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NILES, WILLIAM E., farmer, businessman, magistrate, militia officer, and politician; b. 1799, Coeymans, New York, son of Henry Niles and Hannah Hicks; d. 17 Aug. 1873, London, Ont.

William E. Niles apparently first came to Upper Canada as a child with his brother Stephen to live with an uncle, Willet Casey, in Adolphustown Township. In 1820, Niles, then living at Detroit, was commissioned by Governor Lewis Cass of Michigan to purchase lumber from William Putnam of Putnamville, Middlesex County, Upper Canada. The following year he settled in Upper Canada near the present site of Nilestown, established a farm, erected a sawmill, and later operated a store. His sawmill was to supply “a large proportion of the lumber of which early London was built.”

Throughout his life Niles was “a staunch and consistent Reformer.” He was chairman on 8 Dec. 1837 of a meeting of leading Reformers in the London area, including John Talbot, Charles Latimer, William Putnam, and Edward Allen Talbot*, but his political career survived the aftermath of the rebellion. He served on the District of London (later the County of Middlesex) Council from 1842 until 1854, and was warden, 1847–54. He was appointed justice of the peace in 1849 and was made a lieutenant-colonel in the militia in 1851. Niles represented East Middlesex in the Legislative Assembly from 1854 to 1857, elected as a moderate Reformer in support of Francis Hincks*. He upheld the government, which became progressively more conservative, until April 1856 when he crossed over to the opposition. He was not a candidate in 1857. Elected one of the delegates from Middlesex County to the Reform convention of November 1859, he served as chairman of the committee on procedure.

Niles was a strong advocate of the construction of the Great Western Railway and, while warden, was one of its directors. He served as director of the East Middlesex Agricultural Society, as vice-president of the Provincial Agricultural Association, and, in 1866, as trustee of the short-lived Nilestown Oil Company. A landowner in London and Dorchester Township and a contractor, he was also an active promoter of the Agricultural Mutual Assurance Association of Canada (formerly County of Middlesex Mutual Fire Insurance Company), later becoming inspector of agencies with it and with the Isolated Risk Fire Insurance Company of Canada.

In 1821 Niles married Gertrude Dykert (Daggart), also a native of the United States, and sister-in-law of William Putnam, and they had four children, one of whom Annie Maria, married Ellis Walton Hyman. Raised as a Quaker, William Niles became a Presbyterian and later an Anglican. He was a prominent freemason.

Daniel J. Brock

Globe (Toronto), 10 Nov. 1859. London Advertiser, 18 Aug. 1873. London Free Press, 19 Aug. 1873. Jof Education for Ont., XXVI (October 1873), 157. Hudson-Mohawk genealogical and family memoirs, a record of achievements of the people of the Hudson and Mohawk valleys in New York State . . . , ed. Cuyler Reynolds (4v., New York, 1911), I, 4002. Pioneer life on the Bay of Quinte including genealogies of old families and biographical sketches of representative citizens (Toronto, n.d.), 59499. History of the county of Middlesex, 7479, 90, 115, 155, 283, 32223, 332, 488. Fred Landon, “London and its vicinity, 1837–38,” Ont. Hist., XXIV (1927), 41038.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Daniel J. Brock, “NILES, WILLIAM E,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 10, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/niles_william_e_10E.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:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/niles_william_e_10E.html
Author of Article:   Daniel J. Brock
Title of Article:   NILES, WILLIAM E
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1972
Year of revision:   1972
Access Date:   June 10, 2023