The village of Merrickville’s story begins with the end of the American Revolutionary War in the late 1700s. British Loyalists fled north from the United States and found a new start in Canada along the banks of the Rideau River, southwest of Ottawa.
Lieutenant Roger Stevens, a King’s Ranger from Vermont, was the first to arrive on this land and by 1791 had started construction of his mill on the swift moving waters of the Great Falls, the future sight of Merrickville. Unfortunately, it was the falls that got the better of Stevens and he died by drowning shortly after.
Next, Captain William Merrick entered the picture. A Massachusetts Loyalist, he received a Crown Grant of 200 acres at the Great Falls in 1793. He completed Stevens’ unfinished mill and started the development of the village’s water-powered industries, constructing a dam across the river and building grist, saw and carding mills.
It was not long before intrepid settlers began moving to the region. This continued the draw of British loyalists coming north to the area and establishing themselves, including the family of Benedict Arnold. Yes, even the archetypal American traitor plays a part here—his three sons received land grants on the west side of Wolford Ward, south of the current Kilmarnock Lockstation.
By the time construction of the Rideau Canal reached Merrick’s Mills, as it was then known, it was already a thriving community of 300 people. With the mills now powered by excess water from the canal and an improved transportation system in and out of the town, the economy flourished through the 1800s.
The village of Merrickville remains mostly the same now as it was during its peak over 100 years ago, with village streetscapes that reflect the era of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. There are over 100 historic and heritage properties in the small town that is now home to over 3,000 people.
The village has positioned itself as a destination for boutique shopping, handmade products, art and great food. From Ottawa, it’s a fairly short drive away; other visitors arrive by boating along the Rideau River or by cycling via the Rideau Trail. The charming main street is lined with heritage architecture, artists’ studios, shops and restaurants.
CHRISTMAS IN MERRICKVILLE
This little village comes alive at Christmas time, and they throw an all-day party in December to fully embrace the season. This annual event draws up to 10,000 people from all over who enjoy the sights, sounds and shopping experiences of Christmas in Merrickville.
Event coordinator, Mark Scullino, says Christmas in Merrickville is entirely funded and staffed by volunteers, private sponsors and community groups. “We couldn’t do an event of this magnitude without the service club volunteers and also my event volunteers—a 16 to 18 hour day would not be possible without all of them.” He notes that this year’s event on December 7 should be the biggest yet, with more floats already registered in the Santa Claus Parade than before and a full day of activities planned.
It begins early at 8:30 am with Breakfast with Santa, followed by children’s activities and horse-drawn wagon rides leading up to the Santa parade at 11 am. The day continues into the evening with roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over open fires, a magic show, a tree-lighting ceremony and shopping.
Businesses on the downtown strip will be shining with Christmas decorations and ready for their biggest day of the year. “The spirit of the community is incredible,” says Lianne Kult-Aultman of the Wick Witch. “From the parade, to the visits from Santa, the carollers, watching people roast marshallows and the horse-drawn carriages, it’s like being in a Christmas movie.”
Merrickville has been a small, slow-growing community for most of the last century. The population only increased by 300 people from 2006 to 2016, while the median age of residents increased from 45 to 51. That trend may break with the acceleration of new development and real estate opportunities increasing on the outskirts of town.
Park View Homes has been constructing two new housing communities just west of the village, while Merrickville Estates and Merrickville Grove offer up single family homes that sell in the $300–$500k range. This new housing availability makes Merrickville an ideal location to escape city living, while staying within a one-hour commute of Ottawa. Or for those chasing the cannabis job boom at Canopy Growth, Smiths Falls is only a 15-minute drive away from Merrickville.