The Honourable James Young wrote about the North Dumfries area in Reminiscences of the Early History of Galt and the Settlement of Dumfries, and it is from his work that the beginnings of this township were recorded. In it he states that the land later known as North and South Dumfries was deeded to Mr. Philip Stedman on February 5, 1798 from Colonel Joseph Brant of the Six Nations. On the deed the land is described as Block No. 1, comprising 94,305 acres and Mr. Stedman bought it for 8841 Pounds. A few years later, Mr. Stedman passed away and his sister inherited the property, but she sold it in 1811 to Honourable Thomas Clarke for a mortgage on the lands of 8841 pounds plus interest. In 1816, unable to continue payments, the land was bought by Honourable William Dickson for 24,000 pounds paying off the mortgage..

Mr. Dickson came from Dumfries Scotland in 1792, and settled in Niagara or Newark. In 1803 he received his license to practice law, allowing him to become very comfortable financially. Upon purchasing the land in 1816, he hoped it would become settled by the hard-working people of his homeland.

Mr. Dickson wanted to use this land and build a community, so he enlisted the help of a 22 year old man from Pennsylvania named Absalom Shade. In July 1816, Mr. Dickson and Mr. Shade went forth and searched for the perfect area to start a town, and they found it at the junction of the Grand River and Mill Creek. Mr. Dickson soon had the land surveyed, and it is at this point that he decided to call it Dumfries after his place of birth. The first industry in the township was Shade's Grist mill, but sawmills were functioning by 1817.

In 1817 the Township had a population of 38 families, which constituted over 163 people. According to the author of Our Todays and Yesterdays, "the first houses were built of unhewn logs and chinked with clay". Homes were usually only one room, with a loft above for sleeping or storage.

In 1820 Mr. Dickson employed the services of Mr. John Telfer who went to Scotland to enlist people to buy land and to come live in Canada. In another attempt to lure people to come and purchase his land, Mr. Dickson also had articles published in local papers in his homeland. He also wrote letters to important men in the old country and told them how great a place to live this land was. From 1825 until early 1832, there was a steady stream of settlers to the area, resulting in a dominance of Scottish persons living in this Township. By 1832 every plot in Mr. Dickson's tract of land was filled, and the vast majority of the settlers were Scottish.

The first municipal meeting for the Township of Dumfries North was held in 1819, and these meetings continued until 1836 when the Provincial Legislature passed a new law allowing taxpayers of Dumfries to elect three Township Commissioners. In 1842 two District Councillors were elected and their names were Alex Buchanan and Hiram Capron. In 1850 taxpayers were allowed the freedom of electing five councillors to manage the business of the township.


According to Andrew Taylor, all schooling was optional before 1842 because the government did not pay for such things. This resulted in school sessions being held in private homes, meeting houses or abandoned buildings but only during the winter months, when the children were not needed on the farms. In 1843 the first School Act came into effect, and this divided the townships and areas into school districts, trustees were elected, school houses were built and teachers had to be examined and licensed. The children in the Dumfries Township went to Galt, as that is where the first school was built. 


According to Our Todays and Yesterdays, Roseville Road has been travelled on for at least 140 years. Alps Road is named after the Alps Mountains because of the steep hills and valleys which made driving difficult. Cheese Factory Road is so named because in 1867 Mr. McBean built a cheese factory on Moffatts' Creek. 


map of ayr


The Village of Ayr had its beginnings in 1824 when Abel Mudge erected a saw mill at the junction of Smith and Cedar Creek. Originally there were two small settlements, Jedburgh and Nithvale and the two constantly competed for dominance over the other. This finally ended in 1840 when a post office was established at Mudges' Mill by Robert Wyllie and he renamed the settlements Ayr. Nithvale is in Canada' history books as the place where Mackenzie's followers met before heading off to York (Toronto) for the 1837 Rebellions.


The first newspaper in Ayr was started by Mr. James Somerville in 1854, while the Ayr library was built in 1849-50 becoming the Mechanic's Institute in 1856.

The Watson Foundry was started by John Watson in 1847, and although he only produced cast iron pots, he was soon able to expand his business and eventually would manufacture stoves and finally agricultural implements.

Mr. Watson and all of the other businesses teamed their goods over to the Village of Paris where it was taken onto the train. This went on from 1854 until 1879 when the Credit Railway finally opened in Ayr.

