Up the Gatineau! Selected Articles
The Fitzpatrick Family Of North Wakefield
Volume 11, page 16
Nora M. Hanson
It was a surprise to find that the life of William Fitzpatrick, the progenitor of our particular Fitzpatrick Family, is well documented in the Public Archives of Canada; his letters (Memorials) to those in authority abound in the Military "C" Records and his later appeals for justice are found under State Papers.
Through the mist and dust of one hundred and eighty years comes the spirit of an ambitious, resilient, quick-tempered but kindly man, beset at times by heavy misfortune, but never giving up. At times he was lucky, and had the courage and daring to further his luck, and, at other times, he seems to have been especially unfortunate. with troubles almost too much for anyone to bear.
This is the true story of a Canadian family, who, through the years, experienced many of the events that were critical to the Nation.
From the War of 1812, which many consider to have been a watershed in the formation of the national consciousness, through the First World War (the ultimate expression of loyalty to the idea of Empire), this family participated in the modest fashion of thousands of others.
In or about 1778, in the reign of George III of England, William Fitzpatrick was born in Upperwood, Queen’s County, Leish, Ireland. In his retirement description in 1818 from the 100th Regiment of Foot he is described as being 5'7“ in height, with dark brown hair, grey eyes and a dark complexion. The reason for retirement was the disbandment of the Regiment in Quebec City and, under Remarks, was the note "conduct very good". During his period of service, he had spent almost two years in the West Indies. William apparently survived the fevers and fighting there and arrived back in Britain in 1804, only to be "drafted" into the 100th Regiment of Foot, then being recruited in Dublin.
On 10 August 1805, the Regiment proceeded from Gosport to Canada with 560 rank-and-tile: the lieutenant-colonel commanding was John Murray. The voyage to Canada was a disastrous one; on 21 October 1805, the day of the Battle of Trafalgar, one of the ships conveying three companies of the Regiment was wrecked in a violent storm off the coast of Newfoundland, and eight officers and one hundred and eighty-four men lost their lives.
William was appointed Corporal in 1806 in Quebec City and the Regiment moved to Montreal in 1807. Fort George in 1809, Three Rivers in 1811, and returned to Quebec in 1812. At some point in these years William was made a Sergeant and in this capacity served with the Flank Battalion as Quarter Master Sergeant and also as Pay Sergeant in the Light Infantry Company. In 1812, the title of “100th or H.R.H. the Prince Regent's County of Dublin Regiment of Foot" was conferred on the Regiment.
Thus William Fitzpatrick was one of the British regulars who played such a major role in the War of 1812. Army life was rigorous and was, for the most part, a “closed system“ with commissions being purchased by wealthy families for their sons. Only rarely were battlefield commissions given to deserving and intelligent sergeants though appointments as adjutants, quarter-masters, and paymasters normally went to men who had risen from the ranks.
The uniform of the 100th was quite dashing - a red coatee with "deep yellow" facings and the regimental lace for enlisted men was white with black edging and a red strip on each side, set in single—ended loops. The Regimental button bore the Prince of Wales‘ plume, coronet, and motto, with the numeral "100" below.
It seems that William was married when he came to Canada. His wife was Anne, born in Ireland, and, by 1819, they had five small children. William must have been able to read and write and his "Memorials" show that he had quite a good command of the language. Also, they would not have made him Quarter Master Sergeant and Pay-master unless he was able to do the paper work.
When the War of 1812 broke out, William was in the Quebec City Headquarters but in 1812 he took part in a battle at French Creek and in engagements on "the lake of Erie". In 1813 the battles he took part in are well documented. The first engagement was that of the raid on Sacketts Harbour, held by the Americans, on the shore of Lake Ontario, near Kingston, Ontario. William was in the Grenadier company of the 100th Foot and the raid was under the command of Col. Edward Baynes, though his superior, Sir George Prevost, was also present.
