W6135 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
May 22 1908
To: Calvin McQuesten Glenhurst, Saskatchewan
My dearest Calvin,
As Tom comes home to-morrow for the Queen's Birth-day, am writing you whilst I have a quick time. The great event for that day is the unveiling of the Queen's statue. All we are able to see now is the old lion lying at the base. He is a fine old fellow and it seems to me very true to nature, not the time honoured one which appears with the unicorn and is really much handsomer, but like the beast in its natural state as I remember seeing it in Central Park. This one is in green bronze and reclines against the flag, its head raised as if watching.1 The tulips are blazing in the Gore too. I saw all this as I went down to-day to the second-hand store to look again to look for your stove. I found one which I thought too good to lose; it was a Burrows Stuart the Jewel and that is one of the best, it was as good as new, a great bargain Wright said for $6.50 and I thought the right size taking an 18 in. stick. It ought to sell for good price when you are through with it, as you will probably be able to recommend it. On the way up went to Osborne's and got a small barrel to put the preserves in and next week will try to get them packed and start the whole thing off.
We have had endless rain but to-day it cleared and was lovely. Mr. Chisholm advised me to raise stable rent to $12.00, I was afraid but the men are willing to give it if I clear the loft completely, which I am quite glad to do.2 I have (through my interest coming in) just cleared off $200 of Ross's bill, so I only owe him thirty; I had paid Watkins $100, but I still owe him a hundred besides a lot of smaller accounts which I hope to pay with McPhie Int. this month. In time we shall get them off and our house is in good shape for a long time all but the verandah, the club took every vestige of paint off and it looks very bad. I think I'll have to let Gourlay put a coat on the floor.3
Mr. McPhie has organized the young girls of the church with a committee to put flowers in the church, last Sabbath it was "Pickle" Glassco's and Edna's turn.4 Hilda and E.[Edna] went to the market and got carnations beauties for 25cts a dozen (the manager allows 75cts a Sunday) and they mean to get garden flowers when possible, but it has been so cold and wet nothing was to be got. Well E. went up with "Pickle" to their house5 and as it turned out Dot had the measles (though they did not know it till next day) and poor Edna came out with a rash on Monday, as she had not all the symptoms and we did not want to keep away from people, we had to send for the doctor who said she had German Measles, and quite harmless. She was alright next day but it was so much more on doctor bill and gave Edna one day and night of many chills and then fever, her face stung so much.
Ruby is going twice a week to the doctor to have her throat healed she got so very worse and coughed too, that I at last took her down and doctor said it was Bronchitis, and she must come twice a week to have it sprayed, and when the warm weather comes, we hope she will get rid of it. We are trying to find a place at Ancaster to send her, it is high and dry there. I am not worrying but because her general health is so greatly improved and she says she feels a different person. But what does irritate me is, that it was all brought on by her determination to stay at Ottawa; and I do not think she realizes at all, that she brought on this heart trouble with me.6 I never had that at all until after I discovered she had carried out her own way with that young man and broken her word to me.7 However in your letter do not say anything about her throat.8
(Saturday morning) I wish you could see the garden now, as you enter the gate you see in front of you the plum covered with pink and the bridal wreath (it is really a spirea) in front and round the heart are large clumps of yellow tulips alternating with clumps of narcissus these are backed by the syringas whose foliage is now light green, the borders too have clumps of narcissus and the crown imperials, though they are fading a little now, the japonica is out too, but is nothing to Mrs. Husband's, hers (2) are magnificent but she has nothing else.9 The grass borders are so green and lovely and all the lawn, the snow came so early last year and there was no ice, that the grass all over is particularly fine. The larch is beautiful just now too in its fresh green. Tom is so pleased to have been able to see the place in spring for the first time in many years. Your turn is long in coming. Am ashamed to say I forgot to look for the folding egg cases. It just went out of my head. Colin Fletcher is doing very well.9 Mr. Murray was in yesterday and said nothing had been the matter but the one thing. We hear that poor little Mrs. Baillie (Topsy McCoy) is dying, blood poison, her little baby is three weeks old. Poor child! it seems so sad. Mary has just been to market. Spring lamb at $2.75 hind quarter. Do not hanker after it at all cold wet spring bad for lambs. In reply to mine of sympathy Mrs. Hendrie wrote me an extremely nice letter and sent me an ebony hat brooch with handsome silver "M" as a memento of her father. Wasn't it nice of her?11 All at present. With much love from all.
Your loving Mother
1 Mary McQuesten describes the statue of the old lion at the base of Queen Victoria's statue which is about to be unveiled for Queen Victoria's Birthday, May 24, 1908. Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901. See W4436 for news account about women of Hamilton raising the money for the statue of Queen Victoria in Gore Park along with the old lion at the base.
2 For James Chisholm, see W2520.
3 The house required extensive repair and redecorating after the Hamilton Club moved out in January 1908 (W5800). Aleck Gourlay was helping with renovations. For Gourlay family, see W6012.
