FERGUS, ONTARIO

Township of Centre Wellington​

The largest community in Centre Wellington, a township within Wellington County in Ontario, Canada. It's most famous for its scenic river views, waterfalls, limestone gorge, and annual Scottish Festival.

With a population of 20,767, Fergus, Ontario, Canada, has deep Scottish roots dating to 1833 when settlers called it "Little Falls" because of its scenic waterfalls. In 1858, the town was incorporated and renamed "Fergus" in honour of one of its Scottish founders, Adam Fergusson.

The population was 1000 in 1858.

This historic river town is divided by the stunning Grand River and is a little over one hour's drive from Toronto. The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games is the town's largest and most recognized festival. An annual tradition that draws over 30,000 people each year.

The Fergus Scottish Festival should have celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2020 but was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Fergus and Elora (Ontario's Most Beautiful Village) are the primary communities that make up The Township of Centre Wellington in the heart of Wellington County.

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Top 3 Things to do in
Fergus Ontario

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Fergus Ontario History Highlighted

 

SOURCE: Wikipedia

The first settlers to this area were freed enslaved people who formed what was known as the Pierpoint Settlement, named after their leader, Richard Pierpoint, a United Empire Loyalist originally from Bondou, Senegal, in Africa.

Along with a half dozen other men who had also fought with the British during the American Revolutionary War, Pierpoint was granted land in Garafraxa Township somewhere around what is now Scotland Street in Fergus.

Watch: Explore one of Centre Wellington's Grand Homes

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Another settlement was founded nearby in 1833 and was first called Little Falls because of the scenic (water) falls, now between the Public Library and the Fergus Market. The primary developers were Adam Fergusson and James Webster, who had bought 28 km² (7000 acres) of land. Both were later lawyers by profession. The first bridge over the river in the heart of the settlement was built in 1834 by Fergusson.

The first house was built in 1833, a hotel was built in 1844, and in 1835, a sawmill, grist-mill, church and school were opened. Fergusson was also a founder of the first curling club in Ontario; it was opened in 1834 and is still active today. After 1938, Scottish settlers purchased the land in Pierpoint Settlement.

 

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James Webster was the one who opened the Fergus Mills and cleared a great deal of land for farming. Alexander Dingwall Fordyce joined Ferguson, and they controlled all of the industry in Fergus until 1855.

 

Until approximately 1850, an unwritten policy of regional growth was implemented. Only Scots could purchase village lots because Fergusson, Webster, and some other Scottish emigrants owned the land. However, to accommodate Irish settlers, Webster founded the town of Arthur (just north of Fergus) in 1840.

 

By 1846 the settlement had 21 businesses. The population was 184, mainly Scots. The community had a church and a post office, and several tradespeople.

 

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Plan of the Town of Fergus, Ontario (1847)

 

Originally called Little Falls, Fergus was founded in 1833 by Adam Ferguson and James Webster.

 

The mid nineteenth century saw a rush of town development to the north and west of Toronto.

 

Photo Credit: Flickrr

James Wilson arrived in 1855 and opened an oatmeal mill, then a flour mill, then a sawmill and then a woollen mill and a factory, Monkland Mills, that supplied oatmeal for export. They and other Scots living in the settlement established a booming economy using the waterfalls on the Grand River to power local industry. They built solid stone houses, factories and other buildings which still characterize Fergus. Many of the buildings from the 1800s are still in use today. In addition to Scots, the other settlers in this area were Irish or freed slaves from the U.S.

 

In 1858, the settlement, with a population of 1,000, was incorporated as a village called Fergus in honour of one of its founders, Adam Fergusson. By 1869 the population was 1,500.

 

On November 29, 1890, electricity became available in the village through the efforts of Dr. Abraham Groves. More extensive provision of power, by Ontario Hydro, began in 1914. 

The first library, built with a Carnegie grant, opened in 1911 and is in the register of Canada's Historic Places.  In 1953, the village was incorporated as the "Town of Fergus" and in 1999 became a part of the Centre Wellington township. ​