The 19th Century (1800-1900)

Bowesville: A Place to Remember

Introduction   The Beginning   Chronology   Do You Remember?

The following information is taken from the book: Bowesville: A Place to Remember, by Grace Johnston, Gloucester Historical Society, Publication No. 3, 1988, ISBN 0-9691106-3-4.

Map: Part of the Township of Gloucester from Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of Carleton..., H. Belden & Co. Toronto 1879. Also see the map with new streets superimposed.

"Introduction  /\

"Bowesville is indeed a "place" to be remembered today by all who live in Gloucester, for it was part of Gloucester's past. Its land was the site of the present Ottawa InternationalAirport, approached by way of Riverside Drive from Billings Bridge.

"The little farming "place" in Gloucester, east of Black Rapids, was born in 1821. Descendants of some of the pioneers were still on their ancestors' land in 1950.

"In that year, many received notice that their land was expropriated by the Department of Transport and consequently they would be required to leave in a matter of a few months. More notices came a short time later.

"An expansion of their neighbour, the airport, was imminent. Their "place" was part of the over 3,900-acre area expropriated for the extension.

"It is amazing that a thriving farming "place" could disappear from a landscape as quickly, as quietly, and with so little quarrelling with the instigators, as did "Bowesville: A Place to Remember".

"Very few residents of Gloucester remember its name today, much less its location, and yet Gioucester's first Town Meeting was held in Bowesville, and three Reeves of the municipality were residents of the "place".

"Bowesville's charm was its people, trusting and tolerant, with an overpowering understanding of others' problems. It would be hard to find another.

"In this book each story stands as an entity. Together, they tell of the "place" from the beginning to the end. In between the lines, the reader will see

of different faiths,
of different cultures,
of different languages,
of age towards youth
and vice versa.
Look for more instances - they are there
for this was
"Bowesville: A Place to Remember".

"The Beginning  /\

"A glimpse into the early history of Gloucester sets the stage for the deuelopment of "Bowesuille: A Place to Remember"

"One must remember that the whole area in the beginning was covered by a dense forest. Only the sounds of soft padding Indian feet, bird songs, animal calls, splashing creeks, darting fish and dipping paddles, had broken the everlasting silence. Before the 1600s the waterways were arteries for many passersby, the coureurs des bois with their lilting folksongs, trappers, fur traders, explorers and missionaries. All had skimmed by, heading for parts unknown, past what was to be called Gloucester by 1793.

"A progression of events led to the coming of the first settler. In 1800 on the Quebec side of the Ottawa, American Philemon Wright arrived and set up a lumbering business at Wrightville (Hull). On acquiring timber rights on the banks of the Rideau, he travelled the waterway to Merrickville, a centre founded earlier by those coming from the St. Lawrence Front. One of the Rideau jobbers whom Philemon Wright hired, was Braddish Billings.

"Guiding logs through the beautiful Rideau passageway to the Ottawa, Braddish thought of his own future. His foresighted choice for a farm was a spot by the Rideau in Gloucester, later Billings Bridge. A cabin was erected and four acres cleared during the winter of 1812-13. These were the first of 1,400 acres he would own eventually in Gloucester.

"For seven years this first settler, his wife and family, were alone in the wilderness on the east side of the Rideau. There were others on the opposite side in Nepean. By 1819 neighbours, Doxey, Otterson and Wilson had arrived, although the township's survey was not completed until the next year.

"The Doxeys from Ireland, settled, according to the 1879 map, north of the Heron Road on Lot 19 Junction Gore.

"The Ottersons, James, his wife Mary, and three-year-old son, John, were natives of Scotland. They came down the Rideau on a scow, stopped just above Mooney's Bay and camped on a high knoll where they stayed, Lot I Concession 2. It was James who gave "Hog's Back" its name when experimenting with a raft of timber over a large slab of rock at the falls. Today, great-grandson George lives on part of James' original property.

"Retired naval officer, Captain Andrew Wilson, built a spacious home, "Ossian Hall" on Lot 2 Concession 2, north of the railway tracks near today's Fine's Flowers, Riverside Drive. He had received grants of 1,200 acres in Carleton County, and chose this piece of his land in Gloucester on which to live. For those coming off the Rideau, his wharf was a welcome sight. His directions on a map to help them find their lot, as indicated on a carefully carried location ticket, were a bonus too.

