St. Thomas is home to the historic Talbot Settlement, where Col. Thomas Talbot began the settlement of Crown Lands around 1800. One of the earliest settlers to the area was Captain Daniel Rapelje (1174-1828) who received 200 acres of land on the south side of the Talbot Road at Kettle Creek. He settled at this location with his family in 1810. Mr. Rapelje was a veteran of the Battle at Lundy’s Lane and several other war of 1812 battles. Upon settling in the region he proceeded to build a log grist mill and the settlement that he was instrumental in establishing formed the nucleus of the City of St. Thomas. The town is known for its flower gardens, especially the water gardens in the 40 hectare (100 acre) Waterworks Park .
A life size statue of Jumbo the Elephant was erected in 1985 across from the Elgin County Pioneer Museum. In the 1880’s Jumbo was billed as the “largest and heaviest elephant ever seen by mortal man”. Sadly, Jumbo was killed in St. Thomas on September 15 th, 1885 by a Grand Trunk locomotive while trying to protect a smaller elephant from an oncoming train.
Elgin Country Pioneer Museum was originally the home of Dr. Elijah Duncombe. Pioneer artifacts, including many of the doctors’ medical instruments and equipment are on display in an 1840’s house. Other examples of St. Thomas’s Victorian architecture can be found at City Hall, and the Old St. Thomas Church, located on Walnut Street, just two blocks south of the Jumbo monument. The church features pioneer charm with box pews and oil lamps. The cemetery is the final resting place of Judge Hugh Richardson, a senior judge of the Supreme Court of The North West Territories who presided over the trial of Louis Riel and condemned him to death.
Don’t miss the annual Iron Horse Festival held in August. It is one of the area’s largest events. and honors St. Thomas’s railway history. The Iron Horse Festival features live entertainment on three stages, a family midway, rib-fest, Cruise Night, Strongman Competition and Kids Junction, as well as craft and food vendors, bingo and live clowns.