Project Information
After 1907
1901 Snapshot
Air Photo Study
Image Library
Chapter Three: The 1860's and 1870's
As the 1860’s dawned Ottawa East was still sparsely populated as compared to the City of Ottawa proper. The most sought after residential locations were close to where people worked and did business since the main mode of transport was walking. Streets of heavy wooden planks were preferable to the mud and dust of the suburbs. Additionally, "the suburbs clustered the disadvantaged, the undesirable, and the practitioners of noxious trades, such as tanning and slaughtering" (1). That was Ottawa East.
Most of the Ottawa East area that was not covered by the dense wide "bush" along the east bank of the Rideau River was under cultivation. Large farms and leased market gardens Haying on the Lees Farmdominated the community and connected to the northern industrial/residential area by the Canal Road and the Concession Road between Conc. C and D, later to be called Main St.(2). Here residences were interspersed with brickyards and slaughterhouses in close proximity to the rail lines and the Canal. There were a few exceptions such as Wildwood, Robert Lees' residence situated amongst the hayfields and orchards of what is now Lees Avenue.

There had been little development in the Ottawa East area after Ottawa achieved city status in 1855. There was interest on the part of some lawyers as the land was relatively inexpensive and had ready access via the Canal Road to the courthouse in Lower Town. William Ring and Charles O’Connor bought the land in Conc. C, Lot G east of the Canal from John Hickey in 1859 and created a small subdivision. However, with no buyer interest, Martin O’Gara subsequently purchased the northern section in 1866; and the southern half was sold to John Graham in 1868. The two largest landowners in Conc. D, Lot G were Robert Lees and Thomas Kealey. In 1863, the Oblate Order (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) purchased most of Conc. D, Lot H for St. Joseph’s Scholasticate

Henry F. Westbrook, a black American "ran a crude tavern east of the canal on the road allowance" (near Clegg and Echo Drive). " He sold the property to Isaac Biggars in 1865, a deal which apparently included his wife as well" (3).

John Graham used his acreage as a market garden to supply his two hotels in Lower Town, the AlbionGraham House - Ardagh Square - 45 Main St. and the Grand Union. Years later he built a brick house called Ardagh Square which is shown here. This square is approximately where De Mazenod School is now located.

It is difficult to arrive at a definitive list of all the residents in in Ottawa East in the 1860's as many were Champagne Barn on Canal Road - c1898simply not recorded if they did not own land. The Nepean Assessment Rolls give some idea of the population at that time. To that end the Rolls for 1860 to 1866 were extracted and reproduced here. It should be noted however that some of the information appears contradictory in spots so it must be viewed with caution. The barn shown here was built by the Champagne family on the Canal Road (Echo Drive). Photographed in 1898, it is the oldest building photographed in Ottawa East. Two other surviving buildings from this time period include the Hay and Bower residences.

By the end of the 1860’s, the increasing prosperity that came with growing housing needs from a burgeoning civil service and an expanding sawn lumber trade initiated a land boom. The Ottawa Citizen newspaper noted on the 23rd of November, 1871 that "building operations were never more lively than at present . . . (with) communities rapidly rising in numbers and importance in the immediate suburbs . . . only divided from the city by imaginary lines" (4). A record number of registered plans of subdivision were drawn including Archville West.

Archville West

William Stewart’s holdings, which included most of Lot F in Conc. C and D, passed to his wife Original Plan of ArchvilleCatherine upon his death. On September 19, 1873 she registered 200 acres of Lot F, Conc. D in the name of one of her sons – Archibald (5). That same day he registered a plan of subdivision (No. 48) calling the development Archville West. It is assumed that he included the qualifier of West in that the particular part was to the west of his new holdings. The plan included the following streets with the modern names in brackets: Second St. West (Greenfield), Second (Old Greenfield), Third (Montcalm), Fourth (Havelock), Fifth (Harvey), Center (Concord North) and a Concession Road Allowance (Echo Drive).

