Eastview’s Election Irregularities

5 January 1920

Over the past few years, rumours of widespread election irregularities and voter fraud have gripped our neighbours south of the border despite the lack of any evidence that has stood up to court scrutiny. While Canada has so far avoided similar claims, we shouldn’t be too smug. Charges of voter fraud have occurred here. Indeed, so bad were the irregularities in municipal elections in Eastview, a suburban community neighbouring Ottawa, a hundred years ago, one mayor was unseated by the court, and another given a suspended sentence before his sentence was overturned on appeal.

Eastview, now known as Vanier, was the product of the merger in 1908 of two smaller communities located to the east of the Rideau River called Janesville and Clarkstown. It was promoted to the dignity of a “town” in 1913. Predominantly French-speaking, the town changed its name to Vanier in 1969 to honour Georges Vanier, Canada’s first Francophone governor general. Vanier was amalgamated with Ottawa in 2001.

On 5 January 1920, municipal elections were held across Ontario. The following day, Ottawa newspapers reported that in Eastview, Mr. J. Herbert (Herb) White had emerged victorious in a hard-fought battle for the position of mayor. He had won with a plurality of only 19 votes over the second-place candidate, Camille Gladu. White garnered 428 votes to his rival’s 409. The third-place candidate, Mr. M. Desert, received 125 votes.

Camille Gladu, Ottawa Citizen, 29 May, 1920.

Gladu and White were long-time rivals in Eastview politics. Gladu had been the reeve of the village of Eastview and became its mayor in 1913 when the village became a town, a post he held for three consecutive years. White had won the mayor’s seat over Gladu in the 1916 election with a slim 14 vote majority. Both subsequently lost to Dr. Arthur DesRosiers in 1917 and 1918, with Gladu returning to the mayor’s chair in 1919.

Almost immediately after the 1920 municipal election, Gladu alleged that there had been grave voting irregularities. He claimed that when some of his supporters showed up at their polling stations, they found that somebody else had already voted for them. He additionally claimed that in at least one case, a voter had voted multiple times. He also called for a judicial recount given the narrowness of White’s victory.

Two weeks later in front of Justice Gunn, Eastview’s six ballot boxes were brought into court. Gunn was horrified by what he found. So mixed up were the ballots in four of the six boxes, Gunn didn’t even try to do a recount. He said that their contents were “in such a condition that it [would] be a difficult and tedious task to count… and then with no degree of certainty or satisfaction.” He said the responsible deputy returning officers were apparently unaware of their duties despite having done this job for years at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. He also said that Gladu was a “public benefactor” for seeking a recount and exposing this state of affairs. He then adjourned the recount and called upon White and Gladu to agree on whether he should proceed with a recount, or whether a new election should be held.

There was no agreement. Gladu filed a petition for the election to be set aside on grounds of election fraud.

A month later, again in front of Justice Gunn, Gladu’s lawyer laid out the extent of the fraud. Nearly a dozen affidavits were filed. In one case, a dead man, H. Joinette, had voted. In another, John Brady of 282 Nicholas Street admitted to having voted five times for the promise of a couple drinks. (Prohibition was underway at the time.) It seems he borrowed a cabman’s coat to disguise himself when he voted for a second time at one polling station. In addition, Mr. J.R. Snow of Toronto, who was an Eastview voter, was not in Eastview on the day of the election, but his vote had been cast nonetheless. (In 1920, property owners were eligible to vote in municipal elections regardless of where they lived.) The same was true for R. J. Dougall of Hallsville, and Patrick Finnigan and D. Daze, both of Montreal. All had votes cast in their name despite them not being in Eastview for the election.

There were also allegations that the third candidate in the election, Mr. M. Desert, was put up to run by an agent of Mr. White for the sole purpose of splitting the Francophone vote, thereby improving the odds of White winning. At that time, French-speaking voters in Eastview outnumbered English-speaking voters by slightly more than 100 votes. Camille Gladu also affirmed under oath that the voters’ list had been stuffed by Eastview’s assessor, Mr. Arthur Guilbeault, who was a political foe of Gladu. In all, there were at least 101 ineligible names on a voters’ list of roughly 900 names.

Judge Gunn then had the six ballot boxes re-opened. Their contents were described as looking like “a shingle mill the morning after a bad explosion.” It was also revealed that at some polling stations, the returning officers had left their posts for periods of time.

Under oath, Herb White testified that he knew nothing of the fraud, and denied that Guilbeault was his agent though he admitted that he had asked Guilbeault for a list of out-of-town voters, information that was not shared with the other two candidates. He further denied any knowledge of liquor being distributed. He added that he had paid nobody in the election, had held no meetings prior to the election, and had promised nothing. The cross-examining lawyer wondered why he had run at all.

When it was Guilbeault’s turn to be questioned, Judge Gunn cautioned him, saying that if the allegations made against him were true, he potentially faced a fine or jail time. Guilbeault admitted that there were bad feelings between him and Gladu. Guilbeault feared losing his job should Gladu be elected mayor as he had taken over Gladu’s role as the Liberal party’s Eastview organizer in 1917.

Justice Gunn’s verdict was scathing. The judge called the election irregularities “both before and after the polls closed” a deliberate disregard of laws by election officials that justified the overturning of the entire election. “In four polls out of six the neglect [was] so flagrant that confidence [was] entirely destroyed in the election.”  The judge voided the mayoral election, unseating Mayor White. The judge strongly advised all councillors to resign as they had potentially benefitted from the voting irregularities. However, Judge Gunn absolved White of blame, saying that there was no evidence suggesting that he had attempted to gain “any illegal advantage or unwarranted gain.” He blamed the returning officers. Mayor White still had to pay the court costs.

While the verdict was appealed, Mayor White and other Eastview council members sat tight. Nobody resigned. Weeks went by. At one council meeting, it was claimed that the “whole issue [was] a created one, born and hatched in the minds of some malcontents masquerading under the guise of defenders of the law.” Business went on as usual.

But, in early May 1920, Justice Ross of the Supreme Court of Ontario heard Mayor White’s appeal. The judge swiftly dismissed the case. White was out, and a new election was called.

Herb White did not run in the re-election, Instead, he threw his support behind Dr. Arthur DesRosiers, an Eastview ex-mayor. DesRosiers also had the support of five of Eastview’s six councillors. It was another hard-fought campaign. At one campaign meeting, Gladu told his supporters that he had asked the sexton of Notre Dame Cemetery to lock it up on election day to stop the dead from voting. Camille Gladu emerged victorious, 466 votes to 457—a margin of only nine votes. Gladu’s supporters were jubilant. Lifted onto their shoulders, Camille Gladu gave an impromptu speech saying that after a five-month legal fight, Eastview citizens stood with him. One of Gladu’s council opponents said he shouldn’t be too impressed with a victory of only nine votes. This almost led to blows before cooler heads prevailed. Afterwards, Gladu was seated in the back of a carriage and pulled through the streets of Eastview by his admirers.

If you thought that this was the end of the saga, you would be wrong. Again, there were allegations of election irregularities. This time they were pointed at Camille Gladu. Less than a week after the re-running of the election, Gladu was in court fighting charges of aiding and abetting election fraud, specifically of aiding a person to impersonate another voter. Justice Cummings found Gladu guilty and sentenced him to ten days in jail. The judge subsequently suspended the sentence owing to Gladu’s poor health. On imposing the sentence, Justice Cummings oddly commented that he didn’t think Gladu was “morally guilty,” since he only committed the offence “in the heat of an election fight” but the law required him to find Gladu guilty.

Despite being found guilty by Judge Cummings, Gladu sat in the mayor’ chair. The temperature in Eastview’s council chamber was downright frosty. Gladu appealed. A month later, back this time in front of Justice Gunn, he was found not guilty of corrupt practices. The judge ruled that after carful scrutiny of the evidence, “no illegality or irregularity affecting the result of the voting was clearly established.” Mayor Gladu retained the mayor’s chair in Eastview.

Camille Gladu was re-elected mayor of Eastview in January 1921. Once again there were allegations of electoral fraud, this time levelled by ex-mayor Herb White. White claimed that a number of people not on the voters’ list had voted in the election, and that Gladu had offered jobs in exchange for votes should he win. Judge T. A. McGillivary dismissed the case on the grounds that the election was carried out in accordance with the principles laid out by law, and that any irregularity or mistake did not affect the outcome of the election.

Camille Gladu died in office the following November after a long illness. He was 49 years old. Both ex-mayors Herb White and Arthur DesRosiers, his political enemies, attended his funeral. The Ottawa Journal called Gladu a “picturesque personality,” who was “rather positive in his likes and dislikes,” a “hard fighter but a loyal friend.”


Ottawa Citizen, 1912. “Eastview Is A Town,” 24 December.

——————, 1913. “Eastview Election,” 7 January.

——————, 1919. “Will Run Again,” 11 December.

——————, 1920. “Carleton Co’y Election Results; Recount Likely In Huntley Twp.,” 6 January.

——————, 1920. “Ballots So Muddled Judge Suggests A New Election,” 20 January.

——————, 1920. “Moves To Set Aside Eastview Election,” 2 February.

——————, 1920. “Allege Dead Men ‘Voted’ As Well As Many Outsiders,” 23 February.

—————–, 1920. “Mayor Of Eastview Unseated But Councillors Continue In Office,” 1 March.

—————–, 1920. “Eastview Mayor Is Likely To Be Unseated Monday,” 2 March.

—————–, 1920. “Eastview Old Guard Stays By Its Past,” 4 March.

—————–, 1920. “Eastview Mayor Is Unseated And Councillors Must Show Cause Why They Shouldn’t Go,” 8 March.

—————–, 1920. “Eastview Council Sitting Tight, Call Special Meeting Wednesday,” 9 March.

—————–, 1920. “Eastview Mayor And Council ‘Stand Pat’” 11 March.

—————–, 1920. “Eastview Appeal On Saturday In Weekly Court,” 16 March.

—————–, 1920. “New Evidence In The Eastview Case,” 30 March.

—————–, 1920. “New Elections Not Necessary, States Eastview Defence,” 3 May.

—————–, 1920. “Fraud Charged In Eastview’s New Election,” 28 May.

—————–, 1920. “Eastview Factions In Keen Election,” 28 May.

—————–, 1920. “Gladu Elected Eastview Mayor, Bitter Battle,” 29 May.

—————–, 1920. “Declare Mayor Aided Woman To Vote Illegally,” 1 June.

—————–, 1920. “Still Another Charge Against Eastview Mayor,” 2 June.

—————–, 1920. “New Move To Unseat Mayor Of Eastview,” 8 June.

—————–, 1920. “Writ Issued In Action To Unseat Eastview’s Mayor,” 10 June.

—————–, 1920. “Hearing Action To Unseat The Eastview Mayor,” 22 June.

—————–, 1920. “Mayor C. Gladu To Retain Seat In Eastview,” 10 July.

—————–, 1921. “Mayor of Eastview Died This Morning,” 5 November.

Ottawa Journal,

——————-, 1920. “Eastview To Again Vote For Mayor,” 15 May.

——————-, 1920. “Mr. Gladu Is Likely To Run In Eastview,” 7 May.

——————-, 1920. “Gladu Says He’ll Close Cemetery During Eastview Elections Today,” 28 May.

——————-, 1920. “Old Eggs, Hard Words And Writs Flying In Turbulent Eastview,” 31 May.

——————, 1920. “Mayor Gladu Found Guilty By Magistrate,” 5 June.

——————-, 1921. “Notes and Comments,” 7 November.

The Byward Market in Flames

28 April 1874 and 2 January 1957

Ottawa’s Byward Market is one of the capital’s top attractions for both residents and tourists. Home to the oldest and largest farmers’ market in the city, the streets surrounding the main market building host a myriad of restaurants and chic bars intermingled with trendy shops and specialty stores. Long a Francophone, working-class, residential area as well as commercial district, the market area has in recent years begun to attract the well-heeled looking for residences in close proximity to work as well as to the vibrant nightlife that is here on offer. The district is also a draw for the city’s less fortunate with shelters for the homeless close by. This combination of wealth and poverty and old buildings cheek by jowl with glitzy, new condominiums gives the neighbourhood an eclectic, edgy vibe.

While some of its buildings date back to the mid-nineteenth century, most structures in the Byward Market neighbourhood are newer, owing to recurring fires that have beset the area over the decades. Indeed, the current market building only dates to 1926, when the previous market building was destroyed by fire.

Newspaper clipping, 2 May 1874, Ottawa Citizen.

There had been at least two major conflagrations that destroyed entire blocks of homes and stores. The first broke out early in the morning of Tuesday, 28 April 1874. It was to be one of the most destructive fires every to occur in Ottawa up to that point, causing in excess of $100,000 in damages, a huge sum of money in those days. Insurance covered only a portion of the losses.

The fire encompassed more than an entire city block, extending from the market square at York Street to Clarence Street to Sussex Street. Destroyed on the west side of the market square were a row of wooden stalls and shops owned by the City of Ottawa and leased to a number of businesses. One of those businesses was a fish shop owned by Moise Lapointe. The family-owned business fortunately survived the blaze, and continues to operate in the Market to this very day.

Other buildings burnt to the ground included the City Hotel, the Smith’s block, the Henry Block, the McCann Block, and the Gibson building. Mr. T. Forfar’s agricultural implement warehouse was lost, as was a furniture store, a grocer located in the Gibson building, a fruit store in the McCann Block and Mr. A.B. Macdonald’s Auction and Commission Rooms which were full of furniture at the time ready to be auctioned off. Godbout’s Tailor and Lamontagne’s Jewellery, both located in the nearby Lyon Building, were damaged. Fortunately, no one was killed in the fire though there several individuals were hurt by falling debris or received burns. Many were left homeless.

The fire was fanned by a strong northerly wind that whipped sparks and cinders over adjacent blocks. According to the Ottawa Citizen, for a time, people feared that the entire Lower Town business district would go up in flames. Residents in the affected area began throwing personal belongings and furniture out into street. Neighbour merchants did likewise in attempts to save their stock. York and Clarence Streets were soon clogged with these effects. Reportedly, costly pianos stood side by side with old household stoves, some supposedly still lit with fires inside them. Their owners ranged in age “from helpless infancy to worn out old age.”

