Category: John Clark

Mary Mitcheson Clark

Mary Mitcheson Clark (1776-1856)

A portrait of my four-times great-grandmother Mary Mitcheson shows a plain but pleasant looking woman with dark eyes, rosy cheeks and a frilly cap. The wife of Montreal butcher and landowner John Clark, she held a book in her hand and had rings on her fingers that suggest a certain level of refinement. 

Mary was born at Stowe House, in the tiny village of Cornsay, County Durham, in northeast England, to Joseph Mitchinson (an earlier spelling of the family name) and his wife, Margaret Phillipson. She was baptized in 1776 at Whickham parish church, her mother’s parish. Mary had five younger siblings: Robert (born in 1779), Margaret (1781), William (1783), Elizabeth (1785) and Jane (1793).

On June 10, 1794, Mary Mitchinson, age 21 (or so she said,) of Lanchester, married John Clark at St Giles parish church, on the outskirts of the city of Durham. The following year, she gave birth to a daughter. Mary Ann Clark was baptized in Lanchester, the rural parish in which Mary’s father had grown up. 

At some point over the next few years, Mary, John and their little girl left England. The first evidence I have found of their presence in Montreal is a deed showing they had purchased a property on de La Gauchetière Street in 1799. A few years later, Mary gave birth to a son, John F. Clark. He died in June 1806, aged eight months. 

Mary may have enjoyed a level of financial independence unusual for a woman at that time. When she turned 21, she inherited 50 pounds from her grandfather. When her father died in 1821, he left her 100 pounds, specifying in his will that it was for her use alone; usually a woman’s property automatically became her husband’s. And when they sold the de La Gauchetière property in 1810, both John Clark and Mary Mitcheson signed the deed of sale, so perhaps they were co-owners of the property. 

In 1819, daughter Mary Ann married Stanley Bagg, an American-born merchant who had rented an inn known as the Mile End Tavern from John Clark. The following year, the Clarks’ only grandchild, Stanley Clark Bagg, was born. By this time, the young Bagg family was living at Durham House, on St. Lawrence Street, while the Clark couple lived up the road at Mile End Lodge. 

John Clark died in 1827, at age 60. He left Mile End Lodge and another property, the Clark Cottage Farm, which was further north on St. Lawrence Street, to Mary. He willed his other properties to his daughter and to his young grandson. A clause in his will ensured that Mary Ann would give her mother 1,000 bundles of good timothy hay every year. Perhaps Mary continued to raise some cattle and needed the hay to feed them over the winter.

Mile End Lodge

But Mary must have found Mile End Lodge too big, so about a year after John’s death, she moved to a smaller house known as Clark Cottage or Mitcheson Cottage. It can still be identified today at the northwest corner of Bagg Street and Clark Street in Montreal’s Plateau district.

As a widow for almost 30 years, Mary seems to have been active in running her properties. In 1844, Stanley Clark Bagg, by then a notary, looked after a lease for his grandmother and, on at least one occasion, she placed a rental notice in the local newspaper for Mile End Lodge. 

Mary Ann died in 1835, Stanley in 1853. Mary outlived them both, dying on January 15, 1856, age 80. She is buried with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, grandson and other family members in the Bagg family mausoleum at Mount Royal Cemetery. 

Edited May 29, 2014 to correct Mary’s place of residence at the time of her marriage.

Photo credits: Mary Mitcheson Clark, private collection                                                       
Mile End Lodge, painting by John Hugh Ross, copyright Stewart Museum.

Edited June 3, 2014 to correct date of marriage.

Research remarks: Regular readers of this blog may find the name Mitcheson rings a bell. That is because Mary’s brother Robert immigrated to Philadelphia around 1817. His daughter Catharine Mitcheson married her first cousin once removed, Stanley Clark Bagg, in 1844. 

I did a lot of research on the Mitcheson family when I first started doing genealogy five years ago. I found most of the baptism and marriage records on, but I had help getting started: a cousin had done some research in the 1970s, and another descendant contacted the vicar of Lanchester parish in 1914. The vicar sent him records for the Mitcheson family going back to the early 1700s, but Mary’s name was not included since she was baptized at Whickham.

There is a note in the Bagg family Bible indicating that Mary was born at Stowe House. I had no idea where that was, but when I hired a local retired genealogist to take us to Lanchester, Whickham and some other parish churches around Durham a few years ago, he took us to Cornsay. We were not sure which house it was, but now I see online that Stow House has been renovated and made into vacation rental cottages. 

