Category: Catharine Mitcheson Bagg

Bagg Family Dispute part 1: Stanley Clark Bagg’s Estate

Written by Janice Hamilton, with research by Justin Bur

Note: there were three generations named Stanley Bagg, so for the sake of brevity I use their initials: SCB for generation two, Stanley Clark Bagg, and RSB for generation three, Robert Stanley Bagg.

Be careful what you wish for, especially when it comes to writing a will and placing conditions on how your descendants are to use their inheritance. That was a lesson my ancestors learned the hard way.

It took a special piece of provincial legislation in 1875 and what appears to have been a family crisis before these issues were finally resolved many years later. 

The estate at the heart of these problems was that of the late Stanley Clark Bagg (1820-1873), or SCB. He had owned extensive properties on the Island of Montreal. Several adjacent farms, including Mile End Farm and Clark Cottage Farm, stretched from around Sherbrooke Street, along the west side of Saint Lawrence Street (now Saint-Laurent Boulevard), while three other farms extended along the old country road, north to the Rivière des Prairies. SCB had inherited most of this land from his grandfather John Clark (1767-1827).  Although he trained as a notary, SCB did not practise this profession for long, but made a living renting and selling these and other smaller properties.  

Stanley Clark Bagg, Montreal, QC, William Notman, #1-5660.1, McCord Stewart Museum

At age 52, SCB suddenly died of typhoid. In his will, written in 1866, he named his wife, Catharine Mitcheson Bagg (1822-1914), as the main beneficiary of his estate, to use and enjoy for her lifetime, and then pass it on to their descendants. He also made her an executor, along with his son Robert Stanley Bagg (RSB, 1848-1912). There were two other executors: Montreal notary J.E.O. Labadie and his wife’s brother, Philadelphia lawyer McGregor J. Mitcheson.

But SCB’s estate was large and complicated, and no one was prepared to handle it. RSB had recently graduated in law from McGill and was continuing his studies in Europe at the time of his father’s death. As for Catharine, she became involved in decisions regarding property sales over the years, but she must have felt overwhelmed at first.

Notary J.A. Labadie spent two years doing an inventory of all of SCB’s properties, listing where they were located, their boundaries, and when and from whom they had been acquired, but he did not mention two key documents. One of these was the marriage contract between SCB’s parents, the other was John Clark’s will.

In the marriage contract, John Clark gave a wedding present to his daughter, Mary Ann Clark (1795-1835), and her husband, Stanley Bagg (1788-1853): a stone house and about 22 acres of land on Saint Lawrence Street. Clark named the property Durham House. But it was not a straight donation; it was a substitution, similar to a trust, to benefit three generations: Mary Ann’s and Stanley’s child (SCB), grandchildren (RSB and his four sisters) and the great-grandchildren. Each intervening generation was to have the use and income from the property, and was responsible for transmitting it to the next generation. That meant SCB could not bequeath it in his will because his children automatically gained possession, and so on, with the final recipients being the great-grandchildren.

In his 1825 will, Clark had made an even more restrictive condition regarding the Mile End Farm. This time the substitution was intended to be perpetual “unto the said Mary Ann Clark and unto her said heirs, issue of her said marriage and to their lawful heirs entailed forever.”

This map shows the extent of the late Stanley Clark Bagg’s properties, shaded in beige, in 1875, when an inventory was made of his estate. These properties are overlaid over a modern map of the island of Montreal. At that time, the actual city of Montreal was south of Sherbrooke Street, extending down to the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. The eastern slope of Mount Royal is adjacent to the Mile End properties. Map created by Justin Bur, based on two open data sources: physical geography from CanVec, Natural Resources Canada and modern streets from Geobase, City of Montreal.

Perhaps Clark imposed these conditions on his descendants for sentimental reasons. Durham House was his daughter’s family home, and Stanley Bagg had probably courted Mary Ann on the Mile End Farm while he was running a tavern there with his father. Or maybe Clark simply believed that these provisions would give the best financial protection to his future descendants. SCB must have thought this was a good idea because his will also included a substitution of three generations.

