Irish in the Ottawa Valley- History

Ottawa Valley History


The Life and Times of Walter Beckwith (1765-1843)

Excerpts from an article by Bob Serre

 When the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832, many men found themselves without work.  It was "a time of vicious competition among the timber operators [some of whom] began to employ Irishmen to improve their competitive position by intimidation [... j Peter Ayien was one such employer.  Another was Walter Beckwith," as M.S. Cross explains in a paper on The Shiner's War published in the Canadian Historical Review, volume 54, 1973, pages 1 to 26.  Cross goes on to say that Beckwith "ruled with an iron hand in Westmeath, near Pembroke; he boasted he would employ none but Shiners, and they repaid his support by brutally suppressing anyone who questioned Beckwith's right to take timber freely from crown and private lands."

The Shiners were Irish workers who were willing to work for lower wages than their French-Canadian counterparts.  Their name, as T. Brennan explains in a 16-page document on Lumbeting in the Ottawa Valley, comes from the fact that some of them "were employed cutting oak in Western Quebec and were called 'chdneurs' (oak cutters) which became 'Shiners' in English slang."

 Shinerism lasted from about 1828 to l@, and was marked by the worst violence in the Valley's history, reaching a peak between 1835 and 1837 in Bytown.  Michael Newton had this to say in volume 1 of his Lower Town Ottawa, published in 1979 (page 109): "Walter Beckwith, known as a bully, employed about forty Shiners and would take on none but members of that organization." Daniel Oconnor in the Oconnor papers comments on the constant fighting by his fellow irishmen of the day "they had the habit of drinking and the for sport would pick a fight for the simplest of reasons. The object of the combatants was to "put out his opponents day lights" meaning to gouge out the eye " This is probably the source of the expression that I often heard on the farm "he beat the daylights out of him"

 Fortunes were made, and fortunes were lost in those wild days of uncontrolled cutting of the Valley's seemingly endless supply of trees.  It would seem that Walter Beckwith had his share of ups and downs,.judging from the following passage in the Correspondence and Papers on Various Subjects of William Edwards, published at Peterborough in 1882: "Old Becket pursued lumbering somewhat largely [and] was held in some dread along the-Ottawa the old man degenerated from being the master of large rafts, to picking up stray pieces his name remains to designate a creek in Cumberland."

Walter Beckwith died on January 17,'l@, at Longueu'il, "after a lingering illness, aged 77 years and 3 months, one of the first settlers on the Ottawa, formerly engaged in the timber trade, to a heavy extent," so said the obituary in The Bytown Gazette and Ottawa and Rideau Advertiser on Thursday, February 9, 1843.Interment took place on January 20, as recorded in the register of the Roman Catholic parish of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in L'Orignal.  That same year, the collector's roll for Longueuil Township contained the following entry [National Archives of Canada, reel M-7736]: "Mrs.Sally Beckworth, 2 horses, 2 milch cows." The supplement added: "Mrs.  Sally Beckworth, 47 acres cultivated, 103 acres uncultivated."

Source: The Caboose Newsletter Cumberland Township Historical Society

Beginning in the 1820's, Burns families began to arrive in the Bytown (Ottawa) area of Ontario.
Many worked at building the Rideau Canal between 1826 and 1832. When the canal was finished in 1832, they (and many other Irish families), cleared land in the Ottawa area and built farms in Gloucester, Nepean and Osgoode Townships.

In 1823, Peter Robinson brought almost 500 settlers from Ireland to an area just west of Ottawa, Canada. They came on two ships, the Hebe and the Stakesby. There are many thousands of their descendants in Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley today. Two years later, in 1825, Robinson brought more settlers but this time to the Peterborough area of Ontario.

