Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967) Memoirs: So was Agnes Alexander at the wedding?

The wedding was that of Matt Hemmingsen to the best girl in the world; Margaret Alexander.1 It had taken place in the beautiful Comox Valley on 2 June 1910.  It was that same quiet affair which had earlier prompted the question “was Ed Hemmingsen at the wedding?”2 We thought not, but being able to actually qualify it to “probably not” took us through the whole Skog-Vefsn saga, from Norway to Lake Cowichan.

Now we find ourselves wondering – for good reason, which shall become apparent –  if Agnes Alexander had attended. We had thought not, but for her, probably so. Answering thusly, had us kindly contradict our dear father’s “historical family sketch”, including the Howat Foundry switcheroo from Victoria to Seattle, and to review events surrounding the Scottish sailor, Dugald Mitchell, who jumped ship from Down Under, to become a British Columbia miner and into our lives.3,4

We had thought no in Agnes’ case because, in the first place, newspaper accounts did not cite her as a bridal attendant. Then, our father, a known stickler for facts, had placed her far from the scene:

In 1905 or 1906, the Howats sold their Victoria iron foundry – but established another in Seattle … at this time Agnes Taylor Alexander was about ten years of age, so she was “farmed out” to the Howats in Seattle … she would live in the Seattle area … for the rest of her life.

John O. Hemmingsen – See Notes and Sources Item 3

Now, in 1910, Seattle was no day trip to the wedding venue, rather, a significant and expensive endeavor. It was not one a poor young lass like Agnes, could lightly take. Was she in Seattle though – a question to entangle the question – and why would Miss Alexander be farmed out to the Howats?


The bride was our Granny, born in Chase, now Nanaimo, in 1891. That was the year after her mother, Margaret Baxter, had docked from Scotland to marry the Scottish miner, John Alexander. Granny was born into a full household, for in 1891 her parents were sharing the home of Alexander Howat, an iron moulder.  He was married to John’s older sister, Isabella (Sybil), and their two children. The Howats would later move to Victoria, then on to Seattle.  

John Alexander became a casualty of rock fall from a blasting episode in Wellington #5 mine, in 1896. His family had increased with Samuel and Agnes, by then. Here is a family portrait, of sorts, on which we can see resemblances and find empathy for what came next. We must imagine these siblings aged about 6, 4 and 1.

A compilation of photos from Family History by John O Hemmingsen

Giving credit: John Alexander responsibly preceded his bride to Canada to establish a financial cushion. Yet it no way covered such early demise and the family went poor.

The question as to Agnes’ attendance at the 1910 event, hinges on truing life’s sequel for those in that 1891 household. John’s death would be the first of four calamities to befall the widow Margaret, so a blip in the timeline on a later retelling would not be surprising.  In Dad’s account, the Alexander sisters were “farmed out” to the Howats sequentially, Margaret first, in response to acute hardship caused by two of those events. That was true in principle.  He targeted the wrong event for Margaret, apparently because he had the wrong year for the Howat emigration. Turns out it was around the turn of the century, not five years later.

Since Agnes obviously participated, we were prompted to reassess the Howat timeline by this family gathering in British Columbia, around 1907. Dad was not privy to the photo. Family members will become known as we go along.

Dugald Mitchell Family, circa 1907.Cumberland, British Columbia

The Mitchell Family photo came from Great Aunt Beatrice’s Bible. Her granddaughter gave copy to the granddaughter of the Lake Cowichan logger, Matthew Mitchell, who gave copy here. We are very grateful for it. Granny had the whitest hair with braids wrapped around her head once. Beatrice, fourteen years her junior, was most likely often under her gentle care.  In her younger day, Bea had the darkest hair with braids she could sit upon, the better to craft fine petit point. Her great niece admired this scene and the gift given, so long, long ago, still adorns her home.  


We invite any correction to our correction. The Howats went for two decades without census; their emigration had them miss US 1900 and Canada 1901. Luckily, unlike Dad, we had digital Street Directories for Victoria and Seattle to fill the gap.5, 6a Given it can take a year to appear in, and disappear from such listings, we can roughly place the Howats in Victoria from 1896 to 1901. Seattle picks up from there, with Howats listed in 1902 and forward. Immigration dates given on censuses by Howat family members vary, but son John, who was born in Victoria in 1900, claimed it was 1901.6b They located first on John Street in Victoria, then Bay. Dad indicated Alexander owned a foundry; the listings had him associated with the huge concern, Albion Iron Works. Perhaps, he had a contract situation.


John Alexander, still a struggling miner, died in 1896, leaving Margaret Baxter with Margaret 6, Samuel 4 and Agnes 1. They had been living with the Howats, who were setting up business in Victoria.  Margaret chose to remain up-island, likely for the company of her sister Marion Gillies Stewart.  As the Stewarts were still likewise poor, Sybil Howat eased rehoming issues and the financial burden, by taking young Margaret under her wing, to Victoria. That they had co-domiciled would ease the child’s hurt of her father’s death, and coming distance from her mother and siblings.

The same year that John died, Dugald Mitchell de-shipped in Canada.6c Margaret wed him in 1898, just shy of a two-year widowhood. Daughters Marion and Anne, soon arrived to this poor couple, such that they headed off to a new mining boom in the Crowsness Pass at Frank, Alberta. Mathew was born there, months in front of the catastrophic Frank Slide of 1903.

