Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games

August 7, 2018 | Raya

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Man holding a giant log upright
Courtesy Toronto Star Photo Archives, 1977

Every year since 1946 the town of Fergus, Ontario has been celebrating its Scottish heritage. It is the largest gathering of clans outside of Scotland and Cape Breton Island. The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games continues the tradition started by the Ancient Celts in Ireland, highlighting events such as heavy lifting, dancing, piping and, of course, clan information and heritage.

Located on the Grand River, Fergus was founded by Adam Ferguson in 1833 who, along with fellow lawyer James Webster, bought 7,000 acres of land and began developing the area. The first house was built in 1833. A hotel followed in 1834 and by 1835 the town had a tavern, grist-mill, church and a school.  

Painting of town of Fergus  Ontario  1837

In 1850 James Webster opened the Fergus Mills, built several stores and a distillery. Both Webster and Alexander Dingwall Fordyce controlled all industry in Fergus until 1855. That same year James Wilson arrived in Fergus from Scotland and opened numerous mills including the Monkland Mills, which many years later supplied oatmeal to General Mills for its cereals. Using the waterfalls of the Grand River to generate electric power, business in the area boomed. Many of the stone houses, factories and other buildings from those years are still in use today. The former House of Refuge, built of locally quarried limestone, is now the Wellington County Museum and Archives and is listed as one of Canada's Historic Places.

House of Industry and Refuge, 1911

 By 1858 its population had grown to 1,000 and was incorporated as a village. 

 St. Andrew's St.  Fergus  Ont.  Canada, 1910

St David Street  Fergus  Ontario  1910 

The first library, built with a Carnegie grant, opened in 1911 and is also on the register of Canada's Historic Places.

   Fergus Library

In 1953 Fergus was incorporated as a town and in 1999 it became part of the Corporation of the Township of Centre Wellington. Today Fergus is a thriving rural small town with a vibrant downtown core. St Andrew's Street, which runs parallel to the Grand River, has numerous stores and restaurants and is home to the Fergus Grand Theatre, originally a cinema built in 1928. The former Beatty Brothers Farm Implement Manufacturing building is now the home of the Fergus Marketplace on the River and houses numerous shops.  

Fergus Marketplace, courtesy of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix

On August 10-12, 2018 Fergus will be hosting their Highland Games. Why not take a step back in time and join the clans in all their festivities?

Discover more historical items of Fergus on Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive. You can also visit Wellington County Museum and Archive.