Deep River Public Library

Local History

Sign up for our new local history project, The Community Memory Vault!

NOTE: Staff members cannot undertake historical research, genealogical research or related services for patrons.

Available in-library

Before the atomic age: Materials about the history of Deep River and area, from the 1800s onwards. Please note: Reference materials are for in-library use only. You can browse what’s in our local history reference section here.

After the atomic age: Books about the early days of the atomic energy project at Chalk River (mid-1940s onwards). You can browse our collection’s holdings about the early atomic energy era here.

Recommended reads

Available in-library:

The “Tamarack” magazines showcase over 20 years of oral histories collected from long-time residents of the area. An index of interviewees can be viewed here.

The following volumes can also be viewed online:

Tamarack Vol. 1

Tamarack Vol. 2

Tamarack Vol. 3

Early residents of “Deep River” (a.k.a. “Wylie Hamlet” or the “Indian village”) 
Moses Lamure  

The obituary of Moses Lamure, an early resident of the area now called Deep River, published in the North Renfrew Times.

Alexina Blanche Lamure  

The obituary of Alexina Lamure, an early resident of the area now called Deep River, published in the North Renfrew Times. 

Barney Brindle

A feature article on Barney Brindle, an early resident of present-day Deep River, who lived in a log cabin on the waterfront. Published in the North Renfrew Times.

Virginia Adams Hunt

Virginia Adams Hunt wrote an article series, “River of Time,” about her experiences growing up in the “Indian village” that pre-dated Deep River. First published in 2005-2006 in the North Renfrew Times.

Other early residents of “Deep River” 

Over the years, the North Renfrew Times published various snippets about the lives and experiences of the earliest inhabitants of “Deep River,” including Cezarie Lamure, Joe Lukus [sic], Alexina Lamure (a.k.a. “Mrs. Moses Lamure”), Regina Labine (nee Renaud, a.k.a. “Mrs. Sylvester Labine”), Napoleon Renaud, and Margaret Donnelly (nee McGinley, a.k.a. “Mrs. Dan Donnelly”). Download a PDF. 

The Original Log Cabins in “Deep River”

Professor Steffanie Adams is undertaking a research project, “The Silent Community,” that looks at the original log cabins situated along the Deep River waterfront, and at the families who were expropriated from them in 1945 when the atomic project came to town. Download a project PDF, or watch a video.

Early residents from the surrounding townships
Nora Gleeson

A feature article on Nora Gleeson, a well-known local resident, published in the North Renfrew Times.

John King

The obituary of John King, who operated historic King’s Farm (formerly Ferguson’s Stopping Place). Published in the Ottawa Citizen. There is also an oral history project, “Remembering King’s Farm”, that captures the stories associated with this heritage stopping place (inn). 

William Owens

A feature article about William Owens, a prominent settler of Chalk River, published in the June 11, 2023 edition of the North Renfrew Times.

Percy Kean

This July 6, 1988 feature in the North Renfrew Times looks back at the Kean fox farm in Chalk River.

Gerald Nadeau

This Ottawa Citizen article, “The Fur Farmer,” published in March 1978, features local trapper, the late Gerald Nadeau, who grew up on a farm in Buchanan Township that was expropriated for the construction of Chalk River Laboratories. Gerald was also featured in a Tamarack article.

Marie Louise “Granny” Meilleur

A feature article about the prominent French Canadian resident of Swisha who lived until the age of 106. Published in the North Renfrew Times on September 3, 1986.

Other early Chalk River villagers

The “Coppsville/Clarksville a.k.a. Chalk River” virtual exhibit features hundreds of photos and memories from the early days of Chalk River.

Other early Buchanan Township residents (where Chalk River Laboratories was built) 

“A Whispered History” virtual exhibit presents photos and stories about the early inhabitants of Buchanan Township, which was expropriated to construct Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories. 