There was considerable criticism of the response of the Ottawa Fire Brigade under Chief Young. It took a long time before the firemen were able to bring their horse-drawn, steam engine, the “Conqueror,” to the scene of the fire despite the short distance from the fire station. There were also delays in getting the hoses into action with the result that the firemen didn’t really begin to fight the blaze until an hour after the alarm was sounded. The Citizen opined that the buildings on the south side of York Street might have been saved had there been better fire management.

When the hoses were finally brought into play, water pressure was lost owing to leaks in the hoses. One leak was so powerful that a spray of water was sent fifteen feet high into the air, with gallons of water wasted down the drains. None of the hoses were able to send streams of water over the roofs of the burning buildings.

There were other problems. The water level in the By-Wash, which led from the Rideau Canal through the market area towards the Rideau River and was the source of water to fight the fire, was low. A quick-thinking engineer built a dam made using an old door to raise the water level. Even so, gravel clogged up the suction pipe. There was also insufficient coal on hand to power the “Conqueror.”

Fortunately, the volunteer Chaudière Fire Company and its “Union” steam engine came to help the Ottawa Fire Brigade. The Citizen causticallynoted that they had no leaking hoses.

An inquest was held a few days later in Starr’s Hotel on Clarence Street. (This was the same hotel/tavern where Patrick James Whelan, the man executed for assassinating Thomas D’Arcy McGee, had been arrested in 1868.) The fire began in a pile of straw in a shed behind the Cardinal Hotel—another tavern—owned by Felix Cardinal to the rear of the McCann Block. The Cardinal family lived above. The alarm was sounded by Felix Cardinal Junior.  The junior Cardinal, who was a heavy drinker, had fallen asleep in the downstairs bar the previous night, after having downed four or five glasses of whiskey. Sometime before 5:00am, he awoke and spotted a fire in the back stable area. He called out to his father, and the two of them attempted to extinguish the blaze and save their horse. In the process, the senior Cardinal’s hands were badly burnt. Neither of the two Cardinals knew the cause of the blaze.

Mr and Mrs John Hurley, the neighbours to the rear of the Cardinal Hotel, testified seeing Felix Cardinal trying to extinguish a fire by raking the straw out into the yard, but that only made the fire worse. John Hurley, while not knowing the cause of the fire, alluded to regular fights and quarrels in the Cardinal household and said that he typically slept in his clothes in order to be ready in case there was a fire. However, while there had been a fight the night before the blaze, all had been quiet with no lights showing when he saw the fire.

The inquest never resolved the cause of the fire, beyond concluding that it started in Felix Cardinal’s shed. The Ottawa Fire Brigade was highly criticized, with the inquest saying that it had insufficient men to attend to the hoses and that it was not organized efficiently. In addition, the Brigade had not taken steps to ensure the adequacy of water in the By-Wash and that no measures had been taken to keep sand and gravel away from the suction pipe. The inquest’s jury found that Chief Young was either too relaxed in taking his responsibilities, or did not have the necessary authority to fulfill his duties as Fire Chief. The jury also censured the City’s Light and Fire Committee for not organizing a sufficient force to operate the steam engine efficiently. The jury furthermore recommended the prohibition of erecting wooden sheds behind buildings on the principal streets of Ottawa.

The aftermath of the disastrous 2 January 1957 blaze in the Byward Market neighbourhood, City of Ottawa Archives

Another huge fire struck the Byward Market area on 2 January 1957, consuming the block between Clarence Street in the south to Murray Street to the north, between Sussex and Parent Streets, overlapping the site of the 1874 conflagration. The1957 fire started in the elevator shaft of the Book Unit and Typewriter Unit of the Department of Printing and Stationery, located at 47 Clarence Street. It was discovered shortly before 6:30 am by Gordon Low, a member of the cleaning staff in the building. Yvon Saumier of Navan, who was having an early morning coffee in the restaurant at the Chez Lucien Hotel at the corner of Clarence Street and Parent Avenue heard a blast and saw flames shooting through the roof of the government building. With a stiff north-westerly breeze blowing, the fire quickly spread through neighbouring buildings, eating its way along Clarence and Murray Streets toward Parent Avenue, leaving a swath of destruction in its wake. Flames shot up some 150 feet in the air. Scantily clad residents from area homes and apartments fled into the streets, shivering from the cold, clutching whatever they could rescue with them.

In addition to the government building, lost in the blaze were the Victoria Hotel, the 60-room Chez Lucien Hotel, which had been renovated two years earlier for $200,000, two apartment buildings, several rooming houses, Pioneer Distributing on Murray Street, Camille Methot’s barber shop, the Soublière Supply Company, Beaudry’s Confectionary, and Aline’s Dress Shop. Total losses were in excess of $1 million and roughly 200 people were left homeless. The Chez Lucien Hotel was later rebuilt.

More than three hundred firefighters fought the blaze, including off-duty men and firemen from Hull. Tackling the fire was made more difficult by the bone-chilling cold. It was -23 degrees Celsius that night, with the wind chill considerably lower. Ice was everywhere, making the footing dangerous. Hoses quickly froze as the firemen moved from hydrant to hydrant down the street as they chased the fire. Downed hydro wires lying in the streets were another hazard.

The Sisters of Joan of Arc, whose convent stood at the corner of Clarence and Sussex Streets, opened an emergency kitchen serving hot soup, coffee, doughnuts and toast with jam to weary firefighters and the homeless. The Salvation Army also set up a booth providing hot drinks. Additionally, a coffee kitchen was set up across from the Victoria Hotel on Murray Street at the John C. Preston Office Equipment Company. When firemen came in with frozen mitts, one of the workers in the company who was distributing refreshments, called A.J. Freiman’s, the big department store on Rideau Street. Within minutes, two large bags full of heavy, cowhide mitts were delivered for the firemen.

Given the size of the blaze and its intensity, it was surprising that there were no fatalities. Three firemen were hurt when a wall fell onto them. Two women were also temporarily hospitalized due to shock; one had a mild heart attack.

The city stepped in to provide assistance for the homeless. A week later, a fire victims’ benefit was held at the Français Theatre, sponsored by the East Ottawa Municipal Association. This included variety acts, and a full-length colour feature movie donated by Robert Maynard, the owner of the cinema. The film was a US civil war epic titled Great Day in the Morning, starring Virginia Mayo and Robert Stack. A “silver” collection was held, collecting $300 from the crowd of 500 cinema goers.

Despite the fire, the Byward Market, while physically altered, endured.


Ottawa Citizen, 1874. “Destructive Conflagration,” 28 April.

——————, 1874. “Fire Investigation,” 2 May.

——————, 1874. “Fire Investigation,” 4 May.

—————-, 1957. “$1,000,000 Blaze,” 2 January.

—————-, 1957. “City Set To Provide Aid To Fire Homeless—Nelms,” 3 January.

—————-, 1957. “Fire Victims Benefit Show,” 11 January.

—————-, 1957. “200 Homeless In Ottawa Fire,” 2 January.


3 January 1850, 15 April 1872 and 6 November 1879

Thanksgiving is celebrated in Canada on the second Monday of October. Traditionally, it is the time to give thanks to the Almighty for the year’s harvest. And, indeed, it is still so celebrated in homes and churches across the country. However, in today’s secular times, the religious aspect of the holiday has diminished. Instead, the long Thanksgiving weekend provides a wonderful opportunity for family get-togethers between the Labour Day weekend in early September and the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays in December. For many Canadians, the Thanksgiving weekend is also traditionally the time for closing up cottages and camps for the winter, turning off their water, draining the pipes and clearing out any food in pantries that might attract both little and big critters.  

Turkey farm near Ottawa, circa 1920, Library and Archives Canada, 3360573.

The Canadian Thanksgiving shares the same rituals and traditions as its American counterpart. Both holidays focus on family, food, and sports. The customary Thanksgiving feast in both countries features turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce with pumpkin pie for dessert. However, the Canadian holiday is roughly six weeks before the American Thanksgiving, consistent with its earlier harvest season.

While most people, at least in North America, are somewhat familiar with the story of the first American Thanksgiving (which it wasn’t) when pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts and members of the Wampanoag First Nation sat down to celebrate a bountiful harvest in the autumn of 1621, the first thanksgiving in the territory that would later become known as Canada is less well known. It had nothing to do with the harvest but rather refers to the thanks given to the Almighty by the British explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew for their safe arrival in 1578 in what is now Frobisher Bay in Nunavut. This occurred forty-three years before the Pilgrims broke bread with their Indigenous neighbours.

Turkey and cranberry sauce, already a tradition in 1907, Ottawa Journal, 30 October 1907.

In more modern times, three dates stand out in the history of Canadian Thanksgiving, and none of them are in October. These are 3 January 1850, 15 April 1872 and 6 November 1879. Only the last is related to giving thanks for the harvest.

The first refers to a Royal Proclamation by Lord Elgin, the Governor General of the Province of Canada, issued in mid-December 1849, announcing that Thursday, 3 January 1850 would be a day of “General Thanksgiving to Almighty God” to thank Him for his mercies, especially in delivering Canadians from “the grievous disease [cholera] which many places in the Province had been lately visited.”   

The announcement came after press reports of a comparable holiday recommended that year by US President Taylor. The Globe newspaper noted approvingly that the president had “recommended” rather than “ordered” the public to celebrate the event as a recommendation was consistent with religious freedom whereas a command was not. However, it added that this formula was “marvellous proof of republican selfishness to guard the privileged class with scrupulosity against the least encroachment of arbitrary power and yet suffer the bondage of the most foul mental and physical slavery to rest upon millions.” It added “in a country where there is extensive domestic slavery it is strangely inconsistent.”

Businesses throughout the Province of Canada were closed on that cold January Thanksgiving Day, with special services held in churches. According to the Globe, services were well attended “as on a Sabbath,” and sermons were given that were appropriate to the occasion. Unfortunately, a report on how Ottawa celebrated that first Thanksgiving is not available.

While days of Thanksgiving were subsequently sporadically organized by colonial governments in British North America, the first official Dominion-wide Thanksgiving Day was held on Monday, 15 April 1872. The occasion was to give thanks for the recovery of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, from a serious bout of typhus that he had contracted while staying as a guest at country estate in North Yorkshire. Another guest at the estate had died from the disease, and for a time, there were serious concerns about whether the prince would recover. Typhus was the disease that had killed his father, Prince Albert, ten years earlier.

In Britain, a national day of Thanksgiving had been called for 27 February 1872. But in Canada, only New Brunswick had followed suit, much to the embarrassment of many. The Ottawa Daily Citizen opined that “this great national event, in which all British subjects must be deeply concerned, has been allowed to pass unhonored and forgotten.” This oversight was quickly rectified.

On 15 April 1872, commerce was suspended across Canada, including in Ottawa, with Divine services held to thank God for the Prince’s deliverance. The Citizen wrote: The loyalty of the Canadian people, which only requires an event of this kind to call forth an enthusiastic response, found fitting expression in every pulpit in the city, and in joining prayer of thanksgiving for the recovery of the Prince of Wales the people of the Dominion felt that they were welding another link of love to bind them to the altar and the throne of their forefathers.”

All denominations held services. The Methodists met together at the Metcalfe Street Church. The Presbyterians prayed in the Bank Street Church, while the Roman Catholics met at Notre Dame Cathedral. Governor General Lord Lisgar and his wife celebrated at the Bishop’s Chapel, which held a joint service with the congregation of Christ’s Church. The Bishop’s Chapel, located at the corner of Somerset and Elgin Streets, became known as the Church of St. John the Evangelist in 1874. The Garrison Artillery supplied the Governor General’s honour guard and a band. The Bishop of Ontario also attended the service.

The first, Canada-wide, harvest Thanksgiving Day occurred on Thursday, 6 November 1879 with that day set aside by the Governor in Council as a day of general thanksgiving. The proclamation urged every province in the Confederation to unite “in special prayer and praise for the many mercies vouchsafed during the past year” as an expression of the nation’s gratitude.

Thanksgiving sales, another tradition, Ottawa Citizen, 10 October 1890.

In Ottawa, principal places of business were closed and the streets “wore a holiday appearance, according to the Ottawa Daily Citizen. There were special Thanksgiving services in all Protestant churches with appropriate sermons. Attendance was considered “unusually large.”

At St. Andrew’s, Rev. Gordon’s sermon drew upon Psalm 136 “O, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” He said that the congregation was united with “our fellow countrymen from the Atlantic to Pacific.”

At Christ’s Church, the venerable Archdeacon Lauder urged his congregation “to beware the great sin of ingratitude.” The Archdeacon said that the poor were poor because God caused them to be poor for some reason of His own. (This harsh viewpoint was very common at this time.) He argued that there were two types of poor—the “strolling begging poor” and the “silent suffering poor who endure almost to death before they ask [for help].” Lauder had little sympathy for the first kind. The collection for the day was given to the Ladies Benevolent Society for the relief of the poor of the parish. Lauder assured his listeners that monies would not be spent on people until they had been visited and enquiries made into why they were poor.

Rev. Dr. Wood of the Congressional Church expressed gratitude for Canada’s bountiful harvest. He also said that the country had the blessing of peace, good governance, free schools, free press, reviving commerce, and general progress. The collection was raised for the Protestant Hospital.

Rev. Mr. Cameron of the Baptist Tabernacle contended that prosperity of a Christian nation is only guaranteed by being faithful to God. The recent five years of “hard times” experienced by Christian nations was due to people forgetting that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” Fortunately, God’s lesson—the hard times—was nearly over and prosperity would soon return. He added that Canadians had many reasons to be thankful, including a bountiful harvest, the opening of the Northwest [to the detriment of Indigenous peoples living there, one should note], prospects for returning prosperity, Canada being in a quiet corner of the British Empire, and for being alive to celebrate Thanksgiving. Like the Congressional Church, the Tabernacle’s collection was donated to the Protestant Hospital.

