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SMITH, HOLLIS, businessman and politician; b. 24 June 1800 at Plainfield, N.H., son of Levi Smith and Sally Wright; d. 29 March 1863 at Sherbrooke, Canada East.

“Born of the old pioneer stock” from the northern frontier of New England, Hollis Smith spent the early part of his life in Hatley Township (erected in 1803), south of Sherbrooke. Raised a Baptist, he attended local common schools, became a successful farmer, held office in agricultural societies, and moved to Compton. A “yeoman” and “trader,” by 1831 he was living on a farm near Lennoxville, in Ascot Township, and operating general stores in Compton, Lennoxville, and Eaton. In 1832 he formed “a connection in trade” at Lennoxville with Samuel Brooks, and at Compton with Alder W. Kendrick “to keep a general assortment of such goods as are usually called for in a country store.”

Smith gradually acquired land in many of the Eastern Townships and in the town of Sherbrooke. The British American Land Company, incorporated in England in 1834, sent Alexander Tilloch Galt* to Sherbrooke, and in 1835 Brooks, as their agent, contracted with his partner, Smith, to open 24 miles of “King’s highway” north from Sherbrooke across Stoke Township. In 1841 Smith was one of the subscribers towards the erection of Bishop’s College at Lennoxville, and in 1845 he was appointed one of its original trustees [see Lucius Doolittle; Jasper Hume Nicolls*]. With Kendrick and Galt he was a member of the St Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad Company, and with Galt of the Sherbrooke Cotton Factory, both incorporated in 1845. In 1849 Kendrick, Smith, and Galt publicly agreed with the Montreal Annexation Manifesto.

Hollis Smith, though retaining his farm in Ascot, had moved by 1856 to Sherbrooke where for the rest of his life he was secretary of the Mutual Fire Insurance Company and, with his family, part of the “Episcopalian” (Anglican) élite. With the introduction in 1856 of elective seats in the Legislative Council, Smith was nominated for the Liberal opposition in the new Wellington division by John Sewell Sanborn*, also from New Hampshire, and John McConnell of Hatley, and supported by Antoine-Aimé* and Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion. In effect he was the candidate of former annexationists. The Conservative government candidate was William Hoste Webb*, an “Englishman,” nominated by Sanborn’s relentless Tory opponent, John Henry Pope*, and vigorously supported by the provincial secretary, Timothy Lee Terrill*. Smith’s roots among the American settlers in the southern part of the constituency, combined with his more recent business and Anglican connections, enabled him to win with 58 per cent of the poll in Wellington as a whole, and 82 per cent in the town of Sherbrooke. He took his seat in the Legislative Council on 19 March 1857 and immediately joined other Liberals in advocating such American-type reforms as the election of the speaker of the Legislative Council.

In the assembly elections of 1857, the Conservatives won every seat in the Wellington division except Sherbrooke, and even there Galt suddenly changed from Liberal to independent. In the upper house Smith did the same. On 2 Aug. 1858 he joined two other members in stating that the new Liberal government of George Brown* and Antoine-Aimé Dorion had “not sufficiently defined their policy” and that “only one Minister of the Crown in the Legislative Council is insufficient to carry on efficiently the legislation of the Government in this branch of the Legislature.” Nevertheless he voted against the want of confidence motion which was carried by the Conservative majority. In the assembly, however, the motion was supported by all the members from Wellington: Christopher Dunkin*, Galt, Pope, Terrill, and Webb. Four days later Galt entered the new Conservative cabinet.

Smith too now became a Conservative. In 1859 he supported the decision to remove the seat of government from Toronto to Quebec, and in 1862, the speakership of the Legislative Council having become elective, he voted for the Conservative, Sir Allan Napier MacNab. On 19 March 1863, in vigorous health, he left the legislature for the Easter recess, but on his arrival home the next day he was “attacked by apoplexy” and died nine days later.

The Quebec Mercury remarked that he “was free from violent partisanship” and that he acted “with entire indifference to the sectionalism which is the great bane of Canadian politics.” A self-made businessman and a typical product of the peculiar society of the Eastern Townships, where the northern frontier of New England mingled with the southern frontier of British settlement, Hollis Smith was able to move all the way from the Baptist liberalism of the American pioneer farmers to the Anglican conservatism of the Canadian establishment. Bishop’s University, of which he remained a trustee until his death, had a claim upon his estate. His wife, Dianna Harriet Kendrick, also American-born, died at Sherbrooke on 3 March 1882. They had one son and two daughters. Frances Louisa married Edward Dagge Worthington*, md, and Susan Selina, Alexander Manning*, mayor of Toronto for two terms.

Gordon O. Rothney

Bishop’s University Library (Lennoxville, Que.), Minutes of the corporation, 1845–64, pp.3, 7, 20; Trustees minutes, 1857–68, pp.3, 139, 141. PAC, RG 1, L3L, 183; RG 4, B15, 3, ff.771–72, 855–56; RG 31, 1831 census, Ascot Township; 1851 census, Sherbrooke Town. St Peter’s Anglican Church (Sherbrooke, Que.), registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials, 19 Oct. 1857; 1 Aug. 1861; 1 April, 2 Sept. 1863. Can., Prov. of, Sessional papers, 1863, V, no.48; Statutes, 1844–45, c.25, c.91; Legislative Council, Journals, 1857–63. Globe, 1 March 1893. Montreal Transcript, 23 Sept., 1 Oct. 1856. Quebec Daily Mercury, 1, 11 April 1863. StFrancis Courier and Sherbrooke Gazette, (Sherbrooke, [Que.]), 3 Jan., 22 May 1832. Sherbrooke Gazette (Sherbrooke, [Que.]), 10 Nov. 1849; 8 Feb. 1851; 22 June, 3 Aug. 1861; 5 Sept. 1863. Stanstead Journal (Rock Island, [Que.]), 18, 25 Sept. 1856. L.-P. Demers, Sherbrooke, découvertes, légendes, documents, nos rues et leurs symboles ([Sherbrooke, Qué., 1969]), 122, 125.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Gordon O. Rothney, “SMITH, HOLLIS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 2, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/smith_hollis_9E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/smith_hollis_9E.html
Author of Article: Gordon O. Rothney
Title of Article: SMITH, HOLLIS
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1976
Year of revision: 1976
Access Date: September 2, 2014