map of North Dumfries Township

History of North Dumfries Township

In 1816, when the area of Grand River land known as Block One became part of the Gore District, it was named Dumfries Township. Block One had originally been part of a larger tract of land donated to the Six Nations during the late eighteenth century for their loyalty to the British Crown in the American Revolutionary wars. On behalf of the Six Nations, Joseph Brant sold Block One (94,035 acres) to Philip Steadman in 1795. Steadman died in 1799, and Block One switched ownership several times over the next number of years. It was finally purchased by William Dickson in 1816, who named the township Dumfries after his hometown in Scotland.

girl in scottish costume

Girl in Scottish Costume, Aged Six,
1914. DHC 974.094.231

In 1849, the Baldwin Municipal Act was passed, enabling the creation of a revised county system; with the subsequent Hincks Act of 1852, Waterloo County was created. After a number of political battles over how the boundaries of Waterloo County should be defined, Dumfries was divided into two halves: north and south. Only North Dumfries was included as a township of Waterloo County along with the townships of Waterloo, Wilmot, Wellesley, and Woolwich. At the same time, South Dumfries became a township in Brant County.

William Dickson had emigrated to Quebec in 1785, later becoming a successful and wealthy lawyer and merchant in Niagara. After purchasing Block One, Dickson set out with Absalom Shade, a twenty-two year old carpenter from Pennsylvania, to appraise the area in an effort to decide on the best site for settlement. After trekking on horseback from Niagara along the Governor's Road, a military and commercial roadway completed by 1795, Dickson and Shade were led north along the Grand River by an First Nations guide until they reached the abandoned ruins of Alexander Miller's mill near the confluence of Mill Creek and the Grand.[1] They decided that this location, now the present area of Galt, would be best suited for settlement.

It was agreed that once things at home in Buffalo were arranged, Shade would return to rebuild and expand the old mill while managing the surrounding area on behalf of Dickson. By 1919, Shade had completed the building of both the grist and saw mills which became known as Dumfries Mills. Although it has been said that Shade was in the possession of only $100 and a carpenter's chest when he returned from Buffalo to Dumfries, he would later become one of the wealthiest and most influential merchants, entrepreneurs, and politicians in the early years of Galt and Dumfries Township.[2]

The construction of the Dumfries Mills attracted a number of people who settled in the area within a few years.  By 1819, a bridge over the Grand River was completed, and one year later a distillery was established.[3] In 1821, a tavern was built, and by 1824, the "Red" store of Absalom Shade began what would be a domination of the local merchant trade which would last until about the middle of the 1830s.[4] This area of settlement became known as Shade's Mills. As an increasing number of settlers arrived elsewhere in the township after 1816, farms and settlements were established further afield in the township.

In 1819, despite the township's small population, a township meeting was held. This was the first of its kind held among any of the townships of Waterloo County.[5] At this meeting, a number of administrative positions, including both township clerk and warden, were assigned to local individuals for the governing and managing the township.[6] Attention was also given to the issues of fencing and of branding livestock which resulted in the standardization of both. The precedents set by this meeting no doubt later contributed to the organized and uniform fashion in which Dumfries Township developed. From a modern perspective, although this meeting addressed issues that were seemingly trivial in nature, it may have set an early example for the later development of municipal government in the township, and even the county.

Dumfries Township, surveyed by Deputy Provincial Surveyor Adrian Marlett, was one of  the most uniformly laid-out township of Waterloo County.[7] It was divided into twelve concessions, twelve miles in length and one mile apart. The majority of its plots each contained 200 acres of land.[8] Unlike other townships at the time, the survey provided allowances for the construction of roads and paths. Although it did not provide such space along its four outer township lines, allowance was provided between each concession and every sixth lot.[9] As a result, when roads were built throughout the township, they generally followed a symmetrical pattern which was organized and logical. For this reason, although roads and highways were initially slow to expand and develop, the landscape of the township developed smoothly and coherently.

