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Up the Gatineau! Selected Articles

In Memory of Rev. Robert Taggart 1863-1926

Volume 13, page 20

William Robert Taggart

The Reverend Robert Taggart was buried in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, Section A, Range 23, Grave 34, on November 8, 1926. Although he was praised and admired by all who knew him, there is no monument to mark his resting place. Let this biographical sketch serve as his memorial.

The Taggarts are of Scottish origin and form a sept of Clan Ross. The name Taggart is derived from the Gaelic ”t’sagairt" which means "the Priest". Clan Ross is designated as Clann Andrias in Gaelic, in deference to St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.

A slender thread of Rev. Robert Taggart’s lineage may be grasped from the knowledge that three Taggarts emigrated from Scotland to Co. Antrim, Ireland, in 1620, during one of several Plantations of Ulster. This was during the reign of James the First. The following year the King, by special command, ordered his new translation of the Bible. The three Taggarts who arrived in Co. Antrim in 1610 are believed to have been stone-masons and builders. These skills have been apparent in Taggarts to recent times and many sturdy stone houses exist in Co. Antrim as a result of their labours.

In the old Connor cemetery, which adjoins St. Saviour's Church, there is a stone inscribed with the name William Taggart and the statement that he died in 1791. This stone was erected by Peter Taggart, the youngest brother of Robert, to replace the original crumbling stone. The William Taggart buried here was the great-grandfather of Peter and Robert.

In 1851 we arrive on firmer ground in the lineage. On September 12 of that year, William Taggart married Rebecca Houston in the Parish of Connor, Co. Antrim. William was aged 30, a bachelor farmer, who lived at Galdenah, Connor. His father was another William Taggart, farmer. It is known that his mother was Mary Wilson of the same parish. Rebecca Houston was aged 24, a spinster of Castlegore, Connor, the daughter of William Houston, farmer. The wedding took place by licence at Connor Presbyterian Church with the witnesses James Houston and David Kernohan.

William Robert Taggart
Informal photo of William Robert Taggart. the author of this article. We were unable to locate a photo of the Rev. Robert Taggart. Photo courtesy of Mrs. May Hisgrovre. (GVHS 24/1)

There were nine children by this marriage, seven boys and two girls. They were given the names: William (the writer's grandfather), John, Robert, David, Mary, Hugh, James, Margaret and Peter. As the children matured the farm in the townland of Galdenah acquired the nickname of Buck's Town and, although no longer in a Taggart's possession, it continues to be referred to in that way. A descendant explained that it became known as Buck's Town because of the “big bucks" who lived there. The seven Taggart sons ranged in stature from "wee David" who was about 5 ft. 11 inches, to John, known as Jock, who was 6 ft. 6 inches.

Robert Taggart emigrated to Canada about 1887, at the age of 23. He found employment as a brakeman on the railway which runs up and down the Gatineau Valley. In a railway accident his foot was injured and this left him with a limp. It is believed that the railway company accepted responsibility and made some sort of monetary settlement which permitted Robert to achieve a life-long ambition. He settled in Carleton Place, Ontario, where Robert Armour, a kinsman of the wife of his brother, Peter, lived. His education was resumed at Carleton Place High School and it was probably there that he met his future wife, Agnes Bertha Munro. She was the daughter of Donald Munro and Agnes Young of nearby Appleton. A photo reproduced in "Founded Upon a Rock“, the story of Carleton Place, written by Howard Morton Brown, shows a High School class of 1889. In the front row is Bertha Munro, a delicate blonde girl with her long hair piled high on her head in the custom of the time. Bertha Munro became a school teacher in Carleton Place and, in 1890, Robert Taggart went on to Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, to study for the ministry. He did not graduate at Queen's but seems to have continued his studies at some other university. The Presbyterian Archives in Toronto gave its assurance that he must have graduated from a university before being ordained. A relative was of the opinion he had attended Trinity College, Dublin. This was checked but found to be erroneous.

Robert Taggart was ordained as a Presbyterian minister November 28, 1902. On September 23, 1903, then aged 39, he married Bertha Munro, aged 31, at Zion Presbyterian Church, Carleton Place. The minister was Rev. A.A. Scott and the witnesses were George Tait and Eva Lillian Munro of Carleton Place.

Rev. Robert Taggart's first ministry was at the mission station of Aylmer, Quebec, where he began his work October 11, 1903. Aylmer became part of a three point congregation which included Pickanock, a telegraph station at Otter Lake, not far from Campbell's Bay, and Kazubazua, a community of less than 100 people on the Gatineau River.

