Old Times

Scotland, c.1475


Thomas Smythe was the boon companion and medical attendant to King James IV of Scotland in the late 1400’s. The King conferred land and heriditaments on his friend including the coat of arms with the motto “mediis tranquillus in undis”, which translates into “calm amidst the waves”. The coat of arms consists of a dolphin atop   a shield with two chess rooks, a boar and a flaming cup.


The Smythe family owned Methven Castle near Edinburgh for several centuries starting in 1664.


Prior to that time, Methven Castle was the home of Margaret Tudor (1489-1541), Queen of James IV, King of Scots, and daughter of Henry VII of England, after her third marriage to Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven in 1528. Margaret Tudor died here on 18 October 1541. After the third Lord Methven died without heir in 1584, King James VI gave Methven to his favourite, the Duke of Lennox.


George Smythe was born at Methven in 1746. He left Scotland in his early 20’s, and entered the service of Lord Aberdeen and subsequently William Legge, 2nd Baron Dartmouth as a land manager. During this time, he Anglicized his surname to Smith. While acting as Lord Dartmouth’s agent in the 1770’s, George Smith married Miss Mary Larratt, who was a gentlewoman to Lady Dartmouth. She was described as “a woman of high spirits and gaiety.” He eventually became one of the Sheriffs of London in the 1780’s.


George Smith and Mary Larratt had three sons: the first was George, who became a London wine merchant. The second son was William, a soldier who was killed in the Napoleonic Wars.



George and Mary’s third son, Larratt Hilary Smith entered the Royal Artillery in the late 1790’s as a Cornet. He later transferred to the Paymaster branch as an Ordinance Officer, then known as His Majesty’s Field Train. He was stationed at the Arsenal on The Thames River in London.


He was in the campaign into North Germany and eventually got as far as Bremen, where the French army marching from Belgium threatened to cut off the English army from its base on the English Channel.


Canada, 1805


In 1805, Captain Larratt Hilary Smith was transferred to Quebec as Chief Commissary and Paymaster of the Field Trains of The Royal Artillery. While in Quebec, he was noted as “a good raconteur, great amateur actor and conversationalist.” He hated the taste of wine so much that he jumped out of a window of the officer’s mess hall when the officers locked the doors until the last cask of wine was finished. This escapade earned him the nickname of the “Flying Commissary”.


Oil Painting of Captain Larratt Hilary Smith, c1830


Captain Larratt Hilary Smith served in Canada throughout the War of 1812 and was present at The Battle of Queenston Heights.


In 1815, he returned to The Arsenal in Woolrich on the Thames, and when peace was made, left The Royal Artillery. He went on a Grand Tour of the continent. He didn’t get further than Bordeaux where he met Mary Violett. Her father, Robert Violett was a brandy smuggler, who had a wharf by the catwater in Plymouth, England.  His luggers sailed to and from The Channel Islands.


After Robert Violette’s death, the wharf came into the possession of Mary. The buildings were sold to make a better view of The Mayflower drydock.


As a Frenchwoman, there was considerable opposition to Mary’s marriage to an Englishman. After they were married, Captain Larratt Hilary Smith and his wife lived at 4 Emma Place at Stonehouse, adjoining Plymouth in Devonshire. Their four children were born in Plymouth; the oldest child, Larratt William Violett Smith was born in 1820.

In 1831, the family moved to Canada. Officers of the British Army were offered land which could be financed from the officers’ pensions. Captain Larratt Hilary Smith purchased a large tract tract of land near Lake Simcoe, acting on the advice of Lieutenant Governor Sir John Colborne.


The transition from Plymouth England to a log cabin in the Canadian shield was difficult for Captain Larratt Hilary Smith’s wife, Mary. She cooked meals in an open hearth, washed the family clothes in the lake and taught school.


Their two sons, Larratt and George were enrolled as boarding students at Upper Canada College, which had been founded by Sir John Colborne in 1829. The fees were two pounds per term with an additional five shillings for quill pens, ink, candles and firewood. The students began Latin in the first form, and by the time they reached the sixth form, they could construe Horace, Cicero and Virgil, in addition to being proficient in Greek.

Larratt won The English Prize at Upper Canada College in 1836.

In 1836, Captain Larratt Hilary Smith bought Twickenham Farm on the west side of Yonge Street just north of Richmond Hill. The home was described by Dr. Henry Scadding: “the cosy English looking residences with a clustering  of appurtenances… lawns, sheltering plantations, winding drives… The neighbor next door owned a collection of fine paintings, including a Holbein.”


In 1837, UCC held a competition for the best poem to commemorate the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne. Larratt won the prize, and his poem was published in The Montreal Gazette.  He was Secretary for the UCC cricket team. The school was located on King Street in Toronto at the time.


While Larratt and his brother George were boarding students at Upper Canada College, all men over the age of sixteen were called up to the militias to defend against the rebellion led by William Lyon Mackenzie. Larratt served as a lieutenant in the Home District Militia. His father, Captain Larratt Hilary Smith was also called for full military duty. Captain Smith was then a man of fifty six years old, and his son Laratt had just turned seventeen. Neither were injured in the rebellion.


George graduated from Upper Canada College in 1838 and joined his uncle’s wine business in Greenwich, England. By the 1840’s, George had inherited the wine business which had become quite prosperous by then. He bought a large yacht called The Danzita (both steam and sail). The family of his wife, Mary Charlote Pingo Bucknell, owned all of the cork in Portugal and a line of ships that ran to South Africa.


In 1839, Larratt decided to go into law. Since there was no law school in Toronto in 1839, he articled with William Henry Draper, the Solicitor-general of Upper Canada and one of the most eminent jurists of the era. Draper was known in parliamentary circles for his oratorical powers and had the nickname “Sweet William.” Draper’s mentorship of Larratt proved to be the most powerful catapult in the young man’s career. Each Sunday, Larratt was invited to sit in the Draper’s pew at St. James Cathedral on King Street in the 1840’s, which was an important signal of social status in early Canadian society. (In the Toronto in the 1830’s and 1840’s, church pews were purchased by families such as The Drapers.) In the late 1830s, Larratt was a member of The Happy Go Lucky Club, which evolved into The Toronto Club.


In May, 1842, Larratt was invited by Chief Justice Sir John Beverley Robinson to attend a reception for Charles Dickens. Before the reception, Larratt sat up night after night reading Nicholas Nickleby and The Old Curiosity Shop by candlelight.


Larratt was one of the first students to attend Kings College, University of Toronto. In 1843, he matriculated in Arts, and took his degrees of B.C.L. and D.C.L., the latter in 1852. In those early years in Canada, a doctorate degree was extremely rare. Larratt’s  full length portrait hangs in the college.


Larratt and George’s mother, Mary could not overcome her homesickness for England, and in 1844, Captain Smith and Mary  returned to England, leaving Larratt behind.


In 1845, Larratt married Eliza Caroline, a pretty daughter of staff surgeon Thom, of Perth. In 1846, Larratt purchased a cottage on the shores of Lake Ontario for his new wife. The cottage was on the site where the CN Tower now stands. However, she died in 1849. Larratt wore black every day for the next fifteen years.


Larratt married a second time, at Toronto, on the 19th of August, 1858, to Mary Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the late James Frederick Smith, Esq., who for many years was a well known merchant of Toronto. By this marriage, he had eleven children.


In 1866, Larratt purchased the Summerhill estate in what is now Rosedale.


Larratt Smith enlarged and greatly improved Summer Hill, which had a splendid view over the lake from its vantage point on the hill. The white lodge house and gate were built south and east of the house, near modern Summerhill Avenue. The gravelled driveway was laid to the front of the house and around to the back, making a complete circle. The property now consisted of about fif ty acres, part of which was under cultivation , on the west side of the ravine, the ravine itself, and twenty-five acres on the east side.


The dance pavilion of Summer Hill was given its original role as drawing room. Of noble proportions (more than sixty feet long and nearly thirty feet wide), the room’s floor was covered by a rich and colourful Persian carpet. Tall mirrors in ornate gilded frames hung above the twin fireplaces at the east and west ends of the room . The dining room, with adjoining pantry, and a small morning room were behind the library, which was at the front of the house on the north side. The kitchen was probably in the basement.
As his family grew, Larratt continually made additions to the house until there were nearly thirty rooms extending almost to the stables at the east end. A large new wing added to the back of the house contained an enormous kitchen, with two large stoves, a sculler, storerooms, maids’ sitting room and summer kitchen . A wide baize door opened from the old part to the new wing. The front part of the second storey contained five family bedrooms, including the huge master bedroom which had a dressing room and bathroom en suite. The new wing in the rear contained the nursery, childrens’ rooms and maids’ quarters.


In effect, Summer Hill was two houses joined together. Each part had its own furnace in its own cellar, consuming a total of thirty-five tons of coal every winter. A large verandah extended across the front and along the sides of the house. Since it stood on the side of a hill, there was a high space beneath the verandah on the south side, where the children played on rainy days. Long French windows opened to the verandah from the library and drawing room.
Summer Hill had no architectural pretentions, but it was an attractive house, noted for its warm hospitality. There were never fewer than fifteen adults seated at the huge dining room table on a Sunday, while numerous children and grand­ children sat at a separate table in the window. Larratt Smith, though a busy man, was a genial host who always had time for family entertainment. His grand­ children still remember how he delighted to dress as Santa Claus, handing out Christmas presents (and terrifying the younger children). Summer Hill was an idyllic place for children.


The boys all became boarders at Upper Canada College on King Street, but had plenty of time to enjoy the former amusement park . Birds of all kinds abounded, as Larratt forbade shooting even of partridges. Large fruit orchards stood in front of the house, while butternut trees and gardens containing every vegetable and fruit grew on the property. A wooden barn stood north of the house along with a brick coach house and stable containing horses and ponies . The coachman had his own comfortable house across the ravine.
Best of all was the ravine . In winter there was glorious coasting down the long hills, and in summer there was fishing and swimming in the clear stream which was a branch of the Don River. The boys built a stone dam across a small waterfall in the stream to form a good swimming pool. They caught fish and made bonfires beneath the willows beside the stream, where they cooked and ate their catch. Farther up the stream, a more solid stone dam had been built over a waterfall, forming a pond to supply water to Summer Hill.


In 1872, the City of Toronto bought a large piece of land in the north-west section of Summer Hill for a reservoir. When Larratt Smith sold the land, he stipulated that it must always be maintained as a public park. An entrance to Reservoir Park was opened some years later from Summerhill Avenue, west of the house.


He was an early member of The Royal Canadian Yacht Club in the 1860’s.

Larratt’s eldest son died from the effects of neglect and exhaustion during the Fenian raid at Ridgeway in 1866. Sir John A. MacDonald was the Regiment’s Commander. He and his staff were so drunk after the Ridgway Battle at Queenston Heights that his wounded men lay untended on the battlefield.  Larratt would never speak to MacDonald after this, and would walk to the other side of the street to avoid speaking. The second son, Lal, died at Barrie, while attending the grammar school at the age of eleven.


During his career, Larratt was Provice Chancellor, and subsequently Vice-Chancellor of the University of Toronto; a Founding Director of the Consumers’ Gas Company for over twenty years, and also of the Canada Bolt Company for several years; director of the Bank of Upper Canada: of the London and Canadian Loan and Agency Co.; of the “Hand-in-Hand,” “Sovereign ” and Isolated Risk, Fire Insurance Companies; of the Anchor Marine Insurance Co.; of the Merchants’ Building Society; of the Grand Trunk Telegraph Co.; of the Ontario Peat Co.; and a local director of the Life Association of Scotland; life senator of the University of Toronto, and Bencher of the Upper Canada Law Society. In his final years, he was President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Astronomy was not a big part of his life, though he did write on the daily headings of his diary, notes on the phenomena of Jupiter’s satellites, the minima of Algol and so on. Infirmities of old age prevented him from chairing more than several meetings during his Presidency in the Society.

In the early 1900’s Larratt donated nearly 100 acres of his estate to The City of Toronto, which was renamed Avoca Park and reservoir. Four years after his death in 1905, Summerhill was torn down. All that remained was Summerhill Avenue and the Summerhill subway station.



The complete story of Larratt’s life from 1840 to 1850 can be found in “Young Mr. Smith in Upper Canada” by Mary Larratt Smith, University of Toronto Press, 1982. His complete diaries can be found in The Baldwin Room at The Toronto Public Library. A historical overview of his life can be found in the Toronto Star archives  “Larratt Smith’s Summerhill Connection,”  March 13, 1983.



Larratt’s closest friend and confident was Goldwin Smith, who was married to Eliza Boulton, a Toronto heiress.  Goldwin’s wife was socially sophisticated and apparently utterly devoted to her austere husband who spent his waking hours in reading, writing, and good talk. Larratt and Goldwin spent hours in his library debating issues of the day with journalists such as George Brown and John Ross  Robertson. His circle of friends and visitors, the intellectual élite of the English-speaking world, joined local celebrities and politicians in the drawing-room of the Grange. “Here one is suddenly set down in an old English house,” Albert Venn Dicey wrote, “surrounded by grounds, with old four-post beds, old servants, all English, and English hosts . . . an English mansion in some English county.”

Life at The Grange is chronicled in The Privileged Few: The Grange and its People in Nineteenth Century Toronto by John Lownsborough. The £20,000 that Smith inherited from his father had grown to more than $830,000 by the time of his death in 1904. His executor was his godson, Goldwin Larratt Smith. Professor Smith left his excellent library to the University of Toronto. Most of his fortune (over $20 million in today’s dollars) and his private papers went to Cornell University as a mark, Smith’s will revealingly declared, of his “attachment as an Englishman to the union of the two branches of our race on this continent with each other, and with their common mother.”

Goldwin Smith is credited with the quote “Above All Nations is Humanity,” an inscription that is engraved on the stone bench which sits in front of Goldwin Smith Hall at Cornell, named in his honor. This quote is the motto of the University of Hawaii.

His Godson, Goldwin Larratt Smith was one of the thirteen children of Dr. Larratt W. Smith. He was educated at Upper Canada College where he won the prize for English composition. His classmate was Stephen Leacock. Goldwin earned an MA and law degree for the University of Toronto. He married Alice Bethune in the 1890’s.


Goldwin and Alice had three children: Bethune, Anthony and Mary (author of Young Mr. Smith in Upper Canada and Prologue to Norman: The Canadian Bethunes.) He was such an avid horseman that as a teenager, he pilfered a stamp from his mother’s stamp collection and secretly purchased a thoroughbred horse.


Captain Anthony Larratt Smith was killed in action in France near Normandy in 1944. He was 36 years old. He is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.


Alice Bethune was the granddaughter of Dr. Norman Bethune, Sr. Their family history is in the following section, and is drawn from The Canadian Bethunes: Prologue to Norman by Mary Larratt Smith, University of Toronto Press.




Goldwin Larratt Smith married Ethel Baldwin in the 1920’s. She was the first woman in Toronto to drive a car. Ethel’s grandfather was Robert Baldwin, who was the third Premier of West Canada from 1843-1848. His statue is on Parliament Hill. The Baldwin Steps, a series of stairs from the Baldwin family’s Spadina House next to Casa Loma, is named after Robert Baldwin.


The Baldwin family owned much of what is now Forest Hill in Toronto. A small street in Forest Hill is named Larratt Street, after Ethel’s late father in law.


Ethel’s cousin was Robbie Baldwin Ross, who was Oscar Wilde’s literary executor. After Wilde’s arrest, imprisonment, bankruptcy and death in the late 1890’s, Ross dedicated himself to buying Wilde’s copyrighted work back from his creditors. He arranged for the publication of Wilde’s work de Profundis and The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde in the early 1900’s. At a dinner honoring Ross at The Ritz Hotel in London in 1905, H.G. Wells toasted Ross, saying that he had singlehandedly resurrected Wilde’s reputation. Wilde’s two sons, Cecil and Vyvyn Holland had been kept in the dark about their father and had grown up in penury. At the dinner that night, they learned the true story about their father. Ross was tormented for the next 14 years by Bosie, the young lover who brought about Wilde’s downfall.  Ross was lifetime friends with W. Somerset Maugham, Prime Minister Asquith, John Singer Sargent and Henry James. Ross is buried next to Wilde in France.


Goldwin Bethune Larratt Smith was the oldest son of Goldwin Larratt Smith. He was married to Anna Mae Hees. He grew up at 29 Sherbourne Street in Toronto and attended UCC and University of Toronto.


The brother of Anna Hees was George Hees, a Cabinet Minister in the early 1960’s and 1990’s. George Hees played for the Toronto Argonauts in 1938, and won the Heavyweight boxing title for the Allied Forces in World War II. Anna and George grew up at 142 St. George Street in Toronto:


Anna’s father, Harrison Hees was a gambler. Onboard the QE1, he wagered his venetian blind company in a card game. He won, and got control of the company that made Carter’s Little Liver Pills and Arrid.






France, Ninth Century


The Bethune family history starts with Robert, Lord of Bethune sometime in the early ninth century in Bethune, France. Robert was appointed “Protector of the Church of Arras”. The motto on his family crest was  “Debonnaire”:


James Bethune emigrated to Scotland in the 1420’s. He married the heiress of Balfour in 1428 and ten years later was given the title of First Baron of Balfour by King James II. Rolland’s Illustration to the Armorial General shows the coat of arms of the Bethunes of France and among them is “Bethune de Balfour Ecosse.”


The Bethune’s Scottish family tree has five generations of doctors born between the 16th and 17th century. John Bethune, born in 1751 on the Isle of Skye, was educated at St Andrews College. Soon after his ordination, he was forced out of the country by the Highland clearances and emigrated to America. During the Revolutionary War, he was the chaplain of the Royal Highland Immigrant battalion and was captured at the Battle of Cross Keys. Reverend John Bethune’s loyalty to the crown cost him his plantation and he spent two years in a military prison in Philadelphia where he and his fellow captives were allowed only two dollars a week for food. John Bethune is memorialized as the pale prisoner in Kenneth Robert’s historical novel Oliver Wiswell.


After his release from prison, John Bethune went to Halifax where he re-joined his regiment. During the long winter siege of Quebec City of 1775 to 1776, his battalion defended the citadel against the Americans led by General Montgomery and Benedict Arnold. John and Veronique Bethune had nine children, of which the eldest, Angus, was the great- grandfather of Alice Larratt Smith and Norman Bethune, Jr.


Angus Bethune was fur trader and a partner in The North West Company. He was born in 1782 and attended a school in Cornwall run by Bishop Strachan. In the winter of 1804-1805, he was working as clerk in the Red River office of The North West Company. By 1810, Angus was travelling with David Thompson and Alexander Henry as a fur trader in Western Canada.


He married Louisa Mackenzie, who was born in Athabasca country in 1793. She was the daughter of the Scottish fur trader Roderick Mackenzie, who was a cousin of Sir Alexander Mackenzie. All of her Bethune relatives referred to her as Miss Green Blanket, in reference to her First Nation ancestry. Angus and Louisa had five sons and a daughter, one of whom was Norman Bethune Sr. In 1833, she died at the age of forty. The year after her death, Angus went on furlough to Upper Canada. He took his son, Norman, who at the time was twelve years old and barely literate. When Norman was 18, he was enrolled at Upper Canada College and graduated two years later as head boy. His three younger brothers James, John and Alexander all attended UCC as well.


Norman Bethune Sr. graduated from UCC in 1843 and went to King’s College when it opened in 1843. In the late 1840’s, Norman Bethune Sr. went to London and Edinburgh to study medicine. During his time in Scotland, he met and married Janet Nicholson, with whom he had four children: Angus, Malcolm (father of Norman Bethune Jr. ), Louisa and Emily. His nephew, Robert Bethune was the father of Alice Larratt Smith.


The lives of Norman Bethune Sr. and Jr. are chronicled in Phoenix: The Life of Norman Bethune by Roderick Stewart. China has issued numerous postage stamps featuring Bethune:


The following passages are from the novel, Dr. Bethune, I Miss You.


Dr. Bethune, Wǒ xiǎng nǐ 我想你  

~Chapter 1~


Beverly Crescent, Vancouver, May 1990

“Nai, Nai, I didn’t know you collected stamps?” Lotus asked. “I’ve never noticed this piece of artwork before. Maybe it’s because the frame is so petite?” She studied the stamp set in an exquisite Chinois picture frame hanging against the silk wallpaper. The living room was glowing with the soft ebbing light of the Vancouver sunset over English Bay.

“I don’t collect stamps, dear girl,” the elderly woman answered. “This is a special stamp.” She peered at the framed stamp through her reading glasses. Her granddaughter seemed to tower over her four feet nine grandmother.

“Special in what way? I mean I can see it’s a well drawn picture of someone. But he doesn’t look Chinese. And the stamp has Mandarin on it. And it’s from the postal system in China. Nai, Nai, I think there’s a mystery here!”

“Lotus, it’s a commemorative stamp that was issued by China and Canada earlier this year,” said the elder woman, sharply drawing in her breath. Her eyes seemed to catch a mist.

“Who is it commemorating?”

Her frail voice quavered. “The 100th anniversary of the birthday of a man who I knew many years ago.”

“A man! Now this is starting to get interesting! “said Lotus, with a warm smile. “Nai, Nai, who was he?”

“I worked for him when I was a nurse in Montreal during the Depression. Before he went to China in 1938, I helped him organize a speaking tour of Canada.”

“But why is his picture on the postage stamp?”

Ying sighed. “It’s a long story. I’ll tell you when we have more time.”

Lotus thought to herself  ‘this sounds like Mài guānzi to me.’



~Chapter 2~

The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, May 1990

The teak – decked yacht rocked gently against its mooring lines. The swells coming off the Pacific Ocean were mild at this point in English Bay. The afternoon sun had burnt off the moist haze that seemed to always hang over the city in May.


In the previous year, all eyes on the Admissions Committee of the club had widened when they read on Lotus’s club application that her yacht measured 140 feet at its waterline.  “How does someone her age own a marine masterpiece like this?” muttered one of the committee members.


In her interview at the club, Lotus assured the committee members that her crew of eleven were handpicked, and would always be in their white uniforms when on the club’s premises.


“Miss Cho, could you please explain how your  vessel was granted the privilege of The White Ensign?” asked a committee member.


“Sir, as you know, this special ensign was intended to recognize the contribution made to the national defense of Great Britain. In 1844, Sir Henry Pottinger, First Baron, granted the use of the flag for my great great grandfather’s ship.”


“Do go on, Miss Cho…”


“He saved a ship in The Royal Navy which caught fire near the Macao wharves in the middle of the night. The lives of ninety Royal Navy seamen were spared.”


“Quite commendable. I’m sure you know that your yacht is the only vessel in Canada to have such an honor.”


“Yes, when we entered Canadian waters for the first time, we were escorted into Vancouver harbor by that navy ship. I can’t quite remember her name,” said Lotus.


“It was HMCS The Algonquin,” said the committee member. “Its not everyday this happens. Quite an honor. And you intend to keep the yacht flagged and registered in Hong Kong?”


“Yes. I trust that will not be a problem with the club?” asked Lotus.


“No, not at all. We just wanted clarification,” said the Committee Chairman.


She knew that the fact that the uniforms of her staff were made of the finest Chinese silk with 18 carat spun gold epaulettes would be lost on the club committee members. She knew that the club committee members wouldn’t care that each 14 carat gold button on their uniforms had been hand engraved in Paris with the chop of her family.  She knew that 24 carat gold for the buttons would have been more to her liking, but the French goldsmith said that 14 carat had the strength of titanium. She knew that the admissions committee would be interested how the club’s shipyard and chandlery would be kept busy with the annual overhaul of the yacht. She knew J.P. Morgan’s immortal words about owning a yacht by heart. She knew that mentioning this famous quip would be out of place in the interview.


Lotus and her grandmother were sipping tea in pale green Aynsley bone china on the stern deck. Near the deck was the yacht’s tender, suspended on guy wires and pulleys. The tender was a gleaming mahogany Riva 24 foot speedboat from Italy. The Riva was outfitted with a modified BMW six liter engine. Lotus knew German engineering. The carpet on the floor of the tender was a special mohair blend designed by Brunello Cucinelli. The white leather of the speedboat’s interior was from Gucci, completely devoid of any blemishes. The famous Gucci red and green stripe ran down the middle of each seat.


“The leather is impeccable, Lotus. Its better than anything I’ve seen in a a Rolls Royce,” said Ying.


“Nai Nai, Rollers are for your generation. With all due respect, I wouldn’t be caught dead in one. Miáozi only drive Aston Martins. Or ride in Maybachs. I’m glad you like the seats in the runabout. I thought the Gucci stripes added a nice touch.”


“I met Mr Gucci once,” her grandmother said. Knowing her granddaughter, she smiled slightly as she was rewarded with Lotus’ reaction.


”You what!” Lotus nearly shouted. ”Where? When?” Her granddaughter stared at Ying with astonishment.

“It was at The Savoy Hotel in 1935. I can remember it to this day…in The Thames Grill Room. He had such a sycopated name –  Guccio Gucci. I was having lunch with my father and Dr. Bethune, who owned one of his briefcases. My Gucci was sitting at a table nearby. The maître d’ came over to Dr. Bethune and whispered something in his ear. The next thing we knew, Mr. Gucci was introduced to us.”

“Oh, what was he like, Nai Nai? This is too exciting! What was he like? He’s a legend – like Armani.”

“Or Valentino in your mother’s generation, rest her poor soul. He was very urbane. Behind his immaculately tailored attire was a very smart man. Now let me remember. Yes, it was at The Savoy before the first war… he was a lift boy at the hotel. Gucci saw the elegant manners of the hotel’s guests. He hit on the idea of marrying the Mayfair society sensibility with impeccable Italian craftsmanship. After the war, he returned to Florence and opened an artisan leather shop. He stamped his purses and suitcases  ‘G. Gucci. Articles for Travel. Florence.’ His reasoning was that the English wording suggested an international flavor which appealed to his globetrotting customers.”

“Well, Nai Nai, you never fail to surprise me. Next you’ll be telling me that you know the Pope!” teased her granddaughter. “Now let’s get back to the postage stamp and that man who’s so mysterious. Enough of this mài guānzi”


“Where do I start? When our family moved to Montreal in 1928, I attended nursing program at the University of Montreal,” explained Ying, relaxing against the silk cushion on the deck chaise lounge. “After I graduated in 1931, I was a nurse-in-training at Sacré-Coeur Hospital in Montreal, which specialized in tuberculosis. In 1932, I was assigned to the pulmonary ward. I worked as a nurse for the man you see on the stamp.”


“I didn’t know you could speak French, Nai, Nai?” Lotus realized that there were many early chapters in her grandmother’s life which were a mystery.


“There’s not much call for French here in Vancouver…so you’ve never heard me parle Français.  I learned French when I was a child in French Indo-China. Or what we now call Vietnam,” said the elderly woman with slight choke in her voice.


“But I thought we were from Nanjing?”


“You’re right, dear girl”, said Ying. “But father owned a rubber plantation in the mountains near Cochinchina in Indochina. You see, he was a rubber merchant before we came to Canada in the 1920’s. Back then, rubber was farmed from trees.”


Ying’s thoughts travelled back seven decades to suffocating heat of French Indochina. ‘I never remember seeing my father in anything other than his grey seersucker suit,’ she thought. Even on Saturdays and Sundays. Ying, if a man wants to be taken seriously in business by Americans, you need to dress seriously, she remembered him saying. On his annual trips to the great tire companies in Ohio, he would stop at Brooks Brothers on Madison and 44th Street to replenish his wardrobe of regimental stripe ties, wingtip shoes, after-shave and button down oxford cloth shirts. I prefer the cutaway collars of the shirts from Turnbull & Asser in London, her father would say. But business is very tribal. You need to look like you are part of the tribe. You need to be trusted. My customers wear button down shirts and straw boater hats. I wear button down shirts and straw boater hats.


“Everyone spoke French on the plantation. I also went to school for one year in France in 1920.”


Lotus exclaimed “I never knew you studied in France!”


“Oh, yes dear, we all travelled by ship to France to participate in the Diligent Work-Frugal Study Movement. It was a Chinese-French work-study program. By the time it ended in 1927, over 4,000 Chinese had participated.”


“It certainly seems like a long way to travel in those days to go to school,” Lotus said, motioning to the butler in the starched white uniform for more tea. She noted with satisfaction how the butler correctly poured the tea from the right side of her grandmother. What is the nautical origin of the word POSH? she idly thought to herself. Something like Port Outbound, Starboard Home… She returned her attention to the conversation.


“Thank you”, Ying said, admiring the waiter’s uniform as he poured her tea. “I love to see our family chop on your sailors’ buttons.”


“I got the idea from the grand French chateaus. The great families of France all had coats of arms and family crests. I was in a very old store near The Louvre one day, browsing. The display cases were filled with brass buttons with crests engraved on each. The store owner told me many aristocratic families ordered these buttons from his store for several centuries. Footmen and butlers would have the family crest engraved on each brass button on their uniforms. I decided to use gold buttons instead of brass for my sailor’s buttons. Speaking of Paris, let’s get back to your time in France in the 1920’s.”


“It certainly was a long way from Nanjing,” Ying said wistfully, stirring her tea with a gold washed antique Tiffany tea spoon. “Back then, schools in the Nanjing region were very rudimentary. Our leaders were aware that China was suffering greatly, and that the Chinese people needed modern education to save their country. Many students of this school became China’s leaders. When I was there, Deng Xiaoping had just turned 15. The night before his departure from China, Deng’s father took his son aside and asked him what he hoped to learn in France. Deng repeated the words he learned from his teachers: “To learn knowledge and truth from the West in order to save China.”


Lotus nearly jumped out her chair. “Nai Nai, you continue to astound me. You knew Deng? When he was fifteen?”


“I didn’t know him well. I doubt he would remember me, after everything he has been through, “ said Ying, stirring her tea leaves thoughtfully. “ I adapted very quickly to France since I spoke French. I studied for one year… then worked for one year. I returned to China in 1922. Things deteriorated for our family very rapidly. Because we were considered foreigners in French Indo-China, we were targets for the violent Cần Vương Monarchist Restoration Movement. The local leaders of the Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng continually harassed your great -grandfather. This revolutionary movement ultimately started the infamous Yên Bái Mutiny in 1930.”


“Were thing equally bad in Nanjing?” asked Lotus.

Ying sighed. “Yes. It seemed that everywhere you turned, there was war. The various warlords were fighting each other. The Nationalists were fighting the Communists. The local tax authorities were lining their pockets at everyone’s expense. In March 1927, The National Revolutionary Army was about to reach Nanjing. The Beiyang warlord Zhang Zongchang gave orders for his defeated troops to withdraw from the city. Some of his soldiers deserted. Soldiers and local Chinese residents started ferocious looting against foreign interests. They burned houses and attacked the British, American and Japanese consulates. They bayoneted the American Vice President of Nanking University in front of his family.”

“That must have been very frightening for a young women, Nai Nai,” Lotus frowned. ”You would have been defenseless.”

“Yes, my father was very concerned that we would be singled out, since his business was with the American tire companies. Our company had  some guards – what we would call security today. They were trained in the Janissarian tradition. He was also under terrible stress because my father’s compadrador, Ching, embezzled a large amount of money out of our company. That brought us close to bankruptcy. It was a very sorrowful time.”

“That’s shocking. How did he do it?” Lotus asked. A window was opening for Lotus onto a world that she scarcely knew existed. My generation is so stupid to be obsessed with money and social status. We are so busy trying to prove ourselves, Lotus thought to herself. We’re forgetting the older generations. We write them off as out-of-touch and doddering.

“Ching falsified invoices and forced our middlemen to pay him kickbacks. The middlemen inflated their invoices to the company. Father started to hear rumors in Nanjing that Ching had set up a sort of secret society harem.”

Ying thought back to the night that her father burst through the door. Ying, please go to your room. My father shouted to my mother in his study. Your cousin has ruined us. I was a fool to trust him. A man who treats his wife so disrespectfully should never be trusted. He has disgraced our family.

“What? A harem?” Lotus asked.

The old woman continued. “Oh yes, harems were not just restricted to Arabian Nights. Many Chinese men had harems of varying size and grandeur. Father was right. Ching indeed was using company money to pay for this harem. Father hired a detective agency to find out the details. They kept a detailed journal and working papers. I blush when I read it, but maybe someday I’ll leave you alone and you can read the papers. It’s an interesting window into a time and place in China which is long gone.”

“That would be fascinating. May I bring my friend, Bo? She’s studying Chinese history and literature at Simon Fraser University. She would love to see the original papers.”

“That would be my pleasure,” Ying said. “We will serve her tea, and then she can read the papers. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, between the embezzlement and our warehouse being looted and burnt, my Father’s business was finished. Luckily, he had keep ample funds on deposit at Barings in Hong Kong which we able to use. He was able to get us aboard an American gunboat in return for a big payment. We sailed to Japan, where we were sponsored by the Canadian Methodist Church to come to Canada.”

“Nai Nai, I never knew any of this!”


Ying remembered the trip aboard the gunboat like it was yesterday. The fast cutter sluiced through the waters of the South China Sea at a clip which was exhilarating and a release to Ying after the tension of the past month. The pace of the ship seemed to embody the adventuresome spirit of the Americans. Ying felt the optimism of youth which was in sharp contrast to the anxiety which gripped her parents. The friendliness of the Americans on the boat was a shock to her after the rigid formality of French Indo-China and Nanking. She was startled one night on the ship’s deck when a seaman offered her a Lucky Strike cigarette. Lot’s of gals smoke where I come from, he said in a drawl that sounded very peculiar to her.  In every movie, each actor and actress has one of these between their fingers. With his thumb, he tapped the white package with the large red circle and bold black letters in the middle. I bet you’ll be smoking within six months. Ying liked the name of the cigarettes and resolved to try the brand when she got settled. She said to the sailor Where I come from, these cigarettes would have the number eight somewhere in the name. Ying told her mother about the cigarettes the next morning, but the coincidence of luck and cigarettes did nothing to ease her anxiety.


“Because we spoke French, the Church decided to resettle us in Montreal,” Ying explained.” It was very difficult for my parents. They were completely unaccustomed to the freezing winters in Quebec, and the food was totally different. I was in heaven, since I loved the food in France.”


“Why didn’t our family go to Ohio?


“Immigrating to America was impossible because of The Chinese Exclusion Act.”


“What was that?” Lotus asked. All of a sudden, she felt embarrassingly un-informed about the barriers that Chinese faced.


Ying looked at her granddaughter sitting intently in her deckchair and began…“the first significant Chinese immigration to North America began with the California Gold Rush and continued with the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad. During the early stages of the gold rush, when gold was plentiful, Chinese were tolerated. As gold became harder to find and competition increased, animosity towards ‘coolies’ intensified. After being driven from the gold mines, most Chinese settled in enclaves in cities, mainly San Francisco, and took up jobs in restaurants and laundries. With the post-Civil War economy in decline, the animosity accelerated. Hence the anti-Chinese immigration law in the 1880’s, and no chance of moving to Ohio.”


“What did your father do for a job?”


“Initially, he joined The Chevrolet Car Company of Canada in their tire purchasing department. He was completely at ease speaking French and English, so he was hired almost immediately. Later, he established a synthetic rubber factory in Quebec. I enrolled in the nursing school at the university. The biggest impact was on my mother, who didn’t know anyone.“


“I feel sorry for her. She must have been very isolated. I know that most Anglos would not have been kind to her,” said Lotus. “I can only imagine the slights against that poor woman.”


Ying thought back to her mother wandering around the house like a ghost. Homesickness suffused every word, every motion that her mother made. Her mother had an intense yearning that was difficult for Ying to understand. You have your school, Ying. Your father has his business. Yes, I have the two of you. I have a beautiful house. A beautiful garden. But my sisters, my parents and their parents have been left behind in a country that is being torn apart by warlords. I don’t know if they are alive or have been buried alive by some homicidal gang. I feel the guilt of the survivor. I need a sense of being rooted, of belonging, but that is not possible. It’s something I can’t talk myself out of. Ying would say to her mother time and time again Mother, let us enjoy the modest crumbs that the gods let fall from their table…


“It was difficult for her. Imagine an older Chinese woman living in Westmount in 1929? She was not exactly the type of person who would be invited to Montreal society lunches. Or invited to sit on the Board of the Montreal Museum of Art. As a young woman in the midst of the Jazz Age, I probably neglected her.” Ying shook her head… ” but, I had the time of my life. It was the peak of the Roaring Twenties. Perhaps I wasn’t the modest Chinese girl that one might expect. But remember, I’d lived in France. And Nanjing was the crossroads of Asia, since it had the largest shipping port in Asia. Throughout history, Nanjing was one of China’s most important cities as one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. It was very sophisticated.”