One notable absence among the denominations celebrating Thanksgiving was the Roman Catholic Church. The new government-announced celebration was not part of the Church’s liturgical calendar. The Feast of St. Michael, or Michaelmas, on 29 September, or the Feast of St. Andrew, or Andermass, on 30 November, were already celebrated in many Catholic churches as harvest thanksgivings, depending on where you lived.

For roughly the next twenty years, Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated on a Thursday in November. In 1899, it was switched to a Thursday in October. Starting in 1908, it was moved to a Monday in October. There was still not fixed day, with each Thanksgiving Day being annually proclaimed by the government.

The switch of month from November to October was generally viewed to be appropriate given the early start of winter in some parts of Canada. The Ottawa Journal opined that the “Dominion Government might remember the tendencies and diversities of its native climes when the date of Thanksgiving is being chosen.” It added that October was almost a winter month in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northern Ontario. As for choosing a Monday over a Thursday, the Journal didn’t think it would lessen the religious significance of Thanksgiving in Canada. It also argued that choosing a Monday was convenient for people. A three-day weekend made family reunions possible.

After World War I, Thanksgiving was celebrated concurrently with Armistice Day, which was fixed by statute to be the Monday of the week in which 11 November fell. The holiday became known as Remembrance Day. However, in 1931, the two observances were separated, with Thanksgiving Day reverting to the second Monday in October (except in 1935 when Thanksgiving was shifted a week later owing to a general election). The date of the holiday was officially proclaimed annually by the federal government. It wasn’t until 1957 that the holiday was fixed by legislation to be the second Monday in October, thereby obviating the need for the government to make annual proclamations.


Canada Gazette, 1849. “A Proclamation,” 15 December.

Canadian Heritage, 2008. Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day.

[The] Globe, 1849. “The Cholera – National Humiliation,” 26 July.

—————, 1849. “National Thanksgiving,” 18 December.

—————, 1850. “The Thanksgiving Day,” 5 January.

Miller, Jennifer, 2018, “The Catholic Tradition of Harvest Feasts at Thanksgiving,” Catholic Culture, 24 November.

Nagy, Alison, 2018. “The History of Thanksgiving in Canada,” Canada’s History, 4 October.

Ottawa Citizen, 1957. “Permanent Dates Given Two Holidays,” 1 February.

Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1872. “The National Thanksgiving in Britain,” 27 February.

————————-, 1872. “The Thanksgiving in England,” 2 March.

————————–, 1872. “Thanksgiving,” 16 April.

————————–, 1879. “Thanksgiving Day,” 8 November.

Ottawa Journal, 1907. “Thanksgiving Day,” 17 September.

——————-, 1909. “Thanksgiving,” 23 October.

Death of Queen Victoria

22 January 1901

Despite her deteriorating health, Queen Victoria continued to work from her favourite palace, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. On Monday, 14 January 1901, she asked Field Marshal Lord Roberts pointed questions about the Boer War. Roberts had just returned from South Africa, having turned over command of British forces there to Lord Kitchener. It must have been a difficult interview as the Queen opposed the conflict. On Tuesday, the Queen went for a ride in the palace grounds. However, it became clear that something was wrong; she was visibly affected by some malady. On Wednesday, she suffered a paralytic stroke and experienced an intense physical weakness that caused the left side of her face to sag. Queen Victoria never recovered.

For the next few days, as she moved in and out of consciousness, family members, including Edward, the Prince of Wales, and her grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, gathered at Osborne House. At the Queen’s request, Turi, her pet Pomeranian dog, was brough to her. Throughout her last days, she was cared for by two nurses and four dressers, overseen by a matron. The Ottawa Journal reported that she was nourished through these last days with “warm milk, champagne and brandy.”

HM Queen Victoria, c. 1895, W. & D. Downey, Library and Archives Canada, 3623494.

Shortly after 9:00 am on Tuesday, 22 January 1901, her doctors summoned members of the Royal Family and the Rector of the Royal Chapel. The end was near. For a short period, the Queen was strong enough to greet her children and grandchildren one last time, reportedly receiving them singly and in groups of two or three, before she relapsed into unconsciousness. She died peacefully that evening at 6:30 pm.

The news of her passing quickly spread throughout Britain and across the Empire. Despite her advanced age, people had difficulty comprehending that the Queen had died. She was the longest reigning monarch at that time, and had become the embodiment of an age. She seemed indestructible. Even the Court was flummoxed with few arrangements for her funeral prepared ahead of time. Nobody knew what the protocol was. All the courtiers who had organized the funeral of Queen Victoria’s predecessor, King William IV, were long dead.

Official news of the Queen’s passing was conveyed to Lord Minto, Canada’s Governor General, by cable from Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Minto replied that “No greater sovereign has ever ruled over the British people, or been more beloved and honoured by her subjects than Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and by none has this love and respect been more deeply felt than by the people of His Majesty’s Dominion of Canada.”

Ottawa’s newspapers immediately posted bulletins announcing the Queen’s death at their offices. The Ottawa Journal also telephoned the news to schools and other places in the city. Within the hour, the bell at Ottawa City Hall began to toll, followed by the city’s church bells. Flags were lowered to half mast. Large crowds appeared in front of the offices of the Ottawa Journal and the Ottawa Citizen to await news updates. Everywhere, the death of Queen Victoria was the sole subject of conversation.

At City Hall, the Council met to pass a resolution of regret. The Ottawa Journal reported that “never before in the history of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa has such solemnity reigned over a council meeting.”  The council chamber was immediately draped in black. A large engraving of Queen Victoria surrounded by heavy black drapes appeared above the front entrance of City Hall on Elgin Street.

A sombre Mayor William Morris said: “The Queen had been so long inseparably connected in our minds with the Empire which has grown to such vastness during her reign that we can scarcely realise the possibility of the awful loss which will be felt in every portion of the globe, and will be mourned by every nation. Windsor Castle and Rideau Hall in Ottawa have been linked by the ties of Royalty almost since Confederation. Ottawans have had better opportunities of judging Her Majesty’s representatives than have had other Canadian communities. She has been reverently esteemed by the Radical and the Loyalist alike in an irreverent age. I think the judgement of history will concede her the foremost place among the monarchs and colossal figures of the nineteenth century.”

The Ottawa City Council’s resolution was moved by Aldermen R.J. Davidson and Napoleon Champagne. It began: “The Council of the City of Ottawa assembled on the occasion of the death of our late beloved Sovereign, Queen Victoria, hereby, on its own behalf and on behalf of the citizens, records the deep and heartfelt sorrow experienced by our people by the decease of one who for upwards of sixty years has ruled over the destinies of our Empire and by the innate nobility of her character and her many great and estimable qualities of head and heart, has been enshrined in the affections of her subjects.” In addition to extending Ottawa’s “loving sympathy” to members of the Royal Family, the resolution authorized the mayor to proclaim the suspension of business of the day of Queen Victoria’s funeral, and to lower flags to half mast between then and the day of the funeral.

City Council then adjourned and made its way to Rideau Hall to present the resolution to Lord Minto, who personally welcomed them to Government House. After the City Clerk read the address, the Governor General thanked the mayor and council and said he would forward the resolution to the proper place. He added that Queen Victoria was “a model Queen and a model woman.”

Queen Victoria’s funeral was held on 2 February 1901. Following instructions she had left behind, the Queen’s body was dressed in a white gown with her wedding veil over her face. In her coffin, attendants placed mementos of her beloved husband, Prince Albert who had died forty years earlier, including his dressing gown and a plaster cast of his hand. King Edward, Kaiser Wilhelm, and her youngest son the Duke of Connaught took responsibility for placing her body in her coffin. (The duke was to become Canada’s Governor General from 1911 to 1916.) Later, again according to her instructions, her personal physician folded her hand over a photograph of John Brown, the Scottish gillie who had worked for Prince Albert and had later become the Queen’s personal attendant and friend. The doctor covered the photograph with flowers so that it could not be seen.

Queen Victoria’s body was conveyed from Osborne House and placed on the ship Alberta, for the short trip across the Solent to Portsmouth. From there, it was transported via train to London where her coffin was placed on a gun carriage drawn by eight white horses. (See the British Pathé film of Queen Victoria’s funeral.) After the funeral cortege, her remains went by train to Windsor where her coffin rested in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle for two days before she was buried beside her beloved husband at Frogmore Mausoleum.

Centre Block in Mourning for HM Queen Victoria, January 1901, Topley Studio, Library and Archives Canada

All of Canada went into mourning. Federal buildings across the country were draped in black or purple through the mourning period. The front of the centre block on Parliament Hill was swathed in bunting in a similar fashion as during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee held in 1897 except in the colours of mourning instead of celebration. Above the front entrance to the Victoria Tower was a crown wreathed in black. Most principal buildings and shop windows in the city were also draped in mourning colours. The window of Wright’s Flower Shop at 63 Sparks Street was the exception. In it was a picture of the late Queen surrounded by a wreath of white roses, calla lilies, white carnations and white hyacinths, topped by two white doves looking downward with a third with its wings outspread at the bottom of the display. On the right of the Queen’s picture was a large cross of roses, carnations and white hyacinths. On the left was a crown of yellow daffodils, violets, white carnations and lilies of the valley.

On the day of Queen Victoria’s funeral, all business came to a standstill. At 11:00 am, the City Hall bell began tolling and guns boomed from Nepean Point. Schools and churches across Ottawa held memorial services. At Notre Dame Basilica, Archbishop Duhamel and Monseigneur Routhier held a High Mass in honour of the late Queen.

Thousands of people watched a military parade, consisting of men from the 43rd Regiment and the Garrison Battery, make its way from Parliament Hill to Christ Church Cathedral where Lord and Lady Minto was to attend. Regimental colours were draped in black. The interior of the cathedral was draped in royal blue, sable and purple. With the military in their bright dress uniforms the Ottawa Journal described the scene as one of “serene beauty.” Archbishop Machray, Primate of Canada, gave the sermon. In addition to speaking of the late Queen’s attributes as a monarch and mother, he stressed the scientific progress made during her long reign. “The discoveries and inventions of men of science have almost made a greater change during it in the conditions of life than in all the 2,000 years before. Comforts and conveniences in countless ways are brought to the man of very ordinary means that previously the greatest monarch was a stranger to… The world is not only a richer and brighter but a happier, kinder and probably better world than she found it.”

Fast forward 121 years, the world witnessed another epoch-marking event with the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The parallels between the passing of the two monarchs are striking. Both held the record for the longest reign, with generations of people knowing only one monarch on the throne. Both died leaving the Crown in the uncertain hands of Kings who in other circumstances would be long retired. Queen Victoria witnessed the apogee of an Empire on which the sun never set, while Queen Elizabeth saw the dissolution of Empire, though also perhaps the creation of something better, the development of a Commonwealth of equals where countries freely join out of bonds of friendship and shared history rather than imperial conquest. Just as Archbishop Machray spoke of the amazing technological achievements of the Victorian age that had improved the lives of millions, one can also marvel at humankind’s achievements over the seventy years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. However, the archbishop’s view that the world of 1901 was a “happier, kinder and probably better world” than the one Queen Victoria saw on her coronation in 1838 is clouded by our knowledge of what was to come.  Just thirteen years later, the world would be at war. The German Kaiser who had lovingly rushed to the side of his dying grandmother, would become Britain’s greatest foe. As people around the world today mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth, another European war is underway.


Ottawa Citizen, “Loyal Millions Bid A Farewell,” 2 February.

—————-, 1901. “The Schools,” 2 February.

—————-, 1901. “Empire’s Grief –World’s Sorrow,” 4 February.

Ottawa Journal, 1901. “The End of An Era,” 23 January.

——————, 1901. “When The News Came,” 23 January.

——————, 1901. “All Britain is Silent With Grief,” 23 January.

——————, 1901. “Her Majesty’s Funeral Takes Place Feb. 2,” 24 January.

——————, 1901. “Silent Thousands Saw The Dead Queen Pass,” 2 February.

——————, 1901. “Memorial Services in Ottawa Today,” 2 February.

Rosenberg, Jennifer, 2019. Queen Victoria’s Death and Final Arrangements, ThoughtCo., 21 June.

World History Edu, 2020. Queen Victoria’s Death: How, When & Where Queen Victoria Died, 30 June.

The Sad Story of “Punch” Lavigne and “Billy” Seabrooke

10 January 1933

This sorry tale began on 12 December 1931. Paul Émile “Punch” Lavigne, age 24 years, was working the evening shift at the Domestic Service Station on Sussex Street, close to Redpath Street. (This is roughly the location of Foreign Affairs’ Lester B. Pearson Building today.) This wasn’t Lavigne’s usual work shift. He had swapped shifts with his friend and co-worker, Joe Meloche, who wanted to go to the Ottawa Auditorium for the wrestling. Gus Sonnenberg, the ex-world champion, was up against George Vassel, the “Grappling Greek,” in the feature bout.

Lavigne arrived for work at 7.20pm. Meloche handed Lavigne $47, the receipts for the day, and left the station at 7:30pm. Lavigne stuffed the cash in his pocket. A short time later, Hector Charbonneau, a truck driver, one of several who used the service station as an operating base travelling between Ottawa and Montreal, came into the station’s office and talked briefly to Lavigne before leaving. All was quiet. All was well.

At roughly 8:45pm, a young man wearing a brown overcoat and a brown hat walked into the station. Lavigne thought the man was going to use the telephone, a not uncommon occurrence, and went downstairs into the basement of the garage where supplies were kept. When Lavigne returned up the stairs a few minutes later, the stranger pointed a pistol at him and demanded money. Lavigne refused and grabbed the man’s wrist. In the ensuing struggle, the gun discharged, a bullet struck Lavigne in the upper abdomen. He fell to the floor critically wounded. The assailant rifled his pockets, took the cash, and then calmly walked out of the station. He then hopped in a taxi idling about 100 feet away, and was driven away from the scene of the crime.

