People: Scots of Windsor's Past
To recount all the Scottish immigrants or people of Scottish descent who helped to shape Windsor and Essex is an impossible task, for few other groups have impacted the character of this peninsula more than the Scots. Nevertheless, below are brief biographies of a few of the many others whose activities have shaped the area.
Men of the Nineteenth Century
David Cowan (1745-1808)
Legend has it that this Lanarkshire native immigrated to the United States in 1770, where he became the gardener of General George Washington. When the American Revolution broke out, Cowan wished to remain loyal to the Crown, so Washington arranged for his safe passage into Quebec.
In Canada, Cowan joined the Provincial Marine Department, a branch of the British navy on the Great Lakes manned by United Empire Loyalists and colonists, where he made first lieutenant. In 1797 he commanded the nine man crew of the sloop Francis, and followed his military career with a stint in politics. In 1804 he was elected to represent Essex County in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, and remained in office until 1808.
William Cowan (1836-1902)
Cowan received a government land allowance for his service with the infantry during the Fenian troubles. He was the Sandwich Town Councilman, a member of many Scottish societies, and a customs broker in downtown Windsor for over forty years.
Born in Chatham to Scottish immigrants in 1844, Innes was made superintendent of the Windsor ferries for the Michigan Central Railroad in 1882.
McDougall, a surveyor, appeared in Windsor in 1833 when he bought the Farm lot N. 85. When he set out to subdivide the lot, a controversy over what to call the new settlement broke out. McDougall dubbed it South Detroit, while others wanted to call it Richmond, which was the name of the adjoining town that encompassed the land between what is now Glengarry and Crawford. James Dougall settled the issue by proposing the neutral name, Windsor.
McDougall subdivided his lot on an axis that ran lengthwise across the farm with cross streets etched into it. The plots, which ranged in price from one dollar to six hundred dollars, provided the model by which future Windsor developments would be built: the main road that ran through the centre of his lot was called McDougall Street and ran lengthwise across it, with cross streets extending as far as the boundaries of the property placed wherever they were desired. The layout of McDougall Street allowed it to extend far back into the interior, and the model could be easily duplicated on adjacent lots. This was in contrast to the pattern Francois Baby had applied to his Ouellette Avenue farm, which were split crosswise, their axes limited to the width of the lots. McDougall's model "fundamentally altered the way the community was evolving." And "was reproduced endlessly in the future Windsor, even in the interior behind the original Baby pattern." 1
James McLeod (1828-1918)
Born 1828 in Paris, Ontario, this first-generation Canadian came to Windsor to be the proprietor of the Great Western Hotel. He later built the American Hotel.
John Spiers (1853-1918)
This Glasgow native served Sandwich as Postmaster for over twenty years from 1895 until his death in 1918. He was the town treasurer for thirteen years and well-known in fraternal circles.
Charles Stuart (1783-1865)
The maternal uncle of Colonel Arthur Rankin, Stuart was born in Jamaica to Scottish immigrants. He was educated in Belfast and received a military commission with the East India Company, but he eventually resigned because his staunch moral views conflicted with the social and military policies of the Company. He relocated to Amherstburg, Upper Canada, in 1817 and became the town magistrate, but he clashed with officers at Fort Malden over the extent of his jurisdiction over soldiers charged with civil offenses.
Stuart finally found an outlet for his humanitarian and religious zeal in the abolitionist movement. After getting involved with the Underground Railroad, he founded a colony for escaped slaves near Amherstburg and helped them to become established as farmers. For the rest of his life he devoted himself to the anti-slavery movement, traveling Great Britain and the United States, where he would find a loyal, lifelong friend and ally in a young Theodore Dwight, who would become America's leading abolitionist.
Stuart remained abroad from 1822 until 1850, returning to assist with the formation of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada in Toronto.
Men of the Twentieth Century
Byron Ross McKenzie
Born 1890 in Huron County to Peter McKenzie and Mary McLachlan, people of Scottish descent, McKenzie became one of Windsor's leading businessmen and public servants. He began work at the Ford Motor Company as a young office boy and rose through its ranks to become General Purchasing Agent. After twelve years with Ford, thirty-one year-old McKenzie left to become the General Distributor for Firestone tires in western Ontario.
One of the city's youngest prominent businessmen, he was also one of the youngest aldermen ever to be elected to City Council, beginning his public service career in 1914, just shy of his twenty-fourth birthday. Over the next several years, he would serve on the Windsor School Board, the Windsor Park Commission, and the Windsor Water Commission, which he would chair three times. His write-up in Men of Achievement of the County of Essex trumpeted his accomplishments: "The record bespeaks ... qualities - moral and intellectual - of a high caliber ... needed for progress, civic advancement, and permanency."
William H. McLeod (1896-1951)
Born in Napanee, Ontario, this prominent Essex County barrister graduated from Osgoode Hall in 1921 before becoming a King's Counsel. He served as the Essex County Law Society president and died incumbent.
Neil F. Morrison (1897-1967)
This Scottish scholar and Sarnia native did his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto before going on to earn a doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1944. He spent his life working as a teacher and chaired the Social Studies department at Guppy High School of Commerce at the W. D. Lowe Vocational School in Windsor.
Morrison's works have contributed to the preservation of the area's history. His published pieces are represented in the Windsor Public Library Archives Collection as the Morrison Literary Papers. A Commerical and Economic Geography, which was published in twelve editions between 1930 and 1934, was used as a textbook in high schools and colleges across the country, while his 1954 seminal work, Garden Gateway to Canada provides the definitive historical account of Windsor and Essex from the 1850s to the middle of the twentieth century. He also contributed a column called "Early Days Along the St. Clair River" to the Windsor Daily Star for five years from 1945 until 1950.Garden Gateway to Canada is available in all branches of the Windsor Public Library
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John Frederick Reid
This Strathroy, Ontario native married Jennie Fuller in 1909. Together they had three boys and moved to the house at 1115 Victoria Avenue in the late 1910s. In 1926, Reid was elected as a Member of Provincial Parliament for Windsor West as the Fergusonian Liquor-Control candidate. In addition to politics, he was also involved in sales and contracting. Nick Chauvin, author of Men of Achievement of the County of Essex, credited Reid's success "to his happy faculty of allying his natural bonhomie with a strong business sense."
Born in Middlesex County in 1873, Thompson became a constable in London and went on to become the Police Chief in Woodstock and Peterborough. He came to Windsor in 1920 to be the Police Chief for a force of twenty-two men with a headquarters in dire need of renovation. He was elected President of the Executive Committee of the Chief Constables Association of Canada the following year, and was given the honour of serving as Vice-President of the International Chiefs of Police Association in 1926. His work focused more on preventing crime than punishing it, and the new headquarters building, which he designed and prioritized, was his legacy.
Archibald D. Waddell
According to his obituary, this Aberdeen native was the first man in Windsor to enlist for the Second World War. He went overseas with the Essex-Kent Scottish and served in the North African and Italian campaigns. As a civilian, he worked as the chief telegraph operator for the Canadian Pacific Railway and passed away in 1953.