Oakville History: Lyon Cabin finds a new home by Oakville Harbour

A visit to the new site of the Log Cabin is well worth the trip!

Log Cabin in West Oakville Harbour Basin
Oakville History: Lyon Cabin finds a new home by Oakville Harbour
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About the Author

Mary Davidson

Mary Davidson

Mary Davidson was born in Glasgow Scotland, and immigrated to Canada in 1971 with her husband Charles. They chose to live in Oakville, where she raised her family. A membership in the Oakville Historical Society led to participating in the office life there, learning new computer techniques to fulfill her role as public relations person (among other things!).

Lyon Cabin was built around 1820 when the area was known as Vernerville, a venture that was doomed when the 7th Line plank road (Trafalgar Road) was installed to provide passage for traffic bringing goods to the mills at the south end of the Sixteen Mile Creek. It failed to stand up to the heavy winters, and the dream of an “upper village” came to naught for Arthur Cole Verner.

South side of Lyon Cabin

This is the south side of the Lyon Cabin. A new porch was added when this recent move was undertaken.

This cabin was on the land when Robert Harper – lured there by the same dream of Mr. Verner – bought 4.5 acres for $170 (not a misprint!). The history that we have of the Harper family comes from the account of one of Robert’s daughters, Martha. Author Jane R. Plitt, who, with records from the Oakville Historical Society and other sources, wrote the biography Martha Matilda Harper & the American Dream. There is a very exciting tale awaiting those who read this story! Did you know that she pioneered the idea of public hair dressing salons based on health-conscious precepts and created the first retail franchise network, long before the companies we know of today? If only she had been able to achieve this in Oakville, but alas it was in Rochester, New York where she was able to pursue her dream.

The structure is now known as the Lyon Cabin, since George Lyon and his wife Mary first lived in it on their arrival from England in 1868. They purchased about 50 acres east of 7th Line where the present White Oaks Boulevard now stands. Their property extended east as far as Morrison Creek. The Lyons raised four sons and five daughters there.

Mr. Lyon added a lean-to to hold a buggy and wagon, and a separate kitchen one step up from the cabin proper; the cabin portion (same size as the present) was divided into two small bedrooms at one end with a “living” area in the other end. This area was heated by a large brilliantly-polished cast-iron, self–feeding coal stove with mica windows, located in the room centre. Under the sloping roof above the bedrooms was a sleeping platform reached by stairs. Light was provided by the stove and coal-oil lamps and a large clock in the living area told the time.

Close up of logs with mortar.

When the cabin was discovered a great number of the logs had rotted, so this close up helps to show the incredible skill and talent that went into its restoration.

Eventually one of the sons, Edward, purchased the property, renovated it and lived on it for some years. After passing through many hands, the property was purchased by the Town of Oakville. In 1966 the property and adjoining properties were purchased by a development company for apartments and commercial businesses.

When the land was being cleared, one of the buildings on the land was found to be the Lyon log cabin which had been covered with boarding to improve its appearance. Thanks to a sharp-eyed worker bringing this to the notice of former Mayor Harry Barrett who knew the historic value of this home, it was measured, dismantled as much as possible and reconstructed some years later in Shipyard Park in the Harbour. Most of the logs had to be replaced but the form, size, and style are the same as the original, and a brick and stone fireplace was added at one end.

Reconstruction work was carried out around 1974, through a Summer Youth Employment Program project with the aid of the Lorne Scots Regiment, part of Canada’s Reserve Army, Dr. H.J. Newman and the Harbours Authority and many other groups.

In 2013-14 the cabin was moved to its current location where a porch was added and further preservation was undertaken.

You can learn more of the histories of the families who lived here by visiting the Oakville Historical Society, where you are welcome to share in the wealth of information we have in our files and reference libraries.


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Readers Comments (2)

  1. Terry Whelan says:

    The Lyon’s lived where rhe the Toronto Dominion bank now resides on Iroquois Shore Road.
    This log cabin was built in 1863 by Robert Harper. Martha Matilda Harper lived there until she was sent off to live with relatives a few years later, but she came back quite often until her mother died in 1885.
    Martha’s mother is buried with 2 of her siblings at Oakville Cemetery.
    That cabin was built from trees on the 4.5 acre lot and is the last remains of Vernerville.
    The Lyon’s never lived in it to my knowledge unless they did after the Harper’s moved.
    Michelle Knoll from the Trafalgar Historical Society is to look into the land registry for this lot, the most southerly in Vernerville, the north half, (100 acres) of lot # 12 of the 2nd concession south of Dundas Street.
    Robert Harper purchased it in November 1862.
    Terry Whelan

  2. Terry Whelan says:

    The property was owned by a settler who purchased it from Verner circa 1850.
    It is quite likely that he built the cabin and settled the property and then sold it to Robert Harper in November of 1862.
    Michelle Knoll is to check the land records.

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