Montreal’s First Chinese Policeman, Chinatown, 1907

Montreal Standard, 12 January 1907, page 16.


Montreal’s Chinatown accepts the installation of the new Chinese policeman as an official recognition of the dignity and importance of the district. It is as great a matter to crow over as if a Celestial had been elected alderman in the City Council.

“Oh, yeth, we have policeman now. He” – with a swell of pride – “he carry revolver and baton, too!”

Chinatown is having much to play with the new toy. Fan-tan has for the nonce lost a little of its absorbing interest. All sorts of tiny troubles are taken to the policeman for arbitration, and he is expected to be a library of miscellaneous information, while if some Chinamen are having a little wordy spar at 3 am, another Chinaman will bolt round, waken up the policeman, and gravely inform him that there is a stupendous case on hand, and that it would be wisdom to telephone for the patrol wagon and a detachment of constabulary, and to bring the revolver.

While Chinatown on the whole, accepts the policeman as a compliment, a safeguard, an oracle, and an encyclopaedia, there are a few individuals who regard him as an unwarrantable burden and a traitor to his nationality. These few are the hobos of Chinatown, the men with the gorilla faces, who carry the little hatchet in the belt, and whose deeds are dark. That a Chinaman should assume the role of police constable over fellow-countrymen in a white man’s land is unmanly, vicious, treacherous. Wait!

Lee Johnson, the constable in question, accepts all with that bland smile of his. He knows that as a constable he should be dignified on all occasions – but he can’t keep his enthusiasm from bubbling over at times. He may be reserved at first. It is “yes,” and “no,” and “perhaps,” and “don’t know.” Gradually he melts. The he chuckles and tells with voluminous detail the story of the first Chinaman arrested for drunkenness in Montreal.

Johnson is a man of considerable intelligence, and speaks English and French in addition to his own tongue. His father was the principle of a village school in the Province of Canton, and Lee came to Canada 12 years ago, when 17 years of age. He has been in business, particularly the laundry business, in various parts of the country, and now represents in addition to law and authority, a number of firms dealing with the Chinese in Montreal.

He dresses like an ordinary white, and in his little office on St Urbain street, close to Lagauchetiere street, and right in the heart of Chinatown, he has a roll top desk and a telephone, to both of which the attention of the visitor is tactfully drawn. The rest of the office is perhaps a little at odds with the rolltop desk and the telephone, but that does not matter.

Asked whether he will be expected to lay information about, and take part in raids on opium and gambling dens, Lee shrugs his shoulders, and smiles, and talks about the weather. Whisked back to the original subject by the interrogator. Lee will speak at great length of the law regarding the opium traffic, but never by any chance commit himself. Once thoroughly thawed he will say that “most Chinamen like him, but two or three wastrel – bum bom, you call it? – Chinamen don’t like.” But he says nothing of fear and apprehension.

It is said that the need of a Chinese policeman in Chinatown was badly felt. Whether the appointment of one is going to make an improvement along certain lines, remains to be seen. In the meantime, it can be said that Constable Lee Johnson is intelligent and enthusiastic.

Posted in 20C, Canada | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dominion Day, Montreal, 1877

Montreal Daily Star, 3 July 1877, page 2

Dominion Day in Town

A Deserted City – How it Looked in the Afternoon – A Quiet and Slow Time

Montreal began to empty very early yesterday morning. The excursions, of which due notice will be found elsewhere, attracted great crowds, and there was a busy time of it at the various places of rendezvous. Steamboats and trains swallowed up their thousands, and by noon all who could possibly get away had gone.

The celebration of the day was general and complete enough to satisfy all who believe in a quiet observance, and a general unbending from the cares of business and avoidance of a set demonstration. Quiet is, perhaps, hardly the term for the state of things yesterday. If Sundays were only as tranquilly kept, Montreal would be a model Sabbatharian city. Sunday was, comparatively speaking, a day of uproar to what yesterday was. Pompeii or Herculaneum could hardly present stiller streets than those of Montreal yesterday.

