Thursday, September 2, 2010

Family Connection to the 18th Premier of Ontario


A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I had found a connection in my wife Ellen's family to the 18th Premier of Ontario - William Grenville Davis, also known as Bill Davis or in some quarters, 'Brampton Billy.'

My hunt for the connection began when I spotted Bill Davis' name listed in the lengthy online summary of the various family records held by the University of Waterloo's Breithaupt Hewetson Clark Collection. Bill Davis was the Premier of Ontario when I began my career as a public servant working for the province of Ontario (some 31 years ago) so seeing his name in family records connected to Ellen's family really piqued my curiosity. In addition, no one in the family had ever mentioned a connection to one of Ontario's longest serving Premiers in the modern era.

The same record group summary that mentioned Bill Davis also mentioned his mother, Vera Davis (nee Hewetson). I was aware of the Hewetson family in relation to Ellen's family. The connection is found through Rosa Melvina Breithaupt (Ellen's second cousin, twice removed) who married Alfred Russell Hewetson on 10 October 1917. Hewetson ran a very successful shoe manufacturing business in Brampton, Ontario with his father, John William Hewetson.

When Alfred Russell Hewetson died of pneumonia in 1928, at age 40, Rosa took over his involvement in the business. Eventually, Rosa would re-marry to H. Spencer Clark with whom she would establish the renowned Guild of All Arts or Guild Inn and the planned community of Guildwood Village in the Scarborough area of Toronto, Ontario.

Now to the Bill Davis connection - Alfred Russell Hewetson's sister, and Rosa's sister-in-law, Vera Mildred Hewetson married successful Brampton, Ontario lawyer, Albert Grenville Davis in 1923. Their son, William Grenville Davis, was born in 1929. Rosa was Bill Davis' aunt although it is not clear from the records and biographical information I have read, whether he knew her as such. So Bill Davis does not have a 'blood' relationship to Ellen but their families are connected.

Bill Davis followed in his father's footsteps and was called to the Ontario bar in 1955. In June 1959, he was elected to represent the provincial riding of Peel, which included his hometown of Brampton. He served as the Minister of Education from 1962 to 1971 and as Premier of the Province of Ontario from 1971 to 1985. During the 1960's, Davis transformed the education and especially the school board system in the province and, as Premier, he lead the province through tremendous years of growth. His critics, and what politician doesn't have a few of those, accused him of being bland.

In his most famous quote, Davis replied to his critics, "Bland works!"

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