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Chapter Five: Council Minutes - 1903
Village Politicians:
The election for 1903 was held Dec. 29, 1902. The clerk William Barry reported the results on January 5th, 1903. As the results show the competition was close. While Biggar and Patterson had served previously, most of the candidates were new to the political scene. This foretold a new political wind that would sweep through the village as evidenced by the year’s activities.

Ottawa East Village Election for 1903

* = Elected, Acc. = Acclaimed, R = Resigned nomination




Vote/Elected *


Saunders, Ronald M.

Isaac Johnson

Henry St. Jean

Acc. *


Doran, William

George Little

Isaac Johnson

174 *

Rhomhild, William

R. Biggar

Fred Winges


Coulter, Daniel

Henry St. Jean

Isaac Johnson

110 *

Biggar, Robert

Henry St. Jean

Charles Rhomhild

100 *

Patterson, George W.

J.T. Harvey

R. Saunders

104 *

Bradley, William

R. Biggar

C. Claude


Tubbe, Albert

George Little

Charles Rhomhild


Logan, James

Niles G. Ross

Charles Rhomhild


Public School Trustees:

Dey, William E

R. Saunders

J. T. Harvey

Acc. *

Leslie, Joseph

J. Harvey

Isaac Johnson

Acc. *

Winters, Charles F.

J. Ballantyne

G. Patterson

Acc. *


Overview of the Year:

In the year of our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Three, in the flourishing Village of Ottawa East, it finally became illegal to wash the naked body "within sight of a public highway". This regulation, as well as many others, was established during a momentous year as Council guided the community into the modern age. Not only did the Village Fathers make bold new moves to protect the morality of their citizens but also finally established and enacted plans to solve the problems of drainage, sewage disposal and a waterworks system.

Under the leadership of a new Reeve, Ronald M. Saunders, a mason living at 15 William St., bold initiatives were undertaken to provide the community with the basic urban amenities available just across the Rideau Canal in the City. Previous negotiations with the City for water had not been successful so the villagers did what they almost always did – they built the amenities themselves.

Before the Board of Health would approve a waterworks, the problems of surface water drainage and sewage disposal had to be dealt with in an acceptable manner. This meant that an engineer had to be hired, plans drawn, the necessary permissions to cross private land obtained and then a very large debenture, by way of a bylaw, had to be passed. All of this was accomplished during 1903!

The waterworks was a slightly different problem in terms of capitalization. The village simply could not afford both a sewer and water system. Up stepped several prominent ratepayers, most of whom had served on previous councils, to offer an Ottawa East-style solution. They proposed the formation of a private company to supply the pipe, pumping system and the water if the council agreed to a somewhat creative partnership. After much negotiation and political manoeuvring, council agreed and the Ottawa East Water Company came into being.

Bylaw #90, passed in December of 1903, firmly established the moral character of the village. Not only did it become illegal to wash private parts in public places, but a resident was now in serious danger of having to do hard labour if he left his dead cow on the river bank; or operated a house of ill fame; or exposed wounds or deformities for the purpose of gaining alms. The village had come of age!

The economy of the village must have received a major boost with all of the work being done for the sewer and water systems. The accounts also show a pronounced increase in expenditures. And the population was growing as evidenced by the first-ever Registered Plan of Subdivision submitted to the council.

The first meeting of the new council was held on January 9. The retiring Reeve, Henry Roche, was thanked for his dedicated service to the community over the years and he was wished well in his new post as a County Councillor.

The usual appointments were made including: Samuel Pearpoint to the Board of Health for 3 years; Arthur Greenfield as an auditor; Michael Redmond replaced Albert Tubbe (a mason living at 96 Bronson St.) for his term on the B of H; and William A. Cole was once again the collector @ $50/yr. with a $500 bond.

John Tatman resigned as the village constable and the application of William Rhomhild, a painter living at 4 Ella St. was accepted. A bylaw was passed giving the constable the duties of Sanitary Inspector at $10/year. He received the usual 10% of dog licenses collected ($9.80 as of June 1) and as per Bylaw #7, he received the costs for court duty and prosecuting those guilty of such offences as allowing their cattle to run at large. He was also appointed to the position of Pound Keeper later in the year as Peter Becker, a butcher at 30 Centre St. had resigned. The salary for the constable’s duties was $50/year. The accounts also reveal that 3 special constables (Andrew Becker, P. O’Donnell and Gustave Metzger) were employed at $1.50 each. The reason for this is unknown.

