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George Porteous, 1851-1904

My great-grandfather was born in Reach Township as were most of his siblings. The year was 1851. George became a cabinet maker, marrying Magaret (“Maggie”) Reid in Toronto in 1874. The marriage registration indicates that he worked as a telegraph operator, although the bulk of the information I have suggests that he worked as a cabinet maker for most of his life. George and Maggie spent the first year of their married life at the home of Maggie’s mother, Isabella (Harrison) Reid at 50 Nelson Street.

One side note: my family moved to Toronto 3 years after the initial move to Ontario from British Columbia. Dad’s first Toronto job was with the United Church of Canada at the Ryerson Press building (formerly the Methodist Church House), which now houses CITY-TV (although a recent corporate acquisition may signal the end of CITY-TV’s occupancy of this building). Many decades after our relocation to Toronto, I learned that dad’s hitherto unknown grandparents lived at the corner of Nelson and Duncan streets, only yards from the south-east corner of the Ryerson Press building. An odd coincidence after a 3,000 mile move!

Coincidentally, his oldest brother, William Simpson Porteous, was also married in the Toronto area (Yorkville) in 1874. George and his family moved extensively, first to Almonte in Eastern Ontario, then to Stratford in Perth County, back east to the town of Perth, then to Berlin (now known as Kitchener) and on to Dundas where Margaret died in 1888. George married a school teacher, Agnes Clark Moir, in Dunnville, Ontario in 1892, but he may have met Agnes in or near Guelph where he resided at the time of the marriage. George died in Guelph in 1904, possibly as the result of a brain injury arising from a train accident.

Update (December, 2008)

The 1891 census recently became available via My father tells me that his father used to joke about being neighbours of MacKenzie King in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario. In the 1891 census, the family was living in New Hamburg, a town about halfway between Kitchener and Stratford. That’s about as close to Kitchener as I’ve gotten thus far. There is an earlier county directory for the Waterloo area that shows a George Porteous on King Street in Berlin, but I’m aware that there was a blacksmith by the name of George Porteous (relationship to my great-grandfather unknown) there. He is most likely the person documented in that county directory.


Guelph Mercury, Thursday, April 14, 1904

Front Page


Passed Away This Morning at the General Hospital

Mr. George Porteous, mechanical Superintendent of the Canada Furniture Co. at Guelph, whose death has been hourly expected for over a week past, died this morning at 3.30 at the General Hospital. Since the latter part of December Mr. Porteous has been ill, but his trouble did not assume a malignant form till three weeks ago, when it became necessary to remove him to the hospital. He was suffering from inflammation of the brain, and became unconscious the day following his removal to the hospital. Later he brightened up and remained quite conscious for a few days, when he lapsed again into unconsciousness. On Monday last he recognized his son Frederick, who had that day arrived from Yellow Grass, Assa., also other members of the family. His condition was such, however, that death was hourly expected.

The deceased was fifty-four years of age and was born near Whitby. At the age of seventeen he left the farm and went to Montreal [why – relatives?], where he learned his trade as a cabinet-maker, and later perfected himself as a designer in several large factories in the United States. He lived in several towns in Ontario, and came to Guelph about thirteen years ago and entered the employ of Messrs. Burr Bros. As mechanical superintendent of their factory, a position he held until they sold out to the Canada Furniture Co., when he was continued in his responsible post up to the time of his last illness. The Guelph factory last year, it is understood, was not surpassed in its returns proportionately with any factory owned by the Co., a result largely due to Mr. Porteous’ skill and good management. He was a hard worker, and held the confidence of both his employers and the men under his charge. He was of an ingenious turn of mind and made several inventions which were covered by patent.

Mr. Porteous was twice married; first to Margaret Reed, of Toronto, by whom he had five children, and on the second occasion to Agnes Moir, of Dunville, who survives him. To his second wife five children were born. His first wife died about seventeen years ago. The entire family of the children survive. They are Mrs. S.J. Taylor, Frederick and Miss Edith, all of Yellow Grass, Assa.; Miss Milicent, George, Frank, Harold, Muriel, Vera and John, at home. Mr. Porteous was always much interested in his boys and girls and they, and his widow, will miss his cheery care very keenly.

The late Mr. Porteous was an admirer of all true sport and was himself a devotee of the gun and for a number of years member and secretary of the Guelph Trap and Game Club. His chief enjoyment was in hunting, and in pursuit of game he made an annual trip with a part of his friends to Lake Scugog.

Politically Mr. Porteous was a strong Reformer and always took a keen interest in the welfare of his party, taking more than the usual share in committee work. His enthusiasm and work will be much missed by the Guelph Liberals. He was a member of Royal Lodge A. O. U. W. [Ancient Order of United Workmen], and also of Speed Lodge, A. F. & A. M [Ancient Free and Accepted Masons]. He was connected with Dublin St. Methodist church.

