Ottawa’s First Newspaper

24 February 1836

Bytown independent title 24-2-1836On 24 February 1836, the first edition of the first local newspaper appeared on the streets of Bytown, the small village that was destined to become Ottawa. That newspaper was called The Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate. Its banner on the front page under its name proudly read:

“Let it be impressed upon your minds, Let it be instilled in your children, that the Liberty of the Press is the Palladium of all your civil, political and religious rights.—Sumus.”

The newspaper’s proprietor and editor was James Johnson. An Irish Protestant, Johnson had come to Canada in 1815. In May 1827, he settled in Bytown, which had only been founded the previous year. Reportedly a blacksmith by trade, Johnson quickly became a man of considerable property, earning a living as a merchant and auctioneer in the rough, tough frontier community that was Bytown.

The establishment of a newspaper in the small community was no easy feat, and must have taken many months in put into effect. Johnson purchased his press in Montreal. He personally disassembled it and packed the pieces along with its moveable type in boxes for shipment to Bytown. Most likely, he sent the equipment via boat as there were no railways or good highways linking Bytown to the outside world.

The Prospectus of The Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate was dated December 16, 1835, indicating that Johnson had been working on the newspaper for several months before he released its first issue. He committed to publishing the newspaper every Thursday until demand was such that a semi-weekly publication was warranted. He intended “to advocate the national character and interest of every true Briton—Irishmen and their descendants first on the list.” In addition to being the spokesman for the Irish, Johnson promised to “promote the interests and prosperity of the County of Carleton and the Province [Canada West, i.e. Ontario] in general.” However, he also promised to take “the occasional peep into the affairs of our Sister [Canada East, i.e. Quebec]” since the prosperity of the two Provinces were tightly connected.

Johnson proclaimed that on “all occasions,” the newspaper will “uphold the King, and Constitution by enforcing obedience to the laws.” “May the Union Jack of Great Britain never cease to proudly wave over the Citadel of Quebec,” he declared. However, Johnson was very clear that his allegiance did not extend to the King’s ministers and officers, many of whom he believed incompetent and who put their own self-interest ahead of that of the citizens of the two Provinces. He said that they should be “turned adrift to gain a livelihood by their own industry.” Johnson added that “at all times,” would the newspaper speak out against “any misapplication of public monies, or malefaction with which public officers may be charged.”

One thing the newspaper would not do is to wade into religious controversies, except if “a wonton attack is made upon any body of Christians.” Johnson wrote “every man should be allowed to walk in his own peaceful ways without intolerance, as he is responsible for them to God alone.”

The cost of subscribing to the newspaper, which Johnson promised to publish on “good paper” of “a fair size,” was an expensive £1 or $4 per year, exclusive of postage payable semi-annually in advance. Rates for advertising in the newspaper were set at 2 shillings and sixpence for six lines for the first insertion, with every subsequent insertion set at 7 1/2d. Rates went up for larger advertisements. From six to ten lines, the initial rate was 3s. 6d. with subsequent insertions costing 10d. For submissions of great than ten lines, the rate would be 4d. per line for the first time, and 1d. per line for subsequent insertions.

That first edition had a run of about 500 copies, four pages long, which he produced with the help of John Stewart, his compositor. Johnson tried to deliver by hand all the copies of that inaugural issue of the Bytown Independent as he didn’t want to use the Post Office. Johnson, an irascible and opinionated man, was angry at Bytown’s Deputy Post Master and didn’t want to give him the business. “We have always been ill treated by the Deputy Post Master,” he raged. “To have him enlarge his bags for five hundred copies of the Bytown Independent would be unreasonable on our part.”

Johnson requested that friends and foes alike peruse the newspaper and if they didn’t agree with the paper’s politics they could return the issue by the post. Those who retained the issue would be placed on the Subscribers’ List—an early example of what today is called unsolicited supply. Johnson also advised recipients not to keep a copy out of compassion since if necessary he would seek reforms even if they affected “our best friend.”

Johnson pledged that at the end of the year if he was satisfied with himself, he would treat himself and any well-wishers to a bottle of something that would remain nameless.

Politically, Johnson pledged himself to being neither Whig (Reform) or Tory (Conservative). However, it is evident from the newspaper’s coverage of political events that Johnson was an ardent reformer. The newspaper’s account in its first issue of the evolving Canadian political scene provides a fascinating contemporary look into the turbulent period immediately prior to the Rebellions of 1837 when radical reformers took up arms against repressive, non-representative governments in Upper and Lower Canada.

The first issue of the Bytown Independent took place against the backdrop of a change in the leadership of Upper Canada. Sir John Colborne had just been replaced by Sir Francis Bond Head as Lieutenant Governor. Colborne, a military man who had served under the Duke of Wellington during the Napoleonic War, was conservative by nature and served Upper Canada with an unostentatious style. He successively increased the population of Upper Canada through emigration from Britain and instituted a major public works programme to improve communications across the Province. However, while conscious of the need for constitutional reform, Colborne did nothing to address the provincial political grievances.  While many moderates approved of his administration, radical reformers resented his treatment of the House of Assembly, the cost of assisting immigrants, and his use of public funds without the support of the legislature.

Johnson comments on Colborne were scathing and were often close to being libelous. He wrote:

“We can speak of Sir John’s administration from our own knowledge—not from rumours afloat; and we do say this of it, that it was the most puny, partial and political Government that ever any Colony was governed by.”

As well, Johnson, who called Colborne “a scanty head,” accused the Lieutenant Governor of interference in the 1832 by-election in Carleton County. He blamed the election of Hamnet Pinney (or Pinhey), a Tory, over George Lyon, a reformer, by Colborne’s appointment of a corrupt and biased returning officer.

In the newspaper’s first issue, Johnson published the first half of a letter of instructions to Sir Francis Bond Head from Lord Glenelg, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in London. (The second half was to appear in the second issue of the Independent.) The instructions refer to the mammoth Seventh Report of the Select Committee, which had been chaired by William Lyon Mackenzie, on the grievances of Upper Canada’s House of Assembly. The chief grievance was the “almost unlimited extent of the patronage of the Crown,” exercised by the Colonial minister and his advisers. Lord Glenelg made it very clear that he did not favour the appointment of public officials by the legislature, or by any form of popular election. He feared that such public officials would not work for the general good and “would be virtually exempt from responsibility.” Far better for the Lieutenant Governor to appoint able men who would not promote “any narrow, exclusive or party design.” Given the explosive contents of Glenelg’s letter, it was astonishing that Head released it to the press.

A lengthy response to Glenelg’s instructions written by William Lyon Mackenzie, which originally appeared in a Toronto newspaper, was also published. Mackenzie wrote that throughout the two Canadas there was a “general feeling of disappointment and regret.” He added:

“If Sir Francis appoints to Executive Council men…known for their ability, integrity, firmness and sincere attachment to reform principles, his path will be smooth and easy…but if His Excellency shall retain in office the avowed enemies of free institutions, men whom the basest governments of England ever knew, have made use of their minions to oppress our country, it will be our duty at once to demand his recall and insist that a government which is in itself the greatest of all grievances be made suitable to our wants.”

Unfortunately, Head went on to alienate reformers—his arrogance and ignorance a disastrous combination.  Although Tories won the General Election in June 1836 owing to Head’s appeals of loyalty to the Crown, his actions against reformers led to rebellion. In late 1837, Mackenzie declared himself president of the short-lived Republic of Canada. But the insurrection quickly fizzled. Mackenzie fled to the United States while Head was recalled in disgrace. These events set the stage for the introduction of responsible government under the leadership of moderates such as Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine during the following decade.

In addition to giving a contemporary account of the political struggle between reformers seeking what Americans might call a “government by the people for the people,” and Tories desiring to preserve an autocracy run by the Governor, the Bytown Independent also provides a fascinating window into economic life of early 19th century Canada. During these years, it was unclear whether British North America would use pounds, shillings and pence or dollars and cents as its currency. British and America coins circulated side by side. Canadian banks, which had just began to circulate their own bank notes, issued paper money in both pounds and dollars, sometimes simultaneously in the form of dual denominated notes. This currency ambivalence can be seen by Johnson setting the price of an annual subscription to his newspaper at $4 dollars in one place and at 20 shillings (£1) in another. It wasn’t until 1857 that the Province of Canada (the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada united in 1841) finally chose dollars and cents—economic ties with its U.S. neighbour trumped political and emotional ties with Britain.

There is also a reference in the newspaper to “bons”–a form of alterative paper scrip, usually of small denomination issued by merchants which could be used to buy goods in the issuer’s store. Bon stood for “Bon pour,” French for “Good for.”

Bytown independent 24-2-1836

During the early 19th century, promissory notes (notes of hand) were often used as currency. Endorsed on the back, the notes would pass from person to person as money. Ruglass Wright is probably Ruggles Wright, a son of Philemon Wright who founded Hull. Ruggles, a lumberman like his father, built the first timber slide to transport logs around the Chaudière Falls. In this case, Hugh McGreer is warning potential buyers of the note that he will not pay it if presented.

As well, there is a fascinating reference to “Halifax Currency.” Halifax Currency denoted a way of converting pounds into silver dollars. (It was called Halifax currency after the city where it originated.) One pound, Halifax currency, converted into four silver dollars, or 5 shillings equalled $1. The issuer of a promissory note specified Halifax currency because of the existence of other conversion ratings. For example, in York Currency, which was still in use in parts of Upper Canada in 1836, one silver dollar was worth 8 shillings. To avoid confusion and being short-changed on repayment, it was a sensible precaution to specify the type of currency being used in financial contracts.

Among the advertisements in the newspaper’s first issue are notices from the Post Office listing the times when letters destined for various communities in Upper and Lower Canada had to be received by the Post Office and when letters were delivered at Bytown from these communities. A long list of names of people with mail waiting for them at the Post Office was also provided along with the amount of postage due by them. As these were the days before postage stamps, the recipient of a letter paid the delivery fee. G.W. Baker, the Post Master, warned that unless the amounts were paid by April 5th, the letters would be sent to the dead letter box in Quebec.

Bytown independent Personal ad 24-2-1836

The first personal advertisement. Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate, 24 February 1836. One must wonder whether Daniel Murphy ever reconnected with his sisters.

In another advertisement, Mr. William Northgraves, a watch and clock maker with an office “nearly opposite the Butcher’s Shambles in Lower Bytown,” announced to Bytown residents that from long experience he had acquired “a perfect knowledge of the practical as well as the theoretical part of the science” and was ready to clean and repair all kinds of watches and clocks. Among other things, he could also repair mathematical and surgical instruments, and make all kinds of fine screws. As a side line, he bought old gold and silver.

Two advertisements were placed in the newspaper by Alexander J. Christie. The first he inserted in his capacity as Secretary of the Ottawa Lumber Association announcing a meeting to be held on March 1st at 10 am at J. Chitty’s Hotel to promote the prosperity of the lumber trade. The second was a request for tenders to clear one hundred acres of land close to Bytown.

Christie must have taken a keen liking in the newspaper. He purchased the The Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate from James Johnson after its second issue.  The sale must have surprised the small Bytown community. Christie was a Tory who had helped Hamnet Pinhey win the disputed 1832 Carleton County by-election. Dr. Christie, as he was generally known, was a medical practitioner of uncertain qualifications who had been appointed coroner in 1830 for the Bathurst District in which Bytown was situated. He was also appointed a public notary by Sir John Colborne. Consequently, he represented everything that Johnson had railed against in his newspaper.

