Where was John Cullen from? The only hard evidence of the Cullen Irish origins
discovered to-date is the inscription on son Bernard's headstone at St. Anthony
of Padua Cemetery in Val des Monts, Quebec (formerly Perkins Mills). The
inscription reads "native of Co. Cavan Ireland". Another view, expressed
at one time by my grandfather Barney to my father, was that the Cullens were
from County Wexford. A third possibility is the view of my father who thinks
that John and his family may have moved to Wexford from Cavan for economic
reasons and from there emigrated to Canada. If this in fact occurred, the move
would have been sometime during the 1816-1826 period. It would mean that
daughter Catherine (1821) and son John Jr. (1824) would have been born in
Wexford. We have no evidence of such a move or of these births, but certainly
there were many later marital and neighbourhood ties to Wexford.
It is frustrating that we cannot definitely establish the origins of our
ancestors. However, it is not unusual for Irish who emigrated to North America
before 1850 since many of the vital statistics records were burned in a Dublin
fire in 1922. I was advised early in my research that we would be fortunate to
find exact locations of Irish births and homesteads. And to-date, that has
mostly been the case. We have yet to find baptismal records for John or any of
his children. But I'm of the opinion that Bernard's children would have known
where their parents were from. So I have assumed the headstone reference to
Cavan is correct and our research to-date provides further support.
Our research in Ireland commenced in 1998 when my father and I traveled to
Dublin and Cavan. While in Dublin we researched the family in the National
Library and the National Archives. At the Library, we searched the surname index
and cross-referenced the surnames Cullen and Carolan with the Tithe Applotment
and Griffiths Valuation records, looking for Cavan parishes in which both
families resided. This is the traditional method of narrowing a search for Irish
ancestors in that, in the 1700s-1800s, transportation was limited and the norm
was for men to marry women from the same or neighbouring townlands. Cavan is one
of the few counties where both surnames are found and their principal area of
residence within Cavan is 1-3 miles northeast of Virginia where the Killinkere,
Lurgan and Mullagh parish borders meet.
Cullens and Carolans were from the Killinkere area
At the Archives, I searched the
remaining 1821 Census records and the 1824 Tithe Applotment records for Cavan
parishes and recorded all Cullen and Carolan families listed. The Census records
list all family members' ages and occupations while the Tithe Applotment books
list only the heads of families, acreage farmed and required lease payments. As
the map below shows, around Killinkere there were several Cullen and Carolan
families residing at that time. Cullen families lived in Virginia, Murmod, Upper
Killinkere, Doon, Annagharnett, Ardlow, Lisnabantry and Corradooa. Carolans
lived in Doon, Enagh, Kilmore and Annagharnet and several other Carolans lived
further south in townlands in Mullagh. The complete listing of Cullen and
Carolan families is included in Appendix 1.
The Killinkere area of County Cavan. Cullen families lived in townlands
highlighted yellow; Carolan families
lived in black-circled townlands. Note proximity of the Killinkere
Map courtesy of Ordnance Survey of Ireland
families often followed naming conventions for their children. Fathers
often named their first son and daughter after their parents. If this pattern
was followed by John, his parents were Anthony and Mary. There are two known
Anthonys from the area who could be John's father.
There is a possibility that John
is the eldest son of Anthony and Mary Cullen of Murmod Townland, just north of
Virginia. We found this family in the 1821 Census. In
this and another Cullen family in Murmod, there are many of the same Christian
names found in later generations in our family.
Included in the Tithe Applotment list for Murmod, dated November 1824, is an
entry for a John Cullen who was leasing 8 acres at the time.
In early 2008, through
an internet contact, I corresponded with Martina McPhillips of Lisnalsky near
Baillieborough. She is a Lynch, a native of Killinkere and a noted local
genealogist with expertise on families of the area. Her 92 year old father is
knowledgeable about the Cullen families and prior to his suffering a stroke a
few years ago, toured other Cullens from North America around the area. He has
stated that all Cullen families in the Killinkere area were related. Martina
toured my wife Barbara and I around the area and she and husband Dan hosted us
to an evening singsong in their home. She also showed us the "Cullen" homestead
in Corradooa. It probably dates from the late 1700s and is now a cowshed on
Josie Clarke's farm. Its original thatched roof has been replaced with
corrugated metal and the exterior walls have been plastered with a concrete-like
coating. There is no way of knowing whether this homestead is our John's, but if
not, it is likely that of a relative. (Josie is likely a distant relative of
ours through Catherine Clarke, mother of Elizabeth Carolan.)
