Auchmar and the Buchanan’s An Article by Bill King

Although much has been written about the Canadian Buchanans and their home at Auchmar, the detail which would bring their story to truly life remains still largely buried under a vast accumulation of fading letters and flaking paint.

Isaac Buchanan (1810-1883) enjoyed a long career as merchant, economist, writer, railway promoter, cabinet minister and all-purpose controversialist. His influence could be detected in almost every step forward by Hamilton (and a few backward). His political activity and advocacy played an important roll in laying the groundwork for John A. Macdonald’s ‘National Policy’. If Buchanan was not a Father of Confederation, he might justly be called a great-uncle.

The life of the Buchanans in Hamilton revolved around their mountain estate at Clairmont Park and its centrepiece, Auchmar House, completed in 1854. It was here that Isaac and his wife raised ten children. They lost the estate to bankrtupcy in the mid -870s, but at the turn of the century it was reclaimed by his Isaac’s son James, and occupied by Elsie (and other children, from time to time) until 1926.

Buchanan’s life and ideas have attracted attention from a number of writers, not least of which is Buchana himself, who wrote innumerable letters, tracts, and essays, as well as a large book entitled The Relations of the Industry of Canada with the Mother Country and the United States, published in 1864. This volume was edited by Herny J. Morgan, who also wrote the first profile of Buchanan’s life for his Biographies of Celebrated Canadians. Later writers to consider aspects of Buchanan’s life and work include T. Melville Bailey, Eleanor Buchanan, Douglas J. McCalla, Peter Baskerville, H. L. Bridgman, and Donald Beer (in his biography of Allan MacNab). Bill King, who as a member of the Hamilton “LACAC” played an active role in opposing the redevelopment of the Auchmar estate, is currently completing a volume entitled Hamilton’s Hidden Gem which focuses on Buchanans’ career in Hamilton and family life at Auchmar.

These writers have relied on such sources as contempory journals, the vast contents of the Buchanan Papers at the National Library in Ottawa, and on a study of Auchmar House itself. As Auchmar House is gradually reclaimed from obscurity, it is hoped that much more will also be learned about the remarkable family which called it home.