Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter 1912 Letters, Titanic Era

Norman Nicholson in his Masonic Regalia. In 1912, they were starting up a Chapter of the Eastern Star, a group for women. Norman was a Presbyterian and the Presbyterians frowned upon the Masons (for keeping secrets from their wives.) Still, he spend a lot on fees to remain a Mason. He needed it for social standing. This regalia cost him 50.00 in 1888, a huge sum.

Well, it is Easter Sunday, 2012, the 8th of April. It seems that Easter was around the same time in 1912, because I have this letter from exactly 100 years ago.

Well, I checked. It was the 7th!

The letter is from Norman Nicholson of . He was writing to his wife in Richmond, Quebec, from his post on the Canadian Transcontinental Railway in Cochrane, or at least near Cochrane at "end of steel" as they called it.

Their daughters, Flora, Marion were at home for Easter.  Another daughter,Edith, had to stay in town I guess to watch over students at Westmount Methodist, a boarding school.

Flora was a student at Macdonald College, studying to be a teacher, Marion and Edith were already teachers in the Big City. Flora's story is told here Threshold Girl in free e-book form.

Cochran Ont April 8th, 1912

Dear Margaret,

I am writing you my usual weekly letter. Did not receive yours that I usually get Saturday? I suppose your are busy entertaining your girls. But I expect to get a long one from you when the girls leave. Trust you are well. 

Well, I have nothing new to write about from here. Last Friday and Saturday we had a big thaw here. It took away half of our snow and in lots of places the ground is bare and where it is the mud is terrible would prefer snow to it.

  It turned cold last night and this morning everything is frozen solid with snow falling and a north wind blowing not a very good day for Easter Bonnets here. 

Did not go to Church this morning, it was too cold. I had letter yesterday from DB McLennan of Scotstown wanting to know if I could get him a job here. 

I think I forgot to tell you in my last letter that I had a post card from Sophia Nicholson in Edmonton wanting to know if I had received the epistle she wrote me at Xmas. 

Said Gordon was sick with the measles. I haven’t heard from Herb since writing your last, nor any of the girls. 

How is Han and the Hills getting on now? As I haven’t any news to write about I will close awaiting your letter. My eye is all right but not quite as clear of the red yet as the other. Cold is quite well now. Hoping you are enjoying the Easter Holidays with your girls. I will come later if spared. 

Now, My sweet pet, I will say love to your own self. Trusting to hear from you soon, Your affectionate husband N. Nicholson

Here's the letter wife Margaret wrote back: Her letter is peppered with references to the family problems, the largest of which was a large debt owed by her son, on an insurance policy. And the family is squabbling with Margaret's brother over care of the aged mother. The last line of her letter reveals Margaret finds it ironic that people are asking them for help getting jobs.

Thursday April 11, 1912

Dear Norman,

Yours of the 8th received Tuesday night - I look for them on that day. Marion returned to the city Tuesday afternoon, Flora returned Wednesday afternoon. They both had a nice long holiday which I enjoyed very much. E. did not come. We wrote to her every day and she wrote that Marion's young man had been very kind took her, taking her to the theatre so she was not too lonesome.

Grandma is feeling better. I was up this afternoon stayed three hours and had a talk of the will business. Bella said Mother made her will the other day but she does not know what is in it. Tom Bushell and M. Cleveland are the witness and her money is in the bank. While we were talking Clayton came in. He said they did keep Mother for nothing and that it was not a lie, though I told him mother paid her board. I said I always understood she did. Well, I suppose you think you will get your pay now. They have it in for me. How I wish I did not have to go near them. Han is having her sale the 16th, then she is going up to the farm. Sis is with her and looks black when I go over. Still I go and Han comes up here. 

Marion wondered why you did not say anything about Herb's insurance. George Alexander called me up to ask. Said you told him there was a letter from Herb for you. I said I did not think it was an answer to the one you had written. Marion thought of going to see George but did not like to tell you. Am glad your cold is better. 

The ice is moving a little today. Still there is a cold wind. I have to make a fire in the furnace every day. 

Crombie is busy with his chimney for the fire place. Mrs. Gawn has bought Fran Shaw's house in upper Melbourne. The new notary is moving into the Sutherland's house. Mr. Rothney is staying in the Kelly house. Mrs. Skinner has gone to Melbourne. I do not miss them so much. 

The Dr. wrote her that he was offered 90 dollars a month for his house. I sat up with grandma two nights last week. Now she does not need any one after Han's sale and if she keeps better I am really going out to Kingsbury for a few days. 

 As I now see things, Bella and Clayton have made most of the trouble for us among the friends just because they are jealous of us. 

I have not heard anything about our lodge yet. It may take some time. What do you think of my office? Do you think I can manage it? 

 I paid water tax telephone and PO box rent and got a gal of maple syrup from Fowler when the girls were here. It is very nice I wish you could have some now when it is new however there will be some when you come. Now with much love Your wife Margaret
Write me what to say about the insurance

PS Write to W Keenan about your wagon. The very idea of McLennan writing you about a position. I wish you was a good as most people think.

Here's the letter Marion wrote upon her return: Her lodgings were on Tower, which is near McGill off Sherbrooke.

Tower Avenue,
April 13, 1912

Dear Father,

You will see by the heading that I am again in Montreal and mother will have told you that I was at home Easter. Mother is busy but well. She had been with Grandma quite a lot and now I hear Florence Pepler is not well  and she has been there. Everything is much the same only the Skinners have left their house.  Flora came back the day after I did. She is well but not quite as fat as she was at Xmas. Edith has, I suppose, told you that she was thinking of taking a summer school out West somewhere, that is if she can get one and there is a  slight possibility  that I might do the same if I can find a place for the two months.

