Listowel, Ontario from its founding to 1902
Early Settlers
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Mitchell Ontario
St Marys Ontario
Stratford Ontario

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

Listowel is a modern town.   Its early history is merged in that of Elma and Wallace townships, a portion of each being incorporated in 1866 as Listowel.   In this neighborhood, and, indeed, where the business parts are now built, settlers just located.   True to pioneer usuries, they followed the stream, and on its forest-covered banks entered on their task of cutting out homes for themselves in this unbroken wilderness.

Mr. John Binning was just to locate permanently at this point, on what after surveys were completed was found to be lot 26, concession 1, Wallace.   This was in January, 1852.   It appears that a shanty had been erected here even prior to this by a person named Henry, who had squatted near the river.   This adventurer was for some time "monarch of all he surveyed, for his right there was none to dispute" Mr. Binning bought the rights of this squatter, not only to his shanty, but to all his possessions, for a rifle.   An agreement transferring this part of Canada's fertile soil was made on a piece of paper one of the parties thereto was possessed of, a burnt stick being used as a pencil.   On this land a large portion of Listowel is now built.   Mr. Binning extended his right of conquest eastward, which he might have done for many mites without encroaching on his neighbours.   On a part of his eastern possessions be afterwards gave up all claim to Mr. G. W. Dodd for a barrel of flour.   In those days a squatter's rights were easily obtained; which, indeed, were no rights at all beyond priority of settlement.   In case of dispute by adjoining occupants regarding boundary lines it would have been impossible to establish a claim to any particular lot where a survey had not been made. There was no incentive to enter suit for any piece of land when it could be obtained in unlimited quantities simply by entering in and taking possession.   Previous to Mr. Binning a settler named Peter Twamley had preceded him, penetrating still further into that unknown solitude, and keeping close to the stream.   These two neighbours, although only a mile or two apart, were quite oblivious of each other's proximity. No sound had they heard in those silent forest halls, except such as were peculiar to Canadian forest life.   Each one, no doubt, considered his own quiet hermitage as far removed from those haunts where men pursue phantoms with fond but deluding hopes of finding what never did nor never shall exist - pure and unalloyed happiness.

Mr. Binning, with his wife and child, had been alone in the wilderness for several weeks when, on a beautiful calm morning, he distinctly heard echoing through the woods the sound of a woodman's axe.   He communicated his discovery to his wife, who also heard that steady, monotonous stroke which often guided wanderers to a place of rescue In those olden tames.   Their excitement became intense at the idea that even here, after all, they were not alone.   Though man's inhumanity to man may be productive of much evil in this world, yet man's humanity to man is also productive of much good.   With all our shortcomings and seeming neglect of each other, the idea that we are alone and isolated from those of our own species, or that a time may come when we will be separated from home, from kindred, from those we love, and who may love us, seems to dry up the sap from our loftiest thoughts and noblest aspirations. Mr. Binning was anxious, therefore, to look on a man's face once more.   Following that direction from which the sound seemed to proceed, a walk of a mile or two brought him and Mr. Twamley face to face.   Both men looked at each other in amazement, as if an apparition had arisen from the earth.   (see biographical sketch of John Binning)
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