Montague History

When Montague was surveyed in the 1790's, it was intended to accommodate Loyalist and post-loyalist settlers, to continue settlement started in the 1780's by the first Caucasian settler on the Rideau, Roger Stevens. Montague's proximity to the military settlements of Perth, Beckwith and Richmond attracted additional settlers in the post-1812 decades; however, it was the shock of mass Irish immigration during the 1830's through to the 1850's which gave the Township its distinctive ethnic character by mid-century.

From the slowly growing frontier settlement at the end of the eighteenth century, through the years of large scale settlement and squatting by Irish immigrants in the early nineteenth century, to the failure of the local wheat economy by the 1870's followed a century later by the decline of the dairy economy for many farmers, the struggle against the Township's thin soil allowed many inhabitants little more than subsistence living.

Other forms of survival continued this pattern of Montague's history. Attempts were made to develop schools and churches within the Township, but these gradually declined in favour of adjacent towns such as Smiths Falls, while the continual battle was waged to prevent Smiths Falls from expropriating fertile farmland for industrial development. Social groups and local fairs, villages and post offices, cheese factories and rural telephone companies all were doomed to failure as adjacent towns grew, as railroads sliced through the Township and as Montague's population dropped between 1860 and 1940.

In addition, there were social problems - ranging from families on the brink of starvation to inadequate roads and schools to religious and ethnic intolerance - problems which would contribute to the Irish feeling of inferiority that persisted in Montague from the mid-nineteenth century onward.

Fortunately, the present day situation is more positive, with new schools being built and a modest, but steady population growth rate as people choose to relocate in Montague to enjoy the benefits of a rural setting while being within easy commuting distance of major centres.

To read more on the history of Montague, stop by the Township Office and pick up a copy of Montague: A Social History of an Irish Ontario Township for only $25.00 + HST.