Henry J. Friel

Henry James Friel (15 April 1823 16 May 1869) was mayor of Bytown in 1854 and then of Ottawa in 1863 and 1868–1869.[1]

Henry James Friel
Mayor of Bytown
In office
Preceded byJoseph-Balsora Turgeon
Succeeded byJohn Bower Lewis
Mayor of Ottawa
In office
Preceded byAlexander Workman
Succeeded byMoss Kent Dickinson
Mayor of Ottawa
In office
Preceded byRobert Lyon
Succeeded byJohn Rochester
Personal details
Born15 April 1823
Montreal, Quebec
Died16 May 1869
Ottawa, Ontario

He was born in Montreal of Irish Catholic parents Charles Friel and Cecila Brennan on 15 April 1823. His family moved to Bytown, which was later renamed Ottawa, in 1827.

Political life

Friel was elected to Bytown's first town council in 1847. He was defeated the following year, but elected alderman in 1850, 1853 and 1854, when he was elected mayor. He also served on the executive of the Bytown Mechanics' Institute.

The municipality of Bytown became the new city of Ottawa in 1855. Friel was elected alderman there from 1855 to 1858 and in 1864, 1865 and 1867. In 1863, he was a member of the first Board of Police Commissioners for Ottawa. The board, with the aim of avoiding unnecessary expense, originally concluded that there was no need for a salaried police force in the city. However, in May that same year, the militia had to be called in to control a riot in the city. In 1865, a bylaw was introduced establishing an official police force. In 1868, while mayor, Friel posted a proclamation announcing a $2,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the assassin of Thomas D'Arcy McGee.

Professional life

In 1846, he purchased the Bytown Packet, a local newspaper, with John George Bell. He sold this paper in October 1849 to Robert Bell, who renamed it the Ottawa Citizen in 1849. In 1858, he established a new paper, the Ottawa Union, also referred to as the Daily Union. He later sold it to a rival paper, the Ottawa Times in 1866.

Personal life

He died in Ottawa in 1869 of pneumonia while still in office. His funeral sermon was delivered in Notre-Dame Cathedral (Ottawa) on Wednesday, 19 May 1869 by Aeneas Mcdonell Dawson.


  1. Dave Mullington "Chain of Office: Biographic Sketches of Ottawa's Mayors (1847-1948)" (Renfrew, Ontario: General Store Publishing House, 2005)
  • Dawson, Aeneas Mcdonell (August 17, 2011), Sermon Delivered In The Cathedral Of Ottawa At The Funeral Of The Late H. J. Friel, Esq., Mayor Of Ottawa, On Wednesday, 19th May, 1869 by Aeneas Mcdonell Dawson, Ottawa, Ontario: Nabu Press This is a pre-1923 historical reproduction