The Town of Goderich came into being as an indirect result of the war of 1812-14. During that war the settlers in the vicinity of Lakes Ontario and Erie had suffered much loss, both from the soldiers billeted on them and from invaders. In an attempt to recompense them, John Galt and a group of investors in England formed the Canada Company. The British government granted the company 1,100,000 acres of the land it had recently acquired from the Indians. The plan was that the land would be sold to settlers and part of the profits used to settle the war claims. As it turned out, the claimants received nothing.
The company's land formed a triangle whose northern boundary ran from Guelph to a point on Lake Huron, eight miles north of Goderich. Its southern boundary was roughly on a line from Guelph to Kettle Point.
Galt recruited, his friend Dr. William (Tiger) Dunlop; John MacDonald, an engineer; Mahlon Burwell, a surveyor; and a party of some 15 woodsmen to cut a trail through the bush to the mouth of the Maitland River (or, as it was know then, the Menesetung or Red). The location of the proposed town was known from coastal surveys of the lake prepared in 1824 by Captain Bayfield. The party arrived on May 27, 1827.
Trees were felled and a log cabin erected in what is now Harbour Park. Dunlop called it his castle. John Galt arrived on June 29 by ship from Penetanguishene. This is the date celebrated as founder's day.
The Town plan was designed by John Galt. Bayfield has a similar plan including a central "square" and streets radiating from it.
Posters widely distributed in the British Isles appealed to the poor who were suffering from the deep depression which followed the Napoleonic War. They promised employment and land at 10 shillings an acre.
Tiger Dunlop wrote glowing articles for magazines extolling the opportunites awaiting in the new land. Neither posters nor articles mentioned the climate or the difficulities of clearing away the vast forests.
Goderich was to be headquarters for the distribution of land at the west end of the Huron Tract.
John Galt was relieved of his post as superintendent of the Canada Company in 1829. He was replaced by Commissioner Thomas Mercer Jones. Jones operated from York (Toronto) for the first ten years. There he married the daughter of Bishop Strachan. In 1839, a house was built for him at the top of the steep incline leading to the Goderich Harbour. The area surrounding the house was known as the Canada Company Reserve.
The Town was incorporated in 1850, Harbour Hill was graded soon after. Jones was dismissed by the Company about 1855 and the first railway line reached town in 1858.
The street names and the architecture in the older part of town are indicitive of the post-Napoleonic era, Wellington, Waterloo, Nelson, etc. with most of the early houses Georgian style.