According to Mr. William Johnston in his 1903 History of the County of Perth , Ellice Township (now Ward) was named in honour of Edward Ellice, a director of the Canada Company. In 1829, the first concession was surveyed and opened for settlement. Andrew Seebach from Bavaria, settled on Lot 31, Concession 1, in 1830. A cairn still stands today marking the site of his first home, which was used as a hotel to accommodate travellers passing into the Huron tract in search of a place to settle. Among the early settlers who followed Mr. Seebach were: George Kastner, M. Stoskopf, John Rohfrietsch, and Alexander Gourley, all of whom located along the Huron Road. George Brunner was the first to penetrate further north, settling on Lot 24, Con. 3, in 1832.
The local municipal history of Ellice begins in 1842 when John Sebring was appointed to the position of District Councillor ( later classified as Reeve.)
The first separate school in the Township was opened at Millbrook in 1857 and was situated 1.25 miles east of Kinkora. It was finally merged with the Kinkora School in 1907. On January 14, 1908, the Ellice Council held a meeting in the abandoned school to judge its suitability for municipal use. It was purchased by the Township and moved to a site on the County Road, midway between Wartburg and Rostock, where it served as the seat of municipal government until 1960, when it was sold by public auction. It was later dismantled and rebuilt as a private home in the Town of Mitchell. This building was replaced by the present hall, which was built and dedicated in the Hamlet of Rostock, in 1961.
Geography & Nature
At present, the total area of the Ward is 55,300 acres, of which almost 53,500 acres is good agricultural soil. The balance is known as the Ellice Swamp. At one time, the possibility of utilizing the peat bogs, as a fuel supply for the community, was considered. The idea was abandoned and the swamp was taken over by the Upper Thames Valley Conservation Authority. It is now recognized as the location of the headwaters for three different river systems. In 1879, it was felt that the presence of the Ellice Swamp made drainage a vital need. Mr. T. M. Daly of Stratford was the contractor for 18.5 miles of ditches, which cost $35,000, and brought into cultivation, nearly 15,000 acres of additional land.
When the original surveys were made, most of the agricultural land was divided into 100-acre farms, while in some areas, 50-acre farms were quite popular. Usually the farms were fenced into 10-acre fields by cedar rails, and later by woven wire fencing. These have almost all been removed to facilitate the use of the larger machinery which is now in use on most farms, replacing the horse-drawn machinery which was in vogue at the turn of the Century. Harvesting of crops by binder has now been replaced by self-propelled combines. Most farmers have turned to corn as their major crop and large storage silos are evident all over the Ward. Also, a number of cash-croppers are now switching to the growing of white beans.
After the Second World War, there was an influx of Dutch immigrants from Holland, who settled on a number of farms in this area. Today, these farmers stand out as having done much to improve the appearance of our rural communities. The main trend in the farming industry consists of beef, dairy and hogs. Feed lots for fattening cattle are quite popular. They facilitate the removal of most of the fences on the farms.
During the First and Second World Wars, Ellice Township contributed its share of young men to serve their country. In the Stratford Beacon of July 10, 1922, the following list of those who sacrificed their lives included the names of the following Ellice men: William Buck, P. Frank Crowley, Harry W. Klein, Alfred J. Kreuter, Ralph Pfrimmer and Ivor C. Plaskett.
Around the year 1850, Jennie Gowanlock, age six, immigrated to Canada with her parents, Andrew and Elizabeth Gowanlock from Scotland. They settled in Ellice Township, where Jennie received her education. She eventually taught school in Stratford until 1865, when she married Edward Trout. Early in the 1870's, she decided to study medicine and entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Philadelphia, Pa. She returned to Toronto where she was licensed as the first female Medical Doctor in Canada and set up her practice at 172 Jarvis Street.