Stories

The 200 story nodes created in commemoration of the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial can be searched by more than twenty themes, through the pins on the interactive map and by date on the timeline. 

You're viewing 40 stories about “Home and Family
Smallpox circa 1909. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

19th Century Diseases

1801-1900

Life is anything but easy for John A., his family and any resident of Kingston (or anywhere else) in the 19th century when it comes to health.

Brunswick Place in Glasgow has been identified as the likely birthplace of Sir John A. Macdonald. Source: Archives of Ontario.

Glasgow, Scotland

1815 ,

John A. was born in Glasgow, Scotland, coming to Kingston and area with his family when the future Prime Minister was five years old, in 1820.

Hugh John Macdonald by William Sawyer 1852. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Birth of John Alexander Macdonald

January 10-11, 1815

John Alexander Macdonald, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on either January 10 or January 11, 1815.

A New Map of Upper and Lower Canada, 1798; Stockdale Piccadilly. Source: Samuel Peter Jarvis and William Dummer Powell Collection, Archives of Ontario

Moving from Scotland to Canada

1820

John A. was five years old when he left Scotland, bound for Kingston, Upper Canada, in 1820.

Hugh Macdonald's Store in Kingston. Source: Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, by Emerson Bristol Biggar, 1891.

Hugh Macdonald's General Store

1820 - 1821

Three months after their arrival in Upper Canada, Hugh Macdonald set up a general store on King Street in Kingston, where he sold an eclectic collection of groceries, liquor, gun paraphernalia and

John A.'s Early Educational Experience

1820-1830

At age 10, Macdonald is sent to the Midland District Grammar School (replaced by Sydenham Public School) in Kingston; an academy specializing in mathematics and Latin.

Fort Henry, Point Frederick and Tete du Pont Barracks, Kingston, from the old redoubt (1841), Lieutenant Philip John Bainbrigge (1817-1881), a Royal Engineer posted to Canada from 1836 to 1842. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Macdonald Family Arrives in Kingston

1820-1830

When the Macdonald family arrived in Upper Canada in the 1820s, Kingston was rough and rude with a reputation drunkenness and prostitution.

Macdonald's home in the Bay of Quinte region. Source: City of Kingston.

John A.'s Accent

1820-1891

Macdonald is often played on TV and in live theatre with a thick Scottish accent. But Alexander Campbell, his law partner and political ally for more than 50 years, observes that John A.

Helen Shaw Macdonald circa 1850. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

James Macdonald's Death

1822

John A. Macdonald was the middle child of five born to Hugh and Helen (Shaw) Macdonald. He had an older brother who died in infancy.

The Macdonald Homestead at Adolphustown. Source: Anecdotal Life of Sir John Macdonald, Emerson Bristol Biggar, 1891.

The Macdonalds Relocate to Hay Bay

1824

After James Macdonald's horrifying death and the failure of Hugh Macdonald's Kingston ventures, the family decided to relocate to Hay Bay, on the Bay of Quinte, west of Kingston.

The house on Rideau Street where John A. was thought to have boarded while he attended Midland District Grammar School. John A. lived here again later in life as well. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. Attends Midland District Grammar School

1827-1829

Shortly after the Macdonalds moved to the Bay of Quinte area, Hugh and Helen Macdonald decided to spend a good portion of their savings to send 10-year-old John A.

Kingston, Upper Canada. Source: Library and Archives of Canada.

The Cruickshank Grammar School

1829

In 1829, the Macdonalds moved John A. to Reverend John Cruickshank's new, co-educational Kingston Grammar School.

The unveiling of 'Holding Court.'  L-R: Robert Quaiff (Mayor of Prince Edward County), Daryl Kramp (M.P. Hastings and Prince Edward), Janet Minor (Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada), Ruth Abernethy (Artist), David Warrick (Chair of the Macdonald Project). Source: The Macdonald Project.

Sir John A and "The County"

October 8, 1834

While often referred to as Macdonald of Kingston, he and his family originally had close associations with Prince Edward County and the Bay of Quinte region to the west of Kingston from 1824-1835.

Lady Agnes Macdonald circa 1873 by William Topley. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Susan Agnes Bernard

August 24, 1836 – September 5, 1920

Susan Agnes Bernard, who grew up in Jamaica, married John A. , in England, in early 1867. Her brother, Hewitt, served as Macdonald's private secretary.

Bellevue House. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Bellevue House

1840 - present day

Once home to John A. and his first wife, Isabella, Bellevue House, an architectural gem and a National Historic Site, was officially opened as a museum by Her Majesty the Queen in 1967.

Sir John A Macdonald circa 1842 or 1843. Artist unknown. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. Travels to England (1843)

1843

In 1843, Macdonald travels to England, in part to regain his health and clear his mind from recent events including the death of his father.

