Cholera Wharf

Malaria wasn’t the only disease to affect the living and working conditions of Bytown. As the canal’s official opening neared in 1832, a cholera epidemic broke out. A severe intestinal bacteria infection contracted from contaminated drinking water or food, cholera debilitated Bytown and necessitated immediate action. Since cholera was present on many of the ships carrying immigrant workers to Canada, a special wharf, known as Cholera Wharf, was created in an effort to isolate those who had become infected. The sick were confined to the wharf for as long as it took for them either to become well, or to perish from the illness. Although this epidemic prompted the creation of the first Board of Health for Bytown, it also increased existing hostility towards immigrants, who were largely blamed for the outbreak of the disease.

Points of Interest

Sketch of Cholera Hospital and telegraph, Grosse Isle, QuébecEnlarge

[Source: View of Cholera Hospital and Telegraph – Grosse Isle, Quarentine Station, St. Lawrence. Lt. Col. Ralph Alderson fonds, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1934-286-1, C-005199]

View of Cholera Hospital, Grosse Isle, Quebec

In 1832, a global cholera epidemic and the spread of disease among incoming immigrants forced the British government to try to mediate this growing health problem. While travelling to Canada, every passenger ship had to pass through Grosse Isle, about 50 km east of Quebec, so that each passenger could be examined. The healthy were allowed to move on, while the rest were quarantined on the island, in most cases until their death. Despite these efforts, cholera quickly spread from Grosse Isle to Quebec City. Immigrants who were infected but not yet symptomatic were allowed to continue on to Bytown, and the disease eventually reached all of Upper Canada.

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Plan of the wharf at Entrance BayEnlarge

[Source: ‘Unknown Artist,“Plan of the Warfe”, The National Archives of the UK, MPH1-1083 (3)]

Creating Cholera Wharf

Even if passengers were deemed healthy while travelling through the first checkpoint in Grosse Isle, Quebec, serious precautions were still taken upon their arrival in Bytown. Situated on the eastern edge of Entrance Valley, Cholera Wharf was created to isolate those infected and minimize the spread of the disease. The wharf would act as a checkpoint and temporary quarantine for infected immigrants, while healthy passengers were permitted to enter Bytown.

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Sketch showing vacant land in Lower Town Enlarge

[Source: ‘Unknown Artist,“Sketch shewing a vacant spot of ground in Bytown”, The National Archives of the UK, MPHH1-690(13)]

Cholera Wharf and Lower Town Development

Despite its inauspicious beginnings, Cholera Wharf ultimately became crucial to Lower Town’s development, since its location at the foot of the canal provided visitors and passing labourers access to the businesses and trades established by local merchants along present-day Sussex Drive.

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Hospitals and Remembrance» Support for the Sick«