Senator Gillmor House is a stunning two-story Regency style building, located on Main Street in the town of St. George, surrounded by mature trees and a well-manicured lot. The building is most notable for its association with the Gillmor family, especially Arthur Hill Gillmor, a lumber baron and Senator of the Dominion of Canada, who had the house built as a wedding gift for his wife, Hannah Dawes Howe, in 1846.
Arthur Hill Gillmor was born in St. George in 1824, the eldest son of Daniel Gillmor and Pamelia (Purmelia) Dowell. After receiving his education in local schools, he went into business with his father and brothers, involved in industries such as lumbering, milling, farming, and trading. In 1854, he entered provincial politics as a Liberal and was elected to the House of Assembly in Charlotte County. He was re-elected several times and established himself as a highly principled man.
When in 1861, with an election looming, the Liberal party enquired of potential candidates whether they would support it “in all quests of purely party character,” Gillmor was the only one who refused to give this assurance. The defeat of the surveyor general, James Brown, at the polls in June left Charlotte County without a representative on the Executive Council. Premier Samuel Leonard Tilley and Attorney General Albert James Smith both urged Gillmor to accept the portfolio, but he astonished them by declining on a matter of principle, a rumour having surfaced that he had engineered Brown’s defeat.
In 1865, Gillmor became part of the anti-confederate slate under Albert James Smith’s leadership and was appointed as the provincial secretary. Despite being described as “a man of no education or ability,” he proved to be a diligent and capable politician, following a restrained policy with regards to patronage. He never approved of dismissals for the purpose of filling vacancies with friends and admitted that he had “often suffered in consequence.”
Senator Gillmor’s political career took a hiatus when he shifted his focus to the family business and his personal life, centered around his home on Main Street in St. George, where he had a beloved garden.
In 1872, Gillmor ran for election to the House of Commons but was unsuccessful. He was elected in 1874 and held the position continuously until 1896, when he lost to Gilbert White Ganong of St. Stephen, despite a Liberal sweep. Gillmor was known for his lengthy, sarcastic speeches in the House, filled with anecdotes and references to the Bible and gardening. He consistently questioned government spending, opposed the protectionist National Policy, and fought for the rights of the common man.
Four years after his defeat in 1896, Gillmor was appointed to the Senate on April 2, 1900. That same month, he represented Canada at the Universal Exposition in Paris with great success. On his last day, Gillmor was working with his former constituents in St. Stephen, where he was awaiting a train to Montreal. Despite being a fierce debater in the House, Gillmor never took his arguments personally and as a result, never made enemies with his opponents. He even spent part of the day with Ganong. While on the train and in his berth, Gillmor suddenly fell ill and passed away at the age of 79. It was a testament to his character that some of his political opponents served as his pallbearers.
In 1907, Gillmor’s son, Daniel, was also appointed to the Senate.
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