As one might guess by driving along Oakville’s well-known Lakeshore, early settlement of Oakville centred around its vast shoreline. The natural harbour at Bronte was a commercial port of entry for merchants and sailors in the early 1800’s. In 1827, Colonel William Chisholm purchased land at the mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek on Lake Ontario to develop a shipbuilding yard. Ship-building and timber became important industries that attracted a variety of settlers to the area.
The harbour 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 a permanent exhibit that chronicles our Black History and each year it is celebrated at the Emancipation Day Picnic.
Oakville has a number of historic buildings, including Sovereign House and Erchless Estate (now home of the Oakville Museum), the original home of the town’s founding family. 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 stories of the town through its exhibitions, special events and programs.
Oakville’s rich history is preserved and promoted by three active historical societies: Bronte Historical Society, Oakville Historical Society and Trafalgar Township Historical Society, providing tours, hosting events and commemorating Oakville’s oldest communities.
Oakville is now home to 182,520 people in 13 traditional neighbourhoods. Oakville’s present identity is very much shaped by its relationship to the natural wonders of the land, the spirit of its residents, and thriving industry – just as it was in the early beginning.