One of the oldest residents in Woodstock, and one of its most prominent citizens, is William Grey, who settled in Oxford County in 1825, two and a half miles from the present Town of Woodstock, before the place, as a town, had a name, except “Town Plot.” The spot on which his house now stands, a quarter-mile from the Post Office, was a sugar bush half a century ago. He saw a village start here, and gradually expand into a town of 6,000 inhabitants, industrious, thriving, and intelligent; and no man now living here has done more to build up the place than Mr. Grey. He is a native of West Pennard, Somersetshire, England, dating his birth October 18, 1812. His father, Thomas Grey, a farmer, was a descendant of a family of large property holders in Somersetshire; married Jane Carter, of his native county, and, in 1822, brought his family to Canada, halting two or three years at Nicolet, Lower Canada, and, in 1825, coming as far west as the County of Oxford.
William received a good start in his education before leaving the Old Country, and, after coming to Canada, availed himself of the best means at his command to complete it; but never, we believe, grew proud of his store of knowledge.
Mr. Grey farmed for many years, owning, at one time, three or four farms, all of which he has sold. He has some woodland, and considerable town property, beside his pleasant home on Graham Street. Mr. Grey built the first brick building, for dwelling purposes, erected in Woodstock the Royal Hotel, still one of the popular public houses in the place. When it was erected, in 1843, it was probably the best hotel building within fifty miles of Woodstock. Mr. Grey has since erected various other buildings here, spending, in all, in such improvements, something like $40,000 or $50,000.
At one period after settling in the town Mr. Grey acted as deputy sheriff; and was a commission merchant, and a conveyencer, dealing very extensively in real estate, At the same time he was also an insurance agent for several of the best American Companies, and was in the Town or County Council much of the time. He was the second Mayor of Woodstock, Joseph Sidworth being the first. He has since held the same office several terms, and must have been in the Municipality of Woodstock altogether, at least, 25 years. He is one of the oldest magistrates in the county.
Mr. Grey was the first President of the Port Dover and Lake Huron Railway Company, and is now President of the Oxford Loan and Savings Society, the Woodstock and Norwich Plank and Gravel Road Company, and the Woodstock Board of Trade.
Mr. Grey was reared in the Episcopal Church, held the office of Warden over twenty years; has been a member of the Synod since it was formed, and has always been very active in Church matters, showing his public spirit here, as in many other directions.
Mr. Grey married, quite young (October, 1832), Miss Susan Westbrook, of Oakland, then County of Oxford, now Brant, and they had two children, one dying in infancy, and the other, John George, after he had become a practicing physician.