Chatsworth Ontario:
First Settlers 

Chatsworth Ontario: First Settlers took advantage of fulfilling the needs of pioneer travellers and built a thriving community in the Upper Canadian wilderness.


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

In this column, I have often written about the building of the Garafraxa Road to Owen Sound. This road became the main transportation link between the southern Georgian Bay region and the more populated areas of settlement in the Upper Canadian colony. 

Travellers on this road needed places to stop and refresh both themselves and their horses, or oxen, which pulled their wagon loads of supplies and belongings. 

Consequently, early entrepreneurs established inns and stables along the Garafraxa Road to tend to the needs of the pioneer travellers. 

In some locations, the emergence of an inn signalled the beginning of a community, and other enterprises such as mills were created. 

One of these communities had its origin when two brothers, George and John Deavitt, began clearing a plot of land. At first, they thought about calling their community Georgetown, named after the elder Deavitt. 

However, the Upper Canadian colony already boasted a settlement named Georgetown. Therefore, they decided to name it Johntown, after the younger brother. 

The first settler in Johntown was a man named Coyer who opened a tavern, probably to satisfy the thirst of weary travellers on their way either to Owen Sound, Guelph or points between on the Garafraxa Road.

Another community, Grandtown, arose in the vicinity to challenge Johntown in terms of growth and development. 

The first postmaster, Henry Cardwell, was said to be a man of refinement and education. It is believed that he wanted to change the name of the community from Johntown to that of his hometown in England, Chatsworth. 

Chatsworth  Ontario:
on the Verge of a Boom 

In 1852, S.H. Breese built a store and hotel called the California House. 

Andrew McGill established a foundry. There was a sash and door factory, as well as several blacksmith shops. The main street boasted 12 stores. At one point, Chatsworth's commercial sector included two drug stores, several general stores, dressmaking and millinery shops. 

To cleanse the sins created by the presence of five taverns, four churches established congregations in the area. 

There were two newspapers, Blyth's Chatsworth News, and Nelson's Chatsworth Banner providing the community with all the news of the locality and the world beyond. 

In 1904, by an Act of Parliament, Chatsworth was incorporated as a village. The first reeve was Thomas McGill, and he was assisted by an inaugural council of veterinarian Dr. James Airth, William Crane, E. O. Merriam, and Charles Ritz. 

In 1873, much of the business district in Chatsworth was destroyed by fire. However, through the determination of its citizens, efforts were made to restore the community’s commercial base. 

The coming of the motor car had a huge impact on Chatsworth. Travellers no longer had to stop as frequently to feed and water their horses, and they could travel further and faster. Consequently, the communities which had arisen from the need to cater to a horse and oxen-drawn transportation society were no longer such an important commodity. 

Today, Chatsworth is a pleasant community at the confluence of the two major highways that bring travellers from southern Ontario to the Grey-Bruce region. 

The next time you pass through, stop, check out the architecture of some of the older buildings, and imagine what times must have been like when five taverns vied to entertain the local patrons as well as travellers.

A version of this story first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on November 23, 1996.

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