Monday, September 28, 2009

The Wife of His Youth: Elizabeth Beddoes

Old Map of St. Mary's Parish, Islington

Very little is known about Thomas Sutherland’s first wife, Elizabeth Beddoes, who seems to have been eclipsed by the younger and—in all probability—more refined Grace Hogg. We do have the report of her death in The Scotsman: “Elizabeth Beddoes, wife of Mr. Thomas Sutherland, Tailor, died in the 64th year of her age, at Edinburgh on 22nd August 1824.” Also surviving are the Canongate Burial guides, which record that August 23, 1824, Elizabeth Beddoes wife of Thomas Sutherland, Tailor, of Hill Place, died of bowel complaint.

But beyond the details of her death, she is a mystery. This is in all probability due in part to the fact that she did not participate in what would become the definitive act of the family, namely, relocating to Upper Canada. But it may also be due to the destruction of her eldest son’s papers, where she was most likely to be remembered. Alternately, Beddoes herself may not have corresponded with how the family wanted to preserve itself—not up to snuff, as the expression goes. Ultimately, we are left with conjecture.

We do know Beddoes was older than Thomas Sutherland by about a dozen years, and possibly a Quaker. While it may have been a love match, generally when a young man of the era married an older woman, it was because he was ambitious and she was settled (meaning beyond the flightiness of youth), and perhaps in possession of some financial security. Given that their first known child was born in March 1797, it has generally been assumed that they married in 1796. However, a September 25th, 1794 marriage record for a Thomas Sutherland, “batchelor,” and Elizabeth Beddowes, spinster, both of the parish of Saint Mary (in London), has survived. Sutherland’s signature does appear to match that preserved on another document, while Beddoes notably signs her name without the W inserted into the official record. Her signature seems labored, as if she was not a practiced writer, unsurprising for the time. No further information is provided about them, excepting that they were married by license, and the event witnessed by James Sutherland and John Powells (the latter appears to be someone habitually pulled in when a witness was required).

Soon after, they must have relocated to Edinburgh, as their son, Thomas Sutherland, Jr., reported in at least two different censuses that he was born there. What did Beddoes think of this? What was involved in a 34-year-old woman agreeing to marry a 22-year-old sailor-tailor and move countries? Perhaps she had a desire for adventure; perhaps the young TS “cut a dashing figure.” But when we come right down to it, I’m inclined to believe she was a highly pragmatic woman. For one thing, TS himself valued such qualities. But more to the point, at the time the options for a single woman of little means were exceptionally limited, and they would diminish as she aged. Marriage was—literally—a lifeline for many.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Old Edina

High Street, Edinburgh, 1874

It is gratifying to have one’s research validated. While family histories suggested that Thomas Sutherland, Jr. was a professor at Edinburgh University, no record of such could be found. Instead I found an advertisement which suggested he had attempted to establish himself as, among other things, a tobacconist, residing at his father’s home address in Edinburgh. Recently a fragment of a December, 1879 letter he wrote appeared in my mailbox. Writes Jr., “Many thanks for the Graphic of the 12th, giving views of Edinburgh. I have traced my old snuff shop of fifty years ago—first west of the outside stair and near Allan Ramsey’s book-stand, and both opposite Niddry Street. Sublime and beautiful Edina.” Sutherland, Jr. loved the nickname “Edina,” frequently using it in poems. On the other hand, he also loved A/B/A/B rhyme schemes and simple rhythmic structures, and “Edinburgh” is conducive to neither.

We know from directories at the time that this was 155 High Street, and the reference to Niddry is invaluable, as High Street is very long (as part of The Royal Mile), and street numbers have been known to change. Niddry Street, however, has not moved; it was and still is about halfway between the North Gate and the South Gate. From what I can tell this was not exactly a nice neighbourhood in 1827/28, when we know Jr. was there. Today, however, it has redeemed itself, as the Niddry Street vaults, abandoned late eighteenth-century warehouse space, taken over in the nineteenth century by the industrial poor and criminal elements, have been rediscovered, cleaned up, and are a well-known tourist attraction. But at the time Sutherland, Jr. operated his shop, he would have been inevitably familiar with some of these elements, including the masses of poor who were overcrowded belowground, and all the stresses they placed on the neighbourhood’s infrastructure (sewage and waste disposal, being the most visceral).

Winning Pendergast wondered why a man so congenitally unsuited to farming as Jr. was would come to the new world to do just that. She writes “His farming was a scandal to a thrifty neighbourhood and must have been a trial to his father,” also noting “He seems to have been known in the community for his eccentricities, and his inability to do the simplest manual task in the usual way. Everybody in the family and the neighborhood had a fantastic tale to tell about him, how he stood in a soap kettle when chopping wood to avoid cutting his feet, how he ripped up the corner of a carpet to rub his shoes with it – many others.” Yet, given his seemingly limited opportunities in Edinburgh, as well as his high aesthetic standards, it is possible that Upper Canada at the very least offered him a more bucolic landscape in which to concentrate on his poetic efforts. Perhaps it was the distance from the city—both geographic and temporal—that allowed him to romanticize it so.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Loving cup

Random silver loving cup

It’s funny, but I have no desire to own any of the items associated with Thomas Sutherland; it is simply a matter of researcher’s curiosity to know more. And of all the items heard of, but not traced, a silver loving cup and an invitation stand out as the most compelling missing objects. The cup was a gift Sutherland received in Scotland, apparently in appreciation of having settled a strike between masters and apprentices. A metal case containing an invitation to Thomas Sutherland and his sons to attend a farewell dinner in their honour was also preserved. (As of the 1940s these were in the possession of the Munro and Williams families. I have no idea of their present whereabouts. Of course, I could always—once again—track the descendants….)

While the Geikie letter exchange suggests Sutherland was lacking in generosity—something contradicted by all other reports encountered—Sutherland was clearly a man of some importance and judgment if his peers depended on him to settle such contentious matters. I have read and re-read The Scotsman for references to Sutherland (and found them) but have located no notice of a dinner for him (though those for others were mentioned), nor a trade dispute. I do not even know what guild the dispute concerned—something the cup, if found, might resolve, allowing us to better understand his position in the community, and just what it was he gave up in coming to Upper Canada.

Burning down the house

I’ll admit to being surprised by what has survived of the Sutherlands, versus what hasn’t. Thomas Sutherland seemed determined to pass on his legacy. His son and namesake appears to have also possessed a certain sense of self-importance. Which is why I was curious as to why so few family papers have shown up in my searches of archives and repositories—at the very least I would have expected to find some of Thomas Sutherland, Jr.’s notebooks, correspondence, etc., had been preserved. His published writings suggest he was a devoted record keeper, able to give the exact date he first visited a place thirty or more years before. My curiosity was finally satisfied when I encountered this comment by Sutherland, Jr: “We were ‘scattered and peeled’ by the cremation of our abode on the 24th of October” [1877]. Apparently his wife was alone at their Moore home at the time, and all was lost.

Thus it makes sense that the kinds of things we might expect Thomas Sutherland, Jr. to have inherited—including papers relating to business and the like—has not turned up. This is not to say Sutherland did not have other sons, but Thomas was his namesake. Moreover, his son Alexander predeceased him, and it is doubtful anything went to George, who lived some distance from the others, and whose house was described as a “wild and lawless” place.

Correspondingly, in addition to the paintings, what has survived are the items traditionally inherited by daughters, such as china, a sewing basket, a few decorative items, and the like. And every time something else turns up, I get excited for what it might contribute to any understanding of this settler. For instance, that Thomas Sutherland economized when purchasing the communion set for his church tells us he was not unnecessarily extravagant. This, in turn, gives us a basis for evaluating the kinds of items he did buy, which then helps us determine us how he wanted to be seen by those he entertained in his home—not to mention how much he was willing to spend to create that impression. It’s all too much fun.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Butler's Daughter: Grace Hogg

Mary Ellis was kind enough to send me the above photo of china which Grace Hogg (abt. 1777-1853), Thomas Sutherland’s second wife, brought with her when the family emigrated to Canada in 1833. There’s something about the peonies and delicate gold details that made me think about Grace’s upbringing in a house of significant wealth—even if it wasn’t hers.

