What's In a Name?

Jake (Jacob Lewis) Englehart

Many towns have been named after men, but Englehart is a lasting memorial to one of the most dynamic characters ever to have a lasting influence on his country.

American by birth, Mr. Englehart was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 2, 1847, the son of S. John Joel and Hannah E. Englehart.  Jacob would come to Canada at the age of 19. Little is known about how he first acquired the funds to support himself in business, however, at an age when many men were still in college, he set up the J. L. Englehart Company, with a refinery in London and an office in New York.

The oil refining business then boomed to meet the demand across North America for kerosene in lamps replacing the smokey whale oil and lard previously used for centuries. Young Englehart traveled through the oil fields of Southwestern Ontario, persuading the oil well owners, mostly farmers, to let him handle their products.

Despite two explosions wrecking his refinery, Englehart's business prospered. In 1870, his ability to overcome difficulties was illustrated as he obtained an order for kerosene worth approximately $30,000 to be shipped to Germany. When the kerosene arrived at Germany it was determined below standard and was buyer rejected. The cost of bringing it home, refining it and returning to Germany would have been ruinous. Englehart cut his losses by shipping a small refinery to Germany, and re-processed the kerosene.

Acquiring wells and establishing an oil refinery at Petrolla, then the centre of an oil boom, his new refinery became reputed as the largest and most efficient in the world. In 1880 he played a leading part in the formation of Imperial Oil. Imperial Oil had the financial resources required to meet American competition, and provide both national and International distribution of Canadian oil products.

In 1891, Englehart and Charlotte Eleanor Thompson, the daughter of Thomas Thompson, a prosperous farmer of Adelaide, near London- were wed.  

After Charlotte’s death in 1908, Englehart gifted Petrolla their red brick mansion to serve as a town hospital. To ensure that this new hospital would never cost the Petrolla taxpayers a cent, he endowed the building with Imperial Oil stock. Great as Jake Englehart's contributions were to the development of the Canadian oil Industry, to the people of Northern Ontario he is best remembered as the builder of the Ontario Northland Railway, then known as the T. & N. O.

In 1905 Sir James Whitney became premier of Ontario and found that the then three-year-old Temiskaming and Northern Ontario was in an unfortunate mess. He reached out to Jake Englehart reportedly asking "Will you come and rescue the T. and N. O. for me?" It is said that Englehart replied "I'll be happy to. What is it?"  From then, Jake Englehart pushed the railroad north and untangled its affairs. It was his private car constantly on the line and he who put the railroad on a paying basis.

Jake is best remembered in the north for his efforts after the great bush fires of 1911. Englehart worked day night organizing relief, and T. and N. O. trains carried hundreds of refugees. He spent his own money freely to buy food for those left penniless, and at the height of the disaster he tacked up a sign on the station at Englehart.

It simply read: "No one need pass here hungry." J. L. Englehart. He died in Toronto April 6, 1921, at the age of 73.

Ruby Bryan

For the area’s 50th Anniversary Mrs. Ruby Bryan, owner of the local furniture store, set up a temporary museum display to showcase the effects of area pioneers discarding for modern home furnishings.

Mrs. Ruby Bryan envisioned an open and established museum. Until her aspirations could be achieved, she kept articles in her home with diligent care and consideration. Over time, Mrs. Bryan’s artifacts continued to accumulate. In 1977 the Town of Englehart took possession of the building agreeing to house the collection.

Museum founder and advocate, Mrs. Ruby Bryan was not only a business woman, but also a devoted local serving on council and from 1961-1962 became the first woman mayor of Englehart. She was a lifelong member of the Woman’s Institute, a Charter member of the Englehart Horticultural Society and a lifelong member of the Englehart Agricultural Society. These are only a few of the many community organizations she supported with involvement.

A great supporter of the town in the early years, the memory of Mrs. Ruby Bryan will live on through not only the Ruby Bryan Room but also the entire Englehart and Area Historical Museum.

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