Former Petrolia mayor, banker and long-time insurance agent
A number of the more mature folks
in Petrolia have often remarked that during his long life there were few in town more influential or highly esteemed than former mayor, banker, and local insurance agent Charles Egan.
A son of pioneer residents, Charles Egan was born in Petrolia July
9, 1864, two years prior to the town’s incorporation. As consequence, he had witnessed, and indeed was instrumental, in much of the town’s growth and early development.
After graduating from Petrolia High School, he began his business career
in the grocery store of Maun Chrysler, one of the town’s early merchants. However, a short time later he decided to try his hand at banking and secured a position as teller at the “Little Red Bank” of Vaughn and Fairbank.
in the employ of Vaughn and Fairbank he became a founding partner in an insurance business that operated under the name of Morris, Clark and Egan. However, a few years later he gained full ownership of the agency and renamed it Charles Egan Limited. The firm
became one of the most prosperous insurance agencies in the province with many corporate clients including the petroleum giant Imperial Oil Ltd., for which Mr. Egan was said to have been the purveyor of many large policies on properties it owned from coast
Over the years, however, Mr. Egan continued his interest in banking and later became manager of the locally-owned Crown Savings and Loan Company which was formed in 1872 when Vaughn and Fairbank merged with other interests to develop a local
financial institution to service the area’s burgeoning agriculture and petroleum industries. He also continued at the helm of the Industrial Mortgage and Trust Company (now the Petrolia branch of RBC) following its takeover of the Crown Savings
and Loan Company in 1935. As a note of interest, the name Charles Egan Insurance can still be seen today on the office windows on the upper floor of Petrolia’s RBC branch.
Throughout his life Egan was active in his community, particularly
in its municipal government. He served on Petrolia Town Council for many years holding the full gamut of elected offices, including that of councillor, deputy-reeve, reeve and mayor, all during the years when Petrolia was at the pinnacle of its growth and
It’s interesting to note that Mr. Egan was on council during the construction of Victoria Hall and, in fact, was chairman of the committee responsible for purchasing the properties that now form Victoria Park. It was also during this
time that Petrolia’s waterworks was transformed from a system of door-to-door water delivery by tank and wagon to the modern pipeline system that continues to serve the town to this day. He was also instrumental in the development of Glenview Golf
and Curling Club and was a founding shareholder in the Greenwood Driving Park Association which for many years provided the town, not only horse racing facilities, but a venue for all types of track and field activities.
Egan was elected mayor in 1898
and again in 1899 and holds the distinction of, not only being the youngest person ever elected to that position, but was also the first Petrolia-born person to ascend to the mayor’s chair.
It should be noted that Mr. Egan’s service to the
town did not end when he left elected office. In October 1902, he was appointed town treasurer and at the time of his retirement in December of 1936 had held that position for more than 35 years.
In Oct. 7, 1890 he married Elizabeth Jane McCort, the
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James McCort of Petrolia, her father being a prominent local oil producer and refinery owner. The couple had three children: James Harold Egan, a veteran of the Great War who died in Tulsa, Oklahoma Aug. 12, 1931; Charles M.
Egan, a partner in his father’s insurance business who died in Petrolia Mar. 19, 1987, and one daughter, Isobella (Mrs. Dr. John Sander) who ironically died at her home in Lansing, Michigan within a few hours of her mother’s passing in Petrolia
on Jan. 29, 1964.
In religion, Mr. Egan was a long-time member and supporter of Christ Anglican Church. Fraternally, he was a member of Petrolia Masonic Lodge # 194, Friendship Lodge #65 Independent Order of Odd Fellows,
and the Knights of Pythias.
It’s been noted that he also had a keen interest in horticulture and the floral gardens around his home at the corner of Petrolia Street and Egan Ave. were said to have been among the most beautiful in town.
Charles Egan died Sept. 19, 1948 at age 84. He is interred at Hillsdale Cemetery.