“I didn’t know that”, Lotus said. “Nai, Nai, I want to hear more about the Roaring Twenties.”


“Montreal was the most exciting city in Canada back then. It felt quite European and cosmopolitan. Montreal held a strong allure for all Canadians. “Montreal the Glamorous” had always been the de facto capital of Canada.”


“What were the fashions like, Nai, Nai?”


“Coco Chanel was the most influential style icon of that decade,“ Ying replied. “Her ‘garconne’ look inspired the boyish style of the flapper age. Chanel was irritated by the frills and frou-frou of the Edwardian era, and so she simplified haute couture.”


“I love Chanel”, Lotus said.


“She produced elegant suits, cardigans and trousers, as well as beaded evening dresses with simple shapes and dropped waistlines, “ dreamed Ying. “Miss Chanel said she came up with the idea of the dropped waistline because it was time to let go of the waistline. The Chanel suit was heralded as the new uniform for the afternoon and evening in The Roaring Twenties. In 1921, she launched her first perfume, which she named after her favorite number, No. 5.”


“I wear No. 5  every night when I go out, “ said Lotus. “Did you smoke cigarettes in a long cigarette holder wearing white silk gloves up to your elbow? Like in the movies, Nai, Nai?”


“No, I did end up trying Lucky Strike cigarettes, but I didn’t take to smoking. Instead, I had a fan of peacock and ostrich feathers that I would use to cool down after dances.”


“How fun. Do you have any photos?” asked Lotus.


“No pictures, sadly. Very few people had cameras in those days. I had the bob haircut, I might add.”


“What type of bob haircut, Nai Nai?”


Ying described her hair. “In the 1920’s, a bob meant cutting the hair short – very short, often with a headband. A fashionable bob was either straight and glossy, or shingled.”


“What do you mean by shingled?” asked Lotus.


“Shingling meant my hair cut short at the nape of the neck in a V-shape. I might add that this shorter style caused outrage in the Montreal newspapers… spawning headlines such as: “Shingle Blow to Marriage” and “Shingles Leave Girls Single”!


Lotus: “How cute and quaint! Those are some headlines! What else, Nai, Nai. This is fascinating. This is a page out of The Great Gatsby!”


“Women’s skirts were designed for the Charleston, with fringes for the all – night Charleston marathons that were all the rage,” Ying described. “The simple sheath dresses were jazzed up with elaborate beading, sequins, and tiny mirrors sewn into the fabric. We were shimmering visions on the dance floor.  Dancing was key to a girl’s lifestyle in those days, so high heels were quite impractical and out of the question. Shoes were fairly low, with practical yet modish Louis-style hourglass shape or Cuban heels and straps… or T-bars across the arch of the foot.”


“Did you do the Charleston, Nai, Nai?”


“Our nursing school held dances with the men’s medical faculty at the university each term. I learned The Charleston, The Frim Fram and The Black Bottom. But I didn’t let on to my mother that I danced.”


“What was The Black Bottom?” Lotus asked.


“Let’s just say that it featured some exuberant moves,” chuckled Ying.


Lotus gushed “Tell me more!”


“The Charleston spread like wildfire…it was sparked by American flapper Louise Brooks.” Ying explained. “She was the first person to dance the Charleston in London at Café de Paris. Charleston competitions became the craze and it was not unusual for the leading contenders to be on their feet for up to 40 hours. They literally danced until they dropped.”


“Were you a flapper, Nai Nai? Did your parents approve of this style of dressing?”


“They wanted me to fit in, so they didn’t object. In the Edwardian age, men dressed like their fathers, and women dressed like their mothers. We had no intention of dressing this way. For men, the formal frock coats and morning suits of a bygone era had been replaced by more relaxed lounge suits. They were worn with or without a tie, and often with zippers instead of buttons. My father personally favored a velvet black dinner jacket and Charvet shirts when Mother and he went to the opera.”


“He must have looked so elegant,” Lotus said, reaching for a cigarette. She dropped her match into the Hermes ashtray with an enameled horse in the center. “My boyfriend adores Charvet. The cotton is woven from the gossypium barbadense plants that are found only on the delta of the Nile. The buttons are Australian mother-of-pearl, harvested from the surface of the oyster for superior color clarity and strength. Charvet has over 300 shades of blue, and a vast vista of stripes, all trademarked. I think the stripes are more subtle than their English equivalents.”


“Yes, I loved seeing a man in a smart Charvet. You might also be interested to know that the men at the medical school all wore spats to the dances back then.”


“What on earth are spats, Nai, Nai?


Ying explained. “Spatterdashes were their formal name. Charlie Chaplin wore spats in his movies. They were made of white or grey velvet cloth, and buttoned around the ankles. Spats were worn partly to protect the socks from getting dashed with mud spatter. But they also lent a sort of gay diablerie to the wearer’s appearance.“


“What else, Nai, Nai?”


“In Toronto and Montreal, Monopoly became the game of the smart set. Some people called it the Landlord’s Game. Mah-Jongh, backgammon and séances were all the rage.”


Lotus said “I remember from my history classes that Prime Minister Mackenzie King tried to communicate to his dead mother by means of a séance. Spooky.”


“We had loads of fun. At any rate, I graduated as a nurse in 1931, and got a job at the hospital. I felt very lucky to find something during the Depression.”


“Who did you live with?” Lotus asked.


“My parents, of course. Back then, a single woman didn’t think of living anywhere other than with her parents or her husband.”


Lotus queried “Were they strict?”


“They were very traditional but very refined. It’s hard to imagine today what life was like back then. Canada had very defined class and racial divides. For example, Jewish doctors in Montreal had a difficult time finding work. Not at all like things are now in Canada.”


“How did they treat you at the hospital? The other staff, I mean.”


Ying thought back to her first day at the hospital in 1932. It was a forbidding building that looked like a cross between the grand mosque in Istanbul and Grand Central Station. As she entered the main cavernous reception area, the babble of voices rose to the high vaulted ceiling in a cacophony. People seemed to move about with lightning speed. When she was shown to the nurses’ changing quarters, the pale grey walls felt like Alcatraz.


“My accent was quite different from everyone else. I was quite exotic, looking back.  The nurses all got along well. The hospital had a 500 bed tuberculosis service,” Ying explained. “The young doctors were trying to change its morbid image as a place to dump incurables. The French Canadian patients were cared for by excellent French-Canadian doctors in their own language. At other Montreal hospitals like The Royal Victoria, patients who were French- speaking were dealt with by Anglophone doctors and nurses.”


“I suppose there were no Chinese doctors?”


“I was the only Asian on staff. But no one seemed to notice.”


“Nai Nai, It seems so strange now. Canada is so multi-cultural. So, let’s get back to this mystery man. You were telling me about this doctor?”


The old woman paused…“here’s a clue. A literary clue. Let’s see how much you studied at that Toronto boarding school of yours. Did you read Hugh MacLennan’s great Canadian novel The Watch That Ends The Night in school?”


“Yes,” Lotus said, “ but years ago. Why?”


“The book’s hero, Dr. Jerome Martell, is clearly modeled on the person you are calling the ‘mystery man.’ The author… Hugh MacLennan… knew Dr. Bethune in Montreal in those early years, but never acknowledged this. But it seems that Dr. Bethune’s life made it possible for MacLennan to write one of Canada’s greatest novels.”


Lotus said “That’s quite something. Let’s both read the book again, Nai, Nai. Together. It will bring back some wonderful memories for you. What was he like? I’m sure he was very good looking…”


“Let me say that Dr. Bethune was very social, but also an intense intellectual. He was very passionate, complicated man. As an example of this, I ask, what man marries the same woman twice?”


“What! That’s quite something!”


Ying explained “He was first married in 1923. Frances had a conventional Scottish upbringing. Her family was well-off and respected in Edinburgh social circles. She had a privileged upbringing and went to finishing school to prepare her for the appropriate marriage. She was waiting for her Prince Charming. He was a dashing, elegant doctor who wore Savile Row suits and drove a hand built Morgan car. For the first six months of their marriage, they travelled throughout Europe, spending almost all of her inheritance from an uncle.”


“That sounds very stylish.”


Ying went on… “In 1924, they made an exploratory trip to Canada to see where he might set up a medical practice. They ended up in Detroit instead. He started a private medical practice, which became very lucrative. During his spare time, he took on pro-bono work in the poor parts of the city. He provided medical services to people who could not pay. In Detroit, he was very popular. He dressed beautifully and was headed up the social ladder as a well-paid and successful surgeon. His medical practice was in his words, “a gold mine”. There was one problem… his wife hated Detroit… and she hated Americans even more.”


“And I’m sure they hated her,” Lotus commented dryly. “From what I can see, the Brits are not very good about hiding their contempt for others. I can imagine that Frances was quite condescending.”


“Dr. Bethune was doing well financially, buying art, a Cadillac, and clothes from New York, “ Ying continued. “Suddenly in 1925, he became exhausted every day at his clinic. In 1926, he got a terrible diagnosis. He had tuberculosis in both lungs. He thought he was going to die, and wanted her to start a new life without him. At the Trudeau Sanitorium on Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, he thought he would inject himself with morphine and then swim into the lake. Once the morphine took effect, he would drown.”


“That’s so sad. I feel sorry for her… and for him.”


“They separated and then divorced. She returned to her mother’s home in Edinburgh. But against the odds, he managed to beat the disease. By Christmas in 1927, he was able to leave Saranac Lake.” Ying’s voice clouded over.


“That’s amazing. Back then, TB in both lungs was a virtual death sentence, right Nai Nai?”


“It was an epidemic in Canada. Over 50,000 people got TB every year in those days. He pioneered a treatment for his own TB which he called lung compression. It was revolutionary.”


“Did he return to Detroit?”


“No, he joined the surgical staff at The Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. It was world renowned, and was the teaching hospital of McGill. He worked for Dr. Archibald, who was called Canada’s father of pulmonary surgery. They were both impressive surgeons.”


“He was divorced when you met him?


“Yes. And let me tell you, he was extraordinarily attractive to women,” said Ying. In her mind’s eye, she could clearly remember the aura that surrounded him when he entered a room. His presence seemed to send shock pulses through the room. She added, “Women loved to listen to him talk and they liked to follow him around. I don’t think I ever knew anyone who attracted women more like a magnet than he did. He was brilliant, difficult and entertaining to be with. In the Montreal of his time, Dr. Bethune cut a great figure. He was a revolutionary doctor in every sense – he was developing new surgical procedures, and inventing new medical devices. His surgical lung and bone instruments were patented and are used to this day. He dined and danced his way with Montreal society. He threw parties that brought together artistic as well as medical friends.”


“I’m sure he was Montreal’s most eligible bachelor,” Lotus commented.


“Yes, but… two years later in 1929, he married Frances for the second time. He was a rising star in his field of lung surgery. She was a social pariah in Edinburgh, what with her divorce. She decided to try the marriage a second time. They later admitted that both were two completely different people. The inner conflict beneath the surface in their relationship made her very unhappy. By 1931, they were separated again, and discussed divorce.”


Lotus exclaimed “What a story! Divorce was quite rare back then.”


“To get over his marriage failures, he became a workaholic. I was assigned to his TB unit in 1932. He had recently joined the Sacre-Couer hospital after spending four years at The Royal Victoria, where he had a big falling out with Chief Surgeon Dr. Archibald over the use of anesthetics. The doctors at Sacre-Coeur were thrilled to have such an internationally renowned colleague. He inspired the entire staff and never sent bills to patients. He told his colleagues that if he ever started a private practice again, he would simply leave an offering box at the door and his patients could pay whatever they could afford. While he had expensive clothes and cars, money was never uppermost in his mind. He simply didn’t care about it.”


“I bet all the nurses swooning over him,” Lotus said with conviction. “I know I would have been smitten.”


“Most definitely. Dr. Bethune dressed beautifully. He always looked like he stepped off the set of a doctors’ television program. He was very good with patients. He treated the patients with tenderness and thoughtfulness. He would sit on their beds and explain what he would do during the operation. He would tell them the odds were for living or dying. He would then leave the decision up to the patient and family.”


“Nai Nai, did you fall for him? Did you throw yourself at his feet? I would have! Nothing would have stood in my way!”


“I wouldn’t exactly put it that way. Back then, Lotus, most women were not forward and flirtatious with men like your generation is today. Especially in a hospital where people were sick and dying. He knew I respected him, but I would never cross the line. He had a brusque military manner from his time in the First World War  –  what with his clipped moustache and his deep voice. If a nurse or an intern doctor made a mistake, he would shout and throw things about.”


“It sounds so exciting and romantic.” Lotus asked  “when did he first notice you?”


Ying hesitated. “In those days, I was fluent in three languages. He didn’t speak much French, since he’d grown up in Ontario. The hospital was completely Francophone. Initially, I would help him with French words or do a simple translation for him when we doing the rounds. Over time, I helped him deal with more complex issues. We would occasionally have lunch or dinner in the hospital cafeteria. If I was sitting alone and he saw me, he would sit down and talk. Many of the staff didn’t speak English, so we ended up talking alone many times. It was completely spontaneous. He was very engrossed in the progress of the patients, so at first we spoke only about hospital things.”


In truth, Ying had no concrete picture of the man that she wanted to be with or a plan of how to get there. Her flirtings at the dances with the medical school were just that – flirtings. She realized she was an exotic butterfly to the medical students. But she was not a girl that they could take home to meet mother. Relationships with young men were not possible topics of discussion with her mother. Her mother was very traditional and did not want to know the nuances of the Jazz Age. Ying had no close friends in Montreal. Her points of reference on relationships were Thomas Hardy, Henry James and Edith Wharton – not very good guides for navigating the unfamiliar terrain of relationships. Ying soberly knew the possibility of meeting a Chinese man who was her own age and station in life in Montreal was remote. Her parents hinted about an arranged marriage to a distant cousin in Vancouver who was a recent widower. Ying was resigned to spinsterhood.


Twisting her gold and diamond David Yurman cuff excitedly, Lotus probed further “When did you start seeing him on a more social basis?”


“Gradually, he opened up to me. It was clear that he was in a lot of personal pain because of his divorces. We were both very interested in poetry and art, so we had a lot in common. Dr. Bethune loved William Blake. When he was in England after World War One, he became friends with several war poets like Siegfried Sassoon. For years, he had a close friendship with Nancy Cunard who was the muse of many famous poets. He and I became bound by our appreciation of poetry.”


“I know you have always loved Emily Carr. What did he like?”


Ying explained  “He was close friends with John Lyman, a Montreal artist.”


“Hmm, that name doesn’t ring a bell with me…”

“Lyman was a good Canadian artist but he was overshadowed by the Group of Seven.”

“So Dr. Bethune was a big supporter of this artist… Lyman?” Lotus asked.


“Yes, he helped him out in many small ways.  And we all enjoyed the art that was coming out of the Weimar – era Germany. It was very vibrant and provocative. Dr. Bethune an amateur artist in his spare time. He painted seriously. He took lessons from Edwin Holgate,” Ying said.


“Wasn’t Holgate the “Eighth’ member of the Group of Seven?”


“Yes, Holgate, played a major role in Montreal’s art community, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where he studied and taught. He was known primarily as a portraitist and for a number of female nudes in outdoor settings that he painted during the 1930s. I have a Holgate oil hanging in my hall on the left when you pass the vase. Dr. Bethune painted an excellent self-portrait. In this painting, he was a very proper gentleman-doctor with a tweed jacket and a tie. I wish I knew who owned that painting now. I would hang it over the mantel in my drawing room, ” Ying murmured.


“Did he know any of The Group of Seven?”


“I’m not sure. But, he was frequently in the company of Canadian artists such as Frederick Taylor and Anne Savage,” said Ying.  “They shared a romanticism that was never far below the surface of their art.”


“Did he ever paint you?”


“We were never that intimate in those days.”


“Did he paint any other women’s portraits?”


Ying went on… “he could have been a very good artist if he could have given it the time and devotion required. He painted with a romanticism that was almost childlike in its enjoyment of shock, which underpinned his profound belief in the revolutionary. For him, nothing could be further from the world of the conservative Montreal medical establishment, and he reveled in it.”


“Where did his paintings end up?”


“I’m not sure, “ Ying said. “I think some of them hung on the walls of the Montreal Children’s Creative Center for many years. I believe Marian Scott ended up with most of them.”


“Who was she?”


“Dear, let’s leave that for another day. I need to push off now. Give me a big hug.”




~Chapter 3~

Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal cafeteria, 1932


“Were you in the war, Doctor?”


“Yes, Nurse Cho, at the outbreak of the War, I joined the No. 2 Field Ambulance  of the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Valcartier, “ Bethune said, cutting his chicken carefully. He was very focused on his task and ignored the clatter of diners on either side of them at the long table.


Ying had been sitting by herself during her dinner break in the cafeteria. She was pleased when Bethune sat down across from her. The fatigue that she had been feeling in her shift in the ward washed away with his unexpected arrival. She secretly enjoyed the curious glances that other nurses were directing towards her. It was unusual for doctors to fraternize with the nursing staff.


“I chose to serve as a stretcher bearer and was posted near Ypres.  It was logical for me. I had the medical training and I was accustomed to physical labor since I worked in lumber camps before the war. My job was to carry wounded soldiers from the battlefield back into the trenches where they could be treated… then moved to larger medical facilities. It was an experience that will affect me forever.”


“That must have been very difficult,” Ying said. She self – consciously toyed with the fringe of her drab nurse smock. Ying was pleased that he was opening up to her in this way. He seemed to be so forthright…without any of the studied formality of the other doctors. The rest of the nurses at the hospital found him distant and intimidating.


Bethune continued…“a stretcher bearer was exposed to all of the dangers of a combatant but was devoted only to saving the lives of others. It was a deliberate choice on my part. I wanted to save lives rather than bayonet somebody my own age. ”  He spoke with the clipped cadence of an army officer.


“I can’t imagine bayonetting anyone. I saw some horrible things in Nanking before we escaped,” Ying said soberly. She thought back to the marauding henchmen of the warlords in the streets of Nanjing. Driving a bayonet into any men who looked the wrong way… or young boys, for that matter. Often in plain sight of their families, who were beseeching them to show mercy.


“I would tell the men in my trench to fire low to wound the Boche in the legs… bring them down. Not kill them. They would get picked up and put in a POW camp. It taught me the importance of getting blood to the wounded soldier as quickly as possible. So many men bled to death unnecessarily.” The doctor stared off in the distance while he stroked his short-clipped bristling moustache.


“Doctor, I hope you don’t think I am prying with my questions…”


“Not at all. Nurse Cho, if you haven’t realized it yet, you soon will. I’m not a man who minces his words or gives a damn about being polite. I tell it like it is. We used to say the war was hell with the lid blown off. We learned to blank our minds and mute our emotions to survive the wanton randomness of death and destruction. We were scared all the time- that’s why our comradeship was so important. Many of us were only 18 or 19 years old – about your age right now!


“Did you come home to Canada during this time? On leave?”


“I never made it home for leave, “ said the doctor. “No matter how much a soldier tried to enjoy his leave, it was hard to ignore the nagging thought that it was only a temporary reprieve from the trenches.”


“It must have difficult to keep one’s spirits up.”


“So many men have suffered from neurasthenia in the war. The physical wounds we could see. Many of us who were in the trenches are burdened with a nagging sense of guilt that we survived when so many of our fellows did not,” he said, staring across the cafeteria. “Some men dealt with it by drinking to the point where their legs didn’t work… others by losing themselves in the pleasure of the flesh in nearby French villages when we were on relief. Many men boasted in a mocking way of what they had seen and done… but in their sad faces, I could see the burden of their unwanted knowledge.”


“Yes, we all heard about the ‘thousand yard stare’ that one can see in photos of men in the trenches. The mental and emotional wounds often bubble to the surface ten years or later… in many cases, in very unforeseen ways,” Ying said. “I witness it with some of our patients on a daily basis.” She thought about one young man in particular who woke up screaming each night. It was all the nurses could to calm him down, despite his weakened state from tuberculosis.


“Many brave men confessed their fears that the marching orders to France were a virtual death sentence. Nurse Cho, do you know that for every nine men so ordered, five were killed, wounded or Missing In Action? The most terrifying for my men was the uncertainty of any kind of burial. You would hear of so many young men that were ripped apart by shells and sunk into the mud… on which their replacements would sleep,” Dr. Bethune said grimly.

“If you don’t mind my asking, did you have nightmares, Doctor?” She thought of the many stories she’d heard about men screaming in their sleep. ‘Shell shock’ was the description used over and over by the military. But those two simple words could not possibly describe the trauma that so many men suffered, she thought to herself.

“Luckily, not too many. I did dream but the sequences were very jumbled. Our Captain asked me to help some of the fellows who are having trouble sleeping. I always told them it was better to talk about the experiences again and again, instead of trying to hopelessly forget… or bottle things up… or endlessly brood. What is most disquieting is to realize how little space separated our troglodyte world from home… from Canada… from sanity. We had entered another form of existence which was ugly, precarious… almost insane. It  hardly bore any resemblance to our life before.”

”I heard many men turned to the Bible to salve their emotional wounds,” Ying said, sympathetically.


“We did a lot of praying…and singing, “ Dr. Bethune said. “Once the romantic conception of war proved false, all the men endured the emotional distress caused by endless fear by singing songs. Like “Far Far From Ypres I Want to Be”. These songs were strong bulwarks against defeatism. There was also a strong sense among the men that by slagging off the war and finding ways of laughing… even jeering at it… we could find a courage that gave us the determination to win. Joke at the un-joke-able, and you may find you can survive… instead of allowing the horror to overwhelm you.”


“I can see that,” Ying said quietly.


“I was assigned the difficult task of writing to the mothers and fathers of my battalion, all of whom had already been officially informed of their sons’ deaths,” said the doctor. “I had many false starts in my letters – my memory of the soldiers seemed to fade quite quickly since so many were killed so quickly after I met them for the first time. In the end, I usually wrote formal notes of condolence. I wished I could have done more, but it was very difficult. My style became dry and passionless, which was dishonorable. To write an honest letter, I had to see in my minds eye what effect the letter would have on the distraught mother, father or wife. Their only son… it was hard to contemplate. The most difficult letter to write was to parents whose son couldn’t be identified.”


“Were you wounded in the war, Dr. Bethune?”


“At the second battle of Ypres, I was wounded by shrapnel, which went through my shin bone. Luckily, it exited through my calf muscle quite cleanly.  The British soldiers called it a ‘Blighty wound”.


“What did they mean by that?” Ying asked.


“Blighty is the English slang for home. It means you get sent home from the front. It was serious enough that I spent six months recuperating in England before being sent home.”


“Forgive me, doctor, now, I’m a little confused. When did you finish medical school?”


“In 1917. Once I graduated, I decided to return to the war, and became a lieutenant surgeon stationed aboard the HMS Pegasus until demobilization. After that, I spent part of the year in The RCAF doing studies on the effect of g-forces on pilots. In 1919, I worked at the Great Ormand Street Hospital for Children and the West London Hospital.”


“How did you like London?” Ying was eager to keep the conversation going.


“I loved it. By 1920, we were all trying to put the war behind us.”


“I have never been to London. My father went once to Lloyds of London on some insurance dispute for his rubber business. He told us all about Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. For us in China, London seemed to be a mythical place.”


“I doubt that London had ever been so appreciated as it was in 1920 by the young veterans of the War,” said the doctor.” Some of us were sharply conscious of those legendary figures who, almost to a man, were wiped out in the war.  In 1920, we played hectically, as if to make up for the last years of our late teens spent in such close company with death and disfigurement. The future seemed secure. Although I didn’t have the income to match, I indulged a taste I’d developed for bespoke clothing from Savile Row, browsing the art museums, dining at The Savoy and theater by Noel Coward. I especially enjoyed Hay Fever.”


“I’ve heard of Coward, but I’m not familiar with his plays,” Ying said.


“Thanks to geniuses like him, the theatres of London’s West End sprang back to life. It was in quite a slump after the war. Like the rest of London, the stage became the celebration of youth, with bright new talents producing witty plays and cheerful revues to capture the mood. Ivor Novello and Wodehouse produced great musical comedies like The Golden Moth. After the theatre, we would have a late supper at The Savoy.”


“I’ve always heard about The Savoy. It’s quite famous, isn’t it?” Ying asked.


“It is the most luxurious hotel in England. Some might argue with me that The Ritz in Paris is superior. But I prefer The Savoy. ”

“That sounds like Raffles in Singapore! I never went there, but it was very famous.”

“The nightlife in London is second to none. In 1924, The Kit Cat Club opened in Haymarket, and its membership exceeded 6,000! As well as restaurants, bars and huge dance floor, the club boasted the best cabaret in town. It shared acts with the Piccadilly Hotel. The headlining act for the Grand Opening were the Dolly Sisters, who just appeared at The Moulin Rouge in Paris.”


“Yes, my parents and I recently saw the celebrated dancers Sielle and Mills… we also saw the comedians Val and Ernie Stanton… and Ted Lewis and his band in New York,” Ying explained, hoping to impress the doctor. ”We took the train there for the week before Thanksgiving.”


“There is a book you must read about the Jazz Age and Flappers,” said Dr. Bethune.” It’s The Green Hat. The book captures the energy and disillusionment of the early 1920’s. It tells the story of the short life and violent death of femme fatale and dashing widow, Iris Storm. The flappers in the book are bored with boredom. They’re like Lady Dedlock in Bleak House who has chosen to live out her days ‘bored to death’ as a fashionable lady of the world. ”


“Yet, despite their boredom, the Flappers were ever so polite!” continued Ying.  “I’ve read Tender is the Night, which celebrated The Jazz Age.”


“I think Edwardian England and its colonies were preoccupied with politeness. The measured politeness of our fathers and their fathers was more than manners and decorum. It meant affability, sociability, and cultivation. At the center of this world was the idea of a gentleman. A gentleman, as the principal teacher of manners and cultivation, was as Lord Chesterfield defined him…  “a man of good behavior, well-bred, high-minded…who knows how to act in any society, in the company of any man.”


“My father has always valued politeness. China is very ritualistic, through which politeness is continually threaded and re-threaded.”


“Nurse Cho, did your family know many Western missionaries in Nanking? My mother – who comes from good missionary stock – said that some of them had a thin veneer of politeness. But under that, they had a superiority complex… and sometimes contempt. Do you think so?”


Bù ɡǎn dānɡ, Ying said to herself. She was thrilled to have someone with the gravitas of the doctor ask her opinion.


“No… most missionaries worked under severe duress… so I can understand how they may have lashed out from time to time and seemed contemptuous. From the early times, the presence of missionaries has aroused antagonism in China, partly because of the growing national sentiment against anything Western. Back in the late nineteenth century, missions were attacked and missionaries massacred. The violence culminating with the slaughter triggered by the Boxer Uprising. Missionaries were condemned as imperialists in disguise and Chinese Christians as their lackeys.”

“I got to know a family of Scottish missionaries who are now in Tientsin through my Scottish wife’s family in Edinburgh. One of the two brothers won a gold medal for Britain in the 1924 Olympic games.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of him. I can’t place his name right now,” said Yimg.

“Liddell. His name is Eric Liddell. After his Olympic triumph when he won a gold medal in 1924, Eric enrolled in a divinity course at the Scottish Congregational College in Edinburgh. Eric had long set his mind on returning to China. He had been born there…there may have been something of the spirit of the place in his blood… even a trace of the language on his tongue. His parents, brothers and sisters were there, working as missionaries. His brother, Rob had gone back to China as a medical missionary in 1925.”


“It must have been difficult for him to leave Scotland after winning the Olympics!”


“It’s an interesting story, Nurse Cho. In July 1924, when Eric graduated from The University of Edinburgh, The Scotsman told its readers that Eric was to be crowned with an olive wreath in honor of his Olympic victory. This never happened before. At the ceremony, the Vice Chancellor uttered a wonderful bon mot: “Mr. Liddell, you have proven that none can pass you other than the University’s Examiner”.


“How cute!”


“I remember seeing the newspaper clippings of Eric that day, hoisted up by the students in a victory chair…scroll in hand and with an enormous grin on his face’” said Bethune. “In his speech at the graduation lunch, he reminded the crowd that a man was composed of three parts – body, mind and soul. It was only when a university educated each part in harmony would they get the best and truest graduates. But there was not a scrap of pious asceticism in him.”


“That’s wonderful. Some of the missionaries that we met in Nanking were pious snobs.”


“Eric definitely was no pious snob. The day after his graduation, Eric attended at public dinner, where he spoke with modesty, directness and simplicity. His words went straight to the heart. He said that no adulation, no fame, nor flattery would deter him from his path. He was training to be a missionary in China. His words were greeted with thunderous applause. Lord Sands made a point of celebrating not so much his speed as a runner but the way he put principle before career. ‘There are greater issues in life than sport’, said his Lordship, ‘and the greatest of these is loyalty to the great laws of the soul’.”


“I would think success in the Olympics is enough to turn the head of any ordinary man,” said Ying, putting her knife and fork carefully together in the center of her plate.


“Eric was unspoiled by the celebrity, and his modesty was genuine. He is without a touch of Pharisaism.”


“It sounds like he took his triumphs in his stride.”


Jiùshì,” said Bethune.





~Chapter 8~

The Orient Express, Paris to Calais, April, 1919.


They were sitting in the mahogany lined First Class compartment on the train. The seats were red leather with buttons. The floor of the compartment was covered with an exquisite Persian carpet with brilliant yellow, burgundy and light blue flowers interwoven.  She was striking, with her kohl makeup and turban. She was an English beauty, with a tawny thick hair cropped in a bob haircut, which was fashionable at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties. Her skin was as white as bleached almonds and with piercing blue eyes. She spoke in high piping notes, punctuated by pouncing exclamations of exhilaration or rejection and odd vocal stresses. Her accent was cut – glass Mayfair. An inward intensity simmered through her sentences.


“Where are you coming from?” she asked.


“Paris. And you?”


“I’ve been in Cannes, Beaulieu, and Ezes. I was travelling with a friend, but she stayed in Paris. I’m returning to stay with my mother in Mayfair… but I am dreading my return to London. So many ghosts.”


“What do you mean?” asked Bethune.


“So many of my friends are dead. Peter, Rupert Brooke, Bimbo Tennant, Raymond Asquith – the list is too exhausting and depressing to talk about.”


“Yes, I lost many friends.” Bethune’s mind flickered back to Ypres….but his thoughts quickly returned to the attractive woman sitting across from him in the railway compartment.


“What were you doing in Paris?’ she asked, raising an eyebrow theatrically.


“I was spoiling myself with a trip to the Louvre and the galleries. I am simply mad about French painting. I also wanted to hear some poetry recitals. I really couldn’t afford the trip, what with my miserable salary at the hospital… but I’m determined to make the most of my time here in Europe.”


“Where are you practicing?”


“The Great Ormand Street Hospital for Sick Children. I’m on a six month contract.”


“Good doctor, let me buy you some champagne in the Lounge Car. We have three hours to Calais.”


Bethune’s pulse quickened. “Are you sure? We’ve only just met.”


“My friend, Marie Ozanne just travelled with me for six months. She disliked my habit of drinking with strangers. I told her that I shall certainly always drink with anyone, as indeed, I will talk to any stranger I please. By the way, I don’t believe I know your name.”


“Bethune. Norman Bethune. But my friends call me Beth.”


She led the way down the wood paneled corridor of the train to the lounge. Dr. Bethune noticed that she was tall and slim, with elegant long legs creating a light, delicate dance. She had a distinctive light, swaying way of walking.


“Garcon, we will have 1911 Moet. And three dozen oysters here for my friend,” She said conspiratorily.


“This will be an experience. You are too generous. I hate to admit, but my experience with French oysters and champagne is quite limited.”


“There is no time like the present to change that. The nose on this vintage is closed and intense. The ending is well structured. So tell me, doctor, what poets interest you?”


“I enjoyed some of the works of Sassoon and Owen. And you?”


“I am passionate about poetry. Recently, I wrote six poems for an anthology that was edited by my friends, The Sitwells. My title poem, Wheels, gave its name to the six series. Its our campaign to open English poetry to European influences and to break away from constricting vocabulary and forms. This champagne is excellent, by the way. “


“I must look that up Wheels when I am back in London,” Bethune said as the champagne warmed his senses. “I listened to The Futurists at a poetry event in Paris. They are likening their experiments in poetry to transforming society.”


“Are you married, doctor?”


Bethune was taken aback by the boldness of her question. This is a woman to be reckoned with, he thought. “No time for that, I’m afraid. I finished medical school in December, 1916 and re-enlisted immediately.”


Exhaling a plume of cigarette smoke, she exclaimed “were you mad? Why would you want to go back to that abattoir?”


Bethune was flattered by her interest. “I was white feathered several times when I was in medical school in Toronto. By the time I could explain to the women with the white feathers that I had served at Ypres for two years and was invalided out in 1915, they had moved on down the street.”


She looked out the window of the train into the French countryside. She spoke slowly…“the love of my life was killed in 1916. I am still in anguish. I am utterly crushed by misery. I dream of him every night.”


“Where was your husband killed?”


“Peter wasn’t my husband. My husband is alive. My marriage has been the unhappiest times of my life. My husband is handsome, agreeable, a gallant soldier and a first class cricketer. At our wedding in 1916, The Times described me as an exquisite specimen of English girlhood…a sweet disposition… her pastime in life will probably be dogs. Our marriage was foundering well before the war was over. I am an intellectual. He is a philistine. It was impossible for me to write poetry at all while I was living with Sydney. I longed to escape the smothering and claustrophobic trap of my mother’s home in Grosvenor Square. I stepped into another trap in Montagu Square.”


“I see…” Bethune said, not knowing exactly how to respond to the sudden intensity of the conversation.


“Peter and I read romantic poetry to each other all day long on the lawn of my friends, The Hart-Davis’. He loved A Story Teller’s Holiday, which I will forever associate with him.”


“I’ll make sure that I read it.” He was eager to build a bridge with this intriguing woman. I’ve never met anyone like her, he thought.


“Waiter, now we would like to try the Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, 1907. Doctor, would you care for some more oysters? I understand they are good for the libido.”


“Are you sure? This is so generous of you.”


“I’ve always had the feeling… that everyone alive can do something that is worthwhile. Right now, it seems to me that champagne, oysters and the conversation of a good man fit into that category for me.”


Bethune smiled “Well put.”


She quickly drained her glass of champagne and signaled to the waiter for a refill. Bethune was marveling at this unexpected turn of events.


Lighting a cigarette in a long ivory cigarette holder, she went on “I have a conviction that I don’t fit in anywhere to any class of nationality. I’m not that ghastly thing they call bohemian, and I’m not any of the ghastly things called ‘society’, ‘bluestocking’, ‘county’, or ‘family’. Doctor, I am an intelligent woman with a bad reputation and a failed marriage to a handsome Queens Guards officer. Beneath this bright mask is dissatisfaction and self-destructiveness that I need to overcome. I am restless and impulsive.”


By this point, Bethune was captivated by her.


“I have the urge to shock,” she said. “I have the need to keep on the move. I need to keep my emotional options open. Doctor, people say I am promiscuous. I say that I am not a prisoner to the Victorian and Edwardian pretenses. What society condones public fisticuffs, duels and violent assaults between husband and wife, yet a woman who choses her friends for reasons other than their social acceptability is a whore?”


Conductor stuck his head into the first class compartment… “One hour to Calais.”


The white roses in the bowl on the table shook ever so slightly with the rocking motion of the rain. Her gaze into Bethune’s eyes was unwavering. A slight smile played on her lips. Was it the two bottles of the finest grand cru speaking, or was he picking up signals?


“Doctor, you must come to my examining room in Bloomsbury.”




~Chapter 13~

Kew Gardens, London, March, 1922

Despite the early spring, the English songbirds were in full chorus at Kew Gardens. The crocuses were budding in the stately rows of gardens. Yellow clouds of pollen drifted across the pathway as Isabelle and Bethune strolled past The Great Pagoda.

“What a fantastic building!” Bethune said as he admired the elaborate monument. ”I wonder what its history is?”

Isabelle was pleased to explain…“the Pagoda was built in 1762  from a design which mimics the Chinese Ta.  The original gold dragons were reputedly sold by King George IV to settle his debts. You may know that a very important feature in Chinese architecture is its emphasis on articulation and bilateral symmetry, which signifies balance. Bilateral symmetry and the articulation of buildings are found everywhere in Chinese architecture, from palace complexes to humble farmhouses. I saw many pagodas like this when I was in China.”

