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W-MCP7-1.283 The Hamilton Spectator article from Tuesday January 13, 1948.
Jan 13 1948

T.B. McQuesten Dies, Leaves Lasting Monument

Noted Hamilton Citizen Built Great Highways, Beautiful Parks

Ontario's greatest highway builder, and a man to whom thousands of acres of magnificently developed park lands in his native city and on the Niagara Frontier will be a lasting memorial, T.B. McQuesten, K.C. LL D. died to-day in the Hamilton General Hospital. Death came shortly after noon to the noted Hamiltonian who, as minister of highways in the Hepburn Government,1 was the inspiration and force behind the construction of Ontario's great highway system. He was 65 years of age.

Ill Some Months

Ill for the last several months Mr. McQuesten entered the General Hospital the day before Christmas.

One of the last public recognitions of his contribution to the city and province was his nomination as Man of the Year last week by the Advertising and Sales Club of Hamilton.

Funeral services will be conducted Friday at 2 o'clock from the church where he worshipped and served a lifetime, MacNab Street Presbyterian.

Mr McQuesten is survived by his brother, Rev. Calvin McQuesten and two sisters at home, Hilda and Mary.

Born in Hespeler

The boy who was to become the province's greatest and most foresighted builder of highways, bridges and parks- and restorer of the historic glories of the Niagara Frontier- was born in Hespeler Ont. On June 30, 1882 the son of Mr. and Mrs Isaac Baldwin McQuesten.

Hespeler was the family's summer home , Mr. McQuesten's father being the proprietor of the Hespeler Woollen and Cotton Mills2 although practicing law in Hamilton. He attended Ryerson, Central and Queen Victoria Schools here. From Hamilton Collegiate he was graduated with honours in English and history and classics.

He carried through his promising academic career to the University of Toronto, where he secured honours in classics in the first year, and in political science in his second, third and fourth years.

But there was more to the young McQuesten's early career than mere academic excellence. In 1900 as a college freshman, he worked his way to England on a cattleboat and the return journey was spent principally in the galley peeling potatoes. In his later university years, the swift flowing waters of the Ottawa River had their attraction and he spent two summers sorting logs in the Ottawa valley.3

U of T Graduate

He was graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. degree in 1904, graduating from the Osgoode Hall law school with his LL.B in 1907.4

After his graduation as a lawyer he practised for a while in Toronto and then heard the call of northern wealth. He went to Temiskaming and tried his luck at Elk Lake from 1908 to 1910. Then he settled down to take the place of his father, who and died, and in 1910 began practice of law in Hamilton with Chisholm, Logie and McQuesten, probably the oldest law firm in the city, and a firm of which his father had formerly been a member. On the death of Mr. Chisholm, Mr. McQuesten became the senior partner of the firm for Chisholm McQuesten and Welby which was his position at the time of death.

His rise in Liberal politics was outstanding and Mr. McQuesten made his bow to public life in 1913 when he became alderman for ward two.

His first fight was for municipal ownership of the Hamilton gas distribution systems. This campaign flourished when the supply was low in the winter but eventually public apathy defeated the scheme.

Union Station Battle

Not all of his early foresighted plans were successful and he later urged the abolition of the T.H. & B. Railway right of way in the south end of the city, advocating a union station using the C.N.R. lines in the north. After a bitter struggle which lasted some years, the Supreme Court decided against it, although the Dominion Railway Board had favoured the scheme.

Since 1920 Mr. McQuesten had been a member of the Parks Board and it was here that his public spirited vision became apparent in a way that made his later appointment as Minister of Highways and Public Works a natural and logical result.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Mr. McQuesten and his confreres established the modern Hamilton parks system with the acquisition of more than 2, 500 acres of land for the enjoyment of all citizens.

Impressive Record.

The record is impressive: The parks system acquired the King's Forest, the Mountain face lands, Mountain Park, the right-of-way to Ancaster, the civic golf club, Westdale and Northwestern entrance land, Gage Park, Crerar Park, Bruce Park, and Inch Park, and the list is not complete.

As an alderman, he had supported the proposal of the late John Brown to buy Gage Park and as a most active member of the Parks Board he worked with [Cecil Vanroy] Langs K.C. and others to create this beautiful park development a reality.