Motions at council included: meetings were now held on the first Monday of each month; a Works Committee was formed to oversee roads, walks, ditches, weed cutting and road obstructions; all collection of dog and bitch taxes was to completed before June 1 as per Bylaw #3; Edward Lussier, a barber at 22 Main St., was denied a pool hall license; and the clerks salary was increased to $110 for the year.

Council reviewed and passed a Plan of Subdivision on part of Lot G, Concession C, owned by Margaret O’Gara, widow of Martin the famous magistrate, living at 33 Main St. This was land which is now the location of Wesley United Church. Council also made an exchange with the estate of the late George Patterson (Patterson’s Field where St. Pat’s College was built). In exchange for the right to lay sewer pipe on the property the village agreed to accept all streets in a future subdivision of the land running from East Ave. to Main St. at a width of 50 feet. This would have allowed for more housing lots but the subdivision never took place.

The Board of Health accounts reveal that Dr. Birkett?, the Medical Health Officer for the Village was paid $91.50 for his services to date. The Ottawa Isolation Hospital was paid $20.07 for the case of N. McGuigan?, and $42 was paid to Dr. Baptie?, the previous MHO.

The Mill Rates for the year included:

County .0021 $545.68
Village .00757  
Public School .0055 $1,392.93
Separate School .012 $518
Separate: New School   $263
Debenture Bylaw #42 .00073  
Bylaws 13 and 50 .0008  

Compared to previous years there were fewer petitions for drains and sidewalks. This may be due to the establishment of a Works Committee and the impending sewer project. Council minutes show the following: Robinson Ave. residents wanted improvement to the street; and residents on 6th St. wanted a drain. Bernard Slattery, a butcher at 245 Main St. appealed to council for improvement of the canal front on the south side. The council agree to approach the Chairman of the Ottawa Improvement Commission (later the National Capital Commission) with the aim of having the federal government beautify the south side of the canal.

Sewers . . . finally!

By 1903, with an expanded population and numerous small industries, the council was forced to deal with the ever-present problems of drainage and sewage disposal. The use of pit privies (outhouses) and open ditches for drainage and sewage were no longer adequate. In addition many residents kept horses, cattle, pigs, chickens and dogs, all of which produced an inordinate amount of manure. The risk of contaminating the ground water reserve increased each year and so did the risk of spreading disease since most residents used backyard wells.

The solution was to build a main sewer line through the village, to which each residence and business would connect, and then pipe the offensive waste ‘elsewhere’. Elsewhere was located just offshore of the banks of the Rideau River (where Springhurst Ave. now meets the river)! While this solution may be deemed criminal by today’s standards of sanitation, in 1903 this practice was the usual answer for municipalities. In fact it continues today – ever visit Halifax?

In February a deputation led by William Lees (a lawyer living at 28 William St. and the son of the late Robert Lees) approached council with an offer to construct and operate a village waterworks. It was decided to hold a special meeting on Feb.10 to discuss the matter. At that meeting a special subcommittee was formed to investigate the waterworks proposal and hire an engineer to obtain an estimate for a sewer system since the Board of Health would not agree to a waterworks unless the sewage problem was solved first.

Engineer Robert Surtees was employed and he delivered an estimate of the sewer project to council on Feb. 25, 1903. He recommended a main system of 7,176 linear feet with a cesspool, manholes and 20 gully grates. This would included 18, 15 and 12-inch pipe running from Second St. along Main St. to Clegg St.. The outlet would be piped along Victoria St. to the Rideau River. A later map shows a variation of this course (See Map). The estimated cost of the main sewer was $9,800, which could be paid in 20 yearly instalments of $720 each.

