The site had long been inhabited by the indigenous people before Europeans arrived. The explorers and voyageurs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would travel on the Ottawa River to the west and at the foot of the rapids, they would have established a resting place and may have given it the name of an explorer.
It was a busy place during the seventeenth century, when a mission post was set up along the river where a Hudson's Bay Company trading post had been established at the foot of the "Long Rapids", as they were called at the time.
But the place was called Rapides des Joachims de l'Estang in a memorandum of 1686 by Jacques-René de Brisay, Governor of New France, to Marquis de Seignelay, and named Portage de Joachim de l'Estan on a map of Franquelin of 1688. Another document from 1699 shows Joachim de l'Estang.
However, both in Quebec and in Ontario, the name Swisha, Sweshaw, or Shesha Rapids has also long been used for this location as a map of 1790 indicates. Swisha is an obvious distortion of the French pronunciation of "Joachim".
By 1871 it had become a small village complete with a telegraph office of the Montreal Telegraph Company. The river steamers had to stop here because it was the head of navigation on the Ottawa River. In 1886 the Oblate Fathers built a frame church in the village, which was used until 1922, when a new church was built.
In 1948, the construction of a dam and hydro-electric station began and the rapids which gave the town its name disappeared.
The municipality was incorporated in 1955 when it was formed out of the Sheen-Esher-Aberdeen-Malakoff United Townships. It adopted its present name of Rapides-des-Joachims, which had already been assigned to the post office created about 100 years earlier in 1853. Its first mayor was J.H. Mador. Subsequently in 1960, the territory of the former Aberdeen Township was added to the municipality.
Read more about this topic: Rapides-des-Joachims, Quebec
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