W4544 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Feb 10 1902
To: Calvin McQuesten Montreal, Quebec
Am enclosing you a letter from Mrs. Grant in reply to a question "How much does it cost a single woman to live?"1 After I wrote you it occurred to me, that the whole arrangement of that Will is a mistake.2 To begin with the present income is about $1700, out of that Tom could not receive $350 a year and leave enough for girls to live on. Ruby has really paid his way, with a little $40 from Mrs. MacKay last year & Mr. C.'s [Chisholm] this year.3 Of course if the house could be sold that would save the taxes but they would need it to make a home. So it seems to me that all the present income must be left to the unmarried daughters.4 You see the interest from present investments is about $950. Bk. of Montreal stock $400, and rent from Bold St. after taxes, repairs, insurance are deducted is about $350. The taxes on homestead are $226 & water rates $48, so that the girls home here is a cheaper one. To think of our income one would think we should have plenty, but of course during the last 3 yrs we have been paying for roofs,5 but it certainly is marvellous how much it takes to live even with greatest economy. My foot makes very slow progress, I have borrowed Mrs. Davidson's crutches & so hop about the house, but am afraid it will be some time before I can walk about.6 Will write end of the week.
Your loving Mother
[P.S.] Return Mrs. G's letter, it is worth keeping.
1 Likely, Mrs. Robert Grant, see W4387. Her letter is not extant.
2 Several letters passed back and forth on the subject of Mary's Will and this letter provides some details about the McQuesten's finances in 1902. The Will was duly signed and daughter Hilda wrote on February 26, 1902 that "mother's mind is at last at rest for her Will is signed and witnessed by Mrs. Mullin and Mrs. Irving, one thing off her mind" (W4535, W4568).
3 Mrs. MacKay was Mary's good friend in Toronto (W4297). For Chisholm, see W2520.
FOOD COSTS, The Hamilton Spectator of December 6, 1886, provides some market costs, just 2 years before Mary became impoverished: "Markets were well supplied on Saturday, there being an abundance of meats and poultry. Beef sold at $3 to $3.50 per hundred pounds for fore quarters and $4.50 for hinds. Mutton brought 6 to 7 cents a pound. Turkeys sold at 10 to 12 cents a pound, geese 50 to 65 cents apiece and chickens 40 to 60 cents a pair. Butter the best, could be had for 27 cents for pount prints and good roll butter for 24 to 25 cents. Fresh eggs brought 25 cents. There was a slight increase all around in the price of grains. The hay and wood market was well supplied.
4 In February 1902 Mary's daughters, Mary, Hilda, Ruby and Edna, were 27, 25, 22, and 16 years of age, respectively. At this time there were no prospective suitors.
5 Whitehern and the Bold St. houses required new roofing which Mary had contracted to have replaced over the previous three years. (W2520, W4425, W4535, W4769).
6 Likely Mattie Davidson, a neighbour who lived near Whitehern. She was caregiver for her mother (Mrs. Davidson) who was confined and "unable to come downstairs" (W5640). They may have been related to the Guelph Davidsons (W4500, W4902) (W4462, W5297, W5464, W5606, W6398, W6738). The elder Mrs. Davidson may have been the widow of Thomas Davidson (d.1861?) builder and owner of the Royal Hotel, on which Dr. Calvin McQuesten had held the mortgage (DHB1.58; 198, 305-12, 319).