John By

(c. 1779—1836) army officer and engineer

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(1779–1836), military engineer. Lt-Col John By of the Royal Engineers arrived at Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa River in the autumn of 1826, with orders to build a waterway 170 km through swampy wilderness to the British naval arsenal at Kingston, Upper Canada. The Rideau River canal and waterway were to provide a safe alternative for British soldiers and supplies should the Americans sever the vulnerable St Lawrence River route. A Napoleonic War veteran and engineer on fortifications at Quebec City, By opened the waterway in 1832. It cost the British £800,000 and was one of the premier engineering works on the continent, consisting of 47 masonry locks and 52 dams. At its peak, 2,000 men worked on the project. Many lost their lives to construction hazards and contagious disease, including typhoid. Next to the magnificent headlocks By laid out a townsite, first named Bytown and in 1855 renamed Ottawa, which would become the capital of the Province of Canada and in 1867 Canada's capital. By returned to England to unproven criticisms of overspending. Though the largest landowner in Bytown, he never again saw the place.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.

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