Surtees estimated that 6,000 feet of 12 inch and 9,000 feet of 9 inch pipe at a depth of 8 inches would be required for "local improvement sewers". These sewers would connect the individual residences and businesses to the main sewer. The cost of this would be the responsibility of the ratepayer who would be required to connect as per the new bylaw. It was estimated that the cost would be "about 2.80 cents per lineal foot of frontage" ($2.80?). The total cost of local improvement sewers was estimated at $10,500.

On May 28, the council received recommendation from the Ontario government to discharge the sewer system into the Rideau. In a letter to the local Board of Health it was recommended that the board grant permission to the village to proceed. The letter indicated that it believed the amount of sewage discharge would be "small" and that the point of discharge would be "only a short distance above the junction of the Rideau with the Ottawa, which receives the sewerage of the whole City of Ottawa". The rationale was - a little more would not make a big difference!

The approval for the location of the outfall was subject to the following provisions:

    • the outfall pipe must be 9 inches and carry into the deep water of the stream;
    • the village accept all future responsibility if damages occur;
    • work be done by an engineer and according to standards;
    • future village growth may require that the sewage be purified by another method.

By the end of May the necessary information had been obtained and council directed William Lees to prepare a bylaw to obtain a debenture for the building of the sewer and to make special provision for tax exemption for a future waterworks company. He was paid $20 for this work. The debenture was for $10,000 at 4% interest to be paid in annual instalments of $578.31.

The bylaw was to take effect on June 9, 1903 after a vote of the ratepayers. The vote was held with 155 supporting the initiative and 14 against. However the vote for the waterworks exemption failed – more on this later.

In July a Sewer Committee was formed and directed to approach various landowners to acquire the rights to lay pipe across their land so as to obtain an outlet to the Rideau River. A key piece of land controlled by the Department of Railways and Canals was located on the vacant Ordnance Reserve. This was part of Lot A, which was part of Lot G in Concession C, Rideau Front in Nepean Township (the village was still part of Nepean). This land today is the vacant government land just east of Brunswick Ave., which used to be the city dump. The reason given by the village to obtain permission to use this land was that "it will greatly improve the sanitary condition of this Municipality, and prevent offensive matter passing into the Rideau Canal as it naturally does at present" (Letter – Feb. 25, 1903). After exchanges of numerous letters and plans the Department rented the land to the village for an annual fee of $1.00. To view the actual map go here.

Tenders received for the excavation, pipes and installation of the main sewer were as follows:

Company Excavation ($)

Pipes ($)

J. J. Grace? 6,042.50  
G. T. Barrett 7,739.06  
Sidney Kirby 4,597.50  
Fred Patrie? 6,952  
Wing - -Leo? 4,165  
G. M. McLaughlin 5,877.50 (accepted)  
T. Burns 6,889.43  
Ott. Fireproof Comp.   3,829.50 (accepted)
J. O’Leary 7,311.55  

Construction of the sewers began in the summer and Gustave Lemke of 24 3rd St. was appointed as inspector of sewers. Bylaw #88 passed on Dec. 7 regulated the use of the sewer system and requirements for connection. Restrictions included the discharge into sewers of "any garbage, offal (trimmings of animals), dead animals, vegetable parings, ashes, cinders, rags, sawdust shavings or manure". It was also illegal to connect any cesspool, privy vault or pit, stable yard, wooden drain or the exhaust pipe of a steam engine to the sewer. It was permissible to discharge "faeces, urine, the necessary water closet paper and liquid house slops and such liquid manufacturing wastes permitted by the Village". That seemed to cover all the sources although one has to wonder what happened to all the other material not allowed in the sewers!

And water too!

With the sewer system in the planning stage, council turned their attention to the problem of providing a source of clean potable water for human consumption; and a pressurized source of water to fight fires.

As mentioned above council had received an offer to build a private waterworks for the village from a delegation of ratepayers in February. It included:

    • William Lees, (son of Robert Lees) and a major landowner in the village. He led the delegation.
    • James Ballantyne, a previous Reeve, co-owner of Ballantyne Coal on East Ave. and one of the most powerful and creative men in the village;
    • Bernard Slattery, listed as a butcher at 245 Main St. in the directory, he also had an extensive farm in the south of the village and was one of the largest livestock importers in the region;
    • Ira Bower, a dentist who resided at 208 East Ave., he was the son of John C. Bower, head of one of the more prominent families in the village;
    • And Charles Francis Winter. There is more on this interesting person here.