Was in at Dr. Cleveland’s yesterday having a tooth filled. He was enquiring for you.

There was nothing doing at home except the talk of Uncle Dan’s will but mother has told you all about that I suppose. Aunt Han gave them a great old calling down and does not want to have anything more to do with them. I saw Aunt Sarah and Florence. They left the day after I got home. There is not any more news so I will stop now and write later. Rec’d your check all right and Flora is all right for this month.  What about Herb’s insurance?  I was going to speak to Geo Alexander when at home but thought perhaps I had better not as I had not heard back from you. Let me know: I  can take it over all right without burdening myself. Now, I think this is all for now,


PS Am enclosing the take on the Liberals but think it should apply to the Cons don’t you.


Here's a letter Flora wrote to her Dad upon returning to school for the final push before graduation. 

She mentions the Titanic - but also the death of  a girl at school. In those days, someone could get sick one week and be dead the next. Pneumonia. The King of Death. Charles Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway, was the most prominent Montrealer to go down with the Titanic. (He was American.) He had visited Richmond in 1911,  because the railway station there burnt down. This was a significant event, as Richmond was an important railway hub. 

Flora 1908, on the beach at Nantucket. The Nicholsons had many relations in Boston. During this visit she took a car ride (in a Stanely Steamer) to Wellesley College. She thought Macdonald College resembled Wellesley.

Macdonald College.
April 19, 1912

Dear Father,

No doubt you will be thinking it is about time you were hearing from me. I intended answering your letter long before this but it seemed as if I never could get around to it. 

I suppose mother has told you I was home for Easter holidays. We had a week, from Wednesday to Wednesday.  It seemed good to get home, although I was in the house all the time with a cold. Still, Marion and I helped out with Mother’s day at home. She had 10 visitors, so we all got the local news.

 Apparently, they are thinking of setting up a chapter of the Eastern Star in Richmond.  Something else for mother to do.
One day Mother Marion went out the cemetery to see Uncle Dan’s grave.

Ever since I have got back I have been quite busy. Our exams commence about the middle of May and it won't be long before they are here.

I applied for a school in the city but have not heard yet anything about it. I won't know until June whether I will be accepted. I supposed they have to wait until they see what we will do in our exams, that is, if we manage to carry off a model diploma.  Mabel is going to Valleyfield  next year. She is to have first and second model.

I don't think there is any danger about not getting a school. The commissioners of schools are really at our mercy. There are so few qualified teachers and so many new students. I hope I will be accepted in the city as I think I will like it fine with Edith and Marion there too.

Next week I have to assist in the Kindergarten from 9 to 10.20. am  in the day school and next week in the upper grades. So you see, I will be pretty busy but it will be good practice for me…. I suppose you have not heard about the death of Edith Storke, one of the girls attending the college. She was in the Elementary class. She took cold and it developed into pneumonia and died in a few days. She did not live in residence as Dr. Lynde, one of the professors, is her brother-in- law.
This is the second death of a student this year.

The Titanic is all everyone can talk about. Mother saw Mr. Hays, the President of the GTR , at the Train Station last summer. Edith says she is going to the American Presbyterian church to hear the eulogy for him.

They are having a service here, too. But for all the dead.

Your Loving Daughter, Flora

Edith in her school uniform, as a teacher at Ecole Methodiste Westmount. (She may have had to stay in Montreal at Easter because the teachers at the school were plotting a mass exodus. )

Edith sends Norman a letter later in the month:

1095 Greene Ave
Westmount Quebec
April 19, 1912

Dear Father,

I suppose you heard that I was unable to go home for the holidays. I got through the time very well, considering  Marion and Flora both had a very nice little holiday  and it did them good. I just got a letter from Mother this morning. What a time she is having between Florance and Grandma. If there is any work to be done they, of course ,will  have to have Mother. I think they are perfectly dreadful, the things they have said and done. And all for the sake of a little money. I hope we shall never have to be so mean.

Only 5 weeks until we close. This year has gone by very quickly after all. What a dreadful accident to the Titanic and such a great loss of life. It seems to have cast a gloom over every one. People can talk of nothing else.  Mr. Hays will be a great loss to the Grand Trunk. There are to be memorial services in all the churches on Sunday morning. A special one for Mr. Hays in the American Presbyterian.

I think I shall go out to Macdonald tomorrow and see Flora.
Later Sunday Afternoon.

I went out to Macdonald on the 1.30 train and spent a pleasant afternoon. She is looking splendid and is to beautifully dug out there. It is an ideal spot. The ice has moved out of the Ottawa a little but not yet from the St. Lawrence. I went to the memorial service in the American Presbyterian this morning. The front was draped with black. The pulpit with the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. The service was very impressive . He is certainly well spoken of.

Today is anniversary service in St. Andrew's. Dr. Barcley is preaching.  It has been a beautiful Sunday, the warmest yet and getting so nice and dry.  How are things up North? What do you think of the coming elections in the province? Do you think Peter will have a hard run. Saw by the Record that Charlie Campbell started on a business trip to Winnipeg. M. Got your letter the other day.

Your loving Edith

In my story, Threshold Girl  I have Edith come home for the 1912 Easter Holidays.  Creative License.