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Life In The 1700 and 1800’s In Elgin

Introduction. ……….
  • Life In The 1700 and 1800’s In Elgin
Transportation Routes to 1850
Bayham Township
Malahide Township
Aylmer (Malahide Township)
St. Thomas (Yarmouth Township)
St. Thomas Trains
St. Thomas Train Stations
St. Thomas Bridges
St. Thomas Doubles In Size
St. Thomas Early Hotels
Old St. Thomas Churchyard
Chisholm Monument St. Thomas
Jumbo – St. Thomas
Earthworks (Southwold Township)
Talbotville (Southwold Township
Native People (Southwold Township)
Oneida Nation Of The Thames
Iona (Southwold Township)
Fingal (Southwold Township)
Dutton-Dunwich Township
Tyrconnell (Dunwich Township)
Aldborough Township (West Elgin)


Colonel Thomas Talbot
Bayham "Firby and Moore" Map
Aylmer Fire 1965
Old St. Thomas Church
Times Printing Building
Journal Printing Building
City Hall 1898
Francis "Frank" Hunt
Alexander C. Henderson Fire Chief
Elgin County Court House
St. Thomas 1875
L&PS Train # 4 at St. Thomas Station
C.S.R. Station
P.M. Round House/Shop
C.S.R. Station 1905
Wabash Station 1900
L.&P.S. Station St. Thomas
L.&P.S. Station Port Stanley
Queens Hotel
Grand Central Hotel
Empire Hotel
Royal Hotel
Hotel Advertisements
Old Church Yard
Old Church Yard Entrance
Wallace’s Tombstone
Henry Judgeson Rapelje
Chisholm Monument
Chisholm Monument 1952
Native Area Map
Iona Advertisements from 1877
Fingal Climax Threshing Machine
Fingal Monitor Steam Engine

Life In The 1700 and 1800’s In Elgin

This story got started from gathering information about the Firby’s Family Tree. I wanted to find out what it was like and what was happening for the Firby family in the Talbot settlement in the 1800’s. Well one story, book and page led to another and another and I was hooked. I have over 1000 names in my Family Tree and this book of over 100 pages on Elgin County and growing, there is no end. Hours have turned into several years and the more I find out the more I have a feeling as to what it must have been like for our Pioneer Fathers. They opened up the land in the wilderness, labored long and hard to make settlements and gave us a wonderful Place to live and raise a Family. And to them, this book is theirs. The Firby‘s were a gentle, loving, church going people who worked hard and some say "stubborn" but as a Firby I can say that is not true, we just have Principles, "which is the only way".

Arnold Raymond Firby
St.Thomas, Ontario, Canada


The Firby’s Come To Canada
Talbot Settlement

First A word about the original Settlement of this part of Upper Canada, known as the Talbot Settlement. Colonel Thomas Talbot was born at the ancient Baronial Castle of Malahide in the county of Dublin, Ireland, July 19, 1771, a young son of aristocratic Anglo-Irish nobles, the Talbot’s of Malahide. In those days of peers and primogeniture, families and estates were inherited wholly by the eldest son, leaving younger sons such as Thomas to seek careers and wealth elsewhere, Consequently, in 1783 when he was 12, a commission in the British Army was purchased for him. At 16 he served as an aide to Marquis of Buckingham of the Court of Dublin and two years later was posted to garrison duty with the 24th Regiment at Quebec. He was Private Secretary from 1791 to 1794 for John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, living and serving in Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), touring the Western Peninsula and winning Lord Simcoe’s commendation and Lady Simcoe’ approval. In 1794, Talbot returned to England to join the war against Napoleon. But in 1801, after the Treaty of Amiens brought a temporary end to The Napoleonic Wars, he sold his commission, retired from service, and sailed again for Upper Canada, seeking land in Yarmouth Township. When Talbot had acted as Simcoe’s private secretary he had with Simcoe visited this part of Upper Canada, landing at Port Talbot and penetrating the wilderness to the fork of the Thames where London now stands. Talbot was so pleased with the country that he applied for the land. He did not get the land he wanted or the amount General John Graves Simcoe had recommended which necessitated another trip to London, but when he returned in 1803, he had an agreement he could work to his advantage not far from Yarmouth, in the Township of Dunwich and Aldborough.

The Colonel Talbot Settlement which in 1803 was the whole of the county of Elgin and part of Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Norfolk, an immense tact of land granted by the British Crown to Colonel Talbot, an Irishman of good family. Talbot was granted Five Thousand acres of land on the condition of conveying fifty acres out of every two hundred to an actual settler. He was also commissioned addition grants that covered in all about 28 townships with 618,000 acres of the Western Peninsula along the Lake Erie shore, south of the Thames River to Lake Erie and from Windsor in the West to all most Long Point in the East. In return for getting settlers to open up the land, he received an enormous amount of land for his own use. He established himself on the bluff of Lake Erie, at what is now Port Talbot. Here all settlers came to arrange for land and the settlement spread out from this point. Talbot commenced settling, arranging for the serving of the Talbot Road and the building of a mill but attracting only 27 settlers by 1812

If Colonel Thomas Talbot had not been balked by royal favor and South Yarmouth had not already been granted to the Honorable Colonel James Baby family of Sandwich for services to the Crown, his settlement may have been started in Houghton Township of what is now Norfolk County, or Yarmouth Township in Elgin. Yarmouth was Colonel’s first choice as "his favorite settlement" but the Duke of Cumberland to whom he wrote on May 16 1801 did not see it that way.

That letter was written by Colonel Talbot from "Skitteewoaboa Upper Canada" which is the Ojibway Indian word for whiskey or firewater. Nobody knows exactly where Skitteewoaboa was. Some historians say it was Port Bruce: others, Port Stanley.

The late Dr. James H. Coyne is authority for the statement that in May 1802, Colonel Talbot actually chopped trees near Port Stanley, with the view of starting a settlement in Yarmouth. The Talbot settlement actually began on May 21 1803, 14 miles west of Port Stanley. As Talbot approached his new possession by water, he selected a spot at the mouth of a romantic winding creek in the township of Dunwich as his landing place, naming it Port Talbot. Seizing an axe from an attendant he at once felled the first tree animating Columbus as he kissed the earth of the New World.

Colonel Talbot began his settlement for the purpose of encouraging and developing the growing of hemp. He was an authority on the subject; and he had inspected the soil along the north shore of Lake Erie in the company of his friend, General John Graves Simcoe, with that agricultural specialty in mind.

The War of 1812 caused setbacks. Immigration ceased, crops were destroyed, cattle slaughter, and Talbot’s mill was burned. Talbot escaped numerous attempts to capture him but his surveyor, land registrar, and neighbor, Colonel Mahlon Burwell, was nabbed and held prisoner in Ohio for the duration of the war. After the war, however, settlers poured into the area, giving Talbot the numbers he needed to realize his dream

As it was necessary for Talbot to go to York (Toronto) frequently, Colonel Talbot had a trail blazed, which snaked through the woods in that direction. He began the construction of the Talbot Road in 1804 and in the early part of the 19-Century it was already not only the longest but also the best road in Upper Canada. This trail became known as the Talbot Road and is still called that in many places today. Highway #3 follows much of it today. In his plan, Talbot had his settlers receiving grants of land from him were obliged to build a road and clear a right of way’ in front of there own property as part of their settlement duties to qualify for legal title to the land. Also, they were required to spend a stated number of days per year on its upkeep. This was known as ‘Statute Labour’.

Talbot prepared for settlement by having Colonel Mahlon Burwell survey the Talbot road and devising a manageable means of assigning lots and ensuring completion of settlement duties. Newcomers were interviewed at his " audience window" and if found acceptable, were either sold or assigned a lot, their name penciled in on his map.

Depending on the circumstances, the settler got his land for little or nothing but hard work. If he had been in the military service in England or had fought in the American Revolution as an Empire Loyalist, he was entitled to at least 200 acres free (more if he was an officer), as was each of his children at the age of 21. When the settler was assigned his lot, he had to clear 5 acres of land and build a log shanty (a minimum size was required) and opened the road in front of their lot, Talbot then issued them a certificate, which with fees, they could take to York to claim their patent and register ownership. If their duties were not preformed or in some cases if they proved rebellious, their names were rubbed out and replaced by others.

Two hundred-acre lots of land were surveyed out along both sides of the road and settlement started from the Talbot’s place moving eastward. When the land along the road was taken up Townships were then surveyed.

The roads and lots were usually set out in a grid pattern and Talbot originally had set aside a certain percentage of the lots as Clergy land for the use of the Church and this turned out to be a detriment to settlers. No one was required to clear the land or build the roads by them. Eventually the system was changed and these lots went to the settlers.

Using this method, Talbot opened land in about 28 townships from Long Point to the Detroit River. In selling crown lands, he earned 3% of the selling price. Where he could he claimed land for his efforts, holding it for speculation. In Dunwich and Aldborough, he assigned the Highland Scots as little of his 5,000 as possible. Set on 50 acres of reserve and claimed the remaining 150 acres of a 200-acre grant for him self. The Scots protested, claiming that Talbot had swindled them of their rights and kept their land. Many were unable to see why, that in placing a settler on 200 acres of land, the division should be 50 acres to the settler and 150 acres to Colonel Talbot. This was however in accordance with the British Government and did not prevent the settler from acquiring more land by paying for 100 acres at the sum of £6 9s 3d.

Others joined the chorus of discontent. Anger turned to opposition and the formation of the Reform Party. Local Reformers in opposition to York’s Family Compact and the despotic practices of the Colonel defeated Talbot’s associate, Mahlom Burwell, who had been elected MLA in 1812, 1816, and 1820. Talbot responded in St. Thomas on St. George’s Day 1832, denouncing Reformers as rebels, lamenting that despite his care, black sheep, affected with rot, had crept into his flock. To no avail, Reformers continued to be elected locally, forcing Burwell to run in London to regain a seat.

And in response to complaints about his arbitrary practices and concerns about the mass of land that he had acquired, Talbot himself was rubbed out in 1836. Ordered to end settlement practices and give way to provincial authorities, again he appealed to his influential friends in England, won some reprieve, and stubbornly refused to fully comply with provincial demands, even to the time of his death.

Canals and Pioneer Roads

During the late 1820,s when Talbot fell out of favor with the government, another group, the Canadian Company acquired a great deal of unclaimed land. A wealthy company of Englishmen, who had purchased hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile land and some not so fertile land for about one shilling an acre for the purpose of speculation. For a period both where a source of land to the settlers. Before 1850, the original crown land and deeds were distributed as follows:
              Colonel Baby and Family  18,400 acres
              Canada Company                5,833 acres
              King’s College church         3,833 acres
              Private Landowners          27,767 acres
              Crown Land                       12,800 acres

The Population of Ontario in Canada
                                                  Quebec                    Ontario
Year          Canada           (Lower Canada)          (Upper Canada)
1665                 3,215
1765               69,810
1825                                     479,288                     157,923
1851                                     890,261                     952,004
1871          3,689,256                                          1,620,851
1901          5,371,315                                          2,182,947
1931        10,375,786                                          3,431,683
1961        18,238,247                                          6,236,092
1971        21,568,311                                          7,703,106
1981        24,343,180                                          8,625,105

This was the condition in the area before the Firby’s arrived.

The area in Malahide and Bayham Township where the Firbys settled (Corinth area) was opened up on Talbot Road in the 1815-1818 periods. From 1815-1820 a great influx of sons and daughters of the Loyalists from the Niagara area, where the good land was all taken, came to clear land hear. Others came from the old country too

Colonel Thomas Talbot was eccentric to say the least. He quit a most promising military career, abandoned the British Court and the world of society at the age of 29 years, to bury himself in the then lonely bush wilderness of Elgin County. He lived in a crude log house for years, choosing to call it with Irish wit" his castle" and for half century he remained, most of the time directing with almost regal powers the settlement which bears his name.

Colonel Talbot remained a bachelor to the end. Some say he was disappointed in love as a young man and that this was one of the reasons for him abandoning his career and virtually isolating himself in the Canadian wilderness. Roughing it in the bush, at cost and deprivation, Colonel Talbot did establish the framework of a prosperous, British settlement. He had roads surveyed and opened. He assigned lots and saw to it that settlement duties were done. As the recognized local representative of colonial power, he assumed numerous official roles and, when it suited his purpose, served. In early years admirers referred to him as the Father of the Settlement, critics, both local and provincial, castigated him as arbitrary and unjust, self-serving and self –righteous.

He was all this and more he was charming, often moody, austere and ruthless, concerned at times but rarely warm or inviting, Talbot was the child of the 18th century court of Dublin, here to make his land fortune of British North America.

Colonel Talbot died in the home of George Macbeth in London Ontario on February 6 1853. He was born in Castle Malahide, Ireland on July 19 1771 one of a family of seven sons and five daughters born to Richard Talbot and Margaret O’Reilly.

Colonel Talbot was laid to rest in the beautiful old God’s Acre of St. Peter’s Church Tyrconnell, high above the serene blue waters of Lake Erie.

The Firby's In Bayham Township

In 1831 Thomas Firby (1802-1875) got a 100 acres in Bayham Township from the Canadian Company. Thomas must have been a scout for the rest of the family and either returned to England or wrote back that the rest of the family should come. Whether or not all the rest came together, I don’t know. Robert Firby (1818-1886), nephew of Thomas got 100 acres almost adjoining his uncle’s land in 1834. It had been Clergy land. I assume that Robert’s parents, Joseph and Hannah as well as his siblings, Ann, John (Eli), and infant Thomas Medd, who was born in 1833, came too, as the next child Hannah was born here in 1835. Thomas’s other brother’s John (1789) and James (1791) may have come then too. The first evidence I have of John is in the 1842 census. John and Elizabeth had a son James born in England in 1833 and have found no evidence of children born after that. Unfortunately church records for the early 1800s are almost non-existent. They were serviced by itinerant Ministers and often held the services in the homes and schools.

The first and only church in the area was Benson’s Chapple Wesleyan Methodist Church built about 1837. It was known as Moss’s Church as well because it was on the corner of the Moss’s farm. A Moss relative has the original deed to the one-acre lot of Church land bought in 1855 from Thomas Firby one of the trustees. Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths did not begin until 1867 in this country. Cemetery records seem to be lost if they ever did exist, most records before that time were kept by the family usually in a family Bible.

Ann, the mother and grandmother died in 1848. She is not buried in the Firby cemetery but in another one some three miles southeast near Richmond Village (Wilsonburg Cemetery). Firby‘s have relatives in both cemeteries, which makes me suspicious that families related to the Firbys came to Canada too. Ann Weighell (1765-1848) may have been living with a bother’s family, who owned land across from the cemetery where she is buried. Also Thomas Firby (1802-1875) married Elizabeth Cheeseman of Barninghare Yorkshire while in England and their children were born in Canada. Nephew Robert, son of Joseph and Hannah married a second sister Margaret Cheeseman and a third sister Bleaner Cheeseman married Thomas Weston of Cantley Yorkshire and they lived here also. The Cheeseman name continues here so these sisters must have had brothers or uncles whom came here. Another family the Dennis were neighbors and Ann (1806-1867), the sister of John, James, Joseph and Thomas, who was Baptized at Over Silton on 27 April 1806 married Thomas Dennis (1798-xxxx) at OverSilton England. Another Firby Girl married a Pearson in Yorkshire in 1828. All these families lived in Bayham Township or near by and at sometime came to Canada and are related.

The land in the Bayham area is relatively flat, fairly sandy, well drained soil. A number of creeks rise in the area and have created deep ravines that are well forested still although the big timber has been cut out. The land was originally forested with huge Pines, Oaks, Maple, Beech and Walnut. It must have been a tremendous task to cut and root out these trees with the tools they had so they could farm. Robert (1818-1886) became a very successful framer and financier. According to maps and Registry Office Records he owned many hundred acres of land and held mortgages on many more. Robert soon got into the lumber business and built a sawmill on Little Jerry Creek (lot 1 Concession 8, Bayham Township). At the height of the lumbering trade, he hired a fair number of workers for his mill, which later was converted to steam and he became by far the wealthiest of the family. John and Joseph seemed content to farm and Thomas left for the Windsor area where he had a soap and candle works. He kept in touch with the Bayham and Malahide families. His descendants went to live in California. James remains an unknown factor. He likely lived here for a while. It is reported he then moved to Michigan, USA and has descendants there. I have not yet followed up this information.

Settlement was steady and fairly rapid, so that by the 1800’s the population in the area had risen to 12000 and there were 60,000 acres under cultivation. In 1851, legislation was passed to set apart Elgin County from Middlesex County. The new county was named after the Governor General of the time, Lord Elgin. There were Townships of Aldborough, Dunwich, Southwold, Yarmouth, Malahide, South Dorchester, Bayham and villages of St.Thomas and Vienna

Early Settlers of the area were slaves to their farms and land. There were no labor saving devices as we have today. Water, wind, animal or men were the only source of affordable power on the farm. It was all toil and hard labor, a bushel of wheat for a yard of cotton cloth and eighteen bushel for a barrel of salt seems a strange tale today but it was true in 1817.