The Village of Ayr was incorporated in 1884 and John Watson was appointed Reeve. On January 1, 1973, Ayr was amalgamated with North Dumfries Township in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. For more information on Ayr, please visit www.livinginayr.ca

map of branchton


This village took shape in August 1856 when James Pollock of Galt planned a subdivision. Mr. Rosebrugh became very interested in the project and he soon established a sawmill, flourmill and later a store, tavern and an inn were opened. 

map of roseville  


The first settlers to the area called it "The Settlement", but it was soon decided that a new name should be chosen. The townsfolk got together and all of the people from Pennsylvania were firm that the name had to end in 'ville' and so they suggested Brickerville, Erbsville and Snyderville. It is said that an English shoemaker by the name of Rose suggested Roseville, and since everyone liked it, they decided to keep that name. 

Black Horse Corners

Located at the corner of Cedar Creek Road and Northumberland Street. At one time this thriving settlement had a tannery, fulling mill, pump shop, shingle mill, wagon, shoemaker and a blacksmith shop. 

maps of reidsville


This little settlement at the intersection of Reidsville Road and Alps Road was started on August 11, 1831 when John Reid bought 50 acres of land and consequently built a sawmill. 

map of clyde    


The small village was first settled in 1831 by a man named William Anderson, who with his wife lived in a sea of trees until the land was cleared and used for farming. In 1832 two other families moved into the area. On January 1, 1973 with the introduction of Regional Government Structure, the Township of North Dumfries acquired a portion of Beverly Township, including the Village of Clyde.



Historical Resources

Like to know more about your Township?

Discover the history of North Dumfries Township while enjoying a self-guided heritage walking tour:

(1) Greenfield Heritage Walking Tour - click here

The free guide completed by "Doors Open Waterloo Region", will provide a history of the hamlet north of Ayr. Doors Open Waterloo Region is part of Doors Open Ontario, a province wide initiative of the Ontario Heritage Trust to celebrate community heritage and architecture.

 (2) Heritage Walking Tour of Roseville

 (3) Heritage Walking Tour of Ayr

 Roseville Walking Tour Ayr Walking Tour

ONLY $3.00 EACH or MIX & MATCH DEAL! 2 FOR $5.00 (both of the same tour or one of each)

LEARN MORE about the history of North Dumfries with Andrew W. Taylor's "Our Todays and Yesterdays" which brings the reader from the glacial period through the 19th and 20th century in the development of North Dumfries.

Enjoy stories about the original inhabitant - the Attawandaron peoples/ Neutral nation - to the early days of shanties and log homes and popular legends. The book includes copies of ownership maps from 1822 & 1861, maps of old native trading trails, schools, cemeteries, early industries, the railway all throughout North Dumfries as well as an 1837 census. You may learn something about your own family history!


1995 Harcover Edition of "Our Todays and Yesterdays"
by Andrew W. Taylor (344 pages)

Regular $15.00

NOW ONLY $10.50!                                                                        

FIND OUT about the history of the current North Dumfries Township Office with "Glimpses of the Past, 1857-1957, SS No. 19, Stone School".

 Glimpses of the Past FREE!                                      

Where Do I Purchase Tours and Books?

Tours and books can be purchased at reception in person at the North Dumfries Township Office using Cash or Cheque. Cheque must be written out to: North Dumfries Municipal Heritage Committee.

Office hours: 8:30am - 4:30pm, Monday to Firday *Except Holidays

Location: 2958 Greenfield Road Ayr, ON, N0B 1E0 

Other Resources

Reminiscenses of the Early Days of Galt and the Settlement of Dumfries in the Province of Ontario by James Young is available online by clicking here.

The Dickie Settlement History Book is also available at a cost of $40.00 per book to cover printing costs and can be purchased by contacting one of the following:
Jeannine Babister 519-893-3544 jbabister3544@rogers.com
Ron Sage 519-623-2463 ronald.sage@sympatico.ca

Information Compiled by Shelly Respondek, August 2002 
Cant, Hugh, The Origin of North Dumfries, Historical Reminiscences of Galt and Other Writings 1915. Pg.3-4.
Cornell, John A, The Pioneers of Beverly: Series of Sketches, Dundas: The Dundas True Banner Printing and Publishing House, 1889,
pg. 54-70.
Jaffray, J.P., Blazing the Trail in New Dumfries, Waterloo Historical Society, Reports: Vol. 3, 1923, 1927. Pg. 235.
Taylor, Andrew, Our Todays and Yesterdays, Ontario: North Dumfries Township, 1967.
Waterloo Historical Society, Township of North Dumfries, Reports Vo. 46-50, 1958-1962. Pg. 34-36.
Galt and North Dumfries. Not dated and Unknown Author.
Bing Maps, 2011