History | Coming to St. Williams in 1912 | Back

A redacted transcription of a page 12 column from 7 Jun 1974 issue of Simcoe Reformer.
[About half the paragraph breaks were inserted by the transcriber]

Farm Focus
by G. G. Bramhill

I am fortunate in being able to give you this week a letter from Mr. Charles Beauchamp of Port Rowan, the last survivor of an enterprise in early days of St. Williams area. 

Mr. Beauchamp is in his 85th year but writes an interesting letter in fine English script. I will see that it is placed among the valuable papers of the Norfolk Historical Society. I give you his letter in full:

The first part of July in 1912, an ad was in the English Daily Mail for men wanted as prospective settlers by the Dominion Syndicate Settlement Association, to go to St. Williams, situated on the shores of Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada.

Land was bought from local farmers and fruit trees were planted by the company. [D.S.A.] settlers were to buy the land, also houses and, by hard work, in the course of years, prosper and make good citizens.

At the age of 23 years I was anxious to better myself from 21 shillings per week. The company in St. Williams was offering $1.00 per day, which was good pay for 62 years ago. I went to visit Mr. Walter Fielding in St. James Square, London, England. He said at the interview that he wanted me, who had seven years experience as a gardener, to go at once to St. Williams, Norfolk County, to look after the greenhouses and push plants already for planting on the land.

The fare those days by train and boat from Blackheath, Kent, England to St. Williams, Ontario was 7-10 pounds or about $37.50 in Canadian money. 

On [23 Jul 1912], two other men and myself landed at St. Williams. The train arrived at St. Williams from Hamilton at 8 p.m. 

Coming out of lighted streets to pitch dark streets [it] was quite an experience to keep on the very narrow sidewalks. Mr. Charles Bates kept the hotel at St. Williams and there we slept for the night. A request for something to eat at that hour of the evening brought a reply that nothing was served after hours but we could have all the ale or spirits we needed. 

Mr. Walter McCall of Queen St., St. Williams came and had an introduction to us. 

A very good bed and lovely breakfast was provided. The waitress was Miss Jennie Rockefeller.

In the morning, Alfred Tomlinson, the [D.S.A.] manager, came and visited us and took us to our boarding house at Mr. and Mrs. Richard Watts'. Here we had the best of board for $4 per week. 

My first job was to hoe corn and the new-found friend was Mr. C. Rokeby, who was taking a course at Guelph. 

The greenhouse which I was to look after never was erected. The metal rafters laid on the ground at Mr. Nixon's house on the front road. This house, until a few years ago was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lou Lipsit.

We were growing cucumbers and these were picked every day and shipped to Simcoe. 

The D.S.A. required a short cut from Queen St. to the front road. So we cut a sand road through so a horse and democrat could use it and save time going through the village. At the time we named the road Piccadilly after the great namesake in old London. 

A new tractor was bought at the time, but no one was ever able to use it. 

Many of the old friends of 1912 were killed in the war.

The [D.S.A] testing ground was at the southeast corner of the new-made road. We found some very fine people, kind hearted and hard working: Professor Alfred Tomlinson of the [Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph]; Mr. Warren McDonald, the sash and door maker at McCall's factory; Mr. Nat Jilly [sic, actually Nathaniel Jolly] one of the finest cabinet makers; also Mr. Harley Grey. 

The three ministers of the churches made a special welcome to us all. 

The walking minister, Rev. Schofield, walked from Port Rowan to St. Williams then on to Forestville, [then] back to Port Rowan every Sunday, a distance of 16 miles.

Miss Jean Brock, now Mrs. Harold Jackson of Simcoe, and Miss Kathleen Brock, widow of the late F. W. M. Ross of Simcoe, were very anxious to get us boys to attend the Anglican Church -- minister, Rev. Bloodworth. 

Mrs. Bruce Huyke and John Cope, the postmaster at St. Williams, gave us a special plea to join the Methodist Church.

Since then, Mrs. Beauchamp and I have been members of the United Church at Port Rowan. We have spent a happy life and will soon celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary."

I would like to add, that Mr. Beauchamp married Bessie McCall, a descendant of one of the early settlers of Norfolk. 

I had an early interest in the [D.S.A] settlement at St. Williams; Alf Thomlinson was a classmate of mine and close friend. C. C. Rokeby, also an O.A.C. graduate, later farmed at Port Rowan and Tillsonburg. 

Too bad we did not know more of soil management in those days. The [D.S.A settlement at St. Williams] might [still be] flourishing today.

F. W. M. Ross came from Crosse and Blackwell in England and was [owner-manager] of the St. Williams Jam Factory. He made jam, 100 pounds sugar and 100 pounds strawberries. Berries were 5 cents a quart and sugar 5 cents per pound.

I am afraid many of the D.S.A. settlers were just starved out.

Copyright 2008-2012 John Cardiff