In summer farmers got up at 4 o’clock and younger family members were called and bounded out of bed without a second call and proceeded to the barn to do the chores- feed the cattle, clean the stables, curry and harness the horses ready for the days work. When first chores were done a breakfast of corn or graham mush, fried potatoes, fresh or salt pork, and bread and butter with milk or very weak tea. There was always plenty of fresh milk and on occasion fresh eggs and steak after butchering. There was no fresh meat available from day to day, no refrigeration other then a cool cellar, which keep some thing quite well but not meat or milk. Most days after breakfast the clearing of farmland, roads, turning the soil, planting crops and hand hoeing weeds row after row mile after mile was the daily farm life. On occasion the welcome daily routine was interrupted to help a neighbor in a barn raising, shanty building, threshing or a special outing to the market in St.Thomas or London. The diet was very good especially during the summer season when all kinds of fresh vegetables, fruit and gallons of fresh warm milk were plentiful. When Wheat, Oats, or Corn was ready to be threshed, the neighbors helped each other and the threshers were always rewarded for their work with a big threshers harvest meal. Big chunks of meat usually beef or pork was prepared over an open wood pit fire

The family friendly threshers filled up on a luscious meal of meat and vegetable fresh from the garden. The meal was always topped off with milk, tea, coffee, and pies of all kinds and deserts, all you could eat and drink. Threshing was a happy occasion in more ways than one. It was a time of Harvest, Feasting and good fellowship of friends, family and neighbors and the family ate left overs for the next two or three days.

The men worked from sun up to sun down but the women‘s work was never done not even after the oil lamps were out. They raised the family and attended their needs looking after the little children all hours of the day and night. It was the mother’s unquestioned duty to keep the house and young children in order. She got the meals, did the family washing by hand, sewed and mended the clothing, darned the socks and did the family knitting. She churned and made butter and cheese. During the busy season she helped with the chores in the barn, milk the cows, fed the chickens and pigs and even helped work the land. The families were slaves to their land and farm. They accepted their lot without a murmur and enjoyed life to the fullest

When children of the mid 1800 got married they built two story farmhouses for themselves no more shanties or log cabins. Shingles and boards from the sawmill were cheap and with the help of carpenters and masons they did much of the work themselves, making the cost comparatively low. Most of the houses were quit large with a mason foundation for cellar walls. Large living rooms and parlor, a combination kitchen and dining room, a woodshed and three to five upstairs bedrooms. The walls were plastered and at times papered. The living room floors had rag-braided rugs and heated with a fireplace or potbellied stove. The kitchen had the modern proverbial cast iron wood stove. The bedrooms were not heated in most homes and the parents usually had a down stairs bedroom off the living room so their bedroom was comfortably warm in cold weather. Wood fuel could be had for sawing and chopping. Grandpa use to say, a full woodshed warms the body and soul twice "now warm your soul": (pointing to the pile to chop). The early homes were cold and drafty even with a hot wood fire in the stove. Mother usually had a "Foot Stove" to keep her feet warm while doing her mending and knitting in the evening. It consisted of a square wooden box about a foot high with a perforated top. Live coals from the wood fire were placed on some ashes in a metal container set in the foot box. Sometime heated stones or water was used in the place of the hot coals. This added a great deal to Grandmother’s comfort.

There were no sanitary facilities of course, as we know them today just a "jerry or thunder mug" under the bed at night and a little shack out back for the rest of the time. There was no running water in the homes (unless you had a pump at the kitchen sink) it had to be carried in from an outside pump. The plumbing was outside; you washed your hands and face in a common hand basin stationed on a block of wood in the woodshed or out of doors. The boys bathed in a swimming hole in the creek in the summer and in a tin tub behind the living room stove, it serviced the whole family’s bathing needs during the winter. Although the children frowned on a full bath in the winter, mother saw that all had at least a few (no excuse for being dirty we have plenty of soap and water).

The old General Stores became a popular Mecca for all the family in the surrounding country in the 1850’s conducting a busy business when trading was the custom unlike modern shopping today. The price of store goods:

1 bushel of potatoes                  25¢
1 bushel of apples                     25¢
Mutton                                        4¢ a pound
Beef                                            3¢ a pound
Cheese                                        8¢ a pound
Coffee                                       19¢ a pound
Butter                                       13¢ a pound
Lard                                            8¢ a pound
1 gallon soft soap                       8¢ a pound
1 Cord of 4ft.Hardwood      $1.00 delivered

The farmers’ wives would exchanged butter and eggs for necessary supplies, perhaps material for a new dress and thread, hooks and eyes or buttons were ‘thrown in’ by the store-keeper to complete the bargain.

Great Grand Pa Thomas Jefferson Firby (Tommy Tot) and Grand Pa Lorne Cecil Firby bought the farm, lot 33 concession 8, Malahide Township, Elgin County in 1906 and farmed it and that is where my dad Arnold D. Firby was Born in 1910. Lorne Cecil Firby was Born 1884 in Malahide Township died September 4 1966 St.Thomas at 82years old at the Memorial (Hospital) Home and is buried in Aylmer with his dad and other family members in the Aylmer Cemetery, Ontario. He married Mable Moore on January 18 1910 in Tillsonburg, Ontario. Mable Moore was from the Bayham Township area and was born: 1891, died: March 5 1951 at St.Thomas, Ontario, and is buried in Aylmer with Lorne’s family. They spent many years later in life living in Temagami, Ontario running a fishing lodge on Angus Lake and mining a small silver and gold mine. His daughter Hazel (Montgomery) Firby lived in the Temagami area also. Lorne and Mable had Five Children: Arnold D. Firby, Mildred Firby, Harold Firby, Hazel Firby and Leamon Firby. Arnold D. Firby married Margaret Doreen Parkins on May 3 1938 and they have two Children.

My father Arnold D. worked on the New York Central Railroad as a Conductor and a Brakeman and died on December 13 1958 age 48 years of a heart attack on his way to work and is buried in Aylmer. My Mother Margaret Doreen (Parkins) Firby was born December 4 1918 at Yarmouth Township, Elgin County, Ontario and died September 10 1996 at St.Thomas of cancer and is buried by her second husband John Alexander Scott in Fingal Cemetery, Ontario.

This tells some of what I have learned about the first generations of Firbys who lived in Upper Canada. No doubt more will come to light as I continue my search into the deeds and wills in the Registry Office and Library in St. Thomas. There are many other untapped sources as well.

Arnold R Firby
St.Thomas, Ontario, Canada

Life In The 1700 and 1800’s In Elgin

Transportation Routes to 1850

Transportation in the pre-railway Ontario was of paramount concern to officials and settlers alike. The transportation of goods and people before the arrival of railways was difficult and expensive proposition. Generally the cheapest way to move heavy material was by water, hence the earliest settlement and more important communities were located on rivers or lakes. Roads were primarily for foot and local cartage. The quality of roads varied considerably and even the best were very rough by any standards. In the spring and fall roads were often so muddy that they were completely impassable. Winter generally proved to be the most comfortable time to travel when the frozen ground provided a hard and smooth surface. In attempt to provide a smoother riding surface some of the more important roads were given a special surface. Planking of roads with wood was cheap and easy (but not very permanent) way of providing a level road. Macadamizing of roads was a more expensive method but provided a longer lasting surface. Where goods roads existed, stagecoach service was initiated between the principal settlements. For example by 1846 stages left London, Ontario daily for Hamilton, Chatham and Detriot, three times a week for Port Stanley and Port Sarnia and twice a week for Goderich. The fares were not cheap; the trip from Chatham to London was $3.50, a sizeable amount in those days.

The map shows most of the heavily traveled roads in Southwestern Ontario around 1850. It can be seen that the greatest concentration of good planked or macadamized roads were located around Toronto and the Niagara Peninsula where the population was most dense. The number of roads decreased toward London, until west and north of the town they rapidly diminished in numbers.

An extensive Great Lakes Coastal traffic carried much of the freight and passengers business of Southwestern Ontario. Only some of the numerous ports have been marked on the map.

Canals played a minor role in transportation in Southwestern Ontario. The Welland Canal, Built in 1833 and later extensively rebuilt, was the most important. A moderately successful canal was the Desjardins Canal, which connected Dundas with Burlington Bay. This canal is best remembered as the site of the worst accident on the Great Western Railway, when, on March 12 1857 a train fell through a bridge killing seventy persons. The canalizing of the Grand River from Port Maitland on Lake Erie to Brantford never developed into a successful commercial venture.

Despite the absence of Railways in Southwestern Ontario prior to 1850’s the concept was not entirely unknown in the area. A small horse operated tramway was actually built between Queenston and Chippewa on the Niagara River in 1839.

Early Travel Map

Canals Or canalized rivers _ _ _ _ _
Planked or macadamized roads _______
Other important roads . . . . . . . .
Other roads _______

Bayham Township

In the year 2000, Bayham celebrated its sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of its creation as an autonomous, local-governed township. Initially, when what became Upper Canada was largely unsettled and governed from Quebec, this area was part of the District of Hesse. In 1792, by proclamation of Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe, the new created Upper Canada was divided into 19 counties with the Otter Valley a part of Suffolk County. And by 1836, with pioneer farms settled, roads opened, local industry and commerce begun, and the location of a new Court House in London, local government was again reorganized with this region now part of London District. Then in 1850 a new means of local government was adopted and London as the county seat with Bayham Township of Middlesex County became the local entity.

London was soon too distant, Middlesex too large, so in 1853, the seven southern townships of Middlesex were severed and united into the County of Elgin with St. Thomas as the county seat and Bayham on the eastern fringe. In that year, Vienna became an incorporated village, separate from Bayham, and almost 100 years later, in 1949, Port Burwell was also separated. But on January 1, 1998, both Vienna and Port Burwell were rejoined with Bayham Township to form the new Municipality of Bayham.

Millennia ago, Bayham (and the rest of Elgin) were under glacial ice. With global warming, glaciers melted, water ran, sand and silt debris created the Norfolk Sand Plain. Freed of the great weight of ice, lands rose, Lake Erie was formed, and water flowing to it cut the valleys of the Otter Rivers through the western portion of the Sand Plains. The sandy soil was ideal for natural growth of coniferous trees and the area produced an abundance of magnificent white pines.

In the second decade of the 19th century, pioneers arrived in Bayham. They were a few some what scattered up the valleys and most were Loyalists who had lived some years in Digby County, Nova Scotia before migrating to the first, there after known as Nova Scotia Street. In 1830, the mouth of the Otter was merely an opening, an outlet. But in 1830, Colonel Mahlon Burwell, surveyor and soldier, Member of the Legislative Assembly and Tory ally of Colonel Talbot, acquired land here and laid out a town plan. There were but two houses in place, one occupied by Mr. Foster and the other by the Custom House Officer, Mr. Draper. In 1832 Mr. Hollowood built a tavern, and soon after Colonel Burwell, who proved a friend and patron of the Port, organized a Habour Company, built an Episcopal Church and endowed it with 600 acres of land. Peter Macdonald and George White, both carpenters and builders, also came, and in 1836 the village now numbered 200 inhabitants

The early Bayham pioneers were concerned with clearing the land for farming and cutting trees for there own use, not export. But in the 1830s and 1840s, there was such demand for the white pine of Bayham and Malahide that locals not only cleared land but also logged the timber and set up an extensive lumber industry.

In the 1840s, Vienna boomed and by 1851, it had a population of 700 inhabitants, a lumber trade worth $80,000 per year and 16 stores. Because the Big Otter was navigable as far upstream as Vienna, mills were built there, with lumber, shingles, and staves then shipped down the Otter to both British and American markets. Shipments to Quebec market in 1845 were 109,658 pipe and 624,707 West India staves for that year. The pines however greatly out numbered the oaks, although an extensive cut was made against them, they furnished much employment until about 1872.

In 1849 they were twenty-nine sawmills in the township, and in 1851 the first steam whistle sounded in Port. Brainard built Hamilton’s Mill, on the island, in 1853 and was destroyed by fire in 1873 not to be rebuilt. Shaw and Williams’ mill on the island in the Otter would cut 40,000 feet per day along with Brunson’s mill under the management of A.T.Culter cut immense quantities also. By the mid 1870’s there was not a single mill in Port Burwell nor six in the whole township doing any considerable business

Although the harbor was not much improved in the early years, the village of Port Burwell was in business, shipbuilding, trading and no doubt fishing. By 1850, export and import statistics indicate trade worth more than £43,000. And in the 1850s, shipbuilding of Burwell was expanded with 3 shipyards constructing numerous two and three-masted schooners. The ship building industry was probably more extensive in Burwell than any port on the lake

The Master builders of many of these vessels were G.W. Pontine and Lemuel McDermand. Some went to the Old World and were sold, and all would compare favorably with those of the same class built at any other port. This list of vessels is interesting, as it is closely connected with the commercial history of the South of Bayham. The names are vary-political bias and some of personal friendship, and some of love and some christened after pretty ladies

Ship Name                          Year Christened              Tonnage
                                              1834 to 1846
Sir Robert Peel                             "
Lady Colborn                                "
Chapman                                       "
Amity                                             "
Royal Tar                                      "
Sterling                                       1847                              48
Hagard                                       1848                               81
Royal Oak                                 1849                               58
Pine                                            1850                               88
Ada                                             1860                               54
Florence                                     1861                             199
Almina                                        1862                             173
Ellen Theresa                            1862                               77
D. Cornwell                                1862                             338
D. M. Foster                              1863                             251
Homeward Bound                      1864                             106
Laura Emma                              1864                               40
Arbian                                        1866                             138
Sarah Jane                                 1866                             174
George Suffel                             1866                              75
A. C. Storrs                                1866                             145
W.Y. Emery                                1866                            154
W.W. Grant                                1866                            163
Ariadne                                       1866                            -----
Two Brothers                             1868                             137
Leviathan                                   1868                               91
D. Freeman                                1869                             193
Argo                                           1870                             118
E.A. Dunham                             1870                               75
Vienna                                        1871                             166
Edward Blake                            1872                             328
Clara Youell                               1872                             269
Lady Dufferin                            1872                             356
Craftman                                    1873                             210
Lady MacDonald                       1873                             284
Erie Belle                                   1873                             319
Lilly Hamilton                            1874                             320
Mary Ann Lyden                       1874                             245
Grace Amelia                             1874                             199
W.G. Suffel                                1874                             238
Annie M. Foster                        1874                               77
Hercules                                     1875                             240

Richmond and Sandytown (Stratfordville) were active hamlets as well, both benefiting from lumbering, local farming, and their location on the Talbot Road. Richmond was one of the first places to be settled in Elgin County, having its first sawmill going shortly after 1816, and was a thriving village some years before Aylmer came into being. Sandytown (Stratfordville) further benefited from the building of a toll road from Port Burwell to Ingersoll in 1851. It was the Plank Road, the forerunner of Highway 19 and the initial road link in Bayham’s close ties to Tilsonburg. This Thoroughfare greatly facilitated the movement of timber and produce to the lake being the main trunk line through the township north and south. Stratfordville and Eden, five miles further north, were due to the construction of the road and they were mainly lumbering stations. Corinth is a village in the northwest corner of the township near the Malahide line and is a station on the Air Line Railway. In 1871 it contained one general store and a post office, kept by Wm. Moore, with other stores, hotel, and shops near by.

With depletion of white pine and a decline in the need of new schooners, Bayham’s economy was left to survive on the agriculture of sandy soil. Until the advent and success of tobacco, on all but the clay loam of the Corinth area, survival was largely what it was. Large brick farmhouses and big barns do indicate some prosperity, but for most, livelihood was a struggle. Vienna’s population declined with its industry. Richmond became a rural hamlet rather than a mill town. Port Burwell gained some prosperity from fishing and had some advantages as the terminal of Mr. Teall’s Tillsonburg and Lake Erie Railroad and the port of the Ashtabula, and had popularity as a beach, resort and casino destination. Stratfordville spawned an active commercial strip, although this too withered somewhat in recent years as, more and more, Bayhamer‘s shop in Tillsonburg and Aylmer. But with tobacco and the benefits of commercial fertilizers and cash crops, Bayham’s agriculture now thrives.

Advertisement from about 1877

Life In The 1700 and 1800’s In Elgin

Malahide Township

The township of Malahide lies between Yarmouth on the west and Bayham on the east, and is bounded on the north by south Dorchester and on the south by lake Erie. It contains about 6,000 acres, and received its name from Colonel Talbot in honor or remembrance of the baronial Castle of Malahide in Ireland.

The early settlers were the brothers, William, Andrus, Daniel, Simeon and Joseph Davis who emigrated from the State of New York about the year 1810. A few others came before the War of 1812 among these were Noah Davis, Cousin of the Davis brothers, Stephen Leek, Henry House, Isaac Crane, Daniel McKinney, Isaac and Thaddeus Ostrander, Onesimus, G. and Thaddeus Bradley, Wm. Teeple and John Vanpatter. William Davis emigrated from Albany in 1809 and settled on Lot No .2, north side of Talbot Street were he built a log home and mill. The mill (Stump Mill) he built to supply flour and meal for home consumption was a pattern not seen in the area before. A large sound stump with the top nearly level as possible was first selected, a fire kindled in the center of the top and the circumference kept wet while the fire was burning. This plan of course soon hollowed a mortar, which had a very solid foundation. In this hollow was placed the wheat or corn to be brayed into flour or meal. A spring pole in the position of an old fashioned well sweep was rigged above the mortar, and the end of this pole at a proper angle with it fixed another, a sort of dependent pestle reaching nearly to the grist. The motive power was not steam or water, but human muscles. A rope ending in sort of stirrup reached from the spring pole, which was worked with the feet and hands. The New England styles of Mills would grind 300 bushel of grain per day, this mill would not grind as much. There was a time, however, no better ones near than Long Point or Port Talbot could be found. Decon William Davis lived on this farm until his death at the age of 80 years.

