PO Box 523, Station B, Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P6
Tuesday, 25 April 2023 09:24

WCHSO Documents

Annual Reports

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:

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1910-11

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1913-14

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1914-15

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1915-16

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1916-17

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1917-18

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1918-19

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1919-20

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1920-21

Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Annual Report 1921-22


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:

The Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa: Constructing Public Memory and Preserving History in a Changing City, 1898-1932

Transactions of the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa

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 - 1915

Reprint of Volume One

Volume Seven - “Historical Collection” 

Volume Eight - “Personal Recollections of Bytown and Early Ottawa”  

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. 

Volume 10  

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 


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Wednesday, 15 March 2023 12:21

The History of Ottawa According to Phil Jenkins

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.)

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Tuesday, 28 February 2023 08:36

HSO Continues Partnership with Black History Ottawa

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.

Chloe CooleyJayeur Joseph performs as Chloe Cooley

BHO Presidents AwardBen Weiss receiving the Black History Ottawa President’s Award from BHO President June GirvanThe 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.

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Wednesday, 22 February 2023 20:30

Heritage Day 2023

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

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Monday, 02 January 2023 21:06

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

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

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Monday, 04 July 2022 11:03

Thank You, Karen Lynn! Welcome Emma!

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.

klo          Karen Lynn OuelletteThe 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. 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.

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.

A Word from our new President


emma kent 1                   Emma KentI 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.

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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.

Sarah Templier UofOSarah Templier, University of Ottawa.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.

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Sunday, 26 December 2021 16:45

HSO Facebook Post Goes Viral

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.

Ben WeissBen WeissBut 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.

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Wednesday, 02 September 2020 20:42

HSO Sponsorships & Awards

The Historical Society of Ottawa offers a range of awards on an annual basis that are available to local students ranging from elementary school to university. HSO is the official patron of the Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair which provides two awards, The Richard Scott Award and The Sacred Chaudière Falls Award, to up to four local students, ranging from Grades 4 to 10. In addition, HSO provides The Colonel By Award to one undergraduate student at each of our two local universities which have a History department: the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, as well as our Applied Museum Studies Award for one student at Algonquin College. The awardees of the ORHF awards are selected by a selection committee made up of judges from a wide variety of local organizations and our post-secondary awards are selected by their respective faculties.

The Colonel John By Award 

The Colonel John By Award in History is a prize of $750, awarded annually to both a Carleton University student and a University of Ottawa student in a graduate or undergraduate history course who write the best paper in their respective university in either English or French on a topic concerning the history of Ottawa or the Ottawa Valley. The students will be awarded an additional $300 on submitting acceptable manuscripts for publication in the Bytown Pamphlet Series.

2022 Award Winners - uOttawa

We increased this year’s award so that we could award $100.00 to each of Professor Sarah Templier’s Venture Program participants: The Galloping Gourmet by Rowan Moore and Brenna Roblin, The Rideau Canal by Charles Wickens, Breanna Campbell and Jameson Holdip, Ottawa and the Fur Trade by Danny Bengert and Jordan Johnstone, Epidemics in Ottawa by Jessica Barton and Victoria Pope, and The Murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee and the Fenian Brotherhood by Jack Lapalme and Thomas Wagner.

See this write-up on the uOttawa competition for more details.

You can find links to the full student online presentations here.

2022 Award Winner - Carleton University

Émilie Mireault


Émilie Mireault – “Carleton’s Gandhi: Statues and Their Idealising Natures”.

Émilie’s winning paper is currently under review by our publications committee and we hope to soon publish it as a Bytown Pamphlet! Stay tuned!


Past winners

jaime simonsJaime Simons

The 2021 winner of the Colonel John By Award for History is Jaime Simons of Carleton University for their work Shipwrecks of the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal. This fascinating, interactive presentation is featured on our website.

