Long-time Ottawa resident Cliff Scott and others have provided the stories below which reflect on the city’s history. Most of the stories were written by Mr. Scott, an Ottawa resident since 1954 and a former history lecturer at the University of Ottawa (UOttawa). He also served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Public Service of Canada.
Since 1992, he has been active in the volunteer sector and has held executive positions with The Historical Society of Ottawa, the Friends of the Farm and the Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa. He also inaugurated the Historica Heritage Fair in Ottawa and still serves on its organizing committee.
THE HISTORY OF OTTAWA
- Clifford Scott
We are fortunate to live in one of the world's most beautiful cities and history is all around us. Most of us really don't know of more than a few of the contributions that have been made by Ottawa citizens and institutions.
Ottawans have contributed much to Canadian folklore, inventions, science and economic, social and cultural growth of Canada, not to mention the political goings on that have been part and parcel of the City's history since 1867 and before.
... to tell the stories of some of the people who have lived here over the last 175 years.
One purpose of this series of columns is to provide information on some of these happenings and also to tell the stories of some of the people who have lived here over the last 175 years. First, the native peoples and then the French explorers and Courieres-de-bois. Then came some people up from the new United States who had stayed loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution After the War of 1812, the British government decided military preparedness had to be improved and Colonel John By was sent here to build the Rideau Canal. With him and his construction plans came English officials, Scottish stone masons and Irish labourers to join the Natives and French who were already here.. From this earliest time, we have the stories of Colonel By, Duncan McNabb (who, it is said, still haunts the Bytown Museum and the famous lumberjack Joseph Montferrand, better known to Stompin' Tom Connors as Big Joe Mufferaw. Early settlers built their homes, churches and schools. In 1831, a publication that sought to attract emigration to Canada said the lands “about the Canal” should soon become very valuable and ecouraged settlers there “lest some lynx eyed American be attracted”. He commented that the country around there is very beautiful and suitable for farming.
Wm. Catermole who wrote the pamphlet achieved his purpose. The “Smith's Gazetteer” published in 1846 gives a goodly amount of detail about the place then called Bytown. Smith's report also speaks to the beauty of the area. He says “The scenery about Bytown is, next to that at the Falls of Niagara, the most picturesque of the inhabited regions of Canada”. He notes the town has some 7000 inhabitants divided between Upper and Lower towns, and is principally supported by the lumber trade. Inhabitants of Lower Town are said to be about one third French and that the remainder are “principally Irish” There are five churches in Lower Town and three in Upper Town. There are three weekly newspapers—the “Ottawa Advocate”, the Bytown Gazette” and the “Packet”. .. Mail was available each day, carried on horseback from Kingston.
On the entertainment front there were a “Commercial Reading room” and a “Mercantile Library Association”, four taverns in Upper Town and thirty five taverns plus twenty beer shops in Lower town. Two breweries manufactured products for the above! Health care was provided by a physician and surgeon and four druggists, while legal needs were served by seven lawyers Economically, allowing five dollars to the pound sterling, over $1,700,000 in timber was shipped—white pine, red pine, oak and elm and saw logs. Logs were worth about $2.50 each and timber pieces were anywhere from 15 to 25 cents a foot.
Land values had risen rapidly eg “The land on which the Upper town is erected, together with a portion of that comprising the Lower Town, was purchased some years ago for the sum of $400, and is now computed to be worth some $250,000 to $300,000” Much more is contained in the “Gazetteer” on the various trades in Bytown, educational facilities and stores. If readers are interested more can be published later. Catermole's prediction was achieved!. Bytown had grown considerably in fourteen years and much more was to come!
A few questions:
(1) By what margin did drinking establishments outnumber churches?
(2) What year is represented by the facts above?
(3) From what source do you think those seven lawyers made their incomes?
(1) At least seven to one.
(3) Probably real estate and timbercontract
The Origins of Street Names
- Clifford Scott
Considering how many people in Ottawa are new to the city, it seemed reasonable to do a little research and find out who or what some, of the oldest Ottawa streets are named after. The book mentioned in the last version of this article in September (Ottawa—Making a Capital) has a good article written by Serge Barbe, a member of the City Archives on this subject. Many persons who contributed to the foundation and growth of our City are not well known, and I understand both City staff and the Historical Society of Ottawa have developed tentative plans to make early Bytowners or Ottawans better known. This is a project deserving support! No article of this size can hope to do much more than scratch the surface of this topic. So only a few streets are covered. If readers are interested in the subject, further articles can be written.
Much has been said and written about the proper use of Lebreton Flats which contained Lebreton Street. These were named after Charles LEBRETON (1779-1848) who was a native of Jersey and one of Nepean Township's earliest settlers. He came to our area from Newfoundland and served with distinction in the War of 1812. With a partner, he purchased Lebreton Flats in 1820 and, in 1826 got into a legal wrangle with Colonel By and the Governor General, Lord Dalhousie over the price he wanted for his land. He spent a good deal of money defending the legality of his land ownership against the government of the day He retained his land, but the Rideau Canal was built elsewhere probably because Dalhousie and By rather disliked him after the court battle. Was sour grapes involved in the location of the canal?.
Nicholas SPARKS (1792-1862) for whom Sparks Street is named is much better known,. but the extent of his good works in Ottawa is less known Sparks came to Canada in 1816, from Ireland, to avoid religious strife. He married the widow of Philemon Wright Jr. in 1826... He owned a sawmill and vast timber rights in the area. In 1821, for the equivalent of $500 he purchased land that extended from what is now Wellington St. to Laurier Ave. West and from Waller St. to Bronson Ave. He sold part of his land to construct the Rideau Canal, but, because of the price he asked, another 96 acres were expropriated much to his chagrin!.
Perhaps wishing to avoid religious strife in Canada, he donated landfor churches to both the Anglicans and the Presbyterians. Sparks went on to serve for many years in local government. Sparks named a street on his land after a friend, Daniel O' CONNOR, who became Treasurer of the Dalhousie District (later Ottawa-Carleton) and another after his son-in-law, \ James SLATER Slater Street was first named Waugh Street, after a local merchant Caldwell Waugh., James Slater came to Canada about 1830, married Sparks' daughter in 1847 and went on to be, successively, Provincial Land surveyor, Superintendent of the Rideau Canal and Chairman of the Ottawa School Board.
Robert BELL (1821-1873) was a promoter of railway construction, a land surveyor and eventually, a journalist. He bought the Bytown Packet in 1849 and two years later changed the name to the Citizen, He sold the paper in 1865 to I. B. Taylor. One of the people from whom he bought the paper, Henry J. FRIEL (1823-1869) served as Mayor of Bytown in 1854 and Mayor of Ottawa in 1857, 1863, 1868 and finally, 1869 Pictures of both Bell and Friel are available at the City Archives.
Both had streets named after them
In Lower Town, Bruyere Street is named after Mother Elizabeth BRUYERE (1818-1876) the founder of the Grey nuns and the Ottawa Hospital (1845) She also established an orphanage, a hospice and an asylum for destitute women. GUIGUES Street is named after Monsignor Joseph-Eugene-- Bruno Guigues (1805-1874), Ottawa's first Roman Catholic Bishop. He founded what became the University of Ottawa on land donated by Louis BESSERER.
Further west, BRONSON Ave. was named after Erskine Henry Bronson, a prominent businessman, whose father Henry Bronson had founded a local lumbering firm. Speaking of lumbering, who else could BOOTH Street be named after other than J. R. Booth “the Ottawa Valley Lumber King”, featured in an earlier article.
These are only a few of the origins of Ottawa street names. Serge Barbe is working on a book that will identify many more.
Ottawa's Street Railways
- Clifford Scott
With all the growth in our City in the past fifty years, I wonder how many people remember the days when you could take a streetcar from, among other routes, from the old train station out to Rideau and Charlotte? Thanks to Professor Don Davis of the University of Ottawa we have a detailed history of the streetcar system and how it grew and how it was eventually done away with! (see Keshen and St. Onge eds, Ottawa—Making a Capital.).
Ottawa's street railway system died in 1959 after a life of 68 years. Did citizens love or hate the system? Davis notes that the love of the system was like some marriages—initial great enthusiasm followed by many years of declining interest in our rapidly changing technological world. Perhaps the streetcar era has lessons to teach in the consideration of expanded light rail?
The new streetcar system was opened on June 29, 1891—largely as a result of the work of two local entrepreneurs, Thomas Aherne and William Soper. Everyone thought that such a project would fail because of Ottawa's winters. However, at the time, unless you could afford a horse and buggy plus sleigh in the winter, there was no way to get around the growing city except by walking. The system proved to be an immediate success, even in the winter. The system had the first electrically heated cars in Canada, maybe even the world. The Ottawa Car Manufacturing Company made streetcars that were exported to other parts of Canada. In the early days of the system, “ridership” rose seven times faster than the population. In 1921 at the peak of the system. Each citizen took an average of 336 rides per year. The fares were low—about three tickets for ten cents Despite attempts at updating and revival, Ottawa's Street Railway went steadily downhill from this point....
Public love for the automobile was probably a contributing factor, as was the rising costs of maintenance, expanding the roadbed and new streetcar technology The investors also played a part as they took an increasing amount of dividends out of the system and did not develop a good reserve fund for necessary expansion and repairs. By 1924, the automobile was using up the space needed for transit cars.. They blocked the progress of streetcars by parking on city streets, forcing other cars to drive on the track allowance and stopping to pick up passengers and make left turns. Streetcar trips became longer. Davis points out that “trains in 1956 were slower than they had been in 1901. Downtown it was faster to walk”
Having made money for years, the owners of the OER now wanted to sell the system to the city. While the City Council was willing to buy, assuming they would have a monopoly on inner city transit. But, over a five year period to 1929, plebiscites were rejected four times. The taxpayers did not want to pay. In January, 1924, the City and the OER reached an agreement to extend the service and monopoly for five years, subject to renewal in 1929. This agreement created more problems than it solved. First, the carfare was frozen at five cents per ride, lower than nearly all other North American systems, and the five year term was not conducive to the kind of capital investment that was becoming increasingly necessary. Thanks to the increasing competition from the automobile, streets became even more clogged and streetcar trips ever longer. In 1929, it was apparent that new equipment was necessary, and the five year contract emboldened the owners to buy new equipment with borrowed money. Contracts were let and then came October 1929. Pressure for loan payment became intense but the fare was still frozen at five cents. When authority was finally obtained to raise the fare to seven cents, “ridership” dropped by 16%, despite a revenue increase of 10%. The OER staggered on until the end of World War 2, but the handwriting was on the wall revenues could never match increasing costs of new equipment, track extensions, competition from the auto and pressures from various interest groups. For example, Glebe residents would not permit streetcar routes along residential streets, The forerunners of the NCC did not want unsightly power lines overhead and riders demanded more comfortable and frequent service The federal government increased business taxes enormously during the War. Trams were crowded and noisy—people preferred buses before the environmental effects of buses were discovered. Despite the eventual creation of the Ottawa Transit Commission in. 1947/48 these questions continued and new ones arose. It was obvious—too many groups wanted the tram lines to disappear. By 1958/59 the pressures became too much and the old streetcar lines were removed. The only mourners at the time were the older population who had fond memories of the great days before and during the First World War.
- Clifford Scott
A while back I told you about the Old Registry Office that was built in 1873. There are even older buildings around Ottawa and many of them can be seen in a quick trip around Lower Town and in Sandy Hill.. A cluster of them is viewable near the Basilica at Sussex and St. Patrick. The Basilica itself is one of the oldest surviving structures in Ottawa.
The oldest of all Ottawa buildings is the Bytown Museum beside the canal, built in 1826 as Colonel By's storehouse for the construction of the Rideau Canal. The Canal was officially opened 175 years ago, in 1832. Houses were built in Lower Town as the community grew and, as Canada became a nation, many upscale houses were built in Sandy Hill. This article will focus on a few of these house, but a good walking tour will show off even more.
... to tell the stories of some of the people who have lived here over the last 175 years.
There is a particularly well preserved house at 138 St. Patrick St. that belonged to Flavien Rochon. Built circa 1832, it is typical of a workingman's home of the era Before it became the property of Mr. Rochon, four sisters of the Grey Nuns of the Cross (now the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa) lived there from 1845-1851 Mr. Rochon was a carpenter by trade who also sculpted wood and who was involved in the construction of both Notre Dame Basilica as well as the Parliamentary library. The house was acqired by the NCC in 1965. His next door neighbour at 142 St. Patrick was Dr. Francois-Xavier Valade whose imposing house was built circa 1864. The Valade house is typical of of ancestral homes in Normandy Dr Valade lived there from 1866 to 1918, was one of Ottawa's first doctors and was also one of the doctors responsible for examining Louis Riel before Riel's 1885 trial in Regina.. The house was known as Le Balcon Blanc because of the white veranda overhanging the entrance. The original balcony was replaced at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Before leaving Lower Town for Sandy Hill, we should mention Notre Dame Basilica, the oldest church in the capital, built between 1841 and 1865 on the site of an earlier church built in 1832. It contains beautiful statues and woodwork carved by Louis Philippe Hebert, Phillipe Pariseau and Flavien Rochon whose house was described above. The tower of the Basilica stands nearly 55 metres high and the organ has more than 4000 pipes!. This just a small sample of buildings constructed before Canada became a nation in 1867.
Louis Besserer, a lawyer from Quebec, bought a large parcel of land that became the area known as Sandy Hill, one of the first “elite” neighborhoods in Ottawa. Besserer's land purchase took place in 1828, but the area did not really develop before Ottawa was picked as the site of Canada's capital by Queen Victoria in 1857. Growth accelerated after Confederation and the area became home to many politicians and senior government officials.
One of the oldest houses in Sandy Hill is the Besserer House built c. 1844 where L. J. Besserer lived from 1844 to 1866. It was later occupied by W. T. McDougal, one of the fathers of Confederation. The house is at 149 Daly Ave and is really the center of Sandy Hill development. Some changes to the verandas and the western face have taken place since 1844, but the house is still largely the same as when it was originally built.
Another older house is the Lyon house, built c. 1850. It's first occupant was a son of the original builder Colonel George Lyon Fellowes. Robert Fellowes, the son, was a member of Parliament and in 1876, the Mayor of Ottawa. The pamphlet put together by the Regroupment des Organismes du Patrimoine Franco-Ontarienne states as follows “The bay window, the magnificent wooden portico and the decorative flourishes on the facade make it one of the most charming residences. ” The Toller House, built c. 1875. Its first occupant, T. Fournier, was a creator of the Supreme Court of Canada and one of the first Justices. The next occupant, for whom the house is named, was Frederik Toller, Auditor General of Canada The next occupant was Louis-Phillipe Brodeur who was simultaneously Minister of Finance and Oceans, a Justice of the Supreme Court and Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. How he managed to handle all four jobs, we'll have to guess! The City of Ottawa designated the house an historic property in 1982.
These are only a few of the historic buildings in downtown Ottawa. Take a tour under the auspices of ROPFO or Heritage Ottawa and discover much, much more!
HEALTH CARE IN EARLY BYTOWN
- Clifford Scott
After my first article some weeks ago, I was asked how only the one doctor and pharmacist mentioned in Smith's 1846 summary could possibly have provided health care to a town of 7000 souls. The truth is that there were other sources of medical help and why Smith did not mention them is a good question. Very recently, the Historical Society of Ottawa published a paper of the latest winner of the Colonel By award for local history (Mike Nelles of Carleton University) and it is an excellent source of information on early medical care and a good bibliography of sources on the subject. The Bytown pamphlet series is available through the Historical Society and is also available at the National Library of Canada and the Ottawa Public library.
The first ever medical facility in Ottawa was a twenty bed military hospital established by John By...
The first ever medical facility in Ottawa was a twenty bed military hospital established by John By in 1826 on Barracks Hill where the West Block now stands. It operated for fifty years. It was only available to the civilian population in dire emergencies such as outbreaks of malaria, typhus and cholera. These kind of outbreaks occurred in 1827, 1832 and 1847. The Sisters of Charity under the capable leadership of Sister Elizabeth Bruyere opened the first civilian general hospital in 1845. It is curious this was not mentioned in Smith's 1846 Gazetteer.
