Icelandic Settlement Disaster, Kinmount, Ontario
by Peter C. Macnaughton
There is a monument in Kinmount, Ontario to Icelanders who tried to settle there in 1874. The English text reads:
"THE ICELANDIC SETTLEMENT DISASTER
In the 1870s, economic distress prompted mass emigration from Iceland. On September 25th, 1874, 352 Icelanders, exhausted and weakened by illness, arrived at the immigration sheds in Toronto. When the Victoria Railway Company offered work constructing its line near Kinmount, the provincial government housed the Icelanders in log shanties downriver from here. Poor ventilation, sanitation, and diet allowed sickness to rage through their cold, overcrowded quarters. Within six weeks, twelve children and a teenager had died. By the spring of 1875, the death toll had doubled and many of the settlers scattered in search of a better life. In the fall, most regrouped in Toronto and travelled west to found the settlement of Gimli Manitoba.”
The plaque is on a very nice monument near the old train station. The sculpture on top was done by GUŎRÚN SIGURSTEINSDÓTTIR GIRGIS in 2000. The plaque on the right face contains the surnames of the settlers. There is a book, “The Icelanders of Kinmount” by Donald E. Gislason, available at the Artisans’ Market Place, Kinmount.