The taxi driver, Oscar Paquette, who had been sent to the corner of Sussex and Redpath by his dispatcher, was hard of hearing and hadn’t heard the shot fired. The man who got into his car told him that he had ordered a taxi from a different company, but said that Paquette might as well take him. The young man spoke English without an accent. He got into the front seat of the taxi beside the driver. They didn’t go far, just to the corner of Cumberland and Boteler Streets—a 50-cent journey. When Paquette was unable to change a $2 bill, his passenger went into a nearby grocery store for change. When he left the store, the man brushed past a girl who was just entering. She didn’t pay him much attention. After paying Paquette, the man walked down Boteler Street towards King Edward Avenue where he was seen by two young girls. Paquette, believing that he might have another fare waiting, returned to the corner of Sussex and Redpath Streets.

At the same time, Richard Bingham, who was walking on Sussex, saw Paquette’s taxi idling. Owing to recent robberies in the neighbourhood, he took note of the licence number. Shortly afterwards, Bingham heard a gun shot and saw a man leaving the gas station and get into the taxi.

Paul Émile Lavigne, Ottawa Citizen, 14 December, 1931.

Lavigne staggered through the door of the gas station after his assailant and collapsed on the ground. Bingham rushed over to him. He tried to flag down a car to get help. The first passing car didn’t stop. The driver of the second refused to take the injured man to hospital but promised to drive uptown and get the police. Not wanting to wait, Bingham ran across the street to 160 Sussex Street, the home of J.A. Larocque, to call the police and an ambulance.

Lavigne was conveyed by ambulance to the Water Street General Hospital with Dr. Laframboise in attendance. On the way to the hospital, Lavigne told the doctor what had happened.

After a blood transfusion, Lavigne received an emergency operation in a desperate bid to save his life. The .32 calibre pistol bullet had entered the lower side of his chest below the diaphragm, perforated his intestines, and had nicked an artery before exiting Lavigne’s back. The slug was found caught in his clothes. The shell casing was later found at the scene of the crime.

For a short time, Lavigne rallied. Despite being in great pain, he was able to give a statement to Detective Jean Tissot. (A few years later, Tissot was fired from the Ottawa police force for circulating fascist literature and criminally libeling Archibald Freiman, the owner of Freiman’s Department Store.) Lavigne recalled that when he fell to the floor after being shot, he saw that his assailant was wearing buckled shoes. Shown a photograph of a man, he identified the person as his assailant though the man had no connection to the crime.

Paul Émile Lavigne, known as “Punch” by his many friends and co-workers, died a short time later in the early morning of December 14th, his family by his side. He was buried in Notre Dame Cemetery after a funeral at the Basilica. There were hundreds of mourners, including his grieving mother, his brothers Lucien and Albert, and sisters, Alice and Edith.

Ottawa Police were initially baffled by the crime. While the presumed assailant had been seen by many, the description provided—mid to late 20s in age, roughly 5 feet 8 inches in height, average build, wearing a brown overcoat and a brown fedora hat—could apply to many young Ottawa men. A $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Lavigne’s assailant ($500 provided by the City and $500 by Lavigne’s employer) was posted in an effort to shake people’s memories.

William Seabrooke, Ottawa Journal, 16 May 1932.

Police quickly got two breaks in the case. First, Montreal police received a report that an Ottawa man, William “Billy” G. Seabrooke, had stolen a rifle and automatic pistol from Roy McGregor, formerly of Ottawa. Seabrooke, who had been visiting McGregor in Montreal, had apparently left without saying goodbye a few days before Lavigne’s shooting, taking the weapons with him. McGregor had not called the police immediately hoping that Seabrooke might return. But when he heard of the gas station shooting in Ottawa, he worried that his missing pistol might have been used.

The second break in the case came after Christmas when two teenagers, Denis Mirabelle, 14, and Richard Falconer, 15, found a pistol in a leather shoulder holster lodged between rocks on the second pier of the CPR bridge over the Rideau River near the north end of King Edward Avenue. This was only a short distance from the scene of the crime. The boys brought the pistol home and showed it to Mrs Falconer, Richard’s mother. She told them to take it to the police station which the boys did, the gun hidden under Richard’s coat. Fortunately, they did so without incident; the pistol was loaded without the safety on. The weapon, with serial number 674493, was a .32 calibre automatic pistol made by the Herstahl Military Armoury of Belgium. It was an illegal weapon in Canada. Roy McGregor later identified the pistol and holster as the ones stolen by Seabrooke.

In an interview with the Citizen, Roy McGregor said that he and Seabrooke had been friends since their early teens, and that after his move to Montreal, Seabrooke had come several times to visit, always staying with him. McGregor said that Billy Seabrooke was a nice fellow. It was only recently that he had done things that had caused trouble.

Police brought William Seabrooke in for questioning. A search of his bedroom revealed a pair of black, buckled shoes.

Seabrooke, who was only 22 years of age, came from a good family who lived at 125 Spruce Street in Ottawa.  Known as “Bill” or “Billy” to his friends, he was popular and had been a paper tester in the Eddy factory in Hull. He had had one prior brush with the law. Just before Christmas he was in police court for obtaining money under false pretenses when he bounced a $15 cheque. The charge was, however, withdrawn when the “matter was adjusted.” Presumably, he found the funds to cover the cheque.

The police told Seabrooke that he was wanted for the theft of the guns in Montreal. However, they didn’t inform him that he was also a suspect in the murder of Paul Émile Lavigne until after he had been questioned. Without counsel present, Lavigne admitted stealing the weapons. He said he pawned the rifle for $8 in Montreal, an act later confirmed by the pawnbroker who identified Seabrooke as the seller. As for the pistol, Seabrooke said he threw it away in an alley near Bonaventure Station in Montreal. But when police showed him the pistol found by the two boys, he said: “That looks mighty bad for me.”

Richard Bingham, who had witnessed the assailant leave the gas station, Oscar Paquette, the taxi driver who drove the suspect away from the scene of the crime, Phileas Bisson who changed the suspect’s $2 bill at his grocery store, as well as the girls who saw the suspect walk down Boteler Street, were all brought in to identify Seabrooke. However, none were able to pick Seabrooke out of line-ups.

When asked what he had been doing on the night of murder, Seabrooke said he had gone to the Français Theatre where he watched Clare Bow in a film, and a western called “Cheyenne.” However, he had nobody to vouch for him. Leaving the cinema at about 10:00pm, he said that he boarded a streetcar, where he heard a car employee talking about a shooting. He then taxied to the Montcalm Club in Hull before taking a room for the night under the assumed name “Kingsbury.” The next day he returned to Ottawa and visited the gas station where Lavigne was killed before going home.

Dr. Rosario Fontaine, the medical expert for Quebec and an authority on ballistics, carried out tests on the slug that had killed Lavigne and the shell that had been found at the gas station. Dr. Fontaine positively identified the gun found by the two boys as the weapon that killed Paul Émile Lavigne.

William Seabrooke was sent to trial in front of Justice Logie in May 1932. His defence counsel was Walther F. Schroeder, a young Ottawa lawyer. Colonel J. Keiller was the Crown prosecutor.

The Crown focused importantly on Seabrooke’s admission that he had stolen a pistol from Roy McGregor who in turn positively identified the weapon found by the two boys as his own, and the ballistics evidence that concluded that it was the murder weapon. The Crown also made much of the fact that a previously broke Seabrooke had come into money, and was able to hire taxis, go drinking in Hull and afford to stay in a hotel.

The defence stressed that none of the witnesses of the events of December 12th could identify Seabrooke despite have been very close to the suspect. Seabrooke, at only 5 foot 4 inches tall, was shorter than the description of the assailant. Moreover, the buckled shoes described by Lavigne on his deathbed could have been owned by anyone. As for the pistol, there was nothing linking the weapon to Seabrooke after Montreal.

While Seabrooke’s young lawyer put up a stout defence, it was not enough. Even though the evidence was only circumstantial, William Seabrooke was found guilty by the jury after two hours of deliberation. Justice Logie then pronounced the death sentence to a crying Seabrooke. When the judge said “May God have mercy on his soul,” Seabrooke interjected: “He will.”

Seabrooke’s lawyer immediately launched an appeal on several grounds, including bias on the part of the trial judge who gave an unbalanced summary to jury members before their deliberations. The Court of Appeal, very critical of the actions of the trial judge as well as those of the Ottawa Police who did not inform Seabrooke that he was a suspect in Lavigne’s murder before he was questioned, ordered a new trial.

The second trial took place in October 1932. Again, Walther Schroeder appeared for Seabrooke with Colonel Keller acting as Crown prosecutor. Although the judge ruled that Seabrooke’s answers to police questions were inadmissible as they were improperly obtained, the jury once again concluded that Seabrooke was guilty of murder. When asked if he had anything to say, Seabrooke reiterated: “I did not do this.”

The $1,000 reward for the conviction of the murderer of Paul Émile Lavigne was divided four ways, with $250 going each to the Montreal pawnbroker who identified Seabrooke as the person who pawned the rifle he stole from Roy McGregor, the two young boys who discovered the pistol, and Roy McGregor who informed police of the pistol’s theft and subsequently identified the pistol found by the boys as his own.

When a plea to the federal Justice Minister for a commutation of sentence to life imprisonment failed, this sad story came to an end. William “Billy” Seabrooke was executed at 12:50am on 10 January 1933 on the same gallows used to execute Patrick Whelan for assassinating D’Arcy McGee in 1869. Unused for more than 60 years, it took workmen two days to put the gallows in working order. A small crowd gathered outside of the Carleton County Jail to watch the black flag hoisted indicating that the sentence had been carried out.

Seabrooke died with dignity, maintaining his innocence to the end. Before his execution, he said to Sheriff Samuel Crooks and Governor Alonzo Dawson: “Don’t worry. I will be all right.”

Seabrooke’s body was buried by his family in a private ceremony in Beechwood Cemetery.


Edmonton Journal, 1933. “Murderer Pays Supreme Penalty, » 10 January.

Gazette (Montreal), 1933. “Seabrooke Is Hanged,” 10 January.

Leader-Post (Regina), 1933. “W.G. Seabrooke Hanged Today In East Jail,” 10 January.

Ottawa Citizen, 1931. “No Clue To Slayer Of Service Station Worker,” 14 December.

——————, 1931. “Paul E. Lavigne Dies Of Gunshot Wound At Hands of Hold-Up Man,” 14 December.

——————, 1931. “Final Tribute Paid To Murder Victim,” 16 December.

——————, 1931. “Still Searching For Wanted Man,” 28 December.

——————, 1931. “Fatal Revolver Found By Boys On Bridge Pier,” 31 December.

——————, 1931. “Held W.G. Seabrooke, Ottawa, In Lavigne Murder,” 31 December.

——————, 1932. “Story Now Told By Seabrooke’s Former Friend,” 4 January.

——————, 1932. “Taxi Driver Unable To Give Description,” 18 January.

——————, 1932. “Unusual Marks On Shell Held As Sure Proof,” 29 January.

——————, 1932. “Begin Trial Of Ottawa Man On Capital Charge,” 12 May.

——————, 1932. “Expert Asserts He Is Positive In Conclusions,” 13 May.

——————, 1932. “William G. Seabrooke Held Guilty By Jury, Is Sentenced To Death,” 16 May.

——————, 1932. “Defence Counsel to Ask for Retrial of William Seabrooke,” 16 May.

——————, 1932. “Innocence Still Asserted While Sentence Given,” 22 October.

Ottawa Journal, 1931. “Curulars Go Out In Lavigne Case,” 28 December.

——————, 1932. “Seabrooke Case To Reach Jury This Afternoon,” 14 May.

——————, 1932. “Seabrooke Guilty of Murder; Protests His Innocence When Sentences To Hang on July 20,” 5 June.

——————, 1932. “Hear Seabrooke Appeal at Toronto,” 25 July.

——————, 1932. “Mistakes Made Causes Upset Court Verdict,” 9 August.

——————, 1932. “Case Against Seabrooke Likely To Reach Jury Some Time on Thursday,” 19 October.

——————, 1932. “Judge Rules Out Seabrooke’s Answers To Police,” 19 October.

——————, 1932. “Seabrooke Jury Pay Visit To Scene of Crime Where Paul E. Lavigne Was Shot,” 20 October.

——————, 1932. “Judge Sentences Seabrooke To Hang January 10,” 21 October.

——————, 1932. “Murder Reward Split Four Ways,” 28 November.

Norwegian Snowshoes, Skees and Skilobning

22 January 1887

It would be hard to imagine a Canadian winter without skiing, either cross-country, also known as Nordic skiing, or the downhill variety, a.k.a. Alpine skiing. Across the country, there are many towns that rely on the sport for their livelihoods. Think of the resort communities of Mont Tremblant in the Laurentians, north of Montreal, or Whistler, nestled in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, to name but a couple.

 Ottawa has the weather and the terrain for top-quality, cross-country skiing. In addition to the many trails through Ottawa’s greenbelt and along the Ottawa River, the trails of Gatineau Park in Quebec are but a short drive from the capital. The Park boasts more than two hundred kilometres of groomed paths fit for all levels of experience. Since 1967, the Ottawa Ski Marathon has attracted thousands of skiers, from the novice to the hardy coureur de bois who camp out in the frigid cold in addition to completing the 100-mile course through the Gatineau Hills.

Let’s also not forget downhill skiing in the region. Mont Cascades, Vorlage, Camp Fortune, and Edelweiss ski resorts on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River offer excellent downhill skiing.  All are located within a half-hour drive of the Parliament Buildings.

Caricature of Lord Frederick Hamilton, 1895, by “Spy,” Vanity Fair.

You might ask how the sport came to Canada, a country traditionally known for snowshoeing, the mode of winter transportation favoured by its indigenous peoples and later adopted by European settlers. Oddly, it had much to do with an English aristocrat living in Ottawa. In January 1887, Lord Frederick Hamilton, the aide-de-camp to Lord Lansdowne, the Governor General at that time, and brother to Lord’s Lansdowne’s wife, brought out some skis and took a turn on the hills of Rockcliffe Park near Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s home. Hamilton, who was a diplomat, had been stationed at the British Embassy in St. Petersburg during the early 1880s prior to being posted to Canada. It was in Russia that Hamilton took up the sport. Coincidentally, the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg at the time of Hamilton’s posting, was none other than Lord Dufferin who had been Canada’s Governor General during the late 1870s.

