HOWLAND, HENRY STARK, businessman, office holder, and politician; b. 2 Aug. 1824 in Pawling, N.Y., son of Jonathan Howland and Lydia Pearce; m. 21 Oct. 1852 Ardelia Sophia Smith (d. 1889) of Toronto, and they had nine sons and three daughters; d. there 28 Jan. 1902.
In 1840 Henry Stark Howland left New York State and joined his elder brother William Pearce, who had established a milling complex at Lambton Mills (Etobicoke), near Toronto. When William bought a grist-mill and a sawmill at Kleinburg in 1852, they were placed in Henry’s charge, along with a store. That same year Henry became Kleinburg’s first postmaster, a position he would hold into the 1860s; he also served as a Vaughan Township councillor (1857–58, 1861–63) and reeve (1859–60, 1864–67), and as warden of York County (1865–67). In 1864 he gave up his mercantile business, retaining the milling operations, and moved to Toronto, where he shared an office with William and another brother, Peleg. Records indicate that, in addition to running the Kleinburg Mills, Henry dabbled in the grocery business in Toronto. In 1877, with his sons Frederick Newton, Henry Stark Jr, and Peleg, he established a wholesale hardware business, H. S. Howland, Sons and Company.
Contemporary biographical entries for Howland generally insinuate that he became a dynamic figure in the areas of banking and railway promotion, but the record does not show him to have been anything more than cautious. He was one of the first directors of the Toronto and Nipissing and the Toronto, Grey and Bruce railways [see George Laidlaw*]; however, he was not associated with either line after 1872. Perhaps his “sound” business sense was at work when he dropped these projects, which were overly promoted and financially troubled because of their unconventional narrow gauges, labour strikes, inadequate funding, and competition from the Grand Trunk. Howland’s forays into banking and investment were no more adventurous. A member of the group (mostly merchants and importers) who gathered in 1867 to found the Canadian Bank of Commerce, he resigned as vice-president in 1874, according to one source on account of the arbitrary rule of president William McMaster*. More likely he left because he was in the process of establishing another bank, the Imperial Bank of Canada. Though the Imperial was a much smaller concern than the Commerce, it was able to capitalize on a network of small branches throughout Ontario, a feld of operation larger banks had not yet addressed. Howland remained president of the Imperial until his death in 1902, yet he owned but a few hundred shares. In fact, though his name was associated with several other investment enterprises – National Life Assurance, Imperial Trusts, Toronto General Trusts, Canada Permanent, Dominion Lands Colonization – his will records only a few thousand dollars at most invested in each. His comfortable, though not substantial, income had been derived mostly from his milling operations in Kleinburg (run by his sons William Pierce and Thompson Smith), his hardware business on Front Street in Toronto, and the Graham Nail Works on Dufferin Street (operated by his son Frank).
Little is known of Howland’s personal life. In censuses before 1891 he listed himself as a Quaker (in deference to his family’s religious heritage, supposedly), but in that year he is entered as a Presbyterian, with his wife and children belonging to the Church of England. Like the rest of the Howland family, in politics he was a Liberal, but, like most businessmen of the early 20th century, he opposed the Liberal stand in favour of free trade with the United States. Howland belonged to no known voluntary or fraternal associations; he seems to have been a man who worked diligently with his immediate family and concerned himself mostly with family affairs. Indeed, it was while he was waiting with his son at the Kleinburg station, after he had inspected his mill, that he was struck down by a brain haemorrhage. He died a few days later in Toronto and was interred there in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
AO, Abstract index to deeds, Vaughan Township, concession 8, lot 24; concession 9, lots 24–26 (mfm.); RG 22, ser.305, no.15259. Mount Pleasant Cemetery (Toronto), Tombstone inscription, plot S, lot 11. NA, RG 31, C1, 1861, Vaughan Township, dist.4: 11; 1891, Toronto. Globe, 28 Jan. 1902: 12. Almanac, Canadian, 1853–68. R. M. Breckenridge, The Canadian banking system, 1817–1890 (New York, 1895). Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1898). CHR, 4 (1923): 184 (C. R. Fay, book rev.). Commemorative biog. record, county York. Dent, Canadian portrait gallery. Directory, Toronto, 1867/68–1900. Esther Heyes, Etobicoke, from furrow to borough (Etobicoke [Toronto], 1974), 134. Hist. of Toronto, 1: 244. Newspaper reference book. Ontarian Genealogist and Family Historian (Toronto), 1 (1898–1901): 150. Ontario Geneal. Soc., Index to the 1871 census of Ontario, general ed. B. S. Elliott (30v., Toronto, 1986–92), 25. G. E. Reaman, A history of Vaughan Township: two centuries of the township (Toronto, 1971). Victor Ross and A. St L. Trigge, A history of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, with an account of the other banks which now form part of its organization (3v., Toronto, 1920–24), 2.