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Fraser's Scottish Annual
Canada's Capital


IN 1826 the Imperial Government began the construction of the Rideau Canal to connect Lake Ontario at Kingston with the Ottawa River at a point126 miles north, near the junction of the Ottawa and Severn Rivers. The military engineer in charge was Col. John By, from whom the infant village that started up at the north end of the link derived its name of Bytown. In 1847 it was incorporated as a town, with a Mayor and Council, and in 1854 it became the City of Ottawa. Four years later it was selected by Her Majesty as the capital of the old Province of Canada. In 18130 His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone of the Parliament buildings, in which the Provincial Parliament met in 1835. At Confederation, on 1st July, 1837, Ottawa became the capital of the Dominion of Canada. It has now a population of about 60,000, has many large and extensive manufactures, is the great emporium of the lumber trade of the Ottawa Valley, and is all railway centre. For picturesqueness of situation and scenic beauty it can be surpassed on this continent.

From the very beginning Scotsmen have had a large part in building up the city. Hardly a walk of life can be named in which Scotsmen were not among the leaders. The builders of the magnificent tier of locks connecting the canal basin with the Ottawa River were two Scotsmen, John Redpath and Thomas McKay the former afterwards the great sugar king of Montreal, and the latter a member of the Legislative Council and founder of the extensive New Edinburgh mills at the Rideau Falls. He it was, too, who built, and for many years resided in, Rideau Hall, which is now the official residence of the Governor-General of Canada. The splendid suspension bridge which spans the gorge through which rush the seething waters of the great river after their plunge over the Chaudiere Falls, was the work of another Scotsman, Alexander Christie. The first flour mills and sawmills at the Chaudiere were built by a Scotsman, Daniel McLaughlin, afterwards member for the city in the Provincial Legislature and fornierly of the flourishing town of Arnprior. Another Scot, Allan Gilmour, was for long the wealthiest lumberman oil river, and established the great mills at Chelsea,on the Gatineau. Still another Scot, who reckoned his wealth by the million, was James Maclaren, owner of immense mills at New Edinburgh and Buckingham, and formerly of the Bank of Ottawa. His brother, William, is a well-known Professor in Knox College, Toronto. The first newspaper, The Gazelle, was published by an Aberdonian, Dr. A. S. Christie, in 1836, whose grandson, John Christie, is head of one of the leading legal firms of the city. The paper was subsequently edited by Robert Sherriff, a Scot of great ability, but somewhat eccentric. It then became the property of another Scot, Thomas Mackay, and still later of a lawyer named Alexander Gibb, who exhibited Scottish persistance by retaining its name of By/own Gazelle bug after the change of name of the city. It is to be remembered, too, that the first daily paper in Ottawa was the News, issued by a young Scotsman, Andrew Wilson, who was one of those whom the gods love, and died while still a youth.

The first President of the first railway that linked Ottawa to the world outside was a sturdy Scot, named John McKinnon, although the credit of pushing the railway through to completion is due to a North of Ireland man of extraordinary energy, Robert Bell, afterwards M.P.P. for Russell. In all the professions and businesses, Scotsmen have been prominent in Ottawa. Among merchants may he named, Thomas Waddell, Benjamin Gordon, Simon Fraser (afterwards sheriff) William Stewart, Andrew Main, Edward McGillivray, William Lang, James Brough, Gilbert Heron, John McNider, and many others. Among booksellers and stationers, John Dune and J. G. Whyte; jewellers, John Leslie and Alexander Gray; hardware men, George Hay, Frank McDougal and A. Grant; lawyers, Robert Hersy, G. R. Lyon, Robert Hees, Donald Campbell, etc., etc.; druggists, John Roberts and Alexander Christie; hotel-keepers, Donald McArthur, John L. Campbell, Robinson Lyon. The youth of those days has kindly remembrance of a confectionery store of a good Scotch lady, Proderich, who was the caterer for all the gay parties and entertainments. The Grammar School was opened about 1843, and it is a singular fact, that with one exception, all the Head Masters have been Scotsmen. The first was Thomas Wardrope, now the Rev. Dr. Wardrope, of Guelph, and the present is John Macmillan, under whom it has been raised to a Collegiate Institute, and is one of the most progressive educational institutions of the country.

Scotch Presbyterianism has, has, of course, had a marked influence on the community. The pioneer minister was the Rev. John Cruickshank, who preached in a quaint old structure, which has been replaced by the present beautiful St. Andrew's Church. The disruption in the Church of Scotland in 1843 was felt here too, and the congregation was split in two, the seceders forming Knox's Church, which was built on Hill, on a site granted free by a liberal Roman Catholic named L. T. Besserer. The present Knox Church is on Hall Square, and is one of the handsomest church edifices in Ottawa. Both churches have had many offshoots, and there are Presbyterian places of worship in all sections of the city, and all now working in harmony within the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Being the Capital of Canada, Ottawa is, of course, the place of residence of the members of the Administration, and it is something which Scotsmen call that the first two Prime Ministers of the Dominion were of this nationality, the Right Honorable Sir John Alexander Macdonald and the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie. Three of the Speakers of the House of Commons also may be claimed as Scots, the Hon. James Cockburn, the Hon. Peter White, and the Hon. J.D. Edgar. We have also had three Scottish Governor-Generals residents of Ottawa, the Marquis of Lorne, the Earl of Aberdeen, and the Earl of Minto.

A unique personality among Ottawa Scots was the late Father Dawson, a Roman Catholic priest, of broad sympathies. He was a man of great learning, and was frequently chosen on occasions of public festivities to be the orator of the day. For some years he was chaplain of St. Andrew's Society. He lived to a very advanced age, and had won the admiration and esteem of all classes in the community, Protestant as well as Roman Catholics. The St. Andrew's Society, of Ottawa, has had a long career of usefulness, and as well as the other Scottish Societies, such as the Caledonian and the Sons of Scotland whose aims to a large extent coincide, especially in patriotic matters has done much to preserve the memory of the Old Land.


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