William McCraney

William McCraney

DECEMBER 15, 1831 - JUNE 21, 1911

William McCraney was born on December 15, 1831 in Trafalgar township, Halton county, Upper Canada. His parents, Hiram and Louisa McCraney were one of the first settler families in Halton, being granted the land as did many other United Empire Loyalists who fled the newly-formed United States in the wake of the War of Independence. The McCraney’s were thus substantial landowners in the region, and contributed much to its early development. William McCraney used his family’s resources and his savvy business sense to make a name for himself and become a much-respected figure in his own right.

As a young man, William was primarily engaged in farming and the lumber business. In addition to owning a number of farms in Trafalgar, William built, owned, and operated four sawmills (three in Halton and one in North Simcoe). At the age of nineteen, he departed temporarily for California to build shelters and accommodations for the tens of thousands of hopeful prospectors that had descended on the state during the Gold Rush of 1848-55. When William returned to Halton in 1855, he was certainly wealthier and wiser than when he had left. However, he also returned with a certain religious convictions that lead him to become a full member of the Methodist church. As a Methodist (and a wealthy one at that!), William served in several positions of trust with the church, and contributed large sums of money to their missions. He was also a staunch Temperance advocate, a religious and moral conviction which may well have been influenced by his time in California among so many destitute and hapless young men.

On the Queen’s Birthday (May 24) 1857, William McCraney married Elizabeth Coote. The couple had eight children together; two boys and six girls. William remained engaged in his successful lumber business, and resided on his farm in Trafalgar. With the arrival of Canadian Confederation in 1867, however, William decided to pursue the new opportunities this afforded for men of his means and stature. He began his career in public life in 1868 when he sold his farm and moved to Oakville. In Oakville William served as mayor from 1872-74, and then as Reeve from 1874-76. During the 1875 federal by-election for Halton, William McCraney ran and was elected Member of Parliament under the Liberal Party banner. He was defeated in the 1878 election (but only by 18 votes!) which swept the Conservatives into power on the wave of John A. Macdonald’s National Policy. This was not to be the end of William’s political career, however. In 1882, he was again elected to Canadian Parliament, although the Conservatives retained their formidable majority.

Seeing no future for himself as an opposition M.P., William McCraney decided not to run for reelection in 1886. This was perhaps a wise choice, as Macdonald’s Conservatives would remain in power for the next decade. William returned to his lumber business until 1891, when he retired to Vancouver. Elizabeth and their sons came with him, and Vancouver remained their home. Their daughters were married off to William’s American business associates, and their sons followed their father’s footsteps in business and public life. William remained engaged in local politics, but never again sought public office. Elizabeth passed away in 1907, and William fell ill and died on June 21, 1911, at the age of 79.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture