In the first half of the nineteenth century, Algonquins of the mission at Lake of Two Mountains, under the leadership of Chief Pakinawatik, came to the area of the Désert River. Shortly after in 1832, the Hudson's Bay Company followed them and installed a trading post at the confluence of the Désert and Gatineau Rivers. A decade later, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate established the mission of Notre-Dame-du-Desert and, from 1849, they demanded of the authorities the demarcation of a township in order to establish a reserve for the Algonquins. The township limits are drawn in 1850 and given the name of Maniwaki by the Oblates at this time (Algonquian for "Mary's Land"). Soon after, wood merchants, farmers, trade workers, businessmen and professionals, drawn by the forest's wealth, came to live in Maniwaki.
In 1851, the Oblats founded the L'Assomption-de-Maniwaki parish. Forestry took root and became the livelihood of many settlers in this still virgin region. Irish, French and American Indians all contributed to the development of the town and lived side by side in harmony. Maniwaki was officially founded in 1851 and became a township municipality in 1904. It obtained the status of "village" in 1930, and status of "ville" in 1957.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the region, like everywhere in Quebec, was hit by an epidemic of the Spanish influenza. In less than two weeks, some twenty deaths were related to this sickness. Scared, people refused to go outdoors, and for the first time in its history, a Sunday passed without any mass being celebrated at the Assumption church.
The flood of 1974 is an event remembered by the local population. On May 14 of that year, the waters of the Gatineau river and those of the Désert River overflowed. The water rose at an alarming rate of 3 to 6 inches an hour. Over 1,000 residences in the Maniwaki area were flooded and approximately 3,000 persons had to be evacuated. Although no one was injured, damages reached many millions of dollars.
Since 1974, no other major calamity has occurred. The area continues prospering every year in two predominant fields, namely forestry and tourism.
Total private dwellings (excluding seasonal cottages): 1919