In 1903 a memoir of the early days of medicine in Bytown was written by Dr. Beaumont Small who recalled the days when doctors rode around the settlements dispensing care to the settlers Another account of the early days was written in 1993 by Linda Tresham, as one of the Bytown pamphlet series mentioned before, of the great cholera epidemic of 1832. Both authors decry the lack of interest and attention given to medical care.
The earliest recorded doctor in Bytown was Dr. A.J. Christie who became a prominent advocate for medical care. He also founded the first (in 1836) newspaper in Bytown---The Bytown Gazette. - He first came to Bytown in 1827 as a military doctor for Rideau Canal workers. He was one of the few doctors to stay in the town after the completion of the canal in 1832. There is some debate over his medical training but he appears to have served the populace until his death in 1843. In those days, according to Charles Roland in Ontario Medicine (1983) doctors were paid in such things as "chickens, eggs, home brew, a slab of bacon or chores".
The real "driver" of improved medical care in the town was a series of epidemics that threatened the local population. The worst of these was the cholera epidemic of 1832 which is deserving of a column in itself! In June 1832, Lt. Governor Colborne authorized the first Board of Health in Bytown under the chairmanship of Dr. Christie. One of its first acts was to close all schools and public buildings to prevent the spread of disease. A temporary wooden hospital was constructed on what is now the site of the Royal Canadian Mint. It was the first medical facility constructed for the benefit of the civilian population. By a month later 15 of 35 cholera patients had died—an indication of the mortality of cholera in those days.. This hospital was scrapped in 1834 and sold as firewood. Probably the lack of medical knowledge of the time contributed greatly to the death rate in 1832.. By 1844, it was definite that the military hospital was inadequate for a town that was growing with the lumber industry.
In February 1845, a group of nuns arrived by sleigh, led by the 27 year old Sister Bruyere. The Sisters took up visiting the sick and opened a seven bed hospital in the spring. Within a year the facility was inadequate and a petition was made for a land grant to build a larger facility. Of the signers of the petition only four were Roman Catholic, so the need was widely felt. Fourteen lots were provided and plans went ahead for the construction of a hospital that stood on the same ground occupied by the old general hospital, still operated by the Sisters as the Bruyere Centre The town was immediately challenged with the great typhus epidemic of 1847-48. This was brought to Ottawa by unfortunate immigrants who died in great numbers on the trip to Canada and after they arrived. The bulk of these immigrants were Irish, fleeing the potato famine in Ireland.
Following the example of the Catholic General Hospital, approval was granted in 1847 for the construction of a Protestant General Hospital. While medical care was still chancy at best the foundation had been laid for the proper medical treatment of citizens The first permanent health Board was created in 1851 and the first stone hospital was erected on the northwest corner of Rideau and Wurtemburg Streets From these early beginnings grew the excellent if sometimes crowded medical services we enjoy today.
BIG JOE MUFFERAW
- Clifford Scott
A lot of people think Joe was a legend. There are even some who say he was the model for Paul Bunyan, the legendary North Woods logger. In his book, “The Lumberjacks”, Donald MacKay has the following word about it, quoting Charlie MacCormick of Port Menier, Anticosti. "My God, my grandfather worked with him! He and my grandfather, Michael MacCormick rafted wood on the Ottawa River. Together! Sure!" So, the song sung by Stompin' Tom Connors tells a real story, even allowing for a little poetic license.
...he was fair haired and blue eyed and very popular with the ladies.
Joseph Montferrand was born in 1802 and grew up with the square timber trade. He died in October of 1864 and is buried in Notre Dame des Neiges cemetery in Montreal. He was a big man for his time, standing 6'2” and was famous for his boxing prowess before he left Montreal to take part in the timber trade in the Ottawa Valley as well as parts of Quebec. His origins were in the north east of France and he was fair haired and blue eyed and very popular with the ladies. One of his favourite tricks was to do a back flip and put the imprint of his logging boots on an eight foot ceiling. The story is that he got his athletic ability and balance from his grandfather who had been a fencing master.. Joe is famous locally for two memorable fights on the bridge that spanned the Ottawa between Bytown and Hull. In one case he is said to have held off a crowd of 150 “Shiners” or Irish labourers who had worked on building the Rideau Canal and were competing with the French Canadian “bucherons” for work in the timber industry. There are actually three famous stories of his ”doings” in Ottawa about the same time Colonel John By was getting the Rideau Canal built.
One night, Joe and his confreres were out drinking, probably in what is now Lower Town or in the Byward Market. There were certainly enough pubs to go around. They went to the pub of an old acquaintance only to find ownership had changed hands. Joe explained the situation to a new, pretty barmaid and explained they had no money. She said they could stay and be served because they looked like men of honour. Montferrand thanked her; and from the centre of the tavern did his famous back flip and kicked his boot marks into the ceiling to show that he had been there! It is said visitors came from miles away to admire the work of Joe Montferrand and the pub prospered! Maybe the mark is still there if you visit the right pub.
Another story also involves a pretty girl! Joe was taken with a girl in Bytown and decided to court her. She was also of interest to a large Highlander named Macdonald, who had six large brothers. The seven MacDonalds decided to jump Big Joe and teach him a lesson. They cornered him on the Bytown side of the bridge to Hull. Joe grabbed a pole from the bridge and, swinging it like a , club damaged the seven brothers badly and drove them all off.
The competition between the Irish “shiners” and the French “bucherons” was fierce. Joe ws the leader of the French loggers and the shiners decided that if they eliminated him, there would be more work for them. According to Peter Mackay it was in 1829 that a gang of 150 ambushed Joe on the same bridge, armed with clubs Saying a little prayer for the odds were pretty bleak, Joe walked forward and picked up the largest Irishman by his feet. Swinging this gentleman like a club, Joe did terrible damage to the front rank of his enemies. The carnage was terrific and, avoiding the same treatment, the balance of the Shiners ran up the road.
These are only a few of the stories about the almost legendary logger. He was a character in early Bytown and the fact hat he actually existed is not disputed. There are stories of his life all over eastern Ontario and Quebec. Bytown, Kingston and Montreal are prominently featured. How many recognize names like Johnny Appleseed, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, who were real people as well. Our friends to the south seem to do a much better job of remembering their heroes. Joseph Montferrand married at the age of sixty and had one son. He died quietly at home in Montreal (212 Rue Sanguine) on October 4, 1864.
(1) What was the family name of the brothers Joe defeated on the bridge?
(2) What was Big Joe's trademark?
(3) Could Colonel By and Joe have met?
(2) Boot marks on the ceiling
(3) Certainly possible. Both here in 1829.
JOHN RUDOLPHUS BOOTH
- Clifford Scott
Once the Rideau Canal was finished in 1832, Bytown had to find a new economic base. Surrounded by trees and with England crying out for lumber, it was only natural that the timber trade, in different phases, would become a staple of the new town situated on a major transportation route. One of the giants of the lumber business was J. R Booth, born in Waterloo, Quebec, who arrived in Ottawa in 1857 and lived here until his death on Dec. 8, 1925.
There are many anecdotes about Booth and his various idiosyncrasies but a good, recent book is J. R. Trinnell's “J. R. Booth—The Life and Times of an Ottawa Lumber King” It is a mixture of anecdotes and business statistics and a chronological list of happenings in Booth's long life In that life, Booth built and operated three railways in Ontario, was burned out a number of times, but always rebuilt, married off one of his grand daughters to a Danish prince and lived almost 99 years, outliving five of his eight children in the process.
Booth was known as a frugal man who didn't put on airs, despite his wealth and position.
Booth was known as a frugal man who didn't put on airs, despite his wealth and position. One anecdote concerns a particularly self satisfied salesperson who cane to meet Booth one morning for a business meeting. Spying a scruffy looking individual standing outside the office, he offered him a dime to carry his sample case upstairs to Mr. Booth's office. The man obliged and, when asked where Mr. Booth was, said “You're looking at him! ” Where's my dime? ” This is a story from my wife's grandfather who knew Booth in the early part of the last century. Another well known anecdote concerns the time Booth was criticized by a driver for only giving a ten cent tip. The rationale was tha t Booth's son always gave a quarter. Booth replied, gruffly “That's alright, the boy has a rich father, but I was an orphan! ”.
