Katherine Langdon Wilks
Katherine Langdon Wilks was born on 30 Aug 1854 in Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom, the daughter of Matthew Wilks and Eliza Astor Langdon. She was also the great granddaughter of John Jacob Astor and thus had strong connections to the high society of New York state. She came to Canada in 1858 with her family when her father purchased a two hundred acre estate from William Ashton. The estate was known as Cruickston Park and was located on the road between Galt and Blair. Mr Wilks extended the property to 1400 acres and completed the Elizabethan manor house that had been started by Mr Ashton.
When Mr Wilks died in 1899, Miss Wilks inherited the property and entered enthusiastically into the expansion of the racing stables which her father had started as a hobby. The breeding programme undertaken at the farm produced a notable breed of horses and a reputation for Miss Wilks as the leading woman horse breeder on the continent. In all, her horses won over fifty trophies, fifty medals and 1400 ribbons.
Although her life was marked by triumphs in the horse ring, Miss Wilks is best remembered locally by her generosity and prominence in local and national affairs. She was one of the three original founders of the Galt branch of the Canadian Red Cross when it was formed at Cruickston Park on 9 Sep 1914. Miss Wilks was named President of the organization and held the position for twenty-eight years. She retired from the post in 1943 at the age of 89 but continued to advise the group until her death in 1948. Under Miss Wilks' leadership the local Red Cross gathered and shipped clothing and supplies to soldiers during the First World War, donated an ambulance to the City of Galt in 1919 and provided assistance wherever it was required. In addition to her work with the Red Cross, Miss Wilks was widely known for her personal generosity. She donated an ambulance to the Galt Hospital in 1900, donated a soup kitchen to the armed forces, paid for the landscaping of Trinity Park in 1935 and had the chain and concrete fence installed. She paid for the heating system installed in the rectory of Trinity Anglican Church in 1937 and donated to Trinity Anglican Church the brass pulpit, a pair of seven-branched candle standards and the church's exceptional oak panelling, with the two-fold series of woodcarvings, one from the Old Testament, the other from the New Testament.
Miss Wilks died on 3 Sep 1948 leaving an estate valued at $675,000. The management of Cruickston Park was left to her nephew, Matthew Wilks Keefer. Miss Wilks is buried in Trinity Anglican Cemetery.