Village of Spenceville

Rev. Spence of St. Andrew's ChurchAnother plan of subdivision in Ottawa East at this time was the Village of Spenceville. The plan entitled "Plan of the Village of Spenceville being the subdivision into lots of Park Lot no. XV as shown on a plan of the subdivisionOriginal Plan of Spenceville into park lots". An interesting title to be sure! It appears that the plan was dated December 12 1868 and registered on July 10, 1869. There was no plan number ascribed to the plan at this time however. It appears again in the record (Land Reg. Office,Vol.7, p. 9) as Plan #102 registered on December 13, 1888. The reason for this is unclear at present. The actual plan can be seen here. Spenceville was named after Rev. Alexander Spence of St. Andrew's church.

The Spenceville Plan showed the layout of the following streets: Gordon (Hazel), Herridge, Clegg, Rideau (Canal Road, now Echo Drive), McGillivray, Drummond, Bronson (Glenora) and Concession Road Allowance (Main).

By the mid-1870’s, the speculative fever that gripped all of the Ottawa area disappeared. The economic depression that began in the United States had quickly spread throughout North America. Vacancy rates soared and with an oversupply of registered lots, no additional subdivisions appeared in Ottawa East. This was a period of hard times for the average working person. "Soup kitchens and bread lines functioned in various parts of the city funded by voluntary subscriptions" (6). Archville by the end of the decade consisted of a few impressive homes and about "56 working families living back of the Ballantyne family’s canal-side coal yard" (7).

With a desire to keep taxes down, there were few demands on the Nepean Township Council for improvements in the small community. It must be remembered that although Ottawa East was just next door to the City, whatever support and services it received came from a decidedly rural council dominated by farmers who expected the community to be annexed at any moment. There were no social services or planning. Nepean administration consisted of a clerk and a treasurer located in Bells Corners. The council met regularly but, apart from paying bills for such items as burying dead animals left in the road, there was virtually no initiation of programs or projects. They simply responded with a yes or a no to ratepayers’ requests that were within the very limited legislative authority of a township.

The near total lack of improvements in the community was not because of poor planning – there was no planning! And there were no health, police or road departments either. The township had the authority to buy groceries for families afflicted with smallpox but it could not prescribe regulations to limit the spread of the deadly disease. Council could pay to have a dead dog removed from a public well but had no peace officer to lay a charge for the offensive act. All roadwork in the township was done by "statute labour". This system required residents to spend a specified amount of time working on roads as determined by a local overseer. A person had the option of not working and paying a larger tax bill or providing a surrogate in his place.

Statute Labour gang on Fallowfield Road in 1880

Statute labour and other ratepayer initiated improvements were more often than not subsidized in part by township funds. Such was the case with the building of the Hurdman’s Bridge.

In 1872 there were few bridges across the Rideau River (8). Billings Bridge (originally called the Early version of Billings Bridge - no dateFarmer’s Bridge) was built in 1830 (9). The first permanent bridge (not swept away by the spring flood) between New Edinburgh and Ottawa was built in 1842 (10). For agriculturists producing crops east of the river in Gloucester Township this necessitated a long drive by horse and wagon to reach the markets of the city. As well, landowners in Ottawa East such as Lees and Stewart wanted to increase the value of their property with a link across the river. In October of 1872 and again in July of 1874, residents petitioned Nepean Council for permission and support in building a bridge over the Rideau River at a location, which is today just north of the modern Hurdman’s Bridge. The original pylons for this bridge still stand today. The bridge was already being "built by voluntary private subscription" (11) from people such as Lees, Thomas Keeley and George Hurdman. Council Early version of Hurdman Bridge - no datecommitted $400 to the project. In 1876 Archibald Stewart asked council to waive any rights to the bridge. The township agreed with the conditions that: all private contributors transferred their ownership rights to the Russell Road Company; that the company build a macadamized road (packed stone) from the bridge to the southern Example of macadamizationlimit of the city; and no tolls would ever be collected in the Nepean part of the road (12). The road was laid out across land owned by Lees, Kealey and Stewart in 1877 but was ultimately built by statute labour and financial support from the township under the supervision of Archibald Stewart. The remnant of that original road follows approximately the orientation of Hurdman Road up to Mann Avenue today.

The People – 1871 to 1881

At this point in the story it is important to look at a cross-section of the people and activities in the Ottawa East area to better understand the community that was now rapidly emerging. What had begun in the 1820’s and 30’s as a rural community of a few farms had now evolved into a burgeoning industrial and residential locale in the northern part with scattered farms and market gardens in the center and southern parts.

