Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My great-great aunts, Montreal real estate developers

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, 1 although 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)2 inherited 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.

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

Miss Amelia Bagg, 1880
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.

Photo credit:
Miss A. J. Bagg, Montreal, QC, 1880, Notman & Sandham, 1880, II-58525.1, McCord Museum
1 Bettina Bradbury. Wife to Widow. Lives, Laws and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011, p. 169. 

2. 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).

3. Henry Griffin, “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” 29 August, 1825, # 5989, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. 

4. Joseph-Augustin Labadie, “Last Will and Testament of Stanley Clark Bagg, Esquire,” 7 July 1866, #156785. Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

5. “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. 
6. Yves Desjardins, Histoire du Mile End. Quebec: Septentrion, 2017. 

7. 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/

8. 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 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, . In a previous post, Gail explained how to find documents concerning your ancestors in Ancestry’s Quebec notaries collection. See
To learn more about searching Quebec notarial records, see

9. O’Hara Baynes, Lease, 21 Jan 1897, #9938, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. 

10. Katharine (Bagg) Mills, letter to Robert Stanley Bagg, February 25, 1898, McCord Museum, Bagg Family Fonds, B070/

11. Catharine Mitcheson Bagg, letter to Robert Stanley Bagg, Oct. 6, 1900, McCord Museum, Bagg Family Fonds, P070/

12. Amelia J. (Bagg) Mulholland. Ledger, 1891-1927. McCord Museum, Bagg Family Fonds, P070/B07.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Stanley Clark Bagg's Four Forgotten Daughters

According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, my great-great-grandfather Stanley Clark Bagg had one son, Robert Stanley.1 That is a true statement, but I suspect his four daughters would take issue with their omission from the article.

In fact, Stanley Clark Bagg and his wife Catharine Mitcheson had one son and five daughters, although their first-born died at age two. Their children were: Mary Ann Frances (1845-1847), Robert Stanley (1848-1912), Katherine Sophia (1850-1938), Amelia Josephine (1852-1943), Mary Heloise (1854-1938) and Helen Frances (1861-1935.) All four of the girls appear to have been independent, intelligent and strong-willed.

Stanley Clark Bagg (1820-1873) inherited a vast expanse of property in Montreal from his maternal grandfather and he seems to have supported the family primarily on rental income. The land consisted of several adjoined farms on the east side of Mount Royal, north of the city limits. The family lived in a big house called Fairmount Villa near what is today the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Saint-Urbain.

Stanley had worked as a notary for about 10 years, then devoted himself to managing his properties. He also had time to follow his many intellectual interests, including numismatics (the study of coins) and archaeology, and to write about them. He became well known in Montreal, not only because of his extensive landholdings, but also as an author and a philanthropist. 

Amelia, Katharine and Mary Bagg, 1865
Stanley and Catharine placed great importance on the children’s education, and the whole family took a grand tour of Europe in 1868-69, visiting museums, cathedrals and ancient sites in Pompeii, Paris and other locations. This interest in travel, history and the arts must have rubbed off on the girls because Katharine and Helen were both writers and Amelia was an amateur artist.

Stanley’s sudden death from typhoid at age 53 came as a shock to all, and a colleague at the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal wrote an obituary that was published in the society’s journal. Other local historians also wrote about Stanley Clark Bagg’s life and family history, but these accounts contained several inaccuracies and completely omitted mention of his daughters. 

As part of my effort to correct the historical record, here is a brief outline of the lives of the forgotten Bagg girls:  

In 1886, Katharine married Rev. William Lennox Mills (1846-1917), an Anglican clergyman who served as Bishop of Ontario from 1901 to 1917. The couple lived in Kingston and had one son, Arthur Lennox Stanley Mills. Around the turn of the century, Katharine and her husband visited Europe and the Holy Land and she wrote a small book about their travels.3
Amelia married twice. In 1890, she married Joseph Mulholland (1840-1897), a real estate agent with the Bagg family business. Five years after Joseph died, she married John George Norton, a widower who was Anglican Archdeacon and Rector of Montreal. Amelia had no children of her own, but my mother remembered her fondly and she seems to have been the go-to member of the family in troubled times. 

Amelia was also involved in the family real estate business, selling and leasing properties, but her most important legacy was a ledger she kept from 1891 to 1927, in which she recorded land sales and other accounts related to the Estate. She is buried with her first husband in the Workman family plot in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery.

Mary Heloise married Montreal stock broker Robert Lindsay (1855-1931). They lived in downtown Montreal and had five children: Ada, Lionel, Marjorie, Stanley and Marguerite.5 Lionel, a gentle pediatrician, was the only member of the family I knew. Mary Heloise is buried in the Lindsay family plot in Mount Royal Cemetery. 

Helen Frances was considerably younger than her brother and sisters and was only twelve when her father died. Educated in Canada, England and Europe, she led an adventurous life.When her first husband, Edward Albert Lewis (1860-1908), an agent in the Bagg family real estate company, disappeared in 1898 owing large sums to his brother-in-law, Helen tracked him down in the Far East. The couple started over in Vancouver, where Albert became a successful real estate agent and Helen a pillar of society. After Albert died, Helen married Herbert Drummond (1864-1938) and the pair travelled the world.6
According to a 1930 article about Helen published in Women of Canada, she wrote magazine articles about her travels, but it was probably under a pseudonym and I have yet to find any of them. She had no children and is buried in Vancouver. 

