Genealogy, Military history, Ontario, Social history

Further Information is Being Withheld

Davison Sutherland, my grandfather’s cousin’s life was entwined with the city of Toronto. He was born there, went to Jarvis Collegiate, obtained an engineering degree from the University of Toronto and then worked for the city his whole career.

“Dave Sutherland – born A.D. 1887 and still existent. Owing to the fact that a complete biography is being compiled against the day of his demise, further information is being withheld.”

This, his biography in the Torontoensis 1913, the University of Toronto Yearbook showed a quirky sense of humour.

Davison served in the military during World War One. He signed up in 1916 as a Lieutenant in the 208th Canadian Irish Battalion but later that year resigned his commission and sailed to England to join the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). He served in battle from Nieuport to Dixmude in Belgium and Arras to St Quentin in France with the 24th Squadron of the RFC, 14th wing. He was also an instructor in aerial fighting until 1918 and was discharged February 1919 with the rank of Captain.

He was the youngest surviving son of William Sutherland and Jessie Johnston. His father died in 1914 and his mother in 1916. He was then the man of the house, 21 Rose Street, Toronto. He lived there with his maiden sisters except during his service in WWI. Agnes died in 1920, Isabel in 1924 and Jessie left when she married Howard Reive in 1925. A fourth sister Annie, had moved to the United States as had his older brother William. Mowat, the youngest died as a baby.

Davison was 40 and finally free of family obligations when he married Edna Michel and soon had two children, Barbara and William Davison.

He worked for the city of Toronto as a roadway engineer, a city manager and from 1946 as deputy city engineer. His expertise was called upon when the rivers flooded and the roads and bridges were at risk or when water mains burst. He was known as a conscientious, faithful employee and one of the most reliable and respected civil servants. He would often get out of bed in the middle of the night to turn on the water for a pensioner or to help other people in distress.

In 1957 he was acting chief engineer. The Mayor, Nathan Phillips, did not want him promoted to Chief Engineer as he was due to retire in October, only six month away. The Mayor thought that an increase in salary and the resulting pension increase ( $15 per year) for a 40-year employee was unjustified. It would be a needless spending of taxpayers money. The board initially voted down the promotion and the Toronto Star said it was because of a vendetta between Mayor Nathan Phillips and Controller Jean Newman, with Davison, a pawn. He did though get promoted. Then in May 1957, all department chiefs got a 10% raise and it was recorded that Davison Sutherland’s salary went from $12,400 to $13,600. Concern about the extra cost of his pension to the city taxpayers became a moot point as he died before his retirement date.

His obituary in the paper July 7, 1957, was not very long and so, much information about Davison and his life is still being withheld.

Notes:

“Eastern Ave. Crossings Called Most Dangerous.” Toronto Daily Star 12 Mar. 1957: 21. Print.

“Needless Spending of Taxpayer Money.” Toronto Daily Star 1 May 1957: 4. Print.

“Charge Philips Brand Vendetta against Jean Making Goat of Worker.” Toronto Daily Star 2 May 1957: 1. Print.

“Dave Sutherland City Engineer Dies.” Toronto Daily Star 8 July 1957: 8. Print.

Davison Sutherland.” Roll of Service, University of Toronto Archives January 14, 1920.

Torontonensis 1913 Yearbook pg. 161 https://archive.org/details/torontonensis13univ

Genealogy, New France, Quebec, Social history

Seigneuries, Notaries and Cemeteries of the Montreal Region

This post is an update from an earlier version. In the attached 161-page research guide to the seigneuries, notaries and cemeteries of Montreal, I have enlarged the content of the notaries.

Here is the link to the updated compilation (as a PDF): Seigneuries Region of Montréal rev

If you had ancestors in Quebec before 1854, chances are they lived on a seigneury. The seigneur (the owner of the seigneury) granted the land to tenants, who were usually called habitants or censitaires. The seigneurs and the habitants owed certain obligations to each other. The system, based on a feudal one, dates back to the mid-1600s when the government of France was trying to ensure its colony of New France would be settled in a systematic manner.

Seigneurs were usually people of noble backgrounds, military leaders or civil administrators, or they were religious institutions. Some seigneuries were well run, other seigneurs were absentee landlords or excessively demanding. In 1854, the seigneurial system was abolished and the tenants were allowed to acquire the land they farmed. The seigneuries had a lasting impact on Quebec society and geography and the names of many seigneuries and seigneurs live on in the names of towns and streets.

In the days of New France, Montreal was a small city on the shores of the St. Lawrence and the rest of the Island of Montreal was rural farmland. For many years, the priests of Saint Sulpice were the seigneurs of most of the island. The seigneurial system began to disappear from the Montreal region before it did elsewhere because it held back development of the growing city.

The compilation in the attached PDF includes links to a variety of articles related to seigneuries and seigneurs who lived in the Montreal region, both on and off the island. Some articles are in English, others are in French. If you cannot understand the French, copy and paste the text into a translation app such as Google Translate. Included in the compilation are links to articles from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography about some of the leading figures in the history of Montreal, as well as background information about the seigneuries, Catholic parish churches and cemeteries in the region.

