Norfolk County, Ontario

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City (single-tier)
Norfolk County
Lighthouse and docks in Port Rowan.
Lighthouse and docks in Port Rowan.
Motto: History · Heritage · Diversity
Map of Ontario NORFOLK.svg
Coordinates: 42°51′N 80°16′W / 42.850°N 80.267°W / 42.850; -80.267Coordinates: 42°51′N 80°16′W / 42.850°N 80.267°W / 42.850; -80.267
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
Established 1792 (County)
Restructured 1974 (Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk)
Amalgamated 2001 (Single-tier municipality)
 • Mayor Charlie Luke
 • Governing Body The Council of The Corporation of Norfolk County
 • MPs Diane Finley (Con)
 • MPPs Toby Barrett (PC)
 • Land 1,607.60 km2 (620.70 sq mi)
Elevation 200 m (700 ft)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 63,175
 • Density 39.3/km2 (102/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Postal code span N0A, N0E, N3Y, N4B
Area code(s) 519 and 226

Norfolk County /ˈnɔːrfk/ is a rural single-tier municipality on the north shore of Lake Erie in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. There are many Communities in Norfolk County, Ontario, most small or very small; the largest is Simcoe, Ontario with a 2016 population of 13,922.[2]. The population of the entire County in 2016 was 64,044.[3] In the late 1900s, the county was merged with Haldimand County but the merged entity was dissolved in 2000 and this area became The Town of the County of Norfolk.[4]


Surrounding its many small communities is some of the most fertile land in Ontario. With a mild climate and lengthy growing season, the region has long been the centre of the Ontario tobacco belt. However, many farmers have begun the process of diversifying their crop selections to include lavender, ginseng, hazelnuts, and wolfberries[5] as tobacco consumption continues to decrease.

Dennis' Horseradish is considered to be one of the longest lasting non-tobacco farming businesses in Norfolk County; currently being operated by the Jason Ryder family and operating five minutes south of Delhi and five minutes east of Lynedoch.[6][7] The area also has an active greenhouse industry. Despite this, farmers have asked governments to reduce the financial losses of moving away from profitable tobacco operations.

A significant natural feature of Norfolk is Long Point, a 40 kilometre (25 mi) spit of land projecting into Lake Erie. It plays an important part in eastern North American bird migration, and was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986. Long Point Provincial Park is located on the point. More than 25% of Norfolk County is considered to be forested; especially near the major communities and hamlets that dot the county.[8]

The county seat and largest community is Simcoe. Other population centres are Port Dover, Delhi and Waterford.


Norfolk's history has been closely associated with that of the neighbouring Haldimand County. Norfolk was first created as a county in July 1792, a year after Upper Canada was formed. In 1800, Haldimand was formed from a portion of Norfolk.[9] And for a few years, 1974 to 2000, the two counties were merged.[10]

By 1669, Europeans had reached what is now Port Dover, Ontario, the French explorers De Galinee and Dollier de Casson. They erected a cross with the arms of France claiming sovereignty for King Louis XIV over the Lake Erie region on March 23, 1670. A history of the area written in 1898 indicates an even earlier visit to what is now Norfolk County, in October 1626, by a Recollet priest, Laroche-Daillon with two Frenchmen Grenolle and La Vallee. The priest spent three month with the Neutrals First Nation. The same account also indicates that two Jesuits, Breboeuf and Chaurnonot, visited the Neutrals in this area in 1640.[11]

The first European to live in the area, with the Neutrals, was William (Billy) Smith, son of Abraham Smith. He eventually settled near the current Port Rowan in 1793.[12][13] This was in the first community, the Long Point Settlement (near what is now Port Rowan), where mills were built by United Empire Loyalist settlers. In the subsequent years, sawmills and grist mills were opened and the population increased. After the town site was surveyed in the late 1700s, the area was called Charlotte Villa and was later renamed Charlotteville.[14]

