Last week, I started to talk about one of Dunvegan’s most successful merchants. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dunvegan was a crossroads of commerce. Formally registered as a village in 1877, our bustling young community boasted general stores and hotels (that’s plural), a maker of shoes and boots, an ashery, a cheese factory, a feed store and seed-cleaning business, a blacksmith, a violinmaker and a sawmill… to name just a few. For a time, we even had a resident doctor. It was quite a collection of entrepreneurs. But one stood out from all the rest: Angus McIntosh.
He started out as a general merchant, but soon branched out into real estate and money lending. Angus never married and devoted his life to his commercial ventures. And yet, from what I’ve read, he was a fair man, well liked by all. Evidence for this can be seen in the noticeof his death in the Glengarry News of January 8th, 1897. “(He) always dealt very leniently with those indebted to him. Many a man he relieved from pecuniary embarrassment will miss him.”
Anus died without a will and it took years to settle his estate … an estate that totalled $131,262.55 in 1900, an amount that would have the equivalent purchasing power of about $3,500,000 today.
I had the privilege of examining the ledger used to record his estate’s assets, liabilities and eventual disbursements. It had been handed down to his great grand niece, Marilyn MacSweyn. While the book’s thick covers showed signs of neglect, thankfully they shielded its contents from the weather.
The handwritten account book was obviously the product of numerous bookkeepers. The entries range from the nearly illegible to one clerk whose deft Spenserian script is a thing of beauty; the ink crisp and black as the day it was written. And the level of detail described therein is astounding. There are pages and pages of his mortgage holdings, with borrowers from Plantagenet to Lancaster and Lochiel to Roxborough. Then there is the list of his goods and chattels… from his washstand ($1) and bedstead with bedding ($2) to his pump organ ($30) and his driving sleigh ($20).
As a further testament to his business acumen, the summary of his liabilities totalled only $2,129.29. And that included the cost of the Kirk Hill cemetery plot ($12) and the digging of his grave ($3).
This document is a wonderful snapshot of life in this region as it moved from the mid 19thcentury to the cusp of the 20th. My hope is that it will soon make its way to the Glengarry County Archives, where real historians, and amateurs like myself, can tease apart the stories it has to tell.
Kirk Hill. Not Dunvegan
Three weeks ago, I reported that members of Dunvegan’s Kenyon Presbyterian Church would be worshiping in town this entire month. Well, I was wrong. There’s been a change of plan.
The Dunvegan church and its sister congregation in Kirk Hill both have to hold Annual General Meetings. I gather that St. Columba’s is traditionally held the last Sunday of February, and Kenyon Church’s on the first Sunday of March. Understandably, both congregations want to hold their AGM in their own space. So there will be a two-week switcheroo in the wintertime ‘alternating month’ arrangement.
This coming Sunday, February 26th, Kenyon’s members are invited to worship in Kirk Hill. And St. Columba’s members are invited here on Sunday, March 5th for worship and to take Holy Communion. In both cases, the service will start at 11:00 am and will be followed by a light luncheon and then the AGM.
It strikes me that it would be simpler to swap the dates of the ADMs around to match the shared hosting arrangement, but the liturgical world can be a confusing place.
Trapper Ken spills the beans
Recently, a little birdy told me that Margaret MacLeod was in the Alexandria hospital. But details were scarce; one possible scenario was a joint replacement. So I checked with her son, Trapper Ken, who took time out from tanning a coyote pelt in front of his wood stove to speak with me. He confirmed that his mom had fallen in her house about three weeks ago and fractured her thighbone, or femur according to Dr. Google.
Wisely, Margret wears a medical alert pendant and her family was contacted within minutes of her tumble. (These systems are lifesavers. My late mother wore one and it gave us a great deal of peace of mind.) Margaret being Margaret, it took some time to convince her to get help. But, an ambulance was finally called, and off she went to the Glengarry Memorial Hospital. There it was determined Margaret’s leg needed surgery and her next stop was the Civic in Ottawa. She’s now recuperating in Alexandria.
Despite her injury, Margaret is doing well. “She loves the hospital,” Ken told me, “but she’s doing physio every day and working hard to get back home.” I asked him to covey our best wishes for a speedy recovery to his mother. I just hope he doesn’t get in deep doo-doo for telling me about the accident.
“A jamming good time”
That’s how 80 year-old Steve Merritt describes the musical event being organized by Denis Lavigne at the Dunvegan Recreation hall this coming Saturday, February 25th at 7:00 pm. “It will be a sing-along jubilee, a happy hootenanny,” Steve told me in an email. “Folks are asked to bring their voices and instruments to share songs of all eras and styles.” There’s no admission. And even if you can’t sing a tune or play a note, you’re welcome to drop in and listen.