In 2023 we asked ourselves the question – are there ways the Historical Society of Ottawa can be of assistance to teachers who would like to expand their students knowledge of the Ottawa area’s local history?
To that end, we have assembled an “Educational Resource List” and have made it available on our website. This Educational Resource List consists of more than 30 helpful links to specific stories from Ottawa’s past as well as links to additional resources. The links include short essays, pamphlets and video presentations from our own website, as well as links to third party resources that we strongly recommend. Various resources are suitable for group learning activities and/or independent study assignments.
We are happy to meet with teachers to further explore how we can be of assistance. We can also arrange for speakers to come to your classroom or to arrange walking tours. All free-of-charge. We are a non-profit, all-volunteer organization. It has been the Society's goal (since 1898!) to increase awareness of the Ottawa area’s fascinating history. (See Educational Resource List for full details and contact information.)
We welcome any suggestions you may have for the Educational Resource List. We hope to make it a resource that we can continually build upon.
Please let us know if you would like to part of the group of teachers who receive regular updates from us regarding our resources — and please feel free to share with other educators!
The Historical Society of Ottawa is excited to announce we’re launching a blog! Are you a historian, heritage professional, or member of the public who is actively engaged in historical research related to the Ottawa area, who is interested in sharing your research? While you may be familiar with our other publications, including our pamphlets and Ottawa Stories, this platform provides a space for those interested in showcasing their work in a shorter blog format.
As a start, we will publish one blog post a month which will be posted on our website and promoted on our social media platforms.
Several years of annual reports from the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa (WCHSO), the precursor to the Historical Society of Ottawa, are available via the Internet Archive:
In 2016, Connie Gunn wrote an incisive thesis regarding the WCHSO’s early decades. In her paper, Gunn credited the diligence of our early members in creating a personal, nuanced and meaningful depiction of our area’s history.
Gunn also noted how the fact that our early members were drawn from the elite, often with ancestral ties to the area, inevitably shaped their interpretation of history.
Empire and colonial society were frequently revered and romanticized. Clearly, certain issues (such as the residential school system, with which some of their husbands were closely connected) might have been worthy of greater attention.
As the first few decades passed, Gunn noted the eventual diversification of the WCHSO’s membership, and also a diversification of the Society’s storytelling, including more emphasis on some of the women of history.
See this link to view the full text of Connie Gunn’s detailed study of the contributions as well as shortfalls of our well intentioned founders and early members:
Transactions of the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa - by Emma Kent
Between 1901 and 1928, ten volumes of articles or transcripts of talks presented at Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa meetings were published under the series of 'Transactions’. According to the AGM reports the first 8 volumes appear to have titles and themes with this practice being dropped for the last few volumes. A reprint of Volume One was issued after Volumes Six and Seven. Under the presidency of Margaret Wilson, an eleventh volume was published in 1954.
Currently, we only have a few volumes that cannot scan the entries without destroying our copies. Still, for those interested in using the articles for research, here is a list of what each volume contains, any notes added by the Society, and we could provide photos of the article’s text upon request.
Volume One - “Early History of Ottawa and Counties”
Volume Two - “The Water Ways of Canada”
Volume Three - “ Early History of Ottawa and Hull”
Volume Four - “Early History of Townships, etc.”
Volume Five - “The Battlegrounds of Canada” - 1912 - Printed in Ottawa by The Esdale Press, Limited. C or Kent and Sparks Sts. Engravers, Printers ETC.
Page 5 - The Plains of Abraham by Mrs. Wilfred Campbell.
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, February 9th, 1912.
Page 19 - The Battlegrounds of Niagara Peninsula by Mrs. Thomas Ahearn
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, November 1909.
Page 37 - Battle of the Windmill, 1838 by Miss Amey Horsey
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa,
Page 43 - Battles of St. Denis and St. Charles by Miss Kathleen O’Gara
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, January 14th, 1910.
Page 51 - Siege of the Long Sault by Miss Magdalen Casey
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, February 10th, 1911.
Page 61 - Battlegrounds of the North-West Rebellions by A.E. Attwood
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, December 9th, 1910
Page 71- The Heroine of Vercheres by Mrs. Walter Armstrong
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, January 13th, 1911.
Page 80 - Madame de la Tour by Miss M. A. Northwood
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, January 12th, 1912.
