A look down Appleton Side Road…

I travel the Appleton Side Road regularly, almost once a day, unfailingly. It is my preferred road in and out of Almonte when I exercise my car-washing ceremony in Stittsville. It occurred to me upon leaving Almonte today that I have a number of recollections arising from places along the Appleton Side Road between Almonte and the Village of Appleton where I have many times turned off the Appleton Side Road into the Village towards the Mississippi Golf Club. It is no coincidence that it was in the summer of 1976 that I met with Messrs. Galligan & Sheffield, Barristers &c. at the golf club over dinner to initiate my employment with them in Almonte.

My understanding from the little I know of historical surveying practices is that a “side road” was one which appeared between every fifth lot of the concessions. The side roads were to afford easier and legal public access to the adjoining lots. In Lanark County the twelve concessions of Ramsay Township (of which the Town of Almonte and the Village of Appleton form a part) go north-south. That means that the divisions (if any) between the lots would be east-west. This is important in this instance because the Appleton Side Road basically goes north-south between Concessions X and XI from Almonte to Carleton Place) not east-west. I can only speculate that “side” feature of the Appleton Side Road had something to do with accommodation of the road along the meanderings of the Mississippi River leading into Carleton Place.

A township in Ontario is usually rectangular in shape, unless it borders a major river or lake. Townships are divided into concessions. Each concession is a strip of land 1 and 1/4 mile wide. Concessions can run in any direction and are usually separated by a road. Concessions are numbered with Roman Numerals (V, IV, etc). When concessions do not run the length or width of the township because of water, they are usually labelled with letters (A, B, etc). A gore is a part of a township that does not fit into the regular shape.

Concessions are divided into lots that use Arabic numbers (3, 4, etc). Originally lots were 200 acres, which could then be easily divided into parcels of 100 acres. The lots ran parallel to the road.

The first time I met the family now living on the east side of the Appleton Side Road nearby Almonte was in Almonte off Water Street across from the Agricultural Hall. My (then) client became celebrated sometime afterwards when one of his sons underwent catastrophic surgery in which the surgeon employed medical instruments developed by Leonard Lee (of CanicaDesign or Lee Valley Tools fame) from Almonte. The young man is well to this day. At times I see him gleefully cycling his large tricycle along the Appleton Side Road. Leonard Lee by coincidence was at one time an officer under the command of my father.

A subsequent professional acquaintance arose with the Browns who live on the same side of the Appleton Side Road closer to Almonte.  I believe they donated land adjacent their property for public access to a nearby area in Greystone Estates (named after Frances Greystone whose estate I believe I settled) dedicated for parkland. I recollect having been introduced to the Greystone family through Mr. Bob Brydges who was then Clerk of the Township of Ramsay of which Greystone Estates was then a part prior to amalgamation with the Town of Mississippi Mills on January 1, 1998.

Further south along the Appleton Side Road is the farm of Janet Duncan and her late husband Bruce. This is where I first enjoyed a social occasion on the Appleton Side Road. Though the event was well over 40 years ago I remember it very, very clearly. Janet is a fabulous cook!

It was through Janet that I subsequently met Janet Rintoul another superb chef and now a vendor with her beau, ceramic potter and former Pakenham Township councillor Ian Bertram Paige at the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market in Almonte. Another of the chance meetings was with Fern Martin who formed the vanguard of the Almonte Community Coordinators aka the “Hub”. These ladies in turn introduced me to Nellie Hempell, another part of the original Hub team.

Miles along the west side of the Appleton Side Road about halfway towards the Village of Pakenham is a farm where people can stable their horse. Among those doing so was a distinguished client of senior military background who lived along the Mississippi River in the Village of Appleton. He kept his Mustang at the farm. From time to time I see my former client riding his Mustang along the Appleton Side Road. I learned that Mustangs need not be stabled, merely corralled. In the winter for example when I motored along the Appleton Side Road I sometimes saw the tiny Mustang alone in the paddock. Its back was entirely covered in a layer of snow. The snow didn’t melt because the Mustang’s thick fur inhibits heat loss.  I nonetheless felt sympathetic for the animal though I confess it appeared content.

The mustang is a free-roaming horse of the Western United States, descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but because they are descended from once-domesticated animals, they are actually feral horses. The original mustangs were Colonial Spanish horses, but many other breeds and types of horses contributed to the modern mustang, now resulting in varying phenotypes. Some free-roaming horses are relatively unchanged from the original Spanish stock, most strongly represented in the most isolated populations.

Continuing towards the Village of Appleton on the east side (almost at the turn into the Village) is a mansion set well back from the road with a long driveway leading to it.  Oddly I didn’t meet the residents until years later when they had moved to a new home on Martin Street North towards the Village of Blakeney. They are neurologist Dr. David Atack and his wife Alexandra (“Sandy”) Burke-Robertson (daughter of the renowned Ottawa counsel George Burke-Robertson, QC who lived in Dunrobin along the Ottawa River). The last time I had seen Mr. George Burke-Robertson was in 1975 when I appeared with him and 49 other more vastly senior counsel (all of whom other than myself were dressed in silk gowns unlike my stuff gown afforded those without the distinction of Queen’s Counsel) in the Federal Court of Appeal in the matter of a challenge of bias against Marshall Crowe, the Chairman of the National Energy Board upon the hearing of the application of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.

The prospect of a pipeline bringing the natural gas to North American energy markets was originally analyzed in the 1970s with the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry. During that inquiry, Justice Berger heard testimony from diverse groups with an interest in the pipeline. The inquiry was notable for the voice it gave to the First Peoples whose traditional territory the pipeline would traverse. Berger stated that a pipeline should be postponed for 10 years, estimating that it would take this long for land claims to be settled and for First Peoples to be ready for the impact of such a project. Before the Trudeau government could act on Berger’s report, it was defeated at the polls in 1979. The short-lived government of Joe Clark also failed to act on the report. When the Liberal government was re-elected in 1980, it approved construction of an oil pipeline from Norman Wells to Zama, Alberta, through Dehcho territory where land claims have yet to be settled.

Exploration continued at a steady pace and by 1995 there were over 1,900 wells above the 60th parallel. In addition, aboriginal groups settled numerous land claims. The Inuvialuit settled the first land claim in 1984, followed by the Sahtu and Gwichʼin. By the late 1990s, companies once again seriously considered a pipeline. The Canadian government sold mineral claim rights, leading to C$400 million in bids and over C$1 billion in work commitments.

With the first wave of land claims settled, negotiations began between oil and gas companies and local aboriginal groups. These negotiations proved successful in October 2001, when ConocoPhillips, Shell, ExxonMobil, and Imperial Oil signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. The APG was formed to represent the Inuvialuit, Sahtu, and Gwichʼin. The Memorandum of Understanding offered the APG a financial stake in the pipeline.

I understand the property later became a meeting place for the Ottawa Hunt to which I was first introduced through a connection on the Upper Dwyer Hill Road. That latter contact was Kim Cole whose sister Laurie Cole was once a residential tenant of mine in Almonte. Kim and Laurie’s family owned Pinecrest Cemetery in Ottawa.  Laurie heads Cole Funeral Services in Carp, Ontario. Laurie’s grandmother (whom I met on the veranda of my office building in Almonte one day entirely by accident as she was leaving Laurie’s apartment upstairs) told me she knew my father from many years before. She generously described him as having been a handsome man! This from a stunningly attractive lady!

More by reputation than acquaintance I learned that 1) the bookkeeper for one of my best clients lived along the Appleton Side Road in one of the historic farmhouse properties; and 2) Joe Lubbers (who I believe donated land in the Village of Appleton for a baseball diamond) lived in a farm on the Appleton Side Road near the Village.

A purely personal event took place on the Appleton Side Road when returning home late one evening in a brand new automobile.  It was pitch dark.  When I had almost reached what is now the roundabout leading into Almonte I struck what I believe was a large racoon. The collision must have only nicked the poor animal because its corpse was nowhere to be found the next morning.  What I did discover however was a rather large perforation in the plastic undercarriage of the front bumper.  My inability to locate the animal carcass presented an initial issue of credibility with the insurance adjuster especially as there were no other marks on the bumper. Whether partly because of that incident or whether through prior experience I have learned that the Appleton Side Road – particularly (but not only) at that juncture near Almonte – is a common path for ambling creatures at dusk and at dawn.  The problem is compounded at dawn especially in the summer when there are sometimes large banks of fog drifting across the adjoining farmlands over the road.

Fortified as I now am by this combination of heartening reminiscences and valuable intelligence, my daily drives along the Appleton Side Road constitute the initial lift-off into Nirvana as I set the cruise control to 80 km/hr, turn on the seat massage, put down the car windows and open the landau roof. I never tire of the scenery along the Appleton Side Road. It is bucolic bliss!

Post Scriptum

June 4, 2021

Wonderful and very informative, Bill. Interestingly enough and as a complete aside, some years ago I put together snippets of my family history without reading them. During the pandemic I got them out. A genealogy search by a distant relative revealed that on my mother’s side, her ancestors immigrated to Canada from Sligo County Ireland and came directly to ALMONTE between 1798 and 1825. At that time, you could purchase land if you farmed it for 5 years and one ancestor bought a property in Ramsay in 1825. After that ancestors came county clerks here, ran a hotel, married a Gemmill and on and on until one family daughter, by that time named McNiece married my great-grandfather and settled in Ottawa. Big surprise to me as my mother was raised in Saskatchewan and I never even knew we had an Ottawa connection until I moved to Ottawa in 1982.

Edith Cody-Rice, Publisher, The Millstone News


I am fascinated by the Gemmill connection since the Almonte Act changed Gemmill’s last Will & Testament to eliminate the strictly park feature of the property bequest to the Town and allowed restricted residential use, etc.  Raymond A. Jamieson, QC and Robert J. France (then Clerk of the Town of Almonte) were among those who piloted the enactment of the legislation. No doubt George Gomme would have had influence in the Ontario legislature at Queen’s Park.

Gomme was born in London, England in 1912. He was the owner and operator of a local business, Almonte Lumber Store. Gomme was married to Rose Edith Watchorn (died 1991) and had two children, William George (Bill) and Jennifer.

Note:  It is my understanding that Mr. Gomme was a “home boy” from England; that is, an orphan.


Gomme served as the Mayor of Almonte, Ontario.

Gomme was elected in a by-election to replace John Arthur McCue who died after having served for only one year. He was re-elected in the general election of 1959 and 1963. He was appointed as a Minister without Portfolio on January 12, 1966, and then as Minister of Highways on November 24, 1966. A time of tremendous growth in Ontario, particularly in Toronto and surrounding suburbs, Gomme was actively involved in the development of new highways, such as Highway 410 in the Brampton area, as well as the expansion of other 400-series highways. He continued to serve as Minister of Highways until March 1, 1971. at which time he left Cabinet, having already announced that he would not be running in the 1971 general election. He died on March 3, 1996.