The newspaper chronicler, that passionless being who is presumed to take no further interest in the doing of mortals save that involved in securing a good report of them, rose from his place yesterday and went out in search of news. He might as well have gone looking for pearls at the market wharf. There was none. Not an item stirred. St James Street hung out bunting, but her highways were deserted. A blind woman sat on the doorstep of the Methodist Church grinding out the conspirator’s chorus in “La Fille de Madame Angot” in long metre, but though the voice of her excruciating instrument lifted itself up in the chief place of concourse, it fared no better than that of Wisdom, for no man regarded her. A child of the sunny south with a red nose and a cage of fortune telling canaries had the run of the Place d’Armes, but there was none anxious to speed into the future. A policeman dragged his frame along Notre Dame Street, looking as if nature had played a “skin game” on him, for verily he seemed like one that had trod alone some banquet well deserted, and indeed that was what was the trouble with most of the banqueting had in the shape of restaurants with which sapient licence commission has so bountifully bestrewed our city. Along the wharf a few “sunfish” browsed cheerlessly. The strawberries in the afternoon took the [illegible] of the wilted concerns which, having lain over since Saturday, were sought to be passed over to a guileless public, but purchasers were not to be had. The strawberry eaters were away sniffing the fresh air of the country. There was an air of respose about the police stations, the charge sheets telling no strikingly new story of human weakness. The fountains in the Viger gardens played not to the accustomed crowds of bairns and nurses or afternoon promenaders, for had they not taken what our French neighbours term the key of the fields and gone where woodbine and other flowers are given to twining. All was desertion and desolation, as the shopkeepers who persisted in keeping open found to their vexation. And so the chronicler toiled along, finding no rest for the sole of his foot, and only relieved from stagnation by the blare of an advertising ba[illegible]. As he got to the door of the office he saw a picture of Dominion Day happiness in the shape of a yellow dog winking one eye to give the other rest in the interval of snapping at flies, and he closed the door upon the world preparatory to moralizing over the empty budget of his note book.

Verily Montreal was “not at home” yesterday.

Posted in 19C, Canadian Identity, Commemoration | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Montreal Welcomes Sir Wilfrid, 1911

Montreal Daily Star, 12 July 1911, page 1

Montreal Welcomes Sir Wilfrid!


Posted in 20C, Canada, Canadian Identity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Queen’s Birthday, Montreal, 1858

Montreal Gazette, 25 May 1858, page 2

THE QUEEN’S BIRTH DAY—yesterday was the Queen’s Birth-day. It was generally observed as a holiday in this city, and we believe in the country also generally. Both Houses of Parliament adjourned. All the Banks were closed, and so were most places of business. Flags of various kinds were displayed all over the city and by the shipping in the harbour.

At noon a Review of the Military and Militia force in the city took place at Logan’s Farm. Considering the inclementcy of the weather, an immense concourse went to witness it. Some of the streets in the vicinity were fairly jammed with carriages, some of which we regret to say, were broken down, but we have not heard that any persons were injured. The roads were very bad. Both Regulars and militia made a very fine appearance. The last in every way merited the praise which has often been bestowed upon them in these columns. They are a fine body of men, and show their drill to their advantage. In the first place the whole force formed into line and fired a “feu de joie”. They afterwards went through a number of evolutions.

The Fire Brigade was reviewed on the Champ de Mars. It also made its usual good appearance. Afterwards the companies marched through the streets with bands and banners. On the Champ de Mars they were addressed by the Mayor in French and English, also by Ald Bronsdon. They were highly complimented by both.

In every way, the respect shown for the Crown yesterday was the best proof of the loyalty of the people. To them we might almost apply the French phrase, “more loyal than the king.” And there is much that is natural in this, as Dr Mackay will explained at the public breakfast given to him the other day. Men in this country love the old land, the land of their fathers, of
“the stirring innovation of a thousand years.”

They love also its institutions, for which they show their respect in demonstrations of loyalty to the Crown; and they love the Queen for her own sake, for the sake of the many virtues she has displayed in her home and on the throne. The name of Victoria is convertible with gentle sway and free institutions. Long may she live!

