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Lieutenant Colonel John By
7 August 1779|
Lambeth, London, England
|Died||1 February 1836
Frant, East Sussex
|Education||Royal Military Academy|
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Baines Johnson (1801)
Esther March (1818)
|Children||Harriet Martha By 1822-1842
Esther By Ashburnham 1820-1848
|Parents||George By and Mary Bryan|
|Engineering discipline||military engineering|
|Significant projects||Rideau Canal
Quebec City fortifications
Lieutenant-Colonel John By (7 August 1779 – 1 February 1836) was a British military engineer, best remembered for supervising the construction of the Rideau Canal and, in the process, founding what would become the city of Ottawa.  Born in Lambeth in London, England in 1779 to George By and Mary Bryan. By studied at the Royal Military Academy. He entered Officer Training in the army when he was 18 years old. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 1 August 1799 but transferred to the Royal Engineers on 20 December the same year. In 1802 he was posted to Canada for the first time, where he worked on the fortification of Quebec City and on improving the navigability of the Saint Lawrence River. During the Napoleonic wars he returned to Europe, where he served in Spain under the Duke of Wellington from 1811 until 1815.
With the end of the war By retired from the military but in 1826, in view of his engineering experience in Canada, he was recalled and returned to Canada to supervise the construction of the Rideau Canal. Since the canal was to begin in the wild and sparsely populated Ottawa River valley, his first task was the construction of a town to house the men who were to work on the canal, and associated services. The resulting settlement, called Bytown in his honour, would later become famous under the new name of Ottawa.
The canal was completed in six years, and was acclaimed as an engineering triumph. Colonel By was recalled to London, however, to face accusations that he had made a number of unauthorised expenditures. The charges were spurious and a parliamentary committee exonerated him, but the damage was done and he was never given a formal commendation for his work on the canal. He died in 1836 and is buried in the village of Frant in East Sussex in the South East of England.
By was married twice, first to Elizabeth Baines in 1801, who died in 1814. He remarreid in 1818 to Esther March (who survived him until 1838) with whom they had two daughters Harriet Martha By (1822-1842) and Esther By Ashburnham (1820-1848).
By was survived by two brothers:
- George By - died in 1840 without children
- Henry By - died in 1852 and predceased by his son in 1847 (who had no children)
John By's name lives on in a number of contexts:
- The Byward Market area of Ottawa's Lower Town
- His statue, executed by Joseph-Émile Brunet and unveiled in 1971, stands in nearby Major's Hill Park
- Ottawa's Colonel By Secondary School
- The scenic parkway of Colonel By Drive, which follows the first stretch of the canal through the city from Lower Town to the falls at Hogs Back
- The engineering building of the University of Ottawa
- In 1979, to commemorate the bicentenary of his birth, Canada Post issued a stamp bearing his image
- In Ottawa, Colonel By Day is the name given to the Ontario August civic holiday
- The Kichesippi Beer Co. (formerly the Scotch Irish Brewing Co.) out of Ottawa, Ontario brews a 'John By Imperial Stout' beer, with the likeness of the Colonel on the label.
A historical plaque located on the grounds of Colonel By Secondary School states, "Colonel John By (1779 - 1836) was born and educated in England and first came to Canada in 1802. As a member of the Royal Engineers, he worked on the first small locks on the St. Lawrence River as well as the fortifications of Quebec. He returned to England in 1811 and fought in the Peninsular War, but came back to Canada in 1826 to spend five summers heading the construction of the Rideau Canal, the 200 km long waterway which now connects Ottawa and Kingston. This formidable task included the building of about 50 dams and 47 locks, without the aid of modern equipment. But the amazing feat was never recognized in Colonel By's own lifetime, and he died three years after its completion, never imagining that many thousands of Canadians would greatly admire and value his achievement in the centuries to come. Colonel By's attributes of courage, determination, and diligence, inspire us to emulate him, in the hopes that we too may somehow serve our country in a way which will benefit future generations." 
A plaque was erected by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board at Jones Falls Lockstation commemorating Lieutenant Colonel John By, Royal Engineer, the superintending engineer in charge of the construction of the Rideau Canal. The plaque notes that the 123-mile long Rideau Canal, built as a military route and incorporating 47 locks, 16 lakes, two rivers, and a 350-foot-long (110 m), 60-foot-high (18 m) dam at Jones Falls, was completed in 1832.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: John By|
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- Biography from the Dictionary of National Biography (1901)
- Canadian Encyclopedia
- Legget, Robert (1955). Rideau Waterway. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 64.
- John By - Biography
- Tales of the Rideau - Bye By - The Story of Lieutenant-Colonel John By, R.E
- http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/nic-inm/sm-rm/mdsr-rdr-eng.asp?PID=8393 John By plaque