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Hon. William McDougall: Father of Confederation

  • William McDougall was born to Daniel McDougall and Hannah Matthews on January 25, 1822
  • He was raised on his grandfather John McDougall’s farm, lot 4, con.1 west of Yonge which his father acquired in 1826. (The property ran from Yonge to Bathurst and comprised the present-day streets of Glenview, Glengrove and Glencairn.)
  • Among the events which the young McDougall witnessed was the burning of Montgomery’s Tavern during the Rebellion of 1837.
  • Following his studies at Upper Canada Academy in Cobourg, he returned to Toronto to study law in the firm of James Hervey Price, reformer and owner of the nearby Castlefield estate.
  • In 1845 McDougall married his first cousin Amelia Caroline Easton. Later, they moved to the Easton family farm north of Lawrence on the east side of Yonge. (Amelia had been adopted by her aunt and uncle, Samantha and Joseph Easton, who were childless, after the death of her mother.) The property, lot 7, ran from Yonge to Bayview and from present-day Bowood to Snowdon avenues.
  • By 1851 McDougall had built a sawmill on the property near today’s Rosedale Golf Club. By this time he was also involved in the Clear Grit political movement and in the publications Canadian Agriculturalist and The North American.
  • Between 1846 and 1864 Amelia and William had eleven children, many of whom were born on the farm known as “Millbank”.
  • William McDougall appears as owner of the farm on the York County maps of 1860 and 1878.
  • In 1862 he abandoned the Clear Grit movement and joined the ministry of Premier John Sandfield Macdonald.
  • While serving in cabinet McDougall along with his wife were present in 1863 for the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln.
  • McDougall is considered a Father of Confederation as he attended the three Confederation conferences in Charlottetown, Quebec and London England and participated in the formulation of terms of agreement leading to Confederation on July 1, 1867.
  • For his services to Confederation he was awarded the Companion of the Order of Bath by Queen Victoria.
  • He became Minister of Ministry of Public Works in the cabinet of Sir John A. Macdonald
  • His wife Amelia died in January 1869 before McDougall’s appointment as Lieutenant-governor of Rupert’s Land and the North-west Territory. She is buried in the McDougall family plot in Toronto’s Necropolis Cemetery.
  • McDougall remarried in 1872 (Mary Adelaide Beatty) and they had three sons. He died on 29 May 1905 in Ottawa and is buried in the Beechwood Cemetery.

Lynda Moon, President, North Toronto Historical Society

Originally published in the November 2016 – January 2017 North York Historical Society Newsletter