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Wilkie family, see W4651W4651 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Sep 24 1902
To: Calvin McQuesten Montreal Quebec
From: 'Whitehern'

My dear, dear, boy,

Your letter was most satisfactory and your conversations with Leslie1 & Johnson.2 I consider it most Providential that you were able to have these, because in my own mind I felt it could not be true that all travellers must drink themselves. I quite believe they must offer refreshments, but it seemed to me, a man of any strength of mind need not take it himself. Of course Ken insisted he could not and I just saw at once that he did not want to. From your letter, you seem to think that I did not leave H. to settle it. Perhaps Ken made you think so. But this is just what I did. The first night he came, he took advantage of my absence to speak to her, though he was not to say a word for a year! But I have found out, he can twist things to suit himself. When H. told me, I was very much displeased because I wished to talk it over with him about this drink question and see what he would do, she poor weak child never said a word to him on the question, though I told her what you had said when you were here. So when I told her all that I had found out from Ken, she was thunderstruck & at once said "I would never do it!" and became at once just as determined as I was; so do not think I have coerced her, she entirely agreed with me, for she has an equal horror of these drinking men.

When Ken went away he professed to see the whole thing as we see it & I did not insist he should get out of the business but that he could become an abstainer himself. However, his parents did not support me, in my view, and he wrote H. that they did not think he could give it up, thought the matter should have been spoken of at first. I had plainly told Ken, that I never dreamed that his business compelled him to drink until he told me so himself so I could not have spoken sooner and I never thought people who are so strict about other things as the Brethren are, could countenance such a practice. I said, I postponed the thing for a year to test him to see what stuff he was made of & then I cross-questioned you and insisted upon being told just what sort of life he led. And thank God, I was led to do this. H. is not breaking her heart at all. I never thought she was very deeply in love, but because her friends were getting married, she thought it would be nice to have a beau too, & when he is here he seems able to get round her, you know she is very tender hearted but after when she read your letter, (I destroyed the one page), it all seemed to dawn upon her, & she came upstairs to me with her eyes blazing, & said "I am thoroughly angry, just furious and I'll give him, Ken, a piece of my mind." She seemed just to see the whole thing, he would give up her, before he would give up his glass. I never thought him good enough for her, & I am sure of it now, a poor weak chap and like people with very little brains, hard to convince. Mrs. Trigge has never replied to my letter. Do not know if she means to call, when up at Arthur's wedding. I hope to give her a piece of my mind, for I am boiling. To think of people professing to be Xtians and taking no stand against a vice which is the ruin, body & soul of millions, and at the same time with-drawing themselves from others, would not go into one of our churches, as it would look as if they countenanced us, Mr. T. told me this. At the same time giving her son liquor since he was twelve. Well, she will not get one of my fine daughters, I can tell her, for her son!3

Yesterday an invitation to the Lyle wedding came for Hilda and Tom.4 It has been a hard question to decide on the guests, the elders (of whom there are 16) the managers & trustees with other organizations in the church with their wives & the Warden connection swell the number to such an extent that just a few of Mary's friends could be asked, so we think it very friendly of them to ask any of us.5

Nan [Turner] Gilmour is home, we hear that the Gilmours behaved very shabbily, the father took back the house he had given, also a cheque, saying it was a loan, there was no will, so they took every thing they could. Mrs. Gilmour never wrote to Nan for four weeks. Isn't it extraordinary the way people act?6

Did I tell you when home about the report of Dr. Wilkie taking Opium? Mrs. Ross says it is utterly untrue7 & he is preparing when he has his plans laid to make an exposure of the whole thing. A lady missionary went to a ball, Mr. Wilkie thought it right to remonstrate, after that all was wrong.8 Dear dear, whom can we trust? I do not know that you have heard all that I have in connection with dancing. You know in India amongst the natives, that only such girls who are all prostitutes dance at public parties. So it was a dreadful thing for a missionary to do. Do not breathe it, but it was Miss Sinclair of whom we all thought so much. What next?9

I was so pleased to hear of the stand Johnson takes, if there were only more like him. I think your writing on the passing of the sword was really beautiful and all you said about the magazines was so well put as if you knew what you were talking about.10 When you do this work do you have just as much reporting to do or do they allow you time during the day's work for "The Tatler" because if they do not it is pure robbery.

Had a five minutes call from Col. McCrae, he asked for every member of the family, was sure Jack would be delighted to see you & asked if you saw him. Said the proprietor of the Star made $100,000 last year.11 Tom went down for his 'Sup' on Saturday; got a room too on Alexander St. for $1.25 & same night went on to Desoronto for the firing competition on Monday, coming back that night, just one company with the officers went down & he is now with Martin Sergeant. It's too bad, but they kept them all day Sunday preparing the [?]. I do not know what is to be done with the volunteers persistent ignoring of the Sabbath. Tom did not like to refuse because unless they had the required number of men they could not compete, & they had hard work to get the men & we did not know they would have to work as they did.12 With much love.

