John Melbourne Kilbourn (1841-1921)

John Melbourne Kilbourn (1841-1921)

John Melbourne Kilbourn (1841-1921) was a lawyer and investor in Owen Sound, Ontario.

He became a shareholder in the Owen Sound Portland Cement Company in 1895 and the Lakefield Portland Cement Company in 1900.

John M. Kilbourn became President of the Lakefield Portland Cement Company in 1901 and remained President of the company until the Lakefield Portland Cement Company was taken over by the Canada Cement Company in 1910.

John Melbourne Kilbourn’s sons, George Stirke Kilbourn and Francis Howard Kilbourn, and his son in law, Horace Bruce Smith, were also investors and shareholders in the Owen Sound Portland Cement Company and the Lakefield Portland Cement Company.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of our Butchart Gardens History:

“After Hiram Kilbourn’s death in 1858, his 16 year old son, John Melbourne Kilbourn, (1841-1921) took over the family’s general store. John M. Kilbourn had run away from home in 1853 at the age of 12 to escape his alcoholic father and the experience seems to have forged his character; like many other young men who have suffered at the hands of an alcoholic parent, John M. Kilbourn may have viewed wealth as a way to avoid ever again being in a subservient or dependent position. In looking at John Kilbourn’s life it is easy to see a strong desire for financial independence as a central theme in his character; it appears as soon as he returned to run the family business after his father death in 1858.  John M. Kilbourn certainly demonstrated ambitions far beyond simply being a merchant in Invermay, Ontario. In the 1860’s he sold the general store in Invermay and became a lawyer in Owen Sound. Gradually, he expanded the family’s business activities into land speculation, buying large undeveloped tracts in and around Owen Sound. In 1885, the entire Kilbourn family moved from Invermay to Owen Sound.

As Owen Sound’s population grew during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, John M. Kilbourn began subdividing his land into lots and selling either undeveloped lots or lots with houses built on them. He often sold raw materials from his land; he supplied stone, for example, for the foundations of the Canadian Pacific Railway grain elevator at Owen Sound in 1884. Until his death in 1921, John M. Kilbourn also owned and developed much of downtown Owen Sound’s prime commercial space.

In 1861, at Invermay, Ontario, John M. Kilbourn married Maria Antoinette Bishop, with whom he had 8 children. In 1895 one of John and Maria’s sons, George Stirke Kilbourn (1866-1946) joined Robert Butchart as an investor and active player in the Owen Sound Portland Cement Company. The following year, in 1896, George’s brother, Francis Howard Kilbourn (1863-1948), and their father, John M. Kilbourn, also bought Owen Sound Portland Cement Company shares……”

John Melbourne Kilbourn is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Owen Sound, Ontario.

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