The drive down Nova Scotia Street from Copenhagen to Port Burwell in the summer months, when farms are in their richest and most promising attire is breath taking. The timothy grass is as high as the fences, with a sea of green and gold verdure chasing sunny ridges on waving wheat fields to cozy farmhouses. The loving family dwellings half hidden by fruit and evergreen tree, only showing now and then the glimpse of the blue lake in the distance, all making a picture that would cause a artist to pause in wonder. It is today as it must have been in early times

The Summers, Cassaddens and Laurs were the early settlers on Talbot Street east of Aylmer, and 1830 David Hunt and Thomas Kilmer located on the 8th Concession. The first saw and grist mill in the settlement, except for William Davis’s manual Stump Mill were built in 1817 on Catfish Creek by Andrus Davis and John D. Brown and later sold to James Brown. The first farm house was erected a little west of Aylmer by Simeon Davis for a wayside inn and later used for a barn and driving house.

In 1817 the lots on Talbot Street were all taken up and nearly all of the 1st, 8th and 9th Concessions also. There was about 775 person in the township then.

The shore of the blue waters of Lake Erie skirting the south of the township tells a tale of early promise, a promise that was not wholly fulfilled. As early as 1812 Colonel Backhouse, then living at Port Rowan, purchased a lot at the mouth of the beautiful and romantic stream called Silver Creek, built a sawmill in 1814 and a grist mill in 1816 and for a time were a great assistance to the settlers.

Henry Dalley purchased a farm on the hill about half mile west of the present site of Port Bruce and by advocating the feasibility and great advantages of cutting a new channel for the stream to make a better harbor farther west. He managed to sell a number of lots, lay out a village and call it Devenport. In 1835, there was a general store kept by James Mihell & Co., hotel, tailor and blacksmith shop. In that same year Daniel Hanvey of St. Thomas surveyed a railway line from Devenport to London. Today all trace of the Devenport and ruins with a place of great promise has long since disappeared with small fulfillment.

The channel of the Catfish was not changed, and Port Bruce from1840 to 1860 was a village and shipping port of considerable importance. In 1851, Amasa Lewi started buying grains there, for 62 ½ cents per bushel and built a dock from which to ship from. There was a large trade in the lumber and staves, (this was a staving period in the history of Malahide and Bayham) but the roads were very bad and teams had to unload on the bank of the creek a long way this side of the Port. The cargoes were from here scowed down to the vessels and loaded. Finally a bee attended by forty men cut the road so that Lewis’s dock was approachable. In 1855 a Government agent visited Port Bruce and the result was a gratuity of $6.000 for the improvement of the harbor. In the same year the Aylmer and Port Bruce Gravel road was completed. It was built by a company that although they did not make a profit, the enterprise was a great help to the township and marked an era in its prosperity. The company mortgaged the "Gravel Road" to the township, and the corporation, about the year 1860 took it in payment of the debt, sold it with the harbor in 1869 to Sheriff Munro and others, bought it back and removed the toll gates in 1874.

Progress had been made by the county as a whole but Port Bruce’s glory and wealth had departed and gone to Aylmer. The schooner Nattie Davis though built there, came no more, the warehouses were deserted and the never-ending procession of wheat laden wagons lining the Gravel Road were no more. The reason for the change was the fact that staves and the lumber industry was gone, and the railway carried the grain faster at less cost

The population in Malahide Township in 1848 was 4,034
                                                                   1853         4,050
                                                                   1861         5,320
                                                                   1871         5,550

The population by places of birth England               350
                                                       Ireland                 154
                                                       Scotland                 82
                                                       New Brunswick     54
                                                       Nova Scotia         146
                                                       Ontario              4,448
                                                       Quebec                   26
                                                       Germany                13
                                                       United States       257

Aylmer (Malahide Township)

The history of Aylmer begins in Malahide, in 1810, Nahlon Burwell surveyed the area east of Yarmouth and opened two new townships, Malahide and Bayham, the former named after Malahide Castle, birthplace and family home of Thomas Talbot, the latter named in recognition of a friend of Talbot’s Viscount Bayham. In 1811, lot 9 and 11 along the north side of the concession road in Malahide designated as the Talbot Road were granted to Daniel and Wright Davis of Niagara, while neighboring lot 10 was granted to John and Hannah VanPatter of Pennsylvania. These lots included Catfish Creek, the crucial source of power in the era of water-powered mills, and this locale became the site of the settlement that would become Aylmer.

Fifteen years later, sufficient Malahide lands had been settled to support the first industrial and commercial ventures in the area. A tannery, a potashery, and two general stores were established in what is now Aylmer, one of the stores by John Hodgkinson, whose last name became synonymous with that small settlement beside Catfish, Hodgkinson’s Corner. By 1833, Hodgkinson’s Corner was referred to by some as Tory after Tory, New York, the origin of some local, American-born residents. But others, more loyal, British residents, in honour of Lord Aylmer, Governor General of the Canada from 1831 to 1835, thought the name Aylmer more appropriate and therefore had that name registered as the location of their Post Office. Fittingly, Philip Hodgkinson became the first Post Master and Aylmer, so stamped, became steadfastly loyal and British.

Meanwhile, as noted by commentators of the time, Malahide was widely settled with and cleared, timber exported, grain harvested, orchards planted, and sheep tended. Southwest of Hodgkinson Corner at what is now (1999) the corner of Rogers Road and Brook Line, first Ashael Lewis and then Daniel Carson tapped the power of the creek now known as Bradley Creek and from 1824, at a millpond still recognizable, raised a carding and fulling mill and a sawmill. At Jamestown, two miles up the Catfish from Lake Erie, there was also enterprise and settlement, but there was little at Catfish Harbour (Port Bruce); for forty years, it was the neglected reserve of an absentee landowner, Colonel John Hale.

By 1851, the year of British North American’s first census, Aylmer, Malahide, and Catfish Harbour were all showing marked development. Aylmer was a village of 400 with mills, factories, a foundry, three hotel, three general stores, the service of a dozen tradesmen, a doctor, two churches, and a school. Malahide had a population of 4050 and was an incorporated township in the county of Middlesex with a Town Hall on Water Street, Aylmer. The Hales finally sold two lots at the mouth of Catfish, these to Lindley Moore and Amasa Lewis, who immediately built a warehouse and 400 foot pier into 11 feet of Erie water and then christened the spot Port Bruce after James Bruce, Lord Elgin Governor General at the time. Thereafter two local joint stock companies were founded, one to extend Port Bruce’s pier, build wharves and facilitate dredging, the other to promote and construct a plank and gravel road from Port Bruce through Malahide, Aylmer, and South Dorchester to Hamilton Road Middlesex. These initiatives created; ease of shipping, prosperity, a post office in the township; ships, more warehouses, a two story hotel, a harbour master, a customs officer, 200 residents in Port Bruce; and by 1861, more sophisticated shops and three new, steam powered wagon and carriage manufacturers in Aylmer.

Aylmer Train Station

Steam power transformed Aylmer in the next decades. Stream released industries from the banks of the Catfish Creek and led to such sizeable manufacturing and processing that Aylmer became know as a factory town. Thereafter came a second industrial area, along what is now the south side of South Street west of fourth Ave. where the Aylmer Canning Factory and the Elgin Pork House were established, and then a third, north of Talbot Street and the Creek to the Great Western’s new Airline in that area of Aylmer subdivided by George Walker. Here were the factories of McDiarmid Manufacturing Co., Aylmer Packing Co., the new Aylmer, later Dominion, then Canadian Canners, the Aylmer Condensed Milk Co., and Aylmer Pump & Scale. In twenty years, the population almost tripled and prosperity was such that many of the finer building of Aylmer today – The Old Town Hall, the Anglican, Baptist, and Methodist (United) Churches, and numerous stately residences – were built. In January 1872, Aylmer was incorporated as a village, separate from Malahide, and in 1887, it became a town, all in spite of a number of devastating fires.

Malahide’s development matches Aylmer’s. The Malahide map in the Elgin County Atlas of 1877 shows a fully opened township of 100-acre farms and hamlets with schools, churches and at least one orchard per operation. Port Bruce was not so fortunate. When it was not made an official Port of Entry, its harbour lost potential, local business to Port Stanley and Port Burwell. The initial harbour improvement company faltered and was replaced by a second, but traffic was limited and revenue insufficient. As railroads replaced lake transport, Port Bruce was again bypassed as the proposed rail line from Port Bruce to London never materialized. The area, however, prospered. Malahide farms provided crop and milk to Aylmer industries; Aylmer processed and provided service to Malahide and in the cases of Aylmer Peas and Carnation Milk, to the rest of Canada.

The economic tendencies of the 19th century have continued into the 20th century with only slight, albeit significant differences. In Malahide, in the late 1920s and 1930, tobacco was introduced as an alternate crop on the sandy soil and has since dominated the fields south of Aylmer. The clay loam to the north still has more traditional production, although with the closing of Aylmer’s Carnation plant and preference for cash crops, the number of dairy farms has declined. Port Bruce has gained popularity as a summer resort, its creek a harbour for small sail and power boats, its pier a perch for fishermen, its lakeside cafes a favorite destination for daytrippers. But it still a quiet spot and determined to remain so. And while all the factories of Aylmer’s Victorian era are now history, the Imperial Tobacco Co., Aylmer’s largest employer, follows in their footsteps, processing a local crop for a wide market.

From the view of social history, the landscape has changed more dramatically. While 19th century Aylmer and Malahide were almost wholly British and Protestant, in the 20th century, both have become more culturally diversified. After the Great War some Belgians settled in the area. After the Second World War (1940-1945), came more Belgians, Dutch, and ethnic Germans (Saxons), resulting in sizeable Roman Catholic, Christian Reformed, and Lutheran communities. And in the 1950s, the Amish discussed in Route #7 and Mennonites of Western Canada, Mexico, and Belize arrived, with this latter Mennonite Kanadier population now being the largest, single ethnic group in the area.

Aylmer Fires

Aylmer has had more than its share of devastating fires over its history. Indeed it has been devastated from time to time, three observations however do merit special consideration. First Aylmer on three separated occasions, the south block of Talbot, east of John, and the north block, west of John to Centre, have almost been completely leveled. In a span of 10 years in the 1800’s, hotels were cleared 3 times from the present site of Aylmer Central. Ironically, the south block of Talbot, west to John, fell victim to the flames only once – and that didn’t occur until 1965.

Second, despite fears from the blaze to blaze that the town" would sink", Aylmer stubbornly fought back. The fires of 1864 almost flattened 2 blocks, but the village replaced the water-pail line with a new fire engine and within 8 years, it was ready for incorporation. Undoubtedly the fires of 1874 were the worst ever suffered by Aylmer, destroying nearly three blocks. While the present United Church and Town Hall were being constructed, the two fires striking the downtown within a month destroyed over 40 buildings and caused close to an unbelievable $100,000 damage. The village then organized its first fire brigade and within a decade had climbed to the 1,000 mark in population. It was a serious blow to Aylmer’s economic hopes but remarkably no one was killed and these section were gradually rebuilt in the next few years

The 1880’s were particularly difficult period for major fire losses also, but the eventual bricking of stores and the adoption of waterworks systems aided Aylmer’s growth to the status of town by 1888. Only the Propane truck fire of 1965 would, after this date, be able to demolish a downtown section and today even those scars have been healed over, though taking a little longer than the past.

Thirdly. Until 1934 only one person was killed in a town fire and even then, cause of death was believed to result from an explosion and not the subsequent fire. There have been only 11 fatalities reported in almost 150 years (1979) of Aylmer existence. The Brown House blaze in 1934, which killed 3 persons, recorded the highest number of deaths. Some dogs and some horses have been victims but despite the number and severity of fires, Aylmer has been fortunate and despite the suffering experiences has stubbornly rebuilt.

Today (1999), Aylmer has a population of 1,020. Malahide, now including the village of Springfield and the former township of South Dorchester, has 8,218. While separated in government, socially and economically they are one, with the crossroads of "Hodgkinson Corner" still the heart of the community.

Life In The 1700 and 1800’s In Elgin

St. Thomas - Yarmouth Township

The Village of St.Thomas was positioned at the intersection thoroughfare of London and Port Stanley road on the side hill of Kettle Creek. The thriving village covered the hillside and even stretch northward over the ravine, many of the places of business being built on long wooden piles that had a foot hold far down the precipitous side of the hill.

About 1825 St.Thomas had a beginning as a village. The Village commencing at the foot of the hill near the bank of Kettle Creek and extended on Talbot Street to Mr. Shaw’s store, which was on the north side near the crest of the hill.

In 1828, St. Thomas consisted of 17 buildings. On the south side of Talbot Street were the homes of Captain Daniel Rapelje, the first settler on the southwold side; Dr. Charles Duncombe’s home, William Drake’s, Archibald McNeil’s, Joseph Barnes’ and Benjamin Wilson’s, while on the north side of Talbot Street were Hamilton and Warren’s store and living quarters and distillery, and the houses of Garret Smith, Thomas Curtis, George Lawrence, Samuel Thompson, John Miller, Joseph Mann, his son Daniel Mann and Richard Misener. A year or so later Kiely’s hotel was built.

In 1832 Talbot Street was used as a race coarse, the half-mile reaching to the site now occupied to day by the City Hall. Stanley Street was at that time a corduroy road (logs laid side by side).

Mrs. Jameson describes the village of St.Thomas in 1837. "St.Thomas is situated on a high eminence to which the ascent is rather abrupt. The view from it, over a fertile well-settled country, is very beautiful and cheering. The place bears the Christian name of Colonel Talbot who styles it his capital and from a combination of advantages; it is rising fast into importance. The climate, from its high position, is delicious and healthful; and the winters in this part of the Province are milder by several degrees than elsewhere. At the foot of the cliff, or eminence, runs a deep, rapid stream, called Kettle Creek (I wish they had given it a prettier name) which after a course of eight miles and turning a variety of saw-mills and grist-mills etc. flows into Lake Erie at Port Stanley, one of the best harbors on this side of the lake. Here steamboats and schooners land their passengers and merchandise, or load with grain, flour and lumber. The roads are good all round, and Talbot Road, carried directly through the town is the finest in the province.

The population of St.Thomas is at present rated at seven hundred and it has doubled within two years. There are three Churches, one of which is very neat and three taverns. Two newspapers are published, one violently Tory, the other violently Radical. I found several house buildings and in those I entered a general air of cheerfulness and well being very pleasing to contemplate…. I was very much struck with this beautiful and cheerful little town more I think, than any place I have yet seen ".

Old St.Thomas Church

Times Building                                       Journal Building

St.Thomas was first incorporated as a village in 1852, with a population of 1,300; in 1861 it numbered 1,631, and in 1866 not many more; in 1870, it was less than 2,000.

The old Town Hall erected in 1850 by Yarmouth Township was purchased, did duty as the Town and City Hall until 1898 when the new and present municipal building was erected.

City Hall                                             Elgin County Court House

In 1870 many of the houses that were supported on the long piles were decaying, and endangered the safety of the inmates and buildings. No consideration was given to the fact that there was plenty of level land east of Williams Street on which to erect buildings. The only idea that had controlled the people was that it was their duty to keep as far west as possible, probably thinking as they increased their distance from Colonel Talbot and the setting sun they lessened their chances for happiness in the world to come. True the town was born at the foot of the Fingal Hill, and had partially moved to the top but it was not done without bitterness. When the St. Andrew’s market and the town hall were established on Stanley Street the opposition at that early day to the site was terrific and caused much animosity among the inhabitants. Those in the Hollow had vested rights, which those on the hill ought to respect. There was a very productive agricultural district contributing to the town, and when the farms had surplus product the business with the town increased and made a demand for more business places. These businesses were erected in the vicinity of Stanley Street, and farther west, and at later date bold men ventured to invest their money as far east as Metcalfe Street. Businesses going so far toward the rising sun were soon because of public sentiment; found their ventures were unprofitable.

When James McAdam built a grocery store on the corner of St. George and Talbot Street, his sanity was called into question for selecting a business site so far east. The Post Office through the Ermatinger influence had been pulled to the corner of Church and Talbot Street, where the Iron Works in later years stood. The banks were all west of Pearl Street. The great business center was between Queen and Pearl Street, and some in the vicinity of Stanley Street where rental was held at a thousand dollars a year. The market did not extend to William Street, and the leading hotels, the Lisgar and Hutchinson houses were all in the west end, while the Catholic and Presbyterian churches were located in the eastern outskirts of town. In the cases of the latter it was not considered necessary to locate them in the town as most of the members of those churches resided in the township.

In 1871 when the work commenced on the construction of the Canadian Southern and the Air Line Railroad it brought thousands of people to town in search of jobs and wealth. They came from all parts of Canada, United States, and Great Britain who hoped to rise to important and lucrative position in the Railway shops and the new Railroad. There was no accommodation in the town for the crowd, they had money and were willing to pay for lodgings but none was to be had.

The East End of St. Thomas for many years was called Millersburg, for Edward Miller, whose original house stood off Alma Street. Subsequently he built the Waddell house on the west side of Balaclava Street. John Miller’s farm House was a red brick building that stood behind Thayer’s service station (old Canadian Tire Store), opposite the International Hotel. Where the New York Central freight building still stands (1999) was "Grabeth" Coughlin’s farm home. Coughlin later moved to a farm on Wellington Road where he was called "Sawmill Dan". Millersburg, which was a farming section, grew up almost over night, and soon had more inhabitants than the old town. Then the section of land lying between Millersburg and St. Thomas began to fill up and in a few years its population, and that of Millersburg reached the ten thousand mark.

Business places were established in the locality where the people resided. Grocery stores sprang up in localities where cows had pastured only two years before; John E. Smith built a block of stores between John Street and the Port Stanley railway tracks, and here and there on Talbot Street in Millersburg. The Moore block at the tannery was the only brick building between the Port Stanley railway and Metcalfe Street until Frank Hunt built the Hunt block (known as Oak Hall) in 1882. For erecting this he was dubbed "the lunatic who built the brick block in the woods." Towards the end of the 1870’s St, Thomas though it would be for the interest of the town to take in Millersburg, but not in such a way as would give the old town control of the council. This was done after much fine work, and Millersburg became a part of St. Thomas. But on condition that Millersburg should not be responsible for, nor pay any portion of St. Thomas’ debt, which was very large in proportion to its assessment and came very near bringing the town to the auction block in previous years. This necessitated two rates on the tax roll: one for Millersburg and one for St. Thomas, and this continued until the city was incorporated.

