Watford celebrates 150th anniversary in June

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David Maxwell - the inventor of the first handmade automobile in Canada - was made in his blacksmith shop in Watford.

Watford is marking its 150th anniversary with a three day community celebration.

A large volunteer committee has been working on events to mark the founding of the community in the centre of Warwick Township.

Watford was first settled in 1851 and was known as Brown’s Corners. It was a stagecoach stop between the Village of Warwick and Brooke Township. When the Great Western Railway built a line in the area in 1856, the settlement moved toward the railroad tracks. Watford was incorporated as a village in 1873 and was named either after Watford in England or Watford, Ireland.

The village became one of the main hubs of commerce for the East Lambton community and it was a hub of innovation as well. Watford is the birthplace of “The Maxmobile”, the first hand-made automobile in Canada. While Henry Ford was creating the world’s first automobile in the early 1900’s, David A. Maxwell, was inventing an automobile of his own. Henry Ford was interested in developing a business partnership with Maxwell, who turned down his offer.

The historic automobile is still in existence today and on display in the Old Fire Hall Museum in Watford. 

As Watford marks an economic resurgence, a three day sesquicentennial event is being planned. Joe Manning, the committee’s chair, says the opening ceremonies will be Friday, June 23 at Centennial Park. There will be children’s activities, a food and drink festival and an outdoor concert with Mudmen as the feature band.

Saturday’s events are in the downtown core and include a kids’ ball hockey tournament and community market, a strawberry social, aLegion barbecue, historical tours, street performers and another outdoor concert series. 

Manning said the committee is incorporating as much local talent as possible in the celebration.

Sunday June 25, the actual anniversary date, will close out the weekend with an antique car and tractor show, firemen’s breakfast and a dinner.

Manning says funding from the federal government and Warwick Township will make it possible to offer almost all of the events for free.

The committee has also set up a website https://www.watford150.com which outlines the weekend events.