People: Scots of Windsor's Past
"He was an enthusiastic student to the last days of his life, and a never failing source of reliable information and pleasure to those with whom he conversed."
~ Border Cities Star [20 August 1925]
Historian and writer Andrew Braid was born in Livingstone, a small town outside Edinburgh. In 1883, he left Scotland and settled in Windsor, where he remained for the rest of his life (save, of course, the occasional visit home). Four years after his arrival in Windsor, he married Annie Bartlet, daughter of Alexander Bartlet. They had two sons during their marriage: Ross, who became an executive in the Essex Border Utilities Commission, and James, who graduated from Osgoode Hall and enjoyed a successful career in law.
With a mind geared toward intellectual study, Mr. Braid pursued various activities that aided Windsor's cultural development during the forty-five years he lived in the community. While maintaining a job as a notary with Bartlet, Bartlet & Barnes, Mr. Braid served as secretary of the Windsor Public Library Board from 1893 until 1923, secretary of the Essex County Historical Society for twenty-two years, and continuous secretary (and one-time president) of the St. Andrew's Society. Over the years, he penned numerous verses on behalf of the Windsor St. Andrew's Society to other sister societies and organizations; his letters display, aside from his skill as a poet, the ease with which he was able to jump between formal English and the Scots language.
One of the first organizations into which Mr. Braid was drawn upon his settlement in Windsor, however, was the 21st Essex Battalion of Infantry, which formed in July 1885. As one of its founding members, Mr. Braid preserved the battalion's development in a scrap book of press clippings that later formed "a perfect history of the old 21st." During the First World War, Mr. Braid continued his military involvement as a member of the Essex County Home Guard.
Like his fellow Scotsman Andrew Carnegie, Mr. Braid also took a keen interest in the city's literary affairs. The Border Cities Star referred to the public library, which opened in 1894, as "Mr. Braid's particular hobby during his long association with its affairs, and it is largely to his activity and interest that the city owes its present library." The library had outgrown its Lambie Hall facility after just five years in operation when Mr. Braid became secretary of the Windsor Public Library Broad in 1898. Determined to ensure that the library kept up with ever-increasing needs of the rapidly-growing city, Mr. Braid contacted Mr. Carnegie and negotiated for an endowment for a new, larger library. After the funding came through in 1903, construction for the new building began on the southeast corner of Park Street and Victoria Avenue. The Carnegie Library of Windsor was opened to the public in December of that year.
The new library gave Mr. Braid many valuable resources that assisted him in his research for the Essex County Historical Association. He frequently lectured on his discoveries, contributed numerous articles to the Border Cities Star and the Windsor Record, and made sure to attend every meeting of the provincial Historical Association. His private collection of old maps and historical relics, in fact, was "considered one of the finest in this part of the country." 1 In his latter years with the Historical Association, Mr. Braid recruited the man who would become Windsor's most famous historian into its ranks. George F. MacDonald became a close associate of Mr. Braid's, and the two spent many years in collaboration as they worked together to unearth the history of the Border region. When Mr. Braid passed away, MacDonald mourned the loss of both a cherished friend and a valuable member of the local literary community. "I always derived the deepest pleasure from his companionship," he told the Border Cities Star. "His death is a matter of deep personal regret to me, and a great loss to the community in which his labors accomplished so much."
Towards the end of August 1925, Andrew Braid died without warning of a cerebral hemorrhage at his home on 572 Victoria Avenue. He had gone to bed at eleven o'clock in his usual good health, but was gone by midnight. Known widely beyond his immediate circle of acquaintances, the community mourned for one of its most public-spirited citizens. "I shall miss [Andrew] very much," said close friend Alexander Gow. "His conversation and the rich knowledge it displayed, were always a pleasure and an inspiration to me, as they were to everyone with whom he came in contact." Acting Mayor Charles Tuson also praised Braid as an "extraordinary citizen" whose "word was as good as his bond." City treasurer J. R. Thomson agreed with the mayor that Mr. Braid's chief virtue was his "high sense of honor."