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Low Down Articles

Echoes from the Past


This article first appeared in the "Echoes from the Past" column of the "The Low Down to Hull and Back News". Reprinted with permission. See list of Echoes from the Past articles or search Low Down Articles.

o o o

Alonzo Wright, M.P.

Many of us who live along the west bank of the Gatineau River, between Low and Hull, know that to cross to the east one has the choice of using either of two ridges; that at Wakefield or the lower one, at the foot of Mile Hill. The destination on the east side of the river will have a bearing on the choice of the bridges.

The more southern of these crossways has an official name, "The Alonzo Wright Bridge" named after Alonzo Wright, the grandson of Philemon Wright, founder of Hull (Gatineau). Alonzo, one of the sons of Tiberius Wright (himself, second son of Philemon) and Lois Ricker, was born on 28 February, 1825, at Hull where he received his early education. He was a brilliant student with a natural bent and application to learning which prompted his father to send him to Potsdam in New York State to complete what had had its start in Hull.

Alonzo had finished school when his father Tiberius, died, on 29 April 1841 aged 55. Tiberius, with others of the Wright family, owned huge tract of land. One of his farms on the east side of the Gatineau River, by the terms of his will was left to his son Alonzo. The farm had been let for some time to an English family headed by William Farmer. Chartering a ship, Farmer had brought his family, his servants and all that he possessed, including some prized cattle and horses. In spite of valiant efforts, Farmer found himself in financial difficulties, and was unable to meet the payments on the farm. The deal with Tiberius involved the return of the property should installments not be forthcoming. This repossession came about in 1843, after the death of Tiberius, in consequence the farm came to Alonzo.

FAILED WITH SAWMILL

For a while Alonzo endeavoured to make a go of the sawmill operation Farmer had set up on part of the property, but the lumber business was in a slump.

In 1850 Alonzo married Mary Sparks, the oldest daughter of Nicholas Sparks. The Sparks father had become wealthy through shrewd property deals at the time of construction of the Rideau Canal, thus daughter Mary came to Alonzo with a generous dowry.

Some years later Alonzo & Mary had moved into a palatial home, called "The Chateau" which had been built on the farm site, once in possession of William Farmer, and here he played the part of the gentleman farmer. His garden and prized cattle and horses become his pride and joy. From this date onwards Alonzo bore the title "King of the Gatineau".

Alonzo Wright, like his grandfather Philemon before him, was elected to the Legislature of Lower Canada, representing the County of Ottawa (in Quebec) in 1862. As the Chateau was situated at Limbour it was in the Municipality of then West Hull. We find that Alonzo was petitioned now and then by the municipal council especially with regard to Seigneural money which might be forthcoming. We also know he was a prime mover in the establishment of the railway up the Gatineau.

After Confederation he was returned to Parliament by acclamation and in the next election won a comfortable majority of 1624 votes. He was a Militia Colonel, President of the Agricultural Society of his County (Ottawa) and Director of a similar organization on the Ottawa side of the river.

Wright's performance in Parliament was more than just satisfactory. He was noted as an outstanding politician, but was known for his fairness which was nicely balanced by his firmness. Before making judgements he liked to hear both sides of any arguments or debates. He was highly esteemed by both Tories and Grits.

The popularity of Alonzo Wright was indeed great. So much so that his colleagues, in 1881 had his portrait painted and presented to him, accompanied by a most eulogistic address, signed by all of them. His health was not great in later years and he died in 1894.

Alonzo and Mary had no children. He left everything to Mary. In turn Mary's will passed on many thousands to relatives and favourite charities.