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Samuel Smith Macdonell


Macdonell, Samuel Smith, Q. C., Windsor, Ontario, was born 21st February, 1823, at Toronto. He is the youngest son of the Hon. Alexander Macdonell, by his wife Ann Smith. His father when a youth served as lieutenant in the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment in the Revolutionary war of the United States, and took part in several important battles. Captain Allan Macdonell, who served in the same regiment as his son Alexander, after the independence of the United States was recognized, settled at Quebec with his family. After his death, Alexander came to Upper Canada, on its organization as a province, with General Simcoe, and was appointed by him first sheriff of the Borne District. On the first parliament being summoned for Upper Canada, he was made speaker of the House of Assembly. In the war of 1812 be served as paymaster-general of militia; and afterwards was made a member of the Legislative Council. His mother, Ann Smith, came to Upper Canada from her home in Long Island, New York, with her brother, Colonel Samuel Smith, who was colonel of the Queen’s Rangers, a regiment which had also served through the Revolutionary war, and most of the officers and soldiers of which regiment came to Upper Canada and took up land. as U. E. loyalists. Col Smith had a large tract granted him in Etobicoke town-ship, near Toronto, on which he resided until his death. During the absence of Sir Peregrine Maitland in England for several years, Col. Smith was administrator of the government. Mr. Macdonell, at a very early age, was sent to Upper Canada College, where he remained for eight years, going through the whole course of that institution from the preparatory school. On the opening of the University of Toronto, then called King’s College, he resumed his classical studies, taking his degree of B.A. second in first-class University honours at the end of 1845. In the interval between leaving Upper Canada College and entering the University, he had studied law in the office of the Hon. Henry Sherwood, then attorney-general; and, after taking his degree of B. A., entered the Law School of the University, coming out first of the class on taking the degree of B. C. L. He was called as a barrister in 1847. He received a commission in the militia, under the old system, as ensign in the 2nd North York, in 1842; as captain in the 5th battalion, Toronto, in 1847; was transferred to the 2nd Essex as major, in 1851; and appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Essex in 1862. At the time of the lost mentioned appointment there existed an apprehension that the Trent affair would be the cause of war between Great Britain and the United States; and on the appointment being made, an order was sent him from the militia department to call out seventy-five men for active service, with the privilege of serving as captain. Mr. Macdonell had the men enrolled, inspected and accepted in three days, himself volunteering to serve as captain. A short time after completing his University coarse and being called to the bar, he commenced the practice of law at Amberstburg. At the end of a year he was appointed clerk and solicitor of the western district council, and removed to Sandwich. Afterwards he was appointed successively clerk and solicitor of the united counties of Essex, Kent and Lambton, and of Essex and Lambton, relinquishing the office when Lambton separated from Essex. As secretary of the Board of Instruction of Essex and Lambton, he performed the duty of examining candidates as to their qualifications to be teachers. He removed to Windsor in 1853, and when Windsor became incorporated as a village, next year he was elected reeve. He was again elected reeve in 1855 and 1856 ; and during those year; was elected warden of Essex. When Windsor was created a town in 1857, he was elected mayor; and likewise during the four succeeding years. He was appointed master and deputy registrar in Chancery in 1857; county crown attorney in 1858, succeeding to the office of clerk of the Peace in 1871. He was appointed deputy-registrar of the Maritime Court in 1879. All these offices he still retains. In 1881 he was made a Q. C. Whilst warden he induced the county council to build a new court house and gaol, the then existing one being unsuitable, and on leaving the wardenship the county council presented him a testimonial as a recognition of of his useful measures and active services. Whilst mayor of Windsor he was chiefly instrumental in having a town hall and school houses built, improving the streets, and acquiring for the town a valuable square, formerly used for barracks. Having with a few associates purchased two farms in the central portion of Windsor, he had them laid out into Iots and offered for sale. There being no travelable road connecting Windsor with the Talbot road, the main road through the county, he constructed a gravel road of over six miles to form the desired connection, by which means most of the trade with farmers was diverted from Sandwich to Windsor. Although through a number of years municipal duties and land matters occupied much of his attention, Mr. Macdonell has had important and varied experience in the practice of the law. On his first arrival in Essex he was made secretary of the Conservative Association of the county, and until his acceptance of a public office in 1858, acted in that capacity, and took an active part in polities, but for many years has not been engaged in political strife. Besides visiting all the important places in Canada and the United State; Mr. Macdonefl has travelled in Great Britain, Europe and the Wed Indies. Brought up in the doctrines and observances of the Roman catholic Church, whilst retaining a kindly feeling and great consideration towards the adherents of that ancient faith, Mr. Macdonell owns to having himself outgrown ecclesiastical creeds, dogmas and ceremonies; which he regards as retarding, no longer fitting, useless and fast becoming moribund. He holds that the time has come for higher and better teachings to be given to the people than those used in barbarous ages—teachings derived from a more perfect knowledge of nature’s laws, and their operation upon human life, and in harmony with scientific truths already discovered and that may yet be discovered; as well as teachings of truer rules and principles of human conduct, evolved from the higher mentality of the present age, and addressed to a higher intelligence ready to receive them; and that thus the physical and natural, as well as the mental and moral condition of the masses of mankind will be raised from their present degradation and uplifted to a higher level. In 1856 he married Ellen Gillis Brodhead, daughter of Col. D. D. Brodhead, of Boston, Massachusetts, a descendant of one of Washington's generals. She died in 1878, leaving one son and three daughters. Through his marriage, Mr. Macdonell has formed a somewhat extended acquaintance in the Eastern States. As a lawyer, the standing of Mr. Macdonell is very high. His knowledge of the law is wide, his perceptions are keen, and his judgement sound. His presentation of a case is characterized by straightforwardness, by lucidity, and by force; at times, when the weight of the matter fires his imagination, he rises to passionate eloquence, his appearance is commanding, and full of dignity. "He has," says an authority before us, "honoured all the relations of life by the strictest fidelity."


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