Acton, Ontario

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rural area
Mill Street in Acton
Mill Street in Acton
Acton is located in Southern Ontario
Location in Southern Ontario
Acton is located in Canada
Acton (Canada)
Coordinates: 43°37′53″N 80°2′20″W / 43.63139°N 80.03889°W / 43.63139; -80.03889Coordinates: 43°37′53″N 80°2′20″W / 43.63139°N 80.03889°W / 43.63139; -80.03889
Regional municipalityHalton
TownHalton Hills
Incorporated (village)1874
Erected (town)1950
350 m (1,150 ft)
 • Total9,377
Time zoneUTC−05:00 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−04:00 (EDT)
Forward sortation area
Area codes519, 226, 548
Highways Highway 7
Former  Highway 25
NTS Map40P9 Guelph

Acton (population 9,377 in 2021) is a community located in the town of Halton Hills, in Halton Region, Ontario, Canada. At the northern end of the Region, it is on the outer edge of the Greater Toronto Area and is one of two of the primary population centres of the Town; the other is Georgetown. From 1842 until 1986, the town was a major centre for the tanning and leather goods industry. In the early years, it was often referred to as "Leathertown".[2]


Village limits of Acton in 1877

In 1825, the area now known as Acton was settled by the Rev. Ezra, Rev. Zenas,[3] and Rufus Adams. These men were Methodist preachers who took a sabbatical and began farming here on a branch of the Credit River. A fourth brother, Eliphalet, also settled here later.[4] In the 1840s, the community had a grist mill and tannery.[5] The community was initially named Danville when settler Wheeler Green opened a dry-goods store in 1828. It was later called Adamsville, after the three original settlers.

When the Mississaugas still had their reserve at Port Credit in the 19th Century, they would come up to Acton every spring to tap the sugar bush just south of the village.[6]

In 1856, the Grand Trunk Railway arrived and helped spur growth in the area, especially along Mill Street. By 1869, Acton had businesses that included woodworking mills, tanneries, glove makers and carriage works. Originally part of Esquesing Township, Acton's principal trade was in grain, lumber, cordwood, leather and hops.[7] Under a bylaw passed by the Halton County Council in September 1873,[8] it was incorporated as a village in 1874,[5] and erected into a town in 1950.[9] A new town hall was opened in 1883 (and designated a Heritage Building in 1996); postmaster Robert Swan named the village Acton after the area of Acton, London in England.[4][10]

In 1926, with the help of Sir Harry Brittain, the Village of Acton was given permission by the Municipal Borough of Acton in Middlesex, England to adopt a variant of the latter's coat of arms,[11] substituting maple leaves for the oak leaves in the original.[12] The municipal council continued to use it until 1974, when Acton amalgamated with the Town of Georgetown and most of the Township of Esquesing to form the Town of Halton Hills.[13]

Leather industry[edit]

Beardmore and Company tannery in 1919, viewed in the air from the west. Grand Trunk spur line is coming in from the east, intersecting with the Toronto Suburban Railway line curving from south to west. Agnes Street is the east-west road at the left of the picture.

Tanning has been an important industry in Acton since 1842, when the first tannery was established by Abraham Nelles, as the area was attractive to the leather industry because of the large numbers of hemlock and spruce trees. These provided the tannin required for a firm, high quality leather of a reddish colour.[14]

A number of subsequent owners operated the tannery business, before the Beardmore family purchased it in 1865, running it for over 50 years.[15] At one time, it was the largest tanner in Canada.[16]

The Beardmores also opened tanneries in other parts of southern Ontario. From 1877 to 1922, they operated another large facility in Bracebridge, having been attracted by the area's large supply of hemlock. It closed due to the decline of American markets around 1920.[17]

By 1889, their main tanneries in Acton were very large, with a combined floor space of almost 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2).[14] They also built a large brick warehouse that year beside the railway tracks. Hides arrived by rail and were taken for processing by horse-drawn wagons and then shipped by rail to customers.

In 1944, the tannery was sold to Canada Packers who ran it until its closure in 1986.[18][15]

In March 1946, a breach in the tannery's filter dam lead to the release of 25,000,000 imperial gallons (110,000 m3) of waste water and debris, which flooded the village water supply and caused extensive property damage downstream as far as Limehouse and Stewarttown.[19]

In 1980, three investors decided to transform the tannery's warehouse into the Old Hide House, a retail store with leather clothing, goods and furniture.[20][21] From 1980 to 1993, the Old Hide House also housed a restaurant, Jack Tanner's Table. The business is famous for its commercial slogan that has been in use for decades, "It's worth the drive to Acton!"[22]

The business was closed at times because of bankruptcy and other reasons, but is currently in operation, although the identity of the owners during parts of its history, and even now, has not been publicized.[23][24]

Other speciality tanners and leather products manufacturers were also established in the town. These included Hewetson Shoe, Coronna Shoe, Superior Glove, Marzo Glove and Frank Heller and Co.[4][25] In the early 20th century, Acton was the main urban community of Esquesing Township, much larger than nearby Georgetown, Ontario which now has four times the population.

