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John Graham

June 6, 1830 - March 24, 1896

A major hotelier, market gardener, gold prospector, brickyard owner, school trustee, alderman, land speculator and investor, John Graham was one of the earliest landowners in the Ottawa East Village area. He and his family played a major role in the evolution of the community from the 1860's to the end of the century.

The son of Andrew Graham (born about 1806), his father had emigrated to Canada in John Graham  June 6, 1830 - March 24, 1896 - Drawing from obituary.1826 from the Irish County of Fermanagh where his family had been land owners involved in agriculture. He settled in Carleton County and soon married Eliza Alexander for the County Tyrone in Ireland. Originally in farming and lumbering, Andrew moved to Ottawa in 1847 opening a hotel at the corner of Rideau and Nicholas Streets later amalgamating this activity with the grocery business.

John was born in Nepean Township on June 6, 1830. At fourteen John was articled to the Wilson Brothers who taught him the basics of business. He later took over his father's business but eventually left to seek his fortune in the California gold fields. After three years in the mining business he became ill with "the fever". He recovered and ultimately returned to Canada in 1859 with enough money to open the Albion Hotel across from the Court House on Daly St. He later owned other hotels including the Grand Union and one located at Billings Bridge that he bought for his father in 1870. The land he owned in Ottawa East (Graham Avenue from Main to the canal) was put to good use growing vegetables for his hotels. He gave up control of the Grand Union Hotel in 1894 due to ill health and concentrated on his Ottawa East brickyard, farm and investments in various macadam road companies.

The 1881 Census shows him as a hotel keeper living with his first wife Sarah Ann (born about 1839). All of their children died young. He remarried to Violette, a widow. His death certificate lists the informant as Alexander Graham, stepson.

In 1895 he built Ardagh Square (45 Main St.), a large home surrounded by trees, flowers and vegetables gardens. The house was ultimately purchased in 1923 by the Roman Catholic School Board and became the first De Mazenod School. The records show that he invested in the land where the Graham Brickyard was operated but the business appears to have been run by his stepson Alexander

The Graham Brickworks was located on Clegg St. between Main St. and the Rideau River. It is very difficult to pinpoint the actual location given that village records for assessment no longer exist. As with Horace O'Dell's brickyard, it must have been located near the river with its extensive deposits of clay and sand. Ontario Land Records (Instrument #10485) indicated that John Graham leased land in Lot I, Concession D (Brantwood Beach area) in the early 1880's for the purpose of excavating clay for the manufacture of brick and tile. A further lease was signed in 1896 between Alexander Graham and the Kane family. This document (Instrument #17333) set the rent at $1,000 per year and limited the production to "not . . . more than three and one-half million of brick or tile" during the time of the lease (10 years). There is more on this topic of making bricks and the Ottawa East brickyards located here.

The earliest reference to this brickyard in the municipal directory of 1890-91. It was listed as the Gamman and Graham Company on the east side of the macadamized road (Main St.). This must have been the office. The owners were identified as Thomas Gamman (111 Main St.) and Alexander Graham (45 Main St., John's stepson), both living on the same road. The Ontario Land Records show an 1896 lease of property in Concession D, Lot I (see map here) to Alexander Graham from four people including John Cain. This may be the John P. Cain who later started the Cain Brick Company in the same location first listed in the directory in 1906. The Gamman and Graham Company is listed in 1906 and in 1907, Thomas Gammon was shown as a brickmaker at 132 Main St. with Alexander Graham as a cement block manufacturer at 58 Main St.

John Graham died on March 24, 1896. Both the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Journal printed large detailed obituaries of the man that detailed a very interesting life.


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