Francis "Frank" Hunt

Then commenced as bitter and as long a fight as was ever witnessed in any municipality large or small.

There were a few men in the west end with foresight who saw, in their own interest that some changes ought to be made in the market site. Among them was James H. Still, who at a meeting held by the west end property owners to consider the subject that the block on the north side of Talbot Street, between Pearl and East Streets, be purchased for a market site. There were no valuable buildings on the block at the time, and it could have been secured at a very small figure. A large majority rejected his scheme with scorn. It is probable that if Mr. Still’s scheme had been adopted the market question would have been settled forever. The battle ran hot, numerous meeting were held in the city hall and many harsh things were said on both sides.

One prominent west end man used the epithet "east end paupers to the central market people at one meeting, which nearly caused a riot. Another said the "newcomers had no rights which the old residents were bound to respect." The east end responded by calling the west Enders " back numbers, aristocrats, blue beards," and other opprobrious epithets. Owning to the ward representation in the council, the old residents were able to block the scheme by electing a mayor favorable to their views. All the tricks known in political warfare were used for this purpose.

They were assisted in this by Edward Horton, who owned a block of land in the east end and who established the Horton Market on Manitoba Street in spite of the opposition of the west end of the city. Of course, it was to his interests and to the interests of those who had invested in property near him, to join hands with all foes of the central market, and he became a strong ally of his erstwhile enemies. The chosen site for the proposed market, by those who favored a central market, was the block on which the Post Office is now located. This block was never submitted to the people, because those opposed to it were able to block the bylaw in the council. Then came a change of tactics. The council voted to accept the Horton market as the city market, and voted large sums to put it in shape. But in spite of this move the fight ran on.

The council put forth the Jackson block, on the south side of Talbot, between Elgin and Hincks Street, for a central market site, but it developed afterwards that it was put up only to be knock down, and knock down it was. After this a syndicate was formed to buy the block east of the Post Office, and present a market site with suitable buildings and all other necessary equipment to the city free of cost. The scheme was to reserve one hundred feet on Talbot Street for stores, with a wide entrance, which was to lead to the market, and to extend the market north of Curtis Street one hundred and twenty feet. It was thought better not to make a break on Talbot Street of a whole block, and that a market site with a street running through the center of it would be more desirable in every way. This scheme was turned down, principally because it would fulfill all requirements. The argument used against it was that speculators were at the bottom of it to make money, but the real objection by its opponents was they did not want a central market at all, and especially on the site so well adapted for the purpose. The Moore block farther east was also proposed as a site, but it was objected to on account of large expenditure it would require to put it in shape. In the meantime the people of the west end put up the money, and extended the market through to William Street. The result of this move proved a bitter experience to the property holders between William and Stanley Street who were large subscribers to the fund to purchase the land. For from the day the entrance was made to the market from William Street, their business was ruined, and their property depreciated in value.

They had paid for rope to hang them selves. The fight for a central market culminated in 1833. In January of that year Dr. Gustin and Frank Hunt were candidates for mayoralty. Mr. Hunt had been a prominent member of the council for several years, and chairman of several of its important committees. Dr. Gustin had never served in a municipal council. He was a prominent physician, a popular citizen and surgeon for the Great Western Railway Company where Mr. Hunt expected to receive solid support. It was one of the hottest contests ever known in the city. The west end considered it a question of the destruction of their property, and went into the contest with their brains and money. Some strange thing happened. There was a provincial election on at the time, and leading reformers attended the Conservative clubrooms night after night to work against Hunt, They did not heed the warning of Ed Sheppard, that if they beat Hunt, they would beat Nairn. Sheppard was right. Hunt was beaten by his political friends and Ermatinger won over Nairn by the same majority that Gustin won over Hunt.

Hunt, in a public meeting, at which large numbers of west end property holders were present, said that if he were elected mayor he would establish a central market in a location which would not hurt the value of the west end property. But if they defeated him he would live to see the day in which their buildings would not sell for what the brick cost, and see them in poverty. He was hooted for being a false prophet. Was he?

The scenes in the council chamber that year were the most disgraceful ever witnessed in any assembly. The east enders would berate the mayor, who had the casting vote, the mayor would talk over the heads of the alderman to the hooting, yelling crowd, which was present at every meeting. When a vote was likely, either the six east end or the six west end members would make a bolt for the door, and succeed in getting out before Police Chief Fewings could make a stop-gap of himself to prevent their exit. The reporters would beat the Salvation Army drums, and blow the bugles, which were, left on the platform, and sometimes the cigar makers would come over from the Farmers’ Exchange Hotel and sing ballads while the turmoil continued.

One result of the disorder was that the police and others in the service of the city had no payday for several months, and probably would have gotten none during the year but for a compromise. It was agreed that no business would be done but to pass accounts and that the employees of the city were made happy. With the close of that council, the central market question was relegated to the limbo of past, and both markets were put in shape to accommodate whoever attended them.

The first person to take up residence in Lynhurst, Northwest of St.Thomas, was Garrett Smith, his wife six sons and daughter. The Smiths moved from Charlotteville in South Norfolk County and built a log house in what is now Lynhurst before 1812.

$300. Dollar A Year Job

Ten sought the $300 a year job. When James Fewings was chosen police constable and night watchman in 1870, his salary was fixed at $300 per annum. Not a very princely sum for working 365 days and nights but there were nine other applicants for the office. James Fewings was St. Thomas ‘ first chief of police after Municipal incorporation. He was off the job for a period and Billy Worth took his place; then Fewings was reinstated and when the Council made him chief again, Billy Worth resigned.

Those were the days when St. Thomas had a Fire hall in the town off Stanley Street and also a sub-hall on the west side of Princess Avenue (Railway Street) a short distance south of Talbot. Alex Henderson was chief of the fire department and Jim Tucker was the deputy chief in charge of the sub-building.

St. Thomas in 1879 had 29 dresser makers and 4 milliners, also 14 merchant tailors. That was a period when no self-respecting man or woman would consider wearing ready-mades if they were available

Alex Henderson - Fire Chief

St.Thomas 1875

This is Down Town St.Thomas in 1875, looking East down Talbot Street, from Stanley Street. The wooden sidewalk and wooden crosswalks enabled pedestrians to cross muddy streets. Hitching posts can be seen along the South side of the street. Merchants often displayed wares on the sidewalk, and on the North side of Talbot, they often hung products from the awnings, a practice, which the council of the day condemned.



St. Thomas Trains

From the 1850s Railroading has been the lifeblood of St.Thomas. Eight railroads ran through the city and three had large maintenance shops. Collectively they were the largest employer, and major concern, and, for some almost the only topic of conversation. Railroaders were members of City Council, unions, lodges, sportsmen and elders. Their wives were active in lodges, Home and School and women’s auxiliaries.

L&PS at St. Thomas Station

The first tracks to run through Elgin were those of a short, local effort, London & Port Stanley Railroad. From 1854 to 1856, navies labored on right of way, bridges and culverts to lay a line from London (east of St. Thomas) to the harbor of Port Stanley. The L&PS was built not only to link businesses in London to the traffic of Lake Erie but also, hopefully, to capitalize on The Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, the free trade initiative of that today. But while initially encouraging, trade with the United States declined after 1866 and thereafter, despite leases with the Great Western and the Lake Erie and Detroit River Railway and periodic successes, the L&PS faltered. In 1914, these limitations were reversed when under the leadership of Sir Adam Beck; the L&PS was taken over by the City of London and converted to an electric, radial railway. From then until the late 1940’s the L&PS boomed, largely as the summer route to Port Stanley and the favored means of transport of airmen from the Technical Training School south of St. Thomas to St. Thomas and London. In the 1950’s the popularity of automobiles undercut such service and in February 1957, L&PS dropped passenger service. The city of London sold the line and remaining assets to the Canadian National Railway in 1966 and today (1999) it is operated by The Canadian National Railway from St. Thomas to London (no train operating) and by the Port Stanley Terminal Railroad from Port Stanley to the Parkside crossing.

Canadian Southern Railway Station, St. Thomas

A Community did not have potential if it did not have at least one major rail line. The activity that St. Thomas must have had when, in the 1860’s the Canadian Southern Railway announced plans to link Detroit (and Chicago) and Niagara Falls (and New York) with a line through South Western Ontario (Elgin and St. Thomas). The tracks through the center of town were laid in 1872 with the station and shops in St. David Ward, just east of the L&PS and south of the recently, annexed, small settlement of Millersburg.

The Canada Southern and its successor, the Michigan Central Railway and the New York Central System had a huge impact on St. Thomas. With Millersburg amalgamated in 1871 as St. David’s Ward, the population increased in the 1870’s by 8,000 and 1881, St. Thomas became a city. As a divisional point, the offices and shops were extensive and with jobs in track maintenance and aboard the trains, the economic impact was staggering. Because this railroad was housed here, the payroll and railroaders’ support of local commerce and culture led to the most impressive and progressive period in the city’s history.

Because of competition from the Canadian Southern and what the Great Western railroad saw as their need to connect their Sarnia-London-Hamilton-Toronto line to the port and city of New York, in 1871, the Great Western built the so-called Airline loop from Glencoe. With a stop on there mainline, through St. Thomas and Aylmer to Niagara Falls. In St. Thomas, this rail line ran across the tressle above Athletic Park. In later Years, the Grand Trunk Railroad took control of the Great Western, leased running rights to the Wabash, became the Canadian National, and then had the Wabash’s successor, the Norfolk & Western and the Norfolk & Southern, on board. These rail businesses had a station and shops at the north end of St. Catherine Street and also employed a host of locals, most of whom lived in the north of Talbot Street.

Of lesser impact but an important link in the net of that time, the Credit Valley Railway laid tracks from Woodstock to St. Thomas in 1881. This linked the Mainline of the Canadian Pacific to the Michigan Central and opened access for local passengers and freight. In 1895, the Credit Valley Railway was absorbed by CPR, which still runs trains into St. Thomas’ industrial area on this line.

P.M. Shop

Hiram Walker built the Lake Erie and Detroit River Railway in stages from Windsor’s Walkerville to Ridgetown. It was extended to St. Thomas in 1901 and purchased in 1902 by the Pere Marquette, an American line seeking a direct route from Chicago to Buffalo. The offices, roundhouse, and shops of the PM were located at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Elm Street, St. Thomas. The PM offered both passenger and freight service and was particularly noted for hauling coal on L&PS track from Port Stanley to London. Although the shops were less busy once diesel replaced steam, in the era of steam, the turntable and shops of the PM spun. The Chesapeake & Ohio RR bought the PM in 1947 and in its time, this division of the C&O moved only freight, often in the distinctive blue boxcars featuring Chessie the Cat. As trucks increasingly replaced railcars as the dominant hauler, the C&O’s St. Thomas operation was sidelined and abandoned

C.N. Diesel

The eighth line, the South Western Traction, was, in comparison to other of the group a small operation. It was an electric line in the spirit of the new radial lines, a service that started in London and was run in stages to Lambeth, Talbotville, Lynhurst, St. Thomas, Union, and Port Stanley. Opened to St. Thomas and Port Stanley in 1907, it was in receivership and sold to the London and Lake Erie Transportation Co. in 1908, Idled from 1916 to 1918, and discontinued after 1918. A novel idea ahead of its time, it was pushed aside by the faster, more modern L&PS.

Steam had its day and has been replaced by diesel-fueled electric locomotives and now increasingly by diesel-fueled transport trucks. In St. Thomas, the railroad economy has given way to the automotive industries with, ironically, the CN and new Trillium Line now servicing them (Ford, and Formet). And while most of the old railroad facilities have been torn up or torn down, there are still a few remains of the massive size and importance of railroad past to be seen.

C.S.R. Station 1905

A. F. Butler describes the Canadian Southern Station in St.Thomas, 1877.

"Building operation began extensively in 1872 have continued without cessation until the present (1877). The station is 354 feet long and two stories high above the basement. It is constructed with a view to durability, solid comfort, convenience of internal arrangement, and adaptation to purpose. The ground floor is planned for the reception and accommodation of the traveling public: beginning at the west end, we come first to the reading room for the employees and others who have sufficient literary inclinations to avail themselves of the privileges; next, the gentlemen’s waiting room, lofty, spacious and well lighted, 31 by 33; next the ticket office, 14 x 19, and retiring room, 14 x 14, for the officer in charge; next, the ladies waiting room, of the same size as that for the gentlemen; next a spacious passage 15 feet wide, by which one may pass from front platform to the train, and from which by heavy oaken staircase access may be had to the second story; on the east side of this passage is the barber shop and wash rooms, west the refreshment room, and next, a magnificent dinning room 33 x 79, with kitchen, 31 x 33, pantries, sculleries and other kindred conveniences, next, another passage of 15 feet in width, arched at either entrance, and next, the baggage room, station master's room, telegraph office and conductor's’ room. The office of company are upon the second floor, and to reach these we may take either of the broad oaken stairways and we land in a long corridor, 5 feet wide, and running two-thirds of the length of the building. This, on the south side, is lighted with numerous windows, and from it access is had to the different offices. Above each door is a fan light on which is painted in green and gold the number of the office, with the name upon the door itself. The effect of this is at once tasteful and very convenient. The offices are those of the General Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Treasurer, Deputy Treasurer, Paymaster, Purchasing Agent, Chief Engineer, Secretary, Solicitor, Resident Engineer, Draughtsman, with their numerous subordinates.

The floors of all the offices are covered with the finest Kidderminster carpets, and the furniture is rich and comfortable. The whole is heated with steam and lighted with gas. The external is pleasing and conveys the impression of solid durability. A platform 20 feet wide covered with a fireproof verandah, supported with cast iron pillars, and surrounds the whole building. The cornice is bold and heavy in its outline, and is supported by ornamental modillions and brackets. The upper story is lighted by 94 windows with circular heads, each shaded by a blind of blue and gold, and bearing on its center the letters "C. S. R." in monogram. Every expenditure of the company had been marked by enterprise and liberality, and they have now a road running through the Province 229 miles, from Amerstburg to Fort Erie, and 63 miles from Courtright to St.Thomas, with superior equipment, and 94 per cent of which is as straight as a line. "


Wabash Station 1900…. St.Thomas


London & Port Stanley Railway Station -------St.Thomas


Port Stanley Railway Station ------ Port Stanley



St.Thomas Bridges

St.Thomas saw a lot of bridge building the early 1870’s it was just one bridge after another. First the Canadian Southern Railway and the Great Western Railway were in a race to build a high level trestles across Kettle Creek with the Canadian Southern winning the race. It was the largest bridge of the two being approximately 1300 feet in length and 90 feet in height. The Great Western Bridge was over 900 feet in length and 80 feet in height in the center and took nearly a million feet of timber. The Canadian southern cost approximately $35,000: the Great Western, $20,000 Colonel John Ellison, a familiar name in Elgin County was the builder of the Great Western bridge. Then a little later Dr. J. H. Wilson (later Senator Wilson) built a wooden bridge in 1872 across the Mill Creek Ravine from the end of Elgin Street, at a cost of approximately $4,000 to open the Paul farm on the south side for residential development. St.Thomas assumed $2,000 of the cost of the first bridge. The second bridge built about 28 years later was a steel structure costing $25,000, design by James A. Bell, then City Engineer. The steel bridge was replaced in the 1950,s by reinforced concrete viaduct, at a cost in excess of $325,000 and in the 1990,s the ravine was filled in. and a paved road laid on top. That first Wilson bridge more or less inspired Judge D. J. Hughes of the Elgin Court to bridge (1870,s) the Hughes Street Ravine in the North end of Hughes Street in the city to his property in Yarmouth. The bridge cost around $15,000.

The laying of steel for the Canadian Southern Railway in the early 1870’s and the spanning the Kettle Creek with the first railroad bridge, unquestionably changed the whole tender of life and industrial outlook for St.Thomas and district but to-date (1952)

St.Thomas has not quite reached the dimension predicted for it on a memorial evening of Friday 13 1872 when the completion of the first Canadian Southern Bridge was celebrated with a large dinner function in the dinning-hall of the Bostwick House, the largest place in St.Thomas at the time.

The dinner was in reality tendered by Messrs. Holmes and Moore, the general contractors on the bridge. Both spoke at length and Colonel Moore was reported in the Canadian Home Journal of that date as having made the sanguine prediction: "St.Thomas, situated as favorably as it is, on this great highway of commerce between East and West, cannot fail to become one of the great and flourishing cities of Canada."

The bridge whose completion was celebrated by graceful wooden trestle structure described as follows in the Canadian Home Journal article: "In throwing its span across the valley of two great thoroughfares of the county, and it is a ‘sight’ to the thousands that daily enter the town from the West, North and South. It is composed of 64 bents, of which support 14 spans of Howe truss of 45 feet each and 49 compose part of the trestlework at either end. This makes the extreme length of the bridge 1,365 feet and the height from low water level of the creek to the top of the handrail, which protects the sidewalk on either side, is 92 feet. The supporting bents have consumed 900,000feet of timber, and Howe truss 160,000 feet more – making a million and sixty thousand feet altogether. In securing the coherence and necessary strength of this vast body of timber, so as to serve the purpose for which it has been brought together, 50 tons of cast iron bolts and 40 tons of cast iron have been employed…

There is not a tennon or mortice in the whole bridge; and where an augur holes is made, the vacancy is immediately filled with an iron bolt. Messrs Holmes and Moore commenced to raise on September 28 1871, and finished February 12 1872, occupying 85 working days of that period in completing their contract. George W. Butterfield is the engineer in charge."