In his memoir titled The Days Before Yesterday, Lord Hamilton recounts: “I brought out my Russian skis to Ottawa, the very first pair that had ever been seen in the New World. I coasted down hills on them amidst universal jeers; everyone declared that they were quite unsuited to Canadian conditions.” (As an aside, Hamilton’s three-volume set of memoirs provides a fascinating window into the almost forgotten world of the late nineteenth century. Despite the passage of time, his reminiscences are fresh and highly entertaining. Links to the books are provided at the end of this article.)

Skiing at Rockcliffe Park, circa 1898, Topley Studios, Library and Archives Canada, 3386372.

When exactly in January 1887 this memorable skiing event occurred is open to conjecture as it wasn’t reported in the local newspapers at that time, nor did Hamilton record the precise date in his memoirs. However, the most probable date is Saturday, 22 January 1887, though Saturday, 15 January is another possibility. It’s unlikely that Hamilton ventured out onto the slopes on a weekday. A Sunday would also have been improbable given the Lord’s Day Act which barred people from doing anything but go to Church on Sundays. On the first Saturday of that year, New Year’s Day, everybody would have spent the day home recovering from the previous night’s excesses. It was only on the 22nd that the weather was perfect for skiing, other Saturdays being either perishingly cold or too wet to make skiing attractive.[1]

Despite Hamilton’s claim of bringing skiing to North America, there are other claimants. An 1895 article in the Ottawa Daily Citizen says that Mr. Anders Nostrom, “a Swedish gentleman” who lived in Ottawa, was the originator of the sport in the capital. When he was supposed to have done this is not mentioned. During the winter of 1895, Nostrom and a number of other Swedes demonstrated the sport by skiing over hills and along the Ottawa River. In that year’s winter carnival, the men paraded through Ottawa’s streets wearing sashes in the yellow and blue colours of the Swedish flag and carrying Swedish and Norwegian flags.

Dr. L. Brault, a noted Ottawa historian, credited another Swede, Fru Wetterman, for introducing the sport to Ottawa in 1893. Wetterman was apparently a governess in the employ of Lord and Lady Aberdeen. In a 1946 Citizen article, Brault wrote that Wetterman brought a number of pairs of skis with her from Sweden and taught her young charges how to ski on the slopes of Rockcliffe Park. Fru Wetterman may have taught skiing to the Aberdeen children, but Hamilton’s claim is six year’s older.

An Ottawa Citizen article, which appeared in a regular weekly feature called “Old Time Stuff,” written during the 1920s and 1930s, made mention of Lord Hamilton’s claim of bringing the first skis to North America. However, the journalist interviewed a Mr. W.J. Annand of Lindenlea, but formerly of Lancaster, Ontario, who said he first put on a pair of skis in 1872, some fifteen years before Lord Hamilton swooshed down that Rockcliffe Park hill. Annand came to Ottawa in 1874, and was certain that skis were already in Ottawa prior to Hamilton’s arrival in the city, but he was “not prepared to stake his oath on that.”

Yet another story, which appeared in the Ottawa Journal in 1899, concerned a pair of “Greenland skis” covered with sealskin, hairy side down on the underside of each ski with the grain of the fur pointing towards the heel of the skis to stop backsliding. The skis were displayed in the window of Messrs. Orme & Son on Sparks Street. Apparently, the skis, then owned by Mr. C.W. Lett, had been brought to Canada some forty years earlier. The skis’ backstory sounded like an opera’s script. The story went that a young Greenland maiden had used them to escape her father. Skiing across snowy, moonlit fields she met up with her lover at the shore. Although she managed to board his waiting ship, her father caught up with her and demanded that she leave her lover and return home. She refused. The father verbally goaded the lover to disembark. In the ensuing fight, the father killed the lover. The distraught daughter remained on board the ship which soon sailed for Quebec, where the maiden got off, thereby bringing her skis to Canada.

Advertisement, Ottawa Journal, 24 January 1898.

Regardless of which tale you believe, there is little doubt that Lord Hamilton’s skiing adventure cast a spotlight on the new sport. Celebrity endorsements were just as effective in the nineteenth century as they are today. And Hamilton was a bona fide celebrity—a dashing, debonair aristocrat, the sixth son of the 1st Duke of Abercorn.

Skiing quickly took off in popularity among Ottawa’s elite. One enthusiastic skier is reported as saying that the sport far outstrips tobogganing: “standing erect and shooting down steep slopes at the speed of the fastest locomotives has to be experienced to be realized.” He cautioned, however, that working uphill was not an easy task for the novice.

During its early days, the name of the sport and its spelling had not yet been standardized. Skis were sometimes known as Norwegian snowshoes to distinguish them from Canadian snowshoes. In Montreal, they were briefly called jimpatony shoes after the person who introduced the sport to that city. The word ski itself, appears to have Norwegian roots, the word skilöber meaning a person who snowshoes. Consequently, for a time, skiing was called skilobning in North America. The term did not catch on. Ski was also sometimes spelled “skee” or “skei.”

Nineteenth century equipment was similar to what is used today for cross-country skiing. Reportedly, early skis, which were made of maple or birch, were six to seven feet long, 3 ¾ inches wide in front, tapering to 3 ¼ inches in the middle and widening out slightly to 3 ½ inches at the tail. The toes of the skis were pointed and upturned. On the underside of each ski was a central groove to help the skier keep their legs together and parallel. The underside of the skis was smooth; wax and grease were regularly applied. Like today, ski boots were attached at the toe to the skis so that the heel could be easily raised. One type of attachment was called “the Ottawa cane fitting.” This was a leather-covered cane strap that went around the heel of the boot with the two ends brought together tightly at the front of the toe and attached to a brass adjustment screw. The boot itself was made of oiled leather and worn several sizes larger than usual to accommodate several pairs of wool socks.

One distinguishing feature of a nineteenth-century skier’s equipage was a single pole or staff, six to seven feet long, made of hickory wood. At the pole’s snow end was a spike with a ring of cane and ribbing a few inches up so the pole wouldn’t sink too far into the snow. The pole was used for balance and breaking.

In addition to the “Ottawa cane fitting,” there was the “Ottawa skie” made naturally in Ottawa. During the late nineteenth century, the city was the centre for the manufacture of skis, “due to the energy and enterprise of Ottawa sportsmen and businessmen” said the Ottawa Journal. Their promotion of the sport helped the sport’s early rapid growth.

One interesting feature of the new sport was the active participation of women. In 1894, the Ottawa Journal reported that it won’t be long in all probability before the American girl will go skilobning.” Two years later, a Harvard professor commented that the lives of the women of Norway have been “revolutionized by the ski and snowshoe.”

Ski Party near Ottawa, circa 1898, William Louis Scott fonds, Library and Archives Canada, 3386437.

Here in Ottawa, upper-class women embraced the sport. The standard feminine skiing apparel consisted of a slightly shortened skirt with bands of red and black on the hem, red mittens, a sash, and a toque that contained a dash of bright colour such as scarlet. Big ski parties were organized. In January 1898, the Journal reported that among others, Miss Lemoine, Miss Powell and Miss Blair were out skiing on the hills. (Miss Blair was likely Miss Bessie Blair who was to die tragically in December 1901 when she fell through the ice while skating on the Ottawa River. Mr. Henry Harper, who attempted her rescue, was also to die. The statue of Sir Galahad on Wellington St. in front of the Parliament buildings was erected to honour his heroic sacrifice.)

By the late 1890s, the Gatineau Hills were already luring Ottawa skiers to test their skills on its slopes. Lord Aberdeen hosted a ski party near the small community of Ironside, Quebec in early January 1898. Ironside, which is today a suburb of Gatineau, was located on the west side of the Gatineau River, north of Lac Leamy. Fairy lake, or Lac des Fées, also became a popular skier venue for Ottawa civil servants who established a club house there.

By the time the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth, skiing was well established, and was a big part of Ottawa’s winter life. Lord Frederick Hamilton, who launched the Canadian ski industry, died in 1928 at the age of seventy-one.


Gazette (Montreal), 1887. “Ski vs. Toboggan,” 11 April.

Hamilton, Lord Frederick, 1920. The Vanished Pomps of Yesterday, George H. Doran Company, New York, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/60901/60901-h/60901-h.htm#chap02.

——————————-, 1921. The Days Before Yesterday, George H. Doran Company, New York,  http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3827/3827-h/3827-h.htm#chap09.

————————————, 1921. Here, There and Everywhere, George H. Doran Company, New York, http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6368/pg6368-images.html.

Ottawa Citizen, 1895. “Sparkstockings And Skis,” 28 January.

——————, 1896. “The Women of Norway,” 15 October.

——————, 1935. “Romance And Adventure Of Skiing In Ottawa Back In The Nineties,” 2 March.

——————, 1946. “The First Skis in Ottawa,” 16 April.

Ottawa Journal, 1898. “Doings In The Capital,” 17 January.

——————-, 1899. “The Social Round,” 24 January.

——————-, 1899. “Ski’s With A History,” 3 March.

——————-, 1899. “Tale Of Love And Death,” 6 March.

——————-, 1904. “Skieing (sic), The Popular Outdoor Winter Sport,” 30 January.

[1] If any reader can help me pin the date down more conclusively, please let me know!

The Eddy Lock-Out

11 January 1904

The great fire of 1900, which gutted most of Hull and LeBreton Flats in Ottawa, destroyed much of E.B. Eddy’s paper works located near the Chaudière Falls. However, within six months of the disaster, the eponymous E.B. Eddy Company was back in operation thanks in no small measure to the iron determination of its owner.

Ezra Butler Eddy was a man of many parts—a self-made entrepreneur, philanthropist, politician and church-going Presbyterian. By the early 1900s, his firm employed more than 2,000 people in his pulp, paper, and match empire. His paper and fibre products were sold across the Dominion. He owned exclusive cutting privileges to more than 1,000 square miles of timber land in the region. At various times, he was mayor of the City of Hull, and member of the Quebec legislature for the county of Ottawa. In other words, he was a powerful man.

He was also as hard as nails. He had to be to get to where he was in the rough and tumble lumber business. He ran his company accordingly. By his lights, he was a fair man, giving employment to the people of the region and paying competitive wages. His company was an “open shop,” hiring union and non-union men to run the paper-making machines. Eddy said he had nothing against unions. He was probably telling the truth, being a proud, honorary member of the Ottawa Bricklayers’ Union, an accolade he received after the great fire.

Ezra Butler Eddy, Topley Studios, Library and Archives Canada, 3468801.

In addition to E.B. Eddy’s iron will, the quick recovery of his factories after the 1900 fire was also due to the hard work of his employees. They laboured long hours, longer than they had prior to the fire. The mills were in operation from Monday morning at 7:00 am to Sunday morning at 5.30 am. There were only two shifts. The day shift ran 78 hours per week, the night shift 65 hours. The men alternated shifts, sharing the difference in hours. On average, the men worked approximately twelve hours per working day, six days out of seven. There was no break for meals. By June 1901, the men had had enough. They wanted shorter hours with the same pay. Eddy refused, claiming losses sustained in the fire as the reason. The issue of shorter hours was put on the backburner.

About this time, the International Brotherhood of Papermakers set about organizing the Eddy workers. In 1902, the local branch of the union asked for shorter hours for Eddy’s papermakers. Again, the company said no since it would mean the loss of 50-60 tons of paper per week. Mr. Eddy also claimed that his company was already paying its employees the “highest wages going.” However, after lengthy negotiations, the company agreed to give shorter hours a “fair trial,” staring in January 1903. On average, the workers would work eleven hours per day for the same pay. The mills would close at 5.30 pm on Saturday. There was a catch however. According to Mr. Eddy, workers would have to become more productive, offsetting the lost production owing to the shorter hours. The workers said they would try their utmost to do so.

Initially, all seemed to go well. During the summer of 1903, Eddy appeared satisfied with his employees’ effort. But then things began to sour. A demand by workers for a pay increase was rejected. Instead, Eddy informed them that unless production increased during the remainder of the year, the short-hour system would be discontinued.

James Scully, President of the Hull Lodge of the International Brotherhood of Papermakers, Ottawa Journal, 13 January 1904.

At the beginning of January 1904, paper mill superintendents gathered their men and read them the bad news which was contained in a circular to all employees. The circular claimed that average daily output through the previous year had been neither what the workers had promised, nor what the company had expected. Consequently, the hours of employment would henceforth run from Monday, starting at 6.30 am, until midnight Saturday.

There had been no consultation or discussion with the union, or mill workers at large. With only two shifts, this change increased the average work week by roughly thirty minutes to 11 ½ hours. Eddy also urged papermakers to “try in every way to bring it [output] up to what it should be for the wages paid, the class of machinery installed and the facilities we have.” Wages for men in the plant ranged from $1.25 per day to $3.25 per day. Most were at the lower end of the scale. In contrast, top corporate officials were well compensated, with at least one earning $10,000 per year.

Members of the union, Hull Lodge No. 35 of the International Brotherhood of Papermakers, met to discuss Eddy’s statement. The union members said that despite the shift to shorter hours a year earlier, they were still working eleven hours per day while other trades were working ten hours or even eight to nine hours. Consequently, they could not comply with Eddy’s order to work still longer hours. They recommended that the company move to a three-shift system which would permit the paper-making machines to be used more intensively, but at the same time would allow for a shorter work week. The union also noted that seven other Canadian paper mills had introduced the shorter-hour system without reducing wages.

Eddy refused. He replied that the only way his company would return to the shorter hours would be if the men took a proportional reduction in wages. He added that the company had considered the matter fully, and that it was in the best interest of the employees to increase the number of hours worked rather than cut wages. That Saturday afternoon, the company issued an ultimatum. If the paper workers didn’t obey the order, they should consider themselves “discharged.”

The papermakers downed tools as usual at 5.30 pm, ignoring the order to work to midnight.

