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Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of Kent, Ontario
Robert Stuart Woods


 ROBERT STUART WOODS, Q.C., revising officer of the electoral district of Kent, late junior judge of Kent, local judge of the high court of justice, surrogate judge of the maritime court of Ontario, and for fifty years a prominent figure in the Western District, is, with his more than fourscore years, one of the grand old men of Kent.  His eye is as bright, his mind as clear, his step as elastic, as when in the flush of early manhood he was called to the Bar.

In both paternal and maternal lines Judge Woods is of Scottish descent.  His grandfather Woods was a Scotchman engaged in mercantile pursuits in St. John’s, Lower Canada.  His maternal grandfather, Hon. Alexander Grant, familiarly known as Commodore Grant, was a member of the ancient family of that name at Glenmoriston, Inverness, Scotland, and came to Canada as a midshipman under Lord Amherst, in 1759, being appointed to the command of a sloop of war, and taking an active and honourable part in the exciting events of those early days.  Later he became commander or commodore of the western lakes, and at the time of his death had been an officer in His Majesty’s service for nearly 57 years.  Commodore Grant was one of the seven men called by Governor Simcoe to the first legislative council, and was the third member of the first executive council of Upper Canada; and in 1805-06 he was lieutenant-governor of that province.  Although both Judge Wood’s grandfathers were reared in the strict faith of the Scotch Presbyterians, both of them wedded French Canadian wives, of the Roman Catholic Church.

James Woods, father of Judge Woods, was a barrister-at-law at the Montreal Bar.  In 1800 he came to the Western District, and took an active part in public matters.  At his death he left a large landed estate.  He married Elizabeth, seventh daughter of the late Alexander Grant. 

Robert Stuart Woods was the fourth son of his parents, and was born at Sandwich, Essex, Ontario, in 1819.  He was educated in the district grammar schools under Rev. David Robertson, and the late Rev. William Johnson, until he was 17 years of age, and subsequently under the Rev. Alexander Gale, of Hamilton.  The course of study in those days was somewhat limited as compared with the curricula of modern schools, but what was lacking in extent was amply compensated for by thoroughness.  In 1837 came the Rebellion, and the young student went to the relief of Toronto under Colonel MacNab, as one of the famous 56 men of “Gore”, in the steamer “Gore”, by means of whom, on the first day of the Rebellion, the city was saved from MacKenzie’s forces.  He continued with Colonel MacNab throughout the campaign, and of one of the exploits of that force, the cutting out of the “Caroline”, Judge Woods has written an interesting account.

Judge Woods pursued his legal studies under Judge O’Reilly, of Hamilton, was called to the Bar in 1842, and was made a Q.C. by the Earl of Dufferin in 1872.  Up to the time of his appointment as junior judge, in 1885, he was actively engaged in the practice of law, and he won for himself a high place through his lofty conception of the duties and the dignity attendant upon members of his profession.  From 1846 to 1849 he was solicitor of the county council of the Western District, and is the oldest municipal officer in Kent.  In 1843 he acted as judge of the division court, at a time when the circuit was 150 miles in length, and two weeks were required for the work.  In 1850 he came to Kent, and at once took his place among those interested in the advancement and development of this section.  His means and his energies have been given freely to the securing of railways, good roads, canals and other enterprises.  To him is due the forcing of Hamilton citizens into the construction of the Great Western railway, which, with the opening of the Michigan Central to Chicago (1849), became the link between the roads of the East and the West.

Judge Woods has never belonged to any secret society.  While a faithful member of the Church of England, he has a broad sympathy for all other denominations, and is liberal in his aid to further any of them in good work.  He belongs to the Church of England Synod, and is an earnest advocate of temperance, and of all legislation to promote it.  For some time he was president of the Kent branch of the Dominion Alliance, and has belonged to other organizations having similar intent.  In his politics he is a Conservative, first and last, and is proud of the fact that his allegiance to his party has never wavered, even while his personal relations with the leaders of the opposition have ever been most cordial.  In 1854 he contested Kent against Larwill, McKellar & Waddell, when Larwill was returned, and Mr. Woods was defeated on the secularization of the Clergy Reserves, on which question he was in advance of his party.

In 1849 Judge Woods was united in marriage with Emma Elizabeth Schwarz, eldest daughter of the Honourable John E. Schwarz, adjutant-general of the State of Michigan.  Since the advent of the year 1904 Judge Woods has retired from the junior judgeship, followed by the good wishes of all his legal brethren, whose admiration for his honourable career and reverence for his high character were unbounded.  His public career has covered an important and historic period in the Province, and his reminiscences of the conditions and of people a lifetime ago are of great interest.   His volume, “Harrison Hall and its Associations”, gives the history of the District of Hesse and the Western District from their earliest organization, with that of their municipal, judicial, political and educational interests.  He is a fine conversationalist and is by nature most social, and time spent in his society is never devoid of pleasure.


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