“When were you in China?”

“I spent the summer in Shanghai in 1910” Isabelle said as they walked by the towering red pagoda. “My uncle had a house on The Bund overlooking the Huangpu River.”

“I thought your family was from Persia – or India?”

“Yes, originally. But my family…I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it… was involved in the opium trade between India, China and Britain. We had a family home in Shanghai for many years.”

“Good lord – I think we both know as doctors what opium does to the body.”

“I know. Opium wreaked havoc on China, starting in 1850. By the time I arrived in Shanghai, the government estimated that one quarter of the male population of China was addicted. Now we both know that the lifespan of an addict is five years once the habit starts…so its devastating to an society for this to happen.”

“Typical hypocrisy and arrogance of the elites who run an empire. They ban opium in England, yet profit from its sale to the Chinese. Some people might label me an anarchist. I prefer to think that I can tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong,” said Bethune with some vehemence. “And I’m not afraid to speak my mind when I see it.”


~Chapter 15~

The Savoy Hotel, London, March 1923


“Beth, I noticed a ring in your jacket pocket last night.”




“It’s a garnet.”


“Oh yes… it’s a Bethune family heirloom. Shall we dance?”


~Chapter 16~

Brown’s Hotel, London, March, 1923


Bethune stared at the scones, orange peel marmelade and clotted cream in front of him. He thought he knew what was coming. Like a cricket player at bat, he could anticipate the direction of the cricket ball coming towards him…he just didn’t know what type of spin was on the cricket ball.  With a backspin, I can easily block the ball if its on wicket. But if the ball has topspin, it could kick up and hit me in the face, Bethune thought with a concealed chuckle. Unless it’s a cutter or a grubber.


Frances waited until the waiter finished pouring her Earl Grey tea from the silver hot water pot through the silver tea strainer into a green and gold tea cup with scalloped edges. “You lied to me!”


“I beg your pardon?” At that moment, he was glad that the three tiered cake stand… which held the delicate sandwiches, petit fours, chocolate eclairs and blackberry scones… was partially blocking their view of one other. He was carefully studying how the cucumber and watercress sandwiches could be so carefully shorn of their crusts.


“She gave you the garnet ring. This ring in the palm of my hand.”


“Who’s she?” Bethune tried to buy time, using a traditional tactic.


“Isabelle, that’s who!” Frances trembled with anger.


“This is utter rubbish! I’m not sure where you heard this from!”


“Your cousin, Alexandra, that’s who. She let it slip the other night. She had one too many of her gin tipples, and let the cat out of the bag. You never told me you went to Barcelona with that woman!”


Bethune sought to regain his footing… “That was a business trip! I’ve told you that Isabelle and I have an art business together. She found the ring in a junk shop.”


Frances stared at Bethune with narrowed eyes. “I don’t believe it. She even had your name engraved on the inside of the ring with some date connected to your family. You probably lied to her about that as well. Does she know about me? I think your ‘ art business’ together is a cover for a rich old woman to prey on a younger man. What do you see in her? People say that her husband didn’t drown in The Serpentine – he’s living in Florence with a man!”


Now is the time to shift my weight onto my front foot, he thought… “Frances, I won’t stand for this type of insult.”


Her voice rose, and heads at nearby tables turned…“do you choose her clothes for her like you do mine? Do you insist on putting on her makeup like you do to me? Do you snatch her hats off her head head and throw them away like you do mine? Have you ever ordered her to walk into the North Sea in November because you took a dislike to her dress like you did to me? I should have drowned myself, so my ghost would haunt you the rest of your life.”


“Frances, no, it’s not like that at all with Isabelle. We have a platonic relationship. And beside, she reminds me too much of my mother. Too domineering and strong-willed.”


“Nothing is ever platonic with you. I’m chucking this ring in the nearest loo and leaving. Just remember that when a man marries a rich woman, he pays for it every day of his life!”

~Chapter 18~

The Royal Ascot, June 1923

Bethune was unaccustomed to wearing a silk top hat. It chafed the tops of his ears, and was difficult to keep on straight. Added to his discomfort were the patent leather shoes that Isabelle had insisted on buying at Churches on Bond Street. He was developing a bad blister on his heel and the races had not yet started.

“Uncle Philip gave me his tickets for the Royal Enclosure,” Isabelle said excitedly. “He is a chum of the Prince of Wales, and always gets tickets. He’s ill today, and didn’t want the tickets to go to waste.”

Bethune adjusted his white tie. Of all the days to be so beastly hot in London…it had to be the day that I’m wearing a white silk waistcoat between a silk shirt with a tight stiff collar and a wool tuxedo, Bethune thought wryly. “that’s very generous of your uncle. Isabelle, you do look lovely. That hat is fetching.”

Isabelle was wearing an aubergine colored midi skirt and lace top. Her hat was multi tiered, with a silver racehorse leaping over layers of taffeta. The Queen chose a bold orange hat for the occasion with blue details by her milliner and dresser.
“Look, Beth, there’s Lawrence. He’s a friend of my Uncle Philip. I would introduce you, but I don’t know him well.”

Bethune looked over the crowd of wide, colored, wide brimmed hats festooned with all manner of feathers, silk ribbons, paper mache fruits and stuffed birds. He couldn’t miss the sun burned man wearing a long white Arabian dishdasha. He was much shorter than Bethune had ever imagined. The newspapers made him seem like a veritable giant, Bethune thought. Lawrence was surrounded by an admiring group of young men, gesturing rapidly with his bronzed hands.


“Beth, I can’t help but notice that you’re no longer wearing the garnet ring that I bought you. I hope you haven’t lost it, silly boy. It was specially made at Aspreys.


~Chapter 34~

The Royal York Hotel, Toronto, June 1937


Mrs. Basil Melly

50 Berkeley Square

London SW1


Dear Mrs. Melly,                                                                 June 27, 1937                                                                      


Please accept my profound apologies for the lateness of this letter. I have recently returned to Canada from the fascist war in Spain where communication was impossible. I just heard the terrible news of your son’s tragic death from Anna. I am speaking tomorrow in front of the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park to raise emergency funds for Spanish Democracy, and please rest assured that I will include a reference to your dear son and his selfless efforts in Ethiopia.


John and I first met while we were both pursuing our F.R.C.S. in Edinburgh, and have remained friends and medical colleagues ever since. Our lives have taken similar paths in both personal and professional respects. While we never worked together, we have corresponded over the years. Through this correspondence, we have shared our triumphs, our losses and our personal philosophies. John always summed up his philosophy of life with the adage “life is like licking a thorn covered in honey”.


We have both been passionate opponents of the evils of fascism and passionate advocates of democracy. Analogous to the situation of the Republicans in Spain, through John’s lens I have watched the onslaught of Italian fascism against the helpless citizens of Ethiopia.


I have learned much from John. He was calm in the face of the storm. He said he coveted the motto that is carved on our friend Bunny’s onyx pinkie ring… “Mediis tranquillus in Undis – Calm Beneath the Waves”. He faces injustice and cruelty with action, not brooding or anger. He liked to quote Mark Twain, who said ”Anger is the acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored”.


I, on the other hand, conform to Twain‘s adage that “temper is a weapon that we hold by the blade.”


I know that everyone who worked with him would agree that John was an example of someone who, by his will power, could introduce a new and transfiguring force into the course of events. Compassionate identification with suffering and helplessness were always John’s personal hallmark.


It was so pleasing to hear from Anna that, in John’s honor, The King presented The Albert Medal to you in a private audience last year. It is my dearest hope that once Ethiopia is freed from the yoke of tyranny, John’s work is commemorated in Addis Ababa… so that his memory lives on. I think that in the darkening of European skies, shining lights such as John are crucial in the fight against fascism. Democracy needs more men like John. He was one of those dynamic individual human forces who communicate to others that victory is possible even in hopeless conditions.




May God rest his soul,

With heartfelt sympathies and condolences,

Dr. H. Norman Bethune


Dr. Larratt Smith Diaries: 1850-1905


“Summerhill", Toronto, 1885.“Summerhill”, Toronto, 1885.


The diaries of Dr. Larratt W.V. Smith can be found in the collections of the Baldwin Room at the Toronto Reference Library in Toronto, Canada. The following is a draft publication of the upcoming sequel to “Young Mr. Smith in Upper Canada”, by Mary Larratt Smith, University of Toronto Press, 1982.




Dr. Larratt Smith’s  house in St. George’s Square in Toronto at 45 Grange Road, was not large, but its location was fortuitous, most of all because of its proximity to the Grange. The Grange was a grand English-style estate was built in 1817 by D’Arcy Boulton Jr., who belonged to one of the core families of Toronto’s Family Compact (which was the “magic circle” of Canadian thought leaders). In its day, the Grange was an important intellectual center of the country. Several years after the death of D’Arcy Boulton, his widow married Goldwin Smith, the first English professor at Cornell University. Larratt Smith and Goldwin Smith became close friends and intellectual sparring partners for decades in the library of The Grange. (Larratt’s 15th child was named Goldwin, after his godfather). Goldwin Smith was a leading man of letters in Toronto who actively campaigned for the union of Canada and the United States. Upon his death, he bequeathed his fortune of $800,000 to Cornell, which built the Goldwin Smith Hall at the heart of the campus in Ithaca.


Today, the Grange is the fourth oldest building left in Toronto and functions as a museum run by the Art Gallery of Ontario. The dense city has taken over the former country estate, but there does remain a park (wedged between the noise of Queen Street to the south and Dundas Street, the edge of Chinatown, to the north) that makes it possible to imagine the once vast lawns of the manor.

By the beginning of our story, a residential district had grown up around the estate, comprised of “handsome three story houses” (Globe, June 11 1860) occupied by the fairly well-to-do –  judges, lawyers, doctors, bankers. The Grange would long remain one of the social hubs of aristocratic Toronto,[1] as it was for Larratt Smith until the end of his life.  When Larratt lived close by, the master of the Grange was D’Arcy Boulton’s son William,[2] two-time mayor of Toronto, whose wife, Harriet, kept Minnie company at the Smith house several times a week. Minnie’s younger sister Georgina and her brother James often came up from Bay Street, and Larratt’s friend and brother-in-law, Walter Cassels, was a frequent guest. Days that no-one came over for dinner and a game of bagatelle (the ancestor of pinball, of Pickwick Papers fame) were so rare that they merited a special citation in Larratt’s journal.

No children lived in Larratt’s house then, for both of Eliza’s boys were boarding at Mr. Chickley’s school in Barrie. Based on his journals, Larratt seemed to be a proud and caring father; accustomed to noting only the bare facts of his days, he found, for instance, that George’s “delicate” appearance or an improvement in his son, Larratt Alexander (Lal) writing were worthy things to record. The boys came home often, and a letter was usually written as soon as they had left again.

At this time, Larratt was awaiting a third child by Minnie, his second wife. His first wife, Eliza, had died during the birth of their second child. By May, 1859,  Minnie’s time to deliver was drawing near, but it was marred with bad news. Larratt’s mother and sister began sending alarming news from England about the state of his father’s health, Captain Hilary Larratt Smith. Larratt recorded it laconically as ever: “Papa ill; Papa no better; Papa worse.”

But Larratt would not have to make his farewell visit to England just yet. There was other bad news – not about his elderly father, but about his 9-year old son.


Monday, May 30, 1859

Office all day. letter from Mr. Chickley. George very ill. George not expected to live through the night.


Tuesday, May 31

Very fine & warm. Left for Barrie at 7.30 a.m. reached at 11 a.m. Dear George very dangerously ill telegraphed for [Dr.] Nicol who came up at night. slept at Gowan’s.


Wednesday, June 1

Very fine & hot. dear George thought better. but worse at night – not expected to live through the night.  slept on sofa in the sitting room. Nicol remained over at my request. Dr. sat up all night with George.


Thursday, June 2

very fine. dear George very sick but better. Nicoll left by 4.10 p.m. train. Dear Minnie confined of a son @ 5 p.m exactly. Dr. H. attended. Mrs. Dun present. George passed a fair night.


Friday, June 3

very fine but very cold. left Barrie at 7:30 am. found them all very well – office all day…  sent up medicine for poor George who was much the same. …


Saturday, June 4

telegraph in morning, that dear George sinking fast.  left Toronto at 5 p.m. reached Barrie at 8 ½ p.m. dear George much the same. passed a good night quite quiet. very cold in evening. freezing.


Sunday, June 5

very fine. did not go to church. with George all the morning trying to give him nourishment. obliged to give it up in course of day as it wearied him. pulse began to fail in evening.


Monday, June 6

Dear George breathed his last – at 25 minutes past 12 a.m. quite quietly. was with him when he died. left Barrie with his body by afternoon, boys & some of townspeople saw him to the station. found dear Minnie pretty well. ….



The Globe and Mail printed the notice the following day:

At the residence of the Rev. W. P. Checkley, Barrie, on Monday, the 6th instant, after a short but severe illness, George Cassels,  second son of Larratt W. Smith, Esq, aged 9 years & 6 months. (Globe, June 7)


Tuesday, June 7

very fine. did not get up till past 1 p.m. Cassels very attentive. … dear George lying in his coffin in the drawing room. sent off papers announcing his death.


Wednesday, June 8

very fine though it rained in morning. windy. dear George buried in St. James cemetery @ 4 p.m. Minnie did not know he was in house or being buried till afterwards. Cassels dined here – conversation & dinner.


We can only imagine the loneliness of Minnie’s first days as a mother in such a sad house. The new baby was also christened George Cassels, after the boy who had just been buried beside his mother Eliza in St. James’ cemetery.

But while the arrival of Minnie’s first child was shrouded in mourning, her husband’s attention soon turned back to her. When baby George, nicknamed “Sonny,” was ten days old, Larratt wrote, “dear Minnie up first time today on sofa in breakfast room” (June 12, 1859).  Indeed, he noted her first time up and her first trip out of the house after each child was born; he always recorded the children’s first teeth, words and steps with diligence; and he never forgot their birthdays.









Early the next year, Captain Hilary Larratt Smith’s health was waning once again, and Larratt prepared to bury his father not long after his son. But the farewell trip to England was also an occasion to drink in the old country and renew old acquaintances on both sides of the Atlantic.


Jan 3, 1860

Very fine & milder. Found office frozen up. at home in evening. bad news from England Papa in a very precarious state. Last day of Elections. Wilson elected Mayor by a large majority 599.[3] Baby vaccinated by Dr. Nicol. Bad news of Papa.


Jan 4

Very fine office all day. sleighing first rate ever since November. Office all day & till ½ past 1 in the morning. Minnie at Mrs. Crooks & Lal. Small children’s party. Wrote Mamma & sent lock of Baby’s hair. Very cold at night.


Jan 10

Thawing very fast. Office all day. sent Lal to Mr Francks’s as a weekly boarder & paid him in advance $40. also paid off Mr. Chickley $10 by post. At home in evening. newspaper from Dear Papa addressed by him. No letter.


Jan 16

Very fine & mild. Thawing all day. office. Alarming news of dear Papa’s health. At home in evening.


Jan 17

Very fine. office all day at Meeting of Committee of Senate in evening. Building Committee. Dear Papa’s birthday 78 to day if living.


Jan 21

Very fine. Lal came home as usual. Letter from dear Papa no better wishes me home. Determined to go by next steamer. Letter from Mamma also.


Jan 26

Very fine & mild. Office nearly all day. went home at 2 pm. dined at 4 pm packing up. left Toronto by JT Railroad at 5.37 pm tea at Cobourg. Breakfast first at Cornwall. Sleeping carriage comfortable. Had a lower berth to myself & my own plaid & Mrs. Rae’s shawl for a pillow.


Jan 27

Reached Montreal at 9 am. Found the Raes & Bentley at St. Lawrence Hall went to the Bank & wrote therefrom to dear Minnie. Called & saw Mr. Hugh Allan at his office Mr John Smith 94 Alexander Street called & left his card for me. Left Montreal at 4 pm crossing the Victoria Bridge reached Island and at Midnight slept in the same room with Bentley. Comfortable bed & clean.


Jan 28

Up very early. fine morning but very cold. left at 7 am for Portland. Capt & Mrs. Woolsey child & servant among the Passengers for England also Wm Hall & Glover of Quebec. Met the Nova Scotian’s Passengers just arrived after a terrible passage of 18 days a few miles out of Portland. Wrote dear Minnie as soon as I got on board the Anglo Saxon & gave it to Smith to get mailed. Let Portland at 4 pm very cold & blowing wind slightly ahead but no sea till night when ship rolled terrible decks covered with snow & very cold wind got round to NW during the night. All sail set ship making 12 knots.


The ships that Larratt mentioned were operated by the Montreal Ocean Steamship Company, known better as the Allan Line after the long-established shipping family who owned it (it was this Hugh Allan whom Smith went to visit in Montreal).[4] The Allan line of sailing ships dates back to 1819, but its first steamer sailed in 1854; by 1860 the line operated six different vessels departing from Portland for Liverpool each Saturday. Larratt’s ship, the Anglo-Saxon, had room for 75 first class 350 third-class passengers; tickets for stateroom accommodations averaged around $80 while steerage passengers paid $39. During the summer months, the ship likely ran at close to capacity, especially when transporting English and Irish immigrants to Canada, but winter averages were much lower. It is likely that only between 30 and 60 passengers were crossing to England with Larratt Smith that January.[5]

The steamer line promised “cooked provisions on the voyage” and “an experienced surgeon” on board, but no-one could promise a fast arrival or a comfortable trip. There were days when the ship made no progress, and dismal weather and rolling seas kept the seasick passengers in their quarters. But the Anglo-Saxon in particular was hailed as an especially fast ship; it had made its maiden ocean crossing in 1856 in just 10 and one half days, and on a later occasion, managed it in just 9 days, 5 hours.[6] On favourable seas, stateroom passengers like Larratt Smith might pass their voyage in style – with card games and songs and a keen interest in the ship’s progress.


Sun Jan 29, 1860

Very fine morning. Prayers read by the first officer. Sighted a brig running before a still breeze at 9 am. Sun shining brightly & ship bowling along splendidly our course ESE. Wind came round to the S in afternoon. Took in all sail. Made 220 miles up to noon to day. Lat 42.35 Long 65.28 at noon. Hoisted fore try sail in evening. lovely moonlight night. Ship rolling a good deal. Welsh rabbit for supper. To bed at 10.


Jan 30

Very fine day wind from S & light loitering about till 1 o’clock nothing doing & nothing to be seen wind favorable. Sailors setting up topmasts & getting on more sail. Whist in the evening with Bentley. Mr. Buck & Glover. Lat at noon 42.03 Long 59. 43. made 260 miles.


Larratt did not make it in time to see his father. At the bottom of this entry, he later added this note:

My dear father died at ¼ to 2 pm Southampton time. George & Mary arrived too late.


Feb 1

Very fine. wind dwindling, getting fairer. Setting the studding sail on the foremast. Ran 278 miles to noon in all 1033 miles. Lat 42.47 Long 47.23. blew much stronger at night. Stopped the engine from 11 pm to 3 am. Repairing a valve. Ship rolled very much but made good head way under sail. Whist at night same parties. Welsh Rabbit & accompaniments. Turned in at 11 pm.


Feb 4

Very fine. wind still fresh on the quarter. Passed the “Shandon” at 7 am from Savannah to Glasgow every thing set about 1 mile to windward. Made 270 miles up to noon in all 1873 miles to day. Lat 48.48. Long. 29.18. cards in evening Welsh rabbit & accompaniments. To bed at 11 pm. wives of Capt of “Shandon” & our ship living together in the absence of their husbands.


Sun Feb 5

Very fine. passed a steam ship steaming W at 7.50 am supposed to be the ‘Arago.’ Saw her. Steaming against the wind. Service in the morning & sermon from one of the passengers. Wind dead aft blowing in squalls with showers. Ship rolling a good deal. Made 276 miles to noon in all 2149 miles. Lat. 49.52 Long. 22.31/ same weather all night though occasionally the moon bright & stars  out. To bed at 10 pm.


Feb 6

Drizzling & foggy. At 6 am wind got round to the E. took in sail & struck top gallant masts & yards. Ran 270 miles to noon to day in all 2419. Lat 50.01 Long 15.31. weather cleared up at night & then moon came out with wind fair. Moon eclipsed from midnight to 2 am. Got on deck at 3 am rather cold. coffee with Smith in the forecastle at 4 am no land in sight turned in again.


Feb 7

Very fine morning tho’ showering with fair but squalling & very cold. sighted Cape Clear at 8 am. Wrote dear Minnie for the Hungarian’s Mail to go ashore at Cork a long letter – reached Queenstown harbour at ¼ to 4 pm finding that I could gain nothing by going ashore here, determined to go on to Liverpool. left in ½ an hour after landing. Mail & some passengers.


Feb 8

Raining & blowing in squalls all the morning. Wind fair. … Passed the Bell buoy upset with gales & went after the Hungarian coming out. Saluted her with 2 guns, she replied with one. About 2 pm entered the river & passed Victoria Tower at 3 pm (Toronto time ¼ to 10 am). Reached landing slip at 3 ½ pm. baggage examined & left by Express train 1st class at 5 pm with Mail Agent. Reached London at 11 pm. drove to York Hotel & slept there.


Feb 9

Very fine morning & cold though it had rained hard during the night. Left Waterloo Station at 8 am for Southhampton. Country looking green tho’ wintry. Southampton at 10.30 am drove at once to house, & there learned for first time sad intelligence of dear Papa’s death. Found Mamma & Mary well though much affected. Day fine. walked into the town wrote letters to Parson &C. sent off letter to Vance &C. slept in dear Papa’s room. Went with Mamma & Mary to Holy Trinity this evening to evening service.


With his brother George, Larratt spent the next several days putting his father’s affairs in order and finding his mother a new place to live. But he made the most of this sad trip; he stayed until the end of March, 1860  to enjoy the culture, shopping and social and opportunities that London had to offer, but was always eager for news from home.

Feb 18

Raining slightly & foggy. Left with George for Southampton. Saw Uncle William in bed. Aunt & Geo gave former poor Papa’s stick. Wrote Wm Young & Woolwich de Mamma’s pension. Requesting an interview. Returned to Park Row & lunched with George.  George drove us over to New Cross Station where we took the Rail to Crystal Palace. Concert began at 3 pm Piccolonini. Very crowded & very good. Dined at 5 pm. telegraph from Henry Duncan 10 D—(?) Road wishing to see me. Replied. No letter. Writing Minnie.


Sun Feb 19

Stormy day. wind W. blowing strong gusts with rain. snow in the evening. attended St. Bartholomew’s Church morning & evening. heard Mr. Snow read prayers & Mr. English preach on both occasions. Nice Church. Evening fair. Walked with George before Church & between Churches round by Averley & Penge to see for a house for Mamma. Walked all round the Crystal Palace Grounds. After service wrote Minnie.


Feb 22

letter from Hancock. Still none from dear Minnie. Letter from Vance.


Feb 23

Most lovely day. Letter at last from darling Minnie & such a kind one & lengthy. Also from Jim. Went to town late. … Lunched with James. Then to … Anatomical Museum. Saw 2 Punch & Judy’s. then met Archy McLean & went with him to his lodgings at 20 Cecil street, Strand. Heard that Queen going to Adelphi to night. Went there. did not see her after all. Bengal Tiger & “Dead Heart”, latter splendid. Walked to London Bridge & took 12.15 train. Could not get in to George’s house till 3.50 am. Tried the “Greyhound” in rain. rather used up when George let me in.


Feb 27

Raining hard when I got up. left Brighton at 8.10 am, weather cleared up. reached London Bridge at 10 am. Went to the Tower … Afterwards to Montgomeries not in. afterwards to the —(?) office, about Mamma’s pension then to the National Gallery. Then dinner & drove to London Bridge in boat & Mongomeries again, not in, & home. Duncan came up in the evening & left at 10 pm. sat up & wrote Minnie till 12 pm. very fine night.


Feb 29

Very fine wind gone down beautiful day. drove to Greenwich & went to Woolwich & saw Mr Wm Young about Mamma’s Pension. Very satisfactory, returned to Greenwich by 1 & lunched with George & took boat again at 2 pm for Hungerford Bridge. Met Mary G & Mamma at Great Rex. Got Papa’s picture & sat for my own. Did some shopping with Mary & mamma & returned to Sydenham at 7 pm. wrote up c/cs & letter to War office for Mamma.


Mar 1

Very fine day no Steamer announced yet. Went to London. Made purchases at Storeys & Dean &Cos took my ticket to Mongomerie Green homes to be sent to Liverpool & exchanged & state room selected afterwards to Pawson’s where I made large purchases for dear Minnie. Afterwards to Churell’s to pay his c/c not in. there to Waterloo Station to meet Mary. Met her at 6 pm & brought her to Sydenham. Making up a/c &c in evening. George bought a beautiful dress for dear Sonny.




Mar 2

Rained hard all morning. Wind SW. George’s carriage came round for us, to drive round to see houses. Drove with Mamma & Mary & George & saw several. Preferred “Avoca

Villa” left for town at 1 pm. went to see Gen Baxter 11 &12 Northampton Square asking too about “Avoca Villa” & afterward to Warren’s went through the British Museum. Dined in Strand. Lyceum – Tale of Two Cities. Reached home at 1 am. Beautiful night. Found letter from Jas Mitchell 25 College Hill Cameron Street West No 83. letter from Dumford & a long one from darling Minnie.



Mar 5

Very fine day. left Dumford’s after breakfast for Sydenham. News of loss of “Hungarian” arrived very shocking on 19 February last. Went with Mamma Mary & Mr Bucknall to “Avoca Villa” to measure & inspect the rooms & house. Dined at George’s to day at 1 pm & walked over to Dulwich & saw the Bucknalls. Also Mr & Mrs Wm Bucknall handsome Spanish woman. Walked back in 37 min & reached “Highfield” at 9 pm. writing dear Minnie after all went to bed from 10 to 12 ½ pm. very fine night.


The “Hungarian” was another ship in the Allan Line’s fleet. It was wrecked in a storm on Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, killing all 237 people aboard. It took several days just to ascertain the ship’s identity, and only a few bodies were recovered from the wreck. Cargo, scraps of mail, and pieces of luggage were being salvaged for weeks.  These were difficult times for the Allan Line. The Hungarian was had been built just two years before. The “Canadian” had been lost 1857, and the second “Canadian” would perish in 1861. The Anglo-Saxon itself, just three years after Larratt Smith’s voyage, would be lost in a fog off Cape Race, with the loss of 238 lives.

But first, it would take him safely home.


Mar 7

Cold. raw snowy day. wind from NE went into town with Gen Hampton. Met bank of Coldstream guards going to St. James Palace. Saw colours trooped & guard relieved. Went to town. Saw Montgomeries & took berth “11” by the “Anglo Saxon” for the 28th. “Bohemian” arrived at Cork this morning. News of loss of Hungarian confirmed. Bought shoes …. saw “Queen” &c going to levee of Volunteers at St. James Palace. Went to Great “Globe,” dined with Geo Hampton at “Shades” opposite “Globe,” went to Haymarket for overland Route & afterwards to Princess Street Theater for “Jack the Giant Killer” – capital. Supper & to bed.



Mar 9

Fine morning. Came on to snow at intervals & very raw. Saw the Grenadier Guards relieve the Coldstream at the St. James Palace. Boat to St. Paul’s Pier. Called on James. Took him to Mongomerie Greenhouse. Over the latter. Gave them my ticket to be altered for no 9 “Anglo Saxon.” Lunched with James at Prusells. Left pencil case at Thornhill’s. got my ring from James. Dined at Shades with Geo Hampton gave him pencil case. Afterwards to Covent Garden. Lurline & Puss in boots. Found letter from darling Minnie on my return. […].


Sun Mar 11

Snow on the ground. Cold but thawing. Went with Mary & George Hampton to Temple church & walked back. Very sloppy & muddy walking. Wind about S wrote Capt Willoughby declining his visit. Went with Geo Hampton & Mary to St. Paul’s in the evening in a cab & back. Capital sermon & excellent singing. Splendid sight 8000 persons there. dome lit by 800 lights.


Mar 14

Very fine. went to visit poor Papa’s grave with George at Nunshead. Rec’d a letter from darling Minnie by the Cunard steamer. Went on to Greenwich called & saw John & Emma Smith. Also Uncle William Smith & Aunt. Called at Riddells not in. left a card for them. Dined with George & went over Poor Papa’s affairs with him & left for London. Went to Hungerford Bridge got spring from Salmon & Ody. Measured for gown at Ede’s, to be finished on Tuesday & sent to Southampton. Then to Oxford Street to change Music. saw Vance & wished good bye. Afterwards over James. Dined at the London Tavern with him at 6 pm & afterward to Olympic – splendid.


Mar 19

Lovely day. up early & left Sydenham at ¼ to 10 am for London. Drove to Waterloo Station. & left by Express Train at 11 am for Southampton. Young Starr on the train going to Jersey. Reached home at 1.20. weather lowering. Wind high from SW. Jane & Mabel Bucknall to go home to day from George’s. found Mamma & Mary both well & expecting me. Hampton had not been down. Writing dear Minnie in evening till very late. Took a walk before tea for ½ an hour along the water westward. Wrote dear Minnie for the last time before leaving & at midnight fell asleep over it.


Mar 20

Blowing a gale from the West & squalling with rain at intervals. Letter from Duncan replied to it. & finished & mailed letter to dear Minnie. With Illustrated papers. Walked after dinner to Abbey & Hospital blowing a gale 7 nizzling. Home by 9 pm to tea. Spent ½ an hour in the Abby. … marking dear Minnie’s pocket handkerchiefs in the evening with a new stamp.


Mar 24

Blowing a gale all day from W & WNW with squalls of hail & rain. letters from Mr. Hampton Geo Hampton & George. Also from Willoughby & WH Smith. Replied to two letters. Mamma packing my clothes all day. assisted her. Teeth put right by Payne. No tidings of Canadian Steamer with my letter due on 21st. wrote James to day de knife. At home in evening measuring furniture. Geo Hampton expected paid young E. Sharp Mamma’s rent due to day [pounds] 15.15 & took receipt.


Mar 27

Tolerably fine. wind strong from NW with occasional showers. Up at 5 am breakfasted at 6. took leave of dearest Mamma & Mary at 6 ½. […]


Mar 29

Squally & showering from W. wind dead ahead & fresh. “Edinburgh” 10 miles astern. had a nice salt water bath & got up at 7 am. Wrote dear Mamma to mail at Cork. Wind squalling & very fresh all day dead ahead. Reached Cork @ 2 pm mailed letter for Mamma Willoughby & Duncan. Left Cork at 7 pm after taking in Mails & some 100 000 steerage passengers. fine night wind very high from NW moon out. Sea got very high & getting into the Atlantic.

Made 295 miles by noon to day.


Mar 30

Wind dead ahead & very high with constant squalls of rain snow & wind. Made very little progress married to a gale ship rolling fearfully.

57.30 12.00 150 miles.


Mar 31

Gale from NW all the time sea very high. Felt ill lying down most of the time. Fearful seas sweeping the decks one came over as high as the bulwarks & swept everything aft at night nearly carrying away the boats.

57.30 17.30 200 miles


Sun Apr 1

Tremendous gale from NW & very heavy sea. Making little progress. No service to day too rough. Lying down & reading most of day. no sleep at night carried away 2 sails. Washhand sent into my berth in the night & bath upset into my drawer.

50.47 20.17 114 miles


Apr 7

Blowing a gale all night from SW & raining torrents with dense fog. Very heave sea on the Banks thermometer fell to 33. fog … ship at ½ speed from 1 ½ till 9 am. Capt on deck all night. Fog lifted at 9 ½ am & wind to NW, heavy sea. Practiced for to morrow’s singing. Took medicine. Not well at all to day.

44.30 Long 50.30 200 miles.


Sun Apr 8

Rather a fine night. Wind from NW dead ahead & fresh with snow storms all thru the day. Dutton read the Morning Service. Sang all the music & chants for Easter day. 43.28 Long 55.54. 242 miles in all 2196 miles. Steerage passenger gave birth to a girl at 8.30 pm. fine still night wind ahead but no sea. Toward morning wind shifted to S.


Apr 11

Raining a little but tolerably fine up early breakfast on board went ashore for special train at 8 am found that no train to go till 1 ½ pm strolled about town. Lunched on oysters. Left at 1 ¼ pm reached Island Pond at 7.50 pm tea there no searching. Traveled all night in mail car. Immigrants in the others. Left many of the party at Richmond for Quebec at 2 am. Fine night but cold. sent letter to Mamma to England by Dunlop & asked to see that it is sent by “Canadian” on Saturday.


Apr 12

Reached Montreal at 7.30 am very tired. Breakfasted at station telegraphed dear Minnie that I was coming. Left at 8.30 am dined at Kingston. Reached Toronto at 12 midnight. Walter & Jim at Station to meet me. Found dear Minnie not well. Lal at home. Supper & unpacking. Got to bed about 3 am.









































“The militia, we may mention, in Canada, as well as in all the provinces, is almost a non-entity – little else than an undisciplined mob; and, unless steps are taken to drill and discipline it, it would be useless in the field.”[7]


Thus The Illustrated London News assessed the state of Canadian defense in December 1861. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Canada’s vulnerability was the subject of debate on both sides of the Atlantic; indeed, the colony’s position became precarious each time British-American relations got tense. While officially neutral in the North-South conflict, Britain’s sympathies seemed to lie with the Confederates (although Canada itself had closer cultural and economic links with the North, and had outlawed slavery in 1793). Following the Trent affair in November, 1861 – when a Union vessel stopped the RMS Trent, a British mail steamer, and removed two Confederate diplomats despite the captain’s protests – the United States and Britain came precariously close to war. Concerns intensified about Canada’s defensive capabilities, since the colony would naturally be the Union army’s first target in a strike against Britain.

Britain could not or would not spare many more regular soldiers, and there was little support for a professional standing army; it was clear that more active volunteer militia units needed to be mobilized, and the existing militia better trained. The Sedentary Militia – essentially all able-bodied men between eighteen and sixty – was useless without proper organization, equipment, training and leadership. Toronto’s Leader urged sedentary militia officers to have the decency to resign unless they were willing to begin learning military drills immediately (quoted in The Illustrated London News); many sedentary officers, it commented, were indeed willing to join the active volunteers in their training. Even so, “the impression amongst men of good judgment and discernment is that there is little reliance to be placed on the militia, and that the best and surest mode of providing for the defense of the province is to form a volunteer regiment in every locality.”

There had already been a temporary surge in military fervour in the 1850’s, when volunteer companies had organized to replace British soldiers who had gone to fight in the Crimean war. This Active Militia was made up of men who bought their own uniforms and received a few days’ paid training; but the units had since fallen into dissolution.[8] After the Trent affair,  John A. Macdonald was named Minister of Militia and attempted to bring order to the chaos. The units created in the 1850’s were reformed, and Britain sent 11,000 more regular troops. But plans for a larger reserve force and more training (two to four weeks per year) were overturned, as neither Britain nor Canada was willing to pay. John A. Macdonald’s government resigned and the next government, led by John Sandfield Macdonald, passed a new Militia Act in 1863. Ten thousand volunteers would be given twelve days of drill per year.[9] By the same Act, prospective officers were required to pass a longer course of training, lasting three months, at newly established military schools run by regular British officers.

One such school opened in Toronto on the 1st of March, 1864, and it was clear from the beginning that the military spirit was running high. The Globe reported this news with great optimism as the first item of city news:

School of Military Instruction. Under the provisions of section 52 of the Militia Law, a School of Military Instruction was opened in this city on Tuesday last, in connection with the 16th regiment. The school has been established for the purpose of enabling candidates for commissions in the militia, to perfect themselves in a knowledge of their military duties, drill, discipline, &c, The school is under the management of Captain Carter of the 16th Regiment, who has opened an office on King street near the corner of Simcoe. The ball room in the old Government House, and one or two other rooms in the same building, will be used as drill rooms, until other and more suitable buildings can be provided. The drill shed of the 10th Batallion will also be used whenever it is found necessary. The school opened very favourably, so far at least as numbers are concerned, as there were yesterday afternoon nearly sixty officers present, from different parts of the country, who intend availing themselves of their method of receiving a knowledge of military matters. From the numerous applications that have been sent in, it is expected that, in a week or two the number of members will have reached nearly or quite one hundred. Some of them have come a great distance, and one gentleman residing at Sault St. Marie wrote to the Brigade Major here, asking what district he was in as he wished to attend one of the schools. A number of the men of the 16th regiment have by consent of the Commander-in-Chief, been detailed for the special duty of attending the school for the purpose of assisting the officers in their studies. All candidates for commissions, while attending the school, will be considered for all drill and discipline to be attached to this regiment which shall constitute the School of Instruction and it shall be competent to the Commander-in-Chief, on a representation from the Commandant, to dismiss any candidate from the school for misconduct or other sufficient cause. (Globe, Thursday, March 3, 1864, p. 1)


Larratt Smith (whose father , Captain Hilary Larratt Smith had been a career military man and who had himself served as a lieutenant during the 1837 rebellions), along with dozens of other officers, wished to change the popular perception of the militia – a crew of old men unacquainted with drill and unwilling to do more than parade about in fancy uniforms. The spring of 1864 saw the 43-year old preparing to enter a rigorous program at the new School of Military Instruction.

