DALY, JOHN CORRY WILSON, merchant, office-holder, and politician; b. in Liverpool, Eng., 24 March 1796; d. at Stratford, Ont., 1 April 1878.
John Corry Wilson Daly, born into “the better class of Irish society” (his birth occurred in Liverpool while his parents were visiting that city), received a sound education in Ireland before serving in the Royal Navy as a surgeon’s assistant. He then emigrated to Cooperstown, New York, and, in 1826, to Hamilton, Upper Canada. There he began a 30-year association with the Canada Company, in 1831 acting as its land agent in what later became the Huron District. In 1833 he moved to Stratford where the Canada Company had already built some shanties; his house was the second frame building in the settlement. He opened the town’s first store, and became its first postmaster. By 1841 he had purchased for himself the Canada Company’s mill dam and sawmills in the area. Daly also became agent for the Bank of Upper Canada in Stratford.
A Conservative, Daly was much involved in public life. Prior to 1842, Daly was a member of the local Board of Magistrates for the London District. He was elected in 1842 to the Huron District Council as the representative for Downie, Blanshard, and Fullarton townships for a term of three years. In 1845 he decided not to seek another term. His departure from the council was part of a dramatic incident, the “Stratford Riot.” The new councillors were chosen on 6 Jan. 1845 at a township meeting attended heavily by both Catholics and Orangemen. Daly, a member of the Church of England, was popular with the Roman Catholic minority in the district, where political and religious animosities had become acute, and, without his knowledge or consent, he was nominated for another term by his Catholic supporters. He was defeated. As justice of the peace, Daly had attempted to ensure order at the meeting by appointing special constables, but after the vote members of the two sides withdrew and began to drink. The result was a riot involving some 80 men, the majority of them Irish Catholics. Daly, summoned to restore order, arrested several rioters and one-month prison terms were eventually meted out to five of the Catholics. Religious tension persisted, but riot was avoided at later township meetings.
Daly was Stratford’s first mayor; indeed he held “all the important offices of honour and trust in the town: mayor, coroner, magistrate, militia officer.” In 1849 he was instrumental in the establishment of Perth County. He was a lieutenant-colonel in the militia and he helped to set up the first school district in the county. Though often regarded as “the founder of Stratford, Ontario,” he was, not the first to arrive: the first known settler in Perth County itself was Sebastian Fryfogle. Nonetheless, J. C. W. Daly was a Huron District pioneer whose biography indicates the opportunities available to a man of ability and drive in early settlement days.
Illustrated historical atlas of county Perth, Ont. (Toronto, 1879). Dom. ann. reg., 1878, 339–40. Wallace, Macmillan dictionary. H. F. Gardiner, Nothing but names: an inquiry into the origin of the names of the counties and townships of Ontario (Toronto, 1899), 349–50. William Johnston, History of the county of Perth from 1825 to 1902 (Stratford, Ont., 1903). Robina and K. M. Lizars, In the days of the Canada Company: the story of the settlement of the Huron tract and a view of the social life of the period, 1825–1850 (Toronto, Montreal, 1896). Swainson, “Personnel of politics.” P. E. Lewis, “When orange and green united – the Stratford riot of 1845,” Western Ontario Historical Notes (London), XX (September 1964), 1–5.