Ridgetown, like most farming communities in Southwestern Ontario, was established late in the 19th century by English settlers that swarmed into the area after the war of 1812. Talbot Trail (Hwy 3), south of Ridgetown, follows the Lake Erie shoreline from Windsor to Niagara Falls and was the main passageway for travellers and settlers over 100 years ago.
Back then, farmland was cheap and to accommodate the influx of aspiring land owners from the British Isles and northern States. Roads were created with farm parcels staked out on each side. By 1822, each farm plot had a settler on it.
The first settlers in Ridgetown were James Watson, Edmund Mitton and Thomas Scane. Other founders included Ebenezer Colby and Mr. and Mrs. Marsh. These people are still familiar for the street signs that bear their names and the descendent families that still live in the area. These settlers cleared the land, planted grain with few tools, roads, livestock and little money.
The first settlers built log shelters, none of which remain today. However, the first brick home, built in 1855, still stands today on the Main Street as Dr. Delaney’s Dentist Office. Over the next 25 years, Ridgetown grew immensely with frame houses selling at $150 a piece. Several of these original homes are still present today.
The first store was built in 1853 as a saloon and small grocery. Over the years, a sawmill was built as well as churches, several factories and merchants expanded their wares.
In 1875, the population grew to 1,027 people and Ridgetown was considered a village until it grew to become a Town with 2,197 people in 1880. This growth spurt can largely be attributed to the laying of the Canadian Southern Railroad in 1872. In the present day, these tracks, which ran in between Ridgetown and the village of Morpeth, are long gone with no traces evident. What is still evident of the once popular railroad that had two tracks running right into town is an old station, which still sits just off of Erie Street North. Another station was moved and is now a beautiful and unique home on Edward Street.
Houses such as the Ridge House Museum is typical of what was built between 1872 and the 1890s. Most were middle class homes that cost around $200 to construct. Coal oil provided light, streets were just dirt pathways and animals roamed the town. However, by 1888, the Ridgetown Natural Gas Company laid pipes to provide natural gas for both heat and lighting. Some institutions such as the Howard Mutual Insurance Company (est. 1872) and the Ridgetown District Agricultural Society (est. 1854) still exist today.