the later years of the 19th century, a number of groups with conflicting
interests were concerned with the operation of the Rideau waterway. Shippers
using the canal to transport goods wanted the route maintained in efficient
working condition with adequate water supplies to ensure navigational depth
throughout the season. In contrast, local farmers argued that when the water
was retained to provide reserves, many of their fields could not drain
sufficiently to allow crops to be planted. On the other hand, millers along the
route required a constant supply of water to keep their works in operation.
They protested vigorously against the actions of canal officials who were often
forced to stop the flow through the weirs in order to preserve the water level
for navigational purposes. Such divergent interests led inevitably to conflict
over the role of the Rideau system.
nature of the waterway - a series of stillwaters maintained by dams - produced
some amount of water-power at every lock station varying from the almost
negligible falls at Kilmarnock to the 60-foot drop at Jones Falls. Some of
these stations had been the site of mills before the construction of the canal
- notably Merrickville, Chaffeys and the two Brewers Mills. During the 19th
century, mills of various sorts were established at 11 major locations - Long
Island (Manotick), Burritts Rapids, Nicholsons (Andrewsville), Merrickville,
Old Slys, Smiths Falls, Chaffeys, Davis, Brewers Mills, Washburn and Kingston
leases granted to the millers specified that they were entitled to the use of
surplus water only - that not required for the purpose of navigation.
Difficulties arose over the interpretation of this term, the millers arguing
that so long as the water was at navigable height they were entitled to free
use of the flow. In contrast, canal officials pointed out that to preserve
navigation throughout the season, water had to be held substantially above
navigation level during the spring and early summer. The problem was
intensified as the amount of cleared land in the watershed area increased and
the spring run-off passed into the lakes at an earlier date. Conflict with the
milling interests was therefore inevitable. In 1881, superintending engineer
Wise, optimistically foreseeing a rise in vessel traffic, emphasized the need
to differentiate between the interests of the millers and those of the
forwarders. He argued that in order to maintain the navigation throughout the
season, less water should be used for milling purposes and concluded, "As
traffic increases the mill interest will have to be curtailed as there is not a
sufficient supply for both."1
question of the use of water for mills was particularly important in the lakes
descending from Newboro to Kingston because of the number of mills in this
section and the constant difficulty in retaining sufficient water reserves.
Canal officials were faced not only with complaints from the lessees of
water-power at the Rideau locks but also with the demands of millers along the
Gananoque River that more water be run through the dam at Morton (formerly the
White Fish dam). The Gananoque men claimed that before the construction of the
Rideau waterway Cranberry Marsh had formed the headwater of their river and
that they were therefore entitled at the very least to an equal amount of water
as were the mills along the Cataraqui.2 In 1872, the civil engineer William Kingsford submitted a
thorough report on the question of the right of the Gananoque millers to water
from the Rideau and concluded that even in its unimproved state, Cranberry
Marsh had not been the headwaters of the Gananoque. Instead, in time of high
water, the bog had merely been an incidental source of supply for both the
Gananoque and the Cataraqui. He therefore advised that the needs of the Rideau
for sufficient water must always take precedence over any conflicting
recommendations formed the basis for the departmental policy on providing water
for the millers. Although the superintending engineers endeavoured to keep some
water running through the Morton dam, they were primarily concerned with the
preservation of water for the Rideau. In February 1895, for example, Phillips
ordered lockmaster Flemming at Chaffeys to run surplus water from Newboro Lake
to assist the millers along the Gananoque but cautioned him not to reduce the
lake to a level which might affect the navigation the following summer.4
Water from the Rideau was supplied first to the millers along the waterway
itself since they paid annual rental to the government and consequently had
prior claim to any surplus. Only when there was sufficient water both to
maintain navigation and to supply the Cataraqui mills was any released through
over the amount of water available for milling purposes were not the only
aspect of the conflict between millers and canal officials. Arguments also
arose over the control of water, both that passing through the weirs on the
Rideau and that retained as reserves in the watershed. The most intense quarrel
over control of waste water took place at the Manotick weir where M.K.
Dickinson maintained two mills. Superintending engineer Slater complained that
these buildings obstructed free passage of the spring freshet, thereby causing
severe flooding along the Long Reach.