It was an eventful time for the family as well. George, age 5, was a spirited child, to the point of once breaking a playmate’s collarbone; one-year old Lenny had started to walk; and a new baby, a daughter, was born on the 15th of February with a worrying heart condition.


Feb 22

Very fine & mild. Office.

Lenny walked some distance alone first time this morning. Wood came in from Brampton. Took  George to his Grandpapa’s. Rained all morning. Jackson Haines skating in afternoon cleared up. Greenwood hanged himself in his cell at 10 pm to avoid being hanged t morrow at 10 am. “Bohemian” lost off Portland at 9 ½ pm.


Feb 26

Very fine & mild. Office all day. Took the 2 Georges to see the Nigger minstrels this evening at Music Hall. Wrote Walter & remitted $115. Downey finished the 3 cords of wood. George & Lenny had their likenesses taken at Carson’s.


Mar 5

Very wet & stormy day. Raining & snowing. Office all day till 4 pm when I went home to christening of Emily Crawford by Mr Baldwin as there is reason to fear the consequences of her palpitation of heart. No sponsors. Georgie & George present.


Mar 9

Rained all day. Office. Adelaide with Minnie all the afternoon. Did not see her. Dr Nicol called. Baby worse. Not likely to live from organic defects. At home in evening.


Despite these predictions, Emily did survive. But the next few weeks were not encouraging, and Larratt Smith recorded her condition diligently throughout that spring and summer. Meanwhile, by mid May, he had begun his military training, consisting usually of a midday lecture and two daily drills, plus private study, under the supervision of British regulars (there was also, of course, some socializing with the most important British military personalities in Canada, such as Colonel George Peacocke). Larratt’s training began just in time to join the year’s most extravagant show of military finery – Queen Victoria’s birthday.


May 17

Very fine & very hot. Attended & enrolled for Military School. Office all day. Ingall & daughter arrived. At home in evening.


May 20

Drill twice as usual. Practiced feu de joie firing for Queen’s Birthday. Col. Peacocke to have dined with us but poor Browning’s body found & he declined [Browning and Akers were two 16th Regiment ensigns who had drowned in the bay]. Jim Georgie & Miss Creighton dined with us. Office.


May 24

Queen’s birthday. Very fine & very hot indeed. Military School at 8 ½. Photographed & left for review at 11 am. Fired & marched well. All the force out. Home at 2 pm to dinner. Very tired home the rest of the day & evening. General Holiday.


June 3

Very fine & very warm. Two drills to day as usual. Office. at home in evening. Minnie suffering from tooth ache but refuses to have teeth out.


June 27

Very fine & cool two drills & lectures. 1st Class unexpectedly examined. Stanton dined with me. Office. at home in evening.


June 28

Very fine & cool. Out of 21 up for Examination only four plucked. Jim passed. Office one hour. Morning & evening Drill & 4 hours of lecture.


July 4

2 drills office & midday lecture. Office one hour. At home in evening. Sat up till past 12 studying with Tully Murney.


July 5

Very fine. First part of Military School Examination came off. Squad & Company Drill—passed it. No office. drill in evening. At home.


The next day Larratt Smith sent his family ahead of him to Murray Bay, and stayed behind to take his final exams.


July 7

Passed last Examinaion in Battalion Drill &c. all the Squad got through. Office rest of day. Rained hard in afternoon. Meeting of School to present Testimonials to Carter, Sergeant Major Smith & Sergeants.


The Globe wrote up an update on the military school on the following day:

We are glad to find that the Military School in this city is in a prosperous condition. Since its opening the number of attendants has constantly increased, and though a large number have passed successful examinations and left, the new arrivals are so numerous as to more than make up for those retiring. There are at present eighty-three pupils undergoing instruction, under the supervision of Captain Carter, to whose assiduity and attention the success of the undertaking is in a great measure due. Examinations are held every few weeks, by the Commandant of this garrison, and those who are found proficient are passed. We are pleased to learn that there are very few cries/cases of “plucking,” all attending taking so readily to the duties as to almost invariably succeed on their first examination. On Monday the following gentlemen were examined and passed…. (Globe, May 18, 1864, page 2)


The Globe then lists the names of fourteen fresh graduates, including Maj. L.W. Smith. A newly certified officer, Larratt enjoyed a few weeks of summer solitude before he left to join his family in the battle with bed bugs at Murray Bay, Quebec.


July 8

At College Recitations at 2 pm. Allan Cassels carried off every thing. At home in the evening. No rain to day or sign of it. Minnie got to Murray Bay all safe. Till the Bugs slaughtered them at night.


July 10

Delicious thunder storm & showers all day. Did not go to Church. Reading in the balcony. Walked up to Cassels in evening & picked some strawberries there.



July 12

Orange men went to Hamilton to exhibit in force. Office all day. Wood left by Passport for home for his Vacation. At home in evening. Letter from Minnie lamentable a/c of bugs. “Toby” [the dog] having disappeared since last night turned up at 7 pm.


July 15

Office all day. At home in evening. Rec’d my Second Class Certificate from the Adjutant General. Marie made the raspberry preserve 14 lbs.


July 20

Intensely hot day at least 90 in shade all day. Sky filled with smoke. Office all day. Wind got up towards night & blew a gale. People leavning town in troupes. Got cooler.


Aug 1

Up at 6 left by boat at 7 for Niagara in City of Toronto. Fine passage. Drove with John Powell to see Casselman’s farm & the Lot where Rogers took off his house. Afterwards to the Falls & put up at Clifton House. Gzowskis & McPhersons there. Wretched bed. Bad table &c rained in torrents all night. Theatre opened with a good company.


By August, Larratt had joined his family at Murray Bay to round off the busy summer with another social holiday of fishing, dining, sightseeing, and keeping a detailed log of captured bed bugs.


Aug 17

Rainy & foggy all day. Did not bathe any of us. Tried to fish & caught nothing. Mrs Parker dined with us. Roast Beef &c. Lenny not well. At home in evening. Killed 7 bugs on the wall last night. Rainbow at sunset very brilliant.


Aug 21

18 bugs caught in servants’ room.


Aug 22

6 bugs caught in servants’ room & one in ours.


Aug 24

Lovely day. Bathed before breakfast drove to the “Charte” where Parker Lamb & Cross fished & I enjoyed myself. Drove from there to a Cascade on the other side of the Murray River. About 90 ft in height and about 100 in width. Very grand. Spent a delightful day. Very warm. Finished letter to Mamma. Splendid Northern Lights.


The summer was over, and the fall would bring new plans and new problems for Larratt Smith and his country. In no small measure, thanks to the US Civil War, Canada was on its way to Confederation. In early November, delegates from the Maritime provinces arrived in Toronto, to great fanfare: Larratt acted as adjutant of the military school while General Napier, commander of the British troops in Canada, inspected the volunteer militia as it marched; and a grand dejeuner and ball was given in the delegates’ honour, which Larratt  attended in full Major’s dress. At the same time, there were rumblings about a new military threat. Only two days after the delegates’ ball, Larratt wrote that a “Large force of ‘Fenians’ arrived, parading the streets at night.”  The Fenians were a paramilitary brotherhood of Irish-Americans who, having fought in the Civil War, wished now to fight for the independence of Ireland by striking against Britain’s Canadian territory. Though all but forgotten today, the Fenian threat shook Toronto, and would loom large in Larratt’s life story.
























“Poor baby” … “Danced a little myself”


Amy Violet, July 12, 1861

Born in St George’s Sware Toronto 12 July 1861 Friday, 9:30 p.m. Dr. Nicol attending Mrs. Wright nurse. Christened in St. James cathedral by Rev Edward Baldwin sponsors Georgina Harriett Smith. Howard W. Lyons??? & Samuel Geo Wood.

Died at 4 church Meadows, Sydenham, Kent, England, Wednesday, 23 July 1862, at 1 am. Buried at Nunshead Cemetery on Saturday 26 July in my father’s grave.


Lenox Ingall (Lenny), November 24, 1862

Sponsors Col Wm. Lenox Ingall CB James Fendwick Smith Jr Barrister at Law, and Mrs. Ingall

ordained by bishop Chas Hamilton of Niagara Sunday 25 September 1887 in St. Thomas Church, Hamilton.


-Smith Family Bible



Larratt  returned to England in the summer of 1862. This time he took Minnie with him, along with three-year old George and baby Amy. They visited his mother, his brother George and his sister Mary, but much of Larratt’s time was spent in drinking in the atmosphere of Victorian London. He went to the London Exhibition, admired the Rose Show, and marveled at the Handel festival at Crystal Palace, which boasted 4000 performers and 18,567 spectators. He traveled by rail to attend lectures at Oxford. But this trip home, like the last, would be marred by death.


July 12

Raining in showers. Dear little Amy’s birthday. Suffering from her teeth. Went to London with Mamma & Minnie. Interview with mr Herbert & home. Came on to rain hard in afternoon. Went with Georgy to Wimbledon review & sham fight. Dodged the showers, tho’ it rained in torrents at Sydenham. Splendid sight.


Jul 13

Very fine day for a wander. Went with Geo & Mary to St. Matthew’s, Stoke Newington. Pretty considerable High Church. Very like Montreal Cathedral. Dined with George. Walked with him & the children after dinner. Aunt William, George Smith & Mary Shields came over to tea.


Jul 16

Showery all day. George took Minnie over to Greenwhich. Wrote to Canada. Letter from Lal & papers from Canada. Went up to London for an hour or so showers all day every few minutes. There to Greenwich to dine with Aunt George. Great thunderstorm at 4 pm. took Minnie at 6 pm to London & to the Strand Theatre home at 11 ½. Baby very poorly.


July 19

Showery all the evening. Writing Barney & others in morning. Poor baby I fear sinking. Went to town at noon called at Brown & Williams made some purchases. Saw James. Left watch at Bennets to be repaired 65357. ordered paper & envelopes to be stamped & c at Bixon & Arnold’s. Did not go to George’s this evening. Harriet’s there, baby too ill.


July 20

Very fine. Poor baby still living. Church with Minnie in the morning. Mamma with baby. Walked over to Nunshead Cemetery from New Cross, & afterward to London, to mail a letter to Ettricks, postponing my visit to Isle of Man. Mary George with poor baby in evening while Mamma & Mary at Church.


July 21

Very fine tho threatening at times but wind NW. dear baby still living but no hope. Up to town to see Pawson, James and Morris. … 2nd day of Dramatic College Bazaar at Crystal Palace. Great crowd there impeding the trains. Mr. Bucknall, Georgy & Julian Wong went off to Shrewsbury this morning for a month. Gave Lewis small telescope. Margaret sat up all night with dear Amy.


July 22

Fine but threatening. Dear Amy sinking fast. Wrote Ingall & Lal in morning. Took Georgey to London to get Hair Cut, afterwards to Greenwich & back by boat.… Came on to rain & rained all night hard. Dear Amy sinking fast.


July 23

Raining all day. Dearest Amy died at 1 am quite quietly. Writing Wood & Cassels to day & mailed all letters. Went up to town with Mary George after dinner. Letters from Wood & Jim…  replied to most of them…. Rained hard in the night.


The baby was buried in the family plot where Larratt had buried his father two years before. The family returned to their house in St. George’s square. That fall, another baby was born, named Lenox Ingall, after Larratt Smith’s friend Col. William Lenox Ingall. The boy was called Lenny, but nicknamed “the Colonel” after his father’s friend.




To judge from Larratt Smith’s diaries, the Toronto of the 1860’s was a vibrant place, with enough high society entertainment to satisfy a cultured man, even one who’d seen “Israel in Egypt” at London’s Crystal Palace. The visit of the Prince of Wales must have been a boost to Toronto’s confidence. The city was proud of the sophisticated English-style welcome it had prepared, proud of its well-dressed gentry and its lavishly decorated ballrooms. As Larratt had once written to England, “Canada is not such a wilderness as some imagine and when you tread the gas-lit streets of Toronto and look into as many handsome shops with full-length plate glass windows as there are in Bristol or London you will not look upon us as many of your countrymen do.”

He had already felt this way in 1847; and since then, much had changed to make Toronto still less a “wilderness.” By the early 1860’s Larratt Smith’s diaries read like the log of a sophisticated man-about-town who took advantage of Toronto’s increasingly varied social and cultural life. First and foremost was music, a passion kindled during friendly choral practices at Mrs. Justice John Beverley Robinson’s. Larratt Smith was a frequent and appreciative patron of every kind of musical entertainment, from performances by military bands to opera selections by local and traveling troupes.

Toronto’s musical scene was rapidly developing.[10] In 1848, the Royal Lyceum theatre was built on King Street. It had a capacity of about 800 and became Toronto’s favourite venue for musical entertainment. St. Lawrence Hall, built in 1851, was Toronto’s first “distinctive concert hall,” and hosted celebrated international singers like Anna Bishop, Jenny Lind and Amalia and Adelina Patti.[11] With the visit of the Prince of Wales, Toronto saw the inauguration of two large new venues for opera troupes and military bands – the Crystal Palace and the pavilion at the Horticultural Gardens, where the Prince had planted an inaugural tree. The following year saw the opening of the Music Hall at the Mechanics’ Institute (merged into a public library some twenty years later) and the Yorkville town hall, which brought opera and theatre outside the old city centre for the first time.[12]

But before the opening of the Grand Opera House and the Royal Opera House, in 1874 and 1875, the Royal Lyceum was still the key theatre for Larratt Smith and his circle. Its proprietors advertised that it was “crowded nightly by the elite, to witness the Masterly production of some of the most popular plays of the day”[13]; and Larratt took advantage of the frequent performances, sometimes attending with his colleagues or family several times a week. He went daily when well-known troupes were in town to perform selections from Italian operas, and complained about the great crushing crowds that gathered to hear famous soloists from Europe. In the summer, Larratt Smith frequently took his children to the Horticultural Gardens to hear military concerts in the open air.


Summer was also a time for garden parties, stargazing, and boating, which, once reserved for fishing around the islands with Lal, soon combined with the social prestige of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Larratt bought his own sailing skiff and joined the club in 1861. That summer he was an avid boater and a frequent visitor to the RCYC, with its sailing races, formal dinners and concerts at the floating club house – the refurbished wrecking steamer Provincial, moored opposite Union Station but prone to going adrift.[14]

Although Toronto afforded so many opportunities for leisure – cultural diversions, lakeside recreation, and high society gatherings – summer was a time to leave the city. Larratt Smith writes of “people leaving in droves” to escape the heat and smoky air. But when people like Larratt fled the smog, they took their elite social lifestyle with them. A successful nineteenth century vacation had three essential ingredients: water, music and half of Toronto’s high society. One of Larratt’s vacations was a trip to New York with the Mackenzies and the Cawthras – bathing, crabbing and socializing at Long Branch, then driving around New York City, attending the opera and eating oysters for supper each night.

But in the early 1860’s, Canada’s own resort culture was also beginning to bloom. Even Americans began to forego trips to Long Branch, Saratoga and Newport in favour of a “Canadian Newport” where they could vacation “with much less money and much more satisfaction.” This fashionable new destination was the St. Lawrence estuary. Today, the regions of Charlevoix, Quebec, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, and Bas-St-Laurent on the south, are a day’s drive from Toronto. The area boasts rugged scenery, picturesque villages, and excellent whale-watching which draws tourists from all over the world. La Malbaie (the former Murray Bay) and the coastal villages nearby remain a haven for artists and nature lovers. Tadoussac, Canada’s oldest village and the cradle of New France, located in the magical place where the St. Lawrence estuary meets the Saguenay fjord, attracts kayakers, whale watchers and sightseers throughout the summer.

In the mid nineteenth century, travelers were just beginning to discover these places.  The first tourists were English citizens of Quebec and Montreal convinced of the health benefits of saline air and salt water bathing. Americans followed suit, as did Torontonians. Larratt Smith had first seen the region on a brief trip with his sister and brother-in-law in 1861; and in 1863 he took his family on their first of many long vacations by the St. Lawrence. Only the eldest, Lal, would spend his holidays with his grandmother in Perth. Larratt, Minnie, four-year old George, baby Lenny and the nurse prepared for the long journey from Toronto through Rochester, Ogdensburgh, Montreal and Quebec City.

July 9

Getting ready for sea side. Lal went off to Brockville & Perth by 2 pm steamer.



Jul 11

Up very early 4 am. Dull heavy morning. left by “Ontario” with Minnie Georgie & Lennox with Elizabeth for Cacouna at 6 ½ am. Reached Lewiston at 9 ½ am & left again at 10. Reached Rochester at 5 pm left at 6 pm. Fine night. Came on to blow with rain towards morning. Bugs in the state rooms. Took Miss Moffatt with us.


Jul 12

Heavy & showery. Cold wind Easterly. Late one hour. Reached at 11 pm Ogdensburgh, took the “Alexandra,” small boat & crowded. Cleared up in the afternoon. After passing the Cedar Rapids the “Empress” caught up & easily passed us reaching Montreal long before us. (Never, never take the American Boats when you can get British for every reason.) Passed the Lachine rapids at 7 ½ pm & Montreal at pitch dark. Got to St. Lawrence Hall about 9 pm. Raining hard.


Jul 13

Raining in perfect torrents most of day. Miss Moffatt went with her friends most of day. Called with Minnie on Smiths. Left Montreal 7 pm by the “Montreal” for Quebec. Magnificent steamer & very crowded. Berthed in state room 29 with Maitland who joined us at Montreal & was most attentive thereafter. Samuel Williams & staff & nearly the whole Montreal Garrison on board also Mr. Keith & Miss Price Miss Moffatt lost her purse with $12 in it. Raining hard all night.


Jul 14

Raining in torrents wind Easterly thick & very cold. Col Ingall met us on the steamer “Magnet” at 6 ½ am. Gave him his “cartes” & he paid me for them. Left by Magnet at 7 or ½ past. Intensely crowded. Raining all day. Stopped at Les Eboulements & Murray Bay & reached Cacouna at 5 pm in the rain. Sent on Madame & the children & Miss Moffatt. Attended to the baggage with Maitland & afterwards drove over with Maitland in “caliche,” found the Hotel crammed slept in a room with 5. Minnie Miss Moffatt Elizabeth & children all together in another.


The steamer “Magnet” had begun operating in 1861, departing from Quebec on Tuesdays and Fridays, and offering both transport to the popular “watering places” and a sightseeing tour. “By taking this steamer, the TOURIST and the INVALID will enjoy the refreshing and invigorating breeze, and picturesque scenery of the Lower St. Lawrence,” one ad stated.[15] The company had an agent in Toronto and, throughout the summer season, advertised its “Grand Excursion to the far-famed River Saguenay, and Sea Bathing at Murray Bay and Cacouna,” by “the magnificent iron steamer ‘Magnet,’” which “will leave the Napoleon Wharf, Quebec, every Tuesday and Friday morning, during the Season, at seven o’clock for the River Saguenay to Ha! Ha! Bay, calling at Murray Bay, River du Loup and Tadoussac” (Globe, July 6, etc., 1863). The “Saguenay trip” became more and more popular as word spread about the region’s beauty, and some years later one witness wrote that “[t]o look at the piles of baggage and furniture, the hosts of children and servants, the household goods, the dogs, cats and birds, one might think the Canadians were emigrating en masse.”[16]

That summer, the Smiths, with their small host of two children at least one servant, took the “Saguenay trip” as far as the village of Cacouna. There, a magnificent hotel, another St. Lawrence Hall, had just been erected. With 400 rooms and a dining hall that could accommodate 800 guests, the hotel catered to the whims of the upper crust from New York, Toronto and Montreal. Just ten years before, such a facility would have been unthinkable in the small village. But as tourist traffic increased, local families’ lives began to revolve around the summer season. Many built “petites maisons” at the edge of their property where they would live during the summer, squeezed in like sardines, as they rented out their main farmhouses to tourists.[17] Wealthy families began building their own seaside villas, hiring locals to care for them during the long winters.

Soon Cacouna’s increasing popularity demanded still more accommodations, and even grand hotels like the St. Lawrence Hall could barely keep up. In the summer, the population doubled and Cacouna changed from a simple francophone village to a posh English resort. Arthur Buies, the great Quebec journalist, complained: “What does one see at the renowned, fashionable watering-places? English families and nothing but English families.”[18] During his stay, Buies claims to have heard not a word of French, except from locals selling their wares or showing visitors around.

The outspoken Arthur Buies has little good to say about these English-speaking tourists. The Americans, who come to escape the “corrosive sky” of New York, “ask in all seriousness,” he reports, “what the distance is between Cacouna to the North Pole.”[19] But it is the “Englishwomen” from Montreal and Toronto who get the brunt of his criticism; they continue to call England their “home,” even though most were born and raised in Canada and had never seen England at all. They stay in their cottages or their hotels all day long; on the rare occasions they leave, they force their children to walk on the sidewalks single file; and they bask in stiff luxury as the local people wait on them hand and foot. At the St. Lawrence Hall, the resident “is a god and has no time to have a desire.”[20]  He or she eats four meals a day in the formal dining room, accompanied by harps, flutes and violins. How different it would be, Buies reflects, if, instead of this “people born for constraint,” one hundred French families were brought to Cacouna instead:

the village would be turned upside down: games, picnics, walks on the seashore, bathing, balls… There wouldn’t be as many beautiful residences, luxurious cottages, not as many  neat and tidy flower beds, not as many artfully shorn groves along the hilly coast that descends to the river… but you would feel a resounding life, a free-for-all of pleasures, constantly renewed amusements… instead of … a monotonous repose; … you would see people up at eight o’clock, running through forests and fields, tireless young girls and boys… the whole world getting to know each other, rejoicing, laughing, jumping, embracing life with all their might, this life of two months that returns every year.   Instead, we have at Cacouna people who resemble rain; they have faces like clouds.”[21]


Buies’ account of English stiffness and cloudy faces is, of course, not quite fair. In Larratt Smith’s logs of his family’s vacation, we have the other side of the story. There is no denying that luxury and formal socializing were a large part of a Cacouna holiday; Larratt and his family probably enjoyed the neat and tidy flower beds and the luxury of their hotel; but their vacation was not just “monotonous repose.” There were also parties, bathing and balls – and Larratt, at least, rose early and spent his days actively, walking for miles along the shoreline, observing the great ocean-going steamers that passed the village, and drinking in the magnificent natural surroundings that Buies praised so much.


Jul 15

Cleared up during the day. Walked about the beach. Did not bathe. Dancing in the evening. Fooling during the day. Found Henry Chapman, Strachan Bethune Love McDougall. Mrs Wm Spragge & great numbers of people here that I knew. Mr Cassels & family & Georgie arrived at Riviere du Loup & finding us quartered here remained there in a house taken for them. Hop in the evening. Fair band of four performers. “Juna” passed up this morning about 11 am.


Jul 16

Very fine & very warm. Mrs. Cassels drove down here. With Georgie & her family. Called on Mr Robert Hamilton with thme. Introduced to the Keiths nice people. Bathed to day. Water cold. No dancing in evening. Siddons & Miss Agnes Cameron to have been here to read but did not come.


Jul 17

Changed our rooms for very good ones. Dancing in evening. Rained at night.


Jul 19

Very fine & very warm. Dr. Cooke officiated in the morning & Mr Hatch in the afternoon. Late for Church as dinner too late. Singing good. Dr. Thomas called in to see Lennox who was very ill. Called twice.


During the Smiths’ first vacation in 1863 there was not yet a Protestant church at Cacouna, and visitors gathered for services wherever there was space. An Anglican church was built there in 1865, followed later by a Presbyterian chapel. Murray Bay across the river got its ecumenical Protestant church in 1867[22], and Tadoussac’s was also being built that year.  These chapels were likely boarded up each fall as the English visitors left; Protestant services took place in summer only.[23]


Jul 20

Very fine & warm though dreadfully foggy. Walked with Maitland Strachan & Bethune some 9 miles in morning. Bathed in afternoon. Dancing in evening. Baby very ill last night. Dr. Thomas attending twice a day.


Jul 21

Very foggy & thundering & showering. “Britannia” passed up. 46 sail in sight. Rained at noon. Wrote Mrs. Murney, Dartnell & Wood. ___ Ball at night. Danced a little myself. To bed at midnight. Thunderstorm, 57 to day. bathed in afternoon.


Jul 23

Took medicine. Wrote Mamma. Weighed Lennox 17 ½ pounds. I weighed 152 pounds. Spent evening in Keiths’ room. Mulled claret provided by me.


Jul 24

Very hot, glass rose from 62 to 80 in afternoon. Ill all day took medicine. Dr. Thomas gave me some chloridine. Dancing at night, spent evening with Keiths. Hot stuff & cider. Wrote to Mrs. Minett partly to day.


Jul 27

Hazy in morning. wind west tide in about 11 ½ am. 72 in the morning. Wrote Col Ingall that I am leaving for Quebec to morrow. Drove Mrs Cassels & Minnie in afternoon. Singing in Keiths’ parlor in evening. Splendid bath to day at noon. No dancing.


Jul 28

Lovely day 72 in shade. Bathed at 1 pm, water 61 near the bottom & 64 on surface. Paid over c/c with Hotel, to this evening $49 & 6cts . Took no receipt (paid Abbott) squared with Miss Moffatt, gave her statement of a/c & paid her $5.75 also paid Elizabeth’s wages $6 & left $40 with Minnie including $15 Mrs Cassels owes me. Left Hotel about 4 pm. Drove Minnie to Riviere du Loup & Mrs Moffatt drove Miss Moffatt. All the Hotel nearly went down to see us off. Left at 6 pm. General Williams on board joined them & the Keiths. Maitland out with us. Reached Tadoussac at 8 pm. Vessel took terrible lurch in opposite in tide way before entering the Saguenay & greatly alarmed passengers. Perfectly smooth vessel made fast at L’Anse a l’Eau for night. Walked ashore with party. Dick Cassels & Dean on fishing excursion no state room slept below in berth.


Jul 29

Lovely day. Left Anse a l’Eau at 3 am up at 5 am. … Magnificent scenery. Maitland left at Tadoussac. L’Eternite 1800 & Trinite 1600 ft high from echoes. Reached Ha Ha Bay at 8 ½ am walked there. Left at 11 ½ rained hard noon. Reached Tadoussac at 4 left at 4 ½ pm. Riviere du Loup at 6 ½, left Maitland met Cockburn. Wrote Minnie by him letter from Minnie & Wood. Left at 7 ½ fine night. Murray Bay at 10 ½ against the tide. Met Terry & paid him 3/9 for Arrow Root. Laid at Murray Bay till midnight. Left for Montreal. State room. Met Hooper of British Bank on the Saguenay trip.


Larratt Smith now had the famous “Saguenay trip” behind him. He had made all the usual sightseeing spots: Tadoussac, Jacques Cartier’s trading post; Murray Bay – “the most picturesque and the most poetic of watering-places, Canada’s Eden, the poet’s dream”[24]; and Capes Trinity and Eternity, which did remain in the dreams of at least one poet – Walt Whitman, who wrote of them as he stood “before them face to face”:

I doubt if any crack points, or hills, or historic places of note, or anything of the kind elsewhere in the world, outvies these objects… They are very simple, they do not startle—at least they did not me—but they linger in one’s memory forever. They are placed very near each other, side by side, each a mountain rising flush out of the Saguenay. A good thrower could throw a stone on each in passing—at least it seems so. Then they are as distinct in form as a perfect physical man or a perfect physical woman. Cape Eternity is bare, rising, as just said, sheer out of the water, rugged and grim (yet with an indescribable beauty) nearly two thousand feet high. Trinity rock, even a little higher, also rising flush, top-rounded like a great head with close-cut verdure of hair. I consider myself well repaid for coming my thousand miles to get the sight and memory of the unrivall’d duo. They have stirr’d me more profoundly than anything of the kind I have yet seen. If Europe or Asia had them, we should certainly hear of them in all sorts of sent-back poems, rhapsodies, &c., a dozen times a year through our papers and magazines.[25]


Larratt Smith wrote no poems or rhapsodies about what he saw, but like Whitman, he must have considered himself well repaid for his long trip. Year after year he brought his family back to Cacouna or Murray Bay. His son Lenox – baby Lenny, who had come on this first Quebec vacation – would return thirty-five years later to get married here, on the craggy shores of the St. Lawrence.[26]

That first summer, in 1863, Larratt Smith left his wife, George and Lenny at Cacouna for another few weeks and proceeded to Montreal. There, he took care of some business, spent time with his friends the Ingalls, shipped Minnie a few packages by the “Magnet,” and treated some pesky gastric ailments with a daily regimen of Compound Rhubarb pills (rhubarb’s effectiveness for treating digestive problems has long been known). His journey home to Toronto was most uncomfortable, complete with stormy weather, inebriated soldiers and relentless bed bugs that feasted on him at night. Upon returning home, Larratt found “plenty of work accumulated” and two letters from his wife already waiting for him. The rest of his summer was taken up with supervising painters and carpenters around the house, working intensely at his law practice, and seeing that both Minnie at Cacouna and Lal at Perth were well supplied with cash. By early September Sarah the housekeeper’s illness and departure forced Larratt to summon his wife to return to Toronto. He sailed all the way to Rochester to pick up his family – plus one.

Sept 11

Up at 5 am left by “Cataract” for Rochester. Reached there at 6 pm. Found Minnie on board of the “Ontario” & came home with them. Fine night.


Sept 12

Reached Toronto at 20 min past 4. Brought cat from Quebec. Office all day. At home in evening.


Office all day, at home in evening; Larratt Smith’s life had returned to its normal pace.











“Lal out all night” … “Chas. Thompson’s place”



Mabel Rachel Mary, March 14, 1866

Born at 45 South Side St. George’s Square, Toronto, on Wednesday 14 March 1866 at 2 p.m. “in a hurry.” Mrs Parry only just in time & Dr. Diehl attending. Nicol too late. Baptized at St. James cathedral on WhitMonday 21 May 1866 by Rev Baldwin.  Sponsors Walter Rae & Rachel Rae of Quebec & Georgie Smith.


-Smith Family Bible



About this time raising a teenager began to take its toll on Larratt Smith. In 1864 and 1865 “Lal at home” is carefully noted, it seems, as a strange and rare occurrence. Otherwise, Larratt’s journal is a log book of the seventeen-year-old’s comings and goings. The Royal Lyceum theatre must have made quite the income off the boy in those days, as he sometimes attended several times a week; another favourite pastime was skating – for leisure or for prizes, which the ambitious Lal competed for but never won. But besides these, most of his activities were a mystery to his father, who nevertheless persisted in the futile attempts to keep track of him – “Lal out all day & night”; “Lal arrived at ½ past 3 am;” “Lal went to some party and did not come in at night;” “Lal out all night again – supposed at Camerons.” An evening “at home lecturing Lal” before Christmas of 1864 amounted to little, as the night time forays continued. When he was not at a party, Lal was – in his father’s words – “loafing as usual.”

Perhaps Larratt was disappointed that his oldest son and Eliza’s last surviving child – apparently not academically inclined – was not going to follow in his footsteps as a Upper Canada College “old boy,“ lawyer and businessman. Perhaps he was more disappointed, rather, that Lal did not seem to have inherited his own level of industriousness and discipline – although his own youth had clearly not been filled with only work and study. Nevertheless, his efforts to impart some direction to his son’s life continued. In September 1864 he enrolled Lal in Bryan, Stratton & Day’s Commercial College on 17 Sherbourne Street and paid the 52 dollar tuition fee up front.

Day’s College, established in Toronto in the previous year, was a business school where “young men prepared for the practical duties of the Counting House,” established in connection with Bryant, Stratton & Co. – a chain of commercial colleges that began in Buffalo and had spread to eighteen North American cities. Bryant and Stratton College is, indeed, still operating as a career college, claims to continue the founders’ vision of practical education – teaching students in-demand skills that transfer immediately to the workplace. In 1864, too, the College boasted that its curriculum “has direct reference to the requirement of business” (1864 directory, p. xi) and will enable its graduates to “enter at once upon fields of usefulness and honor.”

The skills necessary for a renumerative career in “buying, selling, shipping, receiving and… all the processes of Commerce and finance” a century and a half ago were commercial law, arithmetic, English composition, and business penmanship. But the pride of the school was that it educated its students in cutting edge technology that was changing the way business was done in North America:

The art of Telegraphing is coming daily more and more into use. Its mystic power already puts most of the important points of this great continent into instantaneous communication. Other lines are being established, creating a great demand for operators. This mysterious and subtle force, once comparatively unknown, save only as an object of superstition, is not controlled to perform errandry for man, and is even taught as a science in the Commercial College. The apparatus in this department is of the most complete description, there being two sets of instruments of the most approved pattern and manufacture. The Toronto Commerical College offers great facilities for acquiring a knowledge of this beautiful art. This department is under the management of Mr. Ben. B. Toye, chief operator in the Office of the Montreal Telegraph Company, Toronto, and who, likewise, is one of the oldest and most experienced practical operators in Canada. Students become proficient in the art in a short time, and are enabled to telegraph readily. (Directory 1864, p. xi-xii)


The school had no terms and no vacations; enrollment was invited at any time; and students could complete the course of study at their own pace:

the general discipline, while it does not descend to those minute and specific requirements which seem necessary in the conduct of schools more primary in their character, is, nevertheless, sufficiently strict and exacting to place the responsibility of the student’s progress upon himself.


We do not know how Lal took to this responsibility and whether he ever learned accounting, telegraphy or Spencerian penmanship; Larratt’s journals only keep track of his parties, skating, and staying out all night. In fact, after 1864 Bryant, Stratton & Day’s no longer advertises its services and seems to have closed its Toronto campus. By Spring 1865 Lal was going down a different path – enrolling in Toronto’s military school.

Thus Lal did indeed follow the family’s military tradition and the footsteps of his father, who, had just graduated from the same military school. The elder Larratt Smith was senior major of the 6th Battalion, Toronto Sedentary Militia. The apparent activities of this militia consisted largely of holding parades – it was not intended to engage in active service (except in the event of a brief local emergency) so as not to bleed the city’s work force, and its officers were appointed based on influence rather than military skill. This militia served as a structure for training volunteers, who were then supposed to support the regular British forces stationed in Canada in the event of trouble. Generally, however, the volunteers were men who enjoyed military exercises for their own sake, as a hobby of sorts, and who had the means to purchase their own uniforms and the leisure to devote some time to training. Very few of the volunteer officers had never heard a shot fired outside of rifle practice.

But at this time the military was increasingly in the public eye – as something more than uniforms, bands and parades. Rumours of Fenian plans to invade Canada – fueled even more by the nighttime parade on Guy Fawkes Day – were infusing Canada with a real martial spirit. Perhaps military school was now fashionable; perhaps now, more than ever, it was considered a worthwhile and honorable path in life; perhaps Larratt Smith had run out of ideas about how to keep his scamp of a teenager in line.

Whatever the immediate reasons were, in May of 1865 Lal passed the examinations and entered the military school. He did have some success, at one point even being chosen as one of the guard of honour for a visit by Major-General George Napier, commander of British troops in Canada. But he proved no easier to keep track of than he had been before.


Aug 18

Very cool & pleasant. Very busy office all day. At home in evening. Letter from Walter. Lal out till past 11 got in by Harrison’s ladder & the balcony.


Aug 29

Very fine. Office all day. Mrs Lennox not here. Sarah here cleaning up. 2 carpenters & labourer. Saw Dennison about Lal & wrote him to intercede with Col Lowry for him. Lal returned my rifle & belt & bayonet. Lieut Stabb XVI died this morning at Hamilton. US beat Canada here by 2 to day’s game.


