Ottawa-Gatineau History - Rideau Canal & the Forestry Boom

Ridean Canal Locks Some of the early settlers were Philemon Wright, who started a lumber mill in Hull, on the shores of the Ottawa where it me the Gatineau. It was Napoleon's Berlin Decree of 1906 that led to the timber boom in the Canadian Colonies, since it forbade any European country from selling their timber to Britain. The colonies in Canada began to provide timber for its warships and its industry, and the region began to boom.

The War of 1812 began when the United States thought that the colonists in Canada would welcome the Americans, and would want to leave Britain. After 2 years of battles on both sides of the border, and the burning of the President's mansion, causing it to be whitewashed and rename "The White House", the war was ended. Many of the soldiers were encouraged to settle in the Ottawa area, particularly around Richmond.

Britain realized it needed a trade route into the Interior of Canada that did not pass alongside the American border on the St Lawrence. It built a 200 kilometre canal from Kingston between 1826 and 1832. The canal was fortified, particularly at Kingston, and enabled ship traffic to come up from Lake Ontario and then navigate down the Ottawa River to Montreal and the Atlantic. The town was named Bytown, for Colonel John By, the canal's chief builder. The main Bytown streets of Wellington and Rideau were built at that time, to the width of 30 metres, about 50 per cent wider than most roads at the time.

Over the next 30 years, Both Bytown and Wrightstown thrived on a forestry industry, as the valleys were cleared of trees (and converted to farming). In 1855, Bytown was incorporated as the City of Ottawa, and Wrightstown followed to become Hull in 1875.

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