Booth came to the town now known as Ottawa in 1857 and, many years later, shortly before his death was asked about his earliest memories of the town. He responded by commenting on the smell of the place. Thomas Anglin, a Montreal MP also commented in Hansard about the smell and dirt of “Ourtown” in the early 1880's. One of my own recollections from when I first arrived in Ottawa in 1954 was the overwhelming smell of the pulp mills across the river early one April morning While the closing of the pulp mills was an economic disaster for some, it did improve air quality! Before the famous fire of April 26, 1900, Booth lived at the corner of Wellington and Preston streets, only a block or two from his mill. His neighbours on Wellington (also known as Richmond Road at the time) were the Salvation Army Rescue home and the Victoria Brewery. Further up Wellington were a “lying in” hospital, a Mr. Frank Morgan and the Victoria Hotel. All were destroyed in the fire. Mr. Booth then built his home on Metcalfe St., near Somerset which later became the Laurentian Club.
The big event of the 1924 social season was the wedding of Booth's grand-daughter Lois, to Prince Erik of Denmark. They were married at All Saints Anglican Church in Sandy Hill and the deputy chief of police at the time, Gilhooly, said “Yesterday afternoon, every available man was pressed into service, but ten men could not handle a crowd of ten thousand, 90% of whim were women who would not do as they were told but smiled and giggled all the time” (Ottawa Journal, Feb. 12,'24) J. R. Booth did not attend the wedding. There was no fairy tale ending to the wedding. The couple had two children but Prince Erik arranged an annulment of the wedding because of a friendship between Lois and Thorkeld Julesberg, the Prince's secretary. Lois married Julesberg after the annulment, bu t died in Denmark in 1941. Her body was transported back to Canada and she was buried in Beechwood cemetery Her father's home was at 285 Charlotte St., and was eventually sold to the Soviet government for their Embassy. The old building burned down on January 1, 1956, because the Embassy staff refused to allow Ottawa firefighters access to “Soviet Territory”!
So ends one of the interesting stories about Ottawa history, of a “poor boy” who made good and whose money was able to advance his family to the highest levels of society.
One final comment—on the day after the wedding, the bride's father joked that he was naming himself the Count de Cost for the proceedings. After his death in Dec. 1925, at his request, J.R. was buried in a relatively simple ceremony but crowds still lined the streets to honour the “Old man of the lumber industry”
MECHANICS INSTITUTES—EARLY ADULT EDUCATION
- Clifford Scott
Not very many people in early Ottawa had the educational advantages of today's society—many wished for it, but had to leave school, where it existed, as soon as they were of money earning age Those who could afford a classical or technical education tended to be those whose parents had already had some measure of success.. Technical knowledge came through apprenticeship and on the job learning. Women and girls were almost excluded from the education systems that did exist. However, a good portion of those already educated believed that all persons were educable and education was the key to a better society, both socially and economically.
Most factory workers preferred relaxing in the local pub with their buddies.
In the early 1820's organizations called Mechanic's Institutes were begun in Great Britain and the United States, dedicated to “improving the mind of the working class”. In Bytown in the 1840's several attempts were made to establish similar institutions but final success did not come until 1853. The institutes were aimed at factory workers but were more used by clerks and shop assistants. After the typical 12-14 hour day of the times. Most factory workers preferred relaxing in the local pub with their buddies. Late closing on work days led to letters to the Bytown Gazette in 1837 suggesting both a movement for earlier closing and the opening of a Newsroom or a library. By 1838, as it happened, two Newsrooms had opened—one in the Upper Town's British Hotel and one in the Lower Town's McArthur's Hotel. The Lower Town Newsroom closed by 1844, but there is a record of a gathering of “clerks” in the British Hotel in 1845.
On January 28, 1847 there was a meeting of prominent citizens in the Oddfellow's Hall to create a Bytown Mechanic's Institute. All resident clergymen were members of the founding Council as were magistrates, factory owners, the current Mayor (John Scott) and a past Mayor and City Clerk. Despite their best efforts at fund raising and the purchase of a collection of books (210 available in 1848), the Institute became defunct in 1849. The organizers wanted to show Bytown as progressive. In early 1853, a provisional committee with the strong support of Robert Bell publisher of the Ottawa Citizen was struck to start a “Bytown Mechanic's Institute and Athenaeum”. Again, prominent men were involved. Judge C. Armstrong, Dr. S Sewell, Elkanah Billings, Richard W. Scott Mayor H. J. Friel and Thomas McKay, among others,. formed the committee. At the time, Bytown was a flourishing town of 8000 souls.
A Province of Canada Act was passed in 1853, establishing the Mechanic's Institute in Bytown.. Fees were set at $5 per annum. While this fee may seem small today, it could be as much as one week's salary for a working man then. This may have been a factor in the later history of the Institute. We now enter a phase when the idea of training for working class people gradually gave way to a club largely for intellectuals of the day. The organization apparently died in 1907 as professional societies, museums and public libraries proliferated in Ottawa. The highest point of Institute membership was 438 in 1866/67. At a general meeting in 1867 a recorded vote of 109 attendees showed the following mix—13 professionals, 16 merchants, 12 civil servants, 3 lumber merchants, 16 in service industries 10 bookkeepers and clerks, one farmer, 4 labourers, 2 servants, 2 gentlemen and 20 where no occupation was given. Hardly representative of workers!
The Society's activities in the1880's and the 1890' were confined to winter lectures and the maintenance of the library. In 1902, the President still felt the Society's activities were useful but the handwriting was on the wall with the opening of the Carnegie public library in 1906. In November 1906, Dr. Otto Klotz, the President still promoted the work of the Society but stated “the great mass of the people is not hungering for intellectual development but is rather in search of amusement entertainment and forms of diversion as involve little or no mental effort”.
R. Forbes Hirsch who researched the history of Mechanic's Institutes had the following comments in a 1991 publication. “It cannot be said that the Institute suffered from competition in its early days for the limited leisure time of the residents they hoped to attract—the only competition were the pubs, worship services and other church activities. ” Hirsch felt that what really evolved was a social club where the lecture topics were of more interest to better educated middle and upper class citizens. For workers who put in long hours by today's standards and who really couldn't afford the fees charged, th eidea was great, but the implementation suffered from many problems.
- Clifford Scott
Are you one of those people who likes Stephen King stories or tales of places that are haunted? We have a lot of haunted places in Ottawa—far too many to mention in a short article but on a misty summer evening join the ghost walkers under the Bear at the end of Sparks Street and be beguiled by one of the Haunted Walks of Ottawa. You will be led by a lady dressed in black and carrying a flickering torch. Some of the ghosts you might meet are part of this story.
Let's start with the oldest stone building in Ottawa—the one now known as the Bytown Museum. It started as Colonel John By's commissariat or warehouse when the canal was being built. It dates back to 1827 and has a famous ghost story attached to it In those long ago days we didn't have banks or ATM's. The workers payroll and funds to pay contractors had to be brought to Canada aboard ship and were stored in the Commissariat until needed. Naturally, some people thought it would be an easy target for a little grand theft but they had to get past Duncan McNabb who was in charge of protecting the gold and silver...Duncan must have done his job well as there is no record of any theft from the storehouse Perhaps he is still doing his job, because workers at the museum swear they have heard footsteps following them up the stairs or heard the same footsteps when they are alone in the museum. At night, modern motion detectors are triggered when there is no one in the museum and one ex-employee swore that when Duncan's name is spoken the sales computer goes crazy. Some people think Duncan is still there, living in the treasury crypt and guarding the money.
People sitting at this particular table have felt the proverbial icy breeze and things on their table have been moved, although no one is there.
Ask the people at the building that is now Friday's Roast Beef House on Elgin Street, originally built as a doctor's home in 1875 about the strange going on at a particular table on the second floor and you'll hear another ghost story. People sitting at this particular table have felt the proverbial icy breeze and things on their table have been moved, although no one is there. I once mustered my courage and took my wife to dinner there, but didn't feel anything except the stares of other guests at other tables who were waiting for something to happen. The good doctor who owned the house also had a hospital in his home, so no one is quite sure who or what the spirit is or represents.
