History of the County of Perth, 1825-1902
William Johnston, 1903
pp.548 and 551-552
Alexander Ferguson MacLAREN, M. P. for North Perth, was born in Perth, County of Lanark, on February 3rd, 1854. He is the son of John MacLaren, his mother being Ellen Buchanan Ferguson, whose brother Alexander, of Hibbert, was for many years a prominent public officer of that township. In 1855 the family came to Mitchell, residing there for two years, when they removed to Cromarty, then a rapidly growing Scotch settlement. Here young MacLaren was sent to school for a short period, the only education he ever received. His parents were, like many other pioneers, not over-burdened with a stock of this world's goods, leaving home and kindred because they were poor.
When still a boy, and before he reached his twelfth year, stern necessity compelled him to go out amongst the farmers and earn a living for himself. This condition, while it may have in some respects been unfortunate, was an excellent training for such a character as his. It taught him self-reliance, and the importance of hard and ceaseless labour, if he was ever to accomplish anything. If he were asked now the causes which have contributed t raise him to the distinguished position he has attained, his reply would be - honest effort and hard work. That is the old, old story of all great men.
At seventeen he relinquished farm life, and engaged with Mr George Hamilton, a pioneer dairyman in Hibbert, to learn cheese-making. He remained there only for a short time, however. Meantime Hon. Thomas Ballantyne had gradually worked his way to the front, not only as a manufacturer of cheese, but as one of the largest exporters in Western Canada. In 1877 Mr MacLaren accepted a position with Mr Ballantyne as a buyer, continuing in his employ for seven years. He was then offered and accepted a similar position with an Ingersoll Co., remaining there till 1890, when he established an export trade of his own. During 1892 he introduced a new product now known over the entire world as "MacLaren's Imperial Cheese." For disposing of this product offices have been established in Toronto, New York, London (England), Chicago, Detroit, Mexico, China, Japan and Africa.
His success as a cheese-maker and judge of dairy products brings his skill into active demand at all great central exhibitions on the American continent. Although a young man, he was chosen as sole judge in the cheese department at the World's Fair, Chicago, where Canada carried off many honours. At the Pan-American, in Buffalo, in 1901, he was sole judge, and in his own country he fills that important position at all our great exhibitions. It is most honourable to his conduct in this capacity that, notwithstanding the high standard of equality of the goods on exhibit, his awards have been received with a universal feeling of confidence.
Previous to 1895 Mr MacLaren, though quite decided in his opinions, had taken no active part in any political contest. During that year he was nominated by the Conservative party, and elected to Parliament for the North Riding of Perth, a Reformer having been previously returned. In 1900 he was again elected by an increased majority.
Mr MacLaren is a busy man, and, besides attending to his parliamentary duties, is a director in the Continental Life Insurance Co., a director in the Equity Fire Insurance Co., and a director in the National Cement Co., capital $1,000,000. He is president of the A. F. MacLaren Imperial Cheese Co., limited; president Imperial Wood Fibre Plaster Co., of Toronto; president Imperial Veneer Co., Toronto and Sudbury; director of Slate and Cement Co., Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., capital $2,000,000; director Industrial Fair Board, Toronto, and chairman of Dairy Committee; he was also president of the Western Dairymen's Association in 1896 and 1897.
On April 29, 1885, he married Miss Janet McLeod, and has one son, Kenneth Ferguson. Mr MacLaren is still youthful and robust, and has apparently many years of useful work before him, which, if we accept his past record, will be honourably employed in extending Canadian influence and enhancing the value of her products, exemplifying in his own life that great success can only be attained by unremitting toil and unswerving integrity of purpose.
Meg Fuller Perth County Coordinator
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