The Settlement of Billings Bridge in Junction Gore, Gloucester Township
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
by Joan McEvoy Rooney, 2008
December 3, 2010: (Added painting by Robert Wickenden)
The painting below is called "Rideau River, Summer Afternoon". It looks very much as if it was executed from what is today
Riverside Drive, just west of Billings Bridge. The scene today is almost identical, right down to the ducks which are still
there. They have been joined by hundreds of Canada Geese which occupy a park area and small parking lot which is located
to the left in the photo. The land mass on the right is actually an island, once owned by the Billings family. The island
can be seen from the nearby Bridge on Bank Street.
Painting by Robert Wickenden, (1861-1931), "Rideau River, Summer Afternoon", 1922
Source: National Gallery of Canada
January 16, 2009:
Most of this information is from the research I did for the booklet I did for the Friends
of Billings listed in the Sources, below. The Pelot book may also be helpful to people.
The Settlement of Billings Bridge in Junction Gore, Gloucester Township
by Joan McEvoy Rooney, 2008
Braddish Billings, Gloucester's first settler, came to Bytown in 1812. The son of Dr. Elkanah Billings and
Joanna Rogers of Ware, Massachusetts, USA, he worked briefly for Philemon Wright before settling
in Junction Gore in 1812. In 1813 he married school teacher Lamira Dow, (Dow's Lake)the daughter of
Samuel Dow and Cynthia Harkness of Merrickville - Quakers, originally from Vermont, USA.
Lamira operated the first cheese-making operation in Bytown and Braddish established a
sawmill business as well as farming. Braddish worked as an overseer during the building
of the Rideau Canal as well as providing supplies to the workers. In 1831 he helped
erect Farmer's Bridge, and he served as a Magistrate, town warden, and Captain in the
Russell Militia. In the early days before the building of Farmer's Bridge, Braddish
operated a ferry across the Rideau.
The Billings family included seven children, Sabra, Elkanah, Braddish II, Sally, Samuel,
Lamira Jane and Charles. In 1829 they moved into a wooden New England-style house named
"Parkhill" - today the Billings Estate Museum on 2100 Cabot Street in Alta Vista - built
on Lot 18 atop a Rideau River bluff east of Billings Bridge.
The two eldest boys, Elkanah and Braddish Billings II, went on to better things, but
the youngest son Charles Billings married to Maria Murray of Brockville farmed Lot 16
JG around the site of today's Riverside Hospital. Samuel Billings, the third son had
the land at the rear of Lot 18 near Kilborn Avenue and Bank Street (Lamira Lane) where
he owned an apple orchard. Sabra and Sally Billings took over Parkhill in 1879 followed
by Charles Murray Billings, the son of Charles Billings and Maria Murray.
About 1867 Lamira established on Lot 18 the first Gloucester school which operated
until 1892 when the Billings Bridge Public School was built. The log schoolhouse is
extant at 2087 Riverside Drive (formerly River Road). The first church shared by
Methodists and Presbyterians was the Free Church built in 1865 along the river west
of Farmer's Bridge. In 1889 a brick Presbyterian church was built with Sabra Billing's
help across River Road which later served as a primary school and post office.
Trinity Church across the river in Ottawa South was the first Anglican church in the
area and St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic was erected on the hill south of Billings
Bridge at Creek St. (now Ohio) along the Metcalfe Road in 1887.
Captain Andrew Wilson, who was granted land further south along the Rideau near today's
Revelstoke Drive, was one of the Billings' earliest neighours along with Lamira's
brothers Abram and Samuel Dow who lived almost directly across the Rideau for a few
years prior to 1817. In 1819 Lewis Williams settled across the river to the north
(the Williams House is extant at 96 Southern Drive in Ottawa South), and the Doxey
and Smyth families arrived to farm land adjacent to Braddish Billings.
Captain and Magistrate Andrew Wilson, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, built Ossian
Hall. Travellers to Bytown along the Rideau River were always welcome to stop at
Wilson's Wharf and spent the night. Daniel and Margaret (Power) O'Connor spent a
night in the Wilson's kitchen in May 1826. That couple were so taken with the house
and its excellent old-world library that it is said that Daniel O'Connor bought the
Wilson house and property in 1829 when Wilson had financial difficulties. This
southern section of Junction Gore is listed in Belden's 1879 Atlas under the name
O'Connor --- possibly Daniel's descendants. The Wilson/O'Connor land was bought by
the Dowler family in the 1880s.
