Agnes Scott

1863 – 1927

A journalist, Scott wrote about turn of the century Ottawa society under various pseudonyms. Sandra Gwynn relied extensively on Scott’s reporting in writing The Private Capital.

Miss Agnes Scott, December 1889
LAC MIKAN 344 9076

Agnes Scott was the daughter of Richard W. Scott’s youngest brother, Allan. After her father died when she was 5, leaving the family in straightened circumstances, Agnes grew up at 47 Daly Ave., now part of the Mission for Men, where she would live for almost 30 years(?). At first, this large house had running water only in the basement and a single coal stove on the ground floor to heat its five floors in winter. Agnes’s cousin, Lillian, recounts that on her visits, “when the thermometer hovered near zero [Fahrenheit] we sat in a ring around [the stove], and oh, how we hated going upstairs to bed, but it was worse getting up in the morning.” (Desbarats, 1957) 

Well-connected socially, Scott wrote gossipy and witty columns that remain a rich source of information on how Ottawa’s beau monde lived over a century ago. She described balls, parties and affairs of state in a detached style that could both skewer and reveal the mores of the day.

A year after her mother died in 1897, she moved in with her uncle Senator R.W. Scott at 274 Daly Ave. Although intelligent, educated and a member of an influential family, Agnes was plain and poor, which may account for her late marriage in 1903 to William Davis, the son of W.P. Davis, a successful contractor. William was wealthy, almost ten years younger than his bride and a playboy. His father built the new couple the large house that still stands at 407 Wilbrod Ave. (now Australia House).

Now married and soon to become a mother, Agnes stopped writing her columns. She and William had two children together but one imagines their marriage was not a happy one as he died with “startling suddenness” on Christmas Eve 1916 in the apartment of his mistress, having by then dissipated most of the family fortune. The newspapers covered up the scandal by reporting that Mr. Davis “…rose at 7:30 o’clock Sunday morning, with the intention of attending mass at St Joseph’s church where he has been a life-long worshipper. In the process of dressing, Mr. Davis became suddenly ill, and fell to the floor. Members of the household rushed to his assistance and Dr. J.L. Chabot, M.P. was called, but before the latter arrived, Mr. Davis had expired.” (Ottawa Journal, 26 December 1916)

After William’s death, Agnes moved back to her uncle’s house at 274 Daly Ave. with her two young daughters where she lived until the house was sold in 1920. She lived a few more years in Sandy Hill (at 305 Wilbrod Ave. and 234 Chapel St.) with the financial support of her family before moving with her daughters to France in 1926, in part because the cost of living was cheaper. She died from polio the following year.