There have been conflicting reports about Grace’s origins. Known historical documents are limited to those from Canada, and the report of her marriage in Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. Winning Pendergast’s version of her antecedents is the one most frequently cited. As Pendergast writes:

“Upon the death of his first wife, he married the Honourable Grace Hogg, daughter of an English Admiral whose home, near Edinburgh was called “Lasswade.” Grace (Hogg) Sutherland had two brothers, Charles and Adam Hogg. The latter became General Adam Hogg of the Army in India. General Hogg married Agnes Dinwiddie, niece of Sir Robert Dinwiddie, one of the last Royal Governors of the colony of Virginia.”

While certain parts of the above can be documented, other elements reflect the inaccuracies that often sneak into family stories as they are orally transmitted through generations. Notably, if Grace’s father was an Admiral, she would not have been granted the title “Honorable.” And, given the conventions of the time, if her father was in the navy, it makes no sense that her brother entered the army. Additionally, there is no Admiral who fits the bill. But, most tellingly, if Grace’s brother was Adam Hogg—as it appears he was—then her father was definitely not a military man.

In a letter to his sister Grace, dated October 26, 1797, Adam Hogg writes: “I have this day passed the Court of Directors of the East India Company and am now a cadet. Please inform our mother of the circumstances.” Adam and his sister appear to have been close: a miniature of him, with his correct birth and date of death, was passed down in the family. Also passed down was Agnes Dinwiddie’s sewing basket, though its current whereabouts are unknown (it was last in the possession of Marjory Doble Bryson. As always, suggestions welcome).

There is an excellent Hogg family researcher, Eleanor Donaldson, who has documented Adam Hogg’s family. It is because of her work that we know Adam was the son of George and Isabel Hogg, George being the butler of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville. I have consulted all available published works on Dundas for even a passing reference to his butler, but to no avail. I prefer to believe that this is because George Hogg was so efficient as to never merit notice: this is, after all, the hallmark of a successful butler. Certainly, he would have had ample opportunity to showcase his talents. According to one historian of Dundas, “His social qualities, his generous hospitality, and the excellence of his wine cellar, made him a splendid host, and his parties were frequent and large.” This, of course, all translates into more work for the staff.

Being the daughter of a butler would have certain advantages: generally such girls were educated, sometimes with the children of the family, if they were of an age. According to one story, Grace Hogg was familiar, even friendly, with the Dundas children, though she was at least five years younger. The proximity of the Hoggs to the Dundases would have also instilled in them a knowledge of the manners and customs of upper class families, which they might themselves adopt. It was thus not unusual for such the butler’s daughter to be perceived of as a lady in her carriage and demeanor. And yet, as one Edwardian commentator noted, the butler’s daughter suffered her own plight, namely an “exceptional endowment [which] has made distasteful the suitors of her own walk of life.” This author noted that she was unlikely to marry.

Still, others noted that the butler’s daughter had her own resources: for example, Thackeray, in Vanity Fair, suggests that propinquity breeds opportunity, in representing Miss Horrocks as mistress to the master. More kindly, he was said to have remarked (in relation to the tendency of the peerage to intermarry) that they would have been bred to extinction if every so often someone in the line of succession had not eloped with the butler's daughter.

If the parish record of May 15, 1825 is correct, Grace Hogg was certainly older than the average first-time bride. But taking into consideration her education and knowledge, she would have still been a catch for an ambitious man, and Sutherland appears to have wasted no time in pursuing her, given his first wife’s death not quite nine months before.

There is much more work to be done on Grace and the Hoggs. But if you are interested in learning more about the dynamics of the staff in a large house, as well as the role of the butler, I would highly recommend the BBC series, The Edwardian Country House (in the U.S. it aired as Manor House). I recognize that it is Edwardian, and thus in some ways anachronistic as a framework for Grace’s upbringing. And yet, the series makes the argument that not much changed: that was the whole point.

Friday, August 21, 2009

At last: Ruskin and Sutherland

Just a short note to say that my essay on John Ruskin and Thomas Sutherland has been accepted for publication and is scheduled to appear in 2010. I will gladly provide copies to those who assisted after that time. In the meantime, my thanks go out to all who have been so helpful and forthcoming with family stories and archival materials. Everyone who provided assistance is credited in the essay where appropriate.

I continue to collect information on Sutherland, and more posts will appear. However, I am also looking into his neighbours, the Talfourd brothers (Froome and Field), and would welcome any leads, especially in regards to the whereabouts of their papers.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Field Talfourd: Gymnast, Artist, "Lovely Flower"

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, by Field Talfourd
I’ve been quiet, but only because I am waiting to hear back from some archives in regards to potentially relevant holdings. In the interim, I’m thinking of writing something on Field Talfourd, neighbour to Sutherland, and one of the founders of Froomfield (with his brother Froome, of course). In particular, I suspect he was key to the Ruskin-Sutherland connection. Talfourd lived in Upper Canada briefly, before returning to England where he gradually transitioned from making his living as a civil engineer to a career as an artist. Elizabeth Barrett Browning thought his portrait of her the best of them all (then again, she didn’t really like having her portrait done). In some ways, I wonder to what degree her approval was due to Field’s personal charm. Smart ladies apparently found him quite compelling, including Ada Lovelace (daughter of Lord Byron) and Sophia Peabody (wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne). Mrs. Hawthorne practically swoons when describing him as “a lovely flower”—after commenting on both his “high breeding” and “marvelous power as a gymnast.” Despite such successes Talfourd appears to have been a confirmed bachelor (though you can interpret that however you would like).

My question for anyone who stumbles across this: a travel diary Talfourd kept in the 1850s survived into the early part of the twentieth century at least, and appears to have been passed down among his brother’s descendents, or the descendents of Grace Sutherland and Dr. Thomas Johnston in Canada. If anyone is aware of its current whereabouts, I would be very gratified to hear of it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sutherland China

George Montag was kind enough to send me photos of the china plates he inherited which once belonged to Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) and his wife Grace (abt. 1777-1853). This is one of three plates George owns, marked on the back “Rose Medallion, 1840.” Family stories document that Thomas and Grace Sutherland brought china with them when they first arrived in Upper Canada. This was not uncommon, and such china was treasured not simply for its functionality, but also for its rarity. One only has to recollect Susanna Moodie’s distress when the sleigh carrying all her “household goods and chattels” overturned. Moodie writes of the event:

Alas, for my crockery and stone china! Scarcely one article remained unbroken.

“Never fret about the china,” said Moodie; “thank God, the man and the horses are uninjured.”

I should have felt more thankful had the crocks been spared too; for, like most of my sex, I had a tender regard for china, and I knew that no fresh supply could be obtained in this part of the world....

A year after the Moodies’ sleigh accident, Grace Sutherland unpacked her own china. The date on the plate affirms this was not part of her original collection, but rather acquired later. Legend has it that it was brought back from England, most likely the Sutherlands' trip to the UK in 1842. However, it could also have been acquired in Canada or the US.

This plate is not representative of the Rose Medallion pattern, which generally features a central gold medallion with a bird and flower inset. Flanking the medallion are four or more panels featuring people, birds, and/or butterflies. The plates generally boast five colors. In fact, the “Rose” in “Rose Medallion” refers not to the flower—indeed, peonies were the flower of choice—but to the color rose, which dominated. Instead, this plate and the others appear to be Rose Canton. That said, this distinction is minor: Rose Canton does not feature people or birds, only flowers. (To complicate things, Rose Mandarin features flowers and people, but not birds.) They are all in the same color family, feature the same aesthetic, and were produced by the same factories; it is simply a distinction in subject matter that determines what the pattern is called—and it is a distinction made primarily by contemporary collectors and appraisers, less relevant to consumers of the mid-nineteenth century.

