September 23, 2021
By: Lauren Lim
As you explore Oakville, you’ll see pieces of its history all around and may not even know it! Erchless Estate is one of Oakville’s oldest standing structures, and it provides great insight into Oakville’s early days as a port of entry.
Known now as the Oakville Museum, Erchless Estate is home to historical exhibits that explore everything from the Chisholm Family (Oakville’s founding family), to Oakville’s early Black History, and Indigenous History. As you walk into the main lobby, you’ll see a land acknowledgement stating that the Town of Oakville and the museum are located on the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. You can also learn more about the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation on their website. The Museum is currently open for pre-booked tours and registration is required. Keep reading below to learn more about the history of this incredible building, and give this location a visit for a more extensive look at local history before and after European settlement.
In 1827, European settler Colonel William Chisholm purchased an enormous plot of land from the Crown, planned out the Town of Oakville and Oakville Harbour, and built the Chisholm family home (which we now know as Erchless Estate). The Chisholm clan hails from Scotland, and the name Erchless is a reference to their original castle.
When William Chisholm passed away, it left his son Robert Kerr Chisholm responsible for port and postal operations. Robert Kerr Chisholm continued to expand his family’s estate, until it was left to their son, Allan Stuart. Allan’s improvements are the reason the estate is as beautiful as it is today! Due to his efforts, a coach house, carriage path, tennis courts and ornamental gate were erected.
The property was then passed onto Kerr’s cousin’s wife, Emelda Beeler Chisholm. She purchased Erchless Estate, not wanting the property to leave the family line, and made amazing renovations to both the grounds and interior of the home. Upon Emelda’s death, she passed the home on to her two daughters, Hazel and Juliet.
Hazel lived most of her life in Oakville, having a deep interest in local history, so much so that she wrote and published many books, including “Oakville and the Sixteen, the History of an Ontario Port”.
Hazel’s sister, Juliet, dipped her toes into almost every field imaginable. She moved to Paris to study fine arts and become part of the accomplished painter and illustrator scene.
She changed careers and decided to study medicine at McGill University, where she then served in WWII as a captain overseas, and later on with the United Nations.
Erchless Estate was then left in the hands of Hazel’s son Monty and his wife Margo. Their family was the sixth and last generation of the Chisholm family to live in Erchless. It has been a community museum since the 1980s, with Margo providing helpful information and original furnishings from the Chisholm family.
In the Oakville Museum, you can see a visual representation of the Chisholm family tree, and real-life pieces that have been preserved over the years and donated to the Town of Oakville. Many of these objects were used by Chisholm family members themselves!
Many of the buildings that are connected to Oakville Museum and Oakville’s Historical Society are in their original structure, having been restored to their original layout and preserved. To see a digital format of Oakville collections, click here.
To keep up to date on Oakville Museums events, unique perspectives and interesting stories, follow their Facebook page. The images and videos give an amazing sneak peek at so many local historical tidbits! There are so many amazing resources and historical buildings to explore, connecting you to the deep roots of Oakville!
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