Across the street, look into the old main entrance to the former Ottawa Teacher's College, now part of City Halland you may see the ghost of the “Grey Lady” come out of one door and go into another. Certain politicians and city staff swear they have seen her! There are several stories about how she got there and what she is up to, but we can be sure she is not one of Ottawa's past lady mayors, as she is dressed in nineteenth century clothes or so the story goes. She is probably some past teacher who keeps coming back to collect a last homework assignment! Some say she was the principal at the time!
The final ghost to be mentioned here haunts the old City jail or gaol as it used to be spelled. They used to hang people in that jail, so take your pick of any number of people. The building is now used as a youth hostel and brave souls can rent a ten by six room for a very modest fee Some of them do not like the entertainment provided, and some never see it at all! In future there will be separate articles on D'Arcy McGee and Patrick Whelan so won't cover that too much here. Many people think the gaol ghost is Whelan himself, still protesting that he is innocent of McGee's assassination...Others feel the ghost might be the prisoner whose testimony was used to convict Whelan, doomed to haunt the jail forever because he lied, got some benefit from his testimony, but the process led to the execution of an innocent man. We'll never know for sure, will we?
These are only a few of the ghost stories around Ottawa, dating back to the earliest days. If you really want to experience then in the right atmosphere. Do take one of the Haunted Walks of Ottawa on a quiet evening in nice weather. Of course, if the night is misty, with no moon, it gets even more interesting!
(1) Does the ghost of Charlotte Whitton haunt City Hall in the person of the “Grey Lady”
(2) What name supposedly causes all the computers to react in the Bytown Museum?
(3)Does Patrick Whelan haunt the old city gaol?
(1) No—the ghost is from before Miss Whitton'.s time.
(2) Duncan McNabb
(3) Who knows?
The Canadian Army in Ottawa
- Clifford Scott
As Remembrance Day approaches, we remember the sacrifices of World Wars 1 and 2. But we also had military units in Ottawa getting ready to go to the Fenian Raids, the Northwest Rebellion and the Boer War. Regardless of the justice or non justice of these events, we still had men willing to risk their lives for the rest of us. Let's look at our involvement in these conflicts.
Some years ago, Colonel Strome Galloway who commanded the Royal Canadian Regiment in the battle for Ortona in World War 2 summarized the early history of the Ottawa military for the Historical Society of Ottawa ,and I am indebted to him for the information in this article. Mush of the early history of the military in Ottawa concerns militia or reserve units made up of ordinary citizens who “answered the call” when danger threatened. According to Galloway, no regular army fighting unit has ever been garrisoned in Ottawa. This is not true of the RCAF who based interceptor and reconnaissance squadrons here during the height of the Cold War However we are looking at a much earlier time.
Before we look at some unit histories, the “interesting” events that involved Ottawa citizen soldiers were the Fenian raids of 1866 and 1870 when the “Civil Service Rifles” were called up to repel invasion if necessary. The Governor General's Foot Guards provided several offices to command the 150 “voyageurs” who ferried British troops up the Nile river in 1884. Ottawa provided a group of 50 “sharpshooters”, mostly from the Foot Guards, to the troops dispatched to Saskatchewan at the time of the Northwest difficulties in 1885. About 100 men were provided by the 43rd Rifles and the Governor General's Foot Guards Foot Guards as reinforcements for the Royal Canadian Regiment in the Boer War of 1899 A member of the Rifles was awarded a “Queen's Scarf” of Honour for his involvement. Queen Victoria personally knitted seven scarves for special acts of valour in the field. She knitted three for the British forces and one each for Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African forces By the time World War 1 began in August of 1914, Ottawans were fully involved.
The first military unit organized in Ottawa was the Ottawa Volunteer Field Battery or “Bytown Gunners” which still exists today. It was formed in 1855 and its members have served in many conflicts. It's Second Battery, serving in the Boer War had among its members John McRae, later and still famous for his poem “In Flanders Fields” They have served in all wars since the, and are most recognizable for the salutes they fire on Parliament Hill on national occasions such as Remembrance Day.
The senior infantry regiment in Ottawa is the Governor General's Foot Guards, formed in 1861in Quebec City as the Civil Service Rifles. When government moved to Ottawa, so did the Rifles. During the Fenian Raids, all male civil servants were conscripted to guard government buildings—our first example of military conscription! In 1872, it was considered that he new Dominion should have a regiment of Guards, similar to those who guarded the Queen in London. The unit was modeled on the Coldstream Guards of the British Army Colours were first presented to the Guards by the wife of the Governor General in 1874 and the Cartier Square Armoury was constructed to house them and others in 1878 .By Royal decree, this Regiment has military precedence over all other Canadian regiments.
In 1881, 43rd Ottawa and Carleton Rifles became the Duke of Cornwall's Own Rifles and, in 1933, their name was changed to the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa.
In 1872, there had been organized an Ottawa Troop of Cavalry. This troop became the forerunner of the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards and the 4th Hussars. WE stopped using horses in War after the First World War so most “horse regiments” became armoured units and rode tanks instead of horses
Other units assembled in Ottawa, but were not really Ottawa Units. The first, in 1898, was the Yukon Field Force which was mustered to aid the RNWMP in policing the Yukon, in face of the lawlessness associated with the Yukon gold rush. In December 1899, with the Royal Canadian Regiment already on the way to South Africa., Lord Strathcona, then Canada's High Commissioner in Great Britain offered a blank cheque to recruit a cavalry regiment to serve in South Africa. This unit became known as The Lord Strathcona's Horse In 1914, another generous person, put up $100,000 of his own money to form a regiment to be named after the then Governor General's daughter, Princess Patricia. This unit became known as the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and has just finished a tour of duty in Afghanistan, as well as serving in both World Wars. So did the Lord Strathcona's Horse, on horses in World War 1 and in tanks in World War 2 They assembled in Ottawa so all of these units have links to Ottawa and they only represent Army units. Ottawa has contributed much to Canada's military history and that fact should be better known!
- Clifford Scott
On February 11, 1869 in the Carleton county gaol, Patrick James Whelan was hanged for the murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee. He went to the gallows protesting his innocence and, without all the forensic evidence TV keeps showing ,there is no way we can ever be sure he was truly guilty. There are some who believe he was innocent and that his conviction was rushed to show the efficiency of the police, prosecutors and the government of the day. The murder of McGee had taken place the previous April and Whelan was arrested within 20 hours The basis of his conviction was his possession of a revolver of the same calibre as the murder weapon, stories that he was a Fenian and the testimony of a person who had shared his cell in the gaol who swore Whelan had confessed to him that he, Whelan, had indeed carried out the shooting. This evidence was enough to convict Whelan and led to the last public hanging in Canada, right here in staid old Ottawa. A Wikipedia article states that five thousand people attended the event. Whelan was buried on the grounds of the gaol, but no one knows exactly where. Remains were discovered some years later, but could not be confirmed as those of Whelan, Whelan's ghost is still said to haunt the gaol, still protesting his innocence. One fact is that public hangings were banned in Canada about five months after the execution.
Whelan was of Irish extraction having been born in County Galway c. 1840. He was a tailor by occupation and apparently considered good at it. He came to Ottawa from Montreal in 1867 and was employed by the firm of Peter Eagleson. The Canadian on line encyclopedia describes him as "skilled at this trade, fond of horses, shooting, dancing and drink". This would describe my own Irish ancestors and many current Irish Canadians! While he was an apprentice tailor in Quebec City after 1865, he volunteered for military duty to oppose Fenian invasions of Canada. He married Bridget Boyle in 1867 and made his home in Ottawa. Perhaps a dedicated researcher can find where his residence in Ottawa was, or his immigration record. Ship landing records are on file at the National Library and Archives from 1865 on. Names and residences are in the City directories.
To the Canada of 1866-67 the Fenians were a scary commodity. Mostly Irish expatriates and many of them hardened veterans of the US Civil War (both Union and Confederate) they were dedicated to conquering Canada to hold as ransom for Ireland. They invaded Canada in 1866 and defeated a hastily organized force of militia and some British regulars at Lime Ridge near Fort Erie. They hoped for an Irish uprising in Canada, and when that did not occur they retreated to the United States where they continued to agitate. Another attempt was made south of Montreal in 1870. All the details can be found in Senior's book The Last Invasion of Canada for those interested.