This compilation provides links to information on the many seigneuries, fiefs, arrière-fiefs on the island of Montreal and in nearby areas. Various historians work have described these fiefs under different names. For example, from various sources in the City of Saint-Laurent in 1720, the following seigneuries and fiefs were named: Seigneurie Saint-Laurent, Côte Saint-Laurent, Côte Notre-Dame-des-Vertus , Notre-Dame-de-Liesse and Côte-du-Bois-Franc.

In 1854, the Assemblée nationale in Québec issued a decree which halted new seigneuries from being created in the province. However, in order to satisfy the concerns of many of the existing seigneurs, the censitaires, or tenants, continued to pay rents on an annual basis. Finally, in 1935, the Assemblée nationale du Québec issued a new law. The first URL address on the attached research guide links to the rent abolition act which facilitated the freeing of all lands from constituted rents. From 1854 to 1901, the government of Québec issued payments to large land owners (seigneurs). These payments were referred to as Créanciers de rentes.

Up to 1935, notaries were involved in the creation of new documents addressing lands. This is the main reason I have extended the content of this compilation: to include notaries during this late period of time.

The largest portion of this revised research guide refers to notaries. In this update, I verify the notaries whose dossiers were digitized and are available on the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) database of notaries http://binnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/notaires/. Additional notarial acts can be found online on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and Généalogie Québec (Drouin Institute).

In the regions served by the BAnQ Gaspé, BAnQ Gatineau, BAnQ Rimouski, BAnQ Rouyn-Noranda, BAnQ Saguenay, BAnQ Sept-Îles, BAnQ Sherbrooke, BAnQ Trois-Rivières, about 70% to 80% of the acts written by local and regional notaries can be accessed online at BAnQ, Ancestry, FamilySearch and/or Drouin online.

The BAnQ Montréal and BAnQ Québec (City) are the two largest repositories of the Archives nationales du Québec, and they get the most visitors. With regard to notarial acts being accessible through the BAnQ online database, probably only 40 percent of the notaries who served within the judicial districts of these two cities have had their files digitized as of 2018.

Furthermore, I have noticed over the years that the BAnQ Montréal and BAnQ Québec have not included many of the Royal Notaries (Notaires royaux), either under the French Regime of Nouvelle-France or under British military rule prior to the Lower Canada period of 1791, in the BAnQ database. However, some of the acts of Royal Notaries in the Montreal and Quebec City Judicial Districts, can be found on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Other notaries can simply not be found online at all.

Here is an overview of the contents of this research guide:

p. 1 Seigneurs, governors, religious and civic leaders of Montreal

p. 7 Seigneuries of the Montreal region, including those owned by religious orders. The seigneuries include Lachine, Riviere des Prairies, St. Anne de Bellevue, Ahuntsic, St. Leonard, Chateauguay, Boucherville, St. Rose, Longueuil, Ste. Therese, Mille-Iles, Vaudeuil.

p. 7 Regional cemeteries

p. 45 Notaries who worked in the area from the beginning of settlement until 1954, and where to locate their acts.

p. 157 Repositories for archival material and other resources, such as books and databases.

p. 159 Authors and online historical resources.

England, Genealogy, Social history

All In A Day’s Work

The local Police Constable (PC) was tired. It was early morning and he had been on duty all night.

Time for home and he was looking forward to a nice cup of tea and a big breakfast with his wife. Maybe a chat with some of his children, before they departed for school. Then a nice long sleep.

It was a beautiful day, the 7th February 1923 in West Cornwall, England. The PC was riding home from his night shift on his bike to his village of Nancledra, so although the wind was brisk, he was warm.

He was coming home from the Police Station at Porthleven and was half a mile from home when he heard someone shouting. It was Mr Andrew Curnow a local farmer. He was waving his arms shouting something and beckoning to the PC. “Here we go again”, thought the Constable.

A few of the villagers were gathered at the top of a large disused mine shaft peering down. This was the Giew Tin Mine the only active tin producer in 1921 and 1922 but closed just that year, in 1923.

The PC rode over to Mr Curnow who was by now agitated and excited.  ‘Quick! he shouted ‘ My dog has fallen down the Giew mineshaft!”

They could hear the dog’s frantic barking. The tall PC strode into the knot of people and they stepped aside to let him see what they were all peering at, down the long, dark shaft.

The PC looked down the steep shaft but could see nothing. Quickly he decided to enter the shaft and rescue the beagle. ‘Get me a rope, quickly’ he shouted.

Mr Curnow was aghast……..this was a disused narrow, crooked vertical shaft and who knew how far down the dog was. But the PC insisted and Mr Curnow ran off. The PC took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. he knelt on the grass and peered down. This shaft was a twisted one, but he could hear the frantic yelps and barking of the beagle.

Mr Curnow ran back with a farm hand and by now attracted by the shouts and activity more locals were gathered around the hole. Together, they roped up the PC and lowered him into the shaft. It was very dark so that after a few minutes they could only hear the PC’s voice. ‘Lower’ he kept shouting ‘Lower’

They continued obeying his instructions until…….silence. They all looked at each other faces grave. Suddenly the rope moved and the PC shouted ‘Got ‘im’ Pull me up!

With renewed vigour and a newfound strength the men, by now sweating with the effort of keeping the rope steady, heaved and pulled until the head of the PC and the beagle appeared at the top of the shaft!

Everyone grabbed both the PC and the dog. The beagle jumped up on his master barking hysterically whilst the PC lay on the grass sweating and panting. Everyone cheered. They all agreed that the old mineshaft should be covered over to prevent another accident.

