The Vankleek Hill Museum recently received a donation from Mr. Sydney Hay of this wonderful c.1895 photograph of the house located at 160 Main Street East, Vankleek Hill. On the back of the photograph is the name of the photography company “United States Photo Co., Wm. Martel, Manager, 8 Place d’Armes Hill, Montreal.” There is also a notation in pencil, “Dr. McIntosh.”
From land records research we know 160 Main Street East was constructed in 1886 by Vankleek Hill physician Dr. Donald McIntosh. Dr. McIntosh had the house built during the year after the loss of his first wife Georgia Augusta Parker of Lachute, and in the year before his second marriage, this time to Eleanor Jane Keough of Vankleek Hill. Dr. Donald McIntosh and Georgia married in Lachute in 1875. He was 35, and Georgia was 25. Their first child Donald F. was born in Lachute in 1876. The family moved to Vankleek Hill and there two more children arrived: James A. in 1879 and Georgia E. in 1880. Tragedy then hit the family full blast. “Little May,” as her Greenwood Cemetery marker states, was born in 1882 and died in December 1883. “Little Clara,” was next to join the family in March, 1884. Unfortunately, she too died a year later in May 1885. Although their death certificates are undiscovered, we know from a review of death record listings for 1883, 1884 and 1885 that many infants and young children were dying from diphtheria, known as “black diphtheria” because it coated the back of the throat in a thick black mucous. Other common causes of death in infants in this time period include whooping cough, croup, and diarrhea. These are very sad records to read. The recorded deaths happen in clusters amongst a number of families in various neighbourhoods- relentless anguish with no escape.
The loss of these two infant daughters, in 1883 and 1885, were deadly brackets to the death of their own mother, Georgia. She died September, 1884 at age 37, six months after the birth of Little Clara. According to the death record, Georgia suffered for six months from “phthisis,” an early term for pulmonary tuberculosis.
It took a long time to construct houses in those years, particularly this ambitious style of home. It is possible that this new house was already in the works when Georgia died. It was ready when Dr. Donald McIntosh married Eleanor Jane Keough in 1887. Living with the couple in 1891 at 160 Main Street East were Georgia’s children: Donald F. age 16, James age 13, and Georgia Elizabeth age 11. There were also two younger children by this time- Beatrice age 3 and Donald K. age 1. Soon to arrive were Margaret in 1892, twins Jean & William Taylor in 1895, John Cameron in 1897 and Eleanor Redfern in 1899. Looking at the photograph, we can also see the parents Dr. Donald McIntosh and Eleanor. There is a child on Dr. Donald’s lap, and an older boy standing on the side porch. Perhaps the photograph was unplanned – a chance occasion. Otherwise, all the children would have been present.
Land records reveal that 160 Main East sold on October 31, 1899 for $3000 to Dr. Alexander MacDonald and his wife Etta who lived in the home until his death in 1954. Dr. MacDonald began the MacDonald Hospital located around the corner on Bertha Street which is today the MacDonald Residence for longterm care.
Dr. Donald McIntosh continued to practice medicine in Vankleek Hill following the sale of his home, and there is a reference to him in later years having his own pharmacy – so which house did his family move into? The answer arrives in the history of 127 Main Street East, at the corner of Derby Street, Vankleek Hill. Land records show that this house was built by Dr. James McIntosh in 1868; and, it turns out that Dr. James McIntosh was the older brother of Dr. Donald McIntosh. Land records show that as early as 1892, Dr. Donald McIntosh purchased his brother’s home at 127 Main Street East from James’ widow, Sarah Jane Heney. Sarah and her children continued to reside in the home.
In Greenwood Cemetery, just west of Vankleek Hill, the inscription on the tombstone reads, “Dr. James McIntosh Born May 7, 1838 Fell asleep Feb. 8, 1891.” In April, 1898, Dr. James McIntosh’s widow Sarah Jane advertised an auction of household items as she prepared to move out of her home. Dr. Donald McIntosh’s house at 160 Main Street East was up for sale, and eventually sold in October, 1899. He and Eleanor then relocated to his late brother’s home.
The auction listing provides a window into the belongings of an upper middle-class family in the waning days of Queen Victoria’s rule. From the Eastern Ontario Review and Ottawa Valley Advertiser, April 1, 1898: “Mrs. (Dr.) Jas. McIntosh will offer for sale by public auction, at her residence, corner Main street ad Derby avenue, on Wednesday, April 13th, a lot of valuable household furniture, comprising in part: Square piano, rosewood sewing machine, parlour suite, 6 parlour chairs, 3 fancy chairs, 3 Verandah chairs, 3 bedroom suites, iron and camp single beds, mattresses, sideboards, tables, book cases, large office desk, floor carpets, stair carpets, linoleums, curtains, curtain poles, window shades, parlour, hall and study hanging lamps, cooking stove, single stove, chinaware, glassware, and many other household articles. Terms : $10.00 and under cash; over that amount 6 months credit upon furnishing approved joint notes.”
Before moving into 127 Main Street East, Dr. Donald McIntosh added the front brick extension for a medical office and pharmacy which remained in operation until 1931. Country physicians were licensed to dispense prescriptions.
In the 1911 Census, we find Dr. Donald McIntosh, his wife Eleanor and their children who are living at home: Beatrice age 22 a public school teacher, Margaret age 19, twins Jean and William Taylor age 15, John Cameron age 12, Eleanor Redfern age 11 and Peter Fraser age 9. The teens are attending Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute. Descendant Guy Rogers reports that he has a photograph of his grandfather, William Taylor, who was on the VCI hockey team for the 1911/1912 year. Guy also noted that William Taylor McIntosh served in WWI. More information on William McIntosh can be found in the blog post titled “World War I: “Vankleek Hill Boys.”
What happened to Dr. James McIntosh’s widow Sarah? Shortly after leaving Vankleek Hill, Sarah is living in Montreal with her daughter Daisy 22, son Hamish 21 student, son John P. 19 working as a dry goods clerk, and son W. George age 13. There is also a housekeeper, and two lodgers who have jobs.
As for Dr. MacDonald and his wife Etta, they lived across the street at 160 Main Street East. They had two sons who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during WW I. Son Sutherland was a student when he joined the CEF in 1916 at the age of 20. When he returned, he resumed his college studies. Son Strathcona was killed in action November 15, 1918. He is buried at Queant Road Cemetery located between the towns of Buissy and Queant, in the Calais region of France. https://www.ww1cemeteries.com/queant-road-cemetery.html There is a memorial military stone for Strathcona in Greenwood Cemetery, Vankleek Hill.