The Canadian Literary Institute
The Canadian Literary Institute (established 1857), renamed Woodstock College in 1883 (closed 1926) and, finally, St. Alphonsus Seminary, demolished in 1959 to make way for CASS.
During the 1850s, the expanding Baptist community of Upper Canada seriously discussed plans to set up a 'Canadian Christian School of learning and culture' to train future Baptist pastors and others who wanted a good education in a Christian environment.
Woodstock offered a 6-acre site, donated by Archibald Burtch, deacon of the local Baptist Church, plus $16,000 pledged by Oxford residents towards school buildings and equipment. At the first subscribers' meeting, it was decided to name the future co-ed boarding school, the Canadian Literary Institute.
The cornerstone of the first new building was laid on June 23, 1857. Unfortunately, construction started during a recession and not all pledged money was available. Archibald Burtch again helped by mortgaging his house to raise building funds. The new principal, Dr Robert Fyfe, raised funds to complete the two-story dormitory and classroom building. The first term began September 12, 1860 with 79 students and five teachers.
After a fire in 1861 destroyed the building, Dr. Fyfe raised $20,000 to match a $4,000 donation by William McMaster of Toronto and a new school was built and opened in July, 1862. Annual fees were $20 for the primary; $28 for the higher; and were free for the theological department. A separate ladies building was erected in 1873. In 1881, the (now) Hon. William McMaster moved the theology department to the Toronto Baptist College.
The Canadian Literary Institute was renamed Woodstock College in 1883, the year of its peak enrollment of 261 students. Hoping that Woodstock College would become the McMaster University Arts College, Woodstock subscribers gave over management control of the College to the Baptist Board of Governors in Toronto in 1886. The Board, however, voted to move the girl students from Woodstock to Moulton Ladies College in Toronto, after it opened in 1888. That same year, the Board also opened McMaster University in Toronto, as the main Baptist theology centre. The University was later moved to Hamilton, where it remains today.
Woodstock College continued on as a boys' school. By 1889, the school buildings included science classrooms; workshops for manual training in woodworking, blacksmithing and machine shop; and one of the Dominion's largest observatories. A new gymnasium and indoor swimming pool opened in 1907. Unfortunately, the observatory was wrecked during a bitter fight between college and town boys in 1912.
During World War I, many of the staff and students left to join up, and college enrollment dropped to 75. After the War, enrollment rose to 120 but had dropped to 56 when the College closed in 1926.
The buildings were then leased to Trinity College, an Anglican college based in Port Hope, for 2 years. Then, in 1929, the Catholic Redemptorist Fathers bought the site and used it as St. Alphonsus Seminary until 1958. It remained vacant until the buildings were torn down to make way for CASS, which opened in 1963.
- W. Gordon Carder, 'Woodstock College 1857-1926' (Oxford Historical Society archives)
- Art Williams and Edward Baker, 'Bits and Pieces'
- Doug M. Symons, 'The Village That Straddled A Swamp'