Category Archives: Social history
Posted by Marian Bulford
I pace the floor nervously. Where IS he? How much longer do I have to wait? He is already 30 minutes late!
It is 23 January 1979 and I have been in Quebec, Canada for all of three months and today is my first driving lesson – EVER. I have never even sat behind the driving wheel of a car. In England, I walked everywhere pushing the children in my Silver Cross upright pram and later, we caught a bus. In Geneva where we had been living previously, we had a small VW Beetle and my husband drove it. Here, we have what to me is a huge car, and I am supposed to learn how to drive it? I am a nervous wreck. My son Owen, aged 5 has to come with me, as I do not know anyone to care for him, and the thought of Owen in the back seat with ME and my first driving lesson has me really worried. My appointment was for 10 am. At 10:30 I call the school to ask where he is. They tell me he should be there, and to make alternative arrangements when he arrives.
WHAT? All that worry and a sleepless night to make alternative arrangements?! My fear makes me angry. The driving instructor eventually arrives 40 minutes late, claiming to have been ‘ringing the bell’ and I was not answering. I tell him he is very late and I called the school to ask where he was. Then, HE gets annoyed and informs me he has to go or the other client will be ‘tearing his hair out’ plus, I cannot expect him exactly on time in ‘these conditions’ These conditions being heavy snow, wind and ice which is not ideal for a first ever driving lesson, but what do I know?
I tell him to leave and I am going to cancel future lessons with this school. I shut the door and cry and cry I feel like a failure. I’ll never learn to drive. Eventually, I mop up and call the school and demand a refund. The director was very kind and said the instructor was wrong trying to justify his lateness. He would make another appointment. ‘Not with HIM’ I rage. No, another person he soothes. I put the phone down, have another cry. I feel so frustrated, angry nervous and very alone. I wept for most of the day. Two days later, after 2 and half hours of snow clearing another strange ritual, I have my first driving lesson.
The instructor this time is a Welsh man and he is very patient telling me to relax. Ha! relax? No way! The sweat is actually running down my back and I can’t stop trembling. How do I work the window wipers in this snow? Put the heater on? Which side of the road am I supposed to be on? Why is there a ‘Stop’ sign at every corner? I manage to get to the next street and it is covered in thick ice. A water main has burst, and the street is like an ice rink or what I would imagine an ice rink to be, having never seen one. Oh! the anxieties and fears of being a newcomer.
Eventually, I do get my driving license, and today I love to drive but those few fraught months of learning is something I will never forget but the bonus is, that driving in snowy icy weather here in Quebec is a breeze for me now! I have no fear.
Posted by Dorothy Nixon
Border Reivers: They were often romanticized in art.*
Growing up in Montreal in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, I was often asked, “Are you related to HIM?” They were referring to Richard Nixon, President of the United States from 1969 to 1974, also a Vice-President from 1953 to ’61. To this I would reply an emphatic “No! I’m English. He’s Irish.” I always wanted to add, “Do you ask everyone named Johnson if they are related to Lyndon?”
My father was the one who insisted we were not related to Richard Nixon. Dick was an Irish Nixon, Daddy said. Our Nixons were English. My father also told me, with a sly self-effacing wink, that our Nixons were sheep stealers. It all sounded a bit cockeyed to me.
Today, 50 years on, I am engaged in working out my genealogy. I’ve had my DNA tested at Ancestry and I’m growing a tree. It seems that my dad was right on two points, about the sheep and, possibly, about Richard Nixon’s Irishness, but not about our family’s relationship to the late American President.
We probably do come from the same ancient stock.
I’ve just learned the Nixons of Northern England are descended from Border Reivers, families from the lawless, burnt out Scottish/English border regions of the British Isles (Cumberland and Northumberland) who raided other people’s livestock for a living. If you are a Nixon, Forster, Graham, Armstrong, Bell, Eliot, Armstrong, Robson, Crozier, Kerr, and yes, Johnson, you might be descended from these 13th to 17th century outlaws. Apparently, the Nixon Administration was full of them.
As it happens, I am both a Nixon and a Forster. An alleged ancestor of mine, illustrious Border Reiver Sir John Forster of Northumberland, was knighted for his service to Queen Elizabeth I in 1557. Sir John was lucky to be on the winning side of two key battles. His castle was in a strategic location on the “middle march” section of the border, so, apparently, he enriched himself with his share of the spoils from all local cattle raids, in England and Scotland.
The Nixon Clan has an even sketchier reputation. According to some accounts, they were “rude borderers” from Carlisle, Cumberland, who held no allegiances (except to the Armstrong Clan) and felt at home on either side of the border. They were real baddies who were exiled to Ireland and, then, kicked right back to England. Many in the clan were hanged for their transgressions at Carlisle Castle.