The British soldiers spent the night on boats in drizzling rain and were put ashore in the dawn. The fighting was hot and heavy but slowly the American force was pushed back. No one knows exactly what happened, but the Americans, it was thought, could work around to encircle the British force, so Sir George Prevost "reluctantly ordered the Troops to leave a Beaten Enemy". The troops were mystified by the retreat. The official narrative reads, in part, "the advance was led by the grenadiers of the 100th Regiment with undaunted gallantry which no obstacle could arrest".
A few days later William took part in the extraordinary action at Isle aux Noix, in the Richelieu River, where infantry-men took part in a naval battle. They captured two American armed schooners, the "Growler" and "Eagle" (infantrymen manning the British gunboats}, and the action was spirited and the battle hot and heavy. There was presumably "prize money" for this capture.
The next engagement was a very important one for William. His troop chased two American armed sloops into Goose Creek, which flowed into the St. Lawrence on the south side, in American territory. They were exposed to “heavy and galling fire“ in the narrow creek and then -
“the troops, in the most gallant manner, leaped into the water, and carrying their arms and ammunition over their heads, succeeded in gaining the land, and instantly drove the enemy with precipitation, to seek shelter within a strong log entrenchment, to which he was pursued. The undaunted gallantry displayed by the troops on this occasion. was calculated to surmount every obstacle...".
In the space of two months. William had been in two actions in which his group displayed “undaunted gallantry“ and the attack on Sacketts Harbour was praised by H.R.H. the Prince Regent as “essential services which the skill of the officers, the Discipline of the Non Commissioned officers, and the Valour of all have contributed to the Defence of His Majesty's Possessions in the Canadas".
As recognition oi William's part in these battles, he was appointed Barrack Master at Fort Wellington, near Prescott, on the St. Lawrence River. William was there when the American invasion force came up the St. Lawrence, and was in Brockville the night before the battle of Crysler's Farm trying to round up a sometimes reluctant Militia to fight if the Americans landed. After this battle, the Americans never again attacked in the St. Lawrence Valley.
William's life continued to be chronicled in the records after the war was over. He asked for a commission on the strength of his notable services to the Army but, perhaps because the war was winding down, this was not granted. He continued to serve as Barrack Master at Fort Wellington but also was a merchant in Prescott. and bought land all over the area. Perhaps in search of greater returns, he joined the North West Company and went to the "Indian Territories", where he stayed until impelled to return by the partial toss of his eyesight because of cataracts. He then was granted land at Richmond, Ontario, where his old Regiment, the 100th (now renumbered the 99th) settled. He stayed there for about ten years and then returned to Brockville and Prescott. In 1834 he was granted another 200 acres north of Peterborough but it is doubtful if William ever claimed it as he stated in a letter in 1837 that he was fifty-nine years of age and “almost totally deprived of sight".
We do not know where he died but his two youngest sons, William Debersy Fitzpatrick and Michael Fitspatrick, with their mother, Anne (Seamans) Fitzpatrick, came to the Gatineau in the next ten years and were settled in Wakefield Township, Ottawa County, in 1851. In proof of their connection with William, the widow Anne sued to recover her Dower Rights from the lands in the town and area of Prescott. Her Memorial testifies to her identity and relationship with William concisely, and reads, in part -
“I, Anne Fitzpatrick of the Township of Wakefield in the Province of Canada, Widow of the Late William Fitzpatrick, Sergeant in the Hundredth Regiment of Foot — Barrack Master at Prescott and afterwards, Merchant at Prescott in the County of Grenville..".
This document produced the desired effect and she was awarded her Dower Rights. This infusion of cash must have been very welcome to the mother and her two sons. The Census entry for Wakefield Township in 1851 reads -
Wm. Fitzpatrick, farmer, born Canada, Church of England, age 30
Michael Fitzpatrick, farm labourer, born Canada. Church of England, age 27
Anne Fitzpatrick, born Ireland, Church of England, age 58 (should have been at least 68).
