Elizabeth Mowat is my great great grandmother. I didn’t even know her name before I began my genealogy quest. I still don’t know much about her but I now have a photograph, a portrait of her in her “go to church clothes” with the requisite black bonnet.
There were no pictures of her in the box that started my family history search, although there was a family photograph of her husband William, her son Donald, his wife Alice and three of their children, William, Mary and James Dickson. I originally thought Elizabeth was alive at the time, so why on such an occasion was she not with them at the photographers? It later turned out she died in 1883 and not the assumed 1888.
It was through the internet and RootsWeb that I finally saw her face. Robert Harkness, from her daughter-in-law Alice’s line, said his family had lost all their old photos and information in a house fire but his uncle might know some family history. I wrote to his uncle, Bruce Harkness but did not hear anything. Then a couple of months later I received a letter from a George Dickson with photos and stories. He was also a relative of Alice’s and lived in the same apartment building as Bruce, in Belmore, Ontario. Bruce had shared my letter and it was George who responded. In the package was a picture of Elizabeth.
She was born in 1829 in Pulteneytown, Caithness, Scotland. Her parents were James Mowat and Isabelle Houston. It doesn’t appear that she had any siblings or at least any that survived to the 1841 census.
She married William Sutherland a shoemaker and 13 years her senior, May 1845, in Pulteneytown and they set out for Canada soon after. They sailed with two of William’s nephews and their wives so he had some family with him, but Elizabeth left her family and her life, never to see them again. There are Sutherland letters that have survived which reported on all the neighbours and friends so I assume the Mowats also heard about their daughter’s new life and family.
Elizabeth and William had seven children, William, James, Donald, Christina, Isabella, George, and John. They moved from Toronto to West Gwillimbury and finally to their own land in Carrick, Bruce County Ontario. After clearing the land and farming for a number of years they gave up the hard work and moved back to Toronto.
Elizabeth died in 1883 and William died in 1887. My sister Jeannie and I visited Mount Pleasant Cemetery and found their tombstone. The names were readable but not the inscription. As Jeannie went to the car to get some paper to try a rubbing, the sun came out and it’s angle made the inscription jump out,“The dead in Christ shall rise first”.
Ancestry.com. Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.Original data: Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013
Extracts of entries in an Old Parochial Register. Proclamations of Banns and marriages Parish of Wick, County of Caithnes general register Office, New Register House Edinburch on 26 September 2000.
Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 36 Source InformationAncestry.com. Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938, 1943-1944, and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947 Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Cert.
“The dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16
On a November morning in 1920, Christina Sutherland was hit by a car. She was hurrying along King Street in Toronto and stepped out from between two wagons into the path of the vehicle. The driver, Joseph Stern, couldn’t stop in time and knocked her down. Extremely upset, he picked up her unconscious body, placed her in his car and rushed her to the Toronto General Hospital.
Christina died the next day of a fractured skull and brain concussion. The circumstance of Christina’s death, written up in the Toronto Star was the most noteworthy event in her life.
Mr Stern reported the accident to the Court Street police station. He wasn’t detained after he explained what had happened. Christina’s death was the third one in six days caused by a motor car.
As late as 1910 pedestrians still had the right of the road. The streets were busy with automobiles and horse drawn wagons but people crossed where ever they pleased, with hardly a look. Toronto police began directing traffic in 1918 as yielding the right of way at intersections didn’t work any more. By 1920 Toronto had a population of 500,000 and cars were becoming more and more popular. Police now claimed that most accidents were the fault of the pedestrians and jaywalking became a word.
Little else is known about Christina. The only mention of her is in her nephew William Harkness Sutherland’s diary and that too is about her death. “ Received a special delivery letter from Wilson this morning just as we were starting out to church giving news of Aunt Christina’s death.” There weren’t any photographs of her, she isn’t mentioned in any surviving family letters and the record of her birth hasn’t been found.
She was born in Ontario around 1854, the fourth child of William Sutherland and Elizabeth Mowat. They followed the Scottish naming pattern and so she was named for William’s mother. William purchased crown land in 1855 in Carrick, Bruce County, Ontario. The land had to be cleared, a house built and crops planted, so there was always a lot of work to be done as Christina grew up. All the Sutherland children went to S.S. #9 Carrick. The school, built of hand-hewn logs by the original settlers was opened in 1859. Parents had to supply half a cord of wood for each child attending. Christina continued to live at home at least until she was seventeen.
