Rev. Michael Stafford, Priest of the Roman Catholic Church, Lindsay, is a native of the County of Lanark, Ontario, the son of a pioneer settler, Thomas Stafford, and was born March, 1, 1832. His father was from Wexford, Ireland; his mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth McGarry, from West Meath, same country. His family fought for Irish separation, and that was the reason Thomas Stafford came to Canada. Up to fourteen years of age our subject was educated at a district school near Lanark, his teacher, Robert Lees, still living, and filling the office of County Attorney of Carleton. The school house was an abandoned lumber shanty; the seats were made of basswood logs hewn flat on the upper side, and the desks were constructed by boring holes in the side of the house, driving in pegs and laying an unplaned board on the pegs. From that humble school house he was promoted to the district school in the town of Perth, where he spent two years; immediately afterwards gave one year to study at Chambly, then seven years at St. Therese College, and took his ecclesiastical course at Regiopolis College, Kingston, where he was a pupil of the late V. G. McDonnell, and a schoolmate of Rev. John O’Brien, now Bishop of Kingston.
Mr. Stafford was ordained Priest in 1858, by the late Bishop Horan, and was Director of Regiopolis College three years, filling meanwhile the chair of Logic and Philosophy. While in Kingston, Father Stafford was Chaplain of the Penitentiary, and on careful inquiry he ascertained that ninety per cent of the convicts were sent there through the use of strong drinks as the direct procuring cause a lesson which, it will be seen, was of great value to him.
On leaving Kingston he spent a year in traveling in the United States, and on the continent of Europe. Returning to this country, he spent seven years on Wolfe Island, where he found, on entering upon his duties, that, through the great exertions of his predecessor, Father Foley, there were only three Catholics in his parish who were not total abstainers. Best of all, there were no arrests and trials for crimes a fact which confirmed his judgment in regard to the primal cause of the great number of convicts in the Kingston prison.
In 1868 Father Stafford was settled at Lindsay, where his church has nearly doubled in twelve short years. Here he has worked zealously for the cause of temperance, and the result of his labors may be seen, in part, by the decreasing popularity of the county jail, the jailer being at times, almost lonesome for the want of company, formerly having a great crowd.
Before the temperance reformation commenced here among the Catholics, they were not spending one fifth the money for educational purposes that they are now, the children formerly being neglected, and the parents in many instances not having the means for clothing them and furnishing text books. The temperance reform gave a new, a comparatively clean, face to things, and one public school, under Catholic control, doubled its pupils in a single year.
In 1876 Father Stafford made a second visit to Europe, to carefully investigate the subject of education and temperance, and lectured in several of the large cities in England.
Since he settled here a Convent school building of light brick, one of the best modeled and best ventilated structures for educational purposes in the Province, has been put up at a cost of $40,000, with every conceivable comfort and convenience, and now has 300 scholars. A building for boys has also been erected costing $5,000, and has about 200 pupils. The Convent building stands on grounds where thistles rooted ten years ago, and which are now an Eden of beauty.
Father Stafford has written a good deal for the press, secular as well as religious, mainly on the subjects of education and temperance, his labors in this direction extending over a field as wide as this Province. With one exception, there is no city and hardly a town of any importance in Ontario where he has not lifted up his voice in behalf of one of these causes or both, he being untiring in his efforts to promote the cause of knowledge and sobriety as well as religion.
The parishioners of Father Stafford have done a very handsome thing for him in providing a home, second in elegance, convenience, and in the beauty of its surroundings, to no priest’s house, we believe, in Ontario. It overlooks the town and the country, and on every side the prospect is delightful.