Oxford County, Ontario

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Oxford County
Regional municipality (upper-tier)
County of Oxford
Springbank Snow Countess Monument.jpg
Motto(s): Growing Stronger, Together
Map showing Oxford County location in Ontario
Map showing Oxford County location in Ontario
Coordinates: 42°58′N 80°48′W / 42.967°N 80.800°W / 42.967; -80.800Coordinates: 42°58′N 80°48′W / 42.967°N 80.800°W / 42.967; -80.800
Country Canada
Province Ontario
Incorporated1850
Area[1]
 • Land2,036.61 km2 (786.34 sq mi)
Population (2016)[1]
 • Total110,862
 • Density54.4/km2 (141/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (Eastern (EDT))
Websitewww.oxfordcounty.ca

Oxford County is a regional municipality in the Canadian province of Ontario, located in the Southwestern portion of the province. Highway 401 runs east-west through the centre of the county, creating an urban industrial corridor with more than half the county's population, spanning twenty-five kilometres between the Toyota auto assembly plant in Woodstock and the CAMI General Motors auto assembly plant in Ingersoll. The local economy is otherwise dominated by agriculture, especially the dairy industry.

The Oxford County regional seat is in Woodstock. Oxford County has been a regional municipality since 2001, despite still having the word "county" in its name. It has a two-tier municipal government structure, with the lower-tier municipalities being the result of a merger in 1975 of a larger number of separate municipalities that previously existed before restructuring.[2] It also comprises a single Statistics Canada census division, and a single electoral division for federal and provincial elections, for which the precise boundaries have been revised from time to time. For part of its history, it was divided into two ridings, Oxford North, for federal and provincial elections, and Oxford South, for federal and provincial elections, for each of which see their own pages. Oxford County had its own School Board until 1998, when it was merged into the Thames Valley District School Board. It had its own Health Unit until 2018, when it was merged into the Southwestern Public Health Unit.[3]

Lower-tier subdivisions[edit]

Oxford County consists of eight lower-tier municipalities (in order of 2016 population):

Local government[edit]

Local municipal governments in Ontario exercise authority delegated to them by the provincial government, which may choose at any time to increase or decrease the powers given to them through enabling statutes.[4] In the early days of Upper Canada the relevant legislation provided for convening an annual meeting of property owners in each township, who were obligated to choose such officers as a township clerk, a constable, property tax assessors and collectors, fence viewers and pound keepers.[5] It was a matter of pride in each township to keep track of population growth, and several townships were divided as they grew, giving separate town meetings and local officers to East, West and North divisions of Oxford-on-the-Thames, East and West divisions of Nissouri, and East and West divisions of Zorra.[6]

These individuals were responsible for the administrative work necessary to enforce the laws of the province and to carry out decisions made at the district level by the area's Justices of the Peace, appointed by the Governor, who met periodically at the designated district courthouse for deliberations known as Quarter Sessions. The paternalistic authority of the Governor and his chosen Justices of the Peace continued as the hierarchy for local government until 1841. From the earliest days of settlement the District Court was convened in the Long Point Settlement, first at Turkey Point, then at the village of Vittoria. It was moved to London in 1826. The Brock District, containing Oxford County's territory, was then split off from the London District in 1840. By the time a court house had been built for the Brock District at Woodstock, legislative changes were introduced by the province to provide for election of district council members from each township to take over the local government role from the Justices of the Peace, but appointment of the warden and senior administrative officers for each district council remained the responsibility of the provincial government.[7]

District councils were abolished and replaced with fully elected county councils through the implementation of the Baldwin Act in 1850, provincial legislation which defined the structure for fully elected local municipal government in Ontario for the next century. In addition to defining the powers of the county council, the legislation created authority for township councils and provided for creation of village, town and city councils. Woodstock, Ingersoll, Tillsonburg and other communities within Oxford County were in time incorporated under these provisions as separate municipalities.[8]

At around the same time as the Baldwin Act came into force, some of the townships which had been included in the Brock District were severed off to become parts of a new Brant County[9] and a reconfigured Middlesex County.[10] Norwich township was divided into North and South in 1855. In the 1960s the Ontario government began simplifying the structure of local government in select parts of the province, and this process reached Oxford County in 1975, when the number of separate township and village councils was reduced to the current five townships. Three urban municipalities also remained, namely Ingersoll, Tillsonburg and Woodstock. The county boundaries were also enlarged to include the entire urban areas of Tavistock in the north and of Tillsonburg in the south.[11]

Oxford area history[edit]

John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806)
Col. William Claus (1765-1827)
recreation of longhouse at Lawson village site in London (Museum of Ontario Archaeology)

The geographical area which is now Oxford County was populated with Neutral/Attawandaron longhouse villages for many centuries but was abandoned to First Nations nomadic peoples by the 1650s as a result of warfare with Iroquois and epidemics resulting from European contact. The land was acquired by the Crown through three treaties, signed in 1792 (by chiefs of the Mississaugas First Nation),[12] in 1796 (by chiefs of the Chippewas First Nation)[13] and 1827 (by chiefs of the Chippewas).[14] These depended for their certainty on an earlier treaty known as the McKee Purchase of 1790, signed at Detroit with thirty-five chiefs from the Potawatomi, Wyandot, Ojibwe, and Odawa First Nations.[15]

