by Michael Rikley-Lancaster
In 1825, 20-year-old James Rosamond and his 15-year-old brother Edward arrived in Canada from Faraugh, Ireland. The brothers had bolted after being caught up in a sectarian riot. Young Edward had shot his attacker, who later died. Soon after landing, Edward left for the United States where prosecution was much less likely. He settled in Tennessee, and his son Charles fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War, commanding a gun battery.
Meanwhile, James finally settled in Carleton Place. It was there in 1846 that he established his first mill on the Mississippi River. He was soon drawn to the wealth of water power in Almonte, and in 1857 readers of the Carleton Place Herald were informed of the opening of the new Victoria Woolen Mill. Success followed success, and by 1866 James handed most of the business to his sons Bennett and William. Their partnership with some of the country’s heaviest commercial hitters led to the establishment of one of Canada’s largest woolen mills.
The families must have remained close, because upon the opening of the huge Rosamond No. 1 Woolen Mill in 1867, the Rosamond’s received a gift. It was a massive bell cast from one of Cousin Charles’ cannons. It was produced in Philadelphia in the shape of the Liberty Bell and carried the inscription, “From the Rosamond’s of Memphis Tenn. to the Rosamond’s of Almonte.” From atop the tall bell tower, the bell signaled all the important occasions throughout the Mill’s day. It is said that it began to ring at 5:45 a.m. and rang every 15 minutes until work began at 7 a.m. It then rang to signal breaks, lunch hour, and the end of the workday.
In 1901, the bell was recast by Menely & Co. West Troy New York, likely because of a crack. The current inscription reads, “Rosamond Woolen Co. 1901, recast from a bell made for B&W Rosamond and Co., 1867.” The bell can be seen in the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum’s permanent exhibition, “Fabric of a Small Town.” Come and have a look the bell that Almonte’s mill workers set their clocks and their days by.