Thomas Urquhart (politician)

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Thomas Urquhart
Thomas Urquhart.png
32nd Mayor of Toronto
In office
Preceded by Oliver Howland
Succeeded by Emerson Coatsworth
Personal details
Born (1858-04-16)April 16, 1858
Wallacetown, Dunwich Township, Elgin County, Ontario
Died February 16, 1931(1931-02-16) (aged 72)
Toronto, Ontario
Occupation Tailor, lawyer

Thomas Urquhart (April 16, 1858 – February 16, 1931) was a Canadian politician and mayor of Toronto.

Born in Wallacetown, Dunwich Township, Elgin County, Ontario, a son to Alexander Cameron Urquhart and Sarah McCallum, he attended public school in Wallacetown until 13 years of age and then spent years working with his father, a pioneer tailor and storekeeper in Wallacetown, who, born in Dingwall, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland, came to Canada in 1847.

At 21, he was appointed municipal clerk of the Township of Dunwich, and later became secretary of the Agricultural Society of West Elgin and secretary of the West Elgin Reform Association. He decided to enter law, and after passing the matriculation examination in 1881, he entered a law office in St. Thomas. In 1882 he entered a second law as a student. In 1886 he graduated from Osgoode Hall as barrister and solicitor, and entered into different partnerships over the next many years. One partnership was with his brother Daniel Urquhart.

He took a strong role in civic affairs, and was elected alderman in Toronto’s Ward 4 in 1900 and re-elected in 1901-1902, prior to being elected to the mayor’s chair for three successive years. Thomas was elected mayor in 1903 over Oliver Howland and Daniel Lamb. In 1904 he was re-elected by acclamation, and in 1905 he defeated George Horace Gooderham.

A strong Liberal, he was chosen by his party to contest the riding of West Toronto for the legislature against Hon. Thomas Crawford. In 1904, he contested the riding of North Toronto for Parliament against Sir George Foster. In 1906, he ran unsuccessfully against W. K. McNaught.

While he was mayor, he always guarded against encroachments of corporations to destroy the city’s sovereignty over its own streets. During that time, many applications were made by electric railway companies for franchises in adjoining municipalities, and it was feared the Toronto Street Railway Co. would acquire a perpetual franchise in Toronto. He watched every move made and succeeded in keeping Toronto free of entanglements.

He attended the first meeting in Berlin (now Kitchener) regarding the proposals to establish the hydroelectric system, and he also advocated public ownership of telephones. The Great Toronto fire of 1904 occurred during his time as mayor.

Thomas was also a leader in the Toronto Baptist community, active in both the Walmer Road Baptist Church and the Aurora Baptist Church.

He was also a member of the Orange Order in Canada.

He was first married to Margaret S. McDonald of Peterborough, Ontario and after her death (in 1925) he married Mary Ellen Hall in 1927.

After becoming ill at his office, Thomas Urquhart was taken to his home at 136 Hillsdale Avenue where he died on February 16, 1931 from influenza. He was buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on February 18th.