Category: Bagg

Clara Smithers Weds R. Stanley Bagg

RSB and Clara

It was one of the highlights of Montreal’s social calendar. The marriage of Clara Smithers to Robert Stanley Clark Bagg took place on June 8, 1882, at St. Martin’s Anglican Church, and the church was filled with what The Gazette reporter called “the elite of our inner social circles” long before the bride and groom arrived for the eleven o’clock ceremony.

“The bride’s dress was a rich and handsome one of white brocaded satin, with the traditional veil of costly lace,” the reporter noted. That veil of Irish lace was the same one worn by Clara’s mother, Martha B. Smithers, and later by Clara’s daughters.

Clara must have been flustered, or perhaps she was just thrilled to be a married woman. In the church registry, she signed her name as Clara Bagg, rather than using her maiden name. Fortunately, the minister recorded the marriage correctly.

Following the service, the wedding party drove to the residence of the bride’s father on University Street, where lunch was served. The newlyweds then left by train for Quebec City, where they boarded the SS Parisian for a two-month honeymoon in Europe.

Clara was the daughter of Charles Francis Smithers, an English-born banker. The eighth of eleven children, she was born in Montreal in 1860, but her father’s work took him to New York City, and Clara spent much of her adolescence in Brooklyn. The family returned to Montreal in 1879 and her father was named president of the Bank of Montreal two years later.

This photo of a young Clara was taken in Brooklyn. It’s all about the dress.

Stanley was born in 1848, the son of Stanley Clark Bagg, one of Montreal’s largest landowners, and Catharine Mitcheson Bagg, originally of Philadelphia. Like his father and grandfather, R. Stanley Bagg went by the name Stanley. He studied law at McGill and, after his father died in 1873, Stanley took over the administration of the family properties, overseeing rentals and sales.   

I do not know how they met, but there must have been many opportunities for young women to meet bachelors in their social circles. One day, Stanley wrote a short poem with a religious theme in Clara’s autograph book. It was more about loving God than loving her, but it did the trick.

For the first years of their married life, Clara and Stanley lived next door to his mother’s house, Fairmount Villa, on Sherbrooke Street near Saint Urbain. Their first two children were born there: Evelyn St. Clair Stanley Bagg in 1884, and Gwendolen Catherine Stanley Bagg (my grandmother) in 1887. Harold Fortescue Stanley Bagg was born in 1895, after the family had moved to a more fashionable neighbourhood.

Stanley had a new house built around 1891. Made of red sandstone imported from Scotland, it was at the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Côte des Neiges Road, at the edge of the area known as the Golden Square Mile. Stanley died in Kennebunkport, Maine in 1912, and the widowed Clara lived in that house until her death in 1946.

Photo credit: McCord Museum.

Research Remarks: The article about the wedding appeared in The Gazette, 9 June, 1882, page 3. Thanks to Justin Bur for finding it.

The image of the church registry can be viewed at Source: Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.  Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.

Clara’s branch of the family is included in the Smithers Family Book, by Elizabeth Marston Smithers, produced by the Institute for Publishing Arts, 1985. This book provide a good starting point, although there are some errors and omissions in the early generations.  

I have not yet found baptismal records for Clara or her siblings, although I haven’t looked very hard. According to the records of Mount Royal Cemetery, her date of birth was 4 Feb. 1860.

Like most big cities, Montreal had a city directory that makes it possible to track the family’s home address and Stanley’s work address every year. Lovell’s Directory can be searched online at  

Clara’s autograph book is in private hands.

Summer in Georgeville

St Clair Lodge

Georgeville is a charming village, nestled between the hills and farms of Quebec’s Eastern Townships and the shores of Lake Memphremagog. There is a fancy general store, a park complete with old-fashioned gazebo, and a wharf popular with recreational boaters. The village has a cheerful mix of weekend cottagers and year-round residents. It that respect, it hasn’t changed much in more than 100 years.

A few years ago, I discovered that my great-grandparents owned a summer house there. According to the 1895-1896 Lovell’s Directory of Montreal, Robert Stanley Bagg’s summer residence was St. Clair Lodge, Georgeville. I had uncovered another bit of lost family history: although I have owned a small cottage about 15 minutes from there since 1979, I had no idea there was an ancestral connection to the area.

Montreal-born Robert Stanley Bagg (1848-1912) studied law and became a businessman. He married Clara Smithers in 1882 and the couple had three children, Evelyn, Gwendolyn (my grandmother) and Harold Stanley. I asked several people around Georgeville whether they knew of a house called St. Clair Lodge, but had no luck. Then Louise Abbott, a friend who is writing a book about the history of Lake Memphremagog, contacted me to ask about my great-grandparents. She had never heard of St. Clair Lodge, but she told me that’s because the property has been called Edgewood for many years. The house is still standing, though much has changed, and Louise sent me some photos.

Among some old letters and newspaper clippings, I made another discovery: Robert Stanley Bagg donated the bell to the St. George’s Anglican Church. The church too is still standing.  

This furniture set which came from the Bagg house has a new home with the Stanstead Historical Society.

There is a good reason why my ancestors spent their summers in Georgeville, apart from the beauty of the place: Montreal was an extremely unhealthy place, especially in summer, and especially for small children. In 1900, the city had a higher infant mortality rate than most Third World countries do today. With no water treatment and inadequate sewers, diarrhea was the biggest killer. Diphtheria, typhoid, tuberculosis, measles and other communicable diseases also posed threats. These conditions affected the poor more than the wealthy, but that was partly because anyone who could afford to leave the city in the summer did so.

St. George’s Anglican Church, Georgeville

Many Montrealers summered in the Eastern Townships, known officially today as l’Estrie. Southeast of Montreal, this was originally the territory of the Abenaki First Nations people. American Loyalists started to move into the area around 1791, and Georgeville was founded in 1797 when enterprising settler Moses Copp started a ferry service across the lake.

As the population and industry of the Eastern Townships grew, so did the network of railways that crossed the area. Most important was the Grand Trunk Railway, completed in 1853, linking Montreal with the ice-free harbour of Portland, Maine. 

The Bagg family sold their Georgeville house around 1900, but, along with many of their friends, they continued to spend their summers far from Montreal, first at Cacouna, on the St. Lawrence River, downriver from Quebec City, and later near St. Agathe, in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal, and in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Photos: courtesy Fran Williams
Janice Hamilton (added March 14, 2015)
Janice Hamilton

Research Remarks: Here are some resources reflecting the history of the Eastern Townships’ English-speaking population. Since the mid-1800s, the majority of area residents have been French-speaking. The Townships Heritage Web Magazine features articles, old photos and maps.  The Eastern Townships Resource Centre (ETRC) has an extensive collection of publications, genealogical sources and other material. Of special interest is a series of articles about local history published by the Sherbrooke Record,  Headstones in the many rural cemeteries around Stanstead County are listed here.  This is a link to the archives of the Stanstead Historical Society, located in the Colby-Curtis Museum in Stanstead, Quebec, near the Quebec-Vermont border.  This blog features old postcards of Georgeville and a link to photos from the McCord Museum in Montreal.