Other early settlers of Junction Gore who arrived in late 1820s and early 1830s were
Heron, Doxey, Evans and Smyth.
William Smyth (Smith), from Manchester, New Hampshire, and wife Sarah Woods an Empire
Loyalist (UEL) from Cornwall, came to JG (Junction Gore), Lots 15 to 14 in the section
east of Smyth Road in 1819. Their daughter Sophia Smyth married George Hurdman, - the
Hurdman family owned parcels of land east of the Smyths. The Woods family soon
followed Sarah, moving from Cornwall to settle south of Walkley Road where the Woods
cemetery stands today-near the Severeight, Spratt and Ellis farms.
Captain( later Lieutenant Colonel) William Smyth headed the 2nd Russell Battalion of
the Militia founded prior to the Rebellion of 1837 for many years. John Jeremiah Smyth
and wife Lucy Rand from Ogdensburg, New York, USA, took over the Smyth farm in the
1860s. In 1832 Thomas Byers and Jane Edgar owned the front section of Lot 13, JG.
Gilbert Heron (see next paragraph) arrived from Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 1834 with his wife Janet Sheppard,
five children, and three grandsons. He purchased land from Braddish on Lot 18 along
Kilborn Drive (Kilborn Park today). Heron's sons gradually acquired land nearby. About
1839 Gilbert and his then-wife Margaret Forrester, moved into a new estate on Lot 19
named "Logie". Their stone house stands today at 2364 Briar Hill Drive a (today a block
north of Heron Road) Gilbert's son, George Heron, and his wife Mary Ann Clifford took
over the Kilborn property called "Buchan". Another son Matthew Heron married to Jessie
Bourke farmed "Cruden" southeast of Gilbert's Logie. Daughter Janet Heron and her
husband William Heron, Gilbert's nephew, owned the land south of Heron Road. The nearby
"V' formed by the junction of Heron and Walkley was Spratt land, later becoming the
site of their Hedgedale Dairy. The land west of Logie became the Finn's dairy farm.
February 4, 2009, from Bob Mackett (in blue)
Joan/Al; I enjoyed your article: http://www.bytown.net/billingsbridgesettlement.htm
I just wanted to point out two minor errors in the paragraph "Gilbert Heron arrived from
Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 1834..."
1) About 1868 [should be around 1839 since "Gilbert HERON to Margaret FORESTER both of
Gloucester, April 8 1839, at Bytown, by license. Wit: Donald McArthur, Arthur McBean.
Rev Cruickshank. Page 32, 1839 Marriages in Bathurst District, part 2." Gilbert died 18
2) Another son Matthew Heron married to Jessie Bourke [should be Brownlee "STMO Jesse
Brownlee, bw/o Mathew Heron died 8 Apr 1862, aged 29 yrs, Plot 85 Source: Burials in the
Old Cemeteries, Sandy Hill (FHC 971.3 V3B) p. 620 http://www.bytown.net/sandyhillcem.htm"
Exhibit: Billings Estate Museum - Memories of the Village (Billings Bridge on the second
floor) - A copy of a loan to Gilbert Heron from Braddish Billings in 1843 (below). Gilbert
Heron, his wife and ten children came from Aberdeenshire Scotland in 1834. The Herons
bought their first 100 acres from Braddish Billings and in 1836 bought another large tract
in lot 20. They continued to have many business dealings with the Billings family over
the years Credit: Gail and Jim Heron for 19 Jun 1843 Mortgage: This indenture of mortgage
made at Bytown in the Dalhousie district of the Province of Canada this the nineteenth
day of June in the year of the Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty three between
Gilbert Heron, John Heron and Mathew Heron of the township of Gloucester in the district
and province aforesaid. Yeoman of the first part and Braddish Billings of the same place,
Esquire of second part, witnessette that the said party of the first part in consideration
of the sum of forty pounds five shillings and five pence to them to be paid to the said
party of the first part ??? ??? bargain sell and convey unto the said party of second
part all and singular of the following goods, chattels and growing crops ??? one house,
four cows, and two three-year old steers, one three-year old heifer, one house cart, two
train one plough, two single sets of harness, two stoves, one feather bed and bedding
together with all other household furniture of any description whatsover now being in
and about the house and premises now occupied by the said parties of the first part and
all the crops now growing on the near part of lot number twenty in the gore of the said
township of Gloucester between the [end of the first sheet].
