See- Local Publications on D/NE History

The Township of Drummond/North Elmsley would like to acknowledge and recognize the following people for their extensive input and submissions
of materials in the creation of our history page.

Thank you to: David Taylor, Murray & Karen Hunt, Michael McEwen, Paul Snider, Lorne Vandusen, Maureen Armstrong, Linda Mentzel,
Linda and Denis Myers, Susan Brandum, Bob Moore, Susan Code, Ken Watson, Jeff Earl, Pam and Dave McCord and Nicholas Rainville.



The map below shows the location of the 5 original locks:


Before the Canal


 ‘Pike Falls’ Storied Past' 

Discover a glimpse into our past in this descriptive account of Port Elmsley's past.

Pike Falls Storied Past Brochure Cover


The Tay Navigation Company

Construction of the Canal

Problem with the Canal

The End of the First Tay


The Second Tay Canal


Photo Gallery


View of the Tay River July 14, 1827

Tay 175th Anniversary

Picture of Squire on Canal Day


Slide Show

Old Picture of bridge near station road


  Map of region prior to locks having been builtIn the 1800s, the villages around the Tay River were very isolated. While towns on the St. Lawrence route had easy access to shipping routes from Montreal to Bytown (the original name of Ottawa) and Kingston, residents of the Perth Military Settlement and surrounding area were not so lucky. Their trade route at the time involved shipping goods overland to and from Brockville to gain access to the St. Lawrence; an expensive and lengthy process that was only made worse by the very poor quality of the road between the two towns. The roads nearby were rocky, occasionally swampy, and littered with stumps and other obstructions.  (Larry Turner "The First Tay Canal in the Rideau Corridor, 1830-1850"; pg. 5-6).

The Rev. William Bell once described in his diaries some of the problems encountered on a trip to Beckwith on July 14, 1827, on typical area roads: "The first 12 miles we got along very well. But the swamp at McLellan's was very bad, and we got through with difficulty by driving our horses before us. This swamp was only half a mile, but the long swamp, a little farther on, was a mile across, and worse to pass. We were told however that at a particular place it might be passed, but after making the attempt, and nearly losing our horses, we were forced to turn back and leave them at the next farm house. We then proceeded on foot and waded the swamp. The heat was excessive, and the mosquitoes annoyed us exceedingly."  (Rev. William Bell Diaries, Volume 2; pg 105).

The Tay River was no better for transportation, though it, as well, suffered from flooding and obstruction by rocks and debris, as well as having very unpredictable patterns, untenable rapids, and low water levels through the summer.

In a statement defending his later plans to build a dam across the Tay, Port Elmsley mill-owner (and ostensible founder) Alexander Weatherhead described the pre-canal state of the Tay as a means of transport. The river in its natural state runs about the distance of a mile and a half a very strong rapid with twelve or fourteen inches depth of water, which is only in the month of April. The rapid is such that it is impossible to propel the lightest craft, even a bark canoe, in any way against it.

The average depth of water from the May 15th to June 1st through the season is from four to six inches.  The usual method of ascending or descending the river the above distance (which is rather unusual) is by discharging the burthen and towing or, I may say, lifting the craft along."  (H.R. Morgan "The First Tay Canal"; pg. 3-4).

When plans were being drawn up for the Rideau Canal, which began construction in 1826, it gave the citizens of the Tay Watershed notions of a canal branch of their own to finally bring a proper avenue of communication by water to the area. Colonel By (head supervisor and engineer of the Rideau Canal) was given prerogative to extend the canal to render the Tay and Goodwood (later Jock) rivers navigable. This was not a completely new idea - Mr. William Morris, a business owner and politician in Perth, had gathered together a meeting in 1824 to discuss rendering the Tay and Rideau rivers navigable. However, when construction eventually did begin on the Rideau Canal, no plans were made for the improvement of the Tay; and so, William Morris and others decided to take matters into their own hands.
(Larry Turner "The First Tay Canal in the Rideau Corridor, 1830-1850"; pg. 10-11).