That is likely where my father got the idea that Richard Nixon was an Irish Nixon. I suspect my great grandfather, Robert Nixon ( 1863-1937), a sawmill worker in Helmsley, Yorkshire in the 1920’s, filled his young grandson’s head with many a grand, romantic tale of their burly, bearded ancestors, skilled light horsemen on fleet-footed stallions, engaging in strategic, daring cattle raids on the Scottish border.
It appears that these Border Reiver families can be described as reckless ruffians on horseback and/or heroic defenders of the monarchy; scoundrels or heroes; charming rascals or organized crime. It’s only point of view.
Just don’t blame these people for their wild way of life. In the 13th to 17th centuries, the area around the English/Scottish border was ravaged by warfare and not suitable for farming. Raiding sheep and cattle was just a way to earn a living. Also, the exact location of the border was disputed.
The BBC paid homage to these Border Reiver families with a TV show in 1968 called “The Borderers,” featuring a young and handsome Michael Gambon. The adventure series never came to North America, but I have found it on YouTube. If the BBC series had come to Canada back in 1968, when I was 13, I doubt it would have appealed to me any more than any other small screen horse opera.
But my father would have been mightily impressed.
* Illustration at top from book Border Raids and Reivers, Robert Borland. Available on Archive.org and in the public domain.
Here’s Sir John Forster’s Wikipedia page.
You can read more about the Border Reivers on the Historic UK website, where I got some of my info.
Read about their connection with the Nixon Adminstration here.
Posted by Sandra McHugh
By Sandra McHugh
Aren’t birthday parties fun? I was thinking this recently when we celebrated my daughter’s 30th birthday at the Auberge Saint-Gabriel in Montreal. I was also thinking how a birthdate is such an important indicator in genealogy research.
A birthdate and a place of birth places a family member in a period of time and in a location that can tell us a lot about the social context in which the person lived. Buildings and their uses can also tell us a lot about a place.
The Auberge Saint-Gabriel in Montreal is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It was built by Etienne Truteau, a French soldier in 1688. 1 In 1754, it was the first inn in North America to be issued a liquor license. 2 Over the centuries it has had many vocations, including the Beauchemin printing press operation founded in 1860 and that printed the newspaper Le Patriote.3
And who doesn’t love a good ghost? It is said that the Auberge Saint-Gabriel is haunted by a little girl who lost her life when a fire raged through the ground floor, trapping her and her grandfather upstairs while her grandfather was teaching her to play the piano.4
Today, the Auberge Saint Gabriel is a trendy restaurant and reception centre right in the middle of Old Montreal. If you go inside, you can see that the owners continue to maintain the building as much as they can in the style that it was built. You can appreciate the thick brick walls, stained glass windows, and the many antiques that grace its rooms. If you like, you can go down to the basement to visit the place where there was a fur trading post. Today, this fur trading post is a speakeasy, called The Velvet.5
I am quite confident that almost all of my ancestors who lived in Montreal would have at least walked by or had business in or around the Auberge Saint Gabriel. And who knows? Maybe our descendants would be pleased to know that we dropped off our car at the door of the Auberge Saint Gabriel for a fun-filled night at the speakeasy.
What buildings are important to your family’s history?
- L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel web site. <http://aubergesaint-gabriel.com/historique/>, accessed June 12, 2017.
- Wikipedia article on Auberge Saint-Gabriel. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auberge_Le_Saint-Gabriel>, accessed June 12, 2017.
- Wikipedia article on Auberge Saint-Gabriel, accessed June 12, 2017.
- Benoit Franquebalme, “Garou : Propriétaire d’une auberge hantée !”, France Dimanche, January 1, 2016, <http://www.francedimanche.fr/infos-people/musique/garou-proprietaire-dune-auberge-hantee/>, accessed June 12, 2017.
- L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel web site, accessed June 12, 2017.
Hundreds of special events are taking place in 2017 to mark the City of Montreal’s 375th birthday, but the one that means the most to me is the publication last month of a history of the Mile End district of Montreal. Some 200 years ago, that was where my three- and four-times great-grandparents lived.
There, at the intersection of the only two roads for miles around, Stanley Bagg and his father Phineas ran an establishment called the Mile End Tavern. Their landlord and future in-law, an English-born butcher named John Clark, probably came up with the name Mile End. The tavern was at the corner of what is now Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Mont-Royal Avenue, and the whole area eventually acquired the same name.
Mile End has no formal boundaries, but it is essentially just to the northeast of Mount Royal, as far as the railroad tracks. Some of the area’s streets are known far beyond Montreal: Saint-Urbain, for example, was made famous by author Mordecai Richler, and both Saint-Viateur and Fairmount streets have bagels named after them. Other well-known streets include Laurier, Parc, Saint-Joseph and Jeanne-Mance.
