The Cumberland Communiqué
By Ann Gonneau
A recent query by Fallingbrook resident David Villeneuve prompted a search through the early maps and documents held by the Cumberland Township Historical Society for a ‘history’ of Fallingbrook. At this stage in the evolving history of Cumberland Township’s newest community, what basically emerges from documented evidence is a history of land ownership.
The Ottawa River, which flows below Fallingbrook, was a significant waterway used by Canada’s native peoples, explorers such as Samuel de Champlain and fur traders of the North-West Company. The river shore of Cumberland Township was probably used as a resting point on their journeys, although no known permanent settlement existed before the white man came. The native population of eastern Ontario was scarce; no treaties were signed with native tribes in this area prior to the granting of Crown Land as had been the custom throughout the remainder of Upper Canada, although the land was under Indian occupation.
Cumberland Township and much of the land of what was then called Upper Canada was surveyed in the late 1700s under the direction of General Frederick Haldimand. The General was faced with the task of relocating hundreds of American settlers who had remained loyal to the crown during the American War of Independence, later to be known as the United Empire Loyalists. The territory of Upper Canada was systematically divided into units called townships and further subdivided into narrow, north-south strips called concessions. Each concession was further subdivided horizontally into lots. A locational address of the west half of Lot 6, Concession 4, Cumberland Township was adequate as an address for many years and would enable a settler’s family from Europe to find him with relative ease. The lot and concession system is still in everyday use in the rural area and is a legal description for the purposes of land registration.
For the purposes of this article, and for conformity with the survey mapping approach, Fallingbrook is broadly defined as bounded on the north by the Ottawa River, on the west by 10th Line Road, on the east by Trim Road and on the south by Innes Road. As such, Fallingbrook lies within the confines of part of Lots 30 and 35 and all of Lots 31, 32, 33 and 34 of the Old Survey, a strip of long lots predating the general pattern adopted by Haldimand, which follows the Ottawa River. Lots A, B and C of Concession 10 and part of Lots A, B and C of Concession 8 make up the southern-most regions of Fallingbrook. Due to their accessibility to the river, the long lots were the earliest in the Township to be settled. While the 1825 map shows sparse settlement throughout the Township, many of the lots fronting the Ottawa River had been granted. Of the “Fallingbrook lots”, only Lots 30, 31 and 32 had been claimed and were registered to Catherine Beck alias McLeod. Lot A, Concession 8 had been granted to Captain Angus McDonell and was a part of the 9 lots, representing nearly 1000 acres, granted to this individual in the Township. By 1862, the Township had experienced its first boom. The earliest settlers, a mix of French Canadians who had followed the river from their native Quebec, descendants of the Loyalists who had settled along “the Front” from Kingston to Cornwall and Scottish Highlanders from Glengarry had been joined and were rapidly being outnumbered by immigrants from the British Isles, most notably from Ireland. Census returns for 1861 and the 1862 map indicate that Lot 30 was owned by Alexander Wilson, Lot 31 by Joseph Walker, Lot 32 by Isaac Taylor, Lot 33 by M. O’Toole, Lot 34 by A. Faubert and J. Corte (or Corle) and Lot 35 by I. St. Jacque (Isidore St. Jacques) and J. Parsien (Joseph Parizeau). Both series of Lots A, B and C were as yet unclaimed. All of the long lots had at least one house; Lot 33 also held a hotel under the proprietorship of Thos. O’Toole, in the vicinity of today’s “Slender You” studio.
Also by 1862, a road, closely paralleling the current location of St. Joseph Boulevard crossed through the area, eventually to link Bytown and Montreal. Trim Road was also in place, while there is no sign of either Innes or 10th Line Roads; the lands at the top of the escarpment -modern day Fallingbrook and Queenswood Heights lay empty and waiting.
A Brief History of Fallingbrook
How Fallingbrook Got its Mud
by David Villeneuve (1991)
Your memories of seeing your new house being built in Fallingbrook probably also include the memory of that incredibly sticky clay which never came off your boots. But why is it that Fallingbrook has clay beneath, but other places like Kanata have rock? And what is underneath the clay?
We start our history one billion years ago, when the most advanced life forms on earth were single-celled creatures living in the water, when the air held little oxygen. In a series of violent upheavals, the mountains which today are the Gatineau hills were thrust up as high as the Andes. Over the next 400 million years, they were slowly eroded till they resembled the rolling hills of today.
Meanwhile the lower lands, which included most of eastern Ontario, were submerged under a sea which came and went over the millenia. The seas were filled with strange shelled creatures whose shells make up the limestone deep under us today. This limestone can be almost a kilometer deep in places, and can be seen along the escarpment north of Princess Louise Drive. If you’re taking notes, it’s of the Bobcaygeon formation, formed during the Middle Ordovician Period (480 million years ago).
Nothing much happened over the next 400 million years, except minor things like the continents splitting apart, the coming and going of dinosaurs, and the arrival of mammals. Then, about one million years ago, the glaciers came and covered northern Canada as far south as here. The land was buried under kilometers of ice. Only about 15,000 years ago did the ice begin to melt. The land which had been compressed under the ice found itself under water once again, the Champlain Sea. The Great Lakes drained through the Ottawa River from Petawawa. The Ottawa River’s path was different then, flowing through Mer Bleu and joining the present-day Ottawa River near Alfred. Aerial photos of Mer Bleu show clearly the remains of a 7000 year old river bed, and it is still damp.
