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The Birth of Chatham

A synopsis of a paper by

IN the year 1794 the Government of Upper Canada established a shipyard on the present site of Chatham, and several gunboats were built. The next year the Governor-in-Council set aside 600 acres of land as a town plot, being Lots 1 and 2 in Harwich and Lot 24 in Raleigh. A partial survey was made by Deputy Surveyor Abram Iredell, and the land sub-divided into 113 lots of one acre each. The ground covered by the survey is the double tier of lots commencing at the present eastern boundary of the city and the land between Gaol and Water Streets to William Street, then the double tier of lots between Colborne and Murray Streets to the eastern boundary, then, crossing the creek, the double tier of lots between Wellington and King Streets to the western boundary. The present Tecumseh Park was reserved for military purposes and the triangular piece of land where Dr. Duncanís residence stands was set aside as a church site. Subsequently the Glebe lands over the Creek were substituted for the church site.

Grants of several of the town plot lots had been made as early as 1802 but it was not until 1820 that William Chrysler erected what is believed to be the first log house, for a permanent home, on the spot where the Jahnke and Greenwood Funeral Home now stands, and old St. Paulís Anglican Church was built the same year. The first public school was erected on the site of the present Central School in 1831 and in 1833 a census was taken which revealed a population of about 300. In North Chatham was first surveyed and in 1850 Chatham was incorporated a village. In it became a town and in a city.

The Thames was first called by the Indians, the Escunisepe, the river later bore the name La Tranche and finally was called the Thames.

During the war of 1812, General Procterís army, accompanied by the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and his braves, in their retreat up the river, halted at Chatham, the Indians on the military reserve and the British opposite on the north bank of the river. Tecumseh considered the point at the junction of the Thames and McGregorís Creek the best place to make a stand against General Harrisonís Kentuckians who were pursuing them, but the stand was finally made further up the river at Moraviantown where the British were defeated and Tecumseh killed.

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