No Labor Trouble

The report proceeds " The contractors pushed their work with commendable vigor and perseverance. Not a day nor an hour that men could work since operation were commenced in this town on September 28 last, has been misspent. Neither cold, snow, nor sleet was permitted to interrupt the steady progress of the work. The utmost harmony prevailed between employers and employees. The contractors were as faithful in their engagement toward their workmen, as the latter were diligent in the service of their master. Neither strikes, jars, disputes, nor accidents were heard of. The intercourse of Messrs. Holmes and Moore with our citizens, too, were of the most quite courteous and satisfactory character. "


St.Thomas Doubles In Size

St.Thomas grew from 2,906 to 5,073 in 1872-73 an increase of 2167. During the 12-month period the population increased nearly 75%. That was when the railway-building boom was reaching its peak.

"Had decent shelter been offered to many who desired to come to St.Thomas the increase could not been less than 3,000." The St.Thomas Times reported.

"Houses, Houses – There is the most urgent necessity for more house-room in the town. People have been so long accustomed to slow and easygoing habits that they can scarcely realize the rapid progress the town is making in population and wealth. Had we only had houses that afford descent shelter to the many who have so unsuccessfully applied of it within the past year, our population would be at least double what it now is. There is not the slightest chance of there being any abatement in rents within the next eight years that the urgent demand for houses would make house property here an undesirable investment. If individual enterprise cannot meet, combined effort should be made. No man should be permitted to turn his footsteps elsewhere who come here to become an active and useful member of our community. Six hundred houses are needed in St. Thomas. – "From the Southern Home Journal Of June 21 1872".

The total assessment for St.Thomas, including taxable income in 1872 was $988,485: in 1873, the amount had increased to $1,404,886.

The report referred to "three of the most enterprising and progressive known in Ontario for comparison".

Stratford’s population was 6,101in 1873 a increase of 878 from 1872, and Stratford’s 1873 assessment was $1,194,005. Ingersoll’s population was 4,548 in 1873 an increase of 115 in 12 months and Ingersoll’s assessment was $961,048. St.Catharines had a population of 8,852 in 1873 an increase of 349 from 1872, an assessment totaled of $2,116,108.


St.Thomas Early Hotels

Where the Royal Hotel stood on the corner of Talbot and Williams Street was at one time the officers’ barracks building when St.Thomas was a garrison town. It was a frame building. After the military regiments were move to London in the early 1830, Colonel Cole acquired the building and converted it into Colonel Cole’s Hotel. Subsequently it was remodeled into the Penwarden House and years later was rebuilt as a brick structure and called the Iroquois Hotel. (1905) From that the name was changed to the Royal Hotel. It was the Penwarden House and run by George Penwarden in 1879 when a St.Thomas business directory was published.

The other hotels listed in 1879 with the proprietors were:
Bonds’ Hotel, John Bond,        266 Talbot
Brommell’s Hotel,            John Brommell,         7 Stanley Street
Canada Southern Hotel,   T. Moore,      east Talbot Street (Devil’s Half Acre)
Commercial Hotel,           Charles Roadnight,   284 Talbot Street
Dominion Hotel,               Alonzo Caughell,       809 Talbot,   Brunswick Hotel at Inkerman Street
McNulty House,               Patrick McNulty,     541Talbot;    Elgin House, Arlington, and Talbot Hotel
Hutchinson House,           Aaron Musselman,  154 Talbot
Lisgar House,                     Dennis Bevier,       106 Talbot
Queen’s Hotel,                 B. F. Queen,             655 Talbot
St.Thomas Hotel,             S. Martin,                 212 Talbot; Corner New Street
Western Hotel,                Mrs. E. A. Gilmore,    87 St. Catharine Street,   Killerny
Wilcox House,                 John Wilcox,              610 Talbot… Empire … Burty Bobs 1990’s
Bennett Hotel,                 Hiawatha St 1882 –1887;   Union Jack
Other Names of Hotels in other years
Columbia Hotel,              T. Arnold, R. Mclean, Burgess, J. D. Lamont,     487 Talbot
Drake House Hotel         Luman Drake     592 Talbot
Hotel Albany:                  J.W. Boughner 1895
International House,       R. Coffey     717 Talbot, 1885
The Belfast Hotel, 1886
Grand Union Hotel     619-621 Talbot, 1900
Taylor Hotel     701-703 Talbot, 1946
Midtown     Talbot Street
John Scott     Talbot Street
There were also two saloons in St.Thomas in 1879;
S. H. Shaw’s Criterion     at 227-229 Talbot;
Del McCready’s Delmonica’s     at 332-334 Talbot.
The liquor merchants in 1879 were
John Doyle Warehouse,     267 Talbot
William E. Hare,
Joseph O. Kains,
Ken Brothers,
J. and J. McAdam,
James O’Shea and
Charles B. Spohn Wines, 171 Talbot
All on Talbot street.


Queens Hotel - B. F. Queen, 655 Talbot


Grand Central Hotel Talbot Street                                 Empire Hotel Corner Talbot and Ross


In the early 1830’s, both St.Thomas and London had hotels called "King’s Arms" and "Mansion House", with the stage running three times weekly between the two communities and stopping at those pioneer hostelries. During court week, the stage made double trips. The full title of the St.Thomas hotel was the "Talbot Mansion House", but that name was seldom applied. At the time St.Thomas had two newspapers, the Journal and the Liberal, while London had but one, the Sun.

Yarmouth Center is not the only pioneer place where a hotel site gave way to a church. Where St. John’s Anglican Church and parish hall now stands on the West Side of Flora Street, was Musselman’s hotel.

Bennett’s Hotel, run by Mrs. Bennett, was reported to have the most profane parrot in the district, around 1882-1887. Mrs. Bennett ran her hotel on Hiawatha Street opposite of where Swift Coal Company’s office was situated, and raised a large family.


Royal Hotel at the corner of Talbot Street and Williams in St.Thomas.


Hotel Advertisement from 1877-1878



Life In The 1700 and 1800’s In Elgin

Old St. Thomas Churchyard

The old Churchyard on Walnut Street formed part of lot 1, 8th Concession of Yarmouth, comprising 200 acres, and was patented from the crown in 1815 by Daniel Rapelje, of Hugenot descent, who came with his family from Long Point in 1831 and built a log house on top of the hill. His two sons dying, one in 1818, the other in 1819, and not wishing them buried in unconsecrated ground, he laid them in the most beautiful spot on the farm. In the year 1821, he deeded the parcel of land for the old church, graveyard, and the Thomas Williams home for a church rectory and burial purposes, to the Rev. Dr. Stewart. He soon after was appointed Bishop of the whole of what are now Ontario and Quebec.

The grounds facing Church Street present in summer beautiful appearances, gay with masses of scarlet flowers and well kept green grass. A venerable tree, the last of a row, which at one time shaded the north side, stands, near the entrance. The tree measured fifteen feet in circumference with large hollows in the trunk, made by the ravages of time, and stood like a lone sentinel watching over the gateway of the departed.

After a time the graveyard was all portioned off and no lots could be purchased, but in recent years plots have been laid out on each side of the walk in front of the church. This has assisted in beautifying the grounds, and has been the means of giving some of those who loved and worked in the old church in their early days the privilege of being laid here.

Old St. Thomas Churchyard Graves

On the east side lie Albert Cousew, Mr. Griffin, (who gave so liberally at the restoration of the church in 1894), Mrs. Agnes Mickleborough, Mrs. Eliza Gustin and Mrs. Alice Hughes Bissel, who spent much of their energy on both the old and new edifices. Mrs. Emily M. Hill, wife of the Rev. Archdeacon Hill, lies with her children. She was universally loved and lamented, not only by the congregation of Trinity Church, but also by the people of the city, having spent Twenty-three years of a noble life in their for her Master’s sake.

Turning to the other side of the path most appropriately, whether by design or not, many of those who laid the foundation of the church, have found a quiet resting-places beneath its shadow. Near the door lies Dr. St. George Caulfleld, a minister of the Church of England for thirty-six years, who died in Windsor, Ontario in 1882, and preached in the church from 1852 to 1873. At his death his widow, who now rest by his side, returned to the parish and devoted the remainder of her day’s self-sacrificing efforts for the benefit of others. Not far from this stands a small cross with the text, "He careth for you," inscribed on it, and below, "G. Benson Kellogg the beloved pastor of this church; entered into rest, Nov. 13th 1875, age 39 years." It was owing to his efforts that the new Trinity Church was being built at his death, but he was not permitted to see the results of his labors.

Passing the Gilbert and Ermatinger plots with their stately monuments, it will be noticed that Achsah wife of Edward Ermatinger, was the daughter of the Hon. Zaccheus Burnham, who also labored here from 1829 to 1852, giving unremitting care to his numerous duties. During his long Pastorate he must have officiated at the funeral services of about one-half of those around him, according to the dates described on their tombs.

Will Haight, a faithful teacher of Balaclava street school lies next. And then a rustic cross of stone tells its own story, "Rev. Thomas Exmouth Sanders, son of the late Admiral Sanders, R. N., Bath, England, born at Stoke, Eng., August 17 1817; died May 20 1895." Rev. W.B. Rally lies next, died 1894, age 83, and was buried July 13 the same day that the old church was re-opened by Bishop Baldwin. Among other charges he had been resident clergyman at Port Stanley, St. John, (St. Thomas), Tyrconnell, and during his incumbency, Burwell Park Memorial Church was built. The last is Rev. John Chultz, aged 89 years; Dec.15 1895, a very learned earnest man, who had charge of port Burwell and Vienna as well as Port Stanley.

When the church was enlarged in 1840 by the addition of the transepts it was found necessary to enclose some of the graves laying at the back. A tablet on the wall inside reads thus: Opposite of this lie the children of G. A. and S. Couse; Fredrick, died January 20th 1835, aged 3 years, 9 mos., and Sarah Ann, January 17th 1835, aged one year, six months, only 3 days between them." A son of the same parents, Herman, Dying in 1848, is buried in about the center of the ground.

West of the church lie Joseph Easterbrook, aged 90, and Sarah, his wife, native of Devon, England, who in 1831 bought what is now Waterworks Park from Colonel Talbot. A small stone records two children of J. F. Adkins, 1837, 1846. Closed by a fence a tiny grave bearing these words: Our Darling lies here." The Thompson and McMartney plot. The Kennedy plot surrounded by iron chains contains probably the oldest person in the churchyard, as Mary, wife of Thomas Kennedy, attained the remarkable age of 99, dying in 1881. A stone near reads; "This slab is erected by John and Joseph Orchard to the memory of their affectionate father. John Orchard, Sr, of Taunton, Somersetshire, who died in Southwold, C.W., June 8th 1834, while on a visit to his brother, Thomas Orchard. Thomas aged 58 Occupies the next grave; died 1859. Probably the tallest monument in this corner, erected to the memory of the Mulligan family; William and Mary, aged respectively 83 and 80. A remarkable coincidence is recorded here, for their children were taken at 10, 21, 31, and 41 years of age. A granite monument to the Wilsons of the Back street, Southwold, dates from 1838 to 1850. James and Ann Jay, 1882; George W. Boggs, with his wife and children, from 1849, 1908. The Eccles family, from Northleach, Gloucester, Eng., with these early dates, Henry, 1833; Mary, wife of G. W. Smith, 1834; Hannah, 1836. Also a double stone for Samuel and Maria Ann, who departed this life together, December 8th 1893. A grey granite obelisk to one, Millie Lang.

The lot of Parkes, of South Yarmouth, containing the father, James, aged 49, died 1843, and his wife, Frances, who lived until 1888, aged 94. She died in London and was brought her to lie beside her husband from whom she had been so long separated. Beside this lot a stone lies flat on the ground, broken into three pieces, and with grass growing in the crevices, but still recording the fact that Samuel Brewer, native of Witchamp, Dorset, Eng., died Nov. 19, 1845 aged 39 years

Samuel and Daniel Thompson, 1841 and 1844, Francis J. Locke, 1852. A marble obelisk stands here on one side of which reads: "this monument, erected by Daniel, 1846, aged 70, Northampton, emigrated to Canada in the year 1832; Elizabeth, his wife, of Oxford, 1853, aged 80 years; also John Parish, a son of Mr. and Elizabeth. Sherlock and the Medcraft monument, 1905, are the last of this row. Behind these towards the north end come several family plots belonging to George E. Clarke, the Gilberts, Futchers, Drakes, Lindsays, and Caughells. In these are to be found, three, and in the Drake lot four generations

In the Claris lot, which is one of the largest, lie George F., wife, Hannah Maria, and children, the earliest being buried in 1843. Also Ann Payne, who died June 4th, 1834, age 72 years; on the back reads, " This stone erected by Hannah Maria Cllaris, her grand daughter.

The Gilberts have a monument containing all the inscriptions, Richard, Martha, Effie, and sons dating back to 1843.

A lonely grave here seems to immediately catch your eye on account of the clear shape and style of the lettering on the stone. "Helen Innes, daughter of Sir John Innes, Baronet of Edengight, Banffshire, Scotland, Sept 7 1839, aged 37 years. The lady was a sister of Mrs. Blackwood, who kept store at the foot of the hill, which bared her name.

Old St. Thomas Churchyard Etrance

Thomas Lemon, 1841, and William Brinacombie, 1846 are names that also suggest the early forties, the Futcher plot contains six graves; Thomas, 1868; and Hester, 1890, native of Tovant, Wiltshire, and daughter Sarah, occupy one row. Their son Thomas 1905, his wife, Susan Northwood, 1909, and their only daughter in the next. Thomas and Hester Futcher, with their son, Thomas, five years old, came to this country in 1835, they returned to England in 1937, coming back again in 1840.

A dark wooden head board stands near. A stone bearing the name John Wilson, 1846, but the only word that can be made out is "Mary." The rest of lettering has been effaced by the weather. This is the only wooden marker left in the cemetery where there used to be so many. Most of them were carved by John Walthew, who has the most beautiful head stone, tastefully engraved, no doubt from his own design, bearing the words, Esperence en Dieu," here resteth the remains of John Walthew, 1863, and Elizabeth, the devoted wife, 1849, with the following tribute "If the faithful discharge of her several duties as daughter, wife and mother, can entitle her to the love of her Savior then she is blest." An iron fence and gate enclosing a grey stone obelisk bearing the word "resurgam," marks the place where Maria daughter of Edward Ermatinger and wife of Rev. Maurice Scollard Baldwin with her little babe, lies: dates on it are: Born 1840, married 1861, died 1863," The words beneath, "Until the day dawn," being thoughts of the Godly and earnest Bishop of Huron who preached his first and last sermon in the church.

Here Captain Richard D. Drake, Whose land was across the valley, and wife Elizabeth lie, with some of their children and one great- grandchild around them. Daniel Drake, the first white child born in these parts, 1819, being one. The stone at the grave of Elizabeth is unique, carved with vine and grapes, surrounding the epitaph. William Drake, a brother of Richard D., died 1842; his wife Margaret, 1848, and both were 80 years old. A daughter of theirs, Margaret, wife of Anson Paul, 1842, lies beside, and Eleanor, another daughter who died December 1825, age 13 years. This is the first of which record can be found who was buried after the opening of the church which took place June 19 of the same year. William Drake took up the farm east of Rapelje and from whom William Street gets its name. Rev. Thomas. Drake, 1861, Harriett, daughter of Rev. William and Helen Hawke; James W. Drake, for many years a teacher and a tablet inscribed, to William Drake Spades, who departed this life in Jeffersonville. Ind., on the 21st day of October, 1853 in the 25th year of his age, exhumed 24th November and removed to St. Thomas, C. W., and re-interred on the 4th December. There are many graves near belonging to these large families and one at some Distance marked only "Our Bennie," evidently points out the size of the great plot

The Lindsay’s, among the pioneers of Southwold, lie alongside. John, 1870, wife Elizabeth, and their daughter, Mary E., wife of John Drake; Sarah A., wife of James Mills, and Amelia, wife of David McKinley, each with their own tombstone. Not far away is another Lindsay plot containing the grave of Robert, Died 1855, and little child, daughter of Robert Ellen Lindsay. Next in passing by is John Oliver, 1850, Sydonia Gording, 1852, John Conrad, 1834, Henrietta A. Hutchinson, sister of A. M. Hutchonson, in 1855, with the Coles, Haines and Lockes.

The Caughell plot is next. The oldest, John Caughell, Sr., died August 8th, 1826, having reached the age of 92. John Caughell, Jr., 1856. The earliest grave is that of Alma, daughter of David and Mary, 1843; also Abigal Teetzel, whose first husband belongs to the family. Not far away are Eliza Ann Leeke, 1855; Mary, wife of Charles Lawrence, 1850; William Adkins, 1843; Francis Lewis Hoyt; the McCullys, of Southwold, a son of whom, James, being the last one laid to rest in this church to-date. The Lodges, George, Hioues and wife, Emily Hagley; Rachel, wife of John Allworth, 1839, age 40; lying beside is Ann, wife of R. Hughes, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Payne. William and Elizabeth Squance and others lie just south of the ravine.

Almost opposite here, on the other side near Walnut Street fence may be seen a small piece of level land Shaded by a tree. On this years ago stood wooden headboards, marking the place where two of the children were laid, all trace of which are now completely gone.

Robert Henley and his wife, the daughter of an Irish Bishop, lived almost across the street, in the forties, and kept a small store. He often pointed to this spot, expressing a wish to be buried there. His request was granted.

