Historical Plaque Properties


William Gillard - Cheesemaker
181 Water Street
Stratford, ON

Father and son, William and Charles Gillard, purchased lot 22 on Water Street in 1909 from Andrew F. Waddell, an insurance agent for Manufacturers Life. The house they built on the lot was completed in 1910.

William Gillard was born on December 22, 1845, in Springford, Norwich Township, Oxford County, Ontario. He was the son of Richard Gillard, a carpenter, and Phidelia Otis and brother to Albert and Sarah Ann Gillard. His father died in 1850 leaving his mother with 3 children under the age of 5 to raise.


To support her family, Phidelia worked as a farm labourer. In 1851 she and her 3 children were living and working on the Oxford County farm of Truman Wilcox. In 1855 Phidelia married John Turnbull and the 1861 census shows the family living together on the Turnbull farm along with John and Phidelia’s four children, step siblings to William.  Phidelia died in 1862 and is buried with her first husband, Richard Gillard, in Springford.

At age 21, on December 16, 1866, William married Elizabeth Ann Reep, daughter of Benjamin and Ellenor Reep. Their son Charles Fitzpatrick Gillard was born in Springford on February 28, 1868.


In the 1860s, Norwich Township farmers were the first in Canada to adopt the American factory system for cheesemaking. Having lived and worked on farms in the area it was not surprising that William became a cheesemaker as reported in the 1871 census for Norwich Township.


William and his family then moved to Tavistock, and in 1878, along with Thomas Ballantyne, formed the Ballantyne & Gillard Cheese Manufacturers – later called the Tavistock Cheese Company.  The frame building that William and Thomas Ballantyne built was later the home of the first dairy school in Ontario.


A widower in 1891, William was living at a hotel in Stratford and listed as a cheese manufacturer, likely at Thomas Ballantyne & Sons which occupied a three-story building at the southeast corner of Waterloo and Albert Streets. The company manufactured knitted goods and dairy supplies (until May 1909) and handled cheese.

His son Charles was living and working on the farm of John A. McLaren in Hibbert, Perth South. In 1897 Charles married Mary Towers, daughter of William Towers and Janet Bell, in Hibbert. In 1901 William was living and farming in South Perth with his son, Charles, and wife, Mary.


The house at 181 Water Street was built in 1910 and Charles and Mary made this their home until Charles’ death in 1927.  Charles worked as foreman and bookkeeper at RM Ballantyne Textile Plant, on Ballantyne Ave between Front and North Streets.  William was not living with them in 1911 but was lodging at a hotel at 18 Wellington Street. He did not list an occupation. In the 1921 census the family is living together at 181 Water Street. William is listed as a retired farmer and Charles as a bookkeeper at a woolen mill.


William died on April 20, 1925. Charles died of cancer on Jan 1, 1927.  Mary lived in London, Ontario for 2 years before her death on November 4, 1942.  Charles and Mary are buried in the Exeter Public Cemetery.   They had no children.