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W4902 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Apr 22 1903
To: Calvin McQuesten Montreal Quebec
From: 'Whitehern'

My dear dear boy,

The event uppermost in my mind is the New Lieutenant-Governor and the Governess. Just think of it. Fancy the state and joyousness of Daisy Clark. Though I cannot for the life of me see where Mortimer's claim to preferment comes in. I cannot help thinking that no one could be found to take it. Some would not be bothered with it and some would not have the money. I thought of writing congratulations to Mr. C. but conscience prevented me. In this position, they are Expected simply to cater to the amusement of society and, at their age, I should think, they ought to be thinking more of things eternal. It is not as if Mr. C. were placed at the head of government, he is simply a figure head. Fancy a man of his age an elder trotting round to all the society functions & what improvement is he on Sir Oliver, with whom so much fault was found by certain parties? It will just suit Jean & Elsie1,2.

It is keeping very cold and things growing slowly, there is a fine bunch of daffodils in the heart3. On Sabbath we had the assistant, in the morning. I was in despair, what he said was above the average, but he ran his words together and had so little life, it was no better than Dr. F. at his worst4. In the evening he seemed more at home and spoke with much more animation, so that I quite liked him and hope he may improve as he knows us better. He is quite nice looking, medium height, dark5, but has nothing of the voice or appearance of Anderson6.

We are fixing up a neat wire fence between stable & clothes yard, we could not do without it any longer. Sutherland's horses got out the other day and made terrible havoc with the lawn7. I think I told you Mr. Culham had gone to Baltimore ill, but the doctors say that he will probably be all right after some weeks. Do not know just what is the matter. Mary and Mrs. Leitch8 are going together to Guelph, they are to stay at Gracie Davidson's, though M. would have preferred taking her chances9.

Edna saw Sandwell the other day with his lady love10. The Choir gave an At Home to the congregation on Friday. M.& H. [Mary and Hilda] went it was quite fine. The school-room decorated, quantities of flowers, refreshments including Charlotte Russe, and the various members of the choir sang. It is really terribly dull nothing is going on of any interest. I do not really care but it seems so very monotonous for the girls and yet how many would gladly change places. It must have been quite interesting to meet the little Jap. I was hoping he would give you some Japanese curiosity. I am posting you a book by J.M. Surrie it was rather amusing. It came among a lot for the hospital, so you can take care of it and bring it back with you in May11. Dr. & Mrs. Carter (Norah Ambrose) have bought Dr. Gulliver's house & practice, so are to settle here.

Tom says he is studying hard, but as he is interested in his study this year, he does not mind. Have just received from Ruby a little box of the Trailing Arbutus, it is a sweet little blossom but very small. Edna has a half-holiday on account of Sir Oliver's Funeral12, a luckless boy showed joy on the occasion and received severe rebuke from Mr. Asman, as being "disgusting." Poor Asman!

Well I must close. How do you get on at your house? Are there any changes. You never tell me any news of your fellow lodgers now. Did I tell you when H.[Hilda] was in Toronto she ran full tilt into Mrs. Trigge. As they were going up to Helen Gartshore's she spoke kindly & inquired for us13. There is no knowing what Ken told her14. Well take care of yourself dear boy with much love from all.

Your loving mother.

M.B. McQuesten


1 Sir William Mortimer Clark (1836-1917), lieutenant-governor of Ontario (1903-08) succeeded Hon. Sir Oliver Mowat who died on April 20 after thirty years in office. Clark married Helen "Daisy" Gordon in 1866 and they had two daughters, likely, "Jean and Elsie," and one son Gordon, who died in 1902, see W4521, W4549). Clark was born and educated in Scotland, came to Canada and became a writer to the signet in 1859. He was admitted to the bar in Canada (Q.C. 1887), created a knight bachelor in 1907, chairman of the board of Knox College from 1880 until his death. He was on the Foreign Missions Committee (Brouwer 24; MDCB 158; Tyrell 39, W4902, W4513, W4521, W4525, W4549, W5172). Mrs. Clark was likely related to Mrs. MacKay who was also a Gordon and Mary wrote condolences to both at Gordon Clark's death. For MacKay, see W4297, W5868; for Gordon, see W5359). Mary had dinner with the Clarks at Government House during the WFMS conference in Toronto in 1904 (W5172).


2 Mary's grudging acknowledgement of Clark's appointment was echoed by an editorial in The Montreal Herald, which may have been written by Calvin:

It can scarcely be looked upon as other than a tribute to the important position which the Scotch Presbyterians hold in the affairs of that province. For while Mr. Clark's high standing in his profession, his dignity of manner, his recognized ability and unimpeachable integrity contribute to make him worthy of the position and equal to any demands that may be made upon him, his elevation cannot but be looked upon as remarkable, in view of the fact that he has never taken any active part in political life.

The editorial concludes with a glowing tribute to Clark's wife:

In view of the prepondering part which social duties play in the ordinary routine of a Lieutenant-Governor's life, Mr. Mortimer Clark must be considered unusually fortunate in having a wife with unusual talents for the exercising of hospitality. Mrs. Clark, as all those who enjoy the pleasure of her acquaintance know, combines a stateliness of manner and a kindly cordiality to an extent which is as rare as it is charming. And she may be counted on to perform the duties of a vice-regal hostess in a way that will do credit to herself, her husband and the country. (April 25, 1903)


3 A large heart-shaped garden graces the front entrance to "Whitehern". Mary had reshaped the original circle into a heart in memory of her husband, Isaac. The heart is in keeping with the Victorian trend to cookie-cutter shapes and is bordered by a walk which converges at the front entrance. Today the heart is a rose garden and contains the yellow hybrid rose developed by White Rose and dedicated to Thomas B.McQuesten. MacNab Church purchased 200 of these rose bushes and donated seven to "Whitehern" in memory of the seven McQuesten children. Mary loved the gardens and provides seasonal commentary in the letters (W4902, W4927, W5012, W6135. Rev. Calvin McQuesten kept a garden diary from 1918-33 (W8296-W8421). A study of the garden was done by James C. Haaf in 1987: "Whitehern, A Horticultural Perspective, 1853-85, Dr. Calvin McQuesten's Garden: 'Willowbank'." He notes that there are thirty-five books in the Whitehern Library devoted to horticulture. The letters and other writings have assisted in the authentic maintenance of the garden.


4 For Rev. Dr. Donald Fletcher, see W4479.


5 For Rev. Dr. Fletcher's new assistant, John David Cunningham, see W4835n.


6 For Rev. Fred Anderson, see W4835.


7 For the Sutherland families, see W4425.


8 For Leitch family, see W4815


9 For Davidson family, see W4544.


10 For B.K. Sandwell, see W4521.


11 The book by Surrie is not in the Whitehern library.


12 Sir Oliver Mowat (1820-1903), lieutenant-governor of Ontario (1872-96), died on April 19, 1903. He was Sir John A. Macdonald's first articled law student and one of the Fathers of Confederation. He was knighted in 1892. "Under Mowat's leadership Ontario came of age economically, politically and socially" (CE 1400).


13 For Gartshore family, see W4815.


14 Mary is referring to Ken Trigge's proposal to Hilda, which Hilda rejected at her mother's urging. For Kenelm Trigge and family, see W4635.




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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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