(stock photo of a “happy” wedding)
On Friday I wrote two stories about local women and their dilemmas coping with life in early Lanark County. When I was reading Glenn Lockwood’s book on Beckwith this weekend he wrote that it was basically religious social control that attempted to shield women from scorn in that early society.
Local women were controlled to such a point that young women such as Dorah Smith from Carleton Place, who arrived in Canada as a orphan had to obtain a guardian to give their consent before she could marry. Home became the centre of virtue and the proper life for women and it was a matter of fact that one must be married by twenty-one, and expected to begin having children immediately. Those that did not marry were regarded as social failures and treated with pity and contempt.
I have published many Perth Courier ads that were in newspapers of engagements gone sour, not only because they found their future partner undesirable, but more so that their future partner might be a little lighter in the purse. This factor might guarantee their quality of life might go down a notch or two, and that might be not advantageous to either party. Seeing passion, lust and love were way down on the food chain one has to wonder how happy some were in marriage.
It was duty first, owning land and happiness later, and children were not exempt in these rules. Disobedient son? You might want to think once or twice about that as another brother might inherit what was supposed to be coming your way. What you owned became a status symbol, and homes and property remained in the family for generations. It was important until about the mid 1900s that property remain in the family. In fact, land could not be sold or mortgaged unless it was within the family.
I often thought it was strange that when my Grandfather died he had strong stipulations in his will and my father continued the same tradition. When my Dad died neither my sister or I could only share his estate until she turned 31. Disputes between siblings separated families. Between 1828 and 1851 only a fraction of wills left property to the wife, and wills that left property to their wives would only remain valid as long as they remained unmarried.
Married women were barred from making contracts, appearing as witnesses in court, and initiating lawsuits. A wife’s legal personality was subsumed under her husband’s and all her property automatically became her husband’s. Even if she had her own land, her husband received the income from it as she had no legal rights. Similar to the court case between Beckwith residents Selina Drummond and her husband, law mostly removed itself from marital relations.
Bathurst Courier, March, 1838
Notice, my wife Christian McQuarrie having left my bed and board for no just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her as I will pay no debits contracted by her on my account. Daniel McQuarrie
Bathurst Courier, April 13, 1838
Notice, the subscriber forbids any person harboring or trusting his wife Betsey Markey (?) Mankey (?) Minielly, as she has left his bed and board without any just cause. W. Minnielly, Elmsley
Bathurst Courier, June 1, 1838
Notice, Elizabeth Youll, my wife, having left my bed and board without any just cause, I prohibit any person from giving her credit in my name as I will not pay any such debt. James Youll
Notice, Janet Anderson, my wife, having left my bed and board without any just cause, I prohibit any person from giving her credit in my name as I will not pay any such debt. Joseph Anderson
Bathurst Courier August 9, 1839
Notice, my wife Bridget Connel Kenny having left my bed and board without any just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her on my account as I will pay no debts of her contracting after this date. John Kenny
As my wife Ann Horton McIntyre has left my bed and board for no just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her on my account as I will pay no debts contracted by her. Peter McIntyre
Perth Courier, April 7, 1871
Caution—Whereas my wife, Elizabeth Ann Geary, has left my bed and board without any just cause or provocation, the public will hereby be cautioned against giving her any credit on my account. George Geary, Bathurst
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