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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.


1831 The Adventure Begins

Painting of a Brig, used in the 1830s

Throughout Britain during the 1820s, ‘industrial revolution’ was transforming society. Machines were increasingly displacing the vital work of labourers. As a result, social stresses and economic hardship ensued, affecting large sections of the population, especially in rural areas.

It is hard to say what prompted James Worts and his brother-in-law, William Gooderham to plan to uproot their families and move to the ‘new world’ from the Suffolk/Norfolk region of Britain. Were they feeling the pressures of profound societal change, or were they simply following their adventurous spirits that locked onto a vision of the great potential of life in Muddy York? Perhaps it was a bit of both. We may never know for certain. But what we do know is that, in 1830/31, Worts and Gooderham developed a plan to move their families across the Atlantic in order to build and operate a windmill on the shores of Lake Ontario. With Worts’ skills as a successful miller in the community of Bungay, Suffolk, and with Gooderham’s head for business, as well as money to invest, they formed a strong partnership.

As the plan evolved, James Worts, along with his eldest son, James Gooderham Worts (not quite 13 years old), would sail from Great Yarmouth to North American in May of 1831. Worts’ wife, Elizabeth (sister of William Gooderham), would stay in Bungay with the couple’s other children until the mill was built. In 1832, Elizabeth, along with her brothers William and Ezekiel Gooderham, and their families, would complete the emigration to York (now Toronto).

Figure 1&2- Britain: A) Scole, Norfolk – Gooderham’s home; B) Bungay, Suffolk – Worts’ home, C) Yarmouth

In 1831, an advertisement in The Norwich Mercury provides details of the voyage on which James, and his son JG, would embark.


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