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FORT COULONGE

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Nicholas d'Ailleboust, Sieur de Coulonge, spent the winter of 1694-95 near the mouth of the Coulonge River and so established one of the first settlements on the Ottawa River.

The first trading post was called Fort-Coulonge. In 1760, the Northwest Company took over its management and in 1821, the Fort became the property of the Hudson's Bay Company. Until 1828, it served as the head post on the Ottawa River. The post's 655 acre farm was sold in 1844 and the buildings in 1855. The trading post became the village of Fort-Coulonge situated several kilometres down river.

The region's first sawmill was built by George Bryson in 1843. The first wooden chapel was built in 1873. It was destroyed fire and replaced by a brick church in 1884. In 1886, the railway reached Fort-Coulonge. Fort-Coulonge became a municipality in 1889 and John Bryson was the first mayor.

The Red Bridge road
To explore Fort-Coulonge, go down Rue Principale (Main Street) in the direction of the Chemin Pont Rouge (Red Bridge road). The Chemin Pont Rouge is truly one of the most interesting places in Fort-Coulonge and one of the most beautiful in all the Pontiac.

On Rue Principale, you'll see wonderful buildings that date back to 1872. The owners were John Bryson, the federal Member of Parliament in 1882, and George Bryson who in 1877 replaced his father George Bryson Senior in the Legislative Assembly.

At the intersection of Rue Principale and Chemin Pont Rouge, you will find a pretty little Presbyterian church built in 1890, a witness to the Bryson family's faith. Going east on Chemin Pont Rouge, you will see beautiful homes. Near the cemetery, a bridge straddles the river and takes you to a small island that is really marvellous. Continuing on the Chemin Pont Rouge, you cross through a woods and come to the Marchand covered bridge. On the other side of the bridge near Highway 148, you will find the Bryson House.

Bryson House
Bryson House was built in 1854 by George Bryson (1813-1900). He was a Scotsman, a farmer and lumber baron; one of the pioneers of the Ottawa Valley, he became mayor of Mansfield, administrator of Pontiac County and a legislative councilman. This house is one of a kind in the Pontiac and is like those built in Upper and Lower Canada by Scottish merchants in the years 1800-1830. The group of buildings attached to the house and encircling the yard consist of a forge, an ice-house, stables, sheds and outbuildings to store food. The stone house situated south of these buildings was built about 1845 and was the office of the Bryson Company. The Bryson family owned everything up to 1943 after which the main building was no longer used until its renovation in 1982. Today this building belongs to the Municipality of Mansfield and among other uses it houses the Mansfield Municipal Library.

Marchand Bridge
Across the highway from Bryson House, you will find one of the most beautiful covered bridges in Quebec. You're invited to go through, on foot or by car. Remember to pack a lunch because there is a place to have a picnic nearby. The red covered bridge, north of Fort-Coulonge was built in 1898 by Augustus Brown from Beachburg, Ontario. It replaced two older bridges in the same place on the Coulonge River: these two bridges linked the logging camps with the village of Fort-Coulonge. Supported by six wood pylons, the bridge stretches a distance of 129 metres. It is the third longest covered bridge in the province. Entirely built of pinewood, this bridge for one-way traffic at a time was covered to protect it from deteriorating. This bridge, in regular use, adds to the picturesque charm of the Coulonge River.

The Coulonge Falls
Your explorations can continue if you set your car in a westerly direction on Highway 148. Head towards Davidson and follow the signs to the Coulonge Falls. The waterfall is 175 feet in total. In the 1840's George Bryson built a log-slide about the Grand Falls which made the exploitation of the pine forest easier.

Today the majestic falls can be seen from newly constructed lookouts. Visitors to the Falls can venture out by themselves or a have a guide to teach them the history of the falls and the log drive.