Rose Medallion and its counterparts were first created in eighteenth-century China for the export market. By the mid-nineteenth century it had lost its cachet in England, and was being shipped primarily to America. The United States and Canada relied on such imports to fill the void Moodie lamented. As one historian notes, “most antebellum homes contained some blue-painted Canton china. Wealthier householders purchased the florid Rose Medallion, Rose Mandarin, and Bird and Butterfly wares during the middle years of the century.” Such wares continue to be handed down and treasured in North America as nowhere else.

For Sutherland to purchase such china is telling. It was not meant to be used, but rather intended for display. As such, it made clear to visitors that the owners had disposable income, as well as exhibiting the value they placed on fine things. Overall, it seems to have been a marker of upward mobility and class position. And yet I have also found references to Rose Medallion and its counterparts as “gaudy,” “garish,” and “gloppy,” as well as “crowded and fussy.” (I’ll admit I had to look up “gloppy,” which apparently means “soft and soggy; mushy.”) I’ve been thinking a lot about these descriptions. In part, I think such an assessment is a reflection of the turn in many early nineteenth-century Britain elite households away from imported to China to British firms like Wedgwood. And Wedgwood’s early aesthetic, drawn from classical antiquity, is deliberately stately, and might make Rose Medallion and its counterparts appear busy or sentimental (which is what seems to be implied by “gloppy”) when juxtaposed. That said, Wedgwood was not immune to the charms of chinoiserie, as evidence by their some of their productions in the early nineteenth-century.

The somewhat-derisive adjectives did make me consider the possibility that Thomas Sutherland was prone to the nouveau riche tendency to not recognize the distinctions so clear to their more established counterparts. But I dismissed this rather quickly: it appears that Rose Medallion simply signified something different in the Americas, exuberant with the expansion of trade routes and the products they supplied, than it did in England, where goods from China were no longer a novelty or luxury. And, quite frankly, if I was decorating a house in 1840s Canada—knowing the long winters ahead—I think I might go for a bit more color.

Thank you to George Montag for the photo, as well as permission to post it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sutherland Memorial Service

This Sunday is the Annual Sutherland Memorial Service at St. Stephen's Anglican Church in Courtright, Ontario. Unfortunately, the original Mooretown church built by Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) proved to be unsound, and was abandoned in 1863 (to be taken down in 1881). St. Stephen's was the eventual successor. This sketch of the original church was completed by Sutherland's daughter, Grace, during a visit to England in the 1840s.

A very kind gentleman, Paul, of St. Stephen's has been quite helpful to me in my research into the artifacts inherited from the original church, and has generously invited me to contribute a statement for the Sutherland Memorial Service. This is the statement I have sent--though I leave it to Paul's discretion to decide whether it is appropriate:

After so much research, I have come to feel that I know Thomas Sutherland. The stories preserved about him suggest he was a dynamic man, kind, funny, ambitious, and inventive, though—like many of us—proud and possessing a bit of a temper. But he was not small minded, welcoming visitors and traveling clergymen, regardless of denomination, into his home. His personal generosity and hospitality was notable: he shared the contents of his well-stocked wine cellar, just as he loaned out books from his library. While he relocated to upper Canada to secure additional advantages for himself and his children, he believed financial gains alone were not sufficient without a strong community to enjoy them in. This is evident in the institutions he founded and sponsored, including the church at Mooretown. For him, the church was a fundamental part of his world, a belief he passed onto his children. Thank you to all who have participated in his legacy, preserving the stories and artifacts which have made him come alive for me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Nineteenth-Century Teenager

I found this blog recently. The idea of blogging about the teenage years in nineteenth-century Britain and the UK appeals to me for multiple reasons. That said, it's primarily relevant if you are interested in the lives of more privileged individuals. The tweeny, scullery maid, or Lowell Mill Girl are (as they in fact were) secondary to the well-bred young mistress.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Painting Thomas Sutherland

This is the third image of Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) I have posted. The first was also a painting; the second, a silhouette by his daughter, Grace. This image is included in Sutherland Centennial: The Commemoration of One Hundred Years of the Ministrations of the Anglican Church in the County of Moore (1941).

We know that Sutherland arranged for David Scott to do paintings of himself and his wife. My assumption is, based on the quality of the work and the lack of stylistic similarity with the portrait of Grace Hogg, that this is not the work by Scott. Nor does it appear to be by Field Talfourd, Sutherland’s neighbor in Upper Canada for a period, who is the same Field Talfourd who famously sketched Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Regardless of who painted it, that Sutherland arranged to be painted twice late in life seems somewhat remarkable. Commissioning two paintings in such a short period would be seen at best as a foolish extravagance, at worst as a marker of vanity. But Sutherland was careful to appear neither extravagant nor vain. Indeed, the garb, accessories, and pose in each portrait convey both solidity and respectability. That each work includes either a book or a letter, and that Sutherland wears glasses in each signals his education, literacy, and appreciation of culture. The written works appear secular not sacred suggesting he is a man of the world; at the same time the absence of excess testifies that he is not falsely worldly. His clothing and pose attest that he is a gentleman, not a laborer, even as he does not appear to be strictly a man of leisure, but a man of business. While these markers may be conventions of the time, they are not universal. Consider, for instance, the famous John Singleton Copley painting of Paul Revere; Revere foregoes the standard trappings of the period such as wigs and stately poses, instead sitting at his work table, a silver teapot of his own crafting in hand. He is, in this instance, aligning himself with the innovations and standards of the new world. Sutherland, by contrast, remains oriented towards the formality of the old.

The possibility does exist, of course, that the painting featured above is a copy of the other, revising it, and might have been commissioned by a child of Sutherland who wished their own copy. But this is all speculation, and without access to the painting I have nothing to go on. At least one of the Sutherland family paintings was in the possession of Grace Ann Minty Robinson (1875-1951) of Minneapolis, as of the 1930s—where it is now, I have no idea. Any leads would be more than welcome.

Reading with Grace Hogg

It should come as no surprise that Grace Hogg (abt. 1777-1853), wife of Thomas Sutherland, was a keen reader, given the earlier described habits of the colony. According to a story passed down in the family, Grace was staying with her daughter (Thomas-Ann) and had assumed responsibility for the grandchildren for the day:

“She gave them their breakfast and sent them off to school. Then she sat down on a hassock beside the hearth to brush back the ashes. Beside her was a book she had been reading, she picked it up for just a minute. When the children came running in she chided them for not going to school. They had quite a time convincing her that it was noon, they were home for lunch. She had read through the morning and there were the breakfast dishes still on the table. The ability or fault to lose ones self in a book has come down through the generations.”

As someone equally capable of becoming absorbed in a book, I appreciate the precedent. What intrigues me, however, is that the behavior exhibited by Grace—the wife of a church founder—is exactly that the American Tract Society cautioned women against; namely, throughout the nineteenth century women were warned against novel reading by the pulpit and religious press, as it would prevent them from focusing their energies on the maintenance of their families and households (for examples, see especially Tracts 493, “Beware of Bad Books” and 515, “Novel-Reading”). That the family placed so much importance on books, especially novels, actually tells us a great deal about the kind of Christians they were in their historical moment: respectably devout, but not evangelical.

Grace Sutherland

While her brother, Thomas Sutherland, Jr. (1797-1880), concerned himself with writing poetry, Grace Sutherland (1826-1861) turned to art. Her sketch of the Sutherland church has been preserved, as has a rather bucolic scene of a pasture, and--of course--the silhouette she completed of her father, Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850), featured above (apologies for the substandard reproduction). The silhouette was a popular form of portraiture in the early nineteenth-century, and just one of the forms in which Sutherland was memorialized, in this instance some time around 1849.