Who were these people? Where did they come from? What did they do? The answers to these and many more questions are, in part, included in this next section. While it is impossible to provide a definitive list of every resident, analysis of records of known inhabitants can give a glimpse of the people who formed the early Ottawa East community.

To do this a variety of records has been consulted including the 1871 census manuscript, the 1881 census manuscript and CD-ROM version, the existing directories from 1868 to 1881 and various and sundry history books. No one source contains all the answers. What follows is an amalgamation of these sources, along with some inductive thinking, that illuminates the lives of the people of Ottawa East in the period 1871 to 1881. For an in-depth look at the German Community of Ottawa East go here.

Agriculturists – Farmers or Gardeners?

The various sources consulted list Ottawa East residents involved in the tilling of the soil as either farmers or gardeners. What is the difference? While there is no definitive description is available at this point, it appears that the size of the acreage, type of crop and proximity to residential areas determines the classification. Those who live close or in the small residential areas such as Archville were usually listed as gardeners – perhaps this was the precursor to the modern term of "market gardener". Agriculturists in the southern part held larger acreage and their crops were mainly used to support livestock. This generalization however, does not hold in all situations as can be seen in the following cross-section of examples.

Daniel (Donald?) McGregor purchased a lease for the south half part of blocks No. 9, 10 and 11 in Conc. C, Lot H from the Temporal Committee of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on April 1, 1871 (Land Records). According to the 1871 Census (Schedule #4) he was a gardener of 14 improved acres with 8 acres in pasture and 6 in gardens/orchards. He grew 200 bushels (bu.) of potatoes on 1 acre and listed his only other crops as 30 bu. of turnips and 100 bu. of carrots/other root crops.

The Nominal Schedule (#1) of the 1871 Census lists him as married (although his wife was not present at the time of enumeration), 48 years of age and living with his son Duncan aged 12. Both were born in Scotland. Schedule #3 indicates that he owned 12 of the acres leased which is somewhat confusing. He had no livestock and did not harvest any cordwood.

John Hickey was a member of a family that owned large tracts of land in the Ottawa East area, both east and west of the Canal. The 1871 Census (lists him as a gardener owning 14 improved acres with 8 in pasture and 6 in gardens/orchards. This is comparable to McGregor shown above. According to land records he purchased this parcel of land east of the Canal on Oct. 5 1868 from William Hickey (his father?). Specifically this was the East Half of Conc. C, Lot G.

He produced 200 bu. of potatoes, 30 bu. of turnips and 100 bu. of carrots/other roots. Livestock included 2 horses; I milk cow and 3 pigs. He cut 30 cords of firewood that year. The family had 2 carriages/sleighs, 2 cars/wagons/sleds and 1 pleasure/common boat.

Hickey, born in Ontario was 39 in 1871. His wife Mary, born in Ireland, was 37. The couple had 5 children: Elizabeth (10), Isabella (7), Margaret Ann (6), John (4) and Jannett? (2), all born in Ontario. The home must have been large as 2 servants lived with the family namely Jane Cooper, age 40, born in Quebec; and Morris Moore, aged 50, born in Ireland.

Given the family connections and extensive land ownership, it appears that Hickey did not exist only on his profit working as a gardener.

Mathew Thomas Derenzy, listed in the 1871 Census as a gardener, was located on 5 improved acres in Conc. C; Lot F. He was shown as an employee not an owner. The Stewart family owned this lot so Derenzy probably worked for them in other capacities.

He raised 25 bu. of potatoes on 1 acre, 20 bu. of carrots/other roots and 1 ton of hay on 1 acre. He had 1 horse and 1 pig. He didn’t cut any firewood and owned 2 carriages/sleighs.

Born in Ireland he was 46 in 1871 and his wife Catherine, born in Ontario was 31. They had 4 children: Samuel Baird (13), William (16 – a confectioner), John Henry (18 – a painter) and Sarah Jane (20 – a schoolteacher). Henry Chatterton, a gardener aged 30, born in England, lived with the family.