The two brothers and their mother could have been on this farm for up to nine years when this Census was taken and perhaps they were happy to be settled there after the tumultuous years with their father, moving most of the time and seemingly never settled.
In the early 1850's, many Irish families came to the Gatineau and among them was a family of Colberts from County Tipperary, Ireland. They were probably related to other Colberts who had come to Carleton County in 1818. They were a family of brothers and sisters, children of William and Mary Colbert, farmers of Burntwood Big, near Cashel's Rock, Modreeny Parish, County Tipperary.
The bachelor Fitzpatrick brothers, living with their mother on the farm, were probably very happy to see the new settlers, and, indeed, the two brothers married the two Colbert sisters. William Debersy married Maria and Michael married Ellen, this latter marriage taking place on 29 July 1857. They were both Church of England but apparently there was no Anglican minister in the area at the time because they were married by the Methodist preacher, George Case. The witnesses who signed the marriage register were John Shouldice and John Colbert.
Michael and Ellen stayed on the original farm, just half a mile north of the village of North Wakefield, and William Debersy and Maria moved to a 100 acre farm at Low. These grants, and many others, are described in a "List - Lands Granted by the Crown in the Province of Quebec from 1763 to 31 December 1390“, a copy of which can be found in the Quebec Archives in Hull. The names on this list are a roll-call of the early Gatineau settlers; Farrell, Pritchard, Moffat, Newcome, Chamberlain, MacLaren, Dunning, Moncrief. Hartin, Fairbairn, Colbert, Shouldice, etc., just to name a few.
The Deed for this farm is an impressive document, though the original is in a fragile condition because of its age. It is headed "Province of Canada - Victoria. by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, QUEEN. Defender of the Faith, etc. etc. - Whereas Michael Fitzpatrick, of Wakefield, Hotel Keeper, has contracted and agreed with Our Commissioner... for the price or sum of Eighty-six Dollars of lawful money of Our said Province...". The Grant goes on to give the Grantee and his Successors “full power, right and authority to erect and build any Forts or Fortresses, on any part of the said Land and Premises hereby granted... for the peace and safety of Our said Province...". The present residents of these lands might be surprised to learn that they have the right to erect forts or fortresses on their property with just the trifling requirement of obtaining the permission of the Governor General!
Michael, at the time of his marriage, is described as Inn Keeper; and indeed for the next fifteen or twenty years they ran an inn which was a one storey log building. Many years later an old building on the farm - a granary - produced a treasure in the form of an old board sign with a painted grey background and the name “FITZPATRICK HOUSE“ lettered in green. Also kept at the farm were an old sword and rifle, presumably the property of Sergeant William, but these disappeared at some point. The “stopping place" was torn down to make way for the Ottawa and Gatineau Rail Line extension north, and eventually to Maniwaki.
The "Inn" was replaced by the farm house, which was built by two of Ellen's brothers and which still stands and is occupied, though it no longer belongs to the Fitzpatrick Family - nor does the farm proper.
The 1860's were a decade of growth in Canada and, in the 1861 Census, Michael and Ellen were prospering and had two children, William and George. William and Maria were also doing well and named their first two boys William and George, the same as Michael and Ellen! From this time on, there is a great deal of documentation; there are Agricultural Census records and Census returns every ten years, William and Maria, in the 1871 Census, now had five sons, and Michael and Ellen had five sons, William, George, Henry, Charles and Michael Debersy, and four daughters. Annie Maria, Mary, Ellen Jane and Elizabeth.
The Inn was probably the transfer point for stage passengers because North Wakefield was the terminal for the Paterson line from Hull. From North Wakefield to Maniwaki the coach line was owned by Marshall and George Brooks.
In the Anglican records of North Wakefield, there is a record of Burial of Mary Anne Seamans, aged 98 years, Widow of the Late William Fitzpatrick, at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Masham Township (Lascelles). Her youngest son, Michael, only survived his mother by five years as he died on 22 June 1883, at the age of sixty. His youngest child, Michael Debersy, was only seven.
