Henry James Friel was an Irish Catholic who moved to Bytown from Montréal with his family at the age of three. Bytown became the City of Ottawa in 1855 and Friel, having previously served as alderman and mayor of Bytown, was mayor of Ottawa during most of the 1860s.
In 1868, when Member of Parliament Thomas D’Arcy McGee was assassinated, the City offered a $2,000 reward for the apprehension of those responsible. Friel added another $2,000 to the reward out of his own pocket, around $50,000 in today’s money.
Friel was a political reformist whose newspaper, The Bytown Packet, later became the Ottawa Citizen. When he died in 1869, the City cancelled the planned Victoria Day celebrations. His memorial declared him to be “one of Ottawa’s best friends”.