The old growth forest beside Sacred Heart High School is known as Shea Woods, but is recognized as Kemp’s Woodland. In 2014, the Stittsville Village Association agreed upon the forest name of Kemp Woods relative to the historical significance of the land. The city of Ottawa, owner of the 8.9 hectare property, however chose the name of Shea Woods.
In 2017, the City of Ottawa announced a $1.5-million agreement to conserve part of the Shea Woods cedar forest. The land is currently owned by CRT Developments and remains private property pending a final sale agreement. Stittsville has been waiting since 2014 to finalize the purchase agreements.
Councillor Gower has said, “The City is still finalizing a purchase agreement to acquire about five hectares of Shea Woods. Things are moving along, but it’s taking much longer than anticipated, partly due to some complexities with land use along the Hydro One corridor. The intention is still to create an off-leash dog park in the forested area.”
This is the history of the property and why it was felt that Kemp Woods would be more appropriate as the name of our prestigious woodland. John Kemp purchased Lot 25, Concession 10 sometime before 1879. Today, an 8.9 hectare cedar forest lies within this lot, which is adjacent to the Trans-Canada Trail and Sacred Heart High School. The forest is owned by the City of Ottawa and is a designated Natural Environment Area. Councillor Gower said, “The City has protected the Kemp Woodland near Sacred Heart High School – an 8.9-hectare forest with cedar trees dating back more than 150 years. One tree is believed to date to 1761!”
In June 2015, Shad Quadri, former Councillor for Stittsville stated, “This week City Council approved the proposal to name a woodland area on Abbott Street East, adjacent to Sacred Heart High School, the “Kemp Woodland”. As our community grows I feel it is very important to retain the historical significance of the area and honour those who were part of creating the community we now call Stittsville.”
And if the name Kemp has a familiar ring to it, that’s because Kemp’s Tavern on Hazeldean Road, once housed in the stone building that is now the home of Cabotto’s Restaurant, is a historical Stittsville landmark. And, yes, it’s the same Kemp family in both cases.
The old growth forest area, which is formally the west half of lot 25, concession ten of Goulbourn, was owned by John Kemp as per Belden’s Carleton County Atlas of 1879. The atlas shows no dwelling on the 97-plus acre parcel that stretches from the railway line (now the Trans Canada Trail) in the north to what is now Fernbank Road in the south.
It is not yet known when John Kemp acquired the land or how long he owned it but John Kemp was both an entrepreneur and a local politician.
Kemp’s Tavern on what is now Hazeldean Road dates back to sometime after 1840. William Kemp and his wife Margaret acquired the land there in 1828 but William Kemp, who was John’s father, died in 1840. His wife, with her seven children, one of whom was John, then began what became known as Kemp’s Tavern, serving the needs of travelers along what is now Hazeldean Road and which was a main route from Bells Corners to Stittsville and beyond. Kemp’s Tavern became a popular stopping place and in the early years a market was held there adjacent to what was then known as Kemp’s Creek and is now called Poole Creek.
John Kemp assisted his mother in running the tavern business and they were the ones who in 1868 built the stone building that now houses Cabotto’s Restaurant. The grandeur of the building indicates that the business was doing well but soon it fell on hard times. This was because the railway went through the area in 1870, with travelers migrating to the railroad. Travel along Hazeldean Road fell off and so did the tavern business.
But while the coming of the railway spelled an end to Kemp’s Tavern, John Kemp adapted and became a contractor building the roadbed for railways in various area of the province. He also cut and supplied wood for the wood-burning locomotives of the time.
He probably used what is now the old growth forest area beside Sacred Heart High School as his bushlot to supply not only his home farm with its lumber needs but also to supply the railway with the wood that it needed for its locomotives.
John Kemp was also active in local politics and in fact served as reeve of Goulbourn township from 1887 to 1894. So John Kemp’s ownership of this old growth forest area ties a very historic Stittsville family name to the site.
The Kemp family is one of Stittsville’s most identifiable early families because of the Kemp’s Tavern connection. Now the Kemp name is tied to this old growth forest site, but whether residents identify with Kemp Forest or Shea Forest, we are still awaiting a decision as to the purchase of the land.