A historical plaque honouring one of Barrie’s youngest and longest-serving judges is coming to Kempenfelt Park in the city’s east end.
James Robert Gowan was only 27 years old when he became Simcoe County’s first judge when the district was created in 1843. He held that role until 1883.
Sir John A. Macdonald appointed Gowan to the Senate in 1885, where he served until his retirement in 1907 when he was 92 years old.
Gowan was knighted in 1905, four years before his death at the age of 94, on March 18, 1909.
Sir James Robert Gowan is buried in the family vault at Barrie Union Cemetery.
Gowan and his family had bought seven acres of land overlooking Kempenfelt Bay, between Duckworth Street and St. Vincent Park, and named it Ardraven.
After Gowan’s death, his heirs donated the section of Ardraven on the water side of Kempenfelt Bay to the town for use as a public park, now known as Kempenfelt Park.
The Ontario Heritage Trust will pay for the Gowan plague’s manufacture, wording and installation, which will be done to the city’s satisfaction.
During his life in Barrie, Gowan was also a member of Trinity Anglican Church, was a founding member of the Barrie Grammar School in 1843 and school board chairman from 1871 until 1892.
Gowan’s contributions to law in Canada include establishing the colony’s first legal periodical, the Upper Canada Law Journal, and advising leading politicians such as Macdonald.
There are currently six Ontario Heritage Trust plaques in Barrie: ‘Andrew Frederick Hunter 1863-1940’, located at 37 Mulcaster St.; ‘Hewitt Bernard 1825-1893’, on the Waterfront Heritage Trail; ‘Simcoe County Court House and Gaol’, at 87 Mulcaster St.; ‘Steamboating on Lake Simcoe’, Waterfront Heritage Trail Station No. 6; ‘Nine Mile Portage’, at Memorial Square/Meridian Place, but which was temporarily removed for construction; ‘William Edward Gallie’, which was broken and remains in storage at the R.A. Archer Operations Centre.
The Gallie plaque, which was formerly located at Queens Park, is scheduled for replacement at Waterfront Heritage Trail Station No. 8 in the new interpretive sign standard for the trail.
The Waterfront Heritage Trail, which opened in December 2016, will feature 11 interpretive stations along the lakeshore. Station No. 10, with the theme ‘East End’, is planned to contain a reference on a map to Gowan’s estate in its interpretive sign, targeted to be installed in late 2018.