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Cantley gained its independence on the hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the Municipality of East Hull, of which Cantley was a principal part. The call for double celebration made the recording of Cantley’s history an urgent need.
The following notes were therefore assembled hastily to serve as a first draft of the project. Early publication, without waiting for painstaking enquiry and research, would serve several purposes:
Everyone with a recollection of Cantley’s past is urged to phone or write the Cantley Town Hall (827-3434) to be put in touch with volunteers eager to enrich our history.
For the material on which this first history is based we are indebted to many people:
Readers are reminded that this is only the beginning of Cantley’s history. The best pages are yet to be written.
In 1830, this was a frontier of Canada.
The village of Hull, now 30 years old, was mildly prospering with its mills and stores serving the expanding farms of the Outaouais. Settlement spread to Aylmer and Gatineau Point (first called Waterloo, a name little favoured by its future residents of French ancestry). The future Ottawa was still little more than a construction camp for the Rideau Canal, which Colonel By was rushing to completion for its opening the year.
The Ottawa River had been a beaten path for Indians and for European explorers since Champlain blazed the trail in 1613. Seventy years later, the Trois-Rivières notary, Nicolas Gatineau, ventured on the river which now bears his name. He was possibly the first European to view the site of Cantley, but he drowned in the treacherous rapids before he could record his adventures.
Two centuries went by before very much happened in Cantley. Towards the end of construction of the Rideau Canal, Colonel By gave Crown land in appreciation to some of his most valuable assistants. One of them was said to have been given a large tract on the East side of the lower Gatineau River. The seniority of Colonel Cantley among By’s most senior lieutenants would suggest that this was then considered a special place. It still is today.
It is Cantley.
Colonel Cantley, a British army officer, is reported to have fought in the War of 1812 and apparently to have remained in the colony until Colonel By called upon him to help build the Rideau Canal in 1826. We do not know the date of his arrival in Cantley, but it was reportedly in the early 1830s that he settled with his former batman and later a blacksmith, a man called Johnston who lived on lot 9b, range XIV. The area was then known as the Hamilton Neighbourhood, presumably after the family of William Hamilton who took the first census of HullTownship in 1842. The Cantley/Johnston house was to become part of the farm of James McClelland in the 1840s. It was here that Colonel Cantley is said to have died. His unmarked grave is reputed to be in the McClelland orchard. Unfortunately, the precise burial place is unknown. Colonel Cantley’s name was preserved in the naming of Cantley’s first post office in 1857. Interestingly, the first postmaster of Cantley was the William Hamilton whose name had previously been attached to the community.
Colonel Cantley was not, however, the first man to break the soil of Cantley. Andrew Blackburn is said to have arrived with his two sons in 1829. In 1830 James Brown and Dominic Fleming arrived from Ireland. James Brown’s first son, Thomas, was the first child known to have been born in East Hull Township. Tom’s son, Howard, lived on the homestead until he sold it in 1950 to Rene Prud’homme.
Dominic Fleming was a stonemason, the first of four brothers who came here from Ireland with their families. He laid the foundations of today’s St. Elizabeth Church and many Cantley homes.
Thomas Kirk came to Gatineau soon after the Blackburns and, like the Blackburns, got land on both sides of the Gatineau River at one of the few places where the waters were placid. (This was 90 years before the hydro dams changed the character of the river). There he used a scow to establish Kirk’s Ferry which was long an important link between Cantley and the outside world; Cantley’s mail came and went by the ferry, at least until the first Alonzo Wright toll bridge was constructed below Farmer’s Rapids in 1866. (It was washed out and rebuilt in 1878, burned and rebuilt in 1902, and extensively improved in the 1960s.) At first, the ferry was propelled by oars, but later Kirk made a chain ferry. The Cantley terminus was at Prud’Homme Road (long called the Ferry Road, just north of the mouth of Blackburn Creek. Christopher Fleming of Cantley also ran a ferry nearby until the hydro dams were built, though Gourlay reports that traffic had dwindled by the turn of the century. The early ferry link was largely responsible for the 1989 choice of the tug as the Cantley logo.
