December 5, 2022


Senator Gillmor House

Senator Gillmor House

Senator Gillmor House is a large two-storey Regency style residence with three chimneys. It is located amongst mature trees on a well-manicured lot on Main Street, in the town of St. George

Senator Gillmor House is recognized for its association with the Gillmor family. Arthur Hill Gillmor, lumber baron and Senator of the Dominion of Canada, had this home built for his wife, Hannah Dawes Howe, as a wedding gift in 1846. 

Senator Arthur Gillmor
Senator Arthur Gillmor

Senator Arthur Gillmor was born in 1824 in St George. He was the eldest son of Daniel Gillmor and Pamelia (Purmelia) Dowell. In 1846 he married Hannah Dawes Howe and they had three sons and one daughter.

Educated in local schools, Arthur Hill Gillmor engaged in business with his father and brothers; their interests included lumbering, milling, farming, and trading.

At age 30 in 1854, he entered provincial political life as a Liberal, winning election to the House of Assembly in one of the four seats for Charlotte County. He would be re-elected in 1856, 1857, and 1861. He quickly established himself as a highly principled man of great self-respect.

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 a general election on the issue of confederation was called, and Gillmor became part of the strong anti-confederate slate under Smith’s leadership. Having won easily, he joined Smith’s short-lived government and was called to the office of provincial secretary. He found it in chaos and the province near bankruptcy. Upon returning from his ministerial by-election in Charlotte, he had only two days to prepare his first budget. Despite personal depression over this most onerous portfolio, he soldiered on with diligence and capacity. Lieutenant Governor Arthur Hamilton Gordon had privately described him as “a man of no education or ability,” but later corrected his mistake by expressing the greatest satisfaction with Gillmor’s handling of the portfolio. Gillmor followed a restrained policy with regard to patronage, although well aware that “justices of the peace cling to the parties who make them.” He never urged or approved of a single dismissal for the purpose of filling the vacancy with an importuning friend, and admitted that he had “often suffered in consequence.” 

Abandoning provincial politics, Gillmor concentrated instead on his late father’s business interests and on his personal life. The latter was centred in his family and his home on the main street of St George, the site of his beloved garden. 

In 1872 Gillmor stood for election to the House of Commons but was defeated. Successful in 1874, he was re-elected continuously until 1896 when, despite the Liberal sweep, “the war horse of the party,” as the Saint John Freeman dubbed him, went down to defeat. His parliamentary career was marked by lengthy, sarcastic speeches, peppered with anecdotes and with biblical and gardening references. He questioned government spending at every opportunity, deprecated the protectionist National Policy, and fought for the rights of the common man. 

Gilbert Ganong
Gilbert Ganong

Aged 72 when he was defeated in 1896 by the more youthful Gilbert White Ganong (co-foundeer of Ganong Brothers) of St Stephen, he would wait four years before receiving a call to the Senate, on 2 April 1900. In the same month he represented Canada to great effect at the universal exposition in Paris.

Gillmor spent his last day working among his former constituents in St Stephen, where he awaited the Montreal train.

Although a fierce debater in the house, he never personalized his quarrels and therefore never made enemies of his opponents. Thus he spent part of the day with Ganong. After boarding the train and retiring to his berth, he became suddenly ill. Lady Tilley was the first to notice his distress and gave the alarm, but it was too late. Senator Gillmor was dead at age 79. It is a measure of the man that a number of his pallbearers were his political opponents.

In 1907 his son Daniel would also be called to the Senate.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography 

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