Oxford County was created by the legislature of the province of Upper Canada in 1798, by an enactment which came into force at the beginning of the year 1800. The immediate purpose was to better organize the local militia and improve social order through the appointment of a lord lieutenant, part of the aristocratic framework for the new province which had been put in place by Governor Simcoe. The county lieutenant appointed for Oxford was William Claus, a grandson of Sir William Johnson, and at the time head of the Indian Department responsible for oversight of the Six Nations settled along the Grand River tract running north and south on the eastern boundary of Oxford.[16]

circa 1795 township layout, showing lands acquired by McKee Purchase
circa 1800 map of townships following creation of Oxford County

As first established, Oxford County consisted of the townships of Blenheim, Burford, Oxford-on-the-Thames, Blandford, Norwich and Dereham (lands to the north of the Thames River had not yet been purchased by the Crown). The first three of these had been receiving settlers since the summer of 1793, under the leadership of Thomas Hornor (Blenheim), Benajah Mallory (Burford) and Thomas Ingersoll (Oxford-on-the-Thames), each of whom was also captain of the militia in his respective township. Claus remained resident in Niagara and his appointment as the Crown's head for the county set off a rivalry between Hornor and Mallory for the prestige of appointment as Claus' resident deputy lieutenant within the county, eventually won by Hornor.[17] Thomas Ingersoll left the county, but the rivalry between Hornor and Mallory for pre-eminence continued for more than a decade, as Mallory was elected as the county's representative in the legislative assembly for Upper Canada in 1804 and again in 1808. All this was swept away with the coming of the War of 1812. Appointed temporary administrator of the government, General Isaac Brock moved Claus to the head of the Lincoln Militia and appointed Henry Bostwick to head the Oxford Militia, passing over Hornor for any role in the war effort (Bostwick was the son of a former associate of Thomas Ingersoll). Mallory lost the 1812 election and turned traitor during the war, defecting to the American side as a captain in a volunteer corps.[18]

Robert Gourlay (1778-1863)

By the end of the first quarter century of its development, Oxford's population was nearing 2,000 people, but many problems were holding back development. Robert Gourlay, a Scotsman whose wife had inherited nearly 1,000 acres in Dereham township (around today's Mount Elgin), made the journey to Oxford in 1817 to inspect the prize, but could not believe the township was still a complete wilderness. He began a public movement to find solutions through public gatherings and newspaper advocacy all over Upper Canada, but in return was prosecuted and jailed by the government for sedition. Gourlay's two-volume Statistical account of Upper Canada, compiled with a view to a grand system of emigration published in London in 1822 presented a detailed analysis based upon reports submitted to him by citizen groups in 57 townships who yearned for improvements. Gourlay spent the next 35 years away from Canada, but returned to his land in Oxford in 1856 to run for election.[19]

George Tillson, founder of Tillsonburg

Gourlay was just one of many voices that created dissatisfaction in Oxford and area over the slow pace of growth that continued in the 1820s and 1830s. American-born settlers were again making their way to the county, such as George Tillson, founder of Tillsonburg, and Abraham Beach, founder of Beachville. By 1821 all of Thomas Ingersoll's sons had returned to create the village that became Ingersoll. Thomas Hornor was elevated again as the county's champion, appointed in 1820 to head the Oxford Militia and serving as the county's representative in the legislative assembly throughout the next decade. There he was amongst members who sought repeal of the law used to imprison Gourlay and opposed laws aimed at restricting rights of settlers who had come from the United States.[20] The Crown entered into a treaty to purchase the lands north of the Thames River[21] and two more townships were added to the county, Zorra and Nissouri. This was followed by an influx of Scottish and Irish immigrants displaced from their homes, such as the large numbers of Sutherlandshire Highlanders who created a Gaelic-speaking enclave around the village of Embro in Zorra township.[22] A new government program which gave special grants to encourage retired British military officers to settle in Upper Canada in the 1830s was successful in bringing many to Oxford who showed a determination to make Woodstock the seat of a new local aristocracy, just as Simcoe had envisioned forty years earlier. The "father of the settlement" at Woodstock was Rear-Admiral Henry Vansittart, surrounded by an assortment of retired army and navy officers who had been schooled in the Napoleonic wars.[23]

Dr. Charles Duncombe
Rear-Admiral Henry Vansittart

Resentment amongst the old settlers grew to rebellion, with Oxford's elected member in the legislative assembly, Dr. Charles Duncombe, taking on the role as leader of an uprising in December 1837.[24] In the aftermath, one of the Woodstock navy veterans, Captain Andrew Drew (Vansittart's right-hand man), created an international incident still studied by legal scholars, when he led a raid into the United States to seize and burn a paddlewheel steamer being used by the exiled rebels, leaving it to drift over Niagara Falls.[25]

The decade of political turmoil which followed resulted in greater democratic government at the local and provincial levels, and Oxford repeatedly elected reformers as the county's representative in the legislative assembly. Enormous growth in the 1840s through to the 1860s then became a cure for past grievances.[26] The population chart on this page tells the story. It shows the county eventually reached a population plateau in the 1870s which continued well into the first half of the 20th century.

