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Jul 27 1967 Second clipping unidentified

T.B. McQuesten
The Forgotten Giant

They called him the Great Hamiltonian.

He was the iron-willed politician with a monumental love of beauty; a visionary; leader; builder; a down-to-brass-tacks kind of guy.

He was the father of the Ontario highways system, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton's vast parks network, Niagara Parks, Rainbow Bridge and restorer of historic sites.

He was Hamilton's forgotten giant, T.B. McQuesten.

No man has left a more lasting mark on this city.

No man of such towering stature has been more completely buried in time.

T.B. McQuesten didn't happen a century ago. He died only 18 years ago.

He lived and achieved within the lifetimes of most Hamiltonians.

But his name is perpetuated only in the memories of those who knew him--and in the McQuesten family home which will be donated to the city.

Rock Gardens

How many admirers of the Rock Gardens know the gardens are a McQuesten project?1 As are the whole Royal Botanical Gardens structure.

And the thousands of golfers that tread the fairways at Chedoke every year. Do they know T.B. McQuesten visualized and fought to get the civic golf course?

This was when the city was considering purchase of the golf course from The Hamilton Golf Club, which was leaving its old grounds in 1916 for a newly acquired property in Ancaster. The course at Chedoke, in private hands, dates back to the previous century.

Go anywhere in Hamilton and you'll see the works of McQuesten.

The city's magnificent northwest entrances along York Boulevard-once a dismal alley of gas stations, hotdog stands, billboards and hovels;

The Rock Gardens-former gravel pits; Gage Park-ex-farm; King's Forest-still 800 acres of forest wilderness that could have become a subdivision;

Chedoke Civic Golf Course-a year-round 240- acre playground in the heart of a city;

Inch Park

The vast tree-covered Mountain Face; Inch Park on the Mountain; The Royal Botanical Gardens, Canada's unique nature showplace;

McMaster University-McQuesten and fellow park trustees lured the institution to Hamilton by offering it free land;

And The Queen Elizabeth Way-Ontario's first superhighway, ordered by McQuesten even though professional engineers insisted it was too big.

The enormous highways network of northern Ontario is a McQuesten product.

So are the province's tourist drawing forts-Fort Erie, Fort George and Fort Henry-all restored by McQuesten.

Collections of historical relics at the Niagara frontier forts were launched by McQuesten.

Built bridges

He restored William Lyon Mackenzie's2 house and rehabilitated the Brock Monument at Queenston.

He developed the once shabby, neglected Niagara Parks system into a world-renowned 32-mile stretch of beauty.

While Ontario highways minister he built three international bridges-the Rainbow at Niagara Falls; Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia; and Ivy Lea across the St Lawrence.

He rebuilt the Brant house in Burlington even though Burlington town council refused to co-operate.

At Queen's Park McQuesten left his mark as Hamilton's first Liberal cabinet minister since 1905. He was minister of highways from 1934 to 1943 and minister of public works from 1934 to 1937 and 1942-43.

He was an Ontario Hydro commissioner from 1934-1937 and chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission 1934-43.

Out of the Legislature, McQuesten remained a dynamic force in public affairs- as head of the Royal Botanical Gardens board, which he helped create, and a member of the parks board.

On Jan 13, 1948, a few days after being named Hamilton's Man of the Year, T.B. McQuesten died.

McQuesten was the son of a prominent Hamilton lawyer and industrialist Isaac Baldwin McQuesten, who died when T.B. was five.3

Gold Medalist

He went to Ryerson and Queen Victoria Schools, Hamilton Collegiate and University of Toronto, where he was a gold medalist in classics and a member of the Argonaut rowing team.4

He played with an Ontario championship high school football team in 1900 and was a member of the old Hamilton Tigers.

In his freshman university year he worked his way to England on a cattleboat and peeled potatoes to pay for the return passage. Other summers he logged in the Ottawa valley.5

After practising [sic] law in Northern Ontario goldmining country,6 he settled into his father's old firm at 69 James Street South.

He never married.7

McQuesten, member of a well-to-do family and set for life in a highly successful firm, entered the rough dirty world of politics.