This brave Police Constable was my Grandad, Francis Bulford. Born 28 October 1884 died 25 March 1963. RIP.

PC Francis Bulford with his wife, Emily Marion, and five of his eleven children

Below, the newspaper account of the rescue.

 

 

Giew Mine, near Nancledra Cornwall, England

Notes Of Interest On Cornish Mining

The closure of the tin mines in Cornwall was never about running out of resources – it was in response to competition from cheaper tin from abroad. South America and China are still major players in tin extraction and production. The collapse of the world tin cartel in 1986 being the last nail in the coffin of tin mining.

The Giew mine is known to have been working from the mid-eighteenth century. In its time Giew has been known as Gew, Reeth Consols, Trink and St. Ives Consols. The remaining buildings centered around Frank’s Shaft are only the easternmost of a number of shafts all working the area. The engine house dates from 1874.

This was part of the re-working of Giew Mine started in 1869 by Thomas Treweeke. Other shafts, running from east to west include Blackburn’s, Robinsons Engine, Martins, Ladock Shaft and Giew Engine Shaft where it joined Billia Consols Mine. It produced tin up until 1922.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/cornish-tin-mining-mines-industry-cornwall-south-crofty-mineral-start-ups-a8240601.html

In Cornwall, the ingression of water was the worst problem in shaft mining. A deep mine is a bit like a water well. You have to pump the water out constantly. The steam engine driving a pump was the answer to allowing deep mining in Cornwall.

http://www.cornishmineimages.co.uk/giew-mine/

You may wonder why Cornwall had the mineral mines that the rest of Britain missed out on. There is a simple geological explanation. During the late stages of the cooling of the mass of granite that makes up a lot of Cornwall, fissures opened up in the granite when it was still molten, and more hot molten rocks bubbled up through the granite from the earth’s interior. These new rocks contained many minerals, and as they crystallized they formed mineral lodes – tin, copper, zinc, lead and iron with some silver.

Because the ore-bearing rocks formed in this way, rather than being sedimentary rocks like coal (hence coal is laid down in great flat plates), they have to be mined vertically rather than horizontally.

Each fissure has to be mined straight down into the earth. Each fissure needed a separate mine. Therefore a great many vertical shafts were needed, rather than the one shaft that was used in coal mining. 

There were no other substantial buildings in a typical mine. Given that many of the mines were small and vertical, they did not invest in cages to haul the miners up and down, instead, access to the mine was by ladder, a tiring part of the daily toil of the miners.

http://www.cornwall-calling.co.uk/mines.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genealogy, Military history, Quebec, Social history

The Canadian Celanese and the Great Depression

“Damn!” My dad, Edward McHugh, cursed to himself. He thought ruefully that his great idea to change his job ten months ago did not work out very well. His first job after school was in the office of Henry Birks & Sons. While he was working there, he decided to take a bookkeeping class at night at Sullivan College and the A.R. Whittell Can Company thought that he showed initiative, was a snappy dresser, and would make a good salesperson. So they hired him. It was now 1931 and he had just been laid off because sales were dropping.1

McHugh, Ed Verdun

Edward McHugh in Verdun, Quebec, in the 1930s

Now what? Edward knew that the prospects of getting a job were bleak. Luckily Edward still lived at home with his parents and his father was a foreman at the Atlas Absestos Company.2 Still, it was worrisome.

It would be two years before Edward would find employment. He spent many evenings with his brothers and sisters, playing cards. During these evenings, their supper was sandwiches, made out of a loaf of white bread, some butter, and one can of salmon. 3

Maybe the idea to go altogether to Drummondville was hatched at one of the card parties. In any event, in 1933, in the depth of the Depression, the McHugh siblings, Edward, Thomas, Sarah Jane, and Sarah’s husband Jack, decided to move to Drummondville, Quebec to find work.

At that time and even though Quebec was hard hit by the Depression, the Canadian Celanese Company in Drummondville was a significant employer in the province, with 1,757 employees. The picture below shows the employees of the Canadian Celanese Company in that year.4

Celanese 1931

Moving to Drummondville would have been equivalent to immigrating to a new country. None of the members of the family would have had an automobile so the trip from Montreal to Drummondville would have had to be by train. As with many immigrants, their motives were financial.

As far as I know, they were all employed by the Canadian Celanese Company. The Celanese Corporation was founded in 1915 by two Swiss chemists, Camille and Henri Dreyfus and enjoyed significant success during WWI because of its development of synthetic fiber. The Canadian plant was built in 1926 in Drummondville. This location was chosen due to its proximity to a large expanse of forest, it was close to Montreal that was the centre of the textile industry at the time, and inexpensive hydro power  supplied by Southern Canadian Power was available.5

This picture of the Celanese, taken in the 1920s, shows that it was a significant manufacturing plant: 6

Celanese 1920s

My dad was hired as an electrician and worked in what was called the silk factory.7 The Celanese required electricians to work full time to ensure that the machines were never idle.

