While Oakville never reached the level of trade that flowed in and out of the ports at Toronto, Kingston, and Montreal, it proved to be one of the largest ports in Trafalgar Township. And it was the perfect location with easy access to larger ports to the south of the United States and had access to the Welland Canal and St. Lawerence. Trafalgar Township had two significant exports, the first being agriculture and the second timber. And Oakville was in the perfect position to support this resource economy. And these two complimented each other; as the wood was felled, it not only provided for buildingRead More →

These days, the postal service is a strange mix between nostalgia and a necessary evil. In a world where communication is almost instant and much faster than a regular postal service. A world where postal service wasn’t always offered in your community and when it could only arrive once a week. Even with the troubles we face with Canada Post, would to someone from the early years of Oakville seem like a luxury? The first postal service in Canada was established in 1763 as a branch of the Royal Mail service. Mail would run between Montreal and Quebec City twice per month in the summerRead More →

What we know today about crossing the border is a standardised process that is relatively modern. Of course, we all experience what could only be described as a nerve-racking experience when faced by border agents in a post-9/11 world, some more than others for reasons other than their nationality and skin colour. But the 19th Century had far fewer controls over the border, and people crossed it unharassed (mostly) or requiring documentation. But the one thing that got a lot of investigation was trade, specifically the collection of tariffs and duties, which often fell to a leading citizen in a town named a port-of-entry byRead More →

Like the Chisholms, their grand estate overlooking the harbour is directly tied to the town’s history. And while nearly lost, the town’s efforts and the local historical society have ensured that the home still stands today. The estate of Earchless started not as a home but rather in a more humble manner. William Chisholm already had a home in Nelson Township and had no desire to move to Oakville. But he did need to establish some businesses in Oakville. In addition to the shipyard and a tavern, he established a general store that acted as a customs house. The earliest section of the home wasRead More →

Upper Canada provided a wealth of raw materials for the merchant barons in Montreal. In addition to supplying the needs for colonising the province, the vast forests supplied lumbers that would go over to England to provide materials for constructing the mighty warships of the Royal Navy. Agriculture fed the growing population and the armies of England. But the preparation of these two things required mills. In addition to the shipyards, some of the earliest businesses in Oakville were mills. Running water was the best source of power for the first mills in the region. A lot with a water source provided not only irrigationRead More →

As mentioned last week, the main reason for Chisholm’s desire to purchase the area where Oakville sprung up was the presence of the mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek. Despite being a shallow creek, it has the potential as a natural harbour. By 1827 the Welland Canal and improvements along the St. Lawerance River had improved trade routes through Upper and Lower Canada and over to England. The mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek was noted for a large gravel bar in the middle, splitting the planned harbour into two entrances. Chisholm directed his son Robert and son-in-law Merrick Thomas to dredge out the mouthRead More →

It only took ten weeks to get to the founding of Oakville itself. Oakville is the product of William Chisholm’s vision, Merrick Thomas’s planning, and the hard work of those who did the hard work. And while today, construction is straightforward and mechanised, in the 1830s, everything had to be done by hand, and it took more than one person to build a community. The land around the mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek was ceded to the British Crown under Treaty 22 in 1822. Although it had been left in the stewardship of the Mississauga’s during the 1805 Treaty 14 purchase, the area wasRead More →

If there is a first family for Oakville, that family is the Chisholms. You cannot mention the founding of Oakville without having the Chisholms in the same breath. And the family is directly tied to the history of Oakville from its founding into the middle of the 20th Century. Born to a loyalist family in Nova Scotia, William and his family moved to the township of Nelson in 1793, near the modern city of Burlington. As the son of a land owner, William received an Ensign commission in the 2nd Battalion, York Militia. During the Anglo-American War of 1812, he saw combat at the CaptureRead More →

If there were another urban centre in Trafalgar township that could rival Oakville and remain a fiercely independent community today, it would be Bronte. Located at the mouth of Twelve Mile Creek and a vibrant community tied to Lake Ontario, today, it is more an upscale suburb of Oakville but retains much of its character. The land where Bronte grew up had the largest number of Indigenous Settlements dating back to the earliest signs of human settlement in the region. In 1805, most of the land was ceded to the Crown under Treaty 14. At the same time, the land around the creek mouth continuedRead More →

The small village of Sixteen is another of the lost villages and was among the first to be lost from Trafalgar Township. Located deep in the Sixteen Mile Creek valley, the village was hard to access because of the dangerous road into the valley. Of the many villages that made up Trafalgar Township, Sixteen Hollow was among the last ones to be established. In 1827, George Chalmer established a grist mill and a sawmill in the creek valley where Dundas Road crossed the creek; he also built a new bridge over the creek to help those travelling the road. Despite the treacherous climb into theRead More →