Among the older merchants, still in business, in Oakville, is John Barclay, a son of Matthew and Mary (Fleming) Barclay, born in Paisley, Scotland, August 19, 1820. He is an older brother of Francis Barclay, of Georgetown, whose sketch also appears in this volume; received a grammar school education in the old country; came to Canada with the family in 1832; attended school at Markham six months, and there assisted his father in tilling the soil until 1847, when he came to Oakville. Here he was a clerk in the post office, and four years in the dry goods store of William F. Romain; in May, 1853, commenced business for him self, opening a general variety store, having continued steady in trade here for twenty-seven years. For the larger part of this time his business has averaged from $30,000 to $35,000 a year, he being one of the best known merchants in the county of Halton. He is also dealing in grain, and the character of no trafficker of any class in this vicinity stands fairer.
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Mr. Barclay is a prudent and cautious man, watching his business with an eagle eye, yet never overlooking his duties as a citizen, and willingly sharing in the burdens of municipal office, When the town was incorporated (1857) he went into the council, serving several
terms; was reeve between four and five years, mayor four terms in succession, and has been on the school board for a long period and its chairman the last four years. He believes in progress in everything that is worth having; and the existence of a high school in Oakville the only one in the county is owing to the untiring exertions of a few such public spirited men as Mr. Barclay.
He is a member of the Presbyterian church, has been a sessions clerk at least thirty-five years, an elder nearly as long, superintendent of the Sunday school a quarter of a century, and a delegate at sundry times to both the Synod and the General Assembly. It is this class of men who aid largely in giving tone to society.
He holds a Captain’s commission in the Sedentary Militia, and held that of a Lieutenant in the Oakville Volunteer corps; but we cannot learn that he has ever seen a battlefield.
In 1853, Mr. Barclay chose for his life companion Miss Jane Arnott, a native of Dumfries-shire, Scotland, and she has had six children, losing one of them.