Former Councillor Alex Gillis revisits his files of 26 years to recall how Mississippi Mills was named

The following ad appeared in the Almonte Gazette of May 7, 1997:

NAME OUR NEW TOWN

The Transition Committee for the amalgamated municipalities of Almonte, Pakenham and Ramsay requests suggestions for a name for our new municipality.

Individuals and groups encouraged to respond.

Submit Suggestions in writing, no later than Thursday, May 15th, 1997.

Mail to:
“Name Our New Town” Committee
Township of Ramsay

The ad was simple but the process of naming the new municipality was not; it turned out to be rather complex and not without controversy.

The restructuring proposal, approved by the councils of Almonte, Pakenham and Ramsay, was endorsed by the Council of the County of Lanark on February 19th, 1997, and forwarded to the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for approval under the Savings and Restructuring Act, 1996.

The date for incorporation was to be January 1, 1998 and the proposed amalgamated municipality needed a name soon.

A Transition Board and a Transitional Process were finalized in March, 1997 and a Task Group for naming the new municipality was appointed, subsequently, by the Transition Board. The Task Group, also called the EDC Names Committee, members were Pakenham Deputy-Reeve Brenda Hurle, Ramsay Deputy-Reeve Cliff Bennett, Almonte Councillor Alex Gillis and Economic Development Committee (EDC) member Don Lowry. The Task Group met on April 30, 1997 and agreed to the above ad which appeared, on May 7, 1997, in the Arnprior Chronicle, the Almonte Gazette and the Carleton Place Canadian.

The Task Group met, again, on May 16, 1997 to consider the submissions; remarkably, 33 entries were received, consisting of 26 different names, which was a strong response from the community.  The 26 names were placed into the following categories: geographic (5), heritage related (7), current names (4), derivations of current names (5) and neutral names (5). The Task Group submitted a written Report to the Transition Board, which explained the selection process and recommended six names: Naismith (5 entries), James Naismith (2 entries), Kintail, Paramont(e), Mississippi Mills and Trinity Bridge. Current names were removed since they would become Ward names. Derivations of current names were eliminated except for Paramont(e).

The Report was discussed, vigorously, at the May 26 Meeting of the Transition Board. Several motions were passed approving:

  • The addition of Almonte Pakenham Ramsay and Mill Valley to the list of, now, eight recommended names:
    • NAISMITH
    • JAMES NAISMITH
    • KINTAIL
    • MILL VALLEY
    • PARAMONT(E)
    • MISSISSIPPI MILLS
    • TRINITY BRIDGE
    • ALMONTE PAKENHAM RAMSAY, and
  • The circulation of a survey/ballot with the June Tax Billing.

The choice of a name from the recommended list proved to be difficult and agonizing, particularly, since it was a very emotional item for some. Mississippi Mills was clearly the most popular choice of name, as determined by the survey; however, the motion to select Mississippi Mills was defeated at the June 23rd, 1997 meeting of the Transition Board; the second motion to accept Almonte Pakenham Ramsay, also, was defeated; finally, the third motion to select Mill Valley was rejected. The selection of a name was referred to the next meeting of the Transition Board for reconsideration.

The meeting was held on July 7th, 1997 when “the Board members discussed the naming of the new municipality at great length”; the following motion was approved, ultimately in a recorded vote:

Moved by John Edwards

Seconded by Cliff Bennett

WHEREAS the report of the EDC Names Committee indicated that 78% of the survey respondents wanted a new name for the municipality;

AND WHEREAS the ward names will remain Almonte, Pakenham and Ramsay;

NOW THEREFORE be it resolved that the name of the new municipality be the Corporation of the Town of Mississippi Mills.

Results of Recorded Vote:

In Favour: Pakenham, Ramsay  

Against: Almonte

The Almonte vote, actually, was a tie, which is taken to be ‘against’ under the rules.

Comment:

The Almonte Gazette of July 9th, 1997 featured an article, on its front page, entitled “Welcome to Mississippi Mills, Councils make choice in split decision”.  The article is available at https://mvtm.ca/gazette2017/display-pdf?ref=1997-07-09-01; it provides an excellent account of the historic evening when the decision was taken to name the new municipality, ‘The Corporation of the Town of Mississippi Mills’. Oh, how I miss the Gazette; thank God for the Millstone!

The reasons that Mississippi Mills was submitted, are summarized in the May Report of the EDC Names Committee to the Transition Board: “All three municipalities have remnants of historic mills. The mills played a significant role in the growth and development of the communities and area. Also, the Mississippi River flows through the three municipalities. That fact, in itself, played an important part. I was quoted in the Gazette article as stating “If we have to change, it’s not a bad name to change to.”; I think that this still applies.

The name was not accepted easily by some, at first, but it seems to be well-established now, after almost 25 years. The decision, taken later, to replace ‘Town’ with ‘Municipality’ in the name seems to have clarified the name and resulted in greater acceptance. Almonte, Pakenham and Ramsay still exist, as wards and, certainly, have preserved their heritage and identity.

Revisiting the naming process has reminded me of an important experience and demonstrated the value of old files to assist a fading memory. I am especially proud to recognize my wife, Elizabeth Gillis as the person who submitted ‘Mississippi Mills’ as a proposed name in response to the advertisement in the Almonte Gazette of May 7, 1997; I hope that this is recognized during the 25th anniversary celebrations of Mississippi Mills.