Tag Archives: John Prescott Forrest

A Final Letter

Tom Forrest sent me this remarkable letter tonight from the scrapbook of Helen “Duffy” Forrest (his aunt, my grand-aunt).  It was written on June 9th, 1920 by my 2nd great grandfather John Forrest, the president of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, to my great-grandfather John Prescott “Jack” Forrest.  The father died just two weeks later on June 22, 1920.

John Forrest (1842-1920), President of Dalhousie University.

His son, John Prescott "Jack" Forrest.

I don’t think it’s my imagination that the handwriting gets weaker at the end of the letter.  It shows John Prescott to be an optimistic man, and concerned about his beloved University until the very last.  I also really like how he refers to my great-grandmother Lulu as “Lou”.  It’s very sweet.

Halifax June 9th 1920

Dear Jack,

I am glad to get your letter.  We are always pleased to hear from you even if it is only a few lines so continue to send us a short letter frequently.

I think I can say that I am very considerably improved.  The doctors say so and I feel that way myself, although I am instructed to keep very quiet for a while longer.  I sit up almost all day but do not move about much.

We are having somewhat better weather which they tell me will be favorable to my case.  I hope the time may soon come when they will let me move about a little.

Dalhousie has been having a forward movement and they have met with great success.  Mrs. Eddy of Ottawa gave them $300,000 for a girl’s residence and they expect to raise $400,000 in(?) Irma Scalia.  They already have $400,000.  Then the Carnegie people have given $500.000 and the Rockefeller $500.000 so that they will likely add his(?) millions to the funds of the University which is a wonderful advance on the old order of things.

I cannot write much more just now.  Write me soon and I hope to be able to do better soon.

Love to Lou and the children,


Cairns Vital Records from Quebec

The photograph of Lulu Cairns and her sister Mildred made me look more at them in the family tree. I realized that I had accidentally overlooked a baptism document from the American Presbyterian Church in Montreal, Quebec, Canada when Mildred and Lulu were baptized in April of 1912.  Lulu was 24 and Mildred was 20.  This is a great document because Lulu, Mildred and Samuel all signed it:

But it got me thinking.  I had an anecdotal note on my tree that Lulu and Midred’s mother Helen Nason may have died in 1912.  I could envision either that the girls were baptized in conjunction with her funeral or that Helen died and Samuel could finally get his wish and have his girls baptized (assuming Helen might have been a different religion).  So I went looking in the same book for a burial record for Helen.  At first I didn’t find it, but it was in the index in the back and I was able to locate it.  She died about 20 days after the girls were baptized, so I’m thinking that they went in and got baptized as part of some process of the family getting ready for Helen to pass when she was very ill.  The burial record is interesting because it gives the place where the family was living (Westmount, Quebec, Candada) and also says that Samuel was working as an “Inspector”.  The record says Helen was 49, but she was 48 according to my records.  The place of Helen’s burial is also given (Ormstown, Quebec, Candada).  Ormstown was where the Webb and Cairns families lived for many years.

The J.A. Webb who signed as a witness I’m guessing is a cousin of Samuel Cairns.  His mother was Sarah Webb, so I’m guessing this is a son of his mother’s brother William Webb.

At the end of this same book is the marriage record for Lulu marrying my great-grandfather John Prescott “Jack” Forrest on December 4, 1912.  Busy year for the Cairns Family!  Note that they describe my 24-year-old great-grandmother as a “spinster”.

More Items from Tom Forrest

Tom Forrest sent me a few remarkable family history items tonight.

First, here is a photo that seems to be of my father at about one year old. I’ve sent it to him to verify it, but it sure looks like my father to me:

Likely Fred Thomas III at about a year old.

The next photo is quite mystifying to me. He said that it’s Lulu Cairns (it is) with her first husband John “Jack” Forrest. However, Lulu was only 4 years younger than John Forrest her husband, and I have a photo of him (I believe) that looks nothing like this man who seems to be much older than her. I don’t believe it’s John Forrest her father-in-law, because even in his later years he had more hair than this. Lulu looks about 30 here which means Jack Forrest would have been about 34. This man looks to be at least 50 if not 55. I’m wondering if it could it possibly be her father Samuel Cairns?

Update: Tom has confirmed that this is, indeed, Samuel Cairns! This is the first photo of him that I have seen!

Lulu Cairns and her father, Samuel Cairns (1856-1941) about 1920.

This last item is equally remarkable. It’s a telegram from Archie Forrest (b 1875) to my great-grandfather John “Jack” Forrest informing him of the death of their father (who was also named John Forrest). It was sent on June 23rd, 1920, the day John Forrest the elder died. It also mentions their brother George Forrest (b 1878) and John’s employment at the Remington Typewriter Company in Newark, New Jersey. George was working for the same company in New York at the time.

Recollections of Lulu Maria Cairns (Forrest Whitney Bailey Coutermarsh)

Lulu Cairns (1888-1975) was my father’s beloved grandmother.  She was born in Bedford, Quebec, Canada to Samuel Robert Cairns (1825-1891) and Helen Maria Nason (1863-1912).