Sept 14

Very intensely hot. Office all day.a t home in evening. Took Lal to __. Wm Richardson arrived from England too hot to go to Horticultural. Lal one of Guard of Honor to G. Napier who distributed Prizes there. 250 Military school went down in Banshee.


Oct 24

Very fine & very cold. Office all day at home in evening. Lal at Carleton Races thrown & hurt his knee. To the Theatre nevertheless at night.


Oct 31

Up at ¼ to 6. took Lal to Hamilton to enter Buckaneers. … Got Lal a Boarding House @ $4 per week Mrs Dallas.


Nov 1

Very fine. Lal entered Buckaneers  & went to Mrs Dallas’s* Boarding House. Office all day. Attended BUC Meeting & Canada Landed credit Co. Moffatt got Gzowski elected. At home in evening.


What Larratt called the “Buckaneers” was actually the red-coated 13th Volunteer Battalion of Hamilton, 6th company. It seems that in this regiment – made up largely of boys his own age – Lal had finally found his place. In December his father notes a visit from Dewar, a Hamilton officer who gave him a “good account of Lal.” Larratt Smith is never effusive; yet it is not hard to sense the relief behind those words.

Finally satisfied that his son was on the road to making something respectable of himself, Larratt could turn his attention to other matters – and there was much to attend to. That October, he had taken his first walk around the property that would be his home for the rest of his life.


Oct 14

Very fine & cold. Office all day. Walked out with Fisken to see Chas Thompsons place. George spending day at Cassels brought him home in evening. 7 tons of Hard Coal got in & stowed away from Myles.


Summerhill, lot 17 on the second concession in the township of York, was what remained of the vast estate of transportation mogul Charles Thompson. Thompson had been famous in the 1830s for his stagecoach business along Yonge Street, running from Toronto north to Newmarket and Richmond Hill, and his steamboat service on Lake Simcoe. The services were so successful that Thompson began connecting his steamboats at Holland Landing with a seven-hour stage coach ride down to Toronto, and ran a freight and mail service between the city and the towns and villages along Yonge Street.

The wealthy Thompson soon purchased two large expanses of land on the east side of Yonge Street: one, just north of St. Clair Avenue, between William Cawthra’s place and Walter Rose’s Rosehill; the other, Lot 17, on the south side of Rosehill, stretching a mile and a quarter east, far past the deep Vale of Avoca ravine. In 1842 Thompson decided to settle on this 200-acre property and began to plan his home, a rather simple, squarish two-storey block designed by John G. Howard of Colborne Lodge fame.

With the coming of the Northern Railway in 1853 the stage coach line and freight and mails services collapsed, and Thompson died soon after, leaving no heirs who wished to or could take over residence on the property. In March 1858 an ad appeared in the Globe and Mail: “to be rented, the farm and residence of the late Chas. Thompson, known as Summerhill!!” (complete, indeed, with two exclamation points for good measure). The ad extols the farm’s convenient location half-a-mile from the Yorkville toll gate, and two miles from the St. Lawrence Hall. The “first-class dwelling house” contained eighteen rooms, with large vegetable cellar and kitchen; the property came complete with coach house, stables, barns and out-houses, and a large orchard and garden; about half of the “200 acres of excellent land” were under cultivation, “which from its close proximity to the Toronto Market, would be invaluable to any person wishing to carry on extensive gardening or dairy farmers.” The land, 400 feet above lake level, was “one of the most beautiful and healthy residences in Canada, and is well adapted for a Ladies’ Seminary.”

But the future held in store neither a dairy farm nor a “Ladies’ Seminary.” Before Larratt Smith and his growing family arrived on the scene, the property drifted from hand to hand. Most notably, the “first-class dwelling house” and “excellent land” underwent some heavy use during its stint as a public amusement and picnic area. It is generally assumed that Charles Thompson himself opened Summer Hill park as an alternative business after his stage-coaches failed, and that the street and area called Summerhill derives its name from the park. But it seems rather that his residence had borne the name first, and that the pleasure grounds were established well after his death by entrepreneurs who had leased his estate. The papers first announced the opening of “Summer Hill Springs and Pleasure Grounds” in 1862, just in time for the Queen’s birthday:

This delightful and picturesque farm and residence, comprising two hundred acres of wood and lawn, hill and dale, is situated immediately at the Northern terminus of the Street Railway on Yonge street, and has been leased for the purpose of a summer resort for games and recreations.

The house is now being fitted up with billiard tables, rooms for ice cream and other refreshments, draughts, cribbage and chess boards. The proprietor of the street Railway has agreed with a band of music to play select airs three afternoons and evenings during the summer months ; and a portion of the lawn in from of the house will be set apart for dancing parties.

A race course is being prepared in full view of the verandah ; and grounds will be appropriated for the good old British games of cricket, quoits, skettles ; and swings and gymnastic poles will be erected.

Parade and target grounds, with music, are offered to Volunteer Companies free of charge.

The grounds are in places covered with strawberries and other fruit plants. There are abundant springs of water, and the sulphur springs will in time be used for baths. The back grounds of wild wood and green sward render the place peculiarly adapted for Pic nic and School parties.

And efficient police force will be on the grounds to preserve decorum.

The orchard grounds within the orchard enclosure will be reserved expressly for the use of families and children.

No carriages will be allowed to enter the premises.

The Street railway Cars will run to the spot every afternoon and evening ; leaving St. Lawrence Hall every ten minutes. Fare 5 cents ; no charge for entrance to the grounds.

The programme of music to be played by the Band will be duly advertised.

The grounds will be opened to the public on the 24th instant; 3 bands of music with 27 performers, will be in attendance.

Toronto, May 13.


Indeed, “holiday makers” were periodically reminded by the paper that “the band plays to-day at Summer Hill, in addition to all the other attractions of the place.” The grounds also hosted the annual exhibition of the York Township Agricultural Society in October that year – the exhibition lasted from 10 in the morning to 10 at night each day, with the grounds illuminated and a display of fire-works on site, in addition to “simple stabling accommodations” for attendees.

But despite the glowing descriptions and the charm of the grounds themselves, the amusement park must not have been as successful as was hoped; for just a year later another announcement appeared in the paper: “Summer Hill Pleasure Grounds: The above well-known pleasure grounds are now to rent. Terms moderate. Immediate possession can be given.” The following year “all the timber, consisting of Pine and Hardwood” on the land was auctioned off in chancery by Thompson’s estate. Parts of the lot were subdivided and sold as well, and by the time the property caught Larratt’s interest it had dwindled to 75 acres.

Even so, it was vast. Today, what was once Larratt Smith’s property contains several residential streets, the Rosehill reservoir, part of David Balfour Park and a large stretch of the Vale of Avoca ravine. Walking from Yonge Street down Summerhill Avenue, then entering Summerhill Gardens closer to the ravine, one still gets a real sense of leaving the big city behind. The streets of close-built houses are strangely still, as if keeping quiet the secret of the deep, wild ravine behind them. Indeed, many city dwellers don’t know such a place exists in the heart of Toronto. Making one’s way down the winding walking path, listening to the birds, or standing by the creek looking up at the walls of dark earth and twisted tree roots, it is not difficult to imagine that the city is quite some distance away – as it indeed was when Larratt first walked around the property and decided to make it his own. In mid-October of 1865 the now middle-aged Smith, having spent his whole adult life in the centre of a growing city, must have been impressed by the silence and space around him. Henry Scadding wrote that the place, set on a hill, commanded “a noble view of the wide plain below, including Toronto with its spires and the lake view along the horizon.”[27] The fall colours on a fine cool day, the memories of his childhood in Richmond Hill, or the sheer exasperation of too many children in a too-small area – whatever it was that tipped the scales in Summerhill’s favour, Larratt was not one to dawdle. He was also not one to be overly concerned that his wife was then vacationing at Niagara Falls with a cranky, teething baby, and had not seen the property he had decided to buy. Perhaps, being in the habit of writing to her almost daily, he knew she would approve.


Oct 16

Very fine & cold. Letter from Minnie. Baby better & improving. tapped & sent up Port Wine Cask (e.c. &L) 34 ½ gals. Told Fisken to purchase the Thompson House for me. Wrote Minnie. ½ cord Pine Wood got in. potted flowers.


Oct 17

Cold & threatening rain tho’ a lovely morning. up at 6 & went to boat with George & sent basket to Minnie. Office all day. Closed with Metcalfe for Summer Hill House £1400. wrote Minnie. Capt Burnet married Miss Harris. Ball at Wyatts.


Oct 21

Very fine blowing very hard from NW. office till 3 pm. Took Mr & JF Smith & Langley out to new house. Cassels & Lyttletons up there. Minnie & children returned from Niagara. Baby rather better. At home in evening. Lal loafing. Rutherford returned from Virginia.


Nov 17

Lovely Indian Summer day. Up at 7 walked out to Summer Hill & spent an hour there & home to breakfast by ¼ to 9. office all day. Lal came down at night to mail an English letter. Paid Metcalf a/c Summer Hill property $1500.


Dec 31

Very fine. Cathedral morning & evening. Wood dined with us. Dewe called walked with him. Wood, Lal & George to Summer Hill. …. Went to Evening Cathedral with Georgie. Crowded to excess music very fair. Had a chat with Mr. Smith in Bay Street after church. Bells chimed the old year out & new one in.


The new year, 1866, was a watershed for Larratt Smith and for Canada. While Smith was gradually moving to his new home and moving ever further up in the Toronto social world, Canada was moving towards Confederation. And as the Fenian threat sharpened to a crisis, shook Toronto and gave impetus for the birth of a nation, it plunged Larratt’s son on the road toward an early death. But we are getting ahead of Larratt’s own story: the winter of 1866 begins with little health troubles at home and plans for Summerhill.


Sunday Jan 28

Very fine & mild. Emily’s right knee discovered to be swollen. Cathedral in morning. Minnie went in afternoon. I went with George to Cassels. Walked with him. Tea there. At home in evening.


Jan 31

Very fine. Office all day. Martin went home on leave for a week. BuL Meeting &Canada L. Credit Meeting.  At home in evening after a moonlight walk for an hour or two after dinner. Troops on the alert for Fenian raiders.



Feb 8

Very fine. Office all day. … Very busy. Martin not back. Magnificent dinner at Osgoode Hall to J A Macdonald. Home at 1 am. Good wine &d. 2600 lbs coal left in two loads. Came on to snow. Wrote Gundry & Langley to push them on.


Gundry and Langley were King street-based architects who had the unenviable tasks of turning Charles Thompson’s old home into a stylish and comfortable abode for a wealthy lawyer and his growing famly. By this time the “first-class dwelling house” was probably no longer quite so first class, having endured use as part of an amusement park and probably long periods of neglect as well. It was not certain whether the house could be salvaged at all.


Mar 5

Very fine & very cold. office all day. …. Meeting of Gas Directors at ½ past 2 pm. Plans brought in & estimates for repairing old house state over $6000. looked at other plans with the view of a new House altogether.


Mar 6

Told Gundry & Langley that I will not repair old house.


Decisions about Summerhill faded to the background, however, as rumours of an impending Fenian raid reached fever pitch in the days preceding St. Patrick’s Day. “10,000 Volunteers called out to assist the anticipated Fenian Raid. Town all excitement,” Larratt wrote on the 8th of March. That day volunteers paraded the streets in uniform all day, ready to leave for the frontier at a moment‘s notice. The call for volunteer reinforcements was met, according to the Globe, with

alacrity and heartiness…. but indeed it was only what must have been anticipated by every one at all conversant with the tone of feeling throughout the Province. The feeling of our people is one of intense indignation, that the peace of the country and the lives and property of its inhabitants should be threatened by a horde of miscreants (Globe, March 9, 1866).


Rumour had it that on St. Patrick’s Day companies of these “miscreants,” having crossed into Canada from Detroit, Buffalo and Ogdensburg, would join processions organized by local Irish societies, in order to “do what they can to disturb the peace and distract the attention of the authorities while the inroad on our border is being made.” Appeals were made to “respectable, order-loving” Canadian Catholics to prevent any St. Patrick’s Day parade from taking place that year at all.

While many Irish Catholics – headed notably by D’Arcy McGee – were all for a show of patriotic solidarity with Canada, there were others who staunchly refused to back down. Michael Murphy, head of the Toronto Hibernians and himself a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, insisted on a parade, and the authorities were unwilling to impose an outright ban. He likely did not anticipate the alarm this would cause: the fear was that a March 17th invasion of Canada would coincide with an uprising in Toronto. Smith records the pent-up atmosphere events – punctuated by the birth of another daughter, Mabel.


Mar 10

Very fine. Office all day. Volunteers inspected by General Napier. 5 Cos. sent to the Frontier. At home in evening physicking for cold.


Mar 14

Raining all day. office all day till past 7 pm. Minnie confined without nurse or Doctor, about 2 pm of a fine girl. All well. Attended Meetings of BUC & CL Credit Co. at home in evening.


Mar 17

Intensely cold. wind from NW with flurries of snow. Volunteers in Drill Shed all day. Hibernians walked 618 in number. …. Town very peacable all day & night. At home in evening.


The rumoured Fenian raid was a false alarm and the St. Patrick’s Day march was no insurrection – the authorities had organized militia patrols so well that there was no clash between the Hibernians and the Orangemen. But it did little to calm the fears of Torontonians about the enemy both across the border and in their midst.

Mar 24

Very fine but cold. streets sloppy. Office all day. Volunteers all marched out. Cavalry, artillery. Naval brigade & 3 Battalions. Streets deserted. Mrs. Cassels & Dick went to Hamilton &__??. At home in evening. Michael cutting wood.


Mar 29

Very fine. Office all day. Mrs. Robert Hanson buried at 4 pm attended the funeral. Volunteers to be all sidbanded on 31st. at home in evening. rec’d letter from Mrs. Thom, & 2 pairs of slippers by Express one for self & one for Lal. Wrote Walter & forwarded Mrs. Thom’s note to Lal.


Mar 30

Good Friday. Very fine & cold. order to disband all Volunteers. Cathedral in morning. Volunteers attended. Office in afternoon. Wrote a long letter to Mrs. Thom thanking her for slippers. Went to Dewes to see Eclipse of Moon in evening. got very hazy. Left at ½ past 11.


Fear of a Fenian attack continued into April, when Canada prepared for a Fenian attempt to seize Campobello Island off the coast of New Brunswick. The affair – later dubbed “the Campobello Fiasco” – culminated in a few burned-down shops and a few shots fired. The Canadians had overestimated the military strength of the Fenians, deploying a large force to deal with a threat that amounted to little more than “sound and fury.” This is what D’Arcy McGee had been calling it for so long, and now John A. Macdonald and most everyone else was also lulled into complacency, at least for a while.

As militia major, Larratt Smith had been part of the Volunteer committee and occasionally held meetings in his office. But slightly calmer times and warmer weather meant he was able to make frequent, almost daily trips to Summerhill with friends and family, to walk around the boundaries of the property (quite the trip in itself), enjoy springtime in the ravine, and rethink his plans for the house. Larratt decided that he would repair it rather than build a new one, and work on both house and the grounds began in earnest.

But Larratt still had time to devote himself to his old passion, music. For the Queen’s Birthday that year, he helped organize and performed in a “monster concert,” “on a scale never before attempted in Toronto,” with his old friend Mrs. John Beverley Robinson. Despite the relative calm, military emotions still ran high, for the show was to be in honour of the volunteers who had so admirably responded to the recent call to arms.


May 17

Very fine. Office all day except that I was engaged the most of it on behalf of the Concert. Saw Mrs. Beverly Robinson at the Drill Shed at 6 pm. Consented to sing. wrote articles for Globe & Leader & took them down at 10 pm. …


This “article” appeared in the papers the following day:


[Globe, May 18] Queen’s Birthday Celebration. – The arrangements for the monster Concert are, we believe, steadily and most satisfactorily progressing. It is expected that Mrs. John Beverley Robinson will take a leading part in the Concert. She will have a difficult task, owing to the extent of the drill shed, to say nothing of its defects in regard to the conveyance of sound. The large platform will be up by to-night, and the second practice, with a very large addition of numbers, will come off at nine o’clock, under the leadership of Mrs. John Carter. The music and words of the choruses to be sung, we notice, are for sale at many of the principal shops on King and Yonge streets, and the price is within the reach of everybody. The Committee have acted judiciously in this respect. The general Committee meet again to morrow afternoon in the drill shed, to receive reports from the finance, decoration, refreshment, musical and ball Committees. The ball will come off after the concert, and commence at 10 pm. The music will be furnished by the fine bands of the 2nd and 10th Regiments.


The concert was an immense affair, and the preparations alone caused quite the stir in Toronto. Evidently it wasn’t always the type of stir the organizers appreciated, because Larratt was compelled to submit another notice to the papers on the eve of the final practice:

It is stated that none but performers will be admitted – a very good rule, seeing that it will be quite time enough to judge of the effect produced when the concert takes place, besides which, it is not usual to admit the public to rehearsals, especially such an audience as found its way into the Drill Shed on the occasion of the last practice.


May 21

…very cold at night. … wrote notices for “Globe,” “Leader,” “Daily Telegraph.” Very tired in evening. Mabel christened by Mr. Baldwin at Cathedral.


May 22

Very fine. Office all day. at Drill Shed two or three times & practice at night went off very well. Took George to it. Letter from Mrs. Thom.


May 23

Very fine. Office all day. B&L meeting. Drill Shed at 4 pm & again at night.


May 24

Queen’s Birthday. Very fine & warm, troops all out. At work in Drill Shed all day preparing for concert. Took Georgie there in evening. Concert & Ball a great success.  Left at ¼ to 1. handed Mrs. B. Robinson to [check this entry].  about 7000 present.


These days, in addition to artistic endeavors like this, Larratt and Minnie were out most every day working at Summer Hill with a host of hired hands and friends. While work on the house, farmland and gardens was progressing, news began to reach Toronto of a crisis on the frontier. During the last few days of May the city was again rife with rumours of an impending Fenian attack. This time the threat was real, and Larratt would soon be involved in far less pleasant work than organizing a concert.





“News from the frontier” … “He would have been 20”


Violet Georgina, October 19, 1867


-Smith Family Bible



In his account of the Fenian invasion, Col. George Denison gives an account of the ominous news that was beginning to reach Canada:

telegraphic despatches brought rumours of bodies of men moving northward, along the various railroads leading to the lake borders. These men traveled, for the greater part, unarmed; and, if interrogated as to their destination, stated that the were going to California, to work in the mines. When they stated this intention while moving northward, they had some colour for their statements; but, when they continued the story after turning eastward from Cleveland, towards Buffalo, the impudence of the falsehood was unparalleled.  On the 31st of May, it was reported that large numbers of these men, whom no one doubted were Fenians, had arrived in Buffalo and had left there for some unknown point; but that it was supposed they had gone further east.[28]


But they had not – instead, they made themselves inconspicuous among the residents of Buffalo, and prepared to cross into Canada at Fort Erie to give a whole generation of Canadian military men their first encounter with a hostile force. The news quickly reached Toronto.


June 1

very fine all day. …  Fenians landed at Fort Erie this morning. office all day…. special Constable & patrolled St. Patrick’s Ward from 1 to 4 am.


June 2

very fine. George’s birthday, 6 to day. news of fight & news from the frontier. office all day. patrolled again at night from 10 to 1 am. went out to Summer Hill to day.  working going on lustily.


While Larratt was overseeing work at his new home and doing nighttime patrols, his son Lal, as one of the Hamilton Volunteers, was facing enemy fire for the first and only time in his life. His 13th Battalion was commanded by  Lieutenant Colonel Booker, who would be meeting an enemy for the first time as well. At 5:30 Saturday morning Booker received the order to call out his regiment for active service and to proceed by special train to the town of Dunnville. On the way he was to pick up and take command of two other volunteer companies.

Booker warned his regiment, and Lal and his company rushed to report for duty. But as Booker later wrote, “as many came without overcoats or breakfasts, I caused them to return home for breakfast and report again within the hour instructing them to bring their overcoats, and those who had them their haversacks with food.” At 9:30 the 13th Battalion – 265 men according to Booker’s estimate –  took the special cars on the Great Western Railway for Dunnville, picking up the York and Caledonia companies en route. The reeve of Dunnville had arranged billets for the men, but Booker received an order from Col. Peacocke (commander of the regular British force) to proceed to Port Colborne at once and wait for instruction.

By the time the Hamilton volunteers reached Port Colborne (about 11 pm), they found that about 480 men from the Queen’s Own had arrived first and taken all the billets in town. Lal and his regiment had to settle in to spend the night in their railway cars. Meanwhile, Booker, who had never been in command of any force but his own Hamilton battalion and had never heard a hostile shot, found himself the senior officer in all of Port Colborne, and therefore responsible for commanding the entire force – the 13th Battalion, the York and Caledonia companies, and the Queen’s Own.

I will not go into detail about the logistical nightmare the affair became.[29] Suffice to say that from all accounts it seems as if Booker at least, and perhaps all the officers and most of the men, went into the following day’s battle with scarcely a wink of sleep. After an exchange of conflicting information and confusing telegrams with Col. Peacocke, Booker left Port Colborne soon after 5 am, by rail to the village of Ridgeway. He was then to march for Stevensville, where he would meet Peacocke’s British regulars. Together they would face the enemy, who was – according to Peacocke’s information – thought to be encamped near Black Creek. While Booker believed himself in possession of later and more reliable intelligence that told him he would find the Fenians closer to Fort Erie, orders were orders, and Ridgeway it was.

When the cars arrived at Ridgeway that Saturday morning, the men “jumped from the train with cheers… and everything looked calm and lovely,” reports a correspondent for the Leader. For the commander things looked far less cheerful. Booker surveyed his situation: for the entire force of about 840, there was one single horse. Over half of his men were, like Lal, under 20 years of age. Nobody had slept. There were no rations except what crusts of bread the men had brought with them. There were no means to transport any stores: small amounts of spare ammunition was distributed among the men, to be carried in their pockets; tents and blankets had to be sent back to Port Colborne on the train. But the men were apparently in high spirits. Formed in columns of Queen’s Own, then the York Rifles, followed by Lal’s 13th Battalion and finally the Caledonia Rifles, they marched for Stevenville in anticipation of the junction with the British regulars.

But the volunteers never made it Stevensville. Two miles into the march, at about 8 in the morning, they came under a volley of long-range Fenian fire: the Battle of Ridgeway began.

Military historian H. Senior calls the clash a confrontation between professionals (Fenians who had served in the Civil War) and amateurs (the young and inexperienced volunteers), who “made a good beginning but lost their way in the fog of war” (59). The volunteers bravely held their own for some time, but soon the fog of war became very dense indeed. The Queen’s Own took the lead in the skirmishes on the road and in the fields and orchards along it; when their ammunition ran out after just an hour, the 13th Battalion was ordered to relieve them. The battle went on tolerably well until Col. Booker, having received two telegrams from Peacocke, began to realize that the regular  British forces were still far away and would not be coming to relieve the volunteers anytime soon.

As the skirmishes continued, Fenian resilience began to overpower the inexperience and fatigue of the volunteers. The first sign of wavering and retreat, it seems, came from Lal’s 13th Battalion. Confusion set in as the troops heard orders to retire; then someone raised a cry of “Cavalry, look out for cavalry!”

The “cavalry” was a handful of Fenians mounted on stolen farm horses, but the damage had been done. By the time the Canadian officers realized that there was no cavalry threat, the confusion had escalated to such an extent that the men did not know whether to form square, reform column or run for their lives. Booker tried to rally the troops, but found that the rear of his reserve was already retreating down the road. With the force disintegrating, the Fenians intensified their attack; under such heavy fire, utter panic set in and Booker had no choice but to order the troops to retire. Denison wrote  that “the two regiments [Queen’s Own and Hamilton], retiring along the same road, became mingled together: some running hurriedly to the rear, others retiring more slowly, while a large body of red coats and green, fighting gallantly, slowly and sullenly retired, covering the retreat, and holding the Fenians at bay” (45). The Fenians did not pursue them very far.

The entire engagement lasted about two hours. In the end the count on the Canadian side was 10 killed, 37 wounded and six taken prisoner. The rest ran off, hopping fences and hiding in barns, disorganized, tired, and hungry, for the railway station to catch the Port Colborne train. Upon arrival, they found they were not to get any refreshment: uncooked rations are useless without the equipment necessary to prepare them. One can only imagine Lal, a wealthy gentleman’s son, feeling hunger and real exhaustion for the first time.

What had happened? The papers report that “grievous mistakes have been made somewhere which have unnecessarily sacrificed the lives and limbs of so many of our brave boys” (Leader, June 4). In his book Denison was eager to defend the honour of both the volunteers and Lt. Col. Booker in the face of the defeat. The conduct of Lal’s 13th Battalion was questioned, and Booker was popularly accused of cowardice and misconduct. He defended himself at a court of inquiry in Ottawa later the same month and was cleared of all suspicion, but he was never again to command a regiment. During the inquiry Booker also defended his Hamilton Battalion, who he said “did all that men could do under the circumstances and were the last in retreat.”  In the end it was the higher command who was blamed for the defeat. The court found that the volunteer militia faced

disadvantages with which Her Majesty’s Regular Forces have seldom…, if ever, had to contend, in the want of cavalry, artillery, commissariat arrangements, or even the requisited means of carrying with them cooked provisions, or supplying themselves with water in the country through which they were about to move, in a season when the heat rendered it especially needful…. Further, that more than half of the two battalions… was composed of youths not exceeding… twenty years of age; that a large proportion of the force had been but for a very short time accustomed to bear arms, that in a somewhat less proportion, many had not even been exercised with blank cartridge, and that practice with ball cartridge was, by very many of the rank and file of that force, to be entered upon for the first time in their lives, on that day (CoI 42).


But reflections like these came later. Immediately following the battle, wild rumour and speculation, heated by burning outrage, reigned in Toronto. The day of the battle, Monday’s paper reports, “crowds rushed from their place of business to learn the details and to get at the earliest moment further advices… The eager crowd pressed around the Leader office till it was impossible to pass without going to the middle of the streets…. On Friday people were excited; on Saturday enthusiastic, uncontrollable, zealous, ardent, furious. Fenians open and avowed on our frontier, and Fenians masked and sneaking in our midst were equally denounced and adjudged to suffer the direst punishment that human hands could conflict.” Besides this surge of patriotism and paranoia, many parents like Larratt were simply waiting for news of their kin. Lal’s name did not appear on the lists of dead or wounded. It must have been with bitter relief that Smith, quickly appointed to a special committee, began planning the funerals of other people’s sons.

Sunday, June 3

wind Easterly. threatening rain. Church in morning. town very excited, telegraph & printing offices open & boys crying extras all day through the Streets. … Meeting at Exchange to form Committee to recover dead & wounded. Placed on committee. attended at Wharf @ 10 pm & recovered dead & wounded bells tolling through the city.


Besides Larratt, the committee consisted of the biggest names in the city – Jarvis, Worts, Arthurs, Gzowski, McMaster, George Brown, Cawthra, and others. These men were to take care of funeral arrangements and see to support for the families left behind. The atmosphere in town was one of outraged grief. By the time the City of Toronto steamer entered the harbour with seven dead and eleven wounded, throngs of people had already poured into the streets toward the wharf at the foot of Yonge Street: “Every inhabitant seemed to experience an incumbent duty to render to the dead and wounded representatives of our brave Volunteers an unmistakable tribute of sympathy and gratitude. Rich and poor, vigor and infirmity, budding youth and venerable old age, were each and all represented in the dense crowd” (Globe, June 4). The community procured five hearses, ten cabs and stretchers for the wounded. Businesses were closed for most of Monday and were to close by 2 pm Tuesday, the day that the bodies were to be carried from the drill shed to be interred at St. James cemetery.

The tired and hungry men remaining near the frontier were not forgotten either. The Globe reported that “the following large supply of provisions, &c., was obtained, packed up and sent away: – 2 boxes sundries, 2 barrels sugar, 2 barrels pork, 1 barrel tobacco, 8 boxes tobacco, 9 boxes cigars, 9 boxes cheese, 10 ½ boxes biscuits, 16 barrels biscuits, 4 barrels bread, 5 sides bacon 6 tons hams, 2 chests tea, 1 case matches, 3 cases brandy, 2 cases gin, 5 hogsheads ale, 1 case glasses, 6 rolls spiced bacon, 9 rolls dried beef, 1 box butter, 3 cases coffee, a large quantity of fresh meat, bacon, hams, medicines, splints, and surgical instruments.” Two shops promised to deliver, free of charge, all packages properly wrapped and addressed to any of the volunteers, and the papers encouraged one and all to make a contribution to the Volunteer Fund at the Bank of Toronto.

While Larratt was engaged in all this, he was still awaiting word from his son.


June 4

rained all day. only an hour in office all day. wrote Mamma – wrote Lal & sent him $2. at meeting of committee two or three times to day. Lunched at Stogburs. alarm at night. Fenians went E. all the men called to the Drill Shed preparatory to departure – got home at 2 ½ am.


June 5

rained in showers all day. In Drill Shed most of day decorating it for funeral. … funeral at 3 ½ pm. Throngs of people. wrote Mrs. Thom – all kinds of rumours about – of Fenian attack. Jim came from Frontier.


June 6

thundering all day & showering. office…. out to Summer Hill with Minnie. rained hard out there & the rest of the night. great meeting in Drill Shed in aid of volunteers. engaged Norbert Taylor @ 10 per month. Jim better to day. Mrs. Jas Morris died.


June 7

very fine. office all day. telegraph from Mr. Cidam that Lal in St. Catherines Hospital. wrote Lal then mailed it with papers from England at 10 pm. Jim not so well to day. old Mr. Smith’s birthday 69 to day. bought Cassel’s poney for $90 00/100.


Lal was not among the wounded and there is no extant account of his experience of the battle. We never learn exactly why he ended up in the hospital, besides what can be guessed from the account of exhaustion, hunger and dehydration that affected all the volunteer troops.


June 9

very fine. office all day. very busy. Tel from Brunswick, Norwich, that Lal would be home to day. went to Station to meet him but rec’d telegraph he will be here on Monday. at home in evening.


June 10

very fine & very hot. Cathedral in morning. Church draped in black for the volunteers. At home in evening.




June 11

very fine & very busy. Minnie appointed new hired boy. Mary came. one load of furniture to day. Rob Cassels in my office. Lal came down. at home in evening.


June 12

very fine. up very early. boy came at 7 am. moving furniture. terribly busy day. hardly a moment to day sitting. at office all day – slept at house in evening on floor. very cold & miserable. rained all night heavily.


The move to Summerhill was a drawn-out affair that lasted several months. The house had to be made livable, roads had to be improved or built scratch, and furniture had to be loaded into a wagon and moved up uneven, muddy Yonge Street.  As for Lal, it slowly became clear that those two hours of battle with the Fenians might be the end of his military career: he was not regaining his strength. By early August Larratt had taken his son’s things from Mrs. Dallas’ boarding house in Hamilton and was pondering ways to nurse him back to health. Lal went to Perth to stay with his grandmother while work on Summerhill and the move progressed, and seemed better for the change of scenery.



September 27

very lovely day. Indian summer. moving from the House 6 loads there all day. taking down ?ing shed. obliged to call in Philbruck for Lenny.

Tollis & Phinn 2 men & boy & one cart


Dr. C.J. Philbrick then lived in Yorkville, but would later become a close neighbour of the Smiths, who entrusted him with their medical concerns for many years. But during these days, the Smiths seemed to split the time between their old doctor and their new doctor – and also between their old home and their new home, which must have been noisy and intolerable at times. Several men, including masons, carpenters, gardeners, and laborers digging and working on roads and fences, worked (or pretended to work) around Summer Hill every day.


September 28

lovely day. office all day. last of things brought from house. things given to Burnett. Judge Munsion? spent the evening with us. Lenny better. Dr. Philbruck called. got Stubbs to examine cellar. Tollis & Phinn & 2 men here all day.


October 1

very fine. office all day. Stoves put up. got Larkin to stow away coal. took Lenny to Dr. Nicol. Put up Pictures in Sitting Room.

Tollis & Phinn & 3 men.


When the pictures had been hung in the sixty-by-thirty foot drawing room and the huge Persian carpet was placed on the floor, Summer Hill was finally home. The city directory for 1867-8 lists Larratt Smith as living at Summer Hill, Yonge (such an address was enough for a house in the country), and the following year, the directory lists a Miss Stubbs’ boarding school for the old address at St. George’s Square. The house at Summer Hill, originally boasting eighteen rooms, expanded later to thirty-five.[30] The remodeling and expanding never seemed to end; large stretches of land were prepared for the cultivation of every imaginable vegetable; and work continued on making Larratt’s beloved orchards and gardens some of the finest in the area.

But something else cast a shadow over the joy of a new, spacious home and beautiful grounds. In mid-October Lal returned from his grandmother’s at Perth and went immediately to see Dr. Nicol, “who pronounced him worse than when he left.”

Larratt Smith applied for a military pension for Lal.


October 15

Wrote to Board of Offices & got compensation papers & sent them off. Wrote Mrs. Thom.

at home in evening. Mild night. Bowden, 1 carpenter jobbing.


October 26

Raining all day. Lal not out of the house. No carpenter here. Office all day. Looked at & drove new horse out to Summerhill. at home in evening.


October 27

Thundering but did not rain. Lal before the Board. Trying get a new horse but thought – a Smith’s too light. Office all day. Wrote Mrs. Thom.


November 7

Lal went to Hamilton to go before the Medical Board.


November 9

Robert Cassels reached here from England. Very fine. Office all day. Very mild. At home in evening. Paid up Tollis & Phin (for labour around Summer Hill) in full $79 reaching $831 they have rec’d this Summer. Lal still at Hamilton. At home in evening. Drove in, walked out.


A year earlier, Smith had been recording his son’s parties and trips to theatre and nighttime escapades, unable to keep track of his whereabouts. Now his journal becomes a log book for monitoring Lal’s health. While he had once struggled in vain to keep him at home, Smith now finds hope in each time Lal has the strength to go out. Most evenings, a changed Lal stays in, playing backgammon and bagatelle with his father.


December 4

Raining all day. Walked in & out. Busy at office all day. At home in evening. Cleared up at night. Lal certainly better. In great spirits. Beat him at bagatelle.



December 6

Rained hard all day. Office. At home in evening. Walked out with Minnie. Judge Munson over in the evening. Bagatelle. Beat him & Lal.


December 21

Very fine & mild. Drove in in sleigh. Office all day. At home in evening. Beat Lal at backgammon & drafts, even at bagatelle. Getting milder. George got good conduct prize at school.


December 29

Very fine. Office all day. At home in evening. Good sleighing. Waxed Lal at backgammon & drafts.


January 30

very fine & cold. George discovered to have Mumps. kept him at home. Medicine three times a day. office. at home in evening. demolished Lal. Lal took warm bath at night.



Feb 7

Very fine indeed & mild. Sleighing going. Walked in. John brought out new cutter. Office all day. Minnie drove me home from Bible Class in large sleigh. At home in evening. Lal beat me at backgammon 9 to 2. wrote Mamma & sent Valentine & wrote Walter & remitted.


Mar 10

Lal complaining a good deal.


Mar 12

Lal got his pension.


Mar 14

Lal again at Dr. Bovell’s, could not find him.


Mar 15

Lovely morning 10 degrees. Wind W. office all day. at home in evening. wrote Bovell about seeing Lal & to appoint some time. Some of the Troops with Artillery off to Brantford to be ready for the Fenians reputed to be gathering on the Frontier again.


With the first signs of Spring serious work on the house recommenced.


Apr 4

Closed with Bowden for House $3600.  Booth $550 & Murray $195 being the lowest tenders. $4345.00.


Apr 16

Bowden commenced tearing up the cellar flooring &c. very mild. Made good progress to day.


Apr 25

Pretty fine. Got warmer. Office all day. at home in evening. Signed contract with McCausland $718. roads too bad to draw brick. Gutting the attic & taking down back chimneys. Georgie & Harriet Boulton spent day here.


In April Walter and Adelaide took Lal to Hamilton for a change of air and to get away from the construction at Summer Hill. But letters came regularly that he was not well.


May 14

Raining all day. cold & comfortless. Letter from Adelaide poor Lal not so well. Wrote Walter & Lal. Office all day. at home in evening.


May 16

Lal came home from Hamilton. Only “so so.”


Jun 10

Very fine & cool office all day at home in evening. work at house going on very slowly. Commenced at addition to house to day.