A new era of urbanization starting in the 1950s has added 25,000 people to Woodstock, 10,000 to Tillsonburg, and 6,000 to Ingersoll, which has been most of Oxford County's modern growth.[27]

Demographics[edit]

Canada census – Oxford County, Ontario community profile
2011 2006
Population: 105,719 (2.9% from 2006) 102,756 (3.5% from 2001)
Land area: 2,039.56 km2 (787.48 sq mi) 2,039.46 km2 (787.44 sq mi)
Population density: 51.8/km2 (134/sq mi) 50.4/km2 (131/sq mi)
Median age: 39.8 (M: 38.6, F: 40.9)
Total private dwellings: 43,367 40,625
Median household income:
References: 2011[28] 2006[29] earlier[30]

Historic populations:[30]

  • Population in 2001: 99,270
  • Population in 1996: 97,142
  • Population in 1971: 80,336[31]
  • Population in 1966: 76,008[32]
  • Population in 1961: 70,499[33]
  • Population in 1956: 65,228[34]
  • Population in 1951: 58,818[35]
  • Population in 1901: 47,154[36]
  • Population in 1861: 46,185[37]
  • Population in 1851: 32,638[38]
  • Population in 1841: 15,621[39]
  • Population in 1817: 1,715[40]

Diversity[edit]

Old Order Mennonite resident of Oxford County

The Census Commissioner for Oxford County in 1852, Thomas Shenston, compiled elaborate statistics from census records and published the results in a book that year, the first ever to give a detailed examination of the county. His analysis of place of birth shows that more than half (17,990) of the county's population had been born in the province, and of the remainder, the largest groups were from Scotland (4,685), England (3,724), the United States (2,618), Ireland (2,371), and Germany (322).[41] He reports that there were 123 Negroes, 101 of them in Norwich township, which had a community of escaped slaves settled around the village of Otterville.[42] There were 47 distinct religious denominations in the total population, of which 8,493 were Methodists in 5 different denominations, 8,300 were in Scotch or Presbyterian denominations, 5,760 Anglicans, 4,579 Baptists in 5 different denominations, 2,194 were Roman Catholics, 730 Quakers, and 161 Mennonites, amongst other smaller groups including Israelites, Infidels, Free-Thinkers and Heathens.[43]

Historic hamlets, postal villages and rural clusters[edit]

Punkeydoodles monument, 1982

Oxford County has a multitude of place names identifying the communities which have grown up as service hubs in the course of the county's history. A large proportion of these were granted their own post offices and thus became known as "postal villages", details of which can be found in the online database maintained by Library and Archives Canada.[44] For purposes of modern land use planning, the county now distinguishes betwwen Large Urban Centres being Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Ingersoll, and Rural settlement areas, categorized as Serviced Villages, Villages or Rural Clusters. There are 21 Villages and nearly 40 Rural Clusters currently identified by the county's land use plan. An online database of historic place names and locations of these communities is maintained by the Oxford County Library.[45] Most unusual place name in the county belongs to Punkeydoodles Corners, located at the convergence of the border lines of Oxford County, Perth County and Waterloo County, thus making it part of all three counties. It drew national attention on Canada Day in 1982, when former Prime Minister Joe Clark was present for festivities. To mark the occasion, a post office was opened there for one day to issue commemorative stamps and a monument was erected.[46]

1857 view of Baldwin's Hotel, Tillsonburg
  • Beachville
  • Beaconsfield
  • Bennington
  • Braemar
  • Bright
  • Brooksdale
  • Brownsville
  • Burgessville
  • Campbellton
  • Canning
Harris dairy farms south of Ingersoll (from Tremaine's Map 1857) site of today's Elm Hurst Inn
  • Cassel
  • Centreville
  • Chesterfield
  • Cobble Hill
  • Cornellville
  • Culloden
  • Delmer
  • Drumbo
  • Eastwood
  • Embro
  • Ranney farms (the famous 'Dairy of 100 Cows') south of Salford, from Tremaine's Map 1857
    Fairview
  • Goble's Corners
  • Hagle's Corners
  • Harrington West
  • Hawtrey
  • Hickson
  • Holbrook
the Harris and Ranney farms today - Salford in foreground, Hagles Corners at horse farm and track oval on right. South-West Oxford Township meets Zorra Township stretching north at Ingersoll, mid-screen
  • Ingersoll
  • Innerkip
  • Kintore
  • Lakeside
  • Lyon's Corners
  • Maplewood
  • Medina
  • Moscow
  • Mount Elgin
  • Nissouri
  • Newark
  • Norwich
  • Oliver
  • Oriel
  • Ostrander
  • Otterville
  • Oxford Centre
typical cheese factory, West Zorra, 1876
  • Peebles
  • Piper's Corners
  • Plattsville
  • Princeton
  • Punkeydoodles Corners
  • Ratho
  • Rayside
  • Richwood
  • Salford (formerly Manchester)
  • South Zorra
Springford in 1876: two churches, a schoolhouse, a post office, a cheese factory, and a Temperance Hall
  • Springford
  • Strathallen
  • Sweaburg
  • Tavistock
  • Thamesford
  • Tillsonburg
  • Vandecar
  • Verschoyle
  • Walmer
  • Washington
  • Wolverton
  • Woodstock
  • Youngsville

Archaeology, history and genealogy research[edit]

For the first several generations of European settlement, knowledge of First Nations occupation was limited to souvenir hunters who searched freshly-plowed fields for whatever relics had turned up. The first comprehensive scientific archaeology in Oxford County was carried out by William J. Wintemberg (1876-1941), the "Father of Canadian Archaeology", who grew up just outside the northern boundary of the county and conducted extensive studies throughout Oxford during his career.[47] Modern-day evaluations of new site discoveries still reference Wintemberg's concepts, although researchers sometimes caution against fitting old moulds, particularly when interpreting the 15th century longhouse village site discovered at Tillsonburg twenty years ago which is considered "off the charts" by comparison to other sites which have been found and studied.[48]

