Exeter, Ont, Town, urban area, population 4785 (2011c), 4657 (2006c). Exeter is located approximately 50 km north of LONDON. In 1826 the CANADA COMPANY was granted over 400 000 ha of land in Upper Canada known as the Huron Tract on which it was expected to settle pioneer farmers. Other more accessible land in the Huron Tract was taken up sooner, but by 1832 the first settlers, James Willis and his family, were clearing the land on which the community of Exeter would develop. This part of Ontario was heavily treed and clearing the land for farming was extremely difficult, but other families, many from the Devon area in England, also moved into the vicinity. When a small community began to grow in the mid-1850s, it was named Exeter after a city in Devon. In 1873 it had a large enough population to be incorporated as a village. In 1951 Exeter received town status but it is now part of the town of South Huron (2001).
For most of its history Exeter served as a service and commercial centre for the surrounding rural farm community. Even today many businesses in Exeter reflect the town's location in the midst of one of Canada's most productive agricultural areas. Exeter also has one rather unusual claim to fame: it is home to a rare subspecies of the grey squirrel that is white. These squirrels are not albinos, though they are a genetic anomaly and a local tourist attraction.