2 February

Pioneers go to Ottawa

We came to build, and building, a mighty structure grew,

And ever as we builded, builded better than we knew;

And through the darkening wilderness, lo! we were led in might,

Our log-heaps made a smoke by day, a pillard flame by night.

Now, when across the continent we've seen our task expand,

To our children's children and their children.'s children we do bequeath this land.

                                                                            -Robert K. Kernighan, 1925


Over the years there have been periods when more Americans came to live in Canada than Canadians went to the United States. The first heavy influx of settlers from the United States was that of the United Empire Loyalists, who came to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Upper Canada after the American Revolutionary War.

Sir Clifford Sifton organized one of the most successful population drives in Canadian history when he was Minister of Immigration from 1896-1905. Although he induced people in many parts of the world to come to Canada, most of his settlers were from the United States and Britain.

One of the most picturesque and successful settlers was Philemon Wright, one of the founders of Ottawa-Hull. Although he was a successful farmer in Massachusetts, he was attracted by offers of free land in Upper and Lower Canada and spent several years exploring the possibilities. Finally, he decided that the area near Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa River offered the best opportunities. Huge pine trees grew there and by climbing them Wright could see the country for miles around. Sometimes he would have to climb nearly 100 feet before reaching the first branch.

On February 2, 1800, Wright left Woburn with twenty-five men to help him. They brought their wives and fifteen children and travelled in sleighs by fourteen horses and eight oxen. The women and children slept in the sleighs while the men, after clearing away the snow, wrapped themselves in blankets and lay on the ground.

The most difficult part of the journey along the frozen rivers was at the Long Sault rapids where Dollard Des Ormeaux and his colleagues had made their gallant stand against the Iroquois years before. A road had to be cut through the woods to get around the rapids.

The party arrived at Chaudière Falls on March 17, and began clearing land right away. The first summer they reaped 1,000 bushels of potatoes and 40 bushels of wheat. In 1806 Wright was ready to ship his first boom of logs down the Ottawa River to the St. Lawrence. An industry that was to become the commercial backbone of Ottawa had started


2 February

-1628    King Charles I gave William Alexander islands in the St. Lawrence.

-1807    The Upper Canada Legislature provided schools for every district.

-1848    The first Liberal government in Nova Scotia was elected; J. B. Uniacke was elected Premier.

-1869    Lord Lisgar was made Governor General of Canada.

-1926    H. H. Stevens, in the House of Commons, charged that customs officials were accepting bribes and illegal favours. This led to an investigation in which a number of cases of graft were uncovered.

-1947    Snag, Yukon, registered 81 below zero, the lowest temperature on record in North America.

-1963    Premier Stanfield of Nova Scotia turned the first sod for the Fathers of Confederation building at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.