Biography of Messr. William Gooderham

An historical record of the eminent and successful men of the Province of Ontario would most assuredly be incomplete, without a sketch of the members of this firm. Few men have been so intimately connected with, and interested in the development of Ontario, and more especially that part of it embraced in the City of Toronto, than Mr. William Gooderham and Mr. J. G. Worts. From the following extract from an article, published in 1877, in the Montreal Gazette, an approximate idea may be formed of the commercial importance of the firm:

“The active season of this firm’s business is from September to June, distilling being practically impossible in the hot summer months. The consumption of their establishment in an average season is as follows:

“500,000 bushels Indian corn; 100,000 bushels rye; 50,000 bushels barley; 25,000 bushels oats; and 10 tons of hops.

“This means that every year Messrs. Gooderham and Worts buy Indian corn equal to the produce of 14,000 acres, yielding 35 bushels per acre; 5,000 acres of rye at 20 bushels an acre; 1,700 acres of barley at 30 bushels an acre; 500 acres of oats at 50 bushels an acre, and say 300 acres of hops. In other words, they absorb the annual produce of 31,500 acres of average land in their manufacturing business alone. The corn is chiefly imported from the Western States. The rye and hops are grown on the shores of the Bay of Quinte, and the oats and barley are obtained in the country round about Toronto.

“The production of the establishment is on a scale as prodigious, being 8,000 Imperial gallons of spirit per diem during the season of eight months. In the season of 1874-75, which was an exceptionally good one, the quantity of spirit distilled amounted to not less than 2,096,970 gallons, representing a revenue to the Dominion treasury of 1,562,928.21, equal to a dollar per head of the population of Ontario ! The daily production of the distillery during the season represents a revenue to the treasury of seven thousand dollars a day!

What becomes of this enormous production? Just as they employ railroads and steam to bring 700,000 bushels of cereals to their vats every year, so they also employ carriers to ‘carry off their production. Let the reader form for himself an idea of the labor employed in moving 700,000 bushels of cereals, and 2,000,000 gallons of spirits! The latter alone represent 40,000 barrels, each of 50 gallons. Thousands of barrels are annually shipped to New York; in fact, for some years, one drug store in that city took more of the product of the distillery than is consumed by the City of Toronto. Large shipments are also sent via New York to Rio Janeiro, Buenos Ayres, Monte Video, and other points in South America. Shipments are also made to Mediterranean ports, and orders are occasionally from London and Liverpool. The principal markets, however, are Montreal, Quebec, St. John, N.B., and Halifax.

“Eighty men are employed in the distillery, ten men in the malt house, and thirty more outside. In other words, the firm, besides consuming the fruits of the labor on 31,500 acres of arable land, and employing the labor necessary to move the vast quantity of cereals imported, and of spirits exported, from their establishment, keep one hundred and twenty families in employment in this city.

“The distillery consumes every year 8,000 tons bituminous steam coal, chiefly imported from Ohio. But the labor and consumption of the establishment do not end here. Every day during the distilling season 100,000 gallons of refuse are produced, all of which is converted into beef and mutton, thus opening up and adding another branch of trade to the manifold branches already noticed.. To consume the refuse there are today, in the cattle sheds at the Don, 2,566 bullocks, representing in value $75,000. These are the property of Messrs. Lumbers, Reeves, Shields, and Frankland, the well known drovers who have opened up the Canadian cattle trade with England. The cattle fed at these byres are said to be greatly superior to Western cattle for export. The latter are unruly and wild, and often die on board ship, but the distillery cattle having been tied up all winter, go down to the sea in ships with comparative comfort and little risk. In several instances it has been proved that they have lost nothing in weight by the voyage. Forty men are employed around the byres all winter, their wages being $7 to $9 per week. The 2,500 bullocks consume a ton of hay each during the fattening season, or a total of 2,500 tons, which is bought chiefly in the Toronto market. All through the winter the manure from the byres is carted away by market gardeners, and it serves to enrich many hundred acres of garden land in the vicinage of the city. Nearly one-half the refuse of the distillery, however, is distributed over the city and suburbs for feeding purposes, supplying as many cattle outside as there are in the byres. The cartage of this refuse for outside cattle employs 400 teams daily, but as many as 650 teams have been served on Saturdays.

