to the steamship company.10 The emigrating domestic would then have to pay it back out to her employer out of her wages. This meant that the young immigrant woman was already indebted to her employer even before she started working. If she was unhappy with her employment, it made it difficult for her to find a better employment as long as she owed money.11

It is probable that Mary’s fare to Canada was paid by her employer. Beside Mary McHugh’s name on the passenger manifest of the Grampion there is a stamp British Bonus Allowed.

Hopefully Mary enjoyed her employment. She was the first member of the McHugh family to arrive in Montreal in 1911. She was probably delighted when her mother, Sarah, and three brothers, Thomas, Edward and Francis, followed her to Montreal in May 1912. And Thomas’ wife, Elsie Orrock, and their seven children, Ann, Elsie, Sarah, Francis, Mary, Adam, and Thomas arrived in October 1912. Mary married John Mervin Porter in June 1913 and her family would have been there to celebrate with her.

 

Notes and sources:

This poster from the Canadian Museum of History is from a 1926 pamphlet entitled Housework in Canada: duties, wages, conditions and opportunities for household workers but there would have been similar pamphlets advertising for immigrants that may have given Mary the idea.  This pamphlet says that “Canada welcomes men and women of the right type who come to seek their fortune in this broad new land … (people) of good moral character, and in good health, mentally and physically.” You can see this on the Canadian Museum of History web site in the section Advertising in Britain in the 1920s, https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/advertis/ads7-06e.html

Household work

  1. Scotland’s People, Register of Births, Mary Ann McHugh, born February 4, 1890, accessed November 18, 2017.
  2. Wikipedia web site, History of Education in Scotland, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_Scotland, accessed August 17, 2020.
  3. Scotland’s People, Registers of Death, Michael McHugh, died May 16, 1895, accessed November 27, 2017 and Scotland’s People, Registers of Births, Francis McHugh, born February 21, 1895, accessed November 27, 2017.
  4. Scotland’s People, 1911 Census, Sarah McHugh, 1 Tait Lane, Dundee, Scotland, accessed February 15, 2018.
  5. Scotland’s People, 1911 Census, Mary McHugh, 1 Tait Lane, Dundee, Scotland, accessed February 15, 2018.
  6. DD Tours web site, Workers of the mills, September 16, 2014, https://www.ddtours.co.uk/archive/workers-of-the-mills/, accessed August 17, 2020.
  7. com web site, Byssinosis, https://www.healthline.com/health/byssinosis, accessed August 19, 2020.
  8. BBC web site, Tayside and Central Scotland, The history of mills in Dundee, December 2, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/taysideandcentralscotland/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8390000/8390747.stm, accessed August 17, 2020.
  9. Passenger list, S.S. Grampion, July 1911, Glasgow – Quebec City.
  10. British Bonus Paid, British Home Children web site, https://www.britishhomechildren.com/single-post/2014/11/09/British-Bonus-Paid, accessed August 18, 2020
  11. Barber, M.J., Immigrant Domestic Servants in Canada, Canadian Historical Association, Ottawa, 1991, p. 9

Slavery in New France in the 17th & 18th Centuries

August 1, 2020, Emancipation Day in Canada

In 1734, a huge fire destroyed part of Montreal. Marie-Joseph Angélique, a black slave, was accused on setting the fire deliberately as she tried to escape from her owner. She was arrested and found guilty, then she was tortured and hanged and her body was burned.

Angélique was one of many slaves, some black, others Indigenous, in New France.  Slavery was legal in Canada for more than 200 years. The Slavery Abolition Act brought an end to chattel slavery throughout the British Empire, coming into effect on August 1, 1834 in Britain, Canada, and several other colonies.

The attached PDF  Slavery in New France   is a 23-page research guide to the topic of slavery in New France in the 17th and 18th centuries. It contains the following contents:

Page 2     A link to a complete online copy of the book L’Esclavage au Canada français – 17e et 18e siècles” (in French) Author: Marcel Trudel – 474 pages Publisher- Les Presses Universitaires Laval, Quebec, Canada 1960

Pages 3-17    A List of authors who have written about slavery in Canada

Page 17- 20       Repositories in Quebec

Pages 21-22     Various online sites

Pages 22-23     Publishers

 

My Prudhommes

How do you get to be you? First you must have your parents, then your grandparents and as you trace back through your family trees you find all the coincidences needed for people to come together at a time and place for you to be who you are.