Jaime Simons is an MA student at Carleton University in Public History and Digital Humanities. Their work focuses on using sound as a means for substantive engagement with history, and engages with the role of steamboats in the industrialization and colonization of the Ottawa River in the nineteenth century. Jaime is the current Garth Wilson Fellow at Ingenium (2021-2022), where they will continue this work. You can reach them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


comeauChristian Comeau


The 2020 Winner of The Colonel John By Award was Christian Comeau of Carleton University for his essay “Urban Chickens: Like a phoenix rising from the ashes." The essay explores the history of rules around the raising of chickens by city-dwellers in light of recent changes to municipal bylaws in the City of Gatineau to permit egg-laying hens on certain properties.




The Algonquin College Applied Museum Studies Award

The Algonquin College Award is a prize of $750, awarded annually to a student in the Applied Museums Studies program at Algonquin College.

2022 Algonquin College Award

2022 AlgC

The HSO's Karen Lynn Ouellette and Ben Weiss were pleased to present the 2022 award to Jeanne Rodrigue.

Algonquin College held this year's event for graduates on April 19, 2022 at the Ottawa Art Gallery, which is also where Jeanne completed her internship, contributing to the exciting new exhibit "Dark Ice" featuring the art of Ottawa's Leslie Reid and Robert Kautuk of Kangiqtugaapik, Nunavut.

It has been for all, a very different world these past few years. Algonquin College's President, Claude Brulé, spoke of the challenges faced these past two years.  One of the Applied Museum Studies' coordinators and instructors mentioned that this evening for graduating students was the first time she'd met many of them in person!

We offer our congratulations to all of the graduating students, especially so in these difficult times, and we extend our best wishes as you commence exciting new careers.

Past winners

The 2020 winner of The Algonquin College Award is Jonah Ellens. Jonah writes: 

It is with great personal satisfaction that I accept this award. I have enjoyed researching, studying and sharing Ottawa's history over the past years. I am thankful for the role Algonquin College and my friends in the Applied Museum Program have played in helping me develop my skills so that I can continue to improve my abilities and better share local history. I hope that in the near future we can return to an unrestricted public setting to tell our stories.

Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair

The Historical Society of Ottawa is an official sponsor of the Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair (ORHF), which is usually held in April.

Le Prix Sir Richard William Scott Award

Le Prix Sir Richard William Scott Award is presented annually at the Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair. The award is given to research project on an Ottawa-themed historical project. A certificate is awarded, along with a cash prize of $300.

Indigenous Sacred Chaudière Falls Award

Indigenous Sacred Chaudière Falls Award is presented annually at the Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair to recognize, support, and encourage participation by Indigenous youth in projects that reflect and celebrate Indigenous culture and traditions, or that look at the impact of settler colonial policies on Indigenous peoples. The award consists of $300 and a certificate.

ORHF 2022

We were thrilled to again participate in the Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair, held on April 20, 2022, at the Canadian War Museum.

It has been twenty years since the HSO advocated for the establishment of this annual event, showcasing the work of students, Grades 4 through 10, from Ottawa area schools. The HSO continues as the ORHF's official patron. 

This year was the first in-person fair since before the pandemic. Fewer schools were able to participate than in the past but those that did were superbly represented by an extraordinary group of students with a clearly evident passion and appreciation for history.  We are confident that, as COVID precautions ease, we will see the number of schools participating quickly return to normal.

Congratulations to Felix Graham Bevin and Yigit Yarangulmelioglu of Glashan Public School whose project "Ottawa: What is the history of our nation's capital?" won the HSO's Richard Scott Award at this week's Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair. These 8th graders know their history!!

Felix and Yigit's in-depth knowledge and enthusiasm for Ottawa's history was apparent as they presented a full run-down on our city's past... beginning with the area's Indigenous roots... Champlain's travels through the area in the 1600s... the arrivals of Philemon Wright and Colonel By... the innovations of Thomas Ahearn... up to more recent figures such as Dan Aykroyd. The young men even made sure to mention Ottawa's Kai-Voon Joe, one of the first Chinese women to settle in Canada.

