Kemp Crescent

Descendants of the father of the manure spreader

Kemp Crescent is named for Alderman Wesley Irving Kemp who died in office during his third term on Stratford city council in 1962.

Ald. Kemp was the third generation of his family to be active in the local business community. His grandfather, Joseph S. Kemp, was an inventor who came to Stratford in 1902.

Joseph Kemp held patents on the Kemp manure spreader, and he established the company in Stratford in 1902. Part of his operation was incorporated into the Kroehler factory on Ontario Street. In 1904, Massey-Harris bought the Kemp company but operated it here for only a short time.

In 1906, Wesley Irving Kemp Sr. (father of Ald. Kemp) brought his family to Stratford from Newark Valley near Syracuse, N.Y. In the following year, he established the W. I. Kemp Co. Stratford council, backed by ratepayers, guaranteed debentures to the extent of $25,000. The Kemps made manure spreaders, Imperial horse-lift seed Drills, land breakers, shop trucks and wheelbarrows. They also made castings of all kinds and did repair work.

Grandfather (J. S.) Kemp took a great deal of pride in his invention of the Kemp Manure Spreader and continued to make improvements. The plant was on Ontario Street, but the sales rooms were on Brunswick Street, near the Commercial Hotel.

His first spreader was made for his own farm in Magog, Que. , and was considered the first practical spreader ever built. The Kemp factory went out of business in about 1914, and the building was assigned to the city. It was used as a barracks during the First World War and became known as Fort Kemp. After the factory closed, W. I. Kemp Sr., known in the family as Father Kemp, became manager of the Majestic Theatre on Downie Street.

An add 1910 Photo: Vince Gratton

He also managed and operated the dance Casino on Lakeside Drive, It was built as a curling rink. Mr. Kemp had a wooden floor installed, and brought in big-name bands. It was billed as one of the finest dance floors in western Ontario and remained popular for man years. His first dance was on Tuesday May 27, 1919, with music by the Flanagan orchestra. Kemp's run with the Casino was in the era of jitney dances when most halls would charge admission at about 15 cents per person.

As well, the concessions in Queens' Park were operated by Mr. Kemp, who had one of the first motorized boats on the Avon River river and took people for rides on his a Juliet. He had a merry-go-round and a refreshment booth near the boathouse, from which he rented boats.

The Kemp Oil Burner was patented by W. I. Kemp Sr. in 1923, and he was in the oil-burner business for about 10 years. There is a Kemp Oil Burner in the Huron County Museum in Goderich. With notes from Stanford Dingman and Dean Robinson