Advanced Search 

Home - introductions to the site
Search - a searchable database of letters/essays/etc.
Genealogy - short biographical information of each family member
Photographs - various images pertaining to the McQuesten family
Thesis - essays on the McQuestens and lifewriting by Mary Anderson
Timelines - a chronological list of events in the McQuesten family and corresponding historical events

Search Results

Mary discusses the Queen's death, church issues and gives advice for Tom. See footnote for FLASHBACK Hamilton Spectator, June 22, 2012 about Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria. See Footnote to Gibson & Malloch. Also see Footnote for Glassco and "Mad Hatter's Disease," likely caused by mercury. See note linking "calomel" and mercury. It was the medication that the family took for stomach ailments and which was given regularly to Ruby for cough and tuberculosis

W4436 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Jan 26 1901
To: Calvin McQuesten Copp Clark Publishing Co. Toronto Ontario
From: Whitehern Hamilton

My dear dear Calvin,

Your paper reached me, and I know you must be always busy from the many articles contributed. It was really a very realistic report, that of the Victoria Mission and I thought you told it very well, and the Holy Door too was interesting.1 Your remarks on the Queen's death were most touching and true. I was glad you sent me that "News" for I could not find in our "Times" the full account of her death-bed. What a quick peaceful passing away was granted to her!2 My great regret is that not one of us was able to see her, and those great pageants of recent date, which can never be repeated. Miss Fisher saw Lord Roberts' reception in London and will probably see the Queen's Funeral but I wish you boys had been able to see something.3

We all feel troubled about the upsetting in your house. It breaks in upon your time so much, this changing and yet I fear that is what you will have to do.4 Jessie Proudfoot knew some ladies who were at a Mrs. Suell's near your Church, and liked it very much, but I do not know her terms. I thought that was the name of the person Janie James was with on Church St. and did not like.5 Now in the middle of the session it is so hard to find a place.

You may tell Tom, that I had a note from Mr. Gibson6 saying he would do what he could for Tom, but I now think I will not let him go surveying, I have heard from several that it does not pay in any way.7 Gordon MacKay has suffered from neuralgia in his back more or less ever since, the result of standing for hours up to the waist in water,8 & Mrs. Lyle does not think it good at all, so let Tom try and think of something else.9

I believe the Glassco affair was settled yesterday. He is going to some sanatorium, we heard.10 Have to go out on business now, but thought I would write you a few lines, for I am troubled to think of you in such a comfortless home poor fellows. Mary has had tonsillitis all week, but is better. With much love my dear dear son.

Your loving Mother,

M.B. McQuesten

1 Calvin's article, "Victoria Missionary Conference," appeared in the Toronto Evening News, January 21, 1901. It outlines the various sessions and addresses from the mission fields, such as the Indian missions of Manitoba and the Northwest, giving an account of "the redmen," and "Pagan Indians" of British Columbia. The address on "China, our territorial trust" describes missionary enterprise "in that portion of the great empire." I am unable to find the article on "The Holy Door." Calvin sent the papers home with his articles marked and they were circulated among family and friends but are no longer extant. His articles are not signed and so are difficult to recognize.

2 Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901. Calvin's articles for the week provide an account of the Queen's deathbed. On January 26, 1901, Calvin wrote a "Tribute to the Queen" in which he reviewed the London newspapers' tributes to her. On the same date his article "Queen City of the West Mourns the Dead Queen" describes Toronto as a city in mourning, the various buildings draped in black and purple streamers representing the grief, admiration and love felt for her, "everything being done on a very elaborate scale" (The Evening News, Toronto).

William Murray, "The Bard," commented on Calvin's article: "Saturday's 'News,' 'Last Tribute to the Queen' on p.4. It is 'pithy, painted and true' and has the high tone about it which we expect from all McQuestens. Bye & Bye, I hope you will drift into the management of one of our Hamilton sheets, and as the right arm of the Church, do something elevating for the city of your birth (see W7290, For Murray, see W6636.

In the same newspaper on January 28, an article noted that the women of Hamilton had organized and collected donations for a statue of the Queen. In a letter on May 22, 1908, Mary describes the statue "draped and ready for unveiling for the Queen's birthday" (W6135). The statue stands in Gore Park today.

Hamilton Spectator June 22, 2012, "FLASHBACK JUNE 22, 1897, THIS DAY IN HISTORY."

