Brantford Becomes A Town - Post 5

The population of the area grew slowly but steadily since the arrival of Joseph Brant and about 700 of his followers in 1784. In fact, this region has never experienced a surge of new residents; population inflow has always been measured and steady. Initially, white settlers trickled into the area.

Brantford's population growth: 1805 - 1,      1818 - 12,      1823 - about 100,      1827 - about 200, 1832 - 350,       1837 - 1,200.

The settlement that was to become Brantford was referred to by many names in its early years: Mississauga Hill, Brant’s Fording Place, Brant’s Ford, Grand River Swamp, Grand River Ferry.

Because Brantford was sited on “Indian Lands”, title to the land a settler occupied was not possible. This is the reason the village grew so slowly in the beginning. Mount Pleasant, Oakland, Waterford, Burford, and Ancaster where thriving villages in 1820 and centres of trade and exchange in their districts. Brantford was little more than a river crossing and trading post.

During the 1830s Brantford was a rowdy, and at times a lawless frontier village. Settlers from England, Ireland, Scotland, America, and United Empire Loyalist and native Canadians began moving to the area as title to land became available after 1830. Cheap whisky, an abundance of navvies working for the Grand River Navigation Company, rival gangs and the political conflict between the Loyalists and the Reformers meant that brawls were a common occurrence. The village had no police to keep order. Battles with clubs and axe handles were not uncommon especially around election time.

By 1835 the Mohawk Village, which served as the catalyst for settlement and development in this area, was vacated. By 1844 settlement was centralised on the current reserve.

Early medicine

In the earliest days of the settlement, settlers had few medical resources. Pioneer women provided care and administered herbal remedies to their families and acted as practical nurses and midwives. Anyone with knowledge of herbs and medicines was considered a doctor. Allan Ellis of Mount Pleasant was one of these early doctors. The first doctor by profession in Brantford was Dr John S Thomas. He arrived in the late 1820s. Dr Gilpin settled in Brantford in 1832. Dr Alfred Digby began his practice in 1835.


The first newspaper published in Brantford was the Sentinel. It was launched in 1833 by David Keeler from Rochester, NY. The Sentinel represented Conservative interests. The Sentinel merged with the Courier in 1839. The Brant County Herald, sometimes referred to as the Brantford Herald, edited by Wellesley Johnson, was first published in 1840. The Herald represented Reform interests. It ceased publication in 1861. The Tribune was started by John Steele in 1841 and folded shortly thereafter, after Steele’s untimely death. The Tribune served the Clear Grits after a schism developed in the Reform ranks. Henry Racey began the Conservative Expositor in 1852 after a dispute with Courier publisher Henry Lemmon.

Fire Fighters

The first fire brigade was organized in 1836. About 50 men formed the volunteer brigade. Their pumper was a box on a carriage. Water was poured into the box from buckets and then pumped to create pressure. The water, under pressure, was sprayed from a hose. The hose mechanism resembled a goose’s neck and the fire-fighters were nicknamed The Goose Neck Company.


When the Village of Brantford was organised in 1830 the closest place of worship was the Mohawk Chapel. The 1830s and 1840s saw the major faiths organise and establish churches. The first church to be built in the village was Grace Anglican, in 1832. It was built at the corner of Albion and West streets were the present church is located. The Inghamite Church was organised in 1833. A frame building was erected in 1839 on Mount Pleasant St, on the grounds of the present Farringdon Independent Church. The name was changed to Farringdon because it was built on a section the Farringdon Farm. The First Baptist Church was established in December 1833. The present church was constructed in 1857. The First Presbyterian Church was organised in 1834. A church was constructed in 1845 at the corner of Wellington and George streets. In 1901 it was relocated and renamed Alexandra Presbyterian Church. The British Wesleyan Methodist Church was established in 1835 at the corner of Market and Darling streets where the TD Canada Trust building now stands. St Basil’s Roman Catholic Church was established in 1840. In 1842 a frame church was built at the corner of Crown and Palace streets at the location of the present church.

Brantford in 1845

George Wilkes recalled in his later years that the village in 1845 was bounded by Colborne St to the south, Clarence St to the east, Marlborough St to the north and West St to the west. The main business district was located on Colborne St near the bridge crossing the river. The school was still located on Market Square. 

Brantford’s first manufacturing company

American Phillip Cady VanBrocklin started Brantford’s first manufacturing company, Brantford Engine Works, in 1844. His foundry, located on the present site of the Federal Building, produced stoves and plows. In 1848 Charles Horatio Waterous, another American, joined what was then called VanBrocklin, Winter and Company to help reorganise the business. The business under Waterous' direction moved to producing saw mills, boilers, steam-engines, and heavy fire-fighting equipment. In 1855 Waterous entered into a partnership with a foundry in Brantford and a foundry in Brockport, NY to purchase the business. The new firm was named Ganson, Waterous and Company. Ignatius Cockshutt provided some financing for the factory. In 1864 a new partnership of Waterous and George Wilkes took over the business and renamed it C.H. Waterous and Company. After struggling along for most of the 1850s and early 1860s C.H. Waterous and Company started to prosper. The company was incorporated as the Waterous Engine Works Company Limited in 1874. Cockshutt continued his financial participation in the company. In 1879 Waterous bought out Wilkes and Cockshutt. In 1928 the business was renamed Waterous Limited. In 1944 Waterous became the first Canadian manufacturing company to operate continuously for 100 years. In April 1947 the family sold its shares of the company to a group of businessmen who controlled the Modern Tool Company of Toronto. In 1953 the Koehring Company of Milwaukee acquired Waterous renaming it Koehring-Waterous. Koehring-Waterous was sold to Timberjack Equipment of Woodstock in 1988. The Finnish company Rauma Repola acquired Timberjack in 1991. After 148 years in business, the oldest Canadian manufacturing company was closed down in 1992.

Town Status Granted

Brantford was granted town status on 28-July-1847 by a special Act of the legislature. The population of the community had reached 3,000. At that time Brantford was located in Wentworth County in the District of Gore.

The election for town council was held on 6-September-1847. The first meeting of town council occurred on 9-September-1847. The original voters list consisted of 328 male inhabitants of the community. William Muirhead was elected mayor by the first town council. William Muirhead and his brother came to Brantford in 1828 buying land in West Brant on the Clench Tract. Muirhead was the agent for the Bank of Montreal and the Canada Life Assurance Company.

The town was divided into seven wards: West, North, South, Kings, Queens, Brant, and East with one elected councillor from each ward. The first Council meeting was held at Bradley’s Inn at King and Colborne streets. Council then rented a former chapel on the northwest corner of Market and Dalhousie streets (now Laurier’s Johnson Building) until the Town Hall was completed in 1850. The Town Hall was designed by Brantford architect John Turner. In 1849 the number of wards was reduced to five, Kings, Queen, Brant, East, and North, and each ward elected three councillors.