The earliest settler, Loyalist, James McNab and his family, arrived at about 1820. Alexander, his brother raised sheep on the hills to the east of the village.
James McNab was a Lieutenant in the York Volunteers, who fought the Americans in the War of 1812. James built a grist and saw mill on the Credit River. Oak for barrel staves, and great timbers of white pine masts were floated down the Credit River and used for masts for the British navy.
In 1827, James advertised his "Esquesing Mills" in Mackenzie's Colonial Advocate, offering free landgrants to tradesmen. The mills were sold to General Peter Adamson in 1838. He leased them to Gooderham and Company. James Worts ran the distillery and the mill.
Colonel Mitchell, a son-in-law of General Adamson, bought the mills, but later the Bank of Ontario seized them. Robert Noble bought them in 1868 and built new brick mills. The flour mill could produce over 200 barrels a day; a nearby cooper shop made the barrels. The flour mill burned in 1930; the grist mill was damaged in Hurricane Hazel.
Special thanks to Elizabeth Waterston -Professor Emeritus at University of Guelph-for the donation of this Historic Map drawn by the late Eric Barth. The map was used in the 1992 Volume III of the Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery The Norval Years.
The village had a blacksmith, harness shop, carriage works, woollen and flax mills, broom factory, ashery, bakery, brass foundry, general stores, Orange Lodge, Mechanic's Institute, and several hotels; Norval was a main stagecoach stop from Toronto to Guelph.
The Presbyterian Church had the first congregation, and built a frame church beside the cemetery. It was replaced by a fine Gothic church in 1868. The Methodists built a church in 1850 and replaced it with a brick one in 1889. The Anglican Church, built in 1846, is the original building.
Norval Post Office was established in 1836 (earlier names, McNabsville or McNab's Mill). Tradition says the name came from the Scottish play "Douglas", by John Home. "My name is Norval; on the Grampian Hills."
Colonel William Clay was the first postmaster and had the job for over 50 years. Three generations, William, Everett and Hardy Barnhill, were postmasters from 1897 to 1957. The Post Office closed in 1990 and became a retail postal outlet; the last Postmaster was Joan Carter.
The first school was a frame building near the cemetery. By the 1860's a brick school had been erected in the village, and a second room in 1873 was built. The school closed in 1974.
Norval had it's own militia company and drill shed. The only action they had was a trip to the Welland Canal, to protect it from an invasion of Fenians from the United States. By the time they arrived the Fenians had gone home. A picnic and dance were held when they returned and the Queen was cheered. After World War I, villagers met the veterans at the "radial" with flaming torches, and paraded through the village burning "Kaisers" (straw effigies) in the ditches. Veterans from both world wars were presented with engraved watches by the citizens of Norval.
The Farmer's Bank, built in 1907, failed in 1910. Metropolitan Bank purchased the building, later merging with the Bank of Nova Scotia. The branch closed in 1931.
In 1913, Upper Canada College bought 500 acres of land and had plans to move the College from Toronto to Norval, but plans changed. Their outdoor school remains to this day.
Norval was well-situated for early settlement because of the river. The Guelph Plank Road was completed in 1851 and Colonel Clay organized a "grand ball" to celebrate. The Grand Trunk Railway (later the CNR) opened in 1856, but Norval Station was over a mile north of the village. The station closed in 1930's. A nearby post office, called Norval Station, closed in 1947. The last postmaster was Arthur Morris.
The Toronto-Guelph electric Suburban Railway (radial line) opened in 1917, with a switch into the village to serve the flour mills. The railway closed in 1931.
In the early 1920's three new bridges were built over the Credit River and the mill races, while the King's Highway No. 7 was paved. Norval was a village of bridges; at one time there were nine.
Signature Author, Settlers and other Significant People:
J.W.L. Forster, 19th century portrait painter of noted Canadians;
Jack Watkins (1902-1964), Ambassador to Russia
Lucy Maud Montgomery lived at the Presbyterian Manse from 1926 to 1935
Dr. Samuel Webster Norval's doctor for 50 years. He delivered the Sharpe triplets and was awarded 3 gold guineas from Queen Victoria.
A.J. Casson Group of Seven artist painted Norval in the 1920s and 30s. Norval paintings hang in the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg Ontario.
Egbert Charles Reed 19th and 20th Century portrait painter, including Mayors and Generals of the Second World War.
Terry Evans Olympic Gold Medalist, Middle Weight Wrestling in London in 1934
Shannon Crawford Olympic Gold Medalist in Women's eight 1992 in Barcelona
David Marvin Carter Blue Planet Award in 2005 from International Hydropower Association and UNESCO for his Power development in Sechelt B.C.
The following is a list of some of the homes and churches still standing,
1. 475 Guelph Street, home of Aaron Laidlaw. Built by Arthur Little in 1854, this house has Ontario Heritage designation.
2. 485 Guelph Street, built in 1871. George Day, Blacksmith
3. 2 Adamson Street, formerly Farmer’s Bank, built in 1907, L. Greenwood, Banker,
4. 4 Adamson Street, Cliff and Lilian Moreton
5. 3 Adamson Street, formerly Norval Post Office and General Store, E. Barnhill, Postmaster
6. 521 Guelph St., formerly Hustler’s Hardware
7. 10 Noble Street, built in 1870 W.G.M Browne, Mill owner
List of Century Homes and Churches in Norval.
14 Adamson Street, St. Paul's Anglican Church, built in 1846
486 Guelph Street, Norval United Church, built in 1856
473 Guelph Street, United Church parsonage, built in 1893. Home of Reverend Douglas
404 Draper Street, Charlie (Grampa) Williams, Presbyterian Church and School Caretaker
503 Guelph St. McPherson house, built in 1850
506 Guelph St. Built in 1914, George Gollop
511 Guelph St. Watson’s Bakery, built in 1862
499 Guelph St. Norval Presbyterian Church Built 1878
402 Draper St. Norval Presbyterian Manse Built 1888
401 Draper St. Former British Hotel Built 1836
403 Draper St. Built 1873
On Winston Churchill former Norval Disciples of Christ Church circa 1840
< Back to Home Page >