Owen Sound Became a City 

Owen Sound became a city on July 1, 1920 after much discussion with the County of Grey.

Tomorrow, July 1, 2000, is a significant date in the history of Owen Sound. On that date, eighty years ago, a huge celebration was held in this community. 20,000 celebrants from far and wide travelled here not only to celebrate Canada's birthday, but also to mark the occasion of Owen Sound becoming a city. 

Ironically, the actual date of incorporation was supposed to have been June 1, but the leaders feared that another event slated to begin on May 31, would keep citizens away from the festivities, so they delayed their party until July 1. 

The process by which Owen Sound became a city  was relatively short. On March 8, 1920, town council authorized the preliminary steps towards achieving status as a city. The process was surprisingly speedy, but it did not come without some problems. 

At that March 8 council meeting, Mayor Roland Patterson read a statement which had been prepared for council by the law firm of Wright, Birnie and Telford which estimated that Owen Sound's quest to be a city, and to separate from the County of Grey, would result in a savings of at least $16,600 in taxes for the citizens of the community. 

A week after this statement and proposal were read, a special meeting of council was called. At this session, Councillors E.W. McQuay and M.D. Lemon formally introduced a bylaw authorizing an application to the provincial Legislature for an act to incorporate Owen Sound as a city. 

Grey County Council opposed this move by Owen Sound and that body held meetings on March 25 and 26 to consider their options. Later, on March 26, representatives from the county met with their Owen Sound counterparts. 

Unfortunately, the two sides could not agree upon a solution. 

One of the stumbling blocks appears to have been the cost of building and maintaining roads in the area. A short time earlier, the county had adopted a county road system and extensive construction was contemplated. 

On April 22, D.J. Taylor, the MLA for North Grey, presented a private member's bill to the Legislature. However, this request for the incorporation of Owen Sound as a city did not pass easily. 

H.G. Biggs, the Minister of Public Works and Highways for the provincial government announced to the Legislature that he would not support Taylor's bill unless some provision was made for Owen Sound paying a share of the cost of the construction and maintenance of roads which would serve the new city.

A meeting between Owen Sound and Grey County representatives was held in the Minister's office and a solution was ironed out. 

It was decided that a suburban commission should be struck and that the new city and the county would share equally in the construction and maintenance of the suburban roads, up to a limit of $12,000 per year with the province paying 40 per cent of the construction costs. 

Although neither side was totally satisfied with the solution, it was approved, and Owen Sound became a city. 

Initially the date of incorporation was set for June 1, 1920, however there was another snag in the plans. A circus was due to arrive in Owen Sound on May 31st, and the mayor and council feared that the circus acts would prove to be a greater attraction to the community' than the fact that Owen Sound was now a city! 

The information for this article came from many sources. However, of primary importance was various articles which appeared in issues of the Owen Sound Sun Times

A version of "Owen Sound Became a City" originally appeared in my Local History column in the June 30, 2000 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.