This group incorporated the new Ottawa East Water Company.

Before enacting any legislation it was necessary to receive approval from the provincial and local boards of health. To that end water samples were taken from the Rideau River on April 15 and sent by express packed in ice to Toronto for analysis. The council received a report, dated April 20th, from the laboratory of the Provincial Board of Health. Two analyses still exist in the archive and one can be seen here. The tests measured such parameters as turbidity, ammonia, nitrogen, oxygen and chlorine. The microscopic analysis showed a "slight yellow precipitate of vegetable growth and debris" and the water colour was "decidedly yellow". The report concluded that the water quality was variable and asked when the underground samples would be sent. There is no surviving record of the underground samples. It should also be noted here that, unlike present-day water quality analysis, testing for bacterial pollution from such sources as faecal contamination was apparently not conducted in 1903.

Council received a final report, dated May 30th, from the provincial office in early June. The report indicated that sources other than the river were "preferable as public supplies for drinking purposes". It went on to indicate the samples "taken from wells at points several hundred yards away from the canal " were "very satisfactory" and that "the water of these wells be approved as a source of public water for the Village of Ottawa East".

It was then decided to use subsurface water as the source. From City of Ottawa records in 1908, after annexation, there was a request to sell the property owned by the water company. The lot was located near the intersection of Riverdale and Main, approximately where the hydro building is now located.

To build this privately owned waterworks, some concessions were needed from council. Bylaw #82 authorized the council to enter into agreement with the new Ottawa East Water Company giving the company the exclusive right to provide water to the village. While the actual agreement no longer exists, it appears from the council minutes of May 14 that part of the agreement involved the granting of tax-free status to the company for 10 years. All of this was to be voted on by the ratepayers on June 9th.

The vote for a waterworks was held in conjunction with that of the sewer system. Both passed with large majorities. But . . . the vote for the waterworks was not large enough! Apparently for a bylaw of this nature a majority of at least 66% of the listed ratepayers was required for passage. The clerk pointed out that there was total of 238 ratepayers on the roll of which 150 voted for the bylaw (with 18 against) and this represented only 63%. The waterworks initiative therefore, according to law, could not be passed.

But from the very inception of the Village in 1888, residents had always been somewhat creative in their solutions to dilemmas particularly when this involved interpretation of provincial laws. At the subsequent June 15 meeting, the council considered an alternative approach upon receiving a letter from the Water Company. A motion was put forward to relieve the company of any obligation under Bylaw #82 since the tax exemption did not pass – this motion carried. A second motion to construct a waterworks owned by the municipality was defeated. Council then created Bylaw #83 to amend the previous one. To relieve the financial pressure on the new company, it was proposed that, instead of tax exemption, the company would be paid set rates for fire hydrants. These rates were $25 in the first year for each fire hydrant used by the village; $30/hydrant in year two; and $35/hydrant for the next 8 years. In return, when the revenue derived by the company exceeded 6% on the "paid up value of capital stock of the company" the rates for hydrants and water would be lowered by that excess amount. No ratepayer consent was required with this type of bylaw! It was read a first, second and third time that night. The engineer was then instructed to continue with the plans for the water system. Ottawa East was to have water at last!

No information regarding construction of the system has been found so far. But a 1905 water bill for the village does survive and be seen here. From this it appears that there were no meters used and water rates were based on assessment rates. The rates ranged from $6 to $10 per year. For institutions, each additional bed or boarder cost $1 per year. Even vacant lots and unoccupied buildings had to pay a set fee. For building materials, the fee was set on the number of bricks (10 cents/1000), masonry (5 cents/ton) or plastering (10 cents/100 yards). Yearly rates for public baths were $4; flush toilets in a hotel cost $5, horses $1 and a cow was levied 50 cents. What a concept - this was monopoly with a license to print money! And each bill ended with an admonition, printed in larger bold type, warning people not to share their water supply with any other consumer. The actual schedule for water rates can be seen here.