Because of the extensive tanning industry that was located in the area during the 19th Century and early 20th Century, the area has earned the nickname of Leathertown.

Early transportation[edit]

The former Acton train station
Downtown Acton

Acton is located at the intersection of Highway 7 and Halton Regional Road 25. GO Transit provides bus and train service on its Kitchener corridor, with a stop at Acton GO Station.

The Grand Trunk brought train service to the area in 1856, and its station[26] was located at Mill Street East and Eastern Avenue next to the Beardmore leather warehouse (now known as the Olde Hide House). Canadian National closed the train station in 1967, but the stop continued to serve both Via Rail and GO Trains until the 1990s. GO Train service resumed on January 7, 2013.[27][28][29]

From 1917 to 1931, Acton was also served by the Toronto Suburban Railway,[30] which early on entered into a notable dispute with the Beardmore tannery over a crossing with a Grand Trunk spur line in the town, that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada for resolution.[31]

Actonite or Actonian[edit]

In older books and papers of the area, two demonyms have existed for residents of the area at the same time. Actonite[32] was used to identify people who moved to the area, and Actonian[33] referred to people who grew up there. The first designation now predominates, due to the influx of new residents in the 1960s, but older residents still remember it.


The town's location was chosen because of the good source of water power from the Black Creek, and the flour mill established at the beginning is still in operation today, although its source of power has changed. It is also near the watershed between the Credit River and the Grand River which is just west of the urban area, where the Blue Springs Creek begins. Acton also has Fairy Lake at Prospect Park, which is the fairgrounds for the Acton Fall Fair every September.[34]


Population pyramid 2021
% Males Age Females %

Canada census – Acton, Ontario community profile
Population9,377 (-0.9% from 2016)9,462 (-0.5% from 2011)9,704 (-4.6% from 2006)
Land area7.84 km2 (3.03 sq mi)7.80 km2 (3.01 sq mi)16.14 km2 (6.23 sq mi)
Population density1,196.4/km2 (3,099/sq mi)1,213.20/km2 (3,142.2/sq mi)601.24/km2 (1,557.2/sq mi)
Median age41.2 (M: 38.8, F: 42.8)45.3 (M: 44.8, F: 45.8)38.9 (M: 38.6, F: 39.2)
Total private dwellings3,5853,5773,645
Median household income$104,000$88,690
Notes: Urban Area Profile, Statistics Canada
References: 2021[35] 2016[36] 2011[37] earlier[38][39]
Mobility over previous five years
Group 2021 Census 2016 Census
Population % of total Population % of total
Did not move 6,455 73.5 6,055 67.8
In the same municipality 745 8.5 1,300 14.5
In the same province 1,475 16.8 1,455 16.3
From another province 70 0.8 80 0.9
From another country 35 0.4 45 0.5
Total aged 5 or over 8,780 100.0 8,930 100.0


Teams and clubs[edit]

  • Halton Hills Minor Hockey (Halton Hills Thunder):[40] The 2013-2014 season was the inaugural season of the amalgamation of the Georgetown Minor Hockey Association (Georgetown Raiders) and The Acton Minor Hockey Association (AMHA) (Acton Tanners). Before this amalgamation, Acton was an Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) BB centre. The newly amalgamated association is an Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) AA-AE centre.
  • Acton Chargers Select Hockey and House League
  • Acton Curling Club
  • Acton Ladies Hockey (Eagles)
  • Acton Minor Ball
  • Acton Skating Club member of Skate Canada-Learn to Skate, Powerskate, Figure Skate
  • Acton Villa Soccer Club. Youth and adult soccer, indoor and outdoor
  • Acton Aqua Ducks Swim Club, established in 1987
  • Halton Hills Minor Lacrosse Association



No longer officially a town (since 1974), Acton is part of the Town of Halton Hills which is divided into four wards, each with two elected Councillors. Two others are Regional Councillors, each representing two wards on Halton Hills Council, and also serve on the Halton Region Council as does the mayor.[41]

The current (2018–2022) membership of the town council is as follows:[42]

Position Ward 1 Ward 2 Ward 3 Ward 4
Mayor Rick Bonnette
Regional Councillor Clark Somerville Jane Fogal
Local Councillor Jon Hurst Ted Brown Moya Johnson Bob Inglis
Mike Albano Bryan Lewis Wendy Farrow-Reed Ann Lawlor


The Acton branch of the Halton Hills Public Library is located at 17 River Street. Initially built as the community's centennial project when it opened in 1967, it was significantly expanded in 2012.[43]

Halton Hills has its own fire department but policing is provided by the Halton Regional Police Services.[44] Halton Hills has its own official plan which came into force in March 2008 and was consolidated in 2017 with the Region's plan.[45]


School Type Grades
McKenzie-Smith Bennett School[46] Public elementary JK–08
Robert Little Public School[47] Public elementary JK–05
Acton District High School Public secondary 09–12
St. Joseph Elementary School[48] Catholic elementary JK–08


Acton is covered by local newspapers and television through the following services:

  • The Independent & Free Press
  • TVCogeco
  • The Acton New Tanner
  • The Halton Compass
  • Acton UP