The Canadian county digital atlas project http://blackader.library.mcgill.ca/countyatlas/showmap.php?Township=Gloucester&plotX=1710&plotY=1335&getMap.x=67&getMap.y=11
Last Name: Heron First Name: John Township: Gloucester County: Carleton Atlas Date: 1879
Concession and Lot size: JG, 20 100 Note: D.C.H. Danby said farm was called Logie Farm.
... Bob Mackett
back to Joan:
John and Lucinda (Pinkerton) Evans arrived from Swansea, Wales in 1832 and settled on
Lot 20, JG. In 1871 Samuel Evans built the brick house at 1249 Evans Boulevard. Samuel
married Pamela Walkley and his brother William Evans married her sister Lois Walkley
(daughters of Enoch Walkley who farmed the first lot south of the Base Line---Walkley
Road ---in the Rideau Front section of Gloucester). The youngest son, John Henry Evans
married to Ellen Green ran the blacksmith shop near Richard's carriage shop in Billings
Bridge. In the 1900s Evans' descendants Milton and Edward Dowler and Dave Cunningham
farmed his land. Randall Avenue formed the boundary between the Evans land and that of
Thomas Doxey and his wife from Ireland were farming in Lot 19, south of the Billings as
early as 1819. He was a member of the notorious Shiners and likely not too popular
with his Loyalist neighbours. The Heron lads, also a wild strapping bunch, earned such
nicknames as one-eared John (John James Heron the third son of Gilbert and heir to
Logie) and squinty-eyed Jack (John James II, son of John James Heron and Mary Anderson,
also heir to Logie).
Early settlers of the adjoining area of the Rideau Front were mainly Irish. The
Nelligans, Ottersons (arrived 1820s), and Gleesons farmed near Mooneys Bay. To the
south of Hunt Club road were Brady, Collins, Cunningham, McCart(h)y McKenna, McEvoy,
Moore, Nolan, Quinn, and O'Meara to name a few.
Circa the 1860s William Upton from England founded an Estate at Hunt Club and River
Road. English-style fox hunting was carried on there and in the woods of nearby Ossian
Hall according to William Upton's 1876 diary. The Ottawa International Airport forced
the demolition of many houses and farms in the early 1950s especially around the small
corners of Bowesville.
A well known later settler of Junction Gore was Archibald McKellar, who arrived in the
early 1840s with his wife Agnes Pollock, and for thirty years ran a dairy farm on Lot
16 of the Billings Estate. He rented the land from Braddish, as well as, a small house.
This wooden house, known to locals as the Foreman's House , was built in 1823 even
earlier that Parkhill to house the Billings' foreman. Braddish Billings agreed to
enlarge this house (today at 187 Billings in Alta Vista), according to a lease with
Archibald McKellar in 1857 (held in the Billings Estate Library) - 187 Billings is
possibly the oldest extant building in the city of Ottawa. McKellar ran a successful
dairy farm there until circa 1871 when he moved to Nepean where his name is better
remembered (McKellar Park). At that time Charles Billings's, a son of Hugh Braddish Billings, married
Eliza Mutchmor and moved into the house with his bride-their descendants lived there
until the 1960s. In the 1890s tenants of Charles Billings, Thomas and Kate Fairbairn,
ran Oak Lawn, a dairy farm at the rear (southeast) end of Lot 16 JG.
The year 1874 marked change and growth for Billings Bridge when the Billings sold a
parcel of Lots 18 and 19 for the subdivision of Gateville. Many houses went up on the
newly subdivided streets of Elm (now Rockingham), Beverley (now Belanger and Creek
(now Ohio). Belanger was renamed after a parish priest of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Gateville became a settlement of poor French and Irish labourers. Families such as
Brule, Cutts, Corrigan, Lemire, Taylor, Sabourin, and Turgeon built houses there.
Francis Turgeon had been a labourer for the Billings family since 1861. The Taylor
family were bricklayers who built houses in this area.
The Merkley Brothers from Casselman, Ontario took over a brickyard on the hill west of
Gateville (the present RA Centre location) in the 1925. Many workers also moved from
Casselman and lived in boarding houses in Gateville. This company provided many jobs
and became a going concern remaining there until the 1960s.
Later, in 1892 the Billings sold most of Lot 17 JG to the Barrett Brothers for the
Rideau Park subdivision, today part of Alta Vista. Stanley Avenue (now Pleasant Park
Road) was built then. George and Carrie Christie from Manotick moved into 81 Stanley
Avenue in 1895. George was a Holiness Movement and itinerant preacher. Other families
were Belot, Bennett (from England), Benson (carpenters), Clark, Crouch, Hand, Mokkett,
Ouellette, Phillips, Plumb and a Hugenot family named LeBreton. Alex Lebreton operated
a farm and the Polar Ice House along the Rideau between Pleasant Park and Metcalfe Road.
