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Failed gold miner found success as local lawyer, politician

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Phil Egan

In his colourful 1907 poem, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, Canadian poet Robert W. Service left us a memorable image of the Yukon Gold Rush prospector:

“Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;”

Timothy Blair Pardee died before the Yukon Gold Rush and the madness for “the muck called gold” caught the imagination of thousands of men who rushed there to stake their claims. But Pardee was just 19 when he joined those who similarly journeyed west for the California Gold Rush of 1849.

After failing to earn quick riches with the 49’ers, Pardee sailed to Australia to test his luck in the Victoria Gold Rush in 1851.

Poorer but wiser, Pardee made his way to Sarnia five years later. Articling at law in the office of Sarnia lawyer Joshua Adams, he was called to the bar in 1861. Soon, the young lawyer was appointed Crown Attorney for Lambton County.

In 1867, he was elected to represent Lambton as a Reform candidate in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and seven years later was appointed to the cabinet as commissioner of Crown lands in Oliver Mowat’s government.

Pardee would maintain this important portfolio for 16 years. He is credited with ending the notorious timber sale scandals of the era and gained fame as an adept administrator of the province’s natural resources.

Pardee served as a Liberal MPP for Lambton West from 1875 until 1889. Described as “a hearty, well-liked man,” he was popular in Sarnia and throughout the riding, regaling crowds with adventurous tales of his Gold Rush days in California and Australia. Around town he was known for his boundless energy, perception, tact and powers of persuasion.

The riding of Lambton West was carved out in 1875 from the previous riding of Lambton. Centred on Sarnia, it was abolished in 1966 before the 1967 provincial election. Sarnia then became its own riding with the balance of Lambton West incorporated into a restructured Lambton.

Pardee married Emma K. Forsyth of Sombra and fathered six children. One son, Frederick Forsyth Pardee, later served in the Canadian House of Commons.

Pardee resigned from the legislature in January of 1889 due to failing health. He died in Sarnia later that year.

 

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