Algonquin History – Ottawa River Heritage Designation Project 

The Ottawa River flows over 1,271 kilometres through the heartland of Algonquin Traditional Territory. The Algonquin call it Kitchisippi – the Great River – and for millennia it has been central to the lives of the Algonquin People, serving as a major transportation route for trade, gatherings and celebrations. The document “A Background Study for Nomination of the Ottawa River Under the Canadian Heritage Rivers System” provides an in-depth overview of Algonquin history in the Ottawa Valley. Download 

“A History of Deep River”

For its Silver Jubilee in 1970, the Town of Deep River published a short book about the history of the town, starting with pre-village history and incorporating the growth of Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, churches, recreation, the library, special events, town government, Centennial Year celebrations in 1967, and various maps. Download

What was life like in early Deep River? (post-1944)
Early Days: Society for the Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage

The Society For The Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage (SPCNH), a locally based non-profit museum, shares some information about the atomic energy project’s early days in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Early Years of Nuclear Energy Research in Canada”

A scientific overview of nuclear science in the Deep River/Chalk River area in the 1940s and 1950s, summarizing George C. Laurence’s book by the same name. (The book is available in the Deep River Public Library collection).

Women’s Contributions to Early Nuclear Energy in Canada

These articles outline some of the not well-documented contributions of women during the early years of nuclear innovation in Canada:

“Memories of the Staff Hotels: 1945-1985”

A web page that overviews the rich social lives of the early AECL workers, who lived in dormitories in the town of Deep River. Focuses on the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. (The full book is available at the Deep River Public Library).

“Deep River: Almost the Perfect Place to Live”

Article by Peter C. Newman. Macleans Magazine. Sept 13, 1958. A (tongue in cheek?) article about “the Utopian town where our atomic scientists live and play,” focusing on life in Deep River in the 1950s. Available for viewing in-library.

“Life in Canada’s atomic town”

This feature article, published in “The United Church Observer,” looks at life in the new town of Deep River in the 1950s. Download

School House Museum

With an incredible collection of artefacts, photographs, records, and tangible heritage, the School House Museum’s mandate is to preserve the history of the Upper Ottawa Valley.

Oiseau Bay: Nearly a Century of History

In 1917, wealthy American P.K. Smith bought 400 acres across the river from what would become Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories. Presented here is P.K.’s diary and a collection of historical photos.

Head, Clara and Maria Local History: virtual exhibit

A collection of historic maps, photos, documents, and some oral history interviews focusing on the early days of Stonecliffe, Bissett Creek, Mackey, and Deux-Rivieres.

The Swisha Project: virtual exhibit

The School House Museum has compiled over 300 historical photographs of the building of the Swisha Dam at Rapides des Joachims in the 1940s, as well as the town and residents that supported this ambitious project. Click on ‘Stories’ across the top ribbon to hear a few personal stories about life there.

Available in-library

“North Renfrew Times” (formerly, “Deep River Digest”) newspapers from 1945 to present are available for in-library viewing on microfilm and/or in hard copy.

Please note: We do not offer research services; you will have to browse through the newspapers yourself. To set up an appointment, please contact the library at or (613) 584-4244.

Online links & downloads
Rolph, Buchanan, Wylie & McKay Townships Centennial Supplement

Published by the North Renfrew Times in 1967, this special edition takes a look at the area now known as Deep River in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Download

“New Town Springs Up”

The Pembroke Standard-Observer published a special edition on North Renfrew’s newest town, Deep River, in its December 13, 1945 edition. Download

Burial Records

Ontario cemetery finding aid allows users to search burials by name or location. 

• Available for in-library use only is a collection of unpublished burial records for Catholic and Protestant cemeteries in the area, including Chalk River, Deep River, Rolphton, Point Alexander, Swisha, and beyond.

Census Records

Library & Archives Canada‘s searchable online database for census data from 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, and 1921.

“Staying the Run: A History of the United Townships of Rolph, Buchanan, Wylie & McKay” by Jennifer Mercer provides a brief overview of 1861 census data for Rolph and Buchanan townships.

Or, view a 45-page compilation of miscellaneous census data from Rolph, Buchanan, Wylie & McKay households from 1861, 1871, and 1881. Download a PDF 

• A copy of “The Guide to the 1851 Census of Canada West: Renfrew County” is available in our reference section for in-library use only.

