The Owen Sound-based drug store chain of Parker and Cattle is credited with being the first pharmacy chain store enterprise in Canada. At one time the company had branch offices in Owen Sound, Goderich, Paris, Durham and Chatsworth.
I have always admired the pioneers who forged the communities in this region. Their grit and determination were amazing. In spite of many obstacles most of them were successful in more than a century. In 1857 their quest to establish a new life in the wilderness that became Grey and Bruce counties.
One of these pioneer entrepreneurs who interested me in particular was S.J. Parker. Parker was at the forefront of establishing many institutions which were a benefit to the citizens of Owen Sound. He developed the first telephone system, the water works, the electrical system and was an integral part of the creation of the hospital. Despite all of my efforts in searching the history of Owen Sound I had up until a few weeks ago been unable to find out much about S.J. Parker outside of his efforts to create the above-mentioned enterprises.
The information that I had been unable to discover arrived unexpectedly this fall when I received a telephone call from Marg Capel of the Owen Sound Historical Society. Mrs. Capel asked me if I would like to see some documents that she had pertaining to S.J. Parker and his family! Among the many documents about the Parker family I found an article written by John Parker in 1920 for a publication called "Druggists' Weekly ' describing the evolution of the Parker Drug Store chain and containing some very interesting information about S.J. Parker.
In 1855 Joseph W. Parker and George Cattle arrived in the Canadian colony at Toronto. The two men had never met before, but during their Atlantic crossing they decided that once they had established themselves in the colony, they would go into business together. After working in Toronto for a year, the two men headed to Owen Sound in 1856 where they established a business in what was then known as the Cavers block on Union Street (now 8th Street East). In 1862, the store was moved to Poulette Street (now 2nd Ave. East) where it remained for more than a century. In 1857, more of the Parker clan arrived in Canada when Henry and S.J. sailed to the new world. During that year George Cattle went to Goderich to open up a branch store and shortly afterward Henry Parker went to Durham to establish a drug store. This marked the beginning of what many consider to be Canada's first pharmacy chain store enterprise.
A decade later in 1868, S.J. was sent to run a new store that the company had opened in Paris, Ontario. However, S.J. did not remain in Paris for long. In 1869, Joseph W. Parker died and S.J. returned to Owen Sound to direct operations at the main branch of the chain. The following year the partnership between George Cattle and the Parkers was dissolved and in 1870 the new firm of Parker and Company made its debut in Owen Sound.
The Drug Store chain of Parker and Cattle is credited with being the first pharmacy chain store enterprise in Canada. At one time the company had branch offices in Owen Sound, Goderich, Paris, Durham and Chatsworth. Three years after taking over the Owen Sound store, S.J. retired from active duty in the day-to-day operations. This move did not signal the end of his career, instead it marked the beginning of an even more ambitious time. In 1873 S.J. Parker became the Treasurer of Grey County, a position he held until 1918, the year before he passed away. But this was only one of the many endeavours which would consume his time for the next 45 years.
I would like to thank Marg Capel for lending to me her collection of documents about S.J. Parker and his family.
An version of "Canada's First Pharmacy Chain Store" originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on December 15, 2000.
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