Colchester was founded 225 years ago

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ManwithBookby Fred Groves

Tucked way back in the corner of history, the Village of Colchester is quietly celebrating a milestone.

This year, 75 years before Canada became a nation, Colchester was founded on the shores of Lake Erie.

It was 1792 when the Sniders, McCormicks, Quicks, Tofflemires, Huffmans, and Ilers were among the United Empire Loyalists who settled in Essex County.

“They came here to remain British. They were living on the American side. They were marched up here by the British from Kentucky,” local historian and author Chris Carter explained.

Just a few years later, soldiers from Butler’s Rangers, a unit in the 1812 War and located at Fort Malden in Amherstburg, received land grants; and the small community began to grow.

It did not take long for more families to emigrate, some of them from far away as Pennsylvania.

“They quickly found out we had good land. It was all bush and marsh,” Carter said.

In 1798 John Snider, one of the Loyalists, was given Lot 82 along the lake front and built a home for his family west of the village. That house still stands and is considered the oldest known structure along the Lake Erie shoreline.

As the story goes, Snider’s family members were taking a break up on the roof of the house and could see the smoke from the cannons during the Battle of Lake Erie.

“Colchester was laid out as a village in 1792. It never grew too far. What the planner didn’t know was that farmers were selling off the front of their properties,” Carter said.

There was a total of 97 farms laid out, each were 200 acres in size. Carter, who gives tours of the area, said he can trace his roots back to the Tofflemires who were one of those original land owners.

Another reason Colchester did not get any larger was that å corner of Gore and Dunn Roads was referred to as “Pot Lake.” This community within a community had three shoe stores and a school. The original school of this area still stands and is a shed on a private property.

“What wrecked Colchester is that people came through Pot Lake and only went to County Road 50 if they had to do business,” Carter said.

In fact, the village never did completely fill the official town plan and there are still intersections that have not gone all the way through.

Carter notes that there are more than 30 known cemeteries and another 10 family plots that are not marked.

Alex McCormick, one of the original settlers, is buried in a field. His stone, dated to 1803, is the second oldest in Essex County.

Happy 225th birthday Colchester.

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