Captain William Gilkison:, Founder of Elora, Ontario
Born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1777, William Gilkison was the eldest son of David Gilkison, a partner in a small shipbuilding company. William Gilkison was a sailor, adventurer, land speculator, and founder of Elora. When he was a young man, he was a merchant seaman and was captured by the French during the Napoleonic Wars. After he escaped, he decided to emigrate to America, taking with him letters of reference to John Jacob Astor, founder of the great North West Company. Astor gave him command of a schooner on Lake Erie and he sailed her until 1803, when he married Isabella Grant, the daughter of Alexander Grant, commodore of the Great Lakes in 1777 and Administrator of Upper Canada in 1805.
After his marriage, he worked with his father-in-law. One of Gilkison’s brothers-in-law was Thomas Dickson, cousin of Robert Hamilton, brother of William Dickson, the founder of Galt, and a prominent businessman in his own right. Gilkison had a famous cousin of his own; he was John Galt, the superintendent of the Canada Company and founder of Guelph.
Gilkison served in the War of 1812 and was at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm. After the war, he returned to Scotland to educate his six children. The air must have suited him because his other five children were born there. His wife died in 1826, and, in 1832, he decided to join his children, some of whom had returned to Canada. He bought a large lot on the west bank of the Grand River in what is now West Brant in the City of Brantford. There he established a farm, which he called Oak Bank after his Glasgow home. The house he built is still standing as 71 Gilkison Street but the farm has been split up and covered in houses.
Wikipedia Entry on Elora, Ontario
Elora was founded in 1832 by Captain William Gilkison, a British officer recently returned from India. Originally called Irvine Settlement, the village was renamed Elora when the post office was established in 1839. Gilikson named the community after his brother’s ship, which was itself inspired by the Ellora Caves near Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India.
Originally part of Nichol Township, Elora was incorporated as a village in 1858 and remained as such until it was amalgamated with Fergus and portions of Eramosa, Nichol, Pilkington and West Garafraxa Townships to form Centre Wellington in 1999. Elora had a population of 4,546 according to the 2001 Census, the last to record the village’s population as a separate entity.
The spectacular Elora Gorge is at the western edge of the village, adjacent to the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. At the eastern end of the village is the Elora Quarry Conservation Area, a scenic former limestone quarry, which is now a popular swimming area. The Elora Quarry was used to film a couple of scenes in the movie Angel Eyes. Both of these conservation areas are under the authority of the Grand River Conservation Authority.
Elora is also a noted tourist attraction, with a famous waterfall, called the Tooth of Time, overlooked by an old mill, numerous small shops and art galleries. The quaint old Gorge Cinema is Canada’s oldest continuously running repertory theatre. The Elora Mill is Ontario’s only remaining five-story mill and has been renovated as a prestigious inn and restaurant. The village is a terminus to Ontario’s scenic 47-km Elora Cataract Trailway to its east, and is just 10 km from the Trans Canada Trail to its southwest. Elora is also famous for its unique shops and its quaint cafés and restaurants, which lie along the river’s edge.
Elora has a very active lawn bowling club that offers programs for all ages. The Elora Rocks Lawn Bowling Club is a member of District 7 of the Ontario Lawn Bowling Association, and more information about the club may be found on the District website.
At the community level, Elora also has a skating club, a curling club, a girls’ hockey team (Grand River Mustangs), minor hockey team (Centre Wellington Fusion), soccer (Fergus-Elora District Soccer), a ringette team as well as several other sports clubs and organizations.
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- Charles Kirk Clarke (1857–1924), psychiatrist, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto; Clarke Institute of Psychiatry named in his honor.