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The William Fairbairn House: A Witness to Change Along the Gatineau
Gatineau Valley Historical Society
Chelsea , Québec


   The rippling, tumultuous
Gatineau River, running
through the Gatineau Valley,
served for centuries as an
important traveling route for
First Nations people. In the
early 1800s, its shores also
drew European pioneers, such
as Scottish millwright
William Fairbairn, attracted

by the region’s beauty and
promise. Fairbairn built a
house with a grist mill
there, later selling the mill
to David Maclaren and his
family who arrived in the
1840s. Maclaren then built
several other mills, turning
the area into an important
industrial complex.

   The Maclarens went on to
become major actors in a
newly booming lumber industry
that was pulling in American,
Irish, Scottish and French
Canadian settlers throughout
the nineteenth century.
Communities began to spring
up as the Gatineau River
inspired even more major

enterprise with the
construction of dams and
powerhouses in the 1920s. As
well, visitors began arriving
from the nation’s capital to
take in the area’s natural
splendour, which led to the
development of recreational
facilities and tourism.
   William Fairbairn’s house

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