TERRILL, TIMOTHY LEE, lawyer, merchant; farmer, and politician; b. 12 March 1815 in Ascot Township, Sherbrooke County, L.C.; d. 26 Aug. 1879 in Stanstead, Que.
Timothy Lee Terrill’s father was Joseph Hazard Terrill, commissioner of small causes for the rugged pioneer settlement of Sherbrooke. Strong and ambitious, Timothy Lee was at 16 both a champion axeman and a keen student. During the rebellions of 1837–38, Timothy Lee interrupted his law studies to join his three brothers in a cavalry troop, where he earned a lieutenancy. These studies were in the offices of his brother Hazard Bailey, in Sherbrooke and then in Stanstead. On 25 July 1840 he was admitted to the bar of Lower Canada. His law practice and commercial ventures brought him almost instant wealth. He began his political career as an annexationist in 1849, entering politics in earnest when in 1852 cholera killed his brother Hazard Bailey, Liberal member of the assembly for Stanstead. Despite John A. Macdonald*’s efforts to free Stanstead for Alexander Tilloch Galt*, Terrill was elected by acclamation in his brother’s place on 23 Nov. 1852.
In 1854, Terrill, now a queen’s counsel, overwhelmed the Conservative John McConnell in the July general elections. In May 1856 he became provincial secretary in the Étienne-Paschal Taché* – Macdonald government. The choice of Terrill may be explained by the fact that though he was a Liberal, he was moderate rather than radical, that he was the brother of the brilliant Hazard Bailey, and above all that he was an available English Lower Canadian – the only one in the government. After his ritual resignation Terrill was re-elected on a platform emphasizing the honour of his appointment for the Eastern Townships, and advocating progressive government by moderate men. However, Terrill resigned his executive office in 1857 when his neglected business affairs fell “into confusion and disorder”; about the same time his family, including his wife Harriet, suffered ill health, and his baby son died. He continued in the assembly, however, and in the December 1857 general elections Stanstead returned him again, on the pledge that he would continue to protect the interests of the Stanstead, Shefford and Chambly Railroad. He had helped to raise funds for this enterprise and guided through the legislature all legislation affecting it.
After several serious paralytic attacks, Terrill retired from politics in 1861. He became one of the leading agriculturalists in the townships, an officer in the Stanstead Agricultural Society, and a breeder of prize livestock. Terrill also sat on the Council of Public Instruction from 1859 until its reorganization in 1869, “assisted in the direction” of at least one railway company, and was a leading director of the Eastern Townships Bank. He suffered a paralytic attack on 25 Aug. 1879 and died the next morning.
In person and spirit, Timothy Lee Terrill epitomized the pioneer. Attached to the land, he wrested an abundant living from it; loyal to his locality, he contributed much to its political, financial, and commercial growth. Wealthy, socially prominent, and personally affable, Terrill helped the Townships gain appropriate recognition in the broader context of the United Canadas.
[J. A. Macdonald], Letters (Johnson), I. Sherbrooke Gazette, 22, 29 July 1854. Stanstead Journal (Rock Island), 22 Feb. 1855; 5 June 1856; 5 March, 27 Aug., 22 Oct., 19 Nov., 3, 17, 27, 31 Dec. 1857; 26 Sept. 1861; 28 Aug., 4 Sept. 1879. Political appointments, 1841–1865 (J.-O. Coté). F.-J. Audet, “Commissions d’avocats de la province de Quebec, 1765 à 1849,” BRH, XXXIX (1933), 590. Chapais, Histoire du Canada, VII. Cornell, Alignment of political groups. Dent, Last forty years.