PERRY, GEORGE HUGO, civil engineer, publisher, editor, and author; b. 17 Dec. 1817 in County Wexford (Republic of Ireland); d. 25 March 1888 in Ottawa, Ont.
George Hugo Perry entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman and served seven years. He commenced the study of engineering in Wales and completed his studies under Sir John Benjamin MacNeill in Dublin. After some experience in railway and bridge construction in Ireland, Perry immigrated to Canada West in 1852, living in Wardsville and working for the Great Western Railway. From about 1853 until 1858 he was a member of the group that surveyed for the proposed Chats canal and also for possible canals on the Ottawa and French rivers. From 1859 to 1862 he was a civil engineer in partnership with George and William Austin in Ottawa. He surveyed and compiled a map of the Rideau Canal and its associated transportation routes in 1863.
In 1860 Perry had entered the newspaper business in partnership with Henry James Friel*, owner of the Ottawa Union since 1858. This Reform newspaper criticized the quality of municipal works in Ottawa and ran editorials on the local lumber trade; the impetus for both these interests probably came from Perry. From 1861 to 1865 he also published brochures containing transcripts of his speeches dealing with the Ottawa River as a transportation system and discussing the Ottawa valley’s staple trade in timber. He was secretary of the Ottawa Association of Lumber Manufacturers. The rise of the city of Ottawa depended not only on the strength of the lumber industry but also, in Perry’s view, on its choice as a permanent capital. The Union, which became the Daily Union in 1865, was a strong supporter of Ottawa as the capital of the Province of Canada but was against confederation, which, it felt, might lessen the power of Ottawa, balanced on the border of the united provinces. In 1866, when Ottawa’s role was still being denigrated, Perry proposed an excursion for members from both houses of parliament up the Ottawa River, as far as the Rapides des Joachims, to convince them that the queen’s choice of Ottawa was a good one.
In 1869 Perry succeeded John McTaggart as city engineer for Ottawa; he remained in the post until 7 April 1873. During his tenure a water supply and sewage system were planned for the capital; he also designed a bridge over the Rideau Canal. In 1870 Perry succeeded Carroll Ryan as editor of the Volunteer Review and Military and Naval Gazette, in which he published a series of articles on defence. The federal Department of Public Works chose him in 1874 to supervise the construction of the Culbute Canal and Dam on the north channel of the Ottawa around Allumette Island. He had proposed these works in a report in 1862 as a means of providing a 78-mile stretch of unobstructed steamboat navigation between Calumet Lake and the Rapides des Joachims. During construction, Perry lived in Chichester, Que. The importance of the canal at Culbute later gradually declined, as did the use of steamboats.
Perry returned to Ottawa when the canal was completed in 1887, the year in which he was given the honorary rank of lieutenant-colonel on the retired list.
G. H. Perry was the author of Report on the supply of water, drainage and improvement of the city of Ottawa (Ottawa, 1861); and The staple trade of Canada: a lecture delivered in the Temperance Hall, Ottawa, on Tuesday, 18th March, 1862, before the mechanics’ institute and Athenœum (Ottawa, 1862). Other works by Perry are listed in Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis, 308.
PAC, MG 24, D8:14237; I9: ff.5338–41; MG 26, A, 303: 174; 321: 50; RG 4, B29, 4. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1891, X, no.9, app.19: 32. Free Press (Ottawa), 26 March 1888. Ottawa Daily Citizen, 26 March 1888.