It is a vibrant neighbourhood, home to musicians, teachers and software developers, trendy restaurants, second-hand shops and rows of triplex and duplex dwellings, often featuring Montreal’s iconic outdoor staircases.
Histoire du Mile End, the first book to focus on the area’s history, was written by former journalist Yves Desjardins. His journalism background shows: he has researched his subject thoroughly in newspaper accounts, archival sources and academic articles, and pulled it all together in clear, concise language. I can attest to how readable it is because, although the book is in French, I have had no trouble reading it. It helps that the book is generously illustrated with historic photos and maps.
Over the decades, Mile End has been home to waves of immigrants, starting with French Canadian job-seekers who moved to the city from the Laurentians, and including Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italians, Portuguese and Greeks. Many of the area’s residents worked in the nearby Peck Building, labouring in low-paying jobs in the garment industry; today, the Peck Building is home to Ubisoft, a major player in the video game industry.
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, sometimes it takes a community to write a book. Yves had help from friends and neighbours — many of them members of the local history group Mile End Memories — who gave him access to their own research and expertise. I provided him with information about my ancestors the Baggs and the Clarks, and the collaboration paid off for both of us: I was able to fill in family information he didn’t have, and he helped me understand the historical context of my ancestors’ lives.
I learned that Saint-Laurent Boulevard, the traditional dividing line between the western part of the city, where the majority of English-speaking Montrealers live, and the eastern part, which is overwhelmingly French-speaking, was the only road leading north out of the city in the early 1800s. The Baggs owned much of the land on the western side of Saint-Laurent, and it remained primarily rural until the 1890s. Much of the land on the east side was owned by the Beaubien family, and early residents worked in local tanneries and quarries.
At the end of the 19th century, a group of real estate promoters from Toronto tried to develop a “strictly high class suburb” in Mile End called the Montreal Annex. While they did manage to attract a few professionals and their families, the scheme eventually failed. For decades, most of Mile End’s residents were strictly working class, or worked at skilled trades such as shoe-making and carriage-making.
Meanwhile the area experienced many growing pains as politicians argued over taxes and infrastructure, and promoters battled to provide the public transportation (by electric tram and rail) that was key to the area’s growth.
Today, as the city of Montreal rebuilds its infrastructure and controversy surrounds plans for future residential projects and transportation corridors, it seems that some things haven’t changed much.
Yves Desjardins. Histoire du Mile End, Québec: Éditions du Septentrion, 2017.
Janice Hamilton, “The Mile End Tavern”, Writing Up the Ancestors, Oct. 21, 2013, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2013/10/the-mile-end-tavern.html
Mile End Memories, http://memoire.mile-end.qc.ca/en/ This site includes articles in English and in French, photos, an interactive map that indicates the location of many historic buildings, including the Auberge du Mile End (Mile End Tavern), and a link to summer walking tours of the area.
This article was simultaneously posted on http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca
Posted by Marian Bulford
For quite a few years, I have been doing genealogy, and although I have found many many family names, I had never actually met any family members associated with my research.
However, a few years ago I was contacted via ‘Friend Reunited’ a now defunct website, by a second cousin on my Dad’s side. Samantha was my cousin Cheryl’s daughter, and she was looking for members of the Bulford family for her parent’s anniversary genealogy gift. Through Sam, I was united with Cheryl, her mother and my first cousin and from there, more first cousins I had never met.
My parents divorced when I was seven, and after that, I never had further contact with my paternal side of the family. This was SO exciting! There was Diane, my Aunt Sylvia’s daughter, Cheryl, Aunt Florence’s daughter and Joanna, Uncle Roy’s daughter. All familiar names but people I had never met or even thought I would ever meet. We all contacted each other via the internet in great excitement, and exchanged the information we had all collected, and they sent me photos I had never seen, of my Dad’s family.
After numerous emails, we all decided to meet in the UK when I went over for my annual holiday. As this was the paternal side of my family, we met in Cornwall where my father and my cousins’ mothers and fathers were all born. I met, once again after 68 years my Uncle Roy, the last surviving member of the 11 children born to my father’ family.
We all met at the apartment Uncle Roy lived in with his wife, Aunt Evelyn. They had made us all Cornish Pasties, a local treat. Uncle Roy was 94 then, and Auntie Evelyn was 90 (both still alive today!) and my Uncle looked so much like my father, I became quite emotional. Uncle Roy’s sons David and Jonathan were there too with their sister Joanna and suddenly, just like that, I had five cousins! I had brought photos and they had some too, which we all pored over. I learned so much about the family in that short visit, to add to my family tree.
I showed David and Jonathan a photo of me, aged three that was taken on a beach in Newquay, one of the last visits to my Dad’s family before the divorce, and wondered aloud where it could have been taken. David took me by the hand to the balcony of the apartment opened the door and pointed. David said ‘This is Towan Beach where your photo was taken’ and there before me as in my photo, was the beach and the houses on the cliff behind me, still prominent today. Then I did cry.
The next day, we all had a family reunion Sunday lunch with wives and children, in the local pub. We reminisced we took photos and promised to keep in touch, which we have done so every year for the last 6 years. Every year I visit the UK we have our Bulford reunion usually in the West Country at a local pub, and each year I find out more about my Dad’s family. Photos, war records, marriages, deaths, some researched information I had, that my cousins did not know about were all shared via the internet. PLUS a recently found USA Bulford branch too, which is to be the basis for another story.
The internet, isn’t it just amazing and wonderful?
Marian circa 1948
Towan Beach Newquay, Cornwall UK
Many people have old family treasures such as letters and albums in the attic. In my family, a collection of 200-year-old business records made their way from the attic to a Montreal museum, and now some them have been digitized and placed online for everyone to explore. Part of the Bagg Family Fonds housed at the McCord Museum, these newly digitized images include records from the store where the workmen who built the Lachine Canal in the early 1820s bought their bread and rum.
The project to digitize these and other documents was financed by Library and Archives Canada to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and Montreal’s 375th anniversary. The McCord Museum in Montreal is posting some 75 000 images from its collection of textual archives to its website (http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/keys/collections/).
The website provides an introduction to the Bagg family and to the scope of the Bagg Family Fonds (P70): http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/scripts/explore.php?Lang=1&tableid=18&tablename=fond&elementid=31__true. At the bottom of this page are links to four sets of digitized documents: the Laprairie Brewery (1821-1832), the workmen’s store in Lachine (1822-1823), a child’s scrapbook and a young woman’s autograph book that probably dates from around the turn of the century.
My three-times great-grandfather Stanley Bagg was one of the four main contractors in charge of building the Lachine Canal in Montreal in the 1820s. He also ran the store that supplied the workers with bread, tea, sugar, pork and occasionally fish, eggs and butter, although rum and beer seem to have been the most popular items. Some pages list the names of the customers, the items they purchased and the prices they were charged.
Other images record cash payments related to the canal construction, including planks, nails, wheelbarrows, hay (probably for the horses), blasting powder and wages for day labourers.
Another set of records is related to the brewery owned by Stanley’s brother, Abner Bagg. The LaPrairie Brewery account books list expenses such as barley, charcoal, transportation costs and wages. Both the store and the brewery records contain many names of suppliers and customers.
Both of these collections provide a window into life in Montreal some 200 years ago. For example, Quebec historian Donald Fyson used these records as a basis for his thesis, “Eating in the city [electronic resource]: diet and provisioning in early nineteenth-century Montreal” Montréal: McGill University, 1989. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/obj/thesescanada/vol1/QMM/TC-QMM-55597.pdf
No one really knows who had the foresight to save these records, or how they ended up at the McCord. According to one of my cousins, these account books were found in the basement of the Redpath Museum at McGill University, but no one knows who put them there in the first place. Clare Fellowes, daughter of Evelyn (Bagg) Davis, gave an additional gift of textual documents to the museum in 2002 and 2003.
Documents in the Bagg Family Fonds that have not been digitized includes copies of letters that Stanley and Abner wrote to each other and to business colleagues, and a ledger belonging to butcher John Clark, Stanley Bagg’s father-in-law. Documents related to another generation of the family date from the final decades of the 19th century when the Baggs were property owners and real estate developers. This includes a ledger showing property sales, and letters between the Bagg siblings as they discussed and sometimes disagreed about business decisions. There are also personal documents such as a list of wedding presents, recipes and several albums of family photos, taken in the early 1900s by my grandmother, Gwendolyn Bagg. More recently, the late Joan Shackell, a descendant of Abner Bagg, donated a number of items related to her line of the family.
Members of the public can visit the archives at the McCord Museum to consult the Bagg Family Fonds and other collections, but they must make an appointment weeks in advance. It is encouraging to see that some of these documents are now available online.
(This article is also posted on http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca)
Janice Hamilton, “Abner Bagg, Black Sheep of the Family?” Writing Up the Ancestors, April 9, 2015, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2015/04/abner-bagg-black-sheep-of-family.html
Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Bagg and the Lachine Canal, Part 2: Rocks and Water,” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 13, 2015, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2015/03/stanley-bagg-and-lachine-canal-part-2.html
Posted by Sandra McHugh
By Sandra McHugh
I have lucked out. My husband comes from the island of Tinos, Greece and we go there every year. I am always struck with the breathtaking beauty of the island. Some villages nestle in the valleys and others perch on the hillsides. The hills are terraced with stone walls and sheep, goats, and cows graze in the fields. Tinos may resemble other islands in the Cyclades, but what is unique to Tinos is the number of dovecotes scattered across the landscape. If you were to visit Tinos, you would be astonished at how many of them there are. While the exact number of them is not known, it is believed that there are over 1,000. This is quite impressive for an island that is 195 square kilometers. 1
They are truly beautiful as you can see in these photographs below. This dovecote used to belong to my husband’s grandfather.
Dovecotes are not just decoration. During the 1900s, dovecotes significantly contributed to the family finances. They were kept in the family and passed on from generation to generation. My husband inherited a dovecote from his father, who had inherited it from his uncle. While very few people eat dove today, my husband remembers his grandmother serving dove, more specifically in soups made with the meat and carcass of the doves. Most importantly, the family also used the dove droppings as manure. The droppings were well known as high quality fertilizer.
Here Is a picture of my husband’s dovecote, nestled in the valley.
It was the Venetians who originally introduced breeding of doves to the island of Tinos when they conquered the island in 1204. They ruled the island for five centuries until 1715. During Venetian rule, dove breeding was only practised by the noble, or ruling classes. The noble families had ‘le droit des colombiers’ or the right to possess doves. These were concessions bestowed by the Doge of Venice. In 1715, the Turks ruled the island, but did not inhabit it. The island was returned to Greece in 1821. 2
Most of the dovecotes were built during the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time, dove meat was not limited to local consumption. It was considered a delicacy and exported as far as Smyrna and Constantinople. 3
When the Venetians ceased to rule Tinos, concessions to practice dove breeding were no longer necessary. The inhabitants started to build their own dovecotes. They were built in areas conducive to breeding, such as rural areas near cultivated fields and where a water supply was available. 4 They were built on slopes that took into consideration the wind and would allow the doves to fly easily in and out of the dovecotes. The doves nest in the square holes built in a single or double row. Small stone slabs that protrude provide perches for the doves. 5
Here is a picture of some doves nesting and some eggs.
Dovecotes are made out of slate clay and are whitewashed. They are two stories high. The doves live on the second floor and the first floor is used for storing tools and agricultural equipment. They are elaborately decorated with geometric patterns and non-geometric patterns such as cypress trees. It is believed that these patterns attract the doves. 6
Here is a close up picture of my husband’s dovecote. These doves are fed and their only predators are snakes. There are about 30 doves living in this dovecote at any one time. We know approximately how many doves are living here by counting them in a picture. There is great pleasure in continuing to breed doves, a practice that has lasted centuries.
2 Author not identified, PDF document entitled Dovecotes of Tinos in Archnet.org
Posted by Mary Sutherland
Montrealers really enjoy a parade and this year marks the 194th Saint Patricks Day Parade organized by the Irish Society of Montreal. On Sunday, March 19th people will line St Catherine’s Street, mostly on the sunny side, to cheer the floats, dance to the bands and even have a “little something” to help them stay warm.
This is a great time to start researching your ancestors. You never know what stories you will uncover. Some of you may find Irish roots even if your name is Tremblay or Gagnon. Many Irish came to Canada in the mid-1800’s, before and after the potato famine. Sandra McHugh’s great-grandparents left Ireland at this time but moved to Scotland rather than North America. Read about their journey in Everyone is Irish on St Patricks Day. https://genealogyensemble.com/2016/03/16/everyone-is-irish-on-st-patricks-day/
Most of the Irish immigrants to Canada arrived in Quebec City and then traveled on to Montreal. Some of the Irish Catholics did settle in towns and villages all around Quebec while most of the Protestants moved on to Upper Canada. Jacques Gagne’s The Irish of Frampton Quebec https://genealogyensemble.com/2016/09/11/the-irish-of-frampton-quebec/ and The Irish Catholic Churches of Quebec https://genealogyensemble.com/2014/05/20/irish-catholic-churches-of-quebec/ are great sources of information on the lives of these people who populated Quebec.
Janice Hamilton shows that persistence pays off in genealogy research in her Breaking Through My Sherman Brick Wall about the Irish origins of her great great grandmother Martha Bagnall Shearman. https://genealogyensemble.com/2016/07/06/breaking-through-my-shearman-brick-wall/ Census, birth, marriage and death records are harder to find in Ireland as a fire destroyed the Public Records Office in1922 but information can still be found. Janice found that aside from Canada the family has spread to the United States and New Zealand. There are Irish everywhere.
