Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia




[This text was published in 1948. For the full citation, see the end of the document.]

Ottawa, a city in Carleton county, Ontario, is the capital of the Dominion of Canada. It is situated at the junction of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers. On June 4, 1613, Samuel Champlain in charge of a party of explorers, reached the mouth of the Gatineau river, opposite the eastern part of the present city of Ottawa, on his voyage in search of a north-west passage to China. He was attracted by the region, but over two centuries were to pass before any real attempt was made at settlement, and the site of Ottawa remained a forestclad wilderness. The actual founding of the city was not until 1826, when Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers, who built the Rideau canal at an outlay of £1,000,000, constructed rude frame barracks for his men where the parliament buildings now stand, as well as a residence for himself in what is now Major's Hill Park. In the same year, the first church, now St. Andrew's, was built. In 1832 the Rideau canal was completed, thus providing a waterway for trade between Upper and Lower Canada. In 1847 the village of Bytown was incorporated as a town, and on December 18, 1854, the town was incorporated as the city of Ottawa. In 1857, Queen Victoria selected Ottawa as the capital of Canada, and this choice was ratified by the Canadian parliament in 1859. On July 1, 1860, King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, laid the corner stone of the original parliament building. The first session of parliament was opened on June 8, 1866 . During this session Confederation became an actuality, and on July 1, 1867, the birthday of the new Dominion was duly celebrated.


Ottawa has an area of 5,295¼ acres; owns its water-works and electric light system; has over fifty elementary schools; two collegiate institutes; two normal schools; one technical school; one high school of commerce; one university; fifteen colleges; a public library; and three daily newspapers, two in English (Journal and Citizen) and one in French (Le Droit). It has over fifty government buildings, including the Parliament Buildings, the Victoria Memorial Museum, the Dominion Observatory, the Royal Mint, and the Public Archives; twenty-two parks and squares, over eighty miles of paved streets including the Federal District driveways, and almost sixty miles of electric street railways. The city is served by the Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and Ottawa and New York (New York Central) Railways. It is the centre of a great power and lumbering region and has about 460 industries - wood products, paper mills, watch factories, etc. The Central Canada Exhibition is held in Ottawa annually. The grounds and buildings are owned by the city, and are leased to the Exhibition Association.


The city is governed by a board of control, composed of the mayor and four controllers, and a council of eighteen aldermen, elected annually. The mayor and controllers are elected by general vote, the aldermen by wards, two for each ward. The mayor, by virtue of his office, is chairman of the board of control, is one of the police commissioners, and represents the city council on all committees and commissions appointed by council.


The name Ottawa was first applied to the river, and was later bestowed on the city. Various explanations are given for its origin. According to some authorities it is from, an Indian word atawa, or otawah, meaning to extinguish, referring to the mist rising from Chaudière falls in the vicinity of the city. But it is more probably from the term adawe (to trade), the Indians of the northern stretches of the river being noted traders in furs in the days of the French régime. In the Jesuit Relations these Indians are referred to as Outaouak, and later missionaries and explorers called them Outaowa. After 1700 they were called the Outaouais, but finally the form became fixed as Ottawa, and was used to designate the "Grand River of the Algonquins". There are in all some thirty spellings of the word. Population, about 155,000, and if the suburbs are included, over 215,000.


See A. Wilson, A history of old Bytown and vicinity (Ottawa, 1876) ; Sir J. D. Edgar, Canada and its capital (Toronto, 1898) ; A. H. D. Ross, Ottawa past and present (Toronto, 1927); Blodwen Davies, The charm of Ottawa (Toronto, 1932); and T. M. Longstreth, Quebec, Montreal, and Ottawa (New York, 1933).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. V, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 401p., pp. 69-70


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College