On March 7, 1800, Philemon Wright, a farmer from Woburn, Massachusetts, arrives on the north shore of the Ottawa River in Hull Township in Lower Canada. On September 1, 1860, on the south side of the river in the united province of Canada, Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Albert Edward, lays the cornerstone for Canada’s Parliament Buildings on Barrack Hill in Ottawa.
While dramatizing real events between those two dates, the novel vividly depicts immigrants struggling to survive in a new world. Tasked with building the Rideau Canal, royal engineer Lieutenant-Colonel John By attempts to bring a semblance of order to Bytown, a lawless community rampant with self-serving politics, religious bigotry, and barbaric violence.
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