Long ago when Tillsonburg was just getting started, Bloomer Street, where George Tillson built his Bloomery Forge, was our main street, but as the town grew homes and businesses moved up Oxford Street and then from the south end of Broadway going north.
By the 1850s Washington Grand Avenue was pretty much the limit of our little village. From Washington Grand Ave, only Broadway went north with a few homes on it. All stopped at Concession Street, which became the northern town limit for many years. This is where Hardy’s Mill Pond started, today known as Lake Lisgar.
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The following is a story is of an event that would have occurred prior to 1854. It was recorded by Nancy Tillson VanNorman, granddaughter foundress of Tillsonburg, Nancy Tillson. They are her words with my helpful hints are in Italics.
“One day ma (Harriett Tillson), grandmother (Nancy Tillson), and her daughter Mary Ann Charlotte wished to visit Aunt Mary Chase, the ‘lend a hand’ neighbor who lived a few miles out on the Ingersoll road. Returning, darkness came on before 11th Concession was reached. Grandmother’s mount (the horse was also named Nancy) was an Indian hater of the first degree and would sense their presence if anywhere near; now knew the signs and bolted. The others followed suit but brought their riders home. The missing horse was soon found, but it required an hour or more of search with lanterns before the rider was discovered between logs at about the intersection of Bidwell and Baldwin streets, unconscious and with a broken arm.”
They were headed to Campbellton, another little village which eventually became part of Tillsonburg, up by the 10th Concession line which we know today as North Street. John Smith owned Lot 6, a full concession lot of 200 acres which stretched from Conc. 11 to Conc. 10.
An 1852 map shows Broadway intersected the lot going northeast, about halfway up, around today’s Christie Street. The first tributary going south to Clear Creek ran from just north of Smith’s lot, down through it, then intersected Broadway like an X at Christie Street. John Smith had a modern Steam Powered Saw Mill (SSM) located pretty much where the two crossed on the east side of Broadway.
Today the tributary goes underground at Christie Street, but travels south on the east side until opposite Lisgar Avenue, then crosses Broadway, coming up, and continues going south and west. The tributary itself continued southwestward across Lot 6 before it flowed into Clear Creek just before crossing Concession Street West (at Participark today). Clear Creek itself flowed northwest from Participark, and the tributary, and had other small sawmills on it, including one more on Smith’s property, although nothing shows that he operated two of them.
An 1857 map of Oxford County also has a detailed sketch of the residence of John Smith Esqr, Justice of the Peace. It was a large two-story house, with wrap-around porch, wood siding and two chimneys. A large addition on the back probably housed some of the workers he hired. The detail in the sketch also shows John and wife Margaret.
The writeup in the 1872 Gazetteer for Campbellton notes, ‘The business of the village is the manufacture of lumber. Messers. J. & M. Smith are the proprietors of a steam sawmill and grist mill propelled by water power. One general store and blacksmith shop. There is also a sawmill and sash, door and blind factory near the village owned by Francis Hawkins. Living in the village were: James Brown, clerk; Robert Chisholm, sawmiller; John Hamilton, miller; Joslyn George, teamster; John Kennedy, laborer; Denis Murray, carpenter; J&M Smith, flour, grist mill (about where the movie theatre is) and sawmill proprietors, general merchants; and Charles Ward, sawyer.
Seeking to incorporate Tillsonburg as a Town in 1871, they needed more people. Supporters of village incorporation remarked that every dog, cat, cow and chicken in the village would have to be counted to reach the required “magic” town population number.
But they changed the village limits from Rolph Street to Quarter Town Line Rd in the west; and Concession to North Street, annexing Campbellton, although in many directories and personal addresses the name remained for many decades.
When I moved here in 1976 there was a building on north Broadway at the railroad tracks with a Campbellton sign, but alas there is no photo of it.