Europeans settled in the area in 1810. St. Thomas was named after Thomas Talbot who helped promote the development of this region during the early 19th century. The founder of the settlement that became St. Thomas was Capt. Daniel Rapelje, descendant of a Walloon family settled in New Amsterdam, now New York City, at its inception in the 17th century. In 1820, Rapelje, divided his land into town lots suitable for a village. Rapelje owned the New England Mill, and donated two acres of land for the building of Old St. Thomas Church.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, several railways were constructed through the city, and St. Thomas became an important railway junction. 26 railways have passed through the city since the first railway was completed in 1856. In the 1950s and 1960s, with the decline of the railway as a mode of transportation, other industries began to locate in the city, principally primary and secondary automotive manufacturing.
In 1824, Charles Duncombe and John Rolph established the first medical school in Upper Canada, in St. Thomas, under the patronage of Colonel Thomas Talbot. Duncombe's house now forms part of the Elgin Military Museum complex.
St. Thomas' late 19th- early 20th century architecture includes the Elgin County Court House, Wellington Street public school, Balaclava St. School, Elmdale School and its city hall, most designated heritage properties and all designed by former resident Neil R. Darrach.
St. Thomas is accessible via provincial Highway 3 and Highway 4, the latter of which provides access to London, Highway 401 and Highway 402.
The nearest intercity bus and train stations are 30 km away in London (Ontario), and there is no local bus service to St. Thomas.
The city is served by the St. Thomas Municipal Airport (YQS), just east in the Municipality of Central Elgin. There are no scheduled flights, the airport is used for general aviation only.
St. Thomas Transit provides paratransit, and 6 routes of conventional bus service through the Central Transfer Point at 1063 Talbot St (Wal-mart). M-F 7:15AM-6:45PM, and Sa 9:15 AM-6:45PM. There is no transit service on Sundays or statutory holidays. The cash fare (exact change) is $2.75 (July 2018).
- Red Line Taxi, +1 519-631-1200
- Cox Cabs Ltd, +1 519-631-1800
- Dockside Cabs, +1 519-782-3855
- 1 Jumbo the Elephant Monument, 76 Talbot St. St Thomas is where the famous elephant, Jumbo, met his death in 1885, when he was hit and killed by a train - you can see the statue commemorating this even at the west end of town.
- 2 The Old English Church, Walnut Street. The oldest church in the area. Surrounded by the graveyard, it sits in the older section of town, undisturbed by the modernization going on around it.
- The Elgin Military Museum, 30 Talbot St (corner of Pleasant St.), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-F 1PM-5PM, Sa 9AM-noon & 1PM-5PM, Su 2PM-4PM (July 1 to Labour Day). From 1812 to yesterday. The museum is easily accessed from Sunset Drive (old Hwy 4). The famous Jumbo the Elephant statue is a two-minute stroll east of the museum. Adults $5, children $1.
- 3 The Elgin County Railway Museum, 225 Wellington St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Late May to early Sep: Tu-Su 10AM-4PM; early Sep to md-Oct: W-Sa noon-4PM; mid-Oct to late May: Sa noon-4PM or by appointment. Housed in the historic Michigan Central Railroad Shop. A massive model train layout simulating life in the mid 20th century. The display models the operations of Southern Ontario Railways between Windsor and Niagara Falls when steam, diesel, and electric railways were all competing. The museum collection to date comprises steam, diesel and electric engines, cabooses, baggage cars and wagons, jiggers, hand cars and thousands of pieces of railway ephemera. The museum is accessible to people with mobility needs - please reserve in advance. Adult $8, senior or student $7, child $3, child 3 and under free.
- Canada Southern Railway Station and North America Railway Hall of Fame, 750 Talbot St, ☏ . M-F 9AM-4:30PM. Completed in 1873, it made St. Thomas part of a continent-wide rail system that brought growth and prosperity to this community. Tours will take you to the waiting rooms, dining room and second floor administrative headquarters. You will view artifacts of the station, learn about the station’s history, find out about some of its famous visitors, and learn about the North America Railway Hall of Fame inductees. Tours should be pre-booked and are on a donation basis. Gift shop is open M-F 9AM-4PM.
- Waterworks Park, 2 South Edgeware Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 5000 plantings of flowering annuals among ornamental shrubbery surround the neatly-tended lawns, banks, and unique bridges. Kingfisher, Blue Heron, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel are residents. Arched foot bridges join a chain of tiny islands where turtles, goldfish, and other wildlife are found swimming amongst exotic water lillies. A large playground, and a splash pad whoch is open in July and August. Nature and ski trails.
- 1 Elevated Park (get in from Pleasant Street). The old railroad bridge has been converted into a park with plants, benches and sculptures free.
- 1 Giant Tiger (downtown Talbot Street). discount store
- 1 Legends Tavern, 600 Talbot Street, ☏ . Su-W 11AM-midnight, Th-Sa 11AM-2AM. Sports bar with solid pub food $15 mains.
- New Sarum Family Restaurant, 46230 New Sarum Line, ☏ . Daily 8AM-9PM. Elgin County's oldest diner. Chicken, steaks, ribs, pasta, stir fry, burgers.
- Bella Jack's, 437 Talbot St, ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F Sa 11:30AM-10PM. Mexican.
- Le Cafe Siam, 392 Talbot St, ☏ . M-F 11AM-2PM and 5PM-9PM, Sa 5PM-9PM. Thai.
- 2 Country Charm Cafe, 310 Wellington St, ☏ . Tu-Su 7AM-2PM. Breakfasts, lunches $10 Seniors' special including soup. Cash only.
- Quai du Vin Winery, 45811 Fruit Ridge Line, ☏ . Wine store open year round M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM; tours available most Saturdays - call ahead. Just outside St Thomas.
- 1 Railway City Brewing Company, 130 Edward St, ☏ . Tours: Tu W 4PM-6PM, Th-F 4PM-7PM, Sa noon-6PM, Su noon-3PM. Brewery tours available, with samples of their ales including Iron Spike Blonde, Iron Spike Amber, and Dead Elephant Ale. Tour only $5 per person, beer samples (4 x 3oz pours) $8 per person, tour & samples $10 per person.