This is the obituary of William Currie Dobie, mainly from the Port Arthur News Chronicle, Wednesday, November 14, 1928, with an additional paragraph [1 bracketed thus] from his obituary in the Toronto Mail of the same date. Additional information [2 bracketed thus] is taken from a biography in The History of Ontario, Vol. 2, Pages 795-6, which was published about 1907.


30,000 CASES


Active in School Affairs and First Initiate of
Shuniah Masonic Lodge

William Currie Dobie
William Currie Dobie

William Currie Dobie, for thirty-one years Police Magistrate in Port Arthur, died at his home, 16 Regent Street, at 6:30 last evening, in his ninetieth year. Mr. Dobie had been ailing for several weeks, but it was not until a week ago that his condition became serious. He recently underwent a minor operation, but members of the family say it did not contribute to his death.

The news of Mr. Dobie's death, while not unexpected, was a shock to the citizens of Port Arthur and Fort William who had known him for many years. His death removes one of Port Arthur's earliest citizens, a resident of the city and district for more than half a century.

Crossed Atlantic by Sail

Born in Liverpool, England, September 1, 1839, Mr. Dobie came to Canada when ten years of age, crossing the ocean in a sailing vessel which took many days to make the passage. With his parents he settled in Bruce County, Ontario, and moved to Port Arthur in 1872. Here he engaged in business with Thos. Marks & Bros. as supervisor of the company's various activities in the town. He was appointed Police Magistrate in 1890 for the town of Port Arthur and the district, which extended as far East as Chapleau, a distance of 400 miles. He retired from the Bench October 31, 1921, and his place was taken by W.W. O'Brien, formerly District Magistrate at Fort William.

Tried 30,000 Cases

During his tenure of office Mr. Dobie tried no fewer than 30,000 cases in the Port Arthur Police Court, and it was to his credit that only seven out of that total were appealed, and in the more serious cases out of the seven his judgement was upheld by the appeal court judges. The longest sentence ever imposed by him on an offender was seven years with twenty lashes. The early jurisdiction of Mr. Dobie extended from Port Arthur to Rideout, on the Canadian Pacific Railway, although he never had occasion to go further East than White River. At the time of his appointment to the Bench there were only magistrates at Port Arthur, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Sudbury in the Western portion of Ontario.

Always Near Water

To quote from a Western daily (See column by "The Wanderer" in Winnipeg Evening Tribune, November 18, 1927) which recently published a biography of Mr. Dobie, the following is written: "Mr. Dobie hailed from the Mersey side, and it is said that those who are reared in the great ports of the world are never happy if they stray away from the sight of shipping. Port Arthur, despite the fact that it is as yet an inland, need concede few points to Liverpool in cosmopolitanism; it has this further advantage, that one need but step back from the shore to be in the primeval forest and among the treasure-bearing rocks. Mr. Dobie's choice of his New World home was a happy one. He was more than a good mixer; he had that indefinable bonhomie of the harbor-folk, that meets all races, creeds and colors on an equal footing. He has done his share of pioneering in Canada in a place where he could still keep one eye on a busy harbor and rub shoulders with the sturdy cosmopolites who ply the trackless ways of commerce."

Early Life

Mr. Dobie was the son of John and Isabella (Russell) Dobie of Dumfries, Scotland. He was educated at St. Peter's Presbyterian Boys' School, Birkenhead, England; public schools, Toronto; Whitby Grammar School, Whitby, Ontario. His first work was farming in County Grey, Ontario, where he had charge of his father's homestead until he was twenty-one years of age. [2 . . . Mr. Dobie made his way to western Ontario in 1860, being employed during the succeeding twelve years in Bruce Mines in the Algoma district.]

Sarah Dorothy Coatsworth
Sarah Dorothy Coatsworth.
Photocopy courtesy of Marilynn Clarke.

In 1865 he married Sarah Dorothy Coatsworth, of St. Joseph, Miss., [Incorrect information! Sarah Dorothy Coatsworth was born at Perry's lead mine, St. Francis County, Missouri, and was living at Bruce Mines with her family when she married] daughter of Joshua Coatsworth, mining engineer, [who was born in] Middleton, Durham, England [2 of Bruce Mines, who was at one time manager for the Montreal Mining Company at Michipicaten, [Michipicoten?] and later postmaster at Bruce Mines.]

[2 . . . In 1868 he entered the employ of the firm of Thomas Marks & Brother, in the capacity of clerk, there remaining for four years. In 1872 he was sent by that firm to take charge of its branch house at Port Arthur, then called Prince Arthur's Landing, and retained supervision of the business during the following twelve years.]

On his arrival in Prince Arthur's Landing in 1872, Mr. Dobie entered the employ of Thomas Marks & Bros., and remained with the firm until 1884, when he entered the general store business with John C. Hasking under the firm name of Hasking & Dobie. He later sold his interest in this business and in 1887 he entered into partnership with George Marks, Jr., and Harold A. Wiley, also in the general store business. The firm operated under the title of W.C. Dobie & Co. In 1889 he purchased the interests of Marks and Wiley and in 1894 disposed of the business to his son, J.C. Dobie who amalgamated with other concerns to form the present business of The Marks-Clavet-Dobie Co., Limited.

Public Service

Mr. Dobie's service to the public dates back many years. His first public office was as councillor for the Municipality of Shuniah before the Municipality of Port Arthur was established. He was five years a member of the Council of Shuniah. In 1886 he was elected a member of the Port Arthur Town Council and was re-elected in 1887 and 1888.

