Acton, was originally called Danville in 1840, then changed its name to Adamsville after the first family to settle there in 1844. Finally the name was settled upon request of Mr. Robert Swann, one of its early settlers.
Mill Street housed the first grist mill (lot 24 in the 2nd concession), known as McCallum’s Mill.
As early as 1873 the town became large enough to severe ties with the township of Esquesing and become and incorporated village. Education was of great importance to the population and the stone schoolhouse was well staffed.
The religious influence was also strong and churches as Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Disciple and Roman Catholic were all present in the town.
The town hall was touted as the finest in the country, and the picture above shows the elaborate architecture. Most of the village homes were mostly constructed of brick also a sign of affluence.
This prosperous little town carried a large number of factories, mills and workshops with relation to its size.
The most famous establishment most certainly was the Glove Works of Messrs. W.H. Storey & Son, which employed 175 to 250 people. Many of my Ryder family members held employ here, including my great-grandmother and my grandmother as well.
Another trunk and traveling bag manufacturer hired 30 employees and received a silver medal for merit against the oldest firm of this kind in 1888. It was supplied with boxes from the planing mill of Mr. Thomas Ebbage, who also supplied the glove factory with packing cases.
A fine leather tannery provided the glove manufacturer with skins for their gloves. It would seem that the well planned town complemented each business with support.
The corner of Main and Mill streets had a dry goods run by Mr. Jermyn. The stock included staples and fancy dry goods, dress goods, millinery, gloves, hosiery, tweeds and worsteds, hats and caps for the gentlemen as well as furnishings, carpets, house goods, boots and shoes, groceries, and the like.
A tailor and haberdashery run by Mr. M. Brennan kept fine foreign and domestic tweeds, French and English worsteds to supply the residents with fine attire.
Acton also had two boot and shoe stores, again thanks to the ample supply of leather. One situated near Mr. Brennan’s tailor shop and the other next to Adam’s confectionary, further west on Mill Street. The town even boasted a fine jewelry and fancy goods store.
Mr. H. Ramshaw ran “The Metropolitan Studio” of fine photography and portraits, situated on the north side of Mill street. It was very popular in its day. My grandmother and her sisters would often have their portraits and family pictures done. I still have many of these photographs. The girls would dress up in their finest clothes and hats and have their pictures taken. The photography studio was just next to Mr. J.C. Hill’s stove and tin-ware business.
Mr. C.T. Hill opened his general store long before many of the population present in Acton in 1888 were even born. He was the last surviving business from the early days that remained steadfast in the same location.
A rather new merchant in 1888 was Mr. O.H. Ryder, the business only one year old at the time. He started his tailoring business a year earlier and had already established a loyal clientele. He was according to townsfolk, an able cutter and his success proved this. As Mr. Brennan, he kept a hand select stock of foreign and domestic tweeds, and fine French worsteds. It appeared according to documents of the day that he would prove successful in his endeavours.
Beside Ryder’s was yet another general store and tailor.
If one moved westward along Mill Street there was a drug and stationary store owned by Dr. N. McGarvin. This was the only drug store in Acton at the time and was therefore extremely profitable.
Mrs. J. Adams ran a confectionary and fancy goods store which further acknowledged the success of Acton, and next to her followed Graham & Graham’s butcher shop.
Another grocery store owned by Mr. T.H. Harding was just seven years old in 1888. He carried a choice line pure teas, coffees, sugars, spices, canned goods, flavoring extracts and all the table delicacies, also crockery, glass and chinaware, provisions, vegetables, etc. His success was owing to the superiority of his stock. He was flanked on the both sides by butchers Graham to the east and R & J Holmes to the west.
The next shop along Mill Street was a harness emporium owned by Mr. Halstead who did well with his trade of harness and supplies.
South of Mill Street, on Main we would have seen Mr. C.C. Speight’s shop, a compliment to the photographer, where one could buy picture frames, mirrors, and fancy bracket work.
Just opposite Speight's was Geo. Stoddard’s bed factory, and on the corner we would have found the Excelsior Bakery where excellent bread was provided by baker, R. T. Statham.
Willow Street housed yet another boot and shoe shop owned by Mr. D. Mahoney, there since the early days of Acton’s history.
Another business which supplied agricultural implement agencies was that of Messrs. A.F. Smith Wm. Hemstreet, Edw. Nicklin and J.A. Murray.
The town had ample accommodations for visitors from away, which also brought more business to the town.
In 1888, the town was thriving and there was not a vacancy or unoccupied store leading to growth and new buildings.
The placement of Acton and a well-governed municipality have led to its success. The sidewalks and streets were well lit and kept tidy and the planting of many shade trees added to its beauty. The efficiency of the local government in keeping a low overhead to run the town meant the debt nominal.
Being a rich agricultural area and the success of the annual Esquesing fair provided growth for the town.
Acton even had an extremely beautiful cemetery “Fairview”. Set on nineteen acres of picturesque land that was peppered with small groupings of trees and tiny lakes. The large millpond called “Fairy Lake” looked out over the farmers fields of healthy crops, forests and orchards.
I have come to love my family ties to Acton. Many of the names still apparent. I hope you will enjoy my delve into the genealogy of my family, True pioneers of Ontario. Check out my "Family Names" page and see if you recognize anyone.