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 two tt's even though it often has only one t. 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
THE CAWTHRA FAMILY
The Parish register in Guiseley, Yorkshire, England, has records of the Cawthras from as far back as 1527, but the first Cawthra who seems to have distinguished himself was a Henry Cawthray, a cavalry officer who was born in 1630 and committed suicide to avoid being captured by enemy troopers. He had a son, Henry, who was born about 1660 and married someone from the wealthy Denby family. Apparently this marriage could not at some crucial point be proven, and an estate worth a great deal of money was lost. This second Henry had a son, Henry, who married Mary Brown in 1754 and had one daughter and two sons, neither of which, happily, was named Henry.
One of these sons was Joseph Cawthra (the 'y' was inexplicably dropped), who was born in Guiseley on October 14 1759. He married Mary Turnpenny (who was born in 1760) at St Oswald's church in Guiseley on January 29 1781. They had six sons, three daughters and a history of taking chances.
In 1793 Joseph erected the first steam mill in Yeadon (as recorded in "History of The Ancient Parish of Guiseley" by Mr Philemon Slater); he manufactured woolen fabrics, but the mill "was in reality a war measure for the manufacturing of military equipment which was the sole trade of Yorkshire at the period of the Peninsular War" . This venture, while innovative, necessitated the diversion of the parish water supply, and made Joseph unpopular with his neighbours. One year while this mill was in operation Joseph's son Henry, playing by the mill pond, was kicked in the head by a horse. Henry's brother John, who witnessed the incident, claimed he saw bits of brain fly out of Henry's head; but Henry survived, and lived in a basically unimpaired state until he was 67. He never married, however, and his nephew, Henry (perhaps named after him), remembers watching with fascination a part of the surface of his uncle's (Henry's) skull throb with visible life. (The unfortunate Henry's twin brother Joseph didn't even get the chance to be named--he died when he was three years (days?) old.) The year Henry lost a piece of his skull, the mill dam broke. That same year, his father Joseph's West Indian agent robbed him, and Joseph's business difficulties increased. Soon they would become insurmountable .
In October 1801 Joseph's wife Mary Turnpenny went to stay with her mother Martha to give birth to her last child, William, while Joseph was in Scotland working in a mill. Martha seems to have been quite patient with the family into which her daughter married; she also took care of and possibly raised John Cawthra, the illegitimate son of Joseph's brother Esias.
Esias unsuccessfully tried to solve the financial problems that would not let his brother Joseph return to Yorkshire, and Joseph took his family to the new land. Esias, playing the travelling mediator between Joseph and his debtors, contracted ague in America and died of it in England.
Joseph started out in New York but not surprisingly had to leave it after a few years for "muddy little" York because of American anti-British sentiment. He first lived on the northwest corner of King St and Caroline (now Sherbourne) St, in a dwelling which was formerly the home of William Lyon Mackenzie. He first made his living by buying goods in New York (mostly teas from the East India Company) and selling them in Toronto; and by buying goods (mostly flour) in Toronto and selling them in New York.
George III granted Joseph the Loyalist 200 acres in the Township of Toronto--then in the West Riding of York, now in the County of Peel--and Joseph bought 200 adjoining. The land Joseph was granted was reputedly whatever acreage he could define in a day's walking . The original 200 acres were registered July 6 1804 but the order in council did not occur until November 7 1809 and the patent was not given until November 8. The deed specified that Joseph had to give any gold or silver mines on the land to the Crown as well as any white pine trees--a specification which prompted Grace Cawthra-Elliott, 150 years later, to tell Al Smouter that the trees that remained on her 27-acre lot (all that remained in the family of the original grant) were being saved for her majesty's ships. The deed also specified that Joseph erect a house and settle on the land within three years of receiving the grant; Joseph accordingly built a log cabin in the middle of an orchard and had his unfortunate son Henry live out his life in it. No Cawthra would again live on or consider a home any portion of this 400 acres until more than a century later, when Grace Cawthra-Elliott would create her estate and remain on it until she died.
