The Municipality of Chatham-Kent (2006 population 108,177) is a city-status single-tier municipal government in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. The municipality is mainly rural and agricultural, with industry in the larger urban areas.
During the 19th century, the area was part of the Underground Railroad. As a result, Chatham-Kent is now part of the African-Canadian Heritage Tour. Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site is a museum of the Dawn Settlement, established in 1841 by Josiah Henson near Dresden as refuge for the many slaves who escaped to Canada from the United States. The Rev. John Brown, the abolitionist, planned his raid on the Harpers Ferry Virginia Arsenal in Chatham and recruited local men to participate in the raid. The small village of North Buxton, part of the African Canadian Heritage Tour, also played an important role in the Underground Railroad.
In 1998 the County of Kent and the city of Chatham were amalgamated to form the Municipality of Chatham-Kent. Some say this controversial move has had a negative impact on small-town Ontario, where the province shifted financial responsibility unto the individual municipalities, and taxes and infrastructure suffered as a result. The Municipality of Chatham-Kent currently consists of 23 communities.
Much paranormal activity has been reported in and around Chatham-Kent, mainly due to its rich--and often turbulent--history. The downtown area, following the Thames River, is rife with ghost stories, both past and present. The most famous case in the area is the Baldoon Mystery-which actually took place just outside Wallaceburg. In 2004, local author/historian Sheila Gibbs wrote a book titled The Ghosts of Chatham-Kent, which quickly became a best-seller among the locals. A sequel was released in October 2007.
At 2,458 square kilometres, Chatham-Kent is the twelfth-largest municipality by area in Canada and the largest in southwestern Ontario. Over 59,000 of the 108,000 residents live in the former City of Chatham. Other population centres in the municipality include Wallaceburg, Blenheim and Tilbury, Ridgetown and Dresden.
The Lower Thames River runs through Chatham-Kent to Lake St. Clair in the west, while the Sydenham River flows through Wallaceburg and Dresden. The municipality has several kilometres of shoreline along lakes Erie and St. Clair.
Located in the "industrial heartland", Chatham's roots in the automotive sector go back to Gray-Dort Motors Ltd., one of Canada's earliest automobile manufacturers. Today, a heavy truck plant operated by Navistar International Corporation (NYSE symbol NAV) is one of the largest employers in the city. Established in 1912, the operation was threatened with closure in 2002, but remained open thanks to $65 million in government grants and a new collective agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers local representing the workers. Other auto industry plants in the municipality include AutoLiv Canada in Tilbury (airbags), Siemens in Chatham and Tilbury (emissions controls and plastics), Inergy Automotive Systems in Blenheim (fuel systems, Closing summer of 2008) and Tilbury's Arvin Meritor (brakes).
Blenheim is home to RM Auctions, the world's largest vintage automobile auction house and RM Restorations, the world's largest vintage automobile restoration company. The nickname "The Classic Car Capital of Canada" comes from the company's position in the industry and abundance of classic car events in the community.
Other area industries include ECR International Ltd., designs and produces oil and gas fired furnaces in Wallaceburg. As of 2007, ECR International is the only remaining Canadian manufacturer of residential gas furnaces. Furnace Brands include Olsen, Airco and Oneida Royal.
Chatham-Kent is the headquarters for Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited (a division of DuPont), a major agricultural seed breeding and biotechnology company. Omstead Foods, founded in Wheatley in 1911 is now the largest fresh fish producer in Canada and second largest frozen vegetable processor. In 1996, Chatham became the home of Commercial Alcohols, which is the largest ethanol plant in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. It produces ethanol for industrial, medical, and beverage uses. In January 2005, the plant was named as one of Canada's 50 best managed companies. There are plans to double the size of the current Chatham facility. The plant faced criticism in the past due to corn mash odour from its stack, but has installed technology to eliminate the problem. However, these efforts have failed horrendously.
There are many farms in the municipality, and a number of vineyards have been opened in the last few years.
Many international workers come to Chatham-Kent, especially in the warmer seasons, to do farm labour. In the past there have been allegations of low pay and poor living and working conditions for these agricultural labourers. 'El Contrato', a film by The National Film Board of Canada, addresses these issues in depth.
Chatham also serves as a retail centre for the municipality and surrounding area. This has included the development of large big-box stores particularly at the north end of Communication Road in Blenheim, and at the north end of St. Clair Street in Chatham.
