Since 2001 statistics were recorded, the population levels of L’Orignal and the adjacent rural Longueuil sector have remained fairly constant: new people move in, while others move on.
• Population as of 2014 – L’Orignal Ward: 2,038, Longueuil Ward: 1,425
• Municipal Status – both Wards are now part of Champlain Township, following the 1998 amalgamation of the municipalities of L’Orignal Village, Longueuil Township, the Township of West Hawkesbury and the Village of Vankleek Hill.
• Foundational milestones: settlement began around 1798; L’Orignal attained the status of Parish in 1836, and in 1876 was incorporated as a Village.
• Total square kilometres: for Champlain Township as a whole: 209.22 km2 which includes L’Orignal Village at 5.90 km2 and the rural Longueuil sector at 80.89 km2.
L’Orignal: worth stopping to discover!
To appreciate the unique charm of this heritage village, all it takes is a short “detour” off the main highway that bypasses L’Orignal. Waiting to be discovered is the rich history of this former Seigniory, which remains to this day, the headquarters of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell. L’Orignal, Ontario hugs the south side of the Ottawa River, affording magnificent views of the Lower Laurentians in neighbouring Québec. As the County Seat, L’Orignal is home to the historic Old Jail (operational from 1825 to 1998), now a heritage site hosting a variety of interpretive events and tours. Adjacent to the Jail is the oldest Court of Justice in Ontario – still serving its original function after all these years, while many period homes have preserved the architectural styles of yesteryear.
As well, a number of historic buildings have been given new life as part of Ontario’s judicial system.
Strategically located between Ottawa and Montreal, L’Orignal remains an oasis of peace and quiet for those who live here. Its marina is favoured by boaters travelling up and down the Ottawa, as well as by fishing enthusiasts. Also along the river is a camping ground, close to the municipal park, providing more recreational options for all. L’Orignal has also become a rendez-vous for cyclists travelling solo, on family outings or in groups.
Our heritage village has much to offer, so come and see for yourself!
Once upon a ... seigniory in Ontario
As a little Eastern Ontario village, L’Orignal’s history is quite unique in the province. The reason? It was once a Seigniory. In 1674, the East India Company granted a seigniory of about 23,000 acres to François Provost, the land in question being at Pointe à L’Orignac (now L’Orignal), along la Grande Rivière, as the Ottawa River (rivière des Outaouais) was then known.
Passed down from an heir to an heiress, the seigniory became the property of the de Longueuils, an old French family whose holdings included, among other parcels, the seigniories of Soulanges and of Nouvelle-Longueuil. However, the land acquired along the Ottawa River was at a distance from the family’s other seigniories along the St. Lawrence River, and this was a disincentive to settlement. Besides, the parcel’s proximity to the fur-trading route along the Ottawa caused the government to think twice about encouraging colonization, fearing that settlers would devote more of their efforts to the fur trade than to cutting trees and becoming farmers. The seigniory at Pointe-à-L’Orignac was offered for sale several times, both by Paul-Joseph Le Moyne, chevalier de Longueuil, and by his son Joseph-Dominique Emmanuel de Longueuil, but no taker was found.
Nathaniel Hazard Treadwell
The Constitutional Act of 1791 had divided the then-British colony into two parts: Lower Canada – primarily French-speaking – and Upper Canada – divided into townships and concessions intended to attract immigrants who were primarily of British and American origin. The seigniory at Pointe-à-L’Orignal therefore found itself in Upper Canada. This is when Nathaniel Hazard Treadwell entered the picture.
An American-born civil engineer and land surveyor, Treadwell was 26 years old when, in 1794, he immigrated north to Canada bringing with him his wife, Margaret Platt. At first the couple lived in Lower Canada, at what is now St-André d’Argenteuil, Québec near the junction of two waterways: the North River and the Ottawa. When the seigniory of Pointe-à-L’Orignal came on the market again in 1796, Nathaniel quickly purchased it for an amount equivalent to $150,000 in today’s money.
An auspicious arrival – and sudden departure
In 1800 Nathaniel Treadwell, who had already set up a sawmill and gristmill at L’Orignal and had started recruiting settlers – mostly English-speaking – made a home for himself and his family in the seigniory. A hardworking man of imposing stature, noted for his strength and hospitality, he was said to have “the culture of a gentleman and the endurance of a lumberjack”.
However, his début as a colonizer and land developer ground to a sudden halt when in 1812, war broke out between Great Britain and the United States. Treadwell had not yet – and still would not – swear allegiance to the British Crown, and the upshot was that the colonial government labelled him an alien enemy, confiscated his seigniory and ordered Treadwell and his family back to the States. Despite that setback the little settlement at L’Orignal continued to grow, although slowly.
The Treadwells return to L’Orignal
It fell to Nathaniel’s second son Charles Platt Treadwell to revive the family fortunes at L’Orignal. While living in the States between1812 and 1824, Charles had followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a civil engineer and land surveyor. In 1824 Charles returned to L’Orignal, re-established relations with fellow-colonists and government officials, and regained possession of his father’s lands. Charles P. capped off his reintegration on March 1, 1827 by taking the oath of allegiance before Lord Dalhousie, who was then Governor-General of Canada. In 1834, as compensation for land confiscated from his father in 1812, Charles received more than 3,000 additional acres of land. Also that year, Charles married Helen Macdonell.
A year later, Charles became Sheriff of Prescott and Russell Counties, a title he would hold until his death in 1873, and which is engraved on his gravestone in the family plot at Cassburn Cemetery. In 1840 Charles invited his parents, Nathaniel and Margaret Treadwell, to return and make their home in L’Orignal. They accepted, remaining here until their deaths (in 1856 sand 1858 respectively).
The influence of the two Treadwell seigneurs on the development of this region was so significant that these few paragraphs cannot do it justice. To learn more, visit the L’Orignal Old Jail where relevant archival material may be consulted.
The book, L’Orignal – Longueuil Through the years also contains a comprehensive history of the region.