The Settlement of Casselman

The history of Casselman starts with the arrival of Martin Casselman and his development projects for the region. Casselman is a Loyalist descendant and native of Williamsburg. During a hunting trip on the shores of the Little Nation River (aka: South Indian River) in 1832, he envisioned the establishment of a village where he could exploit the abundant forest resources in order to set up a lumber business.

In 1843, he bought an immense territory, covering a large part of the future township of Cambridge at a surprisingly small cost, from the Jessup family. He became the owner of 1,600 acres of land on each side of the Little Nation River. It was on the banks of this watercourse, near a waterfall, that Martin Casselman finally came to settle in 1844. He brought with him 40 men who helped him set-up his lumber business, in return for a promise to sell each of them a piece of land at a very low price. A dam and sawmill were constructed in 1844 and his lumber business was launched.

The Catholic Parish

In January 1876, Martin Casselman offered to the Bishop of Ottawa, Monsignor Thomas Duhamel, three acres of land in the part of the village to the south of the Little Nation River in order to build a Catholic church. But it was eight years before the people were able to celebrate Catholic mass in Casselman. In the meantime, the masses took place on the upper floor of Olivier Quenneville's General Store.

The Parish of Sainte-Euphémie of Casselman, created by the Bishop of Ottawa and the first Parish Priest, Father Georges Talbot, was inaugurated on September 28, 1886. Father Talbot guided the Parish flock until Father Léandre Francoeur replaced him on March 15, 1888. This new Parish Priest was given the responsibility of the construction of the new Parish church building. The origin of the name of the Parish refers to the name of the deceased wife of Father Albert Phillion, the first missionary priest of Casselman.

Casselman Fires

In July 1891, St. Euphémie Parish had its first great disaster: fire destroyed part of the village, the Casselman Lumber Co., and millions of feet of woodcut. A large number of workmen had to leave town in order to find work elsewhere. However, the fire transformed lots that had been only partly cleared until then into fertile prairies. Many new settlers came to Casselman to work its highly arable agricultural land.

On October 5, 1897, the Parish faced the greatest tragedy of its history: a terrible fire destroyed the entire Casselman area. Except for a very few homes, the village was reduced to ashes and its inhabitants were left homeless and lost all of their personal belongings. The Catholic church was completely destroyed save for the Holy Sacrament, which was rescued by the Vicar, Father Joseph-Hercule Touchette. Many families had to leave town due to the loss of all their belongings. However, strengthened by Father Touchette's encouraging words as well as donations from many parts of Ontario and Quebec, those that remained took on the arduous task of rebuilding their community. Two days after the fire, a committee was formed to oversee the reconstruction of the Parish church.

In July 1919, the Parish again fell victim to a devastating fire. The buildings bordering the main street of the town were engulfed in flames, and almost everything was destroyed. Several tradesmen of the time lost a great part of their merchandise and equipment. Those who succeeded in saving part of their goods moved them into the church or the Town Hall. The church, the bank and the store of Damase Racine were saved thanks to the effective work of firemen from Ottawa. Within the following days, the townspeople courageously undertook the rebuilding of the main street.

The Railroad and Train Station

The first railroad going through Casselman was inaugurated on February 1, 1882. It was one of the principal ways of transporting wood, bricks and the food products necessary to the population. During the First World War (1914-1918), this rail line was used for the transportation of wheat and other goods for export.

The railroad that made the Montreal-Toronto connection was built in 1856. Later, the Coteau Junction-Casselman-Ottawa connection was added to the Trans-Continental railway. The first train that traveled the 3,205 miles between Quebec City and Vancouver passed through Casselman in 1915.