Friends of the Cawthra Bush
Greater Mississauga Area
Pages of Special Interest;
Other Table of Contents;
scanned copy. Done on a non-word processor, called a typewriter, I believe.
Some of the spelling is original, even if it appears wrong. The name Elliott
has one t, even though it often seen in this text with tt's. The figures
are left out at his time but as this is a City document a copy is in the
Central library, in the Canadiana Reading Room 615-3524 - code 971.3535.PHI
By Ken Phipps, LACAC student, September 1989
Inscribed on her tomb-stone are the words, "Yea, I have goodly heritage." It is, to say the least, a fitting epitaph. The daughter of Henry Cawthra and Anna Celista Mills Cawthra, she was obsessed with her family--not only her father's side but also her mother's.
Her mother was a member of the Mills family of Hamilton, a family which had inarguable United Empire Loyalist roots. The Scotsman John Mills (who lived in Staten Island during the American Revolution and there suffered pillory and loss of property because of his loyalty to the Crown) had a son, James, who emigrated to Canada in 1793 and never obtained the 200 acres he was entitled to as the son of a Loyalist. He traded furs with the Indians, travelling back and forth to his native town, and was apparently so quick on his feet the Indians nicknamed him 'The Runner'. About 1800 he settled in Hamilton. Three years later he married Christina Hesse, UEL, daughter of Michael and Gertrandt Hesse, who had left Pennsylvania for the Barton Township because, as they were Loyalists, their land had been taken from them and they had been persecuted. James and Christina had a large family, one son being the Honourable Samuel Sylvester Mills, who sat in the Legislative Council of Canada from 1849 until Confederation, when he was called to the Senate of the Dominion of Canada. His daughter Anna Celista married Henry Cawthra, and one of their daughters was Grace .
Throughout her life Grace made sure these roots were not ignored by consistently affixing the letters U and E to the end of her name. The United Empire Loyalists had remained loyal despite loss of home and threat of death during the American Revolution and later, in Canada, during the war of 1812. And during all of this they had to cope with the wilderness and the native Indians, either or both of which could be friend or implacable foe at any given moment . Grace felt she exhibited loyalty and courage of the same tenacity and didn't want the connection to go unnoticed.
Her pride in her family's history was even more tenaciously rooted to her father's side--that history being considerably more significant from any point of view--but those roots form a tapestry complex enough-that an entire section must be devoted to it even to begin to examine it.
Much less colourful is the individual life of her father, Henry. He was born in Newmarket In 1832, educated at Upper Canada College and called to the Bar of Upper Canada in 1859. He was a member of the firm Blake, Cawthra and Blake for a few years but he was apparently forced to retire early as, despite proving himself "eminently fitted for legal work, his health was not equal to the demands made upon it" . He was a large stockholder and a director of the Bank of Toronto for over thirty years, a director of the Consumers' Gas Company and of the Canada Permanent Mortgage & Loan Company. He spent much time travelling abroad in search of health and collectible pieces of art .
His absence was probably good for Grace, who he first had educated by English governesses and later had sent to a school in France. He was nervous and strict, and didn't want her to leave home to be married. Her oldest sister, Maude, had to wait almost six years to get permission from her parents to marry Harry Brock; it took time to convince them she would never change her mind about the Frenchman they'd selected for her. Her next-to-oldest sister Lena rebelliously eloped with Jimmy Burnham and was married before brother Victor and brother-in-law Harry could catch them. Jimmy took Lena's hand with apparent impunity; strangely (considering their crime) the two were not permanently ostracized. But Grace's paranoid father, determined to control the fate of hit last daughter, told nurse-governess Annie Crummer to accompany Grace everywhere; and where Annie couldn't go, Jimmy Burnham, who became Grace's constant chaperon, did. Grace was never alone. Her father died at Christmas 1904 when Grace was 26 but even this did not relax his grip. He left her a small allowance, but willed his wife his estate, to use and spend as she wished. Bee, as Grace was affectionately called, remained frustrated.