My dad and his siblings settled in and made a life in Drummondville. Both my dad and his brother, Thomas, played on the Celanese football team.8 Thomas married Simone Cloutier in 1937 and then died a year later in 1938 of an illness. Thomas is buried in the cemetery of the St. Frederic Church in Drummondville.9

Edward continued to work for the Celanese until the outbreak of the war. He signed up for duty in August 1940 at the Ste. Hyacinthe recruiting centre. The Celanese agreed to hire him once the war had finished but he did not go back.10

  1. Military records from WWII, Edward McHugh, Royal Canadian Air Force Attestation Paper. This information was in his employment records. It states that he left Henry Birks and Sons for a better job and that he was let go from A.R. Whittell because of lack of work.
  2. Although Thomas McHugh, Edward’s father, was deceased when the RCAF Attestation Paper was filled out, Thomas’ job at his death was noted. It is an assumption that he was working there in 1933. There is no indication that he was out of work during the Depression.
  3. As told to the author by her aunt, Elsie McHugh.
  4. The Ministry of Patrimoine Culturel, Province of Québec, http://www.patrimoine-culturel.gouv.qc.ca/rpcq/detail.do?methode=consulter&id=14311&type=pge#.W6gnEWhKiUk, accessed September 23, 2018.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Eastern Townships Archives Portal, https://www.townshipsarchives.ca/canadian-celanese-ltd 192?, accessed September 24, 2018.
  7. Military records from WWII, Edward McHugh, Royal Canadian Air Force Attestation Paper.
  8. Death of Thomas McHugh, “The Drummondville Spokesman,” “Thomas McHugh Passes Away,”May 27, 1938, accessed March 19, 2015. This article states that Thomas McHugh was on the Celanese football team. It is assumed that Edward was also on that team as his Attestation Paper said that he played football extensively.
  9. Marriage and death certificates of Thomas McHugh. Drouin Collection. St. Frederic Parish, Drummondville, Quebec.
  10. Military records from WWII, Edward McHugh, Royal Canadian Air Force Attestation Paper.
Genealogy, New France, Resources Outside of Montreal, Social history

Seigniories of the Lower St. Lawrence and of the Côte-du-Sud

If some of your ancestors lived along the south shore of the Lower St. Lawrence River (the Bas Saint-Laurent, as it is often called today,) the attached PDF compilation is designed to help you learn more about their lives.

See PDF:  Seigniories of the Lower St. Lawrence – Revised Version 2018-09-03

The river is tidal here, and so broad that the far north shore is hardly visible. This beautiful area of rolling farmland and salt marshes has been settled for generations, with many residents making a living fishing, building boats and transporting goods and people on the river.

south shore egret
South shore of the Lower St. Lawrence River

Until the 1850s, almost all the land was owned by a few individuals, known as seigneurs, who rented it out to the censitaires, or tenant farmers. Most seigneurs were honest and caring individuals who took care of their tenants. They granted lands to the settlers and financed their first years with money, food, cattle and other animals, farm equipment, wood-cutting tools, building tools and rifles.

In return, the censitaires would repay on a yearly basis their seigneur with beaver furs and other types of fur. They also repaid them with hard-wood, a precious commodity in the 17th century in Europe, for most hard-wood forests no longer existed on the European continent. If the seigneur and his family resided on the seigneury, the censitaires would bring them eggs and meat, as well as fresh milk.

south shore famrland
Farmland along the south shore of the Lower St. Lawrence

Many of the seigneurs on the attached list were merchants or fur traders, and obtained most of their revenue from the sale of wild furs and hard-wood. Some were importers and exporters and dealt with merchants in French port cities such as La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Rouen and Le Havre.

The compilation on the PDF attached includes six main sections:

The Seigneurs: this section focuses on the historic landowners on the south shore of the Lower St. Lawrence, including links to biographies of these individuals.

Regions: the geographic regions described in this compilation are Montmagny, l’Islet, Kamouraska, Témiscouata, Rivière-du-Loup, Les Basques, Rimouski, Neigette, La Mitis (Métis), Matapedia and Matane in the Gaspé.

Cemeteries: a list of historic cemeteries in this area.

Notaries: this compilation includes the names of notaries who worked in this region, the places and years they practised, and the archives where their acts can be found today. The notaries handled important legal documents for people, including wills, marriage contracts, business agreements, land rental and sales agreements, and protests in cases of disagreement.

Bibiothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ): locations and contact information for the archives, and how to order documents online.

Genealogical and historical societies in the region: contact information

With regard to the notaries listed in the attached PDF, the majority of the notarial acts can be obtained through the BAnQ online (free, http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/notaires/ or http://www.banq.qc.ca/archives/genealogie_histoire_familiale/genealogie_banq/guide/archives-notariales/index.html), FamilySearch.org (free), or Ancestry.com (subscription). Ancestry has two distinct databases covering different time periods during the lifetime of a notary. Also listed are the notarial acts which can be obtained through Généalogie Québec (Drouin Institute online), (https://www.genealogiequebec.com/en/.

For each notary selected, if a URL address has been posted, this indicates that the genealogy provider’s online databases contains notarial acts. If a URL address has not been posted, this simply indicates that the provider does not own fonds of this particular notary.

Genealogy, Quebec, Social history, Technology

Keeping Up with the Montgomerys

autoshow

Montreal Auto Show. 1914. McCord Museum photograph

Roads trips. They have been a staple of life in North America for over one hundred years and it all began around 1910 in American and Canadian towns.

In big cities like New York or Montreal there was little need for an automobile, what with the streetcars and subways. As silent film footage from the era shows, the city roads were preposterously chaotic.

But, in the  towns during the warmer months, anyway, an auto was both useful to get around and quite the status symbol for the well-off professional man.

