Timothy Eaton

Plot 2, Lot 4, Private Mausoleum
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto

Born in 1836 on a small farm a couple of miles north of the town of Ballymena in Ireland, Timothy Eaton was the youngest of nine children born to John and Margaret Eaton. The hard working father never did see Timothy, however. John Eaton died from an illness contracted while helping a farmer friend. Margaret named the fatherless son after one of John’s favourite books of the New Testament.
   As a young man, Timothy was apprenticed to a prosperous merchant in the nearby small town of Portglenone where he put in sixteen-hour days and six-day weeks. With famine and misery prevalent throughout the land and working long hours for someone else, Timothy had finally had enough. With a hundred pounds in his pocket, he struck out for the promises of a “new world” across the ocean. In 1854, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Timothy made his way to Georgetown, then a small hamlet northwest of Toronto. He only spent a short time here, moving on to nearby Glen Williams where he worked in a small store. Then it was on to Kirkton near London, Ontario and soon Timothy, with the help of his two sisters, Nancy and Sarah, who had also emigrated looking for a better life, was operating a small general store and post office. Then it was off to St. Mary’s where Timothy joined his two brothers Robert and James who had been running their own grocery and dry goods store. In 1860, the trio decided to split up, with Timothy and James retaining the dry goods and millinery departments, while Robert remained in the grocery business. Two years later Timothy met and married the former Margaret Beattie of Woodstock.
   In 1868, Timothy made one of the most important decisions of his young life. He would take his family and move to the big city of Toronto (then with a population somewhat less than 50,000) where he would open his own dry goods store. Forced into a short stint in the wholesale dry goods business, which Timothy truly disliked, the thirty-three-year-old father of three finally got his chance to go it alone when he purchased, for the sum of $6,500, the business of James Jennings at the southwest corner of Yonge and Queen Streets, far from the hustle and bustle of the retail heart of the “Queen City of the West” down on King Street. In his first advertisement, Eaton startled Torontonians with the statement that rather than bartering for the best price or buying on credit, goods in Eaton’s new store would be sold at a fixed price and for cash only. Commonplace enough today, but in 1869 those concepts were, well, revolutionary to say the least. As the years went by, benchmarks in the fascinating Eaton’s story came and went: the move north of Queen and the first Eaton catalogue, both in 1884; the company’s first telephone in 1885 and first elevator in 1886; early store closings on Saturday in the same year followed by the creation of a mail order department; buying offices in foreign countries, company owned and operated manufacturing factories, and so on.
   By January 1, 1907, the T. Eaton Company, under the control and guidance of the founder had become the most important and influential department store in the entire Dominion. On January 31 of the same year, Timothy Eaton died from the complications of pneumonia at the age of 70. The funeral procession, moving through crowd-lined streets from the family residence at 182 Lowther Avenue to the newly constructed family mausoleum at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, was comprised of more than two hundred carriages, and a large number of the “new-fangled motors” preceded by several thousand mourners on foot.
   Also interred in the family mausoleum are three of Timothy and Margaret’s children who died while still babies (Timothy Jr. at ten months, Kate at eleven months and George, who drowned when he was just twenty-two months old). Other children include twenty-six-year-old Lillie and thirty-seven-year-old Edward. Another son, Sir John Craig Eaton (1876-1922), who was knighted in 1915 for his numerous philanthropic endeavours during both war and peacetime, is also in the mausoleum. Sir John was company president from 1909 until his death in 1922. Also interred within is John David, John Craig’s second eldest son who was president from 1942 until he retired in 1969 when he turned over control of the business to his sons. Robert Young Eaton, Timothy’s nephew who looked after the business from 1922 until John David was ready to assume control in 1942, is across the way in Plot 3, Lot 3. Others in the mausoleum include Timothy’s wife Margaret (1842-1933), Sir John’s wife Lady Flora McCrea (1880-1970), and Timothy Craig (1903-1986), the eldest son of Sir John who could have been president, but opted for a life of leisure rather than one of business headaches. Interestingly, Timothy Craig had requested to be buried in Ballymena, Ireland, where his grandfather, namesake and founder of Eaton’s had been born. Obviously his request went unheeded. In total there are eighteen people interred in the Eaton family mausoleum.

Mike Filey
Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide
Second Edition Revised and Expanded

 Story Archives »