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1831 Where are the Journals of James Worts?

In our featured story 1831 The Adventure Begins, we told how James Worts and his 13 year-old son embarked on a great adventure to begin the move of the Worts and Gooderham families from England to Upper Canada and to startup the milling business he and William Gooderham envisioned.

Thanks to a book, written by E. B. Shuttleworth, privately published in 1924 by William George Gooderham, many fascinating insights into the early days of this adventure have survived. The Windmill and its Times, as this book was titled, was produced in a limited-edition of 200 numbered copies. It was commissioned to reflect on the long history of the firm, just at the moment that the distillery was being sold out of the family.

In “The Windmill and its Times”, the author discusses some of the primary documents he used to source information and to weave his narrative. Among them were the personal journals kept by James Worts. Shuttleworth reveals,

“… In a room over the present office of the Messrs. Gooderham there is a numbered series of boxes containing the account books of the old firm and in the first of these were found several partly used vellum covered volumes, brought from England by Mr. Worts, and pressed into service here. One of these, evidently the first, was missing, and likely contained items relating to the voyage, the arrival in Canada and the selection of York. The second furnished accounts of payments made day by day in the construction of the windmill. Under date of Nov. 26th, 1831, there appears in good old fashioned round hand that would have done credit to any head boy’s copy book, “Finished the tower.””

It was in these journals of James Worts that many insights have been gleaned into the early days of the ‘Worts and Gooderham, Millers’ business. For example, the entry on Nov. 26, 1831 goes on to say, “…It took 105,000 bricks to build the mill, 216 bushels of lime and 100 loads of sand…”

1831 Journal sample
An example of a handwritten journal from 1830s

There are numerous references in “The Windmill and its Times” to the Worts journals – although Shuttleworth only had the 2nd and 3rd volumes to work with, since the first was already missing when he began his research in the late 1910s. These journals clearly had an importance to the firm – being kept in a prominent location in the Head Office, almost a century after they were penned. The fact that the first one was already missing by the mid 1910s, raises many questions about its whereabouts. Could it have been given as a gift when the Worts family sold their share of the business to the Gooderhams, after JG Worts died in the early 1880s? Could it have been damaged, lost or stolen?  

Surely this missing 1st volume would have captured something of the dream that was fueling the big migration. It might have said something about what was prompting Worts and Gooderham to relocate across the Atlantic. It most certainly would have shed some light on the actual voyage, which took some six weeks. The arrival of Worts and his 13 year old son in Quebec City and then in Montreal surely would have prompted some kind of entry.  We know from other sources that Worts Sr left his son in Montreal for several months. As the story goes, James Jr stayed in Montreal to attend school – although no details survive of where he lived or went to school. While this educational diversion may have indeed happened, the main reason for the young Worts to stay behind in Montreal may have been very practical. Worts Sr still needed to figure out what town he was going to select for the site of the business. And then he had to spend time within the selected town searching for a good location that would support a windmill.

Toronto in 1834 (detail)

It was only when all that was done that arrangements could be made to have the vital windmill equipment and parts shipped into the Great Lakes area. Ultimately, it was this task that would fall to the young Worts. Elsewhere on this website, we have told the story of how JG Worts had to collect some 10 tons of equipment and bring it from Montreal to York – but only after he got word from his father that the location was finalized. That first Journal would likely have answered many questions about this critical stage of the adventure known as Worts and Gooderham, Millers.

And what of the other two Worts’ journals – the ones that Shuttleworth used to write his history of the firm? These journals provided many tidbits about the building of the Windmill, the workers who were hired, the materials that were used, early sales, business relationships that developed. But after Shuttleworth used these books, what happened to them? Did they fall prey to some accident? Were they retained by family members before the final sale of the distillery to Harry Hatch was completed? Were they saved by someone from the Gooderham family at the time that the business was being handed over to Hatch? Could they have been stolen?  Many questions remain.

It is true that many important and fascinating historical documents have disappeared over time – through neglect, being tossed out, lost in fires, etc.. But hand-written, centuries-old documents tend to attract attention and encourage people to put them away in safe places. As far as anyone in the family knows, these journals have not been seen since the early 20th century.  Since the Gooderham and Worts families are large and have spread out widely, within and beyond Canada, there is a chance that the journals still do exist.

If anyone reading this has any ideas about the whereabouts of the journals, please contact Douglas Worts through the contact us link on the home page.

Written by Douglas Worts. Figure illustrating a handwritten journal excerpted from David Thompson’s notebooks and journals, Reference Code: F 443-1, Archives of Ontario. Drawing of Toronto in 1834 is an original lithograph by Timperlake (after a drawing by Thomas Young) in the Toronto Public Library