Richard Blain


My great-great grandfather, Richard Blain, was born at Bowness-on-Solway, Cumberland County, England, in 1821. He was the youngest of a family of thirteen. He received a common school education, which in those days meant little more than writing, spelling and arithmetic.

In 1839, he came to Canada and learned the milling business from James Bell Ewart, of Dundas, who then held the foremost position in the milling industry in that area. Four years after entering Mr. Ewart's employ, Mr. Ewart purchased from the Hon. Robert Dickson, a valuable mill site at Galt, Ontario (now Cambridge). The position of head miller was given to Richard Blain, who in conjunction with Mr. A. Ker, as bookkeeper, assumed control. The mill burned down in the autumn of that year but was rebuilt by Mr. Ewert the following year.


Margaret Blain 1891

On April 12, 1847, Richard Blain married my great-great grandmother, Margaret Gillesby (born in Thorney Moor, Cumberland, England on May 5, 1823) at the Clifton House, Niagara Falls.

They had eight children: Thomas Gillesby Blain (1849), Joseph Blain (1851), Richard Sylvester Blain (1854), James Armstrong Blain (1857), Margaret Elizabeth Blain (1859), my great-grandmother Jane Edith Blain (1861), Sara Isabella Blain (1863) and Mary Amelia Blain (1865).

Blain continued on as head miller until 1853 when the death of Ewart placed the mill in the hands of the Hon. Robert Dickson. Blain then formed a partnership with his older brother, James, and leased the mill for four years. At the end of the lease, the mill fell into other hands for a short time. In 1859 Blain, having withdrawn from the partnership with his brother, again leased the mill up to the fall of 1862. 

In 1862 James Blain bought the whole mill property and canal for $40,000 and spent $30,000 in repairs and improvements. In 1874 Richard bought the entire property from his brother and was therefore the owner of the water power on which was built nearly all the large manufacturing industries of Galt, embracing oatmeal mills, saw mills, a grist mill, glove and collar factories, the edge tool factory of James Warnock & Company and the large foundry and machine shops. The motive power (water) of all these hives of mechanical industry was rented from Blain. Upon his retirement in 1883, Blain sold the mill to Cranston & Scrimger, who in turn disposed of it to Cherry Bros. In 1901 it was bought by the Galt Gas Company. 

Galt was incorporated as a town in 1856. That year Blain was elected as one of it's counsellors; for nineteen successive years he was returned to the same position and for five years, 1873 - 1878, he was Mayor of the town. He was also the Police Magistrate at the same time. He filled the positions of Director and President of the Galt Mechanics Institute. His name was on the books of the South Waterloo Agricultural Society continuously for more than 40 years and he held the position of Secretary for 17 years. He was the director of the Gore Mutual Insurance Company and president of the Grand River Mutual Insurance company. 

In 1883 Blain retired from business. During retirement Blain occupied his time with church work, always interested in church affairs, and was especially active in the upkeep of the cemetery. 

On April 12, 1897, Mr. and Mrs. Blain celebrated their golden wedding anniversary at their home, Maple Lodge on Main Street.

Margaret Blain died in 1899 and Richard died July 14, 1905 at 8:30 p.m. He had spent 62 years of his life in Galt. He and his wife were buried at Trinity Church (Mountain View) Cemetery, Galt.

From the Galt Reporter July 15, 1905:

"… Richard Blain during his many years of residence in this town distinguished himself in notable ways, but never won other than credit for himself in any act public or private. He enjoyed an absolutely unblemished reputation. The good name that rather is to be chosen than great riches was his. The circumstances that his latter days, though spent in comparative ease and comfort, were not enjoyed in affluence, is but tribute to his liberality of soul and the charitable instincts that constantly governed the disposal of his means. He was the embodiment of philanthropy and generosity. As a raconteur he was inimitable, and up to the last, his reminiscences of the history of Galt, its people and its industries, were like a well written tale. He knew it all - down to the very minutiae of social life and the personal characteristics - and it was a pleasure to him to tell it to an attentive and interested listener. A talk with Richard Blain was a delight, so lucid, connected and authoritative were his recollections, and so kindly and with such keen sense of humor, were they recounted…"


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