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The Gooderham & Worts families emigrated from the Scole / Bungay area of England in the early 1830s, arriving in York, (now Toronto, Canada). First came James Worts, accompanied by his 13 year-old son, James Gooderham Worts. They built the windmill near the mouth of the Don River. They were followed in 1832 by William and Ezekiel Gooderham, their sister, Elizabeth (James Worts' wife) and 54 extended family members. Over the following 75 years, these families created the largest distillery in the world, as well as contributing to milling, banking, railways, shipping, farming and other essential components of the growing industrial country. They were active in the church and in various communities, as well as in health care and even in our political institutions. In 2013, descendants of the Gooderham and Worts families created an online website that includes a family tree with photos, documents and stories.


1869 Great Fire of ‘69

Crowds stare, firemen pump, and flames rage during the Great Fire of October 26, 1869 G&W

At six o’clock on Tuesday, October 26, 1869 – just as William Gooderham and his family were sitting down for dinner (or “tea”) – a small cask of benzene caught fire and exploded in the fermenting cellar of his 1860 Stone Distillery, precipitating a night of high drama by the Lake. Within minutes, flames were licking the floor, workmen had descended on the spot, and the alarm rang out across the city. Before long, crowds of people were racing along snow-covered streets toward the scene, guided by the “luminous mass of flames” lighting up the Toronto sky, and throwing a “lurid mantle” over the city. The fire was visible for miles into the countryside, with distant Weston Road being lit better by the distillery fire than the usual gas streetlights. Within minutes, the City’s two volunteer fire brigades had arrived at the scene and the firemen set to work “with a heartiness, good will and judgment which spoke volumes for their skill and pluck.” They would need both during the long night ahead.


We ask you to help! If you are a descendant, historian or some other person with relevant information or material, please get in touch. Nothing related to living descendants will be available to the public. In fact, public information will be limited to people who died in the 19th or early 20th centuries.

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