Category: notary

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 and the Custom of Paris

In 1841, many English-speaking citizens of Quebec could not read the civil laws that governed their everyday activities. Although Quebec had been a British colony for almost 80 years, the collection of civil laws called the Coutume de Paris (Custom of Paris) had not been translated from French into English.1

Stanley Clark Bagg, 1863

So that year, Stanley Clark Bagg (1820-1873) made his own translation of excerpts of the Coutume de Paris, completing the project shortly before he finished his four-and-a-half-year apprenticeship as a notary. Perhaps it was an assignment given to him by the notary who was supervising him, or perhaps he did the translation to help himself understand these laws.

Today this manuscript — the earliest recorded translation of the Coutume de Paris into English — is housed in the library of York University’s Osgood Hall Law School in Toronto, and it can be found online at

Stanley Clark Bagg, or SCB, who was my great-great-grandfather, had inherited a large amount of land on the Island of Montreal. When he turned 21 in December, 1841, he expected to take over the management of that inheritance. Perhaps he studied to become a notary to prepare for that day. He would apply his understanding of the Custom of Paris whenever he rented or sold a property. SCB served a four-year apprenticeship with notary W.S. Hunter and, in August 1841, his father indentured him for a final eight months to N.B. Doucet, a well-known Montreal notary.2

Part of the first page of SCB’s translation.

Notaries played an important role in Quebec. Besides property deeds, they drew up a variety of agreements including marriage contracts and protests when debts were not paid. In this way, they often served as mediators. They also prepared wills and made inventories of estates following death.

SCB’s translation consists of about 200 pages, neatly handwritten in a small, hardcover notebook.3  He did not include the entire body of civil laws, but focused on definitions of French legal terms in English, and English translations of laws governing rights of property ownership, marriage and inheritance. On the final page he noted, “The laws of every nation are more or less mixed with the laws of nations that have passed away, but none more than the laws of Canada, which have for their basis the jurisprudence of France and England.”

As for SCB’s own career as a notary, it was brief. His appointment was effective in June, 1842,4  but he travelled to England that summer. The first notarial act recorded in his index was a rental agreement, dated Nov. 1, 1842.

       Appointment in The Canada Gazette 

There were many notaries in Montreal and it took a while for him to become known. In 1843 and 1844, he was quite busy with a variety of clients, writing wills and leases and protesting unpaid debts. For example, he prepared a lease for his grandmother, dated 17 Jan. 1844. His index described a “lease of a two-story stone house on the continuation of St. Lawrence Street, by Mrs. Mary Clark to P.R. Turner.”5

But SCB was busy managing his own properties by the mid-1840s, and perhaps he did not find being a notary very interesting. His index shows he took several long breaks in 1846 and 1847 and only prepared two or three acts a year in the 1850s. He closed the practice completely in 1856.

Three years later, he was named a Justice of the Peace in Montreal. Numerous Justices of the Peace had been named, so they shared the workload. It must have been SCB’s turn in 1865 because records show he heard almost 40 cases that year.6

Photo Credits: Photo of Stanley Clark Bagg, 1863, by William Notman, copyright McCord Museum

Notes and Sources:

  1. King Louis XIV made the Coutume de Paris the civil law of New France in 1664. It did not include criminal law or cover commercial law. Some of its provisions dated from feudal times and were based on concepts such as moveable property (objects that can be moved) and immovable property (such as land and buildings), as well as community of property between married couples, provisions to protect widows and inheritances for daughters.
    After the British Conquest of New France, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 introduced British Common Law to the colony, however, French Canadians resisted this new way of doing things. In 1774, the government passed the Quebec Act, bringing back the property and family laws of the Coutume de Paris, while British Common Law applied to criminal matters.
    Some reforms were made in 1840, but legislators realized that the laws had to be updated to meet the needs of a changing society. The old seigneurial system of land ownership was being phased out, and new laws were needed to make it easier for commerce, investment and industrialization to expand. The new Civil Code of Lower Canada, which came into force in 1866, clearly had some roots in the Custom of Paris, making Quebec’s legal traditions unique in Canada. And to this day, Quebecers still rely on notaries to prepare their wills, property deeds and marriage contracts.
  2. Joseph-Hilarion Jobin, “Indenture of Stanley C. Bagg to N.B. Doucet,” notarial act #2977 23 Aug 1841, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
  3. Bagg, Stanley Clark, “A Collection of Extracts from the Coutume de Paris: Translated from the French,” 1841.
  4. Library and Archives Canada;, Appointment, Montreal, 8 June 1842, The Canada Gazette, no. 37, Published by Authority, Kingston, June 11, 1842, p. 326; entry for Stanley Clark Bagg; Jan. 7, 2020).
  5. Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, “Archives des notaires du Québec, Montréal District judiciaire de Montréal; Stanley Clark Bagg, 1842-1856, CN601,S11” (accessed Dec. 31, 2019)
  6. Library and Archives Canada; “Cases Before Justices of the Peace,” The Canada Gazette, vol. XXIV, no.  8, Published by Authority, Quebec: Feb. 25, 1865, p. 781, entry for Stanley Clark Bagg; (accessed Jan. 11, 2020).

To Learn More:

Wikipedia, “Custom of Paris in New France,”

Wikipedia, “Civil Code of Lower Canada,”

Marianopolis College: “The Civil Code of Quebec” in Quebec History: The Quebec History Encyclopedia,

Bettina Bradbury. Wife to Widow. Lives, Laws and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.

Brian Young, “The Legal Landscape,” The Politics of Codification: The Lower Canadian Civil Code of 1866, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994,

Notarial Acts – Key to Family History Research in Quebec

Most people in Quebec hired a notary at some time to prepare a lease, a will, a power of attorney, a deed, or some other document. The indexes to many notaries’ records, from the first days of New France up to 1937, can be found online on the website of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. See and have digitized the acts of some notaries. Genealogist Jacques Gagné has posted numerous research guides to the notaries who served various communities in Quebec on the blog