John S. Larke was born near Stratton, Cornwall, England, in 1840. As a mere child he came to Canada with his father, who settled in Oshawa and became identified with the milling business of the Hon. T. N. Gibbs. John S. was educated in the public and High Schools of Oshawa, and at Victoria University, Cobourg. In 1861 he began life as the school teacher of S. S: No. 7, East Whitby (North East of Columbus), later as principal of the common schools of Oshawa. In January, 1865, he branched into Journalism by purchasing an interest in the Vindicator and under the name of Luke and Larke, this paper was issued from 1865 to 1879, while, only pretending to be a local paper, its original articles were generally of such a character as to be copied into many of the Metropolitan papers of Canada. Upon the platform there were few men who could surpass Jno. S. Larke as a debater of public questions. He was particularly strong in the advocacy of the principle of Protection, and in many a combat with the ablest opponent to his pet theory, he carried off the laurels of a popular victory. In 1879 he abandoned Journalism, and entered the field of Manufacture, becoming the President and General Manager of the Oshawa Storie Factory. Essentially a public man it was impossible to leave him in the quiet of private life. In 1890 he was nominated by the Conservative party to contest the riding of South Ontario for the local house against the Hon. John Dryden, by whom he was defeated. In 1894, he was selected by the Hon.
Mackenzie Bowell, Premier of Canada, to represent the Dominion in Australia as Trade Commissioner.
It was upon the occasion of his departure to fill this important office that his friends tendered him a complimentary banquet, of which the following account gives not only the story of the man, but also reflects, as in a living picture, the Oshawa of that day.
MR. LARKE BANQUETTED
Party Lines Are Forgotten in Honoring a Good Citizen
A Faithful Municipal Officer Has His Services
RecognizedPresented With a Gold-Headed
CaneThe Minister of Trade and
Commerce Attends the Gathering
A Memorable Gathering
The Banquet last Friday night, Nov. 29, 1894, to Mr. J. S. Larke by the citizens of Oshawa, will long live in the memory of the hundred and more citizens who were present. Host Joel Ray had a well arranged menu and looked after the interests of his guests and gave his personal attention to the details of the spread. The carved mantle piece, back of the chairman, was draped with bunting, the Union Jack on either side and in the centre the flag of Australia. A blue field with white bars across and down the centre and in these bars five stars for the five provinces of the Island. In the upper left hand corner was the Union Jack.
Mayor W. F. Cowan, occupied the chair. To his right was Mr. J. S. Larke, the guest of the evening. Mr. W. Coulthard, Reeve, ex-Mayor, Dr. Rae, Mr. C. H. Crysdale and Mr. C. W. Scott. To his left Hon. M. Bowell, Minister of Trade and Commerce, and acting premier, Wm. Smith, M. P., Rev. Jas. Kines, L. K. Murton and Dr. T. E. Kaiser.
About the three long tables extending the whole length of the dining room were the following gentlemen representing the varied intersts of the town :
Messrs. C. W. Scott, W. H. Thomas, E. Dingle, T. E. Kaiser, M.D., Fred W. Cowan, J. F. Grier-son, C. H. Crysdale, C. F. Nicholson, E. I. Rowse, W. F. Cowan, M. D. Campbell, A. Hindes, C. A. Jones, H. T. Carswell, D. S. Hoig, M.D., A. E. Morgan, F. E. Ellis, T. G. Ryley, D. Cinnamon, George Miller, F. L. Henry, L. K. Murton, J. S. Beaton, J. Ownes, 0. Hezzelwood, A. N. Ellis, W. P. Stericker, J. W. Ellis, W. Coulthard, W. W. Coulthard,
G. R. Patterson, F. J. Lambert, J. M. Brooks, M. A. Eby, T. H. Everson, L. C. Smith, W. Coburn, M.D., J. A. Sykes, W. J. Hare, Wm. Glenney, E. S. Edmondson, J. 0. Guy, Wm. J. Chaplin, A. Mackie, E. Mundy, A. R. Farewell, G. F. Blarney, J. Carmichael, C. A. Mallory, F. W. Warren, W. J. Burns, Jas. Mackie, Geo. R. Burt, C. S. Rennie, M. F. Cross, E. T. Slemon, Fred L. Fowke, John Bailes, Samuel Luke, 0. H. Luke, Francis Rae, M.D., R. C. Babbitt, R. H. James, Wm. Bambridge, Robt. Woon, Carpus French, T. M. Luke, Rev. J. S. Clarke, Jas. Proven, H. A. Porter, Rev. J. H. Talbot, W. B. Larke, Fred Larke, G. H. Pedlar, Jno. Cowan, L. G. Cassels, W. D. Thompson, L. J. Cory-ell, Jas. Cowan, R. Dillon, Wm. Lauchland, R. Mackie, R. McLaughlin, F. A. Guy, E. B. Morgan, E. 0. Felt, L. M. Brooks, Wm. Bain, C. H. Owens, F. P. Rae, H. G. King, John Bartlett, S. Hillman, H. C. Whiting, Rev. Father Jeffcott, Lewis Luke, Herb Luke, F. Trewin, J. C. Gardineer, John Hyland, Jas. Pellow, Chas. Bailes, E. Baker, Fred Brooke, Fred Verrall.