The initial settlement of the township was rather slow. In 1818, including those settlers of Shade's Mills, of whom there were 38; only 63 people resided in the township.[10] Significant settlement of the township did not begin in earnest until the later years of the 1820s. Many of the township's first settlers, who tended to settle in its northern parts, came from Waterloo Township. Because settlement was slow to get underway, Dickson hired John Telfer, a Hudson Bay Company deserter, to promote and encourage Scottish groups to settle in the area.[11] Telfer's efforts were successful, and Scottish immigrants arrived in substantial numbers. At first they were concentrated in the area immediately surrounding Shade's Mills, but later settled in more outlying areas. Moreover, the majority of these settlers were Presbyterians, shaping a unique cultural atmosphere in this township.  Despite the township's predominantly Scottish and Presbyterian population from the 1820s onward, a small number of Pennsylvanian Mennonite settlers from Waterloo Township also bought land and settled in North Dumfries. They settled mainly in the northern reaches of the township in the vicinity of Roseville.[12]

John Shiel and Old School House, ca. 1910

John Shiel and Old School House on
Spragues Road, North Dumfries Township, ca. 1910.
DHC 971.099.007

In 1827, John Galt, acting Commissioner of the Canada Company and a previous school companion of Dickson, arrived at Shade's Mills.[13] He put into action the construction of a road between Shade's Mills and Canada Company land in the area north and east of Shade's Mills that would become Guelph. Settlers of Dumfries Township found employment in the development of this project which also entailed the clearing of land for the village of Guelph. The construction of this roadway released the township from its previous isolation. The township could now access, if at least minimally, outlying areas within and without the township.  During this time, the first post office of the township, located at Shade's Mills, was established. Dickson, in honour of John Galt, named the post office Galt.[14]

In 1853, Galt became an incorporated village, administered separately from the affairs of the township.  It was however the economic and cultural centre of the township area as it grew from village to town to city.  Galt was amalgamated with Hespeler and Preston in 1973 to form the present day City of Cambridge. The former areas of Galt, Hespeler and Preston, however, are still presently referred to as such by many local residents of Cambridge.

By the 1830s, the township had grown substantially in size and was developing steadily. In 1834, although settlements were not concentrated, the population of the township had reached about 4, 177, and the population of Galt had reached about 250.[15] By this time, Galt and Ayr, the two main villages in the township, had developed a number of enterprises including grist, flour, and saw mills, distilleries, stores, taverns, and farmsteads.  Moreover, there were a number of social institutions which had begun to blossom in their early forms including schools, churches, township halls, libraries, clubs, and in Galt, a debating society.
 Roadways and transportation had not yet developed beyond their minimal potential. Moreover, the Beverly Swamp blocked the path between Hamilton and Dundas and the fertile lands of both Waterloo and Dumfries Townships.[16]  As a result, communities in North Dumfries Township remained relatively isolated from one another, as well as from others in distant townships. Improved transportation and communication routes were an urgent necessity. 

In 1831, experimenting with alternative transportation methods, Absalom Shade attempted to float farm produce down the Grand River to Dunnville on wooden stages which were known "Arks."[17] From Dunnville, goods could be towed through the Welland canal, which had just recently been constructed, to Lake Ontario where they could be shipped to markets beyond. Shade's stages were large and bulky. In order to avoid the numerous shoals, islands, and rocks in the river, the stages had to be floated down the Grand River during spring floods.  Although some settlers were skeptical of Shade's ability to navigate these unwieldy stages down the Grand, Shade managed to transport his goods fairly successfully-albeit, not without a tremendous effort, a crew of hard working men, and one inconvenient mishap in the last of the three years the stages were used.[18] This mishap occurred when one of Shade's stages ran aground. The goods were saved from disaster however, when another stage was built and sent down the river the following day. It may have been this mishap that convinced Shade that less difficult methods of transportation were preferable.[19]

