The Township of Howard was surveyed in 1794 and named after Thomas Howard, the Earl of Effingham, whose daughter, Lady Mary Howard, married Sir Guy Carleton, who was Governor General of Canada at that time.
Some of the first white settlers of Howard came from the British Isles; others were Americans who after the War of 1812-1814 still wished to be under British rule.
The four main corners of what is now Ridgetown were taken up by Edmund Mitton, William Marsh, James Watson and Ebenezer Colby. The first three mentioned were English, Mr. Colby was an American.
The first Township Council for Howard was elected in January 1850, and held its first meeting in Mitton's schoolhouse on January 21. George Duck was Howard's first Reeve; he was also Reeve in 1851. He was Kent County's first Warden and held that position for two years, 1850-1851. The population of Howard, including Ridgetown, at that time was 2,465. The meetings were held in different places in the Township, causing long walks for some. They felt they needed a Hall in a central place. Ebenezer Colby gave the Township a free site on the main street of Ridgetown on which to build a Hall. On April 16, 1855, by-law No. 8 of the Township was passed authorizing the building of a hall on the free site given them. The inhabitants of Ridgetown raised by subscriptions the sum of one hundred pounds, a second one hundred pounds was to be raised by the collection of rates over the whole Township.
The Building Committee named in the by-law were: Charles Grant, John Wilson, John McKinlay, John Ferguson and John Mitton. On June 15, 1855 tenders were received for its construction. Mr. D. McIntyre tendered for $1,400 and James Ferguson & Sons for $1,175. The latter was accepted.
The first hall was a frame building and the first meeting in this hall was held on August 30, 1856. James A. Rolls was Reeve, C. Ashwin, Deputy-Reeve, the Councillors were: Wm. McKerracher, Francis Ogletree and John Desmond; Wm. Latimer was Clerk and Treasurer; Richard Marsh and E.B. Harrison were auditors.
The Hall was the community centre for Ridgetown and District until Ridgetown became a village.
Later on this Hall was condemned and its was suggested a new hall be built outside the town, but in looking over the old deed it was found Mr. Colby had a clause inserted to the effect that if it was ever discontinued as a site for the Township Hall, it was to go back to the Colby heirs. This decided the Council to remodel the old hall, hence the reason for the Howard Hall being in Ridgetown.
Plans for re-modelling the Hall were made in 1909 and tenders called for. Several tenders to do the work were received, but that of Watson and Taylor at a cost of $4,500 was accepted.
The present hall, a brick building, is a credit to the community. It has a large Council Chamber, Offices at the front of the building, and a large basement with hot-air furnace.
The clubrooms above the Offices at the front of the building were not completed until about 1928 and the council rents them at present to the I.O.D.E. for $100.00 a year.
[Transcribers note: I.O.D.E. - Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, founded in 1900 by Margaret Polson Murray]
Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.