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Cantley’s Fascinating History!
Cantley history dates back to the time when aboriginal peoples stopped on the shores of the Gatineau River to rest. Our first settlers, arriving during the 1820s, endured considerable hardship to clear the wilderness for their farms. Once tamed, our river and streams provided power for mills and logging. Our picturesque hills were rich in mica, while our valleys were covered with fertile, arable soil. The following is but a brief summary of our rich history…
Our first colonist, Andrew Blackburn, and his two sons, settled in Cantley in 1829. Others soon joined them. Among the settlers of note were Dominic Fleming, an Irish stonemason who laid the foundations of many of the first family homes and buildings, including St. Elizabeth’s Church; Colonel Cantley, believed to have received a land grant for his service during the War of 1812 and his role in the construction of the Rideau Canal, along with Colonel By; and Thomas Kirk, who established the first ferry connection between Cantley and Chelsea, which later became the Paddy Fleming ferry, named after its operator.
The first census of Hull County, in 1842, established the population of Cantley at 244 residents, mostly from Ireland and Scotland. The Municipality of East Hull was incorporated in 1889 and Alex Prud’homme was named as its first mayor.
The Cantley section of the Gatineau River, with its once turbulent rapids, was part of an old Algonquin trade route. The traders’ camp at the mouth of Blackburn Creek later became the site of the first ferry terminus and a tavern built in the 1850s. The creek was used to float logs and as a source of water for people and horses, and power for the flour and saw mills.
Logging was the main occupation on the river from the 1830s (when Philemon Wright and his three sons were granted logging rights) until 1993. With the completion of the dams at Farmer’s Rapids and Chelsea, the Gatineau River flooded its original shoreline and, with it, many of the early farms, to become the wide, rather placid river that we know today.
Once, Cantley boasted significant deposits of mica. The Blackburn Mine was so important that, during World War II, it employed 60 workers.
Since the urbanization of the 1960s and 1970s, Cantley has become primarily a residential community. In 1975, Cantley amalgamated with the City of Gatineau. Fortunately, Cantley regained its independence and unique character in 1989.