Introduction

The Rideau Canal could not have been built without the hundreds of labourers who poured into Bytown during its construction, many of whom were Irish, Scottish, and English immigrants lured by the promise of land and steady work. While some made the voyage with the help of government-assisted programs, others emigrated out of sheer desperation to escape the squalor of their native countries. As Bytown’s population swelled with each wave of immigration, social class, kinship, and economic circumstances influenced the settlement patterns of its new arrivals. The canal played a clear role in these settlement patterns as well, effectively dividing Bytown into Upper Town, home to Bytown’s wealthier Scottish and English immigrants, and Lower Town, home to its poorer Irish and French-Canadian population. With each group’s perceived upper- and lower-class status reinforced by this geographic divide, their respective cultural traditions and religious affiliations became an ongoing source of tension.

Recruitment»