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Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski

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Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski (1813-1898)

1899 Obituary [1]

SIR CASIMIR STANISLAUS GZOWSKI, K.C.M.G., Honorary A.D.C. to the Queen, died at Toronto on the 24th August, 1898, at the age of 85.

Born at St. Petersburg on the 5th March, 1813, he was a son of Stanislaus, Count Gzowski, who held a commission in the Russian National Guard and was descended from an old Polish family, ennobled in the sixteenth century. The subject of this notice was educated at the Military Engineering School at Kremenetz, and in 1830 obtained a commission in the Imperial Russian Engineers.

Three years later, however, owing to the part he, with other officers of the same nationality, had taken in the Polish insurrection of 1830-31, he was, after having been confined in a military prison for some months, shipped to the United States. With his fellow-exiles, he landed in New York in the summer of 1833, without friends or money, and with nothing but his engineering skill and an iron constitution to aid him. Gzowski's first task was to learn the English language, of which he was entirely ignorant. While thus occupied, he obtained the means of livelihood by teaching German and French in New York, and by giving lessons in drawing and fencing. Turning his attention to law, he articled himself to Mr. Parker Hall, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and while studying under that gentleman continued to maintain himself by teaching in his spare time. His industry, ability and social qualities, coupled with his romantic history, soon made him well known in Pittsfield.

In 1837, he was admitted as a citizen of the United States, and was enrolled as an advocate in Pennsylvania, where he practised until 1841. h the latter year, with a view of securing a contract in connection with the widening of the Welland Canal, Mr. Gzowski went to Toronto, where he met some of the leading public men of the Dominion. Sir Charles Bagot, who was then at the head of the Canadian Government, formed a high opinion of Mr. Gzowski's ability, and procured for him an appointment in the Public Works Department. This was the beginning of his long and distinguished career in the Dominion, extending over fifty-six years. In 1846 he became naturalized as a British subject. Two years later he left the Public Works Department, and was appointed Chief Engineer on the construction of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway, which subsequently formed part of the Grand Trunk system.

In 1852 Mr. Gzowski entered into partnership with Sir Alexander Galt, the late Mr. Luther H. Holton and the Hon. D. L. Macpherson. Among the works carried out by that firm were the railways from Toronto to Sarnia, Port Huron to Detroit, and London to St. Mary's in the province of Ontario, and the construction of the International Bridge across the Niagara River near Buffalo, which was completed in 1873.

From that date Mr. Gzowski practised on his own account, and was largely consulted by the Dominion Government with reference to railways, canals and harbours. He was also interested in military matters, and took an active part in forming the Rifle Association of Ontario. He acted as President of the Dominion Rifle Association, and was instrumental in sending the first Canadian team to Wimbledon.

In 1873 he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Central Division of Volunteers in Toronto, and six years later he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, and was gazetted an Honorary A.D.C. to the Queen. In recognition of valuable services rendered to the Dominion of Canada, he was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1890. He held office in 1896 as Administrator of the Government of Ontario.

Sir Casimir Gzowski was Chairman of the Niagara Falls Park Commission, and was connected with several important financial undertakings. He was one of the founders of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, of which he was elected President for three consecutive years, 1889-91, and endowed a silver medal, known as the Gzowski Medal for the best original Paper read before the Society, besides contributing largely in other ways to its welfare.

He married in 1839, Maria, daughter of Dr. Beebe, of Erie, Pennsylvania, an eminent American physician. Of his ability and energy some indication has been given in this Notice, AS a man he was kind, courteous, and always ready to encourage and help the younger members of the profession.

He was elected a Member of the Institution on the 1st February, 1881.

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