GEORGE STEPHEN, 1st BARON MOUNT STEPHEN
FIRST CANADIAN PEER
Stephen, 1st Baron Mount Stephen (1829–1921) was a Scots-Quebecker
Financier, Bank of Montreal, and Founder of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
Born in Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland, the son of a carpenter, he was
educated at the parish school, after which he worked as a farm worker.
At the age of 21 he emigrated to Canada where for the next 15 years he
laboured in a relative's textile business. Driven by a desire to succeed
and his strong work ethic, Stephen also demonstrated a strong business
acumen. By 1866 he was running his own successful wool-importing company
then began investing in other enterprises. In the 1860s he entered the
railroad business by purchasing a major share position in the Montreal
Rolling Stock Company. In 1868 Stephen joined with Richard Bladworth
Angus, Andrew Paton, and his cousin Donald Alexander Smith to establish
the textile manufactory, Paton Manufacturing Company in Sherbrooke,
Quebec. Finance was a key element in the development of the Quebec and
Canadian economies, and Stephen's abilities saw him appointed a director
Bank of Montreal in 1871, he became vice-president in 1873 and was made
president in 1876.
There he exercised a major influence over the Montreal business
community and the Canadian economy. He became acquainted with Sir John
Alexander Macdonald, Conservative Prime Minister, and became an
unofficial advisor to Macdonald and his government.
Stephen partnered with Donald Smith, James Jerome Hill, and Norman
Kittson to purchase the near-bankrupt St. Paul and Pacific Railway in
Minnesota in the United States. They turned the business around,
restoring profitability and expanding its lines. Renamed the St. Paul,
Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway, Stephen and his partners then sold it
out for an enormous profit.
In 1880, Macdonald
encouraged Stephen to tackle the task of building the Canadian Pacific
Railway from Montreal to British Columbia. He became the founding
president in 1881 and
oversaw the huge and difficult task of constructing the costly
Transcontinental railroad. Because of his banking experience, Stephen
proved capable of putting together the complicated financing needed to
complete the project, despite cost overruns from numerous unanticipated
engineering and other problems. Having risked most of his wealth to
build the CPR, the success of the railroad soon made George Stephen
1880 he built, at an estimated cost of $600,000, a magnificent mansion
on Drummond Street in Montreal. Designed by William Tutin Thomas, it
remains one of the most opulent buildings in Montreal. After his passing
in 1928 it was converted to
the Mount Stephen Club.
Today it has a gourmet restaurant and is open to the public; the
building is regarded as one of the city's most important heritage
properties. A pioneer of the development of the sport fishery in Quebec,
Stephen fished the salmon rivers of eastern Quebec from the 1870s
onwards. In 1880 he built a fishing camp at La Fourche, Causapscal, at
the confluence of the Matapédia and the Cascapédia rivers.
His fishing lodge, now known as "Matamajaw" is a museum open to the
1886 he acquired several properties at Grand-Metis. His fishing camp,
which he called
was completed in 1887. He also became a generous philanthropist. In 1887
he and Donald Smith
donated $500,000 each for the
construction of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.
In England, he continued his generosity to hospitals,
donating $5 million to the King Edward's Hospital Fund
during his lifetime. He left the residue of his estate of more than $4
million to the fund. He died at Brocket Hall on 27 November 1921.
In 1890 Stephen retired to England, establishing residences at 25 St.
James's Place and later 17 Carlton House Terrace in London and at
Brocket Hall was Lord Mount Stephen's country estate in Hertfordshire,
England. Built in 1760,
Brocket Hall was the home
to two British Prime Ministers, Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston.
Stephen married Charlotte Kane in 1853, they had no children but adopted
Alice Brook as a girl. She married Sir Stafford Northcote, who was
Governor of Bombay and the Governor-General of Australia from 1904 to
1908. Lady Mount Stephen was presented to Queen Victoria in 1887. The
Queen and other members of the Royal Family, the Duchess of Albany, the
Prince and Princess of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, and the
Duchess of Teck were their guests at Brocket. An avid fisherman as well,
Lady Mount Stephen fished with her husband in Canada and the rivers of
Scotland. She apparently
introduced the canoe to
during one of her stays there. She died in 1896. She died in 1896. In
1897 Lord Mount Stephen married Gian Tufnell, who had been
Lady-in-waiting to Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, the mother
of Queen Mary. She was a lifelong friend and confidant of Queen Mary and
she and Lord Mount Stephen regularly entertained the Queen at Brocket
Hall. She bequeathed her collection of jewels and her diamond tiara to
George Stephen was awarded a
barony in 1891, becoming the first Canadian to attain the status of peer. His
assumed title, Baron Mount Stephen, was derived from a mountain in the
Kicking Horse River Valley of Yoho National Park in British Columbia
previously named in his honour. He lived at Brocket Hall in Welwyn,
Hertfordshire until his death in 1921.
This is a handwritten autographed letter
my Lord Mount Stephen dated 4 August 1908 and
addressed to Lord Halsbury, the Lord High
Chancellor of England. The letter is
four pages on one folded sheet on batonne laid paper and watermarked
"HENNINGHAM MOUNT ST LONDON EST.D 1889". Writing is on two pages. Each
page measures 4˝" wide by 7" tall (115mm x 180mm). Condition is Very
Fine with normal folds.