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MATHESON, RODERICK, merchant, militia officer, and politician; b. December 1793 in Lochcarron, Ross-shire, Scotland, son of John Matheson and Flora Macrae; m. first 5 Nov. 1823 Mary Fraser Robertson (d. 1825) at Montreal; m. secondly 11 Aug. 1830 Annabella Russell (Russel) at Gairloch, Scotland, and they had at least five sons, one of whom, Arthur James, was treasurer of Ontario, 1905–13; d. 13 Jan. 1873 at Perth, Ont.
Roderick Matheson moved to Lower Canada with a brother at the age of 12. He was a sergeant in the Canadian Fencibles when, on 6 Feb. 1812, he was named ensign and joined the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles. He was wounded during the attack on Sackets Harbor, N.Y., on 29 May 1813, and promoted lieutenant on 5 August. He ended the war as the paymaster of the regiment and was placed on the half-pay list in 1816. He was granted land the following year in the military settlement at Perth, around which the rest of his life centred.
Matheson was named returning officer at Perth in 1820. The next year he was gazetted captain in the newly formed 2nd Battalion of Carleton militia, and on 18 June 1822 major of the 4th Battalion. These positions were contrary to the rule that militia promotions were to be based on relative seniority in the British army and elicited remonstrances from several half-pay officers senior to Matheson. He was not present at the fray at Perth between a company of the 4th Carleton and the Irish immigrants at the militia muster in April 1824, but he was among the justices of the peace who restored order. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Regiment of Renfrew militia in November 1846, and in the next month of the 2nd Lanark. On 14 Sept. 1855 he was made colonel and given command of the 1st military district of Canada West, a post he retained until 1863.
Matheson used his land grant and regular income from half pay wisely. He established a successful general store in Perth, bought land, and was a director in William Morris*’ Tay Navigation Company. On 24 Aug. 1833 he was appointed one of ten commissioners of the court of requests for the 1st division of the Bathurst District, and he was a member of the board of education of Perth. He also took a lively interest in securing internal improvements in the Bathurst District. Sir Charles Metcalfe* put his name forward in 1844 as a possible nominee to the Legislative Council. In February 1847 William Henry Draper again placed Matheson on a list of nominations to Lord Elgin [Bruce*] for a seat in the Legislative Council. He was appointed on 27 May 1847. Matheson sat in the upper chamber as a conservative until 1867, when he was named a senator. He helped in 1855 to defeat a bill supporting an elective Legislative Council by introducing resolutions against the principle.
The first of a series of paralytic strokes in December 1867 disabled Matheson, and another stroke on 7 Jan. 1873 caused his death at Perth six days later.
PAC, RG 8, I, A1, 625, p.33; D2, 1168, p.93; RG 9, I, B1, 17, 4 Jan., 14 Aug. 1822; 18, 27 March, 5 July 1822. PRO, CO 42/519, index entry for missing p.310; 42/541, index entry for missing p.386; 42/542, index entry for missing p.453; 42/598, 142 (copies at PAC). Bathurst Courier (Perth), S Sept. 1834; 10 July 1840; 4 April 1842; 7 March, 22 May, 20 June 1843; 16 Jan. 1844. Brockville Recorder, 24 July 1845. Canada Gazette (Montreal; Quebec), 5 June 1847, 17 Oct. 1863. Montreal Gazette, 2 Nov. 1813, 8 Nov. 1823, 14 Oct. 1830. Perth Courier, 17 Jan. 1873. Upper Canada Gazette (York), 17 Sept. 1821. Cyclopædia of Can. biog. (Rose, 1888), 459.
Revisions based on:
Ancestry.com, “Scotland, select marriages, 1561–1910,” Roderick Matheson and Annabella Russell, 11 Aug. 1830: www.ancestry.ca (consulted 13 Nov. 2019). Hew Scott, Fasti ecclesiæ scoticanæ: the succession of ministers in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation (new ed., 11v., Edinburgh, 1915-?), 7: 147–48.