He further pointed out that because the mills required a constant head
of water, stoplogs in the government dam
could not be removed during the winter to allow the level to be run down to lessen the risk of sudden
flooding. 6 The conflict between Dickinson and Slater
was of long standing: as early as 1863, the mill-owner had urged that Slater be
dismissed for incompetence. In 1870, he again charged that flood damage to his
mills was a result of Slater's carelessness and requested the superintending
engineer's dismissal. Slater responded by reiterating his opinion that floods
on the Long Reach were caused by the faulty position of the mills. He argued
indeed that the great expenditure necessary to preserve the works at Long
Island would not be needed were it not for the obstruction caused by the
buildings. Proper execution of his duty, the superintending engineer concluded,
required him to recommend removal of the mills.7
the conflict between Dickinson and Slater was the most violent clash, it was by
no means unique. The foreman of works, Francis Abbott, reported in 1870 that
floods had occurred at both Burritts Rapids and Old Slys because the
mill-owners had refused to remove their stoplogs and had consequently backed
the water up over the government bulkheads. He recommended that steps be taken
to compel the millers to open their dams every spring so that government
officials could have full control of the run-off to prevent damage to the canal
works. In later years, there were further instances of millers attempting to
regulate the water solely for their own purpose. In 1910, for example, the
miller at Brewers Mills, Frank Anglin, rebuilt his flume at the by-wash in
cement with no opening to allow water to flow down into the lower level. Since
this obstructed the government weir, superintending engineer Phillips ordered
that part of the concrete side of the flume be removed so that water could pass
freely even when the mill was not running.8
of water was also essential in the watershed area of the system and became
particularly important as more dams were constructed to provide a greater
reserve. Many of the dams on the Frontenac County lakes which form the main
reservoirs for the canal had originally been constructed by millers who used
them to raise the water level to float logs out to the Rideau in the spring
and, to a lesser extent, to provide water-power for small mills. The millers
consequently operated their dams with little concern for the needs of the
Rideau navigation. When the level fell late in the summer, reserve water was
often prevented from reaching the system by a private dam whose owner refused
to remove the stoplogs. In 1868, water stored in Crow and Eagle lakes and
required for the Rideau was held back by a dam built by John Korry at the
outlet of Bobs Lake into the river Tay. Slater urged that if the dams recently
constructed on the two upper lakes were to be of any use, government must have
control of Korry's dam.9 A similar problem arose in 1911 at Wolfe
Lake above Westport. The government dam at the foot of the lake could not serve
as an effective reservoir since a private dam of equal height existed at the
outlet of Sand Lake (now known as Westport Lake) on the stream leading to Upper
Rideau. Consequently when water was run through the government dam, the level
of Sand Lake had to be raised above the private dam unless the millers
voluntarily removed their stoplogs. Phillips argued that the only way government
could exert effective control of the Wolfe Lake dam was to buy the mill dam. He
repeatedly urged this course emphasizing that so long as the structure remained
in private hands, the government dam might as well be abandoned. 10
The issue of control of the water remained crucial for the management of the
addition to conflict over the use of water, mills along the Rideau had a more
direct influence on navigation. During the pre-confederation era, the
superintending engineer had frequently complained of obstructions caused by
mill refuse dumped into the channel. In 1860, Slater reported that steamers
sometimes stuck in the banks of sawdust in the mile-long stretch of waterways
between Smiths Falls, with its numerous mills, and Old Slys. 11 Over the years, the material accumulated and
presented an increasing hazard to navigation. The problem was particularly
acute at Ottawa where a number of mills situated at the Chaudière Falls
released sawdust, shavings, bark and logs. This waste drifted into the entrance
bay at the locks and threatened to block the channel completely. In his annual
report for 1860, Slater pointed out that the lumber refuse also drifted into
the lower lock. Several years later, John Page, chief engineer for the Board of
Works, advised that the owners of the mills be restricted in their dumping in
order to preserve entry into the lower lock at Ottawa. Both he and Slater
concurred in the need to dredge the entrance bay.12
By 1871, the
problem had become so severe that it merited attention from the royal
commission appointed in that year to investigate the obstruction of navigable
waterways in Ontario and Quebec by mill refuse. The only part of the Rideau
included in the inspection was the entrance to the Ottawa locks but the report
represented a distressing picture of the conditions faced by vessel traffic.
