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.

This is the fourth in a continuing series of photo essays celebrating our Gatineau Valley history and heritage during Canada's sesquicentennial year. The series was created by the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, in collaboration with The Low Down to Hull and Back News. All photographs are courtesy of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society, with donors noted.

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.

150 Years of History in the Hills
Horses and an elegant carriage, in the driveway of Booth House at Kingsmere, once the summer home of the lumber baron, J.R. Booth and his family, 1930. Photo donated by Janeth McKinley.

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!

150 Years of History in the Hills
Allan Cameron Bate in a "coon" coat, with other unknown passengers, arriving at his Gold Note Horse Farm, from the Burbidge train station, 1910. Photo donated by Elizabeth Bate via Norma Geggie.
150 Years of History in the Hills
Horses and carriages at St. Elizabeth's church at 47 Ste. Elizabeth Road in Cantley, circa 1910. Photo donated by Mary Holmes via Cantley 1889.
150 Years of History in the Hills
A woman in a four-wheeled buggy guides a horse through the main street of Wakefield, 1916.

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