Your loving Mother

M.B. McQuesten

1 At his mother's suggestion (W4647) Calvin had contacted Leslie of A.G. Leslie & Company, Iron, Steel & Metal Merchants, Montreal, who invited him and Ken Trigge to tea on October 19, 1902 (W4647, W7357).

2 Charles Johnson of C.H. Johnson & Sons, Ltd., Wire Merchants, Montreal, replied to Calvin's request for a chat (W7358, W4605).

3 For Kenelm Trigge and family, see W4635. In Ruby's letter to Calvin, she comments: "[Ken] is really not a fine enough character for Hilda.He hasn't enough strength of will-I'm sure-and his moral senses-if you call them that-are just not keen. . . . [Hilda] is a real Christian too and would be unhappy to be continually having to live on a lower level" (W4657, September 26, 1902).

4 For Lyle family, see W4436. Mary Elizabeth Lyle, daughter of Rev. Dr. Samuel Lyle, married Alexander Warden in September 1902.

5 For the Warden family, see W4531

6 Nan (Turner) Gilmour was married on May 25, 1902 and her husband died six weeks later. Nan was likely the daughter of James Turner (1826-89) and Caroline Huldah Greene who had four sons and four daughters. James Turner was a partner in the firm, James Turner & Co., one of the largest wholesale grocery companies in Canada. He was president of the Hamilton Board of Trade, vice-president of the Bank of Hamilton, member of the Senate and a trustee of MacNab Street Presbyterian Church from is establishment in 1854. The Turner estate was "Highfield" near Aberdeen and Bay Sts. (DHB1200-01). Their daughter Carrie's marriage took place in October 1887 (W2511, W0267 - W0268, W0275, W4568, W4605).

7 Mrs. Anna (Annie) Ross was the Principal of the "Presbyterian Ladies' College" where Ruby was a teacher. She had previously been the first superintendent of the "Ewart Missionary Training Home" in Toronto, a missionary and deaconess training school (1897-1899) (McNeill 150; Brouwer 62). She was very supportive of the WFMS movement, writing letters of encouragement and giving addresses and Bible readings to the groups (Buttrum 5, 7; W5765). Anna Ross's daughters, Jean and Eleanor, were teachers at the college also. Another daughter, Margaret, may have also been a teacher there, however, she died in 1905, see W-MCP1-3b.013; also, this Margaret may have been the "Bessie" referred to in W5622 who left children to be brought up by Mrs. Ross and her family out west. Mrs. Ross's son, David, proposed marriage to Ruby in 1906, see W5622. The Rosses visited frequently and are often mentioned in the letters. For Mrs. Ross and the Wilkie affair, see note following this. See also, (W4643, W4713, W4730, W4815, W5229, W5313, W5392 W5622, W5630, W5744, W5765, W5769, W5908, W6135, W6281, W6302, W6351, W6738, W7300, W8160, W8182, W8184, W8194, W-MCP1-3b.013).

8 Rev. Dr. John Wilkie (1851-1928) had been a missionary in Indore, Gwalior India since 1879. He had supported and cultivated women missionaries for their political (and financial) support of his causes. The missions in India became embroiled in a gender conflict and Wilkie was eventually perceived to be the chief cause of the troubles, although opinion and rumours flowed back and forth for a long time. He was a powerful leader, and for a quarter century he had undermined any other authority (male or female) that conflicted with his own. His tactics were manipulative and "transparently self-serving." The rumours abounded as he attempted to rally the WFMS behind him, but his object was to maintain control of the money they raised. He managed to convince Mrs. Ross for a time and Ruby wrote from the Ottawa Ladies' College that: "Mrs. Ross is going to show me Mr. Wilkie's statement. . . .there is going to be a great disclosure but Mr. Wilkie's innocence will be proved. It is one great fakehood about his taking opium" (W4643). Mr. Wilkie accused Miss Sinclair of "dancing" and Miss Sinclair and others accused him of taking drugs. Ultimately, documented accusations of his addiction to "pernicious drugs" caused his removal in 1902, after which time the breach between men and women missionaries was healed and separate spheres were created in missionary politics. Wilkie returned to Jhansi in north India to establish an independent mission in 1904 where he worked until his death. He was the founder of Indore College (BDKC 248). When Church Union took place in 1925, the United Church declined to retain Wilkie because he was "reputed to be so difficult" (Brouwer 130-61; McNeill 124-5, Thomson 69; Moir Enduring 230; W4643; W5109, W5172, W5199, W5297, W7420, W-MCP1-1.028, W6853, W6173, W7463, W7797, W6813, Box 04-084, E2-1, E1-5, E2-2, E2-3).