She did have happy moments, however; she and her family later crossed the Atlantic and, using the home of her god-father Sir John Kennaway (a namesake) as a base, saw most of England. She also saw many of England's eligible bachelors, despite her mother's strict injunction that she never go anywhere without a relation. She was courted by a member of the Rolls family, and her family accordingly bought a Rolls Royce and toured Scotland in it. (She was reputedly the first woman in Toronto to drive a car.) She had other celebrity suitors as well, among them the Honourable Ronald Macdonald and the well-known cricketer Lord Hawke. She apparently was popular enough that the selfish attitude she repeatedly displayed was not only tolerated but indulged. The world in which her mother allowed her to circulate was entirely hers.
Around the period of World War One she was nearly engaged to a Scotsman named Nicholson who had looks, position, money and charm. According to Mildred Brock, her niece, Bee did not accept him because she thought he had "odd religious beliefs" . According to Al Smouter, who was Bee's groundskeeper and the closest person to her when she died, she loved this man passionately, but her mother told her that if she married him she would be cut out of the will . How Much she loved him is questionable if Mildred Brock's account of how she refused to write to him when he was reportedly taken prisoner of war is accurate; apparently she "felt quite badly and regretted her neglect"  when she learned he had died in the German camp in which he was being held.
When she first heard about this minor tragedy she and her mother were staying at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa because Col. Harry McIntyre Elliott, another suitor, was stationed in the city. He had been Bee's unrewarded slave for months, and this event immediately precipitated his becoming noticeably more welcome in the Cawthra residence. He was a widower who had served in India, he was a comfort to Bee's mother--who was afraid of Germans (and rumoured to be much more interested in him than Grace was)--and he was "a useful extra for dinners" .
He was, however, much more than that. He was the son of a major-general, of good Cheltenham English stock, and was born at Bangalore, India, in 1867. He was educated at the Woolwhich Royal Military Academy and joined the Imperial Artillery in 1888. He served in Halifax, England, South Africa, and China over the following twelve years. He then did instructional work in England and Canada and by 1910 was serving in the south of Ireland in an administrative capacity. In 1911 he went to Ottawa and in 1913 to Toronto as an administrative head, and he became camp commandant at Sewell, Manitoba in 1915. From that year until 1920 he was a member of the Militia Council in Ottawa. He was with the Canadian Corps during its advance to the Rhine, received the CB and the CMG for his war services, resigned from the Militia Department in 1920, and became the Commissioner of Ontario Police in 1921. Finally, he was also the vice-president of the Toronto Humane Society .
And, in the end, he was good enough for Grace. Patience was his second name, he said, as his months of devotion stretched into years. Bee's mother--who Grace claimed  kept her from marrying and leaving home by being old and lonely enough to demand her last daughter stay with her until the end (threatening again to cut Bee from the will)--finally died. And Bee, suddenly alone and free, panicked: she bought 158 Crescent Road, the Rosedale residence she soon left to be vandalized, demolished and eventually replaced by an apartment complex, and married Harry Elliott. They were married at St Alban's Cathedral, Toronto, June 29, 1921. By this time Harry was a 54 year-old major-general and apparently entirely entranced by Bee's 43 year-old beauty; to marry her he had to agree to add the name of Cawthra to his own (so setting a precedent for the town of York) and to ignore for the rest of his life the existence of the son and two daughters, at that point adults, he had sired with his first wife, Blanche A. Wickwire, of Halifax. As well, before Grace consented, Harry ostensibly agreed that they would never consummate their marriage; Grace wanted to remain an unadulterated Cawthra, and this was supposedly why she and her husband had separate beds . But Grace herself, later in life, claimed she had a miscarriage in the first year of their marriage--somehow consummation did occur .
However much Harry agreed to, he had to endure still more. Bee protested that she could not walk up the aisle of a church, and so a garden was found for the ceremony. Sister-in-law Ada, wife of brother Victor, who was worried about rain, talked and persuaded and finally convinced her to accept the aisle St Alban's offered. Then on the day of the wedding Grace panicked again and phoned both Harry and Ada to tell them they may as well stay at home because that's what she was going to do. They rushed over immediately and cooed persuasively until she assented to go. Supposedly Ada said, "Bee, you can leave-him at the church door, but marry him you must, why I have the house full of flowers for the reception" . At the ceremony Grace did her best to look cold and indifferent.
Apparently the couple's honeymoon was easily as interesting as their wedding. And when they returned, Grace told Mildred's mother, "Well, I married an angel" .
