The village bears the name
of a town in the county of Meath, Ireland, a seat of royalty in ancient
days. Referred to by Moore in his poem, "The Harp that once through Tara's
The reader is referred back
to the preceding chapter for particulars relating to its settlement by
Tara's pioneer settlers, Richard Berford and John Hamilton. They, in the
fall of 1851, came into the unbroken forest, which covered the township,
and located on the farm lots afterward to be surveyed into a village.
[Richard Berford took up lots 31 and 32, and John Hamilton lots 29 and 30,
concession 8, Arran.] It is not to be imagined that the village commenced
to take form at once; the evolving of a business centre in a township not
fully settled until some years later required time. The fact that Tara is
situated about half way between Owen Sound and Southampton, on the road
opened out in 1852, had much to do with the developing of a village there.
Within two or three years after he had taken up his land, John Hamilton
built a fair-sized building of hewed logs, where he furnished
accommodation for the travelling public, which consisted of incoming
settlers and land-seekers passing on into the backwoods of Arran and the
adjoining townships. It is said that in the first year after being-opened
it was no uncommon sight to sec from ten to twenty teams drawn up before
the door of this small hostelry, whose resources were taxed to the utmost
to supply the demands made upon it. For a number of years a strong rivalry
existed between the village of Tara and Invermay, situated only a mile
apart, as to which should take the first place in the process of
development and become the business centre of the locality. The result has
been not so much a survival of the fittest in respect to location and
natural advantages, for in these particulars there was little to choose
between the two places. It has been more because of the enterprise shown
by the people of Tara that it has developed at the expense of its
neighbor. The survey of each of the villages was made about the same time.
The particulars of that of Tara as given in a footnote  are the dates
given on the plans as registered, but preliminary surveys had been made in
1854 by Richard Berford, assisted by his three brothers.
[Footnote 1. The survey of
lots 31 and 32, concession 8, Arran, was made by Richard Berford; date,
May 17th, 1858. The survey of lots 31 and 32, concession 9, Arran, was
made by St Lawrence Berford; date, November 10th, 1858 date, March 24th,
1859. The survey of lots part 29 and 30, concession 8, Arran, was made by
John M; Lumsden; date, November 22nd, 1860.]
Mrs. St. L. Berford has
been kind enough to supply the author with many facts about the early days
of Tara which have been made use of in this chapter. She says: "In the
early summer of 1854 the Berfords raised the first house (a log one) built
in Tara; this was for their father, John F. Berford. [John Fitzwilliam
Berford was a retired officer of the British Navy] This building was on
the site where now stands the British Hotel. In the same year Richard and
St. Lawrence Berford built upon their respective properties. Others also
who had bought lots, or had them given to them on condition of building,
erected buildings that year." Among the first to open stores at Tara were
F. Armstrong, Donald Sutherland and H. Le Pan. A saw-mill was built in
1855 by H. W. M. Richards, which was the first manufacturing industry
known in the village. To this he, in 1857, added a grist mill. The largest
manufacturing industry in Tara, the foundry and agricultural implement
works of W. A. Gerolamy, was founded in 1857. It was in that year that
George Gerolamy and his two brothers-in-law, John and James Toby,
purchased some lots in the village. After clearing the same they put up a
modest workshop and commenced the manufacture of fanning mills. In the
course of two or three years W. A. Gerolamy took over the business, which
had not attained to large proportions by any means. By energetic efforts
and pluck, combined with upright principles, he has had the satisfaction
of seeing the business gradually grow to its present large dimensions. He
was the first maker in Canada to introduce perforated zinc for sieves in
fanning mills. For this improvement he obtained a patent. As a result, at
the World's Fairs held at Philadelphia, Paris and Chicago, he was awarded
the highest prizes.
Among the earliest of
Tara's industries was a steam saw-mill owned by G. W. Drinkwater, a
woollen mill operated by Thomas Thompson, and a potash factory by Samuel
Shoveller. Among the early mechanics might be mentioned Peter
Chesterfield, cabinet-maker, who is still living, and James W. Allen and
Moses Kellow, carpenters and builders. Donald Urquhart, cooper (at one
time editor of a Gaelic paper in Hamilton), was one who became known as a
The first school teacher at
Tara was J. R. Vandusen. For many years he retained the position of
principal, and is remembered by numbers of those who in their youthful
days attended the village school.