Lewis Williams had one of the largest farms in the Ottawa East area located in the south at Conc. C, Lot K. He was the son of the original Lewis who was one of the first settlers in the area arriving in 1817. Map of Williams Property

Working 60 improved acres with 3 acres in pasture and 10 in gardens/orchards, he produced 350 bu. of oats, 30 bu. of peas, 50 bu. of corn, 700 bu. of potatoes(on 6 acres), 12 tons of hay and 30 bu. of fruit (pears, plums, other fruit) and 50 lbs. of butter. Livestock included: 3 horse, 5 milk cows, 3 pigs and 14 hives of bees. Firewood cut totalled 45 cords.

The farm consisted of 1 dwelling house, 3 barns/stables, 2 carriages/sleighs, 2 cars/wagons/sleds and 1 pleasure/common boat.

Williams, born in England, was 64 in 1871. His wife Oreilla, born in the United States was 52. Lewis fathered 7 children: Lewis Jr. (26 – farmer), David (24 – farmer), Mary (18), Martha (16), Caroline (14), Francis (11 – male) and Harriet (8). Another child, Daniel? Johnston, age 3 and born in the United States, lived with the family. Perhaps this child was kin to his wife.

There is much more on this very interesting family in the Notables Section. The original farmland still existed in the 1930’s as shown by this air photo taken in 1931.

Robert Lees was one of the most important figures in the Ottawa East community, Listed in the 1871 Census as a county attorney, from his holdings and agricultural activities it appears that he was also a very successful farmer.

Wildwood - home of the Lees Family - built c1863Located on 30 improved acres in Conc. D, Lot G, Lees purchased the majority of this land from Martin Kealey between 1859 and 1862 (Ontario Land Records). He had 7 acres in pasture and 2 acres in gardens/orchards. Crops included 200 bu. of oats, 2 bu. of beans, 240 bu. of potatoes (on 2 acres), 70 bu. of turnips, 350 bu. of carrots/other roots, 6 tons of hay (on 10 acres). As can be seen by photos andLees Farm cart driving just south of present-day Lees Ave. - no date descriptions in the Notables Section, extensive orchards and vines were maintained producing 42 lbs. of grapes, 8 bu. of apples and 10 bu. of pears/plums/other fruit. He also managed to garner 40 lbs. of butter and 47 lbs. of honey.

Lees Farm children - farm buildings were just south of present-day Lees Ave. - no dateLivestock included 2 horses, 2 milk cows, 1 other of horned cattle, 10 pigs (2 were slaughtered) and 4 hives of bees. No firewood was listed. He owned 3 carriages/sleighs, 3 cars/wagons/sleighs and 3 ploughs/cultivators.

Along with his legal work and farming activities, Lees was a major land speculator. Schedule 3 of the 1871 Census indicates that he owned 870 acres, with 24 building lots, 4 dwelling houses and 2 barns/stables.

Born in Scotland, he was 54 in 1871 and along with his Ontario born wife Jessie, aged 46, had 5 Lees Farm pasture with cows - no date - notice Hurdman Bridge in backgroundchildren: Ella (17), Victoria (16), Elizabeth (13), William (11) and Jessie (6). Living with the family was John Lynch (19), a labourer born in Ontario; and Rosana Halfpenny (18) a housemaid born in Ontario.

In total, it appears that Lees was involved in many pursuits, which provided for a privileged lifestyle for his family. His fascinating life is chronicled in the Notables Section, which includes an extensive collection of family writings and very early photographs.

Barrels, Bricks and Civil Servants

The northern part of the Ottawa East community, as noted earlier, was a combination of industries, agricultural activities and residences. To identify specific people living in this part in 1871 has been made difficult in that the original enumerator seems to have relied on some as-yet-unknown system of identifying some lots in Conc. C and D. The actual boundary of the enumeration districts have been lost to time. The available directories of residents, which begin in 1864, are incomplete in that these were commercial endeavours and not that concerned with gathering all the information. In an attempt to remedy this confusion, information from the directories and the 1871 and 1881 censuses have been cross-referenced. For example the first detailed directory of Archville appeared in 1877 and therefore it has been assumed that some of the people listed here were also present at the same locations (or nearby) prior to 1877. What follows therefore is an overview of the northern part of Ottawa East relying heavily on the 1877-81 Archville directories (see table here) and the census material.