Case in point: Dufferin Street in Richmond, Quebec, a leafy stretch lined with red-brick homes in the Queen Anne Revival style.(1)

In 1910, the Skinners, the Nicholsons and the Montgomerys are neighbours on the north side of Dufferin.

Floyd  Skinner, a dentist, buys his first auto in 1909. So does Nathan Montgomery, a man in his forties who is already retired. (2)

Margaret Nicholson, my husband’s great grandmother, living in the pretty house called “Tighsolas” between them, doesn’t think much of these extravagant testosterone-fueled impulse purchases. She writes this in a letter to her husband, Norman, who is away in Northern Ontario working on the railroad:

“Mr. Montgomery is going to buy an automobile. He is getting rid of his horse. Don’t you think he’s foolish?  I would not want one. They are too dangerous.” (3)

TheNicholsos

Norman and Margaret Nicholson, daughters Edith and Marion and Aunt Christine Watters.

 The Nicholsons, you see, never, ever, get to own an automobile. In 1910, they are house-rich but cash poor. They cannot begin to afford a ‘motor’ because in 1910  autos can cost as much as a fine house, in the 2,000 to 4,000 dollar range. (4)

If Margaret Nicholson is very wary of the newfangled horseless carriage, her daughter, Marion, my husband’s grandmother, is not. In fact, she accompanies the Montgomerys on their 1909  auto-buying excursion in Montreal.  Marion, a teacher in the city, tells her mother about it in a letter but wrapped in a little white  lie. “I bumped into the Montgomerys on the street. He is buying an auto and she is in for a shirtwaist suit.”

I suspect this is a lie because in the Nicholson family album there is a photograph of Marion and Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery posing in front of the Motor Import Company of Canada on Atwater and St. Catherine. Marion likely had planned to meet the Montgomerys all along.

MarionMON.PNG

Marion, left, caught in the act of accompanying her neighbours on an auto-buying excursion.

If Margaret felt autos were dangerous, her eldest daughter, Edith, also a teacher, clearly did not.  In the summer of 1911, Edith traveled all the way to Montreal by motor with the Skinners.  Here’s how Edith described her trip in a letter to her dad:

“As you will see by the address, I am in Montreal. I came in with Dr. and Mrs. Skinner in the motor Friday. Left home at 10 am and got to Waterloo at 12.30 had dinner. Saw all we could of the town and left at 2 for Montreal, got here at quarter past six. Without one break down. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed every minute of it.

I will name the places we passed through so you will know the country we passed through. Melbourne, Flodden, Racine, Sawyerville, Warden, Waterloo, Granby, Abbotsford, St Caesar, Rougemont, Marieville, Chambly, Longueil, St. Lambert, Pointe St Charles.

Don’t you think I was a very fortunate girl to have such a trip?

 

Itineray

1911 itinerary.  6 ½ hours for 93 miles.  The speed limit in the city was 8 miles an hour and 15 miles an hour in the country.

 The Eastern Townships is a very hilly place so this pleasure trip must have been quite the  roller-coaster ride for Edith and possibly a bit hard on the, ahem, lower body, especially if Edith was wearing a tight corset under her ‘duster coat.’ (5)

In 1910, autos were considered toys. Motoring was considered a fad, a pastime. The preface to the special insert promoting the 1910 Westmount Horse Show in the Montreal Gazette claims, “The automobile will never replace the horse in Man’s affection.” (6)

So wrong.

Although it was wealthy males who kick-started the automobile revolution, it was women and teenagers who had the most to gain from it.  They were free at last to travel far and wide on their own.

freeatlast.PNG

Free at Last! Margaret’s youngest daughter Flora and friends on an automobile ride in the country circa 1920.

So, here we have three houses on Dufferin Street in Richmond, Quebec – and already two automobiles.

Still, if you pay attention to her actions and not her words, it  is clear that Margaret Nicholson doesn’t really hate autos. Margaret often allows Mr. Skinner or Mr. Montgomery to take her to the mail to post letters to her husband.

 What she says to Norman in her letters is to sooth his prickly pride, that’s all.

To make things worse, just around the corner on posh College Street live Isabel and Clayton Hill, Margaret’s sister and brother-in-law. Clayton is a prosperous stone-mason and, much to Margaret’s chagrin, he owns an especially fine automobile.

Clayton'sauto

Magical Mystery Tour Car. Clayton’s Auto. A Pierce Arrow, perhaps. Very expensive at about 5,000 dollars.

Margaret is always feuding with Clayton and her sister mostly over the care of her elderly mother.

She remains bitter about her relations’ good fortune. In another letter to her husband she writes: “Clayton’s auto has broken down again. Isabel says the repairs are costing a fortune. Aren’t we lucky not to have one.”

Then, again, she accepts rides from her brother-in-law on occasion.

In 1910, there was no resisting the lure of the motorcar. The swanky male ‘toy’  was already proving to be indispensable even to its most vocal female critics.

Nichsolsonhomeafewdaysago

Tighsolas as it looks today.

