Discovering Canadian History One Station at a Time
At first glance, Atwater seems to tell the dullest history on the metro system. Edwin Atwater emigrated from Vermont in 1830; established himself with his brother, Albert, as a painter and varnisher in Montreal; went on to establish factories and and telegraph companies as well as managing banks through various financial crises (yes, they had those in the nineteenth century too); active in the American Presbyterian Church he became a city councillor and alderman before dying one of the richest men in Montreal in 1874. Pretty much the standard trajectory of Anglo capitalism, and a life on the City on the Hill sure to raise the ire of the likes of Papineau and Lionel Groulx.
A closer look though shows a different Montreal to the one we know from the twentieth century. The bank Atwater set up in 1846, the Montreal City and District Savings Bank, still seen on Ste Catherine East, was a mutual and inspired by Bishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal. Also on the board was Marc-Damase Masson, in 1858 the president of the Societé Saint Jean Baptsite, an organization which now causes paroxyms of fury anywhere pretty much west of, well, Atwater. As ex officio member of the Harbour Board Atwater came into contact with Hugh Allan, the shipping and railway magnate, and together with Masson, the three men established another bank, the Merchants’ Bank, which in 1921 became part of the Bank of Montreal.
An American presbyterian, a Catholic bishop, and the corrupter of John A. Macdonald, all working with the president of the Societé Saint Jean Baptiste. It’s Montreal, but not as we know it. More research is needed!
Consulted for this post