Christie relaunched the newspaper a few months later as the Bytown Gazette, and Ottawa and Rideau Advertiser. In his prospectus, Christie claimed that “he comes forward unfettered by a blind adherence to any party.” However, the Gazette’s coverage of political events had a strong Tory bias. The Bytown Gazette folded in 1845 two years after the death of Dr. Christie.

Bytown regained a local reformist newspaper with the establishment of The Packet in 1843 by William Harris. The Packet was to be renamed The Ottawa Citizen in 1851 and remains the most prominent newspaper in the city to this day.

Sources:

Ballstadt, Carl, 2003. “Christie, Alexander James,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 7. University of Toronto/Université Laval, accessed 27 July 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/christie_alexander_james_7E.html.

Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate (The), 24 February 1836.

House of Assembly of Upper Canada, 1835, The Seventh Report from the Select Committee on Grievances, chaired by W. L. Mackenzie, Esq., M. Reynolds: Toronto.

Powell, James, 2005, History of the Canadian Dollar, Bank of Canada.

Wilson, Alan, 2003. “Colborne, John, Baron Seaton,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, accessed 27 July 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/colborne_john_9E.html.

Wise, S. W., 1972. “Head, Sir Francis Bond,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, accessed 27 July 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/head_francis_bond_10E.html.

 

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Archbishop Boris

10 December 1955

It was the height of the Cold War. In 1955, West Germany joined NATO—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Shortly afterwards, the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites established the Warsaw Pact as a military counterweight to the Western Alliance.  In November of that year, the Soviet Union tested an inter-continental ballistic missile that could deliver a hydrogen bomb, many times more potent that the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the U.S. mainland. Tension was also rising over the future of Berlin, with Russia seeking to end four-power control of the German city. Another blockade was feared. Amidst this tense international environment, Archbishop Boris (Vik) of the Russian Orthodox Church came to Canada.

Boris

Archbishop Boris (Vik) 1906-1965, http://orthodoxcanada.ca/Metropolitan_Boris_(Vik).

Archbishop Boris was appointed Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America and Exarch of North and South America in late 1954. His Canadian visit was organized by the United Church of Canada. The trip was the result of an invitation extended by the United Church to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1952. Two other Russians accompanied Boris—Archpriest Constantine Ruzitsky, the rector of the Moscow Theological Seminary, and Anatole Gorbatchov, the lay inspector of seminaries. Bishop Paladeus of Volynack and Rovensk was also supposed to visit Canada, but he was a no-show. No reason was given. The Russians were supposed to arrive in late November. However, the visit was delayed a week owing to an unexplained “mix-up” with their passport and visa arrangements.

Boris had hoped to twin a visit to Canada with a trip to the United States. But after initially granting the Archbishop a visa, the U.S. State Department retracted it. Boris had become caught up in a tit-for-tat struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union over religious representation. After he had received his appointment in late 1954, Boris had come to the United States on a 60-day visa. However, the U.S. State Department turned down his request for the visa to be extended when it expired at the end of February 1955. U.S. authorities were afraid that the United States might become the headquarters of a Moscow-controlled faction of the Russian Orthodox Church. In response, the Russians expelled Georges Bissonnette, an American Roman Catholic priest who was administering to the religious needs of U.S. citizens living in the Soviet Union and the broader diplomatic community. According to the 1933 Roosevelt-Litvinov agreement under which the United States recognized the Soviet regime, the U.S.S.R. had agreed that Americans in Russia would have freedom of worship. While the agreement did not clearly state that officiating clergy must be American, the Russian authorities typically granted a permanent visa to an American priest as long as he did not minister to Russian citizens.

The Soviet government finally agreed to give a visa to Father Dion, a replacement for Father Bissonnette, in November 1955, and the U.S. State Department in return issued a visa for Archbishop Boris to come to the United States. However, it retracted the visa a few days later on the grounds that the exchange of clergymen was not reciprocal. Father Dion was not permitted preach to Russians whereas Archbishop Boris could preach to Americans. This impasse was not broken until the beginning of 1959 when Dion finally went to Moscow and Boris received a three-month visitors’ visa to the United States.

In the meantime, Archbishop Bois and his colleagues made do with a two-week visit at the end of 1955 to Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton. The Russians arrived by airplane at the Dorval Airport in early December and was met by a welcoming committee of United Church dignitaries and G.F. Popov from the Russian Embassy in Ottawa. Dr Ernest Long, Secretary of the General Council of the United Church of Canada, said that the three-fold purpose of the visit was to promote understanding, give visibility to Christian unity, and to foster goodwill between Canadian and Russian Christians.

Conspicuously absent from the welcoming party was any representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada. The rector of the Orthodox St Peter and St Paul Cathedral in Montreal said that he would ignore the visit as the delegation did “not represent the true and continuing branch of the orthodox church” and that the Russian Orthodox Church had become “a mere political organ of the Soviet government.” The Russian visitors also had to sidestep a small group of about fifty demonstrators with banners who were handing out leaflets at the airport in protest of the visit. In answering questions from Canadian and American journalists, Archbishop Boris said through an interpreter that he was not a communist and did not have a personal acquaintance with either Party Secretary Khrushchev or Premier Bulgarin. He added that many Russians believed in God and practised those beliefs: there was no ban on practising religion in the Soviet Union. When asked about Canadian Orthodox churches, Boris said that there were fewer than ten Russian Orthodox churches in Canada and that they were “unfriendly” to the Russian hierarchy. As reconciliation attempts had proven unfeasible, the churches were considered to be “in schism.”

After a short stay in Montreal, Boris and his entourage took a train to Toronto. There, two Ukrainian Catholic priests presented him with a letter asking him to negotiate the release of Bishop Joseph Slipyj from a Siberian labour camp. Slipyj and eleven other Ukrainian Catholic bishops had been sent to Siberian gulags after the war. Slipyj received an eight-year sentence in 1946 for alleged collaboration with the Nazis and for his refusal to accept the forced take-over of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church by the Russian Orthodox Church. (Constatine Ruzitsky, one of Boris’ travelling companions, was reportedly one of the masterminds behind this takeover.) Despite the conclusion of his sentence, Slipyj remained in custody. Archbishop Boris promised to place the request before the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on his return to Moscow. If Boris did anything, it was not effective. Slipyj remained in a Soviet prison for another eight years, and was only released through the intervention of President Kennedy and Pope John XXIII in 1963. Expelled from Russia, the Pope made Slipyj a cardinal in 1965.

While in Toronto, Archbishop Boris visited the large department stores, took a side trip to Niagara Falls, and officiated at a service at the Timothy Eaton Memorial United Church dressed in full Orthodox regalia including a golden mitre studded with precious stones, a purple robe banded with scarlet and white, a lavender stole, two large golden crosses, one around his neck and another in his hand, and a glittering bracelet on his left wrist. When a newspaper reporter took pictures in a gallery, Anatole Gorbachov followed him and asked if he had permission to take pictures. When the journalist said no, Gorbachov told him to go. This put paid to the notion that none of the Russians spoke English.

Archbishop Boris, Archpriest Ruzitsky and Anatole Gorbatchov arrived by train at Union Station in Ottawa at 8.30 am on Saturday, 10 December 1955.  An Ottawa Citizen article described Boris as a “huge man” with a “long ginger-coloured beard flowing over the front of his long black cloak,” carrying a silver-topped staff. Rev. Frank Fidler of Toronto and Rev. Herman Neufeld of the United Church College in Winnipeg accompanied the Russians. As they were being welcomed by United Church dignitaries, Lydia Szarwarkowska of 325 Laurier Avenue pushed ahead of the greeters to plead for help from the Russian prelate. In tears, she asked in Russian for his intercession on her behalf with the Soviet government for an exit permit for her 70-year old mother who lived alone, the rest of her family having been killed in the War.

After checking into the Château Laurier Hotel, the Russians were taken on a tour of the capital, visited the Russian Embassy on Charlotte Street (the embassy was to burn down three weeks later on New Year’s Day 1956), and was taken out to dine at a restaurant by the Ottawa Presbytery of the United Church. Apparently, the Archbishop spent the evening relaxing and watching Russian movies.

Boris The Ottawa Journal 10-12-1955

Advertising a church service with Archbishop Boris, The Ottawa Journal, 10 December 1955

The next day, the Russian delegation joined the congregations of the Greek Orthodox Church on Albert Street and St Elijah’s Syrian Orthodox Church on Lyon Street for Sunday services. The Russians were also given a tour of the Parliament buildings—the Archbishop was surprised there was a Liberal government in power. Boris, a big man weighing close to 300 pounds, reportedly “beamed” when he was told that Jack Garland, the Liberal member for Nippising, tipped the scales at 400 pounds. The group also went to the National Galley. While Boris was not impressed with a modern Henry Moore sculpture, he liked art made by Canada’s native peoples. That evening, the Russians attended a candlelit service at the Dominion United Church for the Canadian Girls in Training. Archbishop Boris, wearing a cross of thirty two diamonds, sat behind the pulpit with the Rt Rev. George Dorey, the Moderator of the United Church and the Rev. J. Lorne Graham, minister and Presbytery Chairman. Boris spoke at the service, urging Christian unity and told the girls the Russian legend of the Christmas tree. Moderator Dorey warned against western propaganda that religion was non-existent in the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, a dozen men, apparently immigrants from Communist-ruled Eastern Europe, handed out anti-Russian pamphlets.

The following day, a luncheon was held in Archbishop Boris’ honour attended by senior representatives of the United Church, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Church, as well as a representative of Canada’s External Affairs. Afterwards, Archbishop Boris, accompanied by George Dorey, the United Church Moderator and Lorne Graham, the Presbytery Chairman, held a press conference. Boris, dressed in flowing black robes spoke of his experience so far in Canada, saying he found Canadians to be “hospitable and hard-working.” He was also impressed with the church services. Boris also took this opportunity to denounce the U.S. decision to rescind his visa. He said it amounted to “pressure on religion.” In contrast, he said that although communists were unbelievers, he knew that some came to his church. Moreover, he had seen with his own eyes the good work the communist government was doing. He posed the rhetorical question “Is the American Government Christian?” He also insisted that there was no interference in the Russian Orthodox Church by the Soviet Government. He added that Russians were entitled to their own opinion and could practice religion. After a final service at Southminster United Church, the Russian clerics headed west, stopping first in Toronto.

Archbishop Boris did not have a good flight from Ottawa to Toronto. Leaving on a small DC-3 airplane, he was given two seats to accommodate his size. However, he had trouble buckling his seatbelt. After an attempt to use two seatbelts failed, an attendant managed to fasten him in using a cargo belt. Unfortunately, Boris’ long whiskers got caught in the strap. Reportedly, he “let out an unchurchmanlike roar,” as he, his two Russian aides, and a stewardess struggled to free him.

After a brief stay in Edmonton, the Russians returned to Montreal, before heading back to Moscow via Amsterdam.