After the repast, letters of regret were read from N. Clark Wallace, Hon. G. W. Ross, J. D. Edgar, M.P., Hon. John Dryden, Mr. R. Dillon, Wm. Mulock, M.P. Mr. Cowan in a happy manner proposed “The Queen,” referring to her as a power for good throughout the civilized world, her great power arising from her virtues as a woman, mother and sovereign. God Save the Queen was given with patriotic zest.
“Our Guest” was proposed in a neat speech service as a municipal legislator, his promotion of every effort looking to the advancement of his town and country. The toast was received with prolonged applause and For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Before Mr. Larke could rise to reply, Dr. Kaiser had the floor and read the following ad-. dress :
Dear Mr. Larke : As citizens of Oshawa, we have ever manifested the liveliest interest, and of tendering to you our respects upon the eve of your departure for Australia. It is with feelings of deepest regret that we are called upon to bid you farewell to your country and to your native town, in the affairs of both of which you have ever manifested the liveliest interest, and for the advancement of which you have ever labored so faithfully and so well.
Whilst we feel thus keenly the sorrows which ever arise from the parting of fondest of friends, we take no small pride in the fact that you are severing your social connections with us, at the request of your country in order to advance her interests in a foreign land. We desire to express to you the high appreciation in which we hold not only your ability and energy as a citizen, but also the integrity and uprightness of purpose which has ever characterized you as a man. That you may carry with you tangible evidence of our kindly feelings towards you, we ask you to accept this cane as a souvenir of the golden opinions we entertain of one of our most distinguished sons. Heart and hand we join you in best wishes for the success of your mission, and may health, happiness and prosperity be the lot of yourself and your family.
Mr. Larke in response to the toast and address said he could not leave the town of his youth, early labors and friends, which were the dearest ties a man could have, without feeling deep regret. He did not care to dwell upon that side of his leave taking as it was painful. He would rather turn to the more pleasant side ; the gratifying pleasure of having the confidence and regard of the citizens of his native town. He had been spoken of as having a clean record. After almost 50 years in Oshawa he had never known one of her public men to leave office with anything but a clean record. He was glad to see leaders of the opposite part present. He was known to have pretty well defined political views and had never shrunk from giving expression to them upon any occasion. If he was not a hard hitter at such times it was through no fault of his. He had never allowed feelings engendered in political strife to survive the debate, and he believed those arrayed against him had done the same. His record was known and he believed he had the confidence of his fellow citizens. In his municipal career, especially in the county council and more particularly when warden, he felt the greatest pleasure in the recollection that he held that position when his political opponents were in the majority. While he had been active in politics, he would in his capacity as representative of the government in Australia be guided by the consideration that he was to serve the country as a whole and not in a party sense. He believed when a boy he had the reputation of being the most stupid boy in the school. From his boyhood he had been obliged to scratch gravel for himself and pick up what learning he could. He had never sought office but felt that if he was wanted he would be asked to come forward. When placed in office he had endeavored to discharge his duties with whatever degree of ability he possessed. When it became known that he was to go to Australia he had been approached by young Canadians who wanted to fill whatever openings might offer in the sister colony. He had replied that his business was not to export Canadians but Canadian goods. That reminded him that before he went to Chicago for the World’s Fair he had heard of numerous Canadians who had succeeded in the West. It was all talk. Successful men were few and the meanest men he ever knew were those unsuccessful Canadians at home who went abroad and tried to find favor by running down the land of their birth. There were Canadians who had gone to the Republic and succeeded. But there were a greater number who had achieved equal success in Canada. For the latter class he referred to W. E. Wellington, an Oshawa boy, who is today estimated as worth a goad quarter million. Then there was Harry Lang, who began business nine years ago in Montreal. Last year his business was a quarter of a million dollars and while he could not say what the profits were, he could say they were good. Another Oshawa boy who had succeeded in Canada was the manager in Montreal of the Williams Sewing Machine Company. These three had succeeded in Canada as no three from Oshawa had succeeded abroad. There were as good opportunities in Canada as abroad. In referring to his distant field of labor, Mr. Larke said the Australians imported $165,000,000 worth of goods of just such lines as Canada produces in abundance and of superior excellence. One of the industries which had made gigantic strides in the past few years was paper making. In a few years Canada would make the best and cheapest paper in the world. In boots and shoes and leather goods we are second to none. We have the best leather and can with effort reach out and secure the trade. The interests of Ontario and the east would be benefitted by the opening up of trade with Australia. But British Columbia would receive the greatest boon. Her coal, iron and timber were of an almost exhaustless quantity and would employ a nation of artisans. The bays on the coast were capable of sheltering the fleets of an empire and the western plains were vast enough to supply the wants of the consumers. Trade with Australia would hasten this development and afford an outlet. He had learned enough at Chicago to show that Canada was safe only as a part of the great British Empire. Dismembered from that Empire her existence would be short.