It is not known how Grace acquired her artistic instruction; Field Talfourd of nearby Froomfield was an artist, but he did not remain in Canada long enough to have been acquainted with Grace. We do know, however, that an English governess (Miss Clark) was brought over by Captain William Elliott Wright for the benefit of his four daughters; Grace was said to have joined their classes, and was known to be friends with his daughter Catherine (who would marry senator Alexander Vidal). As drawing was considered an appropriate accomplishment for a young lady of the time, it is possible her instruction began at Wright's home, "Oaklands."


I’ll admit, this one is a bit of a wild goose chase. I am searching for a tea cup passed down in the Sutherland family. At some point in time, Sutherland descendent Marjory Montag noted “I have a cup and saucer from the Ruskins [sic] home.” Montag (1908-1992) was born Marjory Aspden; her mother was Ethel Minty, whose mother was Grace Abbott, whose grandfather was Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850).

Just to be clear: I don’t desire to own the tea cup, I just hope to obtain a photo of it. Any leads would be welcome. And for those interested in what a nineteenth-century tea setting looked like, the website for the Read House and Gardens in New Castle, Delaware features photos from a recent exhibition, The Etiquette of Tea.

Update: as of June 18th, 2009, I have found contact information for Mrs. Montag's children, and hope to locate the tea cup soon.

Grace Hogg Sutherland Family

William Dickson Black and Grace Hogg Sutherland

For those interested in the family of Grace Hogg Sutherland (1850-1921), granddaughter of Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850), there is an very useful website maintained by the Black family. The photo above is one of many featured. The site also includes a transcription of Winning Pendergast’s 1937 Sutherland family history. Pendergast’s account includes minor errors, but overall is a valuable document.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Very Cold (but Pious) Poet of Moore

Previous entries have made reference to Thomas Sutherland, Jr. (1797-1880) as the “poet of Moore.” I’ve now had the opportunity to read some of his work. It’s not horrible by nineteenth-century standards, but it’s also not fantastic or particularly original. I’m not making this pronouncement based only on the poem he wrote for his granddaughter, Agnes, as that would be unfair. Rather, I’m drawing primarily on the February 1865 offering, “A Winter Retrospect of Spring’s bright Morn—Pointing to a Clime without a Cloud.” In form it is fairly standard, consisting of twelve stanzas of four lines each, using an A/B/A/B rhyme scheme.

It opens:

This Sabbath evening, by the Fireside musing,
Unmoved by Wintry horrors howling round,
And present worldly thoughts and themes refusing,
My pleasure is in past resources found.

In cosy contrast with external roaring,
My mind enjoys a more internal calm;
And whilst my ardent soul aloft is soaring,
My earthly sorrows find a soothing balm.

The past is painted in somewhat fanciful pastoral terms—seemingly at odds with his urban Edinburgh upbringing—where his “fancy flies upon the wings of love.” We could read this romanticizing of his youth as a cliché, but I’m choosing to be a bit more generous, and think of it in the context in which it is written. Namely, February, 1865 had turned out to be colder than expected by all accounts. No doubt many colonists, subject to the “Wintry horrors” he cites—which could include cabin fever or depression—were prone to looking back fondly on the past. What Sutherland does is marshal that tendency in the pursuit of other ends, namely an assertion of personal faith and its importance, towards which the poem builds.

In this way, we can read the pastoral scenes as serving an allegorical function in keeping with the implicit Christian message of the poem to trust in God. In this way, the “Clime without a Cloud” is both the promise of spring, and eternal grace. But even in that, the poem runs to cliché:

Remembering how implicitly I trusted
Parental power without a fear or doubt,
My faith in God, if ever frail or rusted,
Gets strong and clear when gloom is put to rout.

Certainly the language is clear and accessible, the sentiment simple and affective, in common with much nineteenth-century verse of this kind. The poem asks that its readers not let the uncertainty caused by external factors undermine their faith. As a North American production, it could only have been written in Canada; in February 1865 the U.S. Civil War had caused far too much devastation for this work to have emerged from New England. Consider, for instance, Walt Whitman’s verse penned at this time; by contrast there’s a simplicity in Sutherland’s verse that suggests he has not been tested as others have.

Perhaps another productive way to think about the verse is as an explicit directive to children (“how implicitly I trusted / Parental power without a fear or doubt”). This would reflect Sutherland’s own commitment to the instillation of Christian values in the young. In 1856 he had complained: “Half of the schools in this township, have been vacant for nearly half the year. We have some good teachers, but these breaks interrupt steady progression. I regret not only that the Bible is little used, but likely to be omitted altogether. Many are blessed by its teaching at school, who learn it no where else.” If we consider the reading practices of the time, whereby family members took turns reading aloud every night as a means of imparting both spiritual and secular education (often deemed inseparable at the time), then Sutherland’s poem assumes additional value. Given the shortage of reading material, such things were kept and read aloud repeatedly.

In case it is not clear, what I’m suggesting is that we think of Thomas Sutherland not as a great poet, but a half-decent one. What is more interesting is thinking about him as a public poet, one who writes for the betterment of his community, a role he seems to have embraced. In this way, it is not sufficient to judge his work for its literary value, but rather we must consider it for its social value. Or maybe this is just me imposing a wishful recuperative reading.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thomas Sutherland: “Quite a Pickwick”

Samuel Pickwick

Of all I have discovered about Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850), two episodes amuse me greatly and thus stand out in my mind. The first is when he burst in on a party of fashionable young men and demanded they pay their tailoring bills; the second is this impromptu fete. The account comes from the travel diary of Lieutenant Andrew Agnew, published as From Lochnaw to Manitoulin: A Highland Soldier's Tour Through Upper Canada, and edited by Scott A. McLean. Agnew’s entry for September 4, 1839 states:

“[N]earby we stopped at Sutherlands Landing, the gentleman whom it is called after and owns it met us on the wharf and insisted on our coming to his house which we were by no means loath to close with. He is a regular character—quite a pickwick and he gave us an excellent lunch which we did much justice to. It was also gratifying to perceive that our distinction of his ham and c+c and rapid draining of his cellar and brandy cask gave him the greatest satisfaction….”

That Sutherland is referred to as a pickwick really is the icing on the cake. For those unfamiliar with Dickens’s novel, Mr. Samuel Pickwick is often represented in illustrations as a wealthy, portly bespectacled gentleman (a description which matches the painting of Sutherland), who is also kindly and jovial. And, as noted in an earlier entry, The Pickwick Papers were dedicated to Thomas Noon Talfourd—the brother of Sutherland’s neighbors, Froome and Field Talfourd. It's all quite delicious; almost as delicious as that food and libation sounds.

Thomas Sutherland: On Railroads

This letter was originally posted online as part of an Ontario History Quest educational unit.

Moore River St. Clair Western Dist
Upper Canada. 17 March 1837

Newbigging Esqr.

Dear Sir

I trust your kindness will excuse the freedom of this communication and believe that I am induced to take the liberty with the anxious desire to lend my humble aid on behalf of that most valuable and important undertaking, the Great Western Rail Road – and with the most sincere desire that it should be carried into effect – so as to render the greatest possible good to the greatest number of persons, and open up the Interior of this valuable province so as to attract men of Capital to it - I have taken the liberty of sending you a Report on this important subject, and if you will take the trouble to trace upon the Map the route mentioned – I feel quite assured, you will be at once convinced that it is almost certain the route in question will obtain and command two thirds of the immense number of Persons constantly travelling to the far West – that is if the Great Western Rail Road be made to terminate opposite to and in connection with the St. Clair and Romeo Rail Road, now in progress on the opposite or American Side of this River St. Clair – which is to be continued to Grand River on Lake Michigan – Ten miles of the St. Clair and Romeo Rail Road is already levelled and nearly ready for the Rails – but it is also said the Americans are to have a Rail Road from Black River ten miles above this, but still connected with the River St. Clair to Grand River above mentioned – and if the Great Western is not constructed so as to unite with the American (St. Clair & Romeo) it will without doubt be an immense loss to the Shareholders.

