Friday, 27 January 2017

Record of the Week: In Their Hour Of Need

This week's record recounts the tale of "The Bell." In the 1820s, the Village of Perth was lacking ways to tell the time, so the residents decided to resolve that issue by acquiring a bell to ring at designated hours, originally for the workers' benefit. However, when the bell was delivered to Perth, there was the (not so) slight problem of where to put it! We at the Archives have no further knowledge of this story or its accuracy, so if you have more information, please share it in the comments section below. It gave us a chuckle and hope it will do the same for you.

About 1820 the settlement of the old Bathurst District was very short of time pieces, both clocks and watches, which caused much trouble to the inhabitants, so a public meeting was held in the then Village of Perth, when it was unanimously agreed by those present, without distinctions of creed or sect to obtain a bell to be rung at stated hours, three times a day so as to warn the working people of the hours of rest and refreshment. Accordingly a bell was purchased in England and shipped at Liverpool to Quebec, whence it was transported to Brockville, and then by ox-team to Perth, but on arrival, it was discovered to the consternation of the subscribers, that they had no place to hang it except in the Roman Catholic Church, and as the larger number of the contributors were Protestants, this at first caused quite a discussion. But soon a friendly arrangement was arrived at by which the bell was to be hung in the Roman Catholic belfry, and to be for all time to come rung at 6 A.M., noon and six P.M. for the general benefit. Now the Priest at that time was Father John Macdonell, who was esteemed by all, without respect of creed, for his kind lovable nature, and was equally welcome in the homes of the Prostestant's [sic] as of his own flock. Father John was a highlander, the son I have heard of a British Officer, but he never thoroughly mastered the English tongue, but this did not interfere with the general friendliness between him and the inhabitants. The bell was hung, and after mass on the first Sunday when it had been rung, Father John, read out for the edification of his flock, the names of the chief Protestant subscribers to the cost, and added his own quaint remarks about each as they have came down to me. "Mr. M---s is a goot man an exceedingly goot man, She paid ta freight on ta bell all the way from Liverpool, She is almost a Catholic, and you should pray for her. Dr. W----n, is a goot man, She put her hand in her trousers pocket and gave two pounds for the bell, She is a goot man.["] So on he went for some time, till he came to the name of a very rigid Protestant, who however was very intimate with the Priest, but fond of playing practical jokes on the simple old priest. Now was the time for revenge, reading out his name, he said "Mr. ------ is a very goot man, she gave a pound for the bell but she is a most tamnable heretic". All the parties connected with this story have long since passed away, but they had nothing but the kindest feelings to each other and the old bell still rings as of yore.

"The Bell," author unknown

MN AS05.05
Archbishop McNeil fonds

Friday, 20 January 2017

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

This week we are sharing a letter from an important figure in the history of the Archdiocese, the Honorable James Baby.

The Honorable James Baby
Baby (pronounced Baw-bee) was born in Detroit in 1763 and educated in Quebec. He became a respected businessman in Lower Canada and was appointed to a position in Upper Canada by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. He served in various roles but was eventually appointed to Inspector General in 1815, when he moved to York.    

As a French Catholic in York, his options for practicing his faith were limited. Though land had been obtained by trustees for the Catholic community in the early years of the century, no church had been built, and visits by priests were infrequent. In 1821, Baby and the other trustees sold the original property and obtained ten acres near modern-day Queen and Parliament Streets. It was up to Baby to raise funds for and oversee the building of the first church between Sandwich and Kingston, which opened its doors in 1822 as St. Paul's.

Though he wrote many letters to Bishop Macdonell, we chose to share this pivotal moment in York's Catholic history, in which Baby tells the bishop that the land is being cleared for the new church. It is strange to think of ten acres of land in downtown Toronto needing to be cleared of trees, but that's how it was at the time!

My Dear Lord,

It gives me pleasure to be able to inform you that what was in contemplation during your stay here has been matured since your departure. His Excellency has been pleased to sanction (indeed confirmed) the recommendation of the Council upon the petition presented in your name and Trustees in behalf of the Roman Catholics of this place and its vicinity. The ground (two blocks each of 5 acres as per the plan you saw) are granted. They were estimated at £20 per acre - £200 in the whole on the annual payment of interest or rent. This sum to be redeemed at the option or pleasure of the Trustees. I hope I have not erred in comprising Ten instead of Five acres: we may relinquish the other five if it is thought advisable. For my part I have no hesitation to say that I would prefer taking the whole than the one half for I have no doubt that at no distant period the extra five will be found not only very valuable but most useful, particularly if you should be enabled to mature your plan of erecting a public school for young girls.  

The ground or spot where the church or chapel is intended to be erected is getting cleared: there will be tomorrow a Bee or collection of people to forward the work. In a few days I shall take steps to contract for the materials as well as for the undertaking of the building, the dimensions of which I will take take care not to be too contracted nor to exceed much our expected means.