It was not until the macadamized road between Dundas and Waterloo was completed in the later 1830s, that people from both the township and the county felt safe crossing the Beverly Swamp. The Beverly Swamp had been feared for decades because of its deep bog-holes and impenetrable wetlands. The completion of the Dundas and Waterloo road across the Beverly Swamp spurred  the township's growth and development throughout the 1840s, and up until the coming of the railway in the 1850s.
 In 1836, William Dickson had returned to Niagara for good, residing there until his death in 1846. Dickson left his son William Dickson Jr. to carry on the family's businesses in both Galt and in the township.  Before Dickson left Dumfries Township however, one the greatest terrors ever to strike the Township occurred. In 1834, the first symptoms of cholera appeared in a traveling entertainer passing through Galt. A short time later, the town's worst fear came true when the cholera spread through the population. Although the contagion spread throughout the township and county quite rapidly, it has been suggested that Galt was most heavily hit of all communities, losing as much as one-fifth of the village population.[20] Dr. John Scott, then a recent immigrant from Scotland, was one of the leading members of the community aiding the fight against the disease. His role in Galt against cholera established his reputation as a medical doctor and public figure.[21] Ironically, in the battle between Galt and Berlin to win County seat during the early 1850s, he would be Galt's strongest opponent, and Berlin's leading advocate.
 The decision in 1853 to split Dumfries Township gave Berlin an advantage in the battle over the county seat: Berlin was now located at the centre of the county. Moreover, despite Berlin's small population of about 750 in comparison to about 2200 in Galt,22] and despite the fact that it was not yet an incorporated village, it received the support of several prominent men in the county including Dr. John Scott, who had by now become a well known politician in Berlin, and Frederick Gaukel, a hotel-keeper, who donated land for the construction of a county courthouse and jail in Berlin. The influence of a powerful establishment in Berlin, subsequently gave it the edge to win the Waterloo County seat. Over the next 120 years, this municipal framework would remain in place until County reorganization was officially implemented in 1973 and the Regional Municipality of Waterloo was implemented.

At the same time that the political battle for the county seat took place, North Dumfries Township had developed a thriving economy and culture.  In 1841, the population of North Dumfries was 6,129; by 1851, it had reached 7,316, second only to that of Waterloo Township which had a population of 7,759.[23] A network of roads and highways had been constructed and improved, connecting outlying settlements to the central villages of Ayr and Galt. Log houses and buildings had been replaced increasingly by frame and stone structures. Social institutions including churches and schools had evolved into stable organizations. A variety of businesses and industries were flourishing, especially in production of grain for export, which was the leader in Waterloo County.  At this time, Galt had a population of well over 2000 inhabitants and was the market centre of rich agricultural land.[24] It was the most developed and booming village in the township and the county, becoming an incorporated village in 1850. However, losing the county seat meant that Berlin would receive mainlines when the tracks of the Grand Trunk Railway were opened in 1856.

Its position on the mainline was a major factor contributing to Berlin's prosperity and growth which continued to be the greatest in the county.  Although Galt and North Dumfries were subsequently excluded from the Grand Trunk railway's mainline, it did receive branch lines during the 1850s that contributed to its growth and sustenance. In fact, the first train to ever enter the county, in 1854, was laid from Harrisburg in Brant County north to Galt through North Dumfries Township.[25] The Credit Valley Railway (later part of the Canadian Pacific Railway) connected Ayr and surrounding rural areas to markets abroad from the 1870s onward.  In all Waterloo County, North Dumfries' farmers and millers benefited the most from railway connection during the 1850s.[26] The railways allowed North Dumfries to reach grain markets abroad, furthering development of its  agricultural and milling enterprises. In Ayr, John Watson began producing agricultural machinery by the late 1840s. Two decades later, his equipment could be found not only throughout the township and the county, but also throughout Canada.[27] By the 1860s, a greater variety of farm produce was grown for export, especially wheat and oats.

R.G. Arthur's Barn Raising near Branchton, c.1912

R.G. Arthur's Barn Raising Near Branchton,
North Dumfries Township, 1912. DHC 985.046.002

Farming seemed to be a natural inclination for Dumfries Township. Wheat and other grains had been shipped from Galt since the 1840s, whereas Berlin did not establish itself as a supplier until over a decade later.[28] Moreover, the township had a flourishing agricultural society since 1839.  The Dumfries Agricultural Society was the first of its kind in the county, providing the stimulus for the development of local and national markets among its membership.[29] Although Galt's market square was not built until 1857, farmers' markets were active during the 1840s.  Although Galt was not on a main railroad line, it remained competitive economically with Berlin, which did not surpass Galt until the late nineteenth century. Galt remained one of the most flourishing towns of the County, becoming known as the "Manchester of Canada" with its many heavy machinery and textile factories.  Because of its agricultural excellence and the prominent enterprises found in Galt and other such communities, including Ayr and Greenfield, North Dumfries remained one of the most prosperous and vibrant townships in the County.