Michael's wife, Ellen (Colbert) Fitzpatrick died in 1924. Her obituary in the Ottawa Journal is headed “Alcove Pioneer Dies in 95th Year" and states "Mrs. Fitzpatrick was one of the oldest residents of the North Wakefield district, and was known far and wide as the mother of a populous and popular family in the vicinity. She was an Anglican by faith, and a regular attendant at the Church of England in Lascelles“. She is buried with her husband Michael in the Holy Trinity cemetery at Lascelles and her husband's brother, William Debersy, and his wife Maria, are buried beside them. Thus the two brothers and two sisters are both here and the mother of the two sons, Anne, is also buried in this cemetery though her grave is not marked now - some of the stones were so very old that they disintegrated. The records of their burials are in the Anglican Archives in Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa.
After Ellen's death, "Bersy" and his wife Flora worked the farm and lived in the comfortable farmhouse. They brought up their family of three daughters and took an active part in the life of the community. Two other farms in the area became part of the holdings - one at Rupert and one on the highway between Alcove and Wakefield. Running these was a lot of hard work with very little profit. and eventually, in the 1930’s, both were sold.
There was always some friendly rivalry between Wakefield and North Wakefield - the latter‘s inhabitants probably resented being called "north" of any proper name. They wanted the individuality of their own area; hence, in the '20's. North Wakefield became known as “Alcove, Quebec".
The old farm was only about a quarter of a mile north of Alcove which, in the early years, was a closely knit community - Pritchards, Mahons, Colberts. McSheffreys, Fitzpatrick, Hamiltons, O'Haras, Chilcotts, Reillys, and Fairbairns.
Alcove's claim to fame was as a summer resort and from early Spring, the influx of cottagers and visitors created a stir of anticipation of some local activity; swimming in the Gatineau River - a hazardous but extremely enjoyable exercise: dances - sometimes three evenings a week in the Alcove Club House, which was built on the river bank and overhung the river. Every Saturday night at the Wakefield Club House there was a dance, and regularly there were dances at the Tip Top Inn at Cascades.
Softball games - the local "pick-up" team was made up of some excellent and well-known players - mostly from Ottawa - and these gentlemen provided stiff competition for the visiting teams from various Gatineau Valley villages and from Aylmer and leagues in Ottawa. The teams had staunch supporters and the winning or the losing of a game was a very serious matter.
The winter activities were, of necessity, restricted; skating, with, of course, an Alcove hockey team involved in a small local league — not spectacular and mostly opposing the Wakefield team - but Farrellton and Low also competed; tobogganing down Hamilton's Hill and the Barn Hill; sleigh rides - with very enjoyable suppers after the rides: and skiing - which became very popular. For some, horseback riding was also part of the programme.
In the 1930's. the C.P. train was the main event in the day - one train down to Ottawa in the morning and one in the afternoon during the winter, and, conversely, two in the morning to Ottawa and one in the afternoon in the summer. The first morning train left Alcove (which had a "Y" for turning the trains) at 6:30 a.m. This was the commuters‘ train. The 9:30 a.m. train came through from Maniwaki. All trains returned at convenient hours in the evening. Commuting to school and to work in Ottawa was a very enjoyable daily routine at that time, and the trains were always crowded with happy people going to work and returning to the lovely summer evenings in the country.
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This is a very condensed version of my story of "The Fitzpatrick Family of North Wakefield". The original ran to eighty-two pages and included lists of the descendants of these pioneers. Naturally, the family spread out: to Ottawa and to many places in Canada, notably Alberta. Since completing it (as I thought), I have found more information, which I am now following up. It has been very interesting research, not only into the facts of this family but into the background of their times. There are informative books written about these times but it seems to me there is room for many more, of particular instead of general history, concerning our area of Western Quebec and Eastern Ontario.
Nora Hanson was one of the participants in the ‘Search tor History' program of the Society and accordingly, received some modest financial help toward expenses.