The two-week visit was a great propaganda coup for the Russian Orthodox Church and the Soviet Union. Well covered by Canadian and American press, Boris faithfully toed the Communist party line that religion, while not encouraged, was thriving in the Soviet Union, and that Russians were free to practice without hindrance. This view was openly supported by George Dorey, the United Church Moderator. Boris also had the opportunity to literally demonize the United States for barring his entry. “I believe in God, but there is also a devil [a.k.a. the U.S. Government],” he thundered. Of course, the reality was quite different. Although there had been some thawing of government-church relations which began during the War when the Soviets sought the help of the Orthodox Church in defeating the Nazis, that window of relative tolerance was fast closing. Despite religious freedom being enshrined in law, the Soviet Union was militantly atheist. Thousands had died or had been imprisoned for their faith. Nonetheless, Boris disingenuously claimed that “the Russian government had never persecuted the church as such but only church members who had been against the government.” Also, communist toleration of religion, if you can call it that, only went so far. Persecution of believers, especially non-Orthodox practitioners, continued. Roman Catholics, given their “allegiance” to the Pope, were under particular suspicion.

The pastor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin on Echo Drive called the United Church “tragically naïve” in arranging the visit. He added that Archbishop Boris is trusted by the Communist Party.  He likened the Russian trip to “a secret police mission.” Before inviting Archbishop to Canada, the United Church ought to have consulted the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada. “We have no quarrel with the United Church. But we do after all know a little more than them about Russia. We know that the Soviets executed 38 bishops of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine alone.”

Following Archbishop Boris’s visit to Canada, Soviet oppression of religious organizations increased under Nikita Khrushchev during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Among the many anti-religious measures taken was the closure of thousands of churches and monasteries. Clergymen who criticized atheism were forcibly retired or imprisoned, while parents were forbidden to teach religion to their children.

Sources:

Bishop, Donald Gordon, 1965. The Roosevelt-Litvinov Agreements, An American View, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York.

Decatur Sunday Herald and Review (The), 1955. “Delegation From The Russian Church Hits Opposition on Visit to Canada,” 25 December.

Globe and Mail (The), “U.S. Cancelled A Visa Granted To Boris 11 Days Earlier,” 15 November.

————————–, 1955. “Forbidden To Enter U.S., Moscow Prelate Due In Canada On Monday,” 22 November.

————————–, 1955. “Expect Four Russian Clerics To Arrive Sunday,” 30 November.

————————–, 1955. “Russians Pledge Action on Priests’ Requests,” 8 December.

————————–, 1955. “Satisfied With Reds,” 13 December.

Orthodox Canada, 2018. Archbishop Boris (Vik), http://orthodoxcanada.ca/Metropolitan_Boris_(Vik).

Ottawa Citizen (The), 1955. “Woman In Tears Pleads For Aid From Russ Cleric,” 10 December.

————————-, 1955. “Visiting Archbishop Tells Christmas Legend,” 12 December.

————————-, 1955. “Protest Visit of Russian Clerics Here,” 12 December.

————————-, 1955. “‘Our Only Aim to Live In Peace,’ Archbishop Affirms At Luncheon,” 13 December.

————————-, 1955. “Visiting Red Priests Called Moscow Spies,” 13 December.

Ottawa Journal, The, 1955. “Russian Churchmen Escape Demonstrators at Montreal,” 5 December.

————————-, 1955. “Russian Archbishop Shows Interest,” 7 December.

————————-, 1955. “United Moderator Says Russian Church Autonomous,” 12 December.

————————, 1955. “U.S. Bars Russian Bishop,” 12 December.

————————, 1955. “Russian Churchmen Display Keen Interest In Parliament,” 12 December.

————————, 1955. “At CGIT Service, Russian Inspector Pockets Pamphlets,” 12 December.

————————-, 1955. “Ottawa Clergyman Calls Visiting Russians Stooges,” 13 December.

————————-, 1955. “Tangled in Strap, Couldn’t Be Freed,” 13 December.

Soviet History Museum, 2018. Hydrogen Bomb, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1954-2/hydrogen-bomb/.

The Mystery of the Wandering Ballots

28 February 1928

At the beginning of December 1926, the Conservative government of George Howard Ferguson was returned to power in a General Election with an overwhelming majority in the Ontario Legislature. Although the Conservatives lost three seats from the previous election, they won over 57 per cent of the popular vote and claimed 73 of the Legislature’s 112 seats. The principal issue of the election was prohibition. Ferguson, who had already eased the ban on liquor by permitting the sale of low-alcohol beer, promised to repeal the Ontario Temperance Act and replace it with Liquor Control Act which would allow alcohol sales in government-owned liquor stores. The two major opposition parties, the Progressive Party under William Raney and the Liberal Party under William E.N. Sinclair, supported continued prohibition. In Ottawa, Conservatives took two of three city seats. Conservative Thomas Birkett took the South Ottawa riding with a large majority over his Liberal rival, Robert Russell Sparks—9,171 votes to 5,526. In North Ottawa, Conservative Albert Honeywell also triumphed with a large majority. In East Ottawa, Joseph Pinard, an Independent Liberal supporter of liquor control rather than prohibition, eked out a narrow victory in a three-way contest.

Ten months later, at the beginning of October 1927, George Landerkin, a civil servant working for the Ministry of the Interior living at 171 Fifth Avenue, was walking along Alymer Avenue which runs parallel to Sunnyside Avenue. As he strode along the road, he spotted black-edged papers lying on the pavement and blowing in the wind. He reached down and picked one up. On it was printed two names—Thomas M. Birkett and Robert Russell Sparks. It was a blank ballot from the previous year’s provincial election for the South Ottawa constituency. Counting at least 75 ballots littering the roadway, he picked up nineteen and took them home.

Ballots TOEJ 24-2-1928

Photograph of one of the nineteen ballot papers found by George Landerkin and sent to Liberal leader W.E.N. Sinclair, The Ottawa Evening Journal, 24 February 1928.

The matter might have gone no further except Landerkin, not knowing what to do with the ballots he found, gave them to his solicitor, Alexander Smith, of the Ottawa legal firm Smith and Johnson. Smith sent the ballots to Russell Sparks, the losing Liberal candidate for the South Ottawa constituency, who in turn forwarded them to W.E.N. Sinclair, Opposition Leader and leader of the Liberal Party.

A few months later, in mid-February 1928, (the reason for the delay is unclear) Sinclair stood in the Ontario Legislature and announced that he had in his possession a number of ballots from the 1926 provincial election for the South Ottawa constituency. Suggesting that a crime might have been committed, he demanded an explanation from the government. Premier Ferguson replied that this was the first time that he had heard of the matter. He added that his government would make every effort to investigate and invited Sinclair’s co-operation.

Approached by the press after the news broke, Francis M. Scott, the returning officer responsible for conducting the election in the South Ottawa riding, emphatically denied that there had been any election irregularities on his watch. “There were positively no irregularities and so far as I am concerned, a careful check was made throughout election day on all ballots and polling places.” Other prominent Conservatives (Scott was a Conservative appointee) in Ottawa expressed their “full confidence in the manner in which the election had been carried out by returning officers and other election officials.” Thomas Birkett, the South Ottawa deputy, denied having any knowledge of the ballots until the Liberal leader “sprang” the issue in his speech. Birkett, who wasn’t in the House at the time, hurried into the chamber when colleagues told him that his riding was being discussed.

The mystery of the wandering ballots was referred to the Privileges and Elections Committee. Sinclair, who was a member of the Committee, insisted that it conduct a complete scrutiny of the South Ottawa ballots, tracing their movement from the Office of the King’s Printer in Toronto to the polling booth and then their return for safekeeping with the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, the civil servant responsible for elections’ administration. Conservative members demanded that Sinclair produce the ballots before launching an investigation.

Several days of political wrangling ensued with Sinclair unwilling to cough up the ballots until the government started a scrutiny of the South Ottawa ballots. A motion to subpoena Sinclair and force him to produce his ballots and tell the committee where he got them easily passed given the Conservative majority on the committee. Only the Liberal and Progressive members dissented. Sinclair protested, calling the motion “political byplay.” He added “I haven’t got them about me. Do you suppose I’d walk around in this crowd with all those ballots?” Sinclair did admit, however, that he received the ballots from Russell Sparks, the defeated Liberal candidate. He later added that Sparks got them from the law firm Smith and Johnson.

Meanwhile, Sinclair allowed journalists to see and photograph one of the wayward ballots, something that offended members of the Privileges and Elections Committee who had been denied a similar opportunity. Conservatives said that Sinclair’s stance was “unprecedented” and “farcical.” Sinclair replied that he didn’t understand why the Conservative Party didn’t want the inquiry to proceed, “but the man in the street is believing more and more every day that there is something wrong.”

With Sinclair refusing to hand over the nineteen ballots, the Committee was deadlocked. The issue returned to the Legislature unresolved. To break the impasse, and sooth those who had become “agitated and high strung,” Premier Ferguson agreed on 28 February 1928 to appoint a Royal Commission headed by two Ontario Supreme Court Justices, The Honourable James Magee and The Honourable Frank Egerton Hodgins, to examine the matter. “Nothing should be left undone to preserve that sacredness [of the ballot] or to protect it against suspicion,” said the Premier in the Legislature.

The Commission quickly got down to work in Toronto calling witnesses and perusing evidence. Sinclair, the first witness, finally produced the nineteen ballots. After the clerk of the Crown in Chancery verified their authenticity, the Commission traced the ballots’ movements starting from the King’s Printer who supplied the specially watermarked ballot paper to the United Press in Toronto who printed blank sheets of black-bordered ballots for the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. The Clerk in turn supplied blank sheets in packages to constituencies for a local printer to add the names of candidates to the ballots and cutting. Each sheet has spaces for twelve names. Consequently, in the South Ottawa riding where there were only two candidates, each sheet could be cut into six ballots. The Clerk sent Francis Scott, the South Ottawa returning officer, 8,000 sheets of ballot paper. On their arrival in Ottawa, the packets of ballot paper was dropped off at Scott’s residence. He subsequently sent them to Modern Press in Ottawa to print 30,000 ballots made into pads. Once printed with Birkett’s and Sparks’ names, the ballots were sent back to Scott. Each ballot consisted of a numbered stub, a counterfoil similarly numbered, and the actual ballot itself.

On election day, returning officers tore off a ballot from the stub, and gave it with the counterfoil to each voter. After the ballot was marked in secret, the voter returned to the returning officer and gave him the ballot. The counterfoil was then torn off and the ballot placed in the ballot box. Left behind would be stubs and counterfoils that could be verified against each other. The number of ballots cast could also be compared to the number of counterfoils or stubs to ensure against ballot-box stuffing. The Commission’s lawyer noted that the Sinclair ballots did not have attached counterfoils. Consequently, he argued that “with ordinary care” they could not have be used.