Page 89 - Louisburg - its two Sieges by Miss Eva G. Read.
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, March 8th, 1913.
Page 96 - The Hero of Chateauguay by Madame S. Lelievre
Paper read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, March 12, 1909.
Volume Six - “Treaties Relating to Canada, 1632 - 1872” - Printed in 1915
Page 5 - Forward on the General Subject of Treaties.
Being the Introduction to Mrs, Bayly’s Paper on “The Treaty of Paris,” the first of the series as arranged to be given before the Society.
Page 11 - St. Germain-en-Laye.
A Treaty between Lewis XIII King of France and Charles I King of Great Britain the Restitution of New France, Acadis and Canada, and the Ships and Merchandises taken on Both Sides, March 29, 1632.
Page 25 - The Treaty of Breda (1667) - Rysmick (1697)
(Page 25) Treaty of Ryswick, 1687.
(Page 31) Treaty of Ryswick, 1697.
(Page 37) Treaty of Breda, 1667.
(Page 38) Treaty of Ryswick, 1697.
Page 40 - Treaty of Utrecht by Cordelie E. Rheaume given on March 12th, 1915.
Page 46 - Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748. By Alice B. Lelievre .
Page 52 - The Treaty of Paris, 1763 by E.D. Bayly.
Page 62 - Treaty of Versailles, 1783 by Jenny Russell Simpsom
Page 73 - Treaty of Ghent by Muriel G. Shortt. Given on Dec 12th, 1913.
Page 84 - The Ashburton Treaty by Hazel Biggar given in January, 1914.
Page 92 - Treaty of Washington, 1871 by Edith M. McLean given on March 14, 1913.
Page 104 - Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 by Agnes M. Davis given on February 13th, 1914.
Page 113- Some Confederation Reminiscences of the Hon. Senator Costigan by his daughter Teresa Contigan Armstrong Given on March 10th, 1914.
Reprint of Volume One
Volume Seven - “Historical Collection”
Page 5 - Reminiscences of Bytown by Mrs. Jenny Russell Simpson
Read before the WCHSO on Feb 11th, 1916.
Page 12 - Toronto University by Helen McLean of 292 Daly Ave, Ottawa
Read before the WCHSO on March 10th, 1916.
Page 16 - The Settlement of the Country of Lennox and Addington by Mrs. Annie Rothwell Christie
Page 26 - My Native County - Glengarry by Mary Gerenish H. Foran - December 10th, 1915
Page 38 - The Cairn by Mary Masson
Page 42 - Nova Scotia by Alberta T. Somerville
Page 59 - The History of Canada in Sixty Lines by T. Chisholm, M.D., ex-MP and read before the WCHSO by Mrs. Simpson, Nov 10, 1917.
Volume Eight - “Personal Recollections of Bytown and Early Ottawa”
Page 5 - Philemon Wright and the Settlement of Hull by Hon. Justice Latchford.
Read February, 1921 before the WCHSO.
Page 20 - Notes on some of the Prominent Citizens of the Early Days of Bytown by Leopoldine Beauchamp Pigeon.
Page 23- Bytown to Ottawa, 1827- 1877 by William Pittman Lett.
Short Panoramic View of Ottawa History, Written in its Jubilee Year by William Pittman Lett, City Clerk.
Page 34 - Reminiscences - How Peace was Preserved in the Days Gone by.
This paper, read some years ago before the Perth Historical Society, has been presented to the WCHSO by Miss Clara B. Armstrong, Perth, Ont.
Page 38 - Bytown in 1837. By H. P. Hill
Page 52 - Bytown Election of 1841 by H.P. Hill
Page 63 - Memories of Bytown by W.H. Cluff - January 1920.
Our First Telegraph Line (page 68)
Road from Upper Town to Lower Town (page 69)
Freight and Passengers in the Old Days (page 72)
The Military Graveyard (page 74)
The High Cost of Living in the 1840’s and 50’s (page 74)
When the Spark Estate was put on the Market (page 75)
Page 77 - History of The Ottawa Fire Department - Showing its development with the Growth of the city, from its Earliest Volunteer Organization up to the Present Time by John W. Graham, Chief Fire Department.
Page 89 - A Glimpse of the Capital in 1849 by Marion Jamieson
Page 94 - On Early Patents for Inventions Granted to the Residents of Ottawa by William J. Lynch, I.S.O., Chief of the Canadian Patent Office.