Physically unharmed but emotionally spent, poorer than prior and out of work, they beat a path back to Vancouver Island, to Cumberland, in Comox Valley. Margaret soon had three more children: Beatrice in 1905, William 1907 and Jemima in 1911. She was widowed again less than a week after Jemima arrived. Dugald had succumbed to a lengthy fight with cancer, likely from his miner’s environment.

Fate had a final agony awaiting Margaret, taking her William at 15; one of 23 lost in the Comox #4 mine explosion. Margaret’s response to her tragedies, must have been best, for the character of her children so attested. Her Bill was not just a hard working teen, but a valued member of Cumberland Athletic Football Team. They remained close knit and well directed through all.


Agnes Alexander made her first appearance in Seattle Street Directories in 1913. She was listed at 1106 S 13th.  That was one of two addresses variously noted since 1902, for the Howats. The other was 302 S Alki where Alex G Howat was given as VP Eagle Brass Foundry Co.

Agnes was not in US Census 1910 or Canada 1911. That supports her claim on later censuses to have immigrated about 1911 at 16. This would not preclude her having spent some time with the Howats earlier, when she was a dependent. However, it was not such that she counted it toward her US Naturalization, and this looks more of an emancipation move. She married Theodore Jeffrey Drummond of Nebraska, in Seattle on 15 Jan 1915. After retirement, they lived in Friday Harbor and Bellingham.

Art Supports Agnes’ Timeline

Dad’s version had Aunt Sybil drop Margaret off, and collect Agnes on her way to Seattle; Agnes not to return. It was true that Agnes remained in the States, once there, but there must have been ample years between events for the sisters to have closely bonded. Otherwise there is just no accounting for this painting lovingly bequeathed to the writer.


The Howats moved to 40 John Street in Victoria, then 10 Bay, around the time that John Alexander died; 1896, taking Granny with them. Dad thought Granny went to Aunt Sybil on the Mitchell’s return to B.C., from the Frank Slide.

Dad said Granny attended this (click) school on Douglas Street. As it was for elementary grades and Granny turned six in 1897, it seems a better fit with the scenario we are suggesting.  

We believe that Aunt Sybil returned Granny to her mother about age ten, upon the Howat emigration. Dad’s account had her go, aged ten, to return as an older work worthy teenager. He was partly right: she did return work worthy, just not commercially so, yet. At ten, she would have been dearly needed by her mother to command the role of big sister to the four younger, and four to come. Indeed, it must have been a difficult choice when her mother sent her waitressing for income.  We do not have her earliest date on serving, but know Samuel was in the mine at 13, as would be, his younger brother. We know also, that Matt Hemmingsen met the waitress Margaret Alexander, and married her in 1910.


Was Agnes at the wedding? Hmm. We do know that Granny’s first, Margaret Hemmingsen of Victoria, witnessed the marriage of Agnes’ first, Vivian Drummond in Seattle.7 But then, by 1935, poor was rear view, and a journey to the wedding venue was definitely a day trip.

As to the question of topic, we lovingly do conclude, “probably so”.

(Click) Guide to reading the Memoirs of Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967)


  • Hemmingsen: Mathias Berg and Margaret Naysmith Alexander, Comox 1910
  • Drummond: Theodore Jeffrey and Agnes Alexander, Seattle 1915
  • Alexander: Samuel and Edith Joyce, 1918 Duncan
  • Thompson: William to Annie Mitchell, 1918 Sandwick
  • McLellan: William Henigar to Marion Gillies Mitchell, 1920 Sandwick
  • Magnone: James Andrew to Beatrice Ellen Mitchell, 1925 Vancouver
  • Mitchell: Matthew James to Mary Louise Tidrington, 1925 Duncan
  • Sheppard: George Arthur to Jemima Baxter Mitchell, 1931 Cumberland
  • Mitchell, William, Rested in Peace 1923


 1 The “Memoirs of Mathias Hemmingsen – Victoria B.C.” is a 25-page volume dictated to his daughter Margaret Henrietta circa 1956. It is unedited and unpublished, and graciously provided by Mathias’ grandson, Matt via the Matt Hemmingsen Family Collection. The work is protected here and published at copyright © 2018-2019. All rights reserved. 2 much detail has been previously citied on this blog under :Before Memories” as can be found at this PDF 3 The Hemmingsen Family Collection including “John O Hemmingsen/Mary Margaret Hemmingsen (Dickson)” authored 1999 by John Oliver Hemmingsen. All materials posthumously published here are copyright © Marilee Wein 2018-2019. All rights reserved.  The collection also holds related material such as the newspaper articles, pictures, etc. 4 Dugald Mitchell was born in Lanarkshire as told on his wedding certificate. This blog previously documented it as in Carnwath. His family apparently moved Down Under and Ancestry member David Mitchell tells that he was in New Zealand, prior to Canada. 5 British Columbia Street Directories at, consulting years 1895-1902 where available for the City of Victoria, specifically Names and Streets. 6 Accessed at 6a) US City Directories 1822-1995 for Seattle, years 1900 – 1920 as available 6b) US Censuses 1850-1940 as provided by NARA. 6c) Canada Censuses 1891-1921 as provided by National Archives Canada 7 Washington State Archives – Digital Archives;King County Marriage Records, 1855 to present for Theodore P Sholz, Vivian P Drummond 6-24-1935/

4 thoughts on “Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967) Memoirs: So was Agnes Alexander at the wedding?

  1. It is amazing the trials earlier generations endured w/o complaint. They put us to shame. I love the photos you included Marilee! Photos seem to bring the past to life.


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