Category: Catharine Mitcheson Bagg

Stanley Clark Bagg’s Family

This is the fifth in a series of articles about Stanley Clark Bagg on Writing Up the Ancestors. To read the previous posts, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on Older Posts. There are at least two more to come.

Portrait of Stanley Clark Bagg, probably painted from a photograph following his death in 1873; Bagg family collection.

In February 1841, my future great-great-grandfather wrote a letter to my future great-great-grandmother, explaining that his grandmother had asked him to write. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that he was smitten. Perhaps his grandmother had also noticed.

Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB), 20, who lived in Montreal, wrote to Catharine Mitcheson, 18, in Philadelphia: “Grandmother not having received a letter from yourself or your respected parents for a very long time, felt desirous to hear from you or them, and requested me to write, hoping that you or someone of the family would have the goodness to write.”1

I do not know when SCB and Catharine first met; they lived a long way from each other, but their families had reason to communicate because they were related. SCB’s grandmother, Mary (Mitcheson) Clark (1776-1856,) was the older sister of Catharine’s father, Robert Mitcheson (1779-1859.) Both grew up in County Durham, England and immigrated to North America as adults, Mary to Montreal and Robert to Philadelphia.

In the summer of 1840, Catharine and her older brother, Robert MacGregor Mitcheson, who was studying to become an Episcopal minister at the Theological College in New York, visited Montreal.2 They arrived in July and probably stayed through the beginning of September to attend the wedding of another cousin, Mary Maughan, to Montreal merchant William Footner.3

In his letter, SCB continued, “This winter is quite a gay one and scarcely anything is talked of but the parties and concerts, but still we are very lonesome and have been so since you and Robert left here, particularly after Mary was married. We all regret very much that you and Robert are not here to participate in the pleasures of the season, but hope shortly to have the pleasure of again seeing you here. Father has gone a few days journey and now I am entirely alone, and can assure you that keeping ‘Bachelor’s Hall’ is not the most agreeable mode of living.” After adding some gossip, SCB ended the letter, “Wishing you every happiness that this world can afford. I subscribe myself, your affectionate cousin, SC Bagg”.

A Notman photograph of Catharine Mitcheson Bagg; year unknown; Bagg family collection

SCB and Catharine were first cousins once removed, but if anyone objected to their blood relationship, they must have overcome those objections. They were married three years later, on September 9, 1844, at Grace Church Episcopal Chapel, Philadelphia. Catharine’s brother, now Reverend Robert M. Mitcheson, performed the service.4

They signed a marriage contract several days before the wedding, stipulating that they were to be separate as to property.5 SCB pledged to pay all household expenses and expenses for their children. He stated that he had mortgaged one of the properties he had inherited from his grandfather. If he died before Catharine did, that money would be used to fund a $100-a-year annuity for her, however, if she remarried, she would no longer receive this annual payment. These clauses were designed ensure she would live comfortably, and to protect her from his creditors, but also to protect his property from a second husband if she remarried.

SCB and Catharine settled in Montreal, where he worked as a notary and where he owned extensive property. The couple spent their first year or two of marriage living with SCB’s father in his home, Durham House, while their own house, Fairmount Villa, was under construction nearby. Their first child, Mary Ann Frances Bagg, was born at Durham House on Aug. 19, 1845. She died at age two while they were visiting Catharine’s parents in Philadelphia.6 Twenty years later, SCB wrote a poem about losing his first-born daughter. Here is an excerpt:

Ah! I knew the love of angels 
Not long on earth remain. 
Therefore my sobs of anguish 
Which I could not restrain. 

 When I look’d into the cradle, 
Where my babe in slumber lay; 
I saw its poor, frail body, 
But its soul had passed away.   

And out of my lone window 
I saw the angels soar. 
And between them gently resting 
My precious babe they bore.7

Eventually, the couple went on to have five children, one boy and four girls: Robert Stanley (1848-1912), Katharine Sophia (1850-1938), Amelia Josephine (1852-1943), Mary Heloise (1854-1938) and Helen Frances Mitcheson Bagg (1861-1935.) Fairmount Villa was a large house and it must have been filled with noise and activity for years. SCB probably had to get used to this because his own upbringing had been so different: he was an only child who lived in the countryside, his father was often busy with business and financial concerns, and his mother died when he was 14.

Unfortunately, SCB did not live to witness any of his children’s successes as adults, attend their weddings or enjoy his nine grandchildren. He died of typhoid fever on August 8, 1873, age 53, at Fairmount Villa, surrounded by family members. At the time, son Robert Stanley had recently graduated from law school and was studying in Europe, while his two youngest daughters were still minors.

As adults, the Baggs do not appear to have been a closely knit family, and at one point there was a serious dispute about the management of SCB’s estate. Nevertheless, Robert Stanley Bagg (often with his widowed mother’s input) managed the family real estate business for 27 years, and the Bagg girls grew up to be confident and capable women who travelled extensively and contributed to decisions about and kept track of property sales, and organized large social events.  

