Southampton’s original name was Saugeen, meaning “mouth of the river”. The town is located on the shore of Lake Huron, at the mouth of the Saugeen River. The town plot was surveyed in 1851. Expectations for the town’s development were ambitious and the commissioner of Crown Lands was determined to name it Southampton after the bustling seaport in England.
The region had been known to fur traders and missionaries for some time. The first settlers engaged in commercial fishing and traded furs with the local Ojibway Indians. Soon after, sailing and trading along the lakeshore took place. In 1851 the “Saugeen” post office opened and within two years the location became a customs port of entry.
The earliest industries included a steam sawmill, a steam grist mill and distillery, woolen and weaving mills, commercial fishing, and shipbuilding. Eventually the furniture factories became of great importance to the economy, as well as a foundry and tannery.
Southampton was incorporated as a village in 1858 and by 1904, it was eligible for town status.
In 1998, Southampton amalgamated with Saugeen Township and the town of Port Elgin to form the town of Saugeen Shores.