Buckingham is a former town located in the Outaouais Region.
Since January 1, 2002, it has been part of the amalgamated city of Gatineau which merged five former municipalities, including Masson-Angers, Buckingham, Hull, Aylmer and Gatineau, into a single entity. The population of Buckingham is of about 23,000 which includes the basin of the Lievre River.
Buckingham owes its existence to the lumber industry practiced extensively here since the beginning of the 19th century. Nevertheless, area’s natural beauty and its industrial potential were an important factor in attracting pioneers. It was in 1799, that land in this area was granted to John Robertson, a former officer of the British military, but the first settlers came here in 1823 and the first mill was built the same year.
After Napoleon Bonaparte had launched a continental blockade which forced Great Britain to look to other sources for importing lumber, large wooded areas were discovered in Upper Canada, including the area that would become the Outaouais region. The lumber industry would be central to the region's economic development for over a century with wood pulp continuing to be important for several decades afterwards. Besides, the height of its location above the Ottawa River gives the people pure air at all times, and as a result, the town is very healthy.
The Main Street follows the serpentine course of the Lievre River which tends to give it a false impression of having a scattered appearance. Even though it is not compact, its construction is as closely built up as most average towns. The other streets, perpendicular to Main Street, are large, clean and neat.
The community is a peaceful one. The Lievre River runs through a pine region. There is a great quantity of pine standing. Throughout its history, Buckingham's economy has been dominated by the MacLaren dynasty, which controlled several spheres of activities. The MacLaren family, who have resided in the region since 1840, have dominated the lumber industry in the Outaouais for over a century. It was in 1864, that James MacLaren launched the family's activities in Buckingham by building a sawmill. The company became J. MacLaren & Co. and later The James McLaren Company Limited.
There are several other large industries located in Buckingham. One of the factors of the importance of the sector is the mineral wealth of the neighbourhood. In the past, being more than 80% pure, phosphate here was the richest in the world. Large quantities of mica and feldspar were sent from here, the latter being the component of fine china. Very rich deposits of graphite were found here, thus a Graphite City was open to produce this mineral Gold was also found, but not in sufficient quantities to make it an object of working the rock. The town developed during the First World War which contributed to the production of elementary and red phosphorus. Sodium chlorate first appeared on the world market here, as an E.R.C.O. product. Buckingham was one of the well-known centers of the Trade Unions struggle.
On October 8, 1906, two trade union leaders - Thomas Belanger and Francois Theriault, president and secretary treasurer of the union, were murdered by agents hired by the MacLaren Company. This event is an important part of the history of the struggle of workers for their rights in Quebec. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the MacLaren companies began their decline, selling some assets to Noranda Inc. in the early 1980s. In 2000, the company sold its remaining assets to Nexfor a Toronto-based institution.
Today, the MacLaren dynasty still retains its legacy in Birmingham, with a street and a park named after them.