The commissioners reported that they had approached the locks by boat along the
Ottawa River and "found the bay at the entrance to the Rideau Canal to be
so fully obstructed and blocked up with logs, square timber, etc., that it was
with very much difficulty and by pushing aside the booms and logs, that we
could get to the lock."13
following day, the committee took a series of soundings in the Ottawa on the
line of the centre of the locks. with the level of the river approximately 2
feet above low summer level, there was 8 feet 3 inches of water at the stoplogs
of the lock, 7 feet at the distance of 60 feet from the stoplogs, 6 feet 3
inches 140 feet out and 7 feet again 180 feet from the locks. With a drop of at
least two feet in summer, many of these depths were barely able to meet the
five-foot standard depth and one was substantially below it. Even more telling
was the description of the material found on the river bottom. At 80 feet from
the locks, the first mill refuse was encountered. By 120 feet, the
commissioners bored through six feet of loose rubbish before the drill was
stopped by slabs and logs. Forty feet farther out, the tests were unable to
find the solid river bottom underneath layers of mill refuse.
In the shallowest places
the upper 3 or 4 feet of the waste deposit was pretty loose, but from 6 to 8
feet down we found a very hard crust, difficult to force through but when
pierced with the boring rod a great quantity of very bad smelling gas was
forcibly ejected from below. We were informed that this gas occasionally makes
its way up violently, so much so that when the water is frozen to a
considerable depth over the bank of sawdust, it upheaves the material of the
bank with the ice on top of it.14
committee concluded their report with the recommendation that a federal act be
passed to prohibit throwing any mill refuse, with the exception of sawdust,
into lakes, rivers or streams.
the obstruction to navigation was undoubtedly most severe at the Ottawa
entrance because of the size of the mill complex at the Chaudière, similar
problems were encountered all along the Rideau waterway. In 1868, Slater
complained that the reach between Smiths Falls and Old Slys was almost
impassable even with the water level maintained at one foot above normal.15 The situation was ameliorated after the
Department of marine and Fisheries issued regulations enabling charges to be
laid against mill-owners who continued to pollute the stream. In September
1869, the department informed a number of millers on the Rideau that since
fisheries investigators had stated that they were still discharging mill
refuse, legal proceedings would be undertaken against them. The lockmasters and
labourers at stations near the offending mills were ordered to be ready to give
evidence against the proprietors, owners, tenants or workmen of the mills and
as an added inducement were promised payment for their appearance in court as
well as a share of the fines if their information was definite and reliable. 16
the regulations undoubtedly contributed to an improvement in the channels, one
record of legal proceedings against millers indicates that convictions were not
easy to secure. On 27 November 1874, lockmaster Matthew Johnson of Merrickville
gave evidence against Hiram Easton, owner of a shingle mill in the village.
Although Johnston stated that he had seen sawdust dumped into the river and had
informed the millers of government regulations prohibiting such action, the
magistrates dismissed the case on the grounds that it ought to have been
brought against the occupants of the mill rather than the owner. 17
Particularly in the smaller villages, charges against prominent manufacturers
were understandably difficult to sustain.
the smaller mills in the outlying areas declined in importance later in the
century, fewer complaints about mill refuse were made. At Ottawa, however, the
problem remained acute. In October 1901, Phillips reiterated his complaints
about the condition of the approach to the locks. Earlier in the autumn, the
water had been so low that the sawdust deposit was within one foot of the
surface. On 23 September, in fact, four vessels had been stuck in the refuse at
the same time and even with a rise in the water level, "boats forcing
their way through it in trying to reach the locks actually plough the sawdust
up above water as they go through it."
Although the mill-owners were frequently forced to pay the costs of
dredging a channel to the locks, the continuing release of refuse from the
mills meant that the entrance bay remained obstructed. 18
conflict of interest between millers and canal officials represented one aspect
of a growing dissatisfaction with the role of the Rideau waterway. Late in the
19th century, an increasing number of claims for compensation for drowned lands
were presented to government and much of the discussion concerning these claims
questioned the continued value of the canal. The drowned lands claims arose
both along the shores of the system and on the lakes which formed its
watershed. These latter claims resulted from dams constructed to increase the
size of the water reserve for the canal and can therefore be more profitably
discussed in connection with this topic.
the Rideau itself, two main areas gave rise to a long series of claims for
compensation - the Kingston Mills to Washburn reach and the area of Irish Creek
between Kilmarnock and Merrickville. At Kingston Mills, drowned lands claims
were accompanied by requests to have the water level lowered to reclaim the
large area of land submerged by construction of the waterway. In 1884, the
Department of Railways and Canals received the first of several petitions from
residents of the area urging a survey of the Kingston Mills reach with a view
to reclaiming the drowned land. A second petition followed in June 1885, from
inhabitants of Storrington and Pittsburgh townships, two of the Frontenac
County municipalities bordering the waterway. In response to the first
petition, superintending engineer Wise had concluded that the expense of a
survey would greatly outweigh any possible benefit. The second memorial
required more detailed consideration since its authors put forward a concrete plan
which included removal of the upper lock at Kingston Mills and construction of
a new lock at the foot of the cut leading to Washburn. The level of the reach
could thereby be dropped by the amount of the lift of the upper lock at
Kingston Mills. Wise pointed out that the lands drowned by construction of the
dam at Kingston Mills had been purchased by the Board of Ordnance and thus
belonged to government which was entitled to keep them submerged if desired.
