A place in history: The Dowker Family

This is an article by T.R. Lee published in the June 1973 issue of News & Views. Thomas Lee was an active member of the St. George's Anglican Church in St-Anne-de-Bellevue.

A name which occupies a prominent spot in the story of Baie d'Urfé is DOWKER. The family also played an important part in the founding and support of St. George's Anglican Church, which is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year.

The patriarch of the family was Lt. Col. George Dowker. Born in 1825, he was the son of George Fowler Dowker of Salton, a small village in Yorkshire. The Dowkers were a devout family, a Dowker being Vicar of Salton from 1695 to 1835. Dowker came to Canada in 1847 when a young man, and married Susan Wright Leslie, of Quebec, in Montreal. He served with the militia at Stanstead during the Fenian Raid of 1867 and later commanded the Montreal Garrison Artillery.

Col. and Mrs. Dowker had seven children: George, who drowned at Beauharnois in 1881; Arthur H., Leslie Rose, Harry, Spencer, Gertrude and Vivian D. All lived in Ste. Anne's or vicinity as adults. The Dowker family came to Ste. Anne's from Montreal in the early 1860's but their first home, on the Lakeshore Road, east of the village, burned down. Col. Dowker built a new home on the same site and called it "Throstle Lodge" because a cousin in England had sent him a Throstle, an English bird.

It was here that many Montreal-based clergy visited when they took the first Protestant services in the area. Indeed, one of the divinity students who stayed there, Rev. Fred Graham, married Gertrude, Col. Dowker's only daughter, and later became Archdeacon of the Kootenay. Two of Col. Dowker's children are mentioned in connection with the very first days of St. George's Church - Leslie Rose Dowker, involved in the signing of the deeds for the land on which the church stands, and Arthur Hamilton Dowker, one of the two first church wardens.

On Col. Dowker's death in 1910, "Throstle Lodge" was inherited by Arthur. Arthur died in 1927 at the age of 75. The home still stands though somewhat modified and is owned by the Hickey family. At one time it was the home of a mayor of Baie d'Urfé, Dr. Harvey Cruickshank.

It is from Leslie Rose that Dowker's Island gets its name. A bachelor, he bought the island in 1887. In summer he "commuted" to his home on the island in a rowboat and maintained a small metal shed at the foot of the right-of-way in what is now Baie d'Urfé East, where he could sleep if it was too dark or too stormy to cross to the island. In winter he used horse and cutter. He died in 1945 at the age of 91.

Vivian Dowker, another of the Colonel's sons, was Baie d'Urfé's first mayor, and one of town's streets bears his name.

Arthur's son, George Newton Dowker, another ardent churchman, built a house, "The Cottonwoods", immediately east of "Throstle Lodge", and he and his wife, Gwen Rhydero Bagnall, raised six children there. All were baptized at St. George's. Their home was known in more recent times as "the Pilkey House", and then served as the residence of the Dean of Macdonald College. Four Dowkers were married in St. George's - Grace, Arthur's oldest daughter, who was married in the original frame church; Mary, the second daughter, whose marriage in 1911 was one of the first in the stone church... later razed by fire...and two of George Newton's daughters.

When the George Newton Dowkers moved to Ontario in 1933, it ended 70 years of Dowkers in Baie d'Urfé, Ste. Anne de Bellevue and vicinity.

T. R. Lee


Scans of the original June 1973 N&V article:

->back to "The Dowkers" (Note: you can also use the back-button in your web browser to get to the exact place were you came from)