Norfolk County, then in the London district, was formed in 1791 or 1792 when Colonel John Graves Simcoe divided Upper Canada into individual counties.[15][16] Simcoe visited the settlement in 1795 and the area was surveyed for a town site, initially named Charlotte Villa and later Charlotteville. Eventually, the core of the settlement was renamed Turkey Point.[17] [18]

The community that is now Simcoe, Ontario was first settled when Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe gave land to Aaron Culver in 1795 on the agreement that he would build mills. After they were in operation, a hamlet formed by 1812, although it was burned down by American troops in 1814. Between 1819 and 1823 Culver laid out a village; streets were surveyed in 1835 to 1836 or 1837.[19][20] The settlement initially consisted of two distinct areas, Birdtown, named by William Bird who arrived in the early 1800s and the Queensway which grew up around Culver's sawmill and grist mill in the 1820s. The post office opened in 1829 and was called Simcoe. In 1837, the village became the seat of government of the then Talbot District.[21]

The County had an important role during the War of 1812. Fort Norfolk was built in Charlotteville (near Vittoria and Normandale) in 1813 with accommodation for 300 troops. The Battle of Nanticoke, against American troops, was an important event in 1813. In August 1812, Major General Isaac Brock gathered a force of about regulars and militia at Port Dover. Using boats on the lake, they reached Amherstburg (also in Upper Canada) and then attacked and captured the American Hull's Army at Detroit.[22] The Americans forces later burned Port Dover. The Americans forces also burnt Port Dover, Port Ryerse and the Walsingham settlement in 1814.[23][24]

In 1850, or in 1858 according to some sources, Simcoe became the County seat of Norfolk County. Because the county was heavily forested, logging became a major industry between 1860 and 1880. Agriculture was even more important however, with wheat being the primary crop until 1880 and then corn and oats. By the early 1900s, orchards and canning crops were more typical. A major switch to tobacco began in in 1920.[25][26]

By the 1920's tourism was an important contributor to the economy. Summer resorts in Port Dover, Port Ryerse, Normandale, Fisher's Glen, Turkey Point and Port Rowan were attracting many summer visitors. However, Norfolk was primarily agricultural with fruit and vegetables the primary crops. On report from 1924 states that "Norfolk apples have become pre-eminent in two hemispheres"; thousands of barrels of apples were shipped each year and canning was also a major industry, with companies such as Dominion Canners and St. Williams Fruit Preservers. There were a few factories too, in Port Dover and Waterford, while Port Dover was a major fishing centre, with fish shipped not only within Canada but also to the U.S.[27]

The South Norfolk Railway was started in the county and began operating in 1889. Even earlier, the Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway (H&LER) began operating in 1873 but was merged with the Hamilton & Northwestern Railway which completed the final section to Port Dover and to Jarvis in the mid 1870s.[28] A report from 1924 also discusses an electric railway that had been introduced "in recent years". This was the Grand River Railway that connected Hespeler, Berlin (later called Kitchener) and Waterloo with connection to Brantford and Port Dover.[29]

Probably the most important achievement of recent years in Norfolk has been the introduction of an electric railway service, by which the produce of this rich agricultural region can be speedily transported to urban markets, and which has greatly benefited Norfolk people by the facility with which short distance travelling may now be accomplished. In addition, Norfolk's chief lake port has reaped untold benefit from the new radical service and the prospect for future recognition of Port Dover as Lake Erie's foremost port is very bright, particularly if the latent harbor facilities receive long overdue assistance from the Federal Government.

Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk[edit]

The two counties remained separate until 1974, when they were merged as the Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk on the advice of a report by Milt Farrow, a "special advisor" appointed by the Government of Ontario. This political unit existed from 1974 to 2000.[30]

Under this arrangement the Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk consisted of the upper-tier regional government and the lower-tier Towns of Haldimand, Dunnville and Simcoe, and the townships of Delhi, Norfolk and the City of Nanticoke. The last regional chairperson in Haldimand-Norfolk was John Harrison.

