of Essex County,
The Family of Joseph Pillon (1813 - 1886)*
Joseph Pillon married Archange Meloche in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church in Amherstburg on December 19, 1837. Together they had 7 children. Joseph and Archange are buried in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste cemetery at Amherstburg where their gravestones still stand.
*The research presented here has been compiled by Patrick and Paul Pillon, great-great-grandsons of Joseph Pillon and Archange Meloche. Patrick lives in the vicinity of the Pike Road and sees that landscape with the eyes of not only someone interested in family history but as one with a strong physical connection with the story, the places and the land. Others have lent a hand in one way or another with preparing digital versions of family photos, providing access to various documents, etc. Many thanks to all for sharing. Joseph and Archange would be proud indeed!
N.B.: The spelling of the family name 'Pilon' varies between relative, over time and depending on the writer: Pilon, Pillon and Pelond among others (genealogists and family historians must be ever on their toes!). The most widespread spelling among North American members of this family is with a single letter "L". However, in the Amherstburg area, double letter "LL" appears to have been adopted in the mid-nineteenth century, whether by choice or through the good offices of priests or lawyers who may have mistakingly decided how the name should be spelled. Attempts will be made here to respect the usage of that individual, but mistakes can occur. Please accept the apologies of Pilon International.
Joseph Pillon (1813-1886) was Antoine and Archange Cuillerier dit Beaubien's (1790 - 1868) fifth child. In the obituary of their son Victor, it was said that his son had been born on the lake front of the 'Caldwell farm' at Malden. According to C.C. James (1909) "By his standing among the Wyandots, COLONEL WILLIAM CALDWELL was a participant in the Wyandot bounty when in 1784 they presented the Malden riverfront to the officers of the Indian Department who had aided them in the struggle just concluded [the American War of Independence]. Simcoe Street, Amherstburg and the Pike Road, Malden mark the lane on the north side of his grant which extended for a half-mile along the river and back as far as the 6th Concession of Malden." This land concession, long, narrow and fronting on the Detroit River adjacent to the British Fort Malden can be seen on the late 1790 sketch on the right (see also location No.1 on this map).
It is believed that Antoine and Archange had a place on the shore of the Detroit river where they raised their family. Did he farm or was it simply his home (he did continue to work as a voyageur going to western Canadian destinations). Did he own this land or did he rent? It appears that their boys also worked for the Caldwell's. The Pike Road started out as a lane way heading to the back of the farm, eventually becaming a toll road with Joseph's brother Noé being the toll collector.
At the age of 24, Joseph was listed as a soldier in the Militia (here is a newspaper item about his service in the rebellion of 1837-1838) and was present at the 1838 taking of the schooner Anne in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837-38 (you can find out more by following these links: heritage plaque (note the location given as Co. Rd 18 should instead be Highway 20-they haven't kept up with road renaming!), battle of Windsor). This ship was manned by sympathizers of the Mackenzie rebels and was disabled as it fired on Fort Malden.
Joseph and his family next show up in New Canaan (location No.2 on this map) which was east of Walker Road near Gesto (location No.3 on this map) and about 5 miles northeast of the Pike Road and 9th Concession Road homestead (location No.4 on this map). According to Daniel Pillon, Joseph's son who was born in 1851 at New Canaan (in fact, the only one of Joseph and Archange's children not born on the Caldwell farm), Joseph and his family arrived on the Pike Road about 1854 (see the 55th anniversary article in the Amherstburg Echo). That intersection was known as Vereker (location No.4 on this map-while there is a separate place today called Vereker a short distance to the east of the intersection of the Pike Road and the 9th Concession, the original post office was located in Pat Bondy's home on the north side of the Pike Road, just across from the A&V Pillon Blacksmith and Carriage Makers shop-follow the link to the Milford Sinasac Map below), named for the family that ran the Post Office there (see the location of Vereker on this 1880-1881 Historical Atlas of Essex and Kent Map of Malden Township).
Thus, Victor was born in 1849 on the 'Caldwell farm', Joseph at New Canaan in 1851 and the family moved to the Pike Road in 1854. A lot of moving in just 5 years!
Records show that the eastern part of Lot #92 was initially owned by Jean-Baptiste Cayé dit Biscornet (aka Jean-Baptiste Bisconna dit Caya) who purchased the land from the Crown in 1854. Joseph and his brother Eli may have worked with or for Cayé dit Biscornet clearing and working the land. In 1864, Cayé dit Biscornet sold the East 1/4 of Lot 92 to Joseph Pillon (the adjacent 1/4, i.e. the west 1/2 of that East 1/2 of Lot 92 may have been acquired by Éli Pillon at this time as well) (see the deed for the East 1/2 of the East 1/2 of Lot 92). The foothold was established. Over the next 10 years several more land transactions would take place (see another deed) and in the end, Joseph Pillon had acquired a substantial farm on the order of 80 to 100 acres in size of which about 4 acres are still in Pillon hands.
As was the tradition in those days, Joseph wished to establish his son's on land. In that same year of 1875, he sold 21 acres to his son Daniel. Two other land transactions took place that same year, this time, modest 2 acre lots to each of his sons Antoine and Victor About ten years later, Joseph in turn sold two small parcels (2 acres each) to two of his son's: Antoine and Victor. It was here that the brothers would establish a blacksmith shop that became quite well-known, putting into practice the craft they had learned from "George Thompson, descendent of former slaves, who had a blacksmith shop on Lot 96, Malden" (Amherstburg 1796 - 1996 : The New Town on the Garrison Grounds, Amherstburg Bicentennial Book Committee, 1996 p.224). As a young man of 18, Victor had spent 4 years learning the craft of carriage maker in Leamington at the Carriage Works of W.S. Pulford. Together they would carve out a widely respected reputation for their work.
A sketch map in the Marsh Historical Collection, drawn by Milford Sinasac (follow this link to view this map), a descendent of Jean-Baptiste Cayé dit Biscornet, shows how the Pillons established themselves along the edges of Lot 92, with the blacksmith and carriage shop occupying the corner of the intersection of the Pike Road and the 9th Concession. The location of Joseph's home as well as his three son's, Victor, Antoine and Daniel completed the corner of the lot.
Today, Victor's home still stands and is still lived in by a Pillon. Joseph's home was replaced by a brick house in the late 1950s and Antoine's home was actually moved in 1917 and converted into, what else, a blacksmith shop by his son Adolph Pillon (read the Amherstburg Echo article for yourself!).
As well, Antoine's son Adolph (Duffy) and his wife Gertrude Langlois built their home just beside where Antoine's had been. Sadly, the building that had warmly welcomed family and friends to so many gatherings and functions since 1911 was burned in a tragic accident in the spring of 2023.
The blacksmith and carriage shop would become quite well-known throughout Essex County and beyond. The intersection of the Pike Road and the 9th Concession would become the 'homestead' for generations of Pilons who never even visited the location. It acquired mythical proportions for many descendents of Joseph Pillon, but at the core was the business run by Antoine and Victor Pillon.
With the passing of Victor in 1910, then Antoine in 1916, the shop was taken over and operated by Adolph, Antoine's son, until the late 1940's. Eventually it was torn down to make way for the home of Roy Thomas Pillon. Most of the equipment remains in the hands of descendents. The memory of the Pillons on the Pike Road continues with several descendents still living in the 'homesteads' or in newer homes on the old lots.
Below are a number of items that were once found in the A&V Pillon Blacksmith and Carriage Shop and remain in Pillon/Pilon hands: