Sarah Ann and her children were known as the Berkeley Street Eagles. They lived at 339 Berkeley Street in Toronto, just a couple of blocks from Seaton Street where her brother-in-law William Eagle lived. He was said to have kept an eye on the family but Sarah Ann seemed to be a strong woman and didn’t need looking after. She had an imposing figure and at some point a glass eye that stared at you when she talked.¹
Sarah Ann was widowed in 1876 when her husband Alexander Eagle was killed at work. He was just 40. Alexander was a teamster and he was loading a wagon with salt barrels when one fell on him.
His wife was left to raise seven children. The oldest, Amelia was 14 and baby Frederick only one year old. Sarah Ann had already lost two children, Eliza Jane at seven and Alfred, Frederick’s twin at only one-month-old. The family continued to live in Goderich, Ontario for a while but then moved to Toronto.
Sarah Ann Esten McMillan was born in Ireland and came to Canada with her family when she was about 14, in 1849. It was a six-week sea voyage in a sailing ship and then the family had to continue from Kingston to Goderich by stage coach. According to her obituary, she used to boast that she made the first salt in Goderich and saw the first train that came into Toronto.²
The eldest child, Amelia was known as Millie. She was a good daughter. She lived with her mother, worked as a tailor and never married. When her brother Frederick and his wife had their first child she moved in with them and was there until her death in 1943.
Martha Ellen the second daughter was said to be the wild one, although at 18 she was still living with her mother and working as a milliner. She left home after she married Harry Shepard, moved to Chicago and had a family. She seemed to turn out well. Her brother William became a baker and he too moved to Chicago. He married and ended up in Los Angeles.
David Eagle, also never married. He lived with his mother and worked as a cabinet maker and house builder. His sister Sarah Ann, known as Annie kept house for everybody at 339 Berkeley Street. After she died in 1949, the house was sold and Dave went to live with his brother Fred in Hamilton.
Emily was a school teacher. She married Edgar Bent when she was 40 and went to live in New London, Connecticut. They had no children and after her husband died she returned to Berkeley Street.
Frederick Eagle the youngest, lived at Berkeley Street until his marriage to Mildred Campbell in 1904. It appears he was lucky to get her. A write up about their wedding stated; “Mr Eagle is a former Goderich boy who is well known and much esteemed in his native town. The bride whom he has been so fortunate in winning is one of the most popular young ladies, an especial favourite with her friends and one who will be missed in the work of the church of which she has been a member from young girlhood.” They had three sons.
Eagles continued to come and go from Berkeley Street even after Sarah Ann’s death at 84 in 1919. Sarah Ann’s favourite saying according to grandson Fred was, “a mickle is a muckle.” This Scotish saying can be a mickle or a pickle but with a muckle generally, means many small things can make something large. I think Sarah Ann would be surprised but pleased to know her house on Berkley Street is now worth almost a million dollars!
- A story from my Aunt Beth Sutherland Van Loben Sels.
- Sarah Ann’s obituary Toronto Star.
- The Scotsman December 12, 2013. Mony a mickle maks a muckle. This is popularly thought to mean that a lot of small amounts of something will make a large amount of it. It is often used to try and encourage people to save little amounts of money in the hope, one day, that these will become a fortune. The sentiment may be admirable, but the saying as it stands actually does not make much sense. Mickle and Muckle, far from being opposites in meaning, actually mean the same thing. As nouns, they both mean a large amount or a great deal of something. http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-word-of-the-week-mickle-muckle-1-3231104
- I met Fred Eagle, Sarah Ann’s grandson and son of Frederick once in 1997 at the beginning of my genealogy research. He told me family stories insisted he and Minnie Eagle were cousins as she had always been cousin Minnie, but actually, they were first cousins once removed.
I have a sampler made by Susan Dodds Bailey, my two times great-grandmother, but much more has survived made by her daughter Eliza Jane. My favourite item is a wool quilt.
The quilt is a traditional bow tie pattern, made from scraps of suiting and other old clothes. Reds, blues and greens in plains, plaids and a few polka dots march across the front. It was all hand stitched. For many years, it was put away in a closet but now summer has it spread out on the day bed, on the verandah of our country cottage. Many an afternoon nap has been taken on it. The quilt had begun to show wear, especially the disintegration of the black dyed fabric but it was being used and loved. Last fall, before Thanksgiving, the quilt was left on the bed. Mice climbed under the tarpaulin protecting it, decided wool would make a great nest and chewed the fabric. It needed to be repaired. Great grandmother would not be happy.
Eliza Jane wasn’t just a quilter, she also knit and made a finely worked afghan. This was a work of love made from off white wool purchased especially for the project. It was given to her daughter Minnie. Elisa Jane was very upset to see that her daughter used it folded up under a mattress, to raise the head of a bed. It was the only time her granddaughter Beth remembered seeing her grandmother cry. The afghan then went to Beth and later her great-granddaughter Dorothy, who proudly displayed it on her guest bed. Great grandmother would be happy.
Eliza Jane also did a lot of fancy needlework. Needlepoint book marks, crocheted towels and lace, crossed stitched sayings on paper and tatted edging have all been preserved. She loved listening to the radio,“Wilson came over on Wed evening and looked over our machine it needs a new long battery but I heard a fine concert in Masonic Hall last night the best yet after the shaking up he gave the old battery.” I can picture her sitting listening in the evening, her hands never idle.
