History of Wellington North

The Corporation of the Township of Wellington North was formed by the amalgamation of the Township of Arthur, Village of Arthur, the Township of West Luther and the Town of Mount Forest, effective January 1, 1999.   The Incorporated Municipality was named the Township of Wellington North in April 1999.

Former Township of Arthur

The former Township of Arthur was named after Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the English general who was responsible for the fall of Napoleon. Provincial Land Surveyor John McDonald surveyed it in 1841-42. The Government laid out the Owen Sound Road (O.S.R.) from the Township of Nichol to Owen Sound. The land along the O.S.R. was surveyed into 50-acre lots that were given to the settlers if they met the following requirements: male, over 18 years of age and a subject of Queen Victoria. After clearing 12 of the original acres, the settlers were entitled to buy the adjacent 50 acres at a low price.

The first settlers endured many hardships and they are best described in a quote from George Cushing, the popular Township Clerk. He said, “Imagine a settler from the ‘Old Land’ without any knowledge of clearing land, unskilled in the use of the axe, no keen lance-toothed saws to be had, like we have at present, commencing to clear a fifty or a hundred acre lot of this dense and mighty forest. Many stories of hardships endured in the old log shanties without proper doors and wolves howling in the forest; no flour in the house for six weeks, and potatoes the only bill of fare; the carrying on the back of sacks of flour all the way from Fergus; men shouldering their heavy grain cradles and walking thirty miles and more to Guelph, in a day for the harvest”.

Once the land was surveyed, development of the Township was fast. Settlers came from Ireland mostly, but also from Scotland and England.
The first Catholic Church was a log building built in 1852 near Kenilworth. Schools were first established in 1849. The first post office was established in Kenilworth in 1848 and later that year one was opened in Arthur. Hotels were needed for the traveling public providing food, rest and entertainment. By 1871, there were 15 hotels between the Village of Arthur and Mount Forest.

The first record of the township is in the minutes of a council meeting held in the courtroom of Arthur on January 21, 1850.

Interesting Fact:

  • In 1859-60, there was a complete failure of the crops in the township. Council came to the rescue supplying cornmeal to those in need. These years were known as “The years of the yellow meal”.

Former Village of Arthur

The former Village of Arthur was named after Arthur Wellesley, who became the Duke of Wellington. The Village of Arthur was first surveyed in 1841 by John McDonald and then officially in 1846 by D.B. Papineau. The establishment of saw and gristmills sparked growth in the community. In 1851, a post office was opened and the first church and school were organized. Development was further encouraged in 1872 when a station of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway was opened.

Canada's Most Patriotic Village

The Village of Arthur received this recognition in 2002, when David Tilson the M.P.P for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey stated in the Ontario Legislature that because of Arthur's extraordinary effort in World War II the community would be recognized as "Canada's Most Patriotic Village".

Achievements that garnered Arthur this title include that during World War II the government ran War Bond and Victory Bond campaigns to raise money to carry on the war effort. In the first campaign in 1940, Arthur Village led all communities in Canada in reaching its objective. In every following campaign (6 in all) the Village let all communities in the country in reaching its objective. As well, during the war, a Navy League was formed in most Canadian communities, to raise funds for Canadian Sailors at sea. In September, 1944, Arthur Council received an award for having raised the most per capita of any community in Ontario.

A series of murals are featured in the downtown core in keeping with Arthur's war history.

Arthur High School

The Arthur High School, then located on Smith Street, was constructed in the spring and summer of 1890 at an estimated cost of $3500. It was heated by steam by a wood-burning furnace. The two-storey building had 14-foot ceilings and was made with a wall thickness of 3 bricks. When the school was first opened, there were 55 students and only two teachers. In 1904, the student population increased to the point where an addition was needed. Five classrooms and a science room were built for $5000 making Arthur High School one of the most modern up-to-date schools in the province. Another educational advance occurred in 1921 when the tuition fees were dropped and students were no longer charged for their education. The Arthur High School provided secondary education to the residents until 1953 when the new school was built on Conestoga St.

Sussman’s of Arthur

In 1906, Joe Sussman and his 2 brothers moved from Poland to the clothing district in Toronto. Joe then moved to the Arthur area and travelled the countryside with his horse-drawn wagon, bringing clothing of all kinds right into farmhouse kitchens. Joe earned respect from area farmers by lending a hand with fieldwork when they were short of help. When Joe settled his store in a permanent location in 1914, those families began travelling to buy clothing from Joe. As business grew, Sussman’s continued to expand and today its retail premises cover 40 000 ft² and employs 50, making it one of Canada’s largest independent owned clothiers in Canada.