Attempts to record the history of Oxford County were few and far between during the first century of European settlement and growth. Thomas S. Shenston (1822-1895), the Oxford County commissioner for the provincial census of 1851, authored The Oxford gazetteer; containing a complete history of the county of Oxford, from its first settlement... in 1852, but in footnotes to several portions of the text he indicates that the historical narrative he had compiled was forced out of the book by the amount of census data tabulated in its pages. Despite its shortcomings, the book was reprinted by the county as a Canada Centennial project in 1967.[49] When the mania for illustrated county atlases swept across Ontario in the 1870s, Oxford was included, but the volume published by Walker and Miles of Toronto in 1876 devoted only five pages to a summary of the county's history.[50] Oxford was not included in the mania which created county history volumes in the 1880s and 1890s, but the Oxford Historical and Museum Society was established in 1897, and a great leap forward took place in 1948 when it partnered with the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Western Ontario to create the first of what the Ontario government planned as a network of county museums to aid local schools in teaching students about their history.[51] Since then, the Oxford Historical Society has published a series of booklets as history bulletins and a quarterly newsletter, and also ensures that more recent books by local historians are kept in print and available for purchase.[52]

Although little was written in the 19th century about the county's history, directories of businesses and property owners were very popular and most of those which were published between the 1850s and 1890s are now available and searchable online - a boon to genealogists. Oxford County has a very active branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.[53]

The Oxford Historical Society collections are housed with those of the Genealogical Society[54] in a modern facility[55] opened by the county in 2012 for the Oxford County Archives.[56]

Economic development[edit]

Roads, canals, railways, and highways[edit]

The greatest hindrance to developing pioneer Oxford was its landlocked location remote from the Great Lakes.

Governor Simcoe's vision for the area in the 1790s included planning a government road joining Burlington Bay to the site of a new provincial capital at London, through a government town where the road first reached the Thames River in Oxford township(now Woodstock), and also plans for a canal across Blandford and Blenheim township joining the Thames River to the Grand River, thereby creating an inland water transport route through the whole area from Detroit to Brantford (see 1795 and 1800 map views on this page). The canal was never built, and the 'Governor's Road' could not be used for decades because no bridge was built where it was to cross the Grand River (now Paris, which did not begin to develop as a village until the 1820s). The reality was that pioneer land transportation continued to follow the ancient footpath from Burlington Bay to the Thames River using a river crossing at what became known as Brant's Ford (Brantford) on the Six Nations lands, then down the banks of the Thames River to Detroit. Thomas Ingersoll bore the expense of making the path passable for wagons between Brant's Ford and the Thames River as part of his efforts to develop Oxford township in the mid-1790s.[57] Later government appropriations extended that roadwork all the way down the Thames to Detroit - what was henceforth known as the Detroit Road. Woodstock's merchants gained support to improve the road along a detour taking it to the Vansittart landholdings (Eastwood) along the Governor's Road east of Woodstock, and it was that route which became Highway 53 through Burford and Brantford to Hamilton. The wisdom of a road link from Burlington Bay (Hamilton) through Brantford into Oxford has been reaffirmed with the completion of Highway 403, which also joins the 401 to the east of Woodstock. The portion which originally led into the centre of Oxford is now a county road named the Old Stage Road.[58] The 401 itself replicates the old Detroit Road.

Woodstock Transit buses departing terminal

Transportation within Oxford was greatly improved with toll roads and railways planned in the 1830s which were actually built in the 1840s and later. Ingersoll people collaborated with Tillsonburg and points south to construct the Ingersoll and Port Burwell Plank and Gravel Road starting in 1849, which was later extended as a toll road north through Zorra into Perth County.[59] It endures today as Highway 19. Woodstock collaborated with Norwich and Port Dover to built another north-south toll road in the 1850s which was later extended up into Perth County through Tavistock.[60] It endures today as Highway 59. Railways were built criss-crossing Oxford in the 1850s and 1860s, joining Woodstock and Ingersoll to Detroit and Toronto, as well as joining Woodstock to Stratford and Port Dover and Norwich to Brantford and Port Burwell.[61] An electric street railway joined Woodstock and Ingersoll through Beachville from 1900 to the 1920s, but was replaced by a bus service which succumbed in the 1940s to private automobiles as the preferred mode of travel thereafter.[62] Woodstock has developed a transit system which now operates a fleet of 11 buses six days a week, and charter bus companies have experimented with other local services.[63]

Dairy industry[edit]

A 2008 summary put Oxford's annual milk production at 60 million gallons from the county’s 344 dairy farms, the highest output of any county in Ontario, considered to be enough to supply 3 million people.[64] The first two cows were brought into Oxford-on-the-Thames by Thomas Ingersoll, and by 1810 the township was famous for butter and cheese made by farmers' wives for local sale.[65] On some farms this grew to a truly industrial scale, with some in the Ingersoll area producing as much as one hundred pounds a day by the 1830s. The queen of cheesemakers was Lydia Ranney on their family farm just south of Ingersoll, who was creating thousand pound cheeses for prize competitions at provincial expositions by the 1840s.[66]

Wheat, corn and soybeans[edit]

The first crop which had earning potential for Oxford's pioneers was wheat. In 1852 it was estimated that the county had produced 611,000 bushels, of which 450,000 bushels were exported.[67] When wheat yields fell as a result of soil exhaustion and insect infestations by the 1860s, greater reliance was placed on dairying for butter and cheesemaking.[68] Corn and soybean production now compete with dairying for available farmland, driving up land prices.[69] Wheat is also resurgent. In 1852, only 2,700 acres was devoted to corn.[70] By 2012, corn was being grown on 158,000 acres, producing 25 million bushels. In the same year, soybeans were grown on 77,000 acres yielding 3.7 million bushels, and wheat was grown on 21,000 acres, yielding 2.1 million bushels.[71]