Cantley’s fame must have spread quickly, for the 1840s saw a steady influx of new settlers, mostly Irish Catholic; with names like Barrett, Birt, Blanchfield, Boone, Burke, Cashman, Dean, Easy, Foley, Fraser, Gardiner, Holmes, Hogan, Kherny, Langford, Lynott, Maloney, McDermott, McClelland, McNeil, McAlinden, Milks, O’Keefe, Shea, Shields, Smith, Storey, Sullivan and Thompson. From Scotland came the Blackburns, Clarks, Elders, Gows and William Strachan who crossed the Gatineau River on a log from Cascades.
Some of the stories of pioneer courage and hardship were written down and preserved in the National Arhchives of Canada. In 1847 Daniel Holmes died of cholera en route from Ireland and was buried in QuébecCity. His son Paddy, 20, took charge of his mother and the rest of the family in the journey inland. They sailed to Montréal, and then took another boat, which after many portages reached Ottawa. Arriving in the evening, they spent the night in a shed near the present National Conference Centre.
The next day the family, with their possessions, walked to Hull by the bridge which was near the present Eddy Plant, then trudged on to Ironside where they took a ferry across the Gatineau River before their final hike to their new land.
Cantley’s earliest families are listed in Appendix “A” and early houses in Appendix “B”. By the end of the century, the historian J.L. Gourlay is able to write about a “fairly passable road” on the east side of the river, which is “bridgeless to its source except the one bridge at Mr. Alonzo Wright’s”. He goes on: “The people think it too expensive to build bridges even where they are much needed. The government of Quebec is so greedy, that all that can be raised in revenue cannot half satisfy that greed; … nothing of any consequence can be obtained for roads and bridges…”
Before we leave this part of the Cantley story, return for a moment to Alonzo Wright whose later house is preserved in the main building of Collège St-Alexandre in Limbour. Of even greater interest is the first log house where the Wrights lived until Mrs. Wright got her wish for a grander place. The original, after some vicissitudes, was saved by the Webers and is preserved on their property in southeast Cantley. It’s nice that Cantley was able to save the home of Gatineau’s most illustrious early citizen.
By the mid nineteenth century so many families had come to Cantley that schools became urgent. One of the first was on the Thomas Brown farm where Mrs. Blackburn taught a few hours each day in return for some help on her land. Paddy Holmes, who had prospered after such a grim beginning to his Canadian life, gave land for a school farther north. The first Roman Catholic Chapel, built in 1858, served also as the school.
In 1881, the Protestants formed their own school board. A lone teacher taught in each of two schools for part of the year. One was on River Road, slightly north of Arthur Pomeroy’s present home. The other was a log building opposite St. Andrew’s Church. There were no desks or chairs, the pupils sitting on long benches with their slates on their knees. Young people living between the two schools could get schooling for most of the year.
When these buildings burned down, a school was built by the Protestant cemetery on land given by William Thompson; the Anglican and Methodist ministers used the premises for services. The building burned down on the morning school was to reopen in September 1899. The Brown family then donated land at the top of the hill on today’s Route 307 near St.Elizabeth Road. There Henry Easy, for $90, had a new school ready by the end of the year. He was given an extra two dollars over his bid. School construction was fast in those days – and cheap. And this school lasted until consolidation eliminated it in 1959.
The main Roman Catholic school was on nearby St.Elizabeth Road, at the corner with Route 307. Two successive schools were built in 1868 and 1877 near Ambrose Birt’s gate on the first hill of the Burr Road in Range XII; the Barrett School(1864?) was on Range X; and, in 1870, another school was opened at Wilson’s Corners. They were all closed when the central school was built near the church in 1957 at a cost of $80,000. Interestingly, this present school was largely financed by the Gatineau Power Company, which bought most of the debenture bonds, just a few years before it was nationalized and became Hydro-Québec.
The faithful Irish in early Cantley suffered for their devoutness. Their nearest church was in Chelsea. Except in winter, they had to travel to the end of Prud’Homme Road to take Thomas Kirk’s scow ferry, before the final long trek to St. Stephen’s. You could save the ferry fee by walking across the logs if you dared, and one mother carrying her young daughter did so on the way to a baptism. In winter, a horse and sled could travel from door to door, with a road across the river ice marked with evergreens.