Volume Nine - 1925
Page 5 - Bytown, 1834 to Ottawa, 1854 by George R. Blyth.
A copy of the reminiscences of Mr. Geo R. Blyth of the City of Ottawa. They were given to Mrs. Ells of the committee appointed to collect the memories of old residents of the City. - M. A. Northwood, Secretary of the Committee.
Page 16 - Burning of the Parliament Buildings at Montreal in 1849 by J.Jones Bell
Page 21 - The Chelseas on the Gatineau by Mary MacKay Scott
Page 26 - Early Settlements of the Meach Lake by Ethel Penman Hope
Page 34 - The First Missionaries of Hull by Louise Belisie
Page 40 - Hugh Macdonell by Kate Casgrain
A United Empire Loyalist of the Revolutionary War, 1775-83 (Lieutenant, 1st Battalion, Kings’ Royal Regiment of New York). M.P. for Glengarry in the first Parliament of Upper Canada, Volunteers Regiment of Foot, 1796-1802. First Adjutant-General of the Militia in Canada and founder of the Militia system, 1792-9. British Consul- General at Algiers, 1811-1820.
A great record of splendid service of a pioneer Canadian and his family.
Page 48- Castine by Lucienne C. Roy
Page 56 - The Founder of Toronto by Lucienne C. Roy
Page 59 - The Duke of Kent and a Famous Minuet by Lucienne C. Roy
Page 61 - The Colours of the Fenian Invasion, 1870 by Luceienne C. Roy
Page 62 - The Indian Chapel of Tadoussac by Edith M. Maclean
Page 67 - A Social Life in Old Quebec by Edith M. Maclean
Page 79 - The Fur Trader’s Better Half by Lawrence J. Burpee
Page 91 - Sir William Johnson by Mary Garenish H. Foran
Page 98 - Some Canadian Women of 1812-14 by Ernest of Green
An Address delivered before the Society in the Bytown Museum, December 14th, 1923.
Page 110 - Experiences in the Yukon, 1901 by O.P.R Ogilvie
At the conclusion of the paper, about thirty-five very attractive pictures of the Yukon were shown.
Page 116 - The Iroquois, An Historical and Ethnological Sketch by F. W. Waugh, Division of Anthropology, Geological Survey.
Page 126 - The Naskopi Indians of Labradors and their Neighbors by F. W. Waugh, Division of Anthropology, Geological Survey.
Page 137 - The Eskimos, Their History and Future by D. Jenness
Paper read before the Women’s Historical Society, January 12, 1923.
Page 142 - Indian Legends From Vancouver Island by Edward Sapir
Then Dr. Sapir then gave two interesting examples of the type of myths and legends prevalent among the Nootka Indians of Vancouver Island. He read his own literal translation of a myth entitled: “What Mosquitoes Are Made Of” and a legend “Always-Lifts-Up” and “Sore-Headed Whales”. These valuable examples of Indian folk-lore are in the Articles of the Museum and may be seen and read on request.
Page 5 - Ottawa. 1867-1927. Something of her history during the sixty years since Confederation by Mrs. C. H. Thorburn
Written for and read before The Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, February 10th, 1928, by Mrs. Charles H. Thornburn.
Page 30 - North West Rebellion. By Grig-Gen. General C. F. Winters
January 9th, 1926.
Page 39 - Governors of Canada by C.A. Gullock
Page 55 - Lecture on the Choice of Ottawa as the Capital of Canada by Mr. Arthur Beaucheane, M.A., F.R.S.C, Clerk of the House of Commons.
Page 62 - The Celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation by C.G Cowan, Honorary Secretary of the National Diamond Jubilee Committee, Ottawa, September, 1927
Page 74 -The Peace Bridge and Confederation Celebration Elsewhere in Canada by Eva G. Read
Page 84- Some Historic Buildings in Ottawa by Mary McKay Scott
Paper read before The Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, Jan. 13, 2028.
Page 93 - Early British Canadian Heroines by Mrs. J.R. Hill
Page 94 - Mrs. Susanna Moodie.
Page 99 - E. Pauline Johnson, condensed from “Flint and Flatter”
Page 102 - Barbara Heck From Barbara Heck by Dr. Withrow
Page 114 - Some Pioneer Women of French Canada by Mrs. G. J. Desbarats
Read at the Meeting of The Womens’ Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa, Friday, January 14th, 1927.