According to the Canadian Almanac, he was at Aylwin, Quebec from 1905 to 1911 and it must have been here that a permanent residence was maintained. Aylwin is also on the Gatineau River. These should have been happy years for Rev. Robert but fate was to decree otherwise. A son passed away after living a brief five days. Then Agnes Bertha died on February 8, 1908. The Ottawa Evening Journal of February l5, 1908 printed the following account:

"Funeral of Mrs. Taggart
which took place at Carleton Place.

Carleton Place, February 14 - The remains of Mrs. Rev. Robert Taggart reached here on Tuesday, and the funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon from the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. D. Munro, Moore Street, where an impressive service was conducted by Rev. A.A. Scott, pastor of the Presbyterian church. The cortege then proceeded to St. James‘ vault, where the body was placed. Mr. Munro, on Wednesday, went to Aylwin, Que, where his daughter's death occurred, and, with the bereaved husband and Mesdames Little and Orr of Aylwin, representing Mr. Taggart's congregation, accompanied the remains hither. By maiden name Mrs. Taggart was Agnes Bertha Munro, and she was thirty-seven years of age. All her life, except the last four years or so, she lived here, and here she received her education, and for about twelve years was one of the most excellent teachers in our public schools. She was much beloved by her pupils and associates, and held in the highest esteem by all. After her marriage to Rev. Robt. Tagged, something over four years ago, she and her husband went to Aylwin, where he had been accepted as pastor of the Presbyterian congregation. Their home and church life was one of devotion, and the deceased enjoyed the respect and highest regard of the people in her new sphere of usefulness. Death came suddenly. On Friday night, February 7, at ten o'clock, she complained of a slight sensation in her throat as though she had contracted a cold, but nothing serious was feared. An hour later there was an oppressiveness in the chest, and treatment was administered. By midnight it become evident that the trouble had violently attacked the respiratory organs; the lungs began to fail in their functions; at three o'clock Saturday morning life passed away. The disease was acute pulmonary congestion. The pall bearers at the funeral on Wednesday were two brothers of the deceased, Messrs. Norman and Bruce Munro, the former a barrister of Palmerston, Ont., and Edward and W.C. Leech, James Watt and Robt. Armour. For the stricken family and husband there is deep and heartfelt sympathy.”

The infant son and Agnes Bertha were both buried in the Munro family plot at Maple Grove cemetery, Carleton Place.

In 1912, Rev. Robert Taggart became associated with another three point charge. This included Chelsea, Cantley and Kirk's Ferry.

Whether it concerned the first mission field or the second is not known but a story was heard many years ago concerning the unorthodox method that had to be employed to bring a stray sheep to the fold. A lady worshipper attended services regularly and Rev. Robert noticed that she frequently appeared beaten and bruised. He questioned her and was told that she was what is now called a "battered wife". Her husband drank heavily and, when under the influence, flew into a violent rage at the slightest provocation.

As the situation did not improve despite several verbal admonishments. Rev. Robert visited the home of the couple, walked up to the husband and punched him in the face.

"How do you like that?" he said. "If you beat your wife again I'll be back." As the story went, the husband changed his ways and Rev. Robert greeted him with affection when he walked into the next service accompanied by his wife.

Rev. Robert's stay at the second mission field was of short duration because, in 1912, he was inducted as Minister at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Ontario. He was to remain there until May 2, 1920.

When Rev. Robert Taggart arrived in Richmond it was to minister to the earliest formed Presbyterian congregation in Carleton County. The first meeting had been held in 1823 but it was not until 1842 that construction of a church began. It was completed in 1847 and dedicated to St. Andrew. The present brick church with its steeple was built in 1884 and Rev. Robert would have noticed its similarity to many Presbyterian churches in his native County Antrim. Next to the church, on Mc Bean St, stood the manse, a large frame house built in 1890, when fuel for heating was a minor expense and reasonably priced furniture was readily available. Since 1888 the Presbyterian churches at Fallowfield and Jock formed part of the Richmond charge.

The First Loyal Orange Lodge had been formed in Richmond in I820 and Rev. Robert took an active part in Lodge activities. He formed the local boys and girls into a group known as the Dreadnoughts. They were attired with sashes when on parade and Rev. Robert marched proudly at their head. He played both flute and violin and it is said that the l2th of July was heralded by him flinging open his bedroom window overlooking Mc Bean St. and entertaining anyone who cared to listen with a tune on the flute.

