This community profile is of Frederick L. Fowke, a turn of the century politician. He is one of the characters included in this year’s Scenes from the Cemetery, taking place Sept 7 & 8 at Union Cemetery. Tickets are still available for this event – for more info, please visit the event website: scenesfromthecemetery.wordpress.com
Frederick Luther Fowke was born in Harmony Village in East Whitby on May 27, 1857.
The business activities of Mr. Fowke during the years from 1885 to 1915 spread into many fields. He succeeded to the business enterprises of his father and carried on a general store, a grain business and a coal business, not only in Oshawa but had branches in Bowmanville, Whitby, Newcastle and Port Hope.
From 1898 to 1907, he occupied the position of Mayor of Oshawa. This was at a time when Oshawa politicians held office for one year terms. While occupying this position he introduced many progressive reforms such as Granolithic sidewalks, harbour improvements and sewer construction. He was remembered mostly for his struggle for a public water supply.
On October 28, 1908, he was elected as a Liberal member of South Ontario to the House of Commons under Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He created many improvements for Ontario County during his term which lasted until 1911. The major issue of the 1911 election was reciprocity with the US; the Conservatives opposed free trade, and William Smith representing this party was elected, beating Fowke. As World War I raged on, the election of 1917 became about the war and conscription. Notably, Fowke split from supporting Laurier and the Liberals, who opposed conscription, and instead, supported Robert Borden and his Union Government. Locally, William Smith (Unionist) was facing WEN Sinclair (Opposition) in this election, and Smith was again successful.
In 1918, Fowke was appointed one of the three commissioners to restore the section of the City of Halifax which had been destroyed by an explosion, caused by the collision of French Relief Ship, the Mont Blanc, and the Belgium Relief Ship, the Imo on December 6, 1917. He was the only non-Haligonian to serve in such a role, and it was suggested by Dr. TE Kaiser¹ that his appointment was due to his support of Borden in 1917.
The Fowkes resided at 114 King St. East, now the offices of Kelly Greenway Bruce, which he named “Gladstone Villa.” He also had a summer home in Chester, Nova Scotia, where they enjoyed an active social life.
During his retirement he spent most of his time travelling. Frederick Luther Fowke died in 1939 and is buried in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery.
Scenes from the Cemetery is taking place Sept 7 & 8 at Union Cemetery; various start times, beginning at 2pm. We recommend buying your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment! To buy your tickets: scenesfromthecemetery.wordpress.com/tickets
- TE Kaiser, Historic Sketches of Oshawa (Oshawa: The Reformer Printing and Publishing Co., Ltd., 1921), 146-147.