The next day, at High Mass at Notre Dame de Grâce in Hull, Rev. Father Duhau urged the men to return to work. He argued that prolonged idleness would entail suffering for families in the middle of winter. The Church would not support the men’s demand for shorter working hours.

On Monday, 11 January 1904, men reporting for work found they were out of a job. They were greeted by notices posted in both English and French saying that the company would accept applications from its “late employees” for re-engagement until the following Saturday. After that, it would proceed to fill all vacancies with other workers. The men had effectively been locked-out.

None of the union paper workers applied to be re-hired. Instead, they began to meet daily to discuss events, play cards, and smoke in a local hall. The men were enjoying the first real leisure that had had for years. A dance was organized for the workers at the Hull City Hall.

More than four hundred papermakers were affected by the lockout. A further one hundred other workers—teamsters, shippers, and finishers—were laid off. Women joined the labour fight. Miss Tottie Mullin, and Miss Dora Simon, both veteran employees of the finishing room of the paper mill who had been laid off, joined the union.

While attention focused on the men who were locked out, women too featured in the fight for shorter hours of work at the E.B. Eddy Company’s paper mill, 14 January, 1904.

The company’s deadline for re-hiring the paper workers passed without any of the union workers applying for their old jobs despite the Church again urging them to return to work under Eddy’s terms. Rev. Father Fréchette of Notre Dame de Grâce said that if farmers could work thirteen hours a day, he couldn’t see why the papermakers couldn’t do the same. The union said the conditions in the mills were not analogous to those in the fields.

A delegation of workers went to discuss matters with Mr. Eddy in person. The conversation was polite but terse. Eddy had a stenographer record the meeting verbatim. Eddy said that the men had the perfect right to chose not to work and leave his employ. At the same time, he had the right to run his business the way he wanted. Nobody, not even the Governor General, would dare to interfere, he said. He subsequently denied that he was fighting the union, saying that he was instead fighting for freedom.

You would think that there would be a lot of hard feelings towards Eddy within the community. Surprisingly, several wives of locked out workers told an Ottawa Citizen journalist that the E.B. Eddy Company was the finest in Canada. While they “kick against the extra hours of work and no pay with it, we haven’t a word but kindness to say of him.”

There were, however, complaints about working conditions in the mills. One woman commented that papermakers don’t live long at the mills. “I’ve never seen an old man there.” Workers were also liable to be hurt or maimed for life “if they are caught in the clippers.” Recall, this was long before workman’s compensation. Another complained that the men had to eat while working the machines. “They just spread the food out where they can reach it.” The mills were also so hot that men had to strip down to “no more than the law calls for.” While Eddy thought the men were well compensated, wives complained that men with big families couldn’t afford to send their children to school. The monthly fee of 20 cents per month per child for books was simply more than they could afford. Consequently, kids as young as thirteen had to go to work for less than a dollar a day.

The labour dispute went on for months. After the third week, the union began paying benefits to the locked-out workers–$3 per week to unmarried men, and $5 per week to married men. The union kept order so that the men didn’t hang around street corners or caused any disruption. There was no picketing.

A circular was sent out by James Scully, the president of the Hull branch of the papermakers’ union, and Harry Smith, the union’s secretary, seeking the support of organized labour. This public letter, which was published in the Ottawa Journal, was endorsed by P.M. Draper and C.S.O. Boudreault, the president and secretary, respectively, of the Allied Trades and Labour Council of Ottawa. Its authors wrote that Eddy had “without any regard for the severity of a bitter Canadian winter turned out his employees to suffer, or to die.”  They also claimed that the attitude of Eddy had “opened the eyes of all, that certain capitalists take no concern in the material interests of their employees, but seek one and only one thing, their own wealth and the satisfaction of a greed for money.”

Eddy did not take this lying down. He quickly filed a $50,000 law suit for libel against the four signatories of the letter. He also demanded an immediate apology from the Ottawa Journal.  The next day, the newspaper complied. While voicing its continued support for the papermakers, the newspaper said that the circular contained a number of false statements which discredited the union. The newspaper offered an abject apology to the company and in particular to Mr. Eddy. The Ottawa Citizen exulted that its competitor had to eat “a generous sized dish of crow.”

Using six non-union workers, Eddy got one of his great paper-making machines working within just a couple of days of the start of the lock-out. Within a few weeks, all seven of its machines were up and running. By mid February 1904, sufficient paper was being produced that Eddy could meet all his contracts.

Many of the company’s former employees drifted away, some to the shanties in the woods cutting timber. In late April 1904, the Hull Lodge, No. 35 of the International Brotherhood of Papermakers threw in the towel. A resolution of its members, signed by James Scully and Harry Smith, said that the fight for shorter work hours had been discontinued. Moreover, they asked that “any hard feeling that may have arisen through this trouble be allowed to drop and the same cordial relations shall exist between your company and your former employees, that existed previous to this trouble.”

It would appear that Eddy subsequently dropped his $50,000 libel suit against Scully, Smith and the leaders of the Allied Trades and Labour Council. Eddy died in early 1906 at the age of seventy-eight.

In June 1913, nine years after the lock-out, the E.B. Eddy Company announced that the two-shift system of eleven and thirteen hours used in its book paper division would be discontinued in favour of three eight-hour shifts. The three-shift system had been adopted a few months earlier for newsprint makers. The company said that it wanted to improve the working conditions of its employees. The three-shift system was exactly what the papermakers had recommended in 1904.


Manitoba Free Press, 1904. “Work at Eddy Mill,” 15 January.

Ottawa Citizen, 1904. “Eddy Mills Lock Out,” 11 January.

——————, 1904. “Dramatic Interview With the Employes (sic),” 20 January.

——————, 1904. “Eddy Paper Makers’ Strike,” 25 January.

——————, 1904. “Severe on Mr. Eddy,” 25 January.

——————, 1904. “Writ For Damages,” 8 February.

——————, 1904. “The Hull Strike,” 16 February.

——————, 1904. “On The Timber Limits,” 22 February.

——————, 1913. “Gets Three-Eight-Hour Shifts,” 29 May.

Ottawa Journal, 1904. “Lockout At The Big Eddy Paper Mills,” 11 January.

——————-, 1904. “Ultimatum To Paper-Makers,” 13 January.

——————-, 1904. “The Eddy Company Start One Machine,” 14 January.

——————-, 1904. “Men Did Not Heed The Company’s Ultimatum,” 18 January.

——————-, 1904. “Still For Open Shop,” 19 January.

——————-, 1904. “Eddy Strike Not Settled,” 21 January.

——————-, 1904. “An Appeal For Assistance,” 1 February.

——————-, 1904. “The Eddy Strike,” 3 February.

Vancouver Daily World, 1904. “Eddy Will Sue Labor Leaders,” 6 February.

The Battle of the Hatpins

7 January 1916

The British North America Act, which established the Dominion of Canada in 1867, was an ambitious piece of legislation. In addition to uniting the Province of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the Act was crafted to meet the aspirations of its English and French communities as well as to guarantee the religious educational rights of Roman Catholics and Protestants.

The Act split the Province of Canada into the overwhelmingly English-speaking Ontario, and the predominantly French-speaking Quebec. Each could now exercise a wide range of powers in their respective jurisdictions without having to compromise with the other—a problem in the old Province of Canada where both, then called Canada West and Canada East, were equally represented in the legislature. With the English-speaking population growing rapidly relative to the French-speaking population, it was not politically feasible to maintain the original parity of seats in the House of Assembly between the two linguistic groups. The establishment of a separate Quebec ensured that French-speakers remained in control of their traditional territory within the Dominion.

Section 133 of the Act also guaranteed that both English and French would be used in the parliaments of Canada and Quebec as well as in federal and Quebec courts. Section 93 additionally recognized educational rights under which Roman Catholics in Ontario and Protestants in Quebec could attend their own schools distinct from the public-school systems of the two provinces.

The BNA Act was not perfect, however. Education, which was a provincial responsibility, was based on religion not language. While most francophones were Roman Catholic, not all Roman Catholics were francophone. This lack of congruence and the fact that the BNA Act did not speak to the language of instruction in delivering education were to become a flashpoint in English-French relations in Canada.

Cover page of Regulation 17 that restricted the use of French as the language of instruction in Ontario’s elementary schools, 1912, University of Ottawa.

For many years after Confederation, minority French-speaking Ontarians attended separate elementary schools where French was used as the language of instruction. However, English-speaking Ontarians increasingly felt threated by the migration of French-Canadians into Ontario, especially into the eastern part of the province. By the end of the nineteenth century, the francophone population of Ontario had roughly doubled to 10 per cent. While English-speakers had to tolerate the use of French in Quebec and at the federal level given the BNA Act, they considered Ontario to be a British province in a British country. A growing French presence in Ontario was something that many could not abide.

One way of ensuring that English remained predominant was through assimilation. In 1885, English became a compulsory subject in all elementary schools in Ontario. Five years later, English became the language of instruction in all schools except where the use of English was impracticable, i.e. when students were unable to understand English. Using this exemption, bilingual separate schools continued to teach in French.

In 1912, the Conservative Ontario government of Sir James Whitney toughened the legislation with the introduction of Regulation 17. The Regulation forbade the use of French as the language of instruction beyond grade 2 in Ontario’s separate schools. When Ottawa’s separate schools ignored the regulation, the government followed up with Regulation 18 which revoked the teaching certification of instructors who persisted in teaching in French, making them “unqualified to teach,” and rescinded financial support for school boards that defied Regulation 17. Ottawa’s bilingual separate schools continued to resist.

Fighting the French cause was the French-Canadian Education Association of Ontario (l’Association canadienne-française d’éducation d’Ontario), led by Senator Napoléon Antoine Belcourt. The Association was supported by Ottawa’s French-speaking, Roman Catholic clergy. The Ottawa newspaper Le Droit was also a powerful advocate. It was founded in 1913 for the express purpose of supporting the city’s francophone community in its struggle for its rights. Note that Ottawa’s French-Canadians repeatedly said that they strongly supported the study of English, which they viewed as necessary in a largely anglophone province. They just wanted to protect the language of their forebears and culture.

On the government’s side in support of Regulation 17 were two unlikely allies–the politically powerful Orange Order, which consisted of mainly Irish Protestants who were fiercely anti-Catholic and pro British Empire, and Irish Roman Catholics.

Relations between Irish Catholics and their French-speaking co-religionists in Ottawa had never been good. And they deteriorated further with the influx of francophones as the two Catholic communities competed for dominance. So strained were the relations that in 1915 Father Whelan of St. Patrick’s Church in Ottawa wrote an open letter to Cardinal Bégin of Quebec, under whose jurisdiction the Diocese of Ottawa fell, and to Sir Lomer Gouin, the Premier of Quebec, complaining that it was French Canadians who were stirring up racial feeling, introducing intolerance and inflaming public feeling.

One front of this Irish-French battle was Ottawa’s Separate School Board. Led by Mr. Samuel Genest, its majority francophone chairman, the board had refused to implement Regulation 17 over the objections of its minority, English-speaking, Irish-Catholic trustees. This led to the loss of the provincial education subsidy, affecting both French- and English-speaking students alike. Relations between the co-religionists nose-dived when, at the behest of the English-speaking trustees, the court issued an injunction to stop the board from paying the salaries of “unqualified” French-speaking teachers—32 Christian brothers and four nuns. In response, Genest refused to pay English-speaking teachers. As a consequence, all teachers went for months without a pay cheque.

École Guigues d’Ottawa, circa 1970, Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America.

To circumvent Genest and the francophone-dominated board, Ontario’s Department of Education paid the English teachers their salaries and arrears directly. Bilingual teachers. i.e. French teachers, were not paid. Subsequently, the Ontario government passed legislation establishing a three-man commission, consisting of two anglophones and one francophone in the summer of 1915 to replace Ottawa’s elected separate school board.

The start of the school year in September 1915 saw the government-appointed commission and the elected separate school board vying for control of the schools. Two young sisters, Béatrice and Diane Desloges, who had been appointed by the school board began teaching in French at the Guigues School at 159 Murray Street in Lowertown in defiance of both the commission and an order by the Superior Court of Ontario. Declaring the two sisters “unqualified” to teach since they would not abide by Regulation 17, the commission hired two replacement teachers, the Misses Lafond, to instruct their classes in English. When the Lafond sisters turned up at Guigues School, they found empty classrooms. Their students, with the support of their parents, had decamped to the chapel to continue their instruction by the Desloges sisters in French. Subsequently, the Desloges sisters conducted their classes in rooms at the corner of Guigues and Dalhousie Streets.

Matters came to a head when schools reopened in January 1916 after the Christmas holidays. On the first day back, fifty people, mostly women, escorted the Desloges sisters from their make-shift classrooms to the Guigues School. Entering the school with the mothers, the two young teachers took charge of roughly ninety boys and began instructing them in French. When the two Lafond sisters showed up at 9:00 am, they found their entry into the school blocked. The francophone mothers, armed with hatpins to ward off any assault by police or supporters of Regulation 17, brought in provisions and set up a makeshift kitchen in case of a lengthy siege.

The chairman of the government-appointed school commission, Mr. Denis Murphy, thundered that he intended to deal with the situation “with an iron hand,” and that “sterner measures” would be taken that coming Friday if the francophone mothers and teachers persisted in their efforts. Meanwhile, female lookouts were posted to watch out for police and supporters of Regulation 17. An Ottawa Journal reporter called them “a twentieth-century rejuvenation of the women of the French Revolution.” There was, however, no trouble. Despite rumours that police had been asked by the commission to storm the school, the police did not show up.

Samuel Genest, Chairman of the Separate School Board of Ottawa, Ottawa Journal, 26 April 1937.

The peace was temporary. On Friday, 7 January 1916, the commission acted, sending in more than twenty-five policemen to take control of Guigues School. They managed to enter the building when the doors were opened to admit some Christian brothers who taught at the school, but later retreated in face of stout resistance from the mothers. One constable had his thumb bitten and another received a black eye. While the fracas was underway, the Desloges sisters entered the school by a side door and were carried shoulder high by the mothers to their classrooms located on the second floor of the building. On reaching her classroom, one of the sisters waved through an open window overlooking Murray Street, receiving a loud cheer from her supporters below.