The following newspaper clipping can be found in the Bagg Fonds at the McCord Museum in Montreal: “Mile End Lodge: two-storey stone house near St. Lawrence Toll Gate, with stable, garden, use of well; within half an hour’s walk of post office; rent moderate. Apply to Mrs. Clark, Mitche­son Cottage, near the premises, or to S.C. Bagg, Fairmount Villa. Feb. 3, 1853.” 

Notarial records of deeds, wills, leases and so on can be found at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, The deed of sale I mentioned in the article was #2876 in the records of notary J.A. Gray, dated 18 October, 1810.

Most Durham wills are kept at the archives of the University of Durham, but I ordered Joseph Mitcheson’s will online from the National Archives in London.

Mary Ann (Clark) Bagg

We are not supposed to make value judgments about our ancestors, but it is hard not to like some more than others. One of my favourites is my three-times great-grandmother Mary Ann Clark Bagg. What swayed me is the epitaph on her grave in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery, which says, “To the poor a kind and sympathizing friend.”

Her portrait is also appealing. Probably painted in honour of her wedding, it shows a slim young woman in a low-cut, filmy white dress. Fashionable curls frame her face, her eyes are deep brown and there’s a hint of a smile on her lips.   Mary Ann, the daughter of John Clark and Mary Mitcheson, was baptized in July 1795 at the parish church in Lanchester, County Durham, England. A few years later, the family left England and settled in Montreal. When Mary Ann was 10, a baby brother arrived, but he died six months later, so she grew up as an only child.

Her father, a butcher and meat inspector, purchased a farm on Saint Lawrence Street, at that time the only road leading north from the city gates. Later, he bought several other farms nearby. This is now a densely populated area known as the Plateau, but when Mary Ann was a child, there were few neighbours. I sometimes wonder whether she was lonely. Did she have to do chores for the cows and pigs, or did she have a governess to supervise her lessons and needlework?

Although he was to live another 17 years, Clark wrote his will in 1810. In it, he mentioned that Mary Ann was then in England. Perhaps she was visiting relatives in Durham, or staying with an uncle’s family in London.  

In 1819, Mary Ann married merchant Stanley Bagg. Seven years her senior, Stanley had been a tenant of John Clark (he and his father leased the Mile End Tavern from him for eight years) and Stanley and John were business partners, supplying beef to the British army in Montreal.

Mary Ann Clark (1795-1834); private collection

The marriage contract between Mary Ann and Stanley also reads like a business contract between her father and her husband-to-be. Clark wanted to ensure that his daughter could own outright the properties she would eventually inherit from him, so the contract made Mary Ann and Stanley separate as to property. Also in the marriage contract, Clark gave Mary Ann and Stanley a cosy home of their own. Named Durham House, it was just down the road from the Clarks’ home, Mile End Lodge. Mary Ann gave birth to her only child, Stanley Clark Bagg, at Durham House the following year. 

In November 1834, Mary Ann must have realized she was very ill. A notary prepared her will in which she left her property to her son, with her husband as executor until Stanley Clark Bagg reached 21. She died on 10 February, 1835, aged 39 years, leaving behind her husband, her teenage son and her mother. Although he lived another 18 years, Stanley did not remarry.

Research Remarks: The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) is an invaluable source of documents concerning ancestors in Quebec. All the wills, marriage contracts, land purchases and business contracts mentioned in this story were found in the notarial documents there.

The BAnQ also has a collection of documents called tutelles et curatelles, or guardianships and curatorships. A tutelle is a court document in which a judge appoints a tutor and a sub-tutor to be responsible for the well-being of a minor, or someone under the age of 21.  A tutor would be required if the parents are living elsewhere, for example, or if a parent dies. The tutor’s permission is necessary if the minor wishes to marry, and the tutor is also responsible for the minor’s property and money.

In this case, after Mary Ann died, Stanley and a group of male relatives and close friends met with a judge. The judge appointed Stanley as Stanley Clark’s tutor, and the boy’s uncle, Gabriel Roy, as sub-tutor. The tutelles et curatelles are interesting because they can reveal family relationships, the names and occupations of family friends and the names of notaries. That same notary may also have done an inventory of the deceased’s estate, or looked after other family business.

If one of your Quebec ancestors died leaving minor children, you should search the index to tutelles et curatelles at the BAnQ. The archivist on duty can help you find the index and the actual court documents. You will need to have with you the family name and the date of death of the parent. If your ancestors were in the Quebec Judicial District (around Quebec City) the guardianship index and documents 1639-1900 are online at Other guardianship documents will come online eventually.