Otter Lake History
Our story begins in the year 1860 with the township of Leslie joining the township of Thorne. Mayor James Martin oversaw this merger. Later in 1867, Leslie separated from Thorne to join Clapham. George Palmer was the Mayor during this new merger. The Municipality of Otter Lake, as we know it today, was founded in 1876 by the union of three townships, being Leslie, Clapham and Huddersfield. Mr. François Pelletier became the new Mayor.
Otter Lake's population is formed of many different cultural backgrounds. Colonization of our lands was accomplished primarily by the arrival of German, English, Scottish, French and Polish immigrants. Some First Nations families were also part of the demographic development of the village and its surrounding areas. While demographic realities have changed over time, it is possible to associate current-day regions of Otter Lake to specific cultural origins. For example, Picanoc road leads us to discover many families of Polish descent, and then it is in the "La Ranger" area (Range A) and the county of Clapham that we would find many families of French ancestry. With regard to the Germans, they established themselves more in the county of Leslie (Erfle road and Hahn Road, etc.).
The conditions of daily life were very difficult (uneven terrain of agricultural lands, poor soils, lack of equipment or of proper equipment, etc.), resulting in people developing a sense of community and support without regard to cultural differences. Today, in spite of some disagreements, harmony still reigns between everyone as we continue to develop our own identity as Otter Lakers.
Like many neighboring municipalities whose lands were not well-suited for agriculture, logging became the central economic activity. Business men and promoters Philemon Wright et E.B. Eddy greatly contributed to our local economic development. Our region received many "coureurs des bois" but also many loggers or lumberjacks who were no strangers to the rigors of life out in the timber yards. The companies "Consolidated-Bathurst" and "Independent Coal and Lumber Company" also assisted in the economic prosperity with their different sawmills, which, unfortunately no longer exist today.
Today, with the downturn in the logging industry which is felt throughout much of the province of Québec, Otter Lake is now turning towards its natural beauty to be discovered by the people of the Pontiac, of Québec, of Canada and elsewhere. One of our most interesting attractions is without a doubt our Leslie Park. It was in 1972 that Leslie Park was developed and it continues to prosper. The current camp site is located on the former lands of the Moore, Favreau and Paquette families.
The Old Depot
Our Old Depot, also called by locals "Collins place", built in 1839, is part of our heritage and still shines at the North exit of the village. In addition to functioning as a depot, it also housed the Post Office, the forge and a general store.
The Old Depot was bought and sold by several people through the years until it was purchased in 2007 by Jerry and Joanne Dubeau. Together they restored the place by replacing rotten structures with materials similar to the original materials. The many "coureurs des bois", loggers and lumberjacks who walked the floors of the depot are evidenced in some of the original flooring that remains today.
The rooms in the house are filled with random historical artifacts. One of the artifacts is the bed that Prince Arthur is believed to have slept in when he stayed as a guest.
The Old Depot was declared a Heritage Site by the Municipality of Otter Lake in 2010 because of its historical significance to the area. It is considered among one of the oldest buildings in the Pontiac. The Old Depot is located at 475 Prince Arthur Street.
The Royal Visit
Ottawa Citizen - 1869 Center column – “The Royal Hunt”
In 1869 the logging companies of the Gillies Brothers and the Gilmour Brothers went on a hunting expedition accompanied by Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria, after which Otter Lake’s main road was named. They were hosted at the famous old village Depot.
In this picture of 1869, we have identified : Isidore Brisebois; Alex Lance; Télesphore Gravelle; Michael John Lance; François Lavigne; Power Bell from the prince’s staff; Bob Farrel; J.E. Brown and, of course, The Prince Arthur. From what has been shared, the French speaking crue, entertained the prince with the song ‘’V’la l’bon vent’’. The lyrics are about a prince and his hunting experience. He would aim for a black duck, but shot a white one.
According to the stories that have been passed-down, the hunting was nothing short of miraculous, having allegedly caught two moose, one deer and a bear! Around 19 KM (12 miles) from the centre of the village on Picanoc road, the guest of honour is said to have also felled a few trees.
To commemorate this visit, a plaque was dedicated on a boulder at the site. His excursion took place "up the Picanoc", a place still known today as a hunting and fishing paradise. Prince Arthur was later named Duke of Connaught and became the Governor General of Canada from 1914 to 1918.
A saw mill, up the Picanoc
This picture was taking at a picanoc saw mill, who was situated on the Picanoc river. It operated from 1936 to 1938. We have identified: Victor Krutz; Hugo Krutz; George Moore; Artur Deering; Theo. Bretzlaff and Charles Mielke.
In terms of spirituality and faith, our oldest church is St-James Anglican, built in 1865.
In 1914-1917, the Saint-Charles Borromeo Catholic Church was founded. It was lost to fire 1982, but the same year a new church was built and it still services parishioners today.
Finally, the Baptist Church was built in 1920
The Otter Lake Hotels - The hotel we see in this picture was built and owned by Ben Killoran. Later, George Murphy was operating the business. In the background, there’s a horse stable and across the street, we see a barn. We also notice a corner of a second hotel owned by Olympe Desjardins. Unfortunately, these buildings no longer exist.
Over the course of 135 years of existence, and in spite of fires that changed the original image of our village, of economic downturns, changes in terms of infrastructure and technological advancements, and in spite of the difficulties we faced, we remain a simple yet resilient village that people are glad to call home. Little more than 100 km from Ottawa, Otter Lake offers a tranquil and calm atmosphere and provides a high quality of life to its citizens and visitors. So welcome to Otter Lake, in the heart of a welcoming nature, just like its people.
Murphy’s Hotel - The Murphy Hotel shown from what is now known as Tessier Street. On the 28th of May 1924, Alphonse Vadneau purchased the hotel. In the background, we notice the Desjardins Hotel. Both buildings where destroyed
A part of our history lost - This patrimonial structure was one of the first of its kind in our town. It contained a General Store, a Post Office, a Blacksmith Shop and the J.O. Roy Hotel. We could also notice the wooden board walk, something we rarely see today. Like most of our historical buildings, we lost this one to a fire in the spring of 1918