The mothers guarded the doors, corridors and staircases of the school, ready for another police sortie. More police arrived on the scene to take up positions around the school. The Journal commented that it would have taken “only a breath to turn the whole bilingual situation into a pitched battle and rioting.” Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed. The police withdrew, leaving the field of the “Battle of the Hatpins” in the hands of the francophone mothers.

With the Guigues School “occupied” by the women, the war shifted to the courts. In the meantime, the government-appointed school commission refused to pay the bilingual teachers. Senator Belcourt, the head of the French-Canadian Education Association, tested the constitutionality of Regulation 17 in Ontario’s Courts. Losing his case there, he took the matter to the Privy Council in London, then Canada’s highest court of appeal. In November 1916, the Privy Council ruled on two issues—the legality of the government appointing a school commission to replace the recalcitrant school board and, more fundamentally, the legality of Regulation 17. It came down with a split decision. It ruled against the commission, calling its appointment ultra vires. However, the Privy Council sustained Regulation 17.

While opponents of Regulation 17 were disappointed by the second decision, they were philosophical about it. Le Droit opined that while they had suffered a setback, it gave them a reason to close ranks and unite. The fight was not yet over. With the government-appointed commission declared illegal, the old school board headed by Samuel Genest regained control of all separate schools in Ottawa. One of the board’s first acts, in defiance of the government and the court injunction brought against it by the English-speaking board trustees, was to pay the salaries and arrears owed to the bilingual teachers, many of who had been unpaid since September 1914.

Legal suits began to fly as the school board wrested control of funds held in local banks in the name of the now illegal and defunct school commission. It also sued members of the commission. Concurrently, the minority English-speaking board trustees continued their campaign against paying the bilingual teachers who refused to comply with Regulation 17. Samuel Genest, who appeared in multiple court hearings, was threatened with jail for contempt of court owing to his refusal to turn over evidence showing that the separate school board had paid “unqualified” teachers. When he finally did, the suggestion of jail was quietly dropped even though the pay stubs clearly showed that the board had paid the bilingual teachers in defiance of the government.

Diane and Béatrice Deloges, les gardiennes de Guigues, Author unknown, University of Ottawa

In the end, the government did not have the political appetite to pursue the issue further. French continued as the language of instruction at Guigues School despite the regulation. In 1925, with the political winds shifting, Premier Howard Ferguson, who had been the Minister of Education during the Battle of the Hatpins, appointed the Scott-Merchant-Côté Commission to look into the bilingual issue. Two years later, the government stopped enforcing Regulation 17 province-wide, and instruction in French resumed in Ontario schools. This decision, which was controversial in many Conservative circles, caused The Telegram, a Toronto-based newspaper, to claim with considerable hyperbole that English would be abolished in great areas of Ontario. Regulation 17 remained on Ontario’s statute books until 1944.

Many people were involved in this fight for French-language education rights. Among the most prominent were Senator Belcourt of the French-Canadian Education Association, and Samuel Genest, the chairman of the Separate School Board of Ottawa. However, without the fortitude of the anonymous mothers of the children of Guigues School, and the bravery of Beatrice and Diane Desloges, who were barely into their twenties, it’s doubtful that the Ontario government would have given up the fight as quickly as it did. The Desloges sisters, known as les gardiennes de Guigues, became the symbol of French resistance to what many saw as an oppressive government.

In 1984, Ontario finally officially recognized the right of Franco-Ontarians to receive French-language education in the province’s elementary and secondary schools. In 2016, one hundred years after the Battle of the Hatpins, the Ontario government of Kathleen Wynne apologized to the province’s French-speaking community.

According to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, French-speaking Ontarians numbered more than 622,000 in 2016, accounting for roughly 4.3 percent of Ontario’s population.

159 Murray Street, the former Guigues School, has been converted into condominiums and is a heritage building.


Barber, Marilyn, 1966. “The Ontario Bilingual Schools Issue: Sources of Conflict,” Canadian Historical Review, Vol. XLVII, No. 3 September.

Gazette (Montreal), 1915. “Voice of Ontario Irish Catholics,” 15 February.

———————–, 1915. “Attacks Father Whelan,” 1 March.

———————–, 1916. “Left In Control Of Guigues School,” 15 January.

Le Droit, 1916. “L’imbroglio scolaire à Ottawa,” 7 janvier.

———-, 1916. “Autour de l’école Guigues,” 10 janvier.

———-, 1916. “Texte Complet des Deux Jugements du Conseil Prive,” 3 novembre.

———-, 1916. “Le Jugement du Roi,” 3 novembre.

Mestral, Armand L. C. & Fraiberg, William, 1966. “Language Guarantees and the Power to Amend the Canadian Constitution,” McGill Law Journal, https://lawjournal.mcgill.ca/wp-content/uploads/pdf/1302064-mestral.pdf.

Musées Ontario Museums, 2020. Diane Deloges (1892-1945) & Béatrice Desloges (1895-1957), https://mon400.com/histoires/les-soeurs-desloges/.

————————————, 2020. Le Réglement 17 (1912), https://mon400.com/histoires/reglement-17/.

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 2019. Infographic: The French Presence in Ontario, https://www.clo-ocol.gc.ca/en/statistics/infographics/french-presence-ontario.

Ontario, Government of, 2016. Ontario Apologizes for 1912 Law on French in Schools, https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2016/02/ontario-apologizes-for-1912-law-on-french-in-schools.html.

Ottawa Citizen, 1915. “Women Storm School, Close Teachers Out,” 5 January.

——————, 1915. “Pickets On Duty Today,” 6 January.

——————, 1915. “Many Teachers Have Not Yet Been Paid,” 11 January.

——————, 1915. “Education Department Puts Up Money And The English Teachers Get Their Pay,” 1 June.

——————, 1915. “Injunction Not Obeyed By Teachers,” 5 October.

——————, 1916. “Trouble Will Resume Today,” 7 January.

——————, 1916. “All Quiet At Guigues School,” 10 January.

——————, 1916. “Ontario Act Re English-French Schools Sustained By Highest Tribunal; S.S. Board Restored,” 3 November.

——————, 1916. “Salaries Paid The French Staff By School Board As ‘Act of Simple Justice,’” 27 December.

———————, 1917. “Move to Commit The Chairman Of Separate School Board,” 30 April.

———————, 2017. “One Language, Two Sisters, & Several Hatpins,” 13 March.

Ottawa Journal, 1914. “The Bilingual Trouble,” 31 December.

——————-, 1915. “Sam Genest Takes Possession Amid Clashing Of Bells And Ceremonies,” 1 September.

——————, 1915. “Defiant Attitude Of Teachers Ends In Certificates Being Suspended,” October 14.

——————, 1916. “Police Are Ordered To Guigues School To Disperse Bilingualists Who Have Captured It And Turned Out Teachers,” 5 January.

——————, 1916. “May Order Arrest Of Lady Teachers,” 5 January.

——————, 1916. “Guigues School Is Seized By Police, But They Receive Withdrawal Order,” 7 January.

——————, 1916. “The Guigues School Well Entrenched,” 11 January.

——————, 1917. “Genst Examined By Local Master,” 19 May.

——————, 1917. “Do Not Expect Mr. Genest Will Be Sent To Jail,” 19 October.

——————, 1937. “Died on Sunday,” 26 April.

Pelletier, Jean Yves, 2007. “The Guigues Elementary School in Ottawa,” Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America, http://www.ameriquefrancaise.org/en/article-723/The_Guigues_Elementary_School_in_Ottawa.html

Windsor Star, 1927. “‘Face About’ Is Assailed,” 29 September.

Meet Me At Murphy’s

29 January 1983

One of the greatest of the shopping emporiums that used to line Sparks Street, once the commercial heart of Ottawa, was Murphy-Gamble’s. It ranked amongst the finest Canadian department stores, and had a well-earned reputation for quality merchandise. The store attracted the custom of the city’s elite, including governors general and prime ministers. But its particular claim to fame was its restaurant, the Rideau Room, located on the fifth floor of the building at 118-124 Sparks Street. It was the only Ottawa’s department store that featured a dining room. Here, one could enjoy fine food accompanied by a live band, sometimes a trio, sometimes a seven-piece orchestra. It also served high tea each afternoon to weary customers who needed to catch their breath before renewing their assault on the store’s many departments. “Meet Me At Murphy’s” became an oft-heard refrain.

Murphy, John Company August 1892, Topley Studio LAC 138219

John Murphy Company, 66-68 Sparks Street, August 1892, Topley Studios, Library and Archives Canada, 138219

Murphy’s roots actually begin in Montreal where in 1867, John L. Murphy opened a dry-goods store on Catherine Street.  In 1890, Murphy expanded to Ottawa, buying Argyle House, a dry-goods store located at 66-68 Sparks Street from David Gardner who had himself acquire the entire stock of Argyle House for 61 cents on the dollar in a bankruptcy sale. He also leased the premises for a few months to clear the stock. Argyle House had been known for its high-end merchandise and for catering to Ottawa’s elite. The store had originally been opened in the early 1870s by James Russell.

The new John Murphy & Company store prospered under the management of Samuel Gamble, the company’s first vice-president who also happened to be John Murphy’s son-in-law. In 1904, John Murphy, now seventy years of age, sold his Montreal store to Robert Simpson Company of Toronto. The store continued to operate under the well-respected John Murphy & Company name. This left the Ottawa branch, now a stand-alone operation, to find a new name. In recognition of the success achieved under Samuel Gamble’s direction, the Murphy, Gamble Company was born. John Murphy continued to act as an advisor to the firm, his knowledge being invaluable. During his career as a merchant, he had made more than 100 ocean crossings to buy quality goods from European fashion houses. At this time, the three-storey building at 66 Sparks Street was expanded back towards Queen Street, thereby increasing the selling space by one-third.


Murphy-Gamble Co at 118-124 Sparks Street, circa. 1955. The Centre Cinema next door is showing a double feature of Black Pirates and Thunder Pass which were both released in 1954. Notice the old Ottawa Citizen building on the right. Rankly.com.

In 1910, the company expanded again. A five-storey store was constructed at 118-124 Sparks Street, the former site of the Brunswick Hotel. The new store opened in early January 1910. The last day of trading out of the old premises proved to be memorable. So many shoppers, mostly women, crowded into the store to snap up merchandise on sale that store staff were overwhelmed. Police had to be called in to control the enthusiastic shoppers. For an hour and a half, the doors were locked with “blue coats” on guard to repel would-be bargain hunters from storming inside. The next day, Murphy-Gamble’s new premises were also swamped by shoppers wanting to get a first glimpse at the new department store. That opening day, uniformed boys assisted ladies from their cars and carriages into and out of the emporium.

Reportedly, the new store cost $175,000 to build; no expense was spared in its construction and its fittings.  As far as possible, contracts and subcontracts were awarded to local Ottawa firms. Its architect was Ottawa’s Colborne Powell Meredith, it’s builder, Frederick W. Carling. The building, apparently one of the first of its kind in eastern Ontario, was constructed of reinforced concrete, a new method at that time. It also boasted what has been described as “Chicago-style glazed curtain wall façades” on both its Sparks and Queen Street sides. The pillars holding up the five storeys were also made of concrete, reinforced with steel rods, as were the stairways. There were hardwood floors throughout. The building was deemed fire proof, and was equipped with automatic fire doors and hoses on each floor. It was the first building in the city to carry electricity and lighting through underground conduits. The new edifice was called the Carling Block, presumably in honour of its builder.

On the basement level, which opened onto Queen Street, there was a high-class grocery store. There were windows displays along the entire façade. To one side was an entrance and a passageway for receiving goods. Lockers and toilets for male employees were located on this floor, The Sparks Street entrance, which was covered by a marquee, was to be found on the first, or ground floor. All interior fittings on this floor were made of mahogany. Window displays ran along Sparks Street. Two public telephones were located here for the use of customers. The women’s and men’s clothing departments were on this floor. The millinery and mantles department were found on the second floor. Fittings on this floor were made of oak. To the rear were offices; dressing rooms were located on the sides. A spacious stairway led from the main floor to an overhead gallery, or ladies’ waiting room, called “The Mezzanine.” On the third floor was the carpet, curtains and draperies department, along with customers’ washrooms. The fourth floor was devoted to manufacturing purposes, while the fifth floor was initially used for storage and bathroom facilities for female staff. Later, the fifth floor became the site of the “Tea Rooms” and later the much-loved “Rideau Room” dining room.

Murphy-Gamble window, William Topley, 1920 LAC 3382921

Murphy-Gamble Window Display of Hoover Vacuum Cleaners, Christmas 1920, Topley, LAC 3382921.

Samuel Gamble died in 1913 and the management of Murphy-Gamble’s passed first to Mr. J.T. Hammill and then to Mr. S.L.T. Morrell. In 1925, James L. Murray, and his two sons, Walter L. Murray and G. Scott Murray, purchased Murph-Gamble’s. The Murrays operated a similar business in Hamilton, Ontario called Murray Sons, Ltd. The two Murray sons moved to Ottawa to manage the Ottawa firm which continued to trade under the Murphy-Gamble marque. The firm thrived under the new management. Two more floors at the back of the store and an elevator were added in 1948. The firm also established buying offices in all the major cities of Europe, as well as in Mexico and the Far East.

On staff at Murphy-Gamble’s was a master tailor and dress designer, Ernest Gordon. A Gordon gown was a much sought-after attire for gala events. Reportedly, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands bought a Gordon gown.  Gordon died in 1948, having worked at Murphy’s for thirty-three years.

Murphy-Gamble tea 23 Sept 1927 OC

Advertisement for Tea and a Modelling Show, Ottawa Citizen, 26 September 1927.

Christmas was a special time of the year at Murphy-Gamble’s. A fifty-foot Christmas tree was installed by the stairwell each year until later renovations made this impossible. A store choir sang carols every day during the week leading up to Christmas. Instead of Santa Claus coming to the store’s toy department, a series of parties was held for children in the Rideau Room where Santa gave a gift to every child. Easter was also special, bringing a visit from the Easter Bunny who handed out candy to the kiddies along with a copy of the Easter Bunny story.

