I’m writer and genealogist Janice Hamilton. I have been researching and writing about my ancestors on this blog since 2013. Most of them came from Scotland, England or Ireland in the early 1800s, establishing new roots in Canada and the United States. Hamilton, Forrester, Rixon, Glendinning, Stobo, Bagg, Smithers, Shearman, Mulholland and Mitcheson are some of the families I have researched. To search this blog for a name, place or topic, use the search box on the top right, the categories listed on the left or bottom, or scroll to the bottom to check the dated Archives.
When Montreal landowner Stanley Clark Bagg (1820-1873) wrote his will in 1866, he tried to ensure that his wife, son and four daughters would be financially secure after his death. In this concern he was similar to many 19th-century Montreal husbands and fathers, 1although he was in a better financial situation than most to make sure that this happened. He probably would have been surprised, however, to discover how his widow and daughters became actively involved in the family business.
Stanley Clark Bagg (henceforth referred to as SCB)2inherited extensive properties on the Island of Montreal from his grandfather John Clark.3 During his lifetime, he made money by leasing and selling that land. He planned his will so that these properties would generate income for three generations of his family. The will stipulated that, when lots from his Estate were sold, the new owner would have to pay a rental fee (called a rente constituée in French) on an ongoing basis. 4 These sums would benefit his widow, children and grandchildren.
However, society was changing in Montreal and rente constituée was an old-fashioned idea. Property laws in the province of Quebec were modernizing, especially after 1840 when the seigneurial system of land ownership that dated back to colonial New France disappeared on the Island of Montreal.
SCB’s family quickly realized that the rente constituée made land from the Bagg Estate less desirable than property that was not encumbered by such costs. In 1875, the provincial government passed legislation that allowed his descendants to sell the land freehold, without any obligations.5
This proved to be a wise move. At the time of his death in 1873, land belonging to the Bagg Estate was too far north of the actual city of Montreal to be highly desirable. It was located between the eastern slope of Mount Royal and the west side of Saint Lawrence Street (today’s Saint-Laurent Boulevard) north of Sherbrooke Street. By the early 1890s, the city’s suburbs were expanding and land belonging to the Estate of the late Stanley Clark Bagg began to be subdivided into residential lots.6
When his father died, son Robert Stanley Bagg (1848-1912) was just 25 years old and a newly graduated lawyer. He was suddenly thrust into the role of administrator of the Bagg Estate: effectively head of the family real estate company. In this role he seems to have relied to a great extent on the advice of his widowed mother, Catharine Mitcheson Bagg (1822-1914). Her brother McGregor J. Mitcheson, a Philadelphia lawyer, was an executor of SCB’s will and probably also provided advice.
One complication was that all five siblings were co-owners of the Durham House property where SCB had grown up. In 1891 they partitioned that property and each of the siblings became sole owner of a portion of the lots that had not already been sold off.7 Each sibling was then free to sell these lots.8
Each of SCB’s daughters signed a marriage contract when she married, making her property separate from her husband’s, however, a woman was required to have her husband’s consent when she signed a business document. For example, in 1897, a notarized lease began, “Dame Helen F.M. Bagg, wife separate as to property of Albert E. Lewis, real estate agent, and by her said husband party hereto present duly authorized …. “ 9
All four of the daughters developed an interest in the family real estate business that their brother was managing. They sometimes discussed which lots to sell, when and for how much. For example, in 1898, Katharine (Bagg) Mills wrote her brother: “Dear Stanley, I have seen my sisters and I think we all agreed that it would be well to sell the Villeneuve property if possible. The price to be asked, twenty five thousand dollars.”10
SCB’s widow was also still involved in decisions about the Bagg Estate some 27 years after his death. In 1900, Robert Stanley Bagg decided to retire from administering the estate. In response, Catharine Mitcheson Bagg wrote her son: “Dear Stanley, Acting upon your suggestion, I requested a family council and the Mills kindly invited all concerned to a little dinner…. We all came to conclusion that if McIntosh would accept the office of administration Bagg Estate, he would be the best man.”11 She went on to say that she planned to invite Mr. McIntosh to her house for a personal interview.
But the family member who demonstrated the most longstanding interest in the family’s real estate business was daughter Amelia Bagg (1852-1943), wife of 1) Joseph Mulholland and 2) Rev. John George Norton. She started a ledger in 1891 to keep track of lots that had originally belonged to John Clark’s Estate, including Mile End Farm and the Durham House property, as well as other parts of her late father’s estate.12 She quietly recorded property sales, prices and interest payments for 36 years.
Bettina Bradbury. Wife to Widow. Lives, Laws and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011, p. 169.
