Located 20 km southeast in rural Ottawa, Carlsbad Springs was named in 1906 after the famous health spa in the Czech Republic, now called Karlovy Vary. In the 1860s, the site was known as Cathartic because of the healing qualities of the waters.
Cathartic was part of lot 3 in the seventh concession of the Ottawa Front. It was situated on the Russell road, and a short distance to the east was the line separating Gloucester Township from Cumberland Township. The mineral springs at Russell Road and Bear Brook supported a resort spa community from the mid 19th to the mid 20th century. Guests came “to take the waters” for ailments such as rheumatism, nervousness, and digestive disorders. Local hotels supplemented spa therapy with a variety of social and recreational activities.
Eastman’ Springs: The village was known as “Cathartic” (1864 land survey) but locally the sector was known as Eastman’s Springs. The site of the village would have been bought in 1846 by C Billings. The Russell Road was probably an Indian path at that time.
1849: John Forsythe is the first settler in the region (lot 10, concession 7)
1850: construction of the first school.
1854: construction of a saw mill by Judge Musgrove.
1860: construction of a general store and a post office directed by M. Boyd. At this time Eastman’s Springs became very popular for its sources.
Before 1870: two hotels, two stores, a school, a tannery, a cheese dairy, a blacksmith, an office of telegraph and a “carriage shop “.
1870: construction of hotel of 17 beds, built by the Dominion Springs Company.
1873: starting from this date, a priest came to celebrate the mass, a father oblat of the St-Joseph parish of Ottawa.
1876: a fire destroys the first hotel.
1881: May 16th, blessing of the 1st St-Laurent chapel by Mgr Thomas Duhamel, this chapel is located on the Russell near the Halls Rd section. Cost of $550 for the land and the construction.
1883: Canada Atlantic (C.N.) arrives in Eastman’ Springs.
1887: The Christian community becomes the St-Laurent Mission attached to the parish of Billing’s Bridge, the mass is celebrated twice per month.
1891: The residents decides to build a new chapel because the current one is to cold.
1892: Another hotel is built: the Johnson family
1895: during the summer, the current church is build (on the Eighth line Rd) at the cost of $5000, the current sacristy was used as the presbytery.
1896: February 17, benediction of the church by Monseigneur J O Routhier v.g., there are two schools at this time: a separate school and the other public.
1902: The name becomes Carlsbad Springs in honor of famous ” the spa ” in Czechoslovakia, The visitors comes to drink the water of the sources and to take baths. We can find one of the largest dancer floors in the area of Ottawa and the first bowling place. 1905: the rail station is destroyed by fire, the company Grand Trunk replaces. 1910: the St-Laurent mission becomes Paroise St-Laurent, first priest is P. Bélanger. 1912: construction of the current presbytery. The presbytery had been sold in the 1990’s and is now a private house.
1882: 26 French families 4 Irish families 6 Scottish families
1891: 64 French families 11 Irish families 3 Scottish families
1895: 76 French families 16 Irish families
1898: 96 French and Irish families 57 pupils at the catholic school and 48 pupils at the public school
Second Schoolhouse, S.S. No. 18 Gloucester, circa 1908 – Courtesy of the Gloucester Historical Society
First Schoolhouse, 1868 – Courtesy of the Gloucester Historical Society
James Forsythe donated land for the first school on the Russell Road at Carlsbad Springs at the end of the 19th century. A second school was built 150 feet east around 1910. Mary Boyd’s grandfather, Charles Frederick Cameron, went to the first school, and her parents, Barclay Boyd (seated first on right) and Melba C. Cameron (back row fourth from right), went to the second school. The schoolhouse was torn down in the 1960s.
In 1868 a group of seven business men from Ottawa formed joint stock company called the “Dominion Stock Compamy” .
They bought 40 acres of land including the “spring grounds” from Sam Eastman. They built a substantial hotel called the Dominion House. They had the mineral grounds improved, a pump house built, and kiosks were added over five of the Springs and a foot bridge was added from the spring grounds over the Bearbrook creek.
Also built was a small steeple chase course, which of course attracted the sporting crowd from Ottawa.
They operated a stage coach line out the Russell Road from Ottawa to the Springs during the summer months. At that time the only mode of travel was by horseback, stage coach or buggy etc. (The bridge in the background runs Russell Road over Bearbrook Creek)
The names of the men who started this venture were:
Mr. Chauncy Bangs a future Mayor of Ottawa, Mr. Bangs owned the first cottage at the “Springs”.
Mr. Borbridge who owned a leather and harness shop in Ottawa.
Mr. Birkett of the “Birkett Hardware” store in Ottawa.
Mr. Henry Bate who owned a large wine business and later a grocery store.
(Mr. Bate would later become Sir Henry Bate.)
Mr. Thomas Birkett who owned the Birkett Hardware store.
And a Mr. Basset and a Mr. Barrett.
By coincidence all their names started with the letter “B”.
The “Dominion House” operated quite successfully for a number of years until it was destroyed by fire.