Immediately connected with the distillery, in fact one of its feeders, is the Toronto and Nipissing Railway, largely owned by Gooderham and Worts. The road, a narrow gauge, was opened six years ago. Previous to that time, cordwood sold at $8 to $9 a cord; but on an average, the Nipissing hauls 30,000 cords a year into the city from the back settlements, and the best hardwood is selling this season at $5 per cord. Thus the road confers no mean benefit upon the citizens, in lowering cost of fuel, not to speak of opening up other branches of trade. Three years ago the Corn Exchange found that the grain brought down the Nipissing could not be handled with proper facilities, and an arrangement was made with Gooderham and Worts, by which the latter agreed to renovate and enlarge their storehouses. This gave an impetus to the grain trade of the road, and its average shipments in the year now amount to 600,000 bushels. The total quantity of grain handled every year by Gooderham and Worts (including that brought down by the Nipissing, but not including their distillery cereals), is 1,200,000 bushels. The Nipissing is about to bring some 2,500 toises of stone to the city from the Portage Road for building purposes. Gooderham and Worts are no mean benefactors one way and another to Toronto. In the matter of city taxes, they pay between $9,000 and $10,000 a year to the treasury; they are in fact by far the heaviest taxpayers in the city. In addition to all these branches of trade, the firm are also largely engaged in banking; that is, they are the chief proprietors of the Bank of Toronto, one of the most flourishing monetary institutions in the country. To sum up their business briefly they have the largest distillery in the world; they feed more cattle, directly and indirectly, than are fed by any one establishment outside of Texas; they run a railway to the great benefit of Toronto and the northern country, and they own a bank which there is none in this country ranking higher in public confidence.”

Although for nearly fifty years, the senior member of this firm, Mr. William Gooderham, has been a resident of Toronto, yet his early life was a rather eventful and chequered one. He is second son of James Gooderham and Sarah, his wife, and was born in the Village of Scole, County of Norfolk, England, on the 29th day of August, 1790. Quite early in life, he was deprived of the loving counsel and guidance of his mother, but his father lived until after our subject had attained his manhood. The occupation of William Gooderham was farming, and grandfather, father and son, owned and lived, successively, upon the old homestead farm for ninety-three years.

At the age twelve years, William was sent up to London to enter the mercantile house of his uncle, Mr. Rodwell, who was largely engaged in shipping boots and shoes to the East Indies. Not long afterwards, his uncle, for some unexplained reason, gave up the business, and he was thrown upon his own resources for support. Deciding to enter the army, he enlisted and was sent out to the West Indies to join his regiment, the Royal York Rangers, a new regiment’ and participated in the taking of Martinique and Guadaloupe. He was afterwards employed on a small schooner engaged in carrying dispatches from one island to another, during which time he contracted that dreaded disease, the yellow fever, and was laid up in the Government Hospital, at Barbadoes, for several months. While employed in the duty mentioned, he had a narrow escape from death by the burning of his ship, the Majestic, of Whitby, escaping with nothing but the clothes he had on while sleeping. When he had slightly recovered from the attack of yellow fever, he was ordered home to England to recruit his health, and experienced an eighty day passage from the West Indies to England, in a transport ship, with disabled soldiers, eighty-four of whom died and were consigned to a watery grave during the voyage. He was yet less than twenty-one years of age when he arrived at his father’s house in Scole, Norfolk, invalided and unfit for service; but after returning to his native village, his health was soon recovered, and in about six months’ time he reported himself again fit for active duty, and was ordered to the Isle of Wight to join his Regiment. Soon afterwards, being again ordered to the West Indies, and feeling that it would be going to almost certain death, he succeeded in making an exchange and being attached to the staff which was being formed to receive recruits for the army. While acting in this capacity he was appointed to a very lucrative situation, whereby he made a considerable amount of money. When the staff was broken up, he returned to his native place possessed of a moderate income, sufficient for all his wants, and intending to retire from active life. Shortly after this his father died, and probably owing to the fact that our subject had previously paid off a mortgage of 800 pounds sterling on the farm, his father after bequeathing a certain portion to each of the brothers and the only sister, left William the residue legatee and executor of his will. Unfortunately the settlements were all made when prices ruled very high, and in less than a year after he came into possession, fell off to such a degree that it left his inheritance worthless. He continued farming, however, as his occupation, until 1832, residing in the home of his forefathers. Prior to this, in 1831, Mr. James Worts, who had married Mr. Gooderham’s only sister, came out to Canada to select a home for both families. Arriving at Quebec, Mr. Worts proceeded to Montreal; and thence to Kingston, Toronto (then York), Hamilton, Niagara, and various other places, and finally decided on Toronto as their future home, commencing immediately to build the windmill, which since became, historically, so well known in this city. In the following year Mr. Gooderham, in pursuance of the plan previously arranged between himself and Mr. Worts, sailed from London, in the brig Anne, of Newcastle, bringing with him, his own, Mr. Worts’, and several other families, connected either by blood or marriage, in all fifty-four souls. After a fair passage of about six weeks, they arrived in Quebec, all well, and proceeded thence to Toronto, partly by water and partly by stage route, arriving at their destination in the fall of 1832. Finding the windmill nearly completed, Mr. Gooderham united with Mr. Worts, under the firm name of Worts and Gooderham, doing a retail milling business for the city, which contained at that time a population of between three and four thousand. From this rather small beginning has grown a stupendous business, the development of which has been commemorated by paintings, spoken of thus in Dr. Scadding’s “Toronto of Old” :

“In the possession of Messrs. Gooderham and Worts are three interesting pictures, in oil, which from time to time have been exhibited. They are intended to illustrate the gradual progress in extent and importance of the mills and manufactures at the site of the windmill. The first shows the original structure a circular tower of red brick, with the usual sweeps attached to a hemispherical revolving top; in the distance town and harbor are seen. The second shows the windmill dismantled, but surrounded by extensive buildings of brick and wood, sheltering now elaborate machinery, driven by steam power. The third represents a third stage in the march of enterprise and prosperity. In this picture gigantic structures of massive, dark colored stone tower up before the eye, vying in colossal proportions and ponderous strength with the works of the castle builders of the feudal times.