Finally the house was more like two houses attached to each other, with separate furnaces in the cellars. Construction continued, with Larratt taking part in much of the manual labour himself, and complaining about the laziness and occasional drunken sprees of his workers. Lal left once again for Perth. Within the preoccupation of daily life, work and worries, the most famous date in Canadian history was but an occasion to see some fireworks:


Jul 1

Very fine & very hot. Confederation day. Dominion of Canada. Went to Review on horseback. Making hay in afternoon. Went to see fire works in Park in evening. Larkins cutting hay all day from 4 am to 8 pm same as Saturday.


Jul 31

Fine but threatening rain. office all day. Taylor & wife went off to Murray Bay. Sent Minnie & children to Niagara. Wrote Lal at home in evening. rained at night. Hired James cliff @ $12 to be increased if he suits.


Aug 1

Very fine in morning. Smart showers in middle of day. office. At home in evening. wrote Minnie. Letter from her. Jas Cliff up in evening. showed him round. Carpenter at Verandah. Plasterers finishing up starts Hall. Sarah went to Buffalo.


Aug 4

Very fine 7 warm. Fire caught from stumps in Tollis’s field & nearly burnt the whole place up. about 20 or 30 of us at work all day to keep the fire down. Fences & woods sound almost by a miracle.


Aug 5

Very fine & horribly hot. Warned Tollis against setting fire to rest of grass & wrote Swan to look after him. Office all day. very busy. At home in evening. Gas Meeting. Smart shower at Summer hill. No rain in town. Wrote Minnie, Lal & Walter.


Aug 6

Very fine. Office all day. letter from Lal Mamma & Mary. Sent them to Minnie. Thunderstorm in afternoon. Dined at Shades at 6.30 and went over to Bay Street till 9 pm. plenty of men at work.



Aug 7

Muggy & threatening. Sold wagon to Bownden for $2.50. office all day. letters from Mrs Thom & Caroline urging me to let Lal go home. Wrote Walter about it. Wrote Lal. At home in evening. wrote Mamma a long letter about Lal’s going. Did not rain to day.


After 35 years of life in Canada, “going home” still meant going to England.  It is not clear how nine days aboard a steamship was supposed to benefit Lal’s health, but arrangements were made – Lal would sail across the ocean with his uncle Walter Cassels on the 17th of August. Larratt saw off his son and his brother-in-law, making the trip to Montreal, as always, an occasion for social calls and theatre.


Aug 15

Very fine. Up at 8, breakfasted, took Lal on at Brockville. Looking very ill. Reached Montreal at 6.30. put up at St. Lawrence Hall. Walter & I went to Theatre. Lal better for his trip. Great crowd at Hotel 1 ½ hours before we could get a room & then doubled up in the 5th story.


Aug 16

Threatening rain all day. called & saw the Allans. Got Lal’s tickets & paid for them in all $86. called & saw Parker, Ramsay Ranskin &c saw Lal & Walter &c off by Quebec at 8 pm waiting for the Champion 1 hour went to Theatre again. Burton Hill’s benefit very good acting. “Ticket of Lean Men” (??)




Aug 26

Very fine. Nomination day at Niagara. Thompson & Morrison. Left Niagara at 11 am. Toronto at ¼ to 2 pm. office rest of day. house in horrid mess. At home in evening. ___’s up to get me to go to Whitby to vote for Brown to morrow. Rain thunder & lightning in the night. Lal reached England.


Sept 10

Very fine & cool. Office all day very busy. Letter from Lal & Walter former improved by voyage & c. bad account of Adelaide. Sent Lal’s letter to Mrs. Thom. Judge Munson here in evening. slept in our new bed room first time.


Sept 17

Very fine & intensely hot. Office all day. at home in evening. letter from Lal Mamma & Walter. Bad a/c of Lal. Wrote to Mrs. Thom & sent his letter. Bought a new Cow & 2 calves from Benjamin Wyncuss. Very hot night.


Oct 16

Lovely day. bad news about poor Lal letter from  Mamma & Adelaide. Office all day. dined in town at home in evening. ordered load of oats from Brett.


Oct 18

Very fine & warm. Office all day.  at home in evening. letter from Mamma that Lal would sail by “City of London” on 7 Oct with Mr. Ramsay.

Man at work to day.


Oct 22

Very fine but colder. Office all day. Walter Cassels arrived from England by S.T. 2 hours late about ¼ past 3 pm. saw him off to Hamilton at 4 pm. Lal arrived here at 6 pm 1 hour later from Hamilton. Lal better than I expected to find him.


But the father’s relief did not last long.


Nov 28

Called up in night Lal throwing up blood. Sent off for Philbrick & medicine at 2 am. Up most of the night.


Nov 30

Very fine &very cold. office all day. baby christened Violet Georgina by Mr. Grasset at the Cathedral. Sponsors Mr & Mrs. Taylor & Harriet Boulton. At home in evening. fixing up windows. Lal not out to day nor out of bed. Walter did not come down.


Sun Dec 22

Very fine & mild. Torrents of rain rained hard all night. Lal passed a good deal of blood for second time in the night. Minnie George & Lenny to church. I stayed at home. No one came up to day but Philbrick. Lal not out.


Dec 23

Very fine but cold. Lal not out to day. too weak. Office all day. at home in evening.


January 3, 1868

very fine & mild. office all day. Lal out – sleighing nearly gone. Nelson at work all day. Philbrick here in the evening sent for by Lal.


Sunday, January 5

very fine. Minnie & boys went to Church. good sleighing . in house all day. looking after Lal. Fred Cameron called to see him. Philbruck called. Lal not so well.


Monday, January 6

very fine & colder. office all day.

Mrs. Parry brought out. Lal drove her out in sleigh. at home in evening. John Macdonald [must check this Macdonald!!] called to see Lal. Nelson drawing manure.

Poor Lal out for the last time to day.


January 8

very fine & mild. office all day. Lal not out today. Mrs. Cameron out to see Lal. Mr & Mrs Macdonald called. at home in evening. Nelson drawing manure.


January 9

very fine & very cold at night. Lal very ill in night. afraid of suffocation. office all day. first day County assizes. Mr. Baldwin out here. Mrs. Cameron. Mrs. Minett & Mrs. Dewe. at home in evening. D. Philbruck up to day.


January 10

very cold. glass at zero all day. being up nearly all night. drove in at 11 am & out again. mare’s shoes renewed & sharpened. at office only an hour or two. Mrs. Cameron, Allan Cassels, Mr. Baldwin & Lamond Smith here to day. poor Lal sinking. Philbruck here to day. dear Lal died at ½ past 11 p.m.


Thus it stands, a terse account of all the day’s happenings, Lal’s death being the last. From the characteristically laconic entries we can only imagine Larratt‘s grief now that his oldest son, and the last of Eliza’s boys, was gone.

The Globe of January 13th reports Lal’s death:

At his father’s residence, Summer Hill, near Toronto, on Friday, the 10th instant, of consumption, from the effects of privation and exposure in the affair at “Ridgway,” Larratt Alexander, eldest son of Larratt W. Smith, Esq., late of No. 6 Company, 13th Battalion Hamilton Volunteers, in the twentieth year of his age. The funeral will take place from his father’s residence, on Tuesday next, the 14th instant, at half-past two in the afternoon, to St. James’ Cemetery.


January 11

up writing letters & c until 3 am went to bed. did  not sleep. Lamond Smith & Jim out. Mrs. L Smith – Harriet Boulton. Mrs. Cameron – Allan Cassels & Wood. dear Lal placed in his coffin. all arrangements made. cold night at home all day. Walter came down telegraphed him & Mrs. Thom in morning. wrote Mamma & Mrs. Thom.


Sunday, January 12

fine but very cold. did not go out all day except in afternoon when I walked in the ravine with Walter & George.


January 13

very fine day but very cold. Walter went home at ½ past 6 a.m. Mrs. Baldwin called & prayed with me.


The next day Lal was buried “with military honours” at St. James cemetery on a “blustery, snowy day” (Jan. 14). A firing party from his old regiment, the 13th Battalion, came from Hamilton, and the Queen’s Own band played. Detachments of the Queen’s Own and the 13th formed the escort. His father called it “a large funeral.” Afterwards, his diary returns to terse accounts of weather and business and daily happenings, an attempt to pick up a life so long dominated by concern for his son. But on a separate page, at the very end of the journal, the mourning father records Lal’s final moments:

Friday 10 January 1868. Dear Lal died at 11:30 pm. His last words as he was dying were, “Don’t cry, dear Papa, you only make me worse. I can’t see. I am going, kiss me. I go to God through my beloved Saviour (repeated two or three times). Papa, I leave all to you. Break it gently to my Grandmother.” (He would have been 20 on 13 March 1868.)

He was buried in St. James cemetery on Tuesday 14 January 1868 & placed in Vault & finally buried in family burial ground St. James Cemetery Saturday 23 May 1868 in presence of Walter Cassels & all the children Mabel included.


Here the diarist roughly sketched the plan of the family burial plots, with initials – ECS for Eliza, LAS for Lal, LS for his older brother, dead in infancy. Thirty-seven years later Smith himself would be buried there, next to his first wife and two namesake sons.


Christ Church, Deer Park, 1870

“Steeple raised today”… “Great success”


Hugh Sandford, February 24, 1869


Sydney Walter, November 5, 1870

Godfathers, George Smith and Alfred A. James (I acted for George) (Walter for James) & Minnie for Mary George – at Christ Church Yonge St. Mr Trew officiating


Goldwin Larratt Smith, July 1, 1872

Goldwin Larratt Smith, son of Larratt William, & Mary Elizabeth Smith, born at Summerhill on Monday, 1 July, 1872 at 11:30 pm. Dr. Philbrick & Mrs. Lewis in attendance, christened by Rev’d Mr. Trew, M.A. at Christchurch, sponsors Goldwin Larratt  Smith, James F. Smith, & Kate Spragge on 24 November at morning service (Sunday)


-Smith Family Bible



Today Christ Church, Deer Park is a stately stone building in a busy, upscale urban neighbourhood in Toronto. But before 1870 this section of Yonge Street was still a rural road, dusty in summer, often impassable in winter, and a muddy mess for the rest of the year.

In the early years the daily stagecoach to Richmond Hill used to veer off slightly westwards just north of St. Clair to avoid a steep ravine, and crossed the dam near Whitmore’s Sawmill before it continued on to the village of Eglinton. The detour road was later named Lawton Avenue, after the Fisken property, and Yonge Street was straightened out. What remained was an awkward triangular plot wedged between the new and old roads.

Although long-neglected, this space, called the Yonge Street Gore, was “a commanding site overlooking the city, and even with a glimpse of the blue water of the lake in the far distance.” It became the site of the new parish church for Toronto’s northern suburbs. There was no Anglican church between St. Paul’s, Yorkville, and St. John’s, York Mills, although the latter had set up a mission in the Davisville schoolhouse and called it “Christ Church.” By the 1860s there was so much activity in the area that a schoolhouse mission for rural folk was not enough: important people, influential people, had been moving up from Toronto.

On June 6, 1870, six of these neighbours and friends met at the mission to discuss a new church to be built between Yorkville and Eglinton. Larratt Smith called it ” a Meeting of friends of New Church.” Besides Smith, the attendees were his friend John Fisken (who, in 1950, had purchased Lawton Park, part of the parceled Heath estate); his next-door neighbour to the north, Joseph Jackes (who had bought Rosehill around the same time Smith had bought his own home); Edward Burke, Joseph Burke, and civil engineer and railway contractor Frank Shanly[31].

The diocese and the bishop of Toronto agreed to a new parish, to be named Christ Church after the Davisville mission.  Jackes, Shanly, Edward Burke and William Augustus Baldwin (from Mashquoteth farm, just north of Heath Street) formed a building committee, bought the Yonge Street Gore from Thomas Griffith for $100 and hired the architects Smith & Gemmell to design a frame building. There was no reason to tarry. Construction began that October.

By now Larratt Smith had made himself comfortable at Summerhill, and kept a keen eye on the running of his household. That summer and fall the diaries are full of domestic notes. There were the chronic problems with hiring and keeping good servants (July 13 – “Gardener not recovered from yesterday’s debauch & only here half a day doing little or nothing at that“). Hungover gardeners or not, the swath of land at Summerhill was put to good use: there were enough apples to make cider, give out to friends and even ship to England; there was corn, carrots, dozens of bushels of potatoes, turnips, parsnips, pumpkins and cabbages; even artichokes had their own plot in the garden; and all harvesting was diligently accounted for in Smith’s journals.

In family news, Minnie’s younger sister, Georgie, who stayed at Summerhill so often, go married and went off to England. And in September, Smith invested in some Yorkville real estate, buying two lots on Scollard street (53 and 54) and paying $800 to have two houses built there, from which he would earn rental income for the rest of his life. In November, Sydney Walter was born, and an even seven children resided at the Summerhill house.

Sydney was the first Smith child to be baptized at the new Christ Church, which, although we always speak of the slower pace of life last century, went up at almost alarming speed by our own standards. Larratt himself did not participate in the building arrangements, but he eagerly kept abreast of the developments and signed on to contribute 40$ a year to the parish. For his family, of course, the new church was hardly a necessity. St. Paul’s, Yorkville, was not too far from Summerhill, and regardless, the Smiths attended the more distant St. James’ Cathedral (where they still had a pew) just as often as St. Paul’s. Christ Church was most needed by the farmers in the northern suburbs, not by its well-heeled residents who drove their whole families to Toronto. But Larratt Smith and his neighbors were proud of the new parish they were creating. They were carving out their own space, making the rural land above Toronto their own, consolidating the new upscale social network they had formed. But even wealth and social standing did not prevent a man like Larratt Smith from emptying his own cess pool.

Nov 4, 1870

Very fine. Office all day.at home in evening. Wm & Geo here for day’s work. Emptying Cess Pool till past midnight. Wrote James at 2 am. Minnie all right so far.


Nov 5

Very fine. Minnie confined at 10 ½ am. Philbrick here. Wrote James home early. Boys hair cut by Copley. Boys & Emily at Stanley’s in afternoon. At home in evening.


Nov 6

Drove the boys to Church [still St. James‘ Cathedral]. Grassett preached. Walked up in afternoon to new Church. Met Jacques and wife. Fisken & Baldwin there dined at Fiskens.


Nov 22

Very cold. Steeple on belfry of new Church raised to day. Blowing from E with clouds of dust. Office all day. Came on to sleet & snow furiously at 6 pm. Lasted all night. Young John Gzowski died at Brockville.


Nov 24

Lenny’s 8th birthday. Very fine & mild. Snow melting fearfully sloppy sleighing gone. Office all day. At home in evening after Meeting of Church Committee. Very enthusiastic. Young Gzowski buried to day.


Nov 26

Minnie up to breakfast. Very fine. Office all day. At home in evening. Got ½ chest of tea from Director & ½ barrel… Cockburn[32] called de College. Wrote Geo’s Essay on traveling.


Dec 6

Turned cold & a very fine day & night. Office all day. At home in evening. Philbrick up here to see baby, Minnie. Ordered medicine for Minnie, Steel & quinine. Cod liver oil for Colonel.


Between monitoring his wife and children’s health and doing his son’s homework for him, Larratt Smith continued to be involved in preparing the church for opening. He met with the appointed incumbent, A.G.L. Trew, formerly of St. George’s church, and organized a choir:


Dec 8

Very fine & cold. Office all day. Wrote James de Sponsor. Dined in town. Choir met for practice at our house. Went off very well.


Dec 15

Very fine. Office all day. Dined at Fiskens & met the Trews. Choir practice there. Threatening. Roads frozen & hard. Wrote Mary George. Peter McCutchons (Arthur Liston), celebrated lecture ending in a row at Temperance Hall.


Dec 18

Very fine. Minnie boys Emily & self to old St. Paul’s Church. Mr. Jones officiated. Walked to XtChurch in afternoon could not get in. at home in evening.


Only eleven weeks after construction had started, the church, along with a driving shed and fence, was complete. It had cost 3000$ to complete, plus another 500$ for the architects’ commission and furniture. The building could accommodate upwards of 250 people,[33] and was “solidly erected, of timber, and internally is neat, cosy, and artistic in its decorations.”[34] Later, trees grew around the church, hiding it “from the south save the little belfry giving notice of the building beneath.” Robertson called it a “pretty suburban parish with many earnest workers.” At the time of building, the parish stretched all across the northern border of Toronto – from Cottingham street in the south to Eglinton Avenue in the north; and from Dufferin in the west to the Don River in the east – and served a mainly rural population.

The opening services were set for Wednesday, the 21st of December, and the announcement had welcome news for the “workers“ of the parish: “the seats in this Church will always be open to all persons, without distinction or privilege, and all are cordially invited to avail themselves of its services.” What this meant is that Christ Church, Deer Park, did not charge pew rents, unlike most other Anglican churches of the time (notable exceptions are St. Stephen’s-in-the-fields and Holy Trinity, whose founder had stipulated no rents were ever to be charged). Here, as the Globe reported, mogul and farmer alike could enjoy a comfortable pew:

the most important feature in the interior of the church is the pews, which are all free and unappropriated, and yet all handsomely and uniformly cushioned. This is an example of the proper Christian spirit, and of the departure from that “respect of persons” which the pew system involves. We should be glad to see it generally imitated (Globe, 23 December 1870, p. 1).


Two services, morning and evening, marked the opening of Christ Church. Larratt attended both and called them a “great success.” The unanimous praise heaped on the church and the enthusiasm at its opening reveals no hint of the deep rift in the Anglican Church in Canada between two opposing parties who had conflicting ideas on liturgy and church governance – the high-Church (Tractarian), closely connected to Trinity College, and Evangelical Anglicans. The great struggle was never resolved and uniformity never achieved as the factions continued to face off in an often bitter battle. Today, a symbol of the fight stands on Hoskin Avenue, in the middle of the University of Toronto campus. The red, unadorned Richardson Romanesque building of evangelical Wycliffe College, built here in 1881, stands on one side of Hoskin Avenue, staunchly facing the gothic spires of high-Church Trinity.[35]

Evangelicals, composed mainly of influential laymen, fought for more lay involvement in church affairs, while their opponents disapproved of what they called “this noisy clamor about the rights of the laity.” Evangelicals promoted ecumenism, Sunday schools, Bible study societies, and the abolition of pew rents, all of which high-Church Anglican clergy  regarded with suspicion. In turn, Evangelicals accused them of propagating the “ritualism” rejected by the 1868 provincial synod. Even matters of when the liturgy was to be celebrated were important. High-Church sympathizers were leery of the “innovation” of evening Communion services – while Evangelicals considered this time more in accordance with biblical witness about the Last Supper.[36]

The first services at Christ Church reflected the divide. During the morning service, the high-Church Bishop of Toronto, Alexander Neil Bethune, preached, assisted by another high-ranking member of that party, George Whitaker, and Rev. Saltern Givens. In the evening, however, it was the evangelical Givens, of the Yorkville parish, who stepped to the fore. Givens had been an itinerant “missionary to the Mohawks” around Napanee, leading schoolhouse services at which a young John A. McDonald sang in the choir.[37] Later he became vice-president of an “Evangelical Society” that opposed high-Church “innovations” like Lenten observance and early Communion. (The president of this society Dean Henry Grasset, rector of St. James’ Cathedral, who had married Larratt Smith and baptized several of his children.) At the first evening service at Christ Church, Givens gave an extended address, since so many of his former Yorkville parishioners now had a new parish to call their own. None of the sources attest to any tensions surfacing during the opening of the church. The papers praised the free pews, and the core group of laymen who had created the parish could not be more proud of their contribution. As far as we know, the bishop did not complain.

The first wardens of the church were Jackes and William Baldwin, but Larratt Smith performed this role ten years, from 1877-87. During his office, in 1881, a schoolhouse was added to the grounds (a rectory had already been built in 1872).

Another chapter in the Church’s history was its relationship with Upper Canada College, which moved up to its current location, the “Deer Park Campus,” in 1891. As soon as the new school opened Christ Church added seventy or so seats to accommodate the students. The relationship of an established rural parish with several dozen new teenage boys was an uneasy one. The boys were accused of interrupting services, smoking by the doors and harassing lady churchgoers. After repeated complaints, UCC’s unpopular principal George Dickson sent the older boys to a different parish, and then removed the younger boys as well, complaining the pew rent was too high; apparently pews were not free of charge for UCC. In his history of the school Richard Howard writes that “[u]nfortunately he had not consulted the Board of Directors, a member of which was Larratt Smith, a member of Christ Church. Dickson was accused of a lack of tact and judgment, and the reverberations of this contretemps were infinite.”[38]


Today, nothing remains of the original wooden Christ Church but a few photographs. By 1909, Deer Park was incorporated into the city of Toronto, and the booming population necessitated a larger building. The original frame church was bought for $300 by Grace Church-on-the-Hill, which was moving from Elizabeth Street to Russell Hill Road. The building was pulled by horses from Yonge Street, along Lonsdale, to the new location. The second Christ Church, a brick building, stood for 12 years, and the present stone church opened in 1923. Today Christ Church, Deer Park, cannot boast a commanding view of the city because it is deep in its heart, and every “glimpse of the blue water of the lake” is blocked by sky-scrapers. But walking down the stairs from the office to the parish hall, one can still see a photograph of the original rural church and of Larratt Smith as warden.

A few rows down, one comes another photo, a serious bespectacled man who was warden during the first world war years: Goldwin Larratt Smith. Larratt and Minnie’s fifth son “Goldie” was born in 1872, and named after his baptism sponsor, British historian and journalist Goldwin Smith, whom Larratt had recently befriended. Smith had come from Oxford to lecture at Cornell University and then moved to Toronto in 1871, marrying the Smiths’ friend Harriett Boulton, William Boulton’s widow, mistress of the Grange. Goldwin Smith settled into a life of domestic tranquility and occupied himself with writing literary and political criticism (he is most famous for the view that Canada’s future lay in annexation to the United States) and turning the Grange into the hub of Toronto high society. For the next half century this is just what it was: an English manor where the literati and glitterati con congregated for political discussion, literary and musical evenings, archery and croquet. Larratt – and later his grown children – would be frequent guests at these soirees.



































Audrey Irene, January 2, 1874

Audrey Irene Smith, daughter of Larratt William & Mary Elizabeth Smith born at Summerhill on Friday, 2 January, 1874 at 10 minutes to 6 a.m. Dr. Philbrick & Mrs. Lewis in attendance, christened at morning service at Churst Church by Bishop Bethune – sponsors Addy Cassels & Lewis & Amy Smith, her cousins on Sunday 28 June 1874 at morning service.


Harold Ernest, November 8, 1876

Harold Ernest Smith son of Larratt William & Mary Elizabeth Smith born at Summerhill on Wednesday 8 Nov. 1876 at ¼ to 10 p.m. No one in attendance. Mrs. Lewis subsequently arrived and still later Dr. Johnson – baptized at Christ Church Sunday morning. 25 March 1877 by Rev. Mr. Maddock, Walter Allan Cassels and Hugh Sanford Smith sponsors and Katherine Charlotte Smith.


-Smith Family Bible


Through the 1870s, Larratt Smith’s neighbourhood bloomed. The building of Christ Church – Deer Park was followed soon after by another development, one whose construction would take far longer: Toronto’s first water reservoir. Since 1847, the same man who supplied some Torontonians with gas, Albert Furniss, also supplied them with water. But only about 10 percent of Torontonians were serviced by his company. Most people drew their drinking water from the lake, streams and public wells. The city took on the responsibility for providing a safe public water supply in 1873 and construction on the Rose Hill Reservoir began late that year.

The reservoir was build on part of Joseph Jackes’ land, the old estate Jesse Ketchum had given his son-in-law Walter Rose in the late 1830’s, and it was adjacent to the north part of Larratt Smith’s property. Indeed, Larratt wrote at least one angry letter to the city that his fence had been broken during the construction of the embankment, and complained in his diary that reservoir workers impeded his solitary walks in the ravine.

When the reservoir was completed, it was more than a way to improve Toronto’s water quality and wipe out typhoid fever. The reservoir was an open pool or water, with no cover and no roof;[39] the land around it was set apart as a park, and the artificial “lake” became a favourite Sunday picnic spot, just as the area had been years before Larratt Smith purchased Summerhill. The Globe whimsically describes what the reservoir meant to the city:

Men like to picture the water they drink as the sparkling product of cool retreats: and in the eyes of few will the unlimited glasses drawn from a hotel ice-water tap begin to equal for genuine thirst-banishing purposes one long, satisfying draught from the old spring under the school-house hill at home.

It is just this feeling that induces Torontonians to make holiday at their own breezy reservoir. One likes to sit on a bench beside that trim, neat, geometrical lake and watch the clear, pure water sparkle under the sun as the sweet winds tease it into light ripples. It is exceedingly comforting to reflect that from this TRANSLUCENT FOUNTAIN HEAD comes the water we draw from our taps, and the more romantic of us are able to imagine, after a day at the reservoir, that the water we prudently hold up in our glasses between our eyes and the light has brought with it from the hill-top home something of the breeze, something of the sunlight, and something, perhaps, of the bright flowers and dusky wood that make up the memories one keeps of Rose Hill and its rectangle of a lake. [40]


Through the next two decades the park – kept largely ungroomed, except for some winding stairways leading down into the ravine – grew, and Larratt Smith’s property progressively shrank. In 1893 Smith deeded fifteen acres of his part of the ravine to the city, to be added to the park; in return, the city agreed to give him an annuity of $600 per year[41], and to keep the property as a park in perpetuity. The expansion would allow the city to add a new entrance from Rosedale, and Smith’s terms were praised as “extremely liberal” and accepted by city council without hesitation. When the sale was finalized, a newspaper reported that the agreement authorizing the property transfer “was adopted with some minor alterations, one at the mayor’s request being the striking of the word “magnanimous” in connection with the offer. The word was regarded as bad form in a legal document.”[42]

Today, of course, the reservoir is covered over, but what used to be the north-east part of the Smith estate has indeed remained a public park, with a fountain, playground and bicycle paths, and wooden steps down to the creek at the bottom of the ravine where Larratt used to take his walks.

But let us return to the 1870’s. Then, Larratt Smith’s career was at its peak. The Canadian Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men connects a staggering list of duties to his name, from clerk of the court of appeals through president of the Building and Loan Association to directorship in several insurance companies. “But however varied the interests that require his attention,” the Dictionary writes,

it seems to be fully within his grasp to bring to the discharge of his multifarious duties the requisite business ability to ensure success. He has acquired an enviable reputation as a good financier, an able manager, an excellent office lawyer, and a shrewd, straightforward business man; and his various positions in the management of different financial institutions indicate that these qualities are appreciated and called into use.[43]


Indeed, by the mid 1870’s Larratt Smith’s days were taken up by work at his legal practice, a myriad business ventures, and almost daily meetings of the gas company, where he had been a director since 1858. Through the ’70s Consumers Gas was under constant threat of civic takeover – the city of Toronto resented the company’s monopoly on street lighting, arguing that it was run for the sole benefit of its shareholders, and wished either to by the gasworks or set up its own, city-run utility.[44] Consumers Gas, for its part, pointed to the steady improvements in gas service and the low prices it charged. Inevitable tensions between the city and the privately owned public utility would continue for decades, and Larratt Smith and the other gas directors had to work tirelessly to balance profits and public approval.

But although his professional life was so full, Larratt Smith reserved several weeks each summer for travel. Family trips to the Saguenay continued, but now Muskoka was beginning to emerge as the summer getaway spot for Torontonians. Steam had come to the future Cottage Country in 1865 thanks for Alexander Cockburn, founder of the Muskoka and Georgian Bay Navigation Company, of which Larratt Smith happened to be the Vice-President. Eventually Smith came into the possession of Muskoka Island, where a luxurious resort once stood, and three smaller islands on Georgian Bay.[45]

Sometimes Larratt Smith left his wife and young children at home and traveled alone, for business or pleasure, to see another slice of his country. In the summer of 1874, he decided to take his 15-year old son George with and set off for a pleasant sail toward Lake Superior.  But he would find that his Toronto business affairs would follow him even there.


Jul 21

Very hot. Left for Thunder Bay with George at 11 ½ am taking Lenny as far as Barrie by Steamboat Express. Collingwood at 4.30 wrote Minnie. Took “Cumberland” there Stateroom 14 & left at midnight. 320 Mennonites on board for Manitoba also 40 of the Press Association. Lovely night but very cold.


Jul 22

Very fine breakfast at 7 reached Owen Sound at 5 am. Presqu’isle at 7 am. Took in wood there left @ 8.30. lovely sail. Reached Killarney at 6 pm. Pretty scenery. Wooded there & left at 8 pm fine moonlight. Little Current at 10.30 pm walked deck till nearly midnight. Lovely mild night Press got up reading & musical entertainment. Rather a fizzle.


Jul 23

Thick fog. Wind SW. feeling better. Bruce Mines at ½ past 10 am left at 11 ¼. Hilton at noon wooded there. Sault St Marie at 6 pm. Through the locks by 9 pm. Beautiful moonlight night but cold. Took two extra flannels & great coat. Wooded at Point aux Pins & left direct for Silver Islet through the lake. Wrote & mailed letter for Minnie at Sault.


Jul 24

Out of sigh of land nearly all day. Cold & Lake Calm. Bishop of Algoma on board. Passed  Isle Royal at about 8 pm. Silver Islet @ 10 pm. Prince Arthurs Landing at 2 am found large Ball going on at Hotel Flaherty in Queen’s Hotel finally got a room no 16 & to bed at 3 am.


Jul 26

Lovely day. But as wind on shore very cold. Church twice. Bishop of Algoma preached. Dundas read prayers. Following Toronto people in Church Mrs & Miss Gordon Brown, Mrs Geo Duggan & John Duggan & her mother, Misses Gilmer & Paterson.


Jul 28

Very fine & cool. Strolled about all morning & called on Mrs. Brown. Gordon Brown returned from Silver Islet in Silver Spray with Col Sibley & Cattarach & c. tea with Browns introduced to Murdoch, Thompson, Dawson, McKenzie, Towers, Blackwood Stuart Heath & others. Frances Smith arrived after tea & left at 11 pm for Duluth. Got letter from Minnie all progressing favourably at home thank God.


Jul 31

Showery. Breakfasted at Mrs Munros nothing fit to eat at Hotel. Pulled to Current River to fish. Brown’s & Murdock with us. Caught nothing. Returning overtaken by sudden squall from NW. Mrs Brown lost her hat. Dined at Munros with them. Walked to Judge Vannormans & took tea with them. Browns up in evening.


Aug 1

Up at 5. breakfasted at Mrs. Munros. Thompson drove us out Dawson road a few miled when we struck across 3 miles to fishing stream. 3 doz caught by party. Got home by 1 pm to dinner. Saw otter. …. Flies intolerable all morning. walked with Brown Dawson & Murdock to Singleton mine in afternoon ½ mile from Hotel & afterwards dined with Dawson.


Aug 3

Very fine. Breakfasted with Brown at Dawson at 5 & left in Govt boat in tow of “Watchman’s” with them at 6 for Pie Island. Most delightful day scenery magnificent. Dined at Island off 6 lb trough I caught trolling. Got home at 5 pm in tow as before. “Ontario” came in at 9 pm. “Cumberland” at 10. letter from Minnie all well. Left by Cumberland with Gordon Brown at 1.30 am. State room 6 with him. Fine night. News respecting Rutherford & the Gas Co reached by some of the passengers who heard it before leaving Collingwood.


News of the “Rutherford scandal” had followed Smith even here. Rutherford was the President of the Consumers Gas Company. During Larratt Smith’s vacation three company clerks divulged information about his questionable spending habits: Rutherford had charged the company for cab rides that were never taken and cases of champagne that he took home; and he tried to bribe Toronto aldermen to dissuade the city from pushing a public takeover of the company. The way the company used the profits from its monopoly was already under constant scrutiny, and the scandal only exacerbated the situation. The issue would consume Larratt Smith’s working days for weeks; now, though, there was nothing to do but enjoy the rest of his vacation.


Aug 6

After leaving Silver Islet got aground till 6 am. Ontario left us aground making for the Salt Direct. Dense fog & calm. Cleared up & reached Nipigon at 3 pm. Lovely scenery found the Chicora there & the Gov Generals party up the river fishing expected down to morrow. Globe & Mail reporters came down whilst we were there with this information.  Left Nipigon at 6 pm & got into a fog before dark which lasted all night. Wilson & Miss Foy played & sang. To bed very early.


Aug 7

Dense fog blowing whistle till 5 pm. Heaving lead & stopped for a long time off Canbon(???) Island. Sighted White Fish Point at 5 pm & heard the fog whistle on Point. Saw “Peerless” till obscured by fog off Point taking South shore. Passed Isle Parisienne at 6.30. passed thru turnoff White Fish Point going into Otter Lake. Sighted “Ontario” before reaching Sault at 9.30 & came up with her. Crossed to Canadian side. Ontario remained on American side. To bed at 10 pm. Taking on wood all night.


Aug 8

Fog too dense to leave Sault St. Marie till 9. warm morning. lovely scenery. “Ontario” left just after us. Reached Bruce Mines at 1 pm. One hour before Ontario. Left at 3 pm with Ontario about ¼ mile ahead. Ran together about 2 miles where she stood on her course for Sarnia & we for Spanish River. Reached SR through a hole in the wall at 9.30 pm to bed at 10 pm. Current River at midnight. Wooded there & left about 3 am. Singing till midnight.


Aug 9

Lovely morning. Killarney at 20 to 5 am wooded there & left at 6.30 am. Up at ¼ to 5 am. Calm quiet day. Sailed direct for Collingwood & reached it at about 6 pm. Put with with John Paterson & family at “AngloAmerican” Isaiah Winters. “Globe” full & sent no bus to the boat. Walked about after tea & heard fag(?) end of Dr. Lett’s sermon on Jeroboam. To bed at 10 pm very hot.


Aug 10

Up before 6. breakfasted at 8 special. Left for Toronto by 9.47 train. Went in to Barrie but no sign of Lenny. Toronto at 3 pm. Awfully hot. Geo met & drove me home. Found all doing well. Heard of Rutherford’s doings.



Aug 11

Very hot indeed. Minnie drove me to Yorkville. Busy at office, and at Gas & other Meetings all day. Rutherford went to New York with Hillyard Cameron yesterday. Board came to no conclusion respecting Rutherford to day. At home in evening. Geo to Theatre to see King in “Othello.”


Aug 13

Cooler to day. Called & saw Mrs. Rutherford. Much distressed. Office all day busy about Gas matters. Did not get off my English letters though I wrote Mamma in Minnie’s letter. At home in evening. Put on porous plasters on chest & back feeling chest weak & cold rather worse.


Aug 21

Rained great part of day from noon. Long interview with Rutherford who sent for me at his house. Office & B & L all day. Wood came over from Niagara to day. In office in afternoon. Gave Willliam Young notice on paying his wages.


Aug 22

Very fine. Wind from SE. office till 2 pm. Took Minnie, Lenny, Emily, Mabel, Violet & Hugh to Niagara in “City.” Fine day but some motion going. They went to Lewiston I went to Niagara to Boffatts & the Graveyard at Church to see where crew of “Foain” buried. Left Niagara at ½ past 6 pm. Home at ½ past 9. tea on board. Fine night. Home at 10.30 pm. [sic]


Aug 23

Very fine & cool. Church in morning Mr Wilson preached morning & evening. Capital Sermons. I did not go in evening. Dr. Philbrick looked in twice. Walked over with children to Armstrongs bush & got blue berries. Stopped by Reservoir men from crossing below Ravine. Young Chas Day accidentally shot his sister at 8 pm.


Aug 25

Very fine. Office all day. Rutherford investigation commenced at 3 pm. Refused to allow Reporters to be present. Biddy Shanly came to stay. At home in evening. Commenced taking solid lunch to day.


The Rutherford investigation continued through the summer and into the fall; it progressed in stops and starts, because the beleaguered president’s health failed. Eventually Rutherford resigned and paid back, with interest, all the money he had taken. No charges were filed.[46] Rutherford moved away, but Larratt Smith would keep in touch with him for many years to come.

As the investigation into the scandal progressed, school was starting again: George, 15, was a boarder at Upper Canada College, and twelve-year-old Lenny, nicknamed the “Colonel” (after Col. Lenox Ingall, for whom he was named) was a Day Boy, taking the trip down Yonge to King Street each morning with one of his parents.




Sept 2

Very fine. Minnie took Col to College. Opening Day…. Office all day. No Meeting of Rutherford Committee Rutherford too ill to attend. At meeting of Senate in evening. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Leslie [cook] left from ill health to day.