Joseph, who earlier in life had intended to become a doctor, combined the knowledge he had of medicine with his recent experience as a businessman to start Toronto's first drug store on King St in June 1806. The venture was so successful that he expanded to trade in anything in which any customer expressed interest; soon he owned Toronto's first general store. He freely advertised in York's only newspaper, 'The Gazette & Oracle', and had to move to Frederick and Front Sts to facilitate further expansion. He became the Principle importer of groceries in Upper Canada'. His earlier contacts, such as those at the East India Company, continued to serve him well. The store proved especially lucrative during the War of 1812, and eventually Joseph had all of his sons working in it.
Joseph had much influence among the members of the Reform Party (which stood in opposition to the 'Family Compact'-) and so was quite useful when his son John ran for and was elected first member for Simcoe County in Upper Canada's parliament from 1828 to 1830. John had previously won a medal while serving in the War of 1812 at Detroit and Queenston Heights under Major-General Isaac Brock. He became a successful merchant (operating like his father a general store) in Newmarket, where he settled and eventually died in 1851, having married Ann Wilson in 1821 and left four sons and one daughter; one of his sons would become Anthony Adamson's grandfather, while another would father the infamous Grace Cawthra-Elliott.
John's brother Johnathan also served in the war, though his eventual fate and potential progeny are unknown. Maude Brock, sister of Grace Cawthra-Elliott, claimed that he died without issue , but Tony Adamson says that in doing so Maude was attempting to make truth what was only the fervent hope of later generations of the Cawthra family . If Johnathan's potential children or children's children had eventually appeared with proof of their ancestry, they would have been entitled to a portion of the large inheritance that each succeeding generation of Cawthras enjoyed.
Most of this sizeable sum was generated by William Cawthra, Joseph's son and John and Johnathan's brother. When he first saw this son, Joseph was recorded as saying, "He looks rather a stupid child, doesn't he" . However he may have looked, William was a financial genius, and devoted to his mother. Joseph wanted William to pursue a profession, and sent him to Montreal to learn one, but William returned to demonstrate such aptitude for business while working in his father's store that he came to retain more control over it than any other brother; and when his father died in 1842, leaving most of his money to William, William shut the business down and concentrated on investments and charity work. He, William Gooderham and James Worts built Toronto's contagious diseases hospital; he erected a girls' home; he gave $1000 to the Fenian Raid Volunteer Fund, much money annually to the St James Cathedral (where lies the family vault), and more money to numerous other charities. William was reputedly Toronto's richest man in the 1800's. Toronto's first City hall (now the St Lawrence Market) was mortgaged to him, and when the Jarvises lacked the funds to finish Jarvis street, they turned to him for assistance. He gave them the money in return for a northwest portion of their property. When he shut down the family business at Frederick and Front Sts he continued to use the building that housed it as a residence until 1849 when he married Sarah Crowther and moved to a substantial brick cottage at the southeast corner of Bloor and Jarvis streets--presumably in the same area the money he had given the Jarvises had bought him. He lived there in Yorkville until 1853 when he built and moved into his stone mansion on the northeast corner of King and Bay. Here he remained until he died, without children and intestate, on October 26, 1880.
Tony Adamson calls William "the pivotal Cawthra" . Certainly he made more money than anyone else in the family. His nephew Joseph, for instance, who managed the local branch of the Royal Canadian Bank, lent money on collateral and engaged in other business similar to the sort in which William was involved, and was successful, but not to the extent William was.
The Greek Revival stone mansion William had designed by architect Joseph Sheard (1813 to 1883) and built at King and Bay over two years from 1851 to 1852 was apt testament to what success could bring until it was demolished in 1946. The recessed front door on the Bay St facade was flanked by two free-standing Corinthian columns, which now reside in Tony Adamson's Rosedale garden. They are all that remain of the house, which was replaced by a twenty-five storey Bank of Nova Scotia office building. After William died the house was occupied first by Molsons Bank and then by Sterling Bank. In 1931, when the intention to demolish was first announced, a group of Toronto architects and various Cawthras planned to have the building disassembled piece by piece and reassembled elsewhere as a museum or headquarters for a local historical society. At that time the Cawthra family was prepared to put up $17,000 for the then-$50,000 job. This plan was never carried out, and by 1946, when the demolition was imminent, it was certain it never would be. As the wrecking crew started, various voices, including those of the Women's Canadian Historical Society and the Canadian Handicrafts Guild, protested in vain .