Statement of Marriage between John A. Macdonald and Isabella Clark. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. Marries Isabella Clark

September 1, 1843

In the summer of 1843, John A.'s cousin, Isabella, arrived in Kingston from England. Before long, Macdonald was courting her.

Portrait of Isabella Clark by William Sawyer. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Isabella Macdonald's Health Takes a Turn for the Worse

1845-1857

While Macdonald was away for weeks of time in Montreal (then the seat of parliament for the Province of Canada), Isabella began suffering from an illness that left her plagued with aches, pains and

John Alexander Macdonald Jr.

1847-1848

Born to John A. and his wife Isabella in 1847, Sir John A.'s namesake did not live long.

Hugh John Macdonald by William Sawyer 1852. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Births of John Alexander and Hugh John Macdonald

1847-1850

After their Christmas holiday together in New York City, Isabella found herself pregnant. John A. was by Isabella's side when she delivered a healthy baby boy on Aug. 2, 1847.

John Rose by William James Topley. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. and John Rose Go Bar-Hopping in the USA

1850

A long-time confidant and drinking companion of John A. is Montreal lawyer and businessman John Rose.

Portrait of James Williamson by William Sawyer circa 1887. Source: Queen's Archives.

James Williamson Marries Margaret Macdonald

October 19, 1852

Married to Macdonald's sister Margaret, James Williamson is far more than a brother-in-law to John A.

Hugh John Macdonald circa 1871 by William Toply. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Hugh John Macdonald and His Relationship with John A.

1857-1877

Following the death of Isabella Macdonald when their son was just 7, Hugh John Macdonald lived with his aunt, Margaret, and her husband James Williamson at Heathfield in Kingston.

Newspaper notice of Isabella Macdonald's death and funeral. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Isabella Macdonald's Death

December 28, 1857

Sadly, on Dec. 28, 1857, one month after John A. had been appointed premier of the Province of Canada, Isabella died, bringing to a close a forlorn and unhappy period. John A.

John A. Macdonald, June 1, 1858. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Double Shuffle

1858

1858 was an arduous year for John A. He was mourning the death of Isabella and his mother was in very poor health.

Charles Tupper circa 1873. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. and Charles Tupper

1860-1891

As premier of Nova Scotia, Charles Tupper leads the reluctant province into Confederation in 1867, then goes on to have a long and complicated relationship with Macdonald.

Painting of waterfront near Portsmouth Village by Charles Wrenshall (1838-1928). Source: private collection.

The 1861 Election Celebration

1861

Macdonald celebrated his 1861 election victory at Hazeldell, the home in Portsmouth village where his mother and family were living.

Helen Shaw Macdonald circa 1850. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Death of Helen Macdonald

October 24, 1862

Helen Macdonald died on October 24, 1862 and was buried in the Cataraqui Cemetery.

Heathfield Villa circa 1900. Source: Archives, Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.

Heathfield

1865-1876

Built in the 1830s in what was then the countryside, the residence changed hands a number of times in the first few years, but became known as Heathfield after Charles Heath, the property’s owner f

Susan Agnes Bernard Macdonald. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. Marries Susan Agnes Bernard

February 16, 1867

On February 16, 1867, John A. married Susan Agnes Bernard, a Jamaican-born English woman, 21 years his junior, at St. George's Church in London's Hanover Square.

Lady Agnes Macdonald circa 1873 by William Topley. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Agnes Macdonald's Influence on Sir John A.'s Mood

July 7, 1867

Not surprisingly, Sir John A put in some long hours at the office. In her diary a week after Confederation, Agnes Macdonald gives us an insider’s view of his mood and their relationship.

Lady S. Agnes Macdonald (née Bernard) circa 1873 by William Topley. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Agnes Macdonald's Religion

1867-1891

Passionately devoted to an unusually puritanical Anglicanism, Agnes's religious beliefs were a major influence on the Macdonald home.

Lady S. Agnes Macdonald (née Bernard) circa 1881 by William Topley. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Agnes' Response to John A.'s Drinking

1867-1891

Agnes Macdonald is generally given credit for adding 10-15 years to John A.'s life.

Baroness Macdonald of Earnscliffe and daughter Mary Macdonald. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

The Birth of Mary Theodora Macdonald

February 8, 1869

On February 8, 1869, Mary Theodora Macdonald was born to Lady Agnes and Sir John A.

East Block, Parliament Hill. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. Diagnosed with Gallstones

May 6, 1870

On May 6, 1870, Sir John A.'s assistant heard a crash and found the Prime Minister in convulsions, his pulse almost undetectable. It appeared that Sir John A. was dying.

Sir Charles Tupper and Hugh John MacDonald by William Notman & Son. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

John A. and Charles Tupper Have a Falling Out

1880-1890

Despite the fact that they are intimate political allies, for close to two years Macdonald and Tupper rarely speak to each other.

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