About South Easthope

Early Years

At one time, South Easthope Township was described as the most valuable piece of territory within the Counties of Huron, Perth and Bruce . It was also the smallest Township, with a total area of 9,759 hectares. In 1863, the population was 2,322, decreasing to 1,824 by 1982. This was because in the early years, that part of Tavistock to the North of the Perth-Oxford Boundary was a part of South Easthope Township. In 1909, Tavistock became part of Oxford County, decreasing the population by 624, and the acreage by 260. In 1873, there were 482 rate payers and that number grew to 584. Total taxes collected in 1878 were $12,000, and in 1982 , tax collection totalled approximately $554,000.

Early Politics

In 1953, the Township Council decided to erect a municipal building which included a township hall and an area to house the road equipment that was located on part of Lot 20, Concession 5, on the east side of Highway #59, just North of the Tavistock Corporation limits. On January 11, 1954, the Township Council held its inaugural session in the new hall, with Reeve Alex Anderson presiding. Previous to this, Council meetings were held in a room leased in the former Sebastopol Hotel, presently owned by the Zehr Brothers. In 1981, as more space was needed for storing road equipment, a 50 ft. by 38 ft. addition was added to the east end of the building.

Today Highway 7 and 8 runs along the north boundary of South Easthope Township, and follows almost exactly the original trail blazed through the woods in 1828. This highway was taken under provincial jurisdiction in 1921 and paving began in 1926. The Fryfogel Inn is one of two remaining Canada Company buildings, and is one of the most important historical structures in Perth County. It is situated in South Easthope Ward on the Huron Road, presently Highway 7 & 8.

First Settlers

On Christmas Day in 1828, Sebastian Fryfogel, as the first settler in Perth County, moved into a crude shanty located on Lot 14, Concession 1, South Easthope. This was the first dwelling a traveller saw on a trip up the Huron Tract. In 1844 and 1845, the shanty was replaced by an inn for travellers and settlers using the road. In 1976 the Fryfogel Inn was designated as a heritage structure under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Transportation

In the early years, railway facilities in South Easthope were in advance of other Townships in the County of Perth. The Grand Trunk, the Buffalo & Lake Huron built in 1856, and later the Port Dover & Lake Huron Railroad, all ran through South Easthope, and afforded conveniences to the early settlers for shipping farm produce. The Grand Trunk, between Concessions 1 and 2, later became Canadian National Railway and is now called Via Rail.

Historical Events

On May 23, 1953, this small Township was ravaged by a tornado that hit at Flannigans Corners at the west, and took a swath a quarter of a mile wide, then twisted northeast to strike the extreme south end of Shakespeare, before leaving the Township at a point about four miles east of the Village. Along its path, barns and buildings were completely blown down, or damaged, and huge trees were uprooted.

In August of 1979, South Easthope narrowly escaped disaster as another tornado touched the southwest comer of the Township, but this one veered off into Oxford County, where it left millions of dollars' damage in its path.

The first telephone poles began to appear in the Township in 1910 and in 1911, the first telephone switchboard was installed in Sebastopol. It was moved to Shakespeare in 1918, and remained there until 1964, when the Bell Telephone Company took over and the Shakespeare exchange became obsolete.

In 1959, the Fire Hall was erected on William Street in Shakespeare, housing two fire trucks and a pumper. The volunteer Fire Department began at this time with 17 men, and currently serves both North and South Easthope Wards. A new fire truck was bought in 1959 for $18,000. In 1979, the purchase of a truck cost the Department $50,000.

A Post Office was built in the Township in 1975, the former one having been located on the north side of Highway 7 and 8. It stands on William Street in the Village of Shakespeare across from the Fire Hall.

The Shakespeare Optimist Club was formed by 49 members in 1973 , and began making plans for a community centre to be built in the Township. In 1976, the Club purchased a small acreage of land in the southwest comer of Shakespeare for the sum of $25,000. In 1980, the new 75 ft. by 100 ft. building was erected and officially named the Shakespeare District Optimist Community Hall, at a cost of $300,000.   

South Easthope History Book

Published in February 2001, Country Roads: The Story of South Easthope is a beautiful hardcover book with over 1,325 photographs from the local area.

R esearched and compiled by the South Easthope History Book Committee, and edited by Jim Hagarty, the extensive book includes a concession-by-concession description of the former Township of South Easthope dating back to 1827. With an emphasis on farm histories, the book covers a large area spanning Punkeydoodle's Corners to Tavistock, Harmony to Stratford, and Shakespeare all the way to New Hamburg.

Chapters include "Early History and Physical Environment", "Farm Lots, Concessions 1to 8", "Villages and Hamlets" and "Churches and Cemeteries" .

For more information regarding the South Easthope history books please email Kate Skelding or call at 519-595-2800 ext. 225