Eric S. Highstead compiled this synopsis of the history of the Ridgetown Curling Club in 1974.
About 1893, Joe Mitton built a rink on the lot adjoining the Marsh Street Baptist Church. Curling then took the place by storm and for several years, and the ancient Scottish game became the great winter sport.
While no records are available regarding the Club organization at that time, O. K. Watson’s book indicates that eight of the town’s leading citizens and trophy winners were Art McKinlay, Dr. Stalker, William McMaster, Peter Bawden, J. G. Little, B.A., Principal of the Collegiate Institute, Dan Leitch, Harry Gillis and Charles E. Dauphin.
It would appear that curling survived for only a few years due to lack of facilities until interest again became evident when the Ridgetown Memorial Agricultural Centre was built in 1954 and artificial ice became available.
In July 1956, the Ridgetown Rotary Club appointed Allan Campbell and Eric S. Highstead to undertake the organization of a Curling Club for Ridgetown and the surrounding district as part of their service work.
A successful end to their efforts was attained at an enthusiastic meeting held in the Ridgetown Memorial Agricultural Centre Auditorium on Tuesday evening October 23, 1956 when a Curling Club was formed and arrangements completed for curling each week from Tuesday noon to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. Ice time had been secured for the season at a cost of $1400.00 on an anticipated membership of eighty.
The meeting convened with Eric Highstead as Chairman, was attended by fifty prospective members, as well as Peter and Gordon Gilbert of the Chatham Curling Club, and Len Shillington, Dave Nicholson, and Robert Henderson of the Blenheim Club who promised enthusiastic support from their respective Curling Clubs.
It is interesting to note that arrangements were made to purchase thirty-three pairs of matched stones at $45.00 per pair from the Windsor Curling Club through Nate Cornwall; a member of that club and former resident of this area. These stones were supplemented by four pairs of privately owned stones (of different weights) enabling the Club to use five sheets of ice.
A nominating committee of Grant Cameron, Earl Hodgson and George Silcox was appointed at this meeting to bring in a slate of officers and the following were subsequently elected as the officers of the Club for the 1956 – 1957 season:
Honorary President – Peter Gilbert (Chatham)
Honorary Vice President – Nate Cornwall (Walkerville)
President – George Silcox
Vice-President – George Mickle
Secretary – Eric Highstead
Treasurer – Arthur Conrad
To defray the cost of the stones, a stone fund was started and members were invited to make interest free loans of $25.00 or more to the club until the annual stone fund fees accumulated sufficiently to make repayment. Mr. Peter Gilbert commended the members on their decision and requested the privilege of making the first loan of $50.00 on behalf of his two grandsons.
After thanking the visiting curlers for their interest in the new organization, the President then stated the official opening night would be held on Tuesday, November 6, 1956.
Fees were set as follows: Men $20.00, Ladies $ 15.00, plus $2.00 each for stones, Associate members $10.00 and members were required to provide their own broom. Charter members of the Club numbered fifty-nine men and twenty-four women, plus four associate members. A list of these members is recorded in the records of the Club maintained by the Secretary.
Invitations to the opening day ceremonies were extended to the following friends and dignitaries:
Nate Cornwall – Walkerville
Nick Burnett – Windsor
Peter Gilbert – Chatham
Gordon Gilbert – Chatham,
Blake Huffman – M.P. for Kent
Jack Spence – M.P.P. for East Kent
Monte Anions – Mayor of Ridgetown
Earl Galbraith – Reeve of Howard Township
Francis Morden – Reeve of Orford Township
Dr. John MacPherson – Reeve of Highgate
Roy McBrayne – Reeve of Thamesville
Mac Huffman – President of Chatham Curling Club
The first eight-end scored by Ridgetown curlers was accomplished by a ladies’ rink. The members of which were Mrs. Eric Highstead (Skip), Mrs. James Cooper (Vice-skip), Mrs. Alfred Powis (Second), Mrs. Dave McIntyre (Lead). During the early years of the Club, the women made a very valuable and needed contribution by catering for the bonspiels and contributing the funds raised by them to assist with the operating expenses of the Club.
Early in 1963, consideration was given to building a Curling Rink in conjunction with the Golf Club to provide for the increased requirements, which were not available at the Memorial Centre. This undertaking was agreed to by the Ridgetown Golf and Country Club and the building of the new rink and addition to the club was completed at a cost of approximately $53,000.00 and completed that year. This has been improved and added to subsequently.
The Ridgetown Curling Club became a member of the Ontario Curling Association in 1957. A new procedure for the nomination and election of the officers and directors of the Club was adopted by the members on April 22, 1964. Membership reached the high point of 252 during the 1964-1965 season.
In 2015 the Golf Course was purchased by GolfNorth with an agreement to let the Curling Club continue to operate at the facility.