GOURLIE, JESSIE WINNIFRED (Hogg), homemaker, author, and impresario; b. 18 April 1861 in Summerside, P.E.I., daughter of James Gourlie and his wife, Helen Emma, whose family name was probably Layton; m. there 19 Feb. 1879 Robert Hogg, and they had five sons and three daughters; a second marriage may have occurred; d. 24 Feb. 1915 in Sherbrooke, Que.
Jessie Gourlie’s early years were spent comfortably in the Summerside household of her father, a pioneer merchant and civic leader who was also variously a lime manufacturer, manager of the Dominion Savings Bank, and first town clerk. The death of several siblings and her mother before Jessie was ten marred an otherwise uneventful childhood spent acquiring the practical and cultural skills of a Victorian lady.
Marriage to Robert Hogg, customs appraiser for the port of Charlottetown, established her as matron of a similar home in the provincial capital, where she bore her children in rapid succession and buried all but three boys. Her life was centred on her home and family, although her interest in the welfare of the natives who lived in the vicinity of the Hogg summer cottage at Rocky Point, near Charlottetown, revealed an unconventional streak.
Hogg’s non-domestic activities included charitable work with homeless children and writing fiction. An early story, “Belle Marie,” based on a tale told by the Micmac, was published in the July 1899 issue of the Prince Edward Island Magazine. In 1901 she began the publication of Christmas Chimes, an annual magazine for which she both wrote articles and acted as editor. By extolling the virtues of Prince Edward Island as a vacation destination, she attracted the attention of the province’s tourist association, which published the 1905 issue and used it for promotion.
Her magazine seems not to have appeared after 1908, but by then Hogg had embarked upon a more ambitious business venture, Wonderland, a concert hall and cinema located in Charlottetown’s market house. The programs and ticket prices were calculated to have a broad appeal, a fact underscored before 1910 by a change of name to the People’s Theatre. The illness and subsequent death of her husband in 1910 obliged Hogg to cede management of the theatre to her son William Gregory Hogg. Family lore recounts, however, that within a short period she had remarried and with her son had purchased a second theatre in Smiths Falls, Ont. She and her new husband apparently moved there to operate the business. Both the theatre and the marriage failed, it seems, and Hogg returned to Charlottetown to live with William Gregory. She later resided with her eldest son, Robert Wendell Hogg, in Sherbrooke, where her third son, George Russel, also lived. She died there, but was buried in Charlottetown.
The strength of Jessie Hogg’s unorthodox and self-reliant spirit distinguished her from most women of her time and place. She appears to have been motivated more by personal urgings than principles, however, and should be seen as an individualist rather than as a conscious feminist. Her local pride and initiative were a better reflection of her contemporary society. Charlottetown was enjoying a period of cautious optimism in the 1900s. Jessie Hogg’s interest in boosting the scenic charms of her native province and in developing the entertainment industry picked up on what were to become two persistent elements of the economy in 20th-century Prince Edward Island.
[The single most useful source for the life of Jessie Hogg is an article written by Lucille Elizabeth [Turnbull] Hogg in 1978. It is available in typescript at the PARO (P.E.I. Geneal. Soc, coll., reference files), and has been published as “Jessie Winnifred Gourlie Hogg, 1861–1915,” in the Abegweit Rev. (Charlottetown), 3 (1980), no.1: 8–18. The most accessible of Jessie’s own writings is her article “Belle Marie” in the Prince Edward Island Magazine (Charlottetown), 1 (1899–1900): 182–87. It is harder to locate copies of Christmas Chimes (Charlottetown), 1 (1901)–8 (1908), but an incomplete series exists in the P.E.I. Coll. at the Univ. of P.E.I. Library (Charlottetown), consisting of vols.2 (1902) and 4 (1904)–8. In addition, a pamphlet entitled The relief of Ladysmith: how it was celebrated in Charlottetown (Charlottetown, 1900), written under Jessie’s pen-name, “Philo,” is preserved in PARO, Acc. 2334/24.
Otherwise, details of her life must be pieced together from the P.E.I. Geneal. Soc. coll. at the PARO. Records there include gravestone transcriptions from St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral (Charlottetown) for Robert Hogg and Jessie Gourlie as well as a gravestone transcription for Helen Gourlie from St John’s Anglican Church (St Eleanor’s, P.E.I.); master name index references to Robert and Jessie and some of their children; and a genealogical abstract of the Hogg family compiled by Lucille Hogg. No reference exists to a second marriage of Jessie Hogg in the files of marriage licences or the parish records of St Peter’s Cathedral and St Paul’s Church in Charlottetown, St Dunstan’s Roman Catholic Basilica in Charlottetown, St Mary’s Anglican Church in Summerside, or St John’s Church in St Eleanor’s.
Newspaper sources are helpful for sorting out the details of Jessie Hogg’s death. Death and funeral notices appear in the Charlottetown Guardian, 25 Feb., 1, 2 March 1915, as well as in the Sherbrooke Daily Record (Sherbrooke, Que.), 25 Feb. 1915. The pages of the Rideau Record of Smiths Falls, Ont., are mute on the activities of Jessie Hogg in that community. p.e.r.]