Originally inhabited by the indigenous Mississaugas, early European settlement of Oakville centered around its vast shoreline. The natural harbour at Bronte provided a commercial port of entry for merchants and sailors in the early 1800s. In 1827, Colonel William Chisholm purchased land at the mouth of Sixteen Mile Creek on Lake Ontario, later developing a shipbuilding yard and harbour in the area. Shipbuilding and lumber became important industries that soon attracted a variety of settlers.
The lakeshore also played an important role in Oakville’s Black History, as the entry point for many American slaves travelling the Underground Railroad in search of freedom. The Oakville Museum has two permanent exhibits that chronicle our Black History, something that is celebrated every year at the Emancipation Day Picnic.
Oakville is home to a number of historic buildings, including Bronte Village’s Sovereign House and Downtown Oakville’s Erchless Estate, the original home of the town’s founding family and current home of the Oakville Museum. A walk through the historic streets of Old Oakville offers a first-hand look at classic architecture, and the Oakville Museum continues to tell the town’s stories through its exhibitions, special events and programs.
Oakville’s rich history is preserved and promoted by three active historical societies: the Bronte Historical Society, the Oakville Historical Society and the Trafalgar Township Historical Society, each of which offers tours, hosts events and commemorates Oakville’s oldest communities.
Oakville is now home to over 200,000 people in 13 traditional neighbourhoods. Our present identity is very much shaped by our relationship to the natural wonders of the land, the spirit of our residents and our thriving industries – just as it was in the very beginning.