Listowel
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From History of Perth County 1825-1902
by William Johnston, published in 1903

During next summer came William Wisner, John Williams, and Robert Tremaine, who also settled in Elma.   John Tremaine located where the post office now stands, the others further east.   Another early settler was James Barber, who purchased 400 acres in Elma, where a considerable portion of Listowel is now built.   Samuel Davidson, Thomas McDonnell, and John Climie were early settlers, locating about 1854.   In 1855 came Mr. D. D. Hay from Innisfil, in Simcoe, to spy out this new land. Prior to his return he purchased three acres from Mr. Barber, on which he subsequently erected a mill, always an important industry in a new settlement.   Returning to his home, he reported on the great possibilities of this new county.   In 1856 the family, comprising D. D., Thomas Erskine, Robert, John, and William G., along with their father, became permanent residents.   All of this family were men of singular energy, and exerted a vast influence in this section of Perth County, always to their credit, be it spoken, on the side of progress and the people's best interests.   Mr. D. D. Hay was a valuable acquisition, not only to Listowel, but to this county generally.   His public spirit, his restless and untiring zeal in promoting schemes for developing this new land was in a large degree honourable to his character as a citizen. (See biographical sketch of David Davidson Hay)

In 1855 Main street was almost yet in a state of nature.   Great black stumps, logs, and brush heaps would seem a hopeless condition ever to be transformed into macadam roads and concrete sidewalks.   Across the river a tree had fallen, forming the only means of passing from each side for pedestrians, while the oxen and sled found a passage for themselves amongst logs and mudholes of unseasonable depths.   During this year Mr. W. H. Hacking arrived, and purchased one acre of land from Mr. Tremaine, paying therefore $100, on which he erected a general store. It would appear as if land had rapidly increased in value since Mr. Binning sold 100 acres for a barrel of flour. (See biographical sketch of William H Hacking) No doubt land had increased in value.   Mr. Hay was preparing to erect his mill, Mr. Hacking was cutting logs for his store, and, above all, settlers were pouring into the fertile surrounding country.   All these indicated that an important town would sprang up at this point at no distant day.   Logs for the new commercial emporium being secured, bushmen came long distances to assist in raising it.   At gatherings of this kind events were discussed and questions settled which would have puzzled courts or senates.   On this occasion, after long and no doubt festive deliberation, it was decided that this new metropolis, whose first building they were erecting, should be called Mapleton.

Meantime foundations for a rival commercial centre were being laid west of the river.   Mr. William Gibson erected a log building in Elma, where he sold groceries and liquors.   This place afterwards became a hotel, the first in this little hamlet.   Mr. Gibson named this place Windham. Subsequent to a post office being opened by Mr. Hacking, both these names (Windham and Mapleton) were discontinued, and Listowel substituted instead.

In 1856 arrived Mr. D. D Campbell, who erected a frame structure on Main street in Wallace, the just frame building in Listowel, opening a general store.   (See biographical sketch of Daniel D Campbell) This gave a still greater impetus to trade, which together with a post office and Mr. Hay's mills, soon transformed what four or five years previous was a wilderness into a lively little hamlet.   As these business men arrived, the professions were soon represented.   Many of those conveniences were now introduced which always follow in the wake of civilization, and whose presence indicate a reined and progressive character in the people.   In 1866 the village had a population of 800 souls.

Listowel at present may be appropriately called a "town of stately homes."   The architectural beauty and variety of design displayed in private residences everywhere are such as to challenge the admiration of strangers.   As a rule, homes of our Canadian people, particularly in rural districts, and to some extent in towns and villages, denote a sameness in construction, somewhat monotonous   This is not so in Listowel.   There is no sameness.   There is an absence, too, of that severity in finish and design so conspicuous in Canadian architecture.   The handsome dwellings erected on residential streets are varied in appearance, and each proprietor seems to have vied with his neighbour to eclipse him both in size and in elaborate and ornate embellishment. Streets have been graded, sidewalks made, shade trees planted, whose foliage in summer affords comfort and protection to the passer by.   A man's home is the palace of his gods, and in proportion as he worships so shall that palace be, as far as his ability will permit.   When we look back at that time well remembered by many still living, when a solitary shanty indicated human life, and the river was crossed by a fallen tree, comparing it with to-day, progress has been very great, indeed.