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

Ruth Wright thanks our speaker.

Ruth Wright thanks our speaker, Stuart Clarkson at the October meeting.  

U.S. Newspapers

Reports on Rideau Township in American newspapers were more similar to what one would have found in Canadian newspapers.  The stories were more diverse, dealt with pure news items and rarely focused on settlers.

The earliest reference to Rideau that Stuart located in U.S. newspapers was an 1884 announcement of a new priest in North Gower.  One of the most widely distributed stories concerned the death of the members of a Wilson family in a house fire.  Reports relating to the Rideau Canal included a report on the owner of Macy’s running his boat up on a rock near Manotick, as well as a trip on the Rideau Queen by the editor of the Bedford Gazette.  Stories in later years referenced a 1957 air crash near Manotick and a 1989 armada to the 1989 Antique Boat Show.  A 1981 item with an insert highlighted Watson’s Mill as an Ottawa attraction.

Comparison with a Canadian News-paper

Stuart reviewed the Globe to get a sense of how Rideau was treated in Canadian newspapers.  The first mention was an 1848 report on 1848 Parliamentary returns to the Legislative Assembly.  Thereafter, reports were similar to those in American newspapers, dealing with general news items but usually different stories from those focused on by the American newspapers.  For example, the boating incident of the owner of Macy’s was not picked up by the Globe, but the story of a deer jogging down the Main Street of North Gower did appear, reflecting a pastoral image of the village.  A 1925 report on North Gower’s desire to limit alcohol sales was consistent with the prevalence in the Globe in that period of reports on the temperance campaign.

In closing, Stuart said that he hoped had been able to provide a glimpse of how life in Rideau was and still is read about in newspapers.  In carrying out his research, he found it interesting to see how we were and are part of a larger world. 

Stuart Clarkson and Ron Wilson set up for the evenings presentation.

Stuart Clarkson and Ron Wilson up for the evenings presentation.

Stuart Clarkson’s October 12 presentation “Rideau Township in the News” provided listeners with the results of his online research of international newspaper reports on Rideau Township and its communities.

In introducing the evening’s presentation, Owen Cooke noted that Stuart is an RTHS member who is well-known to many as the Community Archivist who serves the public every Tuesday at the Rideau Branch of the City of Ottawa Archives in North Gower.

Stuart described the goal of his research and presentation as to show the historical links of Rideau Township to the world around it, as encapsulated in reports in international newspapers.  He consulted two online sources to achieve this goal – the British Newspaper Archive and, the latter covering mostly American but some Canadian newspapers.  The sources allowed him to analyze British and U.S. reports and compare them with those found in the Globe through the Ottawa Public Library.

Stuart shared a personal experience that demonstrated to him the impact that a single newspaper article can have and how it can shift your approach to a subject matter.  A family obituary that he ran across in the Guelph Mercury caused him to undertake genealogical research that uncovered his family’s colourful past.

Stuart referred to a 2002 study that confirmed that newspapers are still one of the most important sources for historical research.  There are challenges in such research, however, due to the frequent unavailability of certain newspapers, their cumbersome design and inherent reliability issues.  In searching for articles on Rideau, Stuart had to deal with the fact that names like Wellington and Marlborough are common and there is a Kars in Turkey.  He found that the most productive names to search under were North Gower and Manotick, although he discovered that there have been two race horses named Manotick.

British Newspapers

The first mention of Rideau that Stuart found in newspapers was an 1857 advertisement by the British Emigration Office highlighting North Gower as a destination for settlers.  Among other things, the ad stated that there was a particular need for female domestic servants.  Stuart found 25 placements of this ad, primarily in newspapers in Ireland and Northern England.  The reports reflect a British economic downturn at the time and the unavailability of employment in the homeland.

Early British newspaper reports sometimes contained the text of letters home written by settlers in Rideau.  Such letters described the landscape and the settlers’ experiences.  A number of them had been weavers in the old country but had to leave their looms behind and turned to agricultural labour in Rideau.

The newspaper reports showed a blood tie between communities like North Gower and areas such as Warwickshire in England.  In the 20th century, ties to the homeland were also felt by Home Children who were brought to Rideau Township.

Emigration slowed in the 20th century, although some new ties to Britain resulted from the World Wars and the coming to Rideau of many war brides.  As the century progressed, however, Rideau news in British newspaper diminished and changed in nature from reports on settlers to general newsworthy items, such as crimes and a 1919 visit to Rideau by the Prince of Wales. U.S. Newspapers

The October 2016 Presentation

“Rideau Township in the News
Presentation by Stuart Clarkson

Article by Maureen McPhee, Photos by Owen Cooke  


Stuart Clarkson and Ron Wilson set up for the evenings presentation.