Stratford was really founded in 1832, or nearly ten years before a survey of Blanshard had even been made.
It had priority of several years over Mitchell, and yet in 1850 St. Marys had a larger population than Stratford, and was a more progressive town.
This is easily accounted for.
In all new commercial centres material progress at the outset is accelerated or retarded by their environment having a natural adaptability for agricultural purposes.
There was no town in Perth County, nor, indeed, in the Huron Tract, located in a spot so destitute in its surroundings of those elements which give life to a backwoods hamlet.
St. Marys, in this respect, had an advantage over all other places in this county, in so far that within many miles there was no land not available for agriculture when a clearance was effected.
It, therefore, advanced more rapidly than Stratford, until it reached a certain point.
This limit is the line of demarcation that lies where a town has created a commercial interest large enough to supply the agricultural community by which it is surrounded.
If it does not aspire to that greater interest of manufacturing, thereby drawing wealth for its goods from distant customers, then its progress must end.
This appears to be a solution of the question regarding Stratford's marvellous progress during the last twenty years.
Beyond supplying the wants of an agricultural section, St. Marys, until lately, never aspired.
On the other hand, Stratford has imposed on herself heavy burdens in order to secure manufacturing industries, and thereby bring an increase of population and an increase of trade.
This policy of her public men has been most successful, and placed her far in advance of her former competitors for commercial supremacy.
A writer in 1852 says, "The village of Stratford, now the county town of Perth, is pleasantly and well situated, but has made no progress considering its natural advantages.
It has increased considerably in size since we last visited it seven years ago.
The buildings generally are of an inferior character, and appear to indicate a want of spirit or of means among the inhabitants, which is not, however, surprising, as an inland place, surrounded by bad roads for a large portion of the year, is scarcely likely to partake very largely of a cheerful character."
If this writer had been acquainted with pioneer life, he would have understood why the village of Stratford "did not partake of a cheerful character."
A little backwoods hamlet in the centre of a swamp, where, about seven years prior to the period at which this extract was written, a settler had wandered from his home, and was devoured by wolves within what is now the city limits, was not likely to be very cheerful.
As to the character of the roads, we refer our readers to reports of Mr. Monteith and others, pathmasters of Downie.