Few men now living in Ontario have done more, by tongue, pen, and purse, to aid in bringing settlers into this Province, than Alexander Peter Cockburn, Member of Parliament for Muskoka. He is a son of Peter Cockburn, who left Berwickshire, Scotland, in 1815, and settled at Finch, Stormont County, Ont., where the son was born April 7, 1837. His mother was Mary McMillan, of Invernesshire, Scotland. He was educated in his native place, and was in the mercantile and lumber business with his father, until 1866, acting a small part of his time as Reeve of Eldon, County of Victoria. He sat for North Victoria, in the Ontario Assembly, from the general election in 1867 to 1871, declining at the time to longer serve in that body. While in the Assembly he was one of the leading men in aiding to develop a liberal land and railway policy for the Province.
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Mr. Cockburn was one of the first men to move in the development of the District of Muskoka, putting a steamer on the lakes there in 1866. In November, 1867, a society called the Settlers’ Association of Muskoka, was formed through his instrumentality; he was elected President, and in April, 1868, he delivered an address before that body, giving an account of the character, resources, size, &c., of the District, and predicting that in a few years it would have 20,000 inhabitants. That was twelve years ago, and his prediction proved correct. The agricultural population alone comes up to those figures, there being between 3,000 and 4,000 farms under cultivation. The District has about 1,500,000 acres, three-fourths of it arable land; and through the energy and public spirit of a few such men as Mr. Cockburn, in a dozen short years it has been largely appropriated by thrifty farmers.
Mr. Cockburn was elected to his present seat in the House of Commons at the general election in 1872, but was not returned at the time, owing to some unscrupulous and unlawful acts of political enemies in the county. However, immediately on the assembling of Parliament, in March, 187:3, the case was ably and clearly presented to the House by the Hon. Edward Blake, and Mr. Cockburn was allowed to take his seat before any business was transacted, except the election of Speaker. The returning officer was then summoned to the Bar of the House, and admonished.
Mr. Cockburn was re-elected in 1874 and 1878. He has labored in Parliament, as well as out of it, earnestly and successfully, to promote a vigorous policy for the development of the great northern districts by the construction of railways, colonization roads, and the improvement of internal navigation for small steamers, in conjunction with a liberal land policy for actual settlers. He is a vessel owner, and forwarder on the lakes of Muskoka, and proprietor of the steamboat line there. His life demonstrates the fact that continued zealous toil will bring success, and that a pure and honest life brings its reward. His politics are liberal.
Mr. Cockburn has written largely on the topics just specified, commencing as early as 1865, and his pen is not laid aside yet. He is the author of “A Few Weeks in the North,” published in 1866, and which attracted considerable attention from the Government of old Canada, particularly from the Commissioner of Agriculture, Hon. T. D’Arcy McGee. Mr. Cockburn assisted, in 1868, in the preparation of the “Settler’s Guide,” and also in the preparation of the “Tourist’s Guide to the Northern Lakes, in the years 1874, ’75 and ’76. He is a man of great industry and application, and has given much time to the furtherance of the general interests of the Dominion.
September 24, 1864, Miss Mary Helen Proctor, of Beaverton, Ont., was joined in marriage with Mr. Cockburn, and they have six children.