John H. Saunders

John H. Saunders

FEBRUARY 11, 1856 – FEBRUARY 18, 1950

John “Jack” Huse Saunders was an Ontarian farmer who involved himself in various organizations associated with agricultural development, mostly focusing on poultry. For many years he was associated with several movements for the advancement of the poultry business, and he served as president of some of Ontario’s leading fairs.

Saunders was born to American parents on February 11, 1856. He immigrated to Ontario in 1870. Not much is known about his early life, but he eventually settled in London, where he would marry his wife, Annie. He was a wagon maker by trade and conducted such a business for some years. However, his true passion was always poultry, and he was known throughout North America for being a poultry breeder. Even at a relatively young age he was renowned for the quality of his chicken stock, notably winning first prize for Dark Brahmas at the London Winter Exhibition in 1887.

Saunders had an over fifty-year association with the Western Fair. Along with Billie McVeil and Richard Oke, he developed the poultry department of the Western Fair at London into one of the leading poultry events of the country. Their efforts were rewarded every fall with an excellent poultry display at the London Fair. Furthermore, he served as a director of the fair for several years before becoming a vice-president. When Col. Gartshore retired as president in 1922, Saunders was named his successor. He was president for twenty-two years. Under his direction as president several notable changes were enacted for the progress and advancement of the exhibition, notably the introduction of a large and up-to-date manufacturers’ building on the grounds. The grounds themselves were also greatly enlarged for the expansion of the fair’s activities.

Additionally, Saunders was a long and able associate in the conduct of the Guelph Winter Fair. He was first recruited as superintendent of the Poultry Department. Later, when the office of superintendent of the fair became vacant, Saunders was chosen for the position. He reportedly fulfilled the office to the satisfaction of both the exhibitors and the show management, working early and late hours and expecting nothing less of those under him. Saunders also held offices in nearly every poultry organization in the province.

After retiring, he became the chief executive officer of a fraternal organization headquartered in London. He died on February 18, 1950. His hard work and dedication to the poultry business and the fairs of Southern Ontario had earned him a glowing reputation in life and the nickname “old reliable”. A 1924 Canadian Countryman article noted that “if he is chosen for office or to act on any committees you may rely upon him ‘carrying on’ unless circumstances over which he has no control prevent it.”

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture