History of Ottawa, Ontario

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The city we know today as Ottawa, Ontario, has a long and storied history.


Indigenous Peoples

Although it is named for the Odawa First Nation, Ottawa is located in the traditional territory of the Algonquin.

European Settlement

Etienne Brûlé was the first European to explore the Ottawa River followed by Samuel de Champlain five years later in 1613. For three hundred years, the river served as the chief artery of the Montréal fur trade. Philemon Wright established the first permanent settlement in the Ottawa area in 1800 at Hull, Québec, across the river from what would become the nation's capital.

Collins Landing

In 1809, Jehiel Collins settled at the junction of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers. He built a small log cabin and established a store just south of Victoria Island, on the south shore of the Ottawa River. He named his small settlement Collins Landing.

Bellow's Landing

The settlement known as Collins Landing was renamed Bellow's Landing, when Jehiel's daughter married his assistant, Caleb Bellows, sometime prior to 1818.

Richmond Landing

In the fall of 1818, a group of settlers arrived and built a new road from Bellow's Landing to the settlement of Richmond. The road was named Richmond Road (which still exists today) and the settlement was again renamed to Richmond Landing.


This area was within what is now Ottawa, Ontario. It started as a small group of shanties along the Rideau Canal during its construction, for some of the labourers. Many of these workers originated from County Cork, Ireland, for which it was named. The settlement disappeared shortly after the completion of the Rideau Canal in 1832.

Upper Town and Lower Town

While these were not official names for Bytown, they have been in use by locals since before 1827. Upper Town was located in the area of modern downtown Ottawa and the Parliament buildings. Lower Town was located in the area of the modern Byward Market. Some long time local residents still refer to these areas by these names.


Bytown was formally established on September 26, 1826 and became a town on January 1, 1850.

Between 1827 and December 30, 1840, Bytown was part of Upper Canada. In 1827, Sappers Bridge was built, connecting Upper Town and Lower Town. The town was named in honour of Lieutenant-Colonel John By of the British Royal Engineers. He was a key figure in the construction of the Rideau Canal.

Another name of historical importance is that of Thomas McKay, one of the founders of the future city of Ottawa, and a main contractor for the Rideau Canal. He is known to have built two residences in Ottawa: Rideau Hall and Earnscliffe.

Between January 1, 1841 and December 30, 1854, Bytown was part of Canada West. The town's first elected mayor was John Scott in 1847. He also served a second term in 1850.

On January 1, 1855 Bytown was renamed again.


Between January 1, 1855 and June 30, 1867, Ottawa was part of Canada West. Ottawa became Canada's official capital in 1857.

On July 1, 1867, at the time of Confederation, Ottawa became part of the new Province of Ontario.


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