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Grocers and General Stores

Thomas B. Bain operated one of the earliest dry goods stores in Tillsonburg in the 1860’s known as Bain & Wilcox. By 1870, he was operating the business on his own on the corner of Broadway and Baldwin where he and his family also resided. In August 1882, the business once again changed names with the addition of his son Harry N. Bain. Known as T.B. Bain & Son, the partnership continued until Thomas’ death on November 16, 1886.

Handwritten declaration of partnership for T.B. Bain & Son of Tillsonburg.

Declaration of partnership for T. B. Bain & Son, 1882.

One of the earliest milliner and dry goods stores in Tillsonburg was operated by Frederick Marett and his wife, Mary. Born and wed in England, the couple arrived in Canada sometime in the mid-1800s. The 1862-1863 Oxford Gazetteer & Directory lists Mrs. Marett as operating a business of millinery and dress goods. By the 1870s, the couple had expanded their business to include dry goods and by the 1880s also sold fancy goods out of their store on Broadway.

Studio portrait of Mary Marett, she is sitting in a chair with her head resting against her hand, her arm is leaning against an ornate table with a painting of flowers behind her.

Studio portrait of Mary Marett [courtesy of Annandale N.H.S. & Museum]

Mrs. Marett wasn’t the only women to operate as a milliner in the Town. In October 1871, Mary Amelia Turner and Louise Dimmock began their business as milliners and dress makers under the name Turner & Dimmock. Mrs. Janet Kelso, Mrs. Mellish and Mrs. M. Burns would all operate similar businesses before the turn of the century.

Five ladies posing in front of a wood frame building, wearing long dresses and fancy hats.

Ladies wearing fancy hats, one of the women in the photo is Maude Burns [courtesy of Annandale N.H.S. & Museum]

Newspaper advertisement for Mary Turner and Louise Dimmock's millinery shop. The grand opening of their showroom.

Newspaper advertisement for Turner & Dimmock's millinery business, 25 April 1872

By the early 1870s, there were numerous grocers in the town including Felix Henry and John Bush who operated as grocers and liquor dealers under the name Henry & Bush starting in 1871; George W. Robinson and David Nelson Moore who operated as grocers and general dealers in crockery, provisions, glassware, etc. under the name Robinson & Moore starting in 1873; and Wardle and Vosper, general dealers in dry goods, groceries, boots & shoes, etc. operated by John Wardle and Richard Vosper at the corner of Broadway and Oxford starting in 1878.

In the 1881 Oxford County Directory, Mrs. Ellis is listed as operating a grocery store on the corner of Broadway and Rolph Street. Caroline (nee Johnson) Ellis was born in Delhi, Ontario on October 22, 1843 and married Samuel Ellis on February 11, 1860 in South Norwich Township. She came to Tillsonburg with her husband who opened a grocery business. Sadly, Samuel would pass away in 1874, leaving Caroline to care for their five children. She would continue operate the business on her own until the early 1900s with “marked success”. Considered one of the town’s pioneer residents, Caroline passed away on June 29, 1929.

Handwritten declaration of partnership for Wardle & Vosper of Tillsonburg. Signed 1878.

Oxford County Directory image

"Mrs. S.A. Ellis" (Caroline Ellis) listed as a grocer in the 1881 Oxford County Directory

  JZ Leach ad

Advertisement for J.Z. Leach, manufacturer of Parlor and Chapel Organs, from the 1881 Oxford County Directory

Also listed in the 1881 Oxford County Directory, J.Z. Leach manufactured parlor and chapel organs and was also an agent for the New York Weber, Steinway and Thomas Pianos. Located on Broadway, he was also a dealer in all kinds of musical merchandise. He had operated a similar business in Ingersoll before moving to Tillsonburg. In July 1881, he would also purchase the cigar factory of Farnsworth & Son; moving the factory to a store front on Broadway. Initially employing 10 men, the factory, under Mr. Leach’s direction, would expand and by 1883 employ some 50 men, women and children producing as many as 27,000 cigars a week. Leach’s cigar factory was known for their “Maud S” and Dick Laverack brand of cigars. Unfortunately, the factory would close with the sudden death in of Mr. Leach in March 1883 at the young age of forty-two. Born in Scotland in 1839, he was survived by his wife Flora and son Charles. J.Z. Leach is buried in the Tillsonburg cemetery.