One of the largest early settlements in Rideau Lakes was the present-day location of Jones Falls. During the canal construction years from 1826-1832, the site was the home of at least 246 workers with additional family members. The contractor, John Redpath, a master stonemason from Montreal, recruited a number of Scots, Irish and French-Canadian workers for this project. In honour of John By’s wife Esther, the little settlement was called “Esthertown” also referred to as “Estherville.”
Although the official name of this lock station has always been Davis Lock, most local people until this generation referred to it as Foster’s Locks. In the early 20th century, the area around here was also referred to as Fosterville. Around 1820, Walter Davis Junior, the son of an American settler took advantage of the waterpower at the future location of the locks and erected a sawmill. Unfortunately, the mill didn’t last very long. When the site was decided upon for a single lock, the mill was destroyed. Davis himself died in 1830 leaving a widow and five children.
The name “The Narrows” identifies the narrow point between what are today the Upper Rideau and Big Rideau Lakes. Before the Rideau Canal was built in the 1830s, the entire stretch of water was called, simply, Rideau Lake. At that time, the Narrows were referred to as the “Upper Narrows”, to distinguish them from the “Lower Narrows”, at what is now Rideau Ferry.
Oliver’s Ferry, now known as Rideau Ferry, is situated on a narrow channel between Lower and Big Rideau lakes on the Rideau Canal system. It is the narrowest crossing point between the locks at Poonamalie and Rideau Narrows. Today the village spans the crossing, and the south part is situated in Rideau Lakes township.
Otter Lake, on the south shore of the Rideau waterway, drains into Otter Creek which meanders over ten miles to the Rideau River. The lake is situated on a limestone plain which formed the bed of the western part of the Champlain Sea from approximately 13,000 to 10,000 years ago.
By 1806, the land that is now North Crosby and Newboro Ward had been surveyed and divided up into 10 concessions by 27 lots. It was called North Crosby Township. What became Salem was on the western edge, near the boundary with what is now Frontenac County. It saw its first settlers in the late 1820s.