Oakville’s Founder

Burlington Gazette – History by Helen Langford

Oakville’s Founder
Tues., February 7, 1978

William Chisholm became a very successful merchant. He acquired five ships for his trade business. The Indian Reserve at the mouth of the 16 Mile Creek attracted William. He realized the possibilities of the natural harbor (Oakville). In 1827, when these lands were put up for sale at public auction, William purchased 960 acres for $4,116 – a great amount of cash to accumulate in 1827!

By now, I am sure most of you wonder if the Chisholms have no end!

We can finish William first. While operating his store in Nelson Village (Guelph Line and Dundas Highway) he heard of the intended sale of the Indian Reserve at the mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek. At the public auction in 1827, William purchased 960 acres for $4,116 – a huge amount of cash for those days. Thus we in Burlington can smugly point to ‘our son’ starting Oakville! ‘Our’ William Chisholm who came to Burlington area at the age of six, grew up familiar with our virgin forests; who cavorted as a young boy with the Brant and King children, learned to speak Indian, fought in The War of 1812, finally reached his greatest potential as the founder of Oakville.

John remained in our area operating his business at the beach which expanded requiring the purchase of land at Indian Point from his neighbour and friend John Brant (1816). John’s daughter Hannah married Hiram Smith, the son of Joel Smith, a partner of her Uncle William. Hiram and Hannah’s brother Andrew established the second merchant shop and warehouse in downtown Burlington in 1835 (the first was the Gage shop). These two, Hiram Smith and Andrew Chisholm played a very influential role in the social and economic development of Wellington Square from 1830 (more of them later). Pay a visit to St. Luke’s church graveyard – you will find the John Chisholm family to the west of the church.

George Jr. remained farming in East Flamborough, looking after his aging parents, George and Barbara. His life was not without adventure – he was present at Queenston when General Brock died, helped to burn what was left of Buffalo, watched as the Steamer Caroline went over the Niagara Falls in 1837, and assisted the Tories in squelching the rebels on Dec. 7, 1837, north of York. George and his wife Eliza McCarter (a granddaughter of Robert Land) lie in St. Paul‘s Presbyterian Church cemetery on Dundas Street. Ironically William must end this story of the early Chisholms in Upper Canada. William’s attempts to industrialize Oakville put him into financial trouble. Loyally the rest of the family came to his assistance and soon their holdings had to be sold – even the farm in East Flamborough. William and his ‘father both died in 1842 – I hope George Sr. had developed a strong faith –  strong enough to see above the family setback and realize the contribution they had and would make to Upper Canada and Ontario.

Source: Langford, Helen. Burlington Gazette [Ontario], 7 Feb 1978. Microfilm. Burlington Public Library – Central Branch. Reel 50.

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