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
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,
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,
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
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
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 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.