The Chedoke Civic Golf Club was made possible when the Parks Board acquired the old Hamilton golf links, and the board's vision was carried through with acquisition of the rights to the north-western entrance and Dundas marsh lands.

In 1929, on Mr. McQuesten's suggestion, competitive plans were called for the northwestern entrance project, won by Carl O. Borgstrom and from this handsprung the rock garden of continent-wide attraction.

The western entrance to the city comprised the new high level bridge and the lower Longwood Road Bridge, designed by W.L. McFaul, city engineer.

Parks Development

When serving as an alderman, Mr. McQuesten induced the city to spend the $50,000 which paved the way for the new Mountain Boulevard. The Parks Board planted thousands of trees, beautified the face of the escarpment and went further to Albion Falls. The King's Forest has been described as one of the greatest natural parks on the continent.

This public spirited Hamiltonian also played a prominent part in bringing McMaster University to Hamilton, an institution of great educational and cultural service to the community which--strange as it may seem now--might have settled elsewhere. McMaster recognized his services by bestowing on him the honorary degree of L L.D.

Several other sites had been considered by the University trustees, but the Parks Board and the city stepped in to offer land acquired with the northwestern entrance and the Dundas marsh and clinched the deal. The only parks in Ontario planned by landscape architects of the highest standing are those sponsored by him in Hamilton and along the Niagara River.

Not only the Parks Board but the Harbour Commission owes a great deal to Mr. McQuesten's faith and vision. Some years ago when the commission found itself unable to raise funds for dredging and wharfs, the legal firm of which he is a member stepped in with guarantees that the loans would be repaid.

A quotation from the weekly publication, Saturday Night, paid this tribute on April 20th 1935: "Only because T.B. McQuesten had faith in Hamilton's future and the courage to translate his faith into action does the city possess such a fine harbour to-day"

Legislative Record

When he defeated A.L.Shaver, Conservative, in the 1934 Liberal sweep, Mr. McQuesten never took his seat as a "private member", but was sworn in as Minister of Highways almost immediately after his election.

He had been defeated in his first attempt to enter the provincial legislature in 1923, when he had been a candidate in Hamilton West.

In 1937 he was re-elected in Hamilton-Wentworth and was to serve until 1943 when the Progressive-Conservatives under Hon. George A. Drew formed government.5

He launched a province-wide program of highway improvement which over his nine-year term as Minister of Highways involved spending more than $200,000,000.

Highways Built

The highway developments included the Queen Elizabeth Highway from Toronto to Fort Erie and it's easternly extension to Oshawa, a new departure in highway construction; the east and west entrance to Toronto, and the link of the dual highway extending from Gananoque to Brockville along the St Lawrence River past the Thousand Islands.

This expensive and difficult piece of engineering opened up one of the most beautiful sections of the Province.

The work in Northern Ontario under Premier Mitchell Hepburn's regime was notable for the high standard of construction to overcome engineering difficulties resulting from the rocky terrain and drainage.

This particularly included the highway from North Bay through Temagami to Kirkland Lake, much of which was paved; highway and entrance through Timmins and the completion of the Trans-Canada highway link from Hearst through Geraldton to the mouth of the Nipigon River.

This road formed the basis of experience for contractors and engineers afterward employed in the construction of the Alaska Highway through Canada.

The Northern Highway from North Bay west to Sault Ste. Marie was half completed, including entrances to North Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, and large stretches of paving and grading over the distance.

Mr. McQuesten's important department of governments also instituted many other roads in Northern Ontario, most of it particularly difficult because of rock. The Minister of Highways initiated and completed three great international bridges.

Bridge Building

These were the Ivy Lea bridge across the St. Lawrence River at a cost of $3,000,000; Rainbow Bridge across the Niagara River, $5,000,000 and the Blue Water Bridge across the St. Clair River at Sarnia, $3,000,000.

Among other bridges built under Mr. McQuesten's direction were the large bridge at Kenora over an arm of the Lake of the Woods, the bridge at Henley on the Queen Elizabeth Highway, the bridges over the Bronte, Oakville and Highland Creeks, and bridges at Longlac and Nipigon.

Reconstruction of historic Fort William Henry also was undertaken. The fort and Martello Towers at Kingston had become a ruin and the Highways Department rebuilt the structure at a cost of $300,000. Furniture, equipment, guns and other fittings belonging to the period were assembled. The property was turned over to the Department of National Defence during the war.

