PRESS ARTICLE

BH830219

Source Stratford Beacon Herald - Stratford, Ontario, Canada
Author Stanford Dingman
Series Streets of Stratford
Title Monteith Avenue
Date Saturday, February 19, 1983

Monteith Avenue runs west at a 45-degree angle from Erie at the CNR level crossing. Running along the north side of the main CNR line to London, Monteith ends at Lorne.

Part of the William Gordon survey laid out in 1874, Monteith Avenue was

Andrew Monteith
1823 - 1896
named by Mr. Gordon in honor of his good friend Andrew Monteith (1823-1896). Andrew Monteith: was the patriarch of what became the leading political family of Perth County and Stratford for over a century.

Five members of the Monteith family were elected to either the Ontario Legislature or the Canadian Parliament, two of them holding cabinet posts. Andrew was elected to both houses.

Honorable Jay Waldo "Monte" Monteith, who died in December, 1981, former Perth MP (1953-1972) and Minister of National Health and Welfare in the Diefenbaker Cabinet (1957-1963), was a grandson of Andrew Monteith. "Monte" Monteith was the first Perth member elevated to the Federal Cabinet.

Andrew Monteith arrived in "Little Thames" (now Stratford) on July 12, 1834. Only 11 years old, he was a barefoot boy in the wilderness of the Huron Tract in the middle of summer.


Jay Waldo (Monte) Monteith
Andrew's oldest brother, Samuel Monteith, had preceded the rest of the family to Canada and now welcomed his parents, John and Elizabeth Monteith and his three brothers, and one sister. The first Monteith family home was a log house on the Embro Road in the Gore of Downie Township.

Samuel had been in Canada since 1830 and worked with the Canada Company surveyors in adjoining townships. He was also clearing land for himself. Not every family was so lucky as to have an advance guard.

Andrew, the youngest of the five Monteith children, had been born at Karn Dreen, County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1823. Perth County historian William Johnston said ---

"Mr. Monteith was an ideal pioneer. Rather over than under middle size, he was muscular in appearance, quick in his movements, decisive in action, and inexhaustible in vitality and endurance.

"As might be expected from such a man, he soon attained prominence and great influence in Perth County, playing a distinguished part in its early history and development".

Andrew's father, John Monteith, opened a general store in Stratford in 1838 on the site of the present Victoria and Grey Trust building, facing what is now the Court House. It was a prime location at the very centre of the fledgling community and Andrew's brother John Monteith Jr. managed the store for his father.

In 1840, John Jr. took Andrew with him to Hamilton to fetch supplies for the store. Returning to Stratford along the Huron Road, they were caught in a terrible storm and both, were dashed to the ground.

Andrew was only 17 and not expected to live. By the time the closest doctor could be summoned from Woodstock, Andrew. began to recover, but John Jr. had suffered from exposure and contracted tuberculosis. He had been considered a child prodigy by his father and now at the young age of 21, he was dead.

Young Andrew pitched in and helped his eldest brother Samuel run the store. Andrew had to be content with the young Woods boy (he later became Judge Woods) who liked to launch his sleigh on the front steps of the Monteith store and glide across to where the Court House stands.

Andrew found the store too confining, and began to devote more and more time to his farm where he later built a large handsome stone house at the edge of Stratford in Downie Township. He also built one of the first brick business blocks on Ontario Street where the Stratford Herald was published for many years. William Johnston says --

"The eternal gin-horse sameness that characterizes businesses in a country town must have been irksome to him. Nature did not design him for a vendor of knitting needles and red herrings; he was to be a leading man. In municipal and political life he was prominent from an early period of his career.

"This inclination for public business he may have inherited-from his father, who was one of the six old veterans (all the voters in the eastern part of the county) who trudged from Stratford to Goderich in 1841 to record their votes in the Dunlop-Strachan election".

Andrew Monteith held almost every political office in Downie, Perth and Stratford. Politics was in his blood.

He later became. the first President of the British Mortgage Loan Company and also held policy No. 1 in the Perth Mutual Fire Insurance Company.

In Confederation year, 1867, he was elected as a Conservative to represent North Perth in the Ontario Legislature. Re-elected in 1871, he was elected to the Dominion Parliament in 1874, resigning in 1878. He was a strong supporter of John Sandfield Macdonald in Ontario and Sir John A. Macdonald in Ottawa.


James Buchanan
1791-1868
Andrew Monteith's grandfather, also Andrew, was the second cousin of James Buchanan, who became 15th President of the United States (1857-1861) during the stormy period leading up to the American Civil War. He was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln.

Andrew's nephew, Nelson Monteith, son of Samuel, was elected to represent South Perth in the Ontario Legislature in 1898 and became Minister of Agriculture. A community in Northern Ontario was named Monteith in his honor because of his pioneering work in forestry and reforestation.

Andrew's eldest son John Monteith was Mayor of Stratford in 1893-94 and elected to the Ontario Legislature for North Perth in 1902 (He won by only two votes and the election was declared null and void, he lost the by-election). Somebody said -- "too many Monteiths".

Dr. Joseph Dunsmore Monteith, son of Andrew and father of Jay Waldo practised medicine in Stratford and became Mayor of the city in 1917-18. In 1923 he was elected to represent North Perth in the Ontario Legislature, defeating Wellington Hay, leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

In 1926 Dr. Monteith was named provincial treasurer. He was later Minister of Labor and Minister of Public Works. His cousin, Dr. John Robb, was Minister of Health. Dr. Monteith died in office in 1934.

Andrew Monteith had died in his "fine family mansion", the big stone house, in 1896. The Lizars sisters of Stratford published a novel "Committed To His Charge" in 1900 and one of the characters in the novel, "Farmer Kippan" was said to be based on Andrew Monteith.

"Farmer Kippan was a north-of-Ireland Orangeman, with a shock of dark red hair which remained bushy and curly in spite of his many years.

"Between his knees he held a big thorn stick, knobbed at the end, and with it he emphasized his speech; the floor, all about the chair in which he usually sat, was marked with the round impressions.

"Kippan talked politics much more than religion; in fact, politics was his religion".


The above article is the property of The Beacon HeraldŽ and has been provided to the Monteith Family Homepage for its readers' interest and enjoyment. Reproduction of this article in whole or in part without the express permission of The Beacon HeraldŽ is prohibited.