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