In 1834, Edward Bristow became Elmira's first settler when he purchased 53 acres of land for 50 cents per acre. First called Bristow's Corners, then West Woolwich in 1853, the settlement adopted the name Elmira. Edward Bristow established the settlement's first store, tavern, shoe shop, as well as, a potashery. It is also interesting to note that the first post-office was located in his premises, only to be moved in later years to Christmann's Hotel.
The earliest inhabitants were of English and Irish origin, including families named Halfpenny, Seaton, Bristow, Isenhour, Kenning, Thompson, Thomas and Girling. In the 1850's, German settlers moved into the community. Among these families were Oswald, Esche, Steffen and Tresinger. These settlers followed the original settlement patterns of Waterloo County by other German immigrants, namely the Pennsylvanian Dutch, or more accurately, the Mennonites.
In 1861, The Elmira House was erected for the numerous artisans and merchants came to Elmira to earn a living. This activity helped Elmria become known as an enterprising community. In December 1886, Elmira entered a new chapter of its history with the incorporation of the settlement as a village by charter. At this date, the population of the newly incorporated village stood at 760 people.
Throughout the 1870's and 1880's, Elmira acquired various cultural trappings, including a brass band (1873) and a library (1885), which boasted an initial membership of 20 people. Industry has always held a vital place within Elmira. Apart from a sash and door factory, Elmira possessed a flour mill. This particular business was in fact, the community's earliest industry, built by a joint stock company. In 1869 this business was purchased by John and Jacob Ratz.
On January 1, 1923, Elmira, with a population of 2500, became an incorporated town and today Elmira is a thriving community of approximately 8,000 people with a variety of restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and specialty shops such as quilt, bridal and gift stores and home to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. The Bandstand, located in Gore Park, Elmira, is a reminder of the centre entertainment in a small town in the early 1900's. It was built in 1912 by A.M. Bowman, from a design prepared by members of the Elmira Musical Society. The bandstand was historically designated in 1985 and it was restored as a project to celebrate Elmira's centennial.
Let me begin. I was spending the afternoon running errands with a friend when we decided to pick up a few things at a thrift store. We were looking for good deals on small containers that we could use for our floral designs. After spending an hour or so wandering up and down the aisles we had each found a number of excellent vessels that would be suitable for our flower arrangements. I had found a white container in the shape of a little train that would work beautifully for a baby arrangement, a ceramic seashell which I planned to use for planting a pot of succulents, a little blue miniature container for a fresh flower design, and a small green glass vase. It was now time to pay for our little treasures so we headed out to the cash register area.
My friend was ahead of me in the lineup at the check-out so I waited patiently as she placed her wares on the counter for the sales clerk to scan. The woman was working quickly so it would not take long for it to be my turn to put my selections on the counter. It was at this time that I heard a man’s voice behind me. He was offering a 20% discount coupon to another gentleman, who was standing in the line also, to use on his purchases. All I could hear was a courteous, “No thank you, I’m good.”
As my friend’s goods had been checked out now, I moved forward to place my items on the counter so the cashier could scan them too. I then heard the same gentleman who had offered the coupon to the young man now propose I take it. I turned around to face him and gladly accepted it with an enthusiastic “Sure!” In my head I had tallied the sum of my purchase. It would amount to around $10, so a $2 discount would be a nice bonus. I politely thanked him as he handed me the paper coupon.
Then the unexpected happened. The man placed his sole item with mine on the table and drew out his bank card which he promptly handed to the cashier. I looked at him puzzled and asked, “How will I pay you for my purchases?” “That’s not necessary,” he responded.
Stunned, but grateful, I again thanked him. The cashier processed his card and the gentleman took his purchase and quickly left. My friend and I remained behind so the cashier could wrap my breakables in paper so I could transport them home safely.
While this was going on my friend and I tried to make sense as to what just happened. “I think he was in a hurry,” my friend suggested. “I think he just didn’t want to wait in the line any longer.” “All I know is that doesn’t happen very often,” piped in the cashier. “Maybe he is very wealthy,” added my friend. “If he were wealthy, why did he have a coupon, and why would he be shopping in a thrift store?” I asked.
My emotions were whirling. First I was elated at my good fortune. I had never expected something like this would happen: a complete stranger pay for the things I had picked up in the store. It was mind-boggling. Despite the attempts to rationalize the reasons behind the gesture, it didn’t take long for my joy to turn into skepticism as to the motive of the generosity. Would this man be waiting outside the store and demand I pay him? Would he follow us to the car? You hear every day about some scam causing grief to people. Was I a part of one now?
My friend and I exited the store with our bags. No one was waiting for us. No one followed us to the car. By all appearances there was absolutely no cause for concern, yet I still was trying to make sense of the situation. If not a scam artist, what type of person would pay for a complete stranger’s items? Then it hit me. Pay it forward! It was probably a good deed performed by a nice person and I should stop questioning it. All that remained was for me to resolve to pay this kind gesture forward in my own special way so that the cycle of giving would continue.