Smiths Falls


History of Smiths Falls

Smiths Falls is a town that celebrates its past and a history buff’s paradise.  Walking tours of downtown, historic architecture and two museums highlight Smiths Falls’ heritage, where you’ll find something to see and do around every corner!

The Town’s name is derived from the original owner of the land, Thomas Smyth, and the once-magnificent falls that were diverted in order to create the Rideau Canal and the three lock stations.

The history of Smiths Falls dates to the American Revolutionary War between the Americans and British when land grants were issued to United Empire Loyalists who lost the land they owned in the United States for supporting the crown during the conflict.  The area of Smiths Falls was original granted to Lieutenant Thomas Smyth, who was issued 400 acres of land in 1786.  Rights to his land and mill were contested in 1824, and Smyth lost his lands for having defaulted on mortgage payments.  The area was then purchased by Abel Russell Ward, a self-proclaimed United Empire Loyalist, in 1825.

When Lt.-Col. John By, a member of the Royal Engineering Corp, was charged with construction a navigable canal linking Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River, he included the Rideau River running through Smiths Falls.  The opening of the canal in 1832 is seen as a milestone for the area since it allowed for economic growth.

The true economic boom came after 1884 when the Canadian Pacific Railway constructed part of its line through the area.  This provided a direct trade route to Montreal and its shipping lines.  It also allowed the population of the region to increase rapidly.
Due to those early ventures, Smiths Falls has benefited from a long history of important industries, such as Frost & Wood Co Ltd, Coca-Cola, RCA Victor Ltd, Rideau Regional Centre and Hershey’s Canada Inc.

In 2007 the Rideau Canal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first in Ontario.  The Canal still plays an important role for the town, since Smiths Falls is the heart of the Rideau Canal.