This is the house of my great great Aunt, Frances Stephens. It is on Dorchester Street in Montreal where Place Ville Marie is now. She was, in 1915, a widow and the second wife and sister of the first wife of George Washington Stephens. (Here is a link to much much more)
Here she is just before she left Montreal for England. She will bring her grandson, John, with her. Note the pearls - we will come back to them later.
His sister, my great Aunt Frances, is already in England with her mother Hazel nee Kemp Stephens.
Here is Hazel whose father, A E Kemp, was to become the Minister for Militia and succeed Hughes. Here is a link to his house in Toronto, Castle Frank. In her arms are John and my great aunt Frances who died only a year ago aged over 100.
Here is Chattan Stephens, Frances Stephens' son. He had been in the 13th Battalion, the same as Guy Drummond. But he had contracted Trench Fever that had them lead to Endocarditis - a very serious heart problem.
Chattan's sister and Frances' daughter was Marguerite Gault, Uncle Hammy Gault's wife. She had come over with the PPLCI in October 1914. Hammy had been wounded and was recuperating. He did not return to the front until May 8 and he may well have seen Marguerite.
If you have been following our story, you may now be getting a sense of how intertwined this group of Montrealers was then.
On or around the 23rd of April, Hazel had received a letter, dated 22nd April, from Chattan telling her that he was being repatriated to England. A formal note from the Army dated April 20th, informed Hazel that Chattan was "Dangerously ill". She would have got that about the same time.
So, at about the same time that Dorothy Braithwaite heard in Canada of the deaths on April 20th and 22nd, of her two brothers in law, Guy Drummond and Trum Warren, Frances Stephens heard of Chattan being close to death.
The family story for why she then booked a crossing on the Lusitania was that she always went shopping for clothes in Paris every year and she was not going to let the Germans stop her. I suspect that, deep down, she felt that if he saw his son that this would boost his morale.
The irony is that Chattan did not want any of his children to be risked on the journey. He had pushed back at Hazel when she took Aunt Frances. Back on October 27th his letter included these lines.
"I am glad the kiddies are well. Mother is happy as a lark with John. It was an awfully good idea of yours to let her have him. It helps you and she is just delighted. ... Dearest, I want you but I honestly think that you are better there. This is no place for women and children."
He ate crow in his next letter.
"I got a letter from you in which you as much said to Blazes with staying in Canada and that you were coming over. This letter I got just after writing to you and rather discouraging the idea for which I duly ask for forgiveness. I did it with the best of intentions as I thought that you would have a hard time of it here. But if you have made up that wonderful little mind of yours, why hurry up! You won't find your welcome lukewarm."
These letters are in the family collection.
I am not sure how Hazel felt about her mother in law coming over. She had her hands full with the sick Chattan and with the 3 year old Frances. Her sister in law, Marguerite was a bit of a flake at the best of times too and could not be relied on.
Most mothers in law can be a trial. Frances Stephens was known to be difficult. Until she married her dead sister's husband, she had been very poor and a spinster aged 27 with no prospects at all. To compensate, after her marriage, 19 years her husbands junior, she became very grand indeed. Her famous pearls were part of this persona.
She would, of course, be no help at all and would herself have to be looked after. With baby John added to the mix, Hazel might well have wished that her mother in law had not taken the trip.
Frances booked two cabins in First Class - for herself with her maid Elise Oberlin (Swiss) in D5 and Baby John and his nurse Caroline Milne (English) in D9. I myself cannot make sense of this arrangement. No one shared a cabin with their maid then. And the last person in the world to share with her maid would be the very grand Frances. My bet is that Elise and Caroline shared D9 with John and that Frances was on her own.
Frances was also very Scots and tight as a tick with money. The First Class cabins on D deck were on the same floor as the First Class dining room but this was the cheaper deck for first class. The best Deck was B deck.
But she was still part of the Montreal elite.
I can imagine much communication between Frances and my Aunt Marguerite Allan. What were their plans for travel? Maybe they shared a railway car to New York? Maybe they just took the same train. Would they stay overnight in New York before the sailing on May 1st?
Certainly they arranged a grand Montreal Table in the dining room of the Lusitania.
Interestingly, on the grand but cheap track, Aunt Marguerite's staff and Slingsby, who worked for Aunt M's close friend, Frederick Orr Lewis, shared a table in the First Class dining room on the balcony by the window on the starboard side . Also with then was William Stainton who was Charles Frohman's valet. Slingsby shared a cabin with Ronald Denyer, Mt Vanderbilt's valet. The really grand people looked after their people.
There is no record of the dining arrangements for Frances Stephens' staff. Was Mrs Stephens being "Scots"?
May 1st is sailing day. At some point in the next few days Frances and the rest of the party will take the sleeper train from Montreal to Penn Station in New York. More on that later.