The photograph also shows a metal fountain that could be set on fire at night because the amount of gas that was produced with the water at the site.
Unlike later hotels built at this location, this hotel did serve liquor.
It is rumoured that Sir John A. MacDonald stayed at this hotel.
Cathartic map 1879
In 1946, Carlsbad Springs counted two catholic schools: St-Laurent and Ste-Cecile. At this time, only the St-Laurent school still exists. St-Cecile became the community center, located on the Ninth line Road. The population in 1984 was approximately 1400 people (560 homes) (64 square km). In 1974, the province of Ontario (Ontario Housing and the NCC) launched a project of “satellite city” where is located Carlsbad Springs. This project could not be carried out because of the soft ground and the rock layer being to deep. In 2004, Carlsbad Springs counts around 1900 residents and 660 homes. Since the installation of “the trickle water system” in 1997, Carlsbad Springs is now connected on the water network of the City of Ottawa. Carlsbad Springs was a rural sector of the of city of Gloucester; since the amalgamation in 2000 of the 12 municipalities of the region formerly knows as Ottawa-Carleton, Carlsbad Springs is now part of the City of Ottawa.
(below content is a section from M. Collins book – unedited version from the author:)
In the days of the pioneers, there was a great swamp, about two miles north of Carlsbad Springs, known as the Mer Bleue or the bog. It was about nine miles long and three miles wide, and was covered by a stunted growth of tamarack and spruce trees [Collins 2003]. In the early 1880s, the Canada Atlantic Railway Company drained part of the Mer Bleue for its own purposes, and the result was a stretch of fine pasture land. Some pioneers chose to settle in this area. There was also a marsh running along the whole south side of Carlsbad Springs, and about two miles east of the village was a swamp that extended for about two miles [Bell 1991, Collins 2003]. A creek named Bear Brook runs through Carlsbad Springs. It is a tributary of the South Nation river, which flows into the Ottawa river. It was formerly a much larger stream than it is now, and the pioneers used it for transportation. The early settlement marked the end of navigation on the Bear Brook, and travellers coming from the east would secure their boat at the edge of the brook, and use the Russell road to get to Bytown. In the heyday of the lumber trade, logs could be floated upstream towards Bytown or downstream towards Quebec City [Boyd 2009]. Originally, the Russell road may have followed an Indian trail [Ashley 1979]. It started just east of Cummings Bridge, ran south from the Montreal road along the Rideau river, and turned southeast a short distance past Hurdman’s Bridge, continuing across Gloucester Township. Very early on, the Russell road ended at Forsythe’s place in the settlement that became Carlsbad Springs [Collins 2003], but eventually it continued through Russell Township all the way to the St. Lawrence river [IHACC 1879].In 1849, James Forsythe, a native of Scotland, bought land from the Canada Company about two miles west of the springs, and built the first house in the settlement [Collins 2003]. The land which Forsythe bought was lot 10 in the seventh concession [Ashley 1979]. Two other early settlers were Peter Childs and James Tierney. Tierney was a native of Tipperary, Ireland. For a while, the Forsythe, Childs and Tierney families had the entire settlement to themselves, and then William Hall arrived from the north of Ireland. Other newcomers began settling along the Russell road west of the mineral springs. One of them was David Boyd, who bought his land in 1852. The first French Canadian to settle in the area was Jacques Lacharité. He bought his land from the Crown in 1856, and built a log house on it [Collins 2003]. On 1 September 1864, Charles Billings sold lot 3 in the seventh concession to Daniel Eastman. There was a boiling spring by the Bear Brook on lot 3, and soon Fred Way was building a rude cottage on the bank of the brook opposite the boiling spring. On 25 October 1864, H.O. Hood, a provincial land surveyor, drew a plan for a village called Cathartic, situated on the north half of lot 3. The village included some twenty-five lots of different sizes [Collins 2003]. In 1867, Eastman built a hotel and stables beside the brook on the north side of the Russell road. From his hotel, Eastman ran a stage to Ottawa. Soon the settlement was being called Eastman’s Springs instead of Cathartic [Collins 2003, Rayburn 1997]. It became the most famous of the early stopping places in the region. Customers were offered hot mineral baths in a wooden shed built over the boiling spring near the banks of the Bear Brook. In 1870, Eastman sold forty acres of his land to the Dominion Springs Company, and built a second stopping place west of his old location. It was of superior construction, with three entrances and seventeen beds. This place was closed down in 1892, seven years after Eastman’s death. As for the Dominion Springs Company, it built a fine summer hotel and stables, with a stage to Ottawa, a steeplechase course and water from the springs pumped into the hotel for baths. In 1876, a disastrous fire swept the buildings of the Dominion Springs Company out of existence. About one year later, forty acres of land were sold by a Mr. Borbridge, one of the chief shareholders of the Dominion Springs Company, to James Boyd, who built a fine brick house and store [Ashley 1979, Collins 2003, Rayburn 1997].Initially, Protestants could attend church services in Taylorville or Hawthorne. In 