North Grenville celebrates 25 years of amalgamation this year and the Municipality is planning special meetings to mark the occasion. This is one of a series of articles the Times is publishing to remember South Gower, Kemptville, and Oxford-on-Rideau and how they came to be North Grenville in 1998.

When we last heard from the Oxford-on-Rideau Council, it was 1852 and they had just borrowed £6,000 from the government of the United Canadas to invest in the Bytown and Prescott Railway Company. This investment had been strongly opposed by two of the councillors, Rickey Waugh and T. A. Kidd, but pushed through by the other councillors, Ambrose Clothier and William Bottum, supported by the Reeve, Robert Kernahan. This money would have to be recouped through local taxes on property. Almost immediately after paying over the money to the Company in October, 1852, worrying rumours about the state of the railway company’s finances began to circulate.

The taxpayers of Oxford had been assured that the £6,000 would probably never have to be paid out, that the railway stock would only be a source of revenue and profit, but calling in the money from the township was only the beginning. Almost as much had been invested by private individuals in Oxford, mostly by Kemptville businessmen, and the company was losing money throughout 1853. Even after the line opened to Bytown in 1854, profits were not forthcoming; in fact, the company needed more and more investment to keep going.

To add to the financial pressures, many of the same individuals who had invested in the Bytown and Prescott Railway had incorporated another company in 1853, the Perth and Kemptville Railway Company. This was meant to build a track linking “Perth to a point on the Bytown & Prescott Ry. near Kemptville, and from Perth to Belleville or Peterborough”. In the event, this railway was never built: the expected boom in business for the new railways did not materialise and this investment was lost. 

The precise details of what happened next are still shrouded in some mystery. But it seems that the leading businessmen of Kemptville, among them the Reeve and two councillors who had so eagerly pushed through the investment of taxpayers’ money in the Bytown and Prescott Railway Company, now began to look for ways of escaping the trap they had set for themselves. Their initial plan was to have Kemptville separate from the Township of Oxford-on-Rideau, and establish it as a separate municipality. This, they apparently believed, would relieve the village of having to repay the £6,000 loan, which was, after all, in the name of the Township. The plan almost failed when it was discovered that Kemptville did not have the required population of 1,000 to qualify as an incorporated village; but the Act of the Assembly, passed in July, 1856 contained what may have been a compromise. 

In spite of not having the required population, Kemptville was incorporated but agreed that it would “remain liable jointly with the said Township of Oxford for any debt or debts created by the Municipality of the said Township before the passing of this Act”. It was left to the two councils, Oxford’s and Kemptville’s, to sort out their respective share of the debt. Kemptville became a separate village on January 1, 1857, and the Bytown and Prescott Railway Company was placed in Receivership that same year.

But the story did not end there. By the end of January, 1857, it had been agreed that Kemptville would take on a quarter of the railway debt, £1,500, but the new Reeve of Oxford, Rickey Waugh, had to insist on Kemptville’s Reeve, Ambrose Clothier, keeping to the terms laid down by the Assembly. The share of the debt was based on property assessment in both municipalities, and the value of village property was clearly assessed at a higher valuation than in the rural areas of Oxford. This irritated William Bottum. He had pressed for the railway stock investment and the separation from Oxford as a way of avoiding paying that debt. But now he found that his property, which was extensive, was being assessed at a higher rate than it had been as part of Oxford. His land covered most of lot 25, stretching from Rideau Street west to what is now Pine Hill Road, and from CR 43 south to Concession Road.

The 1857 Act had the east half of lot 24, and all of lots 25 to 28 in the third concession of Oxford included in the new Village of Kemptville, but Bottum now wanted his lands removed and restored to the lower tax brackets of Oxford Township. So, on July 24, 1858, another Act was passed to change the boundaries of Kemptville. The new boundary line on the west wove in and out around land that Bottum had previously sold to the Anglican Church. All of Bottum’s land south of the river (what is now Riverside Park, the site of the hospital, etc.), was now removed from Kemptville. 

Oxford-on-Rideau was divided. The new centre for the Township was Oxford Mills, while Kemptville started its independent existence as a fruitless way of avoiding taxes spent on infrastructure. The separation only ended in 1998 with the arrival of a new municipality with a new name: North Grenville.


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