In 1881 she was living in Toronto and working as a domestic for William Johnston, his wife Mary and their two children. He was her aunt Jessie Sutherland’s brother. Some of Christina’s brothers had also moved to Toronto at this time, but she wasn’t living with any of them.
She wasn’t found on another census until 1911 when she was a lodger at 381 King St West. This appeared to be a boarding house owned by an Alice Dawson, who lived there with her daughter and grandchildren. There were ten lodgers on the census; four women and six men. Christina was listed as an operator at a factory, working 48 hours a week with a two week holiday and all for three hundred dollars a year. She must have had an independent streak as she worked to support herself and still wasn’t living with any family members.
She never married and was reported to be 66 at the time of her death. She was still living on King Street, although at number 391. There was contact with her family as it was her brother George Sutherland who was the informant of her death and her funeral was from her sister Isabella’s house.
Christina was buried in Mount Pleasant cemetery in a plot with her parents, two young nephews and a niece. Even there she didn’t leave a mark, as her name is not on the tombstone.
“Hit By Motor.” Toronto Star 4 Nov. 1920: n. Pg. 2 Print.
Toronto Star 6 Nov. 1920 Print.
Ontario Census, 1861,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQQ6-V4G : 8 November 2014), Cristenik Sutherland, Carrick, Bruce, Ontario, Canada; citing p. 4, line 18; Library and Archives Canada film number C-1010-1011, Public Archives, Toronto; FHL microfilm 349,251.
“Canada Census, 1871,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M4QW-JX5 : accessed 30 Mar 2014), Christena Sutherland in household of Isabella Sutherland, Carrick, South Bruce, Ontario, Canada; citing p. 28, line 8; Library and Archives Canada film number C-9935, Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 4396334.
“Canada Census, 1881,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MVFS-GNB : accessed 30 Mar 2014), Christina Sutherland in household of William Johnston, St-John’s Ward, Toronto (City), Ontario, Canada; citing p. 51; Library and Archives Canada film number C-13246, Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 1375882.
Canada Census 1911 Ontario, Toronto South, 38, Ward 4, page 16 Archives Canada.
Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDT9-6H8 : 11 December 2014), Christina Sutherland, 05 Nov 1920; citing Toronto, York, Ontario, yr 1920 cn 8083, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,863,282.
Historical Walks through Carrick and Mildmay. Owen Sound, Ont.: Mildmay-Carrick Historical Society, 1989. 48-51. Print.
Plummer, Kevin. “Historicist: Those Vicious Devilish Machines.” N.p., 17 Jan. 2009. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Sutherland, William Harkness. Diary from January 1920 to December 1924. In possession of the author.
Donald and Isabella had not been well over the winter and of all the things they could do to improve their health, felt an ocean voyage would be the cure. Hopefully the salt air and a good long rest would improve their appetites.
In 1900, Donald Sutherland, my great grandfather, his sister Isabella Sutherland Rae and sister-in-law Jessie Johnston Sutherland traveled to New York from Toronto and sailed from there to Scotland aboard the Laurentian, a steamship of the Allen Line.
Food was not available twenty-four hours a day, as on a cruise ship today, but was plentiful and varied. Breakfast was porridge with fresh milk or maple syrup, Loch Fyne herring, or beefsteak and onions. Lunch, the main meal was roast veal with lemon sauce or roast goose with apple sauce along with potatoes, parsnips and sweets for dessert. Supper was lighter, with cold meats, preserved salmon, finnan haddie, not our family favourite, breads, cheese and jam.1 Donald wrote, “We had a fine sail for about four days and the rest of the voyage was not very fine but for the pitching and rolling and heaving we had yet none of us three were sea sick long enough to miss our meals.”2 I love this quote as it captures some of the essence of his character. I can just see them struggling up the stairs, not wanting to miss a meal they had paid for and hoped would improve their health.
Donald and Isabella were born in Canada to William Sutherland and Elizabeth Mowat. Jessie Johnston was born in Scotland and came to Canada as a child. She was married to William, Donald and Isabella’s older brother. They arrived in Glasgow and then went on to Edinburgh where Jessie was born. They had a wonderful time touring the area and Jessie remembered many landmarks from her childhood, including of course the castle.
