Wednesday, May 22, 2019

John Clark, 19th Century Real Estate Visionary


Clark Street in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood features two-storey row houses, most of them red brick or grey stone, set back a few feet from the sidewalk. Two hundred years ago, this now densely populated street was just a gleam in the eye of my four-times great-grandfather John Clark (1767-1827), who owned that land. Today, Clark Street looks remarkably similar to the way he envisioned it.

Mile End Lodge 
John must have foreseen that his farmland would someday get swallowed up by the expanding city. He wanted to see it developed properly, and he wanted his descendants to profit from it. Thus, he carefully outlined his development vision in his last will and testament.

A native of County Durham in northeast England, John Clark1 immigrated to Montreal with his wife, Mary Mitcheson, and their young daughter around 1797 and he became a butcher and an inspector of beef and pork.

He probably had a nest egg of cash because he soon bought property here. In 1799, he purchased a property on Montreal’s La Gauchetière Street. Perhaps the Clark family lived there. When he sold it 11 years later, the deeds showed it to be a double lot including two houses and several other buildings..2

Between 1804 and 1814, John purchased several neighbouring farms north of the city limits of Montreal.3 He purchased these properties from French Canadian farmers, then named them Mile End Farm, Blackgate Farm and Clark Cottage Farm.  The land, including several houses, barns, stables and outbuildings, was on the west side of Saint Lawrence Street, now known as Saint-Laurent Boulevard and one of the city’s major arteries. At the time, this was the main road to the countryside, leading past the eastern flank of Mount Royal to the Rivière des Prairies on the north side of Montreal Island.

The area was rural, consisting primarily of fields of wheat, oats and peas, as well as pastureland, fruit orchards and woodlots. Both John and Mary had grown up in rural England, so they preferred to live in the countryside rather than in the crowded city. The Clarks’ grey stone house, called Mile End Lodge, was built around 1815 on Saint Lawrence Street, between what are now Bagg and Duluth streets. They had few neighbours: most Montrealers, especially recent immigrants from Britain like them, lived in town.

Land ownership was important. It conferred social status, it carried the right to vote, and land was a financial tool, commonly used as security for loans. I do not know for sure why John purchased so much land, but even in the short term, it was a smart decision: the soil was fertile and the area was close to the city, where there was a growing demand for meat and produce.

John probably wanted to graze his own cattle on that land, and to grow timothy hay for them. Meanwhile, in 1816, he placed an advertisement in the Montreal Herald saying he was willing to pasture cattle on his property for between eight and 10 shillings per cow.4   

John probably collected rental income from these farms. It was not uncommon for members of the city’s elite, and for skilled tradesmen such as John, to purchase land and rent it to local farmers. He went one imaginative step further and, in 1810, leased a two-storey house on the Mile End Farm to father and son Phineas and Stanley Bagg to operate as a tavern.5 The building was located at a major intersection on St. Lawrence Street, so it was in an excellent location for thirsty travellers. 

Phineas and Stanley ran the Mile End Tavern until 1818. The following year, Stanley married John’s daughter, Mary Ann. As a wedding present, John gave them a lot on St. Lawrence Street, including a two-storey house he named Durham House, that he had purchased in 1814.6

John may have had an emotional attachment to the Mile End Farm and Durham House, but he certainly saw his land as a long-term investment. The population of Montreal had increased from about 6000 in 1780 to 20,000 in 1820, and he foresaw this area would eventually be developed.  
In 1825, at age 58, John wrote his will, leaving his properties to Mary Ann and to his young grandson, Stanley Clark Bagg.

Click to enlarge. Plan for proposed subdivision of a part of Mile End Farm. The names of modern streets have been superimposed on this diagram; computer graphics by Justin Bur. 
He added a codicil a few months later that included a plan for housing lots on St. Lawrence Street and on the yet to be created Clark Street, one block west. He specified that the lots should be 44 feet wide by 90 feet deep, and that the buildings should be built of stone or brick and set back from the road.8

John’s codicil also specified that the sale of the lots were subject to a rente constituée, meaning that, in addition to the initial cost of the property, the buyer was to pay the vendor an amount every year, usually about 6% of the property’s value. This was a common practice in Quebec, designed to provide funds to the seller’s family members for several generations. However, when Clark Street was finally developed decades after John’s death, buyers were not interested in this old-fashioned practice and the rente constituée was eliminated.9

Meanwhile, most of the property lines and all of the street rights-of-way shown on the plan in John’s will are still in effect today. Also, the specifications for building quality were respected, and similar conditions were imposed by neighbouring landowners.

