The Obituary of Margaret McRae

Margaret McRae was my second great grandaunt. When she died on July 1, 1927, she was claimed to be the oldest living resident in Canada at 108 years young. Her exact age might be disputed as her obituary states her year of birth to be 1819 but her death registration gives her year of birth as 1820. Whether the year of her birth was 1819 or 1820, undoubtedly she lived a very long life especially in an era without antibiotics and a resulting high mortality rate.

One of the great aspects of finding family obituaries is that they often provide information about the person and their family that you didn’t know. The Windsor Star newspaper published an obituary on July 2, 1927 that states Margaret was the mother of twelve children. I only know of ten so more research is needed to find the missing two. The son, “J.L.”, that the newspaper reports Margaret to have been living with at the time of her death, is John Lawrence McRae.

I was particularly impressed with the reference to Margaret’s friendship with Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister in the following is the Windsor Star obituary:

“At ten o’clock in the morning on the 60th birthday of her country, the oldest resident of Canada, whose age was nearly twice that of the Confederated Union, passed away quietly at her home at 4 Askin boulevard, Sandwich.

Mrs. Margaret McRae, 108 years of age, was born in Nova Scotian the days when the word “Canada” indicated to a Nova Scotian the equivalent of a foreign country. She was to live, as she grew older, in both the provinces of “Upper” and “Lower” Canada, to see them merged together, as she approached middle age, into a gigantic Union which included her native province as well, and to die upon the day when this great Confederation celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of its union.

Mrs. McRae was born on the 27th of January, 1819, in the beautiful Valley of the Margaree in Cape Breton Island. The rumbles of the Napoleonic wars were still in the air and veterans of the War of 1812 were as common as the Great War today. Brock’s memory was a matter of yesterday and the blood of Tecumseh was scarcely dry upon the sod of Moraviantown, in the district where the child, born in Cape Breton, was to die 108 years later. On the very day, and almost at the very hour of her death, speakers in the town of Sandwich were addressing Jubilee day crowds from the porch of a mansion which had been Brock’s headquarters in the War of 1812, a few years prior to her birth more than a century before.

Mrs. McRae was taken by her parents, as a child, to Three Rivers, Quebec. Later the family moved to “Upper Canada” locating at Wolf Island, near Kingston, Ontario. A she reached maturity, Mrs. McRae moved to Victoria County, where the greater part of her life was to be spent. Her father was a farmer and pioneer school teacher of the early days of the country.

Mrs. McRae, to the last days of her life, maintained a keen interest in public and passing affairs and last year exercised her right of franchise in provincial and federal elections. Her interest in the affairs of Canada was not only that of a resident, but the deep concern of one who had seen the country grow from infancy. She was a personal friend of Sir John A. MacDonald, and the “Fathers of Confederation” who are, to the present generation, figures of history, were to her living memories of the most active period of her long and useful life.

Mrs. McRae was the mother of 12 children, of whom only two are now living. She spent the last years of her life in the home of her son, J. L. McRae, 4 Askin boulevard, Sandwich. One other son, William, of Detroit, still survives of her large family. The body will be taken on Monday to Mount Pleasant, Michigan, for internment. No services will be held at the Border Cities home.”

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