Smiths Falls

Smiths Falls
Town (single-tier)
Town of Smiths Falls
Motto: Sensational Smiths Falls
Smiths Falls
Coordinates: 44°54′N 76°01′W / 44.900°N 76.017°W / 44.900; -76.017Coordinates: 44°54′N 76°01′W / 44.900°N 76.017°W / 44.900; -76.017
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
County Lanark
Incorporated 1854 (as village)
  Mayor Shawn James Pankow
  Federal riding Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington
  Prov. riding Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington
  Land 9.61 km2 (3.71 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
  Total 8,978
  Density 934.6/km2 (2,421/sq mi)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC−5)
  Summer (DST) Eastern Daylight (EDT) (UTC−4)
Postal code FSA K7A
Area code 613
Smiths Falls within Lanark County.

Smiths Falls is a town in Eastern Ontario, Canada, with a population of 8,978 according to the 2011 census. It is in the Census Division for Lanark County, but is separated from the county. The Rideau Canal waterway passes through the town, with four separate locks in three locations and a combined lift of over 15 metres (50 ft).

The town's name was sometimes alternatively spelled "Smith's Falls" or "Smith Falls", but "Smiths Falls" is now considered correct.


Early history

The city is named after Thomas Smyth, a United Empire Loyalist who in 1786 was granted 400 acres (1.6 km2) in what is present-day Smiths Falls. The Heritage House Museum (c. 1862), also known as the Ward House, was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1977.[2]

Building of the Rideau Canal

Rideau River in Smiths Falls

At the time of construction of the Rideau Canal a small settlement had been established around a mill operated by Abel Russell Ward, who had bought Smyth's land. Colonel By ordered the removal of Ward's mill to make way for the canal. He settled with Ward for £1,500, one of the largest claims made by mill owners on the canal.

The disruption of industry caused by the building of the canal was only temporary, and Smiths Falls grew rapidly following construction. An article in Smith's Gazetteer in 1846 described the town as a "flourishing little village pleasantly situated on the Rideau River and on the Canal, fourteen miles (21 km) from Perth. It contains about 700 inhabitants. There are fifty dwellings, two grist mills (one with four run of stones), two sawmills, one carding and fulling mill, seven stores, six groceries, one axe factory, six blacksmiths, two wheelwrights, one cabinet maker, one chair-maker, three carpenters, one gunsmith, eleven shoemakers, seven tailors, one tinsmith and two taverns."

A 36-foot (11 m) drop in less than a quarter of a mile posed an obstacle to navigation at Smiths Falls. A natural depression to the south of the river was used to create a flight of three locks, known as Combined Lockstation today. The natural course of the river was dammed to create a basin upstream of the locks. At the upper end of the basin a fourth (detached) lock was constructed.

A mile below the Combined Lockstation is a flight of two locks called the Old Slys Lockstation. This station is named for the original settler at this location, William Sly. A dam and waste weir control water levels upstream of the locks.

Defensible lockmasters' houses were built at all three stations in Smiths Falls. The house at Old Slys was built in 1838 and the houses at Combined and Detached around 1842. Only the house at Combined has a second storey, which was added late in the 19th century. The defensible lockmaster's house at Detached Lockstation was torn down in 1894.

Entry of the railways

In the 1850s the major railway companies were looking to build main trunk lines linking Toronto, Kingston and Montreal. The two major companies at the time, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Grand Trunk Railway, were competing for the easiest routes to lay track. At one point a fledgling third national railway, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR), was also trying to squeeze itself into the busy Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor.

For a number of geographical reasons, and also due to the proximity of the Rideau Canal, the town of Smiths Falls became a major focal point for both the CPR and the CNoR. Each used a mix of existing regional rail lines and new construction to build their networks. CP purchased the 1859-era Brockville and Ottawa Railway, a line from Brockville-Smiths Falls-Sand Point/Arnprior with a branch Smiths Falls-Perth (the latter joining CP's Ontario and Quebec Railway line to Toronto). CNoR built a 1914-era main line from Ottawa-Smiths Falls-Sydenham (to join an existing Bay of Quinte Railway line extending westward via Napanee-Deseronto[3]). By 1887, the CPR had extended its Toronto-Smiths Falls mainline to reach Montréal; in 1924, 1600 CPR workers were employed in Smiths Falls.[4]

This gave the town direct rail lines in half a dozen directions (Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Brockville, Napanee and Arnprior) on two different rail companies.