When Louis Prudhomme arrived in New France around 1640 I am sure that he never thought his seven times great-granddaughter would live there almost four hundred years later. He was an early settler in Ville-Marie (Montreal), a brewer, churchwarden and a member of the Montreal Militia. I descend from Louis and his wife Roberte Gadois. This marriage almost didn’t take place. Roberte came to New France as a child with her parents Pierre Gadois and Louise Mauger. Then when just 15, a marriage contract was drawn up between Roberte and Cesar Leger with the ceremony happening four days later. After six years, the marriage was annulled, most likely because there were no children. The survival of the colony depended on couples having children. On the same day her first marriage was annulled, Roberte married Louis Prudhomme. This wasn’t a quick decision as their marriage contract had been drawn up a year earlier. Roberte proved her fertility by soon giving birth. Their first child, son Francois-Xavier Prudhomme (1651 – 1741) is my ancestor.

Finally, well into his thirties, Francois Xavier married Cecile Gervais, only 13 at the time. This marriage too might not have taken place. Cecile’s parents were Jean Gervais and Anne Archambault. Her mother Anne had previously been married to Michel Chauvin. Michel had owned the property next to Louis Prudhomme. Louis, on a trip back to France, learned that Michel had a wife and children still living there. On his return to New France, he accused Michel of bigamy and reported him to the Governor Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve. Michel, expelled from the colony, went back to France leaving Anne free to marry again and give birth to Cecile. Francois Xavier Prudhomme and Cecile eventually had nine children.

Their first child Francois Prudhomme (1685 – 1748) married Marie-Anne Courault. This couple appeared to have lead uneventful lives except for having eight children.

One of their children, Nicolas Prudhomme (1722 – 1810 ) married Francine Roy. This couple had at least five children before Francine died at age 34. Their youngest child Eustache was just two at the time so not surprisingly Nicholas soon married again.

It was the marriage with his second wife Helene Simone Delorme that produced Jeramie Marie Prudhomme (1766 – 1846) my three times great grandfather. Seven years had past before this child entered the world. Helene must have been busy raising her step children. In 1818 Jeramie is listed by the Sulpicians as one of the twenty family heads living and farming in Côte Saint-Luc, west of the original settlement but still on the Island of Montreal. He married Marie Louise Décarie (1769-1855), from another important farming family. Jérémie and Marie Louise had seven children. Their last child Sophie Marie Louise married Barnabé Bruneau. The Prudhommes had lived on the island of Montreal since the 1640s. Sophie left her ancestral home and moved south across the St Lawrence River to St. Constant.

It is with Sophie Marie Prudhomme that my direct Prudhomme line ended. Other branches of the Prudhomme family continued to flourish. My Great Grandfather Ismael Bruneau chose the middle name Prudhomme in honour of his mother.

Notes:

7th Great Grandfather Louis Prudhomme (1611- 1671) married Roberte Gadois (1628- 1716)

6th Great grandfather Francois Xavier Prudhomme (1651-1741) married Cecile Gervais (1671-1760)

5th Great Grandfather Francois Prudhomme (1685-1748) married Marie Anne Courault (1689-

4th Great grandfather Nicolas Prudhomme (1722-1810) married Helene Simone Delorme (1730-

3rd Great Grandfather Jeramie Marie Prudhomme (1766-1846) married Marie Louise Decarie (1769- 1855)

Two times Great Grandmother Sophie Marie Prudhomme married Barnabé Bruneau

Jean-Jacques Lefebvre http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/prud_homme_louis_1E.html accessed May 13, 2020.

https://www.geni.com/people/Fran%C3%A7ois-Xavier-Prud-homme/6000000002352538874 accessed May 13, 2020.

Making Lime: http://www.minervaconservation.com/articles/abriefhistoryoflime.html accessed May 24, 2020.

https://csllibrary.org/the-prudhomme-family/ accesses May 12, 2020.

