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The Dawes Family

Born in Ambleside, England, Thomas Dawes (about 1775-1863) was the eldest of six children. He arrived in Canada in his early thirties, in 1808. In 1811, he settled in the area of Montréal called Côte des Argoulets (today’s Verdun borough), where he found work at a brewery run by Joseph Chapman. The brewing business suited him, it seems, since it became his lifelong career.

Thomas Dawes married Charlotte Weller in 1817, with Joseph Chapman and James Ogilvie as witnesses. The Dawes and Ogilvie families appear to have been friends. The connection was confirmed a few years later when, on April 21, 1826, Thomas Dawes and his associate Archibald Ogilvie bought from Stephen Finchlay a parcel of land southwest of Montréal, near what is now 28th Avenue in Lachine. Banking on his experience, Dawes set out to operate a farm and a brewery on the 4-acre by 30-acre lot.   

All of the records in the Musée’s collection pertaining to Dawes family marriages, births and burials were registered in the Lachine parish as of 1832, when St. Andrew’s Church opened its doors. The history of Thomas Dawes, his brewery and his descendants remained closely tied to the history of Lachine until 1922, nearly a century during which the brewery’s growth and the city’s growth were indissociable. 

Thomas Dawes’s sons, grandsons and great-grandsons ran the family business in succession, but over the generations they pursued many interests aside from the brewery. Members of the Dawes family were active in politics, governed companies and banks and headed various associations.

From Father to Son

The Dawes men were endlessly enthusiastic. Not just about beer but about farming, horse breeding, industry, sports, advertising and the technological advances of their day, such as the telegraph, the telephone and the automobile. 

Brothers James Powley Dawes (1818-1879) and Thomas Amos Dawes (1829-1908), respectively second- and ninth-born of eleven children, assisted their father, Thomas, in running the farm and brewery. In 1863, when their father died, James Powley and Thomas Amos took over the business in accordance with his will. Under their co-direction the brewery was renamed J.P. & T.A. Dawes. James Powley distinguished himself in the business world. Remarkably for the times, Thomas Amos’s deafness did not hinder his career and community involvement. He served as mayor of Lachine in 1868-69 and as a justice of the peace, and was a steadfast financial supporter of the Lachine Rowing Club.

James Powley Dawes died in 1879. His two oldest sons, James Powley II (1843-1907) and Andrew Joseph (1846-1921), then ran the brewery, at first with their uncle, Thomas Amos, and then on their own. The brewery was renamed Dawes & Company. James Powley II, who had trained at the Burton-Upon-Trent Brewery, in England, sat on the boards of institutions, including the Windsor Hotel and the Merchants Bank of Canada, and played a key role in convincing the Dominion Bridge Company to locate in Lachine. He was of a generation of avid sportsmen, passionate about his race horses and yachting. He also sought out the latest technologies, especially any that might be useful at the brewery. Andrew Joseph, who survived his older brother by fifteen years, became president of National Breweries Ltd., the consortium of Quebec breweries established in 1909 to which Dawes belonged. He was a member of the board of such corporations as Bell Telephone, Northern Electric and London & Scottish Assurance, and took a keen interest in horticulture, farming and cars. He was mayor of Lachine from 1888 to 1893 and later, in 1907, a city councillor.

Norman James Dawes (1874-1967) and Kenneth Thomas Dawes (1884-1969), James Powley II’s sons, were the last generation to run the brewery. Respectively president and vice-president of National Breweries, they were graduates of the United States Brewing Academy, in New York. Norman James was president of the Montreal Board of Trade from 1929 to 1931 and a board member of several pulp and paper, insurance and engineering firms. He also served as president of several sporting clubs. Kenneth Thomas, like his brother and uncles, sat on corporate boards, including those of Title Guarantee & Trust Corporation and Dominion Glass. He was also president of the Montreal Tourist and Convention Bureau, vice-president of the company that ran the Montréal arenas and a governor of the Verdun Protestant Hospital. It was under the direction of Norman James and Kenneth Thomas, the fourth generation of Dawes to head the company, that the name was changed to Dawes Black Horse Brewery and that several memorable advertising strategies were developed. 

Resource References: 

genealogie_des_dawes.pdf: Concept: merlicht.com / Graphic layout: bertuch