Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
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Page reviewed or updated Dec 14, 2008
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The Long Reach of the Rideau Canal

The long reach of the Rideau Canal is the stretch from Long Island north of Manotick to Burritt’s Rapids. There are no intervening locks on this 40 km stretch of the canal.

The Rideau Canal of course had a major affect on Rideau Township. As described for the villages above it provided the vital transportation link for economic development in Rideau Township, bordering as it did the complete eastern side of the township.

The canal also drew tourists (even in those days) and promoted travel along the system for many purposes. For example there was a dock at Lansdowne Park where people arrived at the Central Canada Exhibition by steamboat.

Thus the canal was an important element of the development of Rideau from the 1830’s to the 1930’s when railroads, automobiles, and trucks took over the transportation business. Thus the long reach is of particular interest to the RTHS as no history of Rideau can be complete without including it.

Nowadays the canal has become an important facility for pleasure boating and tourism. Its designation as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO will certainly further promote it as a place to visit.

The Villages

The earlier and larger villages in the Township include Burritt’s Rapids, Kars, Manotick, and North Gower. They are described on the Villages page. Use the links above.

Political Development

Rideau Township was formed in 1974 by the amalgamation of North Gower and Marlborough townships. Those townships were formerly part of Carleton County. Rideau was and is a rural area. The main industry is farming with its supporting infrastructure of suppliers and services. Parts of the township can be considered as a suburb of Ottawa, as many residents work in the City.

North Gower Township was established in 1792 and Marlborough Township was established in 1791. They both became part of Carleton County in 1800 and were incorporated as townships in 1850.

The first settlers were United Empire Loyalists with Roger Stevens and Steven Burritt establishing themselves between 1790 and 1793.  The survey of Marlborough Township was done between February and November of 1791 by Theodore de Pensier. An account of his work exists in the form of his daily log. This provides a view of the hardships and difficulties of this work in an area that was fully treed and had a high percentage of wet lands. North Gower Township was also surveyed in 1791, by John Stegmann.

The map below shows the extent of Rideau Township as it existed before amalgamation with Ottawa in 1974.

About Rideau Township

Rideau Township has a long and multifaceted history with early settlement beginning in the late 1700s. It covers a period from the days of almost total reliance on self and nearby neighbours to globalization and reliance on people spread over the world.

The progression from one to the other covers the aspects of the development of our “civilization”, including economic, social, and political aspects. In short the history of Rideau can be viewed as the shifting from local to global with remote systems over which we little or no control. Another view might be the shifting from primitive technologies to high tech with all the associated changes in how we live.

In any case the people that lived in Rideau over the last two centuries and a bit have brought us to the point we are at today. They have done this through hard work, dedication, innovation, and a tenacity that must be admired. The doings of these people are the history of Rideau Township and we honour them by reviving and guarding their story for future generations.

Rideau Township Page: Content

Map of the former Rideau Township

Commercial Aspects – Lumber, Cheese, Agriculture

When settlers first came to Rideau Township it was a forest. The first job therefore was to clear the land to make room for crops. Thus farmers were first of all loggers and then lumbermen as sawmills powered by water came available. In the logging days the Rideau Canal was used to float the logs to the Ottawa River and then on to Montreal for use there or shipment on to Britain and Europe.

Once the land was cleared crops and dairying replaced the lumber trade, cheese making became an important economic business. Britain could not meet its own need for cheese and Ontario cheddar was regarded as an excellent cheese by national and international customers.

Cheese at this time became a regular commodity shipped on the Rideau Canal via locations like Lindsay’s Wharf at Kars. There were at this time an impressive number of cheese factories operated in Rideau Township to meet this need.

As cheese was produced more widely and the market declined, mixed farming came to the fore. Beef, pork, chicken, and lamb were grown for the butcher shops and milk, vegetables, and grains were shipped to markets in the cities to feed a growing urban population. This economic activity continues until today and is probably still the main economic activity in the former Rideau Township.