Sept 3

Threatening. Came on to rain about noon & rained most of day. Lenny entered College in 1st as a Day Boy. Geo as Weekly Boarder. Spent 2 ½ hours at Rutherford’s very ill in bed. Meeting of Committee therefore adjourned. At home in evening.


Sept 7

Very fine. Office all day. Cold worse to day. Rutherford & wife left for Clifton Springs. Gas Board Meeting & Meeting of Committee of Senate on Building & Grounds. At home in evening. Rutherford resigned his Presidency & Directorship.


Sept 8

Office all day. Very warm. Drove to Emigrant Sheds to look after Cook & c., also to Burns about the Coal to cost $69.00. at home in evening. Minnie interviewed Governesses. Lenny took his dinner at College to day for first time. Mrs. Lennox working here.


Mrs. Lennox was an older servant who stepped up to do the cooking, cleaning and laundry when the regular servants were ill, on vacation, or too drunk to work – a not uncommon occurrence over the years at the Smith household. “Indoor men” and “outdoor men,” gardeners, laundresses, cooks and maids came and went, some lasting no more than a few days. Of course, there were some servants who became part of the family. While none of the Summerhill help could match the Grange’s butler, William Chin, with his incredible fifty years of service, two servants, James McCann and Polly Faulkner, spent two decades working for the Smiths.

In the fall of 1874, with Lizzie the cook having left and the school year well underway, the Smiths needed to find both a new cook and a governess for the girls and younger boys left at home. The Emigrant Sheds, where newcomers were put up for a day or two directly upon arrival, were the obvious place to look for domestic workers and farmhands.[47] The sheds were large barn-like buildings had rough wooden platforms for sleeping and no heat, but breakfast was served in the morning to give the immigrants strength for a day of job-hunting, and in any case the accommodations could not have been much worse than they were on an ocean-going steamer.[48]

The vast majority of the immigrants were from the British Isles, and a Toronto businessman could hope to find a “good, plain English cook” among them – though, such a person being in high demand, he would have to show up at just the right time. A governess was a different matter: she had to be a woman of better education and breeding than most of the immigrants who came to Canada to find work as servants. The Smiths took out an ad which ran on the front page of the Globe: “Visiting Governess – For the morning hours, Mrs. Larratt W. Smith, Summerhill, Yonge St.” (Sept. 9, 1874). It was Minnie who had the responsibility of choosing a governess and managing all the female servants – the cook, laundress, nurse, and, when there was a baby in the house, a wet nurse, more often two.


Sept 9

Very fine & very hot. Office all day. At home in evening. Minnie engaged Miss Harvey as Visiting Governess for $40 per qt of 10 weeks from 9 ½ to 1 ½ pm. Mrs Lennox here to day no word of a Cook yet. Col. came home from College sick.


Sept 14

Very fine office all day at home in evening. Miss Harvey commenced with children @ $40 per quarter. Royal Opera opened to night with “Hunchback.”




Sept 21

Fine & cold. Walked in to town with Fisken. Rutherford investigation went on…. At home in evening. 1st day of Toronto Exhibition. Grand Opera House opened by Mrs. Morrison.

Street Cars began to run west of Yonge on King Street to Crystal Palace.


Sept 23

Office all day. Interviewing Servants all morning with Minnie. Gas Meeting at 10 am. Bolt Co at 1 pm to meet. Sir Hugh returned from Detroit. No meeting of Rutherford Committee. … Dined at Walters with Capt Bridges. Balloon Ascension.


Not having found a suitable cook among the newcomers at the Emigrant Sheds, Larratt Smith took out another newspaper ad: “Married couple, wife as cook, man to look after horses and make himself generally useful.” Interested couples were to come to Larratt’s office at 8 York Chambers, but it appears that the finalists were immediately sent home to his wife, who made the final decision.


Sept 25

Minnie engaged man & wife for Monday.


Sept 30

Very cold indeed. Put on light drawers. Office all day. At home in evening, in University in afternoon. Fisken went to New York. Cold bad. Ordered root house to be made. Subpoenaed to go to Hamilton in the oil swindle case. Furnace pipes put up by Clewes.


In October Larratt Smith fell ill and his busy life was put on hold for two weeks. Dr. Philbrick, who lived on a neighbouring estate, visited several times a day.


Oct 2

Doctor here three times suffering very much day & night Walter up. Jim here. Inflammation of much of bladder – water works stopped altogether unless relieved by catheter.


Oct 3

Still suffering intense pain. Doctor here. Cold & rainy. Three times to day. Could only get sleep from opiates.


Oct 7

rainy but mild still suffering severely. Doctor up twice. George came home from school.


Oct 12

Cold day. Great change in weather. Up to day. Doctor here once to day. Jim up to night for long chat. Read & another hired man digging root cellar. James & young McGann in the field taking up potatoes. Read sowed grass seed over the spots bared for the pipes & drain. Yellow cow to the bull.


Life returned to normal: much was to be done around Summerhill in preparation for winter; there was the brand new Grand Opera to be enjoyed; and Smith was about to get a promotion (in status, but not salary) to vice-president of Consumers Gas.


Oct 17

Very fine & mild. Wm Read & Sanders all day at the root house. Tree here putting in panes of glass where broken. Poking about all the morning. after dinner drove to Unviersity & looked at Boiler House &c & gave Brown estimate for windows in Convocation Hall. No one there to day. Geo at Grand Opera Matinee. Looks like rain this afternoon.


Oct 19

Very fine. Office for 1 hour. Minnie drove me in with Hugh & Sydney got them great coats at Golden Lion had her shirt torn off in trying to save children’s pony running away. Fisken & wife called at night. Sanders here overseeing root house making. Wm Reed & James both at in earthing in up. Tree here half a day glazing. Mrs Shanly here in afternoon. Shanlys Harveys & Andersons children here playing.


Oct 22

Very fine though it looked like rain. Gas Board Meeting at 10 ½. Office in at 12 till 4 pm. Lunched in town at home in evening. Sanders & Tree left at noon, as no lumber came. Finished picking apples to day except one tree & paid off Mike McCann. Mrs. Rutherford went off to New York this afternoon telegraphed for by Rutherford. T.S. Stayner left for England with his son & took “Toronto of Old” for George.[49]


Oct 24

Lovely day & very mild. Jones here all day resetting grates. Mrs Lennox & Lizzie cleaning double windows. Clewes & assistant removing laundry to root cellar & c & Saunders & Tree working at new laundry all day. Did not go to office to day. Trying to get up McKechnie Trust a/c but not books enough. Mrs Crickmore & daughters called. Cassels girls & Miss Turner up here & Allan Macdonald playing with children. Read getting in potatoes into root cellar. Agreed with Simon Shunk P.O Edgeley to lay in 10 cords of beech & maple this winter at $6 & a York Shilling per cord.




Oct 26

Very fine & mild but threatening rain. James got coal oil. At Gas Meeting all day – stormy affair reelected Director & made Vice President. Austin President on reduced Salary of $1000. Vice President got nothing but Directors fees. At home in evening. No workmen here to day. Laundry used in root cellar for first time. Mrs. Muntz called at office. Walter & Adelaide returned from Coboconk after week’s stay there. Crushed my fingers this morning going down in coal oil wagon.


Oct 29

Fine mild day. Wind very high. Seven called de Labor. At work all day at intervals & until 11 at night, making up McKenzie Trust a/c. Sanders & Tree here jobbing round. Root house finished. Carrots coming in. George at Opera last night (Bouffe). Mrs. Muntz & Stephen Howard called took them over the Reservoir. Blowing hard & cold towards night. Mary McCarthy (wet nurse) left, child very ill.


Nov 4

Lowering foggy but mild. Gas. Office all day home late a great deal to do. At home in evening. Reed at work in the garden. No others here. Letter from Mamma & Mary. New Housemaid came at $8 per month Mary.


Nov 7

Very fine & mild. Gas. Office all day till past 4. at home in evening. Wrote Cockburn that unless Lenny can take his music lessons on Wednesdays he must be a Day Boy. Lizzie Donnelly Laundress left.


Summerhill house was full of new faces that fall: cook, governess, “outdoor man,” housemaid, hosts of people digging root cellars, taking up potatoes and washing windows; and soon new ads appeared, searching for a “laundry-maid who will assist in housework,” and “seamstress, who will assist in the nursery.”[50]

Such were the 1870’s for Larratt Smith, now a middle-aged man with a brood of small children, a country estate, a growing fortune and reputation, and too many hobbies. But his accountant’s mind, evident from his carefully updated diaries, with cost records for each cab fare and worker’s wage, kept track of it all. In 1876 Larratt Smith chaired an inquiry into the financial affairs of the Northern Railway company, a drawn-out affair that required just such diligence.[51] And it was Larratt Smith, and James Austin, president of Consumers Gas, who led the company into years of extraordinary hardship – and extraordinary growth.

The company’s revenue came from lighting streets, public buildings and well-to-do residences. A turning point came when, in spring 1879, Thomas Edison began to light up streets and headlines with his new electric lamp. But the invention of the incandescent light bulb did not immediately cause a revolution.[52] In fact, that spring the papers wrote that “the invention contains nothing new in principle, nor is it calculated to alarm the proprietors of gas shares” (25 April 1879); and that  “the gas companies need not yet despair,” for Edison had “not yet devised a cheap method of supplying his lamps with electricity.” But despite such conservative words the gas companies were duly warned:

The electric light is steadier and more pleasant to the eye than gas, it is perfectly inodorous, and in no way injurous to animal or vegetable life. When it is also made more economical, the day of doom for the gas companies is at hand. They can indulge in but faint hopes that Edison has not solved the whole problem… (Globe, 29 April 1879).


What seemed to be the final word on the invention came from England:


The London Metropolitan Board of Works, after the recent experiments with the electric light, has come to the conclusion that electricity costs more than gas, and is not a success. (Globe, 10 May 1879).


Even if it was deemed impractical, there was no denying electric light was impressive. Twenty years earlier, Torontonians had come downtown to see the gas illuminations in honour of the Prince of Wales. Now, they were reading letters to the editor with vivid descriptions of the first time coloured electric lights illuminated Niagara Falls:


A flood of ruby light was thrown up through they mist and upon the fall itself. The effect was grand. The water as it dashed down resembled molten gold… I and my friend were really overpowered with the scenery lighted in this unnatural way (Globe, 16 July 1879).


It took some years before electricity emerged as the clear winner in the battle to light up Canadian cities. Family oral history says that when he heard about Edison’s lightbulb, Larratt Smith stormed into his house shouting, “Minnie! I am ruined!” But in his diaries, there is nothing – yet – of despair or even concern about the new invention. Indeed, it was not a surprise: the company was ready for whatever the new light might bring. In the previous year, it had already applied for an amendment to its charter, which would allow it to enter the electricity business in the future, and to distribute gas not only for lighting, but for cooking, heating and industry.[53] The amendment passed in March, before the most intense flurry of news about Edison’s light.















The 1880’s

“Electric lights as far as Mount Pleasant” … “A Grandpapa”


Thomas Edison is said to have quipped that electricity would be so cheap that only the rich would burn candles. He might also have said electricity would be so cheap that only the stubborn would burn gas. Through the 1880’s and into the 20th century, Consumers Gas tried heroically to hold on to its lighting business. Even as electric lamps began to phase out gas in street lighting, the company continued to woo residential customers with promises of cheaper light and more stringent testing, urging them to keep their gas fixtures installed even if they do switch to electricity,

as you will be sure to want them again… Ask consumers who have tried the electric light and have come back to gas, why they have done so. The names of those will be furnished on application at the Gas Office.[54]


The company offered ever new, fashionable light fixtures for purchase at their office; Larratt Smith frequently gave gas lamps and chandeliers as wedding presents to family and friends. At the home of Company President James Austin, Spadina House, one can still admire the original gas chandeliers.[55]

Today, Austin’s estate stands in the shadow of its younger, gaudier neighbour – Casa Loma, later the home of stockbroker Henry Pellatt. Long before he built his castle next door to the Gas Company president, Pellatt had entered the electricity business. In 1882, Henry Pellatt’s Toronto Electric Light Company lit up the fairgrounds of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition[56] – the forerunner to the CNE. But then the victory of electric light over gas was still not decided. Electric light, it seems, was still considered something of a novelty, acceptable, perhaps, for streetlamps, but too expensive and impractical to light up people’s homes – or so the gas company wished to show. For the following year’s Ex the gas company prepared a lavish display of its gas light fixtures and appliances, won the Exhibition’s gold medal, and impressed gas executives from other cities, who left “confident that gas was still the people’s choice for illumination.”[57]

But more and more, electricity gained ground. In the same year the Toronto Electric Light Company demonstrated the first electric railway in North America; more relevant to the gas company, electric street lights now lit up Ottawa’s streets and parliament buildings. And Henry Pellatt had gotten permission from the city to wire streetlamps on Carlton, College and Sherbourne Streets. Soon the city had given part of the gas company’s street lighting contract to the Electric Light Company.[58]

In 1889, the Gas Company saw that electric illumination was taking over and decided to act on the ten-year-old charter that gave them the right to enter the electricity business. Opportunity knocked when the same Henry Pellatt offered to sell his electricity business to the company for 2500 shares of gas stock; but President James Austin, Vice-President Larratt Smith and the rest of the board declined the proposition. They had other plans: they purchased the rights to what they thought was a better technology – the alternating current system developed by Westinghouse[59] – and prepared to wire the streets.


Smith’s professional life was full as ever, but the 1880s had also brought much change in his family. His mother died in 1887 in England; that same year his younger sister Adelaide also died. She, her husband and Larratt’s friend Walter Cassels, and their children are buried next to Larratt Smith’s plot at St. James’ cemetery.

And the Smith children had grown up: by 1889 Summerhill House was becoming quiet. The eldest child, George, had moved permanently south of the border, to live, as it seemed, rather imprudently and work in the railroad business in Nebraska. Lenny, the next eldest son, had become a deacon, and was preparing to be ordained and to move to St. Thomas’ Church. Hugh, aged 20, was struggling through medical school at Trinity College, but early on, seems to have had more luck rowing in regattas than passing his exams. Sydney, 19, was away in Europe. Goldie, 17, and Harold, 13, were still Upper Canada College boys. UCC was still located at its downtown location, but in April 1889 ground had been broken for its new location not far from Summerhill – Deer Park, then still a forest. The new location did not open till 1892, and Larratt Smith continued to be active in the “UCC Old Boys’ Club” in those difficult years, long after his sons had graduated.[60]

There were four daughters, too, of course, all of them still at home – Emily was already 25, Mabel, 23, Violet, 22, and Audrey, 15. Violet would remain with her parents at Summerhill. Mabel and Audrey would soon go together to England, where Audrey went to a good finishing school for girls. As long as they lived at home, Larratt Smith would continue taking his children to the theatre and the opera – but now it was his young daughters, not Larratt himself, who were frequent guests at Goldwin Smith’s fashionable soirees.

It was a busy year for Larratt Smith. He and James Austin were leading Consumers Gas into the electrical age with the Westinghouse system, and he was helping establish a new law school. Previously, the only way to enter the legal profession had been to article in an established law office, as Larratt Smith had in Charles Draper’s legal practice. Now, the Law Society of Upper Canada wanted to formalize legal education in Ontario.


Jan 4

Took cars to town. Gas & B&L. To Osgoode Hall Special Convocation to continue discussion on the Law School. Not concluded at 1.30 when Gov. General Lord Stanley… came to Church. All the Benchers & some of the Judges presented to him. Lunch very good, & over about 3 pm. Went to Dr. Wilmot & had 3 front teeth resinated. Gas with Pearson Wells & Warren till nearly 6 pm & took cars home. Letter from Geo C. Young Langmuir dining here. Three girls went to party at Judge Oslers. Minnie furnishing Lenny’s room at Clergy House of St. Thomas. Lenny at Choir Practice. Fine night 33.


Jan 5

Took cars to town. Gas for some time discussing final arrangements prior to giving Warren $10,000 for Westing House license. B&L. busy till past 6 pm. Wrote George and sent him draft on New York for $100 to buy furniture. Cars home. Lenny left after dinner for the Clergy House to take up his abode there. Came on to rain. Audrey & Harold drove to party at E.D. Oslers. James went for them at 10.30 raining 35 wind E.


Lenny was appointed assistant curate at St. Thomas church on Huron Street, which today stands in the shadow of the University of Toronto’s massive Robarts library. The church boasts three choirs under the direction of renowned choirmaster John Tuttle, and prides itself on its long tradition of excellent liturgical music dating back to its establishment in 1874. Lenny had inherited his father’s musical talent and must have been at home there. The week he moved into the clergy house, his parents sent him the piano from the Summerhill schoolroom (of course, Summerhill could not have done without a piano; a second instrument remained in the house).

Now that Lenny had a new home and was soon to be ordained, Emily was next in line to leave her father’s house; but there was also much news from George, would be the first Smith child to be married, and letters from Sydney, who was visiting England and France with his British relatives.


Jan 18

Cars to town, flurries of snow. Gas & B&L. took three seats for Villiers War correspondent of “Graphic”; 2nd lecture left office at 5:30 took Minnie & Arthur to the Lecture. Girls all complaining. Henry Mitchell arrived at Ottawa. Hugh took tea with Lenny & attended St. Thomas choir practice. Drove to lecture & took cars home by 10.30. fine night 20 Harold not out to day. Mitchell proposed to & was accepted by Emily.


Jan 19

Mitchell asked my consent to Emily’s marriage. Lenny called at office with a protege from Hamilton showing him around – went with him to Cathedral service at noon for men by Canon Knox Little who preaches 4 times a day twice at St. Lukes & once at Cathedral with early celebration & address at 7.30 am at St. Luke’s. Mitchell Emily Hugh & Goldie went to Villiers last lecture in Pavillion. Minnie I & the rest at home very cold +10 commenced letter to [brother] George to day, too late for English mail.


Feb 6

Up at 7 am still snowing about 10 below zero breakfast on train did not reach Toronto North Station till nearly 1 pm. James met me & Hugh. Last on train with me from Montreal got off at North Toronto found it still -7. letter from Sidney about going into the Army. …. Did not go to the office. Too late & too tired. George married Miss Royce at Papillion to day. Mabel & Violet went to reading & dance at Goldwin Smith’s to night. Goldie came up. Harold did not go to school to day. At home in evening glass rising. Looks like more snow.


Mar 4

Took bus to town. Street Railway people opened up the track with large gangs of men. Cars running on Yonge Street in the afternoon. Gas Board meeting & B&L. Went to UC Coll at 3 pm to see presentation of Humane Society’s Medal to Charles Band by Bishop of Toronto, J.B. Robinson in the chair, large meeting. I spoke & got the boys a Holiday on Wednesday. Afterwards to the House to join Deputation to meet the Ministers to oppose assessment Act. returned to office at 5. left office at 6 & took cars home. Grant Stewart dined here & went to Deer Park Sunday School Concert, in the choir there. Mabel & Violet Miss Morgan & Dr. Crawford sang. Grant Steward recited, Miss Archer violin, Miss Symons & Drakes played & Ince read. Great success. Very crowded. Fine night.


Mar 17

Very fine morning. Ridley Minnie & self to Xch Cathedral [in Hamilton] where Lenny was ordained Priest by Bishop Hamilton at special ordination morning service. Received the Sacrament afterwards. Miss Ambrose came back to Ridleys & dined with us. Invited to Bishops to dinner but declined. Slept in afternoon & at 5 walked with Minnie & Mrs. Ridley to the Bishop’s to tea & afterwards. Bishop Mrs Ridley & I walked to St. Matthews where Lenny preached to a large congregation. Georgeham read prayers walked home with Bishop Mrs. Ridley. Mrs. Hamilton & boys to the Bishop where we picked up Minnie & walked home to supper. Lenny & Georgeham afterwards came in. very fine moonlight night, no lamps lit in Hamilton.


Lenny returned to St. Thomas’s Church a freshly ordained priest. His father was now engrossed in negotiations with the city of Toronto, who wished to expropriate the northern portion of the Summerhill property for water pipes and more road access to the Reservoir Park. Larratt Smith did not easily part with a large section of his beloved gardens and ravine. He was busy assessing the value of the land to be expropriated, and negotiating with the city for access to city water at good rates.


Mar 27

Took cars to town. Gas & B&L. Thomson called with sketch of letter to me as to reduction of the land to be expropriated by City. Telephoned home to have trees counted in their order on the land to be taken. Busy all day went with Pearson to Fire & Gas Committee at 4 at City Hall not wanted & left. Took cars home at 6 pm. Hugh under examination for 2nd & 3rd years at Trinity. Mabel & Audrey to Matinee of Lord Cholmondeley. all at home in evening. Emily at St. Thomas clergy house. 36. Roads dry to Yonge Street, fine night.


Mar 28

Got Jackson to give me list of trees & shrubs on expropriated land & their value. $883.75 & wrote Biggar enclosing Thomson’s letter & valuation. Gas & B&L. busy all day. Feeling over-work. …. Goldwin Smith & wife at New York Hotel New York wrote him twice left at 5.30 & took cars home. Hugh under Medical Examination & rather despondent. Miss Samuel staying here all at home but Hugh at Lord Cholmondeley at Grand.



Emily’s wedding date was approaching. Larratt gave her fifty dollars to shop with, and selected some lamps for her new home in Manitoba. But first, it was time to organize a garden party while she was still at home – which included arranging for the best possible musicians to entertain the crowds.


May 21

Intended to have gone to Convocation but Gas matters prevented went to Committee of Board of Works from 2.30 to 6 and addressed the Board with Pearson & defeated Shaw’s Report to defer Gas from going into Electricity. Austin & others went home. Frank Smith & Gooderham failed to attend. Failed to get Queen’s Own Band for Garden party & interviewed Heintzmans people appointed to meet Band master at office at 4.30 & put them off to 10 am to morrow by telephone.


May 22

Cloudy & saw wind W. Expres 7.33

Took cars to town. Arranged with Band Master Heintzman’s Band for 1st June 4 to 7. 20 men paying their own car fares for $43. Beer & Sandwiches. Gas & B&L office all day. B&L in afternoon settling Bills of costs. Left office at 5.30 & took cars home. Doddington at work all day packing Emily’s things. Very cold evening. All at home 42 engaged Robert & Gillie. I am to engage Coles for 1st.



May 24

Lenny & Sidney went off to Wasan Island[61] by morning train. About the house and grounds all day till after lunch. When I went out to High Park by cars to see Howard. Harold to Lacrosse Match. Mabel & Audrey on horseback to races with Dr. Johnson. Goldie to Toronto grounds to Cricket Match. Hugh not on the Passed list of College of surgeons much to his regret. found Howard wonderfully well. Walked round his garden & grounds with him. Great crowds at High Park & every where. Cars crowded in every direction. Violet went to party at Mrs. Camerons with Helen Macdonald. Fireworks at Base ball grounds & all over lovely star light night. 50. out till nearly 2 am for Violet who reached home at 2.30.


May 27

… Committee Board Works on Electrical Lighting at 3 pm till 4.15 & defeated. Left office at 5.25 took cars home showers all day. 2 men from Stephens cleaning up place & Doddington at Emily’s packing boxes all day. At 7.30 drove to University Senate some 25 present unanimously accepted Report on LLD Degree & voted for Sir John A. Macdonald. Blake. Chancellor Boyd. Mowat. Meredith. Aikins. Campbell & Hoskin for Degree of LLD. Took cars home raining. On arrival telephone Hoskin that vote passed. Gzowski had got ahead of me.


June 1

Did not go to office to day. Assisting to clean up the place with James Hugh & Sidney washed down the Verandah & blinds. Borrowed 4 seats from Reeves. Rain held up all day & sun occasionally out but very cold. At 4 party commenced to assemble. Heintzmans Band of 20 performers played a programme of excellent dance music. Some 2 or 300 people came. Went off very well. Carpet taken up in dinig room & some dancing done – party all left by 7. three waiters under & including Robert Parks. Letter from George. He and Marnie coming to the wedding. Cloudy night 51. Goldie & two college Boys to dinner.



June 4

57. cloudy. Wind SW. Express 7.07.

Took cars to town. Gas & B&L. went with Henry Mitchell & got his licence. Selected lamps for Cockburn’s present. Henry Bucknall arrived, lunched Mitchell & Bucknall at Reform Club. Mitchell moved to the Queen’s Hotel. Met George & Marnie at Station at 3.40 with Hugh Mitchell & Emily. Geo & Marnie came up with cars. All dined together with Minnie & Miss Osler packing for Emily except Sidney who went to Formington(???) orchestra concert. Jackson left the Lodge to day. Henry Bucknall & Henry Mitchell returned to Queen’s Hotel. Got to bed by midnight. 52.


June 5

50. raining wind W if any. Express 7.07

Up before 6 am. Wedding party left at ¼ to 8 in 3 cars & our carriage for St. Thomas Church. I drove with Emily. Church pretty full. Lenny married them assisted by Mr. Roper. Violet Audrey Sibyl & Muriel bridesmaids & Henry Bucknall best man. Cassels party & Aunt Hattie back to breakfast. Henry & Emily left by 9.21 train for Montreal. Henry Bucknall left for New York by 5 pm train. Put announcement of wedding in Globe. Mail Empire World & Telegram latter reported the wedding. Rained nearly all day. Part of time soaking wet. Gas & B&L. wrote George & Henry Mitchell more presents came over from Hatter King – the Sanfords. Cross & Cassels Montreal. Geo Minnie & Violet drove Audrey to confirmation at St. Thomas after dinner. Cable from Evelyn. Cable for Henry. Rest remained at home. Shipped lamps as freight to Millwood.


Larratt sent notices to the papers:

Mitchell, Smith – at Toronto, at the Church of St. Thomas, on the 5th June, by the Rev. Lenox Ingall Smith, brother of the bride, assisted by the Rev. J.C. Roper, M.A., Henry Bucknall Mitchell, of Millwood, Manitoba, second son f the late John Mitchell, of Glasgow, Scotland, to Emily Crawford, eldest daughter of Larratt W. Smith, DCL, of Summerhill, North Toronto. (Globe, June 6, 1889, p. 10).


– and he mailed thirty letters describing the wedding. Emily’s luggage went off by rail to her new home in the rural community of Millwood, Manitoba. Millwood, in the Assiniboine River valley, was a new frontier: it was established just two years earlier, settled by pioneers when the Manitoba and North-Western Railway was built.[62] What was it like for Emily, raised in a cultured family and a lively city that offered music, theatre, and society, to pack up and join the pioneers of a just-established settlement? What a shame that none of her frequent letters home have survived.

The couple left for Quebec for their honeymoon, and the wedding guests dispersed. George’s wife Marnie stayed at Summerhill for several weeks, enjoying the concerts, parties and sporting events of a Toronto summer with her brothers and sisters-in-law. There was much to see that summer: Audrey playing in a cricket match between girls and men at the Toronto Cricket Grounds; Hugh rowing in regattas at the Islands; football, lacrosse and horseback riding.

Larratt returned to gas company matters, especially the preparations to launch an electricity franchise; negotiations for the expropriation of his property; and the birth of the new law school. It was decided that the law school would be independent of the University. Thus the Osgoode Hall law school was established, and remained unaffiliated until it moved to York University in 1969.


Jun 7

Special Meeting Gas Board B&L. Took cars home at 12:30 lunched at home & drove to Convocation where Sir John A. Macdonald, Chancellor Boyd, Mowat, Meredith, Aikins & Hoskin received their Honorary Degree of LLD. The only present in full scarlet. Q.O.R. [Queen’s Own Rifles] Band there. Dense crowd. … rained more or less all day. Mabel & Violet went to a party at Inces. Raining steadily. All the rest at home. 58.


Jun 8

… Resumed work on Law School & completed it at 5 pm. Left office at 6:30. took cars home. Mrs. Beverley Robinson’s Garden party. Rained nearly all day. Marnie & Mabel went to Aunt Alices. No one to the Garden party. All at home in evening.Steady downpour. Letter from Emily from Windsor Hotel Montreal.


Jun 15

… Rec’d offer from City of $25.120 for price of expropriation of land for Waterworks. Alterations being made in office. Rae at Cornell. Hugh & Marnie at Lacrosse match Toronto beaten by Ottawa. Garden party at Ridouts for St. George’s Society postponed for weather tremendous rain storm in afternoon. Goldie went to Hamilton to play there. UC College won. Took cars home early.


Jun 17

Gas Board meeting & B&L Rae still away. Very busy all day on various matters & especially as regards the offer of the Corporation. Consulted with Thomson & wrote Biggar I will accept if I get water access to the road & a sewer. … Sent Mr Archibald Dumbar(?) $8 for butter in registered letter which I myself mailed. Took cars home @ 6pm. …. Took Marnie Mabel & Violet to QOR Band in Park, met Lenny there. Pavillion nearly completed for the Band. Fine night, 65.


Jun 18

… Interviewed Thompson & changed my letter to Biggar declining City’s offer over less road & water given. Wrote long letter to George to day….


Jun 24

… Took cars home at 5.30 looking like rain all day & very cold. Hugh’s crew beaten in the four-oared race by Crooks’ girls – present at it. All at home in evening. Lenny came up for bananas & took leave of Marnie. Gave him $10 from Uncle George towards his organ fund & promised him $10 also for same purpose. 52 no wind to day. Water low.


Jun 25

Marnie left for Chicago by CPR.


Jun 26

No water in the house, no bath. Took cars to town. Gas & B&L. 2 hours on Terra Cotta Co’s By Laws with Meredith left office at 6 pm took cars home all at home in evening excepting Hugh. Lenny looked in after service and demolished bananas. Fine night, 61.


Jul 1

Left home with Harold at 10.30. Mabel drove us to office. There a short time. Uncle Jim there. Watched procession at foot of Toronto Street 1 hour passing – at 12.30 took “hastings” at Yonge Street Wharf for Exhibition grounds. Reached there after long delays before whole of procession arrived. Stood in front of grand stand for 2 hours watching Grenadiers trooping the colours. One man fell down in the ranks & was carried off by the Ambulance Corps. Saw schools drill. Calisthenics – club swinging – Highland dancers, butchers races, foot races, boys girls & men canoe races &c. Got seat on Grand Stand at last heard Sir Daniel Wilson. Dodds Denison & Sheppard speak. Took Hastings home at 6.45 & cars reached home at 7.40 Ropers here at tea & dinner. Went with them & Mabel to the QOR Band & Fireworks in the Park. Cars home before 11. fine night, 70.


Jul 8

Attended Sale of 2500 shares new Gas Stock. Did not purchase any went too high. Afterward went to Meeting of Sub Committee on Underground wires & our application refused. Only Baxter & Bell supporting it. Left office at 5 & took cars home. Lovely night 75. Hugh returned from Hamilton. Lenny came up & remained all night letters from Emily Violet & Audrey.



The application that was refused was Consumers’ Gas bid to launch its own electric franchise – the plan, ten years in the making, would not go through after all. Once again, the city, afraid that the company would regain its lighting monopoly, placed obstacles in its path. First, the city insisted the wires be run underground, ostensibly for reasons of safety and esthetics; then, it complained about the high voltage of the Westinghouse system. The city had long been apprehensive about the gas company’s monopoly on lighting. A few aldermen argued that the “much-maligned Company was not the black, grasping monopoly it was painted. It had laid miles of gas mains in the city when they did not pay them 1 per cent on the outlay…” But most had a different opinion:

It wanted to take the profits from gas, which should go towards the cheapening of gas to the consumers, and apply those profits to the starting of the electric light business, with the intention of also getting a monopoly on that system of lighting, and ultimately of the entire lighting of the city under both systems – gas and electricity. It was a wealthy company with wealthy shareholders (Globe, May 28, 1889, p. 6).


In the end, the city department of works prevented the company from installing their wires. Consumers Gas would never enter the electricity business.[63]

In December 1889, Larratt Smith was taking a walk at Yonge and St. Clair when he saw a peculiar sight. In his journal, he noted dryly that an effigy had been hung from one of the electric light gibbets there. The effigy was marked with a sign: “50 years Monopoly.”

The Consumers Gas monopoly on lighting may have been dead, but, oddly enough, the gas business grew. Gas for cooking, heating and industrial use was in high demand, and plans were already in place to build a new, larger plant. Meanwhile, negotiations for the Summerhill property continued, and work started on getting city water to the house as part of the expropriation agreement. There was more innovation in the neighbourhood than just city water pipes – there was also a telephone, a new stable, preparations for electric streetcars, and new electric lights on the streets of North Toronto.


Sept 23

Took a ride in with the foreman of Toronto Works who had ten men laying water pipes through the grounds. Gas & B&L & took cars home very fine day & warmer. Steam let on in the office to day for the first time. Did not to Xch to meet with Committee on alterations to the organ but went with Violet Harold & Sidney to meet Aunt Alice, & Eva on their arrival from England with Uncle Jim who had gone to meet them. Very fine night 54. letters from Mabel & Audrey. Wrote Mr. Trew to name a day to dine with us received a letter from Clay coming to see us from New York.


Sept 24

City commencing to lay pipes through the place. Excavation well advanced. & pears disappearing very fast.… brick work of stable well commenced.


Oct 1 1889

City water let into the House.



Oct 3

Sidney shot raccoon on tree in lawn.


Oct 4

Telephone 3042 put in House.


Nov 12

Hazy & cloudy. Wind if any NW. Express 7.06 took cars to town. Gas & B&L. busy all day. Had Meeting in afternoon with Thomson. …in Nesbit’s office in regard to a settlement with the City. Asked $45.000 for 125 & 70 ft strips with privileges & the Ravine. City to pay Cash. Caswell authorized to go $35.000 & might say 40.000 but declined it. Left office at 5.30 & took cars home. All in in the evening. Fine night. Took tickets for Violet & self for “Nadjy” tomorrow night at the Grand.

Signed agreement with Naismith for 1600 or 1700 qds gravel this morning & drew up minutes of proposed agreement with the City.


Sun Nov 17

To Xch alone. Paterson in morning. Minnie came to celebration after morning service. Poles for the Electric Railway set up, also 6 poles for Electric lights as far as Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Slept after dinner. Bertie Coles to dinner. Walter Gibson Cassels up in afternoon. Hugh went to the Macdonalds. To Church alone in evening. A Mr. Griffin officiated. I walked to Bloor Street with Miss Mockridge – awfully tired. Lovely star light night.





Larratt Smith, aged 69, would become a grandfather for the first time the following year.


Feb 26, 1890

George made me a Grandpapa at 8.30 am.


Feb 28

38 dense fog & raining wind if any E. Express 7.40 took cars to town. Gas & D&L. Finance committee at noon lasted till 5 pm. Left office at 6 pm. Took cars home – after dinner took Sidney to Grand Opera to see the “wife” well played. Minnie to have gone but too tired. Harold went to party at Masseys, to remain all night. At dinner received telegram from Mrs. Royce that Marnie had a son on 26th at 8.30 am. George apparently from home still. Good play & house. Home by 12 pm


The second grandchild – Emily’s daughter Dorothy, called Dot – was born at Summerhill just a month later.



Mar 23 1890

Emily gave birth to a daughter at 6.30. Dr. Johnson here after 1 am when Hugh telephoned for him. To Xch alone. Paterson officiated. Burton & Cyril up in afternoon, latter stayed to supper. Dr. Johnson called in evening with Mrs. Johnson. Lenny up to supper. Telegraphed Henry: “Miss Mitchell greets her Daddy born at 6.30 both well.” Sent notice of birth to “Mail” by Goldie. At home in evening reading & sleeping. 26. Violet to early Xchurch.



Emily’s husband Henry gave up Manitoba homesteading and moved to the Yukon at the height of the Klondike gold rush. She stayed behind and lived for a time on Walker Avenue, just across Yonge Street from Summerhill. Three of her children, too, died in childhood. She herself died in England in 1914, four years before another son, aged 22, was killed in action in France. Hugh, the medical student, managed to pass his exams in 1890, took his degree at Trinity College and left for Scotland for further study. In a later diary his proud father lists the four medical degrees he earned, from Trinity, Edinburgh and Glasgow. In 1894, with his degrees in hand, Dr. Hugh Sanford Smith sailed from Scotland for Calcutta. He settled in Assam, a northeastern region of India, just below the foothills of the eastern Himalayas. His frequent letters home took a month or two to reach his parents; but he did not see his father again.