  1. Richmond was a railway town, on the decline, between Portland, Maine and Montreal, Quebec. Queen Anne Revival style homes had irregular roofs, turrets, and lots of gingerbread moulding.
  2. On the 1911 Canada Census
  3. Nicholson Family Letters. Author’s collection.
  4. This was all changing with the Model-T Ford, and mass assembly. In 1910 Ford claimed his factory was putting out 1,000 autos a day. And he paid his people good salaries so they too could buy an auto. Soon, average middle class families could own a motorcar at around 400 to 600 dollars.
  5. Duster coats were long affairs meant to keep women’s clothes clean. Cars with an internal combustion engine were notoriously dirty.  Steam driven cars were dangerous and noisy. Electric cars, clean but slower-moving, were aimed at women in advertising, and, maybe, just for that reason, they did not catch on, at least until 100 years later.
  6. Magazine articles of the era were already pointing out that ‘the Billion Dollar Toy’ was creating significant waves in the economy, a sign that the auto wasn’t merely a toy but here to stay. By mid-century automobiles and automobile parts were the driver of the US economy.

 

french-canadian, Genealogy, Rialto Theatre, Monkland Theatre, Montreal Movie Houses, 1920's Montreal., Social history

Montreal Movie Mysteries

rialto

The Rialto ceiling today from Google Earth.

When I was a little girl in the 1960’s, whenever my family crossed the Cartierville Bridge in Montreal’s Ahunsic area to go to Laval, my mother would claim, “That is Uncle Louis’s bridge.”

Her much older brother, Louis, who died of a heart attack in 1965, had been a civil engineer and it is likely he worked for Dominion Bridge, the company that made that structure in the 1930’s.

The Cartierville Bridge wasn’t much to look at, so I wasn’t at all impressed.

I recently learned that back in the day my mother had a much lovelier family creation to brag about. Her Uncle Isadore’s glass company, Ceramo, had manufactured the beautiful stained-glass panels on the ceiling of the Rialto Theatre, the opulent 1924 movie theatre on Park Avenue decorated to look like the Paris Opera House.1

According to reporter Dane Lanken, who wrote the definitive book on Montreal’s old cinemas, this ceiling is rare, if not unique, among the grand movie houses of the day.*2

My mother’s Mon Oncle Isadore, an Outremont-based insurance broker, was also the VP of the United Amusements Corporation, a company that distributed films for Famous Players and that built the Rialto and dozens of other lavish Montreal movie houses, so it was all very convenient.3

Mummy rarely spoke about her Uncle Isadore during her life-time and she never talked about his many interlocked businesses.

She clearly didn’t know anything about the Rialto Cinema ceiling.  She never mentioned how Isadore had welcomed the audience at the opening of the magnificent Monkland Theatre in 1930, not in-person but from up on the screen in a talkie film.*4

(How cool that must have seemed just a few years after sound technology was introduced.)

In 1930, my mother would have been only nine years old and not entitled to enter movie houses.  Children under 16 had been banned from cinemas in Quebec 2 years before, in 1927, after the infamous fatal Laurier Palace fire.5

And my mom was only 11, in December 31, 1932, when her Uncle Isadore fell to his death from his 7th floor office window at 414 Saint James Street West.

She never ever mentioned that shocking event, either: I suspect no one told her about how her Uncle Isadore died.

Isadore414StJacques

From La Patrie, online.

 

Lanken mentions Mon Oncle Isadore more than a few times in his beautiful book. He doesn’t discuss the manner of Isadore’s death.

However, Louis Pelletier, a Concordia scholar, does mention Isadore’s demise in his PhD thesis about the movie distribution industry in Montreal – with a sly aside.  Was it a suicide? Who knows. *6

Pelletier also says that Isodore was likely brought on as VP of United Amusements in 1921 as a ‘token’ francophone.

The 2012 thesis is brilliant, but here Pelletier (like Lanken) fails to make one key connection. Isadore’s brother was Jules Crepeau, my grandfather, Director of City Services in the 1920’s. Isadore’s appointment wasn’t token: It was tactical.

If you conduct a search of the Digital Media Database which contains many era Hollywood Trade Magazines, Jules’ name comes up more than Isadore’s.*7

Jules also died relatively young, in 1938, about a year after he had been hit by a car driven by a plain clothes policeman on Royal Avenue in NDG.*8

He had retired from his lofty post at City Hall in 1930.*9

Back in 2008, when I asked my mother if the 1937 car ‘accident’ had been a ‘hit’ *10 she replied an emphatic “No.” The policeman in question had been very upset about it, she told me. She died in 2009.

Ten years later, knowing what I now know about Isadore Crepeau and my Grandpapa Crepeau’s controversial and scandal-ridden career at Montreal City Hall,*11 I imagine that my mom’s recollection of this very contrite cop was a second-hand memory planted there, perhaps by her older brother Louis.

Uncle Louis. Now, he’s the one I should have been able to talk to.  Had he lived, what twisting tales he might have told me.