As the meltwater flowed toward the St Lawrence River, erosion cut into the underlying rocks and formed the Ottawa River valley. The runoff contained sand and silt which deposited on the bottom of the river. When the Ottawa River finally shrunk to its present size, the surrounding land was covered with a deep layer of mud, which makes up the clay which our houses are built on. Sand from ancient river banks can be found just this side of Navan.
When the trunk sewer was put alongside Tenth Line Road in 1989, surveys showed that the clay was over 100 feet thick in places. About 50 feet down, it is largely Leda clay, a type of marine clay named after a type of clam often found in such clay deposits. Leda clay is particularly treacherous, since it can suddenly slide. The contractors who excavated for the sewer were particulary concerned that Tenth Line Road might slide into their hole. The remnants of such landslides can still be seen along the escarpment in Beacon Hill North.
The depth of the clay depends on the underlying rocks: sometimes the rocks come right to the surface, such as at the escarpment or by the Town Hall. The rock nearer the Ottawa River comes from older formations than that in Fallingbrook. The depth of the clay makes it difficult to erect tall buildings in the area. The Brewers Retail store at Fallingbrook Centre had to have a special floating basement built in order to support the weight of the beer stored upstairs.
So when you remember the clay that stuck to your boots as you watched the construction of your new home in Fallingbrook, remember how long it took for the clay to get here.
Sources of Information
Guide to the Geology and Scenery of the National Capital Region, D. M. Baird, Geological Survey of Canada, 1968.
Surficial geology map, EMR (1975).
Geological map of Russel-Thurso Area, Ontario Geological Survey (198x).
Six neighbourhoods planned for area east of Tenth Line
by Mary Payne
12 February 1986
Plans to establish six residential neighbourhoods in the area east of Tenth Line were outlined by Cumberland Township’s Planning Director Pamela Sweet at last Thursday’s meeting of the Pinebrook Community Association.
Each neighbourhood is to include a park and school site as well as local shopping facilities. In addition there will be a community core located on Tenth Line which will eventually include major shopping facilities, a public high school and a recreational complex.
Ms Sweet told the 50 or so residents who attended the meeting that the first phase of the community core shopping facility, a strip mall, has already been approved by the Township and construction should start this spring. The second phase which she hopes will also include a small medical building will involve enclosing the strip mall.
Each of the six neighbourhoods planned for the area will accommodate between 4,000 and 5,000 people and although three of the neighbourhoods are already being developed the remaining three will be put on hold until the necessary services (water, sewer and transportation) are in place.
Ms Sweet said the Township has a mixed housing policy and high density housing, such as the Club Citadelle project already being developed, will be located adjacent to the community core.
In addition to the Taylor Creek Business Park already under development at the junction of Highway 17 and Regional Road 57, Ms Sweet said three other business parks will be established in the area east of Tenth Line. “Cumberland is promoting a vibrant community” she said, “and one of our goals is to attract industry.”
The Township wants to preserve the natural features of the area including the escarpment with the Princess Louise Falls. It is also planning a network of open spaces with walkways and bicycle paths and is looking into the possibility of putting the craters created by it’s storm water management plan to recreational use. Ms Sweet said the Township would also like to see Petrie Island, presently owned by the Regional Municipality, developed as a recreational area. “My dream is to make the Ottawa River fit for swimming as well as boating” she told the meeting. “You can take a boat as far as Montreal so there’s lots of scope for the area.”
Ms Sweet also touched briefly on plans for the Town Centre site adjacent to Place d’Orleans. “The Township wants to build a downtown core which people will identify with” she said. The site will include shops, offices, a city hall “and perhaps even a farmer’s market” she added. Ms Sweet said her Department envisaged a boulevard with trees and seats. “Somewhere with a real downtown feeling which would get away from the suburban shopping centre idea. The Town Centre site could also include a senior citizen’s building and high density housing.
During the question period which followed Ms Sweet’s presentation one resident asked whether the Township had given any thought to naming the area east of the Tenth Line. Ms Sweet said no name had been given to the area but the Council would certain be open to suggestions.
In answer to a question about increasing fire and police services in the area Ms Sweet said the fire department was planning an expansion during the next five years but that a decision to provide extra police department services in the area was a provincial. matter.
Answering questions about the widening of the Queensway and solving transportation problems in the area Ms Sweet agreed that “in the next two years we’re going to have to come up with alternative ways of getting downtown”. She said the Township is looking at such alternatives as car pools, park and ride, and buses only lanes.
Following the meeting the Association’s interim president, Peter McNamara, told the EXPRESS ‘that the recreational needs of the area are his main concern. “We don’t have any facilities” he said “and there’s nowhere for our youngsters play.” He also saw an urgent need for meeting facilities in the area. “We can’t wait five years for the recreation complex to be built. We don’t want the brownies and cubs meeting all over the place.”
Mr McNamara says he is hoping the open spaces created by the Township’s storm water management program can at least abe used to keep the kids from playing in the streets. “The craters were dry last summer” he said, “and if they say dry in the spring they could be used for tot lots.” He said his Association is preparing a proposal on the community’s recreational needs which will be presented at the tovnship’s budget meeting on February 25th.
The Pinebrook Community Association, which delivers newsletters to some 400 homes in the area cast of Tenth Line, will hold its next meeting on February 19th at the Queenswood Heights Community. Centre. During that meeting the Association’s treasurer, Jean-Luc Desgroseilliers, who is also in charge of security, will give a presentation on the Neighbourhood Watch and Block Parent programs. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. and all residents of the communities east of Tenth Line are welcome.