Stratford's first inn
Photo Fred Gonder
Named for Stratford's first settler, Sargint Street honors the name of the man who built the first permanent building in Stratford, the Shakespeare Inn (1832-1849). The street runs parallel to Greenwood Drive between Brett and Warwick roads.
William Beauchamp Sargint was an Irish Protestant who came with is wife, Alicia Reeves, from Clonmel in County Tipperary. The Sargints became Stratford's first permanent residents in 1831. According to W. Stafford Johnston, in his book History of Perth County to 1967, members of the Sargint family were "the first of a stream of Irish immigration which made the Irish the largest element in Perth’s racial blend."
The Sargints established the Shakespeare Inn, on a site now marked by a stone and bronze tablet in Stratford's Memorial Park. From when there as only one residence in the community, Stratford adopted the custom of using Shakespearean names for its buildings and streets.
What is now Memorial Park, formerly the site of the Stratford post office (1882- 1961), was originally called Shakespeare Place 0n early maps of Stratford. That land had been set aside by the Canada Company as Stratford's first "village square.” It was well planted with trees and was the site of the famous Shakespearian Oak, planted in in 1864 to mark the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth.
William Sargint was presented with a lot in the proposed town by the Canada Company, on condition of his going there and starting a tavern. Having accepted the proposal, he came with his family in 1831 and occupied one of the log buildings erected by the Canada Company's surveyors. (Apparently, the family lived in temporary log-shanty quarters that first winter of 1831-1832, by the river on a site now occupied by the Lions' club pool.) During that winter, he got timber for a frame building and erected it on the site. It was the first frame building in the County of Perth. William died in about 1845 and his brother-in-law, William Jackson, took over the inn until it burned in 1849. By Stanford Dingman
By 1854, James Corcoran had built a store on the hotel site and would do business there until 1890. (see Corcoran Drive). The outgoing Mrs. William Sargint was the first "unofficial" teacher in the little pioneer community. She gathered the children together and taught them in the hotel. She helped make the inn the centre of business and social life, and she readied the "big room" for the first Anglican church service, held by Canon William Bettridge from Woodstock. Source: Floodtides of Fortune
The beginnings of the name of Stratford were buried in the silence of the past. The closest thing to documentation is an old tale about Canada Company commissioner Thomas Mercer Jones, who came one day from York. He brought with him a painting of Shakespeare, which he presented to William Sargint, who was appreciative. Tradition has it that he hung the painting outside his inn, which became the Shakespeare Inn and led to the renaming Little Thames as Stratford. Source: Waterloo University
The Shakespeare Inn Stratford-Perth Archives