stone farmhouse, ca. 1905

Stone Farmhouse, North Dumfries Township, ca. 1905.
DHC 990.016.010

North Dumfries Township was transformed both technologically and socially by the turn of the twentieth century. Not only did there now exist an elaborate network of rails, roads, and factories, but also a well formed system of schools, churches, health facilities (including a hospital in Galt built in the 1890s), and cultural societies. The first hamlets of settlement had since changed to villages, and villages to towns. No longer were settlers isolated; now roads and railways made them neighbours within a larger social structure and organization. Although Galt and North Dumfries remained somewhat on the periphery of economic and political life of Waterloo County that was centered in Berlin, it has kept a strong and cohesive identity based on its roots in agriculture and the unique individualism of its founding Scottish peoples.

[1] Andrew W. Taylor, Our Todays, and Yesterdays, A History of the Township of North Dumfries and the Village of Ayr, (1967), 24.

[2] Geoffrey Hayes, Waterloo County: An Illustrated History (St. Jacobs, 1997), 8-9.

[3] Hayes, 9.

[4] Young, 110. See also: Hayes, 9.

[5] "Township of North Dumfries," Waterloo Historical Society, (1960), 34. See also: Young, 134.

[6] WHS, (1960), 34.

[7] James Young, Reminiscences of the Early History of Galt and the Settlement of Dumfries in the Province of Ontario (Toronto: 1880), 20. See also: Taylor, 29. See also: Hayes, 8.

[8] J. David Wood, "The Stage is Set: Dumfries Township, 1816,"  Waterloo Historical Society, (1960), 40. See also: Hayes, 8; Taylor, 29.

[9] Taylor, 27-9.  

[10] Young, 32.

[11] Young, 42.

[12] E.G. Barrie, "North Dumfries Centennial Address," Waterloo Historical Society, (1952), 43.

[13] J.P. Jaffray, "Blazing the Trail In Dumfries," Waterloo Historical Society, (1926), 235.

[14] Jaffray, 235. See also: Young, 49.

[15] Hayes, 14.

[16] Young, 56.

[17] Young, 58.

[18] Young, 58.

[19] Young, 59.

[20] Hayes, 15. See also: Young, 99.

[21] Hayes, 15.

[22] W.H.E. Schmalz, "Postal History of Waterloo County," Waterloo Historical Society, (1968), 55.

[23] Schmalz, 55.

[24] Schmalz, 55.

[25] Hayes, 37.

[26] Hayes, 40.

[27] WHS

[28] Hayes, 42.

[29] Hayes, 42


Previous Names: Jedburgh, Mudge's Mills, Nithvale
History of Ayr
Ayr's history begins well over a decade before it received its name in 1840. Ayr was originally the three closely adjoined villages of Mudge's Mills, Jedburgh, and Nithvale. Essentially, these villages grew to form one large village. Mudge's Mills was the first village given the name Ayr, when it took the name of the first post office established there in 1840. Although Nithvale and Jedburgh remained independent of Ayr for many years after, they were often referred to as Ayr by association, especially since Ayr was the primary settlement of the three villages. Nithvale conventionally became part of Ayr by the middle of the nineteenth century, but it retained its name locally for quite some time. Jedburgh however, remained independent of Ayr until late into the nineteenth century. It had resisted a number of amalgamation attempts including its inclusion with Ayr on a registry map of 1875. However, while managing to retain its name until 1905, Jedburgh joined Ayr as an incorporated village in 1884.[1]

In 1822, the only registered land owner in the area of Ayr was Absalom Shade. However, consumed with business ventures in Shade's Mills (now Galt) where he resided, he left the area largely undeveloped. The first settler to arrive in the area was Abel Mudge.[2] Originally from England, he migrated to Canada from the United States. Before landing in the area, he resided near Paris in a place known as Mudge Hollow (now Canning) which was settled by members of his family during the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.[3] In 1824, Mudge arrived in North Dumfries Township as a squatter. He constructed a dam and built both a sawmill and a grist mill at the confluence of Smith's Creek (now the Nith River) and Cedar Creek. This site subsequently became known as Mudge's Mills.

