When American Hezekiah Clark arrived in the area of Lachute on the North River in the 1790s with his family and other pioneers, it was a wilderness. Settled by Americans who had been uncomfortable living with seigneurial law, and Scots moving up the North River from the St. Andrews East area, a village soon developed along the river near the rapids. But it wasn’t until the coming of the railway that the village became an important centre.In the last quarter of the 19th century, Lachute acquired two leading industries, Ayers Woolen Mill and Wilson Paper, which became the town’s engines for growth and prosperity throughout the 20th century. This mill was built by Thomas Henry Ayers and Felix Hamelin in 1879.
The older generation remembers the soft Ayers blankets, but Ayers were also famous for their felts which were used in the pulp and paper industry. The story is told that Olive Paquette who had married Thomas Ayers found out the closely-guarded secret of how to splice the felts, once known only to felt-makers in England. By the 1920s, the mill had the largest felt drying cylinder in the world. Later, this mill also produced tweeds, flannels, rope and other industrial fabrics.
Over the last century and a quarter, the Ayers family has played an important part in the economic and social development of Lachute through their mill and their role as benefactor to the community.