The Commission determined that a lot more than Sinclair’s nineteen ballots had gone astray. Other people came forward with stories of finding ballots. The daughter of Mrs Charles Dore of 16 Alymer Avenue brought home more than 100 ballots, some loose, some still in packets. Charles Mullin and Thomas O’Neil also saw ballots lying on the same roadway. Fred Taggert of Fairburn Avenue testified that a newsboy collecting money from his wife had showed her a pad of clean ballots. Another newsboy, Nelson Wilkins, gave W. J. Lowrie of Ottawa in February 1927 a pad of twenty ballots, complete with counterfoils and stubs. Lowrie in turn gave the ballots to Thomas Birkett, the Conservative winner.  Wilkins had found the ballots in a back room of the Hill building at 282 Sunnyside Avenue where Scott had rented rooms prior to the election as his office and a polling station. After the provincial election, the rooms had been used as a polling station for Ottawa’s municipal election held a few days later. They then were occupied by a Conservative Club. In early 1927, the rooms become a newsboy’s newspaper distribution centre. Finding pads of unused ballots on the floor of a back storage room and in a waste paper basket, the newsboys began to play with them. Harry Nicholson, one of the newsboys, told the inquiry that he and his friends took away 15-20 pads of ballots “for fun.” Many found their way outside—the apparent source of the ballots littering nearby Aylmer Avenue.

Called to testify, Francis Scott, the responsible returning officer, admitted that he did not verify the number of ballots received from the Modern Press, nor did he note how many ballots he provided to each polling station. He swore, however, that after the election he returned all used and unused ballots along with unused sheets of ballot paper to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery in sealed boxes as required under the elections legislation.

However, when boxes containing election materials were opened up at the inquiry, Scott was shocked to discover one box was empty and another contained only three packets of ballot stubs without counterfoils. To add to the mystery, the seals on the boxes had been previously broken. Scott told Justices McGee and Hodgins that there was a “long story” behind the missing ballots which he could not reveal for family reasons, claiming that his wife was sick to death of the affair. “I will take the blame of the whole thing rather than say anything,” he is reported to have said. He added that a number of persons had tampered with the boxes.  Scott wrote down three names on a piece of paper and gave it to the Justices. He ominously remarked that the story will reflect on “somebody in Ottawa.” Their motive was jealousy or spite. His initial suspicion was somebody in the Liberal Party but when Birkett brought in his ballots, he thought both parties might be involved.

The Ontario Provincial Police were called in to investigate. Inspector Stringer examined the rooms on Sunnyside Avenue, and personally found additional blank ballots. Testimony from newsboy Nelson Wilkins and a number of Conservative Party workers, including the three whose names were on Scott’s piece of paper, did not shed much further light on the issue. None of the three were in the rooms on election day.

In subsequent testimony, Scott declined to give his “long story.” Contrary to what he had said earlier, he admitted that he might not have packed up and shipped to Toronto the unused ballots and excess ballot paper. Indeed, a worker from the Modern Press testified to having found the blank election paper in the company’s storage four months after the election. The worker burnt the sheets. As for the unused ballots, Scott considered them “waste election paper” and simply threw them away. Finally, Scott admitted to the Commission that he had been “in a particular frame of mind” when he alleged that jealous persons had broken into the sealed boxes. His stories were untrue.  In order to clear himself of wrongdoing, he had tried to blame others.

In the end, the Commission found many irregularities in the handling of the ballots and ballot paper, but concluded that the outcome of the South Ottawa election had not been affected. The Justices believed that the unused ballot paper had been fully accounted for—the paper had been burnt at the premises of the Modern Press. While only a portion of the unused ballots were ever found, the Justices were also satisfied that they had been strewn about the street by the newsboys.

However, the Justices were concerned that the discovery of loose ballots might have created suspicion and uncertainty about the election outcome. While deciding that no criminal act had been committed, the Commission declared Francis Scott, the returning officer, to be “guilty of carelessness, irregularity, negligence and incompetence as well as unintentional wrongdoing.” The Justices also remarked that returning officers needed to be honest and “thoroughly competent and careful.”  Some blame for the incident was also placed on the Modern Press which couldn’t say with certainty how much ballot paper it had received, and how many ballots it had printed. It also didn’t return unused ballot paper to the returning officer as required by law. However, this again was judged as an unintentional wrongdoing rather than a criminal act.

The Justices made a number of recommendations to protect the integrity of the election process including a recommendation for strict accounting of ballots and ballot paper with receipts issued at every stage of the printing and distribution process.

The Justices’ decision was accepted by everybody including Russell Sparks, the defeated Liberal candidate. Of course, the two political parties tried to spin the outcome in their favour. Premier Ferguson called the mystery of the wandering ballots a “dud.” Liberal Leader Sinclair saw the outcome as a “condemnation of the government.”

 

Sources:

Elections Canada, 2018. Canada at the Polls. http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?dir=yth/stu/gui&document=dx&lang=e&section=vot.

Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario from the 9th February to 3rd April, 1928, inclusive. Second Session of the Seventeenth Legislature of the Province of Ontario, Session 1928, Vol. LXII.

Globe (The), 1928. “High Court Judges To Probe Ballot Mystery,” 29 February.

————–, 1928. “Flaws in Election Act Noted at Last Session of South Ottawa Probe,” 27 March.

Ottawa Evening Journal (The), 1926. “Decisive Mandate At Polls For Premier Ferguson,” 2 December.

————————————-, 1928. “Now Asks For Investigation Of Evidence Of Corruption In Riding Of South Ottawa,” 15 February.

————————————-, 1928. “Will Summon Two Election Officials Now,” 17 February.

————————————, 1928. “Hectic Verbal Tilts Between TheMembers,” 21 February.

————————————-, 1928. “Ballots Were Handed To Him By Legal Firm,” 24 February.

————————————-, 1928. “In Warm Debate On Clearing Up Ballot Mix-up,” 25 February.

————————————-, 1928. “Ballot Enquiry To Open Monday Next,” 2 March.

————————————-, 1928. “Must Deiscover If The Ballots Were Genuine,” 5 March.

————————————-, 1928. “Stray Ballots Are Produced At the Enquiry,” 15 March.

————————————-, 1928. “Brings Out Fact That Other Ballots Also Missing,” 16 March.

————————————, 1928. “F.M. Scott Gives Evidence In Ballot Inquiry,” 16 March.

————————————, 1928. “Civil Servant Who Provided Ballots Names,” 19 March.

————————————, 1928. “Given Surprise On Opening Up Ballot Boxes,” 20 March.

————————————, 1928. “Police To Solve Ottawa Ballot Mystery,” 20 March.

————————————, 1928.  “Provincial Man Makes Search Hill Premises,” 21 March.

————————————, 1928.  “Inquiry Likely To Terminate This Afternoon,” 22 March.

————————————, 1928. “Police Officer Tells Of Visit Paid To Ottawa,” 23 March.

————————————, 1928. “He Now Admits Did Not Return The Left-Overs,” 24 March.

————————————, 1928. “Mystery Over South |Ottawa Ballots Ends,” 26 March.

————————————, 1928. “Scott Careless The Election Judges Deeclare,” 13 April.

————————————, 1928. “States Ballot Affair Turned Out To Be “Dud,” 24 April.

Report of The Honourable James MaGee, and the Honourable Frank Egerton Hodgins, appointed by Order-In-Council to enquire into certain matters regarding the election held on December 1st, 1926 in the electoral district of South Ottawa, April, 11, 1928, https://archive.org/stream/b249458#page/n0/mode/2up.

The Shiners’ War

20 October 1835

Bytown, the future Ottawa, was a rough place to live during the early nineteenth century. The combination of French, Irish, English, and Scottish settlers was a combustible mixture, especially when combined with religious differences, historic grievances, discrimination, a rigid social structure, poverty, and alcohol. Mother Mcguinty’s Tavern, which was located in Corktown amidst the shanties that lined the Rideau Canal, and Firth’s Tavern close to the Chaudière Falls, were notorious watering holes. If those didn’t suit, there were dozens of other legal taverns as well as illegal grog houses to patronize. Drunken fights and brawls were commonplace, especially when the lumbermen and raftsmen, the workers who brought the cut logs downriver, were in town to gather supplies for the lumbering season.

Despite being co-religionists, Irish and French Canadians often duked it out on the streets of Bytown. Folklore has it that Joseph Montferrand, big Joe Mufferaw to English-speakers, fought off as many as 150 Irishmen in 1829 standing in the middle of the Union Bridge that linked Bytown in Upper Canada to Hull in Lower Canada across the Chaudière Falls. The story has it that Montferrand, a muscular lumberman of considerable proportions, dumped each Irishman who challenged him into the Ottawa River. Montferrand came to be seen as a defender of French rights.

Lumbermen, Ottawa, late 19th century, Topley Studio Library and Archives Canada PA-012605

Lumbermen in the Ottawa Valley, late 19th century, Topley Studio-Library and Archives Canada, PA-012605.

Matters only got worse after the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832 and work became scarce. Unemployed Irish canal workers looked for jobs in the lumber industry, a business hitherto dominated by French Canadians. Tempers flared and fists flew. The Irish gained the upper hand against their French Canadian neighbours when they found a champion who organized them. That leader was Peter Aylen. Of Irish extraction, he was born Peter Vallely in Liverpool, England.  He came to Canada in 1815, reportedly after jumping ship at Quebec. At some point he changed his name to Aylen. Little is known about his early years in Canada, but by the 1830s he had become prominent in the lumber business in the Ottawa Valley. Aylen hired only Irish workers, a fact that endeared him to the Irish community in Lower Bytown. He was very successful, becoming a member of the “Gatineau Privilege” who obtained a monopoly to cut timber in the Gatineau River area. He also had lumber operations in the watersheds of the Bonnechere and Madawaska Rivers. In the 1830s, Aylen built a substantial stone homestead on Richmond Road which still stands today.

Aylen’s Irish followers were called Shiners. The origins of the term is obscure. One explanation is that it’s a corruption of the French word chêneurs, or fellers of oak. Another has it that they considered themselves to be the shining ones who stood out above all others. Yet other explanations have them named for the shiny tall hats that newcomers wore, or the shiny silver half-crown coins with which they were paid. Regardless, the Shiners were hooligans who terrorized Bytown and the environs for years. Many offences were laid at their doorstep including stripping children naked in the snow, fouling wells, accosting women in the street and shattering windows. On one occasion, it is said that they broke up a funeral cortege and threw the coffin off the hearse into the street.

They were also accused of serious crimes such as assault, arson, rape and murder. On one occasion, the pregnant wife of a farmer called Hobbs, who had somehow crossed the Shiners, was attacked while driving home in a sleigh with other female members of the family. Beaten with sticks, Mrs Hobbs tried to jump to safety. But her clothing caught in the sleigh and she was dragged over the frozen ground before coming free. The Shiners cut her team of horses loose from the sleigh and ran them off. The next day, the horses managed to find their way home. Their ears and tails had been mutilated.

Aylen house 2018

Peter Aylen’s House, built circa. 1830, 150 Richmond Road, Ottawa. In 1914, the home’s substantial out-buildings were destroyed by fire. July 2018, by James Powell

According to the Capuchin priest, Father Alexis de Barbezieux, people said “Il n’y a pas de Dieu à Bytown.”  (There is no God in Bytown.) Families without news of children who had gone to Bytown to work in the lumber camps feared that they had been killed. Many years later, some believed that in the middle of the night at the Chaudière Bridge (the bridge that replaced the Union Bridge) you could hear the cries of drowned French-Canadian voyageurs and Irish Shiners, the victims of desperate fights who had fallen to their deaths into the rapids below.

