Advanced Search 

Home - introductions to the site
Search - a searchable database of letters/essays/etc.
Family - short biographical information of each family member
Photographs - various images pertaining to the McQuesten family
Thesis - essays on the McQuestens and lifewriting by Mary Anderson
Timelines - a chronological list of events in the McQuesten family and corresponding historical events

Family - Rev. Thomas Baker
Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten
(Mack, Mac)
Civil War Surgeon

Oct. 27, 1837 - 1912

[Note to readers: Throughout this website Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten will be referred to as exactly that, and is to be distinguished from his father Dr. Calvin McQuesten and nephew Rev. Calvin McQuesten.]

(Dr.) Calvin Brooks McQuesten (Mack, Mac) was born on October 27, 1837 to Dr. Calvin McQuesten and his first wife Margarette Barker Lerned (1809-41) in Brockport, New York (W0906, W0908, W0910). Margarette gave birth to two other sons, Calvin Jr. August 5, 1834 who lived only five days, and James Barker who was born July 10, 1841 and died July 29, six days after his mother died. 1

Dr. Calvin McQuesten then married Estimate Ruth Esther Baldwin, on September 9, 1844, and they had two sons, Isaac Baldwin (1847-88), and David (1849-54) who died in a fire at the age of five. Estimate (Baldwin) McQuesten died on April 27, 1851. Consequently, when Dr. Calvin McQuesten was widowed for the second time in 1851, he had two living sons, half-brothers, Calvin Brooks who was fourteen, and Isaac Baldwin, who was four (see Family).

Dr. Calvin McQuesten married a third time, in 1853, to Elizabeth Fuller. Dr. Calvin needed a mother for his two boys, and Elizabeth Fuller, a teacher, presented herself in her letters, and otherwise, as a loving and kindly person. In the same year Dr. Calvin McQuesten purchased Whitehern (then "Willowbank") for 800 British pounds, and moved in with his family. However, Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten was not at all interested in being a mother to the two young boys; she instructed them to call her "Mrs. McQuesten," and she promptly sent them away to school. She spent a great deal of her time traveling and shopping in the U.S. and Europe. Many of the fine furnishings at Whitehern are the result of these shopping trips.

Calvin Brooks and Isaac had a poor relationship with their step-mother from the beginning. In spite of the age difference of ten years, Calvin and Isaac were good friends, and as they grew older they collaborated against their step-mother as she sought to secure her husband's estate in her name. When Dr. Calvin Brooks settled in New York to practice medicine, the two brothers remained in contact by letter. Their exchange in letters is often humourous, indulging in political banter involving U.S. and Canada relations. They were also frank in their anger, when necessary, but not so much as to have any long-term damaging effect on their relationship. In some of their letters they used the sobriquet "O.L." Old Lady, for their step-mother, and they often used the abbreviation "Mrs. McQ." For instance, Calvin writes: "But pray tell me what in thunder & blazens [sic] is Mrs. McQ. up to" (W-MCP4-6.69, W-MCP4-6.70, W-MCP4-6.72).

Dr. Calvin Brooks' father, Dr. Calvin McQuesten, was very successful in the foundry business in Hamilton and, in 1857, Dr. Calvin McQuesten sold his business to his three nephews and retired with a fortune of $500,000, as well as real estate and investments. He put his son Isaac, a lawyer, in charge of many of his financial interests, while Dr. Calvin Brooks continued to practice medicine in New York. He also arranged a will unbeknownst to his wife, leaving her an annuity. When he died in 1885, his estate reverted to his sons, and the house (Willowbank, later Whitehern) to Isaac, who by 1885 had 5 living children (one had died in infancy) and another on the way, born a few days after Dr. Calvin's death.

After his father's death, Isaac continued to take charge of the family finances, including Dr. Calvin Brooks' share of the estate. However, when Isaac died very suddenly in 1888, followed by bankruptcy, much of Dr. Calvin Brooks' inheritance was lost as well. In the settlement of the bankruptcy Calvin gained possession of the Alexandra Arcade and used the rent to pay the annuity to their step-mother Elizabeth (Fuller) McQuesten (W1652), and she promptly moved back to the United States. He sold the Arcade in 1910. 2

Calvin graduated from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire as a doctor of medicine. He was in his final year in Medicine when the Civil War broke out. He received further education at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He also received some practice time in various areas of New York State as well as in the city of Washington.

During the Civil War Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten tended to injured servicemen (soldiers and officers) while working in Washington & in New York City. He also served at the US General Hospital (Washington) and at Columbian Hospital (New York) during the War, where he earned the title "Acting Assistant Surgeon." He enlisted in the Northern Army as a surgeon. It is during this service in 1865 that he wrote to his brother Isaac announcing the death of Lincoln. He also wrote describing the armies marching in New York and Washington (W-MCP4-6.64, W-MCP4-6.65, W-MCP4-6.66, W-MCP4-6.68).

Some of Calvin's friends, other medical students, studied in Europe: London, Dresden and Vienna, and their letters describe their medical studies, the various surgical methods and techniques, their experiences with learning the language, and the social conditions there (W1256 to W1357).

Dr. Calvin Brooks' private practice was in New York City at 784 Lexington Avenue, as well as at Asbury Park, New Jersey. In the summer and fall of 1877, he returned to Hamilton for a time to recuperate from Pneumonia, which he first contracted in 1875 (W1419, W1458, W1470).

Dr. Calvin Brooks never married but he had a love relationship with a Lizzie French, who died of consumption, and he carried her picture in his wallet until he died. He had other lady friends but he never settled down to marry. He lived in Hamilton from 1908 until his death in 1912, and resided at 38 Hess Street South and at 11 Alexandra Arcade. He also resided at a apartment over the Dominion Bank building at King and MacNab Streets, near Whitehern, in 1911. He attended the MacNab Street Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten appears to have led a comfortable life, and had no debts. There is no record that he assisted the family in any financial way after Isaac's death; however, he did leave $36,000 to Mary Baker McQuesten after his death in 1912. This was a great help to her and the family after their twenty-four years of financial struggle after Isaac's death, and it brought a great deal of relief to Mary and the family. Various comments in the family letters refer to him as "Unc," but he was not very sociable with the family. Calvin Brooks died of cerebral apoplexy at the age of seventy-four and is buried in the McQuesten plot in the Hamilton Cemetery.

1 We are indebted to Mary Harrington Farmer (CMQPW 6-7) and to Georgina Minnes for some of the biographical information in this sketch (Minnes, "Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten" 1-5).

2 See W1652, for a note on the Alexandra Arcade and some details of the settlement of the estate. (See also, W1647, W1656, W1658, W1661, W1672, W1675, W8721, Box 12-316)

Home | Search | Thesis | Family | Timelines
Photographs | Whitehern | Sitemap | Credits

Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
Please direct questions and comments to Mary Anderson, Ph.D.

Hamilton Public Library This site was created in partnership with and is hosted by the Hamilton Public Library. Canada's Digital Collections This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections initiative, Industry Canada.