An Article of Interest

Thomas McGown

by Marion Belanger

Thomas McGown Sr. was born in Glascow, Scotland in 1829. He came to Canada with his parents in 1844 and settled in Peterborough County where he met and married Ellen Mahoney in 1854. The following years he moved to Thornbury where he resided for nine more years.

In 1864 he sailed from Collingwood to Parry Sound where he worked as foreman for the Beatty Brothers at the Parry Sound Lumber Co. He remained in this position for a few years. Thomas McGown was the third white settler in Parry Sound.

Soon after his arrival, Thomas acquired land on the south side of Seguin Street between James and Church Streets. He built his log cabin on what is now James Street where Jackson’s Beauty Parlour is presently located. Thomas McGown was a staunch Presbyterian and before 1877 he had donated a piece of his land near Church Street for the building of the Zion Presbyterian Church. This eventually became today’s St. Andrews.

When Foley Township opened to settlement, Thomas obtained land on present-day McGown Lake about two miles south of the Town of Parry Sound. He was elected as the first Reeve of Foley Township and held that position for many years. He also served Foley as road overseer and contractor on the Colonization Road. A further four years were spent owning and driving the mail coach to Rosseau. About the turn of the century, free gold was found on the property and the McGown Gold Mining Company was formed and operated for a few years until the ore became harder to find.

Thomas and Ellen had four children with only three of them marrying. Thomas Jr. married Ida Little and had six children, two of whom married well-known area families. Henrietta married Ed Badger and Ernest married Evelyn Anderson — both from Foley Township. Thomas Jr. died about two years before his father and a few years after his mother Ellen.

The second son was John and he married Bertta Olsen from Bear Lake. The couple had eight children including a set of twin girls. Two sons married into the Heslip and Bennett families and four daughters married, in order, James McFarlaine, John Badger, John Perks and Conrad Smith.

Thomas Sr. and Ellen had two daughters with no known descendants. It is not known if Jessie married but we do know that Margaret married James Calder.

Many of Thomas McGown and Ellen Mahoney’s descendants still live in Foley Township. The determination and perseverance of their ancestors truly helped to open up the Parry Sound area.

This article first appeared in the November 1986 newsletter, Volume 2 - Number 2