St. Joachim – Earliest Days
by Father Joseph Emery, 1943
The township of Rochester was formed by the government in 1790. The main roads were marked in 1824. Without a doubt, it was the same with other townships of Essex County, but it was not until 1824 that the surveyor, Burwell, continued the work of his predecessors. He divided the township into concessions, the concessions into lots, and then fixed the roads. Before, and for a certain time after 1824, the settlers lived in dense bush along the lake and rivers, and at least had some sort of road.
In 1834 a missionary said mass for the first time in Belle River. Shortly after it was necessary to build a chapel near the place where the Sacred heart School is today, beside the cemetery on #2 Highway. The settlers became more numerous everywhere, but especially along the Belle River, the Ruscom River and Lake St. Clair.
Beginning in 1827, a stage coach carried the mail from Chatham to Windsor, going by the Tecumseh Road, #39 Highway. To accommodate the travellers, some hotels were built. One hotel was the River Ruscom Hotel, of which Oscar Ray is the owner today; and the Goose House Inn at Stoney Point owned by Mr. Damphouse was another. (Francois Chauvin founded this Inn). The stage coach stopped at these places to change horses, and there the traveller could eat, sleep and refresh himself and warm himself in the winter. The Goose House Inn got its name from the number of wild geese which came there every autumn and which the proprietor killed and served at mealtime.
(ed. note: the River Ruscom referred to above is not the village of Ruscom on the Middle Road. The village of Deerbrook was formerly known as River Ruscom, likely changed because it was too confusing to have a Ruscom and a River Ruscom in the same township)
There were no railways. Roads, covered with stumps where a horse had difficulty standing or walking were practically impassable.
About 1852 or 53 the construction of the first railway in Western Ontario was begun. It was the Great Western, which was called The Grand Trunk in 1882, and the Canadian National in 1922. The work ws done with horses and men. The bridges and sleepers required a quanitity of oak to make them. The first railway was finished and the first train rolled triumphantly across the country to the future parish of St. Joachim, on January 17, 1854. The second track was not laid till 1872. It would be well to mention two other occurrences of this kind which helped the development of the township. The first was the passing, in the north, in 1889 of the railroad, Quebec and Ontario, the CPR of today. The second was the passing to the south of the first train of the Canada Southern Railroad, the New York Central of today. This was on November 9, 1872. The second track was not laid till 1901 from Windsor to Tilbury. In 1910 it went further east to Ridgetown. These dates were an epoch in our history! I was assured a large number of those who came to aid in the construction of the railroads settled in the region. It was natural that they should, having obtained first hand knowledge of the fertility of the soil in grading operations and their observation of environmental features of the locality.