Having made the above observations on the Great Western Rail Road, I now beg to observe that I fear the Toronto and Lake Huron Rail Road if carried into effect will prove a failure, and consequently a serious loss to all those interested in it as Shareholders, for to me and all those I have conversed with on the Subject, it does not appear that there is any reasonable prospect of its ever being so productive as to pay the interest of the money to be expended, and I really fear many are deceived as to the expectations formed and the assurances given, for in the name of goodness where is the Trafic to come from or go to that is to support so great an undertaking, and upon what calculation Mr. H. depended when he is said to have declared “if any Rail Road ever made a handsome return to the Stockholders, the Toronto & Lake Huron Rail Road will do it” – I say when he made this statement I cannot imagine what he depended on – for if it is entirely upon the inhabitants travelling to and trading to and from that quarter – I fear no such calculations ever will be realized – What is there to be taken to or from Natawasaga Bay? And it is not the least likely those going to Michigan will ever go by that route – when it is known they have upwards of One Hundred Miles of the wild Lake Huron to pass before they can reach the Shores of Michigan, while by the River they have little more than 5/8th of a mile to pass, and it at all times easily to be accomplished.

I feel quite convinced that if the Great Western Rail Road is to be confined to Hamilton, then it will raise that Town, and Toronto will most assuredly fall – but if the good people of Toronto, and more particularly the Stockholders of the Toronto & Lake Huron Rail Road would make up their minds to construct a Rail Road from Toronto to unite with the Great Western Rail Road at Hamilton – thus Toronto will be greatly benefited and enable to keep her station as the Metropolis of the Province – You are perhaps aware that the St. Clair & Romeo Rail Road commences [tear] nearly opposite to my House and will con[sequ]ently consider that my opinion should [tear] [be] received with great caution – which I have no reason to object to.
-- I would however before closing this take the liberty of suggesting that two or three of the Shareholders of the Lake Huron Rail Road should make up their minds as the navigation is now about to open, the Ice in the River having broken up yesterday & today, to come and take a view – and collect information on this all important subject to the Upper Province. If this should be determined upon I shall give them a hearty welcome at my humble dwelling – again hoping you will excuse the freedom and believe that I am anxious for the general good.

I am, Dear Sir Your Obed. Servant
Thos Sutherland

[Addressed to:]

Newbigging Esq.
Chairman of the Lake Huron R. Road Committee

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sutherland's in Apple Blossom Time

Malus sylvestris Mill.

From Smith's Canadian Gazetteer Comprising Statistical and General Information Respecting All Parts of the Upper Province, Or Canada West ... With a Map of the Upper Province, 1846:

“SUTHERLAND'S. A Village in the township of Moore, pleasantly situated on the River St. Clair, opposite the American town “St. Clair,” or “Palmer.” It was laid out in 1833, by Mr. Sutherland, a gentleman from Edinburgh, who has done a great deal to improve the neighbourhood—having cleared a large quantity of land— built a handsome Episcopal church, &c. Here are several wharves for supplying steamboats with wood. Sutherlands is ten miles from Port Sarnia, and contains a comfortable tavern. Post Office, post three times a-week. Population, about 100. Professions and Trades.—One physician and surgeon, three stores, one tavern, two blacksmiths, one tailor, one shoemaker, one school.”

The above-mentioned tavern may be one of the few things in Moore Township that Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) has not been credited with founding. This could be the Rilley’s Tavern in Moore township (named after proprietor Philip Rilley) where the Brigden Fair was first organized in 1850. Whether or not Rilley’s was joined or supplanted by the St. Clair Inn is unknown; but by 1851 the latter was clearly to be preferred, described as a “respectable tavern… where a small party may get comfortable accommodation.” (Rilley's family appears to have met the challenge, as by 1869 they owned the Mooretown Hotel, probably superior to Alexander Gallino's Farmer's Hotel, also operating that year.)

Comfortable and respectable are reassuring words, and appear to describe the settlement overall. Less comfortable, perhaps—but still respectable—were the seats for the informal church first organized by TS. According to the Rev. Robert Burns:

“In the summer of 1834 I visited Sarnia, which had scarcely been commenced; made arrangements to preach in the township of Moore on the Sabbath. Settlers had just begun to settle in it, but it appeared to the eye an unbroken forest. A Mr. Sutherland, from Edinburgh, had just come and bought out a Frenchman, whose farm lay on the banks of the St. Clair. Seats were erected in his orchard, made of boards, resting on blocks of wood. By-the-by, Mr. Sutherland and family were Scotch Episcopalians, but they were kind and hospitable. I always, in visiting the locality, made my arrangements to spend a night with them, as there was the place for one or more services. On the Sabbath there was a good congregation, but from where they came from I could not see.”

It’s impossible to know what kind of a turn-out Burns found so impressive. For the years between 1846 and 1851 the population of Sutherland’s continued to be estimated by Smith's Canadian Gazetteer at 100. A minister who gave a guest sermon there in 1847 counted eighty-six in his audience. However, when the actual church first opened in 1841, three hundred people are reported to have attended the event. (This is more in keeping with the numbers suggested by Isabella C. Finlayson's account of the first municipal government in 1840: 135 ratepayers and 643 members of families.) It seems unlikely that three hundred individuals had appeared to hear Burns; in all probability the opening of the first church was a source of community pride and a cause for celebration that many would not want to miss. Still, no matter the appeal of a shiny new building, there’s something even more charming about the idea of a service among the apple blossoms, despite the uncomfortable seating.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jr. (part two)

In an earlier entry I wrote about Thomas Sutherland, Jr.’s (1797-1880) seemingly unsuccessful efforts to establish a career in Edinburgh. The narrative passed down in the family is that he “had been a professor of languages at Edinburgh University.” Yet a search of the university’s archives—conducted by very kind and diligent archivists—reveals no trace of a corresponding faculty member with this name. What the archives do contain, however, is a rather sparse record of a Thomas Sutherland, born Midlothian, who entered the university in 1811, with the intention of studying literature. The name, approximate age, and place of birth make TS, Jr. a possible candidate. And while no record of this student graduating exists, that in and of itself is not unusual: at the time students often simply attended classes without an end goal of certification.

Considering the academic accomplishments ascribed to TS, Jr., it is possible he continued his studies elsewhere before his next documented appearance in 1825. Given the connection of the Sutherlands to the Talfourd and John Ruskin, who had links to Oxford, that university seems a possibility. While a search of Oxford alumni records (as well as Cambridge ones) does not find a student by the name of TS, a literary Thomas Sutherland does turn up in some academic histories, namely those of the very famous debate of November 26, 1829:

“At Oxford in 1829 Arthur Hallam, Richard Monckton Milnes, and Thomas Sutherland of the Cambridge Union Society debated the issue of Shelley's superiority as a poet to Byron with Members with members of the Oxford Union Society. Although these Cambridge Apostles pressed their advantage—they had read Shelley and their opponents had not - the vote went in favor of Byron.”

Unfortunately, this appears to be Thomas Sunderland (1808-1867), considered by Lord Houghton (the aforementioned Milnes) to be “the greatest speaker he ever heard.” (Sunderland also has the unfortunate distinction of inspiring Tennyson’s “A Character.”)