Page 136 - The First State Trail in Lower Canada by Col. Rene de Salaberry
Page 147- Sketch Life of Thomas D’arcy McGee by Mrs. E. J. Doyle
Page 152- The First Jesuit Mission of Fort Ste. Marie by Mrs. E.J Ashton
Read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa.
Page 163 - Canadian Art and Artists by Mrs. O.J. Jolliffe
Page 170- Canadian Unity ad Quebec by Dr. S. Marion
Volume 11 - 1954 - Printed by Leclerc Printers Limited, Hull, Canada
Page 5 - The Bytown Museum
Page 7 - Side-lights on the Ottawa-Rideau Waterway to Upper Canada by Thomas Dunbabin
Page 17 - Sarah Olmstead by Brigadier R.M. Gorsline
Page 20 - St. James Anglican Church, Hull, Quebec by Annie M. Findlay Fee
Page 24 - John Burrows Honey (An Early Resident of Bytown) by Dr. H. T. Douglas
Page 27 - The Last Days of Bytown by Anne Dewar
Page 37 - The Choice and Acceptance of Ottawa as the Capital of Canada by Sheila I. Stewart
Page 42 - Ottawa in the Seventies by Lieutenant-Colonel C. P. Meredith
Page 46 - My Recollections of Laurier House by Lilian Scott Desbarats
Page 51 - The History of the Blue Church by Barbara Jones
Page 55 - A Pioneer Community in Beckwith Township, Lanark County Upper Canada 1818 Locally Known as “The Derry” by Bertram Reid MacKay
Page 63 - Terminal Note
SORRY, this event is full!
The Historical Society of Ottawa, in partnership with the Ottawa Public Library and Rogers TV, is presenting a three-part lecture series, featuring renowned author, columnist, singer songwriter Phil Jenkins, which will take place at the Ottawa Public Library's Sunnyside Branch, on three consecutive Saturdays — April 15, 22 & 29, 2023 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.
Through the years, many have enjoyed Phil Jenkins' music, his columns in the Ottawa Citizen and his award-winning books such as "An Acre of Time" and "River Song". We hope you'll join us!
Attendance is free but we strongly recommend signing up early as spaces are limited. You can choose from either of two links to pre-register, through Eventbrite or through the Ottawa Public Library's website.
(Rogers TV has been invited to video-record the three lectures to be preserved for posterity's sake.)
In 1793, a young Black woman named Choe Clooey, against her loud protests, was forced into a boat and across the Niagara River to be sold in the United States. Several witnesses, horrified by Cooley’s plaintive cries for help, resolved to petition the Executive Council of Upper Canada for her immediate return and the arrest of the perpetrators.
Lord Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of the newly founded jurisdiction of Upper Canada, had for many years been a strong opponent of slavery and was outraged but powerless to intervene once Cooley had been removed across the border. Simcoe did, however, vow to introduce a bill to abolish slavery in Upper Canada. Simcoe's bill did eventually pass, but only after it had been weakened significantly by members of his own government, of which approximately half were enslavers of Black people themselves (or were members of families that enslaved people).
Simcoe's bill limited slavery Upper Canada, but not until further world events, including a revolt in Jamaica decades later, would slavery finally be abolished in Upper Canada and the rest of the British Empire.
The Chloe Cooley story was portrayed on stage at this year's opening event for Black History Month on January 28, 2023 at the National Gallery of Canada. Ben Weiss of the Historical Society of Ottawa was honoured to be asked to play the role of Lord Simcoe and, as he admits, was thankful to be surrounded by a cast of much better actors. It was, nonetheless, moving to be asked to take part in the performance.
Canada Post's 2023 stamp for Black History Month was also unveiled that afternoon, to great applause from the audience, featuring none other than Chloe Cooley herself.
Ben Weiss has for several years been the Historical Society of Ottawa's representative in its efforts to partner with Black History Ottawa and increase awareness of Black history. Ben was much honoured, during the afternoon's ceremonies, to be the recipient of Black History Ottawa's President's Award in recognition of ongoing contributions.
In celebration of our 125th anniversary, the Historical Society of Ottawa was recognized and honoured by being invited to contribute this year’s special Heritage Day “2023 Great Ottawa History Challenge”.
