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The Wrights
Philemon Wright
Philemon Wright, Lumber Baron

Philemon Wright and the group of settlers who accompanied him to Hull Township in 1800 intended to farm. Like early colonists in many parts of North America they believed that once the trees were removed the land would prove to be excellent for farming. Such hopes were unduly optimistic. Crop yields, satisfactory on freshly cleared fields, soon declined as essential soil nutrients were depleted. Wright surveyed the township into lots and came upon the edge of the Canadian Shield in the third range from the Ottawa River. With this discovery, he acknowledged the limitations of the area to which he had come with high hopes. Although farming resources were limited, timber was abundant and it was this latter resource which soon became the economic mainstay of the new settlement.

In the Gatineau Valley the economic potential of the pineries was quickly exploited. In 1806, the Wrights took the first raft of squared timber from the mouth of the Gatineau River down the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers to market in Québec City. From this outset, the enterprise grew rapidly and other lumber merchants were soon showing interest in the Gatineau resources. By the 1830s, lumbering had spread throughout the Gatineau Valley, although between 1832 and 1843, the “Gatineau Privilege” controlled all forest operations in this area.

The Gatineau Privilege

Abigail Wright
The greatness behind the man, Abigail Wright

The “Gatineau Privilege” established definite limits and cut quotas for each of several timber merchants. The purpose of the arrangement, granted by the Crown Timber Office, was to prevent trouble among the various contenders for Gatineau resources. Ruggles Wright, Tiberius Wright, Christopher Columbus Wright, Peter Aylen, and Thomas McGoey were each allowed to take 2,000 sticks of red pine per year from the Gatineau, while George Hamilton and C. A. Low, Hawkesbury sawmill partners, were allowed 12,000 saw logs a year (changed in 1835 to 14,000 saw logs and 2,000 red pine sticks) for each partner.

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