As suggested above, Sutherland’s non-appearance in the graduate rolls of any university to date does not preclude his participation in university life or endeavors. This is certainly the case of Joseph Biddle, a neighbor of TS, Jr. in the new world who would also become his brother-in-law. While there is no mention of Biddle in the Oxford alumni records, a visitor to the settlement reported on his meeting with Mr. Biddle, whom he had known at Oxford. Sadly, he makes no such illuminating comments about TS, Jr.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Calico: It's a Family Affair

Sir William Cunliffe Brooks (1819-1900)

Simply because I am tired of seeing accounts which suggest that Samuel Brooks (1793-1864), founder of Cunliffe, Brooks, & Co., had only one child, William Cunliffe Brooks (1819-1900), I present:

“Mr. Brooks had seen fit to dispose of the principal portion of his real and personal estate prior to the making of his will. Consequently, what he "left" was with the public only a matter of conjecture. It was thought to be nearly two and a half millions sterling. His eldest son, Mr. William Cunliffe Brooks, received the bank, and in money value it was said about a million. Mr. Thomas Brooks received £400,000. The family of the late Rev. John Brooks, £400,000. Each of the five daughters received £100,000. For the building and endowment of a church upon the Brooklands estate there was bequeathed £10,000, and after this there were numerous minor legacies.” –Manchester Banks and Bankers, Leo Hartley Grindon

Sarah Brooks (1820-1895)
Anne Brooks (1821-1876)
Alice Brooks (1822-1872)
John Brooks (1825-1856)
Thomas Brooks (1826-aft. 1881)
Mary Brooks (abt. 1828-1872)
Ellen Brooks (1832-1878)

While I don't know the dates of death for Thomas, he survived his father, as is evident in legal documents. See especially Brooks v Sidebottom (1866).

What to pack?

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

If you visit the Moore Museum, in Mooretown, Ontario, you might see this exhibit:

“Log Cabin - When you step into the Courtney log cabin, you step into the home of a settler in the late 1800's. The handmade quilts, kettle for dipping candles and the garden outside are all evidence of the settlers' self-sufficiency.”

However the Courtney family lived, it seems unlikely that this sparsely furnished cabin is representative of the home of Thomas Sutherland’s (1772-1850) family. According to Winning Pendergast, the Sutherlands brought fine furniture, china, silver, and paintings with them, as well as “a respectable library.” One 1847 visitor described them as having “a very good house.” And another account affirms they had a well-stocked cellar. That the settlers could own such things—rather than exclusively rough-hewn objects—is confirmed by John Cunningham Geikie’s Mooretown novel, Life in the Woods: A True Story of the Canadian Bush (1871). In the following scene, he describes the unpacking done by a newly arrived family:

“When we had begun to move the luggage, what boxes on boxes had to be lifted! We all lent a hand, but it was hard work. There was the piano, and the eight-day clock, in a box like a coffin, and carpets, and a huge wardrobe, packed full of I don't know what, large enough to have done for a travelling show, and boxes of books, and crockery, and tables, and a great carpenter's chest, not to speak of barrels of oatmeal, and flour, and salt, and one of split peas. I think the books were the heaviest, except that awful wardrobe and the chest of drawers, which were all packed full of something. But they paid over and over for all the trouble and weight, proving the greatest possible blessing. If we had not brought them we would have turned half- savages, I suppose, for there were none to buy nearer than eighty or ninety miles, and, besides, we would not have had money to buy them. We had a whole set of Sir Walter Scott's charming stories, which did us a world of good, both by helping us to spend the winter evenings pleasantly, by the great amount of instruction in history and antiquarian lore they contained, and by showing my young sisters, especially, that all the world were not like the rude people about us. They got a taste for elegance and refinement from them that kept them ladies in their feelings while they had only the life of servants.”

The set of Scott’s books is a nice touch; there is a family story that Scott frequented TS’s shop. (Though Sutherland’s shop was not the military outfitters Scott commissioned to make a kilt for George IV—that was George Hunter’s firm.) We do know that in 1827 Scott paid a dividend on an outstanding bill to a Thomas Sutherland for some service or goods rendered. This could be the Aberdeen bookseller identified only as “Mr. Sutherland” in The Journal of Sir Walter Scott—there was a Thomas Sutherland who was a book agent in Aberdeen. However, he does not seem to appear until the 1830s, making it a greater likelihood that Mr. Sutherland is one of the John Sutherlands who operated in the Aberdeen book trade from the first decade of the century onward. Which leaves us with the possibility that the family legend is true: that Scott bought wares from Sutherland, while Sutherland bought books by Scott.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thomas Sutherland: the Literary Edition

John Ruskin, detail of a painting by John Everett Millais (1853–54)

Of all of the stories to surround Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850), this one, excerpted from J. M. Warwick’s “Sutherland, Talfourd, and Warwick Families,” is the most tantalizing:

“Of an upper middle class family of merchants, Sutherland was a frequenter of the literary and artistic salon which met at the Talfourd home in nearby Wandsworth, now, too, a part of London…. If Moore Township can be said to have had its birth with the erection of Sutherland’s Wharf at Mooretown, its conception took place in the Talfourd home in Wandsworth, where Robert Browning and his wife, Elizabeth Barrett were wont to foregather with John Ruskin, Mrs. Mitford, Charles Dickens and other writers of the day, under the beneficent and patronizing eye of the aging Mrs. Talfourd. Mrs. Talfourd’s own son, Field, then an unknown, would one day be a portrait painter of note, but not until he had assisted his brother Froom in opening up a settlement in the St. Clair river which would bear his name.”

Unfortunately, the chronology simply doesn’t make sense. Mrs. Talfourd, mother of Field (1809-?), Froome (1807-1902), and Thomas Noon (1795-1854), and wife to Edward, was Anne Noon, born in 1773. Thus she would not have been “aging” to Thomas Sutherland, Sr., born a year earlier. Moreover, the Talfourds were extremely pious; Anne Noon Talfourd’s father, Thomas Noon, was a dissenting clergyman, the minister of the independent chapel at Reading, Berkshire. In accordance with their religious beliefs, she and Edward limited the reading material they allowed in the house—the only plays Thomas Noon Talfourd reported having access to when young were Hannah More’s Sacred Dramas. It seems highly improbable that someone who banned Shakespeare would host a modern literary salon.

Adding to the improbability of TS, Sr. attending a literary salon with these figures during his formative years is the fact that he was already established with a family in Scotland long before most of these writers (with the exception of Mary Russell Mitford) were born. But there are a few other possibilites: 1) TS, Sr. knew Edward and Anne Talfourd; 2) TS, Sr. met Field and Froome in Canada and visited them during the Sutherland family trip to Croydon said to have occured in 1841; 3) It was TS, Jr. who knew the Talfourd family in England, perhaps due to a shared interest in literature; 4) any combination of the above.

It is established that Thomas Noon Talfourd was a friend of Dickens (who dedicated The Pickwick Papers to him), the Lambs, the Brownings, and Mitford. As to an aging Mrs. Talfourd, while TNT’s wife (Rachel Rutt, daughter of John Towill Rutt of Clapton) was too young to assume that title, TNT’s mother is described as being in his house on at least one occasion when friends gathered. It thus seems more likely that if TS knew the Talfourds and attended their literary salons, it was not in advance of his move from Croydon to Edinburgh, but rather following his move from the old world to the new. This most likely places Sutherland as a visitor at the Talfourds in the early 1840s, when he made a trip to England with his family--ostensibly to break up an attachment his youngest daughter had formed, and of which he did not approve. This does make sense: after all, the gift of Holy Vessels by John Ruskin to Sutherland's church in Mooretown can be dated to 1842 according to an incription. By this time the Talfourd connections would have been well forged.

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's a rich man's world

South Bridge Street, Edinburgh, 1837

It’s only a guess, but my suspicion is that the notice below is in regards to Thomas Erskine Sutherland, as Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) clearly had money post-1821 (see, for instance, his commissioning of paintings of himself, and his second wife and new daughter). And while the post office directory also doesn’t have any TS merchants listed, TES is referred to in some parish records as a merchant.

The Edinburgh Advertiser, 16 Nov 1821

MR. SUTHERLAND having executed a trust-deed for behoof of his creditors in favour of MR. GEORGE PICKARD, and MR. WILLIAM HALL, Merchants in Edinburgh, the Trustees request that the creditors who have not already lodged their claims with affadavits, will transmit them to their Warehouse, No. 82, South Bridge, Edinburgh, on or before the 3rd January next; under certification, that the Creditors neglecting to do so, will not receive any share of the dividend to be made within fourteen days thereafter. EDINBURGH, 13th No. 1821

The notice was reprinted. Sadly, if it is TES, it means his son inherited more than just his name—financial acumen was clearly not their strong point.


