W2311 TO DR. CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from his brother Isaac B. McQuesten
Jan 6 1873
To: Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten, New York, [New York, U.S.A.]
From: Hamilton, Ontario
My dear Brother,
As usual I have delayed writing though I fully intended doing so last month. Well, as it is to a chap not ungiven to delaying, as I am myself, I hope I will be excused for delaying & not have to give the usual reasons. When I went to get the draft father said to send a little more, so I took the liberty--& I trust you will not be offended, as I
acted with my best judgement in the matter,--to suggest that instead of his sending you a little more, to let me get you a really handsome fob chain made & put on it an inscription as from him to you. I told him I felt sure you would value it far more, as you had nothing that you keep constantly about you that is a reminder of him. He seemed quite pleased
at the idea. As I had no selfish motive in the matter, and as in value you will get about double what you otherwise would, and can show people a sample of Madoc Gold (without specifying the profitableness of working it)--I trust even if the matter don't [sic] meet with your entire approval,
you will not be offended at it; since I simply did as I
would be done by.
Now for some other matters. I wrote Dr. O [Ormiston] a few weeks since, not asking him any questions about Mrs. McQ. in fact leaving it entirely optional with himself to refer to the matter at all--and he scarcely did. Though I
told him I was aware that he knew both sides of the story.
Every thing has continued to go on pleasantly between Mrs.
McQ. & father; & I have seen no falling off on her part. In all honesty, Calvin, I want to do what is right. If she will treat father as she ought; then as far as you & I are concerned it does not so much matter. But as it had been for some time, I could not have continued to live in the same house with her. Not a day passes without every thing that was evil & devilish in me being brought into full play. You say I was irritable & cross tempered. I admit it. But
if you are going to train a horse not to kick will the best course be to keep pricking him in the heels, or have the whiffle tree1 constantly dropping on his ankles? I fear
that by that course you would simply make him worse. I know
that I am not appealing to one who is ignorant of it, but to one who has had the same experience I have had and you can testify that there is nothing so galling and wearing & wearying as this constant fault finding.
I have tried to subdue my own native ill nature, & at times I have for days not said an unkind word to her, & yielded in every point she asked to see if that could better
matters; but it has simply made her ten times worse. I
shall take no course that will have the effect of shirking unpleasant loads from my shoulders to yours. But I believe that there is every prospect that she will now behave herself toward father. She & I have not spoken a word together since her return.
Did I tell you in my last: that she had told father
that she thought he was going to [turn?] her off & that if
he were going to do so, she would like to have the option to leave voluntarily. This she said before she went to Boston, shewing that she 'smelt some mice.'
You need not be atall [sic] afraid she will ever gain any influence over father. He feels that she has made it so that neither you nor I can live happily in the same house with her, "and if she drives you both away from home while I live, I don't intend to make her more comfortable at your
expense after I die."2
If any new indications appear I will notify you of them. Mrs. Dr. Malloch died yesterday after only three or four days of illness of diphtheria. Poor Malloch is half distracted about it.3
What did you do Xmas? I went down to
Toronto for a few days. Mrs. McQ. got up quite a dinner:
did not invite the ones father wanted and, happy thought, it stormed so terribly that her guests did not come. Four weeks from today I will be either through with my exams--or
not--I hope the former. With a merry Xmas, A new Year & all
best wishes, as ever,
1 The Wiffle tree is part of the harness and shafts for a
carriage horse or a draft horse. The rule of thumb is if there is more than about 18 in between the horses tail and the whiffle tree the shafts start to look too long.
2 Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten was Dr. Calvin McQuesten's third wife and the stepmother to his sons Isaac and Calvin Brooks. Although she seemed pleasant enough around the time of the marriage on December 22, 1853, she later showed her terrible temper and manipulative side, demanding money and a grand share of her husband's estate in his will and sometimes made threats to get what she wanted. After Dr. McQuesten's death, she received only an annuity while her stepsons received all of their father's property and investments. See W-MCP5-6.351 for more details and links.
3 For a large note on Dr. Malloch as the pioneer of "germ theory" in Hamilton and in North America, see W4582. It is after his wife's untimely death in 1873, that Dr, Malloch increases his efforts involving the "germ theory" that he introduced to Canada. See my article on Malloch as being one of the "Firsts" in Hamilton with his revolutionary methods to combat "germs."