150 Years of History in the Hills
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the February 22, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.
No gas, no problem, just hop on a horse
Horses were once essential to rural life. Before the advent of cars, the primary means of local transportation were horses and horse-drawn vehicles. Settlers used horses for riding, as pack animals on some trails, to pull carts, and in the winter, to pull sleighs on the ice.
In later years, carriage horses bore wealthy citizens from Ottawa to their summer homes in the Gatineau Hills, while locals would hitch their horses to wagons and buggies, cutters or sleighs, depending on the season. Workhorses helped farmers in their fields, becoming their pride and joy as workmates and companions. Horses also hauled freight to and from the railway and businesses, and delivered goods such as bread to homes.
In the Gatineau Hills, the stagecoach once provided a vital link with its passenger and mail service. In 1851, William Patterson began operation of the first stage coach between Bytown (Ottawa) and North Wakefield (Alcove). And Brook's Hill farm in Low was home to a family of stagecoach operators who carried freight and passengers upriver from Chelsea to Maniwaki before the arrival of the railroad in the 1890s. The stage driver was a glamorous figure in the frontier world. He made the speed records and was the first to learn the news along a hundred miles of road.
Includes material from bytown.net/workhorses.htm; virtualmuseum.ca "A Witness to Change Along the Gatineau"; and "Brooks Hill - Low, Quebec, Canada - Built 1859" by Reg and Grete Hale in Volume 16 of Up the Gatineau!