Photo Credit:
Misses Bagg, Montreal, QC, 1865, William Notman (1826-1891), 1865, I-18254.1
© McCord Museum
 <a href="" title="More information about this image"><img src="/largeimages/I-18254.1.jpg" width="576" height="768" alt="Photograph | Misses Bagg, Montreal, QC, 1865 | I-18254.1" /></a>

1. Pierre Landry, “Bagg, Stanley Clark,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 29, 2017,
Janice Hamilton, “Don’t Believe Everything You Read,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Dec. 2, 2015,

2. These births, marriages and deaths can be searched in the Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968, available on These events are also recorded in the Bagg family bible, which is part of the Bagg Family Fonds at the McCord Museum in Montreal.

3. Mrs. W. Lennox Mills, Reminiscences of a Cruise in the Mediterranean and a Visit to the Holy Land and Egypt, 1910. 

4. Amelia Josephine Bagg Mulholland, Ledger, 1891-1927, McCord Museum, Bagg Family Fonds, P070/B07.

5. Lucy Anglin, “Great Granny Bagg,” Genealogy Ensemble, Feb. 10, 2016,
6. Janice Hamilton “Helen Frances Bagg: A Happy Exile,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 6, 2016,

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Five things we learned publishing our first book

“Someday I’m going to write a book!” How often have you said that, or heard a friend or relative make a similar statement? You probably didn’t hold your breath until it appeared. 

So it comes as a surprise to the nine members of Genealogy Ensemble, the family history writing group of which I am a member, that we are actually doing it. In November, we will launch Beads in a Necklace, a book of collected short stories based on our family research. 

These real-life stories include a young Scot who immigrated to Canada and became a famous gospel singer, memories of queuing up for food rations in post-war England, and a young girl who was kidnapped from her home in southern Maine by the Abenaki Indians in 1692 and spent the rest of her life in Quebec. I have included stories about the Bagg, Mulholland and Smith families.

Now that it’s about to be published, I thought it would be worthwhile to look back at some of the lessons we learned that might help potential authors.

Grow Organically

The genesis of Beads in a Necklace goes back to 2012 or so when we decided to write about our families and share our stories. Since then, we have met once a month to critique each other’s work, improve our story-telling skills and gain confidence. 

After a while, our stories were so good, we wanted to share them more widely. We began taking turns posting them on our blog, Genealogy Ensemble. The book authors among us kept talking about the possibility of publishing something, but the idea always seemed far away.

Last year, we got serious about the idea. With 2017 being the 375th anniversary of the City of Montreal, where we all live, and Canada’s 150th birthday, we decided it was time to publish a collection our stories: a 250-page book, with a proper binding and a beautiful cover, that we will be able to give to friends and relatives for Christmas. 

Start with Structure

We started discussing the project last September. The first step was to each choose our five favourite stories. Each article had to be about 500 words long and include endnotes citing the sources of our facts. Apart from that, there were no rules. 

After considerable debate, we agreed on the title Beads in a Necklace, and we came up with a logical way of organizing the stories into sections. 


We all pitched in to help at various stages of the process, depending on our areas of expertise. I did most of the editing, with help from Tracey. I had worked as a journalist, and Tracey and Dorothy are also professional writers. That helped a lot: we know how to tighten a longwinded sentence, spot a good first paragraph and structure a story so it flows smoothly. Several members of our group have natural writing talent that they never knew they had, but they are still learning the skills that come from writing on a daily basis. And sometimes writers have to let go of their egos and allow changes. Of course, everyone could say yes or no to editing suggestions, and we always managed to find compromise solutions.

Sandra, who has experience preparing annual reports in the corporate world, did most of the layout, with Claire’s assistance. Claire also knows her way around digital photography and she cleaned up the often scratched or faded photos we wanted to use. 

Ask for Help

We even got friends involved: one friend who is a proof reader is making sure there are no typos or missing punctuation marks, while another friend who is a graphic designer has agreed to do the cover.

There have been many details to consider. The people responsible for the layout had to decide on the size of the book and the fonts to use and get quotes from a local printer. Someone has to look after making a digital version available, and we have to crank up our marketing strategy. Last but not least, we had to find a place that is big enough but not too expensive for our celebratory book launch. We found a church hall that is perfect!

Persevere through glitches

Most of the glitches we have encountered have been computer-related. For example, we tried both Google Drive and Dropbox so we could upload files that everyone could edit. Both did the job, but we found Google Drive to be a bit unstable, while for a reason I still don’t understand, I can’t see many of the changes that Sandra and Claire have made to the layout in Dropbox.  

This has been a long process. We were editing in January and the book will be launched in November. But we are all thrilled about it. Furthermore, I hope to apply the lessons I have learned from this experience when I write a book about my own family’s history. Just don’t hold your breath until it appears.

This article is also posted on