We never intended on purchasing our home because, frankly, we never intended on living in Amherst. But things have a way of turning out. Much to the chagrin of my late father who immersed himself in our family genealogy, I could never get fully interested in the Graham lineage. I found it so confusing not fully appreciating the why for many years until I realized a brother and a sister of one family married a brother and a sister of another family and the sister’s had the same name and hence my confusion. So imagine my surprise when I was instantly interested in the history and the lives of the original owners of the Amherst home we had purchased. I was somehow drawn into every nook and cranny of this wonderful piece of architecture and of the family who had originally resided here.
I would expect those interested in local history have heard the name ‘Hewson’. Many are aware there are two Hewson houses on East Victoria here in Amherst with one having belonged to barrister Edgar Hewson and the other to industrialist brother Harvey. But did you know there’s a third Hewson house in Amherst on Rupert Street and it is where we live. As does my heart.
Mrs. Eliza (widow of George, original owner of Hewson Pure Wool Textile) was extremely well off and lived here with her daughter Louisa. A second daughter, Marie, lived here intermittently because she went to Mount Allison Ladies College, the Eric Pape School in Boston and the Art Student’s League in New York City. She was a creative sort painting her way through Brittany, Belgium and Holland. At a later date, she met and married Harry ‘Benson’ Guest of Winnipeg and moved to that city with him. Her painting stopped. What was there to paint in such a flat land? After painting the world, she under appreciated the beautiful prairies. But as fate would have it, Marie attended a gathering where none other than Canada’s poet Doctor Bliss Carman was in attendance. And Dr Carman gave her sage advice when he awoke in her the idea that it was one’s first duty to develop any impulse towards creative work. She began to find painting subjects in Manitoba.
One day on a whim and for no known reason to me, I googled Marie Hewson and nearly fell off my chair at what appeared. I discovered she had become a successful artist in her adopted city and had been the subject of a University of Winnipeg course with the syllabus being her work and her life. This had come about years after Marie’s death when a university professor, new to Winnipeg and viewing a residence for sale, was instantly impressed with the dozens of paintings and drawings on display throughout the viewed home. These she found were the work of the late Marie Hewson Guest, formerly of Amherst. That home had belonged to Marie’s daughter-in-law. The art history professor was so impressed at the level of expertise, the subject matter and the proliferation of works, she asked if she could borrow them, eventually turning it all into a University of Winnipeg course entitled Constructing the Woman Artist: Marie Hewson Guest in Winnipeg.
This talented artist born into wealth, was not encouraged by family, friends or societal norms of the day to follow her true calling and in her later life it was a regret to her. Amherst’s Marie Hewson Guest’s works now hang in the Winnipeg Art Gallery where she has finally received the recognition she deserves. On a recent Winnipeg visit, we were fortunate to view her works at the Art Gallery, to drive by the Winnipeg home she lived in and to wander her neighbourhood. Things had gone full circle whereby I now knew why we purchased our Rupert Street home. It was to connect with Marie. It was to bring a bit of her home.
Sheila Graham is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.