DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

McDOUGAL, FRANCIS (Frank), businessman and politician; b. April 1826 in Lancaster, Upper Canada, son of Alexander McDougal and Margaret Macdonald; m. 1858 Amelia McGillis (d. 1901) of Alexandria, Upper Canada, and they had three sons; d. 6 March 1910 in Ottawa.

Of Scottish background, Francis McDougal was educated in Lancaster, in Glengarry County, and came to Bytown (Ottawa) in the early 1840s. He served for some time as the head clerk in a hardware establishment and went into business on his own account in 1851 as McDougal and Company, on Sussex Street in the Lower Town area of Bytown. He lived at his place of business, but shortly after his marriage in 1858 he built the house, on nearby Mackenzie Avenue, in which he would die.

McDougal’s trade in the 1860s, as the parliament and departmental buildings were being constructed, was described by an agent of R. G. Dun and Company as “a good one & with proper care will succeed well.” Success, however, remained problematic until the mid 1870s because of McDougal’s “periodic fits of intemperance.” A partnership formed about 1873 with John Cuzner allowed the firm to gain “steadily in business and general standing.” McDougal engaged in real-estate speculation and management in the rapidly growing national capital; in the census of 1871 he was listed as owning some 250 acres of land and more than 60 other properties.

For the most part, McDougal’s business activities, joined to his political and social life, were focused on the Lower Town area, where he became a leader of the Anglo-Catholic community, centred on the Reform party and eventually on St Brigid’s Church. He formally entered politics in December 1869, when he accepted a “large” requisition urging his nomination as an alderman for By Ward. Both his business and his home were located there. He was elected for the 1870 term, and was re-elected annually from 1871 to 1876; he served frequently on the prestigious finance committee. He re-entered city politics in 1881–83 as alderman for Ottawa Ward, also in Lower Town. After another year out, he was elected mayor in January 1885 and would be returned by acclamation for 1886.

The mayoral contest for 1885, which was typical of many in Ottawa, featured polarized communities and policies. McDougal stood for the Catholic and Reform components, both French and English, of Lower Town and the Chaudière area. His opponent, Jacob Erratt, who represented the Conservative interests of Upper Town, claimed that McDougal’s “friends had not hesitated to appeal to prejudices of race, of creed and politics,” a charge denied by McDougal. On the policy front, McDougal advocated “City Improvements and Electric Light,” while Erratt offered “Economy and Retrenchment.”

In his review of his two years in office, McDougal pointed to a number of initiatives, the most notable being the introduction of electric street lighting under a ten-year contract with the Ottawa Electric Light Company. As well, he persuaded the Ottawa City Passenger Railway to replace its above-grade rails with tram-rails flush with the street. On the streets themselves he had limestone gravel, which for years had been pulverized under wagon-wheels to create the “dusty” capital of the dominion, replaced by syenite stone. His period as mayor was also marked by a major federal incursion into the life of the municipality, as the dominion government began shaping a national capital by taking over the city’s bridges, the street in front of the Parliament Buildings, Cartier Square, and Major’s Hill Park.

After 1886 McDougal continued in the retail and wholesale hardware business. He served on the council of and was a vice-president of the Ottawa Board of Trade. In the 1890s he acted as a director of the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway, organized by lumber magnate John Rudolphus Booth*, and presided over the Retail Merchants’ Association. Among his other interests he was president of the Clan McDougall in Canada. He died of pneumonia in 1910, after a brief illness, and was survived by two sons.

John Taylor

Baker Library, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Canada, 13: 228B, 232, 254 (mfm. at NA). NA, MG 24, D2, 3: 768–69; RG 31, C1, 1871, Ottawa, By Ward: 75. Ottawa Citizen, 18 Dec. 1869; 5–6, 8 Jan., 31 Dec. 1885; 7 March 1910. Can., Statutes, 1899, c.81, schedule 1. Canadian album (Cochrane and Hopkins). Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1898). Directory, Ottawa, 1866/67–1887/88. Nécrologies des pierres tombales du cimetière Notre-Dame d’Ottawa (2v., s.l., s.d.), 2: 2 (copy in City of Ottawa Arch.). Ottawa, City Council, Minutes, 1870–76, 19 Jan. 1885, 18 Jan. 1886 (copies in City of Ottawa Arch.). J. H. Taylor, Ottawa: an illustrated history (Toronto, 1986), 74–117.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

John Taylor, “McDOUGAL, FRANCIS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcdougal_francis_13E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcdougal_francis_13E.html
Author of Article:   John Taylor
Title of Article:   McDOUGAL, FRANCIS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   May 29, 2023