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Gatineau Valley North: Settled for Forests and Fortunes

The GVHS wishes to thank the individuals who assisted in the preparation of this exhibition: Caroline Hogan, Norm Ramsay and Sophie Dazé from Library and Archives Canada; Luc Brazeau from les Archives Nationales du Quebec, Outaouais; GVHS members Duncan Marshall and Bruce Ballantyne; caption writer Tamara Tarasoff; and translators Robert et Denise Carrière of Communications St-Germain.

This exhibition is dedicated to the many GVHS volunteers, past and present, upon whose vision, research, and documentation this presentation is based on.

Marc Cockburn (Curator)
President, Gatineau Valley Historical Society
May 2004

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Gatineau Valley North: Settled for Forests and Fortunes
While we may think of the forests of the Gatineau Hills as beautiful places, it was their value as wood that brought people to settle the region. In the early and mid-1800s, when more accessible lands along the Ottawa River were already taken, adventurous souls ventured up the Gatineau River to seek their fortunes. They established farms, logged the forests, and sent their lumber downriver. As these four maps show, the townships of Low, Denholm, Hincks and Aylwin were surveyed and settled by 1910.

Aylwin Township
Located just north of Low Township, with the Gatineau River forming its eastern boundary, Aylwin Township was settled by loggers and farmers. Most settlers were of British descent, and many came from Carleton County, on the south bank of the Ottawa River. It was officially established in 1858, and was named after Thomas Cushing Aylwin, a lawyer, minister of justice for Canada East, and a judge.
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Low Township
Like other lands along the Gatineau River, Low Township was settled by loggers, farmers, and others involved in the forest economy. In fact, it gets its name from a prosperous lumber merchant, Charles Adamson Low, who was prominent in the area in the 1830s. The township was officially established in 1859.
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Denholm Township
Located just across the Gatineau River from Low Township, Denholm Township was first settled between 1851 and 1861, and was officially established in 1869. It draws its name from the village of Denholm in Roxburgh County, Scotland, and was settled by farmers and loggers of British origin.
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Hincks Township
Located between the Gatineau River and Lac Poisson Blanc, Hincks Township was established in 1864. It was named for Sir Francis Hincks who was first elected to government office in 1841, served as co-Prime Minister of the United Canadas with Augustin-Norbert Morin in 1851, and served as Minister of Finance in the government of John A. MacDonald from 1869 to 1873.
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Logging in Gatineau North: Shaping the Region
From the time that Philemon Wright floated the first logs down the Gatineau River in the 1830s, logging shaped the life and landscape of the Gatineau Valley. In the following decades, businessmen set up logging camps and men came to the region to earn a wage cutting timber. Families established farms, and towns developed to serve the logging camps. The seasonal cycle of logging was especially visible each spring when the logs that were cut in winter filled the Gatineau River for their journey to the sawmills on the Ottawa River. The last log drive down the Gatineau River took place in 1991, and now it is trucks filled with logs or woodchips that are evidence of the region's logging tradition.

Gatineau River Timber Limits (ca. 1890)
In 1843, the Crown Timber Office sold the first timber limits to lands along the Gatineau River. Businessmen such as the Gilmours and the Hamilton Brothers soon purchased the rights to log large tracts of land and set up shanties, or logging camps, in these areas. By 1890, when this map was created, the timber rights to most of the forested areas along the Gatineau River had been granted.
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Panorama of Logs on the Gatineau at Cascades (ca. 1930)
Each spring, after wood had been cut and piled along streams and riverbanks, the log drivers would eagerly await the thaw and the log drive. Log drivers would push the logs into the water and follow them with pointer boats. When logs jammed or needed extra help to move along, the drivers would stand on the logs and use pike-poles to pull or hook the logs and keep them moving. This photo shows a log drive as it passed the village of Cascades, which can be seen in the background.

River Drivers (no date)
Each spring, after wood had been cut and piled along streams and riverbanks, the log drivers would eagerly await the thaw and the log drive. Log drivers would push the logs into the water and follow them with pointer boats. When logs jammed or needed extra help to move along, the drivers would stand on the logs and use pike-poles to pull or hook the logs and keep them moving. This photo shows a log drive as it passed the village of Cascades, which can be seen in the background.

Raftmen's Pointer on the Gatineau (1922)

Cutting Corn in Kazabazua (1924)
Farmers in the Gatineau Valley were closely connected to the forest economy. They not only supplied food for the loggers and their horses, such as the corn depicted in this photo and the hay carried by the truck in the painting, they were often loggers themselves. When the busy growing and harvesting seasons were over, many farmers traded their ploughs for axes.