Whelan was said to be sympathetic to this group, but there is little, if any, hard evidence to go on. Why did he volunteer to fight the Fenians in 1866? There are several facts that suggest he may have been a scapegoat. There was intense political interest in his trial as evidenced by the fact that the Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald sat beside the presiding judge during the initial trial. The judge was William Richards who was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench after that trial just in time to preside over the appeal of Whelan's death sentence. The vote to reject the appeal was 2-1, with Richards casting the deciding vote. While historians are not supposed to use today's standards to make judgments on pat events, there seems to be grounds for suspicion, at least.
A play, “Blood on the Moon” has been written that queries the conviction and a song "The Hangman's Eyes" has been composed about Whelan's execution A little known historical fact is that real Fenians, who invaded Canada were originally sentenced to death, then the sentence was commuted to life in prison. All of the individuals concerned were out of prison within a decade after the events, except for one individual who died of natural causes during his incarceration A review of government records indicates that a question as to what correspondence there had been about these prisoners was not answered in the House on the recommendation of a House review committee. If this kind of generous treatment was accorded to the real Fenians, why not Whelan? An answer to that question eludes us to this day.
Old Registry Office
- Clifford Scott
Part of this series on Ottawa in the "old days" will be to tell you about buildings that have been around for a long time. There is an active organization called Heritage Ottawa that specializes in commemorating the older buildings in the City. They team up with the City every year in May to make building tours available to anyone interested. The event is called "Doors Open Ottawa" and many interesting facets of both "Old" and modern Ottawa are presented. If Architecture and our relatively ancient buildings( for Canada) are of interest, Heritage Ottawa is a wonderful source of information. Some of us call them the "Building Protective Society" of Ottawa!
Many passers by on the Mackenzie King bridge or driving up Nicholas Street wonder what the old, rectangular building across the street from the old City Jail represents. It has been featured in several of the Doors Open Ottawa events and has a very interesting and chequered history. Owned now by the people who own the Rideau Centre, it began life in 1873 as the City Registry office where all official records of the City were kept. If you needed to know the history of a piece of land or building together with who owned or had owned it, you had to go to the City Registry Office. All official records of Bytown and the City of Ottawa were kept there. Inside the building is a unique set of rails, now covered, that allowed cast iron shelving to be moved back and forth as if on railway tracks.
When you first enter the building, you go into what was the office where clerks would take information or draw files from the storage room which was next through the building. After passing through the file storage area there are a number of small offices, much smaller than today's office space allotment. There is one small bathroom and a storage closet The whole building was heated by a pot bellied stove burning wood and coal that the clerks had to keep going. You can imagine what it was like on a cold winter day! In 1910 the registry office needed to get bigger, so a brand new one was built. This replacement is no longer with us, and the files we spoke of earlier are now at City Hall. The original registry office is still standing, while the replacement is long gone!
This building has had a number of uses over the years, not the least of which was to function as the original Bytown Museum from 1917 until 1951. The Historical Society, founded in 1898 as the Women's Historical Society of Ottawa needed space for its growing collection of artifacts and convinced the City fathers of the time that the old registry office would make an ideal Museum. The "railway tracks" of the file handling shelves were covered over and exhibits of things like Colonel By's furniture replaced them.
After 1951, the Museum moved to its present quarters in the old Commissariat Building beside the locks of the Rideau Canal. Did you know that in 2007, it will be 175 years since the Canal wasopened in 1832? Did you know the Canal is now a world heritage site?
The old registry office, with its very solid 12 foot foundations, to prevent thievery of critical land ownership records by tunneling , has served other purposes over the years. It was also a legal office and home of the Tourist and Convention Bureau of Ottawa, for example. Now it sits, cold deserted and damp until opened for "Doors Open Ottawa" Many people wonder what's going to happen to it next. The Rideau Centre people have talked about expanding the shopping mall and the old building would be in the way of such an expansion. We'll have to wait to see what transpires, but one alternative would be to encase the old building in the expansion and thereby keep alive a piece of the City's heritage Another alternative would be to move the building to another site There are probably others that readers can think of, but the economic issues may predominate and we will lose a familiar landmark. Only the future, not the past, will tell!.
Today's Historical Note: Did you know that on December 13 in 1907 the Women's Canadian Club was inaugurated by Governor General Earl Gray?
(1) When did the Old Registry Office become the Bytown Museum? Answer 1917.
(2) How deep are its foundations? Answer 12 feet
(3) What other purposes has the building served? Answer Legal office; HQ, Ottawa Tourist and Convention Bureau
An Assassination in Ottawa
- Clifford Scott
Back in April, 1868 the only murder of a federal MP happened right here on Sparks Street! It was, in fact , the murder of a “Father of Confederation “as the individual had played an active part in the Constitutional conference at Charlottetown P.E.I in 1864 that brought us the British North America Act of 1867. Charlottetown was the original conference concerned with the foundation of Canada as a nation. The murdered man's name was Thomas D'Arcy McGee, of Irish extraction. The man who was convicted of murdering him, Patrick Whelan, the last individual subject to a public hanging in Canada was also an Irishman and a member of the Fenian Brotherhood.
The Fenian brotherhood was dedicated to freeing Ireland from British rule and were the last official invaders of Canada in 1866 and 1870. The presence of the Fenians, who were largely US Civil War veterans, probably added extra pressure to the idea of forming the Canadian nation. Their aim was to conquer Canada and then trade it back to Britain for Irish freedom. McGee had begun his political career as a strong proponent of Irish freedom, but became a stronger proponent of Canadian Confederation and argued against Fenian ambitions, which may have convinced the Fenians that he was a traitor to their cause. In any event, McGee was shot with a bullet to the back of the head outside his lodgings at 142 Sparks Street on April 7, 1868. He was retuning late from the House of Commons and there was no witness to his shooting.
McGee was born in Ireland in 1825 and first came to Canada in 1857 after a career as a journalist and political activist both in Ireland and the United States. He argued vigorously for Irish freedom, but was opposed to the measures expressed by the Fenian brotherhood He rose in Canadian politics and, at the time of the Charlottetown Conference was Minister of Agriculture in John A. Macdonald's government. He was a fiery orator in th e days when oratory was an art form. There are several pictures of McGee on pages 372 and 376 in Charlotte Gray's excellent book The Museum called Canada. There is also a pamphlet available from the Bytown Museum that fully discusses McGee's career.
Needless to say, McGee's death caused an uproar in local circles. Extreme pressure was exerted on the local police authorities to find arrest and punish the perpetrator. Suspicion fell on a local Fenian, Patrick Whelan and Gray's book has examples of the wanted posters offering substantial rewards for Whelan's capture, even though there was little evidence available to connect him to the crime. He was eventually captured and incarcerated in the Ottawa gaol. The story of Whelan's trial, conviction and execution is a story in itself and will appear here in the not too distant future.
McGee's funeral in Montreal was a large one with literally thousands of people lining the streets. Special testimonial dinners were held in Ottawa and Montreal, speeches were made and the threat of the Fenians was underscored. In those days, it was usual to make a plaster cast of a famous dead person's face so that people would remember what the deceased looked like. This was especiallytrue if no painting existed. While photography was rapidly developing, it was not yet to the level of popularity it would later enjoy. One problem existed—McGee had been shot in the back of the head and there probably was extreme facial damage. Therefore, to commemorate McGee's oratorical skillsa plaster cast was made of his hand with which he used to gesticulate while making his speeches! A picture of this cast appears in Gray's book also but you only have to visit the Bytown Museum to see the real thing. The Museum has a section devoted to the memory of McGee and the death cast is there together with other mementos. For a while, the Museum also exhibited the gun that was used to shoot McGee. This gun belonged to a descendant of the Judge that tried Whelan, but was recently acquired by a National Museum which loaned it to the Bytown for an exhibit.
The next time you are walking down the Sparks Street mall, between Metcalfe and O'Connor look for the plaque that marks the spot where McGee was shot.
Who says. Ottawa doesn't have stories to tell?