2022 ORHF 

HSO President Karen Lynn Ouellette was proud to present Felix and Yigit with their well-deserved award from the HSO.  In addition, HSO members Bryan Cook and Ben Weiss participated as judges this year.

All of the projects at this week's annual Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair were amazing. Congratulations to all of the students and thank you so much to their teachers and the ORHF's organizers.

Past Winners
2021 Virtual Fair

HSO is immensely proud of our important role as official Patron of the annual Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair (ORHF).

Every year, enthusiastic young students from area schools submit wonderfully researched and thoughtfully written projects relating to local and/or Canadian history.

In “normal” years, a national museum atrium is jostling with students, teachers, parents, and local dignitaries while judges carefully examine each creatively rendered project, assessing the imaginative submissions, quizzing the young competitors, and determining the well-deserved award winners.

As we all know, things are done quite differently these days.

Take a look at some of the fascinating projects submitted by these young people for 2021 virtual edition of the ORHF.

2020 Fair Cancelled

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair Committee cancelled the 2020 Fair that was to be held on April 22, 2020, at the Canadian Museum of History. The Fair will return in 2021.

2019 Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair

Le Prix Sir Richard William Scott Award


HSO president, Karen Lynn Ouellette, presents the Sir Richard William Scott Award to Derek Strachan and Joseph Schmidt of Glashan Public School at the 2019 Ottawa Regional Heritage Fair for their project "Comment le Canal a-t-il impacté le Canada."

Sacred Chaudière Falls Award


Karen Lynn Ouellette, president of the Historical Society of Ottawa, presents the Indigenous Sacred Chaudière Falls Award to Nevaeh Sarazin, a Grade 5 student from St. James Catholic School in Eganville, west of Ottawa, and a member of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation.

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Friday, 31 January 2020 17:01

Pamphlets Available for Sale

Price of the Bytown Pamphlet Series (cost of postage is extra)

  • $4.00

*pamphlets numbered #88 and #101 are books which sell for $15/$10 for members

Please contact the Historical Society of Ottawa by post or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to order printed copies of pamphlets.

78 Timothy Osborne Bellwood Mobile Home Park Y
79 Don Carrington Windfall: the Badge Story Y
80 Lillian Scott Desbarats Recollections Book 1- Elizabeth Residence and Laurier House Y
81 Lillian Scott Desbarats Recollections Book 2 - Chapel Court, Union Mission, T. D. McGee Y
82 Lillian Scott Desbarats Recollections Book 3 - Irish Settlers, Earnscliffe, Sir Richard Scott Y
84 Lillian Scott Desbarats Recollections Book 4, Some Old Houses in Sandy Hill Y
88 Dave Mullington To Be Continued...A short history of the Historical Society of Ottawa (book) Y
91 Ian Browness and Cynthia Coristine The Bate Brothers of Ottawa, Booklet 1: The Brothers' Circuitous Path to Bytown Y
93 Ian Browness and Cynthia Coristine The Bate Brothers of Ottawa, Booklet 3: Sir Henry Newell Bate & Family: A Civic Legacy Y
98 Christine F. Jackson From Steamboats to the NHL: The Ottawa Valley's Cowley Family Y
99 Tyler Owens A Mayor's Life: John Scott, First Mayor of Bytown (1824-1857) Y
100 Diana Pepall Canada's Bletchley Park: The Examination Unit in Ottawa's Sandy Hill, 1941-1945 Y
101 Glenn Wright Controversy, Compromise and Celebration: The History of Canada's National Flag (book) Y
102 Elizabeth V. Krug Martin O'Gara, Ottawa's First Irish Catholic Police Magistrate, 1863-1899 Y
103 George A. Neville Loyalist Land Grants Along the Grand (Ottawa) River, 1788 Y
104 Doris Grierson Hope Our "Capitol" Wrens Y
105 James Powell & Bryan D. Cook When Ottawa Welcomed the Empire through a Yorkshireman's Lens Y
106 Katherine Van der Veen Protests and Affordable Housing Policy Delayed: Urban Renewal and the Demolition of LeBreton Flats Y
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