Most of the accounts of the renaming of Kemptville in 1829 say that it was named after Sir James Kempt who was Governor General of the Canadas at the time, and who had camped on the Rideau Canal nearby at some point. Some of that appears to be true.

Kempt had a distinguished military career during the Napoleonic Wars, seriously wounded in the assault on Badajoz in Spain in 1812, and later taking part in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

He had links with Canada before this, having served as Quartermaster General in British North America between 1807 and 1811, and commanded a brigade despatched to Canada to reinforce British forces during the War of 1812.

After Waterloo, Kempt found employment in the Colonial Service and was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia in 1819. There is another Kemptville in that province today, also named after Sir James. His connection with our Kemptville is much more tenuous. He reluctantly accepted the position of governor-general of Canada on 10 July, 1828. It was before this appointment that he made the trip that would forever link him to North Grenville.

The first use of “Kemptville”, 1836.

In early 1828, he was put in charge of a commission of inquiry into the building of the Rideau Canal. His superiors in London were concerned at the increasing cost of the project, and Kempt was assigned the job of looking into Col. John By’s supervision of the work. He was quite unwilling to undertake the long and arduous journey from Halifax to the Rideau, especially since his war wounds had caused serious problems with his legs. He had, apparently, been confined to Government House in Halifax for most of the previous winter, and he complained that: “my legs are by no means in Campaigning Order”. But he was obliged to make the trip, spending as many as seventeen hours a day pushing through difficult terrain between Bytown and Kingston. On one of those days, he and his party camped on the river near the junction with the South Branch. His experiences in this region were not pleasant, and his comments on reaching Kingston speak volumes: “I am at last again in a Christian Country and out of the land of Swamps and Mosquitoes.”

So, in spite of this, the worthies of the village at Clothier’s Mills chose to rename their settlement after the prestigious figure of decorated war hero and colonial governor Sir James Kempt. The name first appeared on a map of the village dated 1836.


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