A three-story warehouse was rented to house the furniture alone at that time.

Niagara Parks

His contribution to the aesthetic reclamation of the frontier was equally outstanding under his chairmanship of the Niagara Parks Commission an appointment he also received in 1934.

The property extended from Fort Erie on Lake Erie to Fort Mississauga on Lake Ontario, a distance of about 32 miles. Convinced that the "whole frontier had been neglected and presented a most shabby and disreputable appearance" at that time, Mr.McQuesten and his Commissioners repaired and renovated the highway, widening its many bridges, planting large mileages and paving a number of sections.

Among the works carried out were the re-construction of Fort Erie, and the establishment of collections of war relics and furniture within the fort, improvement of the grounds building a picnic pavilion.

The Commission of which Mr. McQuesten was chairman constructed some miles of sea wall, graded and built up the waterfront through the town of Fort Erie for more than two miles, built the Mather Gateway and park entrance, constructed new approaches to the Peace Bridge and roads and pavements through the new park development.

The highway through Chippewa was rebuilt, three miles of sea wall were constructed along the Niagara frontier, the Oakes Garden Theatre was developed and the monument to Sir Isaac Brock was re-habilitated.

Rebuilt Mackenzie's Home

The Commission reconstructed the home of William Lyon Mackenzie at Queenston, and built the memorial arch on the one-hundredth anniversary of the establishment responsible government.

Fort George was rebuilt according to original plans, an elaborate work involving $300,000 and Navy Hall, seat of the Province's first legislature was rebuilt.

The total capitol expenditure for these works of the Niagara Parks Commission was about $3,000,000.

As Minister of Public Works from 1934 to 1937 and again from 1942 to 1943, Mr. McQuesten let the contracts for the most modern and up-to-date Ontario hospital in Elgin Country. This is a large stone structure with numerous buildings which cost about $6,000,000. Mr. McQuesten was not in this department when the work was completed, but let the contracts for most of the building and settled the plans with the architects.

In addition to these constructive provincial posts Mr. McQuesten also was appointed commissioner of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission in 1934 resigning in 1937; appointed Minister of Mines in September 1930, resigning the following month; appointed minister of Municipal Affairs in November 1940 and resigning in 1943.

He was appointed vice-chairman of the Niagara Bridge Commission to administer the Rainbow Bridge, later becoming chairman and finally a member.

It was in June of 1947 that a dispute arose over the inscription on the main carillon bell erected in the tower of the bridge. The names of Churchill and Roosevelt had been inscribed on it and it was maintained by Ottawa Liberals that this constituted an affront to Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King.6

Mr McQuesten was charged as being responsible for the original inscription and the matter became political in its implications when George A. Drew, premier of Ontario announced that the Ontario members of the Commission were to be removed from office.

It was Mr. McQuesten who when the Honeymoon bridge fell in the spring of 1938, conceived of the Rainbow Bridge to replace it.

Once Liberal President

He was vice President of the Ontario Liberal Association in 1931 and its president from 1933 to 1943.

After the defeat of the Liberal government in Ontario, he played an outstanding part in the Royal Botanical Gardens, of which he was chairman. It includes 16,000 acres from Dundas to Aldershot and includes the rock gardens and the McMaster entrance.

Mr. McQuesten's mother Mrs. Mary Baker McQuesten lived to enjoy her son's election in 1934 and his appointment as Minister of Highways. Until her death a short time later [1934] he could find time to spend a few quiet hours with her at the family home 41 Jackson Street West. A newspaper story of that time quoted Mr. McQuesten as referring to her as his "best chum."

Mr. McQuesten's honours include his appointment as King's Council in 1934, and the honorary degree of doctor of laws bestowed by McMaster University in 1944. The most prominent Hamiltonian bore the name of his grandfather on his mother's side, Cmdr. Thomas Baker,7 R.N. who was a midshipman in the British Navy when Lord Nelson was admiral of the fleet.

Cmdr. Baker later became a missionary and settled at Newmarket. His other grandfather was Dr. Calvin McQuesten who came from Scotland to Settle in New England in the 1830's.

Dr. McQuesten came to Hamilton at the suggestion of his cousin John Fisher, first manufacturer of agricultural machinery in the province and forerunner of the Sawyer-Massey Company.8

He had attended Bowdoin College, in New England at the same time as Longfellow, the poet. When he moved to Hamilton he became a member of St. Andrews Presbyterian church here, later re-named MacNab Street Church.