“Accompanying these interesting landscape views, a group of life size portraits, in oil, has occasionally been seen at art exhibitions in Toronto Mr. Gooderham, senior, and his seven sons all of them well developed, sensible looking, substantial men, manifestly capable of undertaking and executing whatever practical work the exigencies of a young and vigorous community may require to be done.”

This firm continued until the death of Mr. Worts, in 1831, shortly after which event, Mr. Gooderham added the business of distilling to that of milling, and continued operations under the style of William Gooderham.

In 1845 the present Mr. Worts became interested in the business, and the present firm of Gooderham and Worts was formed, continuing the same ever since. When Mr. Gooderham first began distilling, it was on a scale of fifteen bushels per day, but it has now increased to the enormous amount of 3,692 bushels per diem.

For the past fourteen years Mr. Gooderham has been President of the Bank of Toronto, and he has been connected very largely with the two narrow gauge railways, in all of which he has very extensive proprietorship. At one time he filled the position of alderman for St. Lawrence ward for two or three years, but, as civic business was not congenial to his tastes, he gave it up.

Politically Mr. Gooderham has always been a consistent and staunch Conservative, and in religion he has ever been a devoted adherent of the Church of England. He has brought up a family of seven sons, who were all living in and about Toronto, until an unfortunate accident deprived him of his son, Mr. James Gooderman, an esteemed citizen of this city, who was killed by an accident on the Credit Valley Railway, May 10, 1879. He has also five daughters, all of whom are married and settled in life, and it was recently ascertained that his descendants children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren somewhat exceeded eighty in numbers. He is now in his ninetieth year, and in the enjoyment of very fair health, though not now capable of transacting any business; still he has great pleasure in hearing of all that is taking place.

When about twenty-one years of age, Mr. Gooderham became a member of the Masonic fraternity, and is now nearly, if not quite, the oldest freemason in this country.

Mr. James Gooderham Worts, whose career has been so intimately connected with that of Mr. Gooderham, and therefore with the growth and development of Toronto, was born in Great’ Yarmouth, on the east coast of England, on the 4th day of June, 1818. His parents were Mr. James Worts, previously mentioned, and Elizabeth Gooderham, daughter of James Gooderham and sister of the subject of the preceding portion of this sketch. He was educated and passed his early life in his native place.

On the 31st of May, 1831, he embarked with his father from Great Yarmouth, in the brig Sylvan, bound for Quebec, where they arrived, after a passage of forty live days. Proceeding to Montreal, he was there left at school while his father prospected for a location, as detailed before in this memoir. In the following October, he was informed by letter from his father that a site had been selected, in what was then York, and for him to engage a bateau and bring all their goods and personal effects, and also the necessary machinery for building the windmill. These instructions were carefully attended to, and while yet but a little more than thirteen years of age, James left Montreal for Upper Canada, in a bateau of about ten tons burthen, accompanied by six Indians. With the exceptions of being towed across Lakes St. Louis and St. Francis, by a small steamer, the journey was made by the Indians poling the boat along the shore of the St. Lawrence, until rapids were reached, when horses and oxen were employed to tow the bateau up such rapids as the Long Sault and others.

Fourteen days after leaving Montreal, they reached Prescott, where all the goods were transferred to a steamer, then plying on Lake Ontario, called the Alciope, and in two days more “Muddy Little York” was reached. Thus Mr. Worts arrived here nearly half a century ago, when the place contained but little more than two thousand inhabitants; about this time, though, emigration began to pour in rapidly, and when the rest of the family came about a year later, the population had nearly doubled. With the rise and growth of Toronto since that time, Mr. Worts has been closely connected.

He has always taken great interest in all enterprises that tended to benefit the interests of Toronto and vicinity. He actively promoted the building of the narrow gauge roads in which his firm are so largely interested, and was connected with the Bank of Toronto in the capacity of Vice President for several years prior to Mr. Gooderham assuming the Presidency. He is also associated with others in the Canada Permanent Loan and Savings Company, and Toronto Corn Exchange; is also Chairman of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, and interested in various other enterprises.

In his political views, Mr. Worts has been, and still is, a supporter of the Conservative party, and in religion he adheres to the Church of England.

The foregoing sketch is of two men who have done much for Toronto, and it will be many years after they are dead, before they will be forgotten or cease to be greatly respected. As an example of successful business men, they are preeminently worthy of a place in this record of leading men of the Province of Ontario.


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