With current local chit chat about a city councillor’s suggestion to bring back street cars in Windsor, I pondered (once again) how different things (read better) would be here if our city fathers had just left well enough alone.
Here are a couple of intriguing tales we ran in “The Walkerville Times” concerning our revolutionary but short-lived electric trolley cars (1886 – 1939) before they were deemed antiquated and unnecessary by the “progressive thinking” of our fearless leaders.
Born on the Trolley Car: Chalmers United Church
Walkerville early 1900s: a rapidly growing community increasing from about 1,000 to 3,000 in the first decade of this century. The establishment of the Ford Motor Company in 1904, together with other motor firms and diverse Walker business interests combined to bring about a remarkable population surge. The town was already served by two Protestant churches – Lincoln Road Methodist and St. Mary’s Anglican.
The large number of Scottish Presbyterians commuted to St. Andrew’s Church in Windsor by means of trolley car, which was becoming less adequate to transport the increasing numbers. Automobiles were not yet possessed by the ordinary family.
The chief subject of discussion on the trolley car while returning from St. Andrew’s was the inconvenience of the situation and the possibility of forming a local church. Steps were taken to establish a branch Sunday school in Walkerville in November, 1907. Meetings were held in Forester’s Hall on Chilver near Wyandotte [now all those neat shops, the Yoga Loft, etc.] under the superintendence of Mr. David Johnstone. The move justified itself by an increase of membership from a start of twenty to an attendance of ninety within three months.
In August, 1907, the building committee was organized consisting of Gordon M. McGregor (President of Ford Motor Company) Chairman, and [others]. They acted promptly and were able to report that the present site (north west corner of Windermere Rd. at Niagara) could be purchased for $800. … At the same meeting, it was decided that architects Williams Brothers and J. M. Watts be requested to submit plans for a building to cost between $10,000 and $15,000.
The official opening of the church took place on November 12, 1908, with Dr. G. M. Milligan preaching at both services. The Walkerville paper noted that the day was “bright and warm which made the event all the more auspicious and at both services the church was filled” and “the choir of ten male and ten female voices rendered most appropriately and pleasingly the song services”.
Rev. Peter Taylor was the first minister (March, 1909.) The congregation was made up of first and second generation Scottish, English and Irish immigrants. With the union of the Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in 1925, it became known as the “First Presbyterian United Church” and on its 15th anniversary in 1933, it became “Chalmers United Church.”
From the Chalmers United Church Golden Anniversary Booklet 1958. Read the full story here. (Chalmers closed in 2000 due to declining enrolment. It became a private dwelling for a few years and was then purchased and is now operated by “All Nations Full Gospel Church”.)
Avid “Walkerville Times” readers Bruce and Norah Long sent the adjacent photo of a trolley running along Devonshire Road, and story below to our paper about a dozen years ago when Bruce was 87.
“This little street car travelled through Walkerville. It was named the Turnerville Trolley after a popular newspaper comic. It only had four wheels and you could rock it.
For 6 cents you could take it from Devonshire and Wyandotte, along Wyandotte for two blocks to Monmouth, up Monmouth to Ottawa St. across to Walker then up to General Motors, then along Seminole where it reversed and retraced the route back to Devonshire. This was the transportation for all the Walkerville people who worked in all the factories and businesses along Walker Rd.
During the Second World War, the double tracks for the trolley along Monmouth were torn up and cut with an acetylene torch into 2 foot lengths. They were shipped to the Hamilton Iron and Steel plant for use in the war effort.”
We ran other stories about Windsor’s amazing transit system including “The Junction – Birthplace of Windsor’s and Area’s Transit System”.
Sigh. Once again I can only shake my head when I consider everything we once had and all that we have lost.