The community owes its existence to its location on the Richmond Road midway between Richmond Landing near Bytown (now Ottawa) and the military settlement at Richmond, at the junction with the concession road leading west to the Hazeldean neighbourhood in neighbouring Goulbourn Township. It was also the junction between Richmond Road and the "base line" which was the boundary road between concessions on the Ottawa front and those on the Rideau front. Hence, the plural "Corners". It was named after Hugh Bell, who owned a tavern on the site of the present day Bells Corners Public School from 1834 to 1863.
Prior to that it was known locally as just "the Corners", but when the first post office opened on August 6, 1851 it had to adopt a formal name and became Bell's Corners. Today it is most commonly spelled without the apostrophe.
By 1866/7 Bells Corners was a post village with a population of 150 in the township of Nepean, county of Carleton, on the Ottawa and Nepean Macadamized road, 10 miles from Ottawa. The village had a daily mail, two stores, a school and a church which was used by the Church of England, Presbyterians, and Wesleyan Methodists. The early citizens included: Adam Abbott, a general merchant; Hugh I Bell, a farmer; George Arnold, a postmaster; E. Brown, a bailiff 7th Division Court; and William Brownlee, a general merchant boot & shoemaker.
In 1866, the 43rd Battalion of Infantry (otherwise known as the Carleton Blazers) was formed in Bells Corners with companies in many of the surrounding communities and absorbed Ottawa's volunteer rifle company. By 1869, Bell's Corners was a Village with a population of 120 in the Township of County Carleton. It was on the stage line from Town Ottawa to Perth. Most of Bells Corners was destroyed by fire in August 1870.
The oldest buildings in Bells Corners are Al's Steakhouse, formerly Hartin's Hotel, built after the fire in 1870 on the site of Robert Malcomson's Tavern (David Hartin was married to Robert Malcomson's daughter Sarah); and, The Spa which occupies the old Drummond Methodist Church built in 1898. This church used stone from the old Union Church (now the site of the Bells Corners Union Cemetery on Old Richmond Road) built in 1853 and the only building in Bells Corners to survive the fire of 1870.
Some notable residents of the time:
In 1950, Ottawa annexed the main urban areas of Nepean Township including Westboro, where the town offices were located. A new town hall was then built in Bells Corners at the intersection of Richmond and Robertson Roads, which was used from 1966 to the late 1980s, when a new Nepean city hall was built at Centrepointe. The City of Nepean was finally amalgamated with 10 other municipalities into the City of Ottawa in 2001.
Map of Ottawa and Carleton County from Wikipedia Commons
The map of Carleton County circa 1951 from Ontario Archives locates the communities and physical features of the county. (Click at the bottom of the page to see the map enlarged.)
The primary source for basic documents (vital statistics, land records, wills) for people who lived in the Province of Ontario is the Archives of Ontario, 134 Ian Macdonald Blvd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M7A 2C5.
Civil registration did not begin in the province until 1869. Before then there may be church records of baptisms and burials. For the most part these are still held by the denomination who recorded them. Copies of marriage records made pre-1869 had to be sent by individual clergymen to the registrar of the county in which the marriage took place. These marriage records are available through Ontario Archives, on micorfilm through LDS libraries, and on paid and unpaid websites, but because they were copied at the registrars' offices, they cannot be considered a primary source.
Vital Records after 1869
Birth, marriage and death registrations are not open to the public until a specific number of years after the event occurred. Births to 1915 are now available [October 2014]; dates for marriages and deaths are later. Birth and death registration was not universally carried out in the early years after its adoption. Deaths were more apt to be reported than births for several years. The more rural the area, the less likely it would be that these happenings were reported to the authorities.
Land Records and Wills
Information on how to access land records and wills is best sought on the Archives of Ontario website. An ancestor's land holding might be found on Canadian County Atlas Digital Project if he was in occupancy circa 1878.
Association for the Preservation of Ontario Land Registry Office Documents (APOLROD). A list of Land Registry Offices for all Counties of Ontario.
The original censuses are in the hands of Library and Archives Canada, known to Canadians as "LAC". Copies of original microfilms are online at the LAC website for all censuses up to 1911. Each census database is preceded with an explanation of the geographical area covered, the amount of material retained (some census division material has been lost), the questions on the census form, and whether there is a name index. Census divisions were redrawn as the population increased and more land was inhabited. The 1921 census is only available through Ancestry.ca, but it is free-to-view.
E-books and Books
Researching in Eastern Ontario
The website of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society offers a number of search engines for databases of material they maintain:
The Society covers the counties of Carleton (combined with the city of Ottawa), Lanark, Renfrew, Prescott and Russell. There is a note on the website that the URL will be changing soon (Jun 2012). It may be best to “google” the Ottawa Branch of OGS.