Founded in 1826 as Bytown, and incorporated as "Ottawa" in 1855, the city has evolved into a political and technological centre of Canada. Its original boundaries were expanded through numerous minor annexations and were ultimately replaced by a new city incorporation and major amalgamation in 2001 which significantly increased its land area. The city name "Ottawa" was chosen in reference to the Ottawa River nearby, which is a word derived from the Algonquin wordOdawa, meaning "to trade".
The John Hossack House was a "station" on the Underground Railroad, and Ottawa was a major stop because of its rail, road, and river transportation. Citizens in the city were active within the abolitionist movement. Ottawa was the site of a famous 1859 extrication of a runaway slave named Jim Gray from a courthouse by prominent civic leaders of the time. Three of the civic leaders, John Hossack, Dr. Joseph Stout and James Stout, later stood trial in Chicago for violating the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.