Nith River at the Stanley Street Bridge, 1908

Nith River at the Stanley Street Bridge, Ayr, Ontario, 1908.
DHC 2003.078.014.7

In 1826, Mudge petitioned officials of Halton County in the District of Gore to have a road built north from Mudge's Mills to Roseville.[4] Mudge most likely wished to have a road which would facilitate his business by making it accessible to neighbouring settlers, and to open the area to settlement and development.[5] The road that was consequently built between the two villages was called Northumberland Street, which was declared a public road.[6] Consequently, Mudge's Mills attained greater accessibility which no doubt attracted settlement and development.

Prior to the early 1830s, the settlement of Mudge's Mills occurred slowly.[7] As with the majority of later settlers, those that did settle in the area were primarily of Scottish heritage. Most of these settlers were farmers but a significant number were artisans and tradespersons.[8] As settlers cleared land for farming and established businesses, houses were built from felled timber.  At this time, transportation and communication was insufficient and time consuming. Settlers were forced to rely upon several limited transportation methods to import and export goods and to communicate with outlying settlements. These methods included navigating the Nith River to Brantford, and then making portages west over the established  and well known First Nations routes to the
Grand River.[9]

From the early 1830s into the 1840s, settlement into the area began to increase significantly. Not only did immigrants settle in Mudge's Mills, but subsequently, in the adjoined villages of Jedburgh and Nithvale. Jedburgh was located a short distance below Mudge's Mills. It was founded by John Hall, a Scottish immigrant, in 1832. He established both a flour mill and a distillery there.[10] Within a short period of time, a small settlement developed in the area. He named Jedburgh after his hometown in Scotland.[11] Nithvale, on the other hand, was located about one mile up the Nith River from Mudge's Mills. It was founded during the early 1830s but the precise year of its settlement or the name its founder is unclear. A flour mill and two sawmills were built there at this time.[12] It has been suggested that Nithvale received its name from a modified version of Nithsdale, the Scottish valley.[13]

In 1839, Mudge's Mills was formally laid out for settlement by merchant Robert Wylie.[14] Moreover, an increase in settlement brought about the need for the establishment of a post office which the three villages received in 1840. It was located at Mudge's Mills. The post office was given the name Ayr, by which name Mudge's Mills thereafter became known. However, some confusion seems to exist in regards to the naming of the post office. One account suggests that as a catch-all term for postage to the three tiny settlements, Robert Wylie who successfully established the post office there and later became its second post master, named it after his hometown Ayr in Scotland.[15] In contrast, other accounts suggest that James Jackson, its first post master, named the post office in honour of the large proportion of immigrants in the area from the Ayrshire region of Scotland, and because his hometown Ayr was also located there.[16] Regardless, the name of Ayr is of Scottish origin.

Ayr became one of the prominent destinations for Scottish immigrants into North Dumfries Township throughout the nineteenth century. By 1846, for example, it had reached a population of 230 residents involved in a variety of businesses including a grist mill, a fulling and carding mill, a blacksmith shop, a tannery, two stores, two shoemakers, two tailors, two carpenters, and a cooper.[17] Jedburgh had reached a population of only 30 by the same year, containing a peg factory, a blacksmith shop, a store, and a sawmill.[18] Although several businesses had been established in Nithvale, including a peg factory and a chair factory built by the Gladstone family who settled there in 1840, it was the slowest of the three villages to develop.[19] Nithvale however, had become quite well known by a peculiar incident that occurred there in 1837.[20] At this time, Nithvale had become a drilling and meeting place for the rebel followers of Sir William Lyon Mackenzie. As tradition has it, when arrests of the ringleaders were to be made in the area, the wife of one such person escaped the running pursuit of an arresting officer. She escaped in time to notify her husband of the situation and they escaped arrest together. They were never again to be seen.

