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W5199 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
May 23 1904
To: Calvin McQuesten Standoff Alberta
From: 'Whitehern'

My dear dear Calvin,

When one has not got good news to tell, one does not enjoy letter writing. Perhaps you will have seen the News before this that the Rhodes Scholarship did not come to Tom. I can scarcely believe it and must say it has given me quite a shock. Though I endeavoured to prepare myself for the worst, still I could not help building on it, and I am afraid it is a very sore disappointment to Tom, have not heard a word from him since but of course he was just in the midst of his exams, that was one of the cruel things about it, to announce it just then. We cannot but believe it was a most unjust decision, 3/10 of the marks were given for Scholarship 2/10 for athletics and the rest for general character (Mr. C. [Chisholm] told me). We are quite sure that P. [Paterson] was not Tom's equal at all. Mr. C. said it was just another instance of favouring Toronto, he went down to the Senate meeting, where report of committee was brought in and Mr. Paterson was there, nobody could say anything and no one seemed inclined to. I have a feeling that Hutton, of course ruled it, Paterson would be his pet as having taken 4 yrs in Classics, he does not seem to have distinguished himself specially at it, and if Hutton pushed it, we have no confidence in Loudon, though he had professed himself in favour of Tom. Burwash was for another man and Moss did not know Tom at all, so Baker would be the only one. What makes me feel so sore is to think of the injustice of the whole thing. As far as I know all the members of the committee had not even seen the candidates, therefore they were in no position to judge. It makes me sick to think of it, though I know that God over rules all things and I put it into his hands and yet here I am fretting about it, it is so wrong of me, but it seems as if I can not forget it. Mrs. James tries to console us by telling us of the awful wickedness of Oxford, filled with bad women.1 But I would just have been too proud, I feel myself swelling at the prospect and I think Tom was almost sure of getting it. I feel so anxious as to how he comes out, after such a distracting time, poor old chap, he has really had a hard year of it. To show you how these Toronto men act, Mr. C. told me they actually object to Hamilton having two members on the Senate. Prof. MacCallum told Mr. C. he had voted for Snider because he thought we should have only one representative & Mr. C. says that those from a greater distance never attended more than once a year; so that Hamilton men are really the only outsiders, it is all so terribly unjust that one feels hopeless.2

Your letter written on May 15th we received on Saturday morning the 21st which seemed very quick. Mr. Pringle has only been here on his way through several times, he is getting subscriptions for the Atlin Hospital. Oh no he has not given up the Yukon.3 But I think he is disgusted with the wrangling over the Wilkie Case and fancy Wilkie going now to start mission circles in the churches for his new mission.4 A copy of the Dominion Pres. [Presbyterian] came to me, will send it. Isn't it terrible to think of them keeping it up and taking King of Indore to task for his account of College closing.5 Miss Sinclair says she is "very tired of it all. Home Christians have shown more uncharitableness in this matter than we ever did to each other in India and I scarcely appreciate the 'I am holier than thou' attitude of some of Dr. Wilkie's sympathizers."6 Indeed I came home perfectly sick of Torontonians.

Mrs. Ross is not going to do anything just now but take a rest which she much needs.7 I am going to send you a copy of the skeleton of a sermon preached by Mr. Howitt. It was the last sermon Connie James heard and it made a great impression on her mind,8 so to please Mrs. J. Mr. Howitt had it all very nicely type written and put in shape. And I am sure you would find them valuable. He is such a fine Bible Student.9

We have quite a nice class of Jews, yesterday we had two more young Roumainians, very nice modest gentle lads. The three Roumainians are so superior to the others & speak and read English fairly well. One Russian is a fine tall man, most gentlemanly. In Russia he was in a soda water factory, could not understand his broken English very well but thought he owned it, he had to leave his wife & two little girls and now all he can do is to drive a hay-wagon.10

It is too bad about the Slide-out people, but it is their loss, you have done your best.11 We have not heard your letter yet for our Home Mission meeting does not come till first Wednesday of June, it was just too late for May meeting and when I saw Mrs. F.[Fletcher], she had only just received it. She has been house cleaning since & we haven't met. It was quite interesting about Johnnie Woolf. I just noticed it in Presbyterian that Dr. Kilpatrick is to write on the Mormons or rather a digest of his lectures on Mormonism is to appear in Presbyterian.12

Up till last Friday we had very cool weather, but it has been very warm, close and raining with thunder since. Annie Park & Mrs. Bell set off to-morrow to visit Hessi.13 Ethel Atkinson's wedding is to be June 8th Hilda is going. Ethel's home is to be in California, but they will spend the summer in Muskoka.14

Look at "The News" of Saturday 21st on page 14 what they say at McGill about Rhodes Schp.15 It seems as if something really ought to be done if one had some strong friend to take it up & fight it. We have been expecting Tom to-day, but he has not come yet. Suppose he has a lot of things to finish up.

