The area was first settled by Thomas Ingersoll who was born in Massachusetts and immigrated to Upper Canada (Ontario) following the American Revolution.
In 1793, he obtained a land grant of 66,000 acres in Oxford County from Governor John Graves Simcoe. He named the new settlement Oxford-on-the-Thames.
His eldest daughter, Laura Ingersoll Secord, warned the British of an impending American attack on Upper Canada during the War of 1812.
His son, Charles renamed the thriving settlement Ingersoll in honour of his father. This took effect in 1852 when the village was incorporated as the "Village of Ingersoll". Nine years later, In 1861 the village was then incorporated as the "Town of Ingersoll".
The over eight foot tall statue at the left, carved from a single basswood tree was created by internationally acclaimed artist Neil Cox, a native of Ingersoll. It resides in the lobby of the Town Centre where it will be the centre of attention for years to come.
Oxford County cheese has achieved international acclaim both in the past and present. Ingersoll had the distinction of being Oxford's cheese capital in the mid 1800's to early 1900's, producing and packaging a good deal of the County's renowned cheddar.
It was near Ingersoll about 1840 that the first cheese factory in Canada was built. Further afield in Norwich, the first Canadian co-operative cheese factory was erected by Harvey Farrington in 1864. Ingersoll also saw the beginning of the Canadian Dairymen's Association in 1867, springing up due to Oxford's cheese expertise and also from the farmers' drive to improve and standardize the dairy industry.
The cheese making practice was introduced to Canada by English and Scottish immigrants. In early times, cheese was produced right in the farmhouse kitchen with the use of surplus milk. As cheese became more popular in Canada, it became necessary to move into, "cheese factories", of which the museum is a replica.
The Big Cheese was made in 1866 at the James Harris Cheese Factory approximately 1 km south of the Town's Museum on Highway 119. The Harris home is now the popular Elm Hurst Inn.
Curd was brought in from the George Galloway and Hiram Ranney factories to produce a mammoth cheese weighing 7,300 pounds, measuring 3 feet high and 7 feet in diameter. Forty-five yards of cheese cloth were required to wrap it.
The pressing operation to form the cheese took two days. A special lifting device to turn the cheese was manufactured by the Noxon Implement Company of Ingersoll. This device allowed the cheese to be turned by one man. The mammoth cheese was manufactured to promote the cheese industry in Oxford County.
The cheese was exhibited in Saratoga, New York at the State Fair. From there it was shipped to Liverpool, England and then to shows all over England. Three hundred pounds were returned to Ingersoll and shared with the factory workers and interested citizens.
Harold and Lorna Wilson - World Champions
“Win, lose or draw, Harold Wilson is a man every person in the town of Ingersoll should feel proud of as he is a true champion in every sense of the word and his achievements in boat racing have been admired in every part of the province.” So wrote the editor of The Ingersoll Tribune for the September 12, 1935 edition.
For weeks, the paper had been extolling the Wilson Racing Team, and with due reason. Harold and his team had achieved numerous awards and trophies including two world championships by that time. More were to come.
It all started in 1928 when young Harold started racing in Muskoka. By the early 1930s, this son of E.A. Wilson -- owner of Ingersoll Machine and Tool, and the Morrow Screw & Nut Company – was on his way to victory in the small 225 cubic inch class of speedboat racing.
The Wilson’s owned a series of boats christened Little Miss Canada. Constructed by the Greavette Boat Company of Gravenhurst throughout the 1930s, the majority of them (numbered 1through 6) were powered by Ford Motor Company engines and the gear boxes were built here in Ingersoll.
By the summer of 1933, Little Miss Canada III was in the water and ready for action. The real test took place at the CNE. A series of three races, one each day, took place over a 3 mile oval on Lake Ontario; each race consisted of five laps for a total of 15 miles. Quite a few teams from Canada and the United States were registered for the competition, including a pair of greenhorns to international racing – Harold and his onboard mechanic Miss Lorna Reid. By the end of the three days, they were world champions!
The Town of Ingersoll honoured them with a parade later that fall.
The next year, 1934, the team prepared to defend their title, but not in the same vessel. The competition had improved their crafts so much, it was felt that Little Miss Canada III would be too slow. The Little Miss Canada IV featured a new and improved hull and cockpit design that handled well in the choppy waters of Lake Ontario and history was repeated!
The local paper reported that Wilson, “behind the wheel of his Little Miss Canada IV … set the pace for eleven of the continent’s fastest midget speed boats … to win the 1st heat of the world championship race for 225 inch hydroplanes”, and “behind Wilson was pretty Miss Lorna Reid, of Toronto, who again took on the role of mechanic as the streamlined craft threw back the challenging waves at 40mph.”
The following years were not as kind. Little Miss Canada V was a beautiful boat that fit the description of a “gentleman’s runabout”. According to Wilson himself, it was easy to handle, comfortable to ride but slow, so the team missed out on the 1935 calendar of races. Model 6 was designed, built and tested in time for the 1936 CNE race but during the first heat Wilson came too close to the marker buoy, ruining the propeller, chopping off the rudder and turning much of the plywood hull into matchsticks. Rebuilt within a year, Little Miss Canada VI went airborne and sank at a meet in Tweed. Wilson’s career in small class racing was over.
Throughout the latter half of the 1930s Harold and his father had been experimenting with larger class vessels too. In 1939, Miss Canada III competed for the President’s Cup on the Potomac River and won. Harold was the first foreigner to win this prized American trophy, presented to him by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Wilson was awarded the World Championship Title in 1942, and took the North American Gold Cup Class record with the same boat in 1947. A May 17, 1949 edition of The Globe and Mail shows pictures of Miss Canada IV under construction with its 2500 horsepower Rolls-Royce Griffon engine that would provide the equivalent power of 25 standard V-8 engines. That year, she set a North American speed record.
Eventually sold and renamed Miss Supertest I, this record holder is on display for only a few more days before embarking from the Ingersoll Museum on a new career later this month.
To follow the latest activities and restoration of Miss Canad IV select the link below.
The Red background is symbolic of the Town's association with the Empire Loyalists, led by Thomas Ingersoll, who came north after the American Revolution and settled in this area.
The blue and white waves through the middle of crest symbolize the peaceful flow of the Thames River which runs through the centre of Ingersoll.
The crest also shows the town's loyalty to Canada with two red maple leaves one on each side of the crest. Ingersoll had the distinction of being Oxford's cheese capital in the mid 1800's to early 1900's, producing and packaging a good deal of the County's renowned cheddar. This is symbolized by the block of cheddar in the lower left of the Town's Crest. The cog is symbolic of industry in the area.
Ingersoll is home to the following: