Dr. McGill was the eldest son of the late Wm. McGill, and was born in the neighborhood of Paisley, Scotland, in the year 1806. In 1820, rather than bear testimony against some neighbors who had got into trouble with the government, the family came to this country, and in 1821 took up their residence in Oshawa, removing shortly after to what became the family homestead. The Doctor became a protege of a relative, the late lion. John McGill, who gave him an education. For some years after he taught school in this vicinity, pursuing the study of medicine with the late Dr. Low. After graduating at McGill College, Montreal, he proceeded to New York, where he further pursued his studies. On the completion of his course there he returned to Oshawa and again resumed his practice that made his name a household word over a wide district of country. The Doctor, while devoted to his profession and a most attentive physician, never ceased to take an interest in public affairs. Naturally he was deeply interested in educational matters. He became a member of the School Board in 1856 and in ’57 and ’58 was its chairman, as again he was in 1860. In 1863 he was re-elected chairman and continued to hold that position until 1877 when he retired, a hearty vote of thanks being tendered him at the annual meeting of the ratepayers for his long and faithful services.
He took his share in municipal work and for some years was a member of the council and for two years was Reeve of the town. There was a general feeling that he should be elected Mayor of the Town by acclamation as a token of respect for his public spirit to the town, but circumstances prevented it.
He was always a staunch friend of the Temperance Cause, and was a member of Oshawa Division for over thirty-three years, he having joined the Lodge in September, 1850, a few months after the Lodge was organized in Oshawa. He was also one of the County License Commissioners up to the time of his death.
The Doctor was an active Reformer of moderate views. In 1867 he was nominated by the Reform Convention of the South Riding of Ontario, as its first candidate for Ontario Assembly, and he was returned by a large majority, by the vote especially of his own townspeople, the majority of whom voted irrespective of party. During the contest he strongly dissented from some of the views of the Hon. George Brown, who was at the time a candidate for the Commons, as to the method of conducting the election, and though the rupture was not then publicly known, its effects were seen, and shortly after entering the Assembly he gave a general support to the Government of John Sandfield Macdonald. This brought down on his head a fierce fusilade from The Globe and the maledictions of the party. His fiercest opponents will, however, give him the credit of acting with perfect freedom from interested motives. For some time he acted with that party, but afterwards drifted back into his old relations.
The Doctor was a thoroughly patriotic citizen. The accumulations of his practice were invested in the industries of the town. He aided the original Cabinet Factory, was one of the large stockholders in the Hall Works, the original Stove Company and the Masson Works, and assisted in the establisment of the late McGill Works. These investments proved more for the public good than his own benefit.
The Doctor was brought up a Presbyterian, but dissenting from some of its doctrines, he, many years ago, joined the Christian Church. Owing to some differences a band of seven, among whom was the Doctor’s brother, left that church in 1841, and organized what is known as the Disciples’ Church. About two years after the Doctor joined this body, and was in it appointed an Elder. He was for years the leading preacher, and one of the most acceptable preachers of the church. The Doctor was a most devoted man, and it would only be unavoidable absence from town or a very critical case that prevented his attention on the Sabbath services and weekly prayer-meeting. His faith never wavered, nor his zeal abated through sunshine and shower, no matter who else might leave the church or absent themselves, Dr. McGill was certain to be in his place and ready for his duty. The Doctor held many positions, of which we can now but note them. He was one of the founders and first President of the Ontario Loan Society, President of the Oshawa Harbor Company, and Director in the Manufacturing Company above noted. He held a Commission as Lieutenant of Militia in the company of which his father was Captain, and his brother the Ensign. In 1849 Dr. McGill was united in marriage to Julia Ann, daughter of the late Charles Bates, Bowmanville. She was a most faithful and lovable wife and true helpmate, she preceded him to the Better Land, on the 22nd of December, 1866. Dr. McGill died November 9, 1883. He has left two childrena son, Solomon, now practising law in Toronto, and a daughter, Mrs. Currie, of Port Perry.