McMILLAN, ANGUS, shipbuilder, merchant, banker, and politician; b. 29 Oct. 1817 in Argyll, Scotland, son of Hugh McMillan and Catherine MacPherson; m. 1855 Mary Ross, and they had three sons and one daughter; d. 13 March 1906 in Wheatley River, P.E.I.
Following a public-school education in Scotland, Angus McMillan immigrated to Prince Edward Island with his parents and siblings in 1834. The family settled in Wheatley River and engaged in farming. Scant documentation exists concerning McMillan’s early career on the Island, but years later, in its House of Assembly, he referred to having spent time in Upper Canada and New Brunswick and having travelled to Ireland in 1842.
McMillan was clearly resident in Prince Edward Island by 1851, when he was registered as building his first wooden ship, in Wheatley River. By 1857 he was living in Egmont Bay and beginning to gain prominence in shipbuilding. This activity became his major enterprise and he would construct 58 vessels at various locations before withdrawing from the business about 1884 as the building of wooden ships in the Maritimes declined. In 1866 McMillan moved to Summerside, where he established additional shipyards. His production peaked in the boom years of the mid 1870s, when he launched as many as five ships in one year. McMillan also became a merchant, transporting cargo on his new ships, destined for sale in Britain. His entrepreneurial career was marked by his appointment in 1865 as a director and then president of the Summerside Bank.
A liberal, McMillan entered politics as a consequence of his commercial leadership in the community, and he did so in dramatic fashion. In the 1868 by-election in Summerside (Prince County, 5th District) he defeated conservative leader James Colledge Pope* and joined the liberal majority in the assembly under Joseph Hensley*. During the campaign McMillan, in a manner that was to prove characteristic throughout his political career, had refused to take a stand on the contentious issue of public funding for denominational schools. It merited Island-wide attention, he said, but was not appropriate to a by-election. In subsequent debates over confederation, he voiced the concern that Canada was not offering enough money to resolve the Island’s landlord-tenant problems [see George Coles*; Edward Whelan*]. He nevertheless supported the building of the railway that would lead the Island into union in 1873 [see Robert Poore Haythorne*].
Defeated in 1872, McMillan was returned to the new provincial assembly in 1876 and for four months in 1878–79 he sat on the Executive Council. He contested 5th Prince unsuccessfully in 1882 and 1886, but in 1890, at 72, he was victorious. The following year he rejoined the Executive Council and was appointed provincial secretary and treasurer, as well as commissioner of crown and public lands, positions he held until he retired from politics on 27 Dec. 1900 because of his advancing age. The last years of his life were quietly spent with his unmarried daughter, Isabel, at Rowanawood in Wheatley River.
The life of Angus McMillan spanned a period in Island history that witnessed the major themes of the 19th century: immigration, the rise and fall of wooden-ship building, the land question, confederation, and the railway. Among figures noted for political expediency, “Honest Angus” stood out as consistent, remarkably loyal to his constituency, and characterized by a strict sense of integrity. In its obituary, the P. E. Island Agriculturist viewed him as “a liberal of the old school, a lifelong disciple of Coles, Whelan and Hensley.”
Maritime Hist. Arch., Memorial Univ. of Nfld (St John’s), Atlantic Canada Shipping Project, Ship registries of Prince Edward Island – builders (microfiche; copy at PARO). NA, RG 12, 154–393. Charlottetown Guardian, 15 March 1906. Patriot (Charlottetown), 1870, 11 April 1872, 1873. Pioneer (Summerside), 1890, 3 Dec. 1900, 17 March 1906. P.E. Island Agriculturist (Summerside), 17 March 1906. Summerside Journal, March 1906. Summerside Journal and Western Pioneer, 29 Oct., 19 Nov. 1868; 1869–70. CPG, 1872–92; 1898/99. Past and present of Prince Edward Island . . . , ed. D. A. MacKinnon and A. B. Warburton (Charlottetown, ). P.E.I., House of Assembly, Debates and proc., 1869–72, esp. 1870: 259–51; 1878; 1890–91. R. A. Rankin, Down at the shore: a history of Summerside, Prince Edward Island (1752–1945) (Charlottetown, 1980). I. R. Robertson, “Political realignment in pre-confederation Prince Edward Island, 1863–1870,” Acadiensis (Fredericton), 15 (1985–86), no.1: 35–58.