Box 14-122 THOMAS BAKER MCQUESTEN: AN ACCOUNT OF HIS MAJOR ROLE IN THE NIAGARA FALLS BRIDGE COMMISSION AND THE CARILLON AND BELL INSCRIPTION CONTROVERSY.
Jun 19 1942 Also refers to June 1947, but was written after Tom's death, Jan 13, 1948
this nineteenth day of June Nineteen hundred and forty-two.
NIAGARA FALLS BRIDGE COMMISSION
Sgd. T.B. McQuesten, CHAIRMAN
Sgd. S.M. Johnson, VICE-CHAIRMAN
Sgd. C.E. Kaumeyer, SECRETARY (Seal)
Witness to the Signatures of T.B. McQuesten, C. E. Kaumeyer and S.M. Johnson
Sgd. Mary V. Stuckey"
[Page 5 Continues]1
Professor Percival Price, University of Michigan, ANN ARBOR, Michigan, was engaged to design the framework to support the bells and also the automatic playing mechanism and equipment. This originally was to be wooden supports but later was changed to steel supports. (This man was very disappointing to Mr. McQuesten--when the bells were brought through Customs he interviewed some of the Ottawa Officials, not in Mr. McQuesten's favor), but for the benefit of Mr. H.2
The Brennan Construction Co. were the people who put up the structure. Professor Price made a trip to the British Isles and the Continent, at the expense of the Commission, to inspect and test the bells.
The Bridge, the Tower and the Carillon were all Mr. McQuesten's idea. The day the Old Bridge went down, he had sent the Bridge Engineer from the Highways Department to watch it as they knew it was going to collapse, and that day he said in the presence of Mr. R.M. Smith, and myself "We will build a beautiful stone Bridge with a Carillon and Tower- the finest in the world". Mr. R.M. Smith was the Deputy Minister. The year it was completed it was printed in "The Architectural Review" an English Magazine that the Niagara Bridge was voted the finest in the world for that year, so he was not wrong.
There is cast on the great bell (20,000 lbs.) the following inscription:-"CHURCHILL
Ev'n as a bird
Out of the fowler's snare
So is our soul set free:
Brake are their nets,
And thus escaped we
Therefore our help
Is in the Lord's Great Name
Who heaven and earth
By His great power did frame.
To God's Glory and in grateful memory of our Nations' Leaders:
Winston Spencer Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt"
The first part of this inscription is from the concluding lines of the 124th Psalm, Scottish Metrical Version.
Mr. Churchill has knowledge of this as he was sent photographs of same.
In June 1947 Mr. McQuesten gave the following Statement to the Newspapers:-
"I wish to dissociate myself from the action of the majority Members of the Niagara Bridge Commission in ordering the removal of the names of Mr. Winston Churchill and the late President Roosevelt from the inscription cast on the great bell (ten and a half tons) of the carillon. This action followed a long campaign in which at least three Ministers of the Government at Ottawa tampered with and put pressure upon Ontario Members of the Bridge Commission. Surely it is a most unbecoming thing that the name of the President of the United States to whom this country and the world owes so great a debt should be smudged out on the insistence of Members of the Government of Canada. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt have thousands of friends in this Province. Their names are great names and should be treated with the utmost respect.
The Carillon was erected with the money of American bondholders. The record will show that the Bellfounders in England, when their advice was sought, could not guarantee that the operation of removing these names would not destroy the bell. The Commission's own Architect concurred in this, but so great was the pressure from Ottawa Ministers that this recommendation was disregarded.
The value of the carillon is in the order of $100,000. and the destruction of the great bell would be a very serious loss. The whole steel framework and bells would have to be taken out of the tower and bell recast. It is improper that this should be forced upon the bondholders. Ottawa has contributed nothing to the whole project."
Then on June 18th, 1947, Mr. McQuesten received the following telegram from George Drew:-
"This is to notify you that Order-in-Coucil has been passed terminating your appointment as a Member of Niagara Falls Bridge Commission effective Seventeenth June Nineteen forty seven stop you will receive letter enclosing copy of the Order.
D.R. Michener Provincial Secty [sic] Ontario."
-The inscription still remains on the bells-
The man who attacked/in the Ottawa House was the Hon. Lionel Chevrier- a french Canadian- as to the inscription on the bells-
Mr. McQuesten became very ill a few days after receiving the wire from George Drew and entered the Hospital the end of June where he remained for two months. In my heart I shall always feel that the Niagara Falls Bells killed Mr. McQuesten. He gave generously of his time and money for his expenses etc. and never at any time received anything from the Commission- not even gratitude. During the period or the nine years he served as Chairman of the Bridge Commission and Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission and Hydro Commissioner he received no remuneration.
Mr. McQuesten never heard the bells ring-
Mr. McQuesten was awarded an Honourary Certificate from the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America for his interest in the art of the carillon. Apparently the Americans appreciated what he had done more than the Canadians. Mr. McQuesten's grandfather was born in Bedford, N.H. 18293 and was a graduate of (Bowd.) and I believe President Roosevelt also atttended that College.
1 This document was appended to a previous document (W-MCP7-1.027) which ends here on the page numbered '(5)' with the final sentence and signatures of the preceding document repeated. The document added below the signatures is undated except that it refers to June 1947, and was obviously written after Tom's death on Jan 13, 1948. It outlines Thomas Baker McQuesten's position as Chairman of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, and his preservation of the inscription on the bell in defiance of Prime Minister Mackenzie King's demands that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's name be removed and his own name installed. It also includes T.B. McQuesten's major contribution to the commission, and his resulting forced resignation.
Possible writers of this document are: Mary Stuckey, C. E. Kaumeyer, Jessie Yorston or Calvin McQuesten. The tone of the document might suggest Calvin McQuesten, although the error in the date of Dr. Calvin McQuesten's birth suggests otherwise. See W-MCP7-1.027, which contains the two contracts with the Bell manufacturers which likely would have been on pages 1-4. The second contract defers the manufacture and delivery of the bells because of the war. We have included this document with those as well as here.
For more information and a brief biography of T.B. McQuesten, please go to the Home Page and click on "Family" and then on his photo.
2 The identity of this "Mr.H." has yet to be confirmed. Possibilities include Archie Haines or Ross Harstone, T.B. McQuesten's fellow commissioners on the Niagara Parks Commission. Tom resigned from the Niagara Parks Commission in 1944, as a result of pressure applied by Premier George Drew (W-MCP7-1.148). On May 20, 1944, Tom resigned as Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission (W-MCP7-1.150). The 'carillon controvesy', as this event has come to be known, involved Tom's position on the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. Following the dispute over the inscription on the largest bell, Premier Drew terminated Tom's position as Canadian Chairman of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission in 1947. A copy of the telegram Tom received relating this news appears in this document.
3 Dr. Calvin McQuesten was in fact born in 1801. This error suggests that the author of this enigmatic document was in fact not intimately acquainted with the McQuesten family's history, despite the disapproving tone of the document.