"Very shortly others arrived - the Smyths, Holdens, Carmans and Hollisters. Their land was near the Billings settlement. All had close access to the river for it was their first means of transportation and communication.

"Gradually little trails from the Billings to Doxeys to Ottersons to Wilsons, bit by bit, grew into a crude road. From Wilsons some pioneers headed in the opposite direction, to the south and east, thereby elongating the road, as they forced a way across lots following a high, sand-gravel ridge.

"On this ridge about a mile and a half directly south from the present Ottawa Hunt Club, Duncan McKenzie from Ross-shire, Scotland, in 1821, with broadaxe and compass, and watching for surveyors' blazes, found his land, Gore Lot 11, and stayed. The establishment of his homestead was the beginning of the "place".

"The road improved with the coming of more settlers. It was the beginning of what may have been the first road in Gloucester (the Bowesville Road), that is, the stretch from the Billings settlement to the "place", and through it to its neighbour community, "Hard Scrabble" (Johnston's Corners). With an extension of the forced road on the high ridge to South Gloucester, then into Osgoode, and to the St. Lawrence Front by way of the Old Prescott Road, this route became the main thoroughfare for the stage coach and other vehicles from Bytown, until what we know today as Bank Street, was opened.

"The "place" grew, but not to the size of a village. Its bounds were very clear to those who lived there, but to others they were elusive. It was, as Sister Helen Nolan has so aptly expressed it, a "place".

