William (Tiger) Dunlop

Dunlop Place runs between Lorne Avenue and Griffith Road in the city's south end. It was named in honour of Tiger Dunlop.

Dr. William (Tiger) Dunlop was an army officer, a surgeon, an author, a justice of the peace, a militia officer, a politician, and an office holder. He is notable for his contributions to the War of 1812 in Canada and his work in the Canada Company. 

For the Canada Company, he was Warden of the Woods and Forests, was the man on the spot when Stratford was founded. A literary man, he probably had a lot to do with the naming of Stratford's streets. The first Canada Company superintendent was the Scottish novelist John Galt. His successor was Thomas Mercer Jones. 

All these men may have had something to do with the naming of Stratford, and their names are commemorated today by Stratford street names today. But no one deserves more credit for the founding of Stratford than Dr. Dunlop. Not only did he blaze the trail for the Huron Road through Stratford, but he was one of the most fascinating and influential characters in the early history of the Huron Tract. An author himself, several books have been written about Dunlop and the stories of his exploits would fill several more. 

The settlement of Stratford began with the surveying of the Huron Road by the Canada Company in 1828. In December of that year and January of 1829, their agent, William (Tiger) Dunlop, planted his surveyor's stakes around the area that was to become this beautiful city. With notes from Stanford Dingman

*    For a full story of Tiger Dunlop  see Canadian Biography   

Note: John Brant (see Brant Street), son of the famous Joseph Brant (see Brant Street), was a leading member of the exploration and mapping party led by Dunlop. Comprising both white men and Mohawks, it set out from Guelph in April 1827 and began the exploration of what is now Perth County. It was an area had been neglected and was an uncharted part of the Huron Tract, which was owned by the Canada Company. Bought from the Crown, it was a million acres of uncharted, heavily forested land that had to be opened for settlement, as part of the purchase agreement. 

Dunlop and John Brant probably knew each other from the War of 1812. Brant, just 17 in 1813, was the war chief who led the Mohawks to victory at Beaver Dam, an event now best known for the warning brought to Brant by Laura Secord. Dr. Dunlop was the army surgeon who tended the wounded after the battle of Lundy's Lane in 1814.

Both men were six-foot-three-inches in height and well-educated. They shared a passion for crude, practical jokes. Brant was literate in three languages and as much at ease in the use of pen and ink as he was with a skinning-knife and rifle. Dunlop was a lecturer in surgery, a scholarly contributor to Blackwood's magazine, and as much at home in a forest bivouac as he was in an Edinburgh drawing-room. 

Dunlop's notion of putting a live porcupine in a nail-keg, and then asking an innocent visitor to fetch a handful of nails, was just the sort of humour that appealed  to John Brant. At the same time, both men were capable of sitting at an evening campfire among the snow drifts, and tossing literary quotations at each other.  

Brant was later elected a member of the legislative assembly for Haldimand in Upper Canada. Dunlop was later elected the first member of provincial parliament for Huron in the Province of Canada. Source: History of Perth County to 1967 by Stafford Johnston and Hugh Johnston. 

Bruce Stapleton's portrait of Dr. Tiger Dunlop Stratford Public Library. 

Dr. Tiger Dunlop, portrait by Bruce Stapleton

Bruce Stapleton was in high school at Stratford Collegiate Institute in his hometown, and living with his parents on Cambria Street (see Cambria Street) when he was commissioned by R. Thomas Orr to paint a portrait of Dr. William (Tiger) Dunlop.

It happened this way, according to Diane Sewell in her book, R. Thomas Orr: A Lifetime Devoted to Stratford

R. Thomas Orr, in about 1932, embarked on a quest to commission a copy of a portrait of Dr. Tiger Dunlop that had been given to the Academy of Medicine in Queen's Park. Orr got permission to have it copied, and contacted the artist F. J. Haxby, a reputable portrait painter in Toronto. But his price was too high for the tiny budget of the Stratford Historical Society, even when reduced by the artist. So Orr commissioned Bruce Stapleton, who already showed considerable talent as an artist while yet at high school, to copy the painting at a fraction of the cost. 

When informed of that decision, Haxby took offence and in a letter to Orr suggested that he should not have troubled a serious artist if he was going to hire a mere student "and experiment in such a work as this."

Ironically, Stapleton went on to study at the Ontario College of Art and became a famous Canadian Portrait Artist, also known for his Scond World War support posters and MacLean's magazine covers. In another twist, Stapleton married Frances Orr, the daughter of R. Thomas Orr,  who built and owned a summer home in Bayfield. Stapleton was a frequent guest and painted many images of Bayfield. 

The portrait of Dunlop, and as well as one of R. Thomas Orr, also by Stapleton and one that the artist considers one of his finest works, now hang in the Stratford Public Library.

Sources: Diane Sewell, R. Thomas Orr: A Lifetime Devoted to StratfordBetty Jo Belton article Stratford-Perth Archives reprinted in  Reflections: The wartime art of Bruce Stapleton | Ontario Farmer; BHS-Newsletter-2021