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Chisholm Pioneers in Canada

Colonel William Chisholm

Founder of Oakville, Ontario

From the Canada Branch Newsletter, Issue #1, 2002


Submitted by Ian Chisholm

Origins of Oakville, Ontario

Colonel William Chisholm, Oakville's founder, was born of Loyalist parents in Nova Scotia in 1788. The family moved to Burlington Bay in 1793. William served in the militia during the War of 1812 and later became a successful storekeeper, timber merchant, and ship owner. He bought and cleared land at Sixteen Mile Creek, laid out the town plot for Oakville, and opened the harbour for shipping. He was elected three times as a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

Early in the 1820s Chisholm began to buy up land around Sixteen Mile Creek harbour from the Mississauga Indians, who called the trader in oak barrel staves "White Oak".

Chisholm, while a Burlington merchant, saw prospects for a new industry in the untouched stands of oak and white pine.

In 1827 he started to build the town. Piers were built, the harbour was cleared, and he put up a large water-powered mill on the east bank of Sixteen Mile Creek, at the end of what is now called Old Mill Rd.

The 200-foot pines and 150-foot oaks were squared with axes, loaded onto schooners, or made into rafts and sailed out of Oakville harbour for the St. Lawrence River. They were destined for England where they were prized for ship-masts.

The little village was incorporated as the town of Oakville in 1857. By the 1880s the lumber mills were closed and Sixteen Mile Creek had filled with silt and dried up.

Oakville's forests and harbour became the foundation for another industry that survives to this day - shipbuilding. Several large shipbuilders, including C and C Yachts, are descendants of the shipbuilding tradition that goes back to Capt. James Andrew, who's yacht building made Oakville famous in the late 19th century.

The yachts and harbours and magnificent views drew the wealthy to Oakville as early as the 1880s. Some of the huge estates where polo was played still exist.

After World War Two, Oakville boomed. The town's population tripled between 1950 and 1960. Bronte became part of Oakville and a new industry developed when Ford of Canada Ltd. moved into town.

The book, Oakville and the Sixteen, written by Hazel Chisholm Mathews, tells of William Chisholm and the town's early days.