One of the early settlers at Lucknow, and a leading business man, is James Somerville, who was born in Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland, January 31, 1826. His parents are Robert and Christian (Bennett) Somerville, his father being a builder, and yet living, his home being in Dundas, Ontario. James received a good high school education; at sixteen, came, with the family, to Dundas; there worked one year in a cabinet shop; ran an oatmeal mill two years; learned the trade of a millwright; worked at it, with head-quarters at Dundas, until 1851; then removed to the township of Wawanosh, five miles from where Lucknow stands, and there built a saw mill and grist mill for himself, subsequently adding other mills in the vicinity, for other parties. He built the first grist mill, not only in Wawanosh but in the townships of McKillop and Kinloss. The marks of his energetic spirit and industrious hands are seen in many places in this part of the Province, but most deeply in Lucknow, to which place he removed in 1858, surveying the site and laying it out. Here he built a saw mill and grist mill, and, eventually carding mills and a. fanning mill factory; and has driven business of various kinds for more than twenty years. He disposed of his saw mill and grist mills a few years ago, and still owns the others, renting the carding mills and factory. Latterly he has been a conveyencer, and is doing an extensive business.
Though a very busy man in his own affairs, Mr. Somerville has held various offices, and done some valuable work in such situations. He was at first councilor in Wawanosh (1853), when it was a bush township; has since been in the council of Kinloss township; has been a magistrate since 1854, and a notary public nearly as long. He is also a commissioner for the Court of Queen’s Bench, and is a straightforward, prompt and efficient business man.
Mr. Somerville is a Reformer, and in 1872 was the candidate of his party in the North Riding of Huron in the Dominion Parliament, but the Riding is Conservative, and he failed of being elected. We believe he does not look upon his defeat as a serious calamity, either to the world or himself.
He has been an Odd Fellow about thirty years, and was the first Noble Grand in Lucknow; he is also First Principal in the Royal Arch Chapter of Free Masons.
September 23, 1849, he married Miss Mary Bennett, of Dundas, daughter of Hugh Bennett, and of eight children, the fruit of this union, only five, three sons and two daughters, are living.
Mr. Somerville has had his share of the rough and tumble of pioneer life, and knows what hardships are. The year he came to Lucknow, the crops in this part of the Province failed, and in the spring of 1859 there was a dearth of provisions. Wheat, ninety cents in Toronto, was worth nearly three dollars a bushel here. The people subsisted mostly on cornmeal, Mr. Somerville keeping his mill running night and day. His reminiscences of early days here are quite amusing. He is a good talker. His exterior has never suffered from over polish, but his feelings are tender and kind, and he is especially friendly to the suffering, his heart being as large as one stout man can well carry.