Merrickville owes its growth to the War of 1812

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Submitted by Michael Whittaker

Merrickville’s mid-19th-century boom was a result of the War of 1812. Should another war with the Americans arise, the St. Lawrence River would surely be blockaded to all British and Canadian shipping. Hence, the Rideau Canal was constructed to bypass the river.

Merrickville author and historian Victor Suthren will address the War of 1812 and the impetus to build the Rideau Canal, Sunday, July 8 at 2 pm at the Royal Canadian Legion, Main St. West, Merrickville.

As early as 1790, a mill had been constructed by the Great Falls of the Rideau River. After 1793, William Merrick continued the water-powered industrial expansion, and there was soon a rudimentary road to the St. Lawrence.

In the early 1830s, the road direct to the US border, and the five-metre drop in the Rideau at Merrickville, lent incentive to the building of the blockhouse to protect the lock infrastructure, and the village’s nascent industry. A flood resulting from the destruction of the dam and locks would wreak havoc down to the Ottawa River, thus ending the strategic advantage of the Rideau Canal to the defence of Canada.

Mr. Suthren’s presentation July 8 is sure to reveal little known or understood facts about the War of 1812 and the Rideau Canal.

In the commemoration of Merrickville-Wolford 225, the Merrickville and District Historical Society has developed 15 history-based events from May to September 2018. The July 15 presentation concerns the Battle of the Windmill.

The locks and blockhouse Merrick’s Mills, ca.mid-1840s. Three bridges led to industrial development on the north bank where the first mill was erected by Roger Stevens about 1790. The pencil and watercolour painting is by John Burrows (LAC 1979-12-9)

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