Things were much better when, in 1858, a chapel was built on land donated by Michael Shields, a holding that was later expanded by gift and sale. In 1868 Cantley passed an important milestone with the ecclesiastical separation of Cantley from West Hull, the appointment of Rev. Patrick McGoey as the first priest and construction of St. Elizabeth Church. Father McGooey built the Hector Milks House on Route 307 just south of St. Elizabeth Road; it has long been recognized as one of the finest examples of domestic architecture in the Outaouais. St. Elizabeth Church was also a finely proportioned structure with superb workmanship inside. It owed much to the benefactions of William Butler Eddy and Alonzo Wright. It was not until 1947 that the church and adjacent buildings were wired for electricity. Unfortunately much of the interior of St. Elizabeth was destroyed through renovations in the 1960s.
The first wardens were John Flemming, John Morris and Maurice Foley. Originally almost entirely Anglophone, by 1949 the first language of 16 of its 58 families was French. In 1900, work started on a new rectory designed by the renowned architect Canon George Bouillon who also designed the Rideau Convent Chapel now in the National Gallery of Canada. Unfortunately, in 1916 it was struck by lightning and lost to fire—and the unhappy Father O’Toole had forgotten to pay the insurance premium. The church itself was saved, thanks to the efforts of all the townspeople including the Presbyterian minister. A new rectory was finished the next year. Materials for it went to Kirk’s Ferry by train, and crossed the Gatineau River by barge. Now this rectory is rented, and the priest lives in Chelsea as he did 130 years ago. These days, travel is easier.
In 1876 James McClelland gave land on the northwest corner of his farm for a Presbyterian Church whose first minister was William Findlay. The church building was finished the next year and was administered from St. Andrew’s Church in Ottawa. The pulpit was crafted by Louis Lavasseur of St-Pierre-de-Wakefield. Present pews were bought in 1908 with money raised from sewing by the Ladies’ Aid. The interior plaster walls were replaced by tongue and groove v-joint around 1950. The first elders were David Blackburn, John Storey, John Patterson and John Stevenson. In 1925, without a vote of the congregation, St. Andrew’s became part of the newly created United Church of Canada.
Fortunately for Cantley’s early growth, Farmer’s Rapids (Limbour) was a pioneer center of industry. Tiberius Wright rented his 2000-acre farm at Gatineau Falls (now Limbour) to William Farmer for L 200 a year with an option to buy for L 4000 in ten years. Farmer came from England with his own boat, which brought his family, 54 farmers, mechanics and labourers, farm animals, machines, tools and furnishings. They landed in the Gatineau late in 1834.
A dozen years later there was a mill operated by Andrew Main, a shop, cookhouse, foreman’s house, and 13 cottages. By 1859 there was another mill on lot 1b, Range XI, valued at $1200. Its two employees cut about 80,000 board feet of inch lumber each year. The Blackburn Mill on Blackburn Creek was probably on the Ferry Road (now Prud’homme Road) where Mr. MacNeil’s saw and gristmill eventually replaced it. Not only were there several small mills on the creek, but for many years there was even a log drive. Among the operators of Cantley’s early lumber mills were Alf and Mervyn Hogan (Connor Road); Anthony Milks (Route 307, below St. Elizabeth Road); Walter McNeill (on Blackburn Creek at Mont Cascades Road, near Tom Fleming’s present house).
Several mica and phosphate mines opened after 1885. Biggest were the Dacey mine on Holmes Road, and later the Blackburn mine on Blackburn Creek. It employed more than 20 men on two shifts a day, and the payroll reached 60 during World War II. Cantley was said to have the best mica in North America. The demand for mica to be used in stove doors dwindled but the mines continued to produce mica (largely for use in lubricants) until after mid-century. Though there is no more mining, sheets of free mica still turn up on the lands of Cantley.