  1.  Lanken, Dane. Montreal Movie Palaces. Great Theatres of the Golden Era 1884 – 1938.  Penumbra Press. 1993. This feature is likely why the Rialto has been deemed a National Historic Monument, and why it still stands today. Most other Montreal movie houses were destroyed or left to languish.
  2. Ibid. These United Amusement theatres included the Belmont on St.Laurent, and the Monkland on Monkland Avenue and the fabulous Art Deco Snowdon Theatre where I saw The Sound of Music in 1965 – at 11 years old. We lived on the adjacent street.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid
  5. It’s a ban that stayed in place until 1962. Over 70 children were crushed to death escaping from the balcony of a Sunday showing after a small fire.
  6. Pelletier, Louis. The Fellows Who Dress the Pictures: Montreal Film Exhibitors in the Days of Vertical Integration (1912-1952). Concordia PhD Thesis, Communications Department. 2012. The Montreal Gazette, December 31, 1932. The official story is Isadore fell trying to build a device to hang a flag to signal his chauffeur. This happened after his secretary had left his office. After dark. In the depth of winter. Supposedly, Isadore’s unfinished cigar was found on the sill. The police cited unnamed sources for this report, not the secretary, not the chauffeur, not the wife.
  7. www.digitalmediahistory.org. In 1921, Jules was interviewed by Variety about the controversy over Sunday showings. In 1924, he was interviewed about risqué movie posters. In 1926, during the Coderre Commission into Police Impropriety and Malfeasance, his name is brought up in connection with the police. It is said he forced police on the beat to look the other way when movie houses broke the bylaws by letting children in unattended. The New York Times rehashed this bit in 1926 in a two-page story covering testimony during American Senate hearings into Prohibition. In 1927, Jules is mentioned in relation to the Laurier Palace Fire. Jules was the first to testify at both the initial inquest and the later Royal Commission.
  8. Family lore says his death was due to bone cancer from the X-Rays he received from a broken leg from the accident.
  9. Jules had been forced to retire by new Mayor Camillien Houde. Jules negotiated a huge pension of 8,000 dollars a year that was rescinded in 1937 with an emergency measure due to the Depression, just two weeks before he was knocked down by that policeman on Royal Avenue, a block from the United Amusement Offices on Monkland.
  10. In 2008, I asked my mother to tell me all she remembered about her childhood and my grandfather. She didn’t know much about the political intrigue but she did know that her father and brother received numerous death threats and that on occasion big shots like the Mayor or the Chief of Police visited their home on Sherbrooke Street West in secret meetings.
  11. According his obit in Le Devoir, he had a mind like a bank vault and each drawer was filled by a City Hall by-law or other fact. A Gazette article about Mayor Mederic Martin in 1937 claimed “Jules Crepeau’s hair went gray teaching aldermen their jobs.”
  12. Jules and Isadore were the sons, two of four, of Joseph Crepeau and Vitaline Forget-Depatie who, according to Jules’ marriage certificate on Drouin (1901 – Maria Roy) were from St.Louis de France, which would be Trois Rivieres. Montreal City Hall records (his file) claim Jules was born in Laval and that Joseph was a house-painter. Joseph’s paternal line can be traced back to Maurice Crespeau (curly-haired ones) of Poitou-Charentes, born 1637. Vitaline’s Forget line goes back to Abraham Martin, owner of the Plaines of Abraham, known as “L’Ecossais.” https://www.geni.com/people/Abraham-Martin-dit-l-Écossais/6000000000397138666  Jules and my mother did have very curly hair and this is perhaps due to deep Sephardic Jew and Algerian roots. My mother has some Sephardic DNA, to the tune of 4 percent. Crespeau (Crespin) is understood to be one of the Sephardic French Canadian names. https://www.jewishgen.org/Sephardic/nameorig.HTM  Jules’ wife’s Maria Roy’s MT DNA has traces of Sephardic as well and can be traced back to a Lily Rodrigue in Normandy. Rodrigue (Rodriguez).

 

Genealogy, Ontario, Quebec, Social history

Love Letters

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Amy Eagle, Eliza Jane Eagle and Minnie Eagle

A collection of letters that William Sutherland wrote to Minnie Eagle before their marriage has survived. They carried on a long-distance relationship. She was living in Toronto with her mother and sister while William had moved to Montreal for an engineering job with Montreal Water and Power. I do wonder what happened to Minnie’s letters to William. He kept them initially and reread them, “five and six times,” as he often referred to her previous letters. Did Minnie not want her private thoughts around after they were married?

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Little Willie

They are very sweet letters showing the developing love between two people and the preparations for a life together. William and Minnie met at Cooke’s Presbyterian Church in Toronto in the early 1900’s. This was the church both their families attended.

William was immediately smitten but Minnie took coaxing. He was thrilled when Minnie finally agreed to marry him. “There was one line in your letter, Minnie that did me more good than all the rest put together and that is saying a good deal. It was “I don’t think I want to wait so long.” These little phrases dropped now and again are the strongest assurances that you are now looking forward to being with me as I have been so long to being with you.”

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William, his sister Mary, mother Alice Dickson, brother Wilson and father Donald Sutherland

How often did he ask? His parents thought highly of her. His father, a man of few words said, “ You should marry that girl right away.” His mother was his confidant.

Their September 1907 wedding was almost immediately called off, as Will went out to a tavern with his work colleagues. Minnie was part of the temperance movement and totally against alcohol. “I am rather astonished that you felt so deeply about that little question about going into the bars. But you need have no worry on that score. My position is so well known among the boys here, that not one of them ever think of asking me to have a real drink.”

Will was full of plans for their life. He and a friend Mr Schwartz owned a couple of lots in Outremont and were designing semi-detached houses they hoped to build. He sent his drawings to Minnie asking for her opinion. “One objection to this plan was the big kitchen. Some people think that it makes more work but Mrs Schwartz says, the bigger the better.” The houses were never built. “Our house building plans may fall through as there is very persistent talk of the company selling to the city and if they do I don’t know whether I would stay in Montreal or not.” The Montreal Water and Power company was later sold to the city but William did stay. He and Clare Dryden started a plumbing company.