On January 1, 2001, the regional municipality was dissolved and two single-tier municipalities, the Town of Haldimand and the Town of Norfolk, were formed. These municipalities immediately changed their official names to Haldimand County and Norfolk County—and special advisor Milt Farrow later said in published interviews that he should have recommended those names. Since they no longer have townships or other municipal subdivisions below them, both municipalities are not true "county" governments in the traditional sense; they are legally classified as cities.[31] The Communities in Norfolk County, Ontario are quite small for the most part.

Norfolk County Re-emerges[edit]

The Townships of Delhi and Norfolk, the Town of Simcoe, and the western half of the City of Nanticoke were amalgamated to form the "Town of Norfolk." Moreover, many smaller communities such as Port Dover and Port Rowan are now in "Norfolk County". The newly formed municipality's first by-law was to change the name to Norfolk County.

In January 2005, the county unveiled a new coat of arms which included natural symbols associated with the county: hooded warblers, a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and an eastern dogwood flower.

The first mayor of the county, Rita Kalmbach, was succeeded in 2007 by Dennis Travale. A transit system was introduced in Norfolk County in 2010.[32]

Historic townships[edit]

Map of Norfolk County from 1877, showing historical townships.

Prior to its amalgamation with Haldimand in 1974, Norfolk consisted of eight townships. Walsingham was originally one township, but had been split into North and South Walsingham in 1881. Although no longer political entities, the historical townships are still used informally and in some government maps as convenient geographical divisions.

Township Township seat
Charlotteville Vittoria
Houghton Fairground
Middleton Delhi
North Walsingham Langton
South Walsingham Port Rowan
Townsend Waterford
Windham Windham Centre
Woodhouse Port Dover



Norfolk County's main town is Simcoe, which hosts city council and generally serves as the administrative centre. Port Dover, Delhi and Waterford are the other population centres in Norfolk County. Langton and Port Rowan are the largest communities in the western side of the county.

As the population is mainly rural, smaller communities generally predominate along highway intersections.

Tourism and attractions[edit]

Norfolk County's primary tourist attractions are the ports, towns and villages along Lake Erie, which the municipality promotes as "Ontario's South Coast". These towns include Port Dover, Turkey Point and Long Point. Fishing is another key attraction for tourist, as well as birding, hiking, camping and cycling. Main festivals include the Norfolk County Fair & Horse Show (October), Waterford Pumpkin Festival (October), the Friday the 13th motorcycle rally at Port Dover, and Simcoe Christmas Panorama (December). Agri-tourism is another expanding attraction for tourists coming to Norfolk County, with a few wineries in development and numerous farmgate retailers. Wilsonville’s Whistling Gardens, in the northeast Norfolk County, is Ontario’s newest publicly accessible botanical garden and one of the few that are privately run in Canada. In 2014, it was named one of Norfolk’s Top 10 Amazing Places on a social mapping tool created by Ontario’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.[36]


The Norfolk County Public Library has branches in Delhi, Port Dover, Port Rowan, Simcoe and Waterford. The Simcoe branch, an Ontario Historic Site, was created in 1884 on Peel Street after a mechanics' institute was closed and its property donated for the creation of a free public library. The original building was used until 1912, when it was replaced with a new library building constructed as one of the Carnegie libraries.[37]

The Lighthouse Festival Theatre Company has produced live theatre at Port Dover's old town hall (under the clock tower) since 1981. The Theatre is open year round and provides a variety of events, including concerts, public meetings, community fund raisers, dance recitals, workshops, band rehearsals and classes. Annually, more than 36000 people now attend events at Lighthouse Theatre.

Waterford's Old Town Hall is home to many local theatre productions. This restored historic building, built in 1902, includes an auditorium with stage, seating for 180, and provides cultural diversity to the community in its capacity as a venue for musical, artistic and theatrical productions, a meeting hall and rental facility.

More recently, the South Coast Jazz festival has attracted thousands of visitors to the region, featuring since its 2014 inception such artists as Holly Cole,[38] David Sanborn, Oakland Stroke,[39] and Toronto's Shuffle Demons.


