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|Town of Simcoe|
breaks added by the transcriber.]
The Town of Simcoe dates its earliest history from the time of the visit of Governor Simcoe to the Long Point District, which took place about 1795.
The Governor, after visiting the spot where Port Dover now stands and laying out a town there, came to the junction of what are now called Patterson's Creek and Kent's Creek, and camped in the beautiful grove which now forms the homestead of Duncan Campbell, Esq.
It was on this occasion that the Governor was tendered the welcome gift of a basket of water melons by Aaron Culver, who received in return (so the story goes) the grant of the mill privilege now owned by N. C. Ford & Co.
For many years there was, however, but little appearance of a village. Mr. Culver built a mill, and the land in the Vicinity was taken up by farmers. Of these the following names have been handed down as being the first owners of the soil on which the town stands: -- John Axford, Abner Owens, George Kent, John Davis, Aaron Culver, William Dill.
About the year 1920 the chief residents were Aaron Culver, who still owned the mill, Geo. Kent, John Rose, William Wilson, William Bird, John Dudley, William Steel, John Axford, Abner Owen, John Wilson (and his sons John McF. Wilson and James Wilson) and Peter Milliard.
John M. Wilson and William Milliard, who were born in Simcoe in 1816, are still living. Duncan Campbell came to Simcoe in 1827. Of those living in town then, only two still reside in it, viz: -- Duncan Campbell and John Austin.
William Finlay came to Simcoe in 1833, and of those who lived here at that time only four are now in Simcoe, viz: -- Duncan Campbell, John Austin, J. Duncan and Wm. Finlay. At this time the houses now occupied by Dr. John Wilson and H. A. Hardy, Esq., were erected. Mr. Finlay kept a store opposite near the present Post Office. Duncan Campbell kept a store on the lot now vacant between Gordon & Ellis' hardware store and Harris' shoe store.
There were no churches in Simcoe in this early day, but the "Mud Church," so called for its being built of large lumps of sun dried clay, was put up by the Congregationalist [sic] soon after. It was the first church in Simcoe, and is still standing.
Rev. Francis Evans used to conduct service in the old school house. He also preached at St. John's Church, three miles south of Simcoe, which was burned down about three years ago. St. John's was one of the oldest churches in Norfolk. Dr. James Salmon of Simcoe was the first child baptised in it.
The school house referred to stood in an open square on the west side of Norfolk Street. Its position can best be indicated by saying that it stood near what is now Adam's blacksmith shop. Not only was the divine service held in this school house, but also the Court of Requests, of which the commissioners were Cole Salmon, William Finlay and Captain Wilson.
Russell Hardy was another merchant of those days, his stand was near the corner of Norfolk and Peel streets. Duncan McPherson succeeded Mr. Campbell in the business about 1834, and William Finlay rented the mills and distillery about the same time. Wm. Wilson has a mill in Wellington and an excellent dwelling house, which may still be seen. The house is now occupied by his son William.
After the removal of the registry office and other public offices from Vittoria to Simcoe, the growth of the latter village seems to have been steady. Its prosperity was checked about 1857 by the failure of the Woodstock & Lake Erie Railway Company; and the distrust occasioned by the heavy municipal indebtedness resulting therefrom [sic] was not removed until three years ago, when the Government of Ontario relieved a large number of municipalities, including Simcoe, from the burdens under which they had long groaned.
At present, Simcoe may be called a flourishing town. It has lately been incorporated a town. It is the County Town of Norfolk and is necessarily the centre of much of the County business. It has two railways running through it, and has direct communication with all points of importance. It is probable that during the next ten years the population (now 3000) will be largely increased, and that factories, foundries, and other establishments will be erected.
Simcoe has some excellent public
buildings, among which may be named the County Buildings, including the
Court House, Goal, etc. The Simcoe Union School is a very fine structure,
and its grounds are said to be superior in beauty and extent to those of
any school in the Province. There are some excellent churches -- the
English (Trinity), Presbyterian (St. Paul's), Methodist, Baptist, Roman
Catholic and Congregational. There is also a market, but it is of little
use. There are many elegant and costly private residences.
Hardy, H. A.
Simcoe, J. G.
Wilson, John M.
Wilson, John McF.
From pages 59-60 of the Mika re-print of
1877 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Norfolk County