John Gordon

Section P, Lots 164-168
Toronto Necropolis

Born in 1828 in Latheron, Scotland, Gordon, along with his parents and his sister arrived in Grenville, Canada East in 1841. Following the death of his father in 1851, the family moved to Hamilton. John formed a partnership with his uncle, Donald Mackay, under the name of Gordon, Mackay and Company. Mackay had been a merchant-tailor in Hamilton and the firm continued this retail activity, also branching out extensively into the importing and wholesale dry goods trade. The 1840s and 1850s were years of commercial growth for Hamilton, but the depression of 1857 proved otherwise. The city’s commercial community suffered many failures. Although Gordon, Mackay and Company managed to weather the 1857 depression, its move to Toronto in 1859 was a sound decision. Donald Mackay, however, remained in Hamilton to operate a tailoring and retail clothing store in his own name until 1866. The move to Toronto was successful for Gordon and the firm. In 1861 its operations were significantly diversified with the establishment of a cotton mill on the Welland Canal at Merriton (now part of St. Catharines). This development allowed Gordon, Mackay and Company to offer a good selection of Canadian-made cottons of their own and other manufacture, unlike most of their competitors. From the beginning the Lybster Mills, as it was called, specialized in cheaper cotton goods, lines of production in which British and American manufacturers had less competitive advantage. Although the affairs of Gordon, Mackay and Company occupied much of his time, Gordon was president of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway from 1868 to 1880 and controlled the largest block of stock in it. The TG&B became part of the O&Q and in 1884 was absorbed into CPR. Beginning in 1867, Gordon, with James Gooderham Worts, John Shedden, and George Laidlaw among others, actively promoted narrow gauge railways as an inexpensive form of transportation and as an alternative to the Grand Trunk Railway. To Gordon’s subsequent embarrassment, the financial and operational realities of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce did not fulfil the optimistic projections for it. He died, unmarried, on May 29, 1882 in Paris, France.