The other children did not venture so far. George remained in the States, worked for the Union Pacific Railway, and became an avid yachtsman. By the turn of the century he had divorced Marnie, but Larratt kept in touch with her and helped provide for his grandchildren. His 1903 lists Marnie as living care of a Mrs. Maxwell, Scotch Hill Cottage, Oregon. Lenny became curate of the Anglican cathedral in Ottawa – also named Christchurch like his home parish. Living till age 89, he survived three of his children. Goldwin joined a law firm, got a Master’s Degree, and married Alice Bethune,[64] with whom he had four children, including Captain Anthony Larratt Smith, killed in action in 1944. Audrey married a barrister in 1907 and had one son; she died in 1918 at only 45 years of age. Mabel and Violet never married. It was Violet who began taking an interest in the family’s history. Harold, Larratt and Minnie’s youngest child, entered the Royal Military College, but little documentation is left of life, except that it ended in 1950.

The longest-lived Smith child was Sydney, who grew up to became a stockbroker and Master of a Masonic lodge. Raised in Victorian Toronto, when Summerhill was still on the outskirts of the city and electric power was just beginning to light up the streets, he lived through two World Wars, a depression, the birth of air travel, and the swinging sixties, and died a bachelor in 1971, in his 101st year.[65] In 1967, he raised the Centennial Flag at Upper Canada College, as the oldest living Old Boy.


But we have moved too many years ahead. At the end of the last century, Larratt Smith was just beginning to enjoy his first grandchildren. And not all of his own children, born late in his life, were quite self-sufficient. I wonder if he was thinking about his oldest son George, to whom he still sent money on occasion, when he copied this ditty in one of the diaries of his old age:


Mary had a little lamb

It grew to be a buck,

One day it rushed at Mary, and

Things rattled, when it struck –

She turned a somersault or two,

And landed on her head,

When she revived, her folks were shocked

To hear the things she said –

The tender lamb, may grow to be,

A bully, rough & strong,

Take warning from poor Mary’s case,

Don’t keep your lambs too long –














“Took past an hour to get home”… “Sunday in Toronto”


Larratt Smith never retired. Even as an old man he continued to go to his office and meetings downtown early each morning. For those times, he must have been a fairly long commute to work. Although already part of “North Toronto,” Summerhill was still considered something of a country estate, with dairy cows, pumpkin and potato patches, and apple orchards. The city toll gate at Yonge and Bloor would not be eliminated until the last day of 1896, an anniversary commemorated every year thereafter in Larratt’s diaries.

Getting downtown from the “farm” was not always easy. The best time was the middle of winter, those crisp early mornings when “capital” sleighing conditions allowed Larratt to fly down Yonge Street in a fast cutter sleigh.  When the cold let up and the sleighing started “going,” as Larratt used to put it, the roads became a slushy mess, and the horse and wagon had to wobble and splash through the puddles all the way down Yonge Street. Nearly every morning Minnie or one of the children drove him in to the office. All the children, boys and girls, were skilled drivers by age twelve or thirteen.

In good weather, Larratt Smith often took public transit home: “Cars to Yorkville, walked home” was his usual route. These “cars” were horse-drawn streetcars, which differed from the older omnibuses only in that the wheels were fitted to iron or steel tracks laid down on the major city streets. Larratt’s route from Yorkville Town Hall to St. Lawrence Hall at King and Jarvis was the oldest street railway in Toronto (and in Canada), launched in 1861. The Globe reported that event with great enthusiasm in Yorkville:

Yorkville presented a gay appearance with its flags and banners, and every window had its full quota of spectators. Seldom has the quiet village seen such a bustle and excitement and when the first car came out of the depot and was placed on the track, a grand cheer arose from the assembled multitude.[66]


The new tracks fit standard wagon wheels, and made travel on the unpaved streets easier for both streetcars and regular carriages that took advantage of them. But even with the tracks, life was not easy for the car horses, especially when snow was already on the ground but switching to sleighing was still impossible. In later years, when the streetcar lines were extended north past Yorkville, Larratt Smith wrote about his trips home by transit – taxing for horses and humans alike.

Nov 28, 1889

Took cars home, very hard pulling for car horses. After dinner went with Violet to see Julia Marlow’s Company in the Hunchback. Very good indeed house fairly full. Difficult getting home in the cars. So much snow & crowded.


Nov 29

Very slippery for horses, cars very irregular & very difficult to get as they are all small & crowded. Went to Hall @10 Discipline Committee & Convocation all day, lunched there. 2.30 Bulding & Loan. Left office at 5.30. Mr. Taylor here to day. Wood called as usual to congratulate me [his b-day]. … Took past an hour to get home. 9 cars arriving at same time & horses down all the way, only small cars used.


Horses would not have to struggle with the cars for much longer. The first electric car started running on Church street in 1892[67]. Larratt Smith commemorated his first time taking such a streetcar home on November 12, 1892: “left office at 5.15 took trolley home by Yonge Street, first time this way this morning.  Lenny & Goldie dined with us. Music & cards. Violet & I beat Goldie & Audrey 2 singles & rub – they too overcast to say anything.” The last horse-drawn streetcar was retired two years later.

But soon after this overhaul, another revolution was brewing – one that caused a much greater uproar than the switch to electricity. The question of introducing streetcar service on Sundays was brought up in city council in 1893,[68] on the recommendation of, among others, Larratt’s friend Goldwin Smith. But opposition was strong, and the debate between the “Sunday car people”[69] and their opponents raged on for four years.[70]

Soon after the motion, a committee met in a church to discuss how best to oppose the new idea. Their resolution read:

We view with apprehension and alarm the movement again set on foot to invade the quiet of our Sabbaths, and desecrate the sacred day by the running of street cars: [… and] we hold ourselves prepared to cooperate with all other citizens who are desirous of preserving the quiet of the Lord’s day in Toronto.[71]


Sunday cars were also opposed on humanitarian grounds. The suggestion was “against moral principles from every standpoint” not only because it desecrated the Lord’s day; but also because it was “and insult to the working classes of Toronto…. No man had the right to take pleasure on Sunday when he thus compelled others to work.”[72]

But Larratt Smith himself stood staunchly on the other side – opposing many prominent Torontonians, including his friend and colleague Casimir Gzowski.[73] In 1896, when the debate was more explosive than ever, he defended Sunday cars on economic and humanitarian grounds in a letter to the editor of the Star.

An Old Citizen on Sunday Cars


Editor Star: As a citizen of Toronto for the past 63 years, and a well-wisher for the prosperity of the Queen City, I write to express my entire sympathy with the Sunday car movement. That we are bound to have a Sunday car service is a matter of time, but the pity of it all is that Sunday cars have not come sooner. I have traveled all over the continent, and at every point, even in far South Florida, I have heard the opinion universally expressed that Toronto is a place to be avoided on Sunday. This does not speak well for progressiveness.

There is talk of building a big tourist hotel on the old Upper Canada College grounds. Who will invest money in such a scheme when Toronto is so much avoided and held in aversion by American tourists, and all on account of insufficient accommodation on Sundays?

We have spent $30,000 on the Island Park, but how, in the name of all that is wonderful, are out citizens, not living in close proximity to the docks, to take advantage of this Island Park?

I could cite many instances in which a Sunday car service would be an inestimable blessing. I will content myself with one. A poor boy, son of indigent parents, lay raving on his death bed at the hospital for his father and mother to come to him. They, living away out near the Bolt Works, could not come, for there were no cars to bring them in, and they were too poor to afford a cab. That is Sunday in Toronto. [74]


The following year Sunday cars began to run in the city. Scattered attempts to block them came to naught. Larratt Smith’s hope that Toronto no longer be “held in aversion by American tourists” seems to have come true. Today, Toronto has the continent’s second largest transit system after New York City. Streetcars to the ferry docks are busiest on summer Sundays, when families head en masse to the islands.

And today, the best known memento of Larratt Smith’s life is the Toronto subway station named after his home. Built where crops used to grow on his country estate, Summerhill station is two stops north of Yonge and Bloor, the busiest intersection in Canada. The commute from a King Street office takes under fifteen minutes. Snow and tired horses do not slow it down; but the cars are still crowded, and woefully, Sunday service does not begin till nine a.m….







“To live through life honourably & justly…”


Larratt Smith became reflective in his old age. At 77 he wrote these words, from one of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s last poems, in his diary:

I can but lift the torch
Of Reason in the dusky cave of Life,
And gaze on this great miracle, the World,
Adoring That who made, and makes, and is,
And is not, what I gaze on — all else Form,
Ritual, varying with the tribes of men.

Akbar’s Dream, Tennyson.


Larratt did gaze upon the world with the curiosity of a scientist and the diligence of an accountant. Memos in his journals reminded him to go out to the veranda at Summerhill house at night and watch for shooting stars; he tended the many plants at Summerhill himself, accounting for every tree; and his whole life was a life observed, recorded, and remembered. As he grew old nearly each day became an anniversary – of a birth, a death, an accomplishment, a first. Each year he recorded the birthdays of all his children, and the deaths of George Cassels (the first), Lal and baby Amy; his wife Minnie’s birthday and their wedding anniversary.

He never forgot “dear Eliza,” his first wife, who had died at age 28. In his 1902 diary, Larratt recopied the inscription on her gravestone the Latin lines he thought “beautiful to a fault”:

I nimium dilecta, vocat deus; i, bona nostrae

Pars animae;—moerens altera, disce sequi.


Larratt had given a translation in a letter to Mrs. Thom, Eliza’s mother, in 1852: “‘Go! Too dearly beloved, God calls thee. Go! Best portion of my life. What remains of my existence, in lamenting, will learn to follow.’ This, of course, is not literal, but expresses fully the meaning of the lines.”[75] When he recopied the lines in his diary at age 82, Eliza had been dead for half a century – and for those fifty years Larratt had never failed to note her birthday, their wedding day, and the anniversary or her death.

At age 83 Larratt Smith made his will and looked back on his life, taking stock of the people and events that had filled it. He made a list of his relatives and their birthdays, and noted the amounts given to his grandchildren as gifts (one dollar for small children, five for the older ones). He also set aside four pages of his diary to list other anniversaries – personal successes, arrivals and departures, and, of course, royal birthdays.


LWSmith BCL Kings College 11 Feb 1848

LWS life member of St. George’s society 17 Feb 1854

Wilson & Smith formed 1 March 1849

LWS President of Gas Co 3 March 1897

Dr. Nicol pronounced me ruptured 9 March 1857

Bishop Strachan broke ground for Trinity College 17 March 1851

LWS  Pro Vice Chancellor Tor. Univ. 23 March 1850

Cheap postage commenced 6 Apr 1851

LWS gazetted capt. 4 btn York 25 May 1843

Sunday Street cars running 23 May 1897

Emily x Henry B Mitchell 3 June 1889

LWS entered King’s College 8 June 1843

LWS passed final exam, military school 7 July/64

LWS gazetted major 6th Toronto Batt. 19 July 1856

Goldwin Smith born 3 Aug 1823

Lenny married Lily at Cacouna 24 August 1898

Harold entered R.M. College 3 Sept 1895

Goldie articled to Hon. C.J. Chas Moss 4 Sept 1893

Polly Faulkner 2nd Nurse 14 Sept 1878

Bro George left Toronto 22 Sept 1839 by SSt George

Lenny ordained at Hamilton by the Bishop 25 Sept/87

Goldie joined S.R. & Grier 30 Sept 1896

LS Sr Left New York in “America” for England 11 Oct 1848

LWS Director Gas Co 25 Oct 1858

LWS VC Toronto University 19 Oct 1872

LWS V. President Gas Co 26 Oct 1874

Hugh left Toronto for England 26 Oct 1890

Goldie received his MA 28 Oct 1897

Lenny Curate of St. Thomas Belleville 3 Oct 1895

LWS passed Barristers exam 6 Nov 1843

King Edward VII born 9 Nov 1841

LWS sworn in Barrister 13 Nov 1843

Trolleys ran on Yonge Street 12 Nov 1892

Hugh sailed for Calcutta from England 16 Nov/94

City Hall foundation laid 21 Nov 1891

Queen Alexandra born 1 Dec 1844

1st Great Western train to Hamilton 3 Dec/55

Lenny Asst curate St. Thomas Toronto 9 Dec 1888

Accepted clerkship of Court of Appeals 21 Dec 1847

2ct Postage took effect 25 Dec 1899

Toll gates on Yonge St. abolished 31 Dec 1896

LWS entered Kings College 8 June 1843


But as he looked back on his long life, his career, the growth of his family and of his city, Larratt continued, as ever, to work. Even at 84, he served as President of Consumers Gas, which was going through some significant changes and rapid growth. Although electric light was gradually phasing out gas as an illuminant, the company was doing well. It was still trying to hang on to that part of its business; but even without lucrative street lighting contracts, demand for gas had never been greater. The city was expanding, immigrants were pouring in, and more and more gas was needed for engines, heating and cooking appliances, and industrial use. The company had purchased land at Eastern Avenue, near Ashbridges Bay, in 1904 for a new gasworks that could keep up with an increase in production. Larratt Smith kept abreast of all these developments, working closely with William Pearson, General Manager, and his son, Superintendent of Works.

Around the same time, the company’s governance underwent a change as well: in 1905 the city of Toronto had finally achieved a decades-long goal – greater municipal control of the public utility. Having passed the act “Authority to City of Toronto to Purchase Shares in the Company,” the City bought enough shares to make Mayor Thomas Urquhart a member of the company’s board of directors, a move which came with its own set of questions. Larratt Smith was at the front lines of all these developments.


Jan 5

Discussed questions of new works & the necessity for it, also of sending Superintendent of works to visit works in England & the Continent so as to get the best designs for Gas Works.


Jan 10

Signed cheque 883

Instructed Mr Pearson to press for Dominion patent to Ashbridge Bay Lot, before City acquires it

Instructed Manager to lose no time in increasing Insurance on Purification House, to $25000.

Instructed Manager to inform Mr. Laxton that he must not make purchases of horses, or vehicles, without first getting his consent, as the charges are too excessive.

Read Stewart’s opinion, that we are bound to pay fees to the Mayor as additional Director, unless Mr. Cockburn has arranged otherwise.


Jan 18

new Gas main, to increase supply in North from West – a great success.

Manager has been investigating a meter patented by Cassels for affording a vast illuminating power, & can be adapted for fuel purposes, with very great effect. Manager thinks well of it, but will make a more thorough examination.


Feb 8

Signed cheque no 1.

Perused correspondence with Harbor Trust for leave to lay our pipes to the Island along the old unused crib, some 500 ft, in lieu of the present made pipes which are affected by the cos(?) on certain conditions which the Harbor Trust accepts


Mar 24

Signed cheques 130 to 135 incl. Manager at Works. V. Pin

Perused letter from Mayor declining to accept fees as Director as he thought it was never so intended.

Declined to give “Star” $400 for an advertisement in a paper they are getting out, or any sum for advertising, as Co does not require to advertise. “Star,” later in day, telephoned me at my house to use my influence with Mr. Pearson to get advertisement. Declined.

Discussed Mr H’s proposition, that our Manager should go to Montreal, to give expert evidence, as to the cost of gas making, that City, having placed it at a ridiculously low figure. Manager cannot leave here, but will look into figures submitted and write him, on the same lines as those already furnished to the City here.


After the strife of past decades, the relationship between the gas company and the city proved to be an amicable one, and Larratt welcomed the mayor to Gas Company meetings as an unpaid director. As for the new works, it appears that the Superintendent did go to England and Europe to glean ideas for the design of the facility. But Larratt Smith, who listened closely to his report, was not impressed with how company time and money had been spent. He notes:


Does not appear to have visited works at Naples or Rome. Does not name any works seen in Paris but dismisses them without comment. One of the chief objects of the investigations were to ascertain which are the best kinds of retorts inclined or horizontal but gives no opinion. Granton works the best. Dundee & Glasgow both highly spoken of. Also the Provencal. does not sum up the results, or out of the whole investigation does not make any recommendation for our new works.


The gas company was under Larratt’s watchful eye until that Spring. Then, his entries become sparse. In April 1905 his health began to fail. He had experienced health problems before; for years his diaries are peppered with records of taking Compound Rhubarb pills for gastric trouble, of the best remedies of rheumatism and gout, of Audrey or Violet tending to him as he lay ill. But during his final illness Larratt was unable to keep up his journal. The last thing he wrote with his own hand may well have been a series of instructions from his doctor:

Dicta of Dr. McPhedran

Catheters should not be kept in water, but dry, under cover to keep them from dust.

Take sleepers before turning off to sleep.

Stop Digestive tablet until Monday 15th May.

Only take 1/3 of 1 powder, until 15 May & of water clear, then stop altogether.

Take no sleeper by day.

Mint sauce, with lamb, may be eaten, & strawberries if they don’t promote gout & agree with me.

15 May 1905 Dr McPhedran called

Take ½ powder, after midday meal 2 digestive tablets after dinner

1 strychnine tablet after every meal

Alvin Tablets before dinner (evening)

Present Sleepers are very mild, until they are done, take as many as required. When done he will prescribe stronger.

25 May, 1905, at Dr. McPhedran’s

continue strychnine with each meal

order more digestives & take with one sleeper, or ½ the new sleepers, continuing same, for 2 days to see effect. Order more after dinner capsules.


Strychnine, while a fatal poison in any but the most miniscule quantities, was once used medicinally to stimulate the digestive system. When ingested, the substance has a peristaltic effect on the intestines, and sharpen the senses. The long-term effects of such treatment were insidious, but the stimulant might have helped Smith in his final days.[76]

By mid August Larratt Smith had stopped receiving visitors. He dictated a final letter to his children, written on a sheet of Summerhill stationery:


August 27th, 1905

My dearly beloved children

As the time of my departure cannot be long delayed and as I am too weak to write my self, I am obliged to dictate to you & yours a loving farewell. I have endeavoured to live through life honourably & justly to all, and without any enemy, that I am aware of, and my great desire is that you should do the same.

I hope that none of you may feel that in my last Will I have done an injustice to any one of you. I have had to consider the conditions in which the Almighty has placed each of you, & the opportunities with which He has provided each of you in this life.

I hope that there may be no ill feeling among any of you, by reason of what I have done.

Above all things love, honour & respect your dear Mother, & do her bidding to the utmost. She has done much for each of you, and love her dearly therefore, & loving her, be kindly affectionate one toward the other. I have communicated to Goldie my wishes as fully as possible, & I trust in him confidingly – that he will carry them out – as, in doing so, he will best please me.

God bless you one & all, and all the dear little grandchildren who I think will grow up to do honour to their parents.


From your loving Father.[77]


Larratt Smith died at home on September 18, 1905, at three in the morning.[78]

The funeral was held two days later. Lenny officiated at a family service at Summerhill preceding the public service at St. James Cathedral, which the papers describe in superlatives.

Most impressive were the services in St. James’ Cathedral yesterday afternoon in connection with the funeral of Larratt William Smith, K.C., D.C.L. The Cathedral has been the scene of many similar services, but seldom have they included so many of the foremost men of the city and Province. Deceased numbered among his friends men in almost every walk of life, and representatives from many institutions, both public and private, educational, commercial and military, were in attendance to pay their respects to one who, throughout his long life, was universally honoured and respected.[79]


Smith’s black casket was adorned with maple leaves, evergreens and asters picked from the Summerhill gardens he had tended. Goldwin Smith, Chief Justice Moss, John Blaikie (of the North American Life Assurance Company where Larratt was director), and William Pearson, Manager of the gas company, were honourary pallbearers. The University of Toronto senate attended as a body. All of Larratt’s children attended the funeral but Hugh; he got married in India the following month[80], not knowing his father had died.

Larratt Smith was laid to rest at St. James Cemetery in the family plot he had bought when Eliza had died fifty-three years earlier, beside her and their three sons. As the family mourned, sympathy poured in from every corner. Four illuminated addresses, sent to them by organizations Larratt Smith had been active, have been preserved: these are bound documents with beautiful calligraphy and embellishments by Edith Shaw, who had created one such address for Queen Victoria a decade earlier. The Board of Directors of the North American Life Assurance Company wrote a resolution on the death of “their friend and colleague Dr. Larratt W. Smith, Whose death took place on the 18th instant after a long period of great discomfort and suffering, borne with wonderful fortitude, patience and resignation”:

Dr. Smith had been a Director of this Company from its very beginning, always taking a deep interest in its prosperity, and discharged every duty and responsibility that was entrusted to him in a most conscientious and careful manner.

His very long and varied experience was ofttimes of great value to the Company, and sorely will be missed in future his calm and wise judgment when deliberating about the affairs of the Company generally.

By Dr. Smith’s kindly disposition, and by his love for truth, honor and righteousness, he greatly endeared himself to his Co-Directors, while he also secured the confidence and respect of the entire community where he lived during his long and useful life of eighty five years.


And the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada wrote of its desire to “record its sense of the very great loss is has sustained through the death of its Past Presidents, Larratt William Smith, D.C.L., L.L.D.”:


Our best interests were under his most constant care which he evidenced not only by his generosity to us in gifts of valuable Books and Instruments, but also by his personal services as President and member of the Council for so many years, and by his careful regard of our Scientific and Literary interests. Service by dead substance is silvern, but service by living self is golden. In his passing we lose a man of earnest apprehension of duty, as Scientific Student, and a most courteous and kindly gentleman.

We venture to express our deep sympathy with his bereaved family, and trust that the Giver of all good may pour upon them plentiful benedictions, and in His own good time change their mourning into joy.[81]


Meanwhile, Lenny, Goldwin, and Sydney executed their father’s will. He had left a sizable estate: the Summerhill property was valued at $17,350, and 8 Yorkville houses at $12,000. There was also Muskoka Island and three small islands on Georgian Bay, in addition to over $70,000 in stock holdings in Consumers Gas and 25 other organizations, from the Bell Telephone Co. to the Northern Navigation Company, making up a total of $114,992.16.[82]

On his deathbed, Larratt Smith had been concerned about ill will between his children about the way he had divided up his estate, with regard to “the conditions in which the Almighty had placed each of [them], & the opportunities with which He has provided each of [them] in this life.” In his will, he considered above all the limited opportunities available to his widow and unmarried daughters. The entire estate was left to Minnie. Upon her death, it was to be divided in two; half would be divided between their six sons, and the other half between their four daughters. Although each daughter’s share was larger, it was to be kept in trust and invested by their brothers who were to pay them an income until, at their discretion, they “deem it advisable to transfer such share to [them].”

The sons, of course, were free to do what they wished with their entire portions paid out to them at their mothers’ death – except George, who was given less freedom even than his sisters. “But as regards my son George’s portion,” Smith wrote,

I direct my said Trustees to retain and invest the same, and keep the same invested paying over to him, the income only, for his life, and at his death continue to pay over the same to his widow… I have made this distinction in my son George’s case, because from the experience of the past, I believe, the interests of his wife and children, will be safer in the hands of my Trustees, than if his portion were left unreservedly to his control.


The unreliable George, who had stayed in the United States, was the only child to be singled out this way. Larratt Smith also singles out George’s estranged wife, Marnie, leaving her $500 and giving her control over George’s inheritance after his death.

In his will Larratt Smith had also asked that his family to stay at Summerhill for as long as they could afford it. Audrey married two years later and moved away; Minnie stayed in the house for a time, but the property was soon sold off. The first interested buyer was the city: the rest of the estate was to have been added to the Reservoir Park. But finally, aldermen decided there were already enough parks in Toronto. In 1909 the estate was snapped up by private investors, the Gough Brothers, for $70,000 –  four times what it had been appraised four years earlier.[83] The land was sectioned off into residential plots and advertised as “Summerhill Gardens, ‘The Smith Estate,’

another of the fine old homesteads which are giving way to the march of progress and the expansion of Greater Toronto… The lots are exceptionally attractive, laid out along a winding roadway, and the nearness of the property to the car line on Yonge Street, from Summerhill Avenue, makes it exceptionally easy to access. […] There are a dozen or more lots bordering on the Ravine which are exceptionally desirable because of the natural beauty of this delightful dell.


The cars on Yonge Street have given way to Summerhill subway station. The homes precariously perched at the edge of the ravine, looking down at the creek far below, do indeed occupy a prime location. Of Larratt Smith’s “fine old homestead” nothing remains except the coach house at 36 Summerhill Gardens. But the wild Vale of Avoca ravine and the Reservoir Park do give some idea of how the grounds must have looked when Summerhill was home to Larratt, Minnie and ten Smith children, in the days of garden parties, fruit orchards, after-Church rambles in the ravine, and stargazing on the veranda.

Minnie died in 1922. She lies with her husband in Section P of St. James cemetery, with twelve other members of the Larratt Smith family. The gravestone, much humbler than the grand mausoleums of Jarvis or Gzowski, was made in 1852 after Eliza’s death. It also commemorates their son Larratt, dead in infancy; George Cassels, dead at age 9; Larratt Alexander, dead at 20 from “disease contracted while serving with the XIII battalion during the Fenian Raid A.D. 1866”; and one of Emily’s daughters, Barbara Alison Mitchell, who died in 1977. Six of the Larratt Smith children rest there, too. Mabel and Violet are buried on either side of their parents. Opposite them lies Hugh, who had eventually found his way home from India, and his wife Jean. Brothers Harold and Sydney are buried together. There is a larger monument to Audrey, the youngest daughter, from her husband Robert: “In loving memory of a comrade, generous, brave, and very dearly loved”; Robert himself is buried beside her. The other five children lie elsewhere: Lenny in Ottawa, Goldwin at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and Amy, George and Emily in England. Steps away from the Larratt Smith family plot lies Larratt’s sister Adelaide, her husband Walter Cassels, and their children. The plots lie in the shadow of mature trees, but also of the Jamestown high-rises across Parliament Street.


In his old age, Larratt Smith had reflected on the end of life, copying some more lines from his beloved Tennyson.

To sleep! To sleep! The long bright day is done,

And darkness rises from the fallen sun.

To sleep! To sleep!

Whate’er thy joys, they vanish with the day:

Whate’er ty griefs, in sleep they fade away.

To sleep! To sleep!

Sleep mournful heart, and let the past be past!

Sleep happy soul! All life will sleep at last.

To sleep! to Sleep![84]


They sleep, new grass obscures the flat markers, and the carefully chosen inscriptions are beginning to fade. But their joys have not quite vanished, and their griefs have not fully faded away: a generation later Goldwin’s daughter Mary wrote the first biography of her grandfather Larratt Smith, drawing on family stories, letters and diaries preserved by her father at The Toronto Public Library and her Aunt Violet. This book is meant to complete her work – to awaken, for a moment, the Toronto that Larratt Smith knew, and to reconstruct a life of joys and sorrows, like every other life; a life special for what it left behind, for the stories hidden in the inscriptions on the family burial plot, and in the two boxes of journals filled with Larratt Smith’s handwriting.



[1] See Lownsborough, John. The Privileged Few: The Grange and Its People in Nineteenth-Century Toronto. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1980.
[2] Portraits of WH & Harriette Boulton by G. Berthon.
[3] Note about mayors; Boulton etc.
[4] See Appleton, Thomas E. Ravenscrag, The Allan Royal Mail Line. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1974
[5] Cite ship passenger chart from Immigration.
[6] Cite: “The Ships List.”  . [North Atlantic Seaway, vol.1, p.308 by N.R.P.Bonsor] (The Ships List)
[7] Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1124, p. 657; December 28, 1861.
[8] For a good account of pre-Confederation military history, see J.L. Granatstein, “The Militia Myth: Canadian Arms to Confederation,” pp. 3-23; 18.
[9] Granatstein, 20. The new act was met with vehement and colourful opposition in the legislative assembly for being less efficient and effective in organizing the Volunteer Militia than John A. Macdonald’s bill had been; see, for example, the debate reported in the Globe, February 24, 1864, p. 2.
[10] A fascinating collection of materials related to Toronto’s theatres is Joan Parkhill Baillie’s Look at the Record: An Album of Toronto’s Lyric Theatres 1825-1984, to which I owe much of this information.
[11] Baillie, 49-51.
[12] Baillie, 63.
[13] City Directory, 1866, 484.
[14] Robertson’s Landmarks of Toronto: Chapter 255: The Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Its Rise and Progress from 1850 to 1893. “”Often,” said Mr. William Armstrong, who has kindly furnished sketches of these two floating habitations, “was I called up in the middle of the night with the information that she had broken loose, and then I had to go down and put in the rest of the night getting her fast again. This ship was occupied until 1869, when the club acquired a water lot west of Rees’ wharf where they erected a commodious club house and substantial wharf.” Robertson’s is a fascinating, colourful account of the RCYC’s history and significance in Toronto’s social life.
[15] Dube 48; Morning Chronicle, 1 July 1867
[16] Dube, 54, quoting JGA Creighton, “The Lower St. Lawrence and the Saguenay,” Picturesque Canada (Toronto 1882), 702.
[17] Au pays du porc-epic, 243.
[18] Buies, 29.
[19] Buies, 30.
[20] Buies, 30.
[21] Buies, 36, 37. Translations mine.
[22] Dube, 93.
[23] A 1906 book on the St. Lawrence region says simply that “there are two Protestant churches in Cacouna; they serve only in the summer.” Leclaire, 245.
[24] Dube, 49; quoting Buies, 45.
[25] Walt Whitman, Prose Works. Philadelphia: David McKay, 1892; Bartleby.com, 2000;

I. Specimen DaysL 218. Capes Eternity and Trinity.
[26] He married Liliana Hamilton, a bishop’s daughter, on August 24 1898.
[27] Scadding, Toronto of Old, 307.
[28] Denison, 17.
[29] reference books on the Fenian raids for further information.
[30] Liz Lundell, The Estates of Old Toronto. Buffalo: Boston Mills Press, 1997, 103. Cf. Lucy Booth Martin, Aristocratic Toronto, Toronto: Gage Pub., 1980, 103.
[31] Richard White, Gentlemen Engineers: the Working Lives of Frank and Walter Shanly
[32] Cockburn was the Principal of Upper Canada College, where Larratt Smith himself had gone, and where his son George would soon be enrolled.
[33] Globe and Mail, 23 December 1870, 1
[34] Robertson’s Landmarks of Toronto, 117.
[35] In fact, the present Trinity building was not constructed until 1925. Prior to this time, the original Trinity, founded by Bishop Strachan in 1852, occupied a gothic revival building on Queen Street West, at the current location of Trinity-Bellwoods Park. The present building is, however, similar in style to the original Trinity.
[36] Alan L. Hayes, By Grace Co-Workers, 45-57.
[37] Lennox and Addington Historical Society, Chronicles of Napanee, Letter I.
[38] Richard B. Howard, Colborne’s Legacy, 122-23.
[39] The reservoir was not covered until the 1960’s, amidst protests of people who had grown up with it as part of their landscape. Only a fountain remains as a symbol of the public “lake” the Reservoir used to be. http://www.toronto.ca/archives/pipedreams/domfrm.htm
[40] Globe, Saturday, July 20, 1889.
[41] Globe, May 22, 1893, p. 4.
[42] Globe, May 23, 1893.
[43] Canadian Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men
[44] For a detailed study of this issue, see Monopoly’s Moment; see also A Tradition of Service, 27ff.
[45] See Will (final chapter).
[46] A Tradition of Service, 28.
[47] The Ships List, http://www.theshipslist.com, established for purposes of genealogical research, is an excellent web resource of primary documents and statistics on 19th century immigration to Canada. There is also a wealth of information on the plight of female immigrants to Canada to be domestic servants (for a roughly contemporary look, see Catherine Parr Traill’s The female emigrant’s guide, and hints on Canadian housekeeping, published in Toronto in 1854) and “home children,” children from 6 to 15 years old, usually orphans and street boys, gathered from impoverished parts of English cities and sent to work in Canada, where demand for domestic servants and farm hands was high. See, for example, Gail H. Corbett, Nation builders : Barnardo children in Canada. Toronto: Dundurn Group, 2003, and Kenneth Bagnell, The little immigrants : the orphans who came to Canada, Toronto: Dundurn Group, 2001.
[48] See one contemporary account of arrival in Toronto and a stay at the sheds by Fred. W. Robins, at http://www.ferdinando.org.uk/tocanada.htm, from an article published in the Ilfracombe Chronicle, and North Devon News, Saturday January 5, 1884 to Saturday January 12, 1884.
[49] Henry Scadding’s now-classic work – a major resource for the present book – was hot off the presses, published just the previous year, and must have made a handsome gift for George.
[50] Globe, Nov. 10, 1874.
[51] The complete report of the inquiry, including Larratt Smith’s correspondence, has been preserved in the Canadian Federal Royal Commission Reports, no. 17, first published as the Report of the Commission appointed “for investigating the books, accounts,and vouchers of the Northern Railway Company of Canada, and the disbursements and expenditures of the said company;” together with the evidence taken by said commission, Ottawa: Mclean, Roger & Co, 1877.
[52] See Bright Lights, Big City: the Story of Electricity in Toronto.
[53] See A Tradition of Service, 33-34.
[54] From an 1891 leaflet reprinted in A Tradition of Service, 45.
[55] A Tradition of Service, 45.
[56] On the Industrial Exhibition, including detailed accounts of the role of gas and electricity in the exhibitions of the 1880s, see Keith Walden, Becoming modern in Toronto: the industrial exhibition and the shaping of a late Victorian culture. Toronto: UTP, 1997.
[57] A tradition of Service, 39.
[58] For a detailed treatment of this transition, see A Tradition of Service, 39-47, and, from the other side, Bright Lights, Big City, pp. xx.
[59]Monopoly’s Moment, 80. This work has a detailed account of the city’s hostility toward the gas company’s previous monopoly on city lighting.
[60] On the relocation, the uncertainly of UCC’s survival, and the work of the Old Boys’ Club, see Richard B. Howard, Colborne’s Legacy: Upper Canada College, 1829-1979, 106-134.
[61] A favourite Muskoka vacation spot of the Smiths, now site of a conference and retreat centre ran by the Breuninger Foundation, Germany.
[62] http://www.brandonu.ca/library/archives/images.asp. Brandon University: S.J Mckee Archives Image Gallery: Millwood on the Assiniboine circa 1900, Edward Walker.
[63] Monopoly’s Moment, 82.
[64] For her side of the family, see Smith, Mary Larratt. Probate to Norman: The Canadian Bethunes, Oakville and Ottawa: Mosaic Press/Valley Editions, 1976.
[65] See obituary in Toronto Daily Star, Sat., Jan. 16, 1971, p. 42, “Sydney Smith 100-year-old ex-stockbroker”
[66] Globe, reporting on event of Sept. 10, 1861; quoted in Not a one-horse town: 125 years of Toronto and its streetcars. Mike Filey. (book has no page numbers)
[67] This was also the year that the Belt Line railway commenced operation. It was a commuter railway that looped around the developing suburbs of Toronto and ran adjacent to the Smith property, to its impressive station at Moore Park. The railway ran for only two years, when competition from streetcars and an economic depression forced it to shut down. In 1990 a section of the old railway was converted into the Kay Gardner Beltline Park, named for the city counselor who opposed its development and worked to turn it into a walking and cycling trail.
[68] Globe, June 20, 1893, p. 3. “Sunday Cars, Once More: A Petition Favouring Them, Before Council.”
[69] Evening Star, August 22, 1896, p. 3. “Sunday Cars in Sight.”
[70] See Christopher Armstrong,  The revenge of the Methodist Bicycle Company : Sunday streetcars and municipal reform in Toronto, 1888-1897. Toronto : P. Martin Associates, 1977.
[71] Globe, June 23, 1893, p. 8.
[72] Globe, Sept. 8, 1894, p. 11.
[73] Evening Star, Aug. 22, 1896, p. 3 “Sunday Cars in Sight: a Strategical Fight at the Council Yesterday”
[74] Star, July 11, 1896, p. 3.
[75] LWS to Mrs. Thom, 1852; cited in Young Mr. Smith, 156.
[76] “Nux vomica,” in M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal, 1931; web version, botanical.com.
[77] The letter can be found in the collections of the Baldwin Room at the Toronto Reference Library.
[78] See appendix for the account of Larratt Smith’s life and death in the Globe, September 19, 1905, p. 12.
[79] Globe, Sept. 21, 1905, p. 14.
[80] Globe Jan 11 1906 – notice of Hugh’s marriage in India is in Globe, from 25 Oct 1905
[81] The illuminated addresses are kept in the Baldwin Room of the Toronto Reference Library.
[82] The will can be found in the Archives of Ontario, estate file #18240, on MS 584 Reel 1785.
[83] See note in Globe, Oct. 19, 1909, p. 1.
[84] Tennyson, The Foresters, 1892; copied in Smith’s diary for 1895.

Larratt W. Smith

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