Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
Log Fence

Front Cover of book

Unfortunately, Dickinson soon was in debt for his enterprises and in 1879 he lost ownership of his Manotick properties, although his son George held a lease on the mills, lands and house.  In 1903 George and William were able to buy the lands back.

In federal politics, Dickinson won the riding of Russell for the Conservatives in 1882.  Bill noted that he was a great constituency politician, but not a strong parliamentarian.  He decided not to run again in 1887.  In the 1891 campaign he won the nomination in the same riding, but lost the election.

Meanwhile, George managed the bung and spile mill, which consistently made money.  As well, he was the Manotick postmaster 1868-1888, a school trustee, then Deputy Reeve of the Township of North Gower 1877-1878 and a member of Carleton County Council for the same year.  He was a bridge builder in Manotick and a Justice of the Peace.  He was Member of Parliament for Carleton 1888-1891, but lost the 1891 election in a recount after a tight race.  

His brother William was also a mill operator, a bookkeeper and weir manager.  He was Postmaster 1888-1897, in succession to his brother, and also a Justice of the Peace and probably the village telegrapher.

The brothers, and their sisters, never married.  The Dickinson era ended in 1930 with George’s death without direct heirs.

Bill answered questions about the Dickinsons and about the book.  The evening ended with refreshments and a booksigning.

The book is a very interesting in depth look at the development of the society, governance, and commercial aspects of Eastern Ontario in the late 1800s and the early 1900s.  It is for sale at the Dickinson House, the Rideau Branch of the City of Ottawa Archives in North Gower, the Manotick Office Pro, and the Kars General Store.  

The celebratory cake

The cake was in honour of the completion and printing of the book, always an occasion that brings great relief and a joyful sense of accomplishment to all involved.  

On Wednesday, 18 November 2015, Bill Tupper, our Society’s Past President, spoke to about 65 members and guests at the Manotick United Church hall on the research  that went into writing The Dickinson Men of Manotick.  He began by paying homage to Georgie Tupper, who “did all the heavy lifting”.  He also outlined the process by which he and Georgie came to write a book on members of a family who occupied the Dickinson House from 1870 to 1930. 

First was a series of essays on each of the Dickinson boys, prepared in support of exhibitions and living history characters at the House.  Then, the Dickinson ledgers were an invaluable source on the business and personal financial dealings of the Dickinsons.  The publication of The Women of Dickinson House by Maureen McPhee under the auspices of our Society was a real catalyst for work on this book.  Bill thanked the Society, Jane Anderson as its Publications Director, Ron Wilson as Editor, and Alison Cheung and Christian Joyce as researchers for their roles in the publication.

Bill examined the lives of Moss Kent Dickinson and his sons George and William and, to a lesser extent, his father Barnabus.   All the Dickinsons, he noted, were entrepreneurs, and were concerned with governance, community planning and community education, and were involved with the militia.  They overcame deep personal tragedies and all were compassionate men.  The Dickinson connection to Canada began in 1816, when Barnabus and his brother got the contract to deliver mail from Montreal to Kingston by stage line.  By 1818 only Horace had the contract and he moved to Montreal from the family home in Denmark, N.Y.  He also obtained the mail contract from Quebec City to Montreal. 

By 1830 Horace and Barnabus were thriving in Canada, but then both died of cholera in 1832, within six weeks of each other.  As a result their commercial empire disintegrated.  He also noted that Hiram Norton, an orphan who had been taken in by the Dickinson family in Denmark, actively worked in the Dickinson enterprises, and became a Reform member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada.

Moss Kent Dickinson was born in Denmark, N.Y., in 1832.  He worked in Prescott and Kingston, where his real professional life began when he purchased his first steamboat.  He was a forwarder who built a large commercial empire over the next few years, mostly in partnership with others. 

Early on Moss recognized the potential of the sawn timber market in New England and partnered with Joseph Currier, a local lumber baron, to tap into it.  Currier and Dickinson had a lifelong partnership, and Currier went on to build the house at 24 Sussex Drive which eventually became the residence of the Canadian prime ministers.

Dickinson moved to Ottawa, where he was Mayor for three terms 1864-1866.  He purchased the house at 5 Rideau Gate which is now the South African Embassy.  He sold his forwarding business in 1870 and brought his family to live in Manotick.

Dickinson’s interests in Manotick had begun a decade earlier when he and Currier leased the water rights at the  new bulkhead which was built when earlier weirs failed.  Over the next three years they built a sawmill, gristmill carding mill and bung mill at the site. 

Prepaing to sell copies of the book.

Maureen McPhee and Georgie and Bill Tupper prepare for the signing of their books.  Maureen McPhee’s book “The Women of Dickinson House” is a companion volume which was also being sold.  

The November 2015 Presentation

“The Dickinson Men of Manotick”   

Article by Owen Cooke, pictures by Ruth Wright