Kazabazua (ca. 1905)

The Hull-Maniwaki Railroad: Moving People and Things
While the Gatineau River had long been the main transportation route for lumber and people, it was no longer adequate as Canada moved into the rail era. In 1871, the Ottawa and Gatineau Valley Railroad Company was incorporated to build a railway "from or near the village of Hull to a point at or near the confluence of the Desert and Gatineau Rivers" (Maniwaki). Progress was slow, and the Hull-Wakefield section was finally completed in 1891. In the following years, the railway reached Low (1892), Kazabazua (1893), Gracefield (1894), Blue Sea Lake (1903), and finally Maniwaki (1904).

As was typical of railroads of the era, the name and ownership of the railroad changed a few times. In 1894, it was incorporated as the Ottawa & Gatineau Railway Company, and in 1901, amalgamated with the Pontiac Pacific Junction Railway to become the Ottawa Northern & Western. In 1902, the ON & W was leased to Canadian Pacific Railway for 99 years, and was officially absorbed by the CPR in 1953.

Passenger service ran from 1892 to 1963, and freight service continued until 1968. The railroad opened the region up to tourism, and made it easy for people residing in Ottawa and Hull to vacation in the Gatineau Hills. For many small communities in the region, which were isolated until the road to Maniwaki was completed in the 1950s, the railroad was a lifeline.


Gatineau Valley Railway Stations
If many of these stations look alike, that's because they were built to standard designs by the railroad companies. The first stations, built by the Ottawa and Gatineau Valley Railroad in Chelsea, Wakefield, Low, Venosta, Kazabazua and Gracefield, featured one-and-a-half storeys with steep-gabled roofs. Canadian Pacific Railway relied on its own standard plans to build other stations, such as Cascades, Blue Sea, Messines and Maniwaki. After passenger and freight service ended in the 1960s, most of the stations were torn down.
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Loading Pulp at Station, Kazabazua (1924)
The completion of the railroad meant that wood could be shipped by boxcar and not just by river. Between 1914 and 1963, there was freight service to Maniwaki each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and to Ottawa the following day. However, river and road offered the most economical means of transportation, and only a small proportion of wood was ever shipped by rail.

Loading Pulp at Station, Kazabazua (1924)


The Paugan Dam: Changing the Landscape
Until 1926, the Paugan Falls were known for their beauty and for the challenge they posed to log drivers during the spring log drive. Canadian International Paper saw the potential for generating hydroelectric power. In 1926, CIP created Gatineau Power Company and began to construct hydroelectric plants on three sites on the lower Gatineau: a 35-meter drop at Paugan Falls; a 30-meter drop at Chelsea Falls; and an 18-meter drop at Farmer's Rapids. This massive project resulted in work for thousands of labourers, the flooding of thousands of acres of land as far north as Lac Ste Marie, and the relocation of many farms and houses. The dam led to changes to the spring log drive too, and logs now had to be driven through a small chute and then towed downriver by tugboat.

Proposed Hydro-Electric Development On The Gatineau River At Paugan Falls.

General Map Of Gatineau River Showing Lands Acquired.
Nearly 50 farms and a portion of the village of Lac Ste Marie would be flooded by the project. This map shows the extent of the flooding that was predicted to occur as a result of the building of the dam.
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Paugan Falls (no date)
People described Paugan Falls as a place to admire the power of nature, to hold picnics, and to enjoy the outdoors. It must have come as a shock to the residents to learn that their falls would disappear for the sake of harnessing the river's power.

View of Construction Camp and Train Trestle (1927)
It took two years and many workers to build the Paugan Dam. These photographs show the village, complete with doctor, stores and barbershop, that was created to house the workers. You can also see the train trestle that was constructed for bringing in supplies and hauling out blasting debris. Both the workers' village and the train trestle were dismantled after the dam was completed in 1929.

Scene from Paugan Dam (1980)
After the Paugan Dam was constructed, tugboats like the one in this photograph became essential to the spring log drive. Because the Gatineau River no longer moved fast enough to send the logs downriver, tugboats were used to tow the log booms and keep them moving.

Aerial Photographs of the Paugan Dam and Low
These 1927 and 1928 aerial photographs of the Paugan Dam were taken by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) from aircraft flying out of Station Rockcliffe in Ottawa. They are part of a collection of 542 aerial photographs of the lower Gatineau River Valley taken between 1925 and 1939 and currently held in the National Air Photo Library of Canada. The matching contemporary aerial photographs were taken by Marshall Maruska Aerial Images of Chelsea Québec.

For additional information on the history of the Paugan Dam and the other dams on the lower Gatineau River as well as the early aerial photography of the region see:

The Gatineau Valley Historical Society, Jacques Lecours "The Great Hydro - Electric Works on the Gatineau River", Up the Gatineau!, Vol. 21, 35 - 44.

2. The Gatineau Valley Historical Society, Duncan Marshall, "Early Aerial Photography of the Gatineau River Valley", Up the Gatineau!,Vol. 27, 33 - 40.

Paugan Falls power development looking north.


Paugan Dam Powerhouse and Spillway.


      Then and now views of the community
      of Low and the Paugan Dam taken
      August 11, 1928 and May 30, 2000.

View North over Paugan Dam and Forebay