John W. Coburn (1850-1939) was Worshipful Master of Ashlar Lodge, No.3 in 1893 and District Deputy Grand Master in 1894 & 1895. He moved to Ladysmith in 1899 and became active in the campaign to incorporate the City of Ladysmith. Upon incorporation of Ladysmith in 1904, he became the first Mayor of Ladysmith, serving two terms. He was also a member of St. John’s Lodge No. 21.
Here is some basic information about him from Ashlar Lodge, No.3 records:
- Born 1850 in New Brunswick
- Occupation: Trainman (in 1886)
- Initiated 3 April 1886
- Passed 8 May 1886
- Raised 11 June 1886
- Worshipful Master of Ashlar Lodge, No.3 in 1893
- District Deputy Grand Master in 1894 and 1895
- Demitted 3 January 1900. Re-affiliated 5 November 1913.
- Died June 1939
He was also a member of St. John’s Lodge, No.21 in Ladysmith. It appears he demitted from Ashlar Lodge, No.3 in 1900 when he moved to Ladysmith and joined St. John’s Lodge, No.21. He re-affiliated with Ashlar Lodge, No. 3 in 1913 after moving back to Nanaimo from Ladysmith.
Here is some more information we have discovered about John W. Coburn.
First, his 1939 obituary in the Vancouver Sun:
“John Coburn, B.C. Pioneer, Dies, Aged 79
Former lumberman Was First Mayor of Wellington
John W. Coburn, 79, pioneer lumberman, and resident of British Columbia for more than half a century, died Friday in hospital. He lived at 6138 Churchill Street [in Vancouver].
Mr. Coburn was born in New Brunswick and came to Vancouver Island in 1885. He was conductor on the E&N Railway for sixteen years.
In 1903 he entered the lumber business in Ladysmith and Nanaimo, retiring in 1930, when he came to Vancouver to reside.
Mr. Coburn was active in civic affairs and in church circles. He was the first Mayor of Wellington and incorporated the city of Ladysmith. He was prominent in the Masonic Order in Nanaimo and a member of the Canadian Club and the Rotary Club. He was a past president of Vancouver Pioneers’ Association.
Surviving are his wife; two sons, Dr. Wallace Coburn and Gordon Coburn; three daughters, Mrs. Anson C. Frost and Mrs. William T. Ewing, Vancouver; Mrs. Noel Collison, Victoria; twelve grandchildren; a niece, Miss Maud Williams, Vancouver; two sisters, Mrs. John Grieve, Harvey, N.B.; Mrs. Wallace Burpee, Fredericton, N.B.
Funeral services will be conducted n Nunn & Thomson’s Chapel, Cambie Street and 10th Avenue at 1 p.m. Monday by Rev. E.D. Braden D.D. Interment, family plot, Ocean View Burial Park.”
(Source: Vancouver Province, Saturday, 13 May 1939, page 16)
Here is his obituary in the Ladysmith Chronicle:
“John W. Coburn Died In Vancouver
John W. Coburn, 79, pioneer Vancouver Island railway and lumberman, first Mayor of Ladysmith, and former alderman of Nanaimo, died at his home in Vancouver last night.
Mr. Coburn was born in New Brunswick and came to British Columbia in 1885. He was employed the same year on the construction of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, and coupled the first car on Vancouver Island at Oyster Bay, now Ladysmith.
In 1894 Mr. Coburn began operating a sawmill at Shawnigan Lake and in the following seven years built up extensive operations on which he employed 500 men.
He entered civic politics as an alderman on the Wellington Town Council in 1899 and a year later was elected Mayor, holding that position only a few months before the town was disincorporated.
Five years later he was elected Mayor of Ladysmith, serving in that capacity for two terms, being the first Mayor of this city [Ladysmith].
In 1917 he became a member of the Nanaimo City Council. He was also the first president of the Nanaimo Board of Trade and in 1924 became president of the Associated Boards of Trade of Vancouver Island.
He is survived by his widow, two sons, Dr. Wallace Coburn and Gordon Coburn, and two daughters, Mrs. Anson C. Frost and Mrs. William T. Ewing, all of Vancouver, and another daughter, Mrs. Noel Collison, of Victoria.
The civic flag [in Ladysmith] was flying at half-mast at the beginning of the week in honor of Mr. Coburn.”
(Source: Ladysmith Chronicle, Friday, 26 May 1939 – from Ladysmith Archives collections)
Here is some more information about John W. Coburn from a 1990 publication on Ladysmith Heritage:
“John W. Coburn’s involvement with Ladysmith was relatively brief, spanning the years from 1901 to 1908, but during this time he was a central figure in the civic and industrial development of the community.
Mr. Coburn first came to Vancouver Island in 1885 where he found work in the railways. In 1887 he became the first conductor on the E&N, a post he held for the next fourteen years. During this time he was involved with the development of the Shawnigan Lake Lumber Company, and in 1901 he left the employ of the E&N to form his own business, the Ladysmith Lumber Company. Starting with a lumberyard and a sawmill, the latter at Fiddick’s Junction, he expanded his business in 1903 when he built a shingle mill on the Ladysmith waterfront, and another sawmill in the Cedar District in 1904. In that same year he became president of the re-organized Ladysmith Foundry.
In 1899 John Coburn had been elected Mayor of Wellington, the last that community would have. When he came to Ladysmith he continued his interest in civic affairs, joining the Board of Trade in 1902, and taking a lead in the drive to incorporate the new town. When incorporation was achieved in 1904, he became the first Mayor and served two terms.”
(Source: Ladysmith Heritage Registry, 1990, p.153 – from Ladysmith Archives collections)
The house John Coburn had built in 1903 is still standing at 641 Third Avenue in Ladysmith. It was designed by Victoria architects Thomas Hooper and C. Elwood Watkins, both Freemasons.
We will add more information about R.W.B. John W. Coburn as we discover it through additional research.
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