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The largest village in the township is Port Dover, which is also the principal port of the county, at present Port Ryerse and Port Rowan are its rivals. Port Dover is the terminus of the Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway, and as such is likely to become a place of great importance. It is a very pretty village, picturesquely located on lofty banks at the confluence of the River Lynn and Black Creek. The main part of the village lies on the west bank, although many elegant private residences are to be seen on the east side commanding a delightful view of Silver Lake, a lake which is about a mile long and quarter of a mile wide, and is prominent among the many beautiful features of the locality. It is said to abound with fish. The Port Dover Harbor was constructed in part by the Government at an expense of £40,000, but was sold before completion to a private company. The harbor is in part natural, a reef of rocks extending out from the shore about three quarters of a mile and forming a breakwater.
Port Dover has now a population of 1,100. The upper part of the village was settled at the beginning of this century, and some remains of the first houses are still to be seen in the vicinity of Mr. Thompson's Mills. The land on which Dover stands was first owned by Mr. Peter Walker. Governor Simcoe laid out a village here when he visited the county. This was to the east of where Dover now stands. Upper Dover was laid out in 1810 by Daniel McQueen, who built the first grist mill and saw mill about 1801. They were burned down in the ware of 1812. These mills were rebuilt by Col. Robert Nichol in 1824, and passed through several hands until they came into the possession of Andrew Thompson, Esq., in 1847, who still owns them.
The present site of the village was laid out in 1834, on the property of Israel W. Powell and Moses C. Nickerson, and surveyed by Mr. Alchin, P.L.S. In 1840 a market was established, and lumber and timber began to be exported in large quantities. In 1842 a tannery was erected by Bennett Lawson. This has since been carried on by Peter Lawson, Esq. It is one of the best in Ontario, and gives employment to about 10 or 15 men. The Presbyterians built the first church in 1846. In 1853 they built a brick church and manse at a cost of $9,000, Rev. Wm. Craige has been the pastor for many years. The Wesleyans built the next church, in 1853, and a parsonage in 1866. The Episcopal Church was built in 1853, in Gothic style, and cost $3,000. The Universalists built a church in 1855. The Baptists have also a church, and the Roman Catholics a congregation but no building. Port Dover also contains 1 foundry (Wiggins & Matthews); a large number of stores and shops; 1 newspaper, the Port Dover Independent, editor and proprietor, James Riddell, Esq., some important carriage and wagon shops; excellent school-house, elegant and commodious (Jas. Lumsden, High School-Master; W. H. Smith, Principal Public Schools, 3 assistants; Lawrence S. Key, Esq., Chairman Board of School Trustees).
A very important industry in Port
Dover is the woollen factory. The "Norfolk Woollen Mills" are
driven by one of the first water powers in Canada. The building is frame,
five storeys in height and heated by steam, which is also the source of
heat in the dyeing department. The building is capable of holding four
sets of cards and accompanying machines necessary for the manufacture of
all kinds of Canadian tweeds. There are at present two sets. This factory
is now run by Lancelot, Routh & Co., who own the machinery. The cost
price of the machinery was $20,000. The building is the property of Andrew
Thompson, Esq., of Port Dover, and cost $23,000. The station of the P.D.
& L.H. Railway is near by. Since 1871 over $20,000 worth of tweeds
have been manufactured at this mill, besides flannels, blankets, shawls,
and custom work for the farmers. Mr. Routh is an Englishman and is
thoroughly acquainted with the woollen business. After an experience of
eleven years in Massachusetts he came to Canada in 1860.
From page 60 of the Mika re-print of
1877 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Norfolk County