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History of the Municipality of La Pêche

Born in 1975, the consolidation of municipalities of the Township of Wakefield (1845), Aldfield (1877), of the village of Wakefield (1917) and the Municipality of Sainte-Cécile-de-Masham (1940), before Masham South (1913). The link between these names, first assigned to Townships, compared to their common origin: they are communities of Yorkshire English.

In the early 1800s, with the arrival of the American Philemon Wright founder of the city of Hull, was born the region of La Pêche. Originally from Massachusetts, Philemon Wright came to settle near the Ottawa River to seek his fortune. Indeed, it is in the industry of logging that he decided to invest, given the demand of England who needed wood to fuel its booming shipbuilding industry.

Mr. Wright founded so many sites along the Gatineau River and introduces a new way for transporting timber, the river driving. This new technique allowed the construction site foreman `s the transportation of the timber and make cuts more to the north, where the trunks are bigger and longer. Around these sites were developed villages and towns. The cross rivers gave birth to cities like Hull and Gatineau.

Settlers, mostly French or Irish, were more likely to sell the strength of their arms every Fall, they all rode north to find work on construction sites. Transportation of wood ball designed by Mr. Wright gave birth to the profession of river driving a dangerous job, especially practiced by French Canadians. Devastating cut along the Gatineau River made to discoverer fertile land. Soon settlers wintered the sites, took their families with them on the lands discovered by the cut. Around construction sites and sawmills were developed villages. However, these lands were granted to wealthy Canadians foremen, English speaking for the majority. Thus, eight of the ten villages of the Municipality of La Pêche have Anglophones names, Masham, Aldfield East Wakefield, Farrellton, Alcove, Wolf Lake, and Rupert. Each village has a popular history and legends that give each of them a special charm!

History of the railroad

The growth of the timber trade is at the origin of the colonization of the region of La Pêche and the northern regions of Gatineau. Indeed, the Gatineau River which was difficult to navigate the roads where precarious and often small paths. The train became a better alternative. So in 1871, the project was realized "Ottawa and Gatineau Railway Company" created by a group of businessmen from Hull. The goal of the project was to connect Maniwaki to Hull, thus joining all the construction sites. Among these businessmen included particularly EB Eddy and Alonzo Wright. It is however in 1887 the project became a reality by starting construction. The first section linking Hull to Wakefield was completed in 1891 and a year later, Low was part of the circuit, and in 1895, the railroad went up to Gracefield. In 1901, the company changed its name and became the "Ottawa Northern & Western Railways." However, the funds ran out and the section linking Gracefield to Maniwaki was not completed until 1903. The company was then sold to the Canadian Pacific and inaugurated in 1904 its first passenger train. It`s during this period that the tourism swept into the region. Everyday vacationers filled the train and went to Ottawa to Alcove for a few hours. The Gatineau Valley became a destination of choice, especially the winter for its ski slopes. The period after the war allowed the governments to invest in road construction and service of passenger trains ceased in January 1963. The transport of goods, however, continued until 1984. It was in 1986 that the rails have been dismantled to the section between Wakefield and Hull. However, since 1973 several companies have exploited this section rails to make excursions in summer. To date, it is the company "Hull Chelsea Wakefield" which operates the railway in Wakefield taking hundreds of tourists per day, per channel, typical steam train of the early century. Only two steam trains still drive on rails Canada, the Hull Wakefield and one in British Columbia.

The history and the profession of the River driving

Navigating the Gatineau River was difficult, even the natives rarely ventured there. It is indeed a river where it is much faster because of rapids, swirls and different water levels, which is why its shores were settled later than the shores of the Ottawa River. However, the forests crossed "Gatineau" was an immense treasure of all kinds of trees, hardwood and white pine. Philemon Wright implanted a means of transporting the wood that would extend the cutting sites to the north, to the logs in the water so they follow the current to Hull where they are collected and carried at the factory. Soon, traffic jams of logs were formed along the river. It was therefore proposed to men to walk on the water-covered ball to control congestion. This dangerous profession was that of river driving. These men had to be big and strong, agile and fast, they were, for the most part, French Canadian and Irish. One of them also became legendary for his strength and his courage. The French Canadian, Jos Montferrand was recognized to be the defender of the weak, revered for its strength and size. The loggers were men who were respected for their courage! This job has disappeared around 1960 due to the development of the road network and the environmental movement who asked to stop the transportation of timber by river.

History of the MacLaren family

The MacLaren family is known in Outaouais for his significant contribution for the economic development of the region. Descendants still possess `s to this day, a pulp and paper in the Buckingham area.  David MacLaren, born in England March 11, 1789, died in 1870 in Wakefield. He was the first MacLaren to set foot on Canadien soil and settle there in 1824. Father of six son, James, John, Henry, David, William and Alexander, he moved to Ontario where he granted land on behalf of the crown. Then he settled on land to practice agriculture and education. In 1840, he bequeathed his land to his son Henry and settled in Wakefield. His son James and John launched business alongside the family business. The son of James MacLaren, James Barnet, founded the James MacLaren Company Limited of Buckingham, an industry still thriving to this day. The MacLaren family contributed to the establishment of the Bank of Ottawa and the development of the "Central Ontario Railway", a railway that would later extend to Maniwaki, through Wakefield. The MacLaren family is one of those families who marked our history by passing!  The domain of the MacLaren family in Wakefield, are still on the banks of the river La Pêche.

History of the MacLaren house

The house overlooks the Falls of the La Pêche River and the adjacent mill belonged to the MacLaren family. It is a beautiful gothic house with red bricks, decorated with beautiful vines and white ledges woodwork thoroughly. This majestic dwelling would be that of father and son in 1860. The MacLaren house is a historic building which bears witness to a grand era in the history of the region.  It was the home of a rich and noble family whose achievements were central to the economic development of the Wakefield, La Pêche and Buckingham area.

History of the MacLaren Mill

The first mill was established at the crossroads of La Pêche and Gatineau rivers that was built by William Fairbairn in 1838. Scottish settler, he then sold the company a few years later to the MacLaren family. The MacLaren added to the Fairbairn flour mill, a textile mill, a grain mill as well as a general store. Several buildings for the processing of natural resources were added over the years, most of the buildings were destroyed by fire, except for the mill which still stands today.

History of the MacLaren Cemetery

At the top of the hill overlooking the field MacLaren and Wakefield, is the tomb of the father and pioneer John MacLaren, who died in 1870. Later became The MacLaren Cemetery where many MacLaren descendants were buried and some of the early settlers. The Honourable Lester.B.Pearson Prime Minister chooses to find the MacLaren cemetery his eternal rest. Charmed by the region that he spent his summers near Wakefield, he immediately felt at home. In honor of this great man, the Canadian flag twirling above the cemetery and a memorial plaque allows visitors to recognize the particularity.