26 October 2016

Historical Society of Ottawa: October meeting

This Friday 28 October 2016 delve deep into The Social History of Bytown, 1841-1875 with a HSO presentation by Mary Cox

"In January 1837, Thomas Hunton, age fourteen, arrived in Bytown, population only 1,300, to work as a clerk in a dry goods store. By the 1840s, he owned his own dry goods store, and by the 1860s operated a thriving enterprise at the corner of Sparks and Mecalfe Streets. In 1844, he married Amelia Houghton, whose mother was of the prominent Billings family. The couple lived at the corner of Laurier Avenue and Metcalfe Street, where the Ottawa Public Library is now located, in a home built by the architects who designed the Parliament buildings. Through their extensive courtship letters, Mary Cox explores the social history of Bytown and early Ottawa. What was Bytown like when Hunton arrived? How did the recession of the 1840s affect the Hunton family? How did the wealthy react to the arrival of Irish immigrants who brought typhus to Bytown? Finally, Mary asks the question why did wife Amelia take her son Frederick to court following the untimely death of her husband Thomas in 1875?"

Mary Cox is Ottawa born and raised. From an early age, she developed an interest in Ottawa history, inspired by an elderly friend of her mother who told amazing stories of her life growing up in Ottawa. As a teenager, Mary started to collect books on the history of Bytown, and researched Bytown's history at the National Archives. When ten years ago a friend handed her a story about Thomas Hunton of Bytown, her passion was rekindled. She combed every issue of the Bytown Gazette for information about Hunton and his family. Discovering on an internet search that courtship letters written between Thomas and his then girlfriend Amelia Houghton were extant, she subsequently transcribed more than 90 of these letters. One short story about Thomas has so far produced almost 200 pages of a book about his life and times in Bytown and Ottawa.

The Historical Society of Ottawa meets at 1 pm at the Routhier Community Centre, 172 Guigues Street in Ottawa. All welcome.

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