The "Cullen" Homestead
- Corradooa Mark Cullen, Josie Clarke & Martina
the Cullen Homestead April 2008
During our stay in
Killinkere, I also visited the Gallon and Raffony graveyards. Both have long
been in use for Killinkere burials. The Gallon Graveyard is also the site of the
original St. Ultan's RC Church of Upper Killinkere and the ruins pictured below
were part of a monastic settlement dating from the 14th to
16th centuries. Cullen ancestors are likely buried in both
The Gallon Graveyard showing St.
At the Raffony
Graveyard, I found the large Cullen memorial headstone pictured above. The
"Patrick Cullen of Savannah U.S.
memory of his father James Cullen
departed this life in Jany 1843 aged 66 years
of his mother Catherine Cullen
departed this life in Oct 1825 aged 40 yrs
also of his grandfather Anthony
died in Feby 1826 aged 84 years"
is the same generation as our John and could have been his brother.
In The McCabe List, a publication listing Irish workers employed in the
construction of the Rideau Canal in 1829,
there is a listing for an Anthony Cullen of Lisnabantry. The listing contains a
reference to his uncle James of Killinkere. In the Tithe Applotment records,
there are two James Cullens in the area : one in Annagharnet and the other in
Lisnabantry. There is also a John Cullen in Ardlow.
In 2004, the Cavan Genealogical Research Centre provided us with details of the
baptism of John's wife, Elizabeth Carolan.
She was baptized on October 17, 1779 in the united parishes of Killinkere and
Mullagh. Her parents were Simon Carolan and Catherine Clarke of Doon and she had
at least five siblings: Mary, Matthew, Andrew, Michael and Anne. In the 1821
census, Simon, age 77, was farming 12 acres and Catherine, age 65, was a
spinner. Brother Andrew, age 40, lived with his wife and three children and
farmed 12 acres. Two other possible brothers, Patrick, age 45, and John, age 28,
also lived with their families and farmed in Doon.
On our 2008 trip, Martina McPhillips showed us the "Carolan" homestead in Doon.
As can be seen from the photo, only ruins remain. It probably dates from the
1700s and is constructed of stones with a concrete-like coat added to the
exterior at a later date. It is most likely the house of Simon Carolan, and, if
so, is the only firm record to-date of our ancestral lines. I took three small
stones from the structure as a keepsake.
The "Carolan" Homestead, Doon
Killinkere area has pleasant, pastoral vistas with low hills and pretty scenery.
My father and I toured the area in 1998. I recall sitting in a restaurant
looking out at the patchwork of small plots of land likely the same as our
ancestors toiled over daily. At that time, most Irish were farmers tending a
small plot of 2-10 acres leased from English land owners. They lived with their
family in one-room, stone huts like the Cullen and Carolan homesteads pictured
above. They had a cow (which slept indoors with them in winter) and worked hard
to provide for their families. Life would have been difficult at best. The
father worked on his potato crop while his wife cooked, cared for the children,
tended the garden, and was a flax spinner in her spare time. Teenaged daughters
were also flax spinners. The fibre from the flax plants was spun into yarn and
ultimately used in linen production, thus supplementing their meagre earnings
from farming. The contrast to
today's large and mechanized North American farms is marked. With regular crop
failure, poor living conditions and life controlled by English masters, it is
not surprising the new land beckoned.