Port Dover Harbour Museum[edit]

The Port Dover Harbour Museum, housed in an original fisherman's net shanty, commemorates Port Dover's fishing industry. The galleries present exhibits on the days of commercial sail as well as Lake Erie shipwrecks, ship building, Long Point, the War of 1812 and other aspects of lakeside life in this community. The museum is also active in the preservation and presentation of local folklore and living traditions, particularly in the areas of fishing and lakeside history. Since 2002, the museum has been the home to a collection of artifacts from the 1852 wreck of the steamer Atlantic. One notable exhibit commemorated the bicentennial of the burning of Dover Mills, a hamlet burned to the ground by American soldiers in 1814. The Town of Port Dover was later established when the harbour at the mouth of the Lynn River was dredged.[40]

Waterford Heritage & Agricultural Museum[edit]

The Waterford Heritage & Agricultural Museum is located in Waterford's best known industrial landmarks “The Pickle Factory”. The museum exhibits the social, industrial, and agricultural history of the area through the use of interactive and engaging exhibits.

Eva Brook Donly Museum[edit]

The Eva Brook Donly Museum is a Victorian-period historic house museum that has been featuring displays of local history since it first opened in 1946. Located in downtown Simcoe and operated by the Norfolk Historical Society, which formed in 1900, the museum is renowned for its collections of artwork by the late William Edgar Cantelon and Eva Brook Donly. Here, you can see Dr. Troyer's infamous witch trap, Abigail Becker's gold medal presented to her for having rescued stranded sailors in 1854, an original Van Norman stove and much more. The museum also has an extensive archival collection of local genealogical historical material, including photographs, diaries, wills, legal papers, vital statistics, maps and more.

Teeterville Pioneer Museum[edit]

The Teeterville Pioneer Museum is a museum devoted to pioneer life in the 19th century. It includes antique farm equipment as well as home and garden tools.

Delhi Tobacco Museum and Heritage Centre[edit]

The Delhi Tobacco Museum and Heritage Centre displays the agricultural and cultural history of the former township. Despite a province-wide smoking ban, the museum still guarantees its patrons the benefits of viewing the artistry and science of tobacco farming during the Golden Years of growing tobacco. It is located near Quances Dam. There is also a park nearby that is enjoyed by the local residents for picnics, barbecues, and for walking around with. It is closed on Sundays and major holidays.

Backus Mill Heritage and Conservation Centre[edit]

The Backus Mill Heritage and Conservation Centre, an open-air museum featuring a historic grist mill and a nature center, is a National Historic Site.


Port Dover is the location of a biker rally which takes place every Friday the 13th.

Simcoe is well known for annual community events including the Lynn River Music and Arts Festival, Simcoe Panorama.

The Norfolk County Fairgrounds are home to the Norfolk Wildlife and Adventure Show, Eat & Drink Norfolk and the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show, Canada's largest County Fair, that is held every Thanksgiving weekend in October. In addition to traditional agricultural and arts competitions it features major Grandstand shows that include Demo Derbys, Monster Trucks, Tractor Pulls and sold out concerts with Artists Big n Rich, Barenaked Ladies, Burton Cummings, Dallas Smith and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Every October, Waterford hosts a Pumpkin Festival close to the end of the month. The Waterford Lions and Lioness clubs have been organizing the event since 2009. Due to low funding, the fireworks are no longer an event at the Waterford Pumpkin Festival. The usual features of the Pumpkin Festival are a pyramid of 1500 pumpkins, decorated buildings, craft shows, an automobile show, a carnival, live entertainment, and the locally famous Pumpkinbowl football game at Waterford District High School.

