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Bagg Family Fonds (P070)

Supplying the largest construction site in Lower Canada

"Contractors Dr [debtors] to Store
2 Gallons Rum......................[at] 3/
4 ½ Loaves Bread.................. " 8d
15 tbs Cheese........................" 6d
3 pints Rum for Men at pump......"

Foodstuffs, alcohol, tobacco, candles, clothing, gunpowder, tools of all kinds... The accounts of the workmen's store, the primary supplier to workers on the Lachine Canal construction project (1821-1825), sketch a veritable profile of consumer habits and business practices of the time.

Built according to the highest British engineering standards, the 14-kilometre canal with seven locks was the largest construction project ever undertaken up to that time. Hundreds of workers, most of them Irish immigrants, worked on the project. Carpenters, stone-cutters, masons, blacksmiths, and countless day labourers worked 14 hours a day to dig the canal and build its locks, often in deplorable conditions.

The accounting records preserved in the Bagg Family archives itemize, on a nearly daily basis, the products and services supplied by the store, the names of the purchasers (debtors) and the sums paid. By tracing the everyday details of this mega-project, these documents provide rare insight into the social and economic history of Montreal.


P070 Bagg Family Fonds. - 1749-1995. - 318.5 cm of textual records and other documents.

Biographical Sketch

Originally from the United States, the Bagg family is one of the oldest English-speaking families on the island of Montreal, and one of the most influential. The biographies of some of its most famous members are summarized below.

Abner BAGG (1790-1852)
Son of Phineas Bagg (1751-1823) and Pamela Stanley (1760-1793?), he married Mary Ann Wurtele (1795-1827) in 1814. His second marriage, to Mary Ann MITTLEBERGER (1807-1896) in 1831, produced four children who lived to adulthood: Alfred, Mary Eliza, Margaret Pamela and Emily Caroline.

Abner Bagg moved to Montreal with his father and brother Stanley in the late 1700s. This merchant and landowner owned several stores and businesses that he ran with his brother, including a hat store in Montreal. He also exported lumber, sold lye and furs, and owned a woodlot north of Quebec City and a brewery in Laprairie. In 1821, he worked on the Lachine Canal construction project with his brother, as both contractor and supplier. A victim of the financial crisis, Abner Bagg went bankrupt in 1827. In 1837, he was appointed treasurer of the 1st Battalion Montreal Volunteer Militia.

Stanley BAGG (1786-1853)
Brother of Abner Bagg, in 1819 he married Mary Ann Clark (1795-1835), with whom he had one son: Stanley Clark Bagg.

Beginning in 1810, this businessman was involved in various contracts for the British Army, from which he built his personal fortune. As part of the Lachine Canal construction project, Stanley Bagg gave his father-in-law John Clark (1767-1827) the mandate to supply the canal workers with meat. In 1831, he helped found the City Bank of Montreal. He also participated in the politics of Lower Canada, running as a candidate in the 1832 by-election in the West Ward of Montreal.

Stanley Clark BAGG (1820-1873)
Son of Stanley Bagg and Mary Ann Clark, in 1844 he married Catharine MITCHESON (1822-1914), with whom he had six children: Mary Ann Frances, Robert Stanley, Catherine Sophia, Amelia Josephine, Mary Heloise and Helene Frances.

Upon his mother's death, Stanley Clark Bagg inherited an unprecedented parcel of land for mid-19th Montreal. The Bagg family's property was bordered by Sherbrooke Street to the south, the Des Prairies River to the north, St. Lawrence Boulevard to the east and Parc Avenue to the west. During the 1837-1838 Rebellions, he took part in the Battle of St. Eustache and then remained associated with the Conservative Party of John A. Macdonald. After studying at McGill University, Stanley Clark Bagg became a notary (1842) and practised until 1856. Three years later, he was appointed justice of the peace in Montreal.

A great philanthropist, Stanley Clark Bagg played a prominent role in the English Workingmen's Benefit Society. He helped found the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal and was its president in 1866.

Robert Stanley Clark BAGG (1848-1912)
The son of Stanley Clark Bagg and Catharine Mitcheson, he married Clara C. SMITHERS (1861-1946) in 1882, who was the daughter of Charles Francis Smithers (1822-1887), the president of the Bank of Montreal. The couple had three children: Evelyn St. Clair Stanley Bagg, Gwendolyn Catherine Stanley Bagg and Harold Fortesque Stanley Bagg.

Although he studied to become a notary, Robert Stanley Clark Bagg was better known as an infantry company commander in the 5th Battalion Canadian Volunteer Militia.

Evelyn St. Clair Stanley BAGG (1883-1970)
The daughter of Robert Stanley Clark Bagg and Clara C. Smithers, she married Huntly Ward Davis in 1910. The couple had one daughter: Clare Ward Davis.

Harold Fortesque Stanley BAGG (1896-1944)
The son of Robert Stanley Clark Bagg and Clara C. Smithers, he married New Yorker Katherine Louise Morse (1904-1939).

Harold Fortesque Stanley Bagg worked in the family real estate business after graduating from Lower Canada College. His poor health prevented him from joining the Canadian war effort, even though he had obtained a pilot's licence.

John RADIGER (1809-1883)
In 1838, he married Eleanor Jobson (1813-1881), with whom he had at least three children, including Charles William (1841-1897), who married Emily Caroline Stanley BAGG (1848-1920).

A lawyer by training, John Radiger became the officer in charge of the Commissariat House in St. John's, Newfoundland, in 1839. With his daughter Sophia Radiger (?-1927), his son Charles William, and the latter's wife, Emily Caroline Stanley Bagg, he later moved to Manitoba, opening the store CW Radiger & Brother in 1873.

