We take for granted the services Brantford has available for its residents. Two hundred years ago this area was scrub oak, cedar trees, and swamp with a road passing through. As settlers moved in and tamed the wilderness they also endeavoured to improve their developing community. As the settlement grew, services were added. Ignatius Cockshutt was a leading driver to build the services the residents sought which led to the development of a desirable and prosperous community.
Bridging the Grand River
The first wooden bridge across the Grand River was built in 1812. It did not last long, probably days or a few weeks. Over the years other wooden bridges were built but were washed away with the spring floods. A covered toll bridge was built in 1841. This bridge lasted until 1854 when it washed away. At this time, a foot bridge and ferry service was introduced but did not serve wagon movement well. In 1857 an iron bridge was constructed. This bridge was washed away in 1878 and was immediately replaced by a wrought iron bridge in 1879. It was named the Lorne Bridge after the Marquis of Lorne, Canada’s Governor General at the time. This bridge was replaced in 1924 with a reinforced concrete arch bridge which was reconstructed in 1980.
A post office was first established at “the Ford” in 1825. Throughout the next 55 years the location moved regularly. Finally in 1880 a Post Office and Customs Office was built on the north east corner of George and Dalhousie Streets. Home mail delivery was instituted in 1898, as were street letter boxes. Residents no longer had to go to the post office to pick up and mail letters. In 1915 the post office relocated to the new Federal Building on Dalhousie and Queen Streets were it remains to this day.
A Mechanic’s Institute, the forerunner to the modern library existed in town in the early 1830s but closed in 1837. It was revived in 1853. The Institute was supported by fees paid by its members. In 1884 the Mechanic’s Institute was converted to a free library. The Carnegie Library, the Public Library’s first permanent home, opened in 1904. It was built with a grant from Andrew Carnegie. The present Brantford Public Library, a former Woolco Department store, opened in 1991 replacing the Carnegie Library.
A fire brigade was first organised in 1836. It included most of the abled-bodied men in the village numbering between 40 and 50. During the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s new volunteer brigades were organised. Finally in 1889 a City fire department was established with fully paid members. A fire hall was constructed on Dalhousie and Queen Streets. The department moved to a new headquarters at Greenwich and Newport Streets in 1953. In 2000 the present headquarters on Clarence and Wellington Streets opened replacing the Greenwich Street building.
The earliest form of “police” protection in the village was that of night watchmen. Henry Peckman was hired by the Town as high bailiff in September-1847, he was the Town’s first official officer of the law. The requirements to be a high bailiff at the time were to be big and strong. The terms high bailiff, high constable and chief constable were used before police was adopted in the early 1870s. Thomas McMeans was the sole officer from 1854 until 1875. He was supported by ward constables. A Police Commission was established in 1875, Thomas McMeans was made chief and was supported by a force of four men. These men did not wear uniforms. In 1885 the department was reorganised and uniforms were introduced. Police headquarters was at City Hall until October-1889 when a Police Station was opened on Queen Street, between Dalhousie and Darling Streets. Detectives were introduced in 1912. The first police car was acquired in 1916; the first motorcycle in 1928. In December-1953 the Police moved into a new building at Greenwich and Newport Streets. The Auxiliary Police Force was started in 1962. In 1991 the Brantford Police Service replaced the Brantford Police Force and in November-1991 the Police moved into their new headquarters on Wayne Gretzky Parkway.
Water service began with the need to fight fires. In 1849 a well and pump was put in place on Colborne Street. In 1861 six cisterns were constructed throughout the Town. The water works was organised in 1870 as a private concern under an arrangement with City Council. In 1889 the City acquired the water works and plans commenced immediately to provide drinking water to the City’s households.
The Kerby House and Ignatius Cockshutt’s store were first lit by gas in 1854. In 1855 the Brantford Gas Co. was organised and the first gas street lamps were installed. This gas was synthetic, made from coal. Natural gas first started being used in Brantford in 1906 after the Dominion Natural Gas Company took over the local concern.
In the early years, temporary hospitals would be constructed in times of small pox and other epidemics, but no permanent facility was built. In 1884 a public subscription campaign was launched to rectify this situation. In 1885 John Stratford donated a hospital and seven acres of land to the City. The hospital was named the John H. Stratford Hospital until 1910 when it was changed to the Brantford General Hospital. The original buildings and additions were out of date by the late 1940s and began to be replaced with the buildings we see today. For a time Brantford had two hospitals. St. Joseph Hospital, operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, opened in 1955. It closed in 2001.
Electric lights appeared on city streets in 1885, powered by electricity from the Alfred Watts power generation station located at the locks of the old canal, at Beach and Locks Roads. Watts organised the Brantford Electric Light Co. and financed improvements and expansion until 1892 when he sold the business to the Brantford Electric and Power Company. In 1894 direct current for motive power purposes, that is to drive electric motors, began to be generated and distributed. In 1897 alternating current for motive power purposes was made available. Until then, power was generated solely for lighting. Keeping up with the burgeoning demand was taxing on the company. In 1908 hydro-electricity generated from DeCew Falls near Thorold began to power Brantford needs. This change rendered the local generating plant at the locks obsolete. The plant was decommissioned in 1912.
The first street railway system was formed by Alfred Watts in 1879 but no service was ever initiated. In March 1886 the Brantford Street Railway Co. began service using 6 cars and 14 horses. In 1893 the service was electrified and extended to Echo Place and Cainsville in the east, West Brant along Colborne Street West and Mount Pleasant Street to the Farringdon district, to the train station along Market Street to the north, through North Ward to the School for the Blind, and through Eagle Place to the south. The Company purchased Mohawk Park in 1895 and developed it into a recreation destination. The Company went into receivership in 1912 and was taken over the by the City in 1914. Bus service was introduced to Terrace Hill in 1916. Service to Paris was provided between 1914 and 1929 by rail, then by bus. Buses began to replace the street cars in August-1937. The last street car ran in 1939.
The initial sewage system was built between 1889 and 1893 and drained sewage to the flats east of the Mohawk Chapel where the present day sewage treatment plants lies.