"He got into politics to get things done," said a friend, "He never needed the money."

"He wanted the best for his province," according to a biography, "and that was one of those driving motives of his life."


The Niagara Parks Commission, public custodian of some of Canada's most gracious greenery and historical monuments, has rejected an invitation to commemorate the man who made the commission and its wonderful works possible-the Hon. T.B. McQuesten.

The visionary McQuesten, "the Great Hamiltonian," has received less recognition from the province he enriched than from the city he helped advance to is aesthetic zenith.

John Smith, Hamilton MLA, asked the commission to name one of its new facilities-a park or monument-after Mr. McQuesten, pointing out that, during the man's provincial cabinet years, he established the Niagara parks system, restored Forts George and Erie and developed the beautiful border parkway.

Mr. Smith's thoroughly justified support of an oft-made proposal brought this prosaically bureaucratic reply from Donald R. Wilson, general manager of Niagara Parks:

"It was the decision of the Commission that it did not wish to do anything further at this time. There are a number of Past Chairman of the Commission who have not been recognized in this way.

A plaque has been erected in the tower at Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and we plan to hang photographs of all the Past Chairman in the near future."

Thus the commission writes off a man who literally stood head and shoulders, as a creator and builder of parks, above all the others.

As for Hamilton, many of whose parks, the Royal Botanical Gardens and McMaster University owe so much to McQuesten's foresight and energy, it has treated his memory slightly better. The city parks board is restoring his family's home, Whitehern, although it's actually more of a monument to his ancestors and the Victorian era than to him. (It's ironic that the city has a dozen unnamed park sites but has not chosen to name one of them for T.B. McQuesten.)8

The Kingston Whig Standard
Kingston, Ontario
Jan 14/48

Thomas B. McQuesten

The death of Thomas Baker McQuesten, at the age of sixty-five, removes from the provincial scene a former public servant of high integrity and ability. Mr. McQuesten's public career began when he was elected to the Hamilton City Council in 1913, and from that time until last year he served actively in several capacities. He will be best remembered, however, for his achievements while Minister of Highways in the Hepburn Cabinet during the comparatively short period that he was at the head of the department, there was a tremendous improvement in the highways of this province. It is safe to say that if war and other factors had permitted the progress of the department to be maintained at the pace set under Mr. McQuesten, Ontario would now have a highway system the equal of any on this continent.

The greatest share of the credit for the conception and construction of the Queen Elizabeth Way must be given to Mr. McQuesten. The same may be said of the entire through highway from Niagara to Toronto- the greatest tourist thoroughfare linking Ontario with the United States- although Mr. McQuesten himself would have been the first to give the lion's share of the credit to his Deputy Minister, Mr. Mel Smith, a Queen's University graduate well known in this city, who was sent by Mr. McQuesten to Germany to study the famous Autobahn of the Third Reich.

The dual highway from Gananoque to Brockville was another undertaking begun under Mr. McQuesten's leadership, but his greatest contribution to Eastern Ontario while he served as Minister of Highways was undoubtedly the restoration of Fort Henry. He campaigned persistently to put an end to the policy of inaction that had allowed parts of the fort to crumble into ruin, and it was largely due to his efforts that the Federal Government agreed to restore Fort Henry, with the Ontario Government paying part of the cost. The fort then became the property of the Ontario Department of Highways, and its subsequent record of popularity as an historical monument testifies to the wisdom of Mr. McQuesten's judgment. When Fort Henry is again opened to the public, after serving the Federal Government during the war years, it would be fitting if due acknowledgment were made of Mr. McQuesten's part in having it restored to the public in the first place, after so many years of slow decay.

Another notable public service by Mr. McQuesten was his work for the improvement of the beautiful parks at Niagara Falls, and his efforts toward furthering progress in the Niagara Falls parks area generally. His interest helped make possible the Sir Harry Oakes open-air theatre, and he also shared in the credit for the remarkable nurseries which develop the plants and trees that make Niagara Falls one of the Dominion's most attractive "show windows".