Posted in 19C, British History, Canada, Commemoration | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family Places Tour Pt 5, Golden Square – London, 2014

A Golden Windham Moment, 2014

No 6 is the 1st brick building after the white building and before the white car

No 6 is the 1st brick building after the white building and before the white car

London was the principle home to William Windham II (d 1761) from 1743 to 1750 until he inherited the family home of Felbrigg in 1749. Around 1743-4, upon his return home from his Grand Tour of Europe, he purchased no 6 Golden Square. I know that Elizabeth Windham (aka Morgan) was born the 9th of December in 1743, but I am not sure if it was at this house. Her half brother William Windham III was, according to some biographers, born here. (Others say he was born at Felbrigg)

The Square itself

The Square itself

George II in his Grecian glory

George II in his Grecian glory

So, more about the square itself. Golden Square lies just off Regent Street, and was built around 1700, and was “a significant social and political centre” with a number of well-connected people living in the Square. It was a place of action too, with a riot here in 1780, when the Bavarian envoy was living in the Square (at nos 23 and 24).
The charming park in the middle of the Square was fenced in in 1750, and a really odd statue of George II was erected. I am sure he was flattered, but the resemblance is not that evident. No 6 as Elizabeth and William would have known it, no longer exists. In its spot, along with no 5 and no 7 is a modern office block. It was done sympathetically, to the area’s architecture, but it cannot be more than 10 years old.

One of the older homes (no 24) of the type that Elizabeth would have lived in

One of the older homes (no 24) of the type that Elizabeth would have lived in

Across the Square, at nos 23 and 24, the original style buildings can be seen, along with a blue plaque to mark the riot. They are typical of the early 18C townhouse with a slightly elevated front door, tall windows, etc. This would have been the kind of house that Elizabeth and her family: father, step-mother, half-brother, 2 step-brothers, and one step-sister would have lived. After 1750, they would have lived also at Felbrigg, but this was her earliest home.

Posted in British History, England, Family History, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greeting the Governor General, Montreal, 1843

Montreal Gazette, 21 August 1843, page 2

Sir Charles Metcalfe - image from Wikipedia

Sir Charles Metcalfe – image from Wikipedia

We understand that apartment have been taken for the Governor-General and suite at Rasco’s Hotel, where his Excellency will remain till Thursday afternoon, when he will leave for Quebec. A levee will probably be held on Wednesday.

An Address from the Mayor and Corporation, on the part of the inhabitants, will, we believe, be presented to His Excellency, but whether this is to be done at the city limits, at the Town Hall, or at Rasco’s Hotel, we have been unable to learn. It is possible that the late hour at which His Excellency is expected to arrive (six o’clock), may have prevented the Corporation from making proper arrangements for a public reception, though the erection of a triumphal arch, and the invitation to the citizens generally to unite with them in receiving His Excellency, would imply such an intention on their part. It is to be regretted that the citizens generally have not been better informed of the intentions of the Corporation, so that they might have been prepared to receive in a becoming manner their Sovereign’s Representative, on this his first visit to Montreal.

At a late hour yesterday, we were unable to learn anything as to the intentions of the authorities. Whatever inconvenience may result from the delay in announcing them, we feel confident that the loyal British inhabitants of this city wait only for the opportunity, to testify in any manner which may be judged most appropriate, their respect for the Governor-General as the Representative of their Sovereign, for his private virtues, and for his long and distinguished services to the State as an officer in high command in both hemispheres. Should they appear to fail in any respect in the expression of their feelings, it will be from no fault on their part, but be wholly attributable to the failure of proper organization on the part of those whose business it is to take the lead in the demonstration. We hope, however, that this morning the Corporation will make good use of the little time they have left themselves for preparation.

Montreal Gazette, 22 August 1843, page 2

THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL – Yesterday the streets were alive with people, anxiously looking for the arrival of his Excellency. Two o’clock came, and the troops who lined the sideways were withdrawn, at three o’clock they were replaced, and again withdrawn at five. At the time we are now writing, (half-past eight o’clock) His Excellency has not yet reached town; but a guard of honour from the 89th Regiment, is drawn up in front of Rasco’s Hotel to receive him, in the event of his arriving during the night. There appears to have been from the first, a want of arrangement in the whole matter; but we know not whether this be the fault of His Excellency’s officers in not communicating with the Mayor, or of some unavoidable delay in the journey from the Caledonia Springs to this city. Had his Excellency arrived at the time generally anticipated, we are sure that he would have been met with such an enthusiastic reception as must have convinced him that he was heartily welcome to our good city.

Nine o’clock, evening – His Excellency has just arrived, and taken up his residence in Rasco’s Hotel. The Steamer Oldfield, in which His Excellency and suite embarked, dead not leave Carillon till half-past three o’clock in the afternoon.