By the late 1860s, Ayr's population had peaked around 1,000. By then, Ayr could claim a substantial number of neighbouring farms as well as a number of prominent enterprises. John Watson's foundry, for example, was one of the largest enterprises in the township.[21] When the foundry was established there in the late 1840s, it produced a variety of iron implements including agricultural equipment, pots, and stoves. Because of the foundry's large success, it expanded significantly over the next several decades. By the 1860s, its products were well renowned not only throughout the township, but also throughout the Dominion of Canada. By the 1870s, the foundry was producing high quality mowers, reapers, and threshing machines, and was one of the largest employers in the township. Other businesses also developed in the area. These enterprises included several grist and saw mills, and a woollen mill.[22] The presence of such enterprises offered employment, which attracted settlers to the area. Moreover, businesses of a secondary nature including stores, house builders, cabinet builders, carpenters, and hotels had subsequently developed under the influence of settlement.

As Ayr grew throughout the nineteenth century, transportation and communication routes both within and leading from the settlement developed. Until 1841, for example, the only route of travel to Galt was by way of a walking trail.[23] By the late 1840s, however, road building had improved immensely. After 1847, for example, when a number of businesses including mills, distilleries, and a foundry were developed, an improved road to Galt was put to good use. This road could be used by horse teams, making travel much more convenient. In 1848, a toll road was built between Ayr and Paris, and a road leading south from Nithvale was improved.[24] In the 1860s, wooden sidewalks on streets in the village of Ayr pointed to further progress.[25]
Floods and wash-outs of bridges posed the most difficult transportation and communication problems faced by the residents of Ayr. The Piper Street Bridge, for example, in use as early as 1842, was washed out repeatedly including in 1842, by 1848, and by 1856.[26] Other bridges built as early as 1832 across the Nith and other waterways most often ended in a similar fate.  Every time a bridge was washed out, an effort was undertaken to rebuild and modify the new bridge in some manner or another. The first bridges of the area were constructed of wood, but generally by the early 1870s, newer, sturdier bridges of stone and steel were constructed.

Although North Dumfries Township received a branch line of the Grand Trunk Railway in the 1850s, from Harrisburg, Brant County to Galt, Ayr was fairly remote from it. As a result, goods and supplies travelling in and out of Ayr had to be transported by roadway to railway centres outside the village. It was not until 1879 that Ayr received its first railway line.[27] This line was the Credit Valley Railroad, (later the Canadian Pacific Railway), connecting with the line that eventually travelled east and west through Galt. This railway connection improved many services in Ayr including mail delivery and the transportation of freight. However, its influence on the growth and development of the village was less prevalent than it was for other villages in the township and the County who had received earlier railway connection. Early railway connection most often accelerated the development of such villages, including that of Berlin in Waterloo Township, as well as offering an incentive for the creation of others. But since Ayr did not receive railway connection until late in the nineteenth century, other factors attribute to its early development.

Although Ayr's development was not significantly influenced by the railway, Ayr had become a flourishing social centre and the home of several important social institutions. For example, Ayr's first newspaper (The Ayr Observer) was established in 1854. In 1849-50 Ayr's first library was opened and in 1856 it joined with the Mechanics Institute. The Ayr fire company was first established in 1850 and had a total membership of 38. Initially the company had two primitive fire engines which were replaced with a newer one in 1856; in 1863, township council donated money for the construction of a fire hall.[28]

Ayr's first church was the Presbyterian congregation of West Dumfries established in 1834.[29] By the 1860s it had been rebuilt and renamed the Stanley Street Presbyterian Church. This church joined with the Knox Presbyterian Church in 1914 to form the Knox United Presbyterian Church. Other churches that were established throughout the century included a Catholic church, a Methodist church, a Free Presbyterian church, and in 1914, an Anglican church. In the earliest years of settlement, education took place in private houses or meeting places. The earliest school house was established in Ayr by at least 1842, and in 1854 a new school house was built which remained in use until the late 1880s.[30]

By the turn of the twentieth century, Ayr had transformed into one of the most flourishing agricultural and economic centres in North Dumfries Township. Only Galt, a separately administered municipality, surpassed it in population and economic activity.  In 1973, Galt became part of the City of Cambridge,  and Ayr was alone the largest community in the former Galt-North Dumfries area.  Although Ayr's population did not increase significantly between the late 1860s and the early 1900s, it retained a vibrant community atmosphere; in the twentieth century, Ayr has remained strongly identified with its surrounding rural farming community, while developing as a suburban centre for Cambridge, Kitchener, and points along Highway 401.

