William Vanstone

William Vanstone

FEBRUARY 2, 1833 - MAY 2, 1890

William Vanstone was born on February 2, 1833 in Devonshire, England. As a family, the Vanstones had little money and no property, and so there were few prospects for William but to become one of millions of landless labourers in Britain. However, some of his family had left the mother country and found success in the Empire’s overseas colonies. Some of his cousins went to Australia, but most of them had ended up in British North America, in the province of Upper Canada (modern-day Ontario). It was there that William would seek the opportunity he did not have in his home country. In 1843, at the age of ten years old, William and three of his brothers accompanied their grandfather on a ship across the Atlantic.

After fifty-seven days at sea, the Vanstones arrived at Port Hope on Lake Ontario with nothing but the clothes on their backs and enough money to rent a cart and a yoke of oxen. The four of them settled in Colborne township in Huron county, where they had family to take them in. There William was employed as a labourer, and saved up money with the hope of eventually learning a trade. He learned the milling business working at Piper’s Mill in Goderich, and saved up enough money to purchase his own mill in Egmondville, part of modern-day Seaforth. He was successful in his trade, and earned enough to start and support a family of his own. In 1855 William married his cousin Margaret Johns who had also emigrated from England. The couple remained happily married and had five children together, until Margaret died suddenly in 1874.

In 1859, William and his family moved to the new community of Ainleyville on the banks of the Maitland river. Founded in 1855, Ainleyville was known by this name until 1872, when it was incorporated as the village of Brussels. William and his cousin James pooled their resources and built a mill on the Maitland. The two were extremely successful millers, and Brussels grew quickly. In 1871, William bought out his cousin’s interest in the mill and became the sole owner. Tragically, three months later the mill burned down, but William worked with his son to rebuild it. The mill stands to this day in Brussels, although it is now known as the Logan Mill, named after later owners of the property.

William Vanstone was an influential figure in the early history of Brussels. When the village was incorporated in 1872, he was elected to serve on the municipal board. In addition to his milling business, William owned other properties which he developed. In 1876, he built a hotel called the Tecumseh House on the corner of Turnberry and Market street. Sadly, the Tecumseh House burned down in 1884 and was not rebuilt for many years after. In 1878, William married his second wife, Margaret Wood. Being of advanced age, the couple did not have any children. But they lived happily together until William died on May 2, 1890. His passing was marked with shock and sorrow on the part of the people of Brussels. His funeral was attended by friends and family from all over Huron County. William Vanstone was buried in Brussels Cemetery.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture