The Stewarts and the Shiners of the Gatineaus

The Stewarts and the Shiners of the Gatineaus

Irish Stick Fighters from Ottawa Valley Stickfighters, believed to be Beckwith Shiners from the Foresters Falls – Roche Fendu area…. Taken from The Perth Courier, Nov.29, 1872, 

Between the 1840s and 1850s in the Gatineau district in the province of Quebec, there was a very wild stretch of country, with settlements few and far between. Supplies were carried up the more remote sections in canoes, and there were many cascades in the river. The voyager was frequently obliged to portage along with the freight until they could find a place where he could trust himself in the water again. There existed in that partof the area a body of men who the public called “Shiners”. The operations of the Shiners extended from Bytown (Ottawa) to many miles up the Gatineau and wary be the man or woman who fell under their displeasure.

This group of men were recruited from the ranks of the Irish emigrants who were coming in droves to Canada.These men were not content to let the old feuds from the old country rest in peace, but sought to escalate them in Canada. In the old land the Orange and Green had been at war for a very long time and neither side wanted to bury the hatchet. The Shiners were of the old school Irish Roman Catholic, and the tales emerged of how little value they put on human life.

Early in the 1840s a Scotchman named Stewart took up a large tract of land in the Gatineaus, about 150 miles from Hull, and he brought his wife and three children to settle. All his friends thought he was crazy to even think of taking his delicately bred wife so far away from civilization. However no amount of opposition could deter Stewart. His intention was to procure as much land as he could so later on his children could divy up the land for their families and call that tract of land ‘The Stewarts of Stewartsville’. A log home was put up in the wilderness and he finally sent for his wife and children.

Ill times began for the family as soon as they got there and their rations dwindled to nothing during the first long and lengthy winter. Mrs. Stewart fell ill and nearly died. A small grave was dug beside the home and in it was placed their first male child. Any other man might deal with half of this and decide to go home but not Mr. Stewart as he was a stubborn man.

When Stewart had been living up in the Gatineaus for almost six years, an incident happened that well cost him his life. Feelings were running high between the Shiners and their opponents. An election had been held in Hull, and Mr. Stewart having been down there at the time indulged a little more freely in consuming the spirits and during conservation and expressed how he really felt about the Shiners. That probably wasnot the best of ideas.

He made the journey home safely, but a few days later recieved word that the Shiners would be paying him a visit shortly. That surely meant trouble, but Stewart laughed at the threats. His wife however spent the next three days in hysterics. Three days later an old Scotch priest, Father Paisley, and a friend who were travelling down the river stopped at the Stewarts house to rest. Three of their children were then unbaptized. As the Stewarts were Presbyterian they were determined to seize the day and give them their family a good Christian baptism while Father Paisley was there. They were invited to dinner and stayed the night.

At one in the morning a loud door knock was heard. Mr. Stewart knew it was the Shiners and they told him to come outside. By this time the whole household was up and Mrs. Stewart was on her knees with her children around her praying. The Shiners were not happy with the delay and tried to force the door open. Suddenly Father Paisley with his supplice on and an uplifted crucifix in his hands, stepoed in between Stewart and the 20 masked and armed Shiners who have now broken the door.

Seeing the priest the Shiners backed up and demanded he stop protecting Mr. Stewart who is cowering behind the priest’s burly form. Father Paisley screamed that they would have to kill him first and commanded them to leave the house in the name of HIM who was on the crucifix. The Shiners retorted that he was an Orangeman. The priest replied that they had all been baptized in Ireland and he had baptized the Stewart children yesterday and because of the kindness of being taken in he would protect Mr. Stewart from their wrath. The Shiners had a war meeting and decided not to harm Stewart and would leave him alone.

This was not to be the last time there was to be a record of how religious intervention stopped the shed of blood in the Ottawa area. As for the Stewart family they lived in the Gatineaus for many years and are laid to rest in the vicinity. There is no doubt that stories were told through the generations about the visit from the Shiners.

Lost Ottawa


Morning of Weirdness. Here is a stamp of Joseph Monterrand, known among English speakers as Big Joe Mufferaw.

Joseph was apparently a six foot four French Canadian — truly big for that time — famous as a lumberjack in the Ottawa Valley, but even more famous as one of the few people in the Outaouais willing to stand up against Ottawa’s infamous Shiners.

A real person, he died in 1864. Then his life was appropriated to become the stuff of legends—

Andrew Leamy & Jos. Montferrand – The Two Solitudes, Through a Lens Darkly– Click

The Shiners’ War

Lumbermen in the Ottawa Valley, late 19th century, Topley Studio.

Library and Archives Canada, PA-012605.

20 October 1835

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada31 Aug 1935, Sat  •  Page 2

The Last of the Fenians Sons— Bellamy’s Mills — James Ingram

When the Fenians Came to Visit

When the Fenians Came to Visit

The Rare Fenian Medal of Private W. Rorison– Carleton Place Rifle Company
Fenians OR Ballygiblins? Fighting Irish 101

Fenian Raid Sale– Get Yer Boots Before You Have to go Fight Again

Debunking the Stories My Family Told Me

The Rare Fenian Medal of Private W. Rorison– Carleton Place Rifle Company

A Carleton Place Fenian Soldier’s Photo

Ballygiblin Riots in Carleton Place — Were We Bad to the Bone?

The Hidden Hideaway On Glen Isle

Samuel Hawkshaw- Carleton Place–Carleton Blazers of Bells Corners

So About that Ballygiblin Sign…. Fourteen Years Later!

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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