I hope you have continued in good health and that you have reached your home in a comfortable manner.

I have been a good deal indisposed ever since the next Thursday after your departure from this place. I am however getting better.

I beg to subscribe myself with the most sincere respect.

My Dear Lord, your most obedient humble servant

J Baby

M AB01.02
Bishop Macdonell Fonds

The church that Baby built was the spiritual home for Toronto Catholics until St. Michael's Cathedral was built in the 1840s. It was the site of one of the earliest Catholic schools in the city, which still exists today. Though the building has since been replaced, St. Paul's is still an active parish serving downtown Toronto almost 200 years later. Baby's vision of a place for Catholics to gather and worship has endured. With his help, Toronto's Catholic community flourished and grew to be what it is today.

Old St. Paul's Church, Power Street

Photo published in The Story of St. Paul's Parish, Toronto, by Rev. E. Kelly, 1922, p. 45.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Bless you!

It's wintertime, and that often means an increase in the number of colds and other illnesses that can leave us feeling miserable for a few days or even weeks. Updating one's Facebook status has become the common way of informing friends and strangers alike, sometimes in a very detailed manner, that a sickness and its corresponding frustration are present. People have not changed much over time in this regard. This week, we are featuring correspondence covering a range of ailments and how the writers handled the unfortunate situations in which they found themselves.

Some people intend to follow doctor's orders to rest:

"I deeply regret that I cannot enjoy your kind hospitality this evening as I am suffering from a nasty cold & a sore throat & in view of the meeting tonight the Dr. has advised me to remain indoors."

Letter from Thomas H. Grattan Esmonde to Abp. Lynch,
December 28, 1887

L AH32.115
Archbishop Lynch fonds

Or consider taking a sick day:

"I am at present under the weather with a heavy cold which took hold of me last week, and which seems to be developing instead of diminishing. If it does not relax its grip before next Tuesday, I shall not venture to go to Toronto."

Letter from William S. Macdonell to Abp. McEvay,
March 17, 1909

ME AF04.15
Archbishop McEvay fonds

Others, however, continue to work:

"Sick ten days bad cold[.] I endorse letter[.] Keep me posted on events[.]"

Telegram from Bp. Cleary to Abp. Walsh,
February 14, 1885

W AB02.02
Archbishop Walsh fonds

Some people blame the weather or a pesky draft for their illness:

"I regret to have to inform your Grace that the Bishop contracted a very severe cold, whilst looking after the works going on in the Cathedral. The weather is cold, and the windows being entirely open in the Church, removed in fact, for the placing of the stained-glass, his Lordship who could not absent himself lest a mistake might be made, took the inevitable cold and the kidneys have been seized by it, so that Senator Sullivan has insisted on his remaining at home for some days at least, until the present symptoms pass away by care and rest."

Letter from Rev. Thomas Kelly to Abp. Lynch,
October 27, 1886

L AD01.141
Archbishop Lynch fonds

Sometimes a person suffers from something more serious than a regular cold and is quite distressed:

"You will observe from my hand-writing that some great change has taken place in my constitution. ... About a month ago, I became the victim of acute rheumatism, the pain of which continued to become more and more intense until Sunday evening, the 29th ultimo it shot from the left shoulder through the heart and so prostrated me that my medical advisers believed I would not survive until morning. ... My general health is improving, but the left arm still continues to suffer excruciating pain, and is, since the Sunday just named, entirely useless."

Letter from Canon John Woods to Bp. de Charbonnel,
Trinity Sunday, 1859

C AB15.22
Bishop de Charbonnel fonds

And we all have at least one friend who provides way too much information:

"Here I am, all alone, my companions gone along last night to Charlottetown, leaving me sick in the hotel. But, thanks to God, I am usually cheerful in sickness, and I take to giving you an account of myself. ... The night before St. James' day, having dined on fish, I got cramps and diarrhea -- Irish cholera -- which continued for six days. I was four days in Westport without eating a morsel of food during that period of exhausting flux. ... My leg has been sore since Tuesday night and I required help to walk. I believed it to be the sting of a spider or 'black fly' in the shin. I expected all to be well in a few days, I did not intend accompanying my guests beyond Montreal, as I was unable to walk, and the pain was intense; but they coerced me and I agreed to proceed. But during dinner here last evening ... I suffered more pain than before and found the leg inflamed more. ... I sent for Dr. Hingston who declared my ailment to be erysipelas, which demands absolute rest for the leg and medicinal treatment for myself."

