Biography of Hon. Peter Gow

One of the most prominent men in Guelph, is Peter Gow, many years a member of the Ontario Parliament, at one time in the Provincial Ministry, and now sheriff of the county of Wellington. He is a native of Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland, a son of John Gow, boot and shoe manufacturer, and was born November 20, 1818. The Gows are an old Perthshire family. The mother of our subject was Agnes Ferguson, a native of Argyleshire. He was educated at a private school, and afterwards assisted in his father’s business until his departure for Canada.

In 1842 Mr. Gow left the old country, hoping to find a less crowded field for enterprise in Canada; he halted between one and .two years in Brockville, and in 1844 settled in Guelph, here building a tannery, keeping a leather store, and buying as well as manufacturing leather, dealing largely in the article until 1868, when he retired from business.

More than twenty years ago he built a woolen mill, and a few years later an oatmeal mill, both on the Speed river, and run by the same power with the tannery. These manufactories he still owns and leases. He has been eminently successful in his several business enterprises, and whilom placing himself in comfortable circumstances, has done much to augment the capital and growth of the newly made city of Guelph, of which he may well be called one of the fosterers and fathers. In its humbler days, when it was known as a town, he sat for a dozen years or more in its municipal council, and that of the county, being Chief Magistrate two of those years. At the end of his last year of service in that capacity, he was presented by his fellowmembers with the following memorial:

At the expiration of your second term of office, the members of the town council cannot permit their official connection with you to cease, without an expression of their sentiments, and a memorial of their regard.

This we do with feelings of no ordinary nature, characterized, as that connection with ourselves, as mayor of the corporation for the last two years, has always been with mutual confidence and esteem, whilst at the same time, your courtesy and efficient discharge of the important duties of your office have been approved of by the people of the municipality.

Although about to separate with sentiments of the nature expressed, yet there also remains the agreeable reflection that the talents and qualities which have so cordially commended themselves to our consideration are about to be exercised in a sphere of more enlarged importance in the Legislature of the Province.

And now whilst tendering to you a kindly and cordial leave taking, we pray you to accept of the accompanying Service of Plate, not as a remuneration of your services, but merely as a slight acknowledgment of their value and of our hearty goodwill toward yourself.

Henry Wm. Peterson, Deputy-ReeveAlexander ThompsonThomas Sayers
Robert Melvin, ReeveP. McCunyJames Massie
Richard Mitchell, Deputy-ReeveF. W. GalbraithFred. J. Chadwick
Jno. HarveyT. A. HeffernanThomas Holliday
William DayGeorge S. Herod. 

Probably no city of the younger class in Ontario, is more prosperous than this, and it owes its growth and thrift largely to a few such stirring men as Sheriff Gow, to which office he was appointed in November 1876.
He represented South Wellington in the first Ontario Parliament, 1867-1871; was re-elected by acclamation; became Provincial Secretary in the Blake Administration, in 1871; was again elected by acclamation; retired with Mr. Blake from that Ministry at the end of the following year, but remained in Parliament, and was re-elected a third time by acclamation in 1875; retiring the next year on accepting the shrievalty of the county. His politics are Reform.
Sheriff Gow is a member of Chalmers’ Presbyterian church, and has been for several years chairman of the board of managers.
He married in 1857, Mary Maxwell Smith, of Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, by whom he has nine sons and one daughter living.



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