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MARKLAND, THOMAS, businessman, militia officer, jp, and office holder; b. 1757 in the American colonies; m. 8 June 1787 Catherine Herchmer (Herkimer), and they had a son, George Herchmer Markland*; d. 31 Jan. 1840 in Kingston, Upper Canada.

Before the American revolution Thomas Markland was a large landowner in the Mohawk valley of New York. A declared loyalist, he moved in 1784 to Cataraqui (Kingston) where, in recognition of his commitment to the royalist cause, he received 24 lots, some of which he held jointly with other loyalists. Markland had, it seems, little interest in farming and kept the land as an investment, selling much of it at a profit over the next ten years. By 1788 he had entered into a lucrative partnership with another loyalist, Robert Macaulay*. The two men trans-shipped goods, opened a small retail store, and took on agency work for the congregation of St George’s Church and prominent individuals such as Sir John Johnson*. During the last years of the partnership, which was dissolved in 1792 or 1793, Markland apparently assumed increasing responsibility for the day to day operations. On his own, he exported flour and pork to Lower Canada and imported goods from the United States; he may also have had a small retail business. By 1800 he was one of Kingston’s principal merchants, second only to Richard Cartwright* in the quantity of goods handled, and by the War of 1812 he had become one of the major landowners in the area. Although mercantile pursuits and land speculation together formed the basis of Markland’s considerable wealth, his primary interest was the market-place.

In addition to his mercantile prominence, Markland was considered a gentleman of property and standing. His partnership with Macaulay and his marriage drew him into close personal association with two old and respected families in Kingston. Actively involved in the affairs of St George’s Church, in 1789 he was one of the vestrymen who petitioned the government for land on which to erect a building, and the following year he donated money to the building fund. He rented a pew and assumed various duties: vestryman (1792), warden (1803 and 1805), and member of the committee to find a replacement for the Reverend John Stuart* (1811). The militia provided another outlet for his energies. He had enrolled in the local unit by 1791 and quickly rose to the rank of captain, a position he held in the flank company of the 1st Frontenac Militia throughout the War of 1812. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1816 and colonel five years later, a rank he held until his retirement in 1839.

During the 1790s he had also begun to take a role in local affairs: he became a justice of the peace in 1794; he served in the Court of Requests; and he was a member of the committee commissioned to oversee the building of a jail. In 1796 he was appointed treasurer of the Midland District, a position he held until 1837. In 1800 he became a commissioner for determining the loyalty of prospective subjects and taking the mandatory oath of allegiance required of all new settlers. Four years later he received the appointment of commissioner for taking affidavits. At the end of the War of 1812, Markland, now 58 and one of the few original loyalists active in Kingston, was still a recognized business and social leader, who went on to acquire even more offices.

Markland continued to run his mercantile enterprises and took an increasingly active part in various organizations promoting local development. Of primary concern to Kingston merchants was the lack of banks. Markland had in August 1813 been a notable omission from the group of merchants involved with the Kingston Association, which had agreed to issue bills in exchange for specie [see Joseph Forsyth*]. In fact, he had considered it an attempt “to injure his credit.” The background of this dispute is a mystery, and the acrimony surrounding it had been forgotten when in 1817 Markland became a trustee of a commercial bank proposed for Kingston, the Bank of Upper Canada. For at least three years (1818–21), he was the local agent for the Bank of Montreal [see John Gray*]. In 1819 Markland and several other merchants investigated the feasibility of a savings bank, which was established in 1822. He joined John Macaulay* and John Kirby in supporting the chartered Bank of Upper Canada at York (Toronto) over the “pretended” Bank of Upper Canada of Kingston [see Thomas Dalton]. In 1830 he supported the formation of the Commercial Bank of the Midland District (located in Kingston) and he served as a director in 1832.

Markland’s concern for economic development was not restricted to financial institutions. He advocated the union of the Canadas in 1822, and again in 1838, as essential for commercial prosperity. In 1824 he became a member of the St Lawrence Association which had been organized to promote improving the navigability of the river. Privately, and as a justice of the peace and district treasurer, he encouraged whatever means were at hand to improve local transportation: bridges, canals, and ferries. Moreover, although not personally interested in matters such as the most efficient and productive use of land, in 1819 he had been instrumental in the formation of an agricultural society and he willingly held the post of vice-president for two years.

As a 19th-century conservative, Markland, like many others of his type, believed he had a responsibility to serve, a responsibility he continued to respect after the war. His connection with the Anglican church and church-related activities increased. Among other things, he was one of the men chosen by St George’s in 1823 to oversee the building fund and subsequent erection of a new church. In 1835 he was appointed to a provincial committee investigating the use of the clergy reserves. A founding member of the Kingston Auxiliary Bible and Common Prayer Book Society, he was its president from 1819 to 1822. Throughout the 1830s he was a subscriber to, and vice-president of, the local branch of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and president of the Kingston Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society. He also assisted other denominations. He publicly supported the building of a Presbyterian church and in 1817 he contributed to a British Wesleyan chapel in Kingston. That same year he subscribed to the British Methodist Society and in 1832 he donated money to the Wesleyan Methodist Auxiliary Missionary Society.

Until his death, Markland played a leading role in numerous educational and social institutions. His involvement with education began in 1815 when he became a trustee of the Midland District School Society; he continued to support the organization for the next 20 years and was its president in 1832. In addition he was a benefactor of the Lancasterian school [see Joseph Lancaster], supported the establishment of Union Sunday schools, subscribed to Queen’s College in 1840, and served for a short time as manager of the local library. He was a founding member of a number of organizations in which he held office and to which he subscribed annually: the Kingston Compassionate Society, the Society to Provide Relief for Widows, the Emigrant Society, and the Men’s Auxiliary of the Society for Promoting Education and Industry among the Indians and the Destitute. And it was Markland who in 1819 chaired meetings held in Kingston and Bath to establish relief for the poor. The same year Markland and others also took direct action to build a hospital in Kingston and he was both a shareholder and one of the trustees appointed to oversee the project. He served as president of the local temperance society in 1832.

Thomas Markland was perhaps the most influential member of the local “family compact.” A firm supporter of the executive during the debates centring on Robert Gourlay* and the disturbances of 1837, he had, however, little direct contact with York officialdom. Connections with York he seems to have left to his son who, by virtue of age, personal contacts, and political beliefs, fitted into the society of the post-war capital where he had some impact on broad colonial policies. Several years before his death, Markland resigned his post as treasurer of the Midland District. “This gentleman,” as the Kingston Chronicle & Gazette extolled him, “is one of the oldest and most respected inhabitants.” The editors thanked him “for his long, zealous and efficient service as a public man.”

Jane Errington

ACC, Diocese of Ont. Arch. (Kingston), St George’s Cathedral (Kingston), minute-books for St George’s Church, vols.I–II. AO, RG 40, D-1, box 4. PAC, RG 16, A1, 133, files for 18059, 1815. QUA, 2244. “District of Mecklenburg (Kingston): Court of Common Pleas,” AO Report, 1917: 190353. Kingston before the War of 1812: a collection of documents, ed. R. A. Preston (Toronto, 1959). The parish register of Kingston, Upper Canada, 1784–1811, ed. A. H. Young (Kingston, 1921). Chronicle & Gazette, 183343. Kingston Chronicle, 181933. Kingston Gazette, 181418. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). Reid, Loyalists in Ont. K. M. Bindon, “Kingston: a social history, 17851830” (phd thesis, Queen’s Univ., Kingston, 1979). William Canniff, History of the settlement of Upper Canada (Ontario), with special reference to the Bay Quinte (Toronto, 1869; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1971). E. J. Errington, “The ‘Eagle,’ the ‘Lion,’ and Upper Canada: the colonial elites’ view of the United States and Great Britain, 17841828” (phd thesis, Queen’s Univ., 1984). Patterson, “Studies in elections in U.C.” H. P. Gundy, “The Honourable John Kirby of Kingston,” Douglas Library Notes (Kingston), 9 (1960), no.1: 24. W. D. Reid, “Johan Jost Herkimer, U.E., and his family,” OH, 31 (1936): 21527. S. F. Wise, “Tory factionalism: Kingston elections and Upper Canadian politics, 18201836,” OH, 57 (1965): 20525.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Jane Errington, “MARKLAND, THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/markland_thomas_7E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/markland_thomas_7E.html
Author of Article:   Jane Errington
Title of Article:   MARKLAND, THOMAS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1988
Year of revision:   1988
Access Date:   April 23, 2024