4 For McPhie, see W5012.
5 For Glassco family, see W4436.
6 Mary had been complaining of tiredness "nervous heart" and "heart palpitations" for several months (W6053).
7 Mary is referring to the romantic relationship between Ruby and David Ross, son of Annie Ross, principal of Presbyterian Ladies' College at Ottawa where Ruby was teaching. See W5622 for David's proposal and Mary's objections. In September 1908, while Ruby was convalescing in Calgary, she wrote to Calvin in response to a suggestion that she visit the Ross's: "I couldn't do it. . . without Mama's knowledge-she would certainly hear. And I wouldn't mention the name to her again. It would spoil any good she may have rec'd and I'm afraid from the last letter she is really very poorly again" (W6281). In October 1908, from Calgary, Ruby informed Calvin: "I suppose I may as well tell you, if it will make you happier, that it's all over between David and myself. It was his decision & everything is now over and done for. So you can burn this letter and we will not mention the subject again" (W6302). For Ross, see W4651. For Ruby's illness see the footnote about Ruby's health in this letter.
8 Ruby was working as a teacher at the Ottawa Ladies' College and sending her money home in order to put Tom through university. When Tom graduated in 1907, Ruby was already showing signs of illness, and when she came home from the Ottawa Ladies' College in June 1907 she was already ill, (see W5932), although she does not admit it to Calvin in her letter to him in June 1907, W5865, W5880. However, this letter (W6135) is the first report that Ruby's illness may be very serious. It was variously diagnosed as grippe, cough, bronchitis, and later as "the Con" (Consumption) but was never named as Tuberculosis. In June 1908 a Dr. McDunnough examined her throat and Mary (her mother) was delighted with his report:
Dr. McD. said it was just a muscular affection of the throat brought on by teaching, using her voice when she was tired. Dr. Caven says Dr. McD. is one of the very rare men who knows the throat so it was worth a great deal to go and hear from them that there was not a thing the matter, no bronchitis at all, but just run down a little and she needed a good change. So you can just imagine how happy we all are to-night. I had got nervous about her lungs, but both doctors said there was not a single symptom. . . Dr. D. knew exactly what it was. (W6169). Mary is relieved but obviously had been very anxious.
Ruby wrote to Calvin on June 15, 1908:
Two days in the week I've been ambling down to Dr. Arnott's and he's spraying my throat and giving me various mixtures. He says it is chronic bronchitis but I'll get rid of it with time and treatment, the former I suppose to be taken naturally & the latter in doses. However there are heaps of people with bronchitis & ever so many have said that at some time or other in their wretched existence they have had it for two or three years and then got entirely rid of it. So I'm quite hopeful. (W6155)
In July 1908 (W6196) Ruby was sent to Alberta for a rest cure where she was treated for "the con" [consumption, tuberculosis] for nine months, then sent to a sanatorium (the "Minnewaska") in Gravenhurst in April 1909. In March 1910 the doctor told Tom that Ruby would benefit by having her family near and so the family took a cottage near the Minnewaska where Hilda took charge (W6676).
And finally in October 1910, the family took a cottage on the Hamilton mountain brow where Ruby died on April 9, 1911, of tuberculosis.(Box 12-478). Ruby was often treated with Calomel, a mercury compound that she dreaded.
The Globe reported her death on Tuesday April 11, 1911: "McQuesten. At her cottage, Mountain Top, Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday 9th of April, 1911, Ruby Baker McQuesten, dearly beloved daughter of the late Isaac B. McQuesten. Funeral from the family residence, Jackson street west, on Tuesday 11th inst. at 3:30 p.m." We note that the funeral notice appeared on the day of the funeral and that the funeral was likely private.
See also W-MCP3-5.004, W-MCP2-4.070, W6155, W6161, W6169, W6196, W6173, W6387, W6509, W6574, W6662, W6665, W6673, W6676, W6680, W6983, W9058, W8787n, Box 12-478, W5126, W6551, W9050, Box 12-504, W-MCP6-1.423), and many more too numerous to list here. In many of these letters Ruby is treated with Calomel,a mercury purgative that she dreaded.
The word "tuberculosis" is never mentioned in the family letters, although "the con" for consumption is mentioned a few times and Ruby refers to herself and the other patients as "lungers" (W6576). This suggests that word "tuberculosis" likely carried with it fear and stigma at that time.
Perhaps the stigma is the reason that Ruby was not sent to the Hamilton Mountain Sanatorium which opened on June 4, 1906. A Hamilton Spectator Flashback article entitled: FLASHBACK, This day in History, June 4, 1906.
On this date in 1906, the first patients were admitted to Hamilton's just opened sanatorium on the west mountain. On June 4 and 5, eight patients moved into the facility.
It was the culmination of a major effort by then Hamilton Mayor Sanford Biggar--and a city wide fund-raising campaign--to build the facility amid a growing "white plague" of consumption, as tuberculosis was known at the time.
The Mountain sanatorium would grow into one of the largest tuberculosis health centres in Canada, providing care for patients from all over the country.
In the 1950s, more than 1,200 Inuit suffering from tuberculosis were brought in for treatment from the far North. Many believe that without treatment at the Hamilton facility, the Inuit would have been annihilated by the disease.
Also see Ruby's Biography.
9 Dr. and Mrs. Thomas H. Husband (nee Emma Magill) lived at 33 Jackson St. W. In June 1904 the YWCA garden party was held in the Husband's garden, and Mary noted: "we were obliged to go. So we actually saw the inside of the house, although Hilda is not satisfied because she did not see the upstairs" (W5345, W7103).
10 For Colin Fletcher, see W4635.
11 Likely the wife of one of William Hendrie's five sons. I am unable to locate her father's name (her maiden name). William Hendrie had died in June 1906 (W5516). For Hendrie family, see W4803. It is also possible that Mary had written in sympathy at (or near) the second anniversary of William Hendrie's death.