The Archville directories for this 5-year span show 37 employment ‘types’. This is approximate in that certain related jobs have been grouped together. For example, a gas fitter is considered to be a plumber. Given this there were 133 people listed as employed in this 5-year period. Of this 29 worked as labourers (21.8%), 15 in the civil service (11.2%) and 11 carpenters (8.2%). It is interesting to note that when Ottawa East Stone Masonsseveral of these employment ‘types’ are grouped together under ‘building trades’ (3 brick layers, 4 cabinet makers, 11 carpenters, 3 painters, 3 plasterers, 3 plumbers and 3 stonemasons), this grouping becomes the largest occupation (22.5%). This figure is very close to what Elliott (13) found in the 1891 analysis of Ottawa East.

It is clear therefore that Ottawa East in the decade 1871-81 was predominantly blue collar. The table here shows the actual job descriptions over the 5-year period of 1877 to 1881.

The 1871 census in Schedule #6 lists 7 industrial establishments in Sub-district A-1, which includes Ottawa East. The list includes 2 brick manufacturers, 2 breweries, a blacksmith, a tannery and a weaving shop. Of these the largest and only one positively identified as being in Ottawa East was the brick making business of O’Dell. The two breweries, owned by the Rochester family, were probably located in Conc. Lot I situated to the west of the canal and therefore not part of Ottawa East.

Horace C. O’Dell (also Odell), born in the United States about 1818 of German origin, he emigrated 1879 Belden Atlasto Canada and ultimately to the Ottawa East area in the late 1860’s. The 1871 census shows him living in Conc. D on Lot 1 with his Ontario born wife of English descent (age 45) and his daughter Theresa, born in Ontario, aged 20. The 1877 directory gives the address of the family as 4th Street (which is now Havelock St.). It is unlikely that his home was in the brickyard he owned. The 1876 Belden Atlas locates a brickyard in Conc. D, on the Archibald Stewart land, just east of the Hurdman Road about the center of the Lot F.

In 1871, O’Dell produced 1,500,000 bricks for an aggregate value of $9,000. These figures appear in Agnes Odell, wife of ClarenceSchedule #6 and if correct, that was a lot of bricks! This was seasonal work as only 5 working months were listed. Workers included 15 men and 5 boys for an aggregate wage of $2,000. His raw materials consisted of clay and sand (3000 cubic yards) and 300 cords of wood used to fire the brick. The wood cost $4.00 a cord and Schedule #4 shows that he cut 500 cords total for the year. O'Dell mined the clay and sand from pits located at the end of Spinghurst Avenue at the river.

O’Dell owned 10 acres with 6 improved in Conc. D. The land records indicate that the family also owned land in Conc. C in the name of his wife Adeline. He had 6 acres in pasture and half an acre in garden/orchard. The pasture was used to feed his 5 horses and 1 cow to feed his family. There was 1 dwelling house, 2 carriages/sleighs, I wagon/sled and 1 plow/cultivator. There is more on this man in the Notables Section found here.


Footnotes: For complete references, see the Sources section.

  1. Elliott, The City Beyond, p103.
  2. Elliott notes on page 414, footnote 58 that Main St. must have been opened between 1863 and 1868 because it was not shown on the 1863 Walling Map county map. It was extended across Lot K in 1868 with a grant of $100 from the township according to the minutes.
  3. Ibid, p112. Elliott makes reference to story whereby Westbrook took off to the States leaving his wife and family. Mrs. Westbrook then moved in with Isaac. A Ballantyne photograph taken in the late 1890's shows what appears to be a black woman feeding Mrs. Harvey's hens. This is fact may be the lady and therefore one of the earliest residents of Ottawa East! How's that for inductive thinking?
  4. Ibid, p118.
  5. Nepean Land Records, Vol. 7, p25.
  6. Elliott, p121.
  7. Ibid, p122.
  8. The Walkers in their book " Carleton Saga" (pp168-69) indicate that the Hurdmans had built a timber structure across the river in 1867 to connect with their lumber yards (located where the Ottawa Rail Terminal is now). They apparently allowed the travelling public and the township to use the bridge in return for township and county help with the maintenance. Elliott however, in his book "The City Beyond", notes that no documentation is supplied by the Walkers for this claim.
  9. Elliott, p18.
  10. Walker, p168.
  11. Elliott, p128.
  12. Ibid, p128.
  13. Ibid, p138.


Return to Chapter Two Go to Chapter Four