of Ford City
Windsor 1892-1992, A Centennial Celebration, Trevor Price &
two towns of Walkerville and Ford stood side by side, but they
were a complete study of contrasts, products of their origins
in different historical periods and traditions. Walkerville enjoyed
the solidity of measured growth and the guiding hand of one of
North America's most effective business leaders [Hiram Walker].
by contrast, experienced mushroom-like growth propelled by the most
dynamic industries of the age - automobiles. Its life as a municipal
entity was less than a quarter of a century, and during that time
it coped with difficult problems before finally succumbing to insolvency
and embracing without dissent the forcible amalgamation which its
more prosperous neighbour, Walkerville, resisted to the end.
roots of Ford go back to the late nineteenth century before it became
an industrial town. The French Canadian farmers of Sandwich East
Township dominated this area, and they had begun to coalesce around
a small village where, in 1884, they had established a Catholic
church - Notre Dame du Lac.
to the building of this church, a priest from St. Alphonsus Church
in Windsor had held mass in a school room on the farm of local shipbuilder
Shadrack Jenking. Nearby, a number of small industries had developed:
Jenking's shipyard, a small pork-processing plant, the making of
staves for barrels, the manufacture of sugar from locally grown
grapes, and a blacksmith's shop.
figures, the names of people on the assessment rolls, the importance
of the Catholic Church and the significance of separate schools
in this area all prove that Ford City in its origins was predominantly
City's first four mayors were French, as were a majority of members
of the first Ford City councils. The farm lots used to carve the
Ford Motor Co. were almost entirely owned by French families. The
main thoroughfare (Drouillard Road) was once a private lane on the
Drouillard farm, which wound its way from Riverside Drive to Tecumseh
Drouillard donated the land by the river on which the church of
Notre Dame du Lac (Our Lady of the Lake), later called Holy Rosary
was built. Typically, Hiram Walker made a contribution to the building
of the church, which was attended by some of his employees.
original Ford automobile factory site was a good location on the
river to which were brought the components from the U.S. parent
plant to be assembled into completed horseless carriages.
Walkerville Wagon Works already existed, and an alert entrepreneur,
Gordon McGregor, accomplished a deal with Henry Ford to bring auto
parts to the Wagon Works at a lower duty than completed cars paid,
thus getting an edge on the Canadian market. This occurred in 1904
when 17 employees produced 117 finished automobiles.
small beginning was the springboard from which ensued the most vibrant
growth of a manufacturing industry which Canada had ever seen. The
Ford of Canada operation soon outgrew its original building, and
after the first new building was completed in 1910, Ford continually
expanded over a huge site which eventually covered hundreds of acres.
poured into the area as many additional industries making car components
as well as other car makers began operations. By 1913 Ford of Canada
employed 1,400 employees, the wages were $4 an hour and the work
week was 48 hours. The wages far exceeded what was generally available
in manufacturing at the time, and news of the opportunities soon
new community of Ford as well as neighbouring border communities
experienced a prodigious flow of new immigrants from Europe, rural
Essex County and other parts of Canada.
the rural township of Sandwich East nor the neighbouring municipality
of Walkerville had an interest in trying to organise the new community,
which experienced the results of haphazard and poorly supervised
new community was incorporated as a village in 1913 and quickly
reached town status by 1915. Effective municipal organization was
needed to develop housing and ensure good standards of public health.
name Ford City was the popular choice promoted by Charles Montreuil,
a local resident who became its first mayor. The irony is that the
name by which it was generally known and recognized in official
documents - Ford City - was a misnomer.
City was always a town. In 1929, when the community actually incorporated
as the City of East Windsor, it dropped the old name. The Ford Company
always referred to the town of Ford without the appendage "city."
However, the documents of the municipality and provincial references
used the name Ford City.
1928 when Ford City changed its name to East Windsor, it reached
its peak population of around 16,000. At this time, it covered 1,600
acres of land, had six
schools and a fully developed structure of municipal services.
Drouillard Road could be found every kind of store and commercial
facility. There were churches for every kind of religious persuasion
- Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and United. All this, from open fields
to a busy town, happened in the short space of 20 years.
1923 it was reported that about 85 percent of Ford residents owned
their own homes, and they were able to finance the relatively large
loans needed to build the infrastructure of schools, civic buildings,
libraries and utility service.
haste with which Ford was built and the fact that many of its residents
were newcomers influenced the nature of the housing stock, which
was largely built by owners and speculative landlords. It was not
built to last.
this creation of an instant town wedged in between industry and
rail lines lay the ingredients for later urban decay. Perhaps this
was inevitable because Ford grew too fast and had too borrow too
the early 1930's the new city of East Windsor was in financial difficulty,
along with most of its neighbours. High unemployment meant people
lost their homes and were unable to pay their municipal taxes.
future of East Windsor lay in the hands of the province. The idea
of amalgamation with the wider metropolitan community was acceptable
to the citizens of East Windsor, who expressed few of the regrets
of Walkerville in losing their identity (see page 2: ed).
area still shows the marks of its origins as a working class, multi-ethnic
community with more indications of a cosmopolitan European culture
in its churches, stores and social clubs than other parts of Windsor.
a brief period at the end of the 1930s during World War II and after,
Drouillard Road enjoyed a revival as a commercial and social hub,
but when the main Ford assembly plant closed in the 1950s and commercial
plazas opened in the suburbs, the area went into a rapid decline.
measures for rehabilitation in the 1960s and 1970s infused new life
in cooperation with the East Windsor Citizens Committee, Holy Rosary
Church and various city departments. The neighbourhood of East Windsor
has survived tough times and has shown a desire to perpetuate the
traditions of a feisty working town with cultures from many lands,
a microcosm of what much of the rest of the city became