John Paterson

This biography is an excerpt of a larger project about the Mayors of Dundas developed and created by Judy Morphet, a Museum volunteer. It has been years in the making and is ongoing. The Museum is thankful for Judy’s hard work and perseverance in bringing these stories to light. To read more, click here.

John Patterson (1805-1856), the first President of Dundas Council, was born April 5, 1805 at Blantyre Works, near Glasgow.

In 1819 the Paterson family emigrated to Canada and settled in York, where two years later John’s father established a hardware trade. As early as 1823, John and his brother, Peter were employed in the family business.

Paterson was granted a lot on the waterfront of Coote’s Paradise in 1823, where he opened his own hardware store in 1830, rivalling the Lesslie & Sons business.

In 1830 Paterson began to build a brewery on the South Quay of Spencer Creek and soon operated a glue factory as well.

Despite the commercial rivalry, John wed Grace Lesslie in 1831.

With his business partner, Walter Gorham, Paterson established the Dundas Woollen Factory in 1845, which was renamed the Elgin Woollen Mills when he bought out his partner in 1846.

Heavily involved in politics, Paterson was on the Board of the Desjardins Canal Company, held the position of Justice of the Peace, and sat on the Town Council.

Since 1826 Paterson had been promoting the construction of a canal linking Dundas to Burlington Bay and thus, Lake Ontario. He and five others had been seeking a charter to build the canal. It was granted on January 30, 1826 – provided that the cost did not exceed 10,000 pounds.

In 1832 Paterson mortgaged his own property as security for the completion of the canal and a loan of £15,000 was arranged with the Government.

Paterson circulated a petition in 1833, which resulted in a provincial investigation into the suspicious affairs of the company and its President, Alan MacNab, whom Paterson then replaced as President the following year.

Progress on the construction of the canal had been lagging (once, because someone had stolen the contractor’s wheelbarrow) and businessmen were frustrated! The Desjardins Canal was finally completed eleven years later, on August 16, 1837, but the cost was three times the original estimate.

On April 16, 1846 the Dundas Warder gave a lengthy description of a dinner held at Boggis’s Hotel, attended by guest of honour, Robert Baldwin M.P.P., the, “most gifted son of the Country”.

“The Chair was filled by John Paterson Esq. J.P. Over the chairman’s seat was displayed a splendid Blue Silk Banner having thereon inscribed in silver letters”: Durhams Responsibility

With implementation of Lord Durham’s Report, District Councillors were elected at Township meetings. Candidates for election had to be in possession of unencumbered property within the District of a value of L300. The persons properly chosen were to accept office- refusal rendered them subject to a fine.

The Act achieved success in 1846, although it was opposed by Sir Alan MacNab and his friends as it “smacked too much of democracy”.

The first Town Council in Dundas was elected on April 23, 1848, although the town was incorporated in 1847. John Paterson was elected the first President (later called Mayor) of Dundas.

John Paterson passed away on November 16, 1856, aged 52, leaving behind no heirs.

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