My Irish ancestors were all Protestants and more apt to celebrate the glorious twelfth than Saint Patricks Day. The Orangemen would march on July 12th to celebrate the battle of the Boyne when the protestant king, William of Orange defeated catholic James II. Susan Dodds and Alexander Bailey came from County Monaghan in Northern Ireland and their story is told in The Sampler. https://genealogyensemble.com/2016/04/20/susan-dodds-sampler/
So whether you have the ancestors or just want to pretend, have corn-beef and cabbage, drink a green beer and celebrate being Irish!
Posted by Dorothy Nixon
Maria Roy Crepeau and three daughters and a granddaughter in front of 72 Sherbrooke West in 1926 or so.
In the Edwardian Age, an ambitious young man, however resourceful, usually needed a solid financial foundation to kick-start his career. If he didn’t have family money, he had to marry well. Take my grandfather, Jules Crépeau, (1873-1938). The son of a mere house painter, he rose up in 30 years from Messenger Boy in the Health Department to Director of City Services, the top civil servant at Montreal City Hall.
Jules didn’t have the advantage of a superior education; indeed, he completed his regular studies at night. He did have a workaholic nature, an affable disposition, a memory like a steel trap,*1 as well as a connection to the powerful French Canadian industrialists, the Forgets.
New information I found on the Internet reveals that the make-or-break-point for young Jules was in 1901, the year of his marriage. Back then, Jules was making only $600 a year, not a terrible salary for a single man, but certainly not enough to get married on.*2 So, Jules, like so many others, had to choose his wife very carefully.
My grandmother, Maria Roy, the daughter of a master butcher, brought a huge $40,000 dowry to their 1901 marriage, so I’m told. The next year, Jules had a house built for them on Amherst, near Ontario Street, and by a noted architect, at that.*3 Maria’s money!
Lovell’s Directory shows that in 1905 the Crépeau family moved to a tony stretch of St. Hubert Street. Jules is listed as Head Clerk. City Hall. In 1918, they moved to St. Denis Street, just a few doors down from J. A. Brodeur, “Montreal’s Napoleon,” and Head of the Executive Committee. My grandfather was, by then, Second Assistant City Clerk, with a salary of $2,500 -$3,500.
Crépeaus around 1918. My mother wasn’t born yet. Doesn’t Jules, center, look stressed?
In 1921, Jules was promoted to the newly-minted post of Director of City Services*4, almost tripling his salary to $8,000, and soon thereafter, to $10,000. In 1922, his family moved to a three storey greystone at 72 Sherbrooke West.
It’s during this period, the Roarin’ Twenties, that my grandmother, Maria, finally started earning dividends on her dowry, taking shopping trips to New York City to stock up on bourgeois bric-a-brac like marble urns, porcelain statuary, and art nouveau lamps; a complement to the whole roomful of ‘gifts’ the family received from various community groups, especially at Christmas. Jules and Maria needed a good supply of breakables. Family legend has it that the crockery flew over the stairs throughout their tumultuous 37 year marriage.
Aunt Flo posing in front of some Crépeau bric-a-brac on Harvard in the late 1940’s. The marble bust of three children actually ended up in my mother’s possession, gracing our upper duplex apartment in the 1960’s, but rather out of place among the melamine furnishings and artwork from Woolworth’s. Today, I own the orange art nouveau-deco Le Verre Francais “Amourettes” vase at top right.
In 1931, Jules Crépeau was forced to resign by the new populist Mayor Camillien Houde, but not before negotiating a huge life pension of $8,000 a year. But, soon, my grandfather, who had no hands-on business experience, lost all of his savings with bad investments.*5 In 1937, Jules also lost his pension when Montreal City Hall passed an emergency bill to abolish it as a cost-saving measure. *6
Just two weeks later, Grandpapa was hit by a car driven by a plain clothes city policeman. He died the next year from complications. Jules probably threatened someone with a long reach.
Living out her life in the final family home on Harvard in Notre Dame de Grace, Jules’ wife, Maria Roy Crépeau (1879-1951) never complained about her situation as an impoverished widow, and this despite the fact her fat dowry financed the first years of the choppy Crépeau-Roy merger. Still, I suspect her story wasn’t at all unique, especially in the Depression Era.
Rue Jules Crépeau, Ahunsic, Montreal. Designated in the 1980’s. Funny story. In the late 80’s, when my husband and I were buying our first computer, the ONLY place in Montreal we knew that sold them was in Ahunsic, where we seldom ventured. We got lost and stumbled upon this road and park. I had to find a phone booth to phone my mother to tell her that a street had been named after her father. Serendipity or what? Jules’ nemesis, Camillien Houde, has the huge road winding through the mountain named after him.
