W4835 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Mar 13 1903
To: Calvin McQuesten Montreal Quebec
My dear dear boy,
When I received your letter on Saturday I felt like sitting down and writing you immediately. You praise me far too much my dear and make far too little of yourself. Though I have had to manage on a limited income and had some reverses & difficulties to meet, I have never been worried with my children's bad conduct. That is the thing which would have killed me. You are not to abuse yourself and call yourself slow & stupid. You were never either, you were sadly handicapped physically, poor fellow, from the start, and met with some disappointments in your plans, but you bore it heroically and have had to push your way along without assistance from any one1. Your employers, who have hinted at your slowness, have simply used that as an excuse for not paying you your rightful reward. You have fallen into the hands of poor men, one would think unfortunately, but I cannot but believe in the guiding hand of a Heavenly Father, who is fitting you for some better work; though you may not have attained to a higher salary, you have certainly to a higher character and is not that the greatest thing in the world. I am always proud of you, for what you are. My only regret is, that you should be writing so little, that you do not see any prospect ahead of enjoying a home of your own for a long time and also that you do so much good work, for which you get no credit whatever. But still, we can only believe that is all a preparation for something in the future. But please, do not speak to me of your stupidness & slowness, for it is not true and makes me feel very badly.
Last night a meeting of the Congregation was called to appoint an assistant to Dr. F.[Fletcher] but the majority of the congregation did not understand it was to be settled. However, Dr. F. had so managed the elders & managers that they fell in with his opinion that as it was to be an arrangement for only two years till he retires, that they could not call any man in a settled pastorate, but must call one of the four students we have heard & because they might be picked up, it had to be settled at once. Numbers of the people did not know one from the other, did not know their names even. There were two Wilsons2, Martin3 & Anderson. The best people of the church wanted A. but some of these even did not vote for him because they did not think him strong enough. Mr. C.[Chisholm] for one4. But some like Reggie & Winnie Glassco went for Wilson and Dr. F. was against him from the first, said he was not strong enough & was not so great5. In my heart I believe he was too fine for the Doctor, for he is very close, contemptibly so. Mr. Leitch voted against him & actually when it was decided, as the vote was close, that if Wilson declined they should ask Anderson, Mr. L. was the one man in the whole room who had his hand up against him6. I shall not fail to ask what he meant. But I should be very sorry to have Anderson wear himself out in such a cause7, for it was very doubtful if any man can ever bring the church up.I myself am so thoroughly sick of Dr. F. & the whole thing that I can scarcely endure it. It is almost more than I can stand to listen to him. He is dryness itself & is worse than ever and yet has such an opinion of himself. He only needs help, he says, in the visiting. He can manage the preaching and every one except the saintly Mr. Thomson8 is thoroughly weary of him9.
Well, I delivered my conscience by rising & telling the meeting what I thought we required and that I did not approve of taking any of these young men, but if they were determined to do so, I said all I could for Anderson. It was a very wet snowy Sunday that he preached & of course the Doctor had never told who was to preach. If he had, nobody knew his name. Then too Dr. Barclay was in Central, so that our church was very empty10.
I wish you would write Anderson and let him know that the best people of the church wanted him and there is a great deal of dissatisfaction, for it is felt that the thing was hurried on and scarcely any one thought that it was to be decided at that meeting. At the same time let him know it would have been a great pity for him to have taken such a broken down church close to two other strong Churches & to have come to our hot trying city when he requires to take a complete rest in the fresh country air.
I told you H.[Hilda] was called to the Whittemore's. Well, when Dr. Temple operated he found an immense abscess, the worst he ever saw, & gave very little hope. Of course they were all distracted & telegraphed Mrs. W. H. sent me a letter by special delivery on Saturday & I was distressed to know whether I had better go down, but I felt useless. Monday morning brought good news of satisfactory progress, & after to-day danger would be passed. Dr. T. thought Mrs. W. was to arrive to-day11.
I had such a fine letter from Tom on Saturday also far too laudatory, but nevertheless it is very sweet to get these letters & I ask no greater reward, there could be none, than that my children have found me a help12. Did you see in Tuesday's Globe that tom got the medal for fencing against 5 crack players in the tournament at Varsity. He has also been made president of Political Science Club. That was a fine bit of news on "The Social Burden." All was most interesting & that extraordinary religion, it seems incredible13.
Must close. Have been so busy could not get your letter off in time for to-night's mail. Have got Mrs. James worked up to send Walter to Varsity, if she can get the money from home advanced from what should come to her. Walter was so clever at Collegiate, it seemed such a pity to have his talents wasted14. With very much love my dear dear boy.
Your loving mother
[P.S.] Wilson, who had preached last, got in by two votes over Anderson15.
