Friday, July 15, 2016

A Toronto Connection

This week I made my way (through temps in low 90's) to Toronto Archive Centre.  Only recently I have realized that one of the great figures on my mother's side of the family belongs within Toronto history.  Isn't that odd?  Only towards the end of my uncle John Davies' 91 years (which I posted about last year) did it become clear how his father came from a Welsh Baptist family and his great uncle, William Davies, emigrated to Toronto in 1854.   Families sometimes have personalities whose exploits go down the generations.  William Davies certainly did!

Born in Wallingford 1831, leaving school aged 12, he was running his own grocery business by the age 20.  When he was 23 he emigrated and three years later founded William Davies & Co in 1857 which specialized in exporting cheese, butter and eggs.  However, his main interest was in meat and in 1861 he opened the first Canadian building devoted to cutting and smoking meat, especially hogs.  The business expanded greatly with large premises in central Toronto.

His biographical entry comments that he was a rugged individualist and remained a Baptist throughout his life making generous gifts to the founding of McMaster University, Brandon College, also supporting hospitals, sanatoria and, of course, Baptist churches.  The biography notes he was the most important pioneer in the Canadian meat packing industry.  Who would have thought it? I was able to find out where he lived and his church connections at the archive centre.

I guess it is the Baptist bit that thrills me and the weird personal connections!  I spent my last sabbatical in Wallingford and preached in the Baptist church there....the very place where my great- great-uncle was baptized before setting off on his adventure.  And here, in Toronto, is another connection.  And what about the 'rugged individualist' tag!

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