How well do you know Ottawa history? Take the challenge! https://ottawacitizen.com/news/heritage-day-try-the-2023-great-ottawa-history-challenge
As most of our older members, but few of our newer members know, the Historical Society of Ottawa is in strong financial shape because of former president George Neville’s prudent leadership. And now the next generation of directors are having fun finding meaningful projects to support around town that showcase local history.
On September 30, 2022, on only the second ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Ottawa Historical Society partnered with the Ottawa-based First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and Beechwood Cemetery for its annual educational activities.
Our donation provided a ride in style on the Lady Dive between Beechwood and Sparks Street where hourly walking tours were led up to St. Andrew’s at the corner of Wellington and Kent Streets.
Over 100 participants gathered at Beechwood at 10 am on the beautiful fall day, including HSO president Emma Kent and myself. First, we took in a children’s film produced by the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society to educate little ones about the history and enduring legacy of residential schools.
After the film we took the Beechwood tour which started off at Nicholas Floor Gavin’s memorial and ended at Peter Henderson Bryce’s. What most impressed me was the speaker’s focus on both their contributions and shortcomings. Gavin was a proponent of both women’s suffrage and the removal of Indigenous children from the “influence of the Wigwam”. Bryce documented and reported health abuses and high death rates in the residential school system while the chief medical officer of the Department of Indian Affairs; however, didn’t follow up on his observations with the publication of “The Story of a National Crime: An Appeal of Justice to the Indians of Canada” until after he had retired from the public service. Along the path down to Dr. Bryce’s memorial, there were 93 signs bearing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.
We then headed over to Sparks Street on the Lady Dive where we learned more about the upcoming installation of the plaque “Reconciling History: Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce” – a trilingual (Algonquin, English, and French!) text that will be installed where his offices were located at 61 Sparks Street. The downtown tour ended at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1828, and which is now a strong supporter of the Every Child Matters movement. We were also provided with snacks and chats at St. Andrew’s and had the chance to take in the beautiful interior.
Many thanks to Nick McCarthy, Beechwood’s Director of Marketing, Communications and Community Outreach, for all of his support, and we hope to participate again next year!
You can see a very nervous yours truly and sincere Emma speaking about her experience on that day in this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgpI0INDgKo
After four years as our President, the Board of Directors and HSO members would like to thank Karen Lynn Ouellette for a job well done. As former Past President George Neville can attest, the president’s job is a tough one—herding cats at the best of time! Doing it while holding down a full-time job made it all the more challenging for Karen Lynn. And let’s not even talk about the difficulties posed by two years of COVID, and running a virtual organization virtually, so to speak. But she did it with great verve and charm, making the herculean task look easy.
Our Facebook page has been a spectacular success with more than 6,000 followers, and has prompted thousands to comment and debate issues, and to share their own stories of Ottawa history. Our website was modernized and expanded, allowing memberships to be purchased and donations made on line, a considerable advantage and convenience given the cancellation of in-person events. Karen Lynn also effectively reached out to younger demographic groups, including university students and young working people, showing that the love of history is not confined to those of more mature years. She also reached out to local Indigenous communities with some success. As a consequence, our membership is growing despite the pandemic …something that few heritage organizations can boast.The Ouellette years have been great years for the Historical Society of Ottawa. Under her leadership, our virtual speakers’ series is drawing large numbers of participants from across the country.
Karen Lynn’s influence was also evident behind the scenes. The organization has become more business-like. Job descriptions have been written, organization charts developed, welcome packages for new directors and officers assembled, and policies and procedures put in place. Such things may not be sexy but they sure are helpful in times of transition. No longer do we have to rely on our memory to recall what and how things should be done, something that is increasingly important as government requirements for non-profits like the Historical Society of Ottawa become more complex.
In sum, thank you Karen Lynn for your years of service to the Society. While we are sad to see you step down, we are delighted that you will continue to play an active role as Past President on the Board with a specific interest in working with young people.
We are also delighted to welcome Emma Kent who was elected President at our June 2022 Annual General Meeting. Congratulations Emma! Emma must be the youngest President the Society has ever had. She brings boundless enthusiasm to the job and lots of new ideas. Building on Karen Lynn’s work, she had informed the Board that she plans to focus on diversity, reaching out to groups whose stories may have been overlooked or not shared widely. In this, Emma, you have the Board’s full support and encouragement. We look forward to working with you over the coming years.