In July, 2003, we received an e-mail from Marilyn Wilkie of Dexter, Michigan. She writes: "I have been doing a genealogical search on my husband's family and came upon the Whitehern site. I see at least 10 references to Rev. John Wilkie in the letters. Dr. Wilkie was related to my husband Paul Davis Wilkie. I know this because we have some of the artifacts which Dr. Wilkie collected in India during his time there. One of these artifacts is a handmade silver vase with an inscription on it which reads: 'Presented to Rev. Dr. & Mrs. J. Wilkie by the Indian Christian Brotherhood Jhans India 13-4-28.' This was the year of his death according to your site. date Dr. John is the only relative that we have any information on. We believe that his father was probably William Wilkie Sr. in Toronto. We have two photographs of him. In one, there is an inscription on the back which lists 6 names of the people in the picture [see attached photo IMG227]. They are all male and called William Wilkie but three have different last names (Argo, Armstrong and Johnson) and one is W.M. Wilkie. Perhaps Wm. Wilkie Sr's daughters married men named Argo, Johnson and Armstrong. But this is a mystery at this point. I also have a gold engraved wedding ring that supposedly came from India. Paul's father's name was Spencer Wilkie and his uncle was Neil Wilkie."

A further E-Mail in August 2003 states: "Just found in 1891 Toronto census page which lists John, Agnes, and 5 children (William M. James H. Marion F. John B. and Bessey N.). . . . Paul's brother, Bill says that William McLaren Wilkie was their grandfather. That would be the William M. Wilkie listed on the 1891 census, I imagine."

If anyone has any information on the Wilkie family, please contact this site,, or the Wilkie family, at

9 Miss Jean Sinclair (1866-?) had been a teacher volunteer, then completed the Women's Medical Missionary Society course in Kingston and was sent to Central India in 1888 at the age of twenty-two. She worked with Wilkie in Gwalior and was one of the women embroiled for several years in the gender conflict. She suffered his false accusations and finally denounced him for his betrayal. Mary came to her defence at a conference in May 1904 and Sinclair was vindicated, see W5172 (W5199, W-MCP1-1.028; Brouwer 99, 103, 185. See Wilkie above footnote, and Oliver W5172).

10 In "The Tatler," Calvin wrote "The Passing of the Sword." He lamented its "discardment" from the "scene of active warfare," the loss of an "emblem of civilized warfare," and the chivalric and sterling qualities of bravery, skill, courage and "trueness of eye and hand." Also, in another item about magazines: "British vs. American Periodicals," Calvin debated their relative worth for Canadian readers and noted the elements of "imperial sentiment" in the British, contrasted with the "superior attractiveness" of the American (The Montreal Herald, September 20, 1902).

11 Col. John McCrae (1872-1918) medical officer, poet, was "very high up in Guelph recruiting" in 1916 (W6951). He also served in the South African War. John (Jack) McCrae graduated M.D. in 1903 (W4988). He was the "author of the war's one deathless poem, 'In Flanders Fields' [and] was the son of a prominent [Presbyterian] elder" (McNeill 268). "He died of pneumonia at the hospital of which he was in charge in 1918. . . . His birthplace in Guelph is now a historic site" (CE 1258). His poem was preserved by Lt. Col. W.R. Marshall who sent it to William Hendrie with a handwritten notation "I thought this v good written by one of our men [sic]" (DHB2.100). Geills McCrae (likely a sister) married Mr. Frederick Kilgour, a lawyer in Brandon, see W5464. Frederick Kilgour's parents were John W. Kilgour and Sophia Oliphant of Guelph.(W4576, W5388, W5474, W5483, W7738, some genealogical information from Geills Turner, granddaughter of Geills McCrae Kilgour, Dec. 8, 2004).

[During the First World War] While Brigade Surgeon, John was responsible for a field dressing station at the front and treated those wounded during the Second Battle of Ypres (Ieper) in the spring of 1915. As well as performing his duties as surgeon, he also served on the guns when needed and occasionally performed burial services. It was after performing the service for a friend, Alexis Helmer, that McCrae was inspired to write in Flanders Fields. The poem was written May 3, 1915 and first published in Punch that same year. While still at this hospital in January 1918, McCrae became ill with pneumonia, which was soon complicated by meningitis. Four days before he died, he was honoured by being the first Canadian appointed as consulting physician to the First British Army. John McCrae died on 28 January 1918, and was buried with military honours at Wimereaux Cemetery in in France. At McCrae's funeral procession, 75 nursing sisters stood by to watch and McCrae's horse, Bonfire, wore his master's boots backwards in military tradition.

June 3, 2004

12 Tom became an expert marksman in the militia in the summer of 1902 (W4436, W4582, Best 8).

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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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