West Montrose, Ontario Canada

Discover West Montrose, Ontario: A Cultural Heritage Landscape

West Montrose, Ontario, is a charming unincorporated rural community nestled in the Woolwich Township in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Canada. With a population of 257 as per the 2016 census, this quaint settlement is recognized as a Cultural Heritage Landscape by the Township of Woolwich. Its rich history of pioneer settlement, traditional bridges, and the Old Order Mennonite culture make it a unique destination. The community features single-family homes, a church, a small store, a bed-and-breakfast, and the famous West Montrose Covered Bridge, a local tourist attraction.

The History of West Montrose, Ontario

West Montrose was established on Lots Seventy, Seventy-one, and Seventy-four of the Germany Company survey in Woolwich Township. The land was purchased from the German Company after 1807 by Daniel Erb, David Eby, and Christian Stauffer. However, it was not settled until about 1850 when a few Scots, including Andrew L. Anderson from Montrose, Scotland, arrived. Anderson, who bought land in the 1850s, presumably named the village Montrose after his hometown. The prefix "West" was added around 1865 to differentiate the community from Montrose in Welland County.

By the early 1850s, Mennonites from Pennsylvania began arriving in this part of Waterloo County, settling in nearby St. Jacobs and on farms surrounding West Montrose. These settlers were the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch, with "Dutch" being a misnomer for Deitsch or Deutsch (German). Isaac Swope settled here in 1858 and built a log cabin. Many others owned land here but did not actually settle; they sold it later to other settlers. Jacob Benner opened a woolen mill in 1858 and a sawmill in 1861. By that time, the village had a station of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The first church was built in 1862 by the United Brethren congregation, which included Methodists, Baptists, and Mennonites. The first school was built in 1865. By 1869, West Montrose had a post office, a population of about 100, a lumber yard, a gunsmith, a carpenter, a hotel and keeper, a stock dealer, a post office, a general merchant, several coopers, and a minister, according to historical records. Today, several 19th Century buildings bear the Heritage designation from the Township.

The Geography of West Montrose, Ontario

In addition to the core of the settlement, the area defined as West Montrose on the Township's Cultural Heritage Landscape map is quite large, including the Winterbourne Mennonite Meetinghouse and Cemetery. On maps and rural addresses, the West Montrose area also extends quite far from the core, into an area that some might consider to be Winterbourne, Ontario. The Grand River flows through West Montrose, adding to its scenic beauty.

Demographics of West Montrose, Ontario

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, West Montrose had a population of 245 living in 80 of its 81 total private dwellings, a change of -4.7% from its 2016 population of 257. With a land area of 0.34 km2 (0.13 sq mi), it had a population density of 720.6/km2 (1,866.3/sq mi) in 2021. The settlement and the surrounding countryside are noted by The Region of Waterloo Official Plan as home to a large Mennonite community. Together with nearby St. Jacobs and Elmira, West Montrose lies in the center of an area of Woolwich Township which has a historically large settlement of Old Order Mennonite families. The Mennonites are noted for their traditional customs, dress, and use of horse and buggies.

Attractions in West Montrose, Ontario

The West Montrose Covered Bridge over the Grand River is a must-visit attraction. Constructed in 1880-1881 by John and Benjamin Bear, it is the only covered bridge remaining in Ontario. It was designated a Provincial Historic Site in 1960 and listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places in 2007. This bridge is one of fewer than 200 covered bridges still surviving in Canada, making it a unique piece of history in West Montrose, Ontario.