Hopeful Beginnings, Strong Traditions
#16: Summer 2001
also: Hiram Walker's Influence on Harrow- click here
a densely wooded area about three miles from the southern shore
of Lake Erie, the stirrings of a new town were felt nearly 180 years
ago. In 1824, a townsite (Plan 202) was drawn in that area for James
Woods Senior. Christened "Hopetown," each farm lot in
the site was subdivided into eight town lots of 25 acres.
the 1840s, the community had become known as Mungers Corners
after a local pioneering family. Around 1860, its name changed once
again to Harrow, for Harrow-On-The-Hill in England (now part of
"Essex County Sketches" published in 1947, Neil F. Morrisson
wrote, "Inland, isolated and often mired in mud of the pre-railway,
pre-highway era, the development of Harrow was for years, inevitably
slow." As a result, transporting goods was tricky to
get pork to Amherstburg, it was shipped from Colchester (south of
Harrow on Lake Erie) to avoid a tedious journey through the mud.
Backwater to Boomtown
Hiram Walker put through his railway from Walkerville to Harrow,
Kingsville and Leamington in the late 1880s, Harrow was released
from its isolation (see story opposite). By the middle 1890s, it
had become an important shipping centre for corn and other grains,
dressed and live hogs. Harrow boasted two saw mills, a hub and spoke
factory, carriage and wagon industry, two flour and gristmills,
and a cheese factory, all long gone. In addition, a boot and shoe
making industry once flourished while blacksmithing and harness
repairing continued into the middle of the 20th century.
need to clear land for farming and supply lumber for building created
another industry early in the development of Harrow and area. Sawmills
sprang up in several spots including three east of Harrow in Pleasant
Valley, Oxley and Colchester and in Hiram Walkers bush two
miles north of Harrow at Marshfield.
the early twentieth century, logs were rafted from Colchester to
Chatham by steamboat. The Harrow Lumber Yard and Planing Mill, owned
by S. C. Zimmerman, opened for business in 1890 a lumberyard
continued on that spot until 1991 when it was known as Beaver Lumber.
Harrow-Kingsville-Leamington farms with their early season and quickly
warming light soils meant early crops such as tomatoes, potatoes,
cucumbers, cabbages, and so on brought another source of revenue
into the area.
tariff legislation and higher prices greatly stimulated tobacco
growing in South Essex and brought the Harrow tobacco station into
being in 1909. In 1923, it became the Dominion Experimental Station
and then the Harrow Research Station in 1959.
current Research Station is a far cry from the early days when horses
were the chief source of power and fertilizer was produced at the
station farm by horses, cattle, pigs and poultry. The animals are
a memory and the Station has become a state-of-the-art laboratory,
allowing scientists to study living plants year round in an effort
to improve agricultural techniques.
attained official town status in 1930, relatively late in the history
of Essex County.
Walkers Influence on Harrow and Area
partly from "Harrow and Colchester South: 1792-1992",
Harrow Early Immigrant Research Society, (HEIRS) 1993, (available
at The Walkerville Times for $35 + gst.)
only did Canadian Club founder Hiam Walker create his own town of
Walkerville, he stimulated the development of South Essex and the
towns of Harrow, Kingsville and Leamington. Walker initially purchased
land at Marshfield and hauled marsh hay for his livestock via land
to Amherstburg and then by water to Walkerville. As roads improved,
he used steam-powered locomotive tractors, but they damaged the
roads and bridges so he decided to build a rail line the
Lake Erie, Essex and Detroit Railroad (LEEDR). (Essex
was later dropped and it became the LEDR.) Just the mere mention
of the plans for this line resulted in growth to Harrow.
August 1888, track was laid south from Walkerville to Harrow by
nearly170 Italian immigrant workers, who put down nearly a mile
a day. On September 21st, the local paper announced: "The rails
will reach Harrow tomorrow the engine whistle was heard in
Harrow from Walkers marsh."
Amherstburg Echos September 28th edition reported that: "The
rails crossed the road at Harrow on Tuesday, and are now rapidly
approaching Kingsville, which they will reach by Monday next if
the bridges are completed on time." Then, on October 12th:
"Bridges on the railway between Harrow and Kingsville are completed
except the one across Cedar Creek, which is well under way."
line was extended to Ruthven by November 1888. As 1889 dawned, the
Lake Shore stage connected with the morning train. Passengers going
to Windsor could connect with the Windsor Electric Street Railway
at a nearby station at the Walkerville Bridge (Peabody Bridge),
paying a five cent fare to go to Windsor; four passenger trains
made regular trips to Harrow.
1890, track was re-laid at Marshfield in anticipation of the cultivation
of Walkers cranberry crop. Although Walker spent $250,000
developing his cranberry farm at Marshfield, and hired an expert
from Massachusetts to oversee the operation, the crop was an abysmal
failure a rare misstep for a man who seldom made poor business
decisions in his later years. He did manage to extract oil of superior
quality from Marshfield, however!
to Harrow from Windsor were popular in 1892, over 300 people
travelled in 14 cars for May 24th celebrations! By 1893, Walker
extended the railroad east to St.Thomas, and the movement of goods
from Essex County to Detroit and Ontario was in full force. The
quantity of grain, livestock and produce shipped from Harrow and
environs steadily increased; the railway boom enjoyed by Harrow
became a source of amazement for locals.
1904, the LEDR was sold to Pere Marquette. The personal attention
Hiram Walker had given to his railroad was sorely missed
people were soon complaining of old engines and delayed services.
In 1910, the Marshfield Station burned to the ground and was not
1991, the last train came through Harrow and the old rail line built
by Hiram Walker was abandoned. Recently, it was converted into a
Greenway with support from Chrysler Canada. It is now possible to
bicycle or walk from Oldcastle to Leamington along Walkers
old railway line.