In 1835, Peter Aylen stepped up his campaign to control the lumber industry. Shiners began interdicting timber rafts owned by French Canadians going down the Ottawa River to Montreal. Aylen also had bigger ideas—taking over Bytown. Beatings and intimidation increased on the town’s streets. Special constables that were supposed to keep the peace looked the other way, or were in Aylen’s pay. If pursued, hooligans simply crossed the border into Lower Canada and evaded arrest. Even if they were captured, they had to be transported to Perth for trial as there was no jail or courthouse in Bytown. Poorly paid constables were loath to make the perilous fifty-mile journey given the many opportunities for ambush along the way.

Aylen House plaque

Commemorative Plaque on Peter Aylen’s house, 150 Richmond Road.  The home was later owned by the Heney family. July 2018, by James Powell

Despite the anarchy, the community’s wealthy elite in Upper Bytown didn’t take serious action to suppress the Shiners as long as problems were confined to Lower Town. But when the Irish-French feud disrupted the all-important timber trade, and prices rose as farmers became reluctant to bring provisions to lawless Bytown, the town’s merchants woke up to the risks. In August 1835, Peter Aylen challenged the elites politically when he took over the Bathurst District Agricultural Society, the pinnacle of Bytown society life. Drunken Shiners, furnished by Aylen with the necessary one dollar membership fee, overwhelmed authentic members and voted in Aylen and his friends as directors.

With this, Aylen had gone too far. On 20 October 1835, a group of prominent Bytown householders established the Bytown Association for the Preservation of the Peace. They appealed to town magistrates for one hundred guns to arm citizens. Vigilantes made nightly patrols in an attempt to maintain order. As the army based in Barrick Hill was called out only on rare occasions to quell riots, the town formed a volunteer force, the Bytown Rifles, to combat the Shiners. However, the Rifles quickly disintegrated as nobody was willing to serve under its commander, Captain Baker, who was apparently something of a martinet.

Although the vigilantes had some success in keeping the peace, the Shiners continued to terrorize Bytown citizens. In March 1836, the community’s leading lumbermen founded the Ottawa Lumber Association as a further step in suppressing violence in their industry. However, with Aylen as one of its officers, the first act of the new organization was “to improve the movement of timber” on the Madawaska River where Aylen had operations. This likely meant protecting Aylen’s timber interests from angry French Canadians.

In early January 1837, Aylen and his gang disrupted the election of councillors to the Nepean Township Council held in John Stanley’s Tavern in Bytown. While Aylen was elected as one of the three councillors, he demanded that the other two positions be filled with his cronies. A gang of 40-60 of his men, many of whom had arrived at the tavern walking behind a sleigh bearing a portrait of St Patrick, stormed the meeting room, some entering via a broken window. Several of Aylen’s opponents, including James Johnson the founder of The Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate, Bytown’s first newspaper, were violently beaten with sticks and horse whips in the meeting room and in the tavern’s courtyard. Protests that Aylen’s supporters were not Bytown property owners and hence were ineligible to vote went unheeded. The meeting ended in disarray with legitimate attendees fleeing in panic, and the provincial statutes and other important papers destroyed. Order was only restored by intervention of the military.

An official inquiry into the riot was held ten days later by four Bytown magistrates.  Most of the dozen or so witnesses who testified blamed Aylen for the affray. Aylen and his cronies did not testify. The magistrates concluded that vigorous measures needed to be adopted to prevent a recurrence of a similar breach of the Peace. They recommended the establishment of a municipal police force and the building of a courthouse and jail in Bytown.

The Bytown Gazette didn’t comment on what it called the “disturbances” until almost eight weeks after the riot at Stanley’s tavern, and only did so with “a good deal of reluctance.” The newspaper cautiously concluded that “our more intelligent readers will doubtless perceive, that a subject of this nature will be viewed in many different lights by different men, that no detail of occurrences with satisfy every one.” It thought there was enough blame to be shared around. “[A]lthough the disturbances have in general been attributed to the Lumbermen, under the cognomen of shiners, there have been instances in which our yeomanry have been the aggressors.”  The newspaper also opined that Bytown was being maligned due to the circulation of untrue or exaggerated stories.

Like the magistrates who held the inquiry, the Gazette thought that part of the problem was the lack of a jail. “A wholesome dread of prompt punishment would deter them from committing [crimes].” The newspaper also argued that there were too many unlicensed “Tippling Houses” where men could obtain alcohol. Legal tavern keepers should form an association to stop illegal drinking establishments. This would be an “effectual means of suppressing these hordes of vice from whence so large a portion of these disorders proceed.”

The Gazette stiffened its resolve against the Shiners when in early March 1837 armed men went to the house of James Johnson who had been beaten in the January riot on the pretense of searching for a man. Shots were fired into the upstairs rooms. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. The Gazette fumed that it was “high time measures were adopted to check them.” Poor James Johnson was to suffer yet another attempt on this life a short time later. This time, his three assailants armed with guns and whips nearly succeeded. Ambushed on Sappers’ bridge that linked Upper Town to Lower Town, Johnson had to jump into deep snow to save himself. He was rescued by passersby, but suffered a fractured skull. Fortunately, he recovered.

Unlike in the past when the Shiners could act with impunity, the three men who committed the outrage were captured and taken to Perth to stand trial. Although Aylen broke them out of jail, they were subsequently recaptured in late 1837 and served three years with hard labour in a penitentiary for attempted murder.

By this time, the age of the Shiners was fading. Bytown citizens were themselves becoming better organized and less likely to be cowed. Aylen, who had been charged with a number of offences over the years without any apparent consequence, either sold or rented out his properties on the Upper Canada side of the Ottawa River, and moved to Aylmer on the Lower Canada side. There, he continued in the lumber business. But in Aylmer, he apparently mellowed, becoming a respected member of the community. He even helped to build the area’s first church. He also became a member of the Hull Township Council in 1846, a Justice of the Peace (no joke) in 1848 and the superintendent of roads in the mid-1850s. He died peacefully in 1868.

The Shiners continued to commit acts of violence into the 1840s. But without Peter Aylen at the helm, they faded into history. Ottawa didn’t get a permanent police force until 1863. The Aylen family remained prominent in the Ottawa area. Five generations of Peter Aylen’s descendants have been lawyers, including H. Aldeous Aylen, Peter Aylen’s great grandson, who was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario in 1950. In the year 2000, the legal firm of Scott and Aylen, co-founded by the Aylen family almost fifty years earlier, merged with a number of other firms to create Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, now the largest and oldest law firm in Canada with roots going back almost 200 years.

Sources:

Barbezieux, Alexis de, (Father), 1897. Histoire de la Province Ecclesiastique D’Ottawa et la Colonisation dans la Vallée de l’Ottawa, Vol.1, Ottawa : La Cie d’Imprimerie.

Bytown Gazette (The), 1837. “Reported Disturbances in Bytown,” 23 February.

————————–, 1837. “Untitled,” 2 March.

Cross, Michael S, 1973. “The Shiners’ War: Social Violence in the Ottawa Valley in the 1830s,” The Canadian Historical Review, Vol. LIV, No. 1, March, pp. 1-26.

———————, 1976-2018. “Aylen (Vallely), Peter, Dictionary of Canadian Biography,” http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/aylen_peter_9E.html.

Globe and Mail (The), 2000, “Five law firms wed in cross-country mega-merger, 29 February.

House of Assembly of Upper Canada, 1837. Journal, 1st Session of the 13th Provincial Parliament, Session 1836-37, No. 52 Letter from Magistrates to Mr. Secretary Joseph on the subject of the Bytown Riots, 12 January, W.J. Coates, Printer: Toronto.

———————————————, 1837. “No. 58, Report of the Select Committee on Message of his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor and Documents relative to the Riots at Bytown.” 18 February.

Ottawa Citizen (The), 2014. “John Gordon Aylen, Obituary,” 29 December.

Ottawa Journal (The), 1936. “Christmas In Ottawa One Hundred Years Ago, 19 December.

————————–, 1950. “Name H. Aldous Aylen Supreme Court Justice,” 13 September.

Earthquake!

28 February 1925

When most Canadians or Americans think of earthquake-prone areas, what first comes to mind is the west coast of North America, especially California, the site of many memorable earthquakes, including the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 which destroyed over 80 per cent of the city and killed roughly 3,000 people. Baseball fans of a certain age will also recall the Loma Prieta quake that hit the San Francisco area in 1989 and disrupted Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. 67 people lost their lives and close to 4,000 people were injured in that disaster. Property damage was estimated at $5 billion.

Both of these San Francisco earthquakes occurred on the 1,200 kilometre-long San Andreas Fault, the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate, which is sliding northward, and the North American Plate which is moving southward. The fault is part of the “Ring of Fire,” an area prone to earthquakes and volcanoes that follows the perimeter of the Pacific Ocean.  The Loma Prieta quake had a magnitude of 6.9 on the moment magnitude scale (Mw). The moment magnitude, which is typically used today, is calculated slightly differently from the older but better known Richter scale developed by Charles Richter in 1935. But both scales measure the magnitude of the earth’s movement as detected by a seismograph on a logarithmic scale. The moment magnitude scale is more accurate, especially for large earthquakes. The 1906 quake is estimated to have had a magnitude of 7.9 Mw. Although it was only one step larger on the logarithmic scale than the 1989 temblor, it released roughly 32 times more energy (101.5). A two-step increase in magnitude would release 1,000 times more energy (103).

Vancouver and Victoria are Canada’s most earthquake-prone cities. They are located in the Cascadia subduction zone, a 1,000 kilometre-long fault that stretches along the west coast from the top of Vancouver Island down to northern California. Three tectonic plates, the Explorer, the Juan de Fuca and the Gorda, are moving east under the North American plate. This area has been hit by several major earthquakes in the past, including a massive one in 1700 centred off of  Vancouver Island that had an estimated magnitude of 8.7 to 9.0 Mw. In other words, it released roughly 32 times more energy than the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and more than 1,000 times more energy than the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. In 1949, an 8.1 Mw tremblor hit the Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) region, north of Vancouver Island.

After the western metropolises of British Columbia, the next most seismically active cities are Montreal and, believe it or not, Ottawa. Both cities are located in the Western Quebec Seismic Zone which has two sub-zones, one along the Ottawa River and the other from Maniwaki, north of Ottawa, to Montreal. Incredibly, there is on average one earthquake every five days in this region. To the east of the Western Quebec Seismic Zone is the even more active Charlevoix Seismic Zone, located close to Quebec City along the St Lawrence. Here, one earthquake is recorded on average every one and one half days. Of course, the vast majority of the earthquakes in both zones are only small earth trembles that are scarcely noticed except by seismographs—but not always. A powerful earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7 Mw struck the Charlevoix-Kamouraska area in 1663, followed by nine days of aftershocks.

Earthquakes, Natural Resources Canada

The Western Quebec Seismic Zone. The dots represent earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher since the beginning of the twentieth century. Source: Natural Resources Canada.

Seismic activity in this part of Canada is not well understood. Much of central-eastern Canada is covered by the Canadian Shield, a massive, ancient, and stable rock formation that makes up the interior of the North American Plate. Lacking plate boundaries, this is not a locale that one typically associates with earthquakes. According to Natural Resources Canada, eastern Canadian earthquakes are due to “regional stress fields” and are concentrated in areas of “crustal weakness.” The end of the last ice age, which had caused land once pressed down by the weight of glaciers to rebound, may be a factor. Some scientists believe that “post-glacial rebound stress” has directly caused earthquakes, or has reactivated old faults which have led to earthquakes.