Had a letter from J.K. McQ. including this cutting, he was asking various questions about grandpapa McQ. as they were writing a history of the town16.
1 This letter is in response to Calvin's letter to his mother on the anniversary of his father's death (March 7, 1888). That letter is not extant. Calvin was born with some paralysis in his left hand and left side, and with an inherited nervous condition which resulted in several breakdowns (W5665, W8734).
2 Possibly, John Alexander Wilson (1872-1935) graduated Knox College 1903, ordained Hamilton 1904, and Robert James Wilson (1872-1941) graduated Knox College 1903, ordained Westminster 1903 (BDKC 251-52)
3 Martin, Samuel Thomas (1877-1946) graduated Knox College 1903, ordained Toronto, September 1903 (BDKC 144).
4 For James Chisholm, see W2520.
5 For Glassco family, see W4436
6 For Leitch family, see W4815
7 Anderson, Frederick William (1871-1954) Knox College 1897-99, 1902-03, ordained Paris 1904, Winnipeg, 1903-04, pastor in various churches in Ontario and British Columbia (BDKC 4). Anderson did require a rest cure. He wrote to Calvin from Clifton Springs Sanitarium, New York, June 12, 1902, where he was "planning to rusticate and vegetate as much as possible." He had been "working beyond [his] strength," was "broken down in health" and unable to go to India as a missionary (W4835, W4815, W4902, W4855, W6446, W7312, W7328, W7359, W7395, W7424).
8 Likely, James C. Thomson (?-1909), cousin of the "Amisfield" Thomsons (see W4415n). He and his wife lived at 201 Bay St. S. in 1900 with their son James A. and daughter Janet (Tyrell 157). James was vice-president and manager of Gartshore-Thomson Pipe Co. and his son James A. was supterintendent (VDCH 1904; for Gartshore, see W4815). Mary noted his death: "James Thomson, Joe's cousin the manager of our church died to-day. He had been sent to Bermuda but left and consulted a New York doctor who told him he was free of tuberculosis & would last long, that is only ten days ago. We all thought so much of his wife & three little children" (February 22, 1909, W6359). The Hamilton Spectator, "Deaths," gives no obituary, simply, "James Thompson of 70 West Ave. S., age 46 yrs."
9 For Fletcher family, see W4479.
10 Likely, Dr. William Barclay (b.?-1969) from Kirkcudbright, Scotland, who may have been in Hamilton assisting Dr. Samuel Lyle. Years later, in 1926, he accepted the urgent call to the empty pulpit at Central after the abrupt resignation of Dr. Sedgewick and helped to heal the wounds of union. He was chaplain of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during World War II and moderator of the general assembly in 1940. He wrote a history of Central, A Century of Beginnings (1941) (POH 56; Wee Kirks 55; Moir Enduring 242).
11 For the Whittemore family, see W4815.
12 The letter from Tom is not extant, but an example of Tom's letters to his mother on the anniversary of his father's death forms the epigraph to the "Introduction" of this work.
13 In "The Tatler" of March 7, 1903, Calvin wrote "The Social Burden," (see Box 13-056) a criticism of formal entertaining and the demands it makes on both men and women who "are wearing themselves out in the frenzied pursuit of pleasures which do not please and recreations which fail to recreate." In "A Curious Religious Colony" Calvin reported on a bizarre sect in New Mexico in the 1850's begun by Julian Ericson after a break with Joseph Smith and the Mormons. The disciples believed in the transmigration of the souls of the faithful while yet on earth. Believers were promised that they would be changed into the animal or bird of their choice, and each of the frame houses in the colony was built with a cage or den suitable to the needs of the particular animal they expected shortly to become. Ericson and some of his disciples were killed in a battle with the Apaches "and the stronger of the cages, those erected for the would-be tiger men and lion women, were afterward utilized for a brief period as places of confinement for refractory converts" (The Montreal Herald, March 7, 1903).
14 For the James Family, see W4436. Walter "went into the Bank of Hamilton" in April 1903 (W4885, W4927).
15 See Wilson above W4835. Many of the family letters of this period are concerned with the problem of convincing Rev. Dr. Fletcher to retire gracefully. He was seventy years of age and was planning to "hold on for two more years" (W4847, W4855). It is likely that Wilson and Anderson both declined but Dr. Fletcher found an assistant in April 1903.
John David Cunningham (1870-1952) became assistant at McNab Church for 1903-04. He was a graduate student in Edinburgh 1904-06, pastor, Welland 1906-26, and Professor at Knox College until retirement in 1944 (BDKC 49; W4871, W4902, W5172, W5233)..
16 There are two books in the Whitehern library on the history of Bedford, New Hampshire, dated 1851 and 1908.