About Perth County

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About Perth County

The County of Perth, in the centre of southwestern Ontario, was created in January 1850 with eleven townships from the former Huron and Wellington Districts. With the opening of the first courthouse at Stratford in January 1853, the County was separated from the united counties of Huron, Perth, and Bruce to determine its own future. Five urban municipalities - Stratford, St. Marys, Mitchell, Listowel and Milverton - were incorporated over the years in addition to the townships. In January 1998, the municipalities within the county were reduced from fourteen to four, although the City of Stratford and the Town of St. Marys continue their separate existence outside the county government. The four new municipalities are the Town of North Perth and the Townships of Perth East, Perth South and the Municipality of West Perth.

The southern eight townships - North Easthope, South Easthope, Ellice, Logan, Downie, Fullarton, Hibbert and Blanshard - were laid out in 1827 as part of the Huron Tract belonging to the Canada Company, a British corporation interested in land development and settlement in Upper Canada. (The townships were named for the directors of the company.) The first settlers in December 1828, were two tavern keepers who located along the Huron Road with their families - Sebastian Fryfogel and Andreas Seebach. After surveying farm lots, a few concessions back from the road and advertising in the British Isles and Germany, the company opened the tract to settlers in 1832. During the 1830's and 1840's, these townships were almost completely settled.

The northern three townships - Wallace, Elma and Mornington - were part of the crown lands known as the "Queen's Bush" that lay between the Huron Tract and Georgian Bay. These opened up in the late 1840's and 1850's and filled with settlers very quickly. by 1871, the county had been settled by almost equal amounts of English, Irish, Scottish and German immigrants. In more recent years, the rural area has seen the addition of Dutch, Flemish and Swiss immigrants in significant numbers as well. The urban areas have attracted a more varied mixture of immigrants.

The county is prime agricultural land and is known for mixed farming, dairying and hog production. In the past, it was well-known for its numerous cheese and butter factories, some of which are still in operation. Stratford is the home of the annual Ontario Pork Congress. The towns are known today for various industrial enterprises. The City of Stratford was for many years a regional centre of the Canadian National Railways and was home to CN's locomotive repair shops from 1870 to 1964. The City was also known for furniture production which peaked in the 1920's when one-sixth of all furniture made in Canada was manufactured in Stratford. Listowel was also known for its furniture production.

With the waning of the shops and the furniture industry in the 1950's, a shift was made in the economy of Stratford to new industry, especially automotive. However, the development of a parks system in imitation of Stratford-upon-Avon in England in the first half of the 1900's set the stage for the successful development starting in 1953 of the world-famous Stratford Shakespearean Festival, the third largest repertory theatre in the English-speaking world and the largest in North America. This has led Stratford (and the picturesque "stonetown" of St. Marys) to be one of the busiest tourist attractions in the county.

Today, the whole of the county continues a prosperous existence in the heartland of southwestern Ontario.

Perth County Statistics

  • The County encompasses 219,121 hectares (541,440) acres.
  • The total number of farms - 2,832 (1996 Census)
  • 90% of the land is classified as prime agricultural land. (Classes 1, 2 and 3) 
  • The County area is equal 2,191 square km (846 square miles) 
  • The County is centrally situated in south-western Ontario being approximately 161 km (100 miles) west of Toronto 
  • The County Road system totals 435.3 km (270.49 miles).

 

Perth County Court House Historical Information