Bits and Pieces of William Thoburn and the House on Union Street

Bits and  Pieces of William Thoburn and the House on Union Street
Thoburn House, 161 Union Street, Almonte, Ont.

This house was built in 1887 for William Thoburn, and his family. He was a prominent mill owner, citizen and politician

Unexpected Almonte
May 26, 2019  · 

Hi Linda. I was wondering what info you might have for the William Thoburn house on union?- Tatiana Barr
Tatiana, I scoured all day but did not come up with much except the Thoburns and the Fairneys, but I dug up all this interesting stuff LOLOL

Quintessential Victorian home: “William Thoburn house”, 161 Union St., Almonte – of particular architectural interest: the verandah & 2nd floor balcony. *Marshall Benjamin Aylesworth was the architect for Thoburn’s house (161 Union Street). (see historical facts)

Thoburn came to Canada in 1857, age 10, and attended #Pakenham School. He moved to #Almonte, age 20, in 1867. The house was designed by architect, M.B. Aylsworth in 1887. It was home to William & Margaret Thoburn (Lyons) and their two daughters, Annie and Mae.

He died 27 Jun 1903 from Tubercular Meningitis

Read-In the Public Eye– William Thoburn

Info from MVTM guidebook & Lanark Co., 1896, rootsweb & “A cyclopædia of Canadian biography” (online)
Photos Linda Seccaspina 1981

Property bought

July 15 1887 Almonte Gazette- Thoburn building a new home

—Mr. Wm. Thoburn has purchased from Mr. J. Jamieson a part of the property on Union street on which the latter gentleman’s residence is situated ; also a few lots immediately adjoining from Mr. B. Rosamond. Mr T. intends putting up an elegant residence for himself on his new purchase

Life Events

While returning from church on Sunday evening a number of people were walking on the road because of the slippery condition of the sidewalks. When, near Mrs. Bryson’s residence on Union street the pedestrians were met by a horse and cutter in which were two men, and when passing Mayor Thoburn and his daughter, Mrs. Percy (Annie) Jamieson, the driver struck out at them with the whip, hitting Mrs. Jamieson across the, face and knocking off her glasses. Mr. Thoburn at once followed the rig and endeavored to ascertain who the occupants were but he failed in this. The act was a dastardly one and-might have resulted in serious injury, though fortunately such was not the case. The matter has been reported to Chief Lowry and an effort will be made to bring the culprits to justice. 1898- Almonte Gazette

His son–

Willie Thoburn (son of William Thoburn), to whose illness reference was made in last week’s Gazette, died on Saturday night.He was nearly sixteen years of age,and was in many respects a bright-boy, but was not possessed of sufficient physical strength to enable him to give full play to his intellectual powers. On the 25th of May he attended the lacrosse- match, and his illness, was thought to have resulted from exposure to the extreme heat and the excitement of the game.Much’ sympathy is felt for Mrs. Thoburn and her family in the bereavement which has fallen upon them.The funeral to the eighth line cemetery on Tuesday was largely attended by sympathizing friends. Almonte GazetteJuly 3 1903

photo Linda Seccaspina 1981


Sue Winslow-SpraggeThis is a beautiful old house. I remember it well when it was owned by the Fairney family

Marty TaylorKevinandSusan Sonnenburg-Cadman –Never played with any kids at that house that I remember

The Thoburn Woollen Mill, which operated from 1880 to 1956, sits on one of Almonte’s most significant historic sites. Beside the first set of falls as the Mississippi River flows through the town, the site has had 182 years of near-continuous commercial and industrial activity. In 1820, settler David Shepherd fulfilled his land grant obligations by building the area’s first sawmill here. Since then, a variety of other users have been drawn to the site, always in large part because of the river and the water power it provides business. Thoburn emigrated from England to Upper Canada with his family in 1857 when he was 10. He worked diligently to become, according to his 1928 obituary in the Almonte Gazette, the town’s “first citizen” and “one of the foremost businessmen in Eastern Ontario.”

