Pontiac (Quebec)

The Pontiac region is in the Outaouais region of the province of Quebec, in Canada. It should not be confused with the Pontiac municipality, which groups the town of Luskville and Quyon. Pontiac MRC (or simply the Pontiac region) is a larger entity which starts west of Quyon to the east of Chapeau or the Quebec border with Ontario.

Pontiac as seen from the Gatineau Hills

. . . Pontiac (Quebec) . . .

  • Bryson
  • Campbell’s Bay
  • Chapeau
  • Clarendon
  • Davidson
  • Fort-Coulonge
  • Île-Du-Grand-Calumet
  • Ladysmith
  • Luskville
  • Mansfield-et-Pontefract
  • Otter Lake
  • Portage-Du-Fort
  • Quyon
  • Rapide-des-Johachims
  • Shawville
  • Sheenboro
  • Waltham

The area is part of the historical Anishinabegs (the Algonquins) territory, which extended all along the Ottawa River, and as far up as Deep River. Archeological excavations, suggest a native occupation of the territory beginning between 4,000 and 2,000 BC. They were at the centre of a vast trade network across Northeast America. Living mainly from fishing, these people lived semi-permanently on certain sites, which includes cemeteries. Around 500 AD, the Pointe-Péninsule groups culture was present in the region. These groups were organized around hunting and they made tools of stone. These groups formed Algonquin bands around 1,000 BCE.

At the arrival of the Europeans, the Algonquins controlled the Ottawa River, which they called the Kitchisippi (meaning great river), one of the most important commercial waterways of North America. However, around 1650, decimated by the war with the Iroquois and by disease, the Algonquins lose commercial control of the river. The Outaouais people (also called Ottawas) became the main intermediaries in the fur trades between the French and other native groups further West.

Around 1670, in turn the Outaouais people lost their role as intermediaries, as the European trappers went further up the river to collect furs. Pontiac, born between 1712 and 1725, was the most famous Outaouais leader He led the Outaouais in the war of the Outaouais Strait, and the rebellion against the English during the War of Conquest. Although his name was given to the municipality, it is unlikely that he travelled through here.

At the end of the 18th century the first Europeans settled on the banks of its headwaters. In 1800, Philemon Wright, an American from the City of Woburn in Massachusetts, moved to the Portages de la Chaudière along with four families related to him. He opened numerous construction sites along various rivers in the region, where he exploited forests of red and white pines. These trees were used for the masts of ships in the British fleet.

Already the site of the Sainte-Marie Mission, the village of Quyon was founded in 1848 by John Egan, a lumber baron of the Ottawa Valley and mayor of Aylmer from 1847 to 1855. It derived its name from the Quyon River, a tributary of the Ottawa River that was used by Egan for log-driving. “Quio” was derived from the Algonquin word kweia (pronounced “quia”), meaning “smaller river” or “sandy bottom river”.

Some of the earliest English settlers were Scottish United Empire Loyalists, who were given free land in 1783 by the English Crown to thank them for their loyalty during the American Revolution. The area was heavily settled by Irish immigrants during the mid-19th century after the Great Famine forced many to emigrate for their survival. The town was incorporated on January 1, 1875, and its spelling was changed to “Quyon” to provide a compromise pronunciation equally acceptable to French- and English-speaking residents. It experienced a period of prosperity because of the railway built by the Union Forwarding Company.

Quyon was amalgamated with the neighbouring townships of North Onslow, South Onslow, and Eardley into the municipality of Pontiac in 1975.

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