See also:
“Mile End Tavern,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Oct. 21, 2013, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-mile-end-tavern.html

“A Home Well Lived In”, Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 21, 2014, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-home-well-lived-in.html

 “John Clark, of Durham, England,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 29, 2014, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/05/john-clark-of-durham-england.html

“A Freehold Estate in Durham,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 3, 2019, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2019/05/a-freehold-estate-in-durham_92.html

Notes and Sources:

1. John Clark is usually identified as an inspector of beef and pork. There was another John Clark, a master butcher, living in Montreal at the same time. That John Clark made a will in 1804, while my John Clark made a first will in 1810 and a final one in 1825.

2. Thomas Barron, notarial act #2876, “Deed of sale John Clark to William Scott,” 18 Oct. 1810, BAnQ.

3. These properties are listed in John Clark’s will, (Henry Griffin, notarial act #5989, “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” 29 August 1825, BAnQ) and in the inventory of his grandson’s estate (Joseph-Augustin Labadie, notarial act #16733, “Inventory of the Estate of the Late Stanley Clark Bagg Esq.” 7 June, 1875, BAnQ.)

4. Jennifer L. Waywell, “Farm Leases and Agriculture on the Island of Montreal 1780-1820,” Dept. of History, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, McGill University, 1989, p. 88; https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item?id=TC-QMM-59553&op=pdf&app=Library (accessed May 14, 2019)

5. J.A. Gray, notarial act, “Lease for five years John Clark to Phineas and Stanley Bagg,” 17 Oct. 1810, BAnQ.

6. The marriage contract is attached to records for lot 110, Saint-Laurent Ward, Montreal, p. 395, Registre foncier du Québec online database.

7. Henry Griffin, notarial act #5989, “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” 29 August 1825, BAnQ

8.  Clark Street as laid out in the plan attached to John's codicil ran from just south of the city limits (Bagg St. near Duluth) to Saint Catherine Road (now Mont-Royal Ave). Clark Street was developed in segments throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with the first part, around Mile End Lodge, subdivided in 1873. In the early days, a section of Clark Street was called Mitcheson Street (Mitcheson was John’s wife’s name), but by 1912, it became Clark Street along its length. 

9. The rente constituée was often used in France, England and French Canada. In those days, there was no modern money-lending system, so people could rent land for an annual sum. The borrower/purchaser could redeem the rent, however, the capital value of the property was not reduced by previous rent payments. John Clark and his grandson Stanley Clark Bagg complicated things by using testamentary substitutes to require that their real estate be subject to such arrangements far into the future. Their wills specified that the actual beneficiary was three generations down, while the intervening generations were responsible for keeping the estate in good shape for their children. When the Bagg and Clark properties were subdivided in the late 19th century, the Quebec legislature passed an act to end the substitution.

Image Credits:

Mile End Lodge, watercolour by John Hugh Ross, copyright Stewart Museum, 1970, 1847

Plan attached to codicil to the last will and testament of John Clark, December 1825, BAnQ, CN601 S187.

Further Reading:

Justin Bur, Yves Desjardins, Jean-Claude Robert, Bernard Vallee and Joshua Wolfe, Dictionnaire Historique du Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal, Les Éditions Écosociété, 2017.

Yves Dejardins, Histoire du Mile End, Québec: Les éditions du Septentrion, 2017.

Justin Bur, “À la recherché du cheval perdu de Stanley Bagg, et des origins du Mile End,” Joanne Burgess et al, Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections, Montreal: Éditions MultiMondes, 2015.

Sherry Olson and Patricia Thornton, Peopling the North American City, Montreal 1840-1900. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2011.

Alan M. Stewart, “Settling an 18th-Century Faubourg: Property and Family in the Saint-Laurent Suburb, 1735-1810,” Dept. of History, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, McGill University, 1988, http://digitool.Library.McGill.CA:80/R/-?func=dbin-jump-full&object_id=64109&silo_library=GEN01 (accessed May 20, 2019).

This article is also posted on www.genealogyensemble.com




Friday, May 3, 2019

A Freehold Estate in Durham


According to family legend and several published sources,1 my four-times great grandfather John Clark (1767-1827) owned a freehold estate near the cathedral in Durham, England. I imagined a large house surrounded by shady old trees and fields of lush grass.

It probably wasn’t like that at all, but it took me years to discover that.

Clark’s father, a farmer, did not own land. And as a butcher by trade, John did not sound like someone who could either inherit or buy a large piece of property in England. Also, he left for Canada with his wife and young daughter when he was about age 30. If he did have land in England, why would he go to Canada?

