The town of Goderich was founded in 1827 by John Galt, the first commissioner of the Canada Company, and Dr. William “Tiger” Dunlop, his “Warden of the Woods & Forests”. Galt himself was responsible for the unique layout of the town, in particular the octagonal-shaped town “Square”, a design familiar in Europe but not North America.
In the early years, most commercial activity and daily living took place on the Maitland River flats and harbour area. As the town prospered and grew, businesses moved uphill to West Street and then “The Square”.
In 1858 the first rail tracks were operational in Goderich on a line based out of Buffalo, New York. The railway played a crucial role in the growth of the town's harbour. The onset of the railway also brought with it the development of grain elevators to the harbour. This was closely followed by commercial milling interests.
1866 was an important year for the town as Samuel Platt and Peter MacEwan accidentally discovered a vein of salt when drilling for oil along the river flats. The eventual refining of the salt led to an industry that has continued to fuel the Goderich economy since its development. The vast supply of salt found under the Goderich Harbour is currently the largest salt mine in the world.
By the 1870s the town Square had fully developed and, despite various natural and human caused incidents over the years, much of the original town façade remains intact. 1878 to 1898 was a period during which Goderich was noted for the Goderich Steam Boiler Works, one of the foremost industries of its kind in the area.
Numerous other historical stories and artifacts can be found at any of the towns' local museums, and are visible to everyone throughout Goderich’s beautiful heritage districts.