On October 18th, 1897 at a meeting in the I.O.O.F. Hall in Port Dover, it was moved by Robert Taylor and seconded by C. Morgan “that in the opinion of this meeting a business association be formed in the interests of the town. Carried”
And so a committee of Port Dover businessmen was put together who incorporated themselves as The Merchants and Manufacturers Association of Port Dover. Eight years later, this association changed its name to Port Dover Board of Trade.
The original association’s constitution and by-laws said that “the object of this association is to promote the general interests of Port Dover in all matters relating to municipal, manufacturing, shipping, mercantile trade or anything of a public nature regarding the welfare and business interests of our town.”
The group’s second meeting was held on November 22, 1897 and after the executive was named and the $1.00 membership fee agreed upon, the first real order of business was to organize a festival. A committee was named to prepare for a Christmas Poultry and Producers Fair -- quite likely Port Dover Board of Trade’s first organized festival.
Over the years, the minute book shows that a wide range of issues was discussed from out of town peddlers, a need for better railways, creating a port of entry, and small boys hanging about store fronts and interfering with business or ringing the town bell unnecessarily.
Things went along into the early years of the 20th century. At a June 1905 meeting it was reported that a large number of the business people of Port Dover met in the Town Hall where “it was moved by Mr. Truesdale and seconded by Mr. Ansley that an Association be formed the object of which to be to promote the general interests of the Village and after the Constitution of the Merchants and Manufacturers Association.” It was this meeting that formed the Port Dover Board of Trade.
The Board was active in many areas of the community. In 1906 the Board secured a special “end of week” ticket on the Grand Trunk Railway from Toronto to Port Dover and return for only $2.55.
In 1910, the Board decided they needed to make some changes in the organization and as well as a President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer, the group established an Executive Council of six members heading Standing Committees. The committees were commercial; financial; communication; printing and advertising; railway transportation; water transportation; manufacturers; membership.
Improvements at the harbour became a big issue in town. In March 1910, a delegation from the Board of Trade left for Ottawa on a Wednesday evening and returned Saturday noon. They were “courteously received by the Hon. Mr. Pugsley, Minister of Public Works, before whom they very clearly and apparently, convincingly, laid their claims to have our harbour taken over by the Government from the Grand Trunk Railway. The group also spoke very highly of the courteous and hospitable manner in which they ere treated by Mr. Alex McCall, M,.P., our local member, and his exertions in facilitating matters all round.” The harbour had belonged to the Grand Trunk Railway since before Confederation in 1867 but it was felt the government of Canada should take over the harbour so that needed improvements would be made. The village Council granted the sum of $90 to the Board of Trade towards defraying the expenses of the deputation to Ottawa about the harbour.
In 1911 the Board of Trade was reporting the “Trolley line” would greatly increase our prosperity. It was reported that “Norfolk fruit in England was a great success, our apples selling in London for $9.50 per bushel.”
In November 1912, The Maple Leaf newspaper reported that the Port Dover Board of Trade held a meeting “for the purpose of organizing fully, according to the legal requirements of recent legislation, regarding such bodies.”
Seeking new industry was a priority. In 1912 the Board appointed a committee to co-operate with the village council in meeting the promoters of the proposed canning factory for Port Dover.
In April 1913 Mr. G.H.P. Carpenter of Winona was present in town and had a charter for a Canning Co. He was now looking for a site and the river front seemed a good site. The minute book reports “He would need coal if the gas supply failed. In that case a swing bridge would be necessary. Was not asking for any bonus but would wish people in the vicinity to take stock to the amount of $15,000. Company would be more likely to be a success. Instanced increase of retail prices of canned goods. No fear of overproduction. Population outstripping fruit growing. Good soil here and can produce good fruits and vegetables. Would like exemption from taxes except for school purposes.”
On January 23, 1914 the “Port Dover Board of Trade urged upon the Council the very great need of a Municipal System of Waterworks in our Village and we ask that the preliminary steps be taken as soon as possible with the object of securing full information as to the most feasible plan to be adopted, whether by gravity or from the lake.”
On March 1, 1914, President W.F. Tibbetts read copies of correspondence regarding the “Joseph Campbell Co, soup manufacturers of Camden, N.J., who are seeking a Canadian location. C.W. Barwell spoke of the Campbell Co., their immense output, the quality of their goods etc and stated that they would need at least 20 acres for a site. J.E. Anderson stated that our greatest difficulty would be the labour questions. We could handle the vegetable part easily. J.C. King was sure that the farmers would enter into contracts with the Company. Our tomato season is 3 weeks longer than it is 2 or 3 miles back from the lake.” A committee was formed to answer the questions asked by the Campbell company.
In 1922, the Port Dover Improvement Association met to consider numbering the houses and placing street signs. Also, a committee of Col. Smith, A.B. Ivey and Landon Ivey was appointed to prepare an order of shrubbery to the extent of $100 to be sent to France where exceptionally low prices are quoted.
In May 1937 the Council Chamber was packed for a Board of Trade meeting. One of the main items of discussion was the proposed new ball park at the CNR depot on land rented by the Village Council. The Board of Trade was undertaking to put the grounds in order and with the help of many local people the ball games went ahead for the season.
Over the decades, the work of the Board continued encouraging business and tourism and working to make life in Port Dover better for everyone.
As it has for over a century, the Port Dover Board of Trade continues to encourage business and welcome visitors to our community. The Board organizes several festivals throughout the year that welcome tens of thousands of visitors.
The energy of local citizens involved with the Port Dover Board of Trade has never ceased since those early years. The Port Dover Board of Trade works with businesses, municipal councils, government representatives other service club and individuals to bring about positive change for Port Dover. The Port Dover Board of Trade continues to develop festivals and improve the quality of life in Port Dover.