Fifty years ago, Mrs. W. J. Murray set out to write a brief history of Bristol Township for the then Mayor Nelson McLellan. Her observations about the people, history, and sense of community can still be found in the heart of Bristol today.
Over 200 years ago, the first settlers to arrive to the area were from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Later, Germans, Poles, and French joined the mix of pioneers. Many made the long over- land trek, coming from the east after disembarking ships at Montreal.
Bristol Township was named after Bristol, England by the surveyors at the time and later incorporated by Proclamation on December 12, 1834.
Mrs. W. J. Murray, June 1943, Bristol Township
“A family arrived in Montreal from England. They had only come a half day’s journey towards Bristol when the father noticed that his tea kettle was missing. Knowing it could not be easily replaced, he decided to go back for it, telling his family, which consisted of his wife and three children, to wait for him. When he returned with his kettle they continued their journey, but he became overheated and contracted pneumonia. Sadly, the man died a few days later after reaching Bristol.”
Mrs. W. J. Murray, June 1943, Bristol Township.
The terrain was tough and the first homes were hewn out of logs from the vast stands of white pine, spruce, balsam, cedar, and other hard woods. Suitable land had to be cleared quickly as trees were felled, which often putting the pioneers in danger of being struck by falling trees or setting their valuable supplies and fragile homes ablaze. Later, agricultural, forestry, aquatic, and mining aspects of the area were developed, allowing a diverse economy to begin and giving an economic foothold to the fledgling population.
The earliest mode of transportation was by boats that came up the Ottawa River to the foot of Chats Falls. The first early steam boats, the Lady Colborne and the George Buchanan, operated throughout the 1830's, from Lac Deschenes to Lac des Chats. During this period, one of the first mills was started by a Mr. Stewart who came over from Scotland in 1837.
“Prior to the mills, the women would card wool into rolls; then spin it into yarn and knit socks and underwear for the men of the family.”
Mrs. W.J. Murray, June 1943, Bristol Township.
The Bristol area was the home to the first Horse Drawn Railway in Canada which operated out of Pontiac Bay until 1886. The Union Forwarding Company operated the horse drawn railway from Pontiac Village to Union Village above Chats Falls. The Horse Railway was made up of 18 foot-long cars that had roofs to protect the passengers. Also, the operators received many complaints from passengers most because there were no windows or screens to keep out the mosquitoes and black flies!
Iron ore was first mined in 1872 and continued until 1894. In 1956, Hilton Mines constructed one of the first ore- pelletizing plants in Canada. The mine was closed in 1976, but you can still see the gigantic pit miles away from both sides of the Ottawa River as you approach the municipality.
The NAME “BRISTOL”
Bristol derives its name from an industrious port city of the same name in the county of Gloucestershire, England located in the southwest. This industrial and commercial centre in England was the site of John Cabot’s second expedition in 1497 and was also the place where the Society of Merchant Venturers was incorporated in 1552.
The BRISTOL COAT of ARMS
On October 6, 1989, the coat of arms of the Municipality of Bristol was presented to the community by the Wyman Women’s Institute.
It was designed by Institute members and painted by Dale Shutt of Calumet Island.
The coat of arms incorporates symbols of significance to our community, province, and country.
Crown: This is a symbol of our twinning with the city of Bristol, England. It also shows our roots in the British Isles and Europe, most of the original settlers having come from Scotland, Ireland, and France.
Flags: The crossed flags indicate our loyalty to our country and our province.
Beaver: This is one of our country’s symbols, and is very common to our area.
Deer: The two deer, one on either side of the shield, depict an animal that is also quite numerous in our community.
Shield: This is designed to represent Bristol from south to north. It shows first the Ottawa River, then the farming lands, then the forests at the base of the mountains, and finally the mountains themselves.
Fleur de Lys: The coat of arms is completed by our provincial floral emblem, the fleur de lys.