In Cantley, as in Canada itself, the biggest continuing source of mineral revenue has been sand and gravel, used for local road making and construction. Though some of the venerable pits are now exhausted, gravel extraction will be important for years to come.
By far the largest industrial enterprise Cantley has ever seen was the hydroelectric project on the Gatineau River between 1925 and 1927. The dam at Farmer’s Rapids, and more particularly the one at Chelsea just upriver, have permanently affected the waterway for much of the length of Cantley. Before damming, the Gatineau was a raging, treacherous torrent known for its picturesque falls and many dangerous rapids. Suddenly, it became, for its lower reaches in Cantley, a broad and placid waterway, which would, except for the passage of logs, be ideal for human recreation.
Unlike the later flooding for the St. Lawrence Seaway, limited preparation was done on the lands to be inundated. Some of the railway, which ran from Hull to Maniwaki on the west bank, had to be relocated, but trees, buildings and other structures were largely left in place to remain indefinitely on the new river bottom. According to local legend, the workers at a mica mine routinely hung up their tools and work clothes on a Friday afternoon, and returned Monday morning to find only a lake; divers are said still to see some of those ghostly remnants.
The log drive on the river itself is almost as old as the settlements which flank it. The movement of logs was an important local industry, employing many tugs and hundreds of men to break the jams in the rapids and unsnag the wayward pieces caught on the shore.
Every one of the millions of logs used to be branded with the mark of the company owning it. At Gatineau Point, until the 1960s, rivermen on long booms sorted them out according to owners, nudging each individual log into the appropriate channel for its mill. With the decision of Eddy’s no longer to use the Gatineau, that process became unnecessary.
When the dams were built at Low and Farmer’s Rapids a slide more than a mile long was needed to guide every log past the long obstruction. The picture changed with rising labour costs after the Second World War. Serious consideration was given to abandoning the river route in favour of chipping at the logging camps, with the chips being carried by truck or by truck and rail to the mills on the Ottawa River. The sudden escalation of world oil prices changed that idea before it began, and the hasty abandonment of the rail line above Wakefield in the mid-1980s ended forever the prospect of using freight cars. About 50 men and 20 tugs still work on the river. Some 400,000 cords of wood still pass by Cantley every summer. It is one of Canada’s few remaining logging rivers.
Though Cantley in general cannot be described as having the finest agricultural soil in Québec, fine fields were wrested from the rocky hills to make mixed farming a mainstay of the economy since the earliest days. Cantley is still known for the excellence of its berry farms. It is even better known for its ski hills developed at Mont-Cascades in the 1960s and 1970s. Outdoor recreation and cottaging are the newer industries which Cantley has been determined to protect against the threat of polluting garbage dumps.
In 1986 Cantley entered the Information revolution with the opening, on the mountain at the end of St. Andrew’s Road, of the Gatineau Satellite Station by the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing. Two large dishes pick up pictures of the earth sent from 571 miles out in space; the satellite records images which move at six kilometers a second. Cantley can have instant pictures of ice in an Arctic harbour, a disaster in a nuclear power plant, or fire in a Brazilian forest. Back on the ground of Cantley, the first general store was run by Alexandre Prud’homme, East Hull’s first mayor, on Route 307 just north of River Road. According to the 1875 valuation roll, it was then owned by John Cox who also ran a tavern there. In that area were, at one time or another, stores and post offices run by Ernest Poulin, M. Routhier (who, despite a wooden leg, delivered the mail), M. and Mme Demers (niece of M. Routhier), Jimmy and Mamie Barrett, and Joe and Evelyn Hupé (who have long since given up the store but still run Cantley’s Post Office).
At “Cantley proper” (Route 307 below St. Elizabeth Road), there was an early store run by Robert Brown as well as a blacksmith and carriage shop. According to the 1875 roll, Richard Thompson also had a store near this corner and beside it was reputedly Cantley’s first blacksmith shed. (It was in Cantley’s Centennial Year that the building housing the blacksmith was torn down, without even a photo to record it.) Orville McClelland bought the store and house in 1942, and added the present store, which, in 1989, became the Cantley General Store.