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “Reflections on a Great-Great Grandmother,” April 14, 2014

Janice Hamilton, “Fanny in Philly,” March 29, 2014

Janice Hamilton,  “Mary Mitcheson Clark,” May 16, 2014

Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Clark Bagg’s Four Forgotten Daughters”, Sept 30, 2017,

Janice Hamilton, “My Great-Great Aunts, Montreal Real Estate Developers.” Oct. 11, 2017

Janice Hamilton,“A Visit to the Holy Land and Egypt; A Mediterranean Cruise in 1919, part 2,” Nov. 21, 2019,

Janice Hamilton, Helen Frances Bagg, A Happy Exile,” Jan. 6, 2016,

Janice Hamilton, “The Life and Times of Stanley Bagg, 1788-1853,” Oct 5,  2016

Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Clark Bagg’s Early Years,” Jan. 8, 2020,

Janice Hamilton, “Fairmount Villa,” Dec. 18, 2019,

Notes and Sources:

  1. Transcription of SCB’s letter, plus notes, probably by grandson Stanley Bagg Lindsay; Lindsay family collection.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Married: Sept. 8 1840 at Durham House by the Rev. Dr. Bethune, William Footner to Mary Maughan;” Mary Maughan’s mother, Elizabeth, was the younger sister of Mary (Mitcheson) Clark and Robert Mitcheson. Source: black notebook listing Bagg and Mitcheson family births, marriages and deaths; private collection.
  4. Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1078, database, (, accessed Dec. 22, 2019,) entry for Stanley Clark Bagg, 9 Sept. 1844; citing Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
  5. Nicholas-Benjamin Doucet, “Marriage entre Stanley Clark Bagg et Catharine Mitcheson,” notarial act # 30488, Sept. 5, 1844, BAnQ. To learn more about the laws of Quebec regarding civil matters, including community of property in marriage, see Bettina Bradbury. Wife to Widow. Lives, Laws and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.
  6. The child’s death is recorded in the Bagg family Bible, Bagg Family Fonds, McCord Museum, Montreal. She died in Philadelphia on Oct. 14, 1847. The funeral was held on Oct. 21, 1847 at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal, (, citing Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin) and she is buried with her parents, grandparents and other family members in the Bagg family crypt, Mount Royal Cemetery.
  7. Stella (pseudonym of Stanley Clark Bagg), Leisure Moments: A Few Poems, Montreal: printed by Daniel Rose, 1871.

Making Connections

“There’s a reason for our connection.” So says the poster at the entrance to the current exhibit by artist-in-residence Hannah Claus at Montreal’s McCord Museum. The exhibit focuses on several objects she found in the museum’s permanent collection, and her creative response to them.

I have a connection to one of those objects, so that connects me to Claus and her art, to my ancestor who once owned that object, and to the images my ancestor inspired me to create. Claus, a Montreal-based visual artist of English and Mohawk background, chose a number of objects in the museum’s collection and listened to what they said to her.  “Materials have a language,” she writes in the exhibition notes. “They have a sensory language and rhythm that speak to me as an artist.” Then she created her own objects inspired by what she saw.

Through the process, she came to discover the innate links between objects and their makers, their collectors, ourselves and the world around us. “I understand through making,” she says.

Bag, Tonawanda Seneca, 1830-1850; gift of Mrs Alan C. Lindsay, McCord Museum

One of the objects Claus chose for the show is a tiny beaded handbag. Its pink, white, blue, green and black beadwork is delicate and beautiful, and she was drawn to the repetitive curves of the pattern and the artistry of its indigenous creator.

I had an additional reason for wanting to see this handbag: it once belonged to my great-great-grandmother, Catharine Mitcheson Bagg (1822-1914). She gave it to one of her daughters, and a descendant’s widow recently donated it to the McCord.

Catharine Mitcheson grew up in Philadelphia, and married Montreal notary and landowner Stanley Clark Bagg in 1844. The bag is dated 1830 – 1850, so perhaps Catharine received it as a wedding present.

collage by Janice Hamilton, photo of CMB, McCord
Museum, Notman Collection #71147

Writing about ancestors is similar to exploring relationships with objects. I daydream about these individuals and learn about the events that impacted their lives. Sometimes I feel deep connections with them. Hannah’s comments also help explain why people treasure objects they inherit from family members. In addition to their aesthetic properties, a teacup from a mother or a carpentry tool that belonged to a great-uncle can symbolize our connections with these people and help us understand their life experiences.

The exhibit also displays the art that Claus created as a response to the objects she chose.

The bag’s beadwork inspired her to create a display of shiny disks hanging on strings, and to riff on the patterns used in the handbag. This museum experience reminded me of my attempts to incorporate themes related to Catharine Mitcheson Bagg in collaged photo transfers done for an art class several years ago.

I had just started doing genealogy research at that time. The McCord Museum has copies of several letters Catharine wrote, and I photographed them because I was interested in what she had to say. In my art project, the letters became important as visual objects. I enlarged a photo of Catharine from my own collection of cabinet cards and framed it inside images of her handwriting.

collage by Janice Hamilton; b&w photo of Fairmount Villa, residence of Stanley Clark Bagg, Studio of Inglis, BAnQ

In a second collage, I tried to connect Catharine to the place where she lived, starting with a photo of a painting of her. This painting of Catharine Mitcheson Bagg, done by artist William Sawyer in 1865, once hung in my grandparents’ dining room and now belongs to the National Gallery of Canada. I added a hand-painted photo of Fairmount Villa, Catharine’s home in Montreal, as well as a copy of a painting she did of her childhood home, Monteith House, in Philadelphia when she was young. In the background are snippets of old maps of Montreal.

Connections can be found everywhere when you look for them.

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “Reflections on a great-great grandmother”, Writing Up the Ancestors, April 14, 2014,