The Skating Rinks of Ottawa
- Clifford Scott
What better historical subject for just after Winterlude and skating on the longest skating rink in the world than to summarize the use of skating rinks in Ottawa! We have Paul Kitchen to thank for painstakingly researching old newspapers and land records to bring us a history of Hockey rinks and, in the process, let us know about other uses for those hockey rinks. (see the Historical Society's Pamphlet #46 of November 1993)
The first formal skating rink in Ottawa was opened in 1868. In the years between 1884 and 1927, there were three different rinks at three different locations that went by the name of "Dey's Rinks". These were all rinks managed by the Dey brothers and their history is fascinating—especially some of the things that happened in the three rinks. Some are things that are part of hockey history in Canada and others are stories of a purely local nature. Each rink in turn served as the home base of the Ottawa Hockey Club, known variously as the Ottawas, the Silver Seven and the Senators.
In 1923, the club moved to the Auditorium that stood where the YM/YWCA stands now. I remember the old Auditorium from 1962 when it was the scene of a event that warmed the Cold War a little. The Red rmy Chorus performed there and were magnificent.
Back to earlier days! In 1868, the Ottawa Skating and Curling Club opened the "Royal", located on Slater St. just east of Elgin. In 1884, they even installed electric lighting, then in an experimental stage. However, the Ottawa Citizen of Dec. 20, 1884 announced that a new rink, operated by the Dey brothers would open Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM. Members of the Governor-General's Foot Guards would provide music. Very close to the Royal, this first Dey Bros. Arena was located on the east side of the Rideau Canal, near the Maria (now Laurier) Street foot bridge. It had a high curved roof and was 200 feet long by 99 feet wide. It boasted heated dressing rooms, electric lighting and a rink that was about a 150 foot by 60 foot rectangle. It became very popular in the last decades of the nineteenth century featuring many skating carnivals and masquerades. However, by the fall of 1895, the rink had made way for the tracks and depot of the Canada Atlantic Railway.
The Dey brothers took advantage of the new Ottawa Electric Railway and moved their operation to the "boonies" of the day—at the northwest corner of Gladstone (then Ann street) and Bay. They acquired several lots for $2450. They built a rink that was meant to be used for hockey. The natural ice surface measured 81 by 200 feet, said by the Citizen to be the largest in Canada at that time The new rink opened Dec. 17, 1896. Admission was 15 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. From then until the end of the 1907 hockey season the rink was very popular—patrons arrived by foot, the electric railway and by horse drawn sleigh. It was in this rink that the fbled two game series between Ottawa's Silver Seven and the Dawson City Klondikers took place in January 1905. The Dawson City club lost by wide margins but had traveled some 4000 miles to the games—perhaps they were tired?
The next and final rink operated by the Deys was built in the summer and fall of 1907 on land leased for 20 years for $166.66 a month from Ms. Esther Sherwood on Laurier Avenue.
One of the conditions of the lease was that an aesthetic contribution to the Nation's capital would be built on the land.
The new rink was hardly that. On the north side of the arena was a large ad for the Dey Bros. Boat works just across the canal.
On the night of January 11, 1908, the Ottawa Senators opened their first season in the new rink by defeating the Montreal Wanderers 12-2. in front of a crowd estimated at 7500. The next 15 years saw the Ottawa club claim the Stanley Cup five times.
By 1922 pressure was on for more arena space and the debate raged as to where a new Auditorium seating at least 5000 in the hockey stands and up to 10000 for other events. It would be the first rink in Ottawa to have artificial ice—the 1920 final Stanley Cup games had had to be moved to Toronto because the ice melted in Ottawa So, finally constructed at the corner of Argyll and O'Connor, the new Auditorium brought the city into more modern days. The older rinks were replaced by the relatively modern Auditorium.
In 1927, the old Laurier site was sold by Ms. Sherwood to the Federal District Commission for $60,000.00. Prime Minister MacKenzie King was said to have had a hand in getting rid of the old rink as it really wasn't appropriate to a plan of National Capital improvement.
I REMEMBER OTTAWA
by Edward W. Devlin, a former resident of Ottawa and a longtime member of the Historical Society.
I REMEMBER SIS TOMKINS (Lisgar Collegiate, 1902-1933)
She was really Miss E. A. Tomkins, but you learned that formality after you left the Lisgar Collegiate. My father just managed to be taught by her. So did Percy Harris, the coal dealer, whose daughter Betty married my brother Bob. Miss Tomkins induced a succession of mutinous young Ottawans to learn algebra, or at least to pass exams in it. I was one of them. To do this she used an exciting mixture of wit and sarcasm and sheer terror, controlling classrooms full of smart-alecks and hellions with a glare, a word or a hiss. We dreaded being the centre of her attention. She was an Ottawa legend long before she retired. In her postretirement serenity she visited Dad in his office. How did you do it? he asked her, and got the memorable reply: "Always razzle-dazzle the other fella before the other fella razzle-dazzles you."
I REMEMBER PAUL HORSDAL (1930s-40s)
He was one of Ottawa's favourite photographers, with a studio on Sparks Street near Elgin. He was Danish-Canadian with a soft and amusing accent and a quirky sense of humour. He and my father were devoted fishing pals. When the peeping and whistling of frogs and treetoads around the lake kept them awake at night, he roared at them "Shut up, you demmed weesil-birds! Paul Horsdal is enemy of weesil-birds!"
I REMEMBER "THE SWAN" (1930s)
The Ottawa Drama League could not know that the Molnar play would become a famous movie starring the divine Grace Kelly, Alec Guinness, and Louis Jourdan, in the roles played here by Jocelyn Chapman, Lawrence Freiman and myself. Ottawa had to make do with us until the real thing came along.
I REMEMBER THE PEACE TOWER (1930s)
Percival Price, who was the first Dominion Carilloneur, wore a black beard because the Belgian carilloneurs with whom he learned his trade could only take him seriously with a beard. In the playing-chamber under the bells he sat on a curved bench and slid back and forth to work the higher bells with both fists while his feet hit wooden rods under the bench to sound the big bass ones. He had an apartment a story or two below the bell-chamber where he had friends in for parties. In a corner of the room rods connecting the clock mechanism below with the bells above clanked up and down every hour, and the bells boomed overhead.
I REMEMBER C. P. EDWARDS (1920s-30s)
He was one of Dad's best friends and he was a fascinating and amusing uncle to my brother and me. He and his wife Ethel lived in a small cottage at the north end of Cloverdale Road, where the Rockeliffe streetcars turned around. Later we learned that he was a famous and important man, a pioneer of radio communications and broadcasting in Canada. In Wales, as a young electrical engineer, he was enlisted and tralned by Marconi, when he was setting up the first transatlantic communication by radio. Later, Marconi sent him to Canada to join his Canadian company and to set up wireless transmitters. Then the Government employed him as Director of Maritime Radio. In World War I he won the OBE for designing a system for detecting enemy code messages. He represented Canada at international radio conferences, he headed the committee that allotted radio channels throughout North America, and he initiated the equipping of all large ships with radio safety-devices. In World War II he won the CMG by directing the building of 100 airports for the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. He set up the corporation that controlled all external communications, radio and telegraph in Canada. He wound up as Deputy Minister of Communications. Some uncle!
I REMEMBER SOLANGE
She and her mother came from Tours "where the purest French is spoken". They lived in a dark apartment on one of the glum little streets of Centretown. She worked for a mining company with an office on Wellington Street. There she translated technical journals and letters into English. She was not only French but very French. She was not beautiful, but in the French way she was vivacious and charming and captivating. She acted with both the French-speaking and English-speaking theatre groups. I was first enchanted by her as "La Belle de Haguenau" in a production by Le Caveau, the French group. Later, with the very Anglo-Canadian Ottawa Drama League, she played an authentically French wife of Samuel Pepys in the London play "And So To Bed". To a stolid Anglo-Saxon like myself Solange seemed to be always performing, with eyes and teeth and hands and elbows and shoulders, modulating in seconds from high drama to glittering comedy. We were devoted friends for many years, and I managed to write a play for her, which the Ottawa Drama League entered in the Dominion Drama Festival. After her marriage to the ascendant Yousuf Karsh the two of them were among my most entertaining friends. I last saw her at their home on the Rideau River shortly before her death.
