Ernest and Louise: First years in Moose Jaw
In 1902, Ernest Cook came to Moose Jaw alone, and his younger brother, Ronald, followed him to Moose Jaw several years later. For Mary Louise Davidson it was the opposite experience. She was the younger sibling who came to Moose Jaw after her older sister came.
The two Davidson women were from Oshawa, Ontario. Elder sister Ella Francis Davidson came to Moose Jaw as a bride to join her businessman husband, Harry Brodie, who had established himself in Moose Jaw as one of the owner/managers of a flourishing Drug Store on the corner of Main and River Streets.
Harry Brodie had not intended to go into business in the prairies but was heading from Oshawa, Ontario to the West Coast when he was waylaid and invited to join two other men who owned the Moose Jaw Drug and Stationery Store. A detailed story of Henry (Harry) Brodie and his background was published in 1924 by John Hawkes as part of his history of Saskatchewan. Harry Brodie’s involvement in the story of 1037 Clifton is indirect but important. The first record of a living place for Harry Brodie in Moose Jaw was with the Oswald B. Fysh family in 1901. They had seven children, ages 12 and under, and they still made room for two lodgers. Whether this experience of family life in Moose Jaw was a bit overwhelming in either a positive or a negative way for Harry, we cannot know, but he was obviously inspired to start his own family in his own house. In 1903 Harry Brodie went back to Oshawa Ontario and married Miss Ella Frances Davidson, a 30-year-old school teacher. The Fysh family welcomed several more children and still took in lodgers. Several children were involved in a family pharmacy and one became the mayor of Moose Jaw.
Ella Davidson was the eldest child in a family of six children. The 1901 census shows their ages. Ella was 16 years older than the youngest of her four brothers, and she was 9 years older than her only sister, Mary Louise.
The marriage of Ella Frances Davidson to Harry Brodie took place in the bride’s parents’ home in Oshawa, Ontario on August 19th, 1903 and was reported in the Moose Jaw paper on August 27th. You can listen to one of the pieces played at the wedding by Miss Phee Hezzlewood if you like: Leybach’s Fifth Nocturne. Here it is played by Phillip Sear. The groom’s gift to the bride was a piano. Music was obviously important to the Davidson family.
I wondered if the groom bought a piano in Moose Jaw and had it ready for her in their home in Moose Jaw. I am leaning toward thinking he had the piano shipped from Oshawa because a business that had opened there in the 1880s and had now reorganized its plant and revised its piano in 1902. The New Scale Williams Piano is presented in booklet form in a piano museum online. Could this be the piano the groom bought for his bride?
Poetry was also part of the wedding with a poem by Mr. Ross Johnston of Whitby.
About 3 years later, in 1906, Ella’s sister Mary Louise Davidson moved to Moose Jaw and lived with the Brodies. These two sisters had left their 4 brothers and their parents in Ontario.
The mother of the Bride
The backstory for Ella Frances and Mary Louise Davidson begins with a mystery. Their mother, Francis Stoneman Littlejohns, seems to have come from England to Canada as a child, without her family of origin, and she grew up in Ontario. We can see the census of 1851 for the small village of Buckland Brewer in Devon.
When Frances Stoneman Littlejohns was born in October 1850 in Buckland Brewer, Devon, England, her father, Thomas, was 39, and her mother, Mary (nee Short), was 37. Both parents, other children, and Frances appear in the 1851 England census: Frances as a 6-month-old baby, and Mary at age 38. By the next census in 1861, both Mary and Frances are gone. Mary has died in 1852, and her husband Thomas Littlejohns has re-married and fathered 3 more children. Little Frances shows up in the Durham County, Ontario Census of 1861 as a 10-year-old. How did she get to Canada and who raised her? I have made contact with folks from Buckland Brewer in Devon. A lively historical society is at work tracking people who have lived in their village, and they are sharing information through blogs and newsletters to help researchers. We are checking out the possibility that she immigrated with the J. S. Thorn family who were members of the Bible Christian Church in Devon which was sending out missionaries and members to Canada in the mid to late 1840s. In the 1861 census in Canada West, the Thorn household included 2 girls, one (Mary Thorn) who was 3 years old, and born in Canada, and Francis “Littlejones”, who was 10 years old and born in England.
My hunch was that little Frances was taken in by these relatives or friends at her mother’s death because the father had his hands full. These kinds of informal adoptions were common at that time. My own great-grandmother in her infancy was taken in by another family after her mother’s death in 1852.
The long history of this village is explored by the Buckland Brewer History Group who say people have lived in Buckland for over 1000 years.
Ella and Louise Davidson’s father, Robert Davidson, had been born in Canada to immigrants from Scotland, but their mother, Frances Stoneman Littlejohns, had come from England. She settled in Bowmanville, Canada West, with the Thorn family and from 1856 until her coming of age probably stayed with that family. On the 13th of June in 1872 at aged 22, Frances Stoneman Littlejohns married Robert Davidson, son of Alexander and Elizabeth Davidson in Oshawa, Ontario. Both bride and bridegroom list their religious denomination as “Bible Christian”. This was a group that had branched out of Methodism in England and spread to Canada in the mid 19th century. The history of this group would have formed the backdrop for the mother of the Davidson girls.
