Meet Our Irish Ancestor: Colonel Thomas Talbot
Colonel Thomas Talbot was born on July 19, 1771 at Malahide Castle north of Dublin. His family was Irish aristocracy who had allied with the English during the conquest of Ireland. Talbot joined the English army at the age of twelve and followed his regiment to Canada in 1790. In 1800, he sold his commission in the army and settled in Upper Canada.
In May 1803, Talbot was granted 5000 acres along the Lake Erie shoreline. This was provisional on settling the area as the English needed a strong presence to thwart the ambitions of their American and French rivals. Talbot established his homestead at Port Talbot and began his distribution of land. Qualified settlers received 50 acres of land. For every allotment he granted Talbot himself received 200 acres of land.
By 1807, Talbot was ignoring the government regulations for land settlement. He engaged in disagreements with many of the settlers. With an eraser, he would remove his opponent’s name from his settlement map. He would often designate the land to another settler. Due to the imperative to settle the area the government ignored his actions and also allowed him to build the Talbot Road through the settlement area. Mahon Burwell was the surveyor for this project. The Talbot road facilitated the immigration and development of this area. By 1829, the settlement ranged over 130 miles and had 50,000 inhabitants.
Along the way, Talbot had made many enemies due to his disagreements with settlers and politicians. He had alienated the provincial government who believed that his unorthodox actions were depriving the province of much needed revenues. In 1838, Talbot was forced to relinquish his settlement. He died a recluse in London, Upper Canada in 1853.
Despite his contentious procedures, Colonel Thomas Talbot had successfully settled this area and his name is remembered in the name of our city. Whether he was a Saint is as controversial as the man was himself.