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  • Ryan Joyce

Scots, Slaves, and Surgical Gloves-- The fascinating history of Fergus Ontario Canada

Fergus' history includes freed slaves, Scottish founders, and surgical gloves, here's a brief look at the history of Fergus.

First Settlers of Fergus

The first settlers to this area were freed slaves 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.

Pierpoint fought in multiple battles in the War of 1812 while serving as a private from 1 September 1812 to 24 March 1815.

In 1821, he petitioned the government of Upper Canada at York for passage back to West Africa. Pierpoint states in his petition that he is “above all things desirous to return to his native country.” But his request was denied by the government

Richard Pierpoint and half a dozen other men who fought were granted land in Garafraxa Township. Pierpoint was granted 100 acres of land on the Grand River around what is now Scotland Street in present-day Fergus, Ontario. Pierpoint was living in Niagara at the time.

See the land of Pierpoint Park here.

Scottish "Little Falls" Founders

Another settlement was founded nearby in 1833 and was first called "Little Falls" because of the scenic waterfalls, now between the Fergus Public Library and the former 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 opened in 1834 and is still active today.

After 1938, Scottish settlers purchased the land in what was previously Pierpoint Settlement.

James Webster was the one who opened the Fergus Mill 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 around 1850, an unwritten policy of restricted growth was implemented. Fergusson, Webster and some other Scottish emigrants owned the land, only Scots could purchase village lots. However, in order 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 mostly Scots. The community had a church and a post office and several tradesmen.

Plan of the Town of Fergus, Ontario (1847)
Plan of the Town of Fergus, Ontario (1847)

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. 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.

Dr. Abraham Groves

On November 29, 1890, electricity became available in the village through the efforts of Dr. Abraham Groves.

Abraham Groves was a Canadian physician and surgeon in Fergus, Ontario, who is credited with performing the first appendectomy in North America, in 1883. He is also recognized for performing Canada's first suprapubic lithotomy and for his early use of surgical gloves, possibly being the first person to use surgical gloves.

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. ​

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Aug 26, 2023

I have a stool that I am restoring. Once I got all the paint off it says, Fergus, Canada. Just wondering if there some kind of factory that manufactured these stools?

Oct 25, 2023
Replying to

The Beattie brothers ran a local manufactoring plant. One of the brothers died on the Titanic. There is also a Fergus in Michigan ...


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