1867, they established a place of worship in the school house near the Forsythe home. Presbyterians and Methodists worshipped in the old school, and there were other Protestants who attended services in Farmer’s Corners a few miles up the Church road. In the summer of 1888, the Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists built a Union Church on the east side of Way street, about fifty yards from the Russell road [Collins 2003]. A Catholic chapel was built of logs where the Church road meets the western border of Cumberland Township, but the bishop found this location inadequate, and the chapel was moved to an eight-acre site that belonged to a man named Kelly, just west of the spot where the railway later crossed the Russell road. The church was dedicated to St. Laurent in 1880, and blessed by archbishop Duhamel on 15 May 1881. Initially, the parish was a mission [Collins 2003, Lavergne 1986]. In the summer of 1895, while Father Myrand was parish priest, a new church was built. It was a large frame structure, erected on a fine blue limestone foundation that stood fully four feet above the ground, on land donated by a man named Warnock. The church was consecrated on 17 February 1896. Father Myrand served the parish for eight years [Collins 2003, Legros 1949]. The first school was opened on a site purchased from James Forsythe on 11 February 1864. It was a log structure, and the first teacher was Agnes McMillan. This was public school section #18 (Gloucester), and it was known as Forsythe’s school. In 1875, a school was built not far away in Cumberland Township, on land obtained from William Cameron. This was public school section #12 (Cumberland), and was known as McLaughlin’s school; its first teacher was Margaret Hume. Around 1887, a new school was built to replace Forsythe’s school. It was a frame building, located east of the old school. Then, in the summer of 1897, a new school was built to replace McLaughlin’s school. It was erected on the same site as the old one [Collins 2003]. The first post office, opened on 1 June 1872, was named Eastman’s Springs after Daniel H. Eastman, its first postmaster, who held the position until his death, which occurred in 1885. R. J. Kyle took over from 1886 to 1889, and was replaced by James Boyd, who was postmaster from 15 January 1890 to 20 September 1906. The change of name to Carlsbad Springs occurred on 1 June 1906 [Carter 1984, ArchiviaNet]. In March of 1879, J.R. Booth launched the largest project of his life up to that time, namely the building of the Canada Atlantic Railway. He wanted to deliver his lumber to markets in the American Northeast [Trinnell 1998]. By July of 1882, regular passenger service began between Coteau Junction, 33 miles west of Montreal, and Casselman in Cambridge Township, east of Ottawa. West of Casselman, the railway passed through six miles of dense forest to Eastman’s Springs, crossed the Mer Bleue, and reached Ottawa. The 78 miles of track were laid by Booth and associates using private funds, and the grades and curves of the well-ballasted roadbed were so easy and gentle that the line was “practically straight throughout.” The first passenger train arrived in Ottawa on 13 September 1882 [Bell 1991]. The first station out of Ottawa on the Canada Atlantic Railway, later the Grand Trunk, was Carlsbad Springs. The train passed about 200 yards south of Eastman’s Hotel. In September of 1906, the train station was destroyed by fire. A new station was built during the following year [Collins 2003]. The Grand Trunk erected a luxurious new building, with a siding that was one mile long to accommodate the number of visitors [Ashley 1979, Walker 1968]. In 1891, interest in the area as a summer resort began to revive. In the spring of that year, James Boyd put up a fine hotel beside his brick house and store. There was slow but steady progress throughout the decade. In 1895, the Johnson family opened another health hotel, with stabling for thirty horses, east of Boyd’s place across the bridge. There were two springs in front of the Johnson building [Ashley 1979]. Carlsbad Springs was again visited by fire on the night of 14 October 1908, which was a Wednesday. Boyd’s hotel was completely destroyed. The fire was discovered around 11 o’clock on Wednesday evening, Boyd being away at the time, with only his wife at the hotel with their young son. They escaped from the building unhurt, but there was no equipment available to quench the flames, so the once handsome structure was reduced to charred remains [The Citizen, Oct. 17, 1908, page 5]. A much larger health spa and hotel was erected in 1909 by Thomas Boyd, with accommodation for 175 guests. It was open during the summer months, and suitable provision was made for visitors to obtain hot sulphur baths and to drink the waters from the various springs, which were enclosed in small summer houses [Elworthy 1918]. Eventually, there were three other hotels owned by the Johnson, Tenenbaum and Epstein families, and they also offered mineral baths and drinking water to health-minded guests. The popularity of Carlsbad Springs as a summer health and recreation centre reached a high point in the 1920s, attracting a large clientele from Ottawa as well as Montreal. Fire destroyed the Tenenbaum and Epstein hotels in 1948, and they were never rebuilt. The Johnson hotel closed in the early 1960s, and the Boyd family closed its health spa resort in 1968 [Ashley 1979, Wackley 2000].
A video produced in 1994 about the history of the St-Laurent Cemetary in Carlsbad Springs. Interview with M. Wilfrid Desjardins, the former caretaker of the cemetary for more than 25 years.