Moreover, he reiterated his opinion that the amount realized from their
reclamation and sale would never approach the expense of changing the lock
for lowering the level of the reach continued. In 1886, Wise made a preliminary
survey of both shores to determine the amount of land which could be reclaimed.
Two alternate plans had been suggested in the petitions. The water level could
be lowered 11 feet by removal of the upper lock at Kingston Mills to the
entrance of the cut leading to Washburn. The change would involve excavation of
500,000 cubic yards of material and construction of a new lock and waste weir.
Wise estimated the cost at $200,000 and pointed out that even with a drop of 11
feet, only a small part of the submerged lands would be reclaimed. Much of the
area would still be covered by from one to six feet of water and would
therefore form a marshy swamp, increasing evaporation and rendering navigation
constantly uncertain. To reclaim all the drowned lands, the water level must be
lowered 18 feet by removal of two locks from Kingston Mills to the cut at
Washburn. A new channel would then be excavated between the stations. With a
cost of at least $700,000, the project was clearly impractical. Moreover, Wise
suggested that the amount of rock exposed along the shores indicated that much
of the land proposed for reclamation was probably unsuitable for agriculture.20
unfavourable report on the value of lowering the water level did not end local
demands for the alterations. minutes of a meeting of the municipal council of
Pittsburgh township indicate the arguments presented by advocates of the
proposal. The council contended that the township annually lost revenue because
of the amount of untaxable drowned land. Moreover, small streams enlarged by
the higher water level required bridges where culverts would have been
sufficient before construction of the waterway. As well, fluctuations in the
water level in spring caused great damage to township roads and bridges and an
additional expense to local ratepayers.21 George Kirkpatrick,
Liberal-Conservative member of Parliament for Frontenac, exerted more direct
pressure on Prime Minister Macdonald, who as the representative for Kinqston
was also sensitive to local dissatisfaction. In 1890, Kirkpatrick informed
Macdonald that the residents of the area would be satisfied with nothing less
than a complete survey of the drowned lands, preferably by persons not
connected with the canal since they believed that government officials were
hostile to their requests.22
continued agitation proved successful. In 1890, Parliament voted $1,500 for a
survey above Kingston Mills and after consultation with Kirkpatrick, Wise
decided to use the money to ascertain the amount of land reclaimed if the water
level were lowered 11 feet.23 Work began early in September 1890,
with civil engineer Robert Rowan of Kingston employed on the west side of the
river and Arthur Phillips of the Rideau canal staff on the east shore.
Soundings were taken to establish the shoreline if the water level were lowered
seven feet and with two feet allowed for drainage, a contour line at a depth of
five feet was run to designate land rendered suitable for cultivation. Markers
were driven to indicate the levels and after the river had frozen, the area was
surveyed to establish correct contour lines. 24
report on the survey findings clearly indicated the impracticality of the
scheme and apparently squelched local support for the changes. He concluded
that the amount of land permanently reclaimed would be a mere 1,420 acres. In
order to obtain this land, a lock with 10-foot lift, a dam and a waste weir had
to be built below Washburn. Approaches to the lock as well as the lockpit
itself had to be excavated and a 6-1/2-mile channel at least 80 feet wide
dredged through the reclaimed land. At Kingston Mills, a granite ridge at the
entrance to the locks would require removal, most of the upper lock would be
rebuilt and new gates with a greater height would be installed. In all, he
estimated the cost at nearly $210,000. Moreover, Wise set forth several
problems meriting consideration. From the condition of the shore, he concluded
that the channel might run through rock, increasing the cost of excavation.
Even were this not so, the bottom would certainly be covered with stumps and these
would be difficult and expensive to remove. He also suggested that the land
might in fact prove to be of little value for agriculture since the stakes had
demonstrated the existence of a large amount of heavy blue clay. Lastly he
emphasized the health hazard which would result from laying bare such a large
amount of land submerged for so many years. His final statement was
unequivocably hostile to the change.
