1826 – Establishment of the Canada Company that owned one million acres of land including the Huron Tract, along which Exeter came to be located.
1832 – Irish immigrants James and Jane Willis are the first settlers to arrive and establish a homestead on Simcoe Street at the South end of Exeter.
1833 – The second settler, William McConnell, arrives and opens the first “way station” for travellers to rest, as they made their way north, along London Road. This roadside inn or tavern was located where the Presbyterian Church sits today. He also built a dam, and grist and sawmill on the east side of the Aux Sables River – the miller’s cottage still remains.
1838 – The first schoolhouse built in the community of Francistown, which is now known as the north end of Exeter (north of the bridge).
1842 – Hay Post Office opened in the current vacant lot south of Tim Horton’s.
1855 – There is an attempt to establish a “Farmers’ Market” on the site of present day Victoria Park. This venture was not very successful, but explains origin of Market Street.
1857 – The Francistown foundry was built by William Verity in partnership with a Mr. Brabson at its first location at the corner of Alexander and William Streets. The foundry specialized in the production of a variety of farm implements, stoves and of course Verity plows. In 1889 it became necessary to expand the business and Verity moved production to the corner of Main and Wellington where the foundry extended east to Andrew Street. The LCBO is now located at site of the former Verity Plough Works. In 1892 following a merge with the Massey Harris Company William Verity and the Verity Plough Works moved to Brantford.
1859 – Thomas Gidley opened the Gidley Furniture Manufacturing where the Foodland grocery store is now located. Two of his sons Charles and Samuel were also cabinet-makers and created many pieces of furniture for homes in Exeter. In addition to their carpentry skills, the Gidleys were also undertakers.
1860 – The Commercial Hotel was established at the corner of Ann and Main Streets, the current site of LUVU Naturally.
1872 – Exeter’s first newspaper, “The Times,” was established by John White and the first paper was published in 1873 from its location at 424 Main Street. In 1924, “The Times” merged with its competitor, “The Exeter Advocate” which had been started in 1877 as “The Reflector”. The newly titled Exeter “Times-Advocate” continued to be published from this location until 2010 when the business relocated to its new location at 356 Main Street. The original building is now occupied by Jennard Cheese, a café and cheese shop.
1873 – The communities of Exeter and Francistown amalgamate to become the Village of Exeter with a population of 1,000.
1873 – James Pickard’s large store “Old Reliable House” opened on Main Street where the current Huron Apothecary sits today. The “Old Reliable House” sold any and everything that a household could use for its day-to-day requirements-dry goods, groceries, tools, etc.
1873 – Eacrett’s Block was built and consisted of three businesses – a bank, a harness and shoe retailer and a department store. Exeter’s only private bank that was owned and operated by Benjamin O’Neill, was situated where the law office of McLean and Raymond is located. The second was a store operated by Charles Eacrett, who was a saddler by trade and made and sold harnesses in his store. He was also a shoemaker. The third business was a department store operated by the Ranton Brothers that provided a variety of household needs for Exeter’s growing community.
1875 – School bells ring at Exeter’s first Public School, when it was built just west of where the current building stands.
1876 – The Grand Opening of the railway line that was referred to as “The Butter & Egg Express.”
1887 – Exeter Town Hall was built. The “Hess Clock” that was built by Zurich clock-maker, George Hess, was installed in the tower the following year. You can see the original wooden clock works and its weights on display in the lobby of the Exeter Public Library.
1887 – Victoria Park was established during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee on land donated to the Village in 1880 by Joseph Acheson.
1887 – The corner stone for Trivitt Anglican Church was laid, the building of which was made possible through the financial support of Thomas and Elizabeth Trivitt, who are buried beneath the church. The first church service was held in December 1888.
1887 – The Gidley Brothers built “The Odd Fellow Block,” which currently houses Kalidoscope of Quilts at 355 Main Street. Originally, this block housed the Gidley Brothers Furniture and an undertaking business on the main level and on the upper level, the Oddfellows Lodge 67 (established 1871) conducted their meetings and continue to do so today.
1889 – Foundry (Verity Plow Works) moved from its previous location to the corner of Main and Wellington Streets, where the LCBO is found today. It became one of the community’s major industries.
1906 – The successful establishment of the Exeter Canning and Preserving Company in 1906 was due largely to an initiative organized by Reeve A.Q Bobier who convinced the Council of the day to provide a $10,000 loan from the public purse that would allow the project to move forward. The canning factory opened on Wellington Street in close proximity to the Railway station. The “Canners” as it was affectionately referred to by many individuals, ran for more than 100 years as one of the communities biggest employers. Sadly in 2008, the factory was closed by its current owner Kraft Foods. In recent years the property was purchased by Hensall District Co-op.
1913 – “Riverview Park” opened and was renamed “MacNaughton Park” in 1982 to honour Exeter resident and provincial politician, Charles MacNaughton – MPP.
1930 – The new Post Office was built south of the current Bank of Montreal on Main Street in 1930, at a cost of $31,000. When the postal services were moved to its present location at the corner of Sanders and Andrew Streets, the former Federal Building became the new site for the Town’s Municipal Offices when the Town Hall fell into a state of disrepair and was deemed to be ready for the wrecking ball. However, the Town Hall was not demolished and the Municipal Offices moved back home in 1995. Shortly thereafter, the former post office building was torn down leaving the land vacant. You can now find a very picturesque Parkette situated at this site.
1931 – Hollywood comes to Exeter with the opening of Leavitt’s New Talking Picture Theatre that opened across from the Town Hall.
1951 – Exeter officially becomes a “town” on New Year’s Day with a population of 1,609, with Benson Tuckey as the Town’s first Mayor