It seemed, however, that Harry hadn't. Two years before the marriage, in 1919, when the family members were dividing by turns the Yeadon Hall loot shortly after the death of Bee's mother, Bee contrived (according to attending family member Mildred Brock) to take two turns for everyone else's one. And if there was any doubt regarding who should receive a particular ornament or piece or jewellery, Bee apparently removed it by assuring everyone the piece in question was meant for her.
Perhaps this seeming selfishness was only a manifestation of her fervent desire to ensure the preservation of the Cawthra heritage; during her years on Crescent Road this desire began to dominate her existence. Conversely, this desire may have simply been a manifestation of her greed.
Whatever the case, her obsession led her to create a haven for her heritage in the Cawthra-Elliott estate. The architectural style of the house and even the landscaping reflected this heritage. Much of the brick used came from Yeadon Hall, the house at College and St George in which she'd grown up. (This house was sold in 1925 by her brother Victor, and soon afterwards one of Toronto's first apartment complexes, Cawthra Mansions, was erected on its site.) She named her estate Cawthra-Lotten; on broken lot ten, originally fifty per cent swamp (which she had drained, leaving only a small pond which she called 'My Lake'), she erected a Georgian home and adjacent to it a ten-foot English walled garden. She would not accept a proposed Canadian-style garden, which was lower-walled to suit the environment and promote the growth of Canadian shrubbery. She even employed English gardeners, as though to further secure her creation from the adulterative influence of twentieth-century Canada. It seems that in moving to Cawthra-Lotten Bee also wished to move back in time.
Not many years after having made that move she wrote to Cassels, Brock and Kelley, her law firm, stating that "I ... Grace Cawthra-Elliott, UE, nee Grace Cawthra am living on the land which was my father Henry Cawthra's game preserve, being part of the original grant which has always been in the family... so Cawthra-Lotten still remains in the family to fulfil the Cawthra motto of Maintien Le Droit ". Tony Adamson, interpreting this missive, explains that, in fact, this land was handed down on his side of the Cawthra family rather than hers, and that his uncle 'Bertie' (William Herbert) had given Grace lot ten first because she was obsessed with the Cawthra history and thought of such land--untouched since Joseph, the first Cawthra to come to Canada, had received it from George III--as sacred, and second because it was, for the most part, swamp. Tony also maintains that the notion of it being Henry's game preserve is a fabrication. Henry's brother John inherited it, and the only 'game' on it was squirrel. John had no use for it, and Henry never expressed any interest in it*. A game preserve was supposed to be an English gentleman's habitual refuge from the world; although Henry had probably seen lot ten, he certainly didn't frequent the spot. Tony also cannot see how the estate's establishment 'maintained a right' of any kind .
In that same letter of 1931 Grace talks about the gate-lodge of Cawthra-Lotten, which she claims was moved to its late position from the old orchard just west of the rifle ranges at Long Branch on lot ten concession three. She says it was the structure Joseph was obligated to build when he accepted his original grant; but the tradition was that he had built a log cabin, and when Tony went to see this gate-lodge in the '70's it was unmistakeably a frame house made of two-by-four's. As an architect, Tony Adamson could also identify an absolute lack of early nineteenth-century characteristics'. Tony suspects that the original log house was moved to what was formerly his Port Credit property, The Adamson Estate .
Grace kept her heritage and the illusion of her heritage alive for the rest of her life. On July 16 1934 she had a garden party celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the UELs, as well as the 130th anniversary of the order-in-council by George III granting the land on which Cawthra-Elliott was built to Joseph. Descendants of the original settlers attended, and all the guests wore Victorian costumes and danced the minuet on the lawn. Grace was vice-president of the Governor Simcoe Branch of the Loyalists for five years.
She became so involved in her life-work out at Cawthra-Lotten that she virtually forgot about her previous life in Toronto, particularly that segment which revolved around 158 Crescent Road. After she left this residence was occupied only by the occasional vandal; eight years later, when she abruptly remembered it and sent her niece Mildred to retrieve what valuables she could, the place was a ruin. It had fallen so much into disrepair that Mildred would not approach it without the company of a policeman. Grace was disappointed with the scant loot Mildred's visit yielded . Now of course apartments cover the area; even the rubble has long since been cleared away.
A couple of years after that, apparently, she wrote to the RCMP to request that a unit be stationed at Cawthra-Lotten. It was the threat and her own fear of vandalism that prompted her to make this request, and she thought that, because of the historical significance of the estate, the country should make an effort to preserve it. The RCMP did not comply .