Farther up the highway were stores run by John Smith, beside St. Andrew’s Church, and by James Cooper, farther north. Peter McGlashan, who had earlier operated near “Cantley Proper”, ran the store and post office at Wilson’s Corners where Henry Wilson had earlier first set up shop. Four generations of McGlashan’s have now operated that enterprise.
Towards the more southerly limits of Cantley, just north of the big gully on Route 307, was a gas station and store put up in 1952-53 by Harry Cooper. Danny and Marjorie Burke acquired it in 1958 and ran it until 1974; they still own the house. Harry Cooper’s daughter, Judy Richard, opened Dépanneur 307 at Route 307 and Whissell Road in 1983.
For their first 50 years, Cantley settlers had no voice in their own affairs. In the 1880s two men in particular worked for self-government: Robert Kerr and Thomas E. Barrett. Their efforts were rewarded when the Municipal Corporation of East Hull was incorporated on September 12, 1889. Its boundaries were the Gatineau River on the west, Wilsons Corners in the north, West Templeton on the east, and the railway on the south. Ninety-five percent of the 70 square miles in the municipality was still rural.
Elections were held on October 16, and the new Council had its first meeting at the home of James Davis on October 28. Alex Prud’homme became the first mayor on a motion by Council.
The secretary-treasurer was John Prud’homme. Councilors were Charles Ducerre, Daniel Birt, Robert Kerr, Patrick Maloney, Samuel McClelland and William McNeill. All Cantley’s mayors are listed in Appendix “C”.
The easy co-existence of francophones and Anglophones is reflected in the names of civic representatives. The overwhelmingly Anglophone community elected a respected francophone as its first mayor. Names of French and English origin are mixed in the mayor’s office until East Hull became Touraine in 1966. Since that time, all names have been of French origin.
The first assessment roll was made in 1890, and it was another three years until a town hall was built. From the moment of decision it took only eight months to acquire the land, let the contract, complete the building and have the first meeting in the new council chamber. The land, on Route 307 just north of River Rd., was bought from James Davis for $10. Alfred Laversier was promised $100 for building it; Council agreed not only to his bill but to an added $5 for extras.
The Town Hall was later moved to a site opposite the present Cantley post office where it remained until Cantley lost its civic building to Touraine. In January 1965, the council met for the first time under the name of “Municipalité de Touraine” in its new building on avenue Picardie. In 1971 the name changed to “Ville de Touraine”.
Four years later, Touraine and six other communities were combined to form the City of Gatineau. Cantley became a tiny minority of seven percent of the population of the new city.
It was, as far as Cantley was concerned, an unhappy decision imposed by the government of Québec without local consultation. Not only did Cantley feel that it was losing its long-established sense of identity (the new city made sustained efforts to diminish the Cantley name), but rural interests were submerged in the development of a new city. Most immediately evident was the rapid rise in taxes as Cantleyans were required to pay not only for their own water/sewage disposal services, but finance endless city amenities it would never use.
Dissatisfaction led to the formation in 1983 of a Rural Residents’ Committee of Cantley, of which Bertrand Boily was president. It launched an effective campaign of public education based on painstaking research locally and in comparable municipalities. An appeal for donations from residents indicated an astonishing level of support, exceeding 90 percent of the population, but the Minister of Municipal Affairs seemed little moved by its representations. In 1986 the Committee was superseded by the Cantley Citizens’ Committee in which, again, the francophone majority worked closely with the Anglophone minority in a joint struggle for autonomy.
Under Bernard Bouthillette and Raoul Larocque successively, the Committee launched public information meetings, which attracted unexpectedly high participation. Gatineau had unconsciously handed Cantley an issue even more emotional than taxes. The threat to establish in Cantley the dump for the whole region was as uninspired in its timing as in its purpose. Citizens sought visible manifestations to express their frustration. The first parade took place along Route 307 in March 1987. Other manifestations included further parades and the ceremonial delivery of garbage bags to the Mayor of Gatineau. More than 150 citizens withheld their municipal taxes, putting them in trust until there was some satisfactory response to Cantley demands.
