In the last episode, we learned about Toronto bookseller Magnus Shewan’s death in 1884 and that his niece Mrs. Fraser was surprised when she tried to claim her inheritance—at least according to the Toronto Daily News.
The Globe published a death notice on February 5, 1884:
DIED/ Suddenly, on Monday morning, Feb 4th, Magnus Shewan, age 75 years, a native of Dunrossness, Shetland, and a resident of Toronto since 1841. Funeral on Wednesday afternoon at two o’clock, from his late residence, 21 Dalhousie-st. Friends and acquaintances will please accept this invitation. Shetland papers please copy.
And they did. On March 1, 1884, a similar notice appeared in the Shetland Times.
Now back to the fate of Mrs. Fraser, who I’m now almost certain was the former Margaret Shewan, daughter of Magnus’ brother Christopher Shewan.
Magnus Shewan’s will was written, as the newspaper stated, 26 years before his demise—in 1858. I’ve transcribed it, and the original is also reproduced below.
This is the last will and testament of Magnus Shewan of the City of Toronto in the Province of Canada Bookseller.
I give devise and bequeath all the property real and personal of which I may die possessed to my cousin Magnus Shewan upon trust to sell and dispose of the same as soon after my decease as possible without sacrificing the same but no forced sale within two years which I allow for winding up of my Estate, and to divide the proceeds thereof in manner following:-
One fifth to my mother Agnes Shewan
One fifth to my brother Christopher Shewan
One fifth to my cousin Magnus Shewan to be retained for his own use and benefit
One tenth to my servant Charles Backus
One tenth to my cousin John Harper in Shetland, Scotland, one half of that for himself and the residue to be given by him to such of my relatives as he may consider most in need of it.
One fifth to Magnus, the son of my cousin Magnus.
I’ll interject a little more, here, about the cast of characters. Mother Agnes died in 1865 (7 years after the will was written but 19 years before our Magnus died) and is buried in the Toronto Necropolis in plot L 124S. The nearly illegible gravestone says she was the wife of the late James Shewan and mother of Magnus and Christopher. The plot was owned by Magnus.
Brother Christopher Shewan died less than six months before Magnus on September 12, 1883, in Guelph, Ontario, and was buried the next day in plot L 125 in the Toronto Necropolis. This plot was also owned by Magnus.
Cousin Magnus, as we saw last time, did outlive our Magnus Shewan, and served as administrator of the estate.
Servant Charles Backus has eluded me, and I haven’t identified John Harper of Shetland.
Young cousin-once-removed Magnus (son of cousin Magnus) also survived to inherit.
Now back to the will.
I give my wearing apparel to my brother Christopher.
I will and direct that my mother’s share shall be first paid and that she shall from time to time immediately after my decease have such sums of money out of her share of my Estate as she shall require.
I will and direct that all my just debts and funeral expenses shall be in the first place paid out of my Estate and Effects and before payment of any of the shares or legacies above given except such sums as my mother may require for her support and maintenance.
In the event of the death of any of the legatees above mentioned before me, I will and direct that his or her share shall be divided amongst the others in the proportion of their respective shares of my Estate, and I more particularly direct that under no circumstances shall the wife or daughter Margaret of my brother have any share or portion of my Estate in consequence of their misconduct towards him.
Ah, so it is true. It doesn’t pay to upset Uncle Magnus.
I hereby appoint my said cousin Magnus the Executor of this my will, and I hereby bind myself not to alter this in any way whereby his position or share may be diminished or affected nor to make any other will or codicil without his knowledge or consent while any portion of my present or any future debt to him remains undischarged.
Signed Sealed Published and declared by the said Magnus Shewan the testator as and for his last will and testament this fourth day of December AD 1858… M. Shewan
So, what did Margaret Fraser and her mother do to Christopher Shewan? Were their misdeeds really serious enough for him to hold a grudge from 1858 to 1884?
Well, I have some theories, but you’ll need to wait till next time.
This is the second in a series of articles about wills and other records of inheritance to support my new book Inheritance in Ontario: Wills and Other Records for Family Historians (Dundurn Press, April 2013).