Historic Chaffey's Lock National Historic Site of Canada Part of the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site (Print this page and use it as your guide)
click on map for a larger version
Bird's Eye View of Chaffey's Lock
The numbers on the map above relate directly to the numbered descriptions of the site described below. For further information ask at the Museum, open during
July and August.
Throughout the 1800s Chaffey’s witnessed a continuous flow of steamships and barges that carried colonist, wood products, and minerals from South Shield mining. Cordwood for the steamers, cheese from the ice house and grain were loaded from warehouses beside where the present lockmaster’s office is located. The locks operated 24 hours per day 7 days a week. After 1900, the timber was gone and south shield mining was no longer profitable and shipping declined. Fortunately bass fishermen had discovered the teeming lakes. By the 1930s, over 40 guides operated from the Opinicon and Simmons Lodges. A new era of tourism began to develop.
Welcome to Historic Chaffey’s Lock
The hamlet of Chaffey’s Lock is nestled on a beautiful isthmus of land lying between Indian Lake and Opinicon Lake. In 1822, Samuel Chaffey and his wife Mary Ann built a Grist Mill, Saw Mill, Fulling and Carding and distillery on the rapids between the two lakes. When the Rideau Canal Construction began in 1828, the mills and Samuel’s dam had to be removed. Samuel never saw their removal as he had died of malaria the summer before.
John Haggart and John Sheriff were the contractors hired by Lieut. Colonel John By for the building of the Chaffey site. The lock and by-wash were completed by 1831. The first lockmaster was William Fleming, who had served as a corporal in the 7th Company of the Royal Sappers and Miners during the canal’s construction.
The canal and locks were operated by the British Ordnance Department until 1853, at which time they were turned over to the Government of the Canadas. The only time that military troops garrisoned at the Lock Station was during the 1837 Rebellion of Upper Canada. The canal, built for military purposes, only saw soldiers when they changed British Garrison Regiments and they passed through to their postings at Kingston or Niagara.
The Lockmaster and his staff were the only inhabitants of Chaffey’s until 1870. In 1872, John Chaffey, nephew of the original founder, opened a grist mill and woolen mill on the Opinicon Lake side of the by-wash. Part of the house near the mill, Fernbrae, was built as the miller’s residence. During the first years of the mills operation no bridge existed for the farmers to take their grain to mill. It was ferried across until a swing bridge was built in 1884. Although the original Chaffey’s Mills had a bridge, it was too low to pass vessels and Col. By had it removed.
The hamlet became a fishing centre prior to 1900 when tent camps opened in two location near the locks. In 1899, William Henry Fleming, the third Lockmaster, bought property from the Crown and built what is the centre portion of the Opinicon Hotel. A year later, William Laishley purchased the house and added a wing calling it the Idylwild. In 1902, it boasted accommodation for 40 guests with a large dining room and cool verandahs. In 1904, Laishley sold out to a group principally from Youngstown, Ohio who called it the Opinicon Club. The hotel operated as a private club until 1921, when it was taken over by William Phillips a Pennsylvanian. It has remained with his descendants since then. The resort period continued to grow with Simmons’ Lodge which once boasted a fine dining room and Dorothy’s Lodge. From the early 1900s, the Alford’s boat building business grew into Alford’s Marina now Browns. An Alford’s mechanic opened Franklin Marina. The Community Hall, built by the Chaffey’s Women’s Institute in 1932, was a centennial project on the canals 100th birthday.
Until the Canadian Northern Rail Road came through Chaffey’s in 1912, the principle way for the fishermen and tourist to arrive was by the numerous passenger vessels such as the Rideau King and the Rideau Queen.
There were a few cottages built in the early 1900s, but the cottage era really began after 1950. After 1950, a setting of trees and lakes became a source of relaxation and rest from the stresses of city life. To catch the large mouth bass that Chaffey’s had become famous for and to have a shore dinner built the hamlet into what it is today.
The map on the reverse side with it’s numbered sites are described here: Why not take the tour and see some of Chaffey’s of old.
1. Lockmaster’s House Museum
Built in 1844 as a substitute for a blockhouse to defend the canal against American-based raiders, the Lockmaster’s house was originally a one story sandstone structure. It had a tin roof, two stone porches and gun slits to provide defense in case of an attack.
The house was occupied continuously from 1844 to 1967, by only 5 lockmaster’s. In 1894, it was renovated and a clapboard second story and a kitchen addition were added.
When William Henry Fleming was lockmaster the house had the only phone in Chaffey’s and also housed the local Post Office.
The house remained vacant during the 1970s and was renovated to become a museum as part of the 150th Anniversary Projects in 1982.
The museum is operated by the Chaffey’s Lock & Area Heritage Society on donations by it’s members and visitors.
2. Marion Dunn Heritage Trail
The trail follows the route of the original road built to bring to the lock the stones from the Halladay Quarry at Elgin. The path goes from the old canalmen’s house to the Chaffey Grave Yard. The route passes among many old locus, black cherry, butternut and maple trees that have grown since Col. By had all of the land cleared. This was to prevent malaria which was thought to have been caused by bad air. The remains of one of Samuel Chaffey’s buildings, the lime kiln and blacksmith shop are located on this road.
The original Dunn Farm was located along Indian Lake Road and was developed in the 1970s into what was then the Two Doctors Sub-division. Marion Dunn, a grand daughter of the original settler wanted to see some of Chaffey’s Heritage Protected and gave the Chaffey’s Lock & Area Heritage Society funds for this trail and its upkeep.
3. Grave Yard & Memory Wall
The first internment in the Chaffey Cemetery was Joseph Poole, father of Mary Ann Chaffey. Samuel Chaffey, who died of malaria in 1827 is buried here as was Mary Ann who died in 1885. In August of 1828, malaria hit the construction workers at Chaffey’s and 11 labourers were quickly buried in the Chaffey Cemetery. The graves of 79 canal labourers, many who were Irish immigrants, died over the four year construction period and lie beneath the rows of unmarked stones. A few burials occurred during the 20th Century among who are the 2 Simmons Brothers. Both are descendants of James Simmons who was killed in a rock cut blast while building the canal.
The Memory Wall, built of lock stones, contain plaques that provide a social history of Chaffey’s in the 20th Century. Names of former residents and summer tourists who have helped shape the area are preserved with insights as to why they were here.
4. The Locks and By-wash
The canal, lock and by-wash at Chaffey’s were built over a four year period from 1828 to 1831 at a cost of just over £4000. The contractor, John Haggart, a Scotsman, employed between 70 and 100 men many with wives and children who lived in shanties along the canal. Trees in the area of the locks were all cut and cleared 2 to 300 meters in width on both sides of the canal to Indian Lake. The complete Chaffey Milling complex had to be dismantled and the old river bed widened. The sandstone blocks for the lock were quarried just east of Elgin and hauled to the site on wooden sleds called stone boats.
5. Cataraqui Trail
The trail passes over the canal on the old bed of the Canadian Northern Railway.