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Biographical Sketches in the 1879 Atlas of Perth County
John Binning was born in Somerset, England, in 1812. At 24 years of age he became a British soldier, joining the 46th regiment of Light Infantry, serving for eleven years. During this period he was stationed at Gibraltar and the West Indies. In 1846 his regiment came to Canada, being for some time stationed near Montreal. He then decided to make this country his home. Obtaining his discharge, he retired with the rank of Corporal.
In 1849 he married a daughter of Mr G. W. Dodds, and removed in 1851 to what is now Listowel, taking possession of a shanty already erected by some pioneer near the river. From Glenallen he brought a supply of provisions, and thus equipped he entered on pioneer life. This shanty he afterwards bought from a Mr Henry for a rifle. This gentleman set up a right of priority in possession, which was a common mode of procedure in those early days.
Mr Binning, in turn, set up a right of possession of adjoining land eastward, and which he afterwards disposed to Mr Dodd. Subsequent to a survey being made and settlement taking place, on these lands was built a large portion of Listowel. When a small clearing had been effected, and a little wheat produced, it was hauled by the oxen and sled to Hawksville, where it was made into flour for the new settlement, each trip occupying three days. This continued till Mr D. D. Hay erected his mill, thus relieving these old bushmen of a great amount of hardship and inconvenience. Mr Binning's life is so closely identified with the growth and development of Listowel that a history of one -- for a period at least -- is almost a record of the other. Our readers are referred to the historical sketch of that municipality for further remarks on this pioneer. Those who were contemporaneous with him refer to his disposition as being kind and friendly. Possessed of a well balanced mind, he was a good neighbour, a worthy citizen, and respected by all classes. He was honoured on many occasions with positions of trust, being for some time a member of the council and the first school board. In politics he was Conservative, in religion Presbyterian, being a member of Knox church since its inception. Throughout his long life he was honest and progressive, thrifty and industrious, and as a consequence was able to retire in his old age to a well earned rest. At the age of 87 years this old pioneer and first settler in Listowel laid down life's burden as one who had done his duty well and was needful of rest.
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