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History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada
Village of Tara


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 Halls."

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 [1] 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 local scribe.

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 amount advanced.

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.


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