W5002 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Jun 27 1903
To: Calvin McQuesten, Montreal, Quebec
My dear dear boy,
We were so glad to receive your letter from Boston. When you wrote you seemed doubtful as to what you were to do there. I do hope somebody directed you loosely. I do not remember anything in Boston, but a great deal in the neighbourhood, so I hope you went to Harvard and all the places round. I am fine. John and Lucia would enjoy seeing you for you would be so interested in all they showed you. I only regret you couldn't see poor Miss Lerned, she will be so disappointed and I would like you to see their old house. It was just too bad that you could only get the week however when you can get a pass, you can go again.
I had just started to write you and Tom on his birthday when Sidney Stevenson came in to keep me company, so it is almost impossible for me to write and I am very anxious to catch the mail. Hilda and Ruby had gone off to the S.S. [Sunday School] picnic at Grimsby, and I expected to have an afternoon to myself. Ruby came home last night and is looking very well, she brought me a beautiful table in poker work, what I have wanted for some time to set a pot on in the drawing room. It is kind of Lucia to remember us. Unless the gold beads are really pretty do not go to much expense about them, Edna is just the one to appreciate anything.
Mr. Culham was brought home from Baltimore this week in dying condition, and it was a terrible shock for they had been led to believe that he was recovering. Herbie Bell is getting on well. A young lady from Varsity whom Ruby met said she thought it quite remarkable that Tom should get a scholarship for he is extremely popular and "in everything" That is what you said too.
Do not think I was discouraged with your work, I only have a feeling that they will take all they can of you and give as little as possible, but I heard it was a compliment to be kept on the Herald. Do not try to work any harder, for your health is the great consideration, and if you lost it, you could not work. You could not possibly write like a man of fifty and we must not expect his pay.
It was very satisfactory to know John and Lucia have a regard for our rights. I wish some of the girls could go over, perhaps Ruby could next year, I hope to have her put by her salary for a trip, when Tom keeps himself.1 She has brought home some lovely pictures. One of a tea pot, sugar bowl and tea cup with biscuits and cheese on a fringed napkin. They are really lovely, and some daffodils in a ginger pot, but my table is wonderful.2
Poor Mr. Dingwall has lost a son, Allan, a mining Engineer in Colorado, had just received a letter full of coming home for Carnival, he died of pneumonia, and will be buried here tomorrow. Called yesterday and met the three other sons, one of them you know buys for a New York firm and gets $12,000 a year. He gives us for our house missions $250 a year, he seemed a very nice man. Well it is Saturday night and I must close, had intended you should get this when you get back but could not manage it. With much love from all.
Your most lovingly mother
1 This is a clear indication that Ruby's salary was assigned to be used for Tom's education. Ruby wrote several letters in which she sends the postal orders directly to Tom and also asks for a confirmation since she is afraid that they will become lost in the mail.
2 This is another indication of Ruby McQuesten's artistic ability. Ruby's poker work is evident in several pyrography pieces extant at Whitehern. These are works of art created by wood burning. Ruby made many as gifts. Ruby also made many paintings (approx. 70) and they are on display at Whitehern Museum. Also we arranged for an art show of Ruby's paintings and pyrography at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 2011 as part of the celebration of Ruby's art work on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of her death, April 9, 1911. Julie Nash was the curator for that art show while Julie was working with Dr. Mary Anderson as a curatorial and digitization assistant for Hamilton Heritage Arts Inc, at the Hamilton Public Library. The show was part of the Whitehern and Hamilton Historical Board's celebration for "McQuesten Year." The Hamilton Spectator review of the Art Show is at Box 15-013, by Regina Haggo. Many of Ruby's paintings and pyrography are on display at Whitehern Museum.
See Canadian Home Journal, Journal 2 No. 8, December 1896, for a description of Poker Work with illustrations. Thanks to Julie Nash for finding this article.