Simeon VanKleeck (1745-1827) and his wife Cecilia Jaycox (1755-1849) were United Empire Loyalists from the Province of New York who sided politically with the British during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). After the final evacuation of the Loyalists to Canada, and following relocations to the Eastern Townships and Lower Laurentian regions of Québec, Simeon officially settled in West Hawkesbury Township in 1808. The land grants awarded to Simeon and his then grown son Simeon Jr. began the recorded history of Van Kleeck's Hill.
1797 Van Kleeck's Hill
By 1797, Simeon and his son had started clearing their West Hawkesbury acreage. Their choice of land soon became known as Van Kleeck's Hill. From their home, Cecilia and Simeon operated an inn to serve travellers moving between the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers, or heading to nearby villages between Ottawa and Montreal.
This was an inland location at the junction where a north-south road that linked two major rivers intersected an east-west access road to nearby villages between Montreal and Ottawa. An inn servicing travellers at a crossroad location such as this encourages trades, and soon the inn was joined by blacksmiths and merchants. In a few short years, settlement and business growth was assured. Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century, Vankleek Hill was a well-rounded and successful service centre for the surrounding agricultural community.
1897 Vankleek Hill
Vankleeck's Hill grew from its humble beginnings a century before to become a thriving community by the 1890s. Electricity, telegraph, telephone, rail-progress arrived on the Hill with a bang, bringing new contacts from a larger world. New transportation lines gave local products a wider market. Business and development received a vigorous boost.
Out of this prosperity came a desire for a singular identity. Incorporation, the legal weaning of a town from its township, was the next logical step in the development of Vankleek Hill. It was believed that a political identity, separate from that of West Hawkesbury Township, would attract more industry and enhance the town's image.
One of the requirements to achieve incorporation was a population of 2,000. That requirement was met with a slight nudge of the numbers. The first meeting of the town council for the new Corporation of Vankleek Hill was held on May 17th, 1897 with Colonel John Shields as Mayor. In 100 years, the inn of Simon and Cecilia Vankleeck had officially matured into a town.
Main Street in 1897 was the focal point of this new community. It was then, as it is today, home to many of the town's businesses and fine brick homes.
1998 Champlain Township
Champlain Township was formed in 1998. It is a formal amalgamation of the municipalities of L'Orignal, Longueuil, West Hawkesbury and Vankleek Hill. The name Champlain reflects a prehistoric age when this region sat within the basin of the vast salt-water Champlain Sea. Geological studies by Carleton University have shown that Vankleek Hill was the first significant protusion of this region to emerge from the receding sea.
l'Orignal is on the south bank of the Ottawa River. This early settlement began as a vibrant river port at the centre of the "Seigneury de la Pointe à L'Orignac" created c.1674. Today it is the government seat for Prescott County, and provides public wharf services. The rich history of this village is reflected in the many historical plaques located throughout the town as well as the oldest Court House in Ontario; the historic l'Orignal Jail; designated heritage buildings and Église St-Jean Baptiste.
Longueuil comprises land that touches l'Orignal from three sides. The name came into existence c.1750 when the "Seigneury de la Pointe à L'Orignac" came into the family of the Baron de Longueuil.
West Hawkesbury was formed in 1844 when Hawkesbury Township (named after the British Baron of Hawkesbury) was divided into East and West.
"Van Kleeck's Hill," today Vankleek Hill, was founded c.1797 by late Loyalist Simeon Van Kleeck and his wife Cecilia Jaycox.
Three centuries ago: the river and roads, social and family ties, farming and commerce began the lifelong community links among l'Orignal, Longueuil, West Hawkesbury, and Vankleek Hill.