Edinburgh University

In combing through the post office directories for early Edinburgh, I stumbled across something interesting. It appears Thomas Sutherland's (1772-1850) eldest son and namesake, TS, Jr. (1797-1880) was undeniably less proficient at his father’s trade than his younger brother George (who would continue as a tailor in Canada). In the years 1825-1826 when the Sutherland family was residing at Drummond Street, a TS advertised himself as a writing master at their home address. It seems highly unlikely that this was the father, given his success as a merchant tailor. But imparting literacy (or penmanship) must not have been sufficiently lucrative or compelling; in 1827 and 1828 TS, Jr. was once again listed as residing at their home address. Occupation: tobacconist. The Canadian mythology about his life in Edinburgh, however, is far more romantic. Winning Pendergast recalls being told “that he was a highly educated gentleman, that he spoke seven languages, and had been a professor of languages at Edinburgh University.” There’s no evidence of any of this. But it is clear that TS the younger continued his literary endeavors in Canada, as there he earned the appellation “the poet of Moore.” This complements the occupation ascribed to him in the 1871 census: gentleman.

Calling small capitalists!

Moore Museum, Mooretown, Ontario

It is not enough that Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) founded Mooretown—then known as Sutherland’s Landing. He also worked to people it by recruiting individuals and families. On the front page of the December 17th, 1836 issue of The Scotsman TS published the following:

THE SUBSCRIBER requests most seriously to call the attention of his late fellow citizens of Edinburgh, Leith, and vicinity; of respectable persons possessing limited incomes of ₤ 50 to ₤ 150 per annum, of half-pay officers, and small capitalists, as well as of tradesmen of all descriptions, who, in many instances, find it difficult at home to maintain appearances, or, in homely phrase, to make “both ends meet,” to the following statement of facts, by which it may be seen that many have it is their power vastly to improve their circumstances, and add greatly to the comfort of themselves and families, by a change of country to one of the finest in the globe….

Sutherland goes on to describe the settlement at length, as well as its inhabitants and trade routes. He also lists references for his character, among them Archibald Geikie, Sr. & Jr.

Geikie, Sr. would live to regret his endorsement of Sutherland—an acrimonious exchange of letters between he and Sutherland which occurred following Geikie, Sr.’s migration to Sutherland’s settlement in Canada has been preserved. Among the charges? Sutherland did not adequately appreciate the issues of The Scotsman Geikie made available to him. Geikie, Jr.’s son, [John] Cunningham Geikie, would go on to immortalize the settlement in his novel, Life in the Woods: A True Story of the Canadian Bush (London: W. Isbister & Co., 1873). The novel has recently been reissued. It can also be read online here. (Thank you to Kathy Witheridge for sharing an article which links Geikie and Sutherland.)

Geikie’s work is obviously a fiction, but it is worth comparing his vision of Sutherland’s settlement with the one TS forwarded above:

“…, it was a straggling collection of wooden houses of all sizes and shapes, a large one next to a miserable one-storey shell, placed with its end to the street. There were a few brick houses, but only a few. The streets were like a newly-ploughed field in rainy-weather, for mud, the waggons often sinking almost to the axles in it. There was no gas, and the pavements were both few and bad. It has come to be a fine place now, but to us it seemed very wretched.” (page 20)

False advertising, perhaps.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Wives of Thomas Sutherland

Grace Hogg (abt. 1777-1853)
Painting by David Scott of Edinburgh (1806-1849)

It seems highly probable that all but one of the children attributed to Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850) and Grace Hogg (abt. 1777-1853) are not, in fact, hers. According to a family history, TS and GH had three sons (Alexander, George and Edward) and two daughters (Thomas-Ann and Grace). However, the dates of birth for three of these individuals precede the marriage of TS and Grace by some time.

Namely, in very neat handwriting, the parish record for May 15, 1825 in Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland reads:

Thomas Sutherland, tailor, College (?) parish & Grace Hogg same parish
Daug. Of Geo. Hogg …no objections.

This marriage occurred closely after the death of TS’s first wife, Elizabeth Beddoes, on Aug 23, 1824, as reported in The Scotsman. What this record also suggests is that the daughter of TS, Grace, was probably not born May 14, 1824, but rather in 1826. One could try to argue that she, too, might have been the daughter of Beddoes, but given that Beddoes was born about 1760, it seems highly unlikely.

In short, it appears the following are the children of TS and Beddoes:
Thomas Sutherland (1797-1880) “poet of Moore
Richard Sutherland (Sept. 25, 1802- March 27, 1822) died in Edinburgh of “decay”
Alexander Sutherland (1804-1840)
Laura Alison Sutherland (1805-1894)
George Sutherland (bet. 1811/1816-1888)
Thomas-Ann Sutherland (1812-1902)
…and John Sutherland (abt. 1807-Nov. 12, 1826), previously unmentioned, but whose death record lists TS as his father and gives the address (2 Drummond) at which the family resided at the time. Cause of death: typhus.

This means in all probability the only child of TS and Grace Hogg is Grace Sutherland (abt. 1826-1861).

Edward Sutherland (bef.1827-bef. 1833) A family record has him dying before 1833, but I've found no further concrete information about his date of birth.

While some may have felt it was sufficient to present the marriage record as proof the GH was not the mother of many of the children attributed to her, it would have been premature. The family records are in such conflict with census records (and the names of the children so common) that it was necessary to establish in other ways that TS was married to both women (hence the usefulness of the post office directories in establishing residency). I will note that the dates of birth of the children may be off here—the census and death records are inconsistent, and I haven’t bothered double checking them all. And as of yet birth or christening records have not been uncovered.

Thank you to Kathy Witheridge for directing me to the Sutherland histories available through the Lambton County Branch of the OGS. See especially, The Sutherland Saga by Winning Pendergast.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thomas Sutherland Emigrates

Blind Asylum, 58 Nicolson Street, 1820

It’s all due to this notice, which appeared in The Scotsman, Saturday, 8th December 1832, that I’m able to state with confidence that the Thomas Sutherland who was the proprietor of Sutherland and Son, Tailors, at 47 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh was the TS (married to Grace Hogg) who came to Canada in 1833 to found Mooretown:

SUTHERLAND & SON, TAILORS, 47, Nicolson Street, having made arrangements to leave this country for America in April next, will be glad to make arrangements with a respectable person to succeed them, upon very favorable terms, as little more than the value of Counters, Shelving, &c. will be expected. The rent is moderate, and the business has been long established. Applications by post must be paid.
Edinburgh, 8th Dec. 1832.

As per a Sutherland history, “The family left Leith, Scotland, on April 25, 1833, aboard the ship European, commanded by Captain Andrew Scott of Leith, arriving in Quebec City on June 21, 1833.” The departure of the European under Scott, bound for Quebec with passengers, is confirmed in the April 27th issue of The Scotsman (though it gives the date as the 26th), with 155 passengers, as per Les Écossais: The Pioneer Scots of Lower Canada, 1763-1855. According to the Montreal Gazette, “Passengers - In the European, from Leith, Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland of Edinburgh, with 4 sons and 3 daughters” (thanks to Kathy Witheridge for sharing the Gazette reference).

TS was already located at 91 Nicolson Street by 1806, as the Post Office Directory of that year lists a “Thomas Sutherland Tailor.” In 1810 he relocated to 12 Nicolson Street, and the following year to 23, where he was still located in 1827. An 1824 advertisement gives the occupation as tailor and clothier. By 1829 the business had expanded to “Sutherland and Son.” That Sutherland relocated frequently is not surprising; many merchants and craftsmen relocated regularly, due to fluctuating finances or conflicts with landlords (see, for instance, members of Scotland’s Book Trade).