No Free Mason lodge being established here then, but he being one of the members of the order, Messrs. Rodgers, Langan and Dr. Duncombe attended the funeral. The Henleys left three children, and these were taken to their Grandparents in Ireland.

The Paynes, Nicolls, Mandevilles and Chisholms have family plots in the center, The Paynes Have a long row, Henry, Sr., of Westbury, Wiltshire, age 67, died in 1845, his wife, Elizabeth, age 92, in 1875, having survived her partner thirty years. Their son, Henry, Jr., died in 1896, age 83 years. He arrived in St. Thomas in 1830, being then a lad of seventeen years.

The Lewis’s and Jackson’s have all small head stones which have been supplemented by a large brown stone tomb which states that Asahel Bradley Lewis, born at Whitehall, New York State, 1805, died October 13 1833; also Alma Lewis, born in Vermont, 1807, died 1861; Adelaide’s and William Jackson’s names are recorded on it. Chauncey Lewis, 1815, also lies near, Major Nevills, (James) 72 years, with his wife, Elizabeth, who is also one of the nonagenarians, having lived 93 years, and sons who died in 1846 and 1848. The name of Major Nevills was once a household name.

The R.B. Nicoll plot is surrounded by an iron fence, in which a chased bronze monument records the names of Richard B., 1882, age 78 and Lucy, his wife, 1907, age 91. There is also a beautiful white marble monument of unusual design to the memory of Harriet Nicoll, wife of R. Brough.

The Simon Nicoll plot, only a short distance away, has very much the same story to tell; Simon. 1874, age 80, and his wife Eliza, aged 94, with their sons and daughter, Mary A. Dalton, 1856. John Allworth, and Sarah, his wife, 1834. Charles Knight and daughter, Keziah, 1848. Two children of Peter Roe, Catharine and John Philpott, John Bassett, and Ann Francis Jones. The Potticary family, of Southwold, and many others are of later days, most of them being between1860 to 1880. Elizabeth McCormick, Sampson Lawton, the first Shepherd family, Henryette Hutchinson, the Gloins, going back again to the forties, then Catherine and John Copeland of Egermouth, Cumberland. Catherine 1846, but John survived her many years reaching the age of 93. Near the Chisholms are the Grahams, Mellors, Martins, two of whom were interred the same date, 1890, and Ellis’ lot. The lettering on the stone of Kate Napper, wife of Henry Ellis, stands out in bold relief. The Mellors are among the early graves on this side, Mary dying in1837, and Allen in 1848, the epitaph refers to a cheerless grave in the dreary, distant clime, showing the homesickness of those who were left. An interesting row of graves bearing the names Donald McColl, , Annabella Campbell and Jane Sinclair, 1835. John McColl, 1847; John Gordon, 1840, the only later date, Annabella wife of Hugh McColl, 1867, aged 83, from Melfort, Argyle, Scotland, bring to mind the Highland pioneers of the Talbot settlement.

R. B. Chisholm son of the family of the Chisholm returned from California in the summer of 1873, caused a beautiful and costly pile to be erected (see Chisholm Monument story). A well-beaten path towards it shows that this is the greatest attraction in the yard and it is well worthy of a visit, not only for its beauty but to ponder on the lesson it contains. Enclosed by a substantial iron fence, it consists of seven panels; in the center over a granite circle covered by a canopy, stands a beautiful female figure, with the "Vaut virtue". The head of the family, William, aged 65, 1829, has the center place; His wife is to the right hand panel. Frances Oswell Grant, age 55, died 1832. The other’s their children on each side. Alexander, 1829, aged 29; William, 1832, age 22; Francis Oswell, wife of Henry Mandeville, 1832, aged 25; Lewis, 1833, aged 21; Ann, 1835, aged 29. A whole family passing away in the bloom of their life, mother father and children in seven short years.

The husband of Frances, Henry Mandeville, lies just beneath the railing died in 1837, aged 40. Next a very interesting stone in memory of David Mandeville, died November 26 1824, age 79, and wife, Dinah, died in 1837, aged 75. David Mandeville has the distinction of being the earliest born recorded in the churchyard, his birth taking place in 1745, he and his family coming from Long Point in 1811, built a home in the valley below.

Judge Ermatinger, in the Talbot Regime, says: "West of Rapelje’s lot, that of fellow-settler, and neighbor, David Mandeville, extended across the valley of Kettle Creek, and over the hill to the west. The first lot in Southwold, south of Talbot Street." His son Richard, and Ann Smith, were the first couple to be married here, Ann and William Mandeville, Elvira, wife of J. G. Merritt, are buried in an enclosed space. Not far away lies Garrett Smith, 1846, and wife, Mary, 1859. These are the ones who settled on the other corner, lot No. 1, north Talbot Street, Yarmouth. Thus the Drake, Mandeville, Smith and Rapelje families have found homes in death as in life, side by side, in this, the most picturesque part of God’s acre.

From the inscription on the stone of John Mitchell we learn that he died September 22nd, 1823, which was before the land was given. So far I have not learned whether he was buried first on his own farm above Sandy Mount Hill, and removed here or whether, with Daniel Rapelje’s consent, he was laid beside his son.

Its also bears the remains of many more settlers: Sam York and Tacyin, his wife, W.H. Doan, three children of Robert and Mary Scott, buried between April 10 and May 4 in 1859; the Tisdales, of New Brunswick, Barbara Mitchell, the Millers and Ellisons.

The Doctors of the early days have also found their well-earned rest in this quiet spot.; one stone reads in plain, well cut letters: D. J. Bowman, M. D., who died January 18, 1848, age 48. Another, which has fallen and has been broken into three pieces, is to the memory of Dr. Frederick B. Goning, 1882, in his 64th year, and a white marble obelisk is sacred to the memory of Helen, 1848 and Bridget, 1858, wives of Dr. C. B. Hall, and a little further on Dr. Elijah Duncombe, 1870. A late stone in memory of A. Roger merits attention, as it marks one who lived nearly a century, 96 years; born in Kenath County, Longford, Ireland, farmed in Devonshire, England, and immigrated to Canada in the year 1859, entered into rest, 1876.

Patrick Wallace, 1792 - 1839

Close to the fence, near the brow of the hill, are two stones one to Patrick Wallace, 1792 - 1839, and son, Octavius 1836, killed at the battle of Williamsburg, Va., May 5 1862 aged 26, a corporal of the 24th Regiment, Michigan Volunteers. Munson, son of Henry and Vashti Grawburg, died 1837, aged 18. The epitaph contains a warning to all vain youths that may pass by.

Little is known about Canadian Civil War Veterans except that they are but few of 50,000 Canadians who fought in the Civil War and are resting on Canadian soil. Wallace initially was wounded, refused to leave the field, and fought until a ball passed through his head, killing him instantly

His body was sent home to St.Thomas, unusual for the time and Wallace found his resting-place with his Father Patrick Wallace who died in 1839 age 47 when his son was just 3 years old.

Wallace ‘s refusal to surrender to his initial wounds is a testament to the sustaining emotions the Civil War raised in combatants. It certainly is indicative of the force of the character of the time and the strength of feelings over the Civil War. Little of the Veteran’s story may have been preserved locally because the Civil War was seen as a foreign fight.

The last part of the cemetery is that small portion bounded on one side by the ravine, to the north, and by the high hill on the south, forms a diagonal. Yet here is the object point in this history, for here are to be found the first four graves, John Mitchell, already mentioned, who died September 22, 1820, aged 53 years; also Ann, his wife, who died November 14, 1851, aged 77; Thomas. Duncombe, died October 13, 1822, aged 53 years, as far as the records on the standing tombstones show, the first buried after the grounds were consecrated; also Rhoda, his wife, August 24, 1853, aged 80.

Passing an iron railing enclosing on of the Miller families a large stone slab, placed on stone pillars, is seen. Which contains the following; "In memory of Daniel Rapelje, who died October 1 1828, age 53 years 10 months; Elizabeth, his wife, died Feb 27 1865, aged 88years; Jeronimus, eldest brother of Daniel Rapelje, June 30 1846, age 80 (never married.).

George James, eldest son Daniel and Elizabeth, died November 3rd, 1819, aged 23 years; Lambert, second son of Daniel and Elizabeth, died Christmas day, 1819, aged 15, Henry V., youngest son of Daniel and Elizabeth died March 31st, 1838, "How still and peaceful is the grave, where life’s vain tumults passed; the appointed home heaven’ decree, receives us all at last."

Henry Judgeson Rapelje

On the other side of the path stands a fine monument of later style in memory of Jeronimus Rapelje, born, 1806, died May 19 1894, age 88 and Jennetloh (Best), his wife, born 1807, died July 9 1901 age 94; Jeronimus evidently being the third son of Daniel Rapelje. Jeronimus Rapelje and Jennetloh (Best) Rapelje ‘s son Henry Judgeson Rapelje born Nov 12 1850 died May 28 1937, age 87. To the side a high iron fence marks Whitwam lot containing, with others Christopher, 1843, and Elizabeth Beaumont, 1853, The ancestors of the families bearing the name here (natives of George York).

The last plot is dedicated to Henry and Eilza Caldwell, and niece, of Trodsham, Woolwich, Kent, Besides this lie Elizabeth Shore, 1876 aged 89 years, 9 month, of Lancashire’ and no doubt the grave beside her belongs to Captain Shore, 1837, but who lie in an unmarked grave.

These graves are rear of the brow of the hill and owing to a part of the hill slipping; the tombstones erected to Captain fell over and now have been lost.

Chisholm Monument - Old St. Thomas Churchyard

In the old English Churchyard off Walnut Street, in St. Thomas, may be seen what is said to be the only monument of its kind in Canada – The Chisholm Monument, which has been referred to by unkindly persons in the past as the "Chisholm Curse."

It is a monument erected to the memories of seven members of a prominent Southwold family, who died within a period of seven years – father, mother and five children.

The so called "curse" arose from a story that the first member of the family disobeyed his parents, went to sea, and in the manner of old wives’ tales, placed a curse upon the whole family.

R. B. Chisholm son of the family of the Chisholm returned from California in the summer of 1873, caused a beautiful and costly pile, approximately $2,000 dollars to be erected. As a young man, after death claimed the other members of his family, he went to California, struck it rich during the gold rush, owning, rich mines and amassing a fortune He returned in 1873, to commission the firm of Hooper and Wilkins, of London, Ontario, to design and erect the striking monument.

A well-beaten path towards it shows that this is the greatest attraction in the yard and it is well worthy of a visit, not only for its beauty but to ponder on the lesson it contains. Enclosed by a substantial iron fence, it consists of seven panels in Gothic framework and tracery each designating a member of the ill-starred family. In the center tablet is the base of a pillar, inlaid with an oval of Scotch granite, bearing the name of the father, "William Chisholm". Standing upon this granite circle covered by a canopy, stands a full size statue of a beautiful female figure of Hope, looking upward from under the canopy, holding a branch of roses in her left hand and the right arm leaning upon a pedestal. The head of the family, William, aged 65, 1829, taking the center tablet panel; His wife is to the right hand panel. Frances Oswell Grant, age 55, died 1832. The other’s their children on each side. Alexander, 1829, aged 29; William, 1832, age 22; Francis Oswell, wife of Henry Mandeville, 1832, aged 25; Lewis, 1833, aged 21; Ann, 1835, aged 29. A whole family passing away in the bloom of their lives.

The Chisholm’s were a proud family who lived in Southwold Township near Port Stanley. William Chisholm was well to do, well educated, and an influential man in the early period of the Talbot Settlement. Two wrought iron benches, of intricate design, placed in front of the panels, have suffered from the vicissitudes of time. The frames remain but the seats that were sat on by many who had passed and pondered of the Chisholm’s have long since disappeared.

This a old picture from the Times Journal in 1952
Chisholm Monument 1952



Life In The 1700 and 1800’s In Elgin

St. Thomas Jumbo the Elephant

The history of Elgin and St. Thomas would not be complete with out telling the story of Jumbo The Elephant.

Jumbo! The Jumbo story began in 1861, near the town of Mombasa Kenya, when Jumbo, a young African elephant, was purchased by a German big game collector from a tribe of Arab hunters. He was then sold to the Paris Zoo, "The Jardin Des Plantes", where he remained for three years; he was then traded for a rhinoceros to the London Zoo and was the first elephant to reach England. He remained with the Zoo for 17 years and it was during this period that he reached his great size and endeared himself with his gentle ways to members of the Royal Family and hundreds of thousands of English children that he carried on his back.

In the summer of 1881 agents of P.T. Barnum were in search of novelties for the show and were so struck with the extraordinary size of Jumbo that they persuaded Barnum to sign an offer to the superintendent of the Zoological Gardens, a Mr. Bartlett, to purchase Jumbo for $10,000. The offer was accepted and preparations were made for the transportation of the elephant. When the sale became known, there was a universal out burst of anger. The directors of the Royal Zoo were denounced in strong terms for having sold Jumbo to the Yankee showman. The newspapers from, the London Times to the daily, thundered anathema’s against the sale. And their columns teemed with communications from states men, noblemen and person of distinction, advising that the bargain should be broken at all risk, and promising that the money would be contributed by the British public to pay any damages that might be awarded to Barnum by the courts.

A stockholder of the royal Zoo applied for an injunction in the Chancery Court against the councilor’s of the Zoo and to quash the sale. After a hearing, which took two days, the sale was declared valid, and Jumbo was the property of Mr. Barnum. Millions of Britons, young and old, also attempted to prevent the sale of their beloved Jumbo to the "Yankee Promoter". But the courts could not prevent the legal transaction and when the London Mirror attempted to purchase back the contract, Barnum wired that Jumbo was not for sale, even for one hundred thousand dollars, and that fifty million Americans awaited his arrival in the U.S.A.. Thousands of dollars had been paid in lithographing and advertising his arrival in America and Jumbo was to sail in the Assyrian Monarch on March 25th 1882.

In Mr. Sherwood book "Hold Your Hasses!" he tells of protest that were whipped up over the sale. With petitions signed by tearful school children, all part of a clever press agent scheme to give the elephant plenty of high-pressure publicity before it reached America. Even Queen Victoria was appealed to and speeches of protest were made in the British Parliament. When the publicity had been well developed Jumbo entered his cage, after stubbornly refusing to do so, for his voyage to America. After a rough passage Jumbo arrived in New York in good condition, Sunday morning April 9th 1882.

Jumbo appeared in the Hippodrome in New York for several months and then toured America with the Barnum and Bailey Circus in his own "Place Car". Jumbo struck up a friendship with the diminutive clown elephant Tom Thumb and the two animals won the hears of millions as they went from town to town

The internationally famous Barnum circus elephant "Jumbo" met a violent death in St. Thomas on that evening of September 15 1885, in the old Grand Trunk Railway yards east of Woodworth Avenue.

As the story goes and was reported by the Times in 1914, 29 years after it happening. "The Barnum and Bailey show had exhibited on the Mann property on Woodworth Avenue, and the empty circus cars were placed on the Grand Trunk siding along side the grounds. Following the evening exhibition in the big tent by Jumbo and his companion performer, Tom Thumb, a clown elephant, the loading of the animals was begun. All the other 31 elephants belonging to the show had been safety loaded with the exception of the two, the most valuable pair of the lot. More valuable than all the rest of the menagerie combined. Just as they were being taken along the main track (about 9.30 p.m.) which the circus employee understood was being kept clear, a freight train drawn by engine No 88 with Engineer W. Burnip and Fireman John Forest approached from the east. Realizing the impending danger the circus employees made frantic endeavors to signal the engine crew, about the same time Engineer Burnip noticed the elephants in his path and whistled for brakes and reversed his engine, but the heavy down grade at this point prevented the train being stopped. "Scotty," the keeper of Jumbo, made heroic efforts to get his charge to safety.

The first effort was to drive Jumbo down into the ditch on the south side, but the big fellow, always docile and obedient to the wishes of his keeper before, balked and would not go. Turning him quickly, "Scotty" started him on the run down the tracks westwards, keeping close beside, with Tom Thumb following at his heels. They had gone about thirty yards, within six car length of the end of the standing train when the engine overtook them, Tom Thumb was caught first and thrown by the impact into the ditch, and his left hind leg broken. A moment later the locomotive struck the rear of the mammoth Jumbo. The giant of the animal creation emitted one terrific roar, the like of which was perhaps never heard outside the jungle itself. The impact as the engine struck him was a great thud with the unfortunate beast brought to his knees. The engine and part of the first car passed along his back, inflicting ugly and painful bruises; his all but impenetrable hide was torn the full length of his body, his feet torn and blood issued from his mouth. He was not instantly killed, living for fifteen minutes after being struck, and expiring while efforts were made to take him from under the train.

The engine was badly damaged, the cowcatcher, headlight and bell knocked off and the side gearing twisted. The wreck was first gotten out of the way and then began the big task of getting the huge body of Jumbo off the tracks. Some conception of the undertaking may be gathered from the fact that his carcass weighted close to ten tons. The problem was a new one for the railroad men and the member of the wrecking crew, which had been called out; they did much conjecturing before finally concluding that the only thing that could be done was to roll the huge mass. Great rope cables were fastened to him, one to the front and another to the back part of his body. And though perhaps a hundred circus employees and spectators were on the ropes at the first pull, with other endeavoring to assist with planks as pries behind the body, it did not move. Then other scores of men were added to the forces on the ropes and when the "yoh heave!" of the master of ceremonies sounded the big mass of inert flesh and bone began to move. And was soon clear of the tracks, while Mr. Hutchinson, one of the proprietors and other mangers of the show stood by plainly showing their grief for the loss of their favorite, Jumbo.

