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Robert Lees Notes and Obituary
research by Sue Hill
[Newspaper clippings dated in handwriting Oct 10th 1893 - from the scrapbook of family history, photocopied from his cousin's scrapbook in the early 1960s by my grandfather Lawrence Brown]
In Memoriam
His work in Old Bytown and Participation in the History of Some Troublous Times - His Private Tastes
The funeral cortege which takes place tomorrow afternoon from Wildwood, Ottawa East to Beechwood, will be remembered by those who witness it, as the last sad rites of an honourable and useful man.

It is about 30 years since Robert Lees, the subject of this sketch, built for himself the quiet residence where on Monday last he breathed his last. Mr. Lees had a natural taste for the quietude of a semi-country life, and was moreover a lover of floral and horticultural pursuits, and for many years he was a prominent amateur in local exhibition displays.

His first law office was on George street opposite the Geological Museum, afterwards removing to the corner of Rideau and Walker streets, the building then occupied as a hotel by the late Thomas Mathews, and at present known as the Rideau street convent. Here Mr. Lees practised his profession until his appointment in 1857 to the clerkship of the peace and county crown attorneyship, when his office was removed to the courthouse. These joint offices he held from that date until the time of his death, 36 years. It was in the Rideau street building that the late J. J. Gemmell studied with Mr. Lees until Mr. Gemmell's death about four years ago. Mr. J.A. Gemmell, barrister, also studied with Mr. Lees some years after the latter's removal to the court house building.


It was in the troublous times of 1848 that Mr. Lees made Bytown his home. Politically he was a Reformer - a Radical of the time - and the memory of Canada's early government by compact and the vivid recollections of '37 were still disturbing incidents in the history of the times. Mr. Lees, for some years a school teacher, early espoused the cause of the Radicals and when, in '49, after the stormy meeting and subsequent fight in By ward market, a number of persons were arrested and tried for complicity in the riot and murder, Mr. Lees took up the defence of the accused of the Radical Party. These parties he ably defended and from that time on became obnoxious in a measure to the "super-loyal" element of the "stormy Monday" fracas. Feeling against Lord Elgin, our then governor-general, for sanctioning the Rebellion Losses Bill, ran high among the Tories and their loyal allies, and it was resolved that the public meeting called by Mayor John Scott should not be allowed to favour the approval of the measure. Hence the pulling down of the platform and the subsequent fight which marks a distinct and regrettable period in the history of our city.


These incidents are mentioned because Mr. Lees, from his well-known political leanings, and his having pleaded the cause of the accused, had become a prominent figure in the affairs of the times, and because also on
more than one occasion he was threatened with violence for his out-spoken words and his able defence of those brought before the court.

But in due time quietness and a better feeling prevailed and the subject of this sketch was reinstated in the minds and affections of all parties as a quiet, respectable and unoffending citizen. Mr. Lees practised law successfully, and after his appointment to office he dignified, by an orderly life and by the application of high attainments in his profession, the office conferred upon him by those in authority.

To speak of the many honourable positions occupied by Mr. Lees in his long and useful life in our midst would be superfluous, but while following closely his professional duties he yet found time to devote to civic, social and philanthropic efforts. For some years Mr. Lees was a member of the city council, and his services as a legal advisor for the board of management of the Protestant Orphans' Home from the date of its organization, cannot be too highly spoken of, all professional services having been given gratis.

Having spoken of none of the more prominent events in the life of the deceased during his long residence in Ottawa it is only necessary to say, his family relationship and his youthful history having been yesterday alluded to, that in the demise of Mr. Lees Ottawa has lost a good and useful citizen and the government a faithful official.

[On the same page of the scrapbook - dated in handwriting 1893]

Mr. Robert Lees, Q.C. County Crown Attorney, died at his home here this morning. Mr. Lees had been in poor health for some time, but last evening he was taken seriously ill. Heart failure was the immediate cause of death. Mr. Lees was one of the best known men in Ottawa and the County of Carleton. He was born in Dalkeith, Scotland, and when a child came with his parents to Canada in 1817, nearly 80 years ago. In 1819 his father became one of the pioneer settlers of Lanark county, taking up land near Perth. Mr. Lees was admitted as attorney in 1847 and called to the bar in 1848. He leaves a family of one son and four daughters. Two of the daughters are married, Mrs. R.D. Brown of Ottawa East, and Mrs. S. Preston, of Toronto. The remaining daughters, Miss Victoria and Miss Jessie Lees, lived with their father at the old homestead, Wildwood, Ottawa East. Mr. William Lees, the only son, was in his father's office studying law. Mrs. Lees, nee Miss Jessie Dickson, of Pakenham, died about seven years ago.

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