Services and Civic Improvements
in 19th Century Stratford, Ontario
Early Settlers
County Seat
Royal Visit
Banks, Insurance

Meantime, in 1864, population had attained to 3,600 souls, to supply whose spirituous wants fourteen hotels were licensed. Another innovation was now introduced of great convenience, in supplying light for the streets. No effort had previously been made in this department of civic government; but quiet, inoffensive burghers, returning from business at late hours, were now aided in maintaining a decorous and polite deportment in crossing streets whose mud in rainy seasons was of unseasonable depths. Mr. P. R. Jarvis during this year applied to the Home government for a trophy of British power, which young Canadians might look upon, and thereby stimulate their military ardour. In reply Stratford received a cannon, captured by Britain in the Crimean war and which now sits peacefully on the north side of Downie street. In every section evidences of improvement were perceptible. Several elegant churches had been erected, and good substantial business blocks were now found on Ontario and Market streets. Expenditure on public works had also largely increased since 1854, being now, in 1867, $18,000.

Since completing the G. T. R. and the B. & L. H. railway in 1857, Stratford's commercial supremacy in Perth County was assured. This, again, was rendered more secure by the construction of the Port Dover and Stratford & Huron railways in 1875. Wealth was now accumulating, and in 1874 a gas company was organized to supersede the oil lamps of an earlier day. These luminaries had done pioneer service, although the feeble glimmering light emitted seemed to do nothing further than render more perceptible surrounding darkness. Gas was again superseded in turn by electric light, which now sparkles on every street and in the luxuriant homes of numerous citizens. The assets of the Electric Company now reach over $100,000.

In 1883 a Water Supply Company was organized, with Mr. John Corrie as president, having a capital of $115,000. In 1901 this company supplied, through 70,000 ft. of mains, nearly 325,000,000 imperial gallons of water. This indicates a very great improvement since the first council ordered three pumps from Georgetown for the village wells.

A modern system of fire protection is now in operation, and a system of sewage has been introduced. Sewage beds have been constructed on the latest scientific principles, where absolute purification is attained before being discharged into the river.

These improvements have demanded a large expenditure in their successful prosecution, and the people in 1901 contributed for civic taxation $120,000. Of this amount nearly $24,000 was set apart for education, $16,540 for local improvements, and $13,585 for fire protection, water, and light.

Before closing this part of our work we desire to add that all those fraternal societies, which are doubtless doing great good in the world, are fully represented in a population of 10,500 people, who are now citizens of Stratford. The benevolent societies are: St. George's, St. Andrew's, St. Vincent de Paul, Freemasons, Oddfellows, Foresters, Workmen, Orange and Temperance lodges, Father Mathew Temperance Society, G. T. R. Benevolent Society, Friendly Society, Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Sons of Scotland, Sons of England, Knights of Pythias, and others. A library and reading room has been established by the railway company for their employees. A public library is also maintained, containing at present over 4,000 volumes.

From History of Perth County 1825-1902 by William Johnston, published in 1903