Land Registry Records

Here you can find a small sampling of the historic land registry records for Rolph Township (current-day Deep River/Point Alexander). For reference, you can view a historic map showing the lots & ranges expropriated in 1944, and a historic map showing all the lots & ranges in Rolph Twp. The “instruments” show the details about when a plot of land changed hands. Many more instruments and additional land registry records are stored  at the Renfrew County Land Records office at the Arnprior & McNab/Braeside Archives.

Military Records

Library & Archives Canada Military Heritage provides a  searchable database of Canadian military records from the period up to and including World War Two. 

Available in-library

We have maps that show how the Town of Deep River changed and grew during the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Online links & downloads
1944 expropriation map

A map of the land expropriated by the Crown for the formation of what is now the Town of Deep River.

Description of expropriated lands

A description of the land expropriated by the Crown for the formation of what is now the Town of Deep River.

1856 Map of Rolph Township

Map 48: Rolph Township, original map dated 1856(?) with later additions related to the Des Joachims hydro project & expropriation of Deep River townsite land.

1858 Map of Buchanan Township

Map 61: Buchanan Township, original map dated 1858 showing lands that were expropriated in 1944 for the creation of Chalk River Laboratories. Later additions in red, dated 1946, relating to the Des Joachims hydro project. Digital file donated by the Vanderhorn family.

1946 Map of the Deep River townsite

A 1946 hand-drawn map of the area that we know today as the Town of Deep River area. Shows the Gillies lumbering area, lands owned by the Walkers and McAnultys to the west of town, Balmer Bay and buildings, and the original “townsite boundaries.” Map printed in the Deep River Digest.

1944 Survey Map of the Deep River townsite

Copied from Map R-658. A survey map of Deep River area in 1944, produced by the Department of Munitions & Supply. Reprinted in “A History of Deep River”, 1970, p. vi.

Available in-library
Ancestry Library

Ancestry’s library version, which is available in the library, allows users to search billions of records to discover their family’s stories. Use the library’s computers or bring your own device. Sign in with your 8-digit library account and your password (last name in capital letters). In-library use only. You can watch a tutorial on the Genealogy tab here.

Local cemetery records

Helpful genealogical information can sometimes be found in our collection of unpublished burial records for the area, some of which have notes in the margin about personal/familial relationships, etc. See the Cemetery records section above.

Online links & downloads
The Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group

A one-stop shop for genealogical research relating to the Upper Ottawa Valley.

The Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group’s Facebook Page

More information from the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group. (You do not have to be a member of Facebook to view.)

The Pembroke Public Library’s historical/genealogical research services

Depending on the nature of your request, the Pembroke Public Library might be able to offer some assistance. (Please note that the Pembroke Public Library suggests a minimum donation of $25.00 for successful requests.)

Researching family stories: seven tenets for genealogical sleuthing

In March 2023, sisters and co-authors Tracy Kasaboski and Kristen den Hartog presented a genealogy workshop hosted by the Deep River Public Library, and summarized the workshop in this document.


Available in-library

A collection of unpublished historical photographs depicting the Deep River area: the town site, social events, clubs & festivals, the atomic energy project, etc., with most photographs depicting town life from 1944 onwards. 

Online links & downloads

Check back soon.

The Deep River Public Library and the School House Museum partnered on a research project to capture information about the Deep River area’s earliest families and communities pre-1945, funded through the New Horizons for Seniors program. The project is titled “Not Born from a Virgin Forest” in acknowledgement of Virginia Adams Hunt’s experiences—one of the few first-person accounts of early life in the area.

Videos & recordings

Workshops & resources

Media Kit

Create your own oral history. Check out an ipad media kit from the library with your library card. Watch this video to learn how.

Genealogy workshop

In March 2023, sisters and co-authors Tracy Kasaboski and Kristen den Hartog presented a genealogy workshop hosted by the Deep River Public Library. The workshop is summarized in Researching family stories: seven tenets for genealogical sleuthing.


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