I refer to Stanley Clark Bagg as SCB in order not to confuse him with his father, Stanley Bagg (1788-1853), or his son, Robert Stanley Bagg (1848-1912).
Henry Griffin, “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” 29 August, 1825, # 5989, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
Joseph-Augustin Labadie, “Last Will and Testament of Stanley Clark Bagg, Esquire,” 7 July 1866, #156785. Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
“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 with substitution in said will, and to invest the proceeds thereof.” Statuts de la province du Québec, 38 Victoria 1875, p. 474-477.
Yves Desjardins, Histoire du Mile End. Quebec: Septentrion, 2017.
John Fair, “Deed of Partition between Robert Stanley Clark Bagg and Dame Katharine S. Bagg, wife of Reverend William L. Mills, et al”, 10 Sept. 1891, #3100, McCord Museum, Bagg Family Fonds, B070/
Katharine Sophia Bagg, Amelia Josephine Bagg, Mary Heloise Bagg and Helen Frances Bagg all engaged in the real estate business in their own names, primarily by leasing houses and selling lots. A search of their names in the “Quebec, Canada Notarial Records, 1637-1935” collection on www.ancestry.ca makes this clear. A search for their maiden names will bring up several dozen hits for each of them, including marriage contracts, sales, leases, loans and other records. In a few cases, the actual document has been digitized, but in most cases you can only view the notary’s index. See also Gail Dever, “How to order a notary record from the Quebec Archives after finding it in an index on Ancestry,” Genealogy a la Carte, Sept. 1, 2017, https://genealogyalacarte.ca/?p=20640. In a previous post, Gail explained how to find documents concerning your ancestors in Ancestry’s Quebec notaries collection. See http://genealogyalacarte.ca/?p=16551. To learn more about searching Quebec notarial records, see https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Quebec_Notarial_Records
O’Hara Baynes, Lease, 21 Jan 1897, #9938, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
Katharine (Bagg) Mills, letter to Robert Stanley Bagg, February 25, 1898, McCord Museum, Bagg Family Fonds, B070/
Catharine Mitcheson Bagg, letter to Robert Stanley Bagg, Oct. 6, 1900, McCord Museum, Bagg Family Fonds, P070/
Amelia J. (Bagg) Mulholland. Ledger, 1891-1927. McCord Museum, Bagg Family Fonds, P070/B07.
My three-times great-grandfather Stanley Bagg’s claim to minor historical fame is that he was the English party candidate in the 1832 by-election in Montreal that ended in the deaths of three innocent bystanders who were shot by the British army. Because that incident was one of the factors that led to the outbreak of a violent rebellion in Lower Canada five years later, Stanley’s name has appeared in numerous books about Quebec history.
Stanley’s foray into politics only lasted about a month. For most of his life, he worked as a merchant and, as far as I can tell, he was just a hard-working individual who did not seek the spotlight. As a result, none of the historians who have mentioned his name have known much about him, or worse, what they have published is incorrect. Now, it is encouraging to see that recent research into his life and times is becoming publicly available. This fall, Stanley’s portrait, along with a brief accurate biography, appeared in Quebec’s new grade 10 history textbook.
There are several articles on this blog that detail various aspects of Stanley’s life (see the links below). Here, for the record, is an overview of his life:
The most common error about Stanley Bagg is that his family immigrated to Canada from England in the late 18th century. In fact, the Bagg family had lived in western Massachusetts since the mid-1600s.1 Stanley was born on June 27, 17882 in Pittsfield, MA, where his father, Phineas Bagg (c. 1750-1823) was a farmer. His mother, Pamela Stanley (1760 – c. 1793), died, leaving Phineas with four young children: Polly (1785-1856), Stanley (1788-1853), Abner (c. 1790-1852) and Sophia (c. 1791-1860).
Phineas ran into serious financial difficulties and lost his farm to pay off his debts. The family left for Canada around 1795 and settled in LaPrairie, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, and Phineas became an innkeeper. Lucie Bagg (1798-1874), Stanley’s half-sister, was born in LaPrairie.
When Stanley was a young man in 1810, he and his father rented a house from butcher John Clark (1767-1827) on St. Lawrence Street about a mile north of Sherbrooke Street, and opened a tavern. The Mile End Tavern was located at the point where the only two roads in the area crossed, and Stanley probably met many people there.
Exciting business opportunities came his way. For starters, he and business partner Oliver Wait got a lucrative contract to transport six cannons from Montreal to Kingston during the War of 1812. The subcontractors to whom they gave the job delivered the cannons safely. In 1819, the pair landed a contract to level Montreal’s Citadel Hill, where the army stored its arms and ammunition. Along with two more partners, Andrew White and Thomas Phillips, they then won contracts to provide building materials for two new forts outside the city walls, one on Île Ste. Hélène, the other on the Richelieu River, near the American border.