I began to wonder whether he owned property in Durham at all.

John Clark 
 Then I found John Clark’s will, written in Montreal in 1825.2 It said, “The said testator doth will, bequeath and devise unto his said daughter Mary Ann, her heirs and assigns, the whole of his real estate of all and every nature and description soever, situated and being in the city or town of Durham or in the neighbourhood thereof in England.”  In other words, Clark did own property in Durham, but his will gave no clues as to where it was located; thus, I imagined the country house.

Part of my problem was in misunderstanding the term “freehold estate.” This expression simply refers to a property, or real estate, that is "free from hold" of any entity besides the owner.

I also imagined that Clark lived on his own land. When he married in 1794,3 he lived in St. Giles parish, a largely agricultural suburb of the city of Durham, but there is no evidence that he owned property there.

Durham Cathedral and River Wear
Finding out whether my ancestor really did own property, and where it was, presented three big challenges: the fact that John Clark is a common name, my distance from Durham, and the lack of relevant historical records. Over the years, I have hired three professional researchers to search collections such as land tax records,4 deeds, enclosure records and tithe applotment records at the archives in Durham. They added small pieces to the puzzle, but the records themselves are incomplete.

Finally, after 11 years of looking at this question off and on, it has become clear that the exact nature and location of this freehold estate will likely remain a mystery, however, Clark may have owned one or more buildings in the city of Durham.

Durham, a very old city in northeast England, is built on a peninsula surrounded by the meandering River Wear. On top of the hill are Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. Several bridges cross the river, leading to the market square, and from there, Sadler Street goes up to the cathedral. At one time, Sadler Street was also known as Fleshergate and butchers had their shops there. That may be where Clark owned some property.

Map of Durham City by John Wood, 1820. (DUL ref: NSR Planfile C19/2). https://community.dur.ac.uk/4schools.resources/locality/maps2.html

A collection of old Durham city deeds notes that a man named John Clark was an occupant of the building at no. 5 Sadler Street until 1796, which was shortly before my ancestor left for Canada.5 He was probably renting or subletting here, though, since his name is not listed among the main parties to the deeds.

When Clark died in 1827, he left his Durham property to Mary Ann, his only daughter. Mary Ann’s husband, Montreal merchant Stanley Bagg, was executor of the will. Clark also left 13 bequests of 50 pounds each to several of his brothers and sisters in England, and to several of his wife’s relatives.

Two years later, Mary Ann decided to sell the property in Durham.6 It was difficult to manage the property from across the Atlantic, and she could use the proceeds to pay these bequests. William Mitcheson, John Clark’s brother-in-law who lived in London, was appointed an executor of Clark’s will in England. So far, I have not found proof of Clark’s will being probated in England.7

Market Square, Durham
There is strong evidence, however, that the family sold property in Durham in 1842. Mary Ann died in 1835, leaving it to her son, Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB), who was still a minor. Stanley Bagg was the executor of her estate until SCB turned 21 in 1841.

The following summer, Stanley and SCB took a trip together to Durham8 and sold the remaining property. On their return, Stanley recorded the names of the three buyers in a notarized document in which he admitted he had used some of the rental income from the Durham properties for his own purposes. He arranged to repay his son and listed the names of three people who purchased the properties, as well as the name of a Mr. “Bromwell” who had collected the rents.9 The name “Bramwell” was listed in the document regarding no. 5 Sadler Street at the Durham University archives.

Several questions remain: how extensive was the property when Clark first acquired it? Was it sold off bit by bit, or did the properties SCB sold in 1842 represent all of Clark’s real estate? And how did Clark acquire it in the first place? His father left him 70 pounds in 1776,10 when John was nine years old, which was not a huge sum. Perhaps someone helped him invest his inheritance, perhaps he bought the property when he became an adult. Later, in Montreal, he proved to be an astute businessman who invested in property near the city.

Those answers will probably remain a mystery.

See also:

Janice Hamilton, "Ralph Clark's 1776 Will," Writing Up the Ancestors, April 17, 2019, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2019/04/ralph-clarks-1776-will.html

Janice Hamilton, "John Clark of Durham, England," Writing Up the Ancestors, May 29, 2014,  http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/05/john-clark-of-durham-england.html

Photo credits: Detail of portrait of John Clark, Bagg family collection;
photos of Durham City, Janice Hamilton,

Notes and sources.