Interesting Facts:

  • The Wellington County Creamery, in Arthur on George Street where Crawford Funeral Home is now located, during a fifteen year period produced 1½ million pounds of butter.
  • In 1897, the Village of Arthur was one of the earliest in Ontario to be served by a power transmission line. There were no meters, but people were charged 10 cents for each light bulb used. Power was available in the evenings and was cut off at midnight.
  • The Arthur Enterprise News, established 1863, was one of the few non-syndicated weekly newspapers in Canada.

Former Town of Mount Forest

The former Town of Mount Forest was originally known as Maitland Hills because it was believed that the Saugeen River was the Maitland River. The name was later changed to Mount Forest in 1853. Francis Kerr surveyed the Village into village lots in 1853.

The first public school was built in 1856 on McDonald Street. The first high school was originally in the Old Drill Hall, but was an unsuitable location because it was beside the Market Square where livestock sales were held monthly. The new high school was built on Colclough St. in 1878.

By 1864, the population of Mount Forest had reached 1185 and qualified as a Village and by 1879 had reached Town status.  The first issue of the Mount Forest Confederate was printed in 1867. For the first year, the newspaper was sent to village residents free of charge, but the second year it was 50 cents per year.

The 1871 directory stated that Mount Forest had 10 hotels, 8 churches and 18 stores and later that year, the first train entered Mount Forest, drawn by a wood-burning engine.

Strathcona Hospital

Dr. A.R. Perry purchased the home of Alex Martin on the corner of Dublin & Princess Streets and established Strathcona Hospital, a 10 bed private hospital. In 1923, a group of citizens headed by G.L. Allen, changed Strathcona Hospital into a public hospital. Wentworth Marshall, a pharmacist, generously bought the hospital from Perry. Marshall’s mother, Louise, was the supervisor at the hospital until she became ill with cancer. It was closed in 1921, but a year later was reopened under a new name, Mount Forest General Hospital. In 1928, the Deed of the Hospital was turned over to the town and the name was changed yet again to Louise Marshall Hospital in honour of Marshall’s mother.

Mount Forest Library

In 1909, a public vote established the need for a free library. Andrew Carnegie, a well-known philanthropist, approved a grant of $10,000 and in 1912 Mrs. Luxton donated the site on east side of Main Street, in memory of her father. The new library was officially opened in December 1913.
Mount Forest Carriage Factory

The Mount Forest Carriage Factory was established in 1903 near the CPR Station by the Steeles, two brothers from Palmerston and employed about 70 people. They manufactured buggies, carriages and cutters and shipped them throughout western Ontario. The Steele’s fine houses on Dublin and Waterloo Streets held many parties and they had one of the first radios in town. The factory closed when the automobile replaced the horse-drawn carriage. The building later held the Mount Forest Basket Factory.

Former Township of West Luther

The former Township of West Luther was originally in the possession of the Mississauga Indians but became part of a tract of land signed over by them to the government in 1818. In 1854, George McPhillips surveyed the land. At the same time he was surveying Melancthon Township and he decided that they were the worst two townships he had ever surveyed and being a Roman Catholic, named the townships after Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon, two of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. It is a good story; however, Luther received its name several years before McPhilips surveyed the area.

Progress of the Township was very slow because Luther was almost covered completely with timber and swamps. In the early 1870s, during a dry summer, fires broke out over the Township, which burnt off the muck and leveled most of the timber, which improved development. The township developed rapidly once the Toronto; Grey & Bruce Railway was built in 1871.

The Grand River runs through the whole length of East Luther, therefore they needed many bridges, unlike West Luther who needed roads badly. For a long time, the people of East Luther were able to elect a majority in Council and money was spent on building bridges that caused problems that eventually led to the separation of the township. In 1879, the West elected a majority and quickly prepared a bill to separate the township. In 1881, the Ontario Legislature passed a bill dividing Luther Township into separate townships, West and East Luther.

In 1915, High Tension Hydro Lines supplied local residents with power if they were interested, but it wasn’t until 1950 that hydro became widespread through the rural areas of Luther.

Information in this section courtesy of: Jean Hutchinson's The History of Wellington County and Paul O'Donnell & Frank Coffey's A History of the Arthur Area