Eliza married William Eagle in 1881, when they were both considered “older”. He had been looking after his mother and didn’t want his wife to become a nurse. They did marry before Martha McClelland Eagle died, as they couldn’t wait forever. Eliza’s wedding dress was a burgundy silk because she thought cream or white wasn’t suitable for a woman then 36 years of age. I don’t know if she made the dress but it was kept for many years and worn for dress up by her daughters and granddaughters.
Neither her daughters nor her granddaughters were much for sewing or handiwork. My grandmother, Minnie could do some mending and darn her stockings but she was never into fine sewing. She had a dressmaker come to her house twice a year to make her clothes. Her sister Amy tried to do some sewing but for her it was a task, not something she enjoyed. So, I think Eliza Jane would be pleased to know that some of her great granddaughters do a lot of needle work and appreciate her craft.
With some old fabric saved from my mother’s hall closet, I repaired the major holes in the wool quilt. This summer it was back on the day bed. I think Great Grandmother would be happy.
Personal communication with Beth Sutherland Van Loben Sels in 2000.
Notes written by Minnie Eagle Sutherland,“Mother made these fancy articles” and Amy Eagle.
Letters from Eliza Jane Eagle to Minnie Eagle Sutherland -1920’s.
Letter Feb 8 1924 from Eliza Jane to Minnie. Wilson was her daughter Minnie’s brother -in-law.
Articles in the possession of the author
I always thought that my grandfather, William Sutherland was one of three children. He and his brother Wilson died before I was born and his sister Mary when I was a baby, so I never heard any information first hand. There is a picture of the family with three children, parents and grandfather. I always assumed the baby sitting on Alice Dickson Sutherland’s lap was Wilson, until one day I realized the eyes were light coloured. Wilson the youngest son definitely had brown eyes confirmed in many other pictures.
Thinking this was a child who had died, I searched through the Ontario Birth, Marriage and Death indexes. I found a James Dickson Sutherland who died at fourteen months, in January 1886, of bronchial pneumonia and thought he was a possible match. This was confirmed in a letter from Alice to a cousin Jessie McIntosh, where she mentioned little James Dickson. “Baby is growing he is pretty plump but not so big and fat as Willie was when he was his age. We call him James Dickson, he has dark hair, blue eyes and a deep dimple in his chin.”
It was certainly not unusual for young children to die before the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines. In my search I had noticed a Mowat Sutherland, who had died of diphtheria in 1891. Unfortunately, Ontario death certificates don’t give the parents names. No one else in the family had been called Mowat, but that was my great great grandmother’s maiden name. Then a “Knowat” Sutherland age two, was found in the 1891 census living with my great grandfather’s brother William and his wife Jessie Sutherland.
There was also an Elizabeth Mowat Sutherland, who died in 1890. I thought she was probably Mowat’s sister but hadn’t found any birth record. Then, in the LDS database I found both Mowat, Elizabeth Mowat and James Dickson buried in Mount Pleasant cemetery, plot M5120 owned by my great great grandfather William Sutherland.
I kept looking through the records. I searched through the birth records putting in different parents names and then just Sutherland, as I knew the death date and age, 9 months. I finally found a record of the birth of an Elizabeth Maud Sutherland whose parents weren’t William and Jessie Sutherland but rather Donald Sutherland and Alice Dixon (Dickson). This little girl was my great great aunt. She was born July 26, 1888 and died of bronchial pneumonia, April 22, 1889.
Imagine, three babies buried in plot M 5120 with their grandparents, but then there were four. Recently a Dickson baby boy was found to be buried in this plot. He was still born and probably the son of Alice’s brother James Dickson.
Donald and Alice lost two children before the youngest, Wilson was born. As the baby of the family he was spoiled according to all sources. His mother babied him and the explanation was undoubtedly the two children she lost. It was said he never had to learn the value of money and would buy a newspaper every day!
There was one more baby who was never mentioned. My grandmother Minnie Eagle Sutherland and her sister Amy had another younger sister. Elizabeth Martha Eagle, known as Bessie was born October 1, 1886 and died July 18, 1887 of cholera . Her mother Eliza Jane Eagle said, “God knew she could only cope with two children and took Bessie to heaven.”
Are there other little children to find so they too will be remembered?
Ancestry.com. James Dickson Sutherland – Archives of Ontario. Registrations of Deaths, 1869-1938. MS 935, reels 1-615. Series: MS935; Reel: 45
Year: 1891; Census Place: St Johns Ward, Toronto City, Ontario; Roll: T-6371; Family No: 3.
Archives of Ontario. Registrations of Births and Stillbirths – 1869-1913. MS 929, reels 1-245. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6C-BDS : accessed 07 Mar 2014), Elizabeth Mowat Sutherland, 1889.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6C-FP9 : accessed 07 Mar 2014), Mowat Sutherland, 1891.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6H-378 : accessed 05 Apr 2014), Eliza M Eagle, 18 Jul 1887; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot T 94, line 11917, volume Volume 07, 1883-1891, Superintendent of Administrative Services; FHL microfilm 1617041.
Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/24MZ-7G5 : accessed 19 May 2014), Wm Sutherland in entry for Dickson, 05 Oct 1888; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot M 51 20, line 5000, volume Volume 01, 1876-1896, Superintendent of Administrative Services; FHL microfilm 1617049.
Personal communication with Elizabeth Sutherland Van Loben Sels. 2000.
Family letters from Carol MacIntosh Small. All the original letters were donated by Carol to the Bruce County Archives in Southampton, Ontario.
Letter from Alice Sutherland to Jessie McIntosh March 18, 1885.