"This year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her 60 years on the throne. But on this day in 1897, Queen Victoria was acknowledged in Hamilton with a huge parade through the city to mark the '60th Anniversary of the Accession of Victoria the Good to the British Throne.' "On this Jubilee Day an estimated 10,000 people followed the parade procession through downtown streets, ending up at Dundurn Park to enjoy sporting events, military marching demonstrations and concerts. That night, a huge bonfire was set, and an incredible display of fireworks from the city's own Hand & Company lit up the sky. The Queen's Jubilee demonstration is remembered as one of the most colourful celebrations in Hamilton's history.

3 Lord Roberts: Frederick Sleigh Roberts, Earl of Kanadahar, Pretoria and Waterford (1832-1914) became field marshal and commander-in-chief in Ireland in 1895. He published The Rise of Wellington (1895) and Forty-One Years in India (1895). He assumed the chief command of the 2nd Boer War in 1899, came home in 1901 and was created an earl (CBD 1248). These books are not in the Whitehern library.

The letter is likely a reference to the ceremony of the earldom. The Evening News, Toronto, carried two articles on Lord Roberts: January 2, 1901, "An Earldom for Lord Roberts," the "Conqueror of Boer Republics," and January 26, "Roberts' Last Visit to the Queen" which is a moving account of Roberts' shock and grief at her feebleness. These articles may have been written by Calvin (W4863, W6236). On July 27, 1908 Mary wrote that they were expecting to have a visit from Lord Roberts: "Next week we hope to get a sight of Lord Roberts, Col. Hendrie is to motor him from here to Beamsville, Grimsby, on to Niagara" (W6236). Roberts was unable to make the visit and Mary wrote: "What a disappointment that Lord Roberts could not come" (W6240).

4 Calvin and Tom regularly had boarding-house problems and Mary worried about their care and meals, (W4444, W4454, W4759).

5 Miss Janie James was a missionary in Japan and in China. Her mother, Mrs. George James (Mary) was widowed and lived at 86 Bay St. S. with her children (Tyrell 144). They are often mentioned in the letters under the names of: Janie, Willie, Lillie, Nellie, Mary, Connie and Walter. I am unable to trace their father/husband. They were members of MacNab Church and the WFMS and the children's Mission Band (Latoszek 25 & notes; W4425, W4263, W4605, W4726, W4730, W4821, W4835, W4877, W4885, W4977, W5053, W5059, W5199, W5512, W5122, W5640, W5868, W5876, W5898, W6103, W6446, W6528, W6540, W6557, W6636, W6676, W6758, W6785, W6813, W7003, W7136, W8752, W8787, W8827, W8857, W8867, W8872).

6 Likely, Sir John Morison Gibson (1842-1929) lawyer, politician, businessman. He had been a pallbearer at Isaac McQuesten's funeral. He was prominent in Hamilton development in hydro power, transportation, steel. He "was a provincial minister in Oliver Mowat's cabinet and Hamilton's foremost Liberal" (Best 5), Attorney General of Ontario (1899-1904), Lieutenent-Governor (1908-14) and was knighted in 1914 for his work with the Red Cross. His third wife Elizabeth Malloch (m.1881) was the daughter of a Brockville, Ont. judge and likely the sister of Dr. Archibald Edward Malloch (For Malloch, see W4582n). The Gibsons were active in philanthropic and community causes: public library movement, Hamilton Art School, Hamilton Health Association and Sanatorium. They lived at 311 Bay St. S. in 1900 and at Ravenscliffe on Aberdeen Ave. in 1912, and were members of Central Presbyterian Church. They had four sons and two daughters, three sons predeceased Mr. Gibson, leaving Colin Gibson (1891-1974) who also had a distinguished legal, political and military career (DHB1.82, DHB1.83, DHB1.54; DHB3.66-DHB3.76; DHB4.98-DHB4.101; Tyrell 138; W4582, W5313, W5709, W5740, W-MCP1-3a.056, W5908, W6053, W6173).

