Amy Eagle, my grandmother Minnie’s sister never married and lived at 69 Seaton Street, Toronto for most of her life. During one visit to Montreal in the 1950s, to celebrate birthdays, her house was robbed. She blamed her sister, accused her of orchestrating it and never traveled again.
Amy was the introvert to Minnie’s extrovert. They were close in age, with Amy born in March 1882 and Minnie in November 1883. They did most things together with Amy following Minnie’s lead. Both worked for Ryrie Brothers Jewellers. Minnie worked on jewelry repair and construction with their Uncle, Jim Bailey, while Amy worked in bookkeeping. They often went out with friends but they were mostly Minnie’s friends.
Singing was the love of Amy’s life. She sang in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Canadian National Exhibition Chorus under Dr H. A. Fricker. She must of had a good voice as the Mendelssohn Choir had yearly auditions, even for current choir members. The choir often toured the northern US with trips to Chicago, Philadelphia and Cincinnati and New York. This was one thing Amy did alone as Minnie couldn’t sing. She enjoyed these trips and sent many postcards. She saved her collection of choir medals and pins. When the Exhibition Chorus ended in 1934 it seemed she stopped her singing.
Their mother worried when Minnie got married that Amy would become more of a recluse.
Amy didn’t approve of William Sutherland and they had to tiptoe around her before their marriage. She came around when the children arrived. She was Auntie. She loved her nieces and nephew and enjoyed visiting them in Montreal and their visits to Toronto. After the children came she became Auntie.
“We enjoyed the girls visit so much and it did Amy so much good, going out so much. About this winter my principal reason for staying at home is the Mendelssohn Choir business, and it is really the only thing she belongs too to take her out regularly. The only exercise she gets for walking and she loves it so much and if she ever staid out a season she would not go again.”
When her Mother Eliza Jane Eagle died in 1931, Amy continued to live alone in the house on Seaton Street. It was a narrow three-storied semi -detached with little rooms, lots of stairs, and the toilet tank on the wall had a long pull chain.
She didn’t work after Minnie got married but she continued her bookkeeper’s ways. She kept records of everything she bought all recorded in a fine hand. She even had a box of lace with the date and price of purchase of each little piece. She recorded who was buried where in the cemetery plots. She promised to tell my Aunt Bet the stories of the family coming to Canada from Ireland but unfortunately never got around to it.
In her early eighties she suffered from lung cancer but wouldn’t go to the hospital because her mother went in and never came out. She still lived alone and had become feeble, unable to shop, cook or clean. My mother and grandmother went up to see her. They didn’t have a key. They rang the bell and could see Auntie in the hall trying to crawl to the door. My mother broke a small window and unlocked the door. Although Auntie was relieved to see them she was mad that her window was broken. She remained in her home until the end, with visits from the doctor and the VON. Auntie died March 16, 1965.
My parents went up later to clear the house and put it up for sale. According to Auntie’s account book, she had recently taken out one thousand dollars. She had paid the newspaper boy and had given Mom money for a taxi, but that was all the money that was accounted for. They looked everywhere for it; in dressers, cupboards and desks and in all the little boxes they contained. Finally in the arm of an old kitchen chair, known as the “mouse chair”, wrapped in a rag was the money. They actually found $1151 in her house.
My parents laid in bed on garbage day and listened to the truck door open and close again and again and wondered what family treasures they might have thrown away.
Letters and postcards written to family members over the years and in the possession of Mary Sutherland.
Eagle, Eliza Jane. Letter to Minnie Sutherland. 24 Sept. 1925. MS. Toronto, Ontario.
Personal recollections of Bet Van Loben Sels, Elizabeth Sutherland Somers and Mary Sutherland.
Of interest: Dr J.N. Humphrey’s account was $19 and the VON $54, not much money to stay in your own home. From Mills and Mills Barristers, Solicitors, ETC. Toronto 2, Canada. Estate of Amy Eagle – disbursements June 3, 1965.