In 1805, John and
Elizabeth were married. We don't know where they lived their early married life
or John's occupation. We have assumed John was a farmer, although his success in
later life from farming and timbering in Canada might suggest an occupation and
means of more substance. Perhaps he was a carpenter or stone mason. Also, many
Irish immigrants of the pre-famine period (1847-1850) were middle class,
suggesting a higher occupation or skill class and more financial resources. It
is hoped that as more early Canadian colonial papers are digitized and available
online, more biographical information about John and family will
John and Elizabeth parented a large family of seven children (Anthony, Mary,
Michael, Bernard, Elizabeth, Catherine and John Jr.), all born in Ireland. At
the age of 50, he and Elizabeth and family emigrated to Canada. What moved him
to emigrate at such an advanced age? We know that 1826 was a particularly
difficult year for Cavan as the economic recession in Britain adversely affected
the linen industry in Ireland. Also, continuous oppression by the English as a
contributing factor cannot be dismissed. Furthermore, there had been several
British government programs established to encourage Irish citizens to emigrate
to North America as a means of solving the "Irish problem". Also, in Ireland
there were glowing reports of Canada as a land of opportunity. Not discounting
any of these reasons, the 1826 timing suggests the pragmatic reason for
emigrating was the recruitment of Irish workers to Canada to build the Rideau
It is difficult for us to imagine the troubles they incurred in making the
journey from Cavan to Bytown. What would take about 10 hours today, would have
required packing belongings and keepsakes, a 2-3 day trip by horse and cart to
Dublin (their most likely port of disembarkation) and a six week trip by ship to
Quebec; then by steamer up the St. Lawrence to Montreal, before carrying on to
Bytown via the Ottawa River by boat or steamer with portages around rapids and
some of the way possibly by stagecoach. No leg of the journey was easy,
particularly the ocean voyage.
In 2008, we visited New Ross in County Wexford. This was a shipping point for
immigrants to America. Moored there is a replica of the Dunbrody, a 176 foot,
three-masted barque built in Quebec in 1845 and used to carry timber and lumber
from America to Britain and immigrants on the return trip. It carried up to 300
passengers, most of whom were immigrants in steerage. The Dunbrody is a good
representation of the many similar ships that plied the Atlantic in the
The Dunbrody New Ross Co. Wexford
Immigrants’ quarters - Dunbrody
immigrants were makeshift and conditions were generally abysmal. For the entire
passage immigrants were crammed into 6' x 6' bunks below deck. Up to four people
shared a bunk. Food was mainly grain and biscuit and cooking was on an open
stove. Water was rationed. Toilets were open buckets. Rats, fleas and bedbugs
abounded. Illness and death during these trips was common and it is no wonder
that immigrant ships became known as "coffin ships".
Few passenger lists
exist for crossings to Canada prior to 1865. There are, however, records of
passengers on many of the steamboat trips from Quebec to Montreal for the
1819-1830 period. In the Ship's List website, the passenger list for the
steamship "Chambly" on July 28, 1826 includes a record of a John Cullen and his
wife, steerage passengers who paid 1 pound for their passage.
From the same website came the information that within the previous two days,
489 settlers had arrived on three ships from Dublin, Sligo and New Ross,
The timing is about right, although there is no mention of their children on
this or other steamboats in the same timeframe. And so, unfortunately, we can
make no firm conclusions.
Quebec Port 1840s
Bytown of the
Bytown of the 1820s was a creation of the Rideau Canal construction project.
Prior to that time, little settlement activity had occurred. The early French
regime did not encourage settlement as the French were largely interested in
securing furs from the mid and west continent for delivery to Montreal and
Quebec. The Ottawa River, or Grande River as it was then known, at 600 miles in
length, had been used for centuries as the transportation highway to the west
and south mid-continent: first, by native tribes; then by French explorers like
Champlain and voyageurs such as Nicolet, La Verendrye, Lasalle and Radisson and
de Groseillier; French missionaries; and latterly, by Scottish fur traders like
MacKenzie, Fraser and Thompson.
A natural stopping point on these travels was the Chaudiere Falls, about 120
miles upstream from the St. Lawrence River and just west of the mouths of the
Rideau and Gatineau Rivers. The Chaudiere consists of several falls and
was named for the main chute or cauldron, known as the Great Cauldron or Big
Kettle. The Falls required a major portage.
