Leonard Sydney McGill, known as “Syd” by his family, was born in Neepawa Manitoba on December 5th 1890. He was the youngest of four children born to Joseph Allen McGill and Susannah Wigmore. McGill completed an ungraduated degree at Wesley College in Winnipeg, now an affiliate of the University of Manitoba, in 1911 at the age of 21. He then taught school in Alberta, had a brief foray into the field of real estate, and then went back to teaching in Alberta, Creston BC, and Revelstoke BC. He began articling as a law clerk in 1912 at the firm of G.E. McCrossan in Vancouver. He was called to the bar and admitted as a solicitor in 1915. McGill enlisted as an officer with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1915 at the age of 25. He enlisted as a private in the DCOR (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles). He was a Lance Corporal by 1916. He was transferred to the 143rd battalion of the Canadian Infantry and departed for Europe with the 143rd on the S.S. Southland on February 17th 1917. The 143rd was largely broken up upon arrival in Europe, and McGill was transferred to the 29th battalion. He spent a year and a half at the front lines with the 29th battalion, including on the front near Ypres (Passchendaele) and Vimy in 1917. In 1920 he moved his law practice to Smithers, first located in rooms on the 2nd floor of J. Mason Adams’ drugstore at the corner of 2nd avenue and Main. In October 1920 he married Jessie McKay, and in October 1921 they purchased a home from W.F. Boyer at the corner of First Avenue and Queen Street. Children Allan, Joan, and Muriel were all born in Smithers, in 1922, 1923 and 1925. By 1926 he had established offices at the corner of Third Ave and Main Street, which became known as the McGill Building, with the family residing upstairs. McGill served as president of the Smithers Citizens Association, president of the District Board of Trade, and with the Associated Board of Trade of Northern B.C. He was also a director of the Bulkley Valley District Hospital. Secretary and Treasurer of the Smithers Miner’s and Prospector’s Association, and as President of the Omineca Chamber of Mines from 1926-1930. Like many prominent Smithers business owners, McGill had interests in local resource development. L.S. McGill and Associates purchased claims known as the Jessie Gold Mine on the Hudson Bay Mountain in 1926. The mine won first prize for the best specimen of gold-silver-lead ore in the province in a Vancouver exhibition in 1932. He later took on the paid position of manager for the Chamber of Mines. McGill died suddenly in 1934 at the age of 43.
Items were retained after death of McGill by his wife Jessie McGill, and passed to his eldest child, son Allan McGill. Items were then passed to Allan McGill’s sons, Peter, Hunter, and Christopher. The items were donated to the museum by the family in 2023.
Scope and Content
Fonds includes diaries, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and First World War memorabilia, two photographs of McGill, as well as a convocation booklet from 1911.