By Alex Hughes
Excerpt from a talk given to the LCGS on Oct 2, 1996. Published in the LCGS newsletter, October, 1996.
In 1825, in the village of Fenagh in county Leitrim in Ireland, a gang of Catholic youths attacked the Rosamond home. The Rosamonds were staunch Protestants. James, aged 20 (born 1805) and his brother Edward, aged 15, attempted to protect their mother. A shot was fired by Edward and a youth was dead. The boys fled to Canada. James went to Merrickville where he worked for James Merrick as a weaver. Edward, still fearing arrest, worked his way eventually to Memphis, Tennessee.
James Rosamond worked for James Merrick for five years and he came to Carleton Place in 1825. We know that by 1830 he was operating a sawmill, an oat mill and a carding and a fulling mill in Carleton Place on one side of the Mississippi River and a lumber mill on the other side of the river.
In 1831 he married Margaret Wilson who was born in Scotland. James and Margaret were to have five children, all born in Carleton Place: Bennett, Mary Ann (known as Marion, who later married Andrew Bell, their son was James McIntosh Bell), Rosalind, William and James. [See more on Andrew Bell & Mary Ann in Carol Bennett McCuaig’s article A LOVE STORY].
In the 1830’s, James built a very fine stone home on Bell Street in Carleton Place, close to St. James’ Church where he was a church warden for fifteen years. It was a time of great expansion. No one worried about pension funds, or the government looking after your, that was your responsibility. James burst upon the scene and started many businesses, all of which seem to have been successful.
James, in what was to prove to be a landmark decision, decided to turn his fulling and carding mill into a woolen factory. In 1864 he advertised that he had purchased spinning and weaving machinery which he had bought from firms in Toronto, Ogdensburgh and Watertown, New York. By 1846 he was in operation and was selling “Plain Cloth either grey or dyed, Cashmere, Satinett, Flannel, all wool or cotton and wool, Blankets, etc.” James had started with three narrow looms, one spindle jack of one hundred and twenty spindles and one bolting roll. He expanded as best as he could in Carleton Place but the limiting factor was the amount of water power to make everything run. He ran his operation in Carleton Place for another ten years, but by 1857 his water rights had lapsed and he erected a stone mill in Almonte on the site of the Ramsay Woolen Cloth Manufacturing Company which had been destroyed by fire.
This building, or part of it, still stands at the foot of Mill Street and it was then known as the Victoria Woollen Mill. (Almonte was then called Victoriaville). This mill was a two set mill, that is it contained two sets of carding equipment and a requisite number of finishing machines. James and his wife Margaret built a house called “The Croft” on what is now the grounds of “Greystone House”. (Greystone House being built by his son James Rosamond and his wife Lilla).
James Rosamond’s mills prospered and his sons Bennett, William and James carried on the tradition, and in 1866 started building the mill which is now Millfall Condominiums. When this mill was up and running, the population of Almonte had swelled to some 4000. With the death of Alex Rosamond in 1916 at Courcelett, the mills went into decline. Alex’s brother Archie carried on but did not have the necessary business acumen. Alex’s widow, Mary Rosamond, left Almonte in 1948 and the mills were sold in 1952. A great tradition ended.