Orlo Miller

711 Richmond Street (at the CPR Tracks)

Sir Adam Beck’s funeral cortege began at Headley, Beck’s residence at 240 Sydenham Street, and proceeded down Richmond Street to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As a child, Orlo Miller watched the cortege. Some men removed their hats as a sign of respect, but there was also “booing, hissing, and snarling”—Adam Beck was perceived by some as being a socialist for promoting hydroelectricity for all.


These words by Orlo Miller taken from Fred Israels’ oral history give a sense of why Sir Adam Beck was both one of the most loved and the most hated men of his time.


711 Richmond Street is my old homestead, beside the CPR tracks. That is where I grew up in the early 1900s. My dad had a tailor shop there. One of the more shocking experiences that I have ever had in this town was the funeral of Sir Adam Beck. The cortege began at Headley. It was a funeral procession where the people walked with the hearse. It was outside of our place on Richmond at the C.P.R. Tracks. Adam Beck had been a customer of my father.

We were standing on the sidewalk watching the procession—as it went by, the men would remove their hats. This was the sort of thing done as a sign of respect. Not everybody did, however. Everything was quiet except you could hear women weeping. Well, to my shock, I heard some men booing, hissing and snarling. I was just a kid of thirteen or fourteen at the time. I was appalled. I encountered sheer human hatred.

Adam Beck was loved and hated. There was no in-between. He was the kind of man who evoked that sort of thing. You believed in what he believed in which was ‘Hydro For The People.’ You must realize that that represented socialism then. Have you ever thought of the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario as the first socialist publicly owned hydro system in North America? This was the reason for the hatred, you see. Here was the new order. They might take over everything. But Adam Beck was no socialist. He was a pure capitalist. That hatred that he evoked was amazing. He was a tough man.


If you would like to hear more stories about The Village you can walk north along Richmond Street, turn left onto Piccadilly Street and look for the orange Hear, Here sign.