Ompah is located in the section of the Township which was incorporated in 1870 as the United Townships of Palmerston, North and South Canonto. North Canonto is the northern most part of North Frontenac Township, extending as far as a rural route of Calabogie. Lumbering, farming, mining and maple syrup making were the main industries throughout the 18000s and early 1900s; presently, tourism is the main boost to the economy. The population during the early settlement far exceeded today’s numbers. Palmerston Canonto Conservation Area provides a public beach and facilities.
Trout Lake Hotel
The hotel was built in the late 1800s by Mr. Card for Henry Dunham. It was operated for a time by Mrs. Briscoe, a daughter of Henry Dunham, who then sold it to Jim Johnson from Palmer Rapids. The next owner was Jim Watson, father of Mrs. Carrie Dunham, followed by Robert Eadie, who operated it for 9 years. Wm. McCullough owned it for a brief period, then Charlie Dunham took over and was there for 33 years. Reg Elkington and Bill Cameron were the next owners, but operated for a short time only. They sold to Jim McCurdy and it was while he was operating it that the liquor license was obtained and the area for the bar was added to the front of the building. Upon McCurdy's death, his widow, Grace, remarried Gilbert Dunham, and they operated it until they sold the hotel to Don Dunne. He operated for a few years and then sold to Wayne and Val Kearney.
The Hotel came full circle and was operated until June 2019 by Cathy Dunham. A lack of year-round business made it too difficult to manage.
It is believed that the first store was built around 1890 across the road from what used to be the United Church. The first owners were Mr. and Mrs. F.A. Dawson. They had two daughters, Annie and Ada. After Mr. Dawson died, his wife sold the store to Henry and Florence Banks. Mr. Banks was a painter by trade; they emigrated from England to Montreal. In 1912, they sold their home in Montreal and moved to Ompah. Mr. Banks was killed overseas in WWI. His wife remarried to Thomas Burke from Canonto. For many years they operated the store before selling to Mr. and Mrs. Bower Cameron. The Camerons had the store for 10-15 years.
Gilbert Dunham was the next owner. Ken Scott (Grandson of Agnes Thomas), who worked during the time that Gilbert owned the store, recalled that there was a general store, post office, feed shed and gas. The next owners were Arnold and Eileen Harden. The store burned in 1974 and was rebuilt, but smaller.
In 1977, Bill and Sally Spingle purchased the store and operated it until 1980. Next, Pam and Brian Carnell bought the store and operated it until the late 1980s. They lived in the village with their two daughters, Meghan and Leah.
The store was next purchased and renovated by Stan Johnston. Bev and Kenny Jackson purchased and operated the store until it closed in the early 2000s.
In 1958, Vern and Elizabeth McKinnon built their home at the intersection of Road 509 and South Lavant Road. Vern decided he would like to have a store, so they installed gas pumps and the work began. In the store they had a meat counter, mostly for cold meats and cheese. They carried most groceries. They built a small addition, and then over the years, two more additions. One addition became a garage, where vehicles were worked on. When Jack Lee closed his store in Lavant, the Post Office moved to McKinnon's store. It was a rural route of Ompah, but the Post Office continued to be called Lavant Station. They sold to Nancy and Clifford Sproule in 1983.
The store was then known as Sproule's General Store. The Post Office stayed there until it changed to green boxes. They operated the store from 1984 until 1991, at which time they sold to a couple from out west, Al and Victoria Bisctrick (who were unable to keep it going).
While Sproules had the store, they sold gas, the main staples, ammunition,and hunting and fishing licenses. Nancy drove to Smiths Falls to get the supplies at National Grocers as it was hard to meet a quota to get the supplies delivered. Ford Robinson used to bring the ice cream and milk. Locals more or less just bought things that they needed to get them through until they went to bigger towns.
Palmerston Lake General Store/Marina
Stan and Ann Johnston bought the property on Palmerston Lake (small garage) from Robert Sproule in the spring of 1971. In 1973, they changed it to a marina, restaurant and living quarters. In 1974, they built a new general store across the road and Stan’s Dad operated the store. In 1976, when Mr. Johnston passed away, they remodeled the store to make a larger restaurant. The groceries were then moved to the old restaurant.
In 1976, Johnstons built an 11-room motel with living quarters above. The same year, they were able to add a licensed bar below the restaurant. In 1978, they purchased the trailer park from Robert Sproule and started another business.
Stan had a busy political life as well. He was reeve and mayor from 1985 to 2003 and County Warden in 1989. He made a living through the property development aspect.During Stan and Ann’s time in Ompah, they also bought some cottages, remodeled them and sold them. Through the years, Stan continued to be a developer of recreational properties and cottages.
In 1992, when the Ompah Store went into receivership,the Johnstons purchased it. The store was remodeled and In 1994, it was sold to Ken and Bev Jackson, who ran it for a few years and it closed about 2002.
The Roadside Booth
About 1949-50 Mr. and Mrs. Ken Shanks opened a booth on the corner of 506 and River Road for the summer months. They sold a few groceries, soft drinks, cigarettes, chips, snacks, ice and ice cream. In winter, they cut ice in Palmerston Lake to have for their soft drink coolers. A drawing card was ice cream. It came on the Kingston and Pembroke train to Lavant; from there it was brought to the booth in a milk can that looked like a cream can, only taller. The can was in a heavily-padded container to keep it cold. The ice cream was really soft when it arrived, however that did not deter people from buying it. Many knew what afternoons it came and they lined up to buy some. They usually served it from a bowl with a spoon. There was one gentleman who just loved it and he would eat as much as he could. This was the highlight of the week for him. It was not common in homes at this time as electricity had just come to the area. Many people wired their homes, but it took a while to purchase refrigerators and electrical appliances.
There was a store built between 1890-1900, on the lot the township purchased but did not use, across the road from the present community center. The building was used as a school when Ompah had two schools about 1950. The building later burned down.
This store was built and operated by Serge and Eva Lankin. It was situated on the corner of Road 509 and the Beach Road. Lankins had purchased all the property known as the campground and built the store along the road. They sold groceries, clothing and some hardware items. There was a small restaurant which had three seating areas. Lankins lived in the large white farmhouse close to Palmerston Lake. Jim and Grace McCurdy bought the store next; Jim's parents ran the store for them. The third owners were Lois and Wilmer Elliott, who operated the store from Feb. 1964 until 1972.
North Country Snowmobiles
Scott and Glenna Dunham built a shop in 1968 and operated it until 1979. Besides snowmobiles, they sold related accessories, boats, Mercury motors, gas, soft drinks and snacks. They sold to a group of four owners. Later the building burned down.
Ompah Post Office
At one time the mail came on the K & P Railroad to Lavant Station, where it was picked up by the Plevna mail driver, who dropped it off at Ompah. In early times, the post office was in the general store in Ompah and was kept in succession by Mrs. Dawson, the Banks, and the Burkes. Mrs. Charlie Dunham then operated a post office in the Trout Lake Hotel until she retired. It was transferred to the home of Mrs. Elsie Thomas until she retired, when it went to the home of her daughter, Dorothy Dunham.
Ompah United Church
On Oct. 5, 1897, the lot was purchased from John Watt for the sum of one dollar. This church when built was Presbyterian and remained so until 1925, the year of the Church union. The congregation decided to join the United Church of Canada and remained so until it closed.
All Saints Anglican Church
The land for the church was bought Aug.10, 1889 from George E. Burns for the sum of 100 dollars.
On June 20, 2015 the church was deconsecrated.