Spitfire Service Socks

My grandmother, Grace Hunter, used to knit, read, and watch television at the same time. She sat in her well-worn high-backed armchair, with her Women’s Own magazine or her Harlequin romance flattened open on the wide armrest, and watch her soap opera or a game show. I realize now that she was reading when the commercials were on but when I was a child, it seemed to me that she could follow the television and read simultaneously. Her lips moved silently to the beat of the clicking knitting needles. Every so often I heard her take in a deep breath as she concentrated on her knitting rather than the television or her book.

My memories of Nana knitting were more than thirty years after the end of World War II. She was a volunteer knitter for the war effort. This well-worn knitting instruction sheet for Spitfire Service Socks suggests that it was used often.

Spitfire

It is most likely that Nana learned to knit as a young girl. She came from a modest working class family so knitting would have been a necessary skill. During World War I, Grace’s father, John Hunter, was stationed in France. Knitting for the soldiers was an act of patriotism and is was highly likely that Grace, thirteen when her dad went off to war, would have knitted so that the care package that the family sent overseas would contain some warm socks and other knitted clothing.

My mom told me that when World War II broke out, my grandmother was active in the war effort. She belonged to the women’s auxiliary in the church and they held knitting bees, held fund raisers, and catered parties for the men on the eve of their departure for war. Knitting socks and other clothing was one way, among many, of doing something tangible for the men who had gone to war.

During both World Wars, the Canadian Red Cross issued knitting instructions to civilians so that they could contribute to the war effort.  Below is a picture of a booklet published during World War II. 1

Red Cross

The Red Cross was also in charge of collecting and distributing the knitting. Before sending the knitting overseas, the Red Cross inspected all items. Volunteers also helped with the quality control inspections and some knitters corrected mistakes made by others, such as taking out knots in heels of socks. Some volunteers would take the knitting completely apart and redo it, if needed. 2

The Canadian Red Cross estimated that 750,000 women knitted more than 50 million garments for the military in World War II.3

Even the style of knitting underwent a transformation. Continental-style knitting was popular in Germany but it fell out of favour in English speaking countries during World War II. Knitters changed to English-style knitting. The difference between the two styles is the hand in which the yarn is held. Continental-style knitters hold the yard in the left hand, not the right. Nana always had her yarn in the right hand, as her reading material was on the left armrest of her chair.4 She needed her left hand free to turn the page.

 

 

  1. Canadian Red Cross, WWII Civilian Knitting Instructions, https://www.redcross.ca/history/artifacts/wwii-civilian-knitting-instructions, accessed April 26, 2020
  2. Canadian War Museum, An Army of Knitters in Support of the War Effort, March 10, 2014, https://www.warmuseum.ca/blog/an-army-of-knitters-in-support-of-the-war-effort/, accessed April 26, 2020
  3. Idem.
  4. Weightman, Judy, More Knitting History, World War II, October 9, 2012, https://judyweightman.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/more-knitting-history-world-war-ii/, accessed April 26, 2020

The Family Genealogist

 

letterpic

The truth is, family genealogists haven’t changed that much over the years. They are still the one in the family with time on their hands and the fierce determination to stick with it through all the brick walls and misinformation and family myth muddles. They still wonder, when all is said and done, if anyone in the future will value their hard work.

Well, I think future generations will care and something happened to me lately to prove it:

The evidence comes in the form of a letter dated only March 3rd, but I know it must be from the 1970’s. It is from a certain Isabel to a Muriel. The type-written missive appears to be the last in a series on the subject of creating a family tree– and, without ceremony, after the “Dear Muriel” salutation, the letter gets right to the point.

“I have found two omissions, Jean Pepler, how could I miss her? and Jean McLeah. I have made Jean Pepler 84a as I found it after I had put in the numbers.”

Jean Pepler is my husband’s great grandmother’s niece. I know this from a family tree I once had on hand, the McLeod Family Tree, and more particularly from about 300 family letters from the 1908-1913 period, letters I long ago transcribed and published in an online book, A FAMILY IN CRISIS.