Clark and SCB did not foresee, however, that the laws regarding inheritances would change. In fact, the provincial government changed the law regarding substitutions a few months after SCB wrote his will. This new law limited substitutions to two generations. Meanwhile, when SCB died in 1873, no one seems to have remembered that the substituted legacies Clark had created even existed. 

John Clark, was SCB’s grandfather. He was a butcher and meat inspector, originally from County Durham, England, and moved to Montreal with his wife and daughter around 1797. Bagg family collection.

Real estate sales practices also changed over the years. Clark had written a codicil specifying that any lot sales from the Mile End Lodge property, where he and his wife lived and which he left to her, were subject to a rente constituée. The buyer paid the vendor an amount once a year (usually 6% of the redemption value), but it was like a mortgage that could never be paid off. In the early 1800s this had been a common practice in Quebec, designed to provide funds to the seller’s family members for several generations.

SCB similarly stipulated that nothing on the Durham House property could be sold outright, but only by rente constituée. By the time he died, some of the properties located near the city outskirts were becoming attractive to speculators and to people wanting to build houses or businesses, but the inconvenience of a rente constituée was discouraging sales. It became clear that the executors had to resolve the issue.

They asked the provincial legislature to pass a special law. On February 23, 1875, the legislature assented to “An Act to authorize the Executors of the will of Stanley C. Bagg, Esq., late of the City of Montreal, to sell, exchange, alienate and convey certain Real Estate, charged with substitution in said will, and to invest the proceeds thereof.” (According to the Quebec Official Gazette, this was one of about 100 acts that received royal assent that day after having been passed in the legislative session to incorporate various companies and organizations, approve personal name changes, amend articles in the municipal and civil codes, etc.)

This act allowed the executors of the SCB estate, after obtaining authorization from a judge of the superior court, and in consultation with the curator to the substitution, to sell land outright, provided that the proceeds were reinvested in real estate or mortgages for the benefit of the estate. In other words, the rente constituée was no longer required, and sales previously made by the estate were considered valid.

No more changes were made until 1889, when family members realized that part of SCB’s property actually belonged to his children, and not to his estate, and a family dispute erupted. The story of how they resolved this issue and remained on good terms will be posted soon.

This article is also posted on the collaborative family history blog Genealogy Ensemble,

Notes and Sources:

I could not have written this article without the help of urban historian Justin Bur. Justin has done a great deal of historical research on the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal (around Saint-Laurent Blvd. and Mount Royal Ave.) and is a longtime member of the Mile End Memories/Memoire du Mile-End community history group ( He is one of the authors of Dictionnaire historique du Plateau Mont-Royal (Montreal, Éditions Écosociété, 2017), along with Yves Desjardins, Jean-Claude Robert, Bernard Vallée and Joshua Wolfe. His most recent article about the Bagg family is La famille Bagg et le Mile End, published in Bulletin de la Société d’histoire du Plateau-Mont-Royal, Vol. 18, no. 3, Automne 2023.

Documents referenced:

Mile End Tavern lease, Jonathan Abraham Gray, n.p. no 2874, 17 October 1810

Marriage contract between Stanley Bagg and Mary Ann Clark, N.B. Doucet, n.p. no 6489, 5 August 1819/ reg. Montreal (Ouest) 66032

John Clark will, Henry Griffin, n.p. no 5989, 29 August 1825

Stanley Clark Bagg will, J.A. Labadie, n.p. no 15635, 7 July 1866

Stanley Clark Bagg inventory, J.A. Labadie, n.p. no 16733, 7 June 1875

Quebec legislation: 38 Vict. cap. XCIV, assented to 23 February 1875

See also:

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

Janice Hamilton, “John Clark, 19th Century Real Estate Visionary,” Writing Up the Ancestors,   May 22, 2019,

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.