Charles Lawrence Dunbar K.C.

Author: Unknown

Publication Date: 1965

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One of the city’s most famous legal minds, Charles Lawrence Dunbar, K.C., lawyer and philanthropist, died quietly at his Queen Street West home this morning in his 80th year. He was senior partner in the firm of Dunbar, Goetz, and Dunbar, Barristers, of this city, and had been active in law practice for nearly half a century, before a recent illness forced him to give up active participation.

He was born in Guelph, April 5, 1870, son of the late Alexander Dunbar, K.C. and Catherine McMillan. He received elementary and high school education in the Royal City and for a period of three years took private tuition in England.


C. L. Dunbar was one of three sons of Alexander Dunbar III who was born in Eramosa Township, son of Robert Dunbar, who was son of George Dunbar, born in Ireland who came with his father, Alexander Dunbar, Sr. from Ireland in 1832. One of the original settler’s daughters was mother of James J. Hill, the great railway magnate, of St. Paul, in the United States. C. L. Dunbar’s father, Alexander III, was a prominent lawyer in Guelph, married Kate McMillan, daughter of Alexander McMillan who came in 1836 to settle in Erin Township. In 1939, C. L. Dunbar took as his second wife, Evelyn J. Knowles, daughter of Peter Knowles, Toronto. She later married the late J. Godfrey Smith. Hugh McMillan was named Judge of Victoria County in 1906 and was born in Erin Township where his father, Hugh McMillan, came from Scotland with his own father, Donald McMillan. Judge Hugh McMillan attended Rockwood Academy and matriculated from GCVI.

Mr. Dunbar was made a Queen’s Counsel in 1891. He was in partnership with the late Judge Hugh McMillan from 1896 to 1910 and then formed the firm that today retains the name ‘Dunbar, Goetz and Dunbar.’ He was the senior
partner, the others being Leo. W. Goetz, K.C., former local master of the Supreme Court and clerk of the County Court here; and Angus Dunbar, Q.C., his son.


He was called to the bar in October 1893 and read law with the late A. H. Macdonald, Q.C. of Guelph. (Mr. Macdonald was county Judge from 1854 to 1880 when he retired in September and died April 1881).

Mr. Dunbar was secretary of the Guelph Branch of the Patriotic Fund during the First Great War (1914-1918). He was active in every venture to benefit the welfare of his native city and worthwhile projects for charitable purpose.

An ardent fisherman and golfer, Dunbar was identified with the Guelph Golf and Country Club and the Caledon Mountain Trout club, holding the presidency of both organizations. He was married in 1896 to Maude Oxnard, daughter of George A. Oxnard. She died in June 1937. They had two children, Angus Dunbar Q.C., Guelph Lawyer, and Mrs. Kathleen Milner, Toronto. He had two brothers, Robert C. Dunbar, Ottawa, and Edgar A. Dunbar K.C., Mitchell, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta.


For 12 years, Dunbar was secretary of the South Wellington Reform Association, and for six years was its President. He served as Chairman of the Board of Education from 1898 to 1899. C. L. Dunbar was Alderman of the city of Guelph from 1899 to 1900 and was President of Wellington County Law Association in 1929. In 1931, he was elected a Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada and in 1946 was honored with a Life Membership in that law group.

On May 10, 1934, more than 100 prominent Guelph residents honored C. L. Dunbar for his contribution to philanthropic projects locally. He was presented with an engraved silver Tureen at a gathering at the Caledon Club. He was a member of the St. George’s Anglican Church.



References – Obituary, Mercury, March 3, 1950, written by Verne McIlwraith, originally. Also – reference to Historic Atlas, Wellington County, 1906.