Edwin Delavan Tillson, son of George Tillson, founder of the town of Tilsonburg, J was born at Normandale, County of Norfolk, March 26, 1825, his mother being Nancy (Barker) Tillson, a native of the State of Maine. His father was born in Massachusetts, and in 1822 moved from New York into Upper Canada, and with Hiram Capron, and Joseph Van Norman, built, at Long Point, County of Norfolk, the first foundry, it is said, in the Province of Upper Canada.
In 1825, when Edwin was a month or two old, his father came to what is now Tilsonburg, then in the Township of Dereham, and put up a saw mill and forge on Big Otter Creek, moving his family hither the next year. Here he manufactured lumber and wrought iron, cultivated land, helped to build roads acting as County Commissioner on roads for years toiled hard to open the country, and died in 1863; his wife died a year later. The town took the name of Tilsonburg about 1835.
Our subject spent one year in his youth at a school in Huron County, State of Ohio, paying for his board by doing chores; worked much of the time on his father’s lands until of age, and when twenty-one years old, having raised $36 by teaching school three months, with that capital commenced manufacturing lumber for himself, and is still thus engaged. For the last twenty years he has also had a flouring mill, doing custom work only; and is extensively engaged in the manufacture of oatmeal and split peas, sash, door, blinds, and brick, having one of the largest and best brick yards in the county, if not in the Province.
He has at least 600 acres of land under improvement, besides pasture and timbered lands, his farm being second to none in this vicinity; he owns 600 acres in town, mostly in lots, and 2,000 acres in adjoining townships, and is doing a large real estate business.
The greatest undertaking of his life he now has on his hands, the building of a dam 500 feet long across Big Otter Creek, right in town. It is 34 feet high, will have a water power of about 300 horse, and will cost from $12,000 to $15,000. It will have a water lime cement wall 85 feet long, 12 feet thick, and 25 feet high. Mr. Tillson is supervising this great work himself, and is doing it in a very substantial and workmanlike manner. He does not believe in slip shod workmanship; everything he does is made to last. Near his house is a sulphur spring with good medicinal qualities, and he is preparing to make Tilsonburg a watering place.
He sold goods in this town for many years, going out of the trade five or six years ago; has been Postmaster since 1869; was Reeve of the Township of Dereham two terms, and was the first Mayor of Tilsonburg, serving two years.
No man in the County of Oxford is more energetic or enterprising than he, or has done more to develop the water power and manufacturing. and agricultural interests of this section of the Province. He has spent more than $40,000 improving the town grading streets, building roads, water works, &c. He gave $6,000 cash towards introducing the Holley system of water works which are operated entirely by water power; he has also given thousands of dollars as a private bonus to railroads which run through the town.
He is a member of the Methodist Church of Canada, and as far as we can learn, is living an exemplary Christian life; he holds the offices of steward and trustee.
July 4, 1850, he married Mary Ann, daughter of Whiting Van Norman, then of Tilsonburg, and they have five children living, and have lost two. Lillie is the wife of Dr. Lachlin C. Sinclair, of Tilsonburg; Hattie Adele is the wife of Bailey Harrison, of London; Fred., the oldest son, is married and lives in Tilsonburg, and the other two, George and Edwin, are young and reside at home.
For years Mr. Tillson has been one of Tilsonburg’s most prominent and substantial citizens; has always advanced measures favorable to the public interest; is a man of the highest moral character; by earnest industry has accumulated considerable property, and is well worthy the esteem in which he is held by the citizens of Oxford County.