Incorporated on January 5, 1857 through By-Law 16, the County of Wellington separated Minto from Arthur Twp. The first Reeve was Archibald Harrison and the first Clerk was William Yeo.
The township was named after Sir Gilbert Elliot Murray Kynynmound, the 2nd Earl of Minto, Viscount of Melgund. He lived in the village of Minto in the valley of Teviotdale in Roxboroughshire, Scotland. Sir Gilbert's descendent, the 4th Earl of Minto, later became the Governor General of Canada from 1894 to 1904.
Bordered by Grey, Bruce, Huron and Perth counties, the township encompasses 72, 587 acres and is crossed by two rivers: the Saugeen and the Maitland.
Minto was first settled in 1853, with the first land patent granted to Augustus C. Fyfe for lots 22 & 23 of the 15th concession. A land sale was held in Elora, Sept 10-11, 1854. Costing $1.50 per acre, all of the Minto land sold within two days. Over 200 of these lots changed hands within 5 years of the original sale.
The Census of 1861 lists a population of 2341 people. One half were Canadian born, 540 were Scottish, 351 were Irish, 220 were from England and Wales, and a handful were from Germany and the United States. By 1871 the population had doubled. The main increases were to Canadian born and Scottish numbers. The present population is approximately 8000.
In 1999 the Township of Minto was amalgamated with Harriston, Clifford and Palmerston and became the Town of Minto.
In 1879 plans were made to annex and form a new county. It was to include Minto and Maryborough townships from Wellington County, Mornington, Elma, Wallace and Listowel from Perth County and Grey, Howick and Turnbury from Huron County. Listowel, Palmerston and Harriston were all vying for the importance of being the county seat. Each was determined to undermine the others' progress if they couldn't receive the advantage. Their bickering and delaying ruined the entire scheme.
Minto's relatively late development was due to its remoteness from Guelph and other population centres, as well as the consequent difficulty of access and transportation. There were simply no roads and no navigable rivers.
After the land was surveyed in 1853, British North American Laws began to apply to the township. For each 100 acre purchase, two acres must be cleared each year. Another law stated that if a man would benefit from the use of a road in his area, he would have to donate a specific amount of physical labour to its upkeep. The days required were dependent on the assessed value of his holdings. For $600 worth of property owned, the man would have to donate two days. If he was assessed at $1800, five days were required of him, with one additional day for every $600 after that.