While all this was taking place the veterinary surgeons with the circus were attending to Jumbo’s companion, Tom Thumb, who had escaped with a broken leg. This was set, after which he was lifted into his car and taken away with the rest of the animals to London, where the circus appeared the following day."

Matthew Scott was the devoted and constant companion of Jumbo from the time he entered the Royal Zoological Gardens in London, England, twenty years before, and had naturally become greatly attached to him. As the inanimate remains of the giant of the African wilds lay beside the tracks the following day, "Scotty" wept like a child. He had lost his best and truest earthly friend. It was the end of a devoted friendship between a faithful servant and his master.

Barnum immediately spread the story that Jumbo’s heroic, but unsuccessful effort to save the life of the dwarf elephant of the circus had charged the locomotive, giving his life to protect his two companions, Scott and Tom Thumb. Barnum had the hide stuffed and carried it as an attraction with the show. Mounted on a platform wagon, it led the grand entry, followed by Alice his widow and 15 other elephants, each carrying in his trunk a sheet with a wide black border, with which they were trained to wipe theirs eyes indicating their sorrow. Barnum cashed in on the publicity for two more years. Jumbo’s mounted hide was then donated to the Tuffs University Museum in Boston. In 1975 the skin was destroyed when the museum burned to the ground. The skeleton remains on display in the New York Museum of Natural History.

A damage action begun against the Grand Trunk Railway Company by Barnum and Bailey, claiming $100,000 for killing of Jumbo. A settlement out of court was reached just before the trail was to begin at New York, the Grand Trunk paying $5,000 in cash in addition to providing the circus with free transportation over the Grand Trunk the following year. Among those from St, Thomas who went to New York as witnesses were Station master Stewart, Despatcher Fred Arnum, Conductor Wm. Algie, Engineer D. Brown, W. Burnipand, and E.H.Flach with a companion John Rowe, were the only ones other than the circus and railway employees to witness the accident’

St. Thomas received plenty of publicity from the death of Jumbo. The news of his death flashed all over the globe and created something of a sensation at the time. This was particular true in England as he was the main attraction at the famed London Zoological Garden for many years were he had give rides to Queen Victories children and been viewed by millions. Little wonder that his death put St. Thomas on the map.

It is doubtful if so much has been written about any other animal over so many years, with so much of it untrue as Phineas T. Barnum told story after story to promote his circus. One of his many claims was that Jumbo was the largest elephant in captivity, but if R. E. (Bob) Sherwood, the veteran Barnum clown notes that even that statement was incorrect. Mr. Sherwood made Jumbo’s measurements, so he was in a position to vouch for their correctness. Jumbos weight was seven tons, his height to the shoulder was 12 feet; his overall length was 14 feet; tail was 4 feet six inches in length; circumference, 11 feet 6 inches; circumference at the middle 18 feet; circumference at hind leg 17 feet. Bob Sherwood tells in his book of recollections "Here We Are Again" that the first record of an elephant exhibited in America refers to one by the name of Hannibal. Van Amburga, a pioneer circus operator, brought him to America in the year 1824 and Hannibal height was reported as 12 feet 4 inches.

It was claimed that he was a third larger than any other elephant ever brought to this continent. When Hannibal was imported, it was thought that he was already old, but as he kept growing showmen concluded that he was still young. Here’s what the famous old clown had to say about Jumbo: "I happen to know that Jumbo was a big obstinate brute, and was killed by his refusal to get out of the way of a fast freight. As proof of his stubbornness one has only to remember his behavior when the attempt was made to get him on board ship after Mr. Barnum purchased him in London. Jumbo was three toed, or African, elephant. This breed is uniformly stubborn."

Mr. Sherwood’s statement may be correct that Jumbo refused to get out of the way of the freight train. Fred Arnum, who was in charge at the G.T.R. depot the evening of the tragedy has stated that Jumbo actually charged the locomotive, tried to knock it off the tracks. And actually damaged one cylinder head, knocked the smokestack cockeyed, and drove one of his tusks back into his brain in doing it.

Stories, fiction or truth, Jumbo the African elephant was the star of the Barnum and Bailey circus and Phineas T. Barnum’s greatest attraction and met his demise in St. Thomas September 15 1885. Jumbo is reputed to be the largest elephant ever in captivity and probably the best known non-human that ever lived in recorded history. His name is a household word in most countries of the world and is used to describe everything from ice cream to jet aircraft.

To the legacy and to commemorate the 100 anniversary of Jumbo’s fateful event, the St.Thomas Jumbo Foundation unveiled the Jumbo monument on June 29 1985 on the hill at the west entrance to St. Thomas. The statue was designed and constructed by Winston Bronnum in Sussex, New Brunswick. It is made of concrete with steel reinforcing rods throughout. The body is hollow and the walls are about seven inches thick. The legs are solid concrete and steel. The skin texture was achieved by trowelling on three-quarter of a inch of coloured cement and sand plaster. The statue with its six-inch base weighs thirty-eight tons. The base pedestal was constructed on site and weighs over one hundred tons

In order to clear the bridges on the 1,070 mile trip down the Trans Canada Highway, the lower part of the legs and six inch base were poured separately from the upper part of the legs and body. The two sections were later joined at the site and held together by four large concrete pegs, which were attached to the lower leg section and inserted into the upper section. Two large tractor-trailer trucks did the transportation. The journey from Sussex to St. Thomas and assembly at the site captured the attention of media throughout the nation and across the border to the U.S.A.

The project was funded totally with contributions from citizens, corporations and organizations of St. Thomas and Elgin County with the St, Thomas Kiwanis Club raising over $50,000 dollars towards the project. The City Of St. Thomas provided the site where Jumbo stands. The unveiling took place during five days of celebrations, fittingly called "Jumbo Days"

Southwold Earthworks

The archaeology remains of a double-wall Indian fort or village still remains a mystery. Elgin has a historic site that has remained veiled in a certain mystery pretty much since discovered by earliest settlers along what is called Talbot Road east, on the Southwold and Dunwich Townline from Burwell’s Corner to Old Iona. To archaeologists, this historic site has been known for many years as the Southwold Earthwork. It is the remains of what was a double-walled Indian Fort, or Indian Village, with a wide ditch or moat between the palisade type walls. The village must have provided accommodations for a fairly large number of people, possibly six or seven hundred. Nobody knows exactly what tribe built the fort but archaeologist suggests that the old fort may have been one of the last stands against the fierce Iroquois. Which would place the age of the Earthworks to about 1650 –1675. It was in the middle of the 17th century that the Iroquois, after destroying the Huron Settlements turned to the Neutrals in the southwest and forced their evacuation.

The Southwold Earthwork is one of several similar forts that must have been in existence in the peninsula between Talbot Creek and the most westerly bend of Kettle Creek. Little trace of the others remains.

The out line of the double walled fort has attracted Historians and Archaeologists for over two centuries. In the 1930,s fresh explanations were made for the National Museum at Ottawa and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada marked the Southwold Earthwork with a fence gate and fieldstone cairn.

Examinations have produced various artifacts that have enabled historians to get an idea of what the original occupants were like. Arrow-heads and flint chippings, stones partially disintegrated from the action of heat, fragments of pottery whose markings showed a very low stage of artistic development, fish scales, charred maize, bones of small animals, corncobs and a good specimen of a bone needle, all have been turned up in digging down through the mound and the ashes of the tribal fires.

These all indicate that the occupants were hunters, fishermen and agriculturists as well as warriors. But nothing has been found to indicate intercourse with any of the white races,

Substantially all that is known of the Neutral Indians is to be found in Champlains’s works, Sagard’s History, the Relations and Journal of the Jesuits, and Sanson’s map of 1656. The first recorded visit to the Neutrals was in the winter of 1626 by a Recollet father, the Laroche-Daillon. He found them hospitable but very warlike, armed only with warclubs and bows, and dexterous in their use,

One of the most authoritative papers on the Southwold Earthwork was prepared years ago by the late Dr, James H. Coyne, Elgin County Registrar, and on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board when that site was marked along with several other important sites in Elgin.

Talbotville (Southwold Township)

Talbotville a converging point for two main pioneer highways. A pivotal point since the early days of the Talbot Settlement and has played a more important role in Elgin County history than the size would suggest.

Its first name suggests its importance in early highway surveying and development. The story goes that the early surveyors, in striking the north branch of the Talbot Road and the London and Port Stanley Road north to Lambeth from that point drove five surveyor’s markers or stakes and from this the little community became known as Five Stakes. It went by that title for many years. In fact within recent years some older folk continue to refer to it as Five Stakes.

With the development of mail service and the establishment of post offices throughout the Talbot Settlement, Five Stakes gave way to the more refine name of Talbotville or Talbotville Royal.

From its founding, Talbotville has been a key point in highway converging point of Queen’s Highway No3 from the west, Queen’s Highway No4 from the North Branch of Talbot Road and London and Port Stanley Gravel Road of Yesterday.

Talbotville was honored with the name of Colonel Thomas Talbot, fonder of the Talbot Settlement and is evidence itself of Talbotville’s central position in the general development of Talbot’s plan.

Today, Talbotville virtually constitutes the west entrance to the city of St.Thomas, with suburban residential growth gradually taking over what was strictly rural territory even over a century ago.

To Talbotville came some of the first settlers in Southwold Township, with the inevitable march from there westward and to the north.

Ontario’s Native People Southwold Township

Before the white man came to North America much of Ontario was a primeval forest. The only sounds to be heard were the sounds of nature: the breath of the wind through trees and over water and the movement of the creatures who inhabited the land – the animals and birds, and the few tens of thousands of human beings who lived among them, the Native people of Ontario.

For the Native People, this primeval forest was not hostile but a life-sustaining environment; it was a bounteous garden to be harvest with care and wisdom. Because they felt very much a part of the natural world, the Native people invested it with intelligence and spiritual significance. Everything in nature had its own sprit and all natural occurrences had religious meaning. It was important to think reverently about all natural things and to treat them with fairness and respect – the people and animals, the trees, rocks and lakes, the sun and moon, the weather and the seasons. By respecting nature and its inherent harmony, it was possible to live in peace with it and attain spiritual well being. The original Ontario inhabitants can be divided into two large groups, or linguistic families, according to whether they spoke one of the Algonkian or one of the Iroquoian languages. The Native peoples in the more northerly parts of Ontario belonged to the Algonkian linguistic family. They included the Cree, the Ojibway and the Algonquin. These people were wanders and lived mostly by hunting and fishing.

The nations of the Iroquoian family inhabited the more southerly regions-from about Lake Simcoe down to northern New York State. These people were relatively settled in their way of life. They lived in semi-permanent villages, made clearings in the forest and farmed some of the land. The Hurons around Lake Simcoe, the Tabacco nation of the Bruce Peninsula, and the Neutral nation of Lake Erie shores belong to this linguistic family, as did the five Iroquois nations living south of Lake Ontario-the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondaga, the Cayuga, and the Seneca. After 1722 the Tuscaroras migrated north from the area of North and South Carolina, and the Five Nations became the Six Nations.

Oneida Nation of The Thames

Early White settlers in what is now New York State U.S.A. were constantly pressuring government to seize more of natives’ land. In 1840 the Oneidas, part of the Iroquois people, left New York State for Canada. The old boat with which the United States Government had furnished them, sank in Lake Erie, offshore from their destination of Port Stanley, Survivors trudge from Pot Stanley north to the Thames River where advanced scouts had arranged for purchased of land for settlement. This land was purchased and is not a reserve.

Native People Area Map




Iona (Southwold Township)

Iona, situated on Highway No 3 at the Southwold-Dunwich townline, is not very large today (1999) but it has a great history. Iona is really that portion of the town on the Southwold side of the townline. That in Dunwich Township was at one time known as Elliotville. Mr. Elliot was the uncle of the late George E. Casey, and owned all the land of which Elliotville is composed. In his honor that part of the town was named. Mr. Casey was a Member of Parliament for West Elgin in the Dominion House for some years.

Iona was surveyed by Gerge Munro in the 1840’s and was named by him after the historic Ionian Island, off the Scotish coast. Iona became a very prosperous and thriving town, and by 1867 had 480 inhabitants. At first Iona received its mail by stagecoach, which left St.Thomas and reached Iona by way of Middlemarch and Fingal.

At one time Iona possessed two large hotels, kept by John Mills and JohnDecow. Both were prey to flames, that of John Decow being burned first. From 1865 to the burning of the last one, there had been fourteen hotelkeepers. McDougal was first and Waddell the last.

Dr. Myron McLaughlin was Iona first Physician and he died from typhoid fever at thirty-seven. Later Dr. Cascaden and Dr. McGeachy took up the practice.

George Brown was the first veterinary, but never attended a college.

From 1865 to 1867 the fourth division court was held at Iona.

Iona at one time had a volunteer military company. It was formed in 1866, and the drill sergeant was Mr. Carswell. It was made up of Daniel Mores, Rufus Lumley, John A. Philpott (captain), Duncan Decow (lieutenant), Dougal Campbell (corporal), the McIntyre boys and Dan Silcox. They drilled under T.A. Silcox who took a course at the Military College, and they became known as Company No.5 and were attached to the 25th Battalion. The first drill away from home took place at St.Thomas, and here they took first prize as the best-trained company.

The Iona band was started in the same year, 1866, Moses Lumley being appointed as bandleader, and Dan Pineo as his assistant.

A drill shed used by the volunteers was later used in connection with the fair, which was later moved to Shedden.

One of the original structures at Port Talbot that was not completely destroyed by fire by invaders during the War of 1812-14 was the old horse mill, which was built for Colonel Thomas Talbot, probably in 1805 or earlier. Being made of hard oak timbers this mill did not surfer much from the fire. It was later moved to field near Iona where it was used for cutting wood and sawing timber for many years.

Five teams were needed to operate Colonel Talbot’s horse mill. From a center wheel; five long timbers extended as arms and to each was attached a team of horses, or in the early period, a yoke of oxen. An upright tower affair at the cutting end of the horse mill was raised and lowered by hand, as well as by the horsepower. The old mill is shown in a map of Port Burwell in 1813. In addition to the first dwelling of Colonel Talbot, the map shows a copper shop, blacksmith shop and several poultry houses near the house.

The advent of the Canada Southern Railway, literally speaking killed the town of Iona and many of the buildings were moved north to Iona Station and helped to decrease the population and take away the business.


Advertisement from about 1877

Fingal (Southwold Township)

The Name of Fingal, seat of the Southwold Township Council for over a century (1950) is synonymous with three things, Fingal Caves in Scotland, from which it gets its name: Colonel Thomas Talbot, fonder of the Talbot settlement, and the first threshing machine and threshing steam engines to be made in upper Canada.

MacPherson, Glasgow and and Company Advertisement 1877

It was in 1848 that threshing machines were first made in Fingal and the MacPherson, Glasgow and Hovey Foundry continued to make them for a half century, when their plant was destroyed by fire, and never rebuilt. The business was transferred to Clinton, Ontario where the firm had been operating a similar foundry for many years. In its heyday, the foundry in Fingal employed 60 or more hands; most of them skilled mechanics, and Fingal was in many ways a busier and more progressive village than St.Thomas. Then came the railroad, to make St.Thomas a rail center and to isolate Fingal.

The manufacture of threshing machines within a few miles of his "Malahide Castle" at Port Talbot must have been a source of great satisfaction for Colonel Talbot. From the early days of his settlement, Talbot had expressed a desire to see threshing machine introduced.

The machines that were made in the MacPherson, Glasgow and Hovey Foundry were known and used throughout Canada as well as in the United States. Matthias Hovey was the mechanical genius in the industry, bringing the art of making separators from Lockport, New York.

Two Types of separators were made the Vibrator and the Climax Double Cylinder. Their portable steam engine was called the Monitor.

For years, their machines were exhibited at major agricultural shows. Their Monitor engines took first awards at the New York State Fair in Rochester, in 1874: at the Eastern New York Fair in Albany, and the New York State Fair in Elmira, in 1875: and the Provincial Exhibition at Hamilton, Ontario in 1876.

In the year, 1876 according to an old record, 300 complete threshing outfits were turned out and sold: 12 portable steam engines as well as four horse powered engines, power straw cutters, grain crushers, and a variety of plows and cultivators. Twenty of their Climax threshing machines went in 1876 to a Mennonite settlement near Winnipeg, others to Michigan.

description of the products of the Fingal plant appears in a old advertisement as follows: "The engine can be set and steam raised in less time than its takes alone to set a horizontal engine. The boiler is upright, and the smoke stack is provided with a perfect ‘spark arrester’ thereby ensuring safety from loss by fire."

Like Vienna, Port Burwell and Aylmer, Fingal was laid out as a village in 1830, with four corners lots owned respectively by Samuel and Lewis Burwell and men named Nevills and Cowal . Levi established the first General Store in 1838 and became the first postmaster of Fingal village on recommendation of Colonel Mahlon Burwell, contemporary of Colonel Talbot, and an early member of the Upper Canada Legislature. He was the pioneer road builder for whom Port Burwell was named. Among the other merchants who amassed fortunes for those days in Fingal was Amasa Wood, who later moved to St.Thomas to build and give the city its first hospital.

Before the railroads, Fingal occupied a strategic position. It was on the original Talbot Road from Port Stanley. Through Fingal from the west came wagon trains of grain bound for Port Stanley. Old Timers of the past often recalled the grain shipping days when Fingal was virtually the heart of the settlement, so far as agriculture was concern. Those grain wagons, filled with wheat, oats and corn grown on the rich, virgin soil, passed through the bustling village and followed the old Union and Port Stanley Road to the lakeside, where the grain was unloaded directly into holds of sailing vessels or into elevators along the wooden wharf. On the busiest days, it was not an uncommon sight to see grain wagon lined back a mile from the dock yard at Port Stanley, With others lumbering along the dusty road from Fingal.

