Original Settlements

For many years before By’s arrival, the area surrounding Entrance Valley to the east had been referred to as Bellows Landing, Richmond’s Landing, Shier Falls, and Chaudière Falls. First Nations people, French-Canadian fur traders, and small American logging companies used this section along the Ottawa River and surrounding land extensively. When Lt. Col. By first arrived on land in the fall of 1826, however, the only navigable pathways in and around the prospective canal site were those cleared by a handful of previous surveyors and early settlers. While this was an ideal location for a military base, it required much patience and perseverance to transform this rugged landscape into By’s dream of a secure and picturesque northern lock station.

Points of Interest

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[Source: Maule Family / Earl of Dalhousie fonds, “36 plans and abstract of the estimate of expenditure of the Rideau Canal”, 1828, National Archives of Scotland, GD45/3/9]

Duration: 29 seconds
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Bellows Landing

Long before Lt. Col. By’s arrival at Entrance Valley, small European settlements dotted the shores of the Ottawa River. One such settlement, known as Bellows Landing, contained a handful of buildings that were eventually repurposed to help support the growing timber trade and canal community in Bytown. On this map you can see where the notorious Firth’s Tavern was located, along with both older and newly proposed timber channels.

Watercolour showing two Ottawa Chiefs from MichillimackinacEnlarge

[Source: Two Ottawa Chiefs Who with Others Lately Came Down from Michillimackinac Lake Huron to Have a Talk with Their Great Father The King or His Representative, Unknown Artist, David Ives Bushnell collection of Canadiana, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1981-55-41, C-114384]

First Nations Chiefs

Before the arrival of European settlers, the waterways connecting the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario were used extensively by First Nations people. Each year, these able navigators travelled great distances in birchbark canoes in search of seasonal hunting and fishing grounds. The first European surveyors tasked with mapping this unruly, and often dangerous, landscape for prospective foreign developers relied heavily on the First Nations people’s intimate knowledge of the region.

Sketch of both banks of the Ottawa River and the Chaudière FallsEnlarge

[Source: “Sketch of both banks of the Ottawa River and the Chaudiere Falls, from P. Wright’s house to the Steamboat Ferry on the North side and showing Governement Stores, Richmond Landing and the Road, the Clergy Reserve, the Lebreton and Sherwood property, the Government purchase and Spark’s House on the South side]”, [1825], Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4138620]

Early Settlers

Surveys of Gloucester and Nepean taken before Lt. Col. By’s arrival in 1826 revealed only six houses and a handful of log cabins in the proposed canal area. Some of the earliest settlers to the region included Ira Honeywell, Braddish Billings, Captain Wilson, Caleb Bellows, Ralph Smith, and Isaac Firth. This image shows the only large clearing of land at that time, owned by an Irish businessman named Nicholas Sparks.


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[Source: Portrait of Philemon Wright. John James fonds, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1946-156-1, C-011056; Archives of Ontario, C 1-0-0-0-6. Thomas Burrowes fonds. Hull, on the Chaudière Falls [1830].]

Duration: 20 seconds
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Twenty-six years before Lt. Col. By arrived in Entrance Valley, timber giant and successful entrepreneur Philemon Wright established the first permanent settlement in the area known as Wrightsville. By 1826, Wrightsville had a population of around 1,000, a hotel, three schools, three churches, three tanneries, four saw mills, and was a bustling frontier town. This settlement, which is today known as Hull (the oldest part of Gatineau), played an important role by providing workers and provisions necessary for the construction of the canal.

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