In 1892 Albert Phillips was market gardening on Stanley (333 Pleasant Park) south of Alta
Vista Drive. Alfred Belot, previously a gardener working for Charles Billings established
a market garden on Billings Avenue which grew into the Alta Vista Florists. Harold and
Lois Clark operated a farm on Billing Avenue near Fairbairn Avenue, across from the
Mokkett family garden. Rideau Park was primarily an area of Protestants - Alfred Belot was
an Orangeman. However, in the early 1900s they were joined by several families of White
Russian Jews escaping from the Ukraine who also became market gardeners. In 1900 Isaac
Greenberg was a tenant of Sabra Billing whose family rented the Billings' Gatehouse.
The rear annex section of the Gatehouse was home to the Spector family. Nathan and Rebecca
Greenberg operated the Rideau Hill Nursery on Lot 17 at the end of Leslie Street. In 1910
the Murphy and Morrow families from Belfast built houses on Billings Avenue and a plastering
business (still in operation) in the block of Pleasant Park and Billings between Rodney
Crescent and Cavendish Lane, nicknamed Murphyville.
James McCann, a noted horticulturist and his wife Mary built a house on Old Lilac Lane on
Lot 18 circa 1900 on land bought from Samuel Billings. James ran a florist business and
designed the Coronation Gardens at the Gloucester Town Hall on Metcalfe / Bank Street. James
Severeight was the first reeve of Gloucester in 1850, followed by Robert Cummings and later
Charles Billings. This second Town Hall built in 1875 was adjacent to the Gloucester
Agricultural Fair Grounds and across from present day Billings Shopping's Centre. It
remained in use until 1962 and was demolished shortly after. The Billings Bridge area was
annexed by Ottawa in 1950.
Sources: -- All available in the Ottawa Room, Ottawa Public Library, or the Billings Museum
Hodgson, Carol. "Billings Bridge: a Sketch of the Village, 1830-1950." Unpublished Paper,
Billings Estate Museum,1998.
Pelot, Gerald. Billings Bridge; My Village, My Life. Gatineau, Quebec, Ecrits d'Or. 1999
(an anecdotal history of St. Thomas Aquinas Church and School, Gateville)
Rooney, McEvoy Joan. Historic Homes and Buildings of the Billings Bridge Community; a Self-Guided Tour.
The Association of Friends of the Billings Estate Museum, 2004.
(Includes all Junction Gore with emphasis on the houses and families on
Lots 14-20 JG (later Rideau Park), but also includes
Gateville, Ridgemount, and Ellwood)
... Joan McEvoy Rooney, 2008
August 16, 2009:
I am still trying to find land records for the Front of Lot 13, Junction Gore Gloucester which seem to be elusive. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong area??
I could only find a record for the East of Lot 13 JG on microfilm AP9 at Land Titles in Ottawa whereas Lot 15 for example has plenty of transactions for all
parts of Lot 15 including the Front of that Lot.
The Billings Museum staff could not find the record referred to by Joan McEvoy Rooney in her book, The Settlement of Billings Bridge in Junction Gore, Gloucester
Township, 2008 that Thomas Byers and Jane Edgar were owners of F Lot 13 JG in 1832.
Thomas Byers [Lot 13 Front 200] and James Byers [Lot 12 front SH 100] are on the 1832 Assessment for Junction of Rideau & Otawa(?) Gore, Gloucester Twp. Thomas Byers
is on the 1833 Assessment F1/2 13 Gore. If Jane Edgar was on the 1832 assessment I missed it.
Any help and direction is much appreciated
Barb Byers Bradley, Saskatchewan
As quoted from: The Settlement of Billings Bridge in Junction Gore, Gloucester Township
by Joan McEvoy Rooney, 2008
Captain( later Lieutenant Colonel) William Smyth headed the 2nd Russell Battalion of the Militia founded prior to the Rebellion of 1837 for many years.
John Jeremiah Smyth and wife Lucy Rand from Ogdensburg, New York, USA, took over the Smyth farm in the 1860s. In 1832 Thomas Byers and Jane Edgar owned the front
section of Lot 13, JG.
April 21, 2016:
There is a lot of information regarding the Billings family at the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society web site.
E-mail Joan McEvoy Rooney, Bob Mackett, Barb Byers Bradley and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa, Canada, area