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Cantley: A beautiful history!

The history of the municipality of Cantley dates back to the era when indigenous peoples stopped at its banks to rest. The first colonists who settled here in the 1820s had to work hard to clear the land in order to build their farms. Once harnessed, our streams and rivers produced the energy that powered the mills and forestry operations. Our picturesque hills harboured a wealth of mica, while our valleys were covered by fertile arable land.

The first colonist to settle in Cantley was Andrew Blackburn, who arrived with his two sons in 1829. Other distinguished pioneers quickly joined them. For example, there was Dominic Fleming, a stonecutter from Ireland who laid the foundations of many of the first family homes and St. Elizabeth Church; Colonel Cantley, who received a land grant for services rendered during the War of 1812 (the Anglo-American War) and for his participation in the construction of the Rideau Canal with Colonel By; and Thomas Kirk, who established the first ferry route between Cantley and Chelsea, which later became the Paddy Fleming Ferry, named after its buyer.

The first census conducted in 1842 in the Canton of Hull put the population of Cantley at 244 residents, mostly of Irish and Scottish origin. The incorporation of the municipality of East Hull occurred in 1889, and the first mayor to be appointed was Alex Prud’homme.

The Cantley portion of the Gatineau River, once turbulent with rapids, was an old Algonquin trading route. The mouth of Blackburn Creek, which was home to their camp, was also the place where the first ferries docked and where a tavern was erected in the 1850s. The creek was at once a transportation route, a watering hole for the population and horses, and a source of energy that powered the sawmills and flour mills.

The lumber industry dominated the river from 1830 (when Philemon Wright and his three sons were granted logging concessions) until 1993. With the completion of dam construction at Farmer’s Rapids and in Chelsea, the river flooded many of the first farms in operation, as well as its original banks. The Gatineau became the wide, rather calm river that we know today.

At one time, large mica deposits abounded in Cantley. The Blackburn Mine was very important, especially during the Second World War, when there were 60 workers.

Since the waves of urbanization in the 1960s and 1970s, Cantley has become a primarily residential municipality. In 1975, it merged with the City of Gatineau, but regained its independence and uniqueness in 1989.


Download “The History of Cantley” in English or French. For more information, visit the Cantley 1889 organization’s website at

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