George Porteous’ tombstone, located in the Woodlawn Cemetery, Guelph, Ontario:

Excerpt from a patent application filed by George Porteous in Toronto in February, 1893 (I was able to find at least one other patent; it was filed in April, 1895):

Sightings in 1902

The following newspaper items are all from 1902:


The above excerpts are from the Globe and Mail, except for the top-most excerpt, which was found in the Toronto Star.

This excerpt from the above newspaper describes a set of furniture that was designed by my great-grandfather, George Porteous, in 1875 in Almonte, Ontario. George would have been 24 years of age at this time.

From the Almonte Gazette, September 17, 1875

A Work of Art.

On Thursday, 17th, was shipped for Ottawa a bedroom-set and sideboard from the Almonte Furniture Co.’s warerooms, to be exhibited at the Provincial Exhibition, which for richness of design and chaste and elegant massiveness will doubtlessly have no equal there. Through the kindness of Mr. Porteous, the company’s courteous foreman, we were permitted an inspection. To adequately give a literal description of the manufactured articles, and to merit out with due justice a clear descriptive explanation is beyond the power of other than a connoisseur of the art.

The bedroom set consists of bed, washstand and somno. The design of the bedroom set, as well as the sideboard, is Grecian, and is a distinct departure from the usual class of work manufactured in the Dominion, in this respect that the mouldings are heavier by far. The bed presents to the eye a magnificent grandeur of massiveness, the headboards, which are of black walnut, standing nine feet high with a breadth of six feet, worked off with heavy mouldings, embellished with delicate Grecian and Italian carvings of chaste design, and all superbly finished in oil, which give the whole a glossy and mirror-like appearance. The dressing case is also a remarkably rich work of art, standing in height about nine feet, with a costly mirror two feet four inches in breadth, by six feet in height, and having an Italian marble top of the finest kind.

The woodwork is finely worked and ornamented with capitols, laurel wreaths of artistic execution, &c. The wash-stand and somno have each, like the dressing case, tops of Italian marble. The washstand, unlike the usual style, has a higher back than customary, bestowing on it an attractiveness which otherwise would be lacking. The whole is worked with mouldings and carvings and beautifully veneered. The bedroom sett [sic] take it all in all [I’m unclear as to whether this wording needs “correction”], is thoroughly in keeping, each separate piece presenting a close similarity, which delightfully pleases the eye by the harmony displayed. Then the sideboard, which is apart from the above mentioned set, is manufactured from black walnut. From base to top it stands *ten feet six inches in height, and is in three connected sections. Taking the lower section, which is seven feet in height, and commencing at the base, we find extra heavy mouldings with raised panels.

The doors and drawers are panelled off the same, and look exceedingly fine. At each corner there is a large column of German walnut, supporting a beautiful frieze. The front projects forward with a handsome column supporting a break in the centre. The second part is in accord with the first and the third also, which has a niche for a statue. The whole sideboard is embellished with trusses, raised panels, carved [t]urnings, bunches of carved fruit, and a finely carved satyr’s head, which caps the top, the entire article lending an agreeable picture of beautiful design and artistic culture rarely offered for inspection.

To the workmen who have mainly brought the described work to such perfect completion, it is but deserving that their names should be coupled with the masterpiece of art they have spent their time and talents in executing. The design was drawn by the foreman, Mr. Porteous, who carefully overlooked the construction of the articles during their completion. The carving was done by Messrs. D. Rogers and J.W. McCormac[k], and the finishing byMr. G. Dodds, In conclusions we say, without a shadow of flattery, that a piece of skilful artisanship has been executed and perfected by these gentlemen, of which not only themselves and Almonte generally but also the Province of Ontario may well be proud, and we feel confident that this opinion will be fully endorsed by the judges at the Exhibition to be held in Ottawa next week.


1. George and Maggie/Margaret (Reid) Porteous moved to Almonte some time after the birth of their daughter, Ethel May Porteous, who was born on May 15, 1875 at 50 Nelson Street, Toronto. They left Almonte before the birth of their daughter, Millicent Reid Porteous, who was born November 3, 1878 in Stratford, Ontario.

Further, the furniture did in fact win first prize – I need to go through my document collection to locate both newspaper articles in order to determine the date of the first article and to obtain the wording from the second.

I recently found via Google Books the catalogue of a large trade show (I believe the location was Philadelphia). Included in the catalogue was a bedroom furniture set made by the Almonte Furniture Company. This is most likely the same set of furniture that was displayed earlier at the Ottawa Exhibition.

2. See this description of the Aberdeen Pavilion, where the above furniture may have been exhibited. Note: if the preceding link is no longer valid, it may be necessary to do some additional searching for details about the Aberdeen Pavilion.

Written by Doug

January 24th, 2012 at 6:57 pm