The Donnybrook Fair in Walsh is an annual two-day event. The fair has been held every year from 1857 until the present, making 2007 the 150th Fair. This mid-September event involves the children of Walsh Public School and St. Michael's School entering projects and many agricultural commodities, grown locally, for prize money and ribbons. More than $1200 was paid to the elementary children in 2006. The fair has grown every year with the help of many volunteers. Fundraising events are held all year to finance the fair. These events include an annual barbecue dance, a Victoria Day brunch, food booths at every "Friday the 13th" event in Port Dover, and numerous raffles. The most popular event at each fair is the demolition derby. These were sponsored for a long time by the Horsepower Unlimited Car Club from Simcoe but are now sponsored by the Vittoria & St. Williams Fire Department Auxiliaries. 2007 was considered to be the 34th consecutive year of the demolition derbies.

Throughout the year, the fairgrounds and the Community Centre Hall are frequently used for weddings, funerals, and buck and doe events. The name "Donnybrook Fair" comes from an early settler of Walsh, who said the fair reminded him of an annual horse fair in Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland.

Port Rowan hosts an annual Bayfest.

Gentlemen of the Road[edit]

In August 2013, Mumford & Sons hosted a 4-day stopover of their travelling music festival, called Gentlemen of the Road, in Norfolk County. It took place in the Norfolk County Fairgrounds, and was called the Gentlemen of the Road Simcoe Stopover.[41] 35,000 festival-goers attended the festival, as well as many out-of-town resources for the event production.[42] The aim of this tour was to be an economic stimulus for small towns in various parts of the world, where their festival stopovers occurred. The band encouraged festival goers to spend their money locally at each stopover.[43] Simcoe and Norfolk were no different, having brought in an estimated $10 million in tourism revenues.[44]


Norfolk County is also known for its attraction to boaters and fishers. The small village in Norfolk County, Turkey Point, is known for having the largest freshwater marina in Canada, MacDonald Turkey Point Marina. All summer long, thousands travel from Turkey Point to Pottahawk Point to party.[45] A thriving boating scene can be found in Port Rowan; where alcoholic beverages can frequently be found on the docks and consumed by boaters over the age of majority. They must be purchased inland either through a local bar or through the government-owned beer store.


The Norfolk HERicanes ices house league teams in the Greater Hamilton Girls Hockey League and has its rep teams playing in the Lower Lakes Female Hockey League. The HERicanes play out of Talbot Gardens and Simcoe Rec Centre in Simcoe, Port Dover Arena, Waterford Arena and Delhi Arena.

Norfolk has three Junior C level hockey teams. The Port Dover Sailors, Simcoe Storm and Delhi Travellers play in the Provincial Junior Hockey League.

The Norfolk Vikings Junior A team play in the independent GMHL, playing at Talbot Gardens in Simcoe.

The Norfolk Harvesters RFC of the Niagara Rugby Union are a rugby football club that operates men's, women's, u18 boys' and u18 girls' rugby teams. The Club was established in 2001 and has won division championships in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The club's current home is the rugby pitch at Waterford's Hellyer Memorial Park. Players and coaches have gone on to represent the Niagara Rugby Union, Rugby Ontario, and at the national level with Rugby Canada.


Public schools in Norfolk County are administered by the Grand Erie District School Board. The board maintains 16 public elementary schools and five public high schools in Norfolk:

The board also administers Sprucedale Secondary School, a facility for young offenders.

Separate schools[edit]

Separate schools are administered by the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, which maintains seven elementary schools and one high school:

There is also a separate school administered by the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud


These eleven elementary schools once taught residents of Norfolk County. Many of these school closed down between the 1950s to the early 2000s as a result of changing municipal and provincial policies towards the funding of education:


Featuring Norfolk[edit]

In 2004 the documentary film Tobacco's Last Stand was released which highlighted the effect on tobacco production on the region.[46]


Simcoe has its own radio station, CHCD-FM, And the area is otherwise served by media in Erie (Pennsylvania), Cleveland (Ohio), Buffalo (New York), and some radio stations from Toronto are also often receivable.