Although closely tied to the Orange Order, Rev. Robert was certainly not a bigot. Joe Dallaire, after whom a Richmond street is named, arrived there from Eganville on October 1, 1914. He had been a barber in Eganville and was to continue barbering in Richmond until he was approaching the age of ninety. The writer sat for many "short, back and sides" in the Mc Bean St. shop and listened to tales of byegone days.

Joe once told of his arrival in Richmond. He was a French-Canadian Roman Catholic and he felt he had little in common with those about him. However, he was befriended by Rev. Robert and made welcome at the manse anytime, whether for a meal or a talk.

On another occasion, Joe chuckled loud and long before telling of an event that happened soon after he arrived, during the early years of WWI. A meeting had been called to raise funds for the Red Cross in their war effort. Rev. Robert invited Joe Dallaire to accompany him and, after the audience was seated, the guest speaker was introduced. He was Rev. Green of the Anglican church. Rev. Green went on to describe how England was doing this and England was doing that and the name of England was repeated over and over again. Suddenly, according to Joe, Rev. Robert rose to his feet and shouted, "Ireland, Ireland, Ireland.”

The startled Rev. Green asked Rev. Robert what he meant by interrupting his address by shouting "Ireland". Rev. Robert replied, "You have only mentioned England since you started, as if it was the only country involved in the war. I thought it time some other country was mentioned."

Rev. Robert had been accustomed to having a wife prepare his meals and tidy the house. As a widower, he became slip-shod and was obliged to enlist the aid of several Richmond school girls to wash the dishes and tidy the manse. Several of them who are alive today can well remember performing these household chores and one remarked, "He ate a lot of eggs."

In January of 1914, Canadian Northern Railway opened an Ottawa - Napanee line which stopped at Richmond station. Service on the combined freight and passenger train was very irregular but, later in the year, passenger trains began to run from Ottawa to Toronto via Richmond. Rev. Robert was able to visit his nephews and nieces in Ottawa frequently. They were children of his eldest brother, William, and included the writer's father, another Robert. Longer journeys were also undertaken and he embarked on the long ocean voyage to Ireland on several occasions. There still exist several Irish made plates and other chinaware that he brought back as souvenirs for Richmond ladies.

On May 2, 1920, Rev. Robert left Richmond. He served for a short time at Whitney and then Baysville, both small communities approximately 150 miles north of Toronto. On April 4, 1921, the writer was born in Ottawa and baptised William Robert Taggart at Stewarton Presbyterian Church, where his parents regularly attended service. Rev. Robert heard of this and stormed into Ottawa, irate because another clergyman had bestowed such a name. In his own practical way he straightened out what he thought was a mixup. He baptised me again!

It is known that Rev. Robert went to Ireland in 1924 with his new wife. Martha Jane Mc Clenaghan. She had been born in Eskylane, Co. Antrim, near Rev. Robert's birthplace, and no doubt they had met there. She is said to have been employed as a nurse at an orphan's home in Ottawa although she does not appear in any Ottawa directories of the time. The marriage must have taken place early in 1924. Martha Jane was introduced to friends of Rev. Robert in Ottawa and Carleton Place. A son was born in Co. Antrim and baptised Robert.

In July of 1926, the family returned to Canada and Rev. Robert became stated supply for the Hamilton area churches at Binbrook and Stoney Creek. It seems probable that he suffered from high blood pressure, a common ailment in the Taggarts. On November 4, 1926, he died suddenly of a heart attack. A memorial service was held in Hamilton, conducted by Rev. Kennedy Palmer of Westminster Presbyterian Church and Rev. S.B. Nelson of Knox Church. The body arrived in Ottawa on Sunday, November 7, and was transported to 193 Fifth Ave., the home of his niece, Rebecca (Taggart) Miller. The funeral was held the next day under the auspices of the Richmond Loyal Orange Lodge, where Rev. Robert had been a Past Mster. The service was conducted by Rev. A.G. Cameron, assisted by Rev. J.F. Morland, with several other ministers in attendance. Burial was at Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.

The widow, Martha Jane, and son Robert, who was only 15 months old when his father died, did not remain long in Canada. They went to live in New Zealand where other Mc Clenaghans had settled.

The late Bill Taggart, the author of this article, was an enthusiastic genealogist and historical researcher. For several years he resided at Richmond, Ontario, prior to moving to Metcalfe Street in Ottawa. He died shortly after composing this account of his ancestor.


List of articles - Volume 13