- Le Devoir was the only Montreal newspaper to publish a long obit of my grandfather, in 1938, saying that Jules was the go-to guy for any information about how City Hall ran. Affable is their term.
- The 1911 census shows that a $600 a year salary was average/above average for a family. Many era workers were ‘day workers’ with unsteady employment, but, even that $600 salary was not enough for the big families of the era to live on. Terry Copp, the sociologist who wrote An Anatomy of Poverty,claims that $1500. was the minimum salary for a family to live in dignity in Montreal in 1910. In the Edwardian Era, in England and elsewhere, a working class couple might start out in good shape, with a decent salary for a small family, but as more and more kids came, the family fell into poverty. Such might have been Jules’ fate, save for this huge dowry.
- Louis Zephirin Gauthier specialized in churches. His partner was a Monsieur Roy, so maybe he was a relation. Back then few Montrealers owned their own home, in the 20 percent range. Since 1899, male renters could vote in the municipal elections; women had to be single and own their home to vote. Montreal has long been known as a city of renters, but, just lately, this appears to be changing.
- The post of Director of City Services was created in 1921 after much deliberation and input from citizens to ensure an equitable distribution of money among the city districts. The post was a liaison between the seven city departments and the Executive Committee. Newspaper accounts of the time reveal that my Grandfather’s office did everything from organizing events for the visiting Royal Princes to being on the City Clean-Up Committee, to testifying in Quebec with respect to Private Bills. When someone had a beef at City Hall, they wrote to his office. My grandfather was the first to testify at the inquiry in to the fatal Laurier Palace Fire, in January 1927, which was ironic, as I suspect the fire may have been started by organized crime to get at him. (Just my theory, though.)
- Jules’ brother, Isadore, Insurance broker and VP Of United Theatre Amusements, the company that erected many of the famous 1920 era movie houses in Montreal, ‘fell’ out of his 7th floor office while waving for his chauffeur in 1933.
- Kristian Gravenor, journalist at Coolopolis.blogspot.ca http://coolopolis.blogspot.ca/2017/01/ndg-coincidence-undercover-cop-slams.html wrote a bit about Jules and dug out the info about the cancellation of his pension.
(This story is slightly complicated because of the similar names: generation one was Robert Stobo and his wife Elizabeth Hamilton; generation two was Elizabeth Stobo and her husband Robert Hamilton.)
The story of my two-times great-grandgrandparents’ move from Scotland to Canada is legendary in my branch of the Hamilton family. Robert Hamilton (1789-1875), a weaver from Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, moved to Glasgow with his wife, Elizabeth Stobo (1790-1853), and children to earn money for the move to North America. They boarded a ship bound for New York in the spring of 1830, and reinvented themselves as farmers in Scarborough Township, Upper Canada.
In 2012, my husband and I visited Lesmahagow, about 20 miles south of Glasgow. We looked for my Hamilton ancestor’s grave in Lesmahagow parish cemetery, gazed at the sheep grazing on the rolling hillsides and breathed in the cool Scottish air. From Lesmahagow, we drove to Avondale Parish Church in nearby Strathaven, where Elizabeth Stobo was baptized in 1790, “lawful daughter of Robert in Braehead.” We also visited Stonehouse parish, where Elizabeth and Robert were married in 1816.
All I knew about Elizabeth’s background was her place of birth and her parents’ names, Robert Stobo and Elizabeth Hamilton. Recently, I delved into the Stobo family tree and came up with a few surprises, notably that Elizabeth’s father led the way to Canada when he was 60 years old, and that several of her siblings also immigrated.
Robert Stobo was probably born in Avondale parish on July 16, 1764, the son of James Stobo in Braehead. When he married Elizabeth Hamilton in 1789, the marriage proclamations were read at both Avondale Parish Church and at Dalserf Parish Church, the bride’s parish.
Robert and Elizabeth moved several times during their child-rearing years, although they did not leave a relatively small area in southern Lanarkshire. Their children’s baptismal records show they lived in Braehead in Avondale parish, Dalserf parish, and Auchren in Lesmahagow parish. According to a reference letter from their minister that they brought with them to Canada, they also lived in Stonehouse parish for about nine years before leaving Scotland.
The minister who baptized Robert’s daughter Janet in 1792 usually noted each father’s occupation in the parish register. On the page where Janet was listed were a labourer, a shoemaker, a servant and a weaver. Unfortunately, the minister did not mention Janet’s father’s occupation. Robert may have been a tenant farmer, or he may have worked in the lime kilns around Braehead. Lime was quarried in the region and burned in kilns before it could be used to improve soil for agriculture, or in mortar for building.