The Great Kettle,
Chaudiere Falls, Thomas Burrowes, c1830 Ontario Archives
In 1800 the area's first settler was Philemon Wright, an American visionary from
Woburn, Massachusetts, who had explored the area four years earlier. The fertile
lands, vast stands of timber and the power potential of the Chaudiere Falls were
the location's main attractions. By agreeing to settle in present day Hull, he
was given the opportunity to receive significant land grants in Hull and
Templeton townships. He and five families and 25 men formed the first settlement
a little down stream of the Chaudiere Falls. Within five years, he had attracted
more settlers, surveyed all of Hull Township, built houses and farms and was
producing crops, had a saw mill, gristmill, foundry, blacksmith shop, tailor's
shop, shoemaker's, bakery and a church and had constructed roads and bridges. In
1806, he pioneered log rafting by transporting logs, boards and staves to
Quebec. Wright continued to expand commerce in the area and was its most
important settler for the next two decades.
mills 1823 Henry DuVernet LAC
Philomen Wright c1810 LAC
On the Upper Canada side of the
Ottawa, settlement was slow. One of the first settlers was Braddish Billings, an
employee of Wright's who settled on the Rideau River in 1812 near the present
day Billings Bridge. The end of the War of 1812 further spurred settlement near
Perth by members of the military and later at Richmond and March Township.
Richmond's Landing on the south side of the Ottawa below the Chaudiere, became
the important 'port of entry' to these settlements from Montreal. Stepped up
immigration from England and Scotland produced more settlers near the Rideau.
Over the same period, individuals acquired and traded large tracts of land in
now downtown Ottawa. These included Thomas Fraser, John Burrows, Nicholas Sparks
and Lord Dalhousie in the name of the Crown. Little settlement had occurred on
these lands, but this was to change with the building of the Rideau Canal.
The Rideau Canal was one of the largest engineering/construction projects in the
world of that era. The War of 1812 with the Americans had provided ample
evidence of the vulnerability of Canadian trade and troop movements along the
St. Lawrence River, and the threat of invasion from the south. Concerns
lingered, and over several years, a plan was developed by the British to link
Kingston at the head of Lake Ontario to Bytown via the Rideau River and Rideau
Lakes with separate, parallel or connecting canal sections as needed. The 125
mile route could then be used to bypass the part of the St. Lawrence River that
flowed past New York State.
Lieutenant Colonel John By of the British Corps of Royal Engineers was appointed
chief engineer for the project, planning for which took place in 1826 with a
construction start in 1827 and completion in 1832. Approximately 5000 - 6000
workers were used in the effort, including an estimated 2,000 Irish immigrants
and many French Canadians, Scots, English and Americans, many of whom converged
on Bytown within the first two years. Most of the workers were used as
common labourers. Many Scottish immigrants were employed as stone masons.
Labourers were paid as little as two shillings per day. Many Irish workers and
their families lived in shacks in Corktown by the canal works between Laurier
Avenue and Cartier Square of today. Living conditions were wanting.
to the Rideau Canal, Bytown 1838
P.Bainbrigge, Coverdale Collection
A total of 47 masonry locks and 52 dams were built to circumvent rapids and
allow for changes in elevation. This monumental task was completed largely by
hand. The channels were dug with pick and shovel. Rock was cleared by
hand-chiseling holes and blasting with gunpowder. Working conditions were
unbearable. Many deaths resulted from accidents and malaria, or "swamp fever" as
it was then known. Workers thought the bad air of the swamps was its cause,
unaware that the disease is transmitted by mosquito.
By the completion of the canal, the fear of war with the Americans had largely
passed. For the next 30 years the Canal was used mainly for transporting timber
to Bytown and Quebec and lumber to the United States and, with a low fare
structure, became the principal route for immigrants to Upper Canada. However,
it was not successful in permanently displacing traffic along the St. Lawrence
and, with the completion of the latter's canal system in 1847, and the
development of the railway network, the Canal's doom was sealed as a major
transportation route. The age it represented had passed.
The Canal is now a pleasure boating venue and an Ottawa tourist attraction - one
of the city's beautiful features. The Commissariat Building, constructed in 1827
on the west side of the first set of locks, has been converted into the popular
Bytown Museum. In June 2007, the Canal was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List
as "the best
preserved canal in North America from the great canal-building era of the early
19th century to remain operational along its original line with most
of its original structures intact".
John Cullen's Land
Colonel By had genuine concern for the health and well being of the Canal
workers and he dealt with his superiors in an attempt to arrange land grants for
them. Their petitions were numerous. The bureaucracy in those days, based in
Quebec, was as cumbersome as we sometimes experience today. A few years ago, I
discovered John's land petition and grant records in the National Archives.
Copies of all related documentation are included in Appendix 1. The background
In September 1827, Colonel By requested that a survey be conducted of the rear
concessions of Templeton and Eardley Townships. The purpose was to provide
home-sites for his canal workers. He proposed that these lots "be placed at his
disposal for the settlement of deserving workmen to be selected by him".