Almost seventy years earlier other voices lamented William's passing. Apparently he lived by the golden rule. His friend Dr Scadding said in an address at a meeting of the York Pioneers' Association, "Mr Cawthra ... was ... one of the necessary constituents of the ideal conception of Toronto ".
Some members of the Cawthra family, however, may have found Toronto more ideal after William was gone. William was worth $3,000,000 when he died and he left no will. The courts decided that half of his money would go to his wife and half to his family. The niece and nephews that made up his remaining family did not believe that Sarah Crowther deserved half the estate, but she got it nonetheless.
Despite Sarah's coup, the 1880's brought a major change in way of life for Mary the niece and Henry and Joseph the surviving nephews (John had died five years before rich uncle Willie). Henry, already a non-practising barrister, became almost a non-resident of Toronto--he and his family spent most of their time in Europe. Joseph at least remained a resident, registered in Toronto at 2 Queen's Park. Mary, who had eloped with Holman Mulock (her school doctor) when she was fourteen, stayed in Newmarket where her father lived and died until she died two years after rich uncle William did. According to Tony Adamson, however, members of succeeding generations "went mad from snobbery and everybody began to hate everybody else, and worry over Johnathan Cawthra and hope to goodness he was dead" .
Ten years later in 1892 Joseph died, leaving a large Italianate house on the Rosedale ravine beside Sherbourne St bridge called Guiseley House, $913,131 and a coat of arms (with the motto 'Maintien Le Droit') given him by London's College of Arms. From that moment on boars' heads appeared on everything connected with the Cawthras, from dinner plates to wall plaques. The words inevitably printed below these heads were those by which Grace Cawthra-Elliott would live her life.
Two years earlier in 1890, Mabel--daughter of John, the nephew who had died five years too soon to inherit his part of his rich uncle's fortune--turned twenty-one and came into her inheritance. Immediately Mrs John Cawthra took Mabel and her other children and toured the world.
Four years later Mabel's brother William Herbert ('Bertie') was called to the Bar of Upper Canada. Bertie had an Insurance business under the name Cawthra and Cawthra. He also organized and was president of the Harold A. Wilson Company. As well, he erected that company's building, that of the Ryrie-Birks Company, and that of the Thornton-Smith company--which was founded by his sister Mabel.
Five years after Bertie became a lawyer, in 1899, Mabel and Agar Adamson got married despite objections by family members of each. Agar's Auntie Bob (Miss Eliza Derbishire, his surrogate mother) worried that Mabel was headstrong, agnostic, even aggressive. Far from the perfect helpmate. Mrs John Cawthra worried that Agar, who received a modest income from his job with the Dominion Government, who had no profession, and who drank champagne, made expensive visits to the tailor, and had other gentlemanly ways, was a gold-digger.
It seems that the more notable portion of Agar's military career took place in the twenty or so years immediately following his marriage; following this frenetic period, however, he became a gentleman full-time. The aggressive Mabel meanwhile started 'The Thornton-Smith Company' and sold custom furniture, fabrics, rugs, curtains, and retained important decorating commissions, including the Senate Chamber in Ottawa, the Royal Alexander Theatre, parts of Massey Hall, the late Walker House Hotel on Front St, and the painted stencil decoration of numerous Ontario churches, such as the Church of St Simon on Bloor St. Agar and Mabel produced two sons, one of whom is Anthony Adamson.
Mabel's energy seems to have come from her mother. When her father John married her mother Elizabeth ('Bessie') Elwell in 1864 he was forty years old and she was a good twenty years younger and considerably more energetic; their 135-day European honeymoon almost killed him. Eleven years after they were married he was dead. Before he was married, however, he managed to found and carry on a business in Toronto which eventually became the Murray-Kay Company and "from which he retired with a competence in 1857" . He also founded the Farmers' Loan Company, and of this business he remained president until shortly before his death. This business may have in part been responsible for that death.
The son of his sister Mary, William Mulock, was at that time a secretary at Farmers' Loan. In 1875 John asked Willie to go out and collect the votes that John believed would reinstate him as president. Willie went out and collected the votes, but for himself. Control passed from John to Willie and when John learned what had happened, he apparently became so angry he had a heart attack and died .
