John Medwin (b.1836-d.1906), a cabinetmaker by profession settled in the town of Dundas in either late 1862 or early 1863.
He was born in the St. Marylebone Parish of London, Middlesex, England on 25 February, 1836 and named after his father. His father was a carpenter by trade. In 1854, he and his father emigrated from London, England on route to New York City on a ship named the Quickstep, while his mother and two sisters remained in Kent, England where the family was currently living. The ship arrived in New York on the 16th of October in 1854, but John arrived alone at age 17 since his father had died during the passage.
Within 5 years, he had emigrated to Ontario, Canada & settled in Brant County, where in October of 1859, married a Mary Jane Hargadon in Burford (near Brantford). By 1863, they were living in Dundas with their two children, Alicia and Mary. Their son John was born here in 1864 but passed away by 1875.
John’s wife had died in April of 1873 leaving him with 3 children to raise. On 22 January 1874 he married Elizabeth Dunkin, a daughter of Thomas Dunkin and Rachel Green, of West Flamborough. Elizabeth’s father came from Antrim, Ireland in 1829 & purchased a piece of land in Greensville in 1835 from William Green. He opened a blacksmith shop in that village named after William and Rachel’s grandfather, John Green. In 1843, Thomas purchased a 100 acre parcel, Lot 9, Concession 3 of West Flamborough. This farm later was passed down to the Medwins.
For a few years after John and Elizabeth married, they moved the family up north to Manitoulin Island when John obtained some Crown land which was situated at called Silver Water, near Silver Lake. Here he built the first log house in the area. On Sundays, he held a church service and taught the native Canadian people who lived nearby, about the gospel from his Bible. He had built wooden benches for seating and had cleared the existing furniture to the sides of the great room. The Medwins lived here until just after 1893 when they moved back to the Dunkin farm in West Flamborough.
John had created and carved a large breakfront for the dining room it is assumed at the farm after they settled there. The dining piece was passed down through Elizabeth Dunkin’s heirs. He constructed the chair along with some others presumably here too though it could have been while they lived in Dundas.
He and Elizabeth remained at the farm the rest of their days until his passing on June 6th, 1906. He and Elizabeth are buried with their son, Thomas Medwin at Glenwood Cemetery. By 1909, two of John’s daughters, Bertha and Emily, who lived at the farm with their half-brother Owen Francis J. Medwin, purchased a Victorian red brick home at 205 Hunter Street West, in Hamilton and brought the breakfront and one chair with them when they moved.
Bertha’s daughter, Velma M. (Baker) Hutty inherited the chair by 1956. The seat fabric had deteriorated by that time, so Velma created the needlepoint covering that it has today. It was then inherited by one of her daughters, Suzanne, a great-granddaughter of John Medwin and donated it to the Dundas Museum and Archives in October of 2021.
Thank you to Suzanne, great-granddaughter of John Medwin, for writing this biography and providing photographs of John Medwin and the chair!
[In city directories dating 1865 to 1877, John Medwin is listed as working for R.F. Cowper & Co, a furniture and undertaking business, which had a factory on Queen and Spring St. Spring St no longer exists]