The Sutherland’s father William, was from Tongue, in the very north of Scotland. He had left for Canada in 1845 and never went back. Isabella’s mother-in-law Hughina Sutherland Rae, who was also her father William’s sister, was still living in Tongue at the time, but they didn’t visit. I always thought this strange because as far as I know they had never even met. Here they were so close in distance, but when they had the choice of a trip north to Tongue or down to London, London won out! They couldn’t do both without more expense and time than they had available.
Donald had a book store in Toronto, Sutherland’s Dominion Book Store and was very interested in visiting the London book sellers. He wanted to spend time among the books. That city impressed them all and they would have loved to stay longer to see more.
On arriving back in Canada they figured the trip was a great success as they were all in good health and had gained weight. “However I got the benefit of the trip as I expected and I feel a great deal better now than I have been for a long time. I have gained over 9 lbs. after I got home and am still gaining.”3
They had great tales to tell of their trip and the funniest thing that happened in Dublin, but unfortunately these stories were to be told in person and were not put to paper.
2Letter from Donald Sutherland to his McIntosh Cousins. Dec 17, 1900. Original donated by Carol McIntosh Small to the Bruce County Historical Society.
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.
The mention of Thanksgiving or Christmas always brings up thoughts and smells of roasting turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes covered with gravy, turnips, bright red cranberry sauce and fizzy cranberry drink with ginger-ale. There are also the family hors d’oeuvres; crackers, often Ritz, with cheese and an olive slice or just an anchovy. This is our traditional holiday dinner and apparently my ancestors also enjoyed turkey.
I am lucky to have a few letters written by my great grandparents, Donald and Alice Sutherland and funnily enough, most of them mentioned turkeys. They might have raised turkeys at one time, on their farm in Bruce County. William Sutherland obtained crown land in Carrick, Ontario in 1855. He and his family cleared the land and began farming but they later realized that farming wasn’t in their blood. Donald and some of his siblings had left for Toronto before William sold the farm in 1876 to his son William. Even this William preferred the big city and by 1879 the farm was sold again and all the Sutherlands were living in Toronto. They still had ties to the country as many cousins remained farmers in Bruce County. Although they preferred urban life, it seems they would rather have farm fresh produce on their table.
The first note written by Donald on January 6, 1899 said, “We received the butter and turkeys alright. They are very nice. We will forward the amount next week.”
On December 17th 1900, Donald writes a long letter about his trip to Scotland and London and in closing says, “I want to know if you can send us three or four good fat turkies for Christmas. If you can please ship them by express early on Saturday before Christmas and I think we will get them on Monday, address to store 288 Yonge Street. We will give whatever price is going.” One can just picture a crate of gobbling turkeys in the middle of the book store. Mail service must have been very reliable at the time! There was no haggling over the price.
The third letter was written by his wife Alice, December 19, 1901. Christmas was again approaching and and she wanted to know, “well what about turkeys if you have any to sell you might send us three or four, they were fine last year, if you have none to sell let us know as soon as you can.” She continues giving a little news about other family members and closes with“hoping you can let us have some turkey I remain your cousin Alice.” It seemed late to place a turkey order but they probably received them.
There was another letter in Carol’s book and of course it also mentioned turkeys. January 7, 1904, “Dear Cousins, I must apologize for delay in answering. The Turkeys came alright and was very acceptable. Thanks for same. We weighed the two largest ones but the smaller one was missed however as the two weighed 9 lbs each and the other not any more we will reckon 27 lbs @ 12 c = $3.24. You will find enclosed a P.O. Order for $3.25 to cover the three turkeys. If you have any more left and could send us other three we could use them. We never get beat eating Turkey although a little more expensive than ordinary meat yet they are good.”
When I received copies of the letters, I sent them on to my siblings. We all had a good laugh and this prompted, in many subsequent emails the mention of turkeys in every way shape and form. We thought these letters were really funny and have continued telling turkey jokes. It’s only a little thing but they bring the ancestors to life.
Small, Carol A. The McIntoshes of Inchverry. Denfield, Ont.: Maple Hurst, 2008. Print.
Sutherland, Donald. Letter to Gordon McIntosh. 06 Jan. 1899. MS. 204 Younge Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sutherland, Donald. Letter to McIntosh Cousins. 17 Dec. 1900. MS. 288 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sutherland, Alice. Letter to McIntosh Cousins. 19 Dec. 1901. MS 167 Seaton Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Sutherland, Donald. Letter to McIntosh Cousins. Jan 7, 1904. MS 167 Seaton Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Postcard: The Montreal Standard’s Christmas Greeting card No. 9 printed in Canada