Ottawa residents are likely to remember the moderate magnitude 5.0 Mw earthquake that struck the nation’s capital in late June 2010. The epicentre was located roughly 60 kilometres north of Ottawa near Buckingham, Quebec. It was felt in Toronto, Montreal and south to New Jersey in the United States. Damage was slight. Some windows were broken, and power was cut in parts of downtown. No injuries were reported.

This earthquake was reportedly the strongest Ottawa had experienced in sixty-five years. That earlier earthquake struck on 28 February 1925 at 9.20.17 pm Eastern Standard Time. The capital was shaken by a 6.2 Mw earthquake whose epicentre was located near Shawinigan, Quebec, 260 kilometres distant, in the Charlevoix Seismic Zone. So strong was the quake that it was felt more than 1,000 kilometres away. On the Modified Mercalli Index, which measures an earthquake’s intensity or effects as opposed to the amount of energy released, the earthquake reached level VIII (severe) (out of ten grades) in the area close to the epicentre. At this level, people panic, trees are shaken strongly, and there is widespread building damage, including fallen chimneys, walls and pillars.

While the epicentre of the 1925 earthquake was more than 200 kilometers further away than the 2010 earthquake, its effects on Ottawa were considerably larger owing to its increased magnitude. A 6.2 Mw earthquake is almost 16 times bigger than a 5 Mw earthquake and is 63 times stronger in terms of energy released.   After the earthquake, The Ottawa Evening Journal reported that the capital had not seen such excitement since Armistice Day that ended the Great War in 1918. Fortunately, there were no injuries and property damage was slight.

The 1925 earthquake lasted ten minutes or longer in some locales, though tremors apparently continued for several hours, keeping anxious citizens awake through the night wondering whether a still larger quake was still to come. Residents of Sandy Hill and Ottawa South were the worst affected in Ottawa, mostly likely because of the soft clay on which these neighbourhoods sit. Some people became nauseated by the rolling motion underfoot which was described like “the swaying of a rapidly moving train or the rolling of a small boat.” This was followed by an intense up and down bumping, accompanied in some areas by a low, thunder-like noise, or rumble. The earth’s movement was most strongly felt by those in the upper floors of apartment buildings, especially those situated close to the Victoria Memorial Museum (now called the Museum of Nature). At the Queen Mary Apartments on the corner of Elgin and McLeod Streets, walls and ceilings cracked, furniture bumped, plaster fell from walls, china rolled off of plate rails, and doors creaked. In the nearby Mackenzie Apartments, several windows broke while on the upper floors plaster dust covered furniture and mirrors broke. Many residents rushed from the building in panic. At the Victoria Memorial Museum, plaster fell from the walls. Oddly, cracks in the entranceway closed, making it the only building to have possibly benefited from the earthquake. The building, which was constructed on clay, had been plagued with cracks since it was completed in 1911. Indeed, the tower above the main entrance had to be removed a few years after the museum was completed for reasons of public safety owing to settling.

At the Auditorium on Argyle Street, the Ottawa Senators had just started the second period of a game with their arch rivals the Montreal Canadiens when the earthquake struck. With the teams locked 0-0, many of the rabid 8,000 fans in the Ottawa Auditorium didn’t at first notice anything was amiss. A loud noise that rattle the arena was attributed to an automobile that had just completed an advertising tour of the rink during the first intermission. According to The Globe newspaper, the arena vibrated violently. A crash, possibly due to a falling window, almost sparked a panic. However, once the vibrations eased, people settled down again to continue watching the game. On the ice, the Ottawa goalie, Alex Connell, thought he was becoming ill. A “shimmy” under his feet made him feel dizzy. He called out to his defencemen that he felt funny. (For those who are wondering, the Senators went on to beat the Canadiens 1-0.)

At the Lisgar Collegiate, a musical event was underway in the school’s auditorium. Miss Roxie Carrier was on stage singing a solo as the Belle of Antiquera in a production of the Spanish operetta “El Bandido.” When the earthquake struck and built in intensity causing the floor and walls to sway, members of the audience began to panic. Shrieks from the balcony brought people to the feet. Many started to head to the exits. However, the presence of mind of Miss Carrier, who calmly remained on stage, as well as the prompt response of the ushers and policemen settled the audience who returned to their seats.

In the hours following the initial shocks, in what may have been an international first, Ottawa’s radio station, CNRO of the Canadian National Railways, broadcasted full and authoritative news updates about the earthquake, relaying the latest information from the Dominion Observatory, which was monitoring the tremors with its seismograph, and from railway agents through the Canadian National Telegraphs. These news reports did much to allay the fears of area residents who were concerned for the safety of absent loved ones. Mr J. G. McMurtrie, superintendent of broadcasting at CNRO, said that the shock was plainly felt at their studio. Conditions were quite alarming for a time at their operating room on the roof of the Jackson building, one hundred and twelve feet above Bank Street.

Although Ottawa was badly shaken, damage was slight. Other cities experienced more serious effects. In Quebec City, there was a general panic. A section of Union Station’s roof was damaged and many windows were broken. Several poorly-built shacks on the city’s outskirts were reportedly flattened. In Montreal, a fire started in the furnace room of St James’s Basilica owing to a broken fuel line causing $10,000-15,000 damage. A stone church in St Hilarion, Quebec also collapsed. Although details are sketchy, newspapers attributed the deaths of two women to the earthquake, one in Trois-Rivières and another in Toronto, due to fright.

Roughly ten years later in November 1935, the same area, including Ottawa, was shaken by another serious earthquake, this time a slightly smaller magnitude 6.1 Mw tremblor centred in Timiskaming in the Western Quebec Seismic Zone 360 kilometres from Ottawa. Again, although the capital region received a good shaking, there was little damage.  The most significant effect was a landslide in Parent, Quebec which took out a section of the Canadian National Railway line.

With increased awareness of Ottawa’s vulnerability to seismic disturbances, work has been undertaken to assess and strengthen existing buildings, such as the Bank of Canada’s head office on Wellington Street, and the Museum of Nature on McLeod Street. Fortunately, the Parliament Buildings are constructed on solid rock and are less susceptible to damage from earthquakes. A major quake could however cause serious damage to historic masonry buildings in the Byward Market area. Timber-framed homes, even those that are externally brick-clad, are likely to fare relatively well as timber frames can flex in response to tremors. Natural Resources Canada’s website provides a useful list of things that can be done to protect our homes from damage in the event of a significant earthquake.

Some words of caution: when earthquakes occur, our natural reaction is to run outside. However, studies have shown that it’s better to drop down, and cover your head preferably close to an interior wall or, better still, under a sturdy table, and wait until the shaking stops. Being outside exposes people to the risk of falling glass, masonry and other debris, a particular concern in high-rise urban areas. If you are outdoors, get away from buildings. If you are in a car, pull over and stay away, if you can, from anything that might collapse such as buildings, overpasses or bridges. Good luck to all should “the big one” strike!

Sources:

CBC. 2011. 2010 quake led Ottawa to change policies, 23 June.

Earthquake Alliance, 2018. How to protect yourself in an earthquake, https://www.earthquakecountry.org/dropcoverholdon/.

Globe (The), 1925, “Eastern Canada and U.S. Shaken By Earthquakes,” 2 March.

Montreal Gazette (The), 1925. “Great Mass Of Rock In Earth’s Crust Slipped,” 2 March.

—————————-, 1925. “Seismic Narrative Told By Broadcast To Radio Fans,” 2 March.

—————————-, 1925. “Fought Blaze In Furnace Room Of St. James Basilica,” 2 March.

Natural Resources Canada, 2016. Earthquakes Canada,” http://www.earthquakescanada.ca/index-en.php.

Ottawa Citizen (The), 2017. “A major earthquake could hit Ottawa. Are we prepared?” 21 April.

————————-, 2017. “Magnitude 3.3 earthquake shakes Ottawa-Gatineau,” 14 August.

Ottawa Evening Journal (The), 1925. “Villages Are Terrified As ‘Quake Wrecks Church.” 2 March.

—————————, 1925. “Quake Closes Cracks In Victoria Museum,” 2 March.

—————————, 1925. “Many Tenants Of Apartments Were Alarmed,” 2 March.

—————————, 1925. “Ottawa Severely Rocked By Heaviest Earthquake Recorded For Centuries,” 2 March.

—————————, 1925. “Miss Carrier IS Heroine At School Event,” 2 March.

—————————, 1925. “First Shock Worst Down Quebec City,” 2 March.

—————————, 1925. “People Of Ottawa Relate Earthquake Adventures,” 2 March.

—————————, 1935, “Locate Centre of ‘Quake 200 miles From Ottawa,” 1 November.

—————————, 1935. “Ottawa Shaken Today By Three Earth Tremors,” 2 November.

Wu, Patrick and Johnston, Paul, 2000. “Can deglaciation trigger earthquakes in N. America?” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 29 pps.1323-1326, 1 May.

Dow’s Lake and Its Causeway

27 December 1928

Dow’s Lake nestles in the heart of Ottawa much like a pearl in an oyster. It’s the centre of much of the city’s recreational activities, hosting skating in the depths of an Ottawa winter and canoeing and kayaking during the glorious days of summer. The boathouse at Dow’s Lake Pavilion provides welcome marina facilities for sailors travelling from Kingston to Ottawa through the Rideau Canal system. There too you will find canoes and pedalos for rent as well as restaurants to tempt the taste buds of Ottawa residents and tourists no matter the time of the year. Around the lake’s perimeter are parks, pathways and driveways frequented by joggers and cyclists. On one side is the Dominion Arboretum, part of the Central Experimental Farm, a favoured venue for picnics by families and lovers alike. On the other is Commissioners’ Park, the home of Ottawa’s annual tulip festival in May, and magnificent beds of annuals during the rest of the summer.

Of course, this was not always the case. At one time, Dow’s Lake marked the outer limits of Ottawa—beyond here be devils, or at least Nepean. But urban sprawl and amalgamation with surrounding communities have brought it well inside the Capital’s embrace. The lake is named for Abraham Dow, an American who came north in 1814 and acquired “Lot M in Concession C” in the Township of Gloucester. Samuel and Mabel Dow followed him two years later and settled nearby. Much of the Dow land was a mosquito-infested swamp that extended from the Rideau River to the Ottawa River. Roughly two-thirds of the swamp’s water flowed into the Rideau River, with the remainder debouching northward into the Ottawa River. Samuel and Mabel Dow must have despaired of their new home as they returned to the United States in 1826.

That same year, however, things began to change with the building of the Rideau Canal through Dow’s Great Swamp.  To make a navigable route, Irish and French-Canadian workers, labouring under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel John By’s Royal Sappers and Engineers, built two embankments. The first was constructed along what became the southern end of Dow’s Lake. Work on the embankment was started by a contractor named Henderson but was finished by Philemon Wright & Sons. The second, was constructed by Jean St. Louis, a French-Canadian pioneer in the region. Known as the St. Louis Dam, it blocked a creek flowing northward to the Ottawa River. The creek bed is now Preston Street. The work was difficult and dangerous. Many workers sickened with malaria. But they succeeded in raising the level of the water in the swamp to a depth of twenty feet, more than adequate for boats to traverse. Dow’s Great Swamp had been transformed into Dow’s Lake.