[1] Gerard Francis Van Dorp, A Survey of the Place Names of Waterloo County, (University of Western Ontario, London: 1962), 37. See also: Janusas, 45.

[2] Elizabeth Dolman Watson, "Early Days In Ayr," Waterloo Historical Society, (1924), 209.

[3] Watson, 209.

[4] Robert A. Schmidt,  "Uncover Document Signed at Ayr," Waterloo Historical Society, (1954), 47.

[5] Schmidt, 47.

[6] Taylor, 220.

[7] Gillian Simpson, A Historical Geography of the Village of Ayr, Undergraduate Thesis, (University of Waterloo, 1975), 15.

[8] Janusas, 39.

[9] Simpson, 14. See also: Scarlett E. Janusas, An Archaeological Perspective of an Historic Overview of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, (Regional Municipality of Waterloo Planning and Development Department, Archaeology Division: 1988), 38-9.

[10] Taylor, 211.

[11] Albert Hess, "The Forgotten Names and Places," Waterloo Historical Society, (1974), 48.

[12] Watson, 73.

[13] J. David Wood, "A Scottish Note on Dickson of Dumfries," Waterloo Historical Society, (1960), 37.

[14] Watson, 211. See also: Alan Rayburn, Place Names of Ontario, (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1997), 20.

[15] Hess, 48.

[16] Watson 212;  Rayburn, 20.

[17] Janusas, 44, 39. See also: Simpson, 18.

[18] Janusas, 45.

[19] Bessie B. Whitson, "The Gladstone Family of Ayr, Ontario," Waterloo Historical Society, (1951), 17-22.

[20] James Young, Reminiscences of the Early History of Galt and the Settlement of Dumfries in the Province of Ontario (Toronto: 1880), 160-61.

[21] Taylor, 229.

[22] Taylor, 218-19.

[23] Taylor, 212.

[24] Taylor, 212.

[25] Taylor, 212.

[26] Taylor, 222.

[27] W.H.E. Schmalz, "Postal History of Waterloo County," Waterloo Historical Society, (1968), 54.

[28] Taylor, 233.

[29] Bessie D. Gemmell, "One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Church Anniversary Knox United, Ayr, October 1959," Waterloo Historical Society, (1960), 65-9.

[30] Taylor, 247.

Black Horse Corners
A North Dumfries Township crossroads settlement at the present-day intersection of Cedar Creek Road and Northumberland Road, Black Horse Corners was named for the sign at the Black Horse Inn (ca. 1843) on which was painted the figure of a black horse. "Although no architectural evidence of the hamlet remains today, it once consisted of a tannery, a blacksmith shop, wagon shop, shoemaker's shop, shingle factory, cheese factory, residential houses and an inn. The inn was located on the southeast corner of Lot 37, Concession XI."

Located on the Branchton Road in North Dumfries Township between present-day Highways 8 and 24, Branchton owed its existence to its location on a branch line of the Great Western Railway, which was built in 1856, joining Galt to Harrisburg in Brant County. The founder of Branchton was William Roseburgh, who surveyed the area in 1854 for lots for railway workers. A post office was established in 1852. Always a small village of about 250 inhabitants, it served the immediate needs of the surrounding agricultural district.

Group of students at Branchton School, 1909

Branchton School Pupils, 1909,
Branchton, Ontario.
DHC 990.009.050

group at Branchton Sunday School Picnic at MacKenzie's 1911

Branchton Sunday School Picnic at MacKenzie's, 1911,
Branchton, Ontario. DHC 985.096.001

Dickie Settlement
Today Dickie Settlement is thought of as the corner of Roseville Road and Dickie Settlement Road in North Dumfries Township. In 1833, a larger settlement area was purchased by John Dickie and his brother William Dickie who purchased three lots in Concession XII. Although the families dispersed in the later nineteenth century, some of them moving to New Zealand, the area kept its association with the family name. In 1861 the North Dumfries Township S.S. No. 25 school was built at the corner, known as the Dickie Settlement School; it was active continuously until it was closed in June 1998.
More to come...