As a postscript to this exciting story of municipal intrigue, after the City annexed the Village in 1907, the Water Company rejected the offer it received for compensation from Ottawa. In 1908 the now-defunct Ottawa East Water Company received, as a result of arbitration, over $62,000 for its trouble.

Nuisances and Immoralities!

Perhaps one of the most interesting bylaws ever passed in the history of the Ottawa East Village was #90, which came into force on December 7, 1903. Flush with the successes of a new sewer and waterworks, the council deemed it necessary to also clean up the morals of the village. To do this an extensive bylaw (of 8 pages in length) was written to cover a huge spectrum of activities that residents considered minor nuisances or highly immoral. It is unlikely that the village was fraught with crime or lascivious activities though. Remember that council would not allow Mr. Lussier to install a pool table in his barber shop! Perhaps this was council’s way of acknowledging that the village was now a responsible and desirable place in which to reside. Whatever the reason, it makes for interesting reading.

Some of the highlights of this tome of correctness include laws that forbid any person to:

    • openly or indecently exposing themselves, pictures, paintings, writing or inscriptions in any public place or on any wall, building or fence;
    • use "any obscene blasphemous or grossly insulting language";
    • threaten bodily harm to any person or challenging any person to a fight;
    • act as a "common prostitute or night-walker wandering in any field, street, road, highway or other public place;
    • frequent any "house of ill fame" or "gaming house";
    • "win or lose money or other valuable things in playing cards, dice or other games of chance in any tavern";
    • "tell fortunes or use any subtle craft means or device by palmistry" to "deceive or impose upon any of His Majesty’s subjects;
    • "expose wounds or deformities to obtain or gather alms";
    • keep any bawdy house, brothel or house of ill fame . . . for the commerce of lewd and dissolute people or the practice of fornication . . lewdness, indecencies or other grossly immoral or scandalous actions;
    • bathe or wash his or her naked person within sight of a public highway or inhabited house;
    • "exhibit indecently any stud horse or let any such horse to any mare . . . unless in some enclosed place out of public view";
    • do anything that would "likely scare horses or embarrass the passing of vehicles";
    • "hitch or fasten any horse or other animal to any ornamental or shade tree";
    • "disturb any congregation or assembly met for religious worship";
    • allow any horse or other animal to lie on the banks or shores of any water or on any other public or private place that has drowned or in any other way met their demise;
    • "suffer any dead animals, putrid meat, fish, carrion or other nausious (sic) or unwholesome things" to remain on pubic or private property;
    • use "Rouge-et-Noir, Roulette tables or other devices for gambling.

There are more restrictions in the bylaw but the above list represents the general idea of what the council was trying to regulate. The penalties for transgression ranged from fines of $1 to $50 with jail time and hard labour imposed for failure to pay. Any person convicted in a court was required to pay the costs of the court and the peace officer.

With that the council dissolved and an election was held on Dec. 29th.

All in all, 1903 was a very interesting year for the village!


Image Library: The images are from the specific year or are related to the text above.

Place your cursor over the image and a Cue Card will appear.

Then click on the image for a larger view

Building swing bridge in 1890
Ballantyne coal shed 1891
Rail and buildings from back door of 54 Main St.
Bob Purdy and boys on rail at Main c1900
Charles Winter House at top of Hawthorne hill - c1900
East side of river in flood - no date
Building rail overpass at Elgin St. subway - 1903
Elgin St. subway 1903
Elgin St. subway - dinner time - 1903
Elgin St. subway - canal to left - 1903
Mrs. Winges - 54 Main St. 1903
Mrs Winges again
James Ballantyne in garden 1903
Barretts children - corner of Main and rail - 1903
Mrs. Harvey's omnipresent cows
James Ballantyne in chair at 54 Main - 1889
Hurdman Bridge - 1895
Lees farm cows near river
Liilie's room at 54 Main
Sister of the Sacred Heart
Waterworkd lot Riverdale and Main 1910
Living room at Two Maples on Main St.
Hockey at the Pines - Riverdale and Main - 1930's
Lees FArm - boys - no date
Lees Family and Friends- - c1885
Return to Chapter Five 1902
Go to Chapter Five 1904