​While tearing down some of the interior walls of the historic Holman homestead in Summerside, P.E.I., new owners Jenny and Ken Meister made a fascinating discovery — a personal letter about an important time in Canadian history.

The letter, dated June 9, 1891, is addressed to Mrs. R.T. Holman from her son Claude, who was in Ottawa during an historical event — the funeral of Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

 'It allows us to be a little closer to the home.' — Ken Meister

"We found a few things in the walls, but they were so degraded, we couldn't really make them out," said Jenny Meister, who admits she almost tossed out the letter.  

"At first, I thought it was just another piece of paper that we wouldn't be able to make sense of or see anything on it." 

Vivid description

In the letter, Claude Holman writes "There was an awful bunch of strangers in Ottawa at the funeral, and a great many store windows are decorated with drapes and his pictures are in the windows. I think the Liberals will have a great chance of grabbing in the next election on account of this." 

HolmanLetter-2

Ken and Jenny Meister found the old letter while renovating the historic Holman Homestead in Summerside. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The letter is a good example of how people got their news of the day more than a century ago, said Ken Meister. 

The Meisters plan to make a copy of the letter to hang in their new country inn and ice cream parlour, and give the original letter to the a local historical society. 

Historic value

"It has value because the Holman family are a very important mercantile family in the history of Prince Edward Island," said Island historian Ed MacDonald.

Besides adding some colour to a national event, it also sheds light on one of P.E.I.'s most storied families, said MacDonald. 

The home was built in the 1850s and bought by R. T. Holman, the founder of the Holman department stores that once dotted the Island.

"The reach of their department store chain and their influence on culture and everyday affairs is significant, so not only is it important because of the event it describes, it's important because it's from the Holmans." 

HolmanLetter

The letter describes Sir John A. Macdonald's funeral in Ottawa in June, 1891. (Upper Canada History)

The letter gives a fascinating glimpse into the building's past, said Ken Meister.

"I can imagine Mrs. Holman sitting back and reading a letter from her son. It allows us to be a little closer to the home."

The couple bought the Holman Homestead in January, and plan to use it as an inn and ice cream parlour.

A transcript of the letter

The letter is worn and stained, and difficult to read.

"My dear Mother,

It has been more than a week I am afraid since I wrote to you. 

We are having frightfully hot weather now and I guess I will make a sneak for house about the last of the month.

I am in want of clothes very much now.

So Sir John has crossed the river. It is too bad. His funeral was today. 

There was an awful bunch of strangers in Ottawa at the funeral, and a great many store windows are decorated with drapes and his pictures are in the windows. 

I think the Liberals will have a great chance of grabbing in the next election on account of this. 

Walter Adams leaves here today for the Maritime provinces. I've asked him to come back to the Island and spend a week or so with me if I shall be home in time. 

I shall be glad to get home again where I can have a good rest and study some also.

I don't know any more to say unless 'I love you,' and long to pass my lip by yours.

Love Claude."