In 1834, Edward Bristow became Elmira's first settler when he purchased 53 acres of land for 50 cents per acre. First called Bristow's Corners, then West Woolwich in 1853, the settlement adopted the name Elmira. Edward Bristow established the settlement's first store, tavern, shoe shop, as well as, a potashery. It is also interesting to note that the first post-office was located in his premises, only to be moved in later years to Christmann's Hotel.
The earliest inhabitants were of English and Irish origin, including families named Halfpenny, Seaton, Bristow, Isenhour, Kenning, Thompson, Thomas and Girling. In the 1850's, German settlers moved into the community. Among these families were Oswald, Esche, Steffen and Tresinger. These settlers followed the original settlement patterns of Waterloo County by other German immigrants, namely the Pennsylvanian Dutch, or more accurately, the Mennonites.
In 1861, The Elmira House was erected for the numerous artisans and merchants came to Elmira to earn a living. This activity helped Elmria become known as an enterprising community. In December 1886, Elmira entered a new chapter of its history with the incorporation of the settlement as a village by charter. At this date, the population of the newly incorporated village stood at 760 people.
Throughout the 1870's and 1880's, Elmira acquired various cultural trappings, including a brass band (1873) and a library (1885), which boasted an initial membership of 20 people. Industry has always held a vital place within Elmira. Apart from a sash and door factory, Elmira possessed a flour mill. This particular business was in fact, the community's earliest industry, built by a joint stock company. In 1869 this business was purchased by John and Jacob Ratz.
On January 1, 1923, Elmira, with a population of 2500, became an incorporated town and today Elmira is a thriving community of approximately 8,000 people with a variety of restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and specialty shops such as quilt, bridal and gift stores and home to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. The Bandstand, located in Gore Park, Elmira, is a reminder of the centre entertainment in a small town in the early 1900's. It was built in 1912 by A.M. Bowman, from a design prepared by members of the Elmira Musical Society. The bandstand was historically designated in 1985 and it was restored as a project to celebrate Elmira's centennial.
When I was a teenager my dad would let me go to the high school dances in town once a month on Friday nights even though it meant he would have to pick me up late at night. Though he had worked a full day on the farm, and had to get up at 4 a.m. the next morning to go to the Farmer’s Market, he would be waiting for me in the school parking lot ready to hear his excited daughter’s recap of the evening. He somehow knew it meant a lot to me to be able to socialize with my friends at that age.
I can remember phoning him from high school one winter to ask him to pick me up after school because I had missed the bus. We lived out in the country so walking home from town 5 kilometers away was not an option. The only trouble was that it was during a blizzard. When he arrived I had a further request. Three of my friends were also stranded and could not reach their parents. Would he mind dropping them off at their homes too? He did not flinch. Four teenage girls then jumped in and huddled in the cab of his pickup truck. As he slowly drove on the treacherous back roads I was secure in the knowledge that whatever the situation my dad would get us all home safely.
As time passed he did not mind that I would continue lend him (and his truck) out to my friends. When I was away at university he would be there to move me into my residence in September and then back home in May. When I graduated and needed his assistance to get everything back home he was there for me, and my friends too. A friend of mine had to take twenty-five boxes of her stuff to the train station and another friend couldn’t fit her oversized chair into her car. I knew then I had the type of father that people could rely on.
Years later, yet again, I had to call on him to assist me with another emergency. I had to pick up a Flowering Crab tree that had been donated for a memorial. It was too large to fit into my car and so I asked him if he could help. Even though at that time he rarely drove, as he was in his eighties, he met me minutes later at the garden centre. We loaded up the tree into the back of his truck and delivered it on schedule to the tree planting site.
A couple of years later, when my father decided to give up his driver’s licence, he knew he could count on me too. Once a month he would telephone me to pick him up and take him to the barbershop to get his hair cut. I was happy to do this. It gave us time to bond as he recollected the stories of his life. And I listened, knowing that these were lessons from a man who had sacrificed a lot for me.
Although my dad is no longer alive, the memory of him always being there for me is a powerful construct. His character allowed me to become the person I am today, someone whose actions show a readiness to help anyone in need too. Thank you my dear, dependable Dad!