A post-office was not
opened at Tara until 1862. D. Sutherland was the first to receive the
appointment of postmaster, which post he held for only a short time, his
successor being John Toby. This post-office bore the name of "Eblana"
during its first year, when it was changed to Tara.
As the village grew in
population a desire was felt that it be separated from the township and
assume municipal responsibilities. Henry Vandusen was appointed in 1880 to
take the census, and so ascertain if the village contained a population
sufficient to claim incorporation. The return showed that there were 806
inhabitants within the proposed boundaries. On this showing, the County
Council passed the required by-law, to come into force January 1st, 1881.
The first municipal election was held at the old Presbyterian Church, J.
E. Vandusen being the returning officer. The reeve [The following are the
names of those who have been reeves of Tara, with the years in which they
filled the office : John Douglass, 1881, '82, '83, '84, '85, '86, '87,
'88, '89; William Campbell, 1890, '91, '95, '96; J. F. Smith, 1892, '93,
'94; A. Trelford, 1897, '98, '99; John Hamilton, 1900; F. A. Thomas, 1901,
'02; J. S. Colwell, 1903, '04; Isaac Colwell, 1905; Wm. Collins, 1906.]
elected was John Douglass, and the gentleman composing the first Council
were W. A. Gerolamy, John Dunn, W. Vandusen and Isaac Shannon. J. D. Toby
was appointed village clerk, and J. H. Vandusen, village treasurer. These
two gentlemen have retained their offices ever since.
The first meetings for
religious services were conducted before any regular congregation had been
organized, and were held in Gerolamy's workshop, and on some occasions in
the pottery. Then, later, the school-house was used. In time,
congregations in connection with the various Protestant denominations were
formed, and church buildings were erected. The Presbyterians seem to have
been the first to build. Their first edifice was of frame, put up in 1860,
but was destroyed by a wind storm before ever a service had been held in
it. In the following year they built a more substantial building of brick.
The growth of the congregation in the following years necessitated a still
larger edifice. This resulted in the building, in 1876, of the present
commodious church. In the year 1861 the Methodists built a brick church
half way between Tara and Invermay. This building they sold to the
Baptists after the present handsome edifice in Tara had been built, the
corner-stone of which was laid July 28th, 1875.
It was October 10th, 1881,
when the first locomotive reached Tara. For some months it was the most
northerly station to which freight was carried by the railway company. The
sectional bonus to the railway of $5,000 given by Tara was a large one,
considering the size of the village. At the same time it must be
remembered that the railway has done a great deal for Tara, making it a
point of shipment for the products of a considerable section of country.
In the summer of 1880, with
the prospect of the village becoming incorporated, and also with the
promise of the railway being opened in the immediate future, a newspaper
was felt to be a pressing need. This was met by W. J. Whitlock (now of the
Wiarton Canadian), who proceeded to publish The Tara Leader, continuing to
do so until 1893, when the; Rev. Thomas Hall purchased the paper. He sold
out in 1897 to J. E. Hammond, who in 1899 disposed of it to its present
publisher, H. A. Vandusen.
Tara has not done much in
the way of bonusing manufactures, its one venture not having been very
successful. The bonus referred to was voted upon September 23rd, 1898,
granting the sum of $4,000 to Messrs. Biette & Co., to help them to go
extensively into the manufacture of barrels, cheese boxes, etc. The
business was shut down in 1901, and the village took possession of the
property, but it has not been able to obtain therefrom repayment of the
J. M. Lumsden was for a
number of years a prominent man in Tara, and one who during the years he
sat in the County Council as reeve of Arran was held in high esteem. He
removed to Galt in the seventies. Another prominent citizen of Tara who
has moved away was Whitford Vandusen. Mr. Vandusen at one time taught
school at Invermay. Then he commenced a mercantile business at Tara.
Prospering, he opened a private bank, which business the Merchants Bank of
Canada purchased when it opened an agency in the village in 1901. Mr.
Vandusen now resides in Toronto.
At the present day Tara is
an attractive little place. Its two steel bridges (built by the county),
its granolithic sidewalks, its numerous places of business and its many
comfortable-looking dwellings evidence a community possessing and enjoying
a large share of prosperity and contentment.