It’s time for a little #TBT twist on our weekly Ward 5 hero! There have been many individuals throughout Guelph’s history who have shaped our city — and Ward 5 in particular. One of those individuals was Peter Gow. This week’s Ward 5 hero was born in Johnstone, Scotland in 1818.
Gow arrived in Guelph around 1850, acquiring land on the south side of the Speed River where he built a mill and a tannery. It was the first industrial complex in what would later become Ward 5, which opened up the land for rapid residential development to house workers for his mills, quarries for building stone, estate lots, and access to agricultural land to support the growing city population. He built a wooden bridge across the river where the mill pond was constructed, which was later replaced by the stone one-lane bridge still present today, known as Gow’s Bridge.
Gow was active in local politics, serving on the school board, town council and served as a reeve and mayor. In 1867, the year of Confederation, he was Guelph’s first Member of Parliament, and was re-elected in 1871 and 1875 to serve the riding of Wellington South. He was the first Provincial Secretary and Registrar of Ontario. Most significantly, during the time of this provincial appointment in 1872, the Government of Ontario chose Guelph as the site of the new Ontario Agricultural College. The presence of the University of Guelph is a key feature of Ward 5 today.
Gow died in Guelph in 1886. His presence in Ward 5 is still felt today, which makes him a worthy Ward 5 hero.
Gow’s Mill and Bridge, prior to 1890. Image from McCord Museum (M9184.108.40.206), Quebec.