James Powell, June 2022.
I grew up in Ottawa and have always had a passion for history. In 2016, I completed my BA in History at Carleton University.
Thank you for welcoming me as the new president of the Historical Society of Ottawa. Over the past couple years I have greatly enjoyed my time with HSO. Attending the speaker series and reading the Bytown pamphlets have made me fall in love with our city again. I can’t wait to listen to more of its stories and as we move forward with in-person events. I’m so excited to meet you in person and or seeing you back on Zoom.
You may know me from the two speaker series talks I gave in 2021; one on my old Girl Guide summer camp, Camp Woolsey, and the other on my Grandpa Jack who was a British Home child. Both were incredibly meaningful projects for me and I’m so thankful to HSO for giving me an opportunity to share them.
We have an incredibly strong and gifted board of directors and I always look forward to working with them and learning from them. I would love to personally thank our Past President, Karen Lynn, for getting me involved with HSO and for her many years of leadership. We hope to continue her legacy of emphasizing diversity in our storytelling and activities.
All the best,
Emma Kent (She/Her), June 2022.
One early April afternoon, Karen Lynn Ouellette and myself had the honour of attending the last class of Dr. Sarah Templier’s Canadian Digital History course at the University of Ottawa. This was a big day for Dr. Templier’s students who in groups of two or three presented their digital history projects. All the projects were related to the Historical Society of Ottawa. Besides enjoying the wonderful presentations, our job was to help Dr. Templier and PhD candidate, Celeste Dagiovanni, to judge the students’ work, and to select the top three projects. Celeste is the student coordinator of the Venture Initiative Program working with Fahd Alhattab who is in charge of the program as the entrepreneur in residence at the Faculties of Arts, and of Social Sciences.
The idea of partnering with the HSO was the brainchild of Professor Templier. Before the start of the semester, she had contacted Karen Lynn with the idea of involving her fourth-year digital history students with the Society in some fashion. A number of ideas were floated, including going through the Society’s archives held by the City of Ottawa to document and digitize key documents. However, with the City Archives closed owing to Covid, an alternate project was selected under which student teams would develop websites that contributed to the HSO’s mission and online presence in a meaningful way.
In teams of two or three students, five website projects were presented—Epidemics in Ottawa by Jessica Barton and Victoria Pope, Ottawa and the Fur Trade by Danny Bengert and Jordan Johnstone, The Rideau Canal by Charles Wickens, Breanna Campbell and Jameson Holdip, The Murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee and the Fenian Brotherhood by Jack Lapalme and Thomas Wagner, and The Galloping Gourmet by Rowan Moore and Brenna Roblin. The projects were judged on the basis of how the project contributed to the Society’s on-line presence and mission, the team’s research and ability to reach the target audience, their innovative use of visuals and digital tools that would enhance a reader’s experience, and the ability of each team to effectively “pitch” their project in the allotted time and answer questions.
All five presentations were excellent, making the choice of the top three very challenging. After more than thirty minutes, judges agreed that the top three presentations in order of preference were The Galloping Gourmet, The Rideau Canal, and Ottawa and the Fur Trade. Rowan and Brenna’s winning entry on the television show filmed in Ottawa from 1968 to 1971, styled their presentation in the form of a TV Guide. Their presentation featured recipes, a map of the locations Graham Kerr, a.k.a. the galloping gourmet, visited to inspire his recipes, an interview with a participant who viewed the filming of an episode at the Merivale Road studio, fashion in the 1960s, as well as a section on Graham Kerr’s life after the series ended. Their lively and fun presentation helped to bring to life the late 1960s as well as a little-known part of Ottawa’s television history. It is sure to delight Ottawa history buffs.
In second place, Charles Wickens, Breanna Campbell and Jameson Holdip’s presentation on The Rideau Canal had several innovative features. It was bilingual and acknowledged that the Canal cuts through Indigenous territory. The “then and now” feature was well done. In addition to the usual history of the Canal, the website featured sections on the financing of the canal and what the life of a labourer would have been like. The team noted the importance of the HSO highlighting the significance of the Canal for Ottawa’s upcoming bicentennial.