Samuel, Lulu, Mildred & Helen Cairns (clockwise from top), c1906

Samuel, Lulu, Mildred & Helen Cairns (clockwise from top), c1906

She married my great-grandfather John Prescott “Jack” Forrest (1884-??) in 1912 when she was 24 years old.  He was the first of her four husbands.  They had three girls [Mildred Jean, Helen Duff, Elizabeth Cairns] and a boy [John Prescott Jr.].  As my father will explain below, family legend says that Lulu ran around with other men, which drove her husband to drink.  She then divorced him for drinking.  I suspect that is only partly true since several Forrest family members of that generation had alcohol problems.  There are also rumors of my grandfather John having gambling issues.  As far as anyone knows, once he left the family (sometime between 1923 and 1930), nobody heard from him again.  In fact, we have no idea where he died or when.  I only know it was after 1942.

John & Lulu Forrest with daughters Helen and Mlidred and an unknown blonde friend, c1920.

John & Lulu Forrest with daughters Helen and Mildred Jean and an unknown blonde friend (center). c1920.

Lulu was quite a character, but by all accounts an incredible grandmother.  “Just… the best grandmother a boy could ever want”, according to my father.

I’m sure this will be only the first of many entries about Lulu, but I wanted to get this part down while I was thinking about my father’s stories.  Here he is talking about his grandmother, Lulu:

Lulu was married four times.  Her first husband was John Forrest, who became some kind of high executive in the Remington Rand Corporation.  He came from a prestigious academic family from Halifax, Nova Scotia.  His father, John Forrest, was the president of Dalhousie University.  According to my mother, Jean Thomas, Lulu had many affairs while married to John Forrest.  This drove him to drink.  She then divorced him because he drank.  I don’t think she ever saw him again, and he died of alcoholism.
After divorcing John Forrest she married Lou Whitney who died and left her a considerable fortune which she promptly blew through.  She then married William O. Bailey who also died.
My grandmother was death on alcohol.  Her third husband Bill Bailey loved to have a nip now and then and he’d keep a bottle out in his woodshed to hide it from her so she wouldn’t find out.  The funny thing is that later in life Lulu discovered Southern Comfort.  And so when she’d come to visit us my parents would buy her a bottle of Southern Comfort so she could drink it.  I think she drank Southern Comfort and Coke.

Lulu Maria Cairns, about 1946.

Finally in 1955 she married Andrew Coutemarsh, a widower whom she had known for many years, perhaps since childhood.  He managed to outlive her by a short period.

Lulu and her fourth husband Andrew Coutermarsh just loved this apartment that they moved into. They said… this was like oh, late May or early June… they said, “it’s so nice to sit in the apartment and we open up the windows and let the breeze flow through here in the evenings and it’s just so comfortable”. My cousin Ray [Forrest] happened to be over there about this time and he looked and the storm windows were still on the place!  So they all went to the window and were imagining this breeze. He says he was wondering why it was always so Goddamn hot when he went over there. I never heard if he told them about the storm windows being on or not.
I happened to be home and I can’t remember if it was the year I was divorced or the year after [abt 1973]. It was one of these things every time I go home my mother would say, “You know you really ought to go see your grandmother. We don’t know how much longer she’s going to be with us, you ought to see her while she’s still here.” So we went down to visit her and I think I had been to one of my class reunions or something so I was pretty hung over the next morning. While my parents were in talking to Lulu and her husband I went out and took a nap in the back seat of the car and I’m snoozing away out there and all of a sudden there’s this horrendous goddamned explosion and it turns out that just up the street from my grandmother’s place, there was a hot water heat explosion in this house!  And this hot water went off in the basement and it lifted the entire house off its foundation and dropped it back down again at an angle. And everything that was in the house got blown out through the windows. There’s furniture out on the lawn, there’s curtains that are torn out there, and the hot water heater went through the first floor and the second floor and finally it was stopped by the roof. And fortunately nobody was home, they were off on a camping trip but they had left the dog behind and he was chained up in the backyard. They said the dog hid underneath their garage for 10 days without coming out. <laughs>
“I remember that explosion. I was the first person there. It’s hard to describe what the inside looked like. The outside of the house looked normal except for glass and curtains blow all over the lawn. What a miracle nobody was home! It looked like you took the room in giant hands and just shook it up.” – John Burrell via email
Lulu never became a US citizen.  All of her husbands were US citizens so apparently she got a little break in that department by marrying an American.

When she got older, she and Andrew lived in a county home, kind of an assisted living thing run by the county. Andrew had this heavy New Hampshire accent. It was so heavy that you would probably have trouble understanding him if he spoke.  I understood him because I was from up there, but anyone else would have been lost.

Lulu and her 4th husband Andrew Coutermarsh, about 1956.

Towards the end they fought a lot and they were finally separated and they didn’t live together in the same room but at the time when they were getting along they were both in the same room. And the high point of Andrew’s week was Sunday morning breakfast. He looked forward to that all week long, and then he gets up on Sunday morning and he starts looking for his false teeth so he can go down and eat breakfast. He can’t find his teeth. All he can find is my grandmother’s teeth that are on the dresser.  So finally he decides, well, he’ll just go down without his teeth and gum his breakfast to death.  Later that morning he came up from breakfast and discovers that my grandmother is wearing his teeth!

Elizabeth “Betty” Forrest Burrell, John Forrest, Mildred Jean Forrest Thomas, and their mother Lulu in 1974.

Photos courtesy of John Burrell, Pamela Burrell Antoni, and Tom Forrest.