The Impact of World and Canadian History on North Middlesex from 1850 to 1899.
Please Note: Most of the content of this time line was derived from secondary sources. There may be
1852 - The Grand Trunk Railway received its charter. By 1857, the Grand Trunk was building a line from Montreal and Toronto to Sarnia where a railway ferry would take cars across to Port Huron. The cars would be attached to an American Grand Trunk train and go on to Chicago and points west. This line went through Lucan, Ailsa Craig, Thedford and Forest, and was the impetus for economic growth in North Middlesex and out migration of people to the American west.
1854 - Thomas Stephenson started a funeral business in Carlisle. Twenty years later, he had the building moved from Carlisle to Ailsa Craig where it is still in use as T. Stephenson and Son Funeral home. 1855 The Militia Act provides for a permanent volunteer force.
1857 Queen Victoria designated Ottawa as the capital of the Province of Canada (Canada East and Canada West)
1860 Williams Township was divided into East Williams and West Williams. As Williams Township grew westward toward Sylvan, the distance to Nairn, the site of township council meetings at the eastern side of the township became a long and difficult journey, a motivating factor in the separation. The boundary was known and is still known as The Centre Road.
1860 - The community whose early names were Swainby and Westwood and which would later become Parkhill. Swainby was a small crossroad communited located near where Queen Street meets Elginfield Road and Elliot Drive. The first survey of lots which formed the main street of the village of Westwood was further north along Queen Street (now West Park Drive) plus a bit of King Street. The second survey extended the village along King St. to Main St. The location of the Grand Trunk Railway station determined the final location of the town as it appears today as businesses moved to King Street and Main Street nearer to the station. Various historical reports contain conflicting information about which name came first, Swainby or Westwood. Local histories indicate that Swainby was the original name, but Post Office records give the nod to Westwood. It is possible that the existing community of Swainby did not have a postoffice. Then, in 1860 a temporary post office contract was established in the new village down the road. After a year, the contract may have been moved back to the existing community of Swainby, and two years later moved back to the rapidly growing village of Westwood, by then called Park Hill.
1860-07-01 Westwood post office established.
1861-07-01 Name changed to Swainby.
1863-10-01 Name changed to Park Hill.
Residents of the town rarely used the two word spelling of the town, preferring Parkhill. Even the towns official documents used Parkhill, so John Dawson, the post master at the time, petitioned the Post Office department in Ottawa to have the name changed.
1959 01 09 Name changed to Parkhill.
1863 McGillivray Township and Biddulph Townships transferred from Huron County to join Middlesex County. In the same period, Bosanquet joined Lambton County.
1864 The Charlottetown Conference, originally intended to discuss the union of the Maritime Provinces, opened discussions about Confederation.
1866 The Fenians, a group of radical Irish-Americans, begin a series of raids on Canadian territory hoping to divert British military away from Ireland.
1867, July 1 Canadian Confederation - Three British colonies, The Province of Canada consisting of Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were joined by The British North America Act to form the Dominion of Canada. Upper and Lower Canada became Ontario and Quebec.
1867 - A hotel called Hastings House was built on the southeast corner of Parkhill Main Street and Hastings Street in Parkhill. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce occupies the site today.
1870 Louis Riel leads a group of Metis in the Red River Rebellion. British General Wolseley recruited a volunteer unit, including the First Ontario Rifles which formed at Sarnia, to travel to Manitoba to suppress the rebellion. Several men from Middlesex area including Mr. Luxton, the owner of a newspaper in Strathroy, joined the Wolseley Expedition. Mr. Luxton remained in Winnipeg after the rebellion, and founded the Winnipeg Free Press.
1872 - The first High School in North Middlesex was opened in Parkhill. First classes were conducted in the then new public school building at the corner of Ellen Street and Catherine Street. The first High School Building was built in 1887 on Broadway Street at the corner of Albert Street, and backed on to Coronation Park. Before 1872, few students reached high school. Those who did had to go to neighbouring towns such as Strathroy, and usually boarded with a local family, returning home at the weekends.
1887 - Early Parkhill was plagued by fires. In November, 1887, a massive fire destroyed many businesses on King St. Completely destroyed was the building in which the Parkhill Gazette was printed. All the old papers from 1871 until 1887 were lost, and with them, much of the history of the early town. Old stories claim that the early Parkhill Gazette was printed on a press once owned by William Lyon MacKenzie of MacKenzie Rebellion fame. How this press arrived in Parkhill is a mystery. This press was also destroyed in the fire although there have be claims that the fire damaged metal from the press ended up in a corner at the Baird Foundry.
1897 The Klondike Gold Rush entices people from all over the world including Southwestern Ontario to go to the Yukon to seek their fortunes. Most endured great hardships, but found no gold. 1899 - The first Canadian soldiers to serve overseas embarked for the Boer War.