Notable residents[edit]


The population in 2011 was 63,175; and was projected to reach 87,488 people by the year 2056.[47]

Canada census – Norfolk County, Ontario community profile
2011 2006
Population: 63,175 (1.0% from 2006) 62,563 (2.8% from 2001)
Land area: 1,607.60 km2 (620.70 sq mi) 1,606.91 km2 (620.43 sq mi)
Population density: 39.3/km2 (102/sq mi) 38.9/km2 (101/sq mi)
Median age:
Total private dwellings: 27,814 26,527
Median household income:
References: 2011[1] 2006[48] earlier[49]

According to Statistics Canada 2001 census:[50]

  • Median income of persons of age 15 or older: C$20,429
  • Average earnings of all persons with earnings: C$27,805
  • Religion (Religions with less than 1% are not listed here.):
    • Protestant: 55.0%
    • Catholic: 25.3%
    • No religious affiliation: 16.8%
    • Christian (no denomination specified): 2.0%
  • Racial Profile:
  • Ethnic Profile (Note: each resident may declare to belong to multiple ethnic groups; only groups that garnered >1% of the responses are listed here):
    • English- 35.9%
    • "Canadian"- 28.3%
    • German- 21.0%
    • Scottish- 20.3%
    • Irish- 18.1%
    • Belgian- 8.1%
    • Dutch- 8.1%
    • French- 8.1%
    • Hungarian- 5.1%
    • Ukrainian- 4.4%
    • Polish- 3.6%
    • First Nations- 3.1%
    • Italian- 2.3%
    • Welsh- 1.9%
    • Russian- 1.6%
    • Portuguese- 1.5%
    • American- 1.5%
    • British Isles (other)- 1.3%

Historical population:[50][48]

  • Population in 2006: 62,563
  • Population in 2001: 60,847
  • Population total in 1996: 60,534

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Norfolk County census profile". 2011 Census of Population. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2012-03-27.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "cp2011" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Boutin N. Fairground family first to gamble on Gojis. Berries can be used in many ways, Tillsonburg News, August 1, 2008
  6. ^ Ryder Farms Inc. information at Wholesome Pickins
  7. ^ Dennis Horseradish Inc at Norfolk Farms
  8. ^ Report on Tree Conservation By-Laws in Southern Ontario at Tree Canada
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Owen, Egbert (1898). "Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement". Archive. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Owen, Egbert (1898). "Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement". Archive. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ "BY-LAW NO. 2001-01 of The Corporation of the Town of Norfolk, January 23, 2001". 
  32. ^ "Make public transit a top priority". 
  33. ^ "Delhi CDA, Ontario". Canadian Climate Normals 1981–2010. Environment Canada. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  34. ^ "Delhi CDA, Ontario". Canadian Climate Normals 1981–2010. Environment Canada. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  35. ^ Environment Canada Canadian Climate Normals 1961-1990 for Simcoe, accessed 18 March 2012
  36. ^ Whistling Gardens has bloomed into one of the premiere attractions in Norfolk County. Norfolk News, September 14, 2016
  37. ^ Libraries Today - Simcoe Public Library, free public library 1884
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ The Port Dover Harbour Museum tells the story about the town’s rise to prominence along the waters of Lake Erie. Norfolk News, September 13, 2016
  41. ^ Gentlemen of the Road Simcoe Stopover Retriever November 14, 2013.
  42. ^ Mumford & Sons take tour to Simcoe, Ontario Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  43. ^ 35,000 people expected at Mumford & Sons Guthrie Retrieved November 14, 2013
  44. ^ City of Guthrie prepared for Gentlemen of the Road Tour Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  45. ^ "Pottahawk Parties Hard". Simcoe Reformer. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  46. ^ CM Magazine:Tobacco's Last Stand
  47. ^ "Long Point Region SPA Updated Assessment Report" (PDF). Source Water. February 7, 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2013. 
  48. ^ a b "2006 Community Profiles". Canada 2006 Census. Statistics Canada. March 30, 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 
  49. ^ "2001 Community Profiles". Canada 2001 Census. Statistics Canada. February 17, 2012. 
  50. ^ a b "Norfolk City community profile". 2001 Census data. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 

External links[edit]