When U of T Mississauga holds the annual Fletcher C. Snider lecture, undoubtedly a few members of the audience pause to wonder about the man who gave the lecture its name, and the bequest that makes this annual lecture possible.
Fletcher Cameron Snider was born in 1868, a scant year after Confederation, and died in April 1917, before the close of the First World War. Childless and only 48 when he died, he might have been forgotten over time, if it hadn’t been for the efforts of his wife, Amelia.
The Sniders had been married almost 20 years at the time of his death, and although Amelia remarried, she never forgot her first husband. When she died, her will stipulated that after the deaths of her sister and her second husband, the remainder of her estate would go to the trustees of the University of Toronto, “preferably for providing a fund for lectures, to be given by English publicists of prominence . . . in Belles Lettres.”
The annual Fletcher C. Snider lectures commenced in 1974 and have featured such notable speakers as the late Carol Shields, a prominent Canadian novelist; cast members of the CBC-TV comedy, Little Mosque on the Prairie; Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, who led the Canadian Forces; and Jeffrey Simpson, author and The Globe and Mail’s national affairs columnist. However, until recently, little was known about Snider himself.
Fletcher Cameron Snider was born in Eglinton, York, Ontario, an area that today is part of urban Toronto (Eglinton Avenue). He was the only child of Edwin Snider and his second wife, Ann Janet Jackes and was descended on his father’s side from the United Empire Loyalist family of Martin Snider, Sr., who immigrated to Nova Scotia from the United States before settling in York, on Yonge Street.
Unlike many youth of his day, Snider had the privilege of an excellent education. From the age of 10 until he was 17, he attended Upper Canada College. Afterward, he went on to study at University College at the University of Toronto, where he earned a BA in 1889. Snider decided upon a career in law and attended Trinity University, earning his bachelor of civil law degree in 1892.
Snider was called to the bar in 1892 and worked as a barrister and solicitor until his death in 1917. He began his career with Gibson & Snider in 1892 in an office at 15 Toronto St. The firm eventually moved nearby to 18 Toronto St., where he maintained a practice until 1913, sometimes with a partner, sometimes alone. In 1906, he joined forces with Ira Standish to form the firm Standish & Snider, and the firm existed until his death, although he became a partner in Snider & Bone in 1915. At the time of his death, Toronto Star reported that Snider was the senior member of the firm Snider, MacDonald & Bone.
A scholar as well as a practising lawyer, Snider returned to Trinity University and earned a doctorate of civil law in 1899. He went on to author two legal works, Annotations to the Law Reports and Annotations to the Ontario Statutes.
Snider also thrived outside the law office and the courtroom. An Anglican, he married in 1896 at age 28. His wife, Amelia Pauline Scheak, was a young Montreal woman of 21. They remained married until his death, living for a time on University Avenue in Toronto and then on Poplar Plains Road in Deer Park, or what is now the area near Avenue Road and St. Clair Avenue in Toronto. Although Amelia Snider remarried, upon her death in 1930 she was buried beside Fletcher in the Snider family plot in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.
“He was highly esteemed by all who knew him,” read Snider’s obituary in the Toronto Star on April 4, 1917, “especially in the legal profession, where he was best known, as he exemplified all the best qualities of his profession.”