History of Ottawa - Settlement - Rideau Canal and Growth of Bytown

Rideau Canal and Growth of Bytown

Further information: Bytown

Before the construction of the Rideau Canal, surveys had been conducted by Joshua Jebb and Samuel Clowes of lands required for a possible canal linking the Ottawa River near Ottawa to Lake Ontario near Kingston. By 1826, Lieutenant-Colonel John By was appointed to oversee its construction and he assembled a team which contained names such as Thomas McKay, a mason, John MacTaggart and Thomas Burrowes, surveyor, (Burrowes' created many paintings of early Bytown.) The Governor General George Ramsay, the Earl of Dalhousie took a great interest in the construction of the canal, as well as in establishing a settlement in the area. On September 26, 1826, Colonel By and Dalhousie had agreed that the canal's entrance was to be at Entrance Bay (its current location), and along with a letter authorizing Colonel By to divide the town into lots, marked the origins of what was to become the town of Bytown.

By set up his base of operations in Wrightsville, and began construction of the Union Bridge as a link to the new town. The Royal Sappers and Miners were employed in 1827 for the canal's construction, which began at three separate places, one of them being the site of the locks in Ottawa. The workers were eventually moved into three barracks on today's Parliament Hill, which was then known as Barracks Hill. In 1827, Sappers Bridge connecting the Upper Town (west of the canal) and Lower Town (east of the canal) was built over the Rideau Canal.

A steady stream of Irish immigration to Eastern Ontario (already well underway) in the next few decades, along with French Canadians who crossed over from Quebec, provided the bulk of workers involved in the Rideau Canal project and the timber trade. The canal was dubbed the Rideau Canal when it was finally completed in 1832. Colonel By laid out the town, most of his original street plans remain today.

Former Bytown mayor and cabinet minister, Richard William Scott recalled that in early 1850,

Neither Wellington, nor the streets south of it, between Elgin and Bank, had been laid out. Sussex was the business thoroughfare, and lots on it and the western ends of Rideau, George, and parallel streets, as far north as St. Patrick Street, commanded the best values. Wellington west of Bank, to Bay Street, was fairly well built up. The Le Breton Flats, extending north-westerly from Pooley's Bridge (in the vicinity of the Water Works building) contained a number of scattered houses.

The Timber trade spurred the growth of Bytown, and it saw an influx of immigrants, and later entrepreneurs hoping to profit from the squared timber that would be floated down the Ottawa River to Quebec. Bytown's had seen some trouble in the early days, first with the Shiners' War in 1835 to 1845, and the Stony Monday Riot in 1849.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Ottawa, Settlement

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