Dow's lake causeway circa 1888

Dow’s Lake, circa 1888. Notice the St. Louis Dam. Today’s Queen Elizabeth Driveway runs on top of the St. Louis Dam. The Central Experimental Farm is on the left side of the map. The “macadamized road” north of the Farm is now Carling Avenue. The railway line to the left of Dow’s Lake is the Ottawa and Prescott Railway. Source: City of Ottawa Archives.

The new lake remained a remote place for Ottawa citizens for most of the remainder of the nineteenth century. But as the city’s population increased, the city expanded southward towards the lake, a process that was accelerated by the creation of the Experimental Farm on Dow’s Lake’s northern fringe in 1886. The extension of the electric streetcar service to the Farm ten years later turned Dow’s Lake into a popular boating and swimming area. One indignant boater of this time wrote an angry letter to the editor of the Journal newspaper complaining that foul-mouthed, naked boys were diving into the Canal at its juncture with Dow’s Lake, swimming under pleasure boats, and shocking the ladies.

In 1899, the Ottawa Improvement Commission (OIC) was formed by the Dominion Government for the express purpose of beautifying the nation’s capital which was still largely a rough lumbering town. The Commission’s first big project was the creation of the Rideau Canal Driveway, renamed three decades later the Queen Elizabeth Driveway after the wife of King George VI. The Driveway ran from downtown Ottawa at Elgin Street, along the western side of the Canal, to the Experimental Farm.  This became the scenic southern gateway road into the Capital during the early part of the twentieth century. Conveniently, much of the land used for the Driveway was already owned by the Dominion government as an ordnance reserve.

As part of the Driveway, the Commission constructed a diagonal causeway across Dow’s Lake from the eastern shore of the lake to the Experimental Farm. The first intimations of such an idea emerged in 1900 when it was revealed that the OIC was considering the building of a “pier” across the lake to the Experimental Farm, similar to the one that had just been completed at Britannia Bay. The OIC hoped that the pier would be “of ample width and character to make it one of the prettiest portions of the drive.”

Dow's Lake Causeway ross Dunn Flickr

Dow’s Lake Causeway to the Experimental Farm, circa 1904.  Notice the macadamized road surface. Source: Don Ross, Flickr

In 1902, the five OIC commissioners decided to proceed. It was a close 3-2 vote. One of the dissenters was Ottawa’s Mayor Fred Cook who favoured extending the Driveway around the perimeter of the lake to the Experimental Farm instead of cutting through the lake. However, this would have meant displacing the J.R. Booth Company’s lumber piling ground located on the north-western part of Dow’s Lake close to the St.-Louis Dam. Booth had moved his lumber to this site in 1885, which was then beyond the city limits, due to concerns about the risk of fire—a not insignificant risk. But Booth was a major taxpayer and employer in the city. Weighing the economic and political risks, the Commission apparently felt it prudent to build a causeway rather than displace a company owned by one of the city’s most prominent citizens.

The causeway was constructed in 1904 linking Lakeside Avenue on the eastern side of the lake to the corner of Preston Street and the Experimental Farm, roughly where Dow’s Lake Pavilion stands today. Consequently, Dow’s Lake was bisected, with a triangular northern section cut off from the main body of water. Although the Commission got its way with respect to a causeway across the lake, it failed in constructing a huge aviary that it had hoped to build on the shores of Dow’s Lake similar to the one at the Bronx Zoo in New York. Cost was the likely factor. The Commission had planned to stock the aviary with representatives of every species of native Canadian bird.

The Dow’s Lake causeway lasted for roughly a quarter of a century. Narrow, high-crowned and unlit at night, the causeway was the location of many accidents. Apparently, the sight of automobiles being winched from the lake was not uncommon.

In 1926, the OIC, which became the Federal District Commission (the forerunner of the National Capital Commission) the following year under the direction of Thomas Ahearn, asked the Dominion Government to remove the causeway and extend the Driveway around the lake as originally championed by former Mayor Cook. In March 1927, the Railways and Canals Department of the Dominion Government agreed to demolish the causeway once 2,500 feet of new driveway had been laid through the old Booth piling grounds to the Experimental Farm.

Dow's Lake and Causeway 1928

Aerial map of Dow’s Lake, 1928, taken a year before the causeway was removed. The lake is oriented slightly differently from the 1888 map. The causeway runs from Lakeside Avenue on the right to the corner of Preston Street on the left. The St. Louis Dam is the thick white line that forms the shortest line of the triangular northern section of the lake above the causeway. Source: GeoOttawa.

On 27 December 1928, after the water level in the Rideau Canal had been lowered for the winter, a steam shovel began to deconstruct the causeway. Excavated material was repurposed to reinforce the retaining wall at the lake. Along the new stretch of Driveway, the FDC planted young trees to hide what was left of the Booth piling yards. The project was wrapped up by the end of March 1929. When the water was let back in the lake the following month, Dow’s Lake was restored to its full extent, much to the delight of boaters and canoeists. Residents along the lake were also pleased with the sparkling blue expanse in front of them.

All that was left of the old causeway were remnant rock piles that were covered with several feet of water. Alex Stuart, the Superintendent of the Federal District Commission, assured boaters that these rock piles would not pose a threat to navigation. He expected that there would be roughly five feet of water above the site of the old causeway, more than sufficient clearance for boats on the Canal which typically had a draught of no more than three feet. He also claimed that the action of flooding the lakebed would cause the remaining pieces of the causeway to subside.

Dow's Lake --2017

Aerial Map of Dow’s Lake, 2017.The white dot at the north-west end of the lake is Dow’s Lake Pavilion.  Source: GeoOttawa.

Still, additional work was carried out in 1936 to dredge sections of the old causeway. This action enabled fish to swim into the deeper parts of the lake during the winter. It seems that the remnant foundation of the causeway was sufficiently high to trap fish once the water level in the canal and lake was lowered in the fall. During a cold winter, the shallow water remaining in the northern part of the lake froze to the bottom killing trapped fish.

Today, the causeway is all but forgotten by Ottawa residents. However, when the water is let out in the fall, traces of the old causeway in the form of low, narrow, stone islands that cross the lake can still be seen. Its location can also can be determined with hydrographic charts. 

Sources:

Bytown or Bust, 2008. Dow’s Lake, Hartwell Lock and Hog’s Back, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, http://www.bytown.net/dowslake.htm.

Kingston-Wayne, 2011. Dow’s Lake Causeway, http://kingston-wayne.ca/node/121.

Ottawa Journal, (The), “Chase Those Boys,” 5 July.

—————————, 1900. “A Pier Across Dow’s Lake,” 11 October.

—————————, 1904. “Proposal For Giant Aviary,” 12 March.

—————————, 1904, “Plans For The Ottawa Improvement Commission,” 7 April.

—————————, 1904. “The Ottawa Improvement Commission’s Part In Making The Capital A City Beautiful,” 16 September.

—————————, 1921. “Dangerous Driving,” 21 June.

—————————, 1926. “Have Other Plans To Provide Work,” 4 November.

—————————, 1927. “Laurier Statute Will Be Placed Before July 1,” 27April.

—————————, 1928. “Dow’s Lake Road Will Be Built In Early Spring,” 24 March.

—————————, 1928. “Start Tomorrow Remove Causeway,” 26 December.

—————————, 1929. “Familiar Crossing Over Dow’s Lake Had Now Vanished,” 3 April.

—————————, 1929. “Sees No Danger To Craft,” 4 April.

—————————, 1929. “Dow’s Lake Takes On New Beauties,’ 30 April.

—————————, 1936. “Breaking Hole To Free Fish,” 9 November.

Rideau Canal World Heritage Site, 2018, A History of the Rideau Lock Stations, http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/history/locks/h01-08-ottawa.html.

Ross, A.H.D. 1927. Ottawa Past and Present, The Musson book Company Limited: Toronto.

Urbsite, 2010. Canal Crossings, http://urbsite.blogspot.com/2010/05/canal-crossings.html.

 

Eugène Larment: The Last Man Hanged in Ottawa

27 March 1946

Shortly after midnight on 27 March 1946, after playing checkers with his guards, a composed Eugène Larment, age 24, was led from the condemned cell in the Carleton County jail on Nicholas Street to the gallows. Hopes for a last minute reprieve had been dashed when his lawyer’s request for an appeal was refused by the Office of the Secretary of State. After Pastor Gordon Porter of the Salvation Army gave the young man spiritual consolation, Larment was hanged by the neck until he was dead. It was 12.32 am. This was the third and last judicial execution carried out in Ottawa’s historic jail. The first was the famous hanging in 1869 of Patrick Whelan, convicted for the murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, the father of Confederation struck down by an assassin’s bullet on Sparks Street the previous year. The second was that of William Seabrooke who was executed in early 1933 for slaying Paul-Émile Lavigne, a service-station attendant.

Hanging E Larment 25-10-45 TEJ

Mug Shots of Eugène Larment, The Ottawa Journal, 25 October 1945

To paraphrase the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, Larment’s death marked the end of a life that was poor, nasty, brutish and short. Born into an impoverished family, Larment’s first brushes with the law came when he was but a child. A frequent truant from public school, Larment was sent to an industrial school in Alfred, Ontario at the tender age of twelve. Most likely it was the St Joseph’s Training School for delinquent boys run by the Christian Brothers from 1933 to the mid-1970s. Like the residential schools for indigenous children, such training schools, including St Joseph’s, became notorious for the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of their young charges. During the three years he was confined there, Larment apparently received no visitors and no mail from home. He escaped and made his way to Ottawa. Picked up by the authorities, someone reportedly told him that if he confessed to purse snatching, he wouldn’t be returned to the industrial school. Desperate to avoid going back, he did so, and was instead sent to a government reformatory. After he got out on parole, he attended the Kent Street Public School for a short time. With his family described as being “in a bad fix,” he sold junk to scrap dealers to earn a pittance. He also worked as a delivery boy. In 1938, at age 16, he was charged with vagrancy and breaking and entering, and was returned to the reformatory.

Shortly after being released in early 1940, the now eighteen-year old Larment and four friends stole a taxi on McLaren Street in downtown Ottawa and drove to Preston, Ontario where they tied up and robbed two men at gun point at a service station. They netted a meagre $27. Spotted later that night on their return to Ottawa, the young men led police on a wild chase down Bronson Street into LeBreton Flats. Gunshots were exchanged. Turning onto the Chaudière Bridge heading for Hull, the joyriders hit an oncoming car and crashed into a guard rail.  Dazed but uninjured, Larment and his companions were taken into custody. They received six-year terms in the Kingston Penitentiary for armed robbery. Larment was released from jail in late September 1945.

Less than two months after his release Larment, with Albert Henderson and Wilfrid D’Amour staged a daring robbery of the Canadian War Museum on Sussex Street (now Avenue). At about 9 pm on Monday, 22 October 1945, the trio smashed the plate glass of the front door of the museum within a few hundred feet of passersby on the sidewalk, and just a laneway away from the Government of Canada’s Laurentian Terrace girls’ hostel. The bandits made off in a stolen car with three Thompson submachine guns used in World War II, two automatic pistols and four World War I revolvers.

