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JS, The Business Man

In Montreal, JS worked under his father's direction in the grain exporting business. On April 7, 1881, JS wed Louise Ruggles Bradley of Evanston, Illinois. The Bradleys and the McLennans had been friends from the time Hugh’s family had settled in Chicago years earlier.

One interesting point about the marriage was how generous and liberal the marriage contract was between JS and Louise. The contract maintained that Louise would receive JS's entire estate after his death. Any and all possessions she brought into the marriage, including money, were hers and remained hers in a divorce or JS's death. JS could not, without his wife's permission, invest any of her money in any of his business ventures, and if he did, he had to repay her money. All of the wedding gifts received became her property, though her family did not have to offer a dowry. JS's father, as part of the contract, was responsible for furnishing the young couple's home.

JS McLennan wed Louise Ruggles Bradley of Evanston, Illinois. The Bradleys and the McLennans had been friends from the time Hugh's family had settled in Chicago years earlier.
This agreement strikes one as being exceedingly advantageous to Louise. In any case, JS was happy to be married to such an accomplished woman. Louise had studied art and painting at the Chicago Academy of Design.2  Her paintings, mostly watercolours, show a thoughtful and graceful touch to her depiction of the images around her. Her paintings of scenes around the Sydney area show an appreciation for the simple beauty of, for example, a garden lane, or, on a larger scale, a fire at the Sydney steel plant. However, her painting was often put aside to concentrate on maintaining her household, tending her growing family, and keeping up with JS's love of travel. After JS and his family were settled in Sydney, the family was continuously making plans for their next extended trip, usually to France, Italy, and England.

Before settling in Sydney, JS's work kept him very busy and moving between Sydney and Boston. In 1884, Hugh was experiencing some trouble with mining interests he was involved with in Cape Breton. He sent JS to investigate the problem with his recently purchased International Coal Company in Bridgeport. This was not JS's first visit to Cape Breton. In 1882, JS had visited some historic sites, including the ruins of the fortress at Louisbourg. This trip inspired JS's first known literary effort, a description of the area in an article in Picturesque Canada, co-authored by Reverend Robert Murray.

While working as managing director of the Bridgeport mine, JS, Louise and their four children lived in two homes in the area Ridgefield and Brookdale. Things seemed settled for the family until 1893, when eight Cape Breton coal mines, including the International Coal Company, were amalgamated into the Dominion Coal Company Ltd., under the leadership of Boston financier, Henry Melville Whitney. This reorganization found Hugh being named a director of the company and JS being transferred to Boston as an executive assistant, responsible for the New England market. In Boston, the family settled, prophetically enough, in an area called Louisbourg Square. Summer vacations would find the McLennans in Louisbourg in a rented house called Havenside, which overlooked the ruins that fascinated JS and which told the story of a once powerful stronghold now reduced to a tourist’s curiosity and a scavenger's paradise.

In 1898, HM Whitney acquired a lease on a bed of iron ore at Wabana, Bell Island, NF. He decided to organize the Dominion Iron and Steel Company Ltd. at Sydney and construction soon began, with the first sod being turned in 1899.3  JS returned to Sydney and in the early stages, was named Treasurer, Resident Director, and virtual General Manager of the new plant. Once the plant was up and running, AJ Moxham, of Ohio, became the first official General Manager.

Freed from his duties with both the coal and steel industries, JS prepared to retire from industrial life and to settle in Sydney permanently. This next phase of the McLennan story was a very happy one for the family.

A photo of Charlotte Street, Sydney, taken at the height of Cape Breton's industrial era, in 1907.

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A water color, painted by Louise B. McLennan, depicts a scenic roadway near Ridgefield. Both Louise and her daughter were recognized for their contributions to art in Cape Breton.

Copyright, 1997. Cape Breton Regional Library, 50 Falmouth St., Sydney, NS  B1P 6X9

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