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McLennan, J. S. (John Stewart), 1853-1939

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McLennan, J. S. (John Stewart), 1853-1939

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1853-1939

History

John Stewart McLennan (3 Nov. 1853- 15 Sept. 1939) was born in Montreal, the second child and oldest son of Hugh McLennan and Isabella Stewart McLennan. John S. McLennan attended the High School of Montreal and McGill College, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts (first-rank honours) in philosophy and the Dufferin Medal in 1874. In 1879 he obtained a second Bachelor of Arts degree in moral sciences from the University of Cambridge. After returning from Cambridge, McLennan went to work at his father’s company, the Montreal Transportation Company. He married Louise Ruggles Bradley, daughter of Francis Bradley, in Evanston, Illinois, on 7 April 1881. Together the couple had four daughters and one son. Sometime between 1882 and 1884, the couple moved from Montreal to Sydney on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where McLennan became manager of a mine at Bridgeport (Glace Bay) owned by another of his father’s companies, International Coal Company. He later became managing director of the company. After the amalgamation of the International Coal Company into Dominion Coal Company Limited, McLennan moved to Boston, where he became an executive assistant for the firm. In 1899, McLennan became the first treasurer of the newly created Dominion Iron and Steel Company Limited and later a director. He served as general manager from 1899 until 1900 when he left the conglomerate to pursue research, writing, and political interests.
McLennan’s particular research interest was the remains of the French fortified town of Louisbourg, which had been taken by the British in 1758. Funding his own research, he traveled to Europe to locate maps and documents on Louisbourg and published a 1908 talk he gave to the Nova Scotia Historical Society under the title “A Notable Ruin,” as well as a chapter on the topic for the first volume on New France in the series “Canada and Its Provinces” (1913–17). McLennan also wrote a book on the subject, which was initially rejected for publication by the Champlain Society, but later publisher in 1918 as “Louisbourg from Its Foundation to its Fall, 1713–1758.” When the government of Canada began to acquire the ruins in the 1920s, McLennan became a key resource person for the dominion parks branch and its advisory body, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. He was an active lobbyist for the site’s protection and promoted its educational value, donating maps, plans, and historical objects to the museum that would be built in 1935-1936.
In addition to his writings on Louisbourg, McLennan contributed an entry on Cape Breton Island that he co-authored with Robert Murray to “Picturesque Canada: The Country as It Was and Is” (1882–[1884]) and was the author of “Screening of Soft Coal” ([1887?]), and “Hugh McLennan, 1825–1889” (1936), among other works. McLennan also became involved in newspaper publishing, purchasing the Conservative “Sydney Post” in 1904. In 1933, the paper merged with its Liberal rival, the “Sydney Record,” to become the independent “Sydney Post-Record,” which was succeeded by the “Cape Breton Post.”
In 1912, Louise McLennan died of a ruptured appendix, and John McLennan married Grace Seely Henop, widow of Robert de Peyster Tytus on 7 January 1915 in New York. After the start of World War I, he became president of the Cape Breton branch of the Canadian Patriotic Fund, serving on the national executive until 1937. After the death of his son Hugh at Ypres, McLennan was appointed to the Military Hospitals Commission by Prime Minister Borden. On 10 February 1916 he was named to the Senate as a Conservative, one of his particular political concerns being federal government’s preparation of the country for the aftermath of World War I.
McLennan was a member of the Royal Society of Canada and was awarded an honorary L.L.D. in 1923 by McGill University. That same year, he gave a series of public lectures at New Brunswick’s Mount Allison College on “history and present problems.” He was also a fellow of the Royal Historical Society of England.
In 1921, McLennan separated from his second wife, resulting in a custody struggle over their son, John Stewart Jr., and a final divorce on 6 February 1927. McLennan died of pneumonia on 15 September 1939 in Ottawa while attending a special war session of Parliament. He is buried in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

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