Box 14-127 SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET Speech by Mary Anderson, Ph.D.
Apr 9 2005 Saturday
To: Hamilton Spectator Hamilton, Ontario
From: Whitehern Historic House and Garden Hamilton Ontario
SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET
It will be better than anything on TV.
Saturday night, you are invited to come and learn about the secret and private lives of Hamilton's notable McQuesten family whose historic downtown home, Whitehern, is now a city museum.
A wicked stepmother, a wastrel son, a domineering matriarch, a suspected suicide and all the other ingredients of a soap opera 1 played out in the home.
Mary Anderson, the author of The Life Writings of Mary Baker McQuesten, will be speaking at 8 p.m., in Room 1a1 of McMaster University's Ewart Angus Centre to the Hamilton Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art.
Admission is free. The Ewart Angus Centre is at the rear of McMaster University Medical Centre.
Anderson, a playwright and historian, has pored over the years of personal letters and papers by the family.
The lecture will deal with the Victorian gems of history, science and art in the Whitehern museum Archives.
The Hamilton Spectator
1 The story of the McQuesten family at Whitehern is actually a dramatic saga in three parts and would make an exciting three-part series for television.
The first part is: The Rise of the House of McQuesten with Dr. Calvin McQuesten who opened Hamilton's first foundry and made a fortune manufacturing threshing machines and stoves. He retired in 1865 with a fortune of $500,000 and other investments in real estate and bonds, etc.
The second part of the saga is: The Fall of the House of McQuesten, with Dr. Calvin's son, Isaac, who lost the fortune through poor investments, and ended up bankrupt through alcoholism, other addictions and mental illness. He died very suddenly at the age of forty, a suspected suicide, but it may have been accidental. There was much stigma connected with his death and bankruptcy.
The third part of the saga is: The Restoration of the House of McQuesten; it contains both Tragedy and Triumph. It involves Mary Baker McQuesten, the impoverished mother/matriarch of the 6 children at Whitehern who were between the ages of 14 and 2 at the time of their father's death. She soon perceived that there were only two of her children who were capable of higher education and of achieving professional status. They were Ruby and Tom but Tom, being a man, had the potential for greater earning power in the Victorian Age. Therefore, Mary sent Ruby to school to become a teacher. She then took a job at the Ottawa Ladies' College and sent almost all of her money home to pay for Tom's education. She was also his mentor as her letters to Tom demonstrate. As soon as Tom graduated in law in 1907, Ruby fell and died 4 years later of Tuberculosis--that is the Tragedy. Tom went on to achieve Triumph and to restore the family in dignity and in honour, if not in wealth. He became an MPP and built many of the roads and bridges in Ontario. To read his story, see his bio on this site, or the several books written about the McQuesten family. Also visit the Whitehern Museum in Hamilton for a tour of the home which is intact with all family belongings up to 1968.