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.