Thirty years after the marriage of Robert and Frances in Oshawa, their two daughters will leave Robert and Francis with their adult sons (brothers) in Ontario. First Ella marries a local Oshawa pharmacist who is also trained in business and after their honeymoon to “points west” will settle in the house he has made ready in Moose Jaw. Ella and Harry’s house was 121 Main St. N. which is renumbered after 1914 as 843 Main St. N. It was to that house that Ella’s piano wedding gift would have been moved. From that house, she would have gone teaching school for a few years. To that house, she would have invited her younger sister Louise who had been her maid of honour to come and live with her in 1906 as Ella and Harry prepared to start their family.
The Davidson sisters experienced losses around the major transition in 1906, the year that Louise moved to Moose Jaw. Back in Oshawa, Robert Llewellyn Davidson, the brother just younger than Louisa by 2 years died on June 6th after a 7-year struggle with heart disease. He was 23 years old. Harry and Ella Brodie were probably very glad to have Louise with them when, in 1907, they lost their firstborn son, Robert Edwin, when he was only 6 days old.
Louise Davidson continued to live with Harry and Ella and was there for sisterly support in 1910 when Stuart Davidson Brodie was born. She probably lived there while Stuart was a wee boy, through the months until she married and moved into her own house with her new husband. During the courtship years of Louise and Ernest, the friendship with Ella and Harry Brodie was deepened. In January of 1913, the two couples were probably glad to be living just a 9-minute walk from each other.
The Brodie house is no longer there on the S.E. corner of the Main and Ross St intersection. This house is important because of its location near to both places where Ella’s sister Louise and her husband Ernie would live during their married life in Moose Jaw 1912-1955.
Some enchanted evening between 1906 when Louise Davidson moved to Moose Jaw and 1912, she met our Ernest George Cook. Ernest started off in Moose Jaw much as Harry Brodie had, first living with a family. In the 1906 census of the Prairie Provinces, “Earnest” Cook is listed as a “Roomer” on West Fairford. He appears to live with Mrs. Gould and her three children and 7 other roomers, all men. 20ish.
In 1907 Ernest is listed as a clerk in the accounting office of the CPR. It is not clear when this position began or ended. However, sometime that year, he moves on to a new position at the Dominion Lands Office. The Moose Jaw Times actually reported on the state of his health on Tuesday, September 24, 1907:
Mr. Ernest Cooke, (sic) of the Dominion Lands Office, underwent an operation at the hospital yesterday. His many friends will be pleased to know that he is doing as well as can be expected.
In 1908, still working at the Dominion Lands Office, he is living at 65 Main St. This may be a Boarding House run by Mrs. Joseph Brocklehurst. “65 Main” is the old numbering for what is now 321 Main N. (just south of Uptown Cafe.) In 1909 Ernest is living at 32 Ominica. On May 28, 1910, Ronald Philip Cook enters Canada at the port of Montreal and begins to make his way to Moose Jaw. When Ronald arrives, both brothers move into the new YMCA building that had just opened.
Somehow Ernest meets and becomes engaged to Mary Louise Davidson. (I like to imagine them going for a soda to the fancy soda counter installed at the newly renovated and expanded Drug and Stationery Store. )For their wedding on December 16th, 1912, they travelled to Oshawa, Ontario. I assume the wedding was similar to the one provided for Ella and Harry 9 years earlier. By the time the Henderson Directory is published in 1913, Ernest and Mary Louise have settled into their first house. It is at 69 Beech Avenue, but its address will change in 1914 to the new numbering system: 1161 First Avenue North East. Their house is a short walk away from the Brodies’ house on Main and Ross where Louise had been living with her sister since she came to Moose Jaw 6 years earlier.
The house at 843 Main North has been replaced by KFC. The distance between the two addresses is probably not a comfortable one to carry a large bucket of hot chicken, but it was a good distance for two sisters to live apart-a good distance to push a stroller or baby carriage or walk with a child for a visit or care. The Davidson sisters enjoyed the closeness, I am sure. And into the 1920s, Frances Stoneman Littlejohns Davidson spent months, perhaps years, living with the Brodies after her husband Robert Davidson passed away in 1914.
The Cook family and the Cook business seems to have flourished on First Avenue East. Ernest is vice president of an insurance company working with a businessman who had once been the mayor of Ottawa: Mr. Jacob Erratt.
From that foundation, Ernest moved on to have his own insurance company, sometimes in collaboration with other companies, and sometimes on his own. At some points, advertisements in the Henderson Directories call it the largest one in Saskatchewan. Offices moved around in those days in Moose Jaw as buildings were bought and sold and replaced.
In 1916, Ernest and Louise became the parents
of a son, Ronald George, born on April 30th. Many thanks are due to the granddaughter of the baby in these pictures who, though living halfway around the world, generously shared electronically from an old family album. I especially like the baby bath in the kitchen, but all the pictures are precious. The baby’s namesake uncle, Ronald Phillip Cook was living in Room 6 in the YMCA at the beginning of the War in 1914. He signed up early and returned to England with the 46th Battalion from MooseJaw. After the war, Ronald Phillip returns, and the Cook household will grow some more as two of Ernest’s sisters make a trip to Moose Jaw, and a baby brother arrives for Ronald George. What string of events led to the Cooks’ relocation to Clifton Avenue and becoming one of the longest Clifton stories? That is a story of another decade and must wait for another day.