Katherine Langdon Wilks

The Means to Start a New Life in Canada

As the granddaughter of an Austrian and Hungarian couple who immigrated to Canada in 1956, I have an understanding of what it means to leave your homeland to start a new life in a foreign country in hopes of preserving a better life for future generations. When I look at stories of immigrants coming to Canada like Katherine Langdon Wilks, I think of my grandparents and the chance they took coming here. I am grateful for the privileges I have as a Canadian citizen and value opportunities to help others because of the privilege I know I have had. I imagine Katherine would have shared a similar sentiment.

Photo of Katherine Langdon Wilks and Company in front of Cruickston Park, Bagnani Family Album, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

Katherine Langdon Wilks is sitting in front of a car in Cruickston Park. Katherine was born in the United Kingdom and immigrated to Canada with her family in 1858.[1] Her family left the United Kingdom in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, a time when many working class citizens were being encouraged by British trade-unions to move to North America to relieve population stresses and living conditions in Britain and to allow them better opportunities for work in the new world.[2] However, Katherine came from a very wealthy family, with connections to New York’s upper class society through her Great Grandfather, John Jacob Astor.[3] It is likely that Katherine’s family saw an opportunity to bolster business by leaving the industrialized society developing in United Kingdom and move to North America in order to utilize the skills of the working class population overseas.

Katherine’s father, Matthew Wilks, bought Cruickston Park[4] in 1858 with the intention to use it as a summer home. Katherine inherited the property after her father’s death in 1899.[5] Katherine primarily resided at Cruickston Park but she was an avid traveller throughout her life and claims to have crossed the Atlantic more than 70 times.[6] Cruickston Park remained very important to Katherine’s ambitions moving forward, particularly for the development of her horse-breeding business.[7]

Back of Photograph with details of image scene, Bagnani Family Album, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.


Katherine was admired in her lifetime for her charitable deeds. She was one of the three founders of the Galt branch of the Canadian Red Cross, which was established at Cruickston Park in 1914 around the time this photograph was taken.[8] Working with the Red Cross, Katherine helped gather and ship supplies to soldiers during World War I and even donated an ambulance to the city of Galt in 1919.[9] Katherine was also generous by her own means and made donations to her city, the church and the armed forces on multiple occasions throughout her lifetime.[10]

Katherine would be happy to know that Cruickston Park’s charitable legacy continues today. The land at Cruickston Park is now largely owned by the charitable foundation known as rare[11] which researches ecological restoration and integrates this research into education programs.[12]


Cruickston Park started out as a summer home for an upper class English immigrant family and has now grown to be associated with education, charity and environmental preservation through the work of rare. The land owned by Katherine Langdon Wilks has developed into an important environmental conservation site that is one of a kind within Canada.[13] While Katherine and her family moved to Cruickston Park looking for opportunities for their family, rare has moved to Cruickston Park to conserve the future of the planet.


Sarah Rolko completed her undergraduate degree in Near Eastern and Classical Archaeology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. She is currently interested in a future in collections management and hopes to continue working in Classical Studies, but she is open to the opportunities that this degree may give her. She is an avid traveller herself and her Hungarian grandfather and Austrian grandmother were immigrants to Canada during the 1956 Hungarian revolution.

[1]“Katharine Langdon Wilks 1853-1948,” n.d.

[2]Erickson, 1949, p. 249.

[3]Redshaw, n.d.


[5]“Katherine Langdon Wilks,” n.d.

[6]“Katharine Langdon Wilks 1853-1948,” n.d.

[7]“Katherine Langdon Wilks,” n.d.

[8]“Cambridge Archives and Records Centre,” n.d.

[9]“Cambridge Archives and Records Centre,” n.d.

[10]“Cambridge Archives and Records Centre,” n.d.


[12]“Tomorrow’s Vision,” n.d.

[13]“Tomorrow’s Vision,” n.d.

She was one of the three founders of the Galt branch of the Canadian Red Cross which was established at Cruickston Park in 1914, around the time this photograph was taken.