"Tom" McQuesten will be deeply mourned by many friends throughout the province. We join them in extending sincere condolences to his bereaved family.

North Bay Nugget, Ont.
Jan. 13/48

T.B. McQuesten, Former Highways Minister, Dies

HAMILTON, Jan. 13 (CP). Thomas B. McQuesten, former Ontario highways minister, died in hospital today after several months illness.

Mr. McQuesten, who was 62, underwent an operation early last fall and re-entered hospital recently for higher treatment.

His condition had grown steadily worse and early today was described by hospital attendants as "very poor".

Thomas Baker (Tim) McQuesten started his public career by entering Hamilton City Council in 1913.

Born at Hespeler, Ont., June 30, 1882, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Baldwin McQuesten, he early showed an inclination to legal studies and after a brilliant period at the University of Toronto he was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. [article is cut off abruptly]

1 Shortly after Tom's death, Leslie Laking of the RBG Board wrote to Tom's brother Calvin of the great respect that the other board members had for Tom's work (W8703). For more on Tom's life and legacy, see his biography.

2 William Lyon Mackenzie was the grandfather of William Lyon Mackenzie King who was Prime Minister during Tom's years as Hamilton's MPP. King was generally quite pleased with Tom's restoration of the house and other works, such as the Clifton Memorial Arch the unveiling for which King attended. However, Thomas often supported the actions of Premier Hepburn whose relationship to King was often rocky to begin with and became downright venomous in 1940 when Hepburn denounced King's "lack of action" with respect to the war effort. Thomas was drawn into the political battle when he seconded Hepburn's motion of censure against King and this may have cost him his bid for leadership of the party in 1943. See W-MCP7-1.264.

Tom suffered the wrath of Prime Minister King when the Carillon tower was built, the bells were delivered and the large bell contained an inscription to Churchill and President Roosevelt. King wanted Churchill's name removed and his own added. Tom refused and King prevailed upon Drew to fire him. See Box 14-122.

3 Isaac's death--and the tumultuous life he had lived--resulted in his late wife Mary Baker McQuesten and six surviving children bankrupt. It is quite likely that their struggle against poverty combined with Mary's firm parenting did much to make Tom a success in his many endeavours.

See Mary's Childhood, Marriage, Widowhood, Six Children and Lives of Genteel Poverty, Isaac's biography and W2652.

4 In 1900 Tom studied political science at the University of Toronto, and after his graduation in 1904 he began his studies in law at Osgoode Hall. That year was also the first in which the Rhodes Scholarship was being offered. Tom was a frontrunner for the hefty and prestigious scholarship but he narrowly lost the prize (W5199).

By this time his sister Ruby, who was a talented artist, had already given up her own ambitions and was working as a teacher at the Ottawa Ladies College to pay for Tom's education. By the time Tom had earned his law degree Ruby was suffering from tuberculosis which which had been misdiagnosed at least once. In a tragic turnabout, Tom's earnings as a lawyer paid for Ruby's health care and comforts, including the cottage on top of the Niagara escarpment in Hamilton where Ruby succumbed to her illness on April 9, 1911. See W6135, W9058 and associated footnotes.

5 For Tom's travels on the cattleboat, see W4436; for his time as a lumberjack, see W4977, W8160 and associated footnotes.

6 Tom spent approximately two years practicing law at Elk Lake, see W5990, W6327.

7 Tom was involved with Isabel Elliot (W-MCP3-5.076), but his mother disapproved of the relationship and found ways to interfere. For example, Isabel had tried to ingratiate herself by commissioning an artist to paint a "miniature" of Mary who found fault with the picture. However, instead of relaying this dissatisfaction herself Mary instructed Tom "[y]ou had better let Miss Elliott know, you are not yet pleased with it," W6035 [emphasis added].

Mary had also interfered with Hilda's engagement to Kenelm Trigge (W4635) and Ruby's relationship with David Ross (W5622).

8 This article was obviously written by someone in Hamilton and likely appeared in the Spectator. Hamilton has since named a park on Upper Wentworth Street after McQuesten.

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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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