Early Breweries and Distilleries
in the Ottawa, Ontario, area of Canada
August 10, 2010:
Thanks to Taylor Kennedy for the following research:
Thank you for your interest in determining who in fact was the first actual Brewer for the Bytown area. Most records
reflect that James Rochester from New York supplied Col. By's men with food, wood, clothing and brewed essentials in
the early 1820's. You have queried information regarding George Robert Burke, as he boasted he was the original
Bytown Brewer. Therefore I took it upon myself to search his Last Will and Testament and other sources as per firm
documentation links relating to such a claim, and the following is what I have to report to you.
I initially needed to determine the main players in the Brewing / Distillery business and found sourcing through the 1842
census, as a start, would give me leads, in which I did find three listed, namely George Robert Burke, James Rochester
and Enoch Walkley.
Because Enoch Walkley failed to list his time in the country, I sourced the 1851 census for information on age and time of
immigration. He lists his age as 54 years making his birth year around 1798 and he would have only been 20 years old in 1818,
meaning little capital to start a brewing company. Based on this, I believe he arrived later in the 1830's, so he was eliminated.
George Thew Burke settled in Richmond in 1818 and his son, George Robert Burke, born in 1808, would have
only been 12 years old by the time the Rochester family arrived in 1821 / 1822, which was based on their listing of years in
the country. This made George Robert Burke an unlikely candidate as the first Brewer in Bytown. However I did have one more
source to research some data.
An old book was given to me by a family member, called "The Irishman in Canada", by Nicholas Flood Davin, published by
order of Government in 1877, and it is here where I found the original Brewer. His name was Ralph Smith, born in
1777, arrived in Canada in 1819. Here is a scan of page 315 in this book, as it relates to Ralph Smith.
As stated on page 315, he was the first to put a building on the South shore of the Ottawa River where Ottawa
stands today. The next was a hut by Nicholas Sparks. Mr. Smith took up his occupation as Brewer / Distiller. See map, below.
Map Source: Library and Archives, Canada, digital collection
Further research finds him listed on the 1829 McCabe List as number 594. (ML# 594)
King's Co., Shinrone Parish, Clojordan Town Land....... Ralph Smith is a most respectable applicant: he has carried on farming
to a very great extent in Ireland; he follows the occupation of Brewer & Distiller near Bytown - he requests land very much,
and is likely to be a very great acquisition in a new settlement. Four males and five females, total nine in the family.
With this documentation and based on the fact the Rochester's arrival 2 -3 years later, Ralph Smith would be classed as
your original pioneer Brewer / Distiller in the Bytown neighbourhood in 1819. But the story does continue. The Wright
family in Hull was also into the brewing business, I did retrieve the following marriage from the Ottawa Gazette, for
Wednesday, January 17, 1838 it reads as follows:
Marriage… On Thursday last at Goulbourn, by the Rev'd Padfield, Jonathan Wyman WRIGHT, Esq. of Hull, L.C. to
Mary Catherine Frances, daughter of Ralph SMITH, Esq.
There may have been some financial dealings with the Rochester family to buy his Brewing business in Bytown, in which as stated
may have resulted in his pecuniary losses or Colonel By, did expropriate some land from owners around for the Canal work,
and may have given other land to Ralph, but in 1851 Ralph Smith was in the Peterborough County back in the brewing business,
as seen with the following census
Ralph Smith family in 1851 Peterborough, Ontario Census, Source: ancestry.ca census records
I did not track him any further from this point, as I am satisfied with my findings to date.
We have started a page at Bytown or Bust http://www.bytown.net/breweries.htm
Hop Fields in South Plantagenet Township Training the Hop Vines to grow along poles
Hops were an early cash crop in Eastern Ontario
See the list of persons who held licences for brewing and distilling in 1836.
The village of Manotick Station was known as "The Pokey Moonshine Settlement"
Professor Rod Phillips teaches a third-year course called "The History of Alcohol" at Ottawa's Carleton University
and writes a weekly wine column for the Ottawa Citizen. Here's an excerpt from his book,
A Short History of Wine, Penguin Press, ISBN 0-06-621282-0, page 124:
E-mail Taylor Kennedy and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa, Canada, area - Early Commercial and Industrial Development