For a century, McQuestens have attended this church and supported it. When the question of church union with the Methodists was an issue more than 20 years ago T.B. McQuesten was one of the "moving spirits" against MacNab Church "going union."9 Mr. McQuesten served for many years on the Board of management for the church.

Tributes Paid Mr. McQuesten

In the absence of Mayor Sam Lawrence from the city, Controller Hugh McIntyre, vice-chairman of the Board of Control, speaking of the death of T.B. McQuesten to-day said:

"I think Mr. McQuesten was one of the most outstanding and most valuable citizens in the City of Hamilton. Through the years he has given much valuable service and the projects which he fathered are evidences of the outstanding place he occupied in the community"

"He gave outstanding service to the province also as Minister of Highways" C.V. Langs, K.C. chairman of the Parks Board, who has been closely associated for a long period with the late Mr. McQuesten said it was difficult to express what his death would mean.

"He has been a good fellow. I don't think he would want you to say much more. It was splendid to have known him and to have had any part in working with him. You just can't value a man like that. He will be missed very much on the Parks Board and in fact by the whole city."

Chancellor George P. Gilmour, of McMaster University, which conferred an LL.D, degree upon the former Minister of Highways, paid the following tribute: "Dr. McQuesten's contribution to Hamilton and to McMaster University will be better appreciated years from now. He always built and planned for the future. Few men of such steady vision and unselfish purpose have been given to any city. Hamilton has lost a great son and a wise friend."

Declared Dr. Beverly Ketchen, former minister of MacNab Street Presbyterian Church, who will conduct the funeral services for Mr. McQuesten: "It would be hard to find anyone whose passing was a greater loss to the community."

"Mr. McQuesten was a great citizen, a man who had done a great deal for the community in which he lived and the Province as a whole. Too, he was a truly great churchman."

"Hamilton's parks and gardens will ever be a monument to his enterprise and love of beauty."

A close associate and friend of Mr. McQuesten in the Ontario Legislature, John Newlands former member for Hamilton Centre, was shocked at the news of the passing of "of a great personal friend and the friend of all who had the best interests of the community and the Province at heart"

"To work with Mr. McQuesten was an inspiration and pleasure which I always cherish. This city and Province has lost a truly great, sincere and brilliant servant in the death of T.B. McQuesten"10

1 Mitchell Hepburn was Ontario's Premier for most of Thomas's tenure as an MPP and Thomas ran for leader of the Ontario Liberal Party in 1943. Despite his success in his cabinet positions, Tom received only a handful of votes at the leadership convention. See W-MCP7-1.264.

2 Isaac McQuesten was unstable, had problems with substance abuse and consistently exercised poor judgement with respect to money and business matters. After his sudden death in 1888, the family was left impoverished and struggled to retain their dignity. See W2652.

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

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 Thomas was politically wrestled out of his position as the chair of the Niagara Parks Board by George Drew who, in 1944, wrote saying that the chair of the board should be a member of the government (W-MCP7-1.148).

6 Although Thomas had commissioned the bells in the early part of WWII, the British company contracted was unable to complete the job until shortly after the war as a result of a materials shortage. Prime Minister King did not learn about the inscription on the bells until 1947 when the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission applied for a refund on the tariffs applied when the bells were imported. For one account of these events, see Box 14-122; the contract between John Taylor & Co. is W-MCP7-1.027.

7 See Rev. Thomas Baker.

8 See Dr. Calvin McQuesten.

9 Of all the McQuesten family members, only Thomas's brother, Rev. Calvin McQuesten, was pro-union with the United church. His reasons were that he had been an itinerant minister out west and had to travel between three congregations on horseback to deliver his sermons. Other ministers did the same.
Rev. Calvin was the last remaining family member in 1968 and he arranged for Whitehern to be deeded to the City of Hamilton to be used as a museum. It opened as a museum in 1971.

10 Please see Thomas Baker McQuesten for more details of Thomas's family and work life. Also see W-MCP7-1.266 and W-MCP7-1.268, newspaper clippings commemorating Thomas's works, with information about C.V. Langs, Carl Borgstrom, Mayor Sam Lawrence, George P. Gilmour and other prominent citizens. See Also Matt Broman.

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