But, until recently, when I received this 50 year old note, I did not know anything about Isabel or Muriel

Isabel, the genealogist of the letter, discovers another error. “I just found another error in these family notes. The Millers have two daughters. I forgot Annie…I’ll have to correct it before I send it.”

Yes, like all genealogists, past and present, Isabel has poured a lot of energy into her family project and after she’s typed out the family tree, just when she thinks she’s finished, she finds some errors!

Not wanting to retype the whole tree chart, Isabel merely creates an in-between number for Jean Pepler, an esteemed Quebec educator, to use on the summary list at the of her document.

This wonderful letter was sent to me by my husband’s cousin, Debbi who still lives in Quebec. We didn’t know about Debbi either, not before then.

You see, when my husband got his DNA done a few years ago on Ancestry, he immediately discovered two first cousins (whom he knew very well) and a third cousin, Jean, he didn’t know at all.

He assumed this person was a third cousin because he shared 60 centimorgans of DNA with her, the average amount for third cousins. I contacted the woman to confirm the exact relationship.

My husband and Jean were second cousins once removed, related through my husband’s two times great grandparents John McLeod and Sara Maclean of Uig Carnish, Isle of Lewis Scotland. My husband’s great grandmother, Margaret Nicholson and Jean’s grandmother, Isabella Hill, were sisters living around the corner from each other in Richmond, Quebec in early 1900.

mcleod

John McLeod of Uig Carnish Isle of Lewis, Scotland (Crayon Drawing) and his wife Sarah McLean McLeod, tintype.

These days, due to the Coronavirus, Jean is hunkering down with her daughter, Debbi, and they are passing the time exploring genealogy. Debbi saw my years old note on Ancestry.

“ I’m the one who is most interested in family,” Debbi wrote me. “Can you tell me more?”

So, I sent Debbi my compilation of Nicholson Family Letters that contain numerous mentions of Clayton and Isabella Hill. Clayton was a prosperous stone mason in Richmond who lived in a big house on ritzy College Street. Their son, Stanley, is Jean’s father. Their daughter Isabel (Hill Knott) is Jean’s aunt and Muriel (the letter’s recipient) is Jean’s mother, Stanley’s wife.

Isabel and Muriel were sisters-in-law.

Floraa

Flora Nicholson (1895-1978) my husband’s great aunt, with Stanley Hill and future family genealogist Isabel Hill Knott circa 1906

“Were there any other siblings in the McLeod Richmond family?” Debbi enquired of me. “ I’ve heard of Dan and Flora. Maybe a Mary-Jane, too?”

“I think I remember Mary-Jane from the letters, “ I replied. “ There was also a Christie in Illinois and a Sarah in Sarnia. But, I can’t remember any other siblings.”

I then explained to her that I once in my possession a McLeod family genealogy, neatly tied with shoelaces in a sturdy flip-board cover, but I’ve since misplaced it. Sad!

But, only a few days later, checking out some stored data on some random memory sticks, I stumbled upon some gifs of that same McLeod genealogy. (And, yes, we had missed some siblings!)

I emailed the gifs off to Debbi and that’s when she emailed me back a scan of her Great Aunt Isabel’s March 3rd letter from the 1970’s.

“As you can see, it’s the same genealogy. Jean Pepler is there at 84a!” Debbi wrote in the email.

What a serendipitous string of events had to unfold to marry these two documents, once again, almost half a century later!

 

peppler

Isabel’s Pepler page with new info added by a relation.

Today, with electronic communications, genealogists have so many tools at their disposal it is simply dizzying. Isabel’s letter reminds us that in the good old days it could take years and years of correspondence by mail or telephone to build a family tree – and typing it out before the age of White Out and word processors was an especially arduous task.

Isabel did, indeed, take a long, long time researching the tree:

“You should see my desk in the kitchen. At least now I can clean it up, getting rid of all the bits of notes I have gathered over the years.”

Isabel says that she spent three weeks at her kitchen table to type out the seven page genealogy.

“As this is all I have done for the past three weeks, I have no news….This has been hard work and has taken a lot of time but that is something I have plenty of.”