Stanley became a family man. He married John Clark’s daughter, Mary Ann (1795-1835), on Aug. 7, 1819.3 As a wedding present, Clark gave the couple a house on St. Lawrence Street, just north of Sherbrooke Street, in an area known as Côte à Baron (sometimes spelled Côteau Barron). It was named Durham House, after the Clark family’s native Durham, England. The couple’s only child, Stanley Clark Bagg, was born there on Dec. 23, 1820.4
In 1821, Bagg, Wait, White and Phillips won a huge contract to construct the Lachine Canal. The project, designed to allow boats to bypass rapids in the St. Lawrence River, involved excavating the 14-kilometer canal and building six stone locks and several bridges. It took four years to complete and employed thousands of mostly Irish immigrant labourers. Stanley was the project’s treasurer.
After the Lachine Canal was finished, Stanley became what we would consider a small businessman. In contemporary documents he was usually called a “trader.” He was always on the lookout for promising deals, however, the economic climate in Lower Canada was difficult as it depended on decisions made in England. Cash was always in short supply and the colony’s banking system was rudimentary, but the timber trade was thriving. Collaborating with various partners and sub-contractors, Stanley invested in steamboats, traded dry goods and harvested timber.5
He collaborated with his brother Abner to import flour from Upper Canada and he sold beef to the army in partnership with butcher John Clark. He and his friend Matthew Campbell went into business together as general merchants. But it was always a scramble, and in many of the letters he wrote in the mid-1830s, he complained to customers who were late paying their bills.
Throughout the 1820s and 1830s, he was especially active as a timber merchant. He contracted to buy timber from logging shanties in several locations, but especially in the Chateauguay River valley, southwest of Montreal. He sold the large squared pine timbers for shipment to England, where they were used in shipbuilding or for construction projects closer to home, and he sold the small logs to the army and to local residents for firewood. In a letter to a client dated April 27, 1835, he wrote, “I have always been apprehensive of danger on small streams in my timber operations, and with much pleasure have to inform you that my timber made on the River Chateauguay got safely down to the basin some time ago and I expect a part of it in here tomorrow, which I will forward on to Quebec as soon as the state of the navigation will allow.” 6
Stanley never owned a great deal of land at any one time, but he tried to profit by buying and selling real estate, or by renting out properties to tenants. These properties were all over the city and surrounding region. One commercial building that people still associate with his name was located near the market square in Montreal’s Old Port. Today, its foundations can be seen in the underground level of the Pointe-à-Callière Montreal Archaeology and History Museum. Another building that Montreal historians have associated with Stanley and Abner Bagg is now the Outremont City Hall. They owned it from 1814 to 1829, when it was an ordinary house.7
As executor of his father-in-law’s estate, Stanley collected the rental income from several large farms on the west side of St. Lawrence Street, from Sherbrooke Street to the Rivière des Prairies. John Clark had left these properties to his daughter and to his seven-year-old grandson. When Mary Ann died in 1835, Stanley became executor of her estate also, overseeing these investments and buying and selling adjacent lots until Stanley Clark Bagg reached 21 years of age.
Stanley was probably very familiar with farming methods. Mile End, where the tavern had been, was a working farm, and Durham House had an orchard, beehives, a dovecot and several pigs, cows and horses. Stanley especially enjoyed riding horses and owned many throughout his life. He even opened a race track near the Mile End Tavern. Meanwhile, although Stanley was a moderately successful businessman, his financial situation became complicated after Abner’s hat manufacturing business went bankrupt in 1827. Stanley tried to help his brother pay back some of his debts and, through various legal manoeuvers, hold on to a small income stream from property rentals. Abner never fully recovered from this crisis and still owned money to Stanley and to other creditors when both brothers died in the early 1850s.