Meanwhile, the early years of the 19th century were difficult ones. The Scottish economy was experiencing a recession, the weather was poor and, if Robert was a farm labourer, wages were low. Many families in lowlands Scotland, especially in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, were dependent on charity for survival. The government began offering assistance with travel costs to people who wanted to relocate to Canada. Perhaps Robert decided to take them up on the offer. The Stobo family left Lanarkshire in the spring of 1824.
The Stobos were one of the first families from Lanarkshire to arrive in Scarborough Township, settling on a piece of land near the Scarborough Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. Daughter Elizabeth and her family followed them to Scarborough six years later.
Robert Stobo was 60 when he started his new life in Canada, and his wife was 61. Several of their children were already adults, so some family members remained in Scotland while others left. According to “The Stobo Family: Scarborough, 1824 –“ (see note below) their children were:
Elizabeth, b. 25 June 1790; m. Robt Hamilton 15 April 1816, Stonehouse; d. 15 April, 1853, Scarborough. They had six children, the youngest of whom, James Hamilton, was my great-grandfather.
Janet b. 3 March, 1792, m. Coppy, d. 30 April 1816. Her birth in Braehead, Avondale parish, is included on Scotland’s People, but I have not confirmed her marriage or her death.
Barbara, christened 14 March 1794, Dalserf parish; m. Borwick. The marriage information comes from The Stobo Family manuscript. Two genealogy entries on Familysearch.org say Barbara married Thomas Borwick, 22 October 1832, Scarborough Township.
James, b. 7 Feb. 1896, m. Jean Muir, Scotland. His date of birth is confirmed in Lesmahagow parish on Scotland’s People. Ancestry.ca lists James Stobo m. Jean Muir, June 1827, Culter, Lanark.
Robert, b. 3 Feb 1798, according to The Stobo Family manuscript, however, I have not found a church record of his baptism. According to The Stobo Family manuscript and a letter from William McCowan in Lesmahagow to his nephew Robert McCowan in Scarborough, dated 9 March, 1836, Robert Stobo jr. was probably lost at sea.
Helen, b. 6 February 1800, m. 1. James Stobo of Bog, m. 2. Neil McNeil. Her baptism in Lesmahagow is listed on Scotland’s People. Her marriage, 6 April 1823, to James Stobo, Stonehouse, and her marriage to Neil McNeil, 1 Sept. 1839, Stonehouse, are listed on Ancestry.ca. According to The Stobo Family, she had four sons, three whom remained in Scotland.
Margaret, b. 10 May 1805; m. Adam Carmichael. While her birth is recorded in the old parish records of Lesmahagow, I did not find a marriage record. The Stobo Family manuscript says she and Adam had several children. More research is needed.
Jean (Jane) b. 10 July 1807, Lesmahagow; m. 25 April 1834 Archibald Glendinning, Scarborough; d. 2 Sept, 1893, Scarborough. Archibald was a well-known farmer and merchant in Scarborough, and they had a large family.
John, b. 18 May 1811, Lesmahagow; m. 12 July 1836, Scarborough, Frances Chester; d. 16 May 1889, Scarborough. John was a farmer and had a large family.
From Lesmahagow to Scarborough, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2013/12/from-lesmahagow-to-scarborough.html, posted Dec. 13, 2013, revised Dec. 27, 2016
The Glendinnings of Westerkirk, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2016/12/the-glendinnings-of-westerkirk.html, posted Dec.3, 2016
The Missing Gravestone of Robert Hamilton and Janet Renwick, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2015/10/the-missing-gravestone-of-robert.htmlposted Oct. 28, 2015, revised Dec. 27, 2016
Notes and sources
“The Stobo Family: Scarborough, 1824 –“ is a typed family tree manuscript by Stobo descendant Margaret Oke. It can be found in the Ontario Genealogical Society collection housed at the Toronto Reference Library. Mrs. Oke said the references used were family recollections, family bibles and census records in the National Archives (now Library and Archives Canada.) This document was originally prepared by Miss Ethel Glendenning (1880-1976), who was a United Church missionary in India for many years. Miss Glendenning gave it to Miss Marjorie Paterson (1901-1980), and Mrs. Oke transcribed it in 1986. I have used this tree as a starting point, checking the names and dates it gives with other sources including the Scotland’s People website, Ancestry.ca, and Familysearch.org.
The Stobo Family says Robert senior’s date of birth was 16 July 1764. Scotland’s People lists two Robert Stobos born in Avondale in 1764: one is the above individual, son of James, and the other was born 5 October 1764, son of Robert, but both index listings lead to the same image: son of James, born in July. The Stobo Family manuscript has proved accurate in all the dates I was able to verify, so the July date is probably correct.
I have not been able to find any information on Robert’s wife Elizabeth. The name Hamilton was very common in Lanarkshire.
This article is also posted on writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca