The Town’s name is derived from the original owner of the land, Thomas Smyth, and the once-magnificent falls that were diverted in order to create the Rideau Canal and the three lock stations.
The history of Smiths Falls dates to the American Revolutionary War between the Americans and the British when land grants were issued to United Empire Loyalists who lost the lands they owned in the United States for supporting the crown. The area of Smiths Falls was granted to Lieutenant Thomas Smyth, who was issued 400 acres of land in 1786. Rights to his land and mill were contested in 1824, and Smyth lost his lands for having defaulted on mortgage payments. The area was then purchased by Abel Russell Ward, a self-proclaimed United Empire Loyalist, in 1825.
When Lt.-Col. J. By, a member of the Royal Engineering Corp. was charged with constructing a navigable canal linking Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River, he included the Rideau River running through Smiths Falls. The opening of the canal in 1832 is seen as a milestone for the area since it allowed for economic growth.
The true economic boom came after 1884 when the Canadian Pacific Railway constructed part of its line through the area. This provided a direct trade route to Montreal and its shipping lines. The population of the region increased rapidly.
Due to those early ventures, Smiths Falls has a diverse history of important industries, such as Frost and Wood Co. Ltd., Coca-Cola, RCA Victor Ltd., Rideau Regional Centre and Hershey’s Canada Inc.
In 2007 the Rideau Canal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first in Ontario. The Canal still plays an important role for the town, since Smiths Falls is the Heart of the Rideau Canal.