Herbie Bell sails by the North German Lloyd first week of June. The doctor said if he did not get an Ocean voyage, he would end in the hospital with nervous prostration. Of course Mr. Bell & Florrie persist in saying it is all nonsense & Mrs. Bell had greatest difficulty in gathering enough money to send him. They are the most inhuman set. She has had no servant for weeks, is so ill she can scarcely stand on her feet but none of them believe her.16 Well, I must close, with fondest love from all.

Your loving mother

M.B. McQuesten


1 For the James family, see W4436.


2 The Rhodes Scholarship for Tom had been the subject of many family letters for this period in 1904. It would have provided $1500 per year for Tom's education at Oxford. Tom and Mary, and others, did a great deal of politicking, but Principal Maurice Hutton won out with his man, Ernest Riddell Paterson, on the basis of his classical studies, even though President James Loudon favoured Tom (W5122, W5151, W5172, W8171, W5191, W5212, W5225, W5233; Best 9-10).

Tom wrote to Calvin April 24: "As to the Rhodes Scholarship, it needs a lot of grafting. Chiefly, I think, owing to the machinations of Hutton . . . a committee of the senate has been appointed. . . . I have a fighting chance. . . . and I am working all the pull I can. . . . Don't say much to momma about Hutton because she would be calculated to do anything if she got mad with him. It's just a toss-up if I win or not" (W8171).

Mary wrote April 11: "I scarcely dare hope and am so foolishly anxious, though I know perfectly well, that it may not be the best thing for him to have it, and I have put the matter in God's hands day after day but just like a silly mortal cannot leave it there, but carry the burden with me night and day. . . .I am just so unsettled in mind I cannot write" (W5122); May 16: "I have really got over worrying about it. The idea of Tom's going away for three years so over-burdens the honour of getting it" (W5183).

After Tom lost the bid, Mary wrote on May 30: "Loudon had tried to console Tom by assuring him that he would be better to go on with his law" (W5212). On June 6 she described some of the politics:

Did I tell that 25 out of the 32 Council were for Tom and whilst Loudon was down South, Hutton got the Senate to give it into a committee hands and singly held on and forced it. McGregor Young told somebody, he had talked with Paterson and he was 'an Athletic ninny.' All the same I really think Tom needs just to keep at work, for as he says after having $1500. a year to live on for three yrs. it would have been very hard to come back to a narrow income in a law office. (W5225)

The Rhodes Scholarship had been newly instituted in 1904 according to the Will of Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902), Prime Minister of Cape Colony. He had earned his fortune in diamonds with Kimberley and De Beers (CBD 1234; CE 1867). The Montreal Herald April 8, 1902 commented on the "remarkable and voluminous" Will which established colonial, American and German scholarships to Oxford. Rhodes elaborated in a codicil: "for a good understanding between England, Germany and the United States will secure the peace of the world and educational relations form the strongest tie." The same paper reported the skeptical remarks of Principal Grant of Queen's University: "[Rhodes']Unpractical and Egotistic Ideas. . . . Imperialism, in the real sense is not likely to be permanently benefitted by Mr. Rhodes' legacies." For comment from McGill, see later in letter.


3 For Rev. Dr. John Pringle, missionary in the Klondike, see W5172.


4 For the Wilkie case, see W4651.


5 Rev. Robert A. King was Wilkie's successor in Indore, India in 1902. The training classes at Indore Christian College had perpetually experienced staff shortages because of a long standing "problem of finding affordable, trained staff." King solved the problem by employing qualified women in teaching positions, his wife and other women missionaries (Brouwer 111-2)


6 For Miss Jean Sinclair, see W4651.


7 For Ross family, see W4651.


8 For the James family, see W4436.


9 Rev. Frederick Elliott Howitt (1858-1939) Anglican priest and religious instructor at Hamilton Normal School, lived at 104 George St. with his wife and six children. His son Arthur Hamilton also became an Anglican priest (W5233). Although Mary did not generally favour Anglicans, she appears to have respected Howitt. He "was a devout man of strong faith. . . . was widely known throughout Canada and the United States as a missionary and was in great demand as a speaker" at interdenominational conventions. "He lectured on the relationship of world affairs to prophecy in Holy Scripture." During the Street Railway strike in 1906, Howitt preached "a series of interesting discourses" and when "asked to speak on a labor subject," he chose the building of "the Tabernacle from Exodus xxv, 8, 9," the "vast camp" of workers from the orderly twelve tribes, and then related this to the New Testament (The Hamilton Spectator, November 12, 1906; DHB3.94; W5233, W6343, W8787). For Mary's views on Anglicans in general, see W5283, W6446.


