The former Township of Arthur was named after Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the English general who was responsible for the fall of Napoleon. Provincial Land Surveyor John McDonald surveyed it in 1841-42. The Government laid out the Owen Sound Road (O.S.R.) from the Township of Nichol to Owen Sound. The land along the O.S.R. was surveyed into 50-acre lots that were given to the settlers if they met the following requirements: male, over 18 years of age and a subject of Queen Victoria. After clearing 12 of the original acres, the settlers were entitled to buy the adjacent 50 acres at a low price.
The first settlers endured many hardships and they are best described in a quote from George Cushing, the popular Township Clerk. He said, “Imagine a settler from the ‘Old Land’ without any knowledge of clearing land, unskilled in the use of the axe, no keen lance-toothed saws to be had, like we have at present, commencing to clear a fifty or a hundred acre lot of this dense and mighty forest. Many stories of hardships endured in the old log shanties without proper doors and wolves howling in the forest; no flour in the house for six weeks, and potatoes the only bill of fare; the carrying on the back of sacks of flour all the way from Fergus; men shouldering their heavy grain cradles and walking thirty miles and more to Guelph, in a day for the harvest”.
Once the land was surveyed, development of the Township was fast. Settlers came from Ireland mostly, but also from Scotland and England.
The first Catholic Church was a log building built in 1852 near Kenilworth. Schools were first established in 1849. The first post office was established in Kenilworth in 1848 and later that year one was opened in Arthur. Hotels were needed for the traveling public providing food, rest and entertainment. By 1871, there were 15 hotels between the Village of Arthur and Mount Forest.
The first record of the township is in the minutes of a council meeting held in the courtroom of Arthur on January 21, 1850.
- In 1859-60, there was a complete failure of the crops in the township. Council came to the rescue supplying cornmeal to those in need. These years were known as “The years of the yellow meal”.