William's hunger for family wealth appears to have manifested itself in other ways. He apparently married Sarah Ellen Cawthra Crowther, daughter via the second marriage of Sarah Ellen Crowther (former wife of rich uncle William), for the money he expected his wife would inherit. His mother-in-law however willed her money to her daughter's son and stipulated that this son not receive it until he was thirty years old. This son was Cawthra Mulock, and he used part of the funds he received to build in cooperation with a number of architects the Royal Alexandre Theatre.
Cawthra Mulock's grandmother Mary Mulock's brother Henry Cawthra, the third relative of rich William Cawthra that benefited directly from rich William's death in 1880, erected buildings only for his own family. Evidently Henry tried being a lawyer but decided he would rather take the time to look after his family and private interests properly. He fathered both Grace Millicent Kennaway Cawthra, who of course created Cawthra-Lotten, and Anna Maude (Cawthra) Brock, who compiled "Past and Present: Notes by Henry Cawthra", and who raised a child, Anna Mildred, who thought the biography of Grace important enough to document. Obviously he taught his children that the Cawthra heritage should not be ignored. Perhaps he made a more personal impression as well; Anna Maude married a lawyer, and his son Victor became one. Victor even managed to practice law in England, the family birthplace.
Anthony Adamson has stated his belief in writing and in person that the Cawthras were all lunatic snobs or bloodsuckers. He notes that the Cawthra family would today be much larger if so many members had not died in their first or second year of life. He claims he believes that something in the Cawthra genes either killed them or made them crazy, and he marvels that his mother somehow escaped the curse .
Perhaps Tony is right. Perhaps it was a congenital defect that made so many of the Cawthras such exceptional people. Tony devotes almost half of his tome, "Wasps In The Attic", to describing just how exceptionally interesting they were. Tony has the columns from William Cawthra's house in his garden, and the moulded fireplace from Yeadon Hall, the house in which Grace was raised, in his living room. He lives at 23 Rosedale, a stucco house which used to belong to William Mulock. In her later, most eccentric, years, Grace frequently phoned Tony in the middle of the night to recite her tales of the Cawthras, tales she never tired of telling; Tony loves to tell how he hated listening to those same stories night after night. He sounds as though he'd like the chance to hate listening to Grace again.
The Cawthra gene in its present form is diluted. It exists in Anthony Adamson, who scoffs at the past, in Latham Burns, who is indifferent to the past, and possibly in a woman named Betty Ross, who hopes the past may inform her present; it seems she may be related to the Johnathan Cawthra who was a son of Joseph of Guiseley, England, who came to Canada almost two centuries ago to find a future. Betty may be entitled to a portion of rich William's wealth. But it, like the Cawthra gene, has been spread thin, and is now a ghost of its former self.
The ghost of Cawthra-Lotten is not
just a rumour. The estate is a thin shadow of what It once was. When Grace
Cawthra-Elliott made it, she made it to represent all that had gone before
it. She used the bricks of Yeadon Hall, Toronto, to build a house that
closely resembled Yeadon Hall, Guiseley. She picked designers who knew
the value of tradition. When she was finished, she believed she had made
a place where the past would never grow old.
1. The Cawthras began as merchants - p. 73
2. William, the 'pivotal' Cawthra
and the Cawthra House at King and Bay
3. Again, the Cawthra House, which would eventually be replaced by the Bank of Nova Scotia's 25-storey head office - p. 75
4. The mantel from the drawing room of the Cawthra House is now in the home, of Anthony Adamson - p. 75
5. William Cawthra's house on Jarvis St., southwest corner Isabella St. This building became a Dr. Barnardo's home, then Salvation Army territorial headquarters - p. 75
6. Map showing Joseph Cawthra's residence/general store at Frederick and Front St., where he had to move to facilitate expansion - p. 76
7. St. Lawrence Market, once City Hall, once mortgaged to William Cawthra - p. 76
8. Tablet from St. James Cathedral, where lies the family plot - p. 77
9. Joseph, son of John, son of Joseph of Guiseley - p. 78
10. The family crest, coat of arms and motto, which Joseph (son of John, son of Joseph) received, and which proliferated after his death - p. 79
11. Joseph (son of John, son of Joseph) Cawthra's Guiseley House, Elm Ave., southeast corner of Mt. Pleasant Rd.., in Oct. 1952. 3rd panel: looking north from Mt. Pleasant Rd., bridge over Rosedale Ravine - p. 80
12. The Cawthra Family Tree - p. 81
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