Orlando Bush: Genesis and Exodus

Sons and Daughters


In the last years of the Nineteenth Century, a strange exodus took place, residents of Kemptville and surrounding area moved in large numbers to Alberta. Most of these migrants were members of the Baptist Church on Clothier Street West in the Village of Kemptville, and so many of them moved away to Alberta that the church had to close due to lack of numbers. The exodus included the founder and owner of the local newspaper, S. E. Walt, a local lawyer, Alexander Rutherford, who would go on to become the first Premier of Alberta, and a leading businessman and politician, Orlando Bush.

Orlando was born on Christmas Day, 1849, on a farm in Oxford-on-Rideau Township. His father, Henry, was the son of William Bush, a United Empire Loyalist who had arrived in Dundas County around 1790. His mother, Maria Stanley, had immigrated from Ireland. The couple had ten children, and Orlando lived on the family homestead until 1880, when he began a store in Kemptville. He quickly saw the potential in the growing dairy industry and began a career which saw him own a number of cheese factories around the area, and Orlando Bush was soon a major exporter of cheese to Britain and across the country. The main factory in Orlando’s chain was on the current site of the Kemptville Campus.

Orlando had added politics to his business interests, and served on the Oxford Township Council. He was Reeve of Oxford from 1886 until 1889, and was Warden of the United Counties in 1888.

From local, Orlando moved to provincial politics, and was elected as M.P.P. for Grenville in 1890 as a Conservative. He put a lot of energy into his role in Queen’s Park, sitting as a Member of Standing Committees dealing with Standing Orders, Municipal Laws and, closest to his business interests, the Committees struck to consider an Act to prevent the spread of noxious weeds and diseases affecting fruit trees in 1891, and an Act Providing against frauds in supplying milk to cheese or butter manufacturers in 1892.

He had problems, however. In the 1894 election campaign, his opponents revealed letters showing that Bush had promised to support the Mowat (Liberal) Ministry in return for support in the 1890 election, but had failed to live up to his promise. They also published a U.S. Government record indicating that Bush had actually taken out American citizenship in 1883, and was therefore not an acceptable representative for the people of Ontario. This was rather typical of Ontario political campaigns of the day; but it is certain that Bush was damaged by the revelations.

He resigned his seat in 1898 and moved to Edmonton, Alberta, at the same time as his fellow Baptist, Alexander Rutherford. He farmed and ranched in Clover Bar district east of Strathcona. In 1903, he established a real estate, insurance and loan agency at Strathcona. Orlando ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Commons in 1904. He served on the Strathcona city council from 1908 to 1910 and was also a member of the local school board. In 1908, he married Henryetta Bower after the death of his first wife, Ellen Mundle, a Kemptville native. Bush retired from farming in 1910 and from business in 1911. He served on Edmonton City Council in 1915 and 1917, after Strathcona amalgamated with Edmonton. Orlando died in 1927.

Orlando Bush had successful business and political careers in two provinces, and was one of those Kemptville residents who seem to have moved en masse to Alberta at the turn of the Twentieth Century, and contributed to the development of that part of the North West Territories into a Province in 1905. Building up a successful cheese manufacturing business, serving in municipal and provincial politics, and even being part of an exodus that helped to create a new Province in Canada, Orlando Bush had a full and productive life. Quite a life, for the young farm boy from Taylor Road.


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