I REMEMBER YOUSUF KARSH (1930s)
A shy young Armenian with a large camera stood in the wings as members of the Ottawa Drama League rehearsed a play. He was studying the effect of stage lighting on faces. He had come from war-torn Armenia by way of his uncle's photographic studio in Sherbrooke and after studying in Boston. He was courteous and diffident and intense. He opened his studio in 1935. Through the Ottawa Drama League he met the first of his distinguished sitters, Lord Duncannon, son of the Governor General, who sometimes acted with the ODL. The Prime Minister became his patron, and Karsh was launched. He and Solange were married in 1939. I remember her telling me about his return home after taking the famous portrait of Churchill, which he had prefaced by removing the cigar stump from the great man's lips. (In that portrait I can see both what Churchill felt toward Hitler and what he was feeling toward Yousuf Karsh.) "When he got home," said Solange, "he was pale green and shaking. He hoarsely confessed what he had done.'' In 1988 Louise and I called on him in his studio in the Chateau Laurier. He and his second wife, Estrellita, were just back from organizing exhibitions in several European capitals.
I REMEMBER THE OTTAWA DRAMA LEAGUE
Dorothy White - Gladys and Leslie Chance - Bill Cromarty - Madeleine Charlebois - Jocelyn Chapman - Nancy Barrow - Vals Gilmour - Solange Gauthier - Marian Osborne - Audrey Fellowes - Michael Meiklejohn - Beatrice Whitfield - William Brodie - Dorothy Cruikshank Nora Hughes - Julia MacBrien - Roger Watkins-Pitchford - Dorothy Yule... some of the names are still with me from the ODL's golden age of the 1930s. Above all there was Bill Adkins, the English-born stage- manager and set-builder, who put it all together and made it happen on the stage. And above all there was Rupert Caplan, who directed us year after year, endlessly encouraging and creative. Many of the actors were English or Scottish, transplanted to Ottawa as teachers or diplomats or civil servants. They lent some artistic verisimilitude to our productions of Drinkwater, Shaw, Pinero, Maugham, Coward, Baffle, Fry, Galsworthy, Rattigan. We native Canadians considered ourselves adaptable enough to blend with them in those plays, and at the same time American enough to bring off the plays of Kaufman, Barry, Behrman, Maxwell Anderson, Odets and Wilder.
I REMEMBER THE FREIMANS (1930s-40s-on)
For decades before it was swallowed up by The Bay Freimans Department Store stood foursquare between Rideau and George, a block or so east of Sussex. Its only rival as a major department store was Ogilvy's, a few blocks farther east on the other side of Rideau. (No nonsense about "Rideau Place" in those simple old days.) A.J. Freiman and his wife Lillian were for most of their lives among the most valued benefactors Ottawa had, particularly when refugees from Hitler's Germany needed vast amounts of organization and provisions. I remember that the Freimans were honoured by the governments of Canada and Israel. But I have personal memories of the family. A.J. and my father were -- at least in the field of clothing -- business rivals. They were also personal friends. Their son Lawrence and I acted together with the Ottawa Drama League. Lawrence's son A. J. Junior and my brother's son Michael began a lifelong friendship during summers spent at Kingsmere up in the hills. Later, much later, Louise and I discovered that A. J. Junior was living in our apartment house on Daly, and that he was managing the Robertson Galleries, a distinguished gift-shop on Laurier. I followed Lawrence's work in support of the Stratford Festival. He sent me a copy of his book of memoirs, "Don't Fall Off the Rockinghorse". We last met when Louise and I went back to Ottawa for a visit, and we called on Lawrence and Audrey in their home beside Mackay Lake. That was a matter of months before he died. A happy memory of the Freiman family and their business was their treatment of their biggest rival in the department-store business, Ogilvy's. Ogilvy's had a disastrous fire which put them out of business for months. When they rebuilt and reopened, Freiman's welcomed them back with a large box in their full-page advertisement in The Citizen.
I ALSO REMEMBER
- the snowshoe clubs, racquettes on shoulder, wearing their grey and white and red blanket coats, leaving St. Anne's church after mass and forming a parade along St. Patrick Street.
- Will Rogers coming out on the stage of our vast arena and remarking that they seemed to have taken a piece of southern Ontario and put a roof over it.
- John Philip Sousa and his massed brasses blasting our happy ears in that same arena.
- at the Russell Theatre, Anna Pavlova as the Dying Swan, Sir John Martin-Harvey as "Hamlet" (when he should have been Polonius), DeWolfe Hopper as "Chu Chin Chow", and sundry opera and Shakespeare companies.
- the ice-palace on the old Plaza, attacked by men in blanket coats carrying torches, defended by men with roman candles, and finally going up in a blaze of red flares and skyrockets.
- the handbell in the street that told you the Italian knife-grinder was coming. How he slipped his grinder off his shoulder to the ground and pumped a pedal with one foot to set the grindstone spinning. Watching the spray of sparks as he pressed your scissors and knives to the stone.
- favourite bookshops: Thorburn and Abbott on Sparks Street, A.H. Jarvis on Queen, where we bought our John Buchan, Stephen Leacock, Mazo de la Roche, A.A. Milne, Mary Webb, and that wonderful Everyman's Library.
- sore-throat lozenges called, mysteriously, Zymole Troches. - Bob Bowman, who lived down our street, whose father was the editor of The Citizen, who went to London and became the voice of Canadian hockey on the BBC.
- I Remember Ottawa taking the Belt Line streetcars in a tunnel below the Plaza, beside the Chateau, to go to Hull and Wrightville.
- coonskin coats, rumbleseats, hip flasks, the Charleston, and the flapper cartoons of John Held Junior in "Life". And all that.
By Andrew Kavchak
On the eve of World War Two the Nazis and the Soviets signed a “non-aggression pact” (August 23, 1939) and started the war with the invasion and partition of Poland in September, 1939. Following the Nazi invasion of the U.S.S.R. in 1941, the Soviets were engaged with the western allies in a joint effort to defeat Hitler. Canada and the U.S.S.R. established relations, and the Soviets opened an embassy in Ottawa. However, the embassy proved to be a major centre of espionage and intrigue against Canada and its allies.
Igor Gouzenko was born just outside of Moscow in 1919. At the start of World War Two, he joined the Red Army and was trained as a lieutenant in military intelligence operations. In June 1943, he was stationed in Ottawa, where for over two years as a clandestine cipher clerk at the embassy. He deciphered incoming messages from Moscow and enciphered outgoing messages for the Red Army intelligence. His position gave him knowledge of Soviet espionage and infiltration activities in Canada and he became aware of Soviet agents active in numerous Canadian government offices, including the House of Commons, national defence, and external affairs. He also became aware of Soviet penetration of the Manhattan Project (the U.S. effort to develop the atom bomb).
Gouzenko found life in Ottawa, where he lived with his wife and infant son, to be a stark contrast to the lives of people in the Soviet Union, and the false propaganda which he and his fellow Soviets were subjected to about the West. Knowing that Stalin was infiltrating his western allies, as well as trying to develop an atomic bomb, was disturbing to Gouzenko, particularly as the espionage and infiltration increased after the defeat of the Nazis in May, 1945.
The Japanese formally surrendered to the Americans on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Just three days later, on September 5, 1945, Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Soviet embassy with 109 documents detailing the extent of Soviet espionage in Canada. For forty-eight hours no one at the offices of the Ottawa Journal would listen to him, and he was refused access to the Minister of Justice. Gouzenko could not return to the embassy and instead hid in a neighbour’s apartment (at 511 Somerset Street, across from Dundonald Park) with his family, while Soviet security officials broke into his apartment looking for him. At that point the RCMP finally listened to him.
As a result of Gouzenko’s defection, Prime Minister Mackenzie King informed U.S. President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Clement Attlee of the new challenges posed by Stalin. A Royal Commission of Inquiry was established here in 1946 and twenty-six Soviet agents were arrested and prosecuted for treasonous activities. Approximately half were convicted.
While the world expected the end of the war to result in a period of peace, a new Cold War had begun. The “Gouzenko Affair”, which occurred in Ottawa, was thus the first significant international incident of the Cold War.
In 2003, the City of Ottawa unveiled a historic plaque in Dundonald Park across from the building where Gouzenko lived at the time of his defection, and in 2002, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the “Gouzenko Affair” as an event of national historic significance and unveiled a corresponding plaque in the park in 2004.
(Editor’s note: Mr. Kavchak was especially involved in lobbying for the placement of the plaques in Dundonald Park.)