Tobacco[edit]

see also Ontario tobacco belt

Despite decades of public education and government restrictions on marketing, the worldwide revenue in the tobacco industry is still in the range of $500 billion annually. Ontario's tobacco belt - an area with sandy loam and warm temperatures ideal for growing tobacco - stretches across the southern portion of Oxford County and the northern portions of Elgin and Norfolk. The crop gained in popularity in the 1920s and by the 1960s the whole economy of the area was dominated by tobacco growing, accounting for 90 per cent of all tobacco grown in Canada. Aggressive expansion of crop area led to recognition of increased risk the area could turn into a desert, but this was remedied with tree-planting. The seasonal workforce demands drew annual influxes of migrant workers and conditions which were made legend in Stompin' Tom Connors' 1970 hit song "Tillsonburg". To cut back production as part of its anti-smoking campaigns, a buyout program was implemented by the federal government in 2008, with payouts totalling $350 million to farmers who agreed to switch to other crops (the buyout funds came from a $1 billion settlement agreed by the major cigarette manufacturers as a result of prosecution for illegal activities). The result was a drop in annual production from 84 million pounds to 20 million pounds. Farmers who agreed to the buyout have favoured a switch to fruit and vegetable crops.[72]

Poultry[edit]

The pioneer scene with a few hens scratching in the yard and a rooster crowing atop a fence rail has long since given way to giant poultry barns. As of 2017, Oxford County is the third highest chicken producer in the province, with 108 farms generating 48 million kilograms of chickens per year.[73]

Manufacturing[edit]

Forest products[edit]

The earliest activities which could be categorised as manufacturing for sale were byproducts of the pioneers' war on the forests which covered the county. As part of his experiment in granting townships to proprietors such as Thomas Hornor, Benajah Mallory and Thomas Ingersoll in the 1790s, Gov. Simcoe imposed terms which sometimes required construction of saw mills. Thomas Hornor was the first to comply, putting a mill into operation in Blenheim Township by 1795, but his millpond dam collapsed and no immediate attempt was made to rebuild.[74] Efforts in Dorchester Township just to the west of Oxford's boundary by William Reynolds and Seth Putnam were more successful, but production from their saw mills remained on a small scale for many years. A visitor in 1804 described the difficulty faced rafting lumber from those mills down the Thames River nearly 300 kilometres to sell at Detroit - three or four men could deliver 25,000 board feet at a time in this way and bring back goods to sell upon return, but it was a ten- to fourteen-day journey.[75] Export sales were more frequent for potash and pearlash derived from burning timber and boiling the ashes;[76] individual settlers had little wheat to spare in their early years, but plenty of wood ashes that could be boiled and bartered with local merchants in exchange for supplies.[77] Export of sawn lumber eventually became a booming market by the 1840s, increased with the improvement of roads by toll companies,[78] and even more so after the construction of railways through Oxford.

Cheese factories[edit]

Grist and flour mills, furniture factories, carriage and wagon factories, tanneries and shoe factories, foundries producing farm equipment, and knitting mills were all becoming commonplace in the county by the 1850s,[79] but the real revolution in manufacturing activity came in the 1860s, with the arrival of cheese factories. It is accepted that the first cheese factories in Canada were established in Oxford County, although there is still some controversy about which one was the very first. Officially the title is given to Harvey Farrington for a factory in Norwich township opened in 1864, but it is likely his was preceded by the factory operated by Andes Smith in the same township. To display his accomplishments, Smith manufactured a 4,000 pound cheese, believed to have been the biggest ever made, which was exhibited at the New York State Fair in Utica and then the Provincial Exhibition in Toronto in 1865, but the fate of that monster foretold Smith's doom. In the course of hauling it from the exhibition grounds to the railway station for shipment to England for exhibition and sale, a wheel came off the wagon and the cheese was overturned and broke apart.[80] Smith went bankrupt the following year,[81] and fame passed to Harvey Farrington who had built a co-op factory at which risk was shared.[82]

The real coup came when a consortium in Ingersoll manufactured the 7,300 pound "Mammoth Cheese" which was successfully displayed in New York state as well as in England. The success of the Ingersoll venture led to the town becoming the home of the newly-created Canadian Dairymen's Association in 1867, and also the cheese export market seat for a throng of cheese factories which quickly went into operation around the county. Cheese factory production in neighbourhood factories surged for the next half century, and millions of pounds of cheese passed through export warehouses in Ingersoll, then later Woodstock as well,[83] but then began to taper off before the First World War and had greatly fallen off by the 1930s. By then Oxford's milk production was being trucked to London and Toronto rather than local cheese factories. The Ingersoll Packing Company, later renamed the Ingersoll Cream Cheese Company, continued a large-scale manufacture for international markets, but by 1956 Maclean's lamented to the whole country that Ingersoll cheese might become a thing of the past.[84] It did by the 1970s. After lying vacant for many years, the Ingersoll cheese factory was reopened in 1999 as Local Dairy producing artisanal cheese, cultured butter, and yogurt.[85] Other artisanal factories such as Gunn's Hill near Woodstock have also taken off, giving a new meaning to Oxford's Cheese Trails tourism promotions. There are currently 5 provincially-licensed factories in Oxford.[86]

Food processing[edit]

