Hall, David - M.A
Economic Development in Elgin County 1850-1880 - Dr. Evans, advisor
The foundations for economic development in Elgin County can be traced back to 1803. In that year Colonel Thomas Talbot commenced the settlement of the territory lying between Long Point and the Detroit River on the north shore of Lake Erie. Prior to 1850 the main trends in economic growth resulted from a combination of geographic factors and the efforts of Talbot and his settlers. Yet the economic basis which was established by 1850 did not long continue unmodified. Within thirty years Elgin's economy underwent a transition which resulted in a new pattern of economic development.
During the period 1850-1880 radical changes took place in transportation, agriculture and urban growth. The 1850's witnessed an attempt to improve transportation facilities to the lake ports. Plank and gravel roads were constructed but within a decade or two their usefulness was destroyed by the availability of rail facilities. At the same time, the harbour facilities and shipping industry declined as a result of competition by rail.
No less significant was the revolution in agriculture. Until about 1860 wheat farming dominated. In 1880, however, Elgin farmers were pursuing a much more diversified type of agriculture amounting to mixed farming. The change was mainly a result of the decline in wheat production and the introduction of dairying, while a number of less important factors, including the American Civil War, the availability of improved machinery, the rise of fruit and livestock farming and the influence of the agricultural organizations, also contributed to the transition.