LONGLEY (Langley), GEORGE, businessman, farmer, office holder, politician, and jp; baptized 22 April 1787 in Newbiggin, east of Penrith, England, third son of William Langley, tailor, and Sarah Scott; m. 18 Feb. 1824 Ruth Wells, and they had three sons, one of whom died in infancy, and one daughter; d. at sea en route from Quebec to London, and was buried 13 Aug. 1842 in the parish of Milton-next-Gravesend, England.
Emigrating to Quebec about 1812, George Longley entered the timber trade there and in 1815 became by provincial appointment a master culler and measurer, who could be engaged by timber merchants. He likely worked for one of the large timber-trading partnerships until about 1823 when he formed his own company, Longley and Dyke, with Joseph Dyke, a former principal clerk in the firm of Peter Patterson*. At their yard near Wolfe’s Cove (Anse au Foulon) they assembled cargoes of timber for export and also did some shipbuilding.
During the 1820s the focus of Longley’s interest broadened and changed. In February 1822 he had purchased a parcel of good farmland on the St Lawrence River in Augusta Township at Pointe au Baril, adjacent to the site where within a few months Ziba and Jehiel Phillips would establish the village of Maitland. Two years later he married a daughter of local businessman William Wells and by 1826, when he settled in Maitland, Longley had doubled his holdings to more than 460 acres and had acquired a controlling interest in a water-powered grist-mill in the area. He remained in partnership with Joseph Dyke until that December, after which he appears to have been interested in the timber trade at Quebec only as an occasional supplier. As late as 1833 he was petitioning against the timber tolls charged on the Rideau Canal.
Grist-milling for export was attractive in Upper Canada during the 1820s because of the completion of the Lachine and Welland canals, the opening up of rich wheat-growing lands around the lower Great Lakes, and the extension of British trade preferences to Canadian wheat and flour in 1825–27. Moreover, in contrast to ports located on the lakes, Maitland had advantages that could be reflected in the final cost of flour milled there. It could be loaded directly onto river-boats for the trip to Montreal, while flour produced elsewhere often had to be carried by lake-boats to the St Lawrence and then trans-shipped to vessels better suited to traversing rapids and canals. Longley soon recognized the limited capacity of the water-mill, and in 1827–28 he built a 90-foot stone windmill on Pointe au Baril. In about 1837, when the shortcomings of the windmill became apparent, it was enlarged and altered to become one of the earliest steam-powered mills in the province. After this time it could produce up to 150 barrels of flour a day and about 20 men were employed at peak periods. Among other benefits, the expansion enabled Longley to grind large volumes of wheat for such customers as John McDonald*, a major mill-owner at Gananoque.
Longley’s enterprise was also evident elsewhere in Maitland. In late 1827 or early 1828 he opened a merchant’s shop, which stocked a great variety of cloths, and he was postmaster from 1836 until his death. His farm was best known for its livestock, particularly sheep and cattle, which were sold and bred regularly to improve blood-lines in the interests of better animal husbandry. Near the mill and the farm he built for himself in 1828 an “elegant and commodious” stone villa which survives as one of the best examples of 19th-century domestic architecture in the province. Longley led the efforts that resulted in the construction in 1826–27 of St James (Anglican) Church, Maitland. He was instrumental as well in the establishment in 1833 of the Maitland Academy, a private school which closed about a year later.
Beyond the bounds of the village, Longley had limited but important interests. In 1828 he was swept into the House of Assembly for the riding of Grenville as a reformer, although he evidently admired the liberal policies of the British tory statesman George Canning. Longley seldom spoke in the house, but he was a conscientious member, giving particular support to a bill providing grants for agricultural societies and serving on the select committee on the Welland Canal Company. When the death of George IV brought about an unexpected dissolution and a general election in 1830, he was a candidate again but was defeated.
His public life thereafter was restricted largely to those interests with which he had been associated in the assembly. He was chosen the first president of the Grenville County Agricultural Society when it was formed in 1830. That year he was appointed to the committee formed in Brockville to improve navigation on the St Lawrence and from 1833 until his death he was a commissioner of the St Lawrence canals [see Jonas Jones]. In 1833 he received his first commission as a justice of the peace. During the 1830s he was a director of the Saint Lawrence Inland Marine Assurance Company and of the Brockville board of the Commercial Bank of the Midland District. Longley died in 1842 en route to England seeking a cure for ill health.
ACC, Diocese of Ont. Arch. (Kingston), St James Anglican Church (Maitland, Ont.), subscription list, April 1825. ANQ-Q, CN1-49, 6 oct. 1823; CN1-197, 17 sept. 1824. AO, MU 842, J. G. Malloch, diary, 31–33, 41, 79; MU 1760, George Longley to C. & J. McDonald, 24 Feb., 2, 19, 27 March, 4, 9 April, 20 June, 11, 19 Aug., 15, 21 Sept., 1 Oct. 1840; RG 21, United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Augusta Township, assessment rolls, 1822–50; RG 22, ser.155. Cumbria Record Office (Carlisle, Eng.), Reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials for the parish of Newbiggin, 22 April 1787. Grenville Land Registry Office (Prescott, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Augusta Township, concession 1, lots 27, 30–32. PAC, MG 24, I110, W. F. Wallace to his uncles in England, 2 July 1827 (photocopy); RG 5, A1: 65069–73, 69516–18; B9, 16: 1036; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841: 174, 176, 479, 492, 509, 517. QUA, 2239, box 13, folder 132, list of persons employed at mill (n.d.); MC, Wells family papers, Ruth Longley to W. B. Wells, 7 Oct. 1826, 9 March 1830, 21 Jan. 1833. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1846, 1: app.F, no.16. L.C., Statutes, 1808, c.27. U.C., House of Assembly, App. to the journal, 1833–34: 69–79. Brockville Gazette (Brockville, [Ont.]), 29 Jan., 19 Feb., 11 June 1830; 4 Jan. 1831. Brockville Recorder, 18 May, 16 Nov. 1830; 11 April 1833; 7 Dec. 1837; 23 May 1839; 20 July, 14 Dec. 1843; 29 Jan. 1852; 5 July 1855. Chronicle & Gazette, 23 Aug. 1828; 27 Nov. 1830; 29 June 1833; 6 June 1835; 26 March 1836; 21 June 1837; 18 May 1839; 19 Feb., 3 Dec. 1842; 19 April, 22 Nov. 1843; 20 Nov. 1847. Colonial Advocate, 12 May 1831. Montreal Gazette, 4 Aug. 1828, 1 Nov. 1830. Montreal Transcript, 17 Sept. 1842. Quebec Gazette, 13 July 1815, 7 July 1823. Upper Canada Gazette, 13 Jan. 1827. Quebec almanac, 1816–19. Quebec directory, 1822. W. H. Smith, Smith’s Canadian gazetteer; comprising statistical and general information respecting all parts of the upper province, or Canada West . . . (Toronto, 1846; repr. 1970). T. W. H. Leavitt, History of Leeds and Grenville, Ontario, from 1749 to 1879 . . . (Brockville, 1879; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972), 75–76.
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Cite This Article
Stephen Otto, “LONGLEY, GEORGE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 30, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/longley_george_7E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Stephen Otto|
|Title of Article:||LONGLEY, GEORGE|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1988|
|Year of revision:||1988|
|Access Date:||March 30, 2023|