A little over a decade later, on July 14 1947, Bee's house was seriously damaged, but not by vandals. It was struck by lightning. The Port Credit Weekly recorded the event and Harry's praise of the volunteer Township Fire Brigade; he said if it wasn't for the Brigade, his home would be gone today. The lightning probably struck around 11 PM, but it was 2:30 AM before a rumbling noise woke Grace. She thought a thief was in the house and woke Harry, who looked out his window and saw a reflection of flames. Meanwhile a neighbour, Mrs. Gertrude Symes, had heard the calls of taxi drivers and the noises of confusion outside the estate's locked gate. She called the Brigade before Harry did. Harry, then 80 years old, ran out of the house in his robe and unlocked the gate. The taxi drivers and other onlookers helped carry oil paintings and other valuables out of the burning guest wing, and the house's three-foot walls checked the progress of the flames enough that the Brigade managed to put out the fire before it attacked the main house; but the wing was lost, along with a four-poster Scottish bed, various furs, Bee's mother's heirloom wedding dress, and other valuables .
This act of God deprived Grace not only of various heirlooms but of her husband as well. Harry's run through the cold night air gave him a case of pneumonia from which he never recovered . He died on June 27, 1949, leaving nothing for Grace but memories--and her heritage.
In 1950 Grace wrote to the editor of the Port Credit Weekly; she states in the Dec. I edition that "though we all enjoyed reading the centennial issue of your paper...there are several mistakes ... " regarding the Crown grant Joseph originally received and the general history of the Cawthras in Toronto. She goes on to correct these mistakes and relate a few family anecdotes.
Family anecdotes and history pushed all other concerns from her mind. Grace kept every reference to the Cawthras she came across, and she came across quite a few. Mildred writes that after Harry's death Bee began suspecting people in the household of petty theft. She put a large notice in the glass door of a bookcase which read "Thou shalt not steal." She stopped buying clothes, converted Harry's coats and pants into skirts, and tied her wispy hair with bits of ribbon.
From August to November in 1958 contractor David J. Delworth re-beautified the grounds at Cawthra-Lotten for a price of close to $25,000. Apparently he had trouble getting Grace to pay the bill. The following year, when he inquired about upkeep, Grace insisted she could not afford to pay for seed--or anything else. She would not pay for maintenance, and the grounds grew wild once again. She would not re-hire Mr Delworth, but she took up more of his time than many of his clients--relating to him by telephone story after story of the Cawthras and their proud history. She told him that as a Cawthra she was an 'hereditary constable', remaining on Cawthra-Lotten to protect Canada from the United States. Apparently she never left the estate except to go to the dentist .
In 1964, when Mildred Brock paid it a visit, the estate that Grace spoke of as "another Windsor Great Park" was showing signs of wear. The "Lovers' Lane", "Perambulator Walk", summer house of mosquito wire, house in a tree, rose gardens, sundials, walled-in garden and other earmarks of a stately English residence were all still in reasonable condition; but Bee's home had begun to decay from within.
The dining-room table was permanently set for eight or ten, without plates or place-mats, in accordance with military custom --perhaps in remembrance of Bee's military husband. The tables, chairs and sideboard were piled with unpaid bills, magazines, papers, books, letters, cards, photos, and boxes of old medicine bottles; and over it all was a fifteen year-old layer of dust and grime. The living room was in a similar state, uncleaned and smothered in china, cushions, screens, umbrellas and old coats. Upstairs the bedrooms were the same. Harry's clothes, including some charred by the fire the lightning started, were still piled on the bed next to hers. The reputedly immaculate Harry could not have lived in such an environment.
Bee seemed to fight change most of her life, and in the latter part of it she fought openly. Her English housekeeper, Elizabeth Naismith, appears to have been a willing ally; in 1964 Mildred Brock wrote that the kitchen was in such a state that the person that came in once a week would not eat in it. She brought her own food and dishes. Elizabeth also had no trouble following Bee's edict that nothing be touched and that the dusty accumulations of years of conscious neglect be ignored . Elizabeth was quite happy to live in filth and bow to Bee's every whim twenty-four hours a day seven days a week except for Wednesday afternoons, when she would unfailingly take the streetcar all the way to Greenwood to bet and lose between two and four dollars on the horse races.
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