book Emerging from the Trees

“Emerging from the Trees”
The Case of the Irish of Mt St Patrick
Renfrew County, Canada West, 1852


Sheila Conway Reesor
March 31, 2022

In 1852, Renfrew County was the largest of Upper Canada’s forty-seven Counties, with a vast territory exceeding four hundred thousand acres and it was constituted municipally as half of the United Counties of Lanark and Renfrew, in the District of Bathurst (Refer Appendix 1, Map of Renfrew County). The County boundaries, though always changing around this time, were the Lanark County townships of Sherbrooke and Lavant to the south, Midland District to the west and the Ottawa River to the east.

Within those Renfrew County boundaries flow the Madawaska and Bonnechere Rivers. As described in the Illustrated Atlas of Lanark and Renfrew Counties, 1880-81, (1880 Atlas), the Madawaska River, two hundred and ten miles in length, originates “somewhere in the Muskoka Mountains” and drains some “4,000 square miles of territory.”“ The Madawaska River meets the Ottawa River in the southeast corner of the County near Arnprior, McNab Township. The Bonnechere River, one hundred and ten miles long and smaller than the Madawaska River, meets the Ottawa west of Arnprior, near Renfrew, at Castleford (“The First Chute”), Horton Township.

One of the highest points within the Bonnechere and Madawaska River valleys in Renfrew County is a thirty-mile ridge, the latter is described in the 1880 Atlas as “a continuous succession of broken masses of gneiss, huge and hilly, with here and there and all but everywhere, lakes mirroring themselves and streams glistening before, behind and between fantastic crags and foliage-covered trees.” It was inland from these Rivers to that ridge on Constant Creek, that some early Irish settlers came in the first part of the nineteenth century. The Irish settlement that emerged in that place is called Mount St Patrick.

The focus of this paper is to provide a granular snapshot of the Irish of Mount St Patrick community of 1852; a community specifically found in two of the surrounding townships of Admaston and Brougham. This microstudy, using data extracted from the 1851-52 Census (1852 Census), provides a detailed bottoms-up profile of the nature and timing of Irish settlement at a time when the Madawaska and Bonnechere River valleys were the largest producers of squared timber and sawn lumber in Upper Canada. The conclusion reached in this microstudy is that these Irish did not just enter a frontier when they arrived on that ridge – prior to any land surveys – and availed themselves of the opportunities in this part of the wider Upper Ottawa Valley region. Rather, they entered an economic borderland in the sense of the unique, dual-track, complementary “agri-forest” economy that existed in Renfrew County relative to the more traditional agricultural economies found elsewhere in Canada West.

Index – Mount St Patrick Research Paper

Appendix 1 – Map of Renfrew County – Canadian County Atlas Digital Project (McGill)
Appendix 2 – Table illustrating Early Surveys for Renfrew County’s Thirteen Historical Townships
Appendix 3 – Map of 13 Colonization Roads Canada West including Opeongo Road (Marilyn Miller)
Appendix 4 – Map of Diocese of Pembroke (W.C. O’Dwyer)
Appendix 5 – Historical Maps of Admaston Township (Ontario Archives & Survey Records Branch)
a) [1838] Map of Richey Survey, Admaston Township showing lots, concessions and names of
b) 1842 Map (No. B26) of Admaston, Official Plan [pdf 440A1]
c) 1848 Map (No. B29) McNaughton Survey of Lots on Bonnechere River [pdf 439A1]
d) 1848 Map (No. 42), Price, Crown Lands Department, Lots on Bonnechere River
e) 1848 Map (No 43), Devine Survey of Lots on the Bonnechere River, Admaston & Bromley
Appendix 6 – Historical Maps of Brougham Township (Ontario Archives & Survey Records Branch)
a) 1851 Map (No. B32) of William Campbell Survey, Brougham Township, showing lots and
b) 1854 Sketch by William Campbell, Crown Lands, showing Settlers Clearings and names of
settlers [pdf 9241 K40]
c) 1871 Map (No B34), Department of Crown Lands, Quintin Johnstone, Surveyor
Appendix 7 – Main Admaston Data Set of 105 Household Heads
Appendix 8 – Main Brougham Data Set of 69 Household Heads
Appendix 9 – Comments on Data Collection – 1851-52 Census of Admaston & Brougham
Appendix 10 – Map of Ireland
Appendix 11 – Bibliography