Hanging Bytown Inn postcard undated

Bytown Inn, Ottawa, postcard, undated

The following night, a janitor at an O’Connor Street apartment building called the police to report some men acting suspiciously. A “prowler” car manned by Detective Thomas Stoneman and Constable Russell Berndt was dispatched to investigate. The officers found three men loitering outside of the Bytown Inn. The trio split up, with two, later identified as D’Amour and Henderson, walking in opposite directions along O’Connor Street. Detective Stoneman approached the middle man who had remained between the two canopied entrances of the Inn. “I want to talk to you,” the officer said after he got out of the driver’s side of the car. “What do you want?” replied a man in a khaki trench coat. Without warning, the man pulled a gun from his pocket and fired at Stoneman from a distance of only six feet. Stoneman was struck in the chest and fell to the ground grievously wounded.

His partner, Constable Berndt, who had just returned to the police force after 3 ½ years in the navy, ducked when the gunman subsequently aimed at him. Trading shots, the bandit fled through a maze of laneways and alleys, pursued by Berndt who disconcerting found himself followed by D’Amour. Fortunately, another police cruiser arrived on the scene. Constables Thomas Walsh and John Hardon joined the chase for Stoneman’s assailant, while Flight Lieutenant Appleby, a decorated pilot who had accompanied the police officers, tackled D’Amour. Meanwhile, the shooter, Eugène Larment, who had run out of ammunition, was chased into the arms of beat policeman, Constable René Grenville, at the corner of Metcalfe and Slater Streets. The third man of the trio, Albert Henderson, managed to evade immediate capture but was picked up at his home on Albert Street a few hours later. Back at Larment’s family home on Wellington Street and in an abandoned building next door, police discovered the missing weapons stolen from the War Museum.

Hanging Thomas Stoneman Canadian Police and Peace Officers' Memorial

Detective Thomas Stoneman, Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial

Initially, the men were charged with attempted murder. But the charges were upgraded to murder when Detective Stoneman died a few days later. The fifteen-year veteran policeman with the Ottawa Police Force, aged 37, born in Mortlach Saskatchewan, left a wife Lois (Cleary) and one-year old twins, Richard Thomas and Jill Lois. Stoneman was accorded a civic funeral. Uniformed policemen from the Ottawa and Hull municipal police, the RCMP, the Ontario and Quebec Provincial Police Forces, the RCAF service police and the naval shore patrol marched in the funeral cortege. The slain policeman was buried in the Beechwood Cemetery.

Even while in jail, the charges against Larment, D’Amour and Henderson continued to mount. In early January, the threesome tried to break out of the country jail. Before being recaptured, they brutally beat up Percy Hyndman, a prison guard. A blow to the head from a heavy broom opened a nasty gash in Hyndman’s scalp requiring five stiches to close.

The trial of the trio for the murder of Detective Stoneman began in mid-January 1946 in front of Justice F. H. Barlow of the Ontario High Court. Deputy Attorney General Cecil L. Snyder, who had an outstanding record of 37 convictions in 38 murder cases, was the special Crown prosecutor. For the defence was lawyer W. Edward Haughton, K.C. who represented the trio pro bono; there was no legal aid at this time. The trial lasted roughly a week. Throughout the proceedings the courtroom’s hard wooden benches were packed with people eager to witness the unfolding drama.

Snyder, the Crown prosecutor, quickly established that the gun that fired the fatal bullet was a revolver stolen in the War Museum heist. There was also no doubt that Larment was the shooter. Larment admitted to firing the weapon “from the hip” in two statements that he made to the police, the first, hours after being apprehended, and the second, a couple of days later. One of the jurors, Thomas Bradley, worried about police procedures in obtaining these statements, was permitted by Justice Barlow to question the police witness. Bradley enquired whether Larment had been asked if he wanted a lawyer before he made his statements. The detective answered no, though he added that Larment had been free to ask for one. Apparently, the detective had pursued standard Canadian police procedures of the time. Justice Barlow ruled that the statements were admissible in court, saying he was satisfied they had been obtained “in the proper manner.”

With the identity of the shooter determined, Snyder focused on whether Larment, D’Amour and Henderson had “a common intent to commit crime,” the test necessary to convict all three for murder. He argued that the three men had robbed the Museum together and had armed themselves with weapons the night that Stoneman died, even though Larment’s weapon was the only one loaded (with three bullets). He also noted evidence from D’Amour that the trio had tried to steal a car shortly before the shooting. Although the accused men had been drinking heavily before the shooting, a pathologist at the Ottawa Civic Hospital testified that a blood sample taken from Larment shortly after his arrest showed a “fair indication that the person was sober when it was taken.”

The trio’s lawyer stressed the deprived backgrounds of the accused. He argued that “society might very well be indicted for the death of Detective Stoneman in addition to Eugène Larment.” He also noted that the trio’s ability to reason had been impaired by alcohol. By one account, Larment had drunk as many as fifty beers (most likely the small draft glasses of beer popular in taverns at that time) at the Belmont Hotel in Ottawa and at the Avalon Club in Hull through the afternoon and evening prior to the shooting. The three had also reportedly consumed a bottle of liquor at Larment’s home. Haughton also contended that Larment was unaware that Stoneman was a policeman when Stoneman approached him. Fearing for his life, Larment had fired in self-defence. The killing was neither premeditated nor deliberate but rather was caused by a “misunderstanding” and a “genuine misconception of Stoneman’s intention.” He concluded that Larment should be acquitted of murder, or at worst found guilty of manslaughter. Finally, he asked for the acquittal of D’Amour and Henderson on the grounds that a “common intent” had not been proven. There was no evidence that they knew that Larment’s gun was loaded, they were drunk, and during the evening there had been no joint criminal venture.

In his instructions to the jury, Justice Barlow made it very clear that he thought all three defendants were guilty of murder. He rubbished the idea that Larment fired in self-defence and thought the degree of Larment’s drunkenness was “most exaggerated.” He said to the jury “gentlemen, in my opinion you ought to find Larment guilty without reasonable doubt, and in which you ought to find D’Amour and Henderson guilty beyond reasonable doubt as parties to a common design with Larment who resisted arrest by violence.”

After deliberating for 3 hours and 55 minutes, the jury returned with their verdict. Larment was found guilty of murder as charged. Notwithstanding the judge’s opinions, D’Amour and Henderson were found innocent. Some of the jury members broke down. William Bradley, the juror who asked questions during the trial, tearfully said that given the evidence he had no choice but to find Larment guilty even though he opposed the death penalty. He planned to donate his juror fees to the Ottawa Boys’ Club that worked with troubled youth. The Ottawa Journal had little sympathy for jurors’ tears, describing them as “maudlin.” If tears were to be shed “they should be shed for the widow and family of Detective Stoneman, ruthlessly murdered.”

Although Henderson and D’Amour were found innocent of murder, they were not free men. They were subsequently found guilty in Magistrates’ Court on a range of charges related to the assault of the prison guard in their abortive jail break, the theft of weapons from the War Museum, car theft and other crimes. Henderson received a 29-year sentence, while D’Amour received 27 years in the Kingston Penitentiary. These were the longest sentences ever handed down in Magistrates’ Court history.

Did the men receive a fair trial? They probably did by 1940’s standards. They were also fortunate to have been represented by an experienced trial lawyer who somehow managed to get two of them acquitted on the murder charge. But by today’s standards, the statements made by Larment and his companions would likely have been inadmissible in court. Under Section 10b of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, every person has the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay, and to be informed of that right when they are arrested or detained. Also, the expressed opinion of the presiding judge that Larment (as well as D’Amour and Henderson) were guilty of murder would represent probable grounds for an appeal today.

After his execution, Eugène Larment’s body was turned over to his family for burial. It is reported that he was interred in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Beechwood Cemetery, the same cemetery where the remains of Thomas Stoneman were laid to rest.

The last judicial executions in Canada occurred in December 1962 when Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin were hanged for separate murders in the Don Jail in Toronto. Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976.

Sources:

CBC, 2018. “MP calls for inquiry into abuse at Alfred training school, just east of Ottawa, in the 1970s,” 30 January.

Canada, Government of, 2018. “Constitution Act, 1982, Part I, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Justice Law Website, http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html.

Deachman, Bruce, 2018. “True crime story: How murder in the streets led to Ottawa’s least execution, The Ottawa Citizen, 15 January.

Evening Citizen (The), 1946. “Two-Hour Plea For Accused Holds Courtroom Spellbound,” 22 January.

————————–, 1946. “Eugene Larment Pays Penalty,” 27 March.

Globe and Mail (The), 1946. “Law Of Jungle Must Be Curbed Grand Jury Told,” 15 January.

————————–, 1946. “Murder Trial Juror To Donate Fee To Ottawa Boys’ Club,” 24 January.

————————–, 1946. “27 and 29-Year Sentences Given To Two Ottawa Men,” 7 February.

————————–, 1946. “Hang Slayer of Detective,” 27 March.

National Judicial Institute, 2018. https://www.nji-inm.ca/.

Ottawa Journal (The), 1940. “Youths Arrested After Gun Duel, Charged With Armed Robbery,” 3 April.

————————-, 1940. “Six-Year Terms For Three Arrested Here,” 6 May.

————————-, 1945. “Bandits Steal ‘Tommy’ Guns From Ottawa War Museum,” 23 October.

————————-, 1945. “Hold 3 For Shooting Ottawa Detective,” 24 October.

————————-, 1945. “Thos. Stoneman’s Condition Serious After Gun Battle,” 24 October.

————————-, 1945. “Remanded On Attempted Murder Charge,” 25 October.

————————-, 1945. “Civic Funeral Being Arranged For Detective Thos. Stoneman,” 30 October.

————————, 1945. “Son Was Drunk Before Shooting, Mother Sobs,” 22 November.

————————-, 1945. “Commit Trio on Charge of Killing Ottawa Detective,” 23 November.

————————-, 1946. “Will Get Tough With Thugs –Dunbar,” 5 January.

————————-, 1946. “Larment Used Gun Stolen From War Museum Witness Tells Murder Trial Of Ottawa Trio,” 17 January.

————————-, 1946. “Trio Sought To Steal Car, D’Amour Says,” 18 January.

————————-, 1946. “Larment Remembers ‘Firing From Hip,’” 19 January.

————————-, 1946. “Juror Questions Police Methods Getting Statements,” 19 January.

————————-, 1946. “Henderson Tells Court Of Actions,” 21 October.

————————-, 1946. “Evidence Completed In Murder Trial,” 21 January.

————————-, 1946. “Crown Blames Trio For Stoneman Death,” 22 January.

————————-, 1946. “Defence Pleads For Lives Of Ottawa Men,” 22 January.

————————-, 1946. “Jury Ponders Verdict In Stoneman Case,” 23 January.

————————-, 1946. “Ottawa Men To Face Several Charges in Court Saturday,” 24 January.

————————-, 1946. “Larment Will Hang On March 27 For Stoneman Murder,” 24 January.

————————-, 1946. “Is It The Jurors Who Should Weep?” 25 January.

————————-, 1946. “D’Amour and Henderson Plead Guilty To 10 Charges,” 1 February.

————————-, 1946. “Long Terms For Henderson and D’Amour,” 6 February.

————————-, 1946. “Eugene Larment Hanged In Ottawa,” 27 March.

Winnipeg Tribune, 1946. “Murder Suspects Stage Riot in Ottawa Jail,” 5 January.