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Canadian History
John Morlson Gibson, Lt.-Colonel


Lt-Colonel, M.P.P., Hamilton, was born in the township of Toronto, County of Peel, on the 1st of January, 1842. Our subject is a son of the late William Gibson, who came to this country in 1827 from Glamis, Forfarshire, Scotland, and shortly after his arrival, married Marry Sinclair, whose family belonged to the township of Nelson, in the County of Halton. William Gibson was a farmer, and died when his son John was only three years of age. Mr. Gibson is a cousin of the late David Gibson, who formerly represented North York in the old Parliament of Canada, and who was prominently associated with William Lyon Mackenzie in the troubles of 1837. He was educated at the Central School, in the city of Hamilton, where, under the head mastership of J. H. Sangster, now Dr. Sangster, he made rapid progress, soon becoming head boy of the Hamilton school system. He matriculated in the University of Toronto, in 1859, attended University College for four years, taking high honours, with scholarships, during his course, and graduated in 1863, taking the Price of Wales' prize, at that time bestowed on the most distinguished graduate of the year. His college course was mainly devoted to the study of languages, as is evidenced by the fact of his taking silver medals in the departments of classics and modern languages, and the prize in the department of oriental languages. By including Hebrew, Chaldee, and Syriac, among the tongues to which he devoted his attention, it might be supposed that the church was his destiny. He commenced the study of law in the office of the firm of which the present Justice Burton was at the head, in the city of Hamilton, and during the term of his articles, he entered the law course of the University, receiving the degree of L.L.B. and the gold medal of that faculty in 1869. His course as a student was marked by close application. He was called to the bar in Michaelmas term of the year 1867. After practising alone for about a year, he entered into partnership with Francis Mackelcan, Q.C., with whom he has ever since been associated in business under different firm names in carrying on an extensive practice in the City of Hamilton. During the Trent excitement in 1861 he was one of the first to enroll on the organization of the University Rifle Company, along with other men of his year, such as Wm. Muloch, M.P., ex-Mayor McMurrich, of Toronto, Dr. Oldright, and many of the professors, including Professors Croft, Cherriman, Wilson, Buchland, Chapman, Loudon (then a student), and Hirschfelder. On leaving the University, he joined the 13th Battalion, of Hamilton, as a private. In 1865 he attended a military school, taking a first as well as second class certificate of efficiency; and about the same time received a commission as ensign in the 13th. He was present as a lieutenant of the leading company of the battalion at Ridgeway, in 1866, in the skirmish with the Feniana. He rose through the various grades of rank till he was gazetted lieutenant-colonel on the 26th October, 1876. He has a very high reputation as a rifleman, and was a member of the teams to Wimbledon in the years 1874, 1875 and 1879, on each of which occasions he distinguished himself as a marksman; while in 1879 his record was most brilliant. On this occasion he succeeded in carrying off the Prince of Wales' prize of 100 and badge, a prize which vied in importance to the Queen's itself. He also, at the same meeting tied the winner in the Olympic, or Snider championship match. He commanded the Canadian team to Wimbledon in 1881, when the British team were defeated in the match for the Rajah of Kolapore's cup. He was a member of the Canadian team in the great international two days' match at Creedmoor in 1876, and in 1882 commanded the Canadian team which defeated the Americans for the first time in long range rifle shooting. Colonel Gibson is a member of the Council of the Dominion Rifle Association, president of the Ontario Rifle Association, and has been for many years president of the well-known Victoria Rifle Club, of Hamilton. He has taken a deep interest in educational as well as in military matters. For many years he was a member of the Board of education for the City of Hamilton, and was a chairman for two years. At the first election of members for the Senate of the University, of Toronto, under the University Act of 1873, re-constituting the Senate, he was honoured by his graduates by being one of the first senators elected. He has continued a member down to the present time, having been re-elected in 1878 and 1883. He was examiner in the Faculty of Law for 1872 and 1873. Our subject has wide and prominent connection with secret societies. He is a Freemason, and is part master of Strict Observance and Temple Lodge of Hamilton. Of the latter he was first master. He is a past first principal of St. John's Royal Arch Chapter, a past grand superintendent of the Hamilton district of the Grand Chapter of Canada, and a past District Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada. At present he is commander-in-chief of the Provincial Consistory of the Scottish Rite, and is a member of the Supreme Council of that Rite within the Dominion of Canada. From an early age he took an active and foremost part in Liberal politics. For many years he energetically filled the position of secretary of the Reform Association of Hamilton. On the retirement of Mr. J. M. Williams from public life, in 1879, he became the candidate of the Reform party, for the Legislative Assembly, and after a very spirited content, defeated Mr. Hugh Murray, the popular Conservative nominee. Again in 1883, notwithstanding that the city had, since 1878, been represented in the Commons by Conservative members, he was re-elected by a considerable majority over Mr. Richard martin, Q.C., the regular Conservative nominee, and Mr. Edward Williams, the labour candidate. He has taken a prominent position in the Legislative Assembly, and was freely spoken of in connection with the portfolio of Education as successor to the Hon. Adam Crooks, but in consideration of the exigencies of the political situation at that time, he favoured the appointment of the present minister, resulting as it did in the redemption of West Middlesex for the Reform party. In 1884 he was appointed to the important chairmanship of the Standing Committee on private bills, a position requiring the exercise of much tact and judgment. He was experienced more than the usual allotment of ups and downs in domestic life. He married first on the 26th October, 1869, Emily Annie, daughter of the late Ralph Birrell, of London, Ont., merchant. She died on the 3rd June, 1874. He married again on the 26th September, 1876, Caroline, second daughter of the late Hon. Adam Hope, senator. She died 9th October, 1877. Married third time, 18th May, 1881, Elizabeth, daughter of the late Judge Malloch, of Brockville, and they had two children, a son and daughter. In all his relations he is courteous and generous hearted. He is one of the most promising among our younger politicians, and his day for a portfolio must soon come.


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