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Mary Tutak Boswick, a Polish Kingstonian

SWIHHP is delighted to have a guest blog post this month from Joan McCulloch, telling the story of her grandmother’s arrival in Kingston in 1913. Thanks, Joan, for sharing an amazing story the rest of us would never have heard otherwise.

My grandmother, Mary Tutak, was born January 14, 1896 on a farm at the edge of Wisniowa, Poland. She was the third of four children. Her elder brother Joseph immigrated to Canada in 1910. At 17, Mary sailed on the SS Lapland from Belgium to join him. Ship’s manifests show that she arrived at Ellis Island, NY on April 29, 1913. From there, she proceeded by train to Kingston.

When Mary arrived at the railway station in Kingston, she had Joseph’s name in a leather pouch around her neck. She could not read or write or speak English. The station master had met many immigrants over the years. He sent word for John Boswick (aka Jaen, Jan or Iwan Budzyk or Busniak), who spoke several Slavic languages, to come to translate for young Mary. John knew Mary’s brother, Joseph, who was working  in the woods near Sharbot Lake. John contacted Joseph. Joseph said he could not bring Mary north to the lumber camp and he could not return to Kingston. At this point, things took an interesting turn. John Boswick, who had come to Canada in 1906, told Joseph he was looking for a wife. John and Joseph agreed that John and Mary should marry.  Accordingly, the marriage took place on May 28, 1913 at St Mary’s Cathedral.

John and Mary went on to have nine children: Dick, Anne, Sophie, Mary, Frances, Lillian, Frank, John and Rhonda. They lived at 62 Stephen Street at the corner of Patrick. Mary took in boarders while John worked as a labourer. She and the children raised vegetables, chickens and cows on the property that later became St. Patrick’s school. They ran a small store out of the garage behind the house. Later they built a house at 72 Stephen Street.  John and his son Dick built a house at 79 Stephen Street and a store at 83 Stephen Street. All of the children worked in the store. Daughter Mary and her husband built a house at 52 James Street with the help of her father, John. Sophie worked briefly at Hield Brothers Mill. Frances worked there for many years until it closed. Stephen Street was the centre of the family for many years.

Mary Boswick with brother Joe Tutak & her children Lillian, Mary, Sue, Frances, Frank & Dick, May 1970

Mary’s brother, Joseph, was a widower; his wife had died in Poland after he came to Canada. He brought his two children to join him in 1922. Joseph, Frank and Leona lived with Mary and family on Stephen Street. In due course Joseph married again and moved to a farm near Brockville.

I am the eldest grandchild of John and Mary. In 1993 a letter arrived at 72 Stephen Street addressed to Maria (Mary) Boswick, who had died in 1971. It came from the granddaughter of Mary’s brother Michal who had remained in Poland. We learned that Mary’s sister, Kataryna, had also stayed in Poland — to live through two world wars and communism. I have now had the opportunity to visit and get to know many of my Polish cousins. How different my life would have been if I had been born to a daughter of the other sister, Kataryna, who remained in Poland. While I found my travel to Poland fascinating, I consider myself proud and fortunate to be a Canadian.

— Joan Godfrey McCulloch

3 Comments

  1. Liana Shaw

    What a fantastic story! Thanks so much for sharing! My great grandparents David and Emma Henry lived at 22 Stephen St (also the corner of Stephen and Patrick – I’m pretty sure this is the same house, though the numbers have obviously changed) until David built a new family home at 144 James Street in 1911. One of their five daughters, my grandmother Louise Henry, was actually born in that house at the corner of Patrick and Stephen in 1911.. She lived in the house on James Street until her 70s, and it’s stayed in our family until last year. David Henry was also a labourer, and it’s likely our families knew each other,

    It looks like John and Mary may have also lived on Charles Street at one point? In the 1916 city directory shows them living at 9 Charles Street with John employed the the Locomotive works.

    Small world!

  2. Carolyn McCulloch

    What an amazing story, Joan. I loved it, and applaud you for digging deep and telling it in a most delightful way. Strangely, I parked in the field across from St Patrick’s school last week. I wondered at the time, what the history of that little part of Kingston was about. Thank you……looking forward to exploring Kingston together.
    Carolyn Cooke McCulloch

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