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Older Isaac McQuesten (1847-1888)W4327 TO DR. CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from his sister-in-law Mary Baker McQuesten
Jul 8 1885
To: Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten New York
From: Hespeler Ontario

Dear Calvin,

I had resolved that I would never again mention the subject of Isaac's health but my anxiety about him is so great, that I must beg of you one favour and that is to tell me, if you would recommend him trying a specialist on nervous disease and who is the best1. My greatest difficulty is that Isaac does not feel he has a cent to spare except on necessities, and he has no faith in any man being able to help him. However if you could hold out any inducements as to the skill of any physician in New York, perhaps I could coax him. I asked you once, but you forgot to answer me if you thought there was any virtue in this "Compound oxygen" prepared by a Philadelphia firm. Will you be so very kind as to answer me as soon as you received this, for I am very anxious and if anything can be done the sooner the better2. The weather has been very hot to-day.With kind love.

Yours sincerely,

M.B. McQuesten

1 Mary's anxiety was compounded by the fact that she was also six months pregnant with their seventh child, Margaret Edna McQuesten, born October 23, 1885 just three days after the death of Isaac's father, Dr. Calvin McQuesten, and on the day of his funeral. At that time Isaac's mishandling of the estate became evident. Bankruptcy was looming, for him and his brother, and he and Mary had a large family and a large home to maintain. Between April and August 1886, Mary required rest and treatment for depression. Isaac wrote to her on August 23, 1886 (W2495):

Home these dark, short evenings is almost worse than no home at all without a wife. . . . it makes me sadder to think of a sweet, pure little one like you having to lie on a bed of pain when you don't deserve it, & I have all well when I ought to have something like sciatica in every part of my body.

Alternative treatments for "nervous disease" are described in two advertisements found in the archive,Box 03-377, 03-400. The first is dated in pen on the reverse: August 12, 1884:

Nervous Debility
and all diseases
peculiar to your sex
will be cured RADICALLY

No Mercury or other Poisons will be employed to effect your cure.
194 Second Ave. near 12th St.

On the reverse written in pen is 14th St. & 4th Ave, and the date, August 12, 1884:


A Celebrated Remedy for the Nervous, the Debilitated, the Aged.
A permanent cure for nervous diseases, nervous prostration,
nervous headaches, etc....Overwork, anxiety, etc.
Wells, Richardson & Co. Burlington, VT.

2 The cause of Mary's great anxiety is further explained in the letter from Isaac to his half- brother, Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten, written on his return from treatment at Guelph on October 1, 1887. Isaac had been suffering from alcoholism and severe depression, had frequent breakdowns and spent several periods in the Guelph Sanatorium. This is the last letter (extant) from Isaac to his brother and it describes his condition as an "unhealthful excitement, and afterwards came the reaction," periods of "sluggishness" and insomnia. He is very frank about his guilt and despair over his "responsibility" in the use of "stimulants" and the "heinousness of sin." Isaac also provides a cryptic message about a "mystery" and a possibly violent course of action that he was contemplating:

I am fully aware that I and I only am to blame as far as responsibility. Nor think that I will allow feelings to permit me to do a foolish thing that could benefit nobody, and simply injure all concerned.And while I cannot tell what the exact step to be taken--as yet--is, or what it will result in, I will not be party to right being subservient to any other motive. Don't think I am making any mystery now. I am not. But I want you simply to be prepared, when such occasion may occur, to quickly and calmly use your best judgement, and not by my leaving the possible consideration of steps that may not be necessitated, until such time or action has to be taken, then be flurried by being taken unexpectedly. All I want you to understand is that if it becomes necessary to deal decidedly with a man who is not a fool, you will be prepared to act without rashness; and further that I will not pursue a course of temporizing simply because I do not want to fairly face what may not be pleasant. . . .I have made no attempt at concealment and have so informed those who have spoken with me. It may be very painful and humiliating, but nothing is gained by an attempt at evading it. . . . And it is these sudden impulses that I must look out for. It is one long continuous want or craving. (W2511, October 1, 1887)

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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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