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Mill Village of Omemee, Victoria County, Ontario Canada

The mill built by William Cottingham in 1825 became so important as a base of supplies during this Robinson immigration that a store was opened beside it in 1826. This was the nucleus around which the modern Omemee has grown.

In 1835 a post office was established here with Josiah L. Hughes as postmaster. This post office was called Emily, but the hamlet was known generally as Williamstown doubtless equivalent to "William Cottingham's town." In 1835, also, the first school was built on the site of the later Bradburn's Hotel. James Laidley and Captain Hancock were amongst the earliest teachers.

The first preachers to come in had been Methodist pioneer missionaries or "saddlebags." Prominent amongst these was the Rev. "Daddy" Sanderson, known irreverently throughout the township as "Little Peculiarities," because his invariable reproof to those whom he heard criticizing others was: "You know we all have our little peculiarities." In 1826 a church, used chiefly by the Methodists, was built on the northwest corner of Lot 13, Concession 2. An Anglican clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Thompson, famed locally as a classical scholar, used to come in from Cavan and hold services in private homes. In 1835 an Anglican church was built at Williamstown and the Rev. M. Street, of Cobourg, became the first resident clergyman. A Methodist church was begun in the village in 1836, but took several years to finish. The first Presbyterian minister was the Rev. Mr. Dick, who was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Ewing.

In the forties the name of the village was changed to Metcalfe. A business directory of 1850 gives the following names: William Cottingham, miller, lumber merchant, carder and fuller; Robert Grandy, postmaster; Richard Galbraith, distiller; Wm. Kells, teamster; C. Knowlson, merchant; Wm. Matchett, merchant; W. Beatty, merchant; Rev. John Burk, R. C. priest; Rev. Robert Harding, Anglican priest; Rev. John Ewing, Presbyterian minister.

The Port Hope, Lindsay and Beaverton Railway was built through the township in 1857, but the station was placed at an extraordinary distance from the village. This was apparently done by the railway company out of spite because the bonus paid them had fallen short of their demands.

The name of the village was now changed to Omemee, after the Omemee or "Pigeon" family of Mississaga Indians, who had long made this neighborhood their hunting ground. The names of Pigeon Creek, Pigeon Lake, and Omemee have thus a common origin.

Incorporation as a village was secured in 1874. The first Village Council was constituted as follows:

Reeve, Wm. Cottingham
Councillors, Jas. Ivory, Wm. Neil, John English and Copeland Laidley

Its officials were:
Clerk, C. Knowlson
Treasurer, W. S. Cottingham
Collector, S. English
Assessors, J. Ritchie and W. H. Hill

Omemee reached its maximum of prosperity and population in 1878, when it had 835 inhabitants. There were then three churches, a high school and a public school, a grist mill, two sawmills, a tannery, a foundry, a shingle mill, a cloth mill, four hotels and several "'stores. The "Warder," now of Lindsay, had been published in Omemee from 1856 to 1867, but its successor in the seventies was the "Herald," now defunct.

By 1920 the population had dwindled to 467. The industrial competition of the cities has had a blighting effect on local manufacturing and the general decline of the countryside has been reflected in village life It still functions, however, as the natural economic focus of the township.

There has been no other considerable village in Emily. The quondam post office of King's Wharf dates from the time of the Robinson immigration and a Roman Catholic church built in the forties at "Downey's Cross" has been surrounded by the modern hamlet of Downeyvilla.

The original "St. Luke's" church was a log structure put up on the present cemetery site by Father Fitzpatrick of Lindsay. The first resident priest at Downeyville was Father Burke, appointed in 1851. Under his successor, Father Coyle, a new frame church was built in 1858. This church was bricked over and remodeled in 1894, .during the incumbency of Father Bretherton.

The Municipal History of Emily

The municipal history of Emily may be said to commence in 1824 when Samuel Cottingham collected the first taxes, amounting to sixteen shillings, and carried them to the Treasurer of the Newcastle ,District at Cobourg. His commission as collector was one shilling, and his expenses in the undertaking, borne by himself, amounted to several shillings.

The Colborne District was formed in 1841 and allegiance transferred from Cobourg to Peterborough. A new system of local government was now inaugurated, whereby each township had local officials, wardens, and a clerk, a tax collector and an assessor, and also elected representatives to a District Council at Peterborough. Jos. L. Hughes, the postmaster at Wlllianstown, and Wm. Cottingham, the miller, were the first District Councillors from Emily. They, along with Dennis Hullahan, were also Township Wardens. The Township Clerk was Christopher Knowlson, the Collector, Hugh Collum, and the Assessor, James English. The chief work o the township officers lay in the extension of roads and schools. Economy seems to have been strictly observed, for the township accounts for the period 1843-49 shows a total expenditure of only thirty-two dollars.

In 1850 the Colborne District became Peterboro County and the modern system of municipal institutions was established. The first Township Council under this form of administration comprised the following:

Reeve, Wm. Cottingham
Councillors, Wm. Buck, Thomas Fee, Christopher Knowlson, and Michael Lehane.

The official appointments were:
Clerk, Robert Grandy
Treasurer, Thomas Mitchell
Assessor, James English
Collector, Arthur McQuade
Auditors, T. Crawford and H. Sherwin
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Irons

The last Dominion Census, taken in 1911, shows that the racial strains and religious cleavages of early days still persist with great distinctness. The chief stocks represented in Emily, including Omemee, were as follows:

Irish, 2,117
English, 353
Scotch, 114
The main denominational groupings were:
Methodists, 979
Roman Catholics, 863
Anglicans, 493
Presbyterians, 242

The total resident population of the township apart from Omemee was 2554 in 1880. The assessment returns of 1920 show that this rural population has dropped to 1656, a decrease of over thirty-five per cent. The county assessment of Emily, however, stands now at $1,664,018, which is nominally twice that of 1880.

Southern Townships

Victoria County


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