Plaqued Houses and Buildings
Address:
385 Trafalgar Road - The William Bigger Chisholm & Mary Rebecca Howse House
Summary:
William Bigger Chisholm was the co-founder of the Oakville Basket Factory
Property Details:
This house was built in 1881 by William Bigger Chisholm, a grandson of the founder of the town. He was a brother of Charles Pettit Chisholm who lived down the street. He and his brother bought the Victoria Brewery (across the street from 385 Trafalgar Road) from Francis J. Brown (whose house is a bit south of here) in 1874 - it had been idle for four years - and turned it into a factory to make baskets for the strawberry business. The basket factory was an important business in town. In 1877 nearly three quarters of a million baskets were manufactured. There were piles of logs up and down Trafalgar and there were many complaints about the road being blocked. The opinion on Town Council was that if the log piles were necessary to an industry which afforded the town great benefits, the inconvenience they caused was incidental. When the basket factory started up, W.B. Chisholm lived in a house on the northeast corner of Reynolds and MacDonald Road . He moved his family here in 1881 and died in 1889.

The following year the basket factory was taken over by Pharis Doty and Son and in 1892 The Oakville Basket Company, a joint-stock venture, was formed. On 29 April 1893 the entire factory burned by arson. Suspicion centered on Robert McKenzie Chisholm, another brother of C.P. and W.B. Chisholm. He had been confined in the Toronto Asylum because of mental illness but had recently been released. When interviewed by Chief Sumner, he readily confessed and was returned to the asylum where he died soon after.

It burned again in 1919 after which it moved to the west side of Trafalgar Road, between Cornwall Road and the railway. "The Basket", as it was called, used boiling water to loosen the bark on the logs before large sheets of veneer were peeled off like paper towels off a roll. Berry boxes were made of basswood as it didn't taint the fruit. Other baskets were made of any hardwood with a softwood bottom. Over the years several employees fell to their deaths in the vat of boiling water. Power to run the factory was provided by a steam engine fueled by wood chips and bark. The steam whistle could be heard all over town when it called the employees to work and sounded for lunch and the end of the workday. The steam whistle also served to call the volunteer fire department. A code was set up to tell them the approximate location of the fire. The basket factory closed for good and was demolished in 1988. All that is left of it now is the steam engine which was moved a few years ago to the south side of Cornwall Road at the brow of the hill.

A later owner of the house was Herbert Carter Merry, his wife Eleanor and their family.

The house is a blend of several styles of Victorian architecture. The Classic Revival style is shown in the medium pitched roof, centre gable of the north fašade and the ogee-shaped medallions in the gables. The Italianate style is evident at the main entrance with its intricate leaded glass, double doorway with full length transom and side panels with flush lights.
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385 Trafalgar Road385 Trafalgar Road
385 Trafalgar Road plaque385 Trafalgar Road plaque
385 Trafalgar Road - 1989385 Trafalgar Road - 1989
385 Trafalgar Road - when it was the Merry residence385 Trafalgar Road - when it was the Merry residence
William Bigger Chisholm (1844-1889)William Bigger Chisholm (1844-1889)
Ad from the Oakville Standard.  Note spelling errors.Ad from the Oakville Standard. Note spelling errors.
The Oakville Basket Factory - 1897The Oakville Basket Factory - 1897
Remains of the basket factory after the fire.Remains of the basket factory after the fire.
Public notice of the purchase of the basket factory by P. Doty & SonPublic notice of the purchase of the basket factory by P. Doty & Son
Wedding of Herbert  Merry and Eleanor Merry  -1941 in front of the houseWedding of Herbert Merry and Eleanor Merry -1941 in front of the house
The Merrys with their daughter, Susie circa 1950The Merrys with their daughter, Susie circa 1950