There was some talk about how soon they should be married. He wondered if she thought she should learn to cook and keep a house first or should they learn together. “The greatest pleasure we get in this life is planning and arranging and looking forward and this I think we ought to do together. We are in the formative period of our lives now and I think we should be together. We have much to learn from each other and much to unlearn if we are to live smoothly and happily in each others company.” I don’t think she ever learned to cook well.

Their wedding was postponed from the fall to the summer and then to the next year. Minnie was in hospital April of 1908. He didn’t immediately know she was ill. “Your consideration of me is so characteristic of your own dear self and I love you for it. I should have been terribly anxious if I had known.” He didn’t rush off to Toronto to see her but her mother kept him informed about her progress. He even waited to send flowers as she already had 12 bouquets!

Further wedding plans didn’t go smoothly as there was a problem with her sister Amy. Exactly what, was never stated but Amy was upset that Minnie was to be married and move away. They both worked at Ryrie Bros. Jewellers but neither worked after the wedding. Will sometimes stayed away while they tried to bring Amy around. “I understand the situation all right little girl; a visit to Toronto would be rather a failure under present circumstances and I am more than tickled to think that you look at it that way also.”

The wedding finally took place June 02, 1909. They had a honeymoon trip up the Saguenay River and then moved into an upper duplex on Chomedy Street in Montreal. A friend of Will’s was going to have a border to save expenses but that was not what he wanted. “If it took half my salary for rent I would have you all to myself and nobody else around, for the first year anyway. Yours as ever with best love, Billy”


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Minnie, William and son Donald rowing on Boyd Lake abt. 1940.

Notes:

Letters from William Sutherland to Minnie Eagle, 69 Seaton Street, Toronto, Ontario. From September 10, 1907, to February 16, 1909. In the possession of the author.

William Harkness Sutherland (1879 – 1942)

Minnie Eagle (1883 – 1967)

Children:

Amy Elizabeth Sutherland van Loben Sels (1911 – 2005)

Dorothy Alice Sutherland (1914 – 1955)

Donald William Sutherland (1917 – 1996)

 

Genealogy, Ontario, Social history

A Life Well-Lived

Recently a much-loved member of our family passed away. She decided that she didn’t want a traditional funeral, but preferred to have friends and family gather in her home to celebrate a life well-lived.

Family and friends came from near and far to pay tribute.

Usually at a funeral someone gives a eulogy to honour the deceased. In this case, there was no funeral, so perhaps it would be appropriate to write a eulogy.

Pierrette Laurence Valiquette was born in the small town of La Minerve, Quebec, in the northern Laurentian Mountains, on October 20th, 1932, when the leaves were probably ablaze with dazzling autumn colours. She was one of six children of Laurence Bruneau and Philippe Valiquette.

The family moved to Outremont and Pierrette began working as a pattern maker. Her employer soon realized she had artistic talent. He sent her to New York City where she gathered information about the latest fashions. Her work was awarded first place in one of the local fashion design competitions.

Her marriage to my brother, John, took place in the Sacred Heart Chapel of Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal on January 30th, 1960. It is interesting to note that most marriages took place in the chapel because the long walk down the aisle in the Basilica made young brides too nervous.

The couple started a family while John studied to be a chartered accountant. His career took the family away from Montreal, but it didn’t matter whether they were in Toronto, Calgary or Edmonton, Pierrette always adapted to her environment. She continued to sketch and paint. When Pierrette and John returned east the family was delighted. They settled in Perth, Ontario, a heritage town just beyond Ottawa, much closer to the rest of the family.

Adjusted Stewarat Park.jpg

 

Pierrette learned to play golf, something she continued to enjoy all of her adult life. She also was a member of the Raging Grannies, a golden-age protest group. She was determined to stop smoking. She attended Smoke Enders and later became a spokesperson for the cause.

At Christmas one year she joined a group of bell-ringers.

Pierrette was a member of several art associations in and around Perth. She participated in countless local exhibitions.

Bouquet-1

 Bouquet in acrylic by Pierrette

Although her family came first, she nurtured her passion in art in its many forms. She would sketch people, create pen and ink drawings of local scenes. Acrylics were most likely her favourite medium. “Pitou” as John called her, painted beautiful scenes of the rolling hills of the Charlevoix area beyond Quebec City on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.

When my sister-in-law was widowed at the age of 67, she decided to travel and pursue her art. One summer she went to Giverny, France, home to the Impressionist Monet, to study. Another year, it was a trip to Florence, Italy to study the Masters.

Other summers, she and some of her artist friends stayed closer to home. They went to Baie St. Paul, a beautiful part of Quebec. There she would truly be in her element.

In her home, the studio and kitchen were her favourite places. She was a good cook and she often had her father-in-law over for a meal. She would hand him his plate and say “Leave what you like” and he who loved to play on words would respond, “Eat what I don’t like?” There was never anything left on his plate at the end of the meal. He liked to tease her. She would give him a big smile.

We will miss Pierrette: her laughter, her smile, her talents, her compassion and kindness. She was a good wife, mother, friend and sister-in-law. We are all better off for having had her in our lives.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Notes: During the celebration in her home, family and friends were treated to an exhibition of many of her works.