Discover Almonte, Ontario: A Blend of History and Charm

Almonte, Ontario, a former mill town nestled in the eastern part of Lanark County, Canada, is a place where history and charm intertwine. Once a separate municipality, Almonte is now a ward of the town of Mississippi Mills, a union formed on January 1, 1998, by merging Almonte with Ramsay and Pakenham townships. Located 46 kilometres south-west of downtown Ottawa, Almonte had a population of 5,039 as recorded in the 2016 Canadian Census.

The Historical Journey of Almonte, Ontario

European Settlement in Almonte, Ontario

The first European-bred settler in Almonte was David Shepherd, who was granted 200 acres by the Crown in 1818 to build and operate a mill. The site, initially known as Shepherd's Falls, changed hands and names after Shepherd's mill burned down. Daniel Shipman, the patent's buyer, rebuilt the mill, and by 1821, the settlement was known as Shipman's Mills. The town, primarily inhabited by Scottish and later Irish settlers, was a textile hub from the start. By 1850, it housed seven bustling woollen mills and was one of the leading centres in Canada West for woollen cloth manufacture. The construction of a railway line to Brockville stimulated Almonte's economic growth, leading to a name change from Shipman's Mills to Ramsayville, and then to Waterford.

In 1869, Almonte was a village with a population of 2,000 on the Mississippi River in the Township of Ramsay, County of Lanark. It was a station of the Brockville and Ottawa Railway. By the 1870s, the town had thirty stores and forty other businesses. Almonte was incorporated as a village in 1871, and as a town in 1880. However, on 10 September 1909, the town suffered a major fire, which destroyed several buildings on the main street and caused $75,000 worth of damage.

The Origin of the Name 'Almonte'

In 1855, when the newly-created Canadian post office pointed out there was already a Waterford in Canada West, the town needed another name change. Given the antagonistic relations between the United States and Great Britain since the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the name of Mexican general Juan Almonte, who had fought honourably in the border wars between Mexico and the United States in the 1830s, was well known to Waterford's citizens. The proposed name change was accepted by the Combined Counties of Lanark and Renfrew in June 1855, although the post office did not record the new name until 1859. This led to Almonte being the only community in Ontario, and likely Canada, to be named for a Mexican general.

The Almonte Train Wreck of 1942

Almonte was the site of one of the worst rail disasters in Canadian history. On December 27, 1942, a troop train rear-ended a passenger train standing in the local railway station. Thirty-nine people were killed and more than 150 were injured.

Almonte, Ontario Today

After the last textile mill closed in the early 1980s, Almonte turned its attention towards tourism. It offers museums and several historical spots, such as the home of James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. Almonte retains much of its 19th-century architecture, including the former Almonte post office, designed in 1889 by Thomas Fuller, the architect of the Parliament Buildings, and the Rosamond Woollen Mill, the largest 19th-century textile mill in Canada, both designated as National Historic Sites of Canada. Almonte also has a skate park and a splash pad open to the public, beside the arena.

On April 4, 2023, Almonte was named the best small town in the Ottawa area by local radio station CHEZ 106.1, "Biggs & Barr Show's March Madness of Small Towns." A celebratory event is planned for Saturday, April 29th in downtown Almonte where a trophy will be presented to the Mayor of Mississippi Mills.

Almonte, Ontario: A Popular Movie Location

Almonte has been the filming location for several movies in recent years, including several Christmas movies. The New York Times praised the town for its mix of 19th-century historic buildings and a ’50s diner, making it the go-to location for holiday movies set in Vermont, Alaska, and even Milwaukee. Almonte also featured in a 2022 episode of Murdoch Mysteries, though the episode was not actually filmed in Almonte.

Events and Attractions in Almonte, Ontario

Festivals in Almonte, Ontario

Almonte is home to several festivals and events, including the North Lanark Highland Games, Naismith 3-on-3 Basketball Festival, Almonte Celtfest, and Busfusion.

The Mississippi River in Almonte, Ontario

The Mississippi River, which runs through Almonte, has no connection with the U.S. river of the same name.