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Census Profile, 2021 Census: Acton, Ontario". Statistics Canada. Retrieved October 13, 2022.
  2. ^ John Mark Benbow Rowe. Acton: The History of Leathertown. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  3. ^ "One of Acton's Founders". Acton Free Press. September 23, 1926. p. 6.
  4. ^ a b c "History of Acton". Downtown Acton BIA. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Acton". Alan L. Brown. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  6. ^ "The Old Man of the Big Clock Tower". The Acton Free Press. January 6, 1938. p. 7.
  7. ^ McEvoy, H., ed. (1869). The province of Ontario gazetteer and directory. Toronto: Robertson & Cook. p. 18.
  8. ^ "County Council". The Canadian Champion. Milton. September 4, 1873. p. 3.
  9. ^ "The First Council of the Town of Acton - 1950". The Acton Free Press. January 12, 1950. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
  10. ^ "Our History ..." Acton Town Hall Centre. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  11. ^ "Acton Borough Council". Civic Heraldry of England and Wales.
  12. ^ "A Suitable Crest for Acton: The Council Favors Adoption of That of Acton, England". The Acton Free Press. September 2, 1926. p. 1.
  13. ^ The Regional Municipality of Halton Act, 1973, S.O. 1973, c. 70, s. 2
  14. ^ a b "History of Acton". Hide House. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Halton Heritage" (PDF). March 1, 1992. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  16. ^ "Business and History - Beardmore & Co., Limited". Western Libraries, University of Western Ontario. Archived from the original on August 4, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  17. ^ Hind, Andrew (March 2021). "An early boon to Bracebridge". Muskoka Life. pp. 14, 16.
  18. ^ Petrushevsky, Maggy (September 14, 2006). "'Mixed blessing' when Beardmore tannery was sold to Canada Packers – Bill Nelles" (PDF). The New Tanner. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  19. ^ "Breaking of Filter Bed Dam Flooded Municipal Water Reservoir and Damaged Bridges". The Acton Free Press. March 21, 1946. pp. 1, 5.
  20. ^ "History of Acton". The Hide House. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  21. ^ Boyle, Terry (2011). Hidden Ontario: Secrets from Ontario's Past. Toronto: Dundurn. p. 9. ISBN 9781459700291. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  22. ^ "The Hide House". Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  23. ^ "Special Commemorative Pullout Section - Marking the 20th anniversary of Beardmore closing" (PDF). The New Tanner. September 14, 2006. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
  24. ^ "Hide House files for bankruptcy protection". The January 26, 2010. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  25. ^ "Company History". Superior Glove Works Ltd. Archived from the original on June 19, 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  26. ^ "Grand Trunk Railroad Station". Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  27. ^ "GO station to be built in Acton". Guelph Mercury. July 27, 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  28. ^ "Metrolinx fulfills its commitment to bring GO Trains to Acton" (Press release). Metrolinx. July 26, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  29. ^ "It's a GO for Acton Jan. 7". Independent Free Press. 13 December 2012. Archived from the original on 19 December 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  30. ^ "Toronto Suburban Railway - Guelph Radial Line". Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  31. ^ Acton Tanning Co v Toronto Suburban Rway Co, 1918 CanLII 1, 56 SCR 196 (5 March 1918)
  32. ^ "New Actonites like small town—dislike smell". The Acton Free Press. July 31, 1974. p. 18.
  33. ^ "Actonians meet candidates Monday". The Acton Free Press. October 6, 1971. p. 1.
  34. ^ "Acton Agricultural Society". Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  35. ^ "2021 Community Profiles". 2021 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. February 4, 2022. Retrieved July 10, 2022.
  36. ^ "2016 Community Profiles". 2016 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. August 12, 2021. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  37. ^ "2011 Community Profiles". 2011 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. March 21, 2019. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  38. ^ "2006 Community Profiles". 2006 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. August 20, 2019.
  39. ^ "2001 Community Profiles". 2001 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. July 18, 2021.
  40. ^ "Halton Hills Thunder Minor Hockey". Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  41. ^ "Halton Regional Council". Halton Region. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  42. ^ "Halton Hills 2018 Municipal Election Results" (PDF). Town of Halton Hills. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  43. ^ "Halton Hills Public Library - Acton Branch - Virtual Tour". Retrieved May 29, 2012.
  44. ^ "About Us". Halton Regional Police Service. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  45. ^ "Official Plan" (PDF). Town of Halton Hills. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  46. ^ "McKenzie-Smith Bennett School". Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  47. ^ "Robert Little Public School". Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  48. ^ "St. Joseph (Acton) Elementary School". Halton Catholic District School Board. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  49. ^ "Judy Fong Bates returns to read at Acton Library". Independent and Free Press. October 3, 2011. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  50. ^ Coles, Hartley (July 19, 2007). "Acton knew her as plain Maisie Roach; worldwide she was Mazo de la Roche". New Tanner. Acton.
  51. ^ "Hon. D. Henderson Passed Away on Thursday Morning". The Acton Free Press. December 14, 1922. p. 1.
  52. ^ "Sir Donald Mann Died on Saturday". The Acton Free Press. November 15, 1934. p. 1.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]