Passengers on the Hebe and Stakesby, 1823

MADDEN, Thomas, 38, RC Stakesby Cork City

McCARTHY, Charles, 27 Stakesby Rathkeale, Limerick

McCARTHY, John RC Hebe Kilfinane, Limerick

McCARTHY, Michael Hebe Stayed at Montreal

PHELAN, John 37 Stakesby Killmore, Tipperary

SHEA, Maurice Hebe Alias Patrick Fitzgerald

SHEA, James Stakesby Newmarket, Cork

SHEA, Robert 36 RC Stakesby Mallow, Cork

RYAN, Daniel 37 Stakesby Kanturk, Cork

RYAN, Martin 36 RC Stakesby

RYAN, Patrick RC Hebe Mitchelstown, Cork

RYAN, William Hebe Croom, Limerick

WALSH, Richard Hebe Clogheen, Tipperary

WALSH, William RC Hebe Mallow, Cork Huntley

CALLAGHAN, Denis, RC, 22 Hebe Kilmagowan, Cork

CALLAGHAN, Timothy Hebe Kilmagowan, Cork

CALLAGHAN, William (RC) Hebe Kanturk, Cork

HANLIN, John Hebe Alias Daniel CALLAGHAN

KEEFE/O'KEEFE, Cornelius Hebe Clogheen, Tipperary

KEEFE, Jeremiah Hebe Mitchelstown, Cork

KEEFE, John Stakesby Watersgrasshill, Cork

KEEFE, Patrick, 35, RC Stakesby Lismore, Waterford

KENNY, John, RC Hebe Fermoy, Cork

MARA, James Stakesby Rathcormac, Cork Canal,1826, Goulbourn

MARA, John, 42, RC Stakesby Rathcormac, Cork

MURPHY, Bartholomew, 22, RC Stakesby Clogheen, Tipperary Drowned at Kingston 1825

MURPHY, Denis Hebe Doneraile, Cork Goulbourn

Other lists


Here are a few names of settlers in the Fallowfield area of Nepean:

MADDEN, Patrick Tipperary wife=Sophia, both died 1840, both over 100!!

O'GRADY,John Tipperary wife:Honora O'MEARA

Nepean Militia, 1828 Richmond, Ontario (Upper Canada)

Abbott, Francis 34
Aylen, Peter 30
Barry, Jonas 39
Bearman, Fredrick 24
Bearman, Thomas 21
Bell, Hugh 29
Bell, William 33
Boyd, Robert 19
Bradley, Robert 32
Buchanan, Henry 35
Buchanan, Henry 19
Burke, George T. Commanding Officer
Burns, Patrick 19
Carthy, Charles 30
Chapman, Orlando 26
Chapman, Chester 22
Corbett, Patrick 32
Cumming, Colonel
Davey, Michael 34
Davison, James 21
Dawson, Walker 37
Dunn, Thomas 30
Eastman, Levi 28
Grady, Michael 35
Grady, Henry 33
Grady, Daniel 27
Grady, James 24
Grady, Thomas 21
Grady, William 19
Hale, John 36
Hamilton, William 30
Hanlahon, William 24
Hare, Robert 19
Henry, William 21
Heron, Felix 30
Hogan, Jeremiah 30
Hogg, William 21
Honneywell, Rice 28
Honneywell, John
Hughes, Bernard 39
Kench, Alexander 25
Loney, Edward 22
Malcolmson, Robert 28
Mara, Thomas 30
Mara, Thomas 28
Maxwell, Daniel 35
McArthur, John 30
McCarthy, Peter 26
McKenny, Charles 19
McKewen, William 32
McTiernan, Patrick 35
Meara, Richard 35
Meara, Patrick 28
Nesbit, John 24
Park, Robert 25
Shields, Samuel 27
Shouldice, George 28
Shouldice, John 34
Smith, James 36
Sparks, George 23
Sullivan, Patrick 25
Sullivan, Jeremiah 26
Sullivan, Edward 28
Thompson, John 30
Thomson, Henry 35
Thomson, Andrew 28
Tierney John 22
Tierney, William 19
Vincent, James 19
Walker, William 32
Warren, Henry 24
Waters, James 26
Waters, John 30