The undersigned is
therefore of the opinion, that the lowering of the water as proposed, would be
of a very doubtful benefit either to the people along the borders of the
Drowned lands or to navigation, and its ultimate cost out of all proportion to
the value of the lands to be reclaimed, and other results expected from it. 25
the question of lowering the water level on the reach ceased to trouble canal
officials, they continued to receive claims for compensation for lands drowned
by an alleged rise in the water level. Petitions urging reclamation of lands
had complained that areas previously dry were now flooded - caused, they
contended, by the water being retained at a higher level at the Kingston Mills
dams. Wise consistently denied this allegation, pointing out that the depth of
water on the sill at Kingston Mills was still between 6 feet 8 inches and 6
feet 10 inches, as it had been for decades. 26 He concluded that the
fact that more land was affected by flooding resulted from the clearance of
land and indeed from the farmers' own actions.
What was once a forest
of stumps is now an open lake. The owners of the land have further cut up the
drift wood which acted as a Breakwater, and consequently the land is now
exposed to the full force of the wind which piles up the water more or less on
the shores. 27
argued that not only were claims for compensation exaggerated but they arose
from causes outside departmental control. Since water was not kept at a higher
level, government had no responsibility for the alleged flooding. Political
expediency, however, outweighed the matter of technical responsibility and in
1892, the government arbitrator, A.F. Wood, awarded financial settlements for
damage claims along the east side of the drowned lands in Frontenac County. 28
In addition to claims from individual landholders, the municipal council of
Pittsburgh Township presented a request for money to repair roads and bridges
allegedly damaged by a rise in the canal level. The superintending engineer
argued vigorously against accepting such claims since canal records proved that
the water was not maintained at a higher level than formerly. Moreover, he
pointed out that if they were paid, government would be faced with similar
demands from every township along the waterway. Despite Wise's objections, compensation for land damages on the
Kingston Mills level continued to be paid during the 1890s. 29
those at Kingston Mills, drowned lands claims on the Kilmarnock-Merrickville
reach involved both requests for compensation and demands that the water level
be lowered. Although complaints about flooding in the Irish Creek area had been
received by the department as early as 1869, not until 20 years later did a
more organized campaign begin. In 1890, residents of Kitley and Wolford
townships on either side of Irish Creek petitioned government asking that the
level between Kilmarnock and Merrickville be lowered since parts of their farm
lands were now too wet for cultivation. In his report on the memorial, Wise
contended that the floods were caused by obstructions in Irish Creek which
prevented easy passage of spring run-off. He suggested that if the bed of the
stream were cleaned out, the land would drain properly and complaints would
cease. Furthermore, he stated that it was impractical to lower the reach by two
feet because of the high cost of deepening the channel by removal of several
rock shoals as well as excavation required in the cut above Merrickville.30
for compensation for land damages in the Irish Creek area seem not to have been
so vigorously presented as those on the Kingston Mills level, perhaps at least
partially because of less influential backing. The complaints of 1890 were not
acted upon and not until the first decade of the 20th century did the
superintending engineer again discuss the claims extensively. In 1906, Phillips
blamed recent allegations of high water on the farmers' personal animosity
toward lockmaster Johnston of Merrickville. Moreover, he declared that the
charges were absurd since all areas along the canal had been flooded because of
the unusually damp summer and suggested that if the farmers thought themselves
aggrieved, they could take the matter to court to obtain a final settlement.
Wise, Phillips was prepared to admit that the flashboards on the dam at
Merrickville were at least partially responsible for the additional area
flooded. Because of the clearing of land and improved drainage, the freshet ran
off more quickly and it was therefore necessary to retain the water at
Merrickville earlier than in the past. Consequently low-lying land did not dry out
until later in the spring and could not be cultivated.32 Phillips suggested that the issue of
compensation for drowned lands revolved around the legal question of the
department's right to retain water for a longer period by the use of
flashboards. At the time of the construction of the canal, the Royal Engineers
had paid for all land drowned by the dam at Merrickville up to a small mill dam
at the site of the village of Jasper. This private dam flooded a considerable
area in the township of Kitley in Leeds County. Because these lands had been
affected by the mill dam rather than by the Rideau canal works, no compensation
for damages had been paid above Jasper. Furthermore, Phillips stated that he
was unable to find any records in the canal office to indicate that the right
to flood land above the private dam had ever been transferred to the Royal
Engineers or their successors. He therefore concluded that if in fact no
compensation had been paid and if no transfer of mill rights had been made to
the Royal Engineers, then the department might be held liable for claims
arising from lands currently drowned by the dam at Merrickville.33
much disputed question of compensation for land damages was not easily solved.
