John Lewis was of Welsh extraction. His father, Ichabod, established the town of Lewisville in 1785 after arriving in the Moncton area from New York, as a United Empire Loyalist. John trained to be a teacher in Halifax, but taught for only one year before moving to Hillsborough and opening a store in 1828. John Lewis’s business flourished. In 1850 he built a new store just to the north of this site beside an eleven kilometre long tramway, which transported Albertite from the mines to a shipping wharf on the river. Mr. Lewis took advantage of the fact that the tramway’s wooden rails and trains of horse drawn carts ran both ways. His location allowed him to use the tramway to cheaply supply the mining company and the growing community, which had sprung up around the pits in Albert Mines.
Lewis married Lavinia Taylor, his neighbour and granddaughter of William Taylor. Their first son, William, studied medicine in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland, before returning to Hillsborough to open his practice. In later years William was elected to the Provincial legislature and later to the House of Commons. His daughter Rebecca’s son, John Lewis Peck, would also play important roles in Hillsborough’s unfolding story.
Because of his forceful arguments, determination and assured eloquence, John Lewis had been asked by both parties to run for the provincial legislature. However, it was not until the Confederation issue arose that he became sufficiently motivated to contest an election. He was strongly in favour of the union between Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He fought successfully to hold the seat vacated by another strong supporter of Confederation, William Henry Steeves. During the key votes of 1865 and 1866 he argued convincingly for Confederation against his anti-Confederation opponent, John Wallace, who was his neighbour. After Confederation, Mr. Lewis was appointed to the Legislative Council of New Brunswick and remained in this cabinet for eleven years. In 1875, the Honourable John Lewis and others were granted the charter for the construction of the Salisbury–Albert Railway.
Mr. Lewis was a forceful and dominant business and political leader in his community. This house mirrors its builder’s personality. The front façade is bluff, forthright and imposing. It is an excellent example of Italianate residential architecture. This style is evident in such elements as the twin bays on the front façade, the extensive use of brackets and the ‘widow’s walk’. The building symbolizes authority so readily that two other prominent village families borrowed its ambience and took up residency in this house over the years. In 1881 John Lewis retired from business by selling his store and this house to his twenty-three-year-old grandson, John Lewis Peck. From 1881 until 1919, John Peck made this residence the seat of an expanding financial and business empire. The property was then acquired by Major Ralph Lockhart, a distinguished WWI veteran. Again, the solemn dignity of the house matched an owner whose distinguished war service had earned him the respect of his community.
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