It seems likely that Sutherland was in pursuit of the best deal, but did not want to move too far for risk of losing his clients. He was clearly invested in a competetive marketplace for renters, as demonstrated by an announcement in The Scotsman dated July 6, 1831. The piece opens:

THE COMMITTEE of the INHABITANTS beg earnestly to call the attention of the Householders and Proprietors of Edinburgh, to the Petitions to the House of Lords and Commons, against the Improvement Tax, which lie for signature at the following places: — Mr. William Tait, 78, Prince’s Street; Mr. Adam Stewart, 38, Howe Street; Mr James Affleck, Clerk Street; Mr. Chambers, bookseller, 23, Broughton Street; Mr Thomas Sutherland, 47, Nicolson Street; Mr John Boyd, 37 George Street, and Mr Weston, Bookseller, Lothian Street.

While 47 Nicolson was a residential address, TS clearly had his home elsewhere (more on that later). We know a bit about this, his final store, because a later landlord, William Darling, altered the property from what it had been at the time of TS’s tenancy, “A dwelling-house bounded on the east by Nicolson Street and on the north by Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, consisting of four stories, one of which has a sunk story with an area in front.” Darling converted the street flat into a shop in 1843, which suggests it had not formally been one before.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TS fights the Sheriff (sort of)

It seems likely that this is Thomas Sutherland (1772-1850), it certainly doesn't seem out of character. Furthermore, he is the only Thomas Sutherland, merchant tailor--or tailor of any kind--of whom I can find a record of in Edinburgh at the time:

The Scots Revised Reports, [Court of Session]: Faculty Collection, 1807-1825

No. 168 F.C. N.S. VII 666 19 Jan. 1825

Thomas Sutherland and others, pursuers Solicitor-General (Hope), Shav,
WALTER S. MORSON, Defender. — Walker Baird.
Minor — Cautioner — Personal Objection. — Circumstances in which minority was sustained to set aside a cautionary obligation, although the party pleading it had previously made a declaration in writing that he was a major, and, in consequence, had obtained a degree of doctor of medicine.

Samuel Sheriff, a friend and fellow student of the defender, contracted various debts to tradesmen in Edinburgh, and among these to the pursuer, a merchant tailor, and to others for whom the pursuer acted as assignee. Sheriff, upon obtaining his degree a - doctor of medicine, invited a party of his friends to dinner, and among others, the defender, Mr. Morson. During the evening, the pursuer, who, with some other creditors of Mr. Sheriff, had taken out a warrant against him as in meditatione fugue, made their appearance at Mr. Sheriff’s lodgings, and intimated their intention of putting the warrant in execution, unless security was given by some of the party for payment of the debt. Upon this the defender granted the following obligation: — "1st August 1822. — I hereby become bound to pay, or see paid, the following sums due by Dr. Sheriff to the following persons. To Thomas Sutherland, twenty-six pounds sixteen shillings. Mr. James Mellis, twenty-five pounds four shillings. Mr. Purves eighty-seven pounds. Mr. Rose twenty-eight pounds fourteen shillings. Mr. Forrest fourteen pounds three shillings. Expences [sic] two pounds shillings; and that within six weeks of this date.”

Sheriff afterwards left Scotland; and an action was raised against Morson by Sutherland for himself, and as assignee for the other creditors, for payment….

Morson was, in all probability, Walter Skerrett Morson (1802, Antigua-1830, Newcastle), who studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. His family was prominent in Montserrat, and Morson appears to have had success in his short career as a doctor; at least one source claims he was “physician to the late Princess Sophia, daughter of George III.” Sophia could have been a very interesting patient given the rumours of her “indiscretions.” But those would have preceded Morson’s arrival on the scene. Given that at his premature death he left at least four children behind, it is to be hoped he had developed a better grasp of finances.

It seems less likely that Sheriff “stuck” Morson with the bill, and more likely that he was aware of Morson’s status as a minor who could not be held responsible for the debts. Evidence points to the original debtor being Dr. Samuel Marchant Sheriff (1799-1839) of Antigua (son of Samuel Harman Sheriff, brother-in-law to Dr. Anthony Musgrave, treasurer of Antigua, 1825- 1852, uncle to colonial administrator Sir Anthony Musgrave). If so, Morson was less the gallant friend who covered his friend’s financial obligations, and more the conspirator. This seems supported by the very fact that the case went to trial. Ultimately, the fact that this young man choose to frequent this TS's shop suggests he was a tailor whose services and wares were appreciated by the upper-middle classes.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The kindness of strangers

Sutherland Tartan

It behooves me to point to this great site: for Canongate resources. Thanks to whomever it is that is busy transcribing and posting!

Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

Old Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh

Random Thomas Sutherlands of Edinburgh of the relevant period.

1. Thomas Sutherland, Butcher
Reported in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine‎, 1818:
“At Edinburgh, in the 68th year of her age, Mrs Anne Sutherland, widow of Thomas Sutherland, late butcher in Edinburgh.” The post office directory lists TS sometimes as a butcher, sometimes as a flesher (same thing, but the latter sounds far more interesting) on a Charles Street throughout the early years of the nineteenth century.

2. Thomas Sutherland, Laborer
Thomas Sutherland (Newhaven) dies May 18, 1841, dies in Royal Infirmary from fever, age 28. No address or family noted.

3. Thomas Sutherland, Oenologist
I want to believe this one is TS (1772-1850); certainly his fondness for a well-stocked cellar is noted elsewhere.
“Thomas Sutherland was admitted into the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, January 6, 1827, on account of a wound by a piece of a broken wine bottle. The radial artery was implicated where it passes betwixt the metacarpal bones of the thumb and forefinger, to join the deep palmar arch. The vessel was tied on the proximal side of the opening, and it being found impossible to discover the other end, a piece of sponge was introduced into the wound. On the 11 th, bleeding occurred from the part of the vessel which had been tied. The wound was enlarged, and the artery tied above and below. The original wound then took to bleeding. It bled repeatedly, on the 14th, and again on the 15th. The hand had become swollen, and a quantity of matter had collected. An attempt was made, by cutting up the original wound, to expose and tie the bleeding vessel; but on account of the sloughy state of the parts the ligature would not keep its hold. The humeral was then tied by Sir George Ballingall, and there was no further trouble; the patient made a rapid recovery.”
-- Medico-chirurgical Transactions
, Medical and Chirurgical Society of London

4. Thomas Sutherland, Bibliophile
In 1824 a Thomas Sutherland of Edinburgh was one of the subscribers to the novel Adolphe and Selanie, or the Power of Attachment ; a Moral Tale, founded on Facts, written by Henri Leopold Dubois, who identified himself as a “Teacher of the French Language.” The subscription list is interesting for the notable presence of members of the Scottish legal establishment and other “professional worthies.” For those wondering what it meant to publish a novel by subscription, generally authors would pre-sell copies of their unpublished works in order to gain enough capital to publish them. The names of purchasers would be included, serving as a kind of endorsement. Of course, inclusion of names was at the discretion of the author, who might edit the lists in later editions in order to disassociate themself from public figures who had fallen out of favor.

Whether or not Sutherland enjoyed the novel is unknown—what is known is that a reviewer for The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany panned it, describing “friends, whose lengthened visages but too plainly told their disappointment and chagrin for the utter loss of their seven shilling and sixpence (such is the price of the bagatelle) and the exertions they made to extract from the volume something like an equivalent for their time and their cash. But GULLED was too legibly imprinted on their foreheads.” (March 1825).

5. Thomas Sutherland, Soldier
A Thomas Sutherland, born in Edinburgh, served in the 75th Foot Regiment, also known as Abercromby's Highlanders, after their commander, Robert Abercromby of Tullibody. He survived to be discharged at age 43. His service record is covered by the years 1813-1838, and can be ordered.