In educational matters the records of the Board of Education show that he was first elected a trustee of the School Board in 1875, serving also in 1876, '78 and '88. He was chairman of the Board in 1877, succeeding John Parke. He served continuously as secretary or auditor from 1879 to 1884. The Board of Education has no records from 1884 to 1903. In 1903 he was again elected a trustee and retired from the Board in 1907.

Other Activities

In politics Mr. Dobie was a Liberal, although he took no active part in politics for a number of years. He was an Inspector of Mines for the Dominion Government when the Silver Islet, Pie Island and Shuniah mines were in operation, and was also Overseer of Fisheries for the Dominion Government for many years.

In religion Mr. Dobie was a Presbyterian, being a member of and several times Chairman of the Board of Managers of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church. He assisted in gathering funds to build the first Presbyterian lecture room, as it was then called. That building is still standing and is today occupied by F. W. Virgo, South Court street, a half block South of Arthur on the East side. He also collected money for the first organ to provide music for the choir, of which he was precentor, being a great lover of music.

[1 . . . (he kept) voluminous diaries with an actual record of weather conditions dating back to 1872, when he first arrived in Port Arthur. (The headline of his obituary in the Mail referred to him as a "weather prophet").]

As a Mason
William Currie Dobie in Masonic regalia
In his Masonic regalia.

Mr. Dobie held the distinction of being the first initiate to Shuniah Lodge, A. F. & A. M., which occurred June 7, 1873. He was Master of Shuniah Lodge in 1876, 1877 and 1883, and District Deputy Grand Master of Algoma District. He entered Shuniah Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, on March 24, 1893; elected to the office of Scribe N. 1893, and Excellent Second Principal in 1897. He was a life member of both Shuniah Lodge and Shuniah Chapter, and in 1923 he was presented with the Masonic Long Service Medal by Grand Lodge. Mr. Dobie was also a member of Port Arthur Lodge, Independent Order of Oddfellows, and a Past District Deputy Grand Master.

Surviving Family

Mr Dobie is survived by two Sons, J.C. Dobie, of Marks-Clavet-Dobie Co., Limited; E.J.B. Dobie, of the Bonin-Dobie-Jackson Insurance Co.; two daughters, Elizabeth, at home, and Mrs. D.G. Sutherland, Vancouver, B.C. Two brothers and a sister also survive. They are James B., of Sudbury; Joseph B., of Owen Sound, and Mrs. T. Buchanan, of Thessalon, Ontario. Mrs. Dobie died August 1, 1879. One daughter, Wilna, died January 1, 1893, and Isobel died November 1, 1919.

Although his duties as Police Magistrate kept him at his office, and he had various offices during his thirty-one years on the Bench, Mr. Dobie found time to serve the public in many ways. He was an ardent educationalist, and many a man today owes to Mr. Dobie's zeal and energy the education he has and the position he holds in the mercantile and professional life of the country.

Friend of Children

Mr. Dobie had a warm heart for the children and not a few of the younger citizens will remember that friendly pat on the head he received when meeting with the Magistrate. He had always a kind word for the younger people, and it was his kindly manner and joking ways that endeared him to the school boys and girls of the earlier days. Hardly a Friday afternoon passed in the old Central School that Mr. Dobie did not visit one or more of the rooms and spend an afternoon in story telling, of bears, of wolves, of sailing the ocean and many other yarns of the old days. He was always a welcome figure at the schools, and probably no other man in the history of Port Arthur was better liked or more respected than Mr. Dobie, and his passing will recall to hundreds, their school days as no other thing could. It seemed that he lived his school days over again in those musty rooms of the Old Central.

Fond of books and worth-while literature, Mr. Dobie became a brilliant conversationalist and his long service on the Bench gave to him a vast store of human experience to impart to his listeners. He knew the true points of difference between workers and idlers, between knaves and honest men, between those who work wisely and those who work foolishly. His personality and intellectual vigor compelled attention and respect wherever he went. He was a good speaker and a man of good address and culture; conscientious and honest in all his dealings, a man of strong religious tendencies and a fine judge of human nature. It has been said of him that he would sacrifice the ends of legal justice where there was a faint hope of reformation of the prisoner.

During the Great War he assisted in the various patriotic organizations, and after the war he was sympathetic towards ex-soldiers who appeared before him for infractions of law. He maintained and often expressed in open court that it was a great difficulty for a man discharged from the army after long service and hardships to re-establish himself in civil life at short notice and he based many of his decisions on that understanding.

Magistrate O'Brien's Tribute

Police Magistrate W.W. O'Brien, before court commenced this morning, paid a tribute to former Police Magistrate W.C. Dobie. "It is with the deepest regret," Mr. O'Brien said, "that I have (......ace) this morning the death of one of Port Arthur's oldest and most esteemed citizen, in the person of William Currie Dobie, who for thirty-two years presided over this court. It had been my privilege to have been associated with the late Mr. Dobie for many years. No kinder-hearted man ever presided over this court. He was always careful, extremely careful, before he deprived any man of his liberty. To his family, the officials of this court, the police and myself extend deepest sympathy in the loss of a kind father, and to the citizens in their loss of a splendid and upright citizen."

Masonic Funeral

The funeral, Thursday afternoon, will be under Masonic auspices. It will leave the family residence, 16 Regent Street, at 2:30 o'clock, for service at St. Paul's United Church at 3 o'clock, to be conducted by Rev. Andrew Rodan. Pall bearers will be T.N. Andrew, Col. S.W. Ray, H.B. Hardy, T.F. Milne, Dr. C.N. Laurie and F.B. Allen. Mayor Hourigan has requested that during the time of the funeral, blinds be drawn in the stores of the city. Flags on the Whalen building, and public buildings are flying at half- mast today. The Masonic service will be in charge of S.W. Ray, Past District Deputy Grand Master.