Charles Wilson in 1849. Portrait
by Théophile Hamel.
Oil on canvas
102 x 84 cm
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1963.1423
Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend estate
| Wilson-Tracey Household (in 1849)
1849, Ann Tracey and Charles Wilson lived in a house that
they owned on Craig Street (now St. Antoine) at the corner
of Côte de la Place-d'Armes. They had by then been
married for close to 15 years, but apparently had no children.
The couple were Roman Catholics, and probably worshipped
at St. Patrick's Church, completed not far from there in
1847. Charles Wilson was a prominent businessman and hardware
importer; his company, Wilson & Couillard, had its
offices in a store-residence on St. Paul Street West, near
the Customs house on Place Royale. His associate, A. Couillard,
lived on the premises. In the year 1849, the Wilsons were
not spared by the outbreak of violent demonstrations when
royal assent was given to a bill compensating individuals
who had suffered damages during the Rebellions of 1837–1838.
Rioters sacked and burned the Parliament, and Wilson's
home, like that of his friend Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine,
was severely vandalized during April.
With the turn of the 1850s, Wilson
became very active on the Montreal political scene. He
was elected a councillor, then appointed mayor by his peers
in 1851. During this time, the St. Anne's Market, the seat
of the Parliament that had burned in 1849, was rebuilt.
In 1852, Wilson became the first elected mayor of Montreal.
Under his administration, city hall was moved to the Bonsecours
Market. That year was to bring its share of tragedy, however:
two major fires broke out . One, the worst-ever of both
the 19th and 20th centuries in Montreal, destroyed fully
one quarter of the city (mostly the faubourgs),
while the other ravaged the heart of the business district
(on St. Paul Street around the Customs House). Charles
Wilson's hardware business and the Couillard family home
were lost to the flames. This led to the Wilson administration
decreeing that a regulation enforcing the use of masonry
cladding in building construction be extended to the entire
city. Under Wilson, city council also voted to begin construction
of a new waterworks, a project that had been under discussion
for years. Not long after Wilson's re-election in 1853,
a sermon by anti-Catholic preacher Alexandre Gavazzi led
to a violent confrontation between Orangemen and Irish
Catholics, during which police fired into the crowd. Journalists
accused Wilson of having given the order himself, a charge
which he vehemently denied; nevertheless, he resigned from
office that same year.
These events did not keep the couple
from pursuing other interests: in the early 1850s, Ann
Tracey purchased a vacant lot which had previously been
occupied by a store-residence destroyed in the great fire
of 1852. She and her husband then undertook the construction
of the building that now stands at 105 St. Paul Street
West. In 1854, Ann also purchased from her husband's brother,
Edward Wilson, a series of store-warehouses that were then
under construction along St. Paul Street. Two of these,
the twin buildings on either side of St. Lawrence Boulevard,
are still standing today. Charles Wilson and Ann Tracey
engaged in a number of other real-estate projects, including
the construction of another elegant store-warehouse on
Notre-Dame Street (the present-day 243–245 Notre-Dame Street
West), completed in 1866.
- Lovell, Annuaires
de Montréal (1842-)
Charles Wilson was born in 1808
in Coteau-du-Lac; his father was of Scottish heritage
and his mother was a d'Ailleboust, an old family among
the gentry of New France. Charles soon showed he had
a head for business, and in 1834, opened his own hardware
firm in Montreal, which quickly became prosperous.
He married Ann Tracey, originally from Ireland, on
May 19, 1835. From that moment on, Wilson became committed
to the St. Patrick Society, whose role was becoming
more vital than ever in the wake of the mass exodus
of emigrants from Ireland.
In 1867 Wilson was appointed
a Senator in the newly constituted Canadian Parliament,
representing the riding of Rigaud.
- Born: 1808
owned or occupied:
- 243-245 rue Notre-Dame Ouest (owner)
- 105 rue Saint-Paul Ouest Tracey-Wilson
- Marsolais, Maires de Montréal
- DBC en ligne, Philippe Sylvain, "Charles
Wilson" Link to Web site
Little is known about Ann Tracey's childhood years.
She was born into a Catholic family in Ireland in either 1806 or 1807,
and was orphaned as a very young girl. She and two of her brothers were
raised by an uncle on her father's side; she arrived in Montreal with
them in 1825. Ann was the sister of Dr. Daniel Tracey, founder of an
Patriote-leaning newspaper, The Vindicator, which was
attacked during the Rebellions of 1837–1838, after Ann's wedding
to Charles Wilson, in 1835.
owned or occupied:
1-3 rue Saint-Paul Ouest Masson store (owner)
105 rue Saint-Paul Ouest Tracey-Wilson Store-warehouse (owner)
- 1 rue Saint-Paul Est (owner)
DBC en ligne, France Galarneau, "Daniel Tracey" Link
to Web site
- DBC en ligne, Philippe Sylvain, "Charles Wilson" Link
to Web site
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Last updated: March 17,