Capital Lives: Profiles of 32 Leading Ottawa Personalities, Vol. II

Capital Lives Vol. II: Profiles of 32 Leading Ottawa Personalities

This follow-up to Capital Lives contains thirty-two new profiles of well-known Canadians from Ottawa’s past, all of which have appeared in the author’s Forever Young column since the publication of the first volume in 2005.

Capital Lives: Profiles of 32 Leading Ottawa Personalities Vol. II is available from the author. Click to order your copy today!

Get to know these extraordinary Canadians in this volume of Capital Lives :


  • Dr. Alexander Christie (1787-1843)
  • Dr. Maureen Roberts (1915-2004)


  • Andrew George Latta McNaughton (1887-1966)
  • Chalmers Jack Mackenzie (1888-1984)


  • Braddish Billings (1783-1864)
  • Thomas McKay (1792-1855)
  • Joseph Merrill Currier (1820-1884)
  • Moses Bilsky (1829-1923)
  • Rolla L. Crain (1865-1947)
  • Isabel Percival (1903-1998)


  • Maria Thorburn (1835-1926)
  • Andrew Fleck (1848-1924)
  • Harry Stevenson Southam (1875-1954)
  • William Alastair Gamble (1911-1993)

  • Élisabeth Bruyère (1818-1876)
  • Marie Thomas d’Aquin (1877-1963)

Creative Artists

  • William Lett (1819-1892)
  • William James Topley (1845-1930)
  • Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)
  • Agnes Mary Scott (Davis) (1863-1927)
  • Charles Bowman (1883-1978)
  • Henri Masson (1907-1996)
  • Judith Crawley (1914-1986)

Members of Parliament

  • Jean-Luc Pepin (1924-1995)

Public Servants

  • George Mercer Dawson (1849-1901)
  • Otto Julius Klotz (1852-1923)
  • Oscar Douglas Skelton (1878-1941)
  • Isabella Preston (1881-1965)
  • Hoyes Lloyd (1888-1978)
  • Graham Towers (1897-1975)
  • John A. Hopps (1919-1998)
  • Mayors Stanley Lewis (1888-1970)


This follow-up to Valerie Knowles’ first edition of Capital Lives is a welcome addition to the growing literature concerning Ottawa’s more interesting inhabitants. Its short, lively sketches feature well-known early settlers, such as Braddish Billings (1783-1864), to more modern, but little-known personalities like Isabel Percival (1903-1998), an astute businesswoman who devoted considerable time and effort to a number of worthy local causes. Along the way, Knowles introduces a fascinating cast of characters with a deft touch that will leave readers looking forward to a third volume.

Dave Mullington, author of: Charlotte: The Last Suffragette, a biography of former Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton

Valerie Knowles’ collection of heroes in local history is successful for its brief, sparkling trips into the lives of a host of engaging Ottawa characters, as well as a journey, through their eyes, into one of those quirky places that are at the same time cities and capitals.

It is a book to delight a reader anywhere who finds human animals the natural quarry of the historian, as well as a reader who ponders the places shaped by them.

John Taylor, Prof. Emeritus, History, Carleton University, author of: Ottawa: An Illustrated History

Three cheers and a tiger to Valerie Knowles for the marvelous array of former Ottawa citizens she has brilliantly unveiled to us in these snapshot vignettes of their lives.

Grete Hale, CM, LLD, GCLJ, FCGS, FRHSC, Chair Emeritus, Morrison Lamothe Inc.


George Mercer Dawson: Geologist, Palarontologist, Author and Anthropologist

“Petty problems are the pebbles of my days, a mound of them piled around my feet. I look into the eyes of an anxious junior surveyor and maintain courtesy, even as I see with my mental eye the wild black glare of a stampeding buffalo as I raise my rifle. Or, attending a departmental meeting, I feel I am standing once more in a swarm of locusts thick enough to choke an ox.”

As this excerpt from his memoirs indicates, the role of a paper-pushing bureaucrat in Ottawa had little appeal for George Dawson, who, at the time of writing (1900), headed the Geological Survey of Canada, the federal agency charged with acquiring, interpreting and making available to Canadians a comprehensive knowledge of their country’s land mass and its offshore.

As a bureaucrat, the genial and erudite Dawson inspired tremendous loyalty and admiration from his colleagues. But his heart really lay elsewhere. Before becoming “cocooned in ledgers and memoranda,” he poured out his energies exploring and surveying vast areas of unmapped western Canada. While doing so, he accomplished heroic feats with great cheerfulness despite a debilitating physical disability that dated from his childhood.