Scope and Content

The fonds traces the personal and professional lives of members of an influential family active in the Montreal economy, society and politics during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The majority of the documents in the fonds concern the commercial and financial activities of brothers Abner and Stanley Bagg. These documents illustrate their achievements as contractors and retailers, and are a rich source of information on Montreal's economic history. In particular, the fonds chronicles the market practices of the era, production diversification, land speculation, the massive influx of immigrants looking for business opportunities and the dependency on credit. There are records of the Baggs' various businesses and partnerships, including the hat store, the Laprairie Brewery, the Lachine Canal construction project and the workmen's store. The fonds also contains archives related to the Royal Artillery, as well as the timber and stone trade. It is made up of account books, ledgers, inventories of goods, cash books, day books (rough copies of account books), contracts, books of quittances, payrolls, time sheets, a measurement protocol, and letter books of copies of letters and payment receipts.

In addition, the fonds documents certain aspects of the personal and domestic lives of brothers Abner and Stanley Bagg, their wives and their descendants. It illustrates the connections between the various family members, and their interests. There are many letters, scrapbooks, legal papers, marriage certificates, wills, land titles, lists of accounts, expenditure records, and press clippings. Finally, documents associated with some members of related families like the Shackells and Radigers complete this collection.

Among the iconographic documents in the fonds are a print of Abner Bagg's coat of arms and 692 photographs that primarily depict the friends and family of Samuel Shackell, Mary Elizabeth Bagg and Gwendolyn Catherine Stanley Bagg.

Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.

Physical description: Includes 1 object, 694 iconographic documents, 1 architectural drawing and 3 cartographic records.

Physical condition: Several documents are fragile, notably because the paper is brittle, and some books have loose binding.

Immediate source of acquisition: Individual donations made between 2002 and 2013 have been added to the original Bagg Family Fonds.

Arrangement: A new classification plan was adopted in the winter of 2009, and the fonds underwent a comprehensive treatment in 2013.

Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

Restrictions on access: A scrapbook preserved in series P070/B10 has been photocopied because of its fragility.

Related groups of records: The McCord Museum's Notman Photographic Archives collection includes various photographs of Bagg family members taken at the Notman Studio from the second half of the 19th century to the early 20th century. The McCord Museum's Thematic Resources collection also contains a general information file about the Bagg family (C069/B,46).

General note: Sports medals won by Frederick Arthur Shackell (M2012.70.3-6) and printing plates identified with the name of Abner Bagg (M2012.70.7-8) are preserved in the McCord Museum's Decorative Arts collection. A pocket watch belonging to Frederick Arthur Shackell (M2012.70.9) is also preserved in the Costume and Textiles collection.


The fonds is divided into the following series, sub-series and files:

  • P070/A Business Documents
    • P070/A1 Hat store
    • P070/A2 Laprairie Brewery. - 1821-1832. - 9.8 cm of textual records.
    • Scope and Content: This sub-series chronicles the financial activities of the Laprairie Brewery, administered in part by Abner Bagg. It contains account books, a cash book and a day book.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the sub-series.

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P070/A3 Lachine Canal
    • P070/A4 Workmen's store. - 1821-1823. - 30 cm of textual records.
    • Scope and Content: This sub-series documents the financial activity of the workmen's store, a business that supplied the workers of the Lachine Canal construction project from 1821 to 1823. It contains day books and accounting records listing various purchases made by the workers, the products sold in the store, and the prices of the various items.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the sub-series.

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P070/A5 Other businesses and partnership

  • P070/B Personal Documents
    • P070/B1 Abner Bagg
    • P070/B2 Mary Ann Mittleberger
    • P070/B3 Stanley Bagg
    • P070/B4 Sophia Bagg
    • P070/B5 Stanley Clark Bagg
    • P070/B6 Catharine Mitcheson Bagg
    • P070/B7 Amelia Josephine Bagg Mulholland
    • P070/B8 Robert Stanley Clark Bagg
      • P070/B8,1 Scrapbook
        • P070/B8,1.1 P070/B8,1.1 Scrapbook made by Robert Stanley Clark Bagg. - [18-]. - 1 textual record ; 20 x 17 cm.
        • Scope and Content: This album illustrates the interests of Robert Stanley Clark Bagg when he was a child. It contains pictures of animals glued onto blank pages as well as some writing likely done by a young child.

          Source of title proper: Title based on the type of document.

          Language: The documents are in English.

      • P070/B8,2 Publication
      • P070/B8,3 Correspondence
      • P070/B8,4 Deeds of sale and partition
      • P070/B8,5 Press clippings
    • P070/B9 Clara C. Smithers Bagg
    • P070/B10 Evelyn Stanley Bagg Davis
      • P070/B10,1 Publications
        • M986.70.4 The Ghosts of My Friends [autograph book]. - 1906-1907. - 1 textual record ; 17 x 10 cm.
        • Scope and Content: This autograph book contains unusual images created by having signers fold the page in half vertically to blot their wet ink signatures.

          Source of title proper: Based on the title of the document.

          Language: The documents are in English.

      • P070/B10,2 Personal Recipe books
      • P070/B10,3 Scrapbook
      • P070/B10,4 Wedding list
      • P070/B10,5 Christmas and Valentine's Day cards
    • P070/B11 Harold Fortesque Stanley Bagg
    • P070/B12 John Radiger
    • P070/B13 Emily Caroline Bagg Radiger
    • P070/B14 Mary Eliza Bagg Shackell
    • P070/B15 Frederick Arthur Shackell
    • P070/B16 Kathleen May Giroux Shackell
    • P070/B17 Other members of the Bagg, Shackell and Radiger families

  • P070/C Map and Plans

  • P070/D Photographs