It is practically impossible to name the most important cities of the world without instantly thinking of the rivers they are on.
Think of Mississippi Mills in Eastern Ontario’s Lanark County: think of its location, on a hundred and seventy-five kilometer long watercourse, Canada’s Mississippi, one of five tributaries of the fabled Upper Ottawa River.
On January 1, 1998, the Town of Mississippi Mills was created by merging the Town of Almonte with the townships of Ramsay and Pakenham, including the village of Pakenham. This new community covers approximately 523 sq km and encompasses a population of about 12,000. Once known throughout the Upper Ottawa Valley as the ‘Woollen Town’, Almonte was renowned for excellence in production of woollen and worsted cloth from mills built to take advantage of the sixty-two and a half foot falls in the river that gave it the reputation as a ‘Little Niagara’. Other woollen enterprises, as well as grist and flour mills (essential for the needs of a pioneer settlement) flourished at other sites as well, at Appleton, Blakeney and at Pakenham in a distinct manufacturing river corridor known as the ‘Mills Along the Mississippi’.
Time, however, brings change. The former Baird gristmill on the Indian River in Ramsay Township became the summer home and studio of the renowned physician-sculptor-physical educator Dr. Robert Tait Mckenzie, and to day, as the “Mill of Kintail” is a remarkable memorial to Dr. McKenzie’s work and ideas. The corridor where the mills once turned on the Mississippi’s urging have largely gone silent, converted to alternate uses and residential housing. But the latent beauty of the river valley remains. When Peter Robinson brought the first “assisted emigration” from Cork in 1823, he remarked “At Prescott I engaged wagons to take the Emigrants cross-country, a distance of sixty miles, to a place on the Mississippi with falls”. The depot he established is now the heart of the community. “Mississippi Mills”. Come see for yourselves.
A community can be measured by the quality of the sons and daughters it gives to the world. Thus, Mississippi Mills is the birthplace of Dr. James Naismith the inventor of basketball and Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, world renowned surgeon, sculptor, and pioneer in rehabilitative medicine; Sir Edward Peacock, governor of the Bank of England; Dr. James McIntosh Bell, geologist, who for many years directed the Geological Survey of New Zealand; Dr. William Bennet Munroe, historian, and many others who took their first breaths in this community and went on to become celebrities in their chosen fields.