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The following article appeared on page 2 of the 21 Oct 1926 issue of The Simcoe Reformer newspaper. [Some paragraph breaks adjusted by the transcriber.] 


The following essay was written by Walter Cameron and exhibited at the Courtland Agricultural Fair on Oct. 7th, taking first prize:

A long time ago, when the wild animals roamed the forest, there came into the haunts of the red man the first white settlers of this vicinity, among whom were James Ronson, George Byerlay, Lot Tisdale, William Reid, Frank Twiss, Robert Manary, Thomas Herron, Ted Perley and 
Wm. Mills. 

Many were the privations those strong and hardy pioneers had to endure while they cleared the land and built their log houses. It was no uncommon thing to hear the cries of wolves and wild cats at night, or to see the deer run through the garden on a summer day. It was necessary to place logs over the top of the pigs' pen to keep them safe from the bears at night.

In the early days this place was called Ronson's Corners, after the man who was a leader among the early settlers. It continued by this name until the township was surveyed, when it was found to be the centre of the township, then it was called Middleton Centre. In the year 1855 the town hall was built, and court was held there regularly. From this the place derived its present name, Courtland.

The town hall was situated on the ground now owned by Mrs. L. Heron, but later when the Agricultural Fair started, it was moved over onto the land where the Memorial Hall now stands, and was used until the present hall was built. Then it was sold to Wm. Tisdale and moved onto his property.

The pioneers were forced to go to Brantford on horseback to get their flour, and to Fredericksburg (now called Delhi) for their tea and sugar.

The first post office in the township was at Cowan's Corners, and was called Rolph post office. It was later called Ronson. The first post office at Courtland was in the home of Edward Buchner, situated where Mr. Ribble now lives. There have been only four postmasters in all these years, namely, Edward Buchner, Charles Harris, 
Wm. MacKay and John Burnett.

The first school house was a small frame building located near where the hotel barn now stands. In 1865 a brick school house was built, back of where Mrs. L. Herron now resides. This served its purpose until the present brick school was built in 1877.

The building of the railway through here was started about 1863, and a few years later trains were running over the line.

There were two sawmills in this locality, one run by Robert Manary, built in 1856, situated where Samuel Graydon now lives; the other owned by Mr. Burley and situated where T. C. Murphy now lives. In these mills most of the lumber was sawed for the building of the early houses. Both mills cut the planks which were used in building the first good roads through what is now called Courtland village. These were pine planks 3 [sic] and 14 inches wide and 12 feet long. This road ran from Delhi to Vienna. In 1862 these planks were taken out and gravel put on.

On 14 Apr 1863, Robert Manary's sawmill blew up, caused by a boiler explosion, which killed four men, namely 
John Primmer, John Withrow, Joseph Vollick and George Ferguson. In 1864 Mr. Manary built again. This was a sawmill and grist mill combined. It had a brick chimney 35 feet high. This mill was started in October, 1864, Mr. Manary had the privilege of running it only two days when he took sick and died on 13 Oct 1864, the day on which the first Agricultural Fair was held in Courtland.

Some of the interested men who helped to start the first agricultural fair were: J. C. H. Herron, Robert McQueen, James Cowan, Wm. Sandham, T. B. Ronson, George Ronson, William Ronson, J. F. Cohoe, O. P. Mabee, and Robert Manary. In the early days it was considered the best township fair in the County of Norfolk. All these years the fair has continued one of the best township fairs.

In the early days, William Mills owned 1400 acres of land and lived on the property now owned by John Robinson. He had a herd of 35 cattle, and made the milk all up in cheese, which he sold. He made his first cheese in 1864. In 1868 he bought the first mowing machine which was owned in this section. Nicholas Tisdale also made cheese at home.

In 1870 a cheese factory was built on the corner opposite where T. B. Ronson now lives. Wallace Reagh brought the first can of milk to the factory when it was first opened. This factory did a thriving business until the building burned in the spring of 1914. The farmers came for miles bringing their milk to be made into cheese and taking the whey back to feed the pigs. The first cheese made in this factory was made by a woman, Miss Matilda Stinson.

There were several tollgates adjoining the village, the proceeds of which went toward the upkeep of the roads. Toll was paid at the rate of 12 cents for a team, and five cents for a horse and buggy.

James Cowan built and conducted a large building which was used for storing grain. This was situated on the railroad, just west of the station.

For many years the stage, drawn by horses, went from Courtland to Pt. Rowan, which carried mail and passengers.

In the early days there were various regligious sects. The Evangelists worshipped in the small frame building which had been the first school house. The Baptists used a hall for many years which was called the Orange hall, until their own chuch was built in 1891. The Methodist Church was built in 1861, on land which was donated by Thomas Herron. Mr. P. Dean gave a part of the land for the Methodist Cemetery and the parsonage which was built in 1885. The first three ministers to live in the new parsonage were Rev. D. H. Taylor, Rev. B. Cohoe and Rev. Ezra Adams.

When the cemetery was first laid out and the men were clearing the land, Mr. T. Cutting put his spade in the ground and jokingly said "Wonder who would be the first man to be buried there." Strangely it happened that he was the first man to be buried. J. Collings was the second one to be buried there. James Helsdon acted as sexton for the cemetery for many years.

Mr. Himick and Mr. Smith were two blacksmiths who served the public in those early days.

At one time there were three hotels. Mr. Sayles had one where Mrs. L. Herron now lives. Mr. Palmer had the one which is used today. In 1875 Mr. Connor built one where J. House's dwelling now stands. In after years this burned.

Alfred Hall kept a meat market where C. Dreyer now lives.

The first steam engine was bought by John Reagh in 1875.

The store which is now owned by E. B. Herron was built by Charles Harris in 1876, where he conducted the sale of groceries, etc. for many years.

At one time Wesley Burkholder ran a blacksmith shop where Mr. Ribble is.

Miss Tillie Vincent had a store where George Troyer's house now stands. This was burned the same night the Connor hotel burned. Later another was built, which burned also.

For many years William Mackay conducted a grocery store and also had the post office.

The first automobile that passed through the village caused great excitement, but it was not long before several citizens owned them.

Albert Cowan, who was always interested in the community and progress, built the first silo, and was the first man to spray his apple orchard.

Silas Benn conducted a boarding house until he left for his new home in Toronto.

During the years from 1870 to 1880, W. J. Herron was the smartest runner. He could beat anyone in the county.

The telephone and electric lights have come and helped to make life more enjoyable for many.

In place of the cheese factory, today there is a large Drimilk plant doing a thriving business and employing a large number of men.

Changes have come with the years which have passed, and step by step progress has advanced until we behold the village of Courtland as it is today.

Copyright 2013-2016 John Cardiff