Owen Sound is a small port town on the shores of Georgian Bay, 190 kilometres northwest of Toronto. Originally called Sydenham after the nearby river, in 1851 the town was renamed after Admiral Sir Edward William Campbell Rich Owen. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was a boisterous frontier boomtown that earned the nickname “Little Liverpool.” So rowdy did it become, that alcohol was banned at the turn of the 20th century and the town was “dry” until 1972.
The original settlement on the site of Owen Sound was called “Newash,” after the Ojibwa chief of that name. European settlers began arriving after 1840, mostly from England, Scotland and Ireland. Early settlers also included Black Americans who had risked their lives to escape slavery in the United States. With local resources of clay and timber and the advantageous location on Georgian Bay, brick-making, logging and transportation became major industries. After the start of rail service to Owen Sound in 1873, the town boomed as Canada’s "Gateway to the West.” By the turn of the 20th century, industries in Owen Sound included shipbuilding, cement manufacturing, and furniture factories. Fishing had also become quite important.
In 1920, Owen Sound was incorporated as a city, but by then the prosperity of the 19th century was beginning to fade. The city lost its place as a major transportation hub when the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian National Railway were completed.
In recent years, Owen Sound has settled into a quieter existence. Its population in 2006 was 21, 753. Black residents remain the largest visible minority group and Owen Sound continues to be proud of its Black history
Located along the Niagara Escarpment, the area offers tourists great natural beauties. Owen Sound is also known for its rich cultural offerings. It boasts the Tom Thomson gallery, the award-winning Little Theatre and an excellent Museum and Archives called GreyRoots.