On May 24, 1987, an unofficial referendum on Cantley’s future found 97 percent of voters in favour of autonomy. At the same time, a shadow council was elected, with Michel Charbonneau becoming the shadow mayor. See Appendix “D”.
Though no one knew it at the time, the breakthrough came in the autumn of 1987 with Québec’s appointment of Jérémie Giles and two other commissioners to receive briefs and examine Cantley’s case. The Giles report, published the following February, was overwhelmingly sympathetic to Cantley’s case. Local Minister Michel Gratton made the dramatic announcement of acceptance of the report on March 29, 1988. An official referendum was held on September 18, 1988. Despite a vigorous campaign by dissidents at the southern end of Cantley, autonomy won by 80 percent. The Québec government carried out its promise to present legislation in time for Cantley to be independent on the first day of 1989.
The first municipal elections, held on March 19, 1989, gave the mayor’s chair to Bernard Bouthillette. The names of members of the first Council are listed in Appendix “D”.
Cantley now embraces about 130 square kilometers lying east of the Gatineau River, immediately north of the City of Gatineau and south of La Pêche and Val-des-Monts. On Route 307, the southern boundary is about 300 metres above the Hydro-Québec power station at Limbour; generally it goes east along Chemin Taché. The Northern boundary is at Wilson’s Corners. On the west, the boundary is the Gatineau River. On the east, Cantley goes to Montée Paiement, the Sixth Range Road and Avenue Gatineau. Cantley has a frontage of more than 23 km along the Gatineau River.
The following current information is based on Statistics Canada data for an area approximating Cantley.
Population in 1986: 1930 males + 1805 females = 3735 persons
Growth from 1981 to 1986: 21%
(The following figures are drawn from Statistics Canada Small Area and Administrative Data.) Annual income: of $37 million earned by Cantley taxpayers, $31 million came from wages, salaries or commissions. Only $1.4 million was reported from self-employment.
While 1525 Cantleyans had employment income, 375 were receiving unemployment insurance, a jump of 36% in five years. In the same period, average income jumped about the same amount, from $15,000 to $20,300.
About 60% of tax filers reported income between $15,000 and $50,000. Only 4% of tax filers reported income over $50,000.
First Families of Cantley
(Taken from the 1842 Census conducted by William Hamilton: recording year of arrival (mostly from Ireland) in Canada).
* From Scotland
The early houses of Cantley
On few early Cantley houses is there any reliable documentation. To learn which surviving dwellings are the oldest we depend on oral tradition.
We divide the old houses between those that remain where they were built, and those that have been moved from original foundations elsewhere.
A. Original Site
The McDermott House, on the north side of St. Elizabeth Road about 3 km beyond St. Elizabeth Church appears to be the oldest surviving house in Cantley. Though there is a tradition that would put its date at about 1813, this seems unlikely since no settlers were here until 1829 and Thomas McDermott arrived in Canada only in 1831.
The Milks House, built in 1866 is one of Cantley’s best-known landmarks, as well as its most respected architecture. It is on the east side of Route 307, near the bottom of the hill leading to St. Elizabeth Road.
The Blackburn House, on the east side of Route 307 about 2 km. West of Route 307 was apparently built shortly after the Milks House.
The Holmes House, on the east side of Route 307 about 2 km past the Mont-Cascades Road, was probably also built in the 1860’s.
The Hogan House, on Hogan Road, has been carefully restored to bring back its 1870’s origins.
The Dean House, about 1 km past St. Elizabeth Church on the north side of St. Elizabeth Road, is dated 1903.
B. Moved From Original Site
The Grange and five other log buildings on the Phillips property on Summer Road, date from 1819 to 1867. They were moved from the vicinity of Carleton Place, Carp and Buckingham when they faced imminent destruction.
The Tiberius Wright House was moved from the grounds of the present Collège St-Alexandre and later from near the southeast corner of the Alonzo Wright Bridge to be saved and maintained by the Webers. It dates from the early 1830s.
The Mayors of Cantley
The ‘Shadow Council’ of Cantley, 1987–1988Shadow Mayor
Louise Lemieux/Denis Charron
The First Council of Autonomous Cantley, 1989–