The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 17, 2011 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Electrifying part of Gatineau Hills history

foreword by Louise Schwartz

On Aug. 14, 1926, the Evening Citizen ran this story. It was one article in a glowing three-page review of progress on the major hydroelectric project on the Gatineau River. One headline trumpeted, "One of the Largest Projects Being Carried Out in the World Today." This article has been edited for length.

When the big power plants at Chelsea and Farmers Rapids have been completed, in the not too distant future, through the plans of the Canadian International Paper Company, there will spring into being one of the most thriving and suitably located summer resorts in the Gatineau district.

While enjoyable to tourists for its scenic beauty, the Gatineau River in the vicinity of Chelsea, Cascades, and Kirk's Ferry has never been available for boating, fishing, etc. because of its swift current waterfalls and cascades, which proved too great an element of danger for proper enjoyment. The creation of the big lake from Chelsea to Kirk's Ferry by the damming of the waters at the Chelsea power plant, and the subsequent overflooding of the land in its vicinity will create a lake 10 miles long, and over a mile wide in places.

The Way We Were
Construction of the power house, part of the dam built across the Gatineau River at the site of the old Gilmour and Hughson Mill at Chelsea Island. About 1,000 men were employed on this project (1926). Photo courtesy Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

It will be a lake free from deadheads, stumps, etc. the debris associated in the creation of such a gigantic plant on its shores, because the company has spent thousands of dollars in cleaning the bed of the river and its shores.

The lake will take the place of the usually turbulent Gatineau stream, and along its banks, on land belonging to the company, which will be leased at a reasonable figure, will be located beautiful cottages, adjacent to the CPR Maniwaki line, and within a stone's throw of the new road, which has been relocated in the best possible manner and along the most feasible route.

Another feature of the advent of the big power plants at Chelsea and Farmers Rapids will be the eventual electrification of the Gatineau.

This, of course, will be dependent upon the company being granted the necessary franchises and current opinion is that the municipal authorities concerned will be only too glad to take advantage of such an opportunity to bring the rural communities into more direct communication with the advances made by modern civilization.

No more will the tired housewife at night have to light the old kerosene burner, nor bend her aching back over the wash stand. Instead she will turn a switch and nature will do its work for her.

Farm hands, instead of sitting on the old three-legged stool to milk "Bossie", will perform their tasks with electric milking machines. Fannie at the breakfast table will provide crisp brown toast via the electric toaster, and she will iron the family washing when it comes out of the electric washer, with an electric iron.

The whole home will be electrified and it cannot be gainsaid in these days when governments preach the slogan "Back on the Land" that it will have more effect when backed by the comforts in life that electricity can bring to the toilers on the farms in the villages and hamlets.

This is not a dream or fantastic creation of the imagination, nor even free advertising for the CIP Co. It is a telling of a story of things which have actually come to pass in not only American, but Canadian cities where big power companies have gone into operation.

Added to this it must be remembered that electrical energy will be much cheaper to the consumer when there is plenty of it. The erection of no fewer than four power plants on the Gatineau River by the company is an indication that there will be plenty of power which will be exported and sold to the Ontario Hydro Electric Commission.

There is one sure thing, and that is that summer residents of beautiful Chelsea, and along the river north of that spot, who have lost their homes temporarily through the development of the big power plants will gain a summer resort by far more beautiful than they ever had before. The scenic beauty will still be there, for the admiration of increasing numbers of tourists, and the boating, fishing and bathing will be infinitely better.

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