Isabel wasn’t sure, in the end, if she had done a good enough job:

“I find it hard to put in any notes for the younger members. There lives are still in the process of developing, but they can fill in what they find important. There might be even more births.”

And like many genealogists, then and now, she wondered if it was all worth the effort.

“What a job! Probably nobody will be interested because we have to accept that the world has changed.”

Well, it was worth the time and effort, Isabel, I can tell you that. Fifty years later many of us still do care. So, thank you for all the hard work you put into piecing together your (well, our) family tree.

 

 

 

 

Living in Westmount

One Sunday after the service at St. Andrew’s United Church, Westmount, a friend of my mother’s commented on an article in the Westmount Examiner. My mother said she didn’t read that paper as she’d never lived in Westmount. “Yes you did dear,” my father replied, “but you didn’t like it!”

img_0198

My parents, Donald William Sutherland and Dorothy Isabel Raguin were married on June 25, 1948. The recent war and the return of the soldiers made finding apartments very difficult. That summer they lived in Dorothy’s family home on Woodbury Ave in Outremont. Her parents, Beatrice and René Raguin were spending the summer at their cottage in Dunany, north of Montreal. Come fall and the return of the Raguins, there was no room for them there so they moved in with Donald’s mother, Minnie Eagle Sutherland and his sister, Dorothy on Arlington Avenue in Westmount.

IMG_0199

My mother found it difficult being a new bride and living with her mother-in-law. She didn’t have much to do. Two women came in to do the housework. Mrs Mikalachki did the heavy work and Mrs Boutilier the light cleaning and ironing. When Mom tried to do things for her husband she came up against Minnie Sutherland, a proud, willful woman who wanted all things done her way. Dorothy had been a Wren during the war and worked as a sick berth attendant in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  On leaving the navy, she renewed her teaching certificate and taught at Iona School in Montreal up until the day of her marriage. Sitting around listening to her mother-in-law tell her how things should be done wasn’t making her happy. She certainly didn’t want to start a family living there.

Luckily, one of her husband’s friends had an apartment on Maplewood (now Edouard Montpetit). He and his wife had bought a house and offered to have the apartment lease transferred to Dorothy and Don. My mother was thrilled with her own place but my father hated paying rent. My sister, Elizabeth Anne was born there and it was up to my mother to push the baby carriage to the post office to pay the monthly rent.

In the early fifties, the construction of new houses increased so my parents looked for a home to buy. What had been farmland and apple orchards in western Notre Dame de Grace were now streets with semi-detached brick houses. The show house on Cumberland Avenue, little longer and wider than others on the street was the one my father wanted. It had three bedrooms, a large basement and a good-sized backyard. The house was purchased on February 21, 1951, my sister’s first birthday. It was bought for $19,000 with a small mortgage. My father hated the mortgage payments and paid it off as quickly as he could.

One child soon became four with the births of Mary Ellen, Donald John and Dorothy Jean. The house became too small. My parents considered moving, although they liked the area. They looked at houses in the West Island of Montreal, but none were just what they wanted. So, in 1960 they had an addition built onto their house. A bedroom, bathroom and den were built over the garage and the kitchen was enlarged, including a laundry room.

unnamed-4

In the mid-sixties, it became apparent that both grandmothers would soon need help. My parents considered buying a bigger house with a grannie suite, so both grandmothers could live with the family. This time they did look at houses in Westmount. My maternal grandmother lived with us for a short while but in the end, we didn’t need to move as both grandmothers died in 1967.

My mother continued to live in the house after my father died. She went into a residence in NDG in 2011 where she died in 2017 and never moved back to Westmount.

 

Notes:

This Sunday was mother’s Day  and May 11, 2020, would have been my mother’s 98th birthday so I posted this story as a remembrance of her.

My mother’s story of serving as a Wren https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/genealogyensemble.com/4470

Personal recollections by Dorothy and Donald Sutherland told to the author.

One house in Pointe-Claire had a large closet with sliding doors in the upstairs hall where two little girls put their dolls during the visit and forgot them. The agent returned to look for them but they were gone and never seen again.