Situated approximately 57km northwest of Ottawa there is a nondescript piece of property near Chats Falls on the Ottawa River. It is part of the oldest known European settlement in the Ottawa Valley and includes the ruins of a centuries old Hudson’s Bay Trading Post.
Before Philomen Wright arrived in 1800 from Massachusetts to settle the National Capital Region in Hull, there was another visitor that settled in the wilds of the Ottawa River Valley. An area traversed by nomadic tribes of the First Nations for thousands of years to transport goods and copper from Lake Superior east along the Ottawa River, or “Great River” as it was known then, this parcel of land was an important strategic and cultural piece of property. Samuel Champlain would have passed by this property in the early 1600’s but it wouldn’t be until 1786 that Joseph Mondion would decide to build a permanent residence here. Fourteen years prior to Philomen Wright setting up shop in Hull, Mondion arrived in 1786 on what is now called Mondion Point, or “Indian Point”.
Known to be a major transit route for both First Nations tribes and French voyageurs and “coureur des bois”, Mondion built what is now known to be the first permanent structure in the Ottawa Valley when he built his home there in 1786. A wise entrepreneur, Mondion raised cattle and hogs and sold meat to the hungry fur traders passing by and portaging Chats Falls in the late 18th century. After the British took control of the previously French occupied lands of New France in 1763, Mondion operated his little trading empire on the Ottawa River until he was apparently shut down for selling illegal whisky to those en route along the river. Packing up shop in 1800, he sold his piece of property to a trading company from Montreal: Forsyth, Richardson and Company. In 1804 the Northwest Trading Company took over the property, a valuable piece of land known to be a strategic fur trading point along the Ottawa River.
The North West Company of Montreal and Hudson’s Bay Company were forcibly merged in 1821 by order of the British government in an effort to end the often-violent competition between the two trading companies and the piece of land became an official Hudson’s Bay trading post. This once remote outpost consisted of log cabin structures and wooden outbuildings that would contain the inventory needed to trade with natives, such as guns, blankets, iron tools, and clothing.
In 1837 the trading post was abandoned since most of the native population had been displaced and the fur trade was coming to an end with lumber being the new commodity along the Ottawa River. The trading post log cabins fell into ruin and the land was transformed into farmland until it became cottage country, of which it remains today.
In an effort to locate this once prosperous 200 year old Hudson’s Bay Trading Post I referred to an 1805 map by the Northwest Trading Company that outlined where the original structures would have been. Transposing that map on a current aerial view map indicated where any ruins may lie today.
Of course the original plot of land settled by Mondion and used by the Hudson’s Bay Company has been subdivided into many lots since they departed, but a significant parcel of waterfront land that was once owned by Mondion and the Hudson’s Bay Company is still undeveloped. Nearby, off the main road it was also discovered that some overgrown stone foundations remain, likely those of the original 1786 Mondion house and the 1800’s trading post. The crumbling stones of this once bustling fur trading dynasty now sit quietly forgotten in the bushes.
I find it seriously disheartening that such an important piece of Ottawa Valley history, if not Canadian history remains forgotten. This is certainly an important part of our national history that I think should be considered for recognition by the federal or provincial government. Who knows what important historical artifacts lie beneath the surface of this land. With the Hudson’s Bay Company recently sold to an American private equity firm, these ruins of the old HBC trading post, whoever they belong to, should be preserved and recognized for their cultural and historical value to this country.
Andrew King, October 2019
Wikipedia: Hudson’s Bay Company
The Upper Ottawa Valley by Clyde Kennedy, 1970.
Great find. I’m happy that you’re so active in preserving the history of our region.
Thanks for following along!
thanks for the awareness
Always fun to explore some history…its like travelling through time minus a DeLorean.
Perhaps we can get a several people to buy it together. The link is broken but it is still up for sale.
Is this parcel of land still available? Nothing should be built on the site until full archeological survey is done at the very least. Perhaps the HBC post could be rebuilt instead of condos or cottages. I’m very interested. email@example.com
As far as I know the land is still available.
I just came across this website by way of a tweet from the Ottawa Riverkeeper. Great website. Lots of interesting information. I can add a little bit about the history of Mondion Point. I cannot immediately cite a reference but I have come across information in the past where Mondion may have been Metis.
From at least 1808 to 1812, the property was operated as both a farm and trading post by a Mr. Cameron, possibly still under the ownership of the Northwest Company or Forsyth Richardson. In February of 1812, John McNab (Sr.) visited Mr. Cameron enroute from Moose Fort to Montreal, New York and London. McNab described the farmstead as consisting of a house, a large barn and a yard for cattle, hogs and poultry. The yard was surrounded by open sheds and railings. (HBC Archives B/135/a/102)
In 1812 the property, 1050 acres plus buildings and livestock, was purchased by John Hodgson for the sum of 22,000 livres. The Historical Atlas of Canada cites the conversion rate at 24 livre per Halifax pound. Hodgson had been in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company since 1774 at the age of 14, and had risen to the position Chief Factor at Albany on James Bay but had been fired in 1810 (coincidentally, McNab, who had been Chief Factor at York, was fired at the same time).
The Ottawa river was the trans-Canada highway of its time and visits to the Point are mentioned in a number of fur traders journals. In the book “Colin Robertson’s Letters” published by the Champlain Society for the Hudson’s Bay Record Society in 1934, Robertson, then in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company, noted visits to the site in 1815 and 1818 as he travelled up the Ottawa river. Robertson refers to Hodgson as “Mr. Hudson”, as he had chosen to become known. One wonders if this was perhaps an early case of trademark infringement where Hodgson attempted to trade off the reputation of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Hodgson may have occupied the site until 1823.
The Hudson’s Bay Company, as described in the book “John McLean’s Notes of a Twenty Five years Service in the Hudson’s Bay Territory” established a post at Chats Falls in 1822. But McLean describes it as being built on one of the islands in the middle of the falls, where the portage exists. Sometime after 1823, the Hudson’s Bay Company moved their post to this site. By that time there were an increasing number of other settlers in the area, including Charles Shirreff on the opposite side of the river who received a land grant in 1815.
This is fantastic information to add to the story….thanks for taking the time to write that down and send…much appreciated….I hope the area is someday properly researched and archeologically investigated by professionals that can later preserve what is there.
Hi Andrew, great story. Just a note about neighbouring lots: ranges 1-6 (some 12,000 acres) were owned by Philemon Wright and somewhere on those lots, he built a house and barns. The exact location of the house is apparently lost in history (something next for you to find?). He retired to this farm & died there in 1839. His son Ruggles dug a timber slide/canal right across Pontiac Bay from Indian Point. The timber slide(or remnants, at least) can still be found at the end of Chemin du Canal and can easily be seen on a Google satellite view of the area.
Thanks Rick, great to have more info. Cheers!
Further: Wright began purchasing his land in 1808.
We were fortunate to purchase this piece of land in 2013. Great part of history to will remain unchanged.
That’s so great to hear, Cheryl! Thanks for the note and let me know if you find anything interesting on the site. Enjoy the history around you….-AK