First four pages of letter from Bp. Cleary to Abp. Lynch,
August 8, 1885

L AD 01.130
Archbishop Lynch fonds

We hope this week's blog finds you all in good health. Take care of yourselves!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Connecting With All the Principal Cities and Towns

Do you remember what it was like the first time you got an email? Suddenly, you had the ability to send and receive messages from the other side of the world nearly instantaneously. Perhaps you would have felt the same if you were living in the 1840s and received a telegram for the first time. In a world where information only moved as fast as you could carry it, receiving a message from a distant place on the same day it was sent would have been mind-blowing.

On this day in 1838, Samuel Morse and his partner Alfred Vail demonstrated their electric telegraph to their financial backer, who was anxious for results. The message they sent was "a patient waiter is no loser." Six years later, they sent the message "what hath God wrought" from Washington to Baltimore using their now-famous code. Within another few years, telegraph lines were being built all over the world. Railway companies were a natural fit to be in the telegraph business because they already had land cleared connecting major cities. By the late 1860s, cables successfully crossed the Atlantic to connect Eastern Canada and Great Britain.

Telegrams were a great way to send messages that needed to be delivered quickly. They were generally short, as payment was by the word. Here in the Archives, we have over 100 years' worth of examples.

Our earliest example is an 1856 message sent from Bishop Phelan of Kingston to Bishop de Charbonnel:

"I approve of the petition for Arrears in Question. Bishop Phelan"

April 5, 1856

C AB12.30
Bishop de Charbonnel Fonds

In 1864 Sir John A. Macdonald telegraphed Bishop Lynch from Quebec:
"Private - arrangements will be made to give Freeman seven hundred dollars tomorrow."

September 30, 1864

L AF02.10
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1874 Archbishop Lynch received a message imparting the apostolic blessing of Pope Pius IX: 

June 20, 1874

L AH19.10
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1885 Bishop Walsh of London congratulated Archbishop Lynch on the anniversary of his consecration as Coadjutor Bishop of Toronto:

"Accept my heartfelt congratulations for your feast & warmest wishes for your health & happiness"

November 20, 1885

L AD03.27
 Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In 1891 Archbishop Walsh received a transatlantic telegram from France with news of Bishop
de Charbonnel's death:

"Monseigneur de Charbonnel trépassé ce matin 10 heures"

March 29, 1891

W AB04.16
Archbishop Walsh Fonds

In 1903 Archbishop O'Connor received news of the death of Pope Leo XIII from the Apostolic Delegate in Ottawa:

"With great sorrow I announce to you death of Holy Father. Notify suffragans."

July 20, 1903

O AB05.09
Archbishop O'Connor Fonds

This telegram arrived on the day of Archbishop McEvay's death in 1911 with the blessings of Pope Pius X:

"Beatissimus pater petitam apostolical benedictionen in articulo mortis ex toto corde impertitur"

May 10, 1911

ME AA02.39
Archbishop McEvay Fonds

In 1922 Archbishop McNeil received news of the death of Pope Benedict XV:

"It is my plainful duty announce you Holy Father died January twenty second six o'clock morning Rome time please order prayers repose of his soul."

January 22, 1922

MN DS24.01
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

In 1937 Archbishop McGuigan was congratulated for his Cathedral renovations:

"Please accept my warmest congratulations on the completion of your latest effort for God's greater glory I should love to be with you tomorrow for the opening of your splendidly restored cathedral give my greetings to Bishop Kidd may God's providence continue to crown you[r] every work with success"

September 11, 1937

MG FA03.58
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In 1944 Archbishop McGuigan received a telegram from Cardinal Villeneuve in Quebec with the text of a statement that was issued to call for Rome to be spared from destruction:

March 3, 1944

SW GC01.123
Second World War Collection

In 1956 Cardinal McGuigan received a request for information about Catholic schools in Ontario from the Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand. A message from the other side of the world:

"At state educational enquiry here statement made 30-0/0 Catholics Ontario contract out of Catholic schools system prefer attend state scholls stop Grateful airmail comment urgent"

October 3 1956

MG DA42.27
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In 1963 Cardinal McGuigan sent word to Archbishop Pocock from Rome with news of the newly elected Pope's greetings to Toronto:

"First words Pope Paul Six to me I send great blessing to Toronto without distinction race colour creed"

June 21, 1963

PO VA04.15
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

And the latest example we could find was sent sometime between 1969 and 1971:

"As president I offered full CCC support for combined appeal for Pakistani relief launched by eight Canadian organizations to be announced at Montreal and Toronto news conferences Wednesday A.M. CCODP will act on behalf of Catholic Church. Details to follow"


PO DP01.379
Archbishop Pocock Fonds

Next time you read a text message, think what it would have been like if that note had been hand-delivered to you by someone from the Montreal Telegraph Company. There's something romantic about it! Amazingly enough, there are still telegram services in existence. They work a bit differently, but the concept is still the same!

Bonus video: "A Telegram for America" -- a history of Western Union.