Chronology  /\

1821 Records point, as stated previously, to Duncan McKenzie from Ross-shire, Scotland, as being the first pioneer. He found his way to Gore Lot 1 1, and prospered well enough to expand on the next lot also, Gore Lot 10.
1826 Rideau Canal construction began under the direction of Colonel John By.
  • James Johnston from Northern Ireland, passed through in a covered wagon on the hacked out trail, looking for his Lot 25 Concession 4 (at Johnston's Corners near Rideau Carleton Raceway). He and his party had arrived at Captain Wilson's wharf and received from him instructions as to the land. When asked later about his struggle to get there, James replied it had been a hard scrabble. At this the captain called the Johnston settlement "Hard Scrabble", and the name remained until shortly before the turn of the century.
  • Irish Daniel O'Connor, his wife and baby son, were welcomed by the Wilsons in the same year. They were headed for Bytown and were directed by way of the trail that was growing into a road by the river. At the Billings settlement they were ferried across the Rideau.
  • John and Sarah Freeman, a brother and sister from County Wicklow, Southern Ireland, arrived in the "place" to establish a home on the south half of Lot 14 Concession 3, before the coming of their parents.
  • The Billings left the original location on the waterfront in this year, as their elegant home on the hill of the large estate was ready. The ferry scow service which they operated for travellers to Bytown, literally from their former doorstep, became less convenient for all.
  • The "Farmers' Bridge" (Billings Bridge) was constructed through private subscriptions.
  • Captain Wilson moved to the Quebec side. He had been a source of information for newcomers as he was a Justice of the Peace and had contacts with officials in Bytown. He entertained his friends with stories of being with Nelson at Trafalgar and in his campaign on the Nile.
  • One of Captain Wilson's former visitors, Daniel O'Connor, bought "Ossian Hall" as his wife had taken a liking to it on her previous stopover.
  • Richard Bowes and other members of the family reached the "place" from County Monaghan, Ireland. Richard's part of Lot 10 Concession 2, cut by the forced road, was to become the centre of activity.
  • Patrick and Timothy Collins from County Cork, Ireland, came to land above Black Rapids which stretched through to the east in the "place". Timothy's son, John, settled on that piece later - Lot 9 Concession 2.
  • John Cunningham from Ireland, besides clearing his Lots 17, 18 and 20 Concession 3, established an inn, which became a well-known stopping-place for wayfarers coming and going on the long road that was developing not only to the Billings settlement, but also to the south as far as "Hard Scrabble", South Gloucester and beyond.
  • Francis Hardy arrived from County Tipperary, Ireland, on the south half of Lot 14 Concession 2.
  • Peter Tomkins came to the "place" from Ireland. He would become Reeve twice.
  • First Town Meeting ever held in Gloucester, took place in John Cunningham's inn.
  • Rideau Canal was completed.
1834-35 Bytown and Prescott stage coach passed through on its way to the St. Lawrence Front.
  • Patrick Dunn from Kings County, Ireland, came with Patrick Brady and James Quinn.
  • Patrick Quinn of County Tipperary, Ireland, brought out two sons, Michael Sr. and Martin.
1845 "Hard Scrabble" Presbyterian Church was opened. It was built of logs.
1849 Municipal Act was passed allowing election of township officials.
1850 James McEvoy, according to the family story, came from County Tipperary, in the mid- 1800s to the north half of Lot 12 Concession 3. In time the McEvoys would own the four corners in the core of the "place".
1851 This date is the earliest that S.S. #5 Gloucester is mentioned. The log school could have been erected previously.
1852 William Nolan of Johnston's Corners, and formerly of County Wexford, Ireland, bought Gore Lot 12, which became the homestead.
  • Louis Lecuyer Sr. from France put down roots on Lot 17 Concession 2.
  • Bytown and Prescott train made first trip through Concession 3.
1857 Ottawa was declared the capital of Canada by Queen Victoria.
1859 The Uptons arrived on Lot 5 Concession 2 by way of England and Russia. This site would become the Ottawa Hunt Club.
1860 A store, in part of a house, was operated by John McGuigan, followed before 1882 by other storekeepers, Rory O'Moore and William Lawson.
1864TD> Roman Catholic chapel was erected on Part of Lot 10, Concession 2.
1868 John Lennox Sr. from County Derry bought Lot 13 Concession 3. His son, John Jr., later having worked the farm for a few years, went to the goldfields of the Klondike.
  • Train was stopped by a terrific snowstorm.
  • John Sabourin bought part of Louis Lecuyer Sr.'s lot. The house and buildings on that piece still face the Limebank Road.
  • Three Finley brothers came from Ireland to the south half of Lot 12 Concession 3.
1870 Great Fire swept through Carleton County.
1872 School Section #5's second school opened on land given by the Nolans.
  • Edward Johnston of Irish (Antrim) parentage, occupied part of Lot 14 Concession 3.
  • Zion Methodist Church was erected.
1875 By holding an annual social at "Groveland" in June in aid of the Methodist Church, the Uptons started the widely-known Annual Strawberry Tea held, in years within living memory, at the home of the four Hardy sisters.
1880 Bogtown school opened its doors to pupils.
  • James Gamble's store with the first post office, readied for business on the west part of the Lot 10 core.
  • The official name of the post office henceforth was the name of the "place" - Bowesville.
  • John Davy of Kilkenny parentage, came to a lot on a hill to be given his name - "Davy's Hill" at Lot 7 Concession 2.
1890 Hugh Graham set up his blacksmith's shop on the east side of Lot 10 Concession 2. His was the last of such shops in Bowesville where iron was shaped on the anvil. There had been two others before him, George Cooper and Murdoch Shaw.
1893 William Redmond Sr. came to Bowesville after several other locations and operated a successful corn and potato farm on Lot 12 Concession 2.
1894 James Stewart farmed on Lot 16 Concession 3.
1897 McEvoys built a store and house on Richard Bowes'former land on the east side of the core. A little later they put up a community hall where school concerts and "balls" were held.
1898 Jean-Baptiste Potvin of French ancestry bought land in Bowesville - some was located on part of Lot 15 Concession 2.

There were other families in Bowesville. Other happenings took place. It would be interesting for the readers who lived there, to add to the list.

Do You Remember?  /\

The Bowesville Road -


  • Merkley's brickyard
  • Cowan's ice-house
  • Ottawa Dairy's ice-house
  • spring floods
  • rowboat transportation
  • the cemetery to the west
  • the wooden-planked bridge over the railway tracks
  • the George Armstrong home
  • McCallum's poultry farm
  • Brulé's quarry
  • Nelms' berry bushes
  • Bailey's orchard and greenhouse
  • "Red's" garage
  • a haunted house
  • New Moon restaurant
  • St. Patrick's summer home for children to the west
  • Graham's Bay swimming hole
  • Otterson's school
    AT THE "V"
  • Kelly's Inn
  • Mary Millar's ice cream booth
  • "Tally-ho"
  • "Gus" Lecuyer's refreshment booth
  • to the east, "McKenzie's" magnificent maple grove
  • to the west, more superb maples
  • tall evergreens
  • a short lane
  • a glimpse of the Freeman cemetery on the Back Road
  • Josh" Hardy's apple orchard in spring
  • "Quinns' and Pypers' profuse purple and white lilacs
  • a view of Gloucester station.