Southampton was incorporated as a town in 1904 with a population of slightly over 2400.
A month later, a movement began to building a town hall with the result that a combined building on Albert Street also included a school. Formerly, the Masonic Hall, it is now a private home and art studio. At the time it was built however, the lower floor was the school, while the upper storey housed the village offices.
According to an historic article, in 1861, a Rifle Company was organized and a drill hall was built in 1862, where today’s Town Hall stands at the corner of Albert and High Streets. When the Rifle Company moved to Port Elgin, the empty building became the official Town Hall and was formally opened with a grand ball and concert on December 27th, 1873.
The original building however was later moved to the north side of High Street near Grosvenor Street but was destroyed by fire.
Today’s Southampton Town Hall was built in 1910 by local masons.
The bell tower and clock was built in memory of the young men who enlisted in the World War I and the bell, itself, has an interesting history.
The Great Lakes are known for their ‘Fall’ gales and, in 1865 according to records, the American steamship the Pewchie, was claimed by Lake Huron with all aboard. According to records, sometime later, a Saugeen First Nation man arrived in Southampton to say that he had found a body washed up on shore behind their village (now known as Saugeen First Nation). Several Southampton men, including Dr. Scott and Fred Tolmie, went out by Denny’s Dam and found the body of a young woman wearing a Pewchie life-preserver. With letters also found,they were able to identify her and notified friends through names found. Mail, of course, was what is known today as ‘snail mail’ … slow, but after a slight delay, a brother arrived to claim the body and take his sister home.
They were the family of the Troy Bell Company of Syracuse, New York.
In appreciation, the family sent the first bell to Southampton which became the all-purpose bell for the town, the church, the school and fire alarm. When the bell cracked however, the Mayor at the time, A. E. Belcher (Belcher Lane bears his name) and Council wrote to the Troy Bell Co. requesting a replacement. The company agreed provided Southampton agreed to pay the shipping. Council agreed.
Today, the bell still chimes every hour on the hour, as a measure of time in Southampton.