Murphy’s was also known for going the extra mile for its customers. Reportedly, a bride-to-be asked Murphy’s to bake her wedding cake, just as the firm had done for her mother and grandmother before her. There was one hitch. The bride lived in the North West Territories. Undeterred, Murphy’s delivered the cake via a military plane and dog sled!

Murphy-Gamble Company stayed in the Murray family for close in fifty years. In 1972, now under the presidency of Russell Boyce, the son-in-law of Scott Murray, the venerable Ottawa landmark was sold to Robert Simpson Company, the same company that purchased the original family store in Montreal in 1904. All 300 of Murphy-Gamble’s staff were re-hired. The Murphy-Gamble sign came down to be replaced by Simpson’s.

Simpsons logo

Robert Simpson Company logo.

Simpson’s operated out of the 118-124 Sparks Street location for eleven years. At the end of 1982, Simpson’s, now owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company, announced that the Sparks Street store would close owning to low profit margins. The Ottawa Citizen said that shoppers were like “mourners at an Irish wake.” On 29 January 1983, Simpson’s closed its doors for a last time with the loss of 85 permanent and 150 part-time jobs. The company published a final “Thank You” to its loyal Ottawa customers. The closure of the store after almost seventy-five years of business under various owners marked the end of a retail tradition. It left only the budget conscious Zellers remaining as the last department store on Sparks Street until it too closed in 2013.

Scotiabank ottawa, 2017 Nelia

Bank of Nova Scotia, Sparks Street Branch, the former Murphy-Gamble building, 2017, Photo credit: Nelia.

The former Murphy-Gamble/Simpson’s building was acquired by the Bank of Nova Scotia in January 1983. After extensive renovations, the former department store was converted into a bank branch.


Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, 1800-1950, Meredith, Colborne Powell, http://www.dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/node/1483.

Daily Citizen, 1890. “$68,000 Bankrupt Stock of Dry Goods,” 17 May.

Heritage Ottawa, 1983. Newsletter, February.

Ottawa Citizen, 1972. “Fond farewell to Murphy’s,” 24 June.

—————-, 1982. “Simpsons’ loyal friends already mourning loss,” 31 December.

Ottawa Evening Citizen, 1910. “Last Day Was Memorable One,” 10 January.

—————————–, 1925, “Murphy-Gamble, Ltd. Store Acquired By Hamilton Firm,” 1 September.

—————————–, 1952. “Walter M. Murray Is New Head of Murphy-Gamble,” 18 November.

Evening Journal, 1890. “Argyle House,” 18 December.

Ottawa Journal, 1904. “Retail Dry Goods Deal,” 21 December.

——————-, 1910. “Magnificent New Addition To Ottawa’s Commercial Buildings,” 26 February.

Urbsite, 2012. Murphy-Gamble, Sparks’ Department Stores III, 14 May.


The Plains of Abraham

15 January 1908

The Plains of Abraham are one of the most important historical sites in Canada. They mark the spot where two empires clashed, setting the stage for the founding of what would become modern-day Canada. Outside the walls of Quebec, British forces under the command of James Wolfe defeated French forces led by the Marquis de Montcalm in September 1759, and occupied the city. Both commanding generals died in the battle. The British victory was the beginning of the end for the French Regime in North America.

It was also on the Plains of Abraham that the forces of the Chévalier de Lévis defeated the British led by James Murray seven months later in a virtual rerun of the previous battle. But there was one major difference. This time, the victorious French army was unable to capture the city. Shortly afterwards, Lévis retreated to Montreal when British ships arrived to resupply Murray.

France ceded its Canadian territories to the British in 1763 in the Treaty of Paris. In exchange, France retained valuable fishing rights off of Newfoundland and the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon as a base for French fishermen, while the British gave back the important sugar-producing islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Many thought that France got the better end of the deal. Voltaire famously dismissed New France as quelques arpents de neige [a few acres of snow].

In late 1775 and early 1776, the Plains of Abraham were again the site of military action. Revolutionary U.S. armies led in part by General Benedict Arnold (yes, the same Benedict Arnold who later switched allegiance back to the British and became forevermore a byword for treachery) unsuccessfully laid siege to British forces at Quebec. When the local French population refused to rise up, the arrival of British ships forced the Americans to retreat, thus ensuring Canada remained British.

Despite the importance of the battlefield sites on the Plains of Abraham to the development of Canada as a nation, little effort was made to conserve them for posterity until the early twentieth century.

Plains of Abraham 1907, Edmund Sargent LAC 3858782

The Plains of Abraham, Quebec, 1907. The provincial jail is centre right, the Quebec City Observatory is on the left. Edmund Sargent, Library and Archives Canada, 3858782.

Their conservation story begins in early 1907 when a small Quebec delegation came to Ottawa to meet with Sir Wilfrid Laurier with regard to the upcoming 300th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in Canada which was to occur the following year. The delegation sought funding from the Dominion government towards the celebration, the creation of a park on the Plains of Abraham, and the erection of monuments where English and French forces fought. While Laurier was sympathetic to the idea, he asked the delegation to go back home and flesh out their plans. That spring, under the direction of Mayor Jean-Georges Garneau of Quebec, the Quebec Landmark Commission released is report. It called for the preservation and maintenance of historic buildings and sites, the removal of private businesses (notably, the Ross Rifle Factory) from the Plains of Abraham, and the creation of a park from La Citadelle in the east to Wolfe’s Cove (L’Anse-au-Fulon) on the west. The Report suggested naming the entire park in honour of King Edward VII. The Report also called for the building of a national museum on the site.

These plans dovetailed nicely with those of Earl Grey who was an enthusiastic supporter of developing a national battlefields park in Quebec City. In December 1907, he spoke on the issue at the inauguration of the Canadian Women’s Club in Montreal. He said a national park consisting of the Plains of Abraham and the battlefield of Ste Foy would be a way of celebrating what amounted to the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of Canada, the union of French and English in the Dominion, and the founding of “Greater Britain” (i.e., the British Empire). He noted that the idea had been received with “warm approval” by Premier Gouin of Quebec and by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the prime minister.

Plains of Abraham, Lord Grey LAC 157911

4th Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada, 1904-1911, Library and Archives Canada 157911.

To these plans he added another element—the building of a colossal statue of the “Angel of Peace” with outstretched arms to stand on Cap Diamant. This statue would greet new immigrants to Canada, offering welcome and hope, in a similar fashion as did the Statue of Liberty in New York. Grey noted with disgust that the first thing immigrants then saw as they entered Quebec, or passed on their way to Montreal, was a jail, “associated with all that is darkest in the life of Canada.” Finally, the Governor General announced the formation of a fund that would seek donations from across the British Empire to help fund the renovation of the Plains. He closed by saying that King Edward had subscribed 100 guineas ($525—equivalent to about $12,000 today) to the battlefields fund.

A month later, on 15 January 1908, plans to turn the Plains of Abraham into a national park received a major boost in Ottawa. First, during the afternoon at their national conference, Canadian Clubs unanimously agreed that they would co-operate in helping to bring forward Earl Grey’s proposal to celebrate the tercentenary of Quebec and the preservation of the battlefields of Quebec at the Plains of Abraham and Ste Foy. Second, a mass public meeting was held at the Russell Theatre that evening in aid of the proposal. It was a packed house. All of Ottawa’s great and good attended. Speakers at the event included Earl Grey, the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, the speakers of both the Senate and the House of Commons, and the mayor of Ottawa.

At the Russell Theatre, the lead-off speaker was, of course, Lord Grey who repeated the message he made the previous month in Montreal at the Canadian Women’s Club. He congratulated the Canadian Clubs for “their spirited action” in support of his appeal to celebrate Champlain’s tercentenary by “rescuing the famous battlefields of Quebec from their present condition of neglect.” He singled out the Canadian Club of Edmonton in particular—the club had just pledged $500 to the project. Grey said that there was “no better way of doing honour to what may be regarded as the 300th birthday of Canada, than by taking the necessary measures to secure the nationalization of the battlefields of Quebec.” He added that “it was on the battlefields of Quebec that French and English parentage gave birth to the Canadian nation. Today the inhabitants of the Dominion… stand before the world not as English or French but as Canadians.”

Next up on the agenda was Sir Wilfrid Laurier who gave another stirring speech. “We should consecrate the ground around the old Citadel of Quebec, and make it a national property because it has been hallowed by the most heroic blood. We may certainly claim, and we of French origin, and of British origin, that nowhere was French dash and British resolution ever shown with greater éclat than at these places,” he said. Alluding to the 1775-6 American invasion, he added “And may I be permitted in this occasion to remember, British citizen that I am, a British subject as I am, that in my veins flows the blood of the race which saved the British flag at the time it was disgraced by those of Britain’s own kith and kin.” He noted that while monuments to victors are commonplace, the Quebec monument to Wolfe and Montcalm is probably unique in honouring both the victor and the vanquished. He was proud to recall that the monument was erected by the British government.

Robert Borden, the Conservative leader of the Opposition, echoed Laurier’s words. He also referred to the War of 1812 when “French Canadians saved Canada for the British at Chateauguay” when De Salaberry and 300 men repelled an American force ten times their size. He called the battle to “the Thermopylae of Canada.” (This was a reference to the famous battle in 480 BC when a small Greek force led by Leonidas of Sparta held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass.)

In addition to similar speeches by Speaker Dandurand of the Senate, and Deputy Speaker Marell of the House of Commons, the 7th Lord Aylmer also spoke in favour of Lord Grey’s proposal. He was the nephew of the 5th Lord Aylmer who was the Governor General of British North America and Lieutenant Governor of Lower Canada during the 1830s. Aylmer’s inclusion in the evening activities was rather odd from a historical perspective. His noble forebear had not been known for promoting harmony between French and English. Rather, his policies exacerbated tensions between the two communities and contributed to the 1834 Rebellion. He was recalled in disgrace the following year. Whether Lord Alymer’s presence raised eyebrows is not recorded.

The evening wrapped up with a speech by Ottawa’s Mayor Scott. He moved “That this public meeting of citizens of Ottawa expresses its cordial endorsement of the proposal which has been launched by His Excellency Earl Grey for the fitting celebration of the tercentenary of the founding of Quebec and for the preservation of the historic plains of Abraham and of St. Foy, in that city, and pledged its hearty support to and co-operation in this most praiseworthy undertaking. Seconded by P.H. Taylor, ex president of the Canadian Club, the motion was unanimously approved.

With such distinguished support, the federal government quickly passed the National Battlefields Act in March 1908. The Act created the National Battlefields Commission with a mandate to acquire and conserve the Quebec battlefields and turn them into a national park, to preserve this legacy for future Canadians, and to develop the land so that the public can fully benefit from them.

A fund was also officially established for this purpose. Contributions came from across Canada and throughout the Empire. The Dominion government provided $300,000 with the provinces of Quebec and Ontario each giving $100,000. Other provinces provided smaller amounts. More than $50,000 was raised from Great Britain. In addition to the King, other illustrious contributors included the Prince of Wales, former Governors General and Princess Louise, who had been Canada’s vice-regal consort during the 1880s. Others also gave. The boys of Eton public school contributed $500. Here in Canada, collections were made across the country, importantly by the Canadian Clubs. Lord Grey gave a personal contribution of $1,000. Quebec City provided $50,000, with both Montreal and Ottawa each raising between $12,000 and $15,000 by the time of the tercentenary celebrations held in late July 1908.

Plains of Abraham, 1908, la messe solonelle 3362009

Tercentenary of Champlain’s arrival, Plains of Abraham, Quebec, La messe solennelle, July 1908, Library and Archives Canada 3362009.

The tercentenary celebrations were a triumph. While the history was sometimes shaky in its quest to find common ground between English and French, it was a fine show. Thousands of people dressed up in period costumes for the event held on the plains of Abraham where a re-enactment was staged of Champlain being greeted by indigenous Canadians on his arrival. The Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy and the French Navy all sent ships, this time in peace, to help celebrate the historic event. The new national battlefields park was officially dedicated by the Prince of Wales, the later King George V.

One thing not constructed was Lord Grey’s colossal statue of the “Angel of Peace.” Funding was likely part of the reason. Consequently, Canada’s answer to the Statue of Liberty was never built. It also took many years before the Plains of Abraham were restored to the state they are in today. The infamous Ross Rifle Factory remained there until 1931, even though the federal government expropriated the company in 1917. Jobs and where to put the factory were major issues. The provincial prison was finally closed in 1970. Restored, the building is now the Charles Baillairgé Pavilion of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.


Canada, Government of, Justice Law Website, 1908. An Act Respecting the National Battlefields of Quebec, 17 March.

National Battlefields Commission, 2016. Plains of Abraham, Inf Source 2016, http://www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca/en/access-information-and-privacy/completed-access-information-requests/info-source-2016/.

Montreal Gazette, 1907. “Quebec Battlefields,” 14 December.

———————, 1908. “Quebec Battlefields,” 4 March.

———————, 1908. “From The Capital,” 10 April.

———————, 1908. “First Report of the Quebec Landmark Commission,” 29 June.

Ottawa Citizen, 1907, “Wants A Colossal Statue On Heights Of Quebec,” 13 December.

——————, 1907. “An Inspiring Project,” 13 December.

——————, 1908. “Earl Grey’s Great Conception Endorsed By Citizens Of Capital, 16 January.

——————, 1908. “Canadian Clubs Approve And Decide Upon Central Committee, 16 January.

——————, 1908. “Brilliant Conception,” 16 January.

——————, 1908. “Quebec Scheme,” 10 March.

——————, 1908. “An Appeal For Battlefields,” 13 April.

Ottawa Journal, 1907. “Save The Plains of Abraham,” 24 January.

——————-, 1908. Subscriptions Received,” 15 January.

Vancouver Daily World, 1907. “Ross Rifle Factory Causes Much Trouble,” 6 April.

Windsor Star, 1908. “Plains Dedicated,” 25 July.

Winnipeg Tribune, 1908. “Battlefield Fund,” 7 August 1908.