History

Aerial View of Leamington Rural Area

Leamington's History

Early French voyageurs and missionaries first began exploring Leamington and Mersea Township in the 17th Century.  Point Pelee was a prominent landfall for these early travellers.

Mersea Township was surveyed in 1792. It was named after Mersea, a finely wooded island in a bay off the North Sea in Essex County, England.  Except for a few military posts in the Amherstburg area, Essex County was largely unknown.

In 1835, all the land west of what is now Highway 77 was dense forest, broken only by a small clearing on the Ridge. Here Charles Stewart, Phillip Fox and Thomas Whittle established a settlement on the Mersea-Gosfield Townline.  Like most settlers, they had acquired this land from Colonel Thomas Talbot, the eccentric Irishman who laid out Talbot Road along an old Indian trail.

Leamington had its beginnings at the same time when Alex Wilkinson started a farm on both sides of the Mersea Sideroad (Erie Street).  Alex had two neighbours, John McGaw and Thomas Quick.

To accommodate travellers along Talbot Road, a store and post office was established just east of “Wilkinson’s Corners” as the tiny settlement was known.  Three years later, Leonard Wigle opened the first tavern in the district and its fame spread rapidly.

Up to this point, farmers had been forced to travel long distances over uncertain roads to get their grain to a mill. Isaac Russell and John Coatsworth remedied this problem by building a grist mill along Hillman Creek. A saw mill was later added.

Eli Deming built a store near Wigle’s tavern in 1845, and trade began to concentrate where Talbot Road and Mersea Sideroad intersected.  By 1850, when Mersea Township elected its first Municipal council, Wilkinson’s Corners had become a bustling hamlet. A post office was added in 1854, and given the name of Gainesborough. Because this name duplicated another post office name, the government suggested a change and Mr. Gaines chose Leamington, the name of his home town in England.

By 1858 the population of Leamington had grown to 75. In 1860, regular stagecoach communication was established between Leamington and Windsor.  Growth in the lumbering business brought improvements to the transportation system and saw the establishment of Scott’s Dock in 1869. A second dock was built later and became known as Wigle’s Dock. The Pigeon Bay Dock Company constructed another wharf later. These three docks handled much of the shipments of tobacco, lumber and farm produce.

Leamington’s development was so impressive that Essex County Council passed a by-law in 1874, elevating the status of the hamlet to an incorporated village. Draining, ditching and road building were making the countryside habitable and farms more productive. In these early days, the section around Blytheswood was called Elm Swamp. There was not a single ditch to drain it.

The largest single drainage scheme was undertaken in 1895 when 5,000 acres of marshland on the eastern side of Point Pelee was converted into rich farmland.

In 1883, disaster struck... a fire broke out on May 14 and left most of the village’s business section a charred ruin.  Only Wigle’s store and the Deming Hotel were spared. The town was soon restored and progress continued.

The railway arrived in 1887 and an electric light plant was established in 1888. The waterworks began operating in 1891 and natural gas and oil were discovered in the area.

Leamington became an incorporated town in 1890. The business section grew and housing was prospering. In 1899, Leamington’s council was actively seeking new industry. It passed a by-law providing special inducements to manufacturers. The community offered free water, free gas, exemption from taxation, fire protection, and in some cases a free building site. Their enterprising thinking was rewarded in 1908 when the H.J. Heinz Company decided to locate in Leamington.

From this point on, the continued growth and prosperity of the community and surrounding area was assured. Leamington and Mersea Township amalgamated in 1999 issuing in a new Municipality for the future.

Leamington Today

You'll find great shopping everywhere in Leamington, whether it's the personal appeal and uniqueness of the uptown, or the faster paced shopping of national chains, department stores and food franchises. Great products, friendly service and terrific value are our merchants' philosophy.

The Leamington area attracts an impressive migration of birds and butterflies drawing the attention of naturalists from around the world. The countryside is home to some of North American's most popular birding locations including Point Pelee National Park, Hillman Marsh, Kopegaron Woods and near-by Pelee Island. As the northern border of the Carolinian forest, the area supports over 700 plant species, some of which cannot be found in any other part of Canada.

Known as the "Tomato Capital of Canada", Leamington's fertile soils support a variety of agricultural crops for fresh markets and processing.  Leamington is also home to the largest concentration of greenhouses in North America. Cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and flowers make up the majority of the greenhouse crops with nearly 1500 acres "under cover".  Leamington is grateful for the contributions of the many migrant workers who help in the agricultural industry.  The Migrant Worker Community Program, a nonprofit organization, provides social, cultural, recreation and communications for migrant workers during their stay.

Our agricultural strengths are complemented by a strong manufacturing and service sector.  The economic development office maintains information on available properties and can help put you in contact with developers, builders and officials to make you business start up as smooth as possible. 

Leamington gives all its visitors the red carpet treatment. Whether visiting our parks, staying at the marina, exploring the surrounding countryside or just visiting friends and family, your time in Leamington will be well spent.

Be sure to stay a while...the longer you stay, the more you will love Leamington. Contact the Leamington District Chamber of Commerce to find out more about local events, tourist activities and accommodations. The Chamber can be reached at 519-326-2721 or call toll free 1-800-250-3336.

Contact(s)

© 2018 The Municipality of Leamington 111 Erie Street North, Leamington, Ontario N8H 2Z9

Phone: 519-326-5761
Fax: 519-326-2481
Email: General Information

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