10 The WFMS conducted classes through their Jewish Mission, see, W4717.


11 Slide-out (or Slide Out or Slideout), is (or was) a community near Standoff, Alberta where Calvin was doing missionary work. He traveled on horseback between the two communities and delivered two Sunday sermons. He was exhausted and depressed.

Slideout and Standoff can be found on an old map of the Whoop-Up trail from Ft. Benton, U.S. to Ft. Macleod in 1860 to 1885 or so. It was used for smuggling furs and booze. The Crowsnest Web site states (in part), "Some 35 wandering kilometres of gravelled 785 finally brings travellers to Head-Smashed-In before continuing on to tee into Highway 2 just north of Fort Macleod. The Highway bends due east and begins to slide down into the Pincher Creek's valley closing in at an acute angle from the south-west. The cottonwood-shaded bottoms of the Pincher Creek's valley are some 120 feet below the level of the surrounding terrain, and to the north. Back in the "buffalo days" this spot was a favoured camping grounds for regional Indian tribes, a fact appreciated by U.S.-based traders who established Fort Slideout nearby in the early 1870s. Swapping bison hides and the occasional beaver pelt for guns, ammunition and booze, the post did a roaring business until the arrival of the North-West Mounted Police in the neighbourhood in 1874. The Hudson's Bay Company was also interested in trading with the Natives, and in 1870 hired William Samuel Lee to erect a post here. To the south of the Highway the Pincher's valley narrows dramatically, and some 3 or 400 metres away, hanging 137 feet above the Valley's floor, is the Railway's blackened steel bridge." (http://www.crowsnest-highway.ca/)


12 Dr. G.G. Kilpatrick (1888-1928) University of Toronto 1905-09, Knox College 1909-12, graduate student at Berlin and Edinburgh, ordained 1914, lecturer Knox 1912, chaplain [WWI], Ottawa 1919-25, to United Church 1925. Kilpatrick preached at MacNab at least three times, and each time Mary gave him a glowing report: "a fine lecture. . . he is a noble, beautiful spirited man" (W5436). In May 1908, Mary wrote:

It was quite a privilege to hear him, it is so seldom one gets any instruction. In the morning he spoke from 'God is spirit' and in the evening both Paulís prayers in Ephesians 3rd chap 'I bow my knees unto the Father.' It was extremely fine, he said how often we felt our prayers were dry and formal and he counseled us when we seemed unable to pray to take some of the prayers of the Bible and just spread them out before God, applying them to ourselves and noticing that the first need Paul prays for is strength. I wish I could tell you more but my memory is so poor. But do you know, I do think his sermons were appreciated by many, first because he was long. I felt I could not afford to miss it, but I was pretty tired, just because there was so much to be taken in. (W6110)

For Kilpatrick and the Mormons, see W5788 (W5436, W6110, W6117, W6336, W6446).


13 Miss Annie Park lived at 65 Markland St. and was related to the Bell family, see W4531 (Tyrell 152).


14 Ethel Atkinson was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Atkinson of 90 Hannah St. (Tyrell 128).


15 The Toronto News reports: "There is considerable surprise and not a little criticism among the McGill faculty over the action of Toronto appointing a graduate of two years' standing" (May 21, 1904).


16 For Bell family, see W4531. On May 16, 1904, Mary wrote:

Mrs. Bell is worried to death about Herbie, the doctors . . . say he must always have bright company must not be left alone. His home seems to be the worst place for him and to find money to keep him traveling and at the same time provide cheerful company for him is quite a problem. Really one cannot fully realize the blessing of health. I often wonder, if he did not get into the habit of smoking a great deal and destroying his digestion, he was such a wretchedly irritable little fellow that he would smoke to soothe himself, I am thankful neither you nor Tom ever gave way to the destructive habit, but Mrs. Bell quite approved of smoking. (W5183) For Herbert Bells letter from WWI, see W-MCP6-1.472.

Tom and Calvin did smoke but not in their mother's presence.




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