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North Gower - Earlier Days


The original survey of the Township of North Gower was done in 1793, well before the founding of the village of North Gower.
The first settler in both what is now Rideau Township, and in Carleton County was Roger Stevens. The first permanent settlers of North Gower township were Stephen Blanchard, Richard Garlick and Ezra Beaman. They arrived in 1820 and settled on the banks of Stevens Creek between Rideau River and the present village.
The town of North Gower was first settled in 1846 by David Barrows, Silas Andrews, William Craig and Russell Andrews. It is located on Stevens Creek, in the centre of what is now Rideau Township.
The first settlers were United Empire Loyalists. They were followed by waves of settlers were from Ulster, Scotland and England. Their descendants form the bulk of the population of North Gower today.

Commercial Activity

The earliest settlers in the area cut timber for the British trade. The timber was floated down Stevens Creek to the Rideau River and thence to Montreal or Quebec. The last log drive on Stevens Creek was in 1876.
The first industry in the village was a saw mill operated by water power with the dam and mill pond between the bridges on Church Street and the highway. Others involved in light industries from 1840 onwards, besides those mentioned: coopers, blacksmiths, pumpmakers, wheelwrights, harness makers, shoemakers, tailors, dressmakers and milliners. Most of these had shops with journeymen and apprentices. In the 1870s the journeymen and apprentices circulated a petition for a 12 hour day; it attracted 59 signatures.
An account from 1865 describes the town as having 4 general stores, 2 wagon shops, 5 boot and shoe shops, and other trades. There were 3 churches: the Church of England, erected in 1856 at a cost of $700; the Wesleyan Methodist church, 1843, $500; and the Canadian Presbyterian Church, built of stone in 1854 at a cost of $1000. The village post office was established in 1846.
Blacksmiths made practically all the farm machinery: hoes, rakes, spades, forks etc. and ploy and drag harrow. Haying tools were the scythe and wooden hand rake, and harvest tools were the sickle and flail. The first horse-drawn haying and harvesting machine, known as the combined mower and reaper, was demonstrated and sold on lot 20, 3rd. concession in 1867.
Between 1850 and 1900, however, with improved transportation, the tenor of the village changed, and village craftsmen were forced out of business by competition with mass-production.
In this century, the focus of North Gower has been primarily agricultural. North Gower is in the centre of a rich and well-cultivated agricultural area.
On January 1, 1954, the village had a population of 400. It had 3 protestant churches, the Royal Bank, a post office, 3 rural mail routes, 4 garages, a grist mill, seed cleaning plant, sawmill, Farmers' Cooperative store and egg grading plant, 1 hotel (dry), 1 clothing store, a hardware store and farm implement agency, barber shop, beauty parlor, community centre with hall and 4 bowling alleys, 2 trucking businesses, planing mill and lumber yard, 4-room public school, township hall, township garage and fire hall. It was a purely agricultural and residential community, with many commuting daily to work in Ottawa.

Life in the Village

Until about 1920, most people in the village kept a horse and cow, a pig or two and some hens. At the back of most houses were stables and carriage sheds, where livestock were kept and buggies and cutters were stored. The streets were narrow and muddy or dusty depending on the season, with deep open ditches and wooden sidewalks. Stores, churches and hotels had great open sheds for the horses of their visitors.


The earliest settlers "bushed out" a road to Burritts Rapids, following roughly the course of Stevens creek.
Once the village was established, the main road serving the area in the last century was the Long Island Road running from Manotick to Burritts Rapids via Pierce's Corners and Seven-Mile Bush.
A 1926 map of the village shows the following roads: Main Street, Military Road (now Roger Stevens Drive leading west toward Smiths Falls), Wellington Street (now Roger Stevens Drive heading east toward Kars), Church Street, and across Main Street directly opposite Church Street there was Broadway Street. In the NE quadrant were Andrews Street and Craig Street. Craig Street ran straight then from its start near the centre of town at Wellington Street, and ran straight out of town on the route of present regional road 73 (old highway 16).
In 1954, highway 16, the Ottawa Suburban Road, County Road 11 and a township road all met in the village.
[source: the foregoing owes a great deal to the excellent North Gower Tweedsmuir Book prepared by members of the North Gower W.I. Some is direct quote, anything that is not is better in the original.]
Link to Rideau Township Roads site. (An excellent source of information on Township roads.

From Carsonby: A Community History

Carsonby Historical Society, 1969:

"The original survey of North Gower Township was made in 1791 and lots and concessions were located in 1793. As in other parts of Ontario, the early settlers were attracted first by timber. Lumberers prepared squared timber for market and floated it loose or in small 'nets' down Stevens' Creek to the Rideau. As the land was cleared the production of potash was profitable and even after land was cleared and agriculture well established, many if not most of the young men went 'to the shanty' in the winter months....
"An inspection of registry office records shows that the first land grants in the area we are considering were made in 1812, and it appears that no serious agricultural activity was undertaken until about 1840 since the two hundred acre lots were changing hands for taxes with some frequency. ... The land was obviously not opened up nor very highly regarded
in the 1820's and 1830's.
"By 1840... there were 5 houses squared or hewed on two sides (one story) and 1 house framed. Also 66 horses, 83 oxen, 178 milk cows, 50 horned cattle from 2 to 4 years old. The human population was as follows:
97 males under 16
138 males over 16
151 females under 16
110 females over 16
496 total."