Stories of Giving: Colonel J.B. Maclean

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Stories of Giving: Colonel J.B. Maclean 2016-10-13T13:28:05+00:00

Colonel J.B. MacleanColonel John Bayne Maclean (1862-1950). John Bayne Maclean grew up in the manse of Knox Presbyterian Church, Crieff, Ontario, a rural community just south of Guelph, where his father, Rev. Andrew Maclean, served as minister. The preacher’s kid went on to establish Maclean Publishing (later called Maclean-Hunter), which published such popular magazines as Maclean’s, Chatelaine and the Financial Post. By the 1930’s Maclean-Hunter was the leading magazine publisher in Canada.

Though Maclean became a wealthy businessman living in Toronto, he never forgot his rural roots or the little Presbyterian congregation that had shaped his faith and values.  When returning to Crieff for his mother’s funeral in 1916, he was appalled at the derelict state of the church grounds and cemetery. He promptly hired the leading landscape architectural firm in North America, the Boston based firm of the Olmsted Brothers who had designed New York’s Central Park, to refresh the property. The Knox congregation was so grateful they gave Maclean the manse in which he was raised as a gift in 1925.  Maclean was so delighted by the gift that he quickly began renovating the manse and turning it into his country estate. He bought nearby acreage, part of which he reforested and part of which he developed as an experimental farm to demonstrate the latest farming methods.  He also persuaded Gordon Culham, a Canadian working with the Olmsted Brothers, to return to Canada and do the landscaping for his estate and for the University of Western Ontario in London. Ever the visionary, Maclean’s dreams and projects for his beloved Crieff Hills Farm provided him with new energy and excitement during his retirement years. When Maclean passed away in 1950, along with bequests to the University of Western Ontario and Knox Church, he bequeathed his 250 acre estate to The Presbyterian Church in Canada along with an endowed gift to maintain the property. Today Crieff Hills Community – “A Place Apart to Come Together” – hosts thousands of visitors each year for retreats and conferences.