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Finding Aid - Newton Wesley Rowell fonds (PF224)

Newton Wesley Rowell fonds

1890-1891, 1936

3 cm of textual records

Biographical Sketch
Newton Wesley Rowell was born on 1 November 1867 in St. John's, Ontario, to parents Joseph Rowell and Nancy Green. After attending a local school, in 1883 Rowell took a commercial course in London, Ontario, and, in 1886, he passed his high school matriculation examinations and was admitted as a law student by the Law Society of Upper Canada. He remained in London as a student for law firm Fraser & Fraser from 1886 until 1891, when was called to the Bar. Rowell's early career was spent practising property and corporate law in Toronto with lawyer Isidore Hellmuth's firm. By 1902, Rowell was made a King's Counsel, and he became a senior partner in Rowell, Reid and Wood in 1903.

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Rowell was a lay minister and prominent member of the Methodist Church. It was through his affiliation with the church that Rowell met his wife, Nellie Langford, whom he married in 1901. Rowell remained a leading figure within the church, and he was involved in creation of the United Church of Canada in 1925.

Rowell's interest in politics led him to join the Liberal Party. He ran unsuccessfully for the Liberals in York East during the 1900 federal election. In 1911, he was appointed the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and won a seat as an MPP in Oxford North, serving as Leader of the Opposition. By 1917, Rowell was motivated to leave the Ontario Legislature and the Liberal Party to join Robert Borden's Unionist government as president of the Privy Council. He won a seat as MP for Durham in the December 1917 federal election and became Canada's first Minister of Health in 1919, but he did not run for re-election in 1921. In 1920, he served on a delegation representing Canada at a November assembly of the League of Nations.

By 1921, Rowell had returned to his law firm and began to appear in London, England, before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on a number of cases, most notably the 'Persons Case' in 1929. In 1932, he became the president of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and of the Canadian Bar Association, and an honorary bencher of Lincoln's Inn. He was an elected bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada from 1911 to 1926, and in 1935 he served a one-year term as Law Society treasurer. He was appointed Chief Justice of Ontario in 1936, but he retired from the position in 1938 after suffering a stroke. Newton Rowell died in Toronto on 22 November 1941.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of three letter books maintained by Newton Wesley Rowell while an articling student with the firm of Fraser and Fraser in London, Ontario. The volumes document Rowell's travels to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, Montana and Idaho to collect debts on behalf of the firm's client, Molson's Bank, who were attempting to recover the debts of two bankrupt London, Ontario, farm implement distributors. Also included in the fonds is a transcript of an address given by Rowell in 1936 while he was Chief Justice of Ontario.
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Reference Code / Title / Date
2016013-001 Letter book. -- Aug. 1890 - Sept. 1890
2016013-002 Letter book. -- Sept. 1890 - Nov. 1890
2016013-003 Letter book. -- Nov. 1890 - Jan. 1891
2018028-001 An address given by Newton Wesley Rowell. -- 11 Dec. 1936
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