Central Truck Trailer and Mitsubishi Repair Center Location
Central Truck Trailer and Mitsubishi Repair Center
Exit 88 South (Vars/Russell) off the 417.
First right on Burton (just before the Ultramar),
then after the curve, first left onto Enterprise
we are the second building on the right.
History of Vars… Interesting stuff.
Central Truck Trailer and Mitsubishi Repair Center presents a little bit of history. Vars is a rural village within the limits of the City of Ottawa located 25 km east of downtown Ottawa. Established in the 1880s, the vibrant village of Vars provided services to surrounding farms and the railway that ran through it. Today, the village and environs is a residential community of approximately 1400 residents. It is bordered by numerous operational farms, the Cumberland Forest, and wetlands. Approximately 1000 individuals live in the village proper. With limited employment opportunities within the community, most residents commute to Ottawa for work.
One cannot fully understand the history of the Village of Vars without a brief examination of the factors that lead to its founding. In the mid 1800s Canada was a British Colony as Confederation was still a few years away. The small rowdy logging town of Bytown had not yet been named as Canada’s capital. Logging was the major industry in Russell County and the recently established Cumberland Township (1800). Throughout the 1800s numerous Irish, Scottish, and English settlers joined the early French-Canadian population. The Ottawa River, which constituted the northern boundary of Cumberland Township, was the main transportation corridor. The Bear Brook bisected the lower part of the Township where Mr. Dunning established a sawmill.
A man named Henry Williamson made numerous trips between the dock at Cumberland, through Bear Brook, to points south. The trail, which he took cross-country eventually became a forced road. (If you look at a map today, you can still see part of his route—Forced Road, Buckland Road, and Forced Road in Russell). At this time, much of the land had been cleared and farms were established throughout the area. In 1881–1882,
the Canada Atlantic Railway founded by the lumber baron, Mr. J. R. Booth, laid its tracks just south of the village of Bearbrook. The Canada Atlantic was taken over by the Grand Trunk Railway, which evolved into the Canadian National Railway. Bearbrook Station was established at the junction of the “forced road” and the new railway to facilitate mail delivery to the area.
Once the post office was established, it was determined that a name change was prudent to avoid confusion with the village of Bearbrook. There are two stories that suggest the origins of the name Vars.
According to the English version, the village was named after four of the prominent early
families—the McVeighs, Armstrongs, Ronans, and Smiths. The French version states that Abbé Guillaume, who had retired as the parish priest in Embrun, suggested the name Vars after a village named Vars located only a few miles away from a village named Embrun in the area of France where he came from.
It is entirely possible that both stories are correct. A retired priest would certainly have been a respected member of the community and would have had input into choosing a new name. If he had suggested naming the village after the four families, it would have been an excellent example of a win-win situation for all. Taken together, the two versions keep everyone happy.
Once the Village was established, it grew and prospered rapidly. Hotels, a station complete with a large siding, cattle yards, and storage sheds were built. Stores, tradesmen, machinery dealers, churches, a community hall, schools, a cheese factory, a bakery, and a bank all appeared in short order. At the turn of the last century the village had streetlights fuelled by acetylene. A sawmill was built that employed many in the area.
Vars also sent many native sons overseas in both world wars and a cenotaph was built in their honour.
Vars is a child of the railroad. It was born because the railway crossed that piece of geography. As the railroad grew and prospered, so too did the village. The railroad
had a “section” in Vars and it employed a number of men in the maintenance of the tracks and the right-of-way.
Thanks to the railroad, Vars became a hub of commerce for the surrounding villages.
The few brief brushes that Vars has had with history have been a result of the railroad. These include “accidental” stops in the village by President Eisenhower, Governor
General Viscount Alexander of Tunis, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and even Santa Claus who would arrive by helicopter then jump on a train full of kids to return to
Ottawa to launch the Christmas season at Eaton’s. The world’s greatest bank swindler, Mr. Christmas Parmalee, was also captured in the Vars station.
As roads to the City of Ottawa improved and people not only from Vars, but also from Embrun, Russell, and Navan were able to commute to the city for jobs and to do
their shopping, the importance of both the railroad and the Village diminished. The trains ceased to stop in the village and the station closed. (The station building eventually became the home of a museum in Cumberland.) The public school also closed and children were bussed to Navan.
The many stores were reduced to two. (Today they are now more or less convenience stores.) The post office also closed, even though it was profitable. Of the churches, only the Anglican St. Guillaume Roman Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church
remain. The community centre was torn down to build a fire station. Through all
this, Vars became a neglected corner of the Township of Cumberland and
eventually of the City of Ottawa.
With the paving of Russell Road in the late 1960s and the construction of the
Provincial Highway 417 in the mid-1970s, Vars became an easy commute for people
who worked in the City. A municipal water system was installed in the 1980s
and natural gas was brought to the village in the 1990s. Several new subdivisions
have been built over the past couple of decades bringing more people to the area. The local park, which had been purchased and built by a number of volunteers in the late sixties, is well used by the community.
Unfortunately, once something has been lost it is hard to replace. Vars is very challenged to build a recreation centre to bind the community together. The City built a
new fire station for the village and its meeting room is well used by the community.
Employment opportunities in the area are limited. The Russell Township industrial park, ADESA, Bergeron Bus Lines all offer limited employment. A considerable amount of interest has arisen over the past few years in, once again, making use of the railroad as an alternative to cars for commuting downtown. A history that has been intimately tied to the fortunes of the railroad, the village of Vars may once again find its future vastly
influenced by street rail. If a park and ride were established in Vars and local busses fed into it, many more people would be attracted to the old Village core.
The return of coffee shops or small stores would give people a reason to visit. Indeed there is much potential for the future of Vars, and keeping this vision in mind, a
vibrant and busy village may emerge.