Montreal Gazette, 23 August 1843, page 2

We yesterday announced His Excellency the Governor General’s arrival in Montreal, at an hour which rendered nugatory the preparations made by the Corporation, to ensure his Excellency a public demonstration of the respect in which he is held by our citizens, both as representative of Her Majesty, and as an individual whose whole life has been spent in the service of the Empire, and whose actions have, in no slight degree, benefited his fellow subjects in either hemisphere.

It will be seen, by an advertisement in our paper of to-day, that his Excellency will, during his stay in Montreal, receive visitors at Rasco’s Hotel, from twelve to four o’clock in the afternoon; and we understand that it is not his Excellency’s intention to hold a public levee, during his short stay among us.

His Excellency was yesterday forenoon, waited upon by His Worship the Mayor, the other members of the Corporation, and some of our leading citizens, when the following Address was presented:-

To His Excellency the Right Honourable Sir Charles Theopholus Metcalfe, Baronet, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, one of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, Governor General of British North America, and Captain General, and Governor in Chief, in and over the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Island of Prince Edward, Vice Admiral of the same, &c, &c, &c.

May it please your Excellency, -We Her Majesty’s devoted and loyal subjects, the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Montreal, beg leave most respectfully to meet your Excellency, and offer you a cordial and sincere welcome on your first arrival in our city.

The fame of your Excellency’s distinguished merit, and eminent public services, proceeded your visit to Montreal, and prepared us to entertain for you personally, the most unfeigned admiration and esteem, at the same time that we offer your Excellency, as the Representative of our Gracious and beloved Queen, the tribute of our sincere and dutiful respect.

Whilst we sincerely regret the brief delay to which your Excellency’s devotion to public affairs has circumscribed your sojourn in Montreal, we earnestly hope, the occasion will be productive of unalloyed gratification to your Excellency, by affording you satisfactory evidences of the rapidly increasing prosperity of our city, and the augmenting welfare of its inhabitants.
(Signed) Jos. Bourret
Montreal Province of Canada, 21st August, 1843

His Excellency was graciously pleased in reply, to thank his Worship, the Council, and citizens, for the flattering attention shewn him, and to express his deep regret that untoward events, beyond his control, had prevented his arrival in time, to witness the very flattering demonstrations intended to have been made; His Excellency added, that he hoped he would ere long, have it in his power to pay Montreal, which he was pleased to say, was the most beautiful as well as the most important city he had seen in British North America, a less hurried visit than his present one.

An address was also presented to His Excellency, by the Chairman and Council of the Montreal Board of Trade, and numerous private individuals during the day paid their respects to the distinguished visitor.
We understand that his Excellency the Governor General and suite will leave for Quebec on Thursday morning, per steamer Montreal.

Posted in 19C, Canada, Commemoration | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family Places Tour, Pt 4, St George’s Hanover Square, 2014

St George’s Church, Hanover Square, 2014

St George Hanover Sq (1)

A ten minute walk from Golden Square, on the other side of Regent Street, lies the Church of St George’s Hanover Square. It was here that Elizabeth Windham (aka Morgan) was baptized in 1743, and her brother William in 1751. She married Richard Guise here in 1761.

I was really looking forward to seeing this place. When I had read up about it on the internet, it showed some amazing pictures, and it looked like a lovely Georgian church. It was built between 1721 and 1724, and it was here that the composer Frederick Handel worshiped.

As Susan, Pete and I were walking there from Golden Square, we approached the church from the rear. Sadly, not its best angle. Once we reached the front, the disappointment continued. At the front we reached a tall, elaborate portico, with soaring columns. As we entered the portico, we noticed that the church doors were being blocked by two homeless men. They seemed to have settled in and made it ‘home’ despite the signs above them that said “no sleeping”. We tried to open the one door without a keeper, and it was locked. No entry.

St George Hanover Sq (2)

Meanwhile a group of people had begun to gather outside- but it turns out that they were waiting for a tour bus, which arrived soon after. Really it was a ‘posh’ neighbourhood, with Christies across the street, but the church looked so sad, unloved and dirty.

I would have loved to have gone inside and seen it more carefully. This was my one true disappointment in my “family places” tour. The photos say it all.

St George Hanover Sq (3)

Posted in British History, England, Family History, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment