The Old Town Hall - Now the Township Hall

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On April 16, 1855 by-law No. 8 of the Township of Howard was passed for the purpose of providing a Township Hall for the Township of Howard. The by-law recites that Ebenezer Colby had offered a free site, village lot No. 7 on Main, Ridgetown; that the inhabitants of Ridgetown had raised by subscription the sum of one hundred pounds; that the 2nd 100 pounds was to be raised by the collection of rates over the whole Township. The building committee named in the by-law was Charles Grant, John Wilson, John McKinlay, John Ferguson, John Mitton.

On June 15, 1855 the 2 tenders submitted for its construction were opened. D. McIntyre at $1,400.00 and James Ferguson for $1,175.00. The tender of James Ferguson and Sons (being John & Robert) who finished their days in Thamesville, was accepted.

The building was built and first meeting of the Council was Aug. 30, 1856. James A. Rolls was Reeve; C. Ashwin, Deputy Reeve; (both elected by the Council itself); Wm. McKerracher; Francis Ogletree, John Desmond were councillors. Wm. Latimer as clerk and treasurer, Richard March and, E.B. Harrision was auditors.

The Township Council, before this time, did not have a permanent meeting place. This building was the centre of communal life of Ridgetown and district until Ridgetown was incorporated as a village, when it provided its own meeting place, which was a combined fire hall and council chamber, built in 1879, corner of Erie and York Street. The next Council, Council Chambers was the old M.E. Church on the corner of York and Albert Street bought in 1889, burned in 1896 and finally the present Municipal Building. All public meetings were held there; until the Porter Opera House was built in 1878, now owned by Mrs. Arthur McKinlay on the corner of Erie and Main Streets.

First show in Opera House given was Uncle Tom's Cabin and the building was the first 3 storey structure built in Ridgetown by a Mr. Malcolmson, son-in-law of John P. McKinlay as architect adn Henry Porter was the owner.

The old town hall still exists. It has since been bricked and enlarged. The Township of Howard uses it as its municipal headquarters, also where the Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute holds its regualar monthly meetings. The one room up-stairs is used by the I.O.D.E chapters for their meetings. There are 2 office rooms at the front of the building. One is used by Mr. Harry O'Neill, clerk of the Township since Feb. 1934. He is also the treasurer since 1952. The other room is occupied by the Assessor for the Township of Howard.

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Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.
2004-10-29