The Chisholms – Oakville’s Founding Family

One hundred and eighty years after it was first purchased for development, the town of Oakville can boast a thriving population of more than 165,000 people, a scenic location on the shores of Lake Ontario, and a diversified economy. Oakville is also fortunate in its close proximity to the city of Toronto, the largest city in Canada.

As is the case with many of the century-and-older towns in Eastern Canada, the town of Oakville was once the home of a native tribe, strategically located as far as white settlers were concerned, along several moving bodies of water (the Credit River, Twelve Mile and Seventeen Mile Creek). An enterprising, rich North American entrepreneur, William Chisholm, purchased the land from the Mississauga Indians, and it was the Chisholm family who would build the foundation for modern day Oakville. Let’s take a look at the family members who were instrumental in the creation of the town.

William Chisholm

As mentioned, William Chisholm was the person who bought the eventual site of the Oakville township for development. In fact, Chisholm bought the land not from the Mississaugas but from the Government of Canada, who had purchased the deed earlier in the century (Chisholm bought the areas around the creeks and the river in 1827). He bought 960 acres of prime milling and transportation land for just over $4,000!

William was the son of a United Empire Loyalist who relocated to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution. William himself would help to defeat American efforts at taking over Canada in the War of 1812, and served as a Member of Parliament for several terms. After buying the land on which Oakville was to be placed, William began to plan the town and built a shipyard and a harbour – he also owned the first tavern, sawmill, and gristmill in the township. Both of his sons also greatly contributed to the growth of the town.

Robert Kerr Chisholm and George King Chisholm

Robert Chisholm helped his father with the functions of customs collector and postmaster in Oakville and took over both posts when William passed in 1842. He also served on the Oakville town council for several extended terms, eventually becoming mayor in 1866.

George Chisholm was the first mayor of the town, elected in 1857; he served until 1862. Like his father, George had a history of defending the principles of confederation; he served during the Upper Canada Rebellion and the Fenian Raids, and was injured in riots while serving as the sergeant at arms.