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CHARLES DOBIE : LOCAL HISTORY
LANARK COUNTY, ONTARIO
MARION UMPHERSON PRENTICE

Marion Umpherson Prentice, 1850-1918

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My great-grandfather James Prentice, son of immigrant parents James Prentice and Mary Ann Fraser Prentice, was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1850.

He ran a harness-making business on the main street of Lanark Village; the date he began this business is unknown. I have his last daily business record book which begins in October of 1877 and ends abruptly 27 August 1880 (he died "of diarrhea - 3 days") on 30 Aug 1880. On the last day he worked, his book records he took in $1.75.

Marion Umpherson Prentice
Marion Umpherson Prentice.

In 1874 James married Marion Umpherson, who was born at Umphersons Mills, Poland, Lanark County, in 1850. She was the daughter of James Umpherson and Agnes Waddell. Marion was working as a weaver at the time of her marriage. (Early spelling was "Umpherston").

Upon the sudden death of her husband, Marion Umpherson Prentice found herself with a year-old son, James "Lorne" Prentice, and a 6-year-old daughter, Agnes Kathleen Prentice, to raise. She had received no money from her mother-in-law's large estate: since her husband had died, his share of his mother's estate went into trust for his children (James Lorne and Agnes Prentice) until they were 21 -- despite the fact she was left with $1,736.72 worth of unpaid promissary notes along with many other unpaid bad debts from her husband's business.

Obviously a stalwart woman ahead of her time, she did not immediately remarry to have the help of a husband to raise her children. No doubt with the help of her family raising the children and working at her old weaving job, she persevered for about 10 years until about 1890 when she purchased a millinery shop on the main street of Lanark Village. An early female entrepeneur, she and the assistants she hired kept up-to-date with millinery trends by attending regular fashion shows in the cities. In the big window of her shop she displayed her collection of hand-made hats -- further back in the shop one could find "ladies delicate things" -- intricately hand-sewn.

While business boomed, she raised her children, ran a successful business and, when her son James Lorne's young wife Katie Jane Molyneaux (1882-1915) died leaving three young children, she raised them as well for four years until Lorne remarried. When daughter Agnes "Minnie" married James McLean, a tailor, she moved them into the house beside her own home/shop where Agnes obviously was still available to assist her -- and her husband. Agnes had become a formidable seamstress in her own right, (her wedding photo shows some of her beautiful handwork); both she and her mother Marion passed their considerable sewing and hand-work knowledge down to Lorne's young daughter, Jessie Marion Prentice, my mother, and to the nieces of James' brothers, several of whom became "town seamstresses" both in Lanark County and in the wilds of the new Red River Settlement of Manitoba where some of James' brothers settled in their middle years.

When she died in 1918 Marion left a considerable estate including several unpaid promissary notes showing she had continued her and her husband's earlier practice of lending money over the years to family members. She never "retired" from her business and she never remarried. Her official cause of death in 1918 was "exhaustion". She is buried beside her husband in Lanark Village Cemetery.

Marion Umpherson Prentice
Marion Umpherson Prentice in front of her shop.


Lanark Era, 9 Oct 1895: "Mrs. James Prentice has returned home from a prolonged trip throughout Western Ontario."

Perth Courier, 10 Apr 1896: "Mrs. James Prentice, having purchased the millinery business of the late Mrs. Dougherty, and engaged the services of Miss Pepper as Milliner, will have her "Millinery Opening" on Friday and Saturday, 10th and 11th of April."

Lanark Era, 23 Nov 1897: "At Mrs. Prentice's you will find the latest and most fashionable styles in Millinery and the lowest prices. . . . etc." (Advertisment).

Lanark Era, 16 Mar 1898: "Mrs. James Prentice and her milliner, Miss Rice, are in Ottawa this week attending the spring openings."

Lanark Era, 1 Apr 1898: "Clydesville - Mrs. Prentice displays beautiful millinery."

Lanark Era, 29 June 1904: "Ladore - Mrs. J. Prentice and Mrs. J.G. McLean (Agnes Prentice McLean, dau), were the guests of Mrs. Wm. Umpherson on thursday last."

Lanark Era, 27 June 1906: "Miss Laura Manion, who has been employd as milliner with Mrs. Prentice, left for her home in Arnprior on Sat. last."

Lanark Era, 6 Mar 1907: Local news: "Mrs. James Prentice and her milliner are attending the Millinery opening in Toronto."

Perth Courier, 16 Oct 1903: Lanark Links: "Miss McCargar and Mrs. Prentice had their millinery openings on Wed. of this week. Their show rooms are filled with the latest creations in the line of millinery. Miss McCargar has had her rooms changed from the rear of the second flat of the McDonald block to the front part."

Almonte Gazette, 8 Aug 1904: Lanark Links: "The Lanark Millinery houses were in full feather last Friday, the spring opening day. The displays at Miss McCargan's, Mrs. Prentice's and Mrs. Cohen's excelled those of former years, and were viewed by a large number of the town's fairer sex."

Lanark Era, Jan 23, 1918: Obituary, "Death of Mrs. James Prentice": There passed away to her eternal reward on Tuesday evening the 22nd inst. Mrs. James Prentice, relict of the late James Prentice, at the age of 67 years and 7 months. Mrs. Prentice was born at Umpherston's Mills, Lavant Twp. She was the daughter of the late James Umpherston of this village and has lived here for more than 50 years. 45 years ago she married the late James Prentice who was a harnessmaker in Lanark Village, and who died in 1880. About 25 years ago she started a millinery business and fancy store and conducted the same until her death. She has been in failing health for about 2 years, but only took to her bed at New Year's, and her death was due to a paralytic stroke. One brother, Mr. William Umpherston of Poland, surviving her. She leaves one son, Mr. Lorne Prentice, and a daughter, Mrs. Jas. G. McLean of this village to mourn the loss of a kind and dutiful mother. It is a unique coincidence that her death occurred on the same day of the same month as that of her father. In the village and community she was known as a kind and inoffensive neighbour and her traits of character had endeared her to all who knew her. The funeral takes place Thursday, the 24th inst, from Zion Church to Lanark Village cemetery, Revs. Messrs. Dustin and MacLeod officiating.


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