Corrie Moves to Kingston

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No sooner had Archie and Corrie settled down and set up their house together in Hawkesbury than a new offer came along. Archie was hired as the headmaster of a school in Kingston. Off he went to find a house there, and to oversee repairs to the school after a recent fire. Corrie stayed with her sister near Hawkesbury, and gave birth to her first child–a boy named Freddie.

When she and the baby were well enough to travel, they joined Archie in their new home in Kingston. The limestone house at 203 William Street belonged to Queen’s University and was home to Archie and Corrie for about fifteen years.

Four more children were born there, as Archie continued to rise from headmaster to university lecturer, medical student, doctor, and rector of the Women’s Medical College. His promotion to a professorship at Queen’s in 1891 came none too soon. With five growing children, two servants, and a soon-to-be live-in mother-in-law, the little house must have been bursting at the seams. It was time to move.

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Corrie and Archie Get Married

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Cordelia’s rich and influential family probably thought she was marrying beneath her. She had already turned down at least two other suitors, including John Maule Machar (a law partner of Canada’s first prime minister) and a mystery man named William whose goodbye letter ended dramatically:

“….if it is your duty, Corrie, to marry this man then it is my duty – doubly tried, in all love, to relieve you from the cause of your misery, my presence, and it is for that purpose I am going away….Farewell, farewell, farewell, my love, my love farewell.” (1)

Instead, Corrie married Archie Knight, whose work experience included time on the family farm and in lumber camps and rural schoolhouses. She married him on July 28th, 1875 in St. Martin’s Anglican Church in Montreal and promptly reacted as any sensible woman might: she panicked.

Soon after the wedding, Archie returned to Hawkesbury to get his new school organized and to prepare a house for his bride. Corrie was supposed to join him there, but as the days stretched into weeks and she didn’t come, frantic letters began to fly back and forth. Then she fell silent. Archie wrote a desperate letter to his new mother-in-law:

What have I done, or neglected to do or say?. . .If I am to be the curse of her and consequently of your existence the least thing I can do is to make it as light as possible. Heaven forgive me if I sometimes think there is still one remedy for all this agony I am unwillingly causing those whom I love best on earth. I thought I would go mad to-night as I thought and paced along the deserted streets.” (2)

Did Corrie’s mother intervene? Was there a showdown, or did Corrie just come to terms with the situation on her own? We don’t know, but the tension finally broke. Corrie joined Archie in Hawkesbury, and soon they were genuinely happy there.

Years later, Archie said he hated to remember “those dark days of 1875” but he always loved a song that Corrie sang to him one evening on the sofa. He called it Sleep On, but it may have been this one: Lorena.

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SOURCES:

(1) Undated letter [circa 1875] from “William” to Cordelia Workman; AP Knight Fonds, Queen’s University Archives, Locator 1033, Box 1, Folder 1; transcribed by Joanne Stanbridge, Kingston, Ontario, 4 November 2013.

(2) Undated letter [circa September 1875] from AP Knight to his mother-in-law Mary Ann (Wilson) Workman; AP Knight Fonds, Queen’s University Archives, Locator 1033, Box 1, Folder 25; transcribed by Joanne Stanbridge, Kingston, Ontario, 4 November 2013.

Corrie in Montreal

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Twenty-five-year-old Corrie was still living with her widowed mother and brother on Cadieux Street in Montreal. Her father had died about five years earlier, but Corrie’s grandmother–who had raised all those accomplished Workman uncles and their sister–continued to live next door for many years. She lived to be 102 years old. You can see a photo of her, here.

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Corrie’s Sister Gets Married

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In 1868, Cordelia’s sister got married. Her new brother-in-law was Eden Abbott Johnson, an attorney who had commanded the guard of honour at the opening of Canada’s first parliament the year before. The newlyweds went to live in L’Orignal, halfway between Ottawa and Montreal, and Cordelia was a frequent visitor there. “Abbott” was involved in starting a school, and in hiring its new headmaster: a bright and handsome young teacher named A.P. Knight.

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