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Canadian History
William Cassils

Cassils, William, Montreal, was born at Denny, Stirlingshire, Scotland, on the 25th of June, 1832, being the eldest son of John Cassils and Margaret Murray. The family removed in 1835 to Renton, a village in the vale of Leven, Dumbartonshire, where his boyhood was spent, and where in the parochial school he was educated in such branches as were then taught in that institution. Having relatives in Canada who urged that he should proceed thither, he sailed from Glasgow in the barque Euclid on April 5th, 1851, arriving at Quebec in the first week of May. On reaching Montreal a couple of days later, and hearing that a young man was wanted to learn operating in the office of the Montreal Telegraph Company, he applied for the situation and was accepted. The company was then in its infancy; it owned a single line extending along the highway from Toronto to Quebec, and had fourteen offices in all, between these two points. In November, 1853, Mr. Cassils took charge of the Quebec office; and three years later, the company having acquired the lines of the British American Telegraph Co., was appointed eastern divisional superintendent. On the 11th June, 1856, he married Agnes Simpson, daughter of the late William Hossack of Quebec. Resigning the position of telegraph superintendent in November, 1866, Mr. Cassils removed to Montreal, becoming a member of a commercial firm, from which he retired ten years later. While a resident of Quebec Mr. Cassils commanded the esteem of a wide circle of acquaintances, and in addition to active participation in church and charitable work, was chosen secretary-treasurer of the board of Protestant School Commissioners of that city, which position be held during several years. Shortly after retiring from the wholesale trade in Montreal, he became president of the Canada Central Railway Co., which position he retained for three or four years, until 1881, when the line became part of the Canadian Pacific Railway Cornpany’s system. His careful and methodical habits of business becoming known, his services were in request by other public cornpanies. He subsequently became Receiver of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Railway Company, and now occupies the presidency of the following: the Dominion Transport Company, limited; (the cartage agents of the Canadian Pacific railway company) the Canadian District Telegraph Company, limited; and of the Electro-Mechanical Clock Company, limited. He is also, we believe, vice-president of the British American Ranche company, limited: and director of the Montreal Herald printing and publishing company, limited. By no means least in importance of the positions held by Mr. Cassils in connection with public companies is his directorship in the Montreal Telegraph Company, which has 1680 offices and 30,000 miles of wire scattered over Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, as well as over large parts of Vermont and New York and touching Michigan. His fifteen years of experience in the early days of telegraphy, form an interesting chapter in his life. Thirty-three years ago, before the time of submarine cables, the wires were stretched across the St. Lawrence, near Montreal; in summer, masts 210 feet high being set on either shore, while in winter they were strung on poles stuck in the ice. There were but fourteen offices in the five hundred miles between Quebec and Toronto, and telegram from the latter city to Montreal cost 3s. 9d. currency. The modes of transmission, such as the Bain and the House systems, as well as the more successful Morse system, had not then passed the experimental stage, while the instruments were clumsy, and measured by the progress of to-day, ineffective and slow. Having been a practical telegrapher, however, "in the day of small things," eIectrically considered, and having watched the development of the science to its present marvellous stage, the experience and technical knowledge of the man we are describing proves of decided service in his capacity of director to-day. " To be a well-favoured man is the gift of fortune," says the clown in the play, words which are hardly less absurd than the rest of the sentence, "but readin' and writin' cornes by natur." A man’s pleasant looks are far more a matter of disposition, surroundings and descent, than of chance. In temperament as well as in appearance Mr. Cassils is perceptibly a debtor to his parents, who were both good looking; the father being fine-featured and athletic, the mother (who still survives) fresh and douce. Both were of the spirited, sterling, God-fearing people of whom Scotland has furnished so many to this and other lands. Their Sons and daughters, eight in number, are all in Canada; the five sons are among the respected business men of Montreal, and several of them besides the eldest, whom we are describing, have attained positions of responsibility and prominence in that great city. To be called "a popular man" is sometimes an ambiguous compliment. In Mr. Cassils’ case, the popularity enjoyed is founded rather upon integrity, geniality and quiet discernment than upon more showy but less admirable qualities.

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