Laid out and named by the Canada Company, Mitchell was the first area to see settlement in Perth County. In 1837 William Hicks, and his son John, purchased land in Mitchell and erected a log structure on the Logan side of the Huron Road, near the bank of the Thames River. In 1857, John Hicks replaced this early tavern with a grand new hotel, the focal point of the main street. By 1842, a number of settlers and businesses had located in Mitchell. The community had progressed so much that, when the Board of Magistrates at London were balloting for the county seat, Mitchell lost out by only one vote.
In 1855, Her Majesty Queen Victoria granted a charter to the Townships of Logan, Hibbert, and Fullarton to hold a fall fair in Mitchell. This fair was widely known as the "Mitchell Fall Fair", and is reputed to be the "Biggest Little Fair in Ontario". Mitchell continued to develop and, in 1857, was incorporated as a village.
The opening of the Logan road to the north and the coming of the railway to the west brought much development, so much that Mitchell, located on the Huron tract, soon had more industry than any town in Perth County at the time.
In 1874, Mitchell was incorporated as a town. Mitchell's first Mayor was Thomas Matheson, a Scottish immigrant who came to Canada in 1844 at the age of 17. In 1873, Mitchell obtained its first waterworks system, at a cost of nearly $20 000. This undertaking, combined with a fine electric plant built in 1889, granolithic sidewalks, and macadamized streets, prompted the historian to remark that Mitchell had all the conveniences which are synonymous with progressive Canadian communities. Arc lights were installed in 1889, and, by 1894, a 500 light incandescent lighting system was installed by Royal Electric of Montreal. By 1910, Mitchell joined the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario for the construction of a distribution system.
In 1901, the population was 2200. A new, multiple room Public School was built in 1918 to accommodate the expanding population. A high school was built around that time as well.
Mitchell can also boast of being the home town of famous National Hockey League star Howie Morenz (1902-11937), who gained nation wide popularity playing for the Montreal Canadiens.
In 1929, a golf club was established in Logan Township adjacent to the north west corner of Mitchell.
In 1938, Stacey Brothers' Limited relocated the "Willow Groves Creamery" from Logan to Mitchell. This growing dairy food industry has changed hands and is now operated by Parmalat Food, Incorporated.
John Hicks, a native of Cornwall, England, is credited as the earliest settler in Logan, arriving in 1836. Although Logan was later home to a considerable German population, in the 1850's, its front concessions were opened up by British pioneers. In 1827, Logan Township was named in honour of Hart Logan, a director of the Canada Company. A small village, situated on Lot 16, Concession 9 (Perth Road 44), Bornholm, was settled by John Hagerty in 1853. Well known for "The Half Way House" around the turn of the century, that establishment stands now as "Wietersen's Country Store". Brodhagen, the only hamlet of any size within the township, is located eight miles northwest of Mitchell on Country Road 11 (Perth Road 44).
In 1853, the family from which Brodhagen takes its name arrived in the area, led by William, and followed in 1860 by his brother Charles, both from Hanover, Germany. One of the oldest institutions in Brodhagen was its band, founded in the fall of 1904 by Fred Hinz. The end of a musical era took place July 8, 1973, on Pete Hinz's lawn. This thriving village has been full of business for many years, as cottage industries have given way to modern ones.
Logan is a proud township, which is reflected in the 150th Logo Title, "Pride In Our Past - Faith In Our Future".
The Township of Hibbert was named in honour of William Hibbert, a director of the Canada Company. The first real settlement in Hibbert was Irishtown, which later became St. Columban. Robert Donkin, probably the township's first settler, built a log tavern on Lot 16, Concession 1 prior to 1840.
Beginning in 1847, Hibbert had its own voice on the council in Huron District, voiced by Donkin. The township was slow in settling. After 1851, the pace of settlement increased, and, by 1857, Hibbert had become a wealthy municipality. Fertile soil, industry. and excellent transportation facilities gave rise to a prosperity that was new to Perth County.
Since the turn of the century, there has been continuous agricultural growth in the township. In the 1800s, most Hibbert farms were 50 acres; today the average is almost 250 acres, with many in the 300-400 acre range. Agriculture has moved from a largely self sufficient way of life to a highly specialized, capital intensive industry. Beef, pork, poultry, and dairy production has increased considerably over the years, necessitating new barns and larger, more diverse operations.
There is an evident ethnic mix in the township. Those in the south of Hibbert are still mostly of English or Scottish descent, while those in the north are predominately Irish and Dutch. Several 19th century stone houses remain, as well as those made of brick from just after the turn of the century. Today, many homes are being built or remodelled to reflect the pioneer era.
Education in one room school houses ended in the middle of the 1960s. Students at the primary and secondary level are bussed to centralized public and separate schools.
Telephones arrived in Hibbert shortly after 1900, followed closely by hydroelectric power in 1918, from the Dublin Hydro System.
The Hibbert Ward, now an important part of the Township of West Perth retains the pride and dignity of its founders.
The Fullarton Ward of the Township of West Perth is a tract of nearly 42 000 acres of land lying to the south of Mitchell and Highway 8. The township was named for John Fullarton, one of 19 directors of the Canada Company, appointed in 1824. Their mandate was to develop and open for settlement the 1 100 000 acres known as the Huron Tract.
Fullarton's first settler, High Kennedy Junck, arrived on Lot 20, Concession 1 in 1832, where he later opened a sawmill, on Whirl Creek. He was followed by Alsatian settlers from Alsace-Lorraine, and, in the 1840s, by English, Irish, and Scottish settlers.
As the forest was cleared, the predominate use of the land was agricultural, as it is today. The land is drained by the Thames River and its tributaries, and remains with seven percent forest cover.
By 1870, as the population reached its peak of nearly 3000, it was serviced by seven schools, many churches, and small businesses such as blacksmithies, wagon and harness makers, country stores, a cheese and butter factory, grist and saw mills, and several hotel taverns.
Today, the Perth County Co-operative Association is the largest industry, providing livestock feed, crop inputs for the growing of soybeans and corn, and other products for the agricultural community. It is located on Lot 21, Concession 1, adjoining the Moffat & Powell Lumber company. To the east is Shorty's Electronics, and on Road 160 is Robert Eickmeyer's Trucking and Roy's Radiator Service. On Highway 23, Road 163, is Brandy Point Service Centre and Davidson Packaging. Dale Martyn services cars and implements in Russeldale, and on the Mitchell Road, Road 163, is the Windmill Trailer Park. Further south is McIntosh Snowmobile Sales and Service. On Country Road 17, Line 20, is Smith Welding.
The General Store in Fullarton village has survived to this day, as has the Free Reformed Church at Munro, the Thamesview United Church at Fullarton, and the Presbyterian Church near Motherwell.
For further information contact the Mitchell Branch of the Stratford/Perth Archives.
The Archives are located in the basement of the Medical Centre, 7 Francis St., Mitchell
Hours of operation: Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays, 1-5 p.m.
Contact: Lynda Jones, 348-8817