The Stratford Times History by Betty Joe Belton, Stratford-Perth Archives

Alexander McGregor

Today in 2022 there is a new Stratford Times Newspaper.

However there have been two other Stratford Times newspapers -- in two other centuries. One was published from the 1876 to the early 1890s and the other from the mid-1960s to early 1970s. Both are preserved at Stratford-Perth Archives and offer glimpses of life here in times past.

145 years ago, in November 1876, Stratford citizens were concerned about a possible exhibit of “19 beautiful French engravings of the female form” at City Hall, though perhaps more concerned that a headless corpse had been found in a coffin floating in the Avon River. (See: Headless Torso found at Old Waterloo Street Wooden Bridge in 1876 by Carol Huband SDHS).by Carole Huband, SDHS

The town band played a concert in Shakespeare Square for Thanksgiving Day. Young scholars could apply to write their high school admission examinations by notifying C.J. McGregor, Esq and Head Master of the school. see (McGregor Street )Anyone wishing for a holiday could take a “mammoth excursion” to Philadelphia to visit the United States’ “great centennial exhibition.” Shoppers could buy F.L. Mennig’s freshly pressed champagne cider from Sebringville, and, John Welsh’s Jewellery Store was already advertising “Xmas presents in large variety” on sale at “hard times prices.”

There was also talk of an expansion at the Grand Trunk Railway repair shops. The newspaper’s editorial of November 29, 1876 made the case that both the GTR and the City would benefit greatly if the Brantford car shops “removed to Stratford.”

In late fall of 1876, the Times published this editorial

During last week a rumour was started in Brantford that the Grand Trunk Railway Company’s car works located there were about to be removed to Stratford, and as a natural consequence, considerable excitement prevailed in our town over the prospect of obtaining these important works. Unlike most rumours, there were some grounds for this to rest upon.

The colour postcard here, also from the Archives, shows the shops decades later when they were, indeed, greatly expanded and the largest employer in Stratford.

It appears that for some time past the officials of the Grand Trunk Railway have realized that the car works [from the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway, that the GTR had purchased in 1869] were not situated in the proper place, and that continuing them in Brantford has only resulted in a great loss to the company, amounting in the year to about $40,000. This state of affairs cannot go on forever. At the time the car shops were built the bonus of $35,000 offered by Brantford overcame the scruples entertained by the Directors, and much against their own judgement it was decided to accept the bonus, even if by doing so the shops were erected in an out of the way place.

The experiment has been tried, and it has been a costly one for the company – they have lost five times the amount received from the town of Brantford, and now the question of removal to Stratford is being very seriously considered. Whatever determination may be arrived at by the authorities of the road, the matter is a very important one to Stratford. If the car shops come here they will employ over 300 skilled mechanics, who will be removed from Brantford, and with their families, will increase our population to about 2,000 raising us the status of a city at once.

The new works would in all probability be erected alongside the present shops, at a cost of about $30,000, and would fill up the entire vacant ground fronting on Patrick Street and the Downie road. We believe that in the event of their removal being decided upon, the company would require the property on which the Robertson house and the grain storehouses now stand and the privilege of using Shakespeare street, and putting in crossings on the Downie road, which we think could be obtained without much difficulty.

From the Brantford papers we learn that the proposed removal is viewed with alarm…Of the difficulties said to be existing between the Grand Trunk and the Canada Southern Railways, we know nothing, but we incline to the belief that this is not the principal cause of the talked of removal. The fact of the matter is simply this, - Stratford, from its central position, is the most suitable place for the car shops, and if they removed here it will be an immense yearly saving to the Grand Trunk Company.

For the full history of the railway shops in Stratford, see Dean Robinson’s book " Railway Stratford Revisited." Source: Stratford Times: History Friday, November 12, 2021 Betty Jo Belton