Our Historical Roots

An  Excerpt from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Counties of Haldimand and Norfolk by H.R. Page, Toronto 1877-1879

It will be observed that the Grammar School of the Western or London District was placed near Vittoria, and was taught by Judge Mitchell, Reverend Egerton Ryerson, Reverend Eli Chadwick and others, at an early day. Subsequently the County Grammar school was removed to Simcoe, and for a long time was taught by Reverend J. Evans. A large number of his pupils have since come to fill important positions. A great many persons too will remember with gratitude the skillful teaching of Reeverend J. Mulholland, who for fourteen years conducted the Simcoe High School. He was succeeded by J.J. Wadsworth, M.A., who was appointed Public School Inspector of Norfolk in 1871. The next Principal was Mr. Dion C. Sullivan, LL.B., followed by the present Master, Reevernd George Grant, B.A.

At present there are two other High Schools in the County, one at Port Dover, taught for many years by James Lumsden, M.A., the other at Port Rowan, now in a prosperous condition under Mr. A. Carlyle, M.A.

Probably no names will be remembered more pleasantly than those of James Covernton, Esq., Reverend William Craigie, John A. Bachkhouse, Dr. Phelan, George Frost, Charkles Harris, Elders Van Loon and Slaght, D.W. Freeman and D.C. Brady, who had for many years charge of the Public Schools of this County as Local Superintendents, and did much valuable work in the cause of education in their respective townships. Mr. James Covernton, who is now over seventy years of age, is still a hard working friend of the schools, doing his duty faithfully on the Board of Examiners for the County. R.T. Livingstone EsQ., B.A., Barrister, etc., another member of the Board, brings the ripest scholarship, combined with natural talents of the first order, to the support of educational interests. Mr. Livingstone was for nine years a Hogh School Master, and therefore possesses a practical knowledge of teachers and teaching which is of great service to the Board. The same may be said of Mr. Augustine James Donly who has a teaching experience of about seventeen years, and who does service to the cause with great ability. industry and earnestness. 

The total number of Public Schools in the County is now 103, exclusive of Simcoe. Many of them are doing work which will compare favourably with that of any in the Province. The total number of children in attendance in 1876 was about 10, 000.

Written Examinations form now a very prominent feature in the educational machinery of the County. During the present summer (1877) there have been held seventeen written Examinations of a Provincial character - namely, the three Entrance Examinatiuons at the three High Schools, Intermediate Examinations at Port Rowan and Simcoe - and the Examinations for second and third class teachers.

The result is that a very strong stimulus - stronger than any hitherto known - has been applied to both teachers and pupils to do school work in the soundest and most thorough style of which it is capable - the test not local, but Provincial - and the verdict that of tried and impartial judges.

The youth of the County are awakening to the necessity of doing their work in a manner which will bear the scutiny of the most advanced educationalists of the country. At the Entrance Examination there were seventy-four candidates, at teh Intermediate about 12; atthe Second Class Examinations 10; at the Third Class 91;the majority being the sons and daughters of farmers.


This is a only a part of our educational history in Norfolk, but what we lack, but will endeavour to find, is a history of indigenous people who were living in Norfolk and how they contributed to the life and vitality of earlier times. Can you help in this regard? Please contact us.


We have selected three prominent figures who made significant contributions to the course of history of Norfolk County. Egerton Ryerson, the acknowledged father of Ontario's public education system grew up in Charlotteville Township here in Norfolk. Abigail Becker, the heroine of Long Point, helped rescue many a shipwrecked sailor from Lake Erie's stormy waters. John Graves Simcoe, commanding the Queen's Rangers in the War of 1812 and later to become the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada surveyed much of Norfolk County and recommended the village of Vittoria to be its capital. 

Many United Empire Loyalists chose to make Norfolk County their home.

Centuries earlier, two French missionaries, Father Dollier de Casson and Father de Gallinee  spent the winter of 1669-1670 on the shores of Lake Erie near Port Dover.


François Dollier de Casson and René Bréhent de Galinée in 1669




On 6 July 1669, French missionaries François Dollier de Casson and René Bréhent de Galinée departed from Montréal as part of an expedition into the interior led by Robert Cavalier de La Salle. Part of an original party of twenty-two Europeans and Algonkian interpreters, Dollier and Galinée split from the party shortly after travelling through present-day Hamilton. Dollier and Galinée were accompanied by seven men and three canoes and, in late October 1669, they set up a winter camp at the present day community of Port Dover. Having chosen the site for its aesthetic appeal and abundant food sources, Dollier and Galinée declared this area territory of France in the name of King Louis XIV. On 23 March 1670, three days prior to the group’s departure, a large cross was erected with the arms of France, thereby marking an important episode in the development of the Canadian nation.