Project Information
After 1907
1901 Snapshot
Air Photo Study
Image Library
James Ballantyne
May 9, 1835 - April 6, 1925
If there is one special person in the history of Ottawa East, then it must be James Ballantyne - a true "Renaissance man". Of slight stature, quiet in disposition and brilliant of mind, James was the man who led Ottawa East from a motley collection of homes and businesses to a thriving successful village. His story is fascinating.

Born in Newcastleton, Scotland on May 9, 1835, he immigrated to Canada with his James Ballantynefamily at the age of five. First settling in Smith Falls, he later moved to Ottawa in 1863 to establish a cooperage (barrel-making) business with his brother Thomas. They later moved to Ottawa East in the 1870's to start a fuel supply business on Echo Drive. From that point until his death in 1926 he became an integral part of the community. There is much more to the story of the Ballantyne family, written by his grand nephew Bruce Ballantyne located here.

During his time in the community, he established the first schools; became the first village reeve (later the treasurer); was elected to County Council; incorporated the Ottawa East Water Company; built the town hall; founded the Ottawa Camera Club; helped establish the Ottawa Literary and Scientific Society (later the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club) and much, much more.

Above all else he left he left an enduring legacy. In 1892 he donated the oldest artifact ever found in Ottawa East to the Geological Survey of Canada (more on that story here). When his daughter Mae died (see obituary here) just a few years after his passing, the family had his home demolished at 54 Main St. and the land donated to the community. We now know it as Ballantyne Park. But above all else he left a special visual gift for the future residents of the community.

James in the garden at 54 Main St.
James playing whist at Wildwood with the Lees Family
As a photographer James was a visionary. He knew that the most important pictures were not of politicians or marble buildings, but rather of people, landscapes and everyday activities. From about 1890, usually with the help of his daughter Mae, he regularly set out with his large box camera and tripod to record the daily life of the village. He captured moments of ordinary life that most considered to be of no importance. These pictures have now become treasures. Mrs. Harvey's cows, Purdy and the boys leaning against his fence, road construction on Main St., haying on Lees' farm, playing cards at Wildwood and boating on the canal - all glimpses of a life long ago.

Thanks to the care of his descendents the "James Ballantyne Photographic Collection" was preserved and donated to the National Archives of Canada in 1981. Partly as a result of this history project the archives have placed the entire collection online for all to see.

James Ballantyne left a 'gift of time' to the people of Ottawa East. As such, it is the single most-important contribution to this project. For that we thank him and honour his memory.

The last picture of James in front of 54 Main St.
Editor's Note: James Ballantynes obituary is reproduced here.
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