here to start reading about Hiram Walker and Canadian Club
Father, Patriarch, Benevolent Dictator
people in Walkerville know much about the fascinating man
whose vision shaped an industry and a model town.
hundred years ago, the man who put the club into Canadian
and the Walker into ville, lapsed into a coma and died.
than driving past his former enterprise on Riverside Drive
or sniffing that unmistakeable aroma as we open our front
doors, few of us think much about Hiram Walker. Which is a
shame since there was much more to the man than just whisky.
some would like to know something of my childhood? I was born
a pauper. I was taken in by friends, kind and generous friends.
Later, I was sent to schools and I worked on the farm.
was also taught the value of a penny, not to cast it to the
wind. The young men of the present do not know the value of
moneyś. I hardly had time, as a young man, to go fishing,
for I was always working. My habit, in my younger days of
saving the pennies, has placed me where I am today."
Walker on his 74th birthday.
in New England in 1816, Hiram Walker came west to Michigan
in the 1830's to seek his fortune. After a few false starts,
he launched a successful grocery business in Detroit and learned
how to distil his own cider vinegar instead of selling someone
else's for a minuscule profit. Then Walker decided to branch
into whiskey. His first barrels were produced in 1854 and
were a hit due to their fine quality and purity.
about Michigan's strong puritanical temperance atmosphere
and aware of the good farmland being opened up by the Great
Western Railway on the Canadian side of the river, Walker
decided it was time to make a move.
1856, he purchased a French farm lot 11/2 miles upriver from
Windsor from Eugene Hall for 300 pounds. Not long after that,
he purchased another French lot giving him possession of
land between what is now Kildare and Walker Roads and inland
to Wyandotte Street.
began clearing trees for his operation and in addition to
building a whisky distillery along the waterfront, Walker
grew and bought grain, milled flour and raised hogs and cattle
fattened with left over mash from his distillery. And, he
began building housing which he leased to his employees.
his day, distillers sold their products in unmarked barrels,
but Hiram Walker set a precedent by putting his product in
bottles that bore his name: Walker's Club Whisky. His product
was immediately popular and became the first Canadian brand
of whisky to be marketed around the world. Success in the
U.S. prompted U.S. competitors to lobby Congress and forced
Hiram Walker to add the word "Canadian" to the name.
his success grew, Walker purchased more land, continued to
build homes for his employees, established and provided free
public utilities, built St. Mary's Anglican Church in memory
of his wife, Mary Abigail, who died in 1870, campaigned for
good schools and supported them generously.
the 1880's Walker moved his family back to Detroit after living
in the Labadie farmhouse next to the distillery for several
1882, he built a short railway to connect with his new farm
in the interior of Essex County. By 1898, the railway went
as far as Kingsville. This transformed Walkerville from a
small village adjacent to Windsor into an important town.
To facilitate his journey back to Detroit and to connect up
with his new railroad, Walker established his own ferry from
his Walkerville plant to Detroit.
this time, Walker employed almost the entire population of
600 souls in some capacity. Workmen were offered a lease to
a Walker cottage and if they declined, they would likely be
never sold the land or the company-built cottages. Consequently,
he was able to control the type of individual that would live
in the village. Ronald Hoskins, in his Master's Thesis for
the University of Windsor on the Life and Times of Hiram Walker,
town patriarch, [Walker] always envisioned Walkerville as
a progressive, self-sustaining, model town, a separate, exclusive
entity whose well being would rest on a strong industrial
basis. He endeavoured to foster a strong civic spirit, efficiency,
and a unique relationship between himself and the townspeople,
that of working together toward a common end a flourishing
was incorporated as a town in 1890 partly to prevent amalgamation
with Windsor, something Walker was dead set against. Walker
provided fire and police protection, street lighting, well-paved
and drained streets and running water. Walkerville was a model
community unparalleled in Ontario due to its high standard
of urban design and building quality provided by the best
professional advice on architecture and planning available
at that time.
Walker decided to expand his railway to allow the transport
of produce from his farms in South Essex directly to the distillery
and his cattle barns which were eventually located near what
is now the junction of Tecumseh and Walker Roads, he didn't
take no for an answer.
wrote:Walker reigned undisputed monarch of all under his surveillance.
If he cherished a railway, he would have it, if humanly possible.
As in his other endeavours, he would tolerate no interference
from other sources, but would accept nothing less than complete
control over the enterprise.
Walker's enterprises were so profitable, he was able to provide
capital for the development and growth of many other new firms,
including the Walkerville Wagon Works, which became the Ford
the rest as they say, is history!
Story: Hiram Walker Timeline