Early in 1914, Phillips reported that he had received a petition of right from
Howard Olmstead, one of the claimants for damages on Irish Creek. In view of
the fact that the conflict dated from 1869, the superintending engineer advised
that a fiat be issued by government allowing the farmers to take their case to
court. He concluded that only by decision of the Court of the Exchequer could
the subject be permanently settled.34
increased number of claims for drowned lands in the later years of the 19th
century illustrated a growing tendency to regard the Rideau as an outmoded
transportation system with only local value - "neither useful nor
ornamental," as Prime Minister Mackenzie had pronounced in 1877. 35 In the years before World War I, however,
the only definite suggestion for drastic alterations came from the Canadian
Pacific Railway. In May 1910, the vice-president of the railway, D.W. McNicoll,
forwarded a proposal to the minister of Railways and Canals for a change in the
routes of railway lines within the city of Ottawa. This plan required closure
of the waterway from Gladstone Street northward so that a line of track could
be laid on the canal bed. McNicoll argued that the small volume of business on
the system did not justify its retention.
I think that an analysis
of business passing through the canal other than from and to Ottawa, if made,
will show that there is more advantage in the proposition I am now making than
there would be gained by retaining the canal as it at present exists. 36
suggestion met with vigorous resistance from a variety of interests in the
communities along the canal. They united in condemning the proposed closure and
pointed out that it would benefit only the railway to the detriment of the
district through which the waterway passed. A resolution of the Kingston city
council expressed the opinion that the change would be "very injurious to
the interests of this Municipality and of the other Municipalities along the
Rideau Canal as well as to the general marine interests of Canada."
Moreover, supporters of the Rideau emphasized that the system still had an
important role as part of the inland waterways, particularly in view of
increasing tourist traffic. The Kingston Board of Trade summarized their views
in an official resolution stating
that a large number of
vessels use the Canal, that a passenger line makes four trips a week each way
between Kingston and Ottawa, that the tonnage carried increased very
substantially last season, that tourist and yacht traffic is continually
increasing and that for this latter class of traffic the Canal forms a part of
a triangular water-way between Ottawa, Montreal and Kingston, which is at
present unbroken and is becoming constantly more and more popular.37
arguments in favour of the retention of the Rideau were also set forth in a
memorial presented to government by a deputation of merchants, manufacturers,
vessel owners and representatives of municipal corporations and boards of trade
from the Rideau area. They contended that the canal provided competition to the
railways and was thus a factor in the control of freight rates. The waterway
also provided a vital transportation and communication service for its
immediate area. Moreover, they suggested that the link between the Great Lakes
and the Ottawa River afforded by the Rideau would be valuable in development of
the northern area of the province, especially with construction of the
long-discussed Ottawa-Georgian Bay ship canal. The memorialists concluded that
the company's proposal to end through traffic on the waterway was "utterly
preposterous, incapable of support on any fair or reasonable ground, and
contrary to every principle of public policy." 38 They argued
in fact that rather than accede to the railway's request, government should
deepen the channel of the Rideau and improve the water supply on the Kingston
descent to render the system more suitable for increased traffic by larger
vessels. The proposal was never accepted by the federal government although
vice-president McNicoll did take the opportunity of the change in government
following Borden's victory in 1911 to present the plan to the new minister of
railways and canals, Frank Cochrane.39
attempt to end through navigation on the grounds that the system was not
profitable was not unique. Late in 1914, the city of Ottawa suggested that the
minimum headroom of bridges over the canal within the city be reduced from 29
feet 6 inches to 12 feet. This alteration to decrease the city's cost of bridge
construction would also have effectively stopped through traffic by business
vessels. Superintending engineer Phillips opposed such a step, arguing that
continuance of trade on the Rideau was necessary to keep railway freight rates
down. As evidence, he stated that rates always rose after the close of navigation
in the autumn. Furthermore, he pointed out that the proposed change would
involve great expense for the Department of Railways and Canals since the canal
basin would have to be maintained for the use of boats coming up from the
Ottawa River while new docking facilities would have to be constructed at Dows
Lake for vessels on the Rideau. Rideau forwarders would also suffer financial
loss by having their terminal situated far from the centre of the city with
poor streetcar service and a long haul for freight. Although he admitted it was
not a business argument, Phillips also suggested that city authorities should
remember that Ottawa owed its very existence to the Rideau canal and that the
waterway had in fact been granted to the Canadian government on condition that
it be perpetually maintained.401 The city's proposal, like that of the railway
company, was not adopted and the system remained intact.
attempts to limit traffic on the Ottawa end of the Rideau reflected one aspect
of dissatisfaction with the role of the waterway. Similarly, conflicts with the
millers and the protracted discussions concerning land claims indicated that to
many people the benefits offered by the canal were outweighed by its
inconveniences. At the same time as its commercial importance was increasingly
questioned, however, use of the waterway for recreational purposes became more
common and in fact presaged a growing trend in the 20th century.