Thoburn bought the original mill buildings in 1880 during the boom years of the woollen business in the Valley. When the mill ceased operation in 1956, the building was bought by Ottawa sheet metal contractor Bill Irving. In the mill he found an old, locked safe. It was forced open, revealing six of Thoburn’s ledgers and correspondence copy books. The books were given to Mr. Potvin by Mr. Irving on the strict condition that they re-main with the building and on public display. “The books are an incredible link to the past,” Mr. Potvin says. The first ledger entry on Jan. 31, 1881, shows that the mill initially had two employees.

By April it was busy producing felt with 16 workers including four weavers, all women. Twelve of the workers earned between 40 cents and $1.75 a day for a 60-hour work week, while the weavers were paid by the yard for finished work. The correspondence copy book reflects the stresses of starting a new business, and the central role of the press in forming 19th-century public opinion. In February of 1881, with his business just starting, Thoburn was eagerly awaiting shipment of machinery for his mill from Mr. Arnold, a Troy, New York supplier. Annoyed that the machinery for which he’d already paid hadn’t arrived, Thoburn wrote a letter exhorting Arnold to send the equipment and threatening in scrolling handwriting that “if we are put to any trouble about this affair it shall be known throughout the whole United States and Canada by the Press of each country. We acted our part honourably and all we ask of you is to do the same.”

Thoburn Mill Burning..

In the Public Eye– William Thoburn

More Tales from the Thoburn Mill

Is Samuel Shaard Lying in the “Cement” of the Thoburn Mill?

Tears From the Old Gears of the Mills

Just a very nutty, totally lovable, advertisement from the Almonte Gazette, 17 Oct 1873.

“It is reported that before his return home the Shah intends going to Pakenham to get some of Thoburn’s tea and sugar.

“If he had been fortunate enough to have had his wives with him he would have fitted them all out with a pair of Thoburn’s dollar gaiters!

“But, if the Shah does not come, which is very likely, we intend to sell just as cheap to other people. Look at our prices…

“Cheap as the Cheapest”

#Pakenham Mississippi Mills #Spin #UnderTheInfluence #NotTheSameThoburnAsWilliamInAlmonte See Less
The Gazette
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
08 Mar 1938, Tue  •  Page 6

From Downtown Almonte Heritage

The 19th century Thoburn Mill was destroyed by fire in 1909 and 1918. It
was rebuilt in 1919, served as a mill until the mid-20th century, and was
converted to condominiums in 2000-2009

38 Main Street East: The second Trinity Methodist Church was
built of stone in the Gothic Revival style in 1887, replacing the
1860 Methodist church.37 Mill owner William Thoburn played a
key role in fundraising and planning for the new church. Marshall
Benjamin Aylesworth was the architect for the church and for
Thoburn’s house (161 Union Street). William Willoughby and his
sons George and Richard were stonemasons for both the church
and for the Town Hall in 1885. The church became Trinity United
Church on church union in 1925 and closed in 1951.

77 Mill Street: In 1889-90, the federal government built the
large stone Post Office and Customs House at the top of Mill
Street, designed by Dominion Architect Thomas Fuller and built
by local contractor Robert Cameron.39 The clock tower was
added in 1914 at the urging of then-MP William Thoburn, whose
textile factory was located next door;

“Interestingly, the building’s monumental four-faced clock tower was not added until between 1913 and 1916 when a local Member of Parliament, named William Thoburn, ordered its construction. Thoburn, who was also a local mill owner, was rumoured to have demanded the erection of the clock tower to ensure the timely arrival of his employees to work each morning.

John MorrowIf I remember correctly Mr. Thoburn’s mill was off Little Bridge Street, behind both the Post Office and the Town Hall, so the clock tower would have been readily visible from both buildings. Mr. Thoburn retired from Parliament in 1917 when Lanark County went from two ridings (North and South) to one covering the whole county, being succeeded by Dr. Adelbert Edward Hanna of Perth, father of then future Almonte Gazette editor/publisher Stewart Hanna.

William Thoburn (1847-1928) arrived in Almonte in 1867 from
Pakenham and began to manufacture flannels in 1880 from a factory
located on Little Bridge Street. He is a significant figure in Almonte
history, serving as a school trustee and councillor, as mayor of Almonte
for seven years, and as MP for Lanark North from 1908 to 1917. The
19th century Thoburn Mill was destroyed by fire in 1909 and 1918. It
was rebuilt in 1919, served as a mill until the mid-20th century, and was
converted to condominiums in 2000-2009. 27

77 Mill Street: In 1889-90, the federal government built the
large stone Post Office and Customs House at the top of Mill
Street, designed by Dominion Architect Thomas Fuller and built
by local contractor Robert Cameron.39 The clock tower was
added in 1914 at the urging of then-MP William Thoburn, whose
textile factory was located next door;

In the last thirty years, some of the surviving mill buildings have been adaptively reused to
provide residential or commercial condominiums: the Rosamond Mill on Coleman Island (Millfall
Condominiums), the Thoburn Mill on Little Bridge Street (also contains offices and retail space), the
Almonte Flour Mill on Main Street (also contains a hydro-power generating station) and the Victoria
Woollen Mill on Mill Street (also contains a restaurant). The former Post Office contains a restaurant
and art gallery. The “Riverwalk”, a boardwalk with interpretive signage was built along the south
shore of the river beginning in 2000. It now extends from the Old Town Hall to the Victoria Woollen
Mill. The town hosts many annual festivals and events including: Almonte in Concert series, Art in the
Attic, Celtfest, Puppets Up!, Naismith Basketball Tournament and Fibrefest, among others. In 2011,
the junction of Mill Street and Little Bridge Street was altered to include a resting spot with benches,
trees and a bronze statue of James Naismith, an Almonte native and the man credited with inventing
the game of basketball. In 2014, free wifi was introduced along a section of Mill Street, signalling
downtown Almonte’s embrace of the digital age.

From Downtown Almonte Heritage

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
23 Jan 1928, Mon  •  Page 3

April 1947 The Thoburn Woollen Mills closed down at noon, Tuesday, owing to flood water from the river making it impossible to operate the boiler. It is not expected that the plant will be able to reopen for at least nine days. The level of the Mississippi River is higher than for many years but so far the Thoburn mill is the only industry to be affected by this factor. The enforced holiday will not be welcomed by the employees who will not be able to collect unemployment insurance unless they are idle for more than nine days. photo- Thoburn Mill With Nanotec Sign

Thoburn And White Stores Did you know in the 1800s the White store had the finest boots and the ads always said to look for the White Boot.

Brent Eades
July 8, 2020  · 
Here’s a pic of Thoburn Mill I took back in May, meant to post it and forgot 🙂

Aylesworth, Marshall Benjamin Architect of the Thoburn Home

AYLESWORTH, Marshall Benjamin (1850-1911) was active in many towns in central and northern Ontario where his eclectic and often elaborately decorated churches and institutional buildings were erected. Born in Ontario on 20 April 1850 he was the son of George Aylesworth of Northumberland County but no information can be found on his early education and training there. In 1878 he was employed as a draughtsman in Toronto, and 1879-80 worked as an architect in that city. He moved to Collingwood, Ont. in late 1880 and advertised his services as an instructor in architectural and mechanical drawing (Daily Messenger [Collingwood], 16 Dec. 1880, 1, advert.). He maintained a practise in Collingwood but the success of his career there was overshadowed by the untimely death of his young wife in May 1883 (obituary for Florence Stone in The Enterprise [Collingwood], 17 May 1883, 3). In early 1885 he returned to Toronto to open an office on King Street East in 1886 where he remained for the next ten years. During this period he travelled to Europe ‘in search of architectural knowledge’ (C.A.B., v, Jan 1892, 10) and published an extensive essay on his discoveries there entitled ‘A Chapter From My Notebook – Building Methods in Rome’ (C.A.B., viii, March 1895, 44-6). He appears to have left Toronto in 1896 but returned to the city in late 1899 and continued to work there until September 1902 when he moved to Fort William. It is here that his most important works in northern Ontario were built, including the Fort William City Hall (1903-04) and the Masonic Temple at Port Arthur (1910). He died at Sarnia, Ont. on 29 August 1911 after suffering a stroke while travelling by steamer from Detroit to Sarnia, and was buried at Warkworth, Northumberland Co., Ont. (biography and list of works in M. Bixby, Industries of Canada – Toronto and Environs, 1886, 190; obituary in Sarnia Observer, 30 Aug. 1911)

House of dreams — A winning design that pays homage to Almonte while looking to the future

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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