In 1872 Fingal had a population of 500 and in addition to the MacPherson,Glasgow and Hovey Company foundry, had Fulton Brothers’ sawmill and veneer factory ; Tomkin Brothers’ flour grist and lumber mill; Thomas Casey’s tannery; JohnConn’s cheese factory; George Metcalfe’s cabinet works; and William A. Doyle’s marble works. There were three hotels, the Fulton House, run by the Fulton brothers; Fingal House, kept by Captain John Sweeney; and the Farmers’ Inn, conducted by Joseph Smith.

Although St.Thomas was called his "capital", Fingal was in many ways, Colonel Talbot’s first love. By a strange twist of fate, it was at Fingal that his body rested in a wooden coffin in an unheated shed behind the village inn, on the night February 8 1853, to be removed to Port Talbot the following day and laid to rest in the beautiful old God’s Acre of St.Peters’s Church Tyrconnell, high above the serene blue waters of Lake Erie

Dutton-Dunwich Township

This township enjoys the distinction of having been the birthplace of the Talbot Settlement and home to the first white man in what is now Elgin County. The only settler that came with Colonel Talbot, was George Crane, in 1803 and not until 1809 that other families came to keep them company. These were Colonel Patterson and Mrs. Pearce and it is said that Talbot met them at the beach, welcome them gladly and carried the little boy (William Pearce) up the hill in his arms. These families came from Pennsylvania to settle hear. If you have driven along the road from Port Talbot to Tyrconnell past some of the most pictures land and well kept farms and dwelling in the county you will understand why Talbot encouraged settlers to settle hear.

At the close of the War of 1812-1815, there were but twelve families in all of Dunwich, and not a single family on the Talbot Road from east to west. In 1817 five families of the Scotch Highlanders left Lord Selkirk’ settlement, at the Red River, and located on 50 acres lots donated by Colonel Talbot, along the Talbot Road in the west of the township. The progress of the settlements was slow and in 1836 there were only 666 inhabitants in the whole of Dunwich Township

Tyrconnell (Dunwich Township)

Tyrconnell, lost capital of Little Ireland, named for Colonel Talbot’s family. The site of Tyrconnell was a wilderness until 1832. Early settlers planned to make the community the busiest shipping center along Lake Erie. Little Ireland was a place in the settlement that held special interest for Colonel Thomas Talbot. It was there along the north shore of Lake Erie; just west of his own "roosting place" that the master of Malahide Castle located some of his first settlers and it is matter of significance that many of them were of Irish descent.

There was another less sentimental reason for Colonel Talbot’s interest in this part of his settlement; Little Ireland possessed the best natural harbor along the north shore of Lake Erie.

And so with some of "God’s chosen people" as the first settlers and with such excellent harbor facilities, it was logical that a settlement should spring up at the mouth what was known to those pioneers as No. 9 Creek and in the logical sequence of nomenclature it was to be expected that the settlement would be given a name associated with Irish history and the Talbot’s of Malahide. The settlement was named Tyrconnell, probably both for Richard Talbot the Earl of Tyrconnell who served under King James II of England and also for the ancient Kingdom of Tyrconnell (Tir-Conaill) what is now the county of Donegal in northwest Uister.

The Tyrconnell in Colonel Talbot’s Little Ireland was destined for greatness. It was surveyed and laid out for a large town in the mid 1850’s

As early in 1830, Tyrconnell had a wharf and at least one warehouse and was doing quite an extensive Great Lakes Trading business. By 1865 the thriving community had two hotels, three general stores, various other businesses and industrial enterprises. The Port was shipping out large quantities of grain to Meredith Conn., square timber from virgin oak, rock elm and whitewood, ship’s staves, cordwood and luxuriated wood ashes, or what the early settlers called black salt (evaporation turned the solution black).

What brought about Tyrconnell’s decline and disappearance? The building of the railways more than anything else was the start. Communities that were not on the railway line struggled to compete and survive as large quantities of goods could be transport to larger location (Lake Heads) and up the St Lawrence to the East Coast faster and year-round by train

There no doubt were other reasons. After Colonel Mahlon Burwell and his instrument men surveyed Tyrconnell, between 1850 and 1860, an auction sale of town lots was held: but James Blackwood, who built a grain warehouse in Tyrconnell in 1856, suffered business reverses and was unable to give deeds of the sale. Blackwood was a pioneer business tycoon. He was in business in St.Thomas, at Fingal and also at Wallacetown, as well as in Tyrconnell.

Blackwood’s inability to provide deeds for Tyrconnell’s town lots did not prevent a group of businessmen from forming the Pier Company in 1861. A long wooden pier was built and it continued in general use until about 1890. In fact older people in the 1950’s still remembered the pier, which was used largely for small pleasure and fishing craft until 1895 or 1896

When Tyrconnell Harbor was at its peak, schooners carried out upward of 75,000 bushels of grain annually and that was a lot of grain for those early days.

Colby’s sawmill, built at the mouth of No 9 Creek in 1820, was probably the start of industrial life in Tyrconnell. Twelve years previously, mills had been built to the east for Colonel Talbot at Port Talbot, but invading American forces burned Talbot’s mills in 1813. Until a mill was built at Tyrconnell and other mills were established in the area, settlers often had to go to Long Point or even to Buffalo for grist and flour a very long and dangerous under taking in those pioneer days.

In 1823 after Colby’s mill appeared, George Henery built the first gristmill on No 9 Creek and added a sawmill and a carding machine to his machinery later, and soon after M. T. Moore of St. Thomas put in vats for a tannery. Absalem Slade built the first warehouse at Tyrconnell and he also operated a trading post and general store that Mr. Hewitt operated in 1825. Hewitt’s was the first ashery or pearl oven to be built in Tyrconnell; McCall’s store was established in 1827; Hamilton and Warren’s store and grain buying business in 1830: Fox’s tannery sprang up in 1832 and was sold to Sam Ladd in 1835. James and Thomas Coyne began their store and warehouse in 1836; Fowler and Wood built a large grain warehouse in 1840, and Archie McIntyre pioneered in the distillery business in 1826 who bartered five quarts of whiskey for a bushel of corn and 1½ gallons for a bushel of rye. In 1830 Steele’s opened Steele’s distillery.

The numbers of early settlers having increased over the years and home spinning not being able to meet the needs a weaving and carding mill was built on No 9 Creek in 1855 and did a big business for a number of years.

Tyrconnell’s first post office was in Colonel Leslie Patterson’s big house from 1837 until 1852 when Thomas Coyne became the postmaster. The first mails were brought in and carried out once a week by couriers on horseback. Later Tyrconnell people were elated over a service that brought them in touch with the outside world by letter and newspaper, three times a week.

It was about 1870 a telegraph line was built into Tyrconnell. In 1905, a telegraph line was strung from Port Talbot to Wallacetown, giving the people of the district their first modern communication system.

As the settlers developed their Cattle herds a cheese factory became apparent. John D. Pearce supplied that need in 1865. He set up the first cheese factory in the district. Cheese boxes were not available in Elgin so Mr. Pearce and his men had to drive to Ingersoll and back, with slow moving teams and wagons to obtain the boxes.

The Pearce’s were one of the first and most influential families in Little Ireland, choosing their land in 1808 and settling in 1809. The family is still prominently represented by fourth and fifth generations in the area of Tyrconnell.

With the Pearce’s to Little Ireland came Colonel Leslie Patterson and Mary Storey in 1803 and 1809: and before them, George Crane, who came with Talbot himself and settled in. Then in 1810, the Backus family arrived, headed by Stephen Backus.

By modern standards, it was a hard life and a restricted life for the people who lived in Little Ireland’s lost capital, but they found mediums and outlets for simple joys and pleasures. There was an inherent love of music among them and considerable native talent. Much of this was discovered and developed under the tutorship of Archibald Duncan, a clerk in James Blackwood’s store whose father had been quite a famous bandleader in the old country. The public-spirited John Pearce provided the room for musical instruction and their Duncan taught both vocal and instrumental music.

Even a house or barn raising was reason for a social gathering with feasting, dancing and merriment when the hard work was over. Tyrconnell folk held their first public picnic in 1860 as a farewell to a beloved schoolteacher names Stafford.

John Pearce named appears again in the early records as turning over part of his house in 1822 for a school. In 1824, John Miles Farland’s house was used for teaching the pioneer Three R’s.

The first schoolhouse was built on a piece of ground on the Stephen Backus farm; the fourth school was on the east side of No 9 Creek and was open 1847. The following year, another school was built on the west side of No 9 Creek.

The old school on the west side was still in service in the 1950’s and was part of the attractive home of Chris Schollenberger. While Tyrconnell first school was held in John Pearce home in 1822, the first Log schoolhouse in the area was built in 1816 by John Watson at Watson’s Corner s on the Talbot Road between Fingal and Burwell’s Corners. The schoolhouse was 18 by 20 feet with most of the timbers cut on the spot. The first teacher at this pioneer of pioneer schools was William Hannah: the first trustees were John Barber, James Watson and Colonel Mahlon Burwell. In 1820 this school was destroyed by fire caused by a backlog from the open fireplace rolling out onto the floor after school hours. The widely known Ewen Cameron taught for a few years in settlers’ homes before a frame building was erected. Crowell Wilson, later Member of Parliament for the district, taught at this school.

St Peter’s Anglican Church stands to day (1952) as a monument to the pioneer’s past-a beautiful old monument that is still in service. There Colonel Thomas Talbot, George McBeth and other leaders and thinkers of the early settlement days congregated to worship God on the Sabbath and just across the old road, those pioneers sleep their last sleep in one of the first examples of well-maintained pioneer cemeteries in Ontario. St. Peter’s Cemetery existed at least three years before the church was built in 1827. The Stewart family was related to the Patersons and a Stewart is said to have been buried in what was to become St. Peter’s Cemetery in 1824.

McIntosh and Barwell held services till Rev. Mark Burnham Came in December 1829 and lived in part of John Pearce house for two years. There were few community moves of merit in which John Pearce was not closely identified. Rev. James Stewart was the forth rector of St. Peter’s Church, coming in 1842. Seven years later the first rectory was built.

It was not until Elgin was three years old as a county, in1855, that the Methodist Church was built in Tyrconnell. The Methodist Church Cemetery was open in 1870

Rev. Mark Burnham, who severed in the settlement for nearly a quarter of a century, had three parishes in his charge- St.Thomas and Port Stanley as well as Tyrconnell. He was closely attached to Port Stanley where he conducted services in the pioneer Christ Church, for it was there he found his life mate, a daughter of Colonel John Bostwick, one of the founders of Port Stanley. She lived to the age of 94.

It is said that on one occasion, Pastor Burnham, having grown weary of his many arduous duties, decided to retire and move east, and sent his resignation to Bishop Stachan. He loaded Mrs. Burnham and the children and some belongings into a lumber wagon and started east but they got only as far as Brantford when Burnham received a peremptory message to return to his charge. He did so, remaining until 1852 when he moved to Peterborough where he lived the remainder of his life among his beloved books. An avid reader, he had one of the largest libraries in Upper Canada.

It must have been a long lonely drive for Burnham and those other pioneer pastors when the settlement was young and habitations were widely scattered between Tyrconnell, Port Stanley and St.Thomas There were two roadhouses in the early days where a man might find rest, food and refreshment. One was Parker’s Tavern, on the Talbot road, Lot 16 Concession 10 Dunwich: the other was Coyne’s Tavern, at Coyner’s Corners, Talbot Road Lot 16 Concession 8.

Aldborough Township (West Elgin)

This is the most westerly of the county, and is bounded on the south by Lake Erie and on the north by the winding waters of the Thames River. The center of the township is in the latitude 42˚, 34΄ north and through the most elevated portion, it is mostly marshy. From the marshes of the central concessions drain creeks, those on south finding their way into the lake, and those on the north into to the Thames river. These creeks were useful in many ways; one of which was the draining of the wet lands of the township that made rich land available for agricultural purposes. The surface soil was chiefly a sandy loam, except near the river, which was clay and gravel. The township is very level except near the lake and river, where the streams have for time carved deep channels in the clay and shale, which in some places cover rock to the dept of 150΄ feet. The township is remarkably free from stones on the surface, with now and then a large one, found in beds of streams that were in early days used for millstones.

If the native oak, chestnut, whitewood, white and black ash, and black walnut were standing, it would be worth millions of dollars today (1999). From one oak in 1846,1,000 pipe staves were made, you would be hard pressed today to find a "good tree" to make one. Many chestnut trees made 6,000 feet of lumber each and some of the walnut trees were over five feet in diameter. In the early times great quantities of valuable timber (not valuable then) were cut down and burned to clear land for wheat and corn. Enough was spared until the lumbering operation era began and was for many years an important industry in the township. The eastern markets received some of the choices chestnut, black walnut and whitewood from the forest of Aldborough which still adorn many old church and buildings today with there timbers of 2, 3 and 4 feet wide.

In 1804 James Fleming, an Irishman was located on Lot 6, 1st concession by Governor Simcoe and till 1816 was the only resident of Aldborough. Part of Colonel Talbot’s charge was the allotment of land to settlers in Aldborough and for this purpose he issued an invitation to the Scottish Highlanders, who had located temporarily in Caledonia in the States of New York. In 1816 Captain Archd. Gillies located on Lot 1, on the Talbot Road, then blazed a path through the woods; and in the spring 1817, fifteen families, all Highlanders, left Caledonia and joined Mr. Gillies. Among these were John Menzie, Thomas Ford, Donald McEwin and Finlay McDiarmid. In the autumn of 1817, there came direct from Argyleshire three families, Alex McNabb, John McDougald and Peter McKellar. The trails of these early settlers, who endured sorrows and suffering, required strong muscles and a stout heart. There were no roads by which neighboring settlements could be reached, no mills nearer than thirty miles on the east and Howard on the west was a dense, roadless forest. Families sometimes sustained for a week at a time on turnips anxiously awaiting the return of the "food haulers" with their hand sleighs from Long Point. In 1820 the bilious fever struck whole families at a time and most were unable to even hand a drink of water to another and there were no physician nearer than Long Point or Sandwich.

During this time (1819) Finlay McDiarmid was confined to bed with the fever and unable to do any work or harvest the one and half acres of wheat, his only dependence for his winter bread. More than this, there was no sickle to cut it with, but courage and the industrious will to overcome all difficulties Mrs. McDiarmid cut it all with the butcher knife, threshed it and ground it in a hand mill to feed her two infant children and recovering husband. That heroic woman lived to over 90 years of age of remarkable health and vigor and when the story was told she said, "she would do the same task over again if necessary". The names, courage, fortitude and native abilities of these Scottish families carved settlements in the lonely, isolated wilderness and their legacy still lives on today.

Trade and commerce were of course of a primitive nature. The nearest store in 1818 was that of Hamilton and Warren, in a log building at Kettle Creek (St.Thomas). On the west there was none near than Sandwich. Trade was wholly by barter until 1827, in that year cash was paid for wheat and no other kind of grain. In 1829 the first shop with a small quantity of goods was opened at Port Furnival, by Mr. McFarlane of Glasgow, Scotland, who gave goods for produced, and paid cash for wheat at 60 cents a bushel. In 1830 he shipped to Montreal 6000 bushels of wheat, 120 barrels of pork, 300 raw deerskins, 1000 pounds Indian dressed deerskins, 200 raccoon skins, and 50 bushels of flaxseed, the first cargo sent from Aldborough.

In 1837, when the news of the uprising at Little York reached the Aldborough Township, 80 volunteers started at once for Amherstburg, (with out either General or regiment orders) having among them not over a dozen guns. One volunteer carried a Lochaber axe with a ten-foot pole for a handle, some had old Dirks, and one had a sword of his grandfathers who used it at the battle of the Campbells of Argyles. Lieutenant Colonel Patterson of Dunwich, commanding the 1st Regiment of Middlesex, met these volunteers at Amherstburg, where all remained for thirty days in expecting a raid from the other side of the river. It never came and soon the up rising settle down again.

The population of Aldborough at this time was but little more than in 1820, when Colonel Talbot ceased to give land as he had been giving it. In selling crown lands, Talbot earned 3% of the selling price. Where he could, he claimed land for his efforts, holding it for speculation. In Dunwich and Aldborough, he assigned the Highland Scots as little of his 5,000 as possible. He set them on 50 acres of reserve and claimed the remaining 150 acres of a 200-acre grant for him self. Talbot located as government agent, settlers on 100 acres each in Mosa, Ekfrid, and other good localities, those, which had intended stopping in Dunwich and Aldborough went where the most acres could be had.

Aldborough in early times was the paradise of game and wild animals. It was the favorite haunt of the cleared dun deer that browsed the fresh cut brush heaps, covering the ground with their tracks. Wolves, bears, raccoons and wild turkey were there, along with the settler’s sheep, pigs and other live stock and all were fair game to the unexpected.

Until 1846, the only settlers of Aldborough were Scottish Highlanders, mostly from Argyleshire and Perthshire. Between 1846 and 1855, German settlers arrived. They were good citizens, frugal, temperate and industries and proved a valuable addition to the population. Many bought their land from the original settlers but the majority settled on unimproved land bought from the Crown, the Canadian Company and General Airey.

General Airey came by the land because he was a British officer with connection to the famous order at Balaklava that caused the Light Brigade, "the Noble Six Hundred " that rode into the jaws of death and he was also the nephew of Colonel Talbot. He came to Port Talbot with the understanding that he was to be the heir of the Talbot Estate, but through some disagreement, or change in the Colonel’s mind, his portion became the original homestead on the hill in Dunwich, and 5,000 acres of unimproved land in Aldborough.

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