The county's economic development efforts aimed at increasing food processing within Oxford suffered a setback in 2018 with the closing of the Cold Springs Farms turkey processing and feed mill plant at Thamesford, with the loss of 425 jobs. Cold Springs was founded by W. Harvey Beatty (1916-1994), a dynamo who worked around crippling injuries to build an enterprise starting in Thamesford in 1949 that eventually included 60 farms in Ontario. For his business accomplishments and commitment to industry organizations, he was inducted into the Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame in 1995[87] and the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2018.[88]

Heavy industry[edit]

Vast portions of Oxford County are underlain with limestone deposits which are ideal for manufacture of lime and cement. A deposit of unusual purity 100 feet deep stretches from Norwich up to Embro through the centre of the county, and most of the deposit area has been licensed by the Ontario government for quarrying. The village of Beachville is atop the deposit and became well known from its earliest days for lime kilns, but manufacturing on a heavy industrial scale now takes place in mills adjacent to quarries covering thousands of acres in the county, operated by Lafarge Canada Inc. and Carmeuse Lime (Canada) Limited. The mills which burn the limestone were built in the 1950s with revolving kilns which were the largest pieces of mobile factory equipment in the world, some measuring 10 feet in diameter by 450 feet long.[89]

Automobile assembly plants in Ingersoll (CAMI/General Motors) and Woodstock (Toyota) and related parts manufacturers, warehouses and trucking companies have been a growing part of Oxford County's industrial base since 1985.[90]

Police, fire and ambulance services[edit]

After its transformation as a regional municipality, Oxford County had a designated regional-level police force, titled the Woodstock Police Service. However, a few communities such as Ingersoll, Norwich and Tillsonburg are patrolled by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Oxford detachment, with Ingersoll formerly having its own independent police service for many years before merging with the OPP.[91]

Social issues[edit]

Land use and environmental controls[edit]

Residents of Ingersoll and surrounding area have been in a militant state of opposition since the announcement in 2012 that the international conglomerate Carmeuse intends to give a 20-year lease to Walker Industries to operate a megadump taking in garbage from Toronto and London to fill the spent portion of the limestone quarry operated by Carmeuse on nearly 2,000 acres stretching east and north from Ingersoll's eastern boundary.[92] Walker has referenced plans to use the quarry site for a multi-use 'campus' for garbage and recycling operations. Carmeuse has also announced plans to switch to burning garbage in its kilns, which must be heated to 1,000 degrees to process limestone into industrial lime. As a preliminary, it will conduct a pilot Alternative Low-Carbon Fuels ("ALCF") project to assess pollution levels that result from burning 'engineered' garbage to be trucked in from New York state. Long term, ALCF garbage to be burned would include non-recyclable paper and plastic packaging materials, cardboard/paper sludge, non-recyclable rubber and plastic from automotive manufacturing, nylon tire fluff/belting, waste materials from diaper manufacturers, and wood refuse.[93]

Farm income, labour shortages and production standards[edit]

Oxford County has approximately 2,000 farms of varying sizes, averaging out to 400 acres per farm. The old saw is heard in Oxford just like elsewhere in the country, 'Canadians don't want to work on farms for the wages offered.' Filling farm labour needs in Oxford County during growing and harvest seasons includes approximately 2,000 foreign seasonal workers. Oxford is still categorized as an 'emerging community' by the Living Wage Canada movement.[94]

Connectivity, connectedness and globalisation[edit]

Due to low population density over most of its territory, Oxford County faced a challenge achieving high-speed internet connectivity for homes and businesses in all areas, but in response to a request for proposals, county council found a contractor able to create a data service network for residents using cellphone tower infrastructure.[95] Internet access has been important to preserving social connectedness as the ongoing process in Oxford of economizing through centralization has caused neighbourhood schools, churches, post offices and businesses to close.[96] Social media has been widely adopted for service delivery by Oxford County council and its various departments.[97]