Mallory Industries is a third generation family owned business started in 1891 by George W. Mallory at his home in Guilds. The factory moved Blenheim in 1914 in order to secure electricity, and moved to its current location on Communication Road south of Blenheim in 1957. Their international operations in Blenheim, ON and Sioux City, Iowa supply squeegees and wash brushes to many top retailers across North America.
Thompsons Limited, formerly known as W.G. Thompson and Sons, Limited, is a third generation family owned and operated business headquartered in Blenheim serving the agricultural industry Thompsons has a network of modern elevators located across southern Ontario and the United States that receive, process and ship grain and edible beans for domestic and export markets. In addition, the regional grain handling facilities serve as retail centres for seed, fertilizer, crop protectants and other farm services. It also researches and sells seed under its Hyland Seeds brand as well as packages and sells edible bean products and its own popcorn.
Chatham's Wheels Inn is a full-service family resort. The 65,000 square foot resort includes an indoor amusement park, an arcade, an indoor/outdoor pool with twin water slides, a miniature golf course, a go-kart track, bowling lanes and various other features. The resort attracts tourism from Canada and from the United States.
Downtown Chatham is home to the annual "Retrofest" organized by the Historic Downtown Chatham BIA, in partnership with the Kent Historic Auto Club. Hundreds of classic car enthusiasts travel to Downtown Chatham to showcase their classic cars and vintage vehicles.
Downtown Chatham is also home to the Chatham Capitol Theatre, a community-based, world-class theatre that is presently in the reconstruction and renovation phase of its history. The project to restore the theatre is run under the auspices of the Chatham Capitol Theatre Association, a not-for-profit corporation with registered charitable status.
Chatham-Kent's former townships are as follows:
Research published in 2002 by the Heart and Stroke Foundation cited Chatham-Kent as a hotspot for heart disease in Ontario. Further research is underway to determine the reasons for this and other hotspots. Chatham-Kent Public Health launched a campaign in fall 2007 to tackle other ailments prevalent throughout the community, including asthma, chronic allergies, sinus problems, many types of cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, alcoholism, and obesity.
Chatham-Kent features one of the 14 provincial Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN). The Erie St. Clair (ESC) LHIN services the Chatham-Kent Community as well as Sarnia/Lambton and Windsor/Essex. The ESC LHIN is located in the town of Chatham.
The Chatham Daily News, Chatham This Week, Wallaceburg Courier Press, Wallaceburg News, and Dresden's North Kent Leader are all owned by Quebecor through their Osprey Media Group and Bowes Publishers Limited subsidiaries.
St. Clair College is a satellite of St. Clair College of Windsor. There are two campuses located in the municipality - Thames Campus (located in Chatham) and the Wallaceburg Campus (located in Wallaceburg). More than 5,000 full time and 12,000 part time students attend the college each year.
There are also four teams in the Great Lakes Junior C Hockey League
As well as the Chatham Jr B Maroons, there is also the Chatham Girls Hockey Association, and the Chatham AAA Cyclones, as well as the Chatham Maroons and St.Clair College Saints (Chatham Thames Campus).
The sections of Highway 2 and Highway 3 (the Talbot Trail) in Chatham-Kent were downloaded by the province in 1998, becoming local roads 2 and 3, but they remain significant through routes and are still locally known by their old names.
The first gas station in Canada to sell E85 fuel to the public is located on Park Avenue East in Chatham.
In addition, Chatham-Kent also has intercity bus services, with Greyhound Canada services to and from Windsor, London and Toronto, and through Detroit, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois. These services stop at Thamesville, Chatham and Tilbury.
Tantalus Systems Corp.: Chatham-Kent Hydro Gets Government Approval for Full Smart Metering Roll Out TUNet to serve as communications backbone for landmark advanced metering project
Sep 14, 2006; VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIACCNMatthews - Sept. 14, 2006) - Tantalus Systems Corp. is pleased to announce that Chatham-Kent...
Chatham-Kent and Corix Form Partnership Will provide water and wastewater related utility operations and maintenance services
Jul 03, 2007; Chatham-Kent, ONTARIOCCNMatthews - July 3, 2007) - Chatham- Kent Water Services Ltd. - (a subsidiary of the Municipality...