Middle-aged Bachelor Seeks a Bride in the 1930’s …

by Myrna Brandon Paquette  (October 2019)

Since the advent of the internet, easy communications at all levels, between people all over the world, have quickly become the norm and, it can be said, are now taken for granted. But, not many years ago, it was not the case. One can even wonder how to solve difficult cases without the computer and the internet? Yes, there were limits to what was possible, but there were also people who could cope with the little that existed. Below is an example of a difficult problem that was solved by using the means available at the time.

Frederick William Figsby and his brother Edmond, confirmed bachelors, lived together most of their lives. Their father, William, died in 1917 and their mother died in 1922. In 1935, Edmond was not well (he eventually died in 1936) and Fred was doing his best to take care of the home. At age 63 Fred decided that he had to consider hiring a housekeeper or finding a wife. His neighbour and good friend, Charles McKay, suggested that Fred advertise in the Montreal Star for a “housekeeper” and follow up with any of the applicants as to his “intentions”. The ad appeared on August 22nd, 1935, along with a lengthy page of similar advertisements.

Fred received letters from 63 applicants, mostly from women genuinely looking for a housekeeping job. The plan was that Fred, with the McKays, would screen the applicants’ letters and Fred would respond to a chosen few. Several were invited to take the train to Hemmingford to see the surroundings and to be interviewed, while having tea at the McKay home.

The McKay home

Mollie Yvon Bailey responded to the ad on August 23, 1935. “Dear Sir: In answer to your advertisement in tonight’s Star, I am looking for a position as Housekeeper or Companion . . .”.

Fred responded by letter. Mollie then answered. “Dear Mr. Figsby – Thank you for your letter. I am 45 and if you are not a younger man than that I should like to correspond with you. I am quite capable, and besides being a nurse, I can cook, sew, am also strong, healthy and cheerful, tall, rather good looking and a Protestant Church worker. If you are younger, all I can say is, I hope you will be very successful in finding a good and cheerful companion/wife, and I admire you very much in writing me as you have done. Hoping you will find lots of luck in your venture”.

Fred responded by telephone inviting Miss Bailey out to Hemmingford to have tea at the McKay home.

On 16th of September she wrote “Dear Mrs. McKay – I must thank you for a very enjoyable day, and for your kind and generous hospitality. I should so much like to see you very soon, and talk to you about different things financially. I like Fred Figsby, Mrs. McKay and I know he is a kind, good and God fearing man. And I could be very, very happy with him, but if I married him the house would have to be different. I don’t want riches and lots of money, I want love and tenderness and someone I can look up to, in return for my own life and devotion, because I can assure you, my life has been anything but a bed of roses, since my father died twenty years ago. I never spent a more happy day than I did yesterday”.

The Figsby home

The final offer was made to Elizabeth Mollie Yvonne Bailey, who accepted and married Fred Figsby, 25 September 1935 in St-Martin’s Church in Montreal only 1 month and 3 days after he posted his ad.

Who was Mollie? She was born in England in 1887 and emigrated to Canada in 1912 to find work as a nurse. She worked for many years for a wealthy merchant family, Duncan McLennan and his wife Harriet Mair, at their historic mansion called ‘Ridgewood’ in Lancaster, Ontario. She made many trips back to England during those years. On the passenger lists it often stated that her fare had been paid for by her employer, Duncan McLennan. She stayed with them until Duncan died in 1933, when she went to work as companion/nurse at Sixteen Island Lake.

Fred and Mollie lived in the Figsby house at 780 Vieux Chemin. They had been married for ten years when Fred died in 1945. Mollie remained in Hemmingford for some time – but we have been unable to find out when she left or where she went.