County residents recognize that quality of life in Oxford is increasingly decided by multinational businesses. When planning on ways to oppose the proposed megadump on the Carmeuse quarry property, the importance of communicating directly with Carmeuse at its head office in Belgium was obvious.[98] Achieving job stability at the CAMI auto assembly plant in Ingersoll required challenging General Motors over threats that the plant's production would be moved to Mexico.[99]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Census Profile, 2016 Census
  2. ^ https://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/ontario_statutes/vol1974/iss1/59/
  3. ^ http://www.oxfordcounty.ca/Health/transition
  4. ^ As demonstrated in the decision by the Ontario government in 2018 to reduce the size of Toronto's council, despite the city's opposition.
  5. ^ An act for the nomination and appointment of parish and town officers in this province, passed by the Upper Canada legislature in 1792, required that the annual township meeting be convened on the first Monday in March. In the early 1830s this was changed to the first Monday in January each year.
  6. ^ Thomas Shenston in his Oxford Gazetteer (1852) gives the separation dates in each township and sample assessment rolls enumerating the local residents in each as the townships grew and divided.
  7. ^ A useful summary of the development of local government is provided on the website for the County of Oxford Archives in the descriptive material for the Brock District records contained in its collections.
  8. ^ see Shenston's Oxford Gazetteer (1852) and Walker and Miles, Oxford County Atlas (Toronto, 1876) for capsule histories of separate municipal governments within Oxford County.
  9. ^ Burford and Oakland townships were added to Brant County. Thomas Shenston, Oxford Gazetteer (1852)
  10. ^ West Nissouri township was added to Middlesex and a portion of North Dorchester township was added to Oxford. Thomas Shenston, Oxford Gazetteer (1852)
  11. ^ For the 1975 legislation, and its updates, see https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90c42
  12. ^ known as the Between the Lakes Treaty, it corrected an error in an earlier treaty which failed to properly describe the western boundary intended.
  13. ^ known as the London Purchase, it also covered the land in Oxford north of the Thames River, but only as far up as the line of the Governor's Road - in other words, the land which became North Oxford township.
  14. ^ known as the Huron Tract Purchase, Treaty 29, which included the land which had already been surveyed out and added to Oxford County as Zorra and Nissouri townships.
  15. ^ https://harvest.usask.ca/bitstream/handle/10388/8168/PALMER-THESIS-2017.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  16. ^ William Claus, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. VI
  17. ^ Major R.C. Muir, The Early Political and Military History of Burford (1913)
  18. ^ Hornor and Mallory biographies including bibliographies are available in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online.
  19. ^ A full-length biography of Gourlay was published in 1971 by a Toronto writer, Lois Darroch Milani, who grew up in Oxford at Wolverton.Milani, Robert Gourlay, gadfly: the biography of Robert (Fleming) Gourlay, 1778–1863, forerunner of the rebellion in Upper Canada, 1837 (Toronto., 1971),
  20. ^ Shenston's Oxford Gazetteer (1852) and Walker and Miles' Oxford County Atlas (1876) give special attention to Hornor's career. See also his biography in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online
  21. ^ Although not signed until 1827, the treaty (Huron Tract, Number 29) was sufficiently agreed in principle to enable the government to open Zorra and Nissouri to settlers and add the townships to Oxford in 1821.
  22. ^ W.A. Ross, History of Zorra and Embro : pioneer sketches of sixty years ago (Embro, 1909)
  23. ^ Numerous books have been written about the Woodstock story in Oxford County, including Doug Symons. The Village that Straddled a Swamp (Woodstock,1997); George Emery, Elections in Oxford County, 1837–1875: A Case Study of Democracy in Canada West and Early Ontario (2012); and Brian Dawe, Old Oxford is Wide Awake! Pioneer Settlers and Politicians in Oxford County, 1793–1853 (1980)
  24. ^ Colin Read, The Rising in Western Upper Canada, 1837-8. The Duncombe Revolt and After (Toronto, 1982)
  25. ^ Craig Forcese, Destroying the Caroline: The Frontier Raid that Reshaped the Right to War (Irwin Law, 2018)
  26. ^ Shenston's Oxford Gazetteer (1852), Sutherland's Gazetteer of Oxford (1862) and Walker and Miles' Oxford County Atlas (1876) all sing the praises of Oxford's golden era of growth and prosperity.
  27. ^ The population charts on the Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Ingersoll pages provide the numbers.
  28. ^ "2011 Community Profiles". Canada 2011 Census. Statistics Canada. July 5, 2013. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  29. ^ "2006 Community Profiles". Canada 2006 Census. Statistics Canada. March 30, 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  30. ^ a b "2001 Community Profiles". Canada 2001 Census. Statistics Canada. February 17, 2012.
  31. ^ Statistics Canada, 1972 Canada Year Book, p.1371
  32. ^ Statistics Canada, 1972 Canada Year Book, p.103
  33. ^ http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/statcan/CS92-539-1961.pdf
  34. ^ http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/statcan/CS92-539-1961.pdf
  35. ^ http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/statcan/CS92-539-1961.pdf
  36. ^ https://www66.statcan.gc.ca/eng/1902/190200980084_p.%2084.pdf
  37. ^ James Sutherland, County of Oxford Gazetteer and General Business Directory (Ingersoll, 1862) p.2
  38. ^ Thomas Shenston, Oxford Gazetteer (Woodstock, 1852) p.54
  39. ^ W.H. Smith, Canada, Past, Present & Future (Toronto, 1851) vol. I, p.115
  40. ^ Robert Gourlay, Statistical Account of Upper Canada (London, 1822) p.354-356
  41. ^ Shenston, p.39
  42. ^ Shenston, p.44
  43. ^ Shenston, pages 41 and 56
  44. ^ https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/postal-heritage-philately/post-offices-postmasters/Pages/search.aspx
  45. ^ http://www.ocl.net/Genealogy/Local-History/Historic-Hamlets
  46. ^ The Punkeydoodles Corners page provides a collection of links to external websites
  47. ^ https://canadianarchaeology.com/caa/about/awards/smith-wintemberg-award/william-j-wintemberg;https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000625795
