THURGAR, JOHN VENNER, merchant, banker, and militia officer; b. 1797 in Yorkshire, Eng.; m. Anna Paddock by whom he had two daughters and one son; d. in Saint John, N.B., 29 Feb. 1880.
John Venner Thurgar left England at the age of 20 to apprentice with his uncle, John Lawder (Lauder) Venner, a Saint John loyalist and owner of a wine and commission business. He succeeded his uncle as proprietor in 1823 and continued at the same location at Market Wharf for 57 years. He overcame many financial obstacles, including a large original debt, a near-ruinous swindle, a disastrous fire, and several severe economic depressions. Thurgar’s business steadily expanded into the United Kingdom, the West Indies, New York, and Boston.
Banking emerged as a vital part of Thurgar’s career when he became the founding president of the City Bank of Saint John in 1836. Three years later, when it merged with the Bank of New Brunswick, Thurgar became a director. He was a senior director of the Bank of British North America for 25 years, director of the Equitable and Marine Insurance companies, and Saint John agent for the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Land Company.
Thurgar also had a life-long interest in the local militia, entering the artillery corps as a private and rising to the rank of colonel. His son, John Venner Thurgar, followed this tradition, becoming lieutenant-colonel of the 3rd batallion of the Saint John City Militia.
In November 1864, when Thurgar handed over his firm’s operation to his son, the Saint John Globe wrote: “No man could retire from business with a cleaner record in every respect.” His will, drawn up nine years later, indicated that he had amassed considerable wealth and achieved an important social position in the community. Despite the fact that he was not a Saint John “native,” Thurgar had met the other requirements by which his contemporaries measured success: a thriving business and an influential marriage. For half a century, when Saint John was a vital part of the British empire, Thurgar was an important member of its commercial establishment.
N.B. Museum, J. V. Thurgar papers, letter book, 1827–31; Scrapbook 13, Clarence Ward, “Old times in Saint John,” clippings from Saint John Globe, 12 Aug. 1905. Census of Canada, 1870–71 (5v., Ottawa, 1873), for district 174. Royal Gazette (Fredericton), 1835–38. Saint John Daily Sun, 1 March 1880, 3 Nov. 1887. Dom. ann. reg., 1880–81, 432. R. M. Breckenridge, The Canadian banking system, 1817–1890 (American Economic Association pub., X, New York, 1895).