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W4415 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Nov 12 1898
In care of (c/o)
To: Calvin McQuesten Copp Clark Publishing Co. Toronto
From: Whitehern Ontario

My dear Calvin,

Received your letter last night and was glad to know you were keeping well. I think your reviews are just wonderful. Mrs. Thomson thinks the same,1 she thinks they are more interesting than the books, in fact she has a great admiration for you generally.2

Yesterday poor Peter Buchanan was buried, all the brothers and sisters came up except Robert.3 As the funeral was in the church, Mrs. Fletcher and I went to it and a few other ladies, Mrs. Irving and poor Mrs. Levy. Quite a number of gentlemen. On Wednesday evening about six o'clock, the young man who attended Peter went up to his room with a letter and found him standing in the middle of the floor. After he read it, he called, "take hold of me, I am falling" he was laid on the bed and became immediately unconscious and was gone in three quarters of an hour. James looked perfectly awful at the funeral, his face quite haunts me. I spoke to the sisters, they did not go to the grave. Mrs. Robiti went right away back. Miss Jane asked for you. Our new girl departs today, after being here a week, is a delicate girl cannot stand the stairs. Have advertised in the Globe.4

The T.H.& B. is finally settled at cost of $1385. The first item cost was in 1893. Mr. Chisholm would not take a cent except for disbursements.5 Our witness fee amounted to $64. I will show you all the items when you come. Christopher Robinson charged $50. Mr. Thomson says he has charged them as high as $200. I am borrowing $1000. at 5 per ann. Would not have required to borrow so much, if Webber had paid his interest, but some of the $600. I had deposited in Ham. Prov. [Hamilton Provincial Bank] had to go for taxes. Webber's mortgage is being foreclosed and property taken out of his hands.6 Mr. C. [Chisholm] says I will not lose anything but I have to wait.

Do you never see poor Mrs. MacKay. Keep the tweed [?] till you come home. Would you like to get one of those light valises canvas with leather corners to bring home your things at Thanksgiving, they have them at Eaton's? Must close or I will lose the post. I have tried to get you a letter always in time for Saturday evening. With much love.

Your mother

M.B. McQ


1 Calvin had taken a job in journalism with the Copp Clark Publishing Company in Toronto, which he held from November 1898 to July 1901. His reviews and articles were unsigned and so difficult to identify. The column, "Books and Magazines" in the November 3, 1898 edition of The Evening News is likely his. It reviews McClure's, North American Review, The Gentlewoman, and The Ledger Monthly.

Calvin also wrote a daily column for the News, beginning January 2, 1901: "A Corner for Women Readers: Conducted by Nina Vivian." This pseudonym he likely adapted from "Vivian," the English vaudeville "comique" of indefinite gender, who played in Hamilton during the 1890's (see W4815n). The column featured a wide range of women's cultural concerns: politics, religion, literature, art, poetry, humour, food, fashion and social events. The first column included two articles with a feminist slant: "The Czarina and Women's Clubs" applauded her reform movement, and "French Women as Lawyers" paid tribute to "Toronto's own woman lawyer, Miss Clara Brett Martin" and to France's two women lawyers. I have found no evidence that Calvin's mother or the family knew about his writing of this column, he apparently disclosed the fact when he ran for alderman in Hamilton in 1946 and was courting the women's vote. See items Box 13-060 to Box 13-085 for some of these articles.


2 Mrs. Anne Laurence (VanEvery) Thomson (1837-1926) widow of Robert Charteris Thomson (? - ?), lumber merchant, lived at "Amisfield," 1 Duke Street, near Whitehern. The home had been purchased by Robert in 1887, but had been previously owned by his father, William Thomson (1796-1866) and his mother Jean (Charteris)Thomson (1799-1887). There were several branches of the large Thomson family in Hamilton and they are frequently mentioned in the letters.

Robert C. Thomson's widow, Mrs. Anne Laurence Thomson, purchased "Amisfield" and the contents from the estate in 1902 (W4623). She lived there with her son Joseph James Charteris Thomson (Joe or J.J.C.) (b.1864-?) (HPL, Special Collections, Burkholder article). Mrs. Thomson also had a large family living with her as she notes in 1903: "all of my young children are on my hands yet" (W5026). Mrs. Thomson wrote A Little Book of Verse (1914) which is in the Whitehern library (W6813). Miss Laura Hostetter (likely a relative) lived with them. Their summer home was in Burlington (Tyrell 157). They were members of MacNab Church and Mrs. Thomson was a member of the WFMS. Joseph married Margaret (Mary) Wardlaw Taylor in August 1905, the youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Wardlaw Taylor and Lady Margaret (Vallance)Taylor (see Taylor, W5382). Joseph's wife was also a member of the WFMS (Latoszek 5; Campbell 171; HPL, Pamplet File Weaver "Amisfield"). Joseph was president of R. Thomson & Co. G. Laurence Thomson also lived at "Amisfield" in 1907 (W4605, W4623, W4815, W4835, W5026, W5078, W5265, W5339, W5382, W5436, W5456, W5502, W5661, W5665, W5675, W5709, W5744, W5794, W5804, W5812, W5832, W5836, W5876, W5936, W5942, W6053, W6075, W6103, W6223, W6236, W6343, W6347, W6359, W6363, W6371, W6383b, W6419, W6436, W6718, W6746, W6813, W6951, W6983, W7128, W7459, W7627, W7649, W7650, W7717, W8848, W8867, W8872).

Other Thomsons mentioned in the letters are four brothers who were likely cousins of the "Amisfield" Thomsons: Harold C., Ernest, Alfred and Charles, see W5665n. For Mr. and Mrs. James C. Thomson and James A., see W4835n.


3 Peter Toronto Buchanan (1844?-1898) was the eldest of the eleven children of Hon. Isaac Buchanan (1810-83), a prominent Ontario industrialist and politician. Peter had been in the family business, Buchanan, Hope & Company (DHB1.34; DHB1.35; DHB1.36; W4367).


4 For a note on servants at Whitehern, see W4343.


5 James Chisholm, Isaac's former law partner, fought endless battles with the T.H.& B. Railroad after the City granted them permission (in 1895) to run their new line along Hunter Street directly between MacNab Church and Whitehern. It created noise and dust and devalued both properties. The expropriation was a hotly debated issue in Hamilton and it caused the McQuesten family and the church a great deal of anxiety (DHB3.29; Best 37-8). For Chisholm, see W2520.


6 Perhaps, John A. Webber (1861-1944), son of Esan Webber, a building contractor in Hamilton. Mary may have held a mortgage in his name (DHB3.223).




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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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