In 1832, as a well-liked member of the English-speaking business community, Stanley ran in a by-election for a seat in Lower Canada’s Legislative Assembly. His opponent was Irish physician Daniel Tracey. The voting continued for several weeks and was marred by violence throughout. After the British troops opened fire on a crowd near the polling station, killing three innocent bystanders, Stanley withdrew his name from the ballot. According to a family story, he was devastated by these events. He never ran for elected office again, although he did serve as an appointed councillor on the 1840-1842 Montreal City Council. He was active in the community in other ways. In 1841, he was listed as a founding shareholder in the City Bank and, four years later, he was one of 400 people named Justice of the Peace for the District of Montreal.8
During the Rebellions of 1837-38, Stanley did what he no doubt saw as his duty to help protect Lower Canada. He was a major in the 1st Battalion Loyal Volunteers during that conflict, and Durham House served as a headquarters for militia officers. When he retired from the militia in 1852, he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
In 1842, Stanley took what must have been the trip of a lifetime: he and his son went to England. Stanley Clark had turned 21 and had completed his apprenticeship as a notary. Many years later, Stanley Clark recalled visiting Durham Cathedral on that trip when he wrote, “The first time I had the privilege of attending divine service in Durham Abbey, I was enraptured with the sweet and masterly chanting, unsurpassed in the empire. My father and I obtained seats in the choir.” 9
After they returned from abroad, Stanley began to turn over to Stanley Clark the property and income the young man had inherited from his grandfather and mother. At this point, Stanley admitted that, as executor, he had not kept track of the income and expenses of the estates, and that he had used 3,000 pounds “for his own profit and advantage”.10 He mortgaged several of his own properties to repay his son.
He also admitted that managing Durham House was a big responsibility, and he had not paid his servants’ wages for some time. He made an agreement with Stanley Clark to give him the house and sell him the furniture and other contents. In return, Stanley Clark promised to provide his father with clothing, food and care and to let him live at Durham House for the rest of his life.
Stanley Clark Bagg married Catherine Mitcheson in Philadelphia on Sept. 4, 1844. I do not know whether Stanley attended the wedding. The young couple built a home of their own, Fairmount Villa, not far from Durham House, so Stanley probably had the opportunity to see his young grandchildren.
When Stanley signed his will on May 28, 1851, he had already sold his real estate or given it to Stanley Clark. He owned almost nothing. Most of the provisions of the will were designed to forgive Abner’s long-standing debts to Stanley, and to protect Stanley Clark from Abner’s remaining creditors. In his will, Stanley admitted that some of the transactions in which he had been engaged were of an “uncertain nature.”11
In the summer of 1852, father and son had a notary make out one final agreement between them.12 It appears that Stanley was now so ill he needed a medical attendant, but Stanley Clark may have been surprised by the bills. In this agreement, Stanley was able to spend up to 25 pounds a year to hire someone to look after him.
Stanley died on Oct. 31, 1853.13 His remains were buried in the Protestant cemetery in Montreal, but when that cemetery was closed, they were moved to the Bagg family crypt at Mount Royal Cemetery. As he requested in his will, he was buried with his wife and his father.
In the last two years of his life, Stanley claimed to be sound of mind but sick in body. Indeed, he seemed but a shadow of the ambitious young merchant he had once been. He was probably in pain, perhaps depressed and lonely. Hopefully he would have been consoled to know that his accomplishments, his trials, his failures and his honesty are remembered almost 200 years later.
John Bagg, Stanley’s great-great-grandfather, married Hannah Burt in Springfield, MA in 1657. Henry M. Burt, The First Century of the History of Springfield. The Official Records from 1636 to 1736, with an Historical Review and Biographical Mention of the Founders. Volume II. Springfield, Mass: printed and published by Henry M. Burt, 1899. p. 524.
Stanley and his brother Abner were both baptized as adults in Christ Church (Anglican) Montreal and his date of birth was recorded at this time. “Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968” [database on-line]. Ancestry.com, (www.ancestry.ca, accessed 2 Oct. 2016), entry for Stanley Bagg, 2 April, 1831; citing Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.
“Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968” [database on-line]. Ancestry.com, (www.ancestry.ca, accessed 30 Sept. 2016), entry for Stanley Bagg, 7 Aug. 1819; citing Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.
“Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968” [database on-line]. Ancestry.com, (www.ancestry.ca, accessed 30 Sept. 2016), entry for Stanley Clark Bagg, 2 July 1822; citing Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.
A variety of sources provide background on Stanley Bagg’s business activities. Notarial records of business agreements, especially wood contracts and leases, are the most important and can be found on microfilm and online at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) in Montreal. Among the notaries Stanley used frequently were H. Griffin (1812-1847), Joseph Desautels (1810-1821), N-B Doucet (1804-1855), A-T Kimber (1825-1832), T. Bedouin (1812-1844), J-H Jobin (1833-1881), W.N. Crawford (1826-1850), G.D. Arnoldi (1827-1836) and John H. Isaacson. The Canada Gazette and newspaper articles also provide records of his activities. The Bagg Family Fonds at the McCord Museum in Montreal holds a number of records, especially pertaining to the construction of the Lachine Canal (P070/A3), as well as copies of Stanley’s business letters (P070/B2.3) and other business documents (P070/A5.2).
Stanley Bagg, letterbook, Bagg Family Fonds, P070/B2.3. McCord Museum
N.B. Doucet (CN601,S134), no. 16251, 8 June 1829, BAnQ