During World War II, Axis prisoners of war (POWs) were transported to Canadian POW camps via the railway. It was near Smiths Falls that German soldier Oberleutnant Franz von Werra jumped from a POW train and escaped to the United States, eventually reaching his homeland.[5] Von Werra was, reputedly, the only escaped Axis POW to successfully return home during the war and his story was told in the book and film entitled The One That Got Away.[6] The North American première of the film occurred on Thursday, 6 March 1958 at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls.[7]

Both the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian Northern (later part of Canadian National) had established stations in the town, however, with the creation of Via Rail, the CN station was abandoned and all passenger traffic routed though the CPR station until a new Smiths Falls railway station opened in 2010. The CN station has been renovated and is now home to the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario. The railway station, along with the nearby railway bascule bridge, comprise the town's two National Historic Sites of Canada.[8][9] The Cataraqui Trail now follows the former CN railbed southwest from Smiths Falls, starting from a parking lot at the end of Ferrara Drive.


Census Population
1871 1,150
1881 2,087
1891 3,864
1901 5,155
1911 6,370
1921 6,790
1931 7,108
1941 7,088
1951 8,441
1961 9,603
1971 9,585
1981 8,831
1991 9,396
2001 9,140
2006 8,777
2011 8,978
Canada census – Smiths Falls community profile
2011 2006 2001
Population: 8978 (2.0% from 2006) 8777 – see notes (-4.0% from 2001) 9140 (0.1% from 1996)
Land area: 9.61 km2 (3.71 sq mi) 8.20 km2 (3.17 sq mi) 8.21 km2 (3.17 sq mi)
Population density: 934.6/km2 (2,421/sq mi) 1,070.7/km2 (2,773/sq mi) 1,113.7/km2 (2,884/sq mi)
Median age: 42.9 (M: 41.0, F: 44.8) 40.1 (M: 38.0, F: 42.0)
Total private dwellings: 4383 4106 4097
Median household income: $42,446 $38,974
Notes: 2006 population adjusted to 2011 boundaries is 9163. – References: 2011[10] 2006[11] 2001[12]


The town is on the Rideau Canal system for recreational boating, and is served by the Smiths Falls-Montague Airport for general aviation. It is also a major railway junction point, and its station receives regular passenger service to Ottawa and Toronto from Via Rail.

Several manufacturers were based in Smiths Falls, perhaps the most well-known being the Canadian operation of The Hershey Company (opened in 1963) which closed in December 2008.[13] Hershey announced they will instead open a factory in Mexico where they can have cheaper labour. In late 2006, the plant was temporarily closed due to a case of possible salmonella contamination.[14][15] Other former large manufacturers include RCA Victor (closed circa 1980), Frost and Wood / Cockshutt and Stanley Tools (2008). In 2014, the former Hershey facility was purchased by medical marijuana company Tweed Marijuana Inc.[16]

The Ontario Provincial Police Eastern Region Communications Centre is also located in Smiths Falls. Its communications operators answer emergency 9-1-1 and administrative phone lines, dispatching OPP officers as required.

Sports and recreation

In 1906, a hockey team from Smiths Falls launched an unsuccessful challenge to win the Stanley Cup.[17] Smiths Falls was home to a professional baseball team, the Smiths Falls Beavers, for one season in 1937. The team was a part of the Canadian–American League.

The town is currently home to the Junior A hockey team Smiths Falls Bears, who play in the Central Canada Hockey League.


Public education in the town is managed by the Upper Canada District School Board, while Catholic education is under the care of the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Each operates several elementary schools and one secondary school:

Catholic schools

Public schools

Notable people


General hospital facilities and services are provided by the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital, with a site on Cornelia Street. Also located in Smiths Falls was the Rideau Regional Centre, which provided a residential program for mentally challenged and disabled persons from 1951 until its closure in March 2009.[21]

Local media


Radio stations

Nearest cities

Neighbouring municipalities


Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Smith's Falls.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Smiths Falls.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Smiths Falls.
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