Publication Date: 1964
One of the greatest businessmen and philanthropists of Guelph was Charles Raymond. He brought to this city the energy, shrewdness, and foresight of the typical New Englander. Born in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, on January 6, 1826, and educated there, at Fitchburg and Lowell. He left school at 17 to become an apprentice in the Massachusetts Cotton Mills at Lowell. He remained there for three years. Next, he went to Bristol, Connecticut, where he began work as a machinist. Working on the improvement of the sewing machine, he designed, in 1852, patterns on a single thread machine. However, Singer had already taken out a patent on such a machine, so he turned to clock making machinery.
In 1856, he took out patents on devices for a new sewing machine, and from 1857 until 1862, he was engaged in sewing-machine construction at Brattleboro, Vermont, with an unsuccessful venture in Montreal. In 1862, because of litigation in the U.S.A. over patents regarding sewing machines, he came to Guelph and began manufacturing them. Most of the machines were exported to Germany and his business flourished. Soon, he opened a carriage factory at the junction of Yarmouth and Norfolk Streets. Gradually he increased his buildings. He took in the Old Knox Church site, where the present Loblaw parking lot is located today.
He bought out Arms and Worswick, a rival sewing machine company whose factory was on the corner of Yarmouth and Norfolk Streets. Among his early employees were William and Thomas Worswick, William and John Crowe, R. Davis, and the Maddocks, William Parker, John Scoon, S. Bailey and I. Bowers.
In 1875, the main factory on Baker Street was destroyed by fire, but within days he had the brick on the ground ready for rebuilding. He continued to operate the two factories until 1896, when he sold out his interests to J. G. Sully, his former foreman, and Christian Kloepfer, under the name of the Raymond Manufacturing Company. With part of this money, he erected a handsome group of houses on the site of his beautiful garden – a triangular piece of ground running from his Italianate Victorian house on Norfolk Street and Baker Street.
Mr. Raymond was a Baptist when he first came to Guelph but joined the congregational church when he lived here. Through his generosity, in 1867, the congregation built their handsome church on the southwest corner of Liverpool and Norfolk Streets. Later, he and his second wife re-joined the Baptist church and were largely responsible for the erection and maintenance of the First Baptist on Woolwich Street.
In 1848, he married Mary C. Marston of Sharon, Vermont. She died in June 1869. Their children were Mrs. John Crowe (Emma), and Mrs. John Miner (Ada). Their son, Arthur, died of diphtheria at the age of two or three. In 1870, he married Miss Gill of Brattleboro, Vermont. They adopted two children: Mrs. Harry Williams of Toronto, and Charles F. Raymond of Toronto. The latter’s only surviving son is Arthur Raymond of Victoria, B.C. Mrs. D.B. Shutt is a grand-daughter of Emma Raymond.
He was a member of the Guelph Board of Education for several years. It was largely through his energy that Central School was built. In 1874 to 1875, he was First Deputy Reeve of Guelph and promoted in the county council the construction of the Wellington County Home for the Aged. He was one of the early directors of the Guelph General Hospital, oversaw its building, and was always a warm friend of that institution. He consented to become the Conservative candidate for the Ontario Legislature in 1884, with a view to advancing temperance legislation but was defeated.
Raymond died in Guelph on January 4, 1904, at the age of 78 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery on the anniversary of his birthday. A portrait of Charles Raymond is at present hanging in the main hall of Central School, donated by Arthur Raymond and Mrs. Shutt.
Sources of information:
Guelph Mercury, January 7, 1904
Conversation with Mrs. D. B. Shutt.