Monday, January 18, 2010

Connections, Friends, Networks and Success

St. Francis College from a postcard belonging to the Nicholsons.

Before I get to my next installment of Flo in the City (I'm working on it, but it's complicated)based on the letters of let me tell you about another key document I downloaded by happenstance from The 1910 Canada Who's Who!

Of the principal 'characters' in Flo in the City, I found E.W. Tobin, the MP for Richmond Wolfe and Nicholson benefactor, or sorts. Peter MacKenzie, the Quebec Minister of Finance and MNA for the area and a few others, including a Mr. McKinnon, who was high up in the Eastern Townships Bank. The Nicholsons corresponded with him in 1910 over, ahem, Herb's disgrace.

MacKenzie and McKinnon were graduates of St. Francis College, where the Nicholson children went to school. Before 1900 that institution was affliliated with McGill, after it became a public high school.

Another graduate in the 1910 Who's Who was a Tait, Chief Justice of the Quebec Supreme Court.

On my website, I posted an article by Edith Nicholson about education in Richmond and about St. Francis College, in particular. She wrote it for the McGill Alumni magazine in the 30's.

She says:

"We will enumerate a few: Dr. John A Dresser, distinguished geologist, was the late principal of St. Francis College and the first Principal of St. Francis College High School; Sir Melbourne Tait, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Quebec; Dr. G Q Parmelee, whose work for Protestant education in Quebec is well known to all; George. J. Hill, sculptor; F S Coburn, artist; two Provincial Treasurers, The Hon. Henry T. Duffy and the Hon. Peter S. G. MacKenzie; J. Armitage Ewing, eminent Montreal lawyer; Senator A. J. Brown, now a Governor of McGill University, and his classmate, the late J. N Greenshields."

Had she written this a few years later she may, indeed, have included her own sister, Marion Nicholson Blair, President of the PAPT (teachers) union.

All to say, the Nicholsons were well-connected. These important connections did not give them an easy time of it, they just provided a 'life-line' in hard times. As it happens, one of my ancestors is on the list...Rodolfe Forget, Senator. My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, was a cousin and this connection, no doubt, helped Jules rise up to the very top in Montreal's City Hall.

In one of my next installments of Flo in the City, I am going to have Edith get a job as tutor in the Crepeau household... and in my next installment, I will set the stage for this. It's August, and Marion is getting ready to start afresh in a new school in Montreal, Flo is starting her second to last year at St. Francis High School, and Edith is at a loss for what to do. Ps.

The man mentioned man above, Dresser, had a daughter, Alice, who attended Macdonald Teaching School in 1910 (with Mae Watters) and she wrote a fine letter talking about some embarrasing event in the classroom with legendary teacher, Miss Robbins. I will be including this letter in the story. It is a high spirited letter (Alice founded the Richmond County Historical Society) and it will influence Flora..

Ps. It seems E.W. Tobin had only elementary education. He was of Irish origin and Roman Catholic, so I will have Edith bring this up when defending her decision to go work in a R.C. family.