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People: Scots of Windsor's Past

Gow Family:

Alexander Gow (1867-1927)

Alexander Gow
Alexander Gow

Alexander was born in Guelph to a Scottish immigrant named James Gow. He came to Windsor with his family as a child, and began working as an office boy at Bartlet & MacDonald. Displaying a diligent Scottish work ethic, Gow rose through the ranks and became a partner in the firm in 1903. For the next seventy years Windsor's biggest department store would be known as Bartlet, MacDonald & Gow, with Gow serving as the company's president from 1922 until his death.

Gow also served the community as commander of the Essex Home Guard, which originated in July 1915 after there was a dynamite explosion in Walkerville and an attempted attack on the armories.

The community loved and respected Gow, who passed away on St. Andrew's Day in 1927. Rev. Mr. Paulin of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church spoke to Gow's character at that evening's annual St. Andrew's Society banquet, commenting, "It seems altogether fitting that his passing should have taken place on [this day]." Nothing can identify his character, however, more than the "striking tribute" from "an employee" published the following day in the Border Cities Star:

The Gow Brothers

James Gow's nephew, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, would become famous for his World War I poem, "In Flanders' Field." His other sons also became men of local distinction. John became inspector of inland revenue in Kingston. Walter, a King's Council in Toronto, became a colonel during the war and served as deputy minister of the militia in England. George rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel during the time he spent in Saloniki and was decorated many times for his heroic efforts. After the war, George settled in Toronto and became a dentist. James, the only Gow brother besides Alexander to remain in Windsor, became a doctor in possession of what Star writer Angus Munro claimed "all good doctors hope to have - an awareness of the perversity of man, his weaknesses, his strengths, his failings, his triumphs." 1

Walter Gow
Walter Gow
Lt. Col. George Gow
Lt. Col. George Gow

Lieutenant-Colonel James S. Gow (1898-1953)

Lt. Col. James S. Gow
Lt. Col. James S. Gow

Born in Windsor to Alexander Gow and Annie Sinclair, in 1898, James distinguished himself during his school days and excelled in all of his classes. His studies, however, were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. Despite the fact that he was only sixteen years old when Canada declared war on Germany, Gow was determined to serve his country like his uncles. He enlisted with the 72nd Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery in Kingston and went overseas in 1917. Gow was then transferred to the 20th Battery in France, where he fought until German occupation.

Once peacetime settled in, Gow resumed the life of a twenty-year-old bachelor. He went to Montreal to study at McGill, from which he returned during summer break to work at Bartlet, MacDonald & Gow. After graduation, he remained in Montreal, becoming a chartered accountant in 1924. He returned to Windsor, however, when his father fell ill in 1926 to take over his role in the family business. The company's presidency passed to Colin MacDonald's son, George, and James assumed the position of vice-president and general manager.

On the eve of the Second World War, Gow was made commanding offiver of the Windsor Regiment and was presented to Their Majesties during the 1939 Royal Visit. When fighting broke out, he went on a tour of duty as a squadron leader with the rank of major with the Ontario Regiment, 11th Canadian Army Tank Battalion, with which he fought in Italy until 1941. He returned to Canada in 1942 to be a training instructor, and left for a second tour the following year as second-in-command to Lieutenant-Colonel D. C. Warnica with the 30th Recce Regiment of Windsor. He was sent home in 1944 on compassionate grounds after his brother was killed in combat.

A hero in his hometown, Gow served two two-year terms as Windsor's city controller, being elected in 1944 and 1946. His health faltering by the late 1940s, he declined to run for a third term and focused on his duties with Bartlet, MacDonald & Gow. Over five hundred people attended his funeral service.

  1. Munro, Angus, "Dr. James Gow," Windsor Daily Star, 27 September 1969. Windsor Public Library Scrapbook: Windsor Biography, Vol. 27, p. 63
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