The former Town of Mount Forest was originally known as Maitland Hills because it was believed that the Saugeen River was the Maitland River. The name was later changed to Mount Forest in 1853. Francis Kerr surveyed the Village into village lots in 1853.
The first public school was built in 1856 on McDonald Street. The first high school was originally in the Old Drill Hall, but was an unsuitable location because it was beside the Market Square where livestock sales were held monthly. The new high school was built on Colclough St. in 1878.
By 1864, the population of Mount Forest had reached 1185 and qualified as a Village and by 1879 had reached Town status. The first issue of the Mount Forest Confederate was printed in 1867. For the first year, the newspaper was sent to village residents free of charge, but the second year it was 50 cents per year.
The 1871 directory stated that Mount Forest had 10 hotels, 8 churches and 18 stores and later that year, the first train entered Mount Forest, drawn by a wood-burning engine.