Greenfield was a small North Dumfries Township property settled by the John Goldie family in 1844. Located where Eden Creek ran into the Nith River, slightly to the north and west of Ayr, it was first the site of a sawmill built by John Goldie Jr., shortly to be replaced by a flour and oatmeal meal mill in 1848. Proximity to the Great West Railway (later the C.P.R.) and growing demand allowed the Goldie Milling Company to prosper. Worker houses were constructed for mill employees in the village. Production of cereals and other products continued in Greenfield until 1965.

Mills of Goldie Milling Co., ca. 1920

Poster: Mills of the Goldie Milling Co., ca. 1920.
DHC 964.0314.001

Little's Corners

Earlier known as East Dumfries, the crossroads of Little's Corners in North Dumfries Township was the site of two taverns, one of whose proprietors was William Little, a Scottish immigrant. Little's tavern operated between about 1850 and 1871. The crossroads was on the Stone Road where it met the Branchton Road, present-day Dundas Street East and Branchton Road in Cambridge. A school was in this settlement from 1830; it was known as Pine Grove School in the 1870s. Little's Corners School was closed in 1999.

Little's Corners School Fair, 1916

Little's Corners School Fair, North Dumfries Township S.S. No. 21, 1916.
DHC Research Files.


Formerly a small settlement at the intersection of present-day Reidsville Road and Alps Road in North Dumfries Township, Reidsville was named after John Reid, who purchased property there in 1831. In 1857, the Reid family established a shingle and sawmill on a small stream feeding into Cedar Creek. A pond adjacent to it was the home of the Ayr Dominion Club, where early curling matches were played.

Fisher's Paradise Postcard, 1907

Fisher's Paradise Postcard, Reidsville, Ontario, 1907.
DHC 2003.078.013.3


Village of Roseville, circa 1920

Village of Roseville, circa 1920
DHC Research Files

Roseville was a pocket of 1820s Pennsylvania German Mennonite settlement in North Dumfries Township west of Galt, near the Waterloo Township line. Unlike the original Mennonite settlers in Waterloo Township, this group had supported the revolutionaries in the American War of Independence, but like their fellows to the north had come to Canada in search of good farm land. The village lay on the path of an old north-south First Nations Peoples trail which ran between Doon and Ayr. Mennonite settlers were neighbours to Scottish settlers. A post office was established in 1852 and closed in 1917. A general store and various village industries were located at Roseville along with taverns, a hostelry and what was rumoured to be a haunted house. Roseville native Daniel B. Detweiler was one of three principal promoters of the Ontario Hydro Electric Power Corporation. Churches included a Mennonite meetinghouse, an Evangelical church (later a United Church) and a United Brethren in Christ church. No longer an active place of worship, the Detweiler Meetinghouse (built in 1855) is the only surviving stone meetinghouse built by Mennonites in Ontario.

The hamlet of Whistlebare was at the junction of present-day Dickie Settlement Road and Whistle Bare Road in North Dumfries Township. The Whistlebare Road bisects the Twelfth Concession of the township and has been in use since the 1820s. The hamlet was said to have been named after its blacksmith, Thomas Vair, who was fond of whistling. Another explanation for the name is the hamlet's location on a bare hill over which the winds whistled in wintertime.
Wrigley Corners
Wrigley's Corners is at the corner of present-day Spragues Road and Wrigley Road in North Dumfries Township. The lake at this corner was once called Swan Lake, and a nearby inn the Swan Inn, perhaps because whistling swans rested there during their migrations. Prior to 1968, the wetlands in this area were sold to the Grand River Conservation Authority, which is still responsible for them. The first school at Wrigley's Corners was in the home of Joseph Wrigley. In 1834, a log school was built, which was later destroyed by fire. In 1854 a brick school was raised; it was used until 1954.