7 During the construction of the railroad in Canada, many young men took surveying jobs in the West. When Tom's mother refused to "let him go," Tom took a job on a cattle boat and worked his passage over to Europe. He reported to Calvin that he rode to Montreal on the top of a freight train, boarded the "Manchester City" and spent the voyage working, and living, in the hold with the cattle. The meals were very poor. He also asked Calvin not to relate to his mother "the description of the voyage." Had she heard the details she might have wished that he had gone surveying instead (W4490). Tom considered the surveying job again in 1902 but did not go (W4582). However in Sept. 1905, Tom did some military surveying for which he earned $75, which was "too good to pass up" (W5313, W-MCP3-5.057).

8 For the MacKay family, see W4297.

9 Mrs. Lyle was Elizabeth (Orr) (1849-1932) wife of Rev. Dr. Samuel Lyle (1841-1919) minister of Central Presbyterian Church in Hamilton from 1878-1910. The Lyles lived at 136 Bold St., had six children and various members are often mentioned in the letters. Mrs. Lyle was an executive (with Mary) in the WFMS in Hamilton and in Ontario, and she and Mary often attended conferences together. She was a member of the IODE and of the Local Council of Women from its inception in 1893. She worked to establish the Hamilton Health Association, "the first purely local anti-tuberculosis association in Ontario," and the Hamilton Sanatorium. The Lyles were leaders in Hamilton's intellectual, cultural and social development, including the Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton Art School, environmental reform, slum clearance and town planning. The Lyles expressed a passion for moral idealism and social reform. Mr. Lyle was a "leading figure in the Presbyterian Church in Canada," became Moderator of the Synod in 1896, of the General Assembly in 1909, and of the Presbytery in 1914. He was an "articulate spokesman for protestant liberalism in Hamilton" and was "well-read in Scottish philosophy" and "German thought." He favoured modernization of doctrine and church union. Mary McQuesten was opposed to both. She commented on Lyle's sermon on May 16, 1904:

Dr. Lyle has brought a great deal of criticism upon his head by that unfortunate sermon of his Upon Hell. Tom says that Prof McFadyen has all the students at Knox with him they have no use for the other Professors & Prof. Caven will not discuss points. . . it is said all who can are leaving Knox for Glasgow. . . . I do not know what is to become of the Churches in the hands of men of all kinds of belief. Indeed they may well propose organic union for there is no agreement as to belief among any of the individual denominations now, so they may all mix up as much as they like. But what is to become of it all, God alone knows. To say that a man is a minister is no longer a guarantee that he is a man to be trusted. (W5183; for McFadyen and Caven and "higher criticism" and "Union," see W5283n).

Lyle's successor, Dr. Wm. H. Sedgewick at Central, also favoured union and "resigned in 1925 when his people voted to remain Presbyterian" (POH 56, POH 131, POH 141; W5683). Mary Lyle (daughter) married Alexander Warden, son of Rev. Dr. R.H. Warden who also favoured modernization and union (W4531, W5283). John (Jack) Lyle (son) became a prominent Canadian architect and worked with Thomas McQuesten on many of his building projects (W6053, Best 54-5; DHB2.95-DHB2.99, DHB3.6, DHB3.161, DHB3.162; Johnston 249, 252; W4531, W4651, W4803, W4855, W5105, W5157, W5183, W5347, W5382, W5665, W5788, W5990, W6053, W6336, W6436, W6521, W6540, W6983).

10 Mr. Glassco was a neighbour suffering from mental illness. He was a Hatter and a Furrier and was likely suffering from "Mad Hatter's Disease" caused by exposure to mercury in the processing of felt and fur.

The "Glassco affair" is mentioned again in a letter to Calvin from his sister, Mary, April 30, 1901: "Mr. Glassco has been behaving ugly again" and the family was forced to move to the mountain. In 1903 they moved again to the corner of Aberdeen and Queen.

Josie O'Brien Glassco, Mrs. Bonnie Glassco, and Reggie & Winnie were members of MacNab Street Church. "Pickle" and "Dot" Glassco were Edna's friends (Box 12-179, W4462, W4815, W4835, W4927, W5012, W6135, W6836, W8836).

Many of the McQuestens were exposed to mercury in their use of calomel (mercury) as a medication for stomach upset or dyspepsia. Also Ruby was repeatedly treated with calomel for cough and tuberculosis.

Home | Search | Thesis | Family | Timelines
Photographs | Whitehern | Sitemap | Credits

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

Hamilton Public Library This site was created in partnership with and is hosted by the Hamilton Public Library. Canada's Digital Collections This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections initiative, Industry Canada.