Woods Street runs west from Birmingham, crosses John Street and curves in a southerly direction to rejoin John Street past Dingman Place. Though the western section of Woods Street is very new, its origins stretch back more than a century.
Woods Street was laid out by William Gordon and named by him for James Peter Woods, Queen's Counsel, and a Perth County judge 1886 to 1897. By Stanford Dingman
James Peter Woods was born on April 2, 1840 in Torrington, a market town northwest of Exeter, in Devonshire, England. He was the first child of James Woods, a wheelwright, and Ann Vanstone. In 1842, after the birth of daughter, Mary Elizabeth, the Woods immigrated to Canada and settled in the new-born community of Stratford.
James Jr. was a student in the small 20- by 30-foot log school built in 1841 on what is now the lawn in front of the Stratford Public Library. Alexander McGregor was his schoolmaster (see McGregor Street).
According to Adelaide Leitch, in Floodtides of Fortune, young Woods was a spirited lad, and often a trial for schoolmaster McGregor. He was also a trial for Andrew Monteith, the county treasurer. Monteith had a store at what is now the Scotiabank building at 1 Ontario St. (see Ontario Street). The steps at the front of his store made for an irresistible launching pad for the adventuresome Woods and his sleigh. With a decent launch, the boy attempted to ride his sleigh all the way to the Avon River.
As of the 1851 Canada census, James Woods Sr. was a tavern keeper. After Stratford became a village, in 1854, he was nominated for a seat on the municipal council, but he was not elected. He did, however, become one of Stratford's first school trustees. By the 1861 census, James Sr.’s occupation was farmer. Also by then, James Jr. had completed his time in the Stratford and Goderich grammar schools, and was a law student.
Before the advent of university law schools, aspiring lawyers learned their profession by working with established law offices. James Jr. worked in the office of Daniel Home Lizars, who served as the Perth County judge from 1864 to 1886. In 1863, James Jr. was called to the bar and began a prosperous practice in Stratford. By 1879 he was a partner in the firm Woods, Fisher and McPherson, which in that year was listed as a patron in the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Perth County.
In 1870, James Jr. married Maria Caroline Grey Hodge, whoi had been born in St. Thomas, Ont., on Jan. 2, 1850. Her parents were Thomas Hodge, a merchant, and Caroline White. Thomas was of Scottish origin and Caroline English. By 1870 the Hodges, including Maria, had moved to the United States and resided in Evanston, Ill., near Chicago. It is likely James and Maria were married in Evanston.