The third-placed presentation on Ottawa and the Fur Trade by Danny Bengert and Jordan Johnstone provided a useful reminder that life existed along the Ottawa River before the establishment of Bytown by European settlers. It filled a big gap in the HSO’s coverage of Ottawa’s history and heritage, highlighting the contribution of the area’s original Indigenous inhabitants to the fur trade in an engaging and informative fashion.
While the final two presentations on Ottawa pandemics from the early 1800s to the present by Jessica Barton and Victoria Pope, and on the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee by Jack Lapalme and Thomas Wagner did not make the top three, they too treated their subjects well and provided useful insights. We wish we could have provided prizes to all the presenters.
After the students complete their projects, the HSO intends to link the Society’s website to the five student websites so that all those interested in Ottawa history and heritage can benefit from them. As thanks for their hard work on behalf of the Society, each student was given a copy of Controversy, Compromise and Celebration: The History of Canada’s National Flag by Glenn Wright, as well as a one-year membership in the Historical Society of Ottawa. The University also gave cash prizes to the top three projects.
We hope all those who participated in this digital history project learnt a lot about Ottawa’s rich history and had fun in the process. The Society would like to thank Dr. Templier for an excellent initiative and looks forward to future collaboration in the years to come.
James Powell, April 2022.
From small acorns do mighty oaks grow, the saying goes. And this is certainly true for the HSO Facebook page. It was almost four years ago that Karen Lynn Ouellette, our President, and Jen Seltzer, HSO Director, met to discuss the feasibility of using social media to promote the Historical Society of Ottawa. While our pamphlets, meetings, and website were valuable tools for spreading the word about Ottawa’s rich and fascinating history, they believed that social media had the potential to not only engage with our members, but also to attract a younger demographic and to reach out to the broader heritage community. The two quickly set up the Society’s Facebook page. Starting with only six followers, more quickly signed up as the news of the page spread. With a few months, there were several hundred followers. This rose to 660 by late 2019.
But it was after the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020 that our site came into its own under the guidance and curation of Ben Weiss. With in-person meetings and special events cancelled, Facebook took up the slack, becoming the Society’s primary means for sharing heritage news, events, and stories with others interested in Ottawa-area history. The site’s followers increased rapidly in number, doubling by the end of 2020, with more than 16,000 visits to our page in any given month. Stories were shared, commented on, and discussed within our growing Facebook community.
While these results were fantastic, little did we know what was to come in 2021. The number of followers soared through the year as did the number of views. By late 2021, we had more than 4,400 followers and in a good month we could expect roughly 100,000 visits to our Facebook page—not bad for a small organization with fewer than 250 members!
But these remarkable numbers were blown out of the water by the reception received by a short article that Ben posted in December 2021 on the world’s first nuclear meltdown that occurred in 1952 at the Chalk River Nuclear Power Plant and the heroic roll played by future US president Jimmy Carter in the subsequent clean-up. The story went viral, receiving almost 800,000 visits within three days, with twelve thousand shares, more than three thousand likes, and hundreds of comments. The story was quickly picked up and re-posed by a host of other outlets including on Twitter. Given the social media buzz, Newsweek Magazine summarized the story, noting its HSO origins, and fact-checked it, giving it the magazine’s top “True” rating. CFRB in Toronto and CBC radio interviewed Ben on the story. There were also requests for interviews coming from as far away as Texas!
For those who missed all the excitement, the story centred on the role played by 28-year-old Lieutenant Carter in stabilizing and cleaning up the Chalk River facility which was awash with radioactive water after the accident. Carter, who was a nuclear expert working for the US Navy at the time, was called in to help Canadian and US scientists deal with the disaster. Leading a 24-person team, Carter divided his men into small groups, each working in 90-second shifts to minimize their radiation exposure as they were lowered into the damaged reactor. He and his teams absorbed a year-worth of radiation for every shift. Carter’s urine still tested radioactive six months after the event. His Chalk River experience left a profound impression on Carter’s views on nuclear power and weapons and coloured his decisions when he was in the Oval Office twenty-five years later.
Thank you, Ben, and congratulations for your terrific work on the Society’s Facebook page. Thanks also go to our many contributors and volunteers who have helped over the past four years to make the page what it is today. Thanks also to our Facebook community whose comments and discussions have enriched our knowledge of Ottawa history.
News Flash: As we post this article, the Chalk River/Jimmy Carter story has received just short of one million views.