Problems and Conflicts – Footnotes
- Canada. Department of
Railways and Canals,,Annual Re ort 1881 (Ottawa, 1882), p. 125.
- Public Archives of
Canada (PAC), RG11, Series III, Vol. 38, p. 22598, petition from
mill-owners, merchants and farmers residing in the valley of the Gananoque
River, received 3 May 1872. The conflict over the passage of water through
the Morton dam formed part of the demand to have the Gananoque River made
navigable with a connection to the Rideau at Morton. For further
discussion of the issue, see "Proposed Branch Canals" below.
- PAC, RG11, Series III,
Vol. 38, p. 25042, report of William Kingsford on petition of millers et
al. on the Gananoque, 5 September 1872.
- PAC, RG43, B4(a), Vol.
213, Phillips to Fleming, 21 February 1895.
- Ibid., Vol. 216,
Phillips to R.T. Walkem, K.C., Kingston, 3 December 1902. The waterpower
on the Cataraqui was leased at Brewers Mills, Washburn and Kingston Mills.
- Ibid., Vol. 206,
Slater to Braun, 14 January 1870. For further discussion of the Manotick
bulkhead, see below, "Structural Changes, 1832-1914."
- See PAC, RG11, Series
III, Vol. 238, p. 63583, M.K. Dickinson and William. McNaughton to chief
commissioner of public works, 17 March 1863 with two enclosed letters from
Dickinson to J.J.C. Abbott, MLA, specifying charges of Slater's
incompetence. PAC, RG11, Series III, Vol. 37, p. 10560, Slater to Braun,
21 April 1870. Although Dickinson's request for Slater's dismissal seems
not to have been acted upon the superintending engineer retired in 1872
before the normal age of retirement on the grounds of "failing health
and energy." PAC, RG43, B4(a), Vol. 206, Slater to Braun, 12
- PAC, RG11, Series III,
Vol. 37, p. 10628, Abbott to Slater, 25 April 1870; PAC, RG43, B4(a), Vol.
224, Phillips to Anglin, 28 December 1910.
- PAC, RG11, Series III,
Vol. 26, p. 4847, Slater to Braun, 6 October 1868. For further discussion
of reservoirs in the watershed, see "Reservoir Dams in the
- PAC, RG43, B4(a), Vol.
225, Phillips to Jones, 21 July 1911; ibid., Vol. 228, Phillips to White,
minister of finance, 12 September 1913. See also Phillips to Bowden, 5
February 1914 and ibid., Vol. 229, same to same, 21 March 1914.
- PAC, RG11, Series III,
Vol. 35, p. 51158, annual report, Rideau canal, 1860. He repeated his
complaint of the navigational hazards presented by sawdust three years
later; ibid., Vol. 36, p. 67873, annual report, Rideau Canal, 1863.
- Ibid., Vol. 35, p.
51158, annual report, Rideau canal, 1860; ibid., Series VI, Vol. 10, pp.
270-71, Page to Braun, 11 October 1864; ibid., Series III, Vol. 36, p.
71558, Slater to Braun, 26 September 1864, and p. 71917, Page to Braun, 11
- Canada. Department of
Public Works, General Report, 1867-1882 (Ottawa, 1883), App. 18, p. 595.
"Report of the Commission appointed by Order-in-Council Dated 6th
November 1871, 'To enquire into and report on the alleged obstruction of
navigable streams and rivers in the province of Quebec and Ontario, by
deals, edgings, sawdust and other refuse from saw mills;' together with
the Act 36 Vic., Chap. 65, entitled 'An Act for the better protection of
Navigable Streams and Rivers."
- Ibid., p. 597.
- PAC, RG11, Series III,
Vol. 36, p. 4515, Slater to Braun, 31 August 1868. In contrast, he pointed
out that although the mills at Brewers Mills did extensive business, no
problem was created because the waste material was carted away and burned.
- Ibid., Vol. 37, p.
