History | Early Highway 3 and Vittoria | Back
The following is not a transcription but our abbreviated version of an article on page 1 of the 
29 Jan 1951 issue of Simcoe Reformer  

Society Meeting Featured 
Talks on Local History

After opening announcement, the January meeting of the Norfolk Historical Society featured two speakers: member William Z. Nixon on early Highway 3 and Society secretary Frank Shearer on Early Charlotteville Township..


President Dr. J. A. Bannister produced the deed to the land upon which McKnight School in Windham Township is situated, the gift of a friend in California.

Dr. and Mrs. Bannister expressed thanks for the flowers celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

A card of appreciation from Ernest Cantelon for flowers sent when Mrs. Cantelon passed away last month was shown.

The death of a member, Mrs. L. A. Wright of Port Dover was announced.

Congratulations were extended to first vice president John C. Backus, who celebrated his 80th birthday last week.

Monroe Landon was unable to attend, but sent a letter that mentioned the existence of elk and a stand of coffee trees in Norfolk some decades ago. Two other unusual species, a tulip tree and a cucumber tree, also grow locally.

Indexing of documents in the Society's archives has begun.

W. F. Young of Waterford will be the speaker at the February meeting. Several members of Haldimand Historical Society will attend, tour the Museum, and provide part of that evening's program.

Former Simcoe resident Dr. John Gunton of London, announced that Fred Rosser of the National Research Council in Ottawa, a descendant of Charlotteville pioneers John Gustin and Abram Smith, would be the special speaker at Vittoria Cemetery Decoration Day in June.

Highway 3 opened for Troops

Mr. Wm. Z. Nixon presented a paper on the settlement of the present No. 3 Highway East from Simcoe to Jarvis, the townline between Townsend and Woodhouse Townships.

This road was opened as a result of the naval battle of Put-in-Bay, when the British lost control of Lake Erie, and consequently were obliged to make a road to accommodate the passage of troops and supplies overland.

Mr. Nixon read a letter from Israel Powell of Waterford and Port Dover, claiming what is now known at Cherry Valley Road, running between Lots 10 and 11 in Windham and Townsend, would be a better choice.

But the townline was chosen and the roadway was built by soldiers and runaway slaves from the United States in the 1830 decade.

The first settler on the road was Andrew Steinhoff in the early 1800s, the Steinhoff family owning much of the land east of Simcoe in Woodhouse along the road.

Other familiar names mentioned by Mr. Nixon: 
Peter O'Carr, grandfather of the late Norman Counter; 
Hiram Schuyler; 
Ward Osborne, the father of J. W. Osborne who died a few weeks ago at the age of 100; 
A. C. Olds; 
J. B. McInally, 
Lewis Fusee; 
James Butcher; 
Scott Land, the great-grandfather of Col. Charles Lindbergh; 
James Renton, who purchased the land upon which the village of Renton stands; 
Barney McCawill, 
the Youmans family, which built the old saw-mill before 1850; 
Bartholomew Hair; 
John Jackson; 
Robert McNeil; 
William Hambly, early surveyor; and 
John Murphy, whose daughter became the wife of Major Barnet, well-known historian.

Other places mentioned by Mr. Nixon: 
-- the old cheese factory, part of which is included in Ruth's Wayside Inn; 
-- the village of Renton, which contained several business enterprises, of which only the store remains; 
-- the old log school house known as No. 10 Townsend; 
-- the old Grindstone Inn at Renton, which today stands near its original location; 
-- the ashery of William Armstrong and John Baker on the east bank of the east branch of Black Creek.

Old Charlotteville

Mr. Shearer's presentation concentrated on the early history of his family and the Shearer family home near Vittoria. It gave a good idea of circumstances faced by the pioneers.

His great-grandfather, Robert Shearer, was born in Scotland, left an orphan, and sent at an early age to America, where he was "bound out" to a New Jersey Dutchman, for whom he slaved until he was 21.

Then he came to Ontario, carrying his possessions on his back, settling on Lot 21, Concession 6, Charlotteville, and building a log house. He married Rachel, a daughter of pioneer Abraham Smith, and cleared his farm.  A neighbor, Joseph Kitchen, who came to Charlotteville in 1800, helped him.

Twenty years later the Shearer home that still stands was built. It measures 28 feet by 43 feet. In those days a pound of nails cost the equivalent of a bushel of wheat so oak pins were use in building. The huge old beams are still in good shape today.

The speaker told of 
-- the settlers having to go to Niagara to buy a bushel of salt and to get grain ground, 
-- the wolf pit on the farm where the animals were lured and caught, 
-- the school on the Kitchen farm, known later as the Tisdale school, 
-- the planting of apple seeds and nuts, 
-- the simple social life of the early days, and
-- the building of Vittoria Baptist Church in 1804.

Copyright 2014 John Cardiff