Beginning of a village
A village at the crossing of the Grand River, commonly referred to as Brant’s Ford, started to develop in the early 1820s. Between 1818 and 1823 the population in and around the crossing grew from 12 to 100. The catalyst for growth beyond 1823 was the completion of the Hamilton to London Road, which crossed the Grand River at the settlement. However growth proceeded slowly because the land was Haudenosaunee territory; white settlers could not acquire title to the land they occupied. In 1827 the village, now numbering about 250, formally adopted the name Brant’s Ford; it was quickly shortened to Brantford.
Village of Brantford
On 19-April-1830 the Haudenosaunee surrendered 807 acres of land at the Grand River crossing to the Crown. This land, formally held by Chief John Hill, would become the village plot where settlers could acquire title to land.
The village survey was completed by Lewis Burwell in June-1830. This was the third survey or plan for the village. The first was prepared by Joseph Read in 1824. Burwell used this plan to prepare a preliminary village plan dated 22-October-1829. Village lots were first offered to the lot settlers for £10 a lot. Lots were later sold at auction with an upset price of £10. Settlement was largely around the river crossing and what is now the downtown area but little settlement occurred east of Clarence Street or north of Darling Street. Much of the village was swamp land, especially east of Clarence Street and north of Wellington Street.
The boundaries of the original 807 acre village site: starting at the Lorne Bridge north along Bridge St to West St, then east along Henry St / Freeborn St, site of the Arrowdale Golf Course, south along Stanley St to East Ave then west to Alfred St, south to Greenwich St, south just west of Clarence St S to where Market St S meets the Veterans Memorial Pkwy interchange, west along the Grand River back to the Lorne Bridge.
Town of Brantford
Lobbying to make Brantford a county town began in 1842. Public meetings were held to establish committees and subscriptions to build a court house, jail, and school, but nothing came of these. The Town of Brantford was incorporated by a special Act of the legislature on 28-July-1847. The population at this time was about 3,000. The first meeting of Town council occurred on 9-September-1847. At the time of incorporation Brantford was located in Wentworth County in the District of Gore.
The area of the Town doubled when 937 acres where added to the village boundaries to constitute the new Town. The boundaries of the new Town of Brantford: starting in the northwest corner at St Paul Ave and St George St, east along St George St to West St, north to Henry St, east along Henry St / Freeborn St, Ava Golf Course, south along Stanley St to Colborne St, then south between Rawdon St and Iroquois St to Greenwich St, west along Greenwich St, then south along Port St, west along Superior St, south along Eagle Ave, but not including Eagle Ave to the Grand River, west across the Grand River to Walnut St, south to Mount Pleasant St, west behind the Stelco Fasteners factory, continuing west along Raleigh St, then north at Shellard Lane along the property lines for McLean Foundry, Brantford Cordage, the Knights of Columbus Hall to the Grand River, west across the Grand River to St Paul Ave, and finally north to St George St.
Initially Brantford was divided into seven wards. That was reduced to five in 1850 and has remained that way ever since except for the brief introduction of a sixth ward in 1981-82. Councillors commissioned the construction of a Town Hall on the Market Square in 1849. Brantford architect John Turner prepared the plans for the Town Hall. Council moved into the new Town Hall on 7-October-1850. Brantford became a port of entry in 1852. It remains a port to this day.
County of Brant
In 1851, six townships: South Dumfries, Burford, Brantford, Oakland, Tuscarora, Onondaga, and the Towns of Brantford and Paris were joined to form the Provisional County of Brant. To achieve full county status a court house and jail needed to be built. The court house and jail, designed by John Turner, were completed in 1852. On 6-November-1852 a petition was prepared by the Provisional County of Brant to separate from the United Counties of Wentworth, Halton, and Brant. The first council meeting of the County of Brant was convened on 24-January-1853.
City of Brantford
The City of Brantford was proclaimed by a special Act of the Provincial Parliament on 2-March-1877 to take effect on 31-May-1877. Brantford at this time withdrew from the jurisdiction of the County of Brant. The population of Brantford at this time was 10,600. Dr J.W. Digby mayor of the Town of Brantford in 1877 became the City’s first mayor. Dr Digby’s father was the Town of Brantford’s second mayor from 1848 to 1849. The land area of the City remained the same as the Town. The next annexation of land from Brantford Township did not take place until 1891 when 707 acres including the northern portion of Eagle Place and the eastern portion of Holmedale became part of the City.
Brantford never experienced periods of boom. Throughout its existence growth was measured; steady and consistent.
Conditions in Brantford in 1877
The stores on Colborne Street had wooden verandahs which extended across the sidewalk. Horses were hitched to the verandah posts. The roadways were crude, dirt roads. They became muddy and almost impassible with any load of weight in wet weather. The sidewalks were plank boards. Market Square was a hive of activity on market days. There was no municipal water or sewage system. Typhoid fever was common and expected as a matter of course. There was no garage pick up, as a result bonfires were a common form of sanitation. There was no hospital. Firefighting was done by volunteers however a waterworks for firefighting was installed and expanding. There was no organised Police force, simply a chief and a few constables and night watchmen. Streets were not well lit. Oil and gas lamps were used. Electric lights first appeared in 1885. Street cars did not appear until 1886. Livery stables were numerous and many residents owned horses. There was no home delivery of mail; mail was posted and picked up at the post office. Summer pastimes included verandah and garden parties and in winter show shoeing, skating, and sleigh rides. Regarding spectator sports, horse racing and lacrosse drew crowds.