8136, Whitcher (Department of Marine and Fisheries) to Trudeau, 29
September 1869 with enclosed letters to mill-owners and lockmasters.
Letters were sent to Hiram Easton and a Mr. Erritt of Merrickville,
Hezekiel Andrews of Nicholsons, Richard Guest and Hugh Conn of Burritts,
John and William Ward of Smiths Falls and M.K. Dickinson of Manotick.
- PAC, RG43, B4(a), Vol.
278, canal records, Merrickville, 27 November 1874.
- Ibid., Vol. 216,
Phillips to Schreiber, 16 October 1901. In 1896, Phillips recommended that
a channel be dredged at the millers' expense, as had been done in 1889;
ibid., Vol. 214, Phillips to Schreiber, 8 September 1896.
- Ibid., Vol. 209, Wise
to Bradley, 19 September 1884; Vol. 210, same to same, 19 June 1885.
- Ibid., Vol. 210, Wise
to Bradley, 11 May 1886.
- Ibid., Bl(a), Vol.
234, p. 119272, minutes of meeting of the municipal council of Pittsburgh
Township, 20 April 1888.
- Ibid., Vol. 237, p.
127992, Kirkpatrick to Macdonald, 28 January 1890, and p. 127669, same to
same, 17 February 1890.
- Ibid., B4(a), Vol.
211, Wise to Kirkpatrick, 14 July 1890; ibid., Wise to Bradley, 12 August
1890, and same to same, 16 August 1890.
- Ibid., Vol. 211, Wise
to Bradley, 9 December 1890.
- Ibid., Wise to
Bradley, 21 September 1891. Wise gave an itemized estimate of the costs:
cubic yards dredging $125,000
cubic yards dredging lockpit 2,000
cubic yards dredging open cut 3,000
lock complete 45,000
down and rebuilding lock
rock excavation entrance to
Mills, 1000 cubic
weir at cut 2,000
10% contingencies 18,950
- PAC, RG43, B4(a),
Vol. 210, Wise to Bradley, 19
June 1885, and same to same, 4 January 1886. In 1891, Wise had a search
undertaken at the Dominion Archives to prove that By had intended the
upper lock at Kingston Mills to have seven feet of water on the sill;
ibid., Bl(a), Vol. 239, p. 136413, information from Dominion Archives obtained
by Charles Costin, August 1891.
- Ibid., B4(a), Vol.
210, Wise to Bradley, 21 March 1889.
- Ibid., Vol. 211, Wise
to Wood, 21 March 1892. Wood was also Liberal-Conservative MPP for North
- Ibid., Wise to
Schreiber, 12 January 1893 and Vol. 212, same to same, 21 February 1893.
For sums paid out for drowned lands claims, see Canada. Parliament.
Auditor-General, Annual Reports, 1886-1898.
- Ibid., Wise to
Bradley, 30 April 1890.
- Ibid., Vol. 218,
Phillips to George Taylor, MP, 23 July 1906.
- Ibid., Vol. 224,
Phillips to Bowden, 25 January 1911.
- Ibid., Vol. 225,
Phillips to Bowden, 8 September 1911.
- Ibid., Vol. 229,
Phillips to Jones, 16 March 1914. A "Petition of Right" is a
legal device for seeking restitution of either real or personal property
from the crown. The document sets forth the rights which the petitioner
claims controvert the rights of the crown.
- Canada. Parliament.
House of Commons, Debates, 1 April 1876, p. 1003.
- PAC, RG43, B2(a), Vol.
312, p. 8702, McNicoll to Graham, minister of railways and canals, 2 May
1910. McNicoll suggested that the flight of eight locks at Ottawa could be
retained and a small amount of water allowed to flow over it to form
"a very attractive water fall."
- Ibid., Sands, city
clerk, to minister of railways and canals, 27 may 1910; secretary,
Kingston Board of Trade, to minister of railways and canals, 18 May 1910.
- Ibid., memorial of
deputation attending on Ottawa on the 8th day of December, 1910, in the
interests of the Rideau Canal.
- Ibid., McNicoll to
Cochrane, 20 October 1911. McNicoll stated that the previous minister,
G.P. Graham, had thought that the proposal had merit but believed that
there would be considerable opposition to any change.
- PAC, RG43, B4(a), Vol.
230, Phillips to Bowden, 21 December 1914.
Taken from: "The Rideau Canal, 1832-1914" by Judith Tulloch, Manuscript Report Number 177, National Historic Parks and Sites Branch Parks Canada, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, 1975, p. 30 - 48. Reprinted with permission of Parks Canada.