FEATHERSTONE, JOSEPH, farmer, breeder, and politician; b. 22 July 1843 in Trafalgar Township, Upper Canada, son of Thomas Featherstone and Margaret Ford; m. first 26 Feb. 1867 Isabella Malloy (d. 1893) in Vaughan Township, Upper Canada, and they had three sons and three daughters; m. secondly 20 Aug. 1902 Mary Thurston in Guelph, Ont., and they had one daughter who survived him; d. 17 July 1913 near Streetsville (Mississauga), Ont.
Joseph Featherstone was educated in the common schools of Halton County. In 1867, with money earned from assisting his neighbours in clearing land, he purchased a farm near the small village of Springfield on the Credit River. He chose this area because of its excellent access to transportation facilities, including Dundas Street, Port Credit harbour, and the Great Western Railway. Transportation was important to Featherstone because of his plans to export cattle. While clearing his land, he engaged in commercial butchering; according to the census of 1871 he had slaughtered or exported in the past year 4 cattle, 12 sheep, and 8 hogs of his own. For almost 30 years he specialized, evidently with two brothers, in shipping animals to Britain, but later he switched his emphasis to the domestic cattle market. Featherstone’s Pine Grove Farm raised Shorthorns, and he became a noted cattle dealer.
Featherstone’s agricultural fame, however, rests not on his cattle business but on his interest in pigs, for during that time he was also Canada’s foremost breeder of pigs. Often fed only on scraps and considered to be of marginal importance, hogs were the least improved branch of Canadian livestock. The typical Canadian hog, described in the 1830s as a “small greyhound with the great head of a rhinoceros,” was of limited use aside from domestic consumption. Canadian meat packers had a ready market for two types of animals: large pork or lard hogs such as Poland Chinas and Chester Whites for the North American mess-pork market, and lean bacon-type hogs such as Improved Yorkshires and Tamworths for the British market. Featherstone introduced Essex hogs into Ontario, had the oldest established registered herd of Improved Yorkshire hogs in Canada, and, at one point or another, raised every major breed, including Berkshires, Suffolks, Tamworths, and Chester Whites. The hogs of J. Featherstone and Son won prizes year after year all over North America and were particularly successful at the world’s fairs in New Orleans (1884–85) and Chicago (1893). Featherstone served as a provincial judge for numerous types of pigs, and was the first president of the Dominion Swine Breeders’ Association in 1890–91. He was president as well of the Dominion Livestock Association in 1887, and first vice-president of the Dominion Livestock Insurance Company in 1887–88. Featherstone’s introduction of breeding stock and the success of his herds, combined with his work in promoting and organizing the industry, served to improve the overall quality of Canadian swine. The accomplishments of his farm would continue under the leadership of his son John K.
Politics was Joseph Featherstone’s other major interest. At the local level he served from 1881 to 1889, first as a councillor, later as deputy reeve, and finally as reeve of Toronto Township. He entered the federal arena in the election of 1891 as the Liberal candidate for Peel. Featherstone won by a slim majority, but the election was declared void; at the subsequent by-election, in February 1892, he was returned. In 1896 he was re-elected by the largest margin in the history of the riding, and commentators credited his success to the fact that he had “the confidence of his fellow farmers to a remarkable degree.” In the general election of 1900, however, he was defeated.
Featherstone lived on his farm until his death. Within his community, he served as an elder in the Streetsville Presbyterian Church. In his latter years he was afflicted with Bright’s disease. He died at home a few days before his 70th birthday.
AO, RG 80-5-0-308, no.17841; RG 80-8-0-501, no.26166; RG 80-27-2, 85: 281. NA, RG 31, C1, 1871, Toronto Township (mfm. at AO). Brampton Conservator (Brampton, Ont.), 24 July 1913. Farmer’s Advocate and Home Magazine, April, September 1890; 1 Oct. 1891; 1 Nov. 1893; December 1903. Globe, 18 July 1913. Streetsville Review, and Port Credit Herald (Streetsville [Mississauga], Ont.), 24 July 1913. Michael Bliss, A Canadian millionaire: the life and business times of Sir Joseph Flavelle, bart., 1858–1939 (Toronto, 1978). Canadian directory of parl. (Johnson). Canadian Live-Stock and Farm Journal (Hamilton, Ont.; Toronto), 1883/84–90. CPG, 1897. A history of Peel County: to mark its centenary as a separate county, 1867–1967 (Toronto, 1967). R. L. Jones, History of agriculture in Ontario, 1613–1880 (Toronto, 1946; repr. Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1977). J. W. G. MacEwan, The breeds of farm live-stock in Canada (Toronto, 1941). Ontario agricultural commission, Report of the commissioners (4v., Toronto, 1881).