  48. ^ Peter A. Timmins, "Don't Fence Me In: New insights into middle-Iroquoian village organization from the Tillsonburg Village" in Iroquoian Archaeology and Analytic Scale edited by Laurie E. Miroff, (Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2009)
  49. ^ https://www.oxfordhistoricalsociety.ca/publications/ The Oxford Historical Society
  50. ^ Topographical and historical atlas of the county of Oxford, Ontario, Walker & Miles, Toronto, 1876. The maps and directories from the atlas are now accessible on McGill University's 'Canadian County Atlas Digital Project' website. The historical text that was included can be found on the Internet Archive.
  51. ^ Oxford Historical Society, Quizzical History, Woodstock, 2017. Quiz number 43 deals with the 1948 museum project.
  52. ^ The available list of publications can be found on the Oxford Historical Society website, A link placed here was removed by a zealous wiki editor.
  53. ^ Library and Archives Canada has made most of the directories available for browsing on its collectionscanada.ca website, and some are also available on the Internet Archive. Links placed here previously have been removed by an overzealous wiki editor.
  54. ^ https://www.oxford.ogs.on.ca/
  55. ^ https://www.oxfordhistoricalsociety.ca/contact-ohs/
  56. ^ https://www.archeion.ca/county-of-oxford-archives
  57. ^ Thomas Ingersoll's role is commemorated with a provincial historical plaque at Oxford Centre in Norwich Township.
  58. ^ The history of the roads can be found on the Hwy 2, Hwy 401 and Hwy 403 pages. The see-saw between the Woodstock route and the Oxford Centre route for the stagecoach road in pioneer days is described in James Sinclair, A History of the Town of Ingersoll (Ingersoll, 1924)
  59. ^ History of the toll road company can be found on the Hwy 19 page, and in Shenston's Oxford Gazetteer (1852).
  60. ^ The extent of the toll roads can be found on Tremaine's Oxford County 1857 map and the Miles and Walker 1876 Oxford County Atlas, all available online.
  61. ^ All described and displayed in the text and maps of Walker and Miles' 1876 Oxford County Atlas, available online.
  62. ^ Several websites record the line's history, including Tourism Oxford - https://www.tourismoxford.ca/listing/detail/ArticleId/12884/Our-Beloved-Estelle.aspx
  63. ^ Most innovative was Gino's Bus Service in Ingersoll - https://cptdb.ca/wiki/index.php/Gino%27s_Bus_Lines
  64. ^ https://www.country-guide.ca/2009/07/06/ontarios-dairy-jewel/9542/
  65. ^ Michael Smith, Geographical View of the Province of Upper Canada (New York, 1813)
  66. ^ Ron Shaw, Cheese Stakes (2017); Heather Menzies, By the Labour of Their Hands (1994)
  67. ^ Shenston, p.57
  68. ^ Heather Menzies, By the Labour of Their Hands (1994)
  69. ^ https://www.country-guide.ca/2009/07/06/ontarios-dairy-jewel/9542/
  70. ^ Shenston, p.59
  71. ^ http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/stats/crops/index.html
  72. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20121105103145/http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=3cee32c9-7819-4322-881f-19fc6a162b41
  73. ^ https://www.ontariochicken.ca/getattachment/65cf2143-c892-4f28-8ffc-7fd84d6583d2/2017-Annual-Performance-Report.aspx
  74. ^ Thomas Shenston, Oxford Gazetteer (1852)
  75. ^ P.C.T. White, editor, Lord Selkirk's Diary 1803-1804 (Champlain Society, Toronto, 1958)
  76. ^ The process is described in "Manufacture of Potash, or 'Black Salts' in Upper Canada", in The Penny Magazine (March 6, 1841) available online
  77. ^ Rev. Thomas Brown in his memoirs describes the labour involved in drawing ash from Nissouri township to Ingersoll to barter for goods in the 1820s - Autobiography of Thomas Bush Brown (1899) available on Oxford County Library website.
  78. ^ By 1850 the toll road south from Ingersoll through Dereham township to Port Burwell was contributing to annual export from that harbour alone of millions of board feet of lumber; see W.H. Smith, Canada, Past, Present and Future (1850) description of Port Burwell.
  79. ^ Directories and ads for these businesses can be found in Shenston's Oxford Gazetteer (1852) and Sutherland's County of Oxford Gazetteer (1862) available online
  80. ^ Ron Shaw, Cheese Stakes (2017) p.25-26
  81. ^ litigation followed over ownership of the cheese on hand in Smith's warehouse, about 60,000 pounds - Bank of Montreal v. McWhirter, Reports of Cases Decided in the Court of Common Pleas 1867
  82. ^ The commemorative plaque in Ingersoll celebrates the opening of co-op cheese factories as the real innovation in 1864, with farmers agreeing to sell their milk to a neighbourhood factory rather than making their own cheese.
  83. ^ A 25-year retrospective of all these developments is contained in the Dept. of Agriculture's Annual Reports of the Dairymen's Associations (Toronto, 1892), available online.
  84. ^ http://archive.macleans.ca/article/1956/4/28/ingersolls-running-out-of-cheese
  85. ^ https://eatdrink.ca/local-dairy/
  86. ^ http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/food/inspection/dairy/licenseddairyplants.htm
  87. ^ https://www.canadianpoultrymag.com/100th-anniversary/notable-people/vips-of-the-poultry-industry-13017
  88. ^ the OAHF video of the induction ceremony is available on Youtube (link here removed by Wiki editor)
  89. ^ D.F. Hewitt, Limestone Industries of Ontario (1960) pages 146-161
  90. ^ Details of the auto assembly factories and related businesses which have been built are available on the Woodstock and Ingersoll pages.
  91. ^ www.cooloxford.ca
  92. ^ https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/03/02/keep-your-own-trash-ingersoll-mayor-tells-toronto.html
  93. ^ http://carmeusebeachville.com/alcf-facts/
  94. ^ http://www.livingwagecanada.ca/index.php/about-living-wage/about-canadian-living-wage-framework/
  95. ^ http://www.ruraloxfordconnections.ca/Portals/5/Documents/WilliamNagtegaalInterview_draftFINAL.pdf
  96. ^ https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/rural-community-still-trying-to-cope-years-after-schools-closed-1.936267
  97. ^ Oxford County's official website provides access to service programs and county library and archives resources, as well as hosting web pages for a number of other organizations within the county. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages are also operated by the county to enhance service delivery.
  98. ^ http://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/2229/canada-mayor-visits-belgian-mining-giant-carmeuse-in-bid-to-stop-massive-waste-dump
  99. ^ https://lfpress.com/2017/08/28/angered-by-loss-of-work-to-mexico-cami-workers-give-union-massive-strike-mandate/wcm/1a0de194-0aa5-a7ee-95ef-93a0228e86f1

External links[edit]