1. “In Memoriam – Stanley Clark Bagg, Esq., J.P., F.N.S.” The Canadian Antiquarian, and Numismatic Journal: published quarterly by the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal; Vol. 11, No. 2, October, 1873, p. 73.
Also, William H. Atherton, The History of Montreal, 1535-1914, Biographical, vol. 3, p. 406. In this article, Atherton noted that SCB inherited freehold property in County Durham, England, but he wrongly stated that Stanley Bagg was from England. Other authors, including Douglas Borthwick, made the same error.

2. “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” Act of notary Henry Griffin, #5989, 29 Aug. 1825, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, p. 9.

3. England, Durham Diocese, Marriage Bonds & Allegations, 1692-1900, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q21P-XMQK : 29 July 2017), John Clark and Mary Mitchinson, 07 Jun 1794; citing Marriage, Durham, England, United Kingdom, Church of England. Durham University Library, Palace Green; FHL microfilm.

4. I searched online the land tax records at the County Durham Records Office for the surname Clark: The name does appear, but I did not find a listing that I could identify as my ancestor. http://www.durhamrecordoffice.org.uk/article/10924?SearchType=Param&Variations=N&Keywords=Land%20Tax%20Records&ImagesOnly=N 

5. Durham University Library, Special Collections Catalogue, http://reed.dur.ac.uk/xtf/search, results for John Clark, Durham City Deeds, Bundle 22, Sadler Street alias Fleshergate, 5 Sadler Street, east side, Reference: DCY 23/1-34, Dates of creation: 1776-1856. The entry says,
“These premises were described as a burgage [land or property in a town that was held in return for service or annual rent] and shop, with appurtenances, almost throughout. In 1856 it was called a freehold dwellinghouse and shop….The occupants of the property included, initially, John Clark, by 1796 one Haswell ….”

6. Annex attached to John Clark’s Last Will and Testament, by notary Henry Griffin, 10 Nov. 1829 and attached to records for lot 110, Saint-Laurent Ward, Montreal, p. 391, Registre foncier du Québec online database.

7. I searched online the PROB 11 collection of the National Archives (Prerogative Court of Canterbury and related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers,) but it might be in another record collection. Also, I have searched the online catalogue of the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, England. 

8. There are three clues that father and son visited Durham. In 1866, SCB wrote an article called “The Antiquities & Legends of Durham, a lecture before Numismatic & Antiquarian Society of Montreal” in which he recalled his own visit to the cathedral with his father more than 20 years earlier.
There is a record in a passenger list of Stanley Bagg and S.C. Bagg travelling from Liverpool to Boston aboard the Acadia. Boston Courier (Boston, Massachusetts, Monday, Sept. 19, 1842, issue 1921;) 19th Century Newspapers Collection, special interest databases, www.americanancestors.org; accessed 18/04/2019.
A search for Mary Ann Bagg in the Durham University Archives online catalogue brings up a result in the Durham Cathedral Library: J.H. Howe Collection. It cites Montreal parish records showing how John Clark was related to Stanley Clark Bagg, and includes an affidavit from Montreal notary Henry Griffin and a note from Charles Bagot, Governor General of British North America, verifying the information. Reference: JJH 11 Dates of creation: 1842 JJH 11/1, 27 April & 9 May 1842.
Similarly, there is a note appended to Clark’s will, dated 13 May, 1842, from Charles Bagot, certifying the information; attached to records for lot 110, Saint-Laurent Ward, Montreal, p. 395, Registre foncier du Québec online database.  

9.  “Account and mortgages from Stanley Bagg Esq to Stanley Clark Bagg.” Act #3537, notary Joseph-Hilarion Jobin, 8 October 1842, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
“From ? Summers for sale of property in the neighbourhood of Durham in England, two hundred and five pounds, one shilling and six.
From  ? Brown, for sale of property in the neighbourhood of Durham in England, four hundred and ninety pounds two shillings.
From ? Elliot and son for sale of property in the neighbourhood of Durham in England, seven hundred and ninety-five pounds fifteen shillings.
From Wm Bromwell for the rents of the aforesaid property in England in 1841 and 1842, three hundred and eighty-one pounds ten shillings.”
In an email dated Jan. 11, 2019, Durham genealogy researcher Margaret Hedley, Past Uncovered, noted, “The names mentioned in the Stanley Bagg document with regard to the sale of property in Durham, I believe may relate to the centre of the city as at least three of the names are (or were) well-known businesses in Durham City.”

10. Last Will and Testament of Ralph Clark, Oct. 11, 1776; 1776/C8/2, University of Durham Special Collections Department

20.