W6738 TO REV. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Aug 3 1911
To: Calvin McQuesten Staney Brae, Muskoka
From: 'Whitehern' Hamilton
My dearest Calvin,
I have been trying to write you ever since I came home, but when I was not on the go, I was too sleepy to do any thing or it was too warm, altho' on the whole the weather has been pleasant except that it feels so dry. It threatens continually and it is quite oppressive for awhile, but passes off. On Sabbath went twice to St. Paul to hear Mr. Sillars of Edinboro' whom I quite liked for his old fashioned style, but the young did not like at all1.
Then Monday Tom took Hilda and myself down to Tuckett's Farm on the way to the Beach to see the Aviation meet. I had demurred at first, but was glad I went, as we had an excellent view of McCurdy's Machine and saw him make a most successful flight. Tom had been down on Saturday to see him and was given two passes. It was a wonderful thing, the engine is just in the centre McCurdy sits in front, strapped in, then there are like two pairs of wings and a tail. Two mechanics are with him, they start the engine and are obliged to hold the machine down by main force, till all is ready, when the aeroplane runs along the ground on four wheels, the distance of our grounds when it rises beautifully just like a bird and circles in the air, rising and falling as directed, came down once so close over our heads, we were rather frightened and the noise is terrific, but it certainly is a most interesting and wonderful achievement. Willard's machine had been injured so did not see it and there was some fuss with the Englishman but McCurdy is greatly elated with his machine2,3. Coming home there was such a crowd we had a great time getting the cars, but the policemen lifted us on and we got home alright.
Then Tuesday Hilda and I took 10.40 boat to Toronto, her nose I determined must have treatment, so we went to Hiscott Institute on College Street and the head of it said, after treatment it would be alright in about five weeks which I hope will be the case, as it has been a sore trial4. It was very warm and close in Toronto, but pleasant on this boat. When I came home from Bayville I was distressed to find Mary in bed with ulcerated sore throat and she had got so nervous about herself however she was much better by next day and able to take a little nourishment so she was able to come down to dinner on Sunday. We got her ready and she went off to Chippawa yesterday afternoon.
After that I had a visit from Mrs. Jos. Henderson. The wife of little Mr. Henderson here, the caretaker, died last week and Mr. Jos. H. had come up to the funeral, but she [Mrs. Henderson] had waited and came yesterday to see the family and to see us; she was very nice and kind5. Is much perturbed lest the Union should carry6. Principal Patrick very ill7. There certainly would be fearful confusion and beyond human brains to right it it seems to me.
You would see all about the Asylum horror in the Globe. We never heard or saw any thing of it, till postman told Edna, reference to it was in Globe, but nothing alarming. Mattie Davidson came home this week after a stay in Preston which she enjoyed very much8. Tom is going down on Saturday to stay till Monday-Wednesday if he could with "Strap Watson9." Our lawn is in most beautiful shape, the grass so green and most of the evergreens have done well and some of the hydrangeas.
Tell me how to send the money. The papers give glowing accounts of
the crops near Saskatoon. We saw in a Clinton paper that Jean Ross was married in Rochester, and a letter from Mrs. Ferguson to me from Formosa mentioned the wedding day as June 24th and Mrs. McKay greatly delighted - Doubtless10! Well, I must close. I am sure you could have a very pleasant time at Staney Brae. With much love.
Your affectionate Mother
1 I have found no further record of Mr. Sillars.
2 The Hamilton Spectator, Friday July 28, 29, 1911, describes the "Aviation Meet" as a contest between three "birdmen" and their respective flying machines:
Hamilton had its first taste of flying in the air when McCurdy, Willard and Martin, three well-known aviators made their initial flights. . . . Seven flights were made, four by Willard, two by McCurdy, and one by Martin, the efforts of Willard to please the crowd proving the most enjoyable, as he made prolonged flights directly over the field throwing in a few dips and turns as extra measure. . . . Willard is the man to look to for sensations. . . . McCurdy flew a new machine a little bit of a bi-plane."
On July 29 the heading read: "Aviator Had a Close Call: Martin's engine failed to work and he came down, descended in the Marsh but escaped injury. . . McCurdy had his little baby Wright in good working order. . . the little machine showing all kinds of speed. . . .Willard was undoubtedly the most popular one of the three birdmen . . . supplied lots of thrills." The object of the meet was to establish new records in altitude and speed, and at one point McCurdy flew to a height of "over two thousand feet." Mary saw the meet on the following Monday and Willard and Martin (the Englishman) did not fly.
3 John Alexander Douglas McCurdy (1886-1961) aviation pioneer, made more than 200 short flights before flying the Silver Dart off the ice at Baddeck Nova Scotia in February 1909, the first controlled flight by a British subject in the British Empire. He designed the Silver Dart and it was built by the Aerial Experiment Association formed by Alexander Graham Bell. He also made the first ocean flight from Florida to Cuba while sending and receiving the first messages while aloft (National Aviation Museum. December 28, 1999. ONLINE )
4 Mary had written to Calvin that Hilda had "a terrible nose . . . a similar one after last Christmas work. . . . Doctor declared it had been poisoned, probably her veil, and gave her some remedies . . . the swelling is all down, but it is literally the colour of a beet all over the tip of the nose and the poor girl cannot be seen" (W6564, December 11, 1909, W6738, W6574, W6762).
5 For Joseph Henderson family, see W6738. The reference to a visit with "the family" suggests that the Joseph Hendersons of Toronto may have been related to the Gordon Hendersons of Hamilton (W5709).
6 For the discussion on "Church Union," see W5283, W6446.
7 For Principal Patrick, see W6446.
8 For Davidson, see W4544.
9 For Watson family, see W4588.
10 For Ross family, see W4651. It is not known which McKay she married.