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HEIRS hears all about ‘Harrow’s hidden history’


Richard Herniman, President of the Harrow Early Immigrant Research Society

by Sylene Argent

On Sunday, the Harrow Early Immigrant Research Society (HEIRS) welcomed members of the public to listen in as Richard Herniman, President of the local historical club, made a special presentation titled, “Harrow’s Hidden History.”

  This special edition HEIRS meeting was a continuation of the Town of Essex’s Heritage Week celebration, which offered a few events that recognized local preservers of history and recounted historical events.

  Over 50 individuals filed into the Community Room at the Harrow & Colchester South Arena to hear the presentation that highlighted the works of prominent local historical figures.

  In 1859, Herniman noted, William G. Wright built the first store in Harrow on the northeast corner of King Street and Queen Street. There, he opened a general store and remained a businessman for 15-years.

  In 1874, he sold the business to John MacAfee. Two-years later, he was appointed Post Master for Harrow, so MacAfee added a Post Office to the facility. In 1880, MacAfee had a new store built on the southside of King Street. The larger spaced allowed him to add 150 new mailboxes in the Post Office.  

  Another early business Herniman spoke of was the Sovereign Bank, which was established in 1901 in Toronto. In 1903, Albert Sinasac had a private bank, and sold it to the Sovereign Bank. It was located in the Heaton Block until 1908. At that time, a new block was built on the westside of the existing store. In 1909, it became the Imperial Bank, which is now the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

  In the 1860s, Herniman continued, Charles Smith was an apprentice blacksmith in Leamington. He married Alzora Pulford in 1870 and worked with his father-in-law. Five years later, his son, Frank, was born. He later opened a blacksmith business in McGregor, then in 1885 moved to Thamesville. He then bought the hardware store owned by Ryerson Parker, located inside Wright’s building on the northeast corner of King and Queen Streets, which brought him back to the Harrow.

  Frank is made a partner in the business in 1901, and the hardware store is moved to a building on the southside of King Street. In the new location, they have a car dealership selling Reo and Grey Dort vehicles. 

The upstairs of this facility had three rooms that were used for meetings for the Ancient Order of the United Workmen, the Independent Order of Foresters, and the Independent Order of Oddfellows.

  Frank’s son, Lyle, sold the business to Arnold Duncan and John McKinlay in 1966. Duncan would later buy his partner’s share in the business and expanded it to sell appliances and furniture. Today, the building houses Canadel Furniture Outlet.  

  Herdman also spoke of the Clark and Company Block. In 1895, Charles Clark and Frank Bell had a general store and poultry and egg business. In 1899, they were shipping 5000 dozen eggs per week by rail. To his research, Herniman said they were also supplying Boblo Island with 1000 chickens per week, but he said he could not figure out why that many chickens would be needed there. They may needed the chicken to feed workers at that time.

  HEIRS hosts have monthly meetings, each highlighting a different historical subject, inside the community room at the Harrow & Colchester South Chamber Arena. The meetings begin at 1:30 pm on the fourth Thursday of the month, excluding June, July, August, and December, and are open to the public.

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