The survey of Templeton was carried out by John Burrows in the fall of 1827 at a
cost of 163 pounds sterling. Those granted lots would pay their share of this
cost in payment for their lots.
On December 11, 1827, John was issued a 'location ticket' granting him 200 acres
on Lot 8, Range 2 in Templeton Township. On the same date a ticket was issued to
his son Anthony for 100 acres on the north part of Lot 8, Range 5.
These were the only tickets issued that day. The number of people in the
families is also listed on the ticket register. John's shows 5 males and 3
females. These numbers total less than the family of nine and I am assuming that
his 20 year old daughter, Mary, was away from home working as a servant, a
common occupation of older female children. Anthony's ticket entry showed him as
Significantly, only eight of the grants in that November/December period were
for 200 acres and each of these had to be recommended by an officer. John's was
recommended by Colonel By. So, the connection to Colonel By leads us to the
conclusion that John and his son Anthony had some involvement with the
construction of the Rideau Canal. Their exact involvement will likely never be
known because there are no records of the canal workers, who were actually
employees of private companies awarded construction contracts by Colonel By.
However, our John must have had some type of foreman's position or have provided
some service to the Canal effort or to Colonel By himself; or perhaps he was
involved with transportation of goods along the Ottawa River. In short, there
would have been some good reason for him to be awarded a 200 acre grant within 2
years of his arrival. He was 50 years old.
Chaudiere Falls &
1831 Joseph Bouchette - see Endnote 14
Joseph Bouchette, an early surveyor of new settlements in Lower Canada, reported
in 1824 that the front ranges of Templeton Township were timbered with spruce,
cedar, basswood and balsam and the rear ranges with elm, birch, beech, maple and
basswood. There was also an abundance of Norway, white and yellow pine. The land
in the front ranges "have been found of an excellent quality, abounding with
meadows, and rising, from the fore part, into fertile swells of fine land, some
sections of which are stony". Templeton is "exceedingly well watered by the
Great and Little Rivieres Blanche, the entrance of the River Gatineau and a
number of other inferior streams—besides several ponds along its front, which
overflow in the spring and fall of the year. The Grande Riviere Blanche
........ alters its course southward, to the division line between the first and
second Ranges, and winding Eastward through the second Range, it discharges
itself at lot No. 3 into an arm of the Ottawa, which connects that River with
one of the Ponds already alluded to."
In 1824, Templeton Township was essentially barren land. Although many of the
lots on the front ranges had been granted two decades earlier, few pioneers
homesteaded the land. In fact, only 20 males and 16 females lived in the
Township and but 186 acres had been cleared of which 156 acres were under
cultivation. There were 7 houses, 4 barns, 11 horses, 11 pigs and 25 "horned
cattle" in the Township. There was one road which passed through Range 1, but it
was in poor condition, owing to the lack of settlers.
As for John's land, I assume he had scouted the property in advance and had
petitioned By and the Land Agent well before the ticket was issued. It was a
beautiful layout, one range (about one mile) north of the Ottawa River just
south west of the present day Gatineau Airport. The east lot line was Rue Cheval
Blanc and the north lot line was Chemin Industrielle, just north of the
Autoroute. Boulevard St. Rene bisects the property. The Blanche River also
bisects the southern part of the property. It would have been well treed. When
my father and I visited the site of the property in 1998, there was still
standing the massive tree pictured below, spared despite a new housing project
adjacent. By 2007, the tree was gone and the entire lot is now occupied by
The only requirements to earn the deed to the lot were, within three years, to
build a house and become a settler thereon, and to clear a portion of the land
(at that time four acres in Lower Canada).
Site of John
Cullen's land- Blvd St. Rene and Rue Cheval Blanc, Gatineau,
assume that John took possession of his land immediately and in the Spring of
1828 began to complete the required upgrading of the land. We believe his sons
and hired employees helped in the effort. Regarding the hired workers, there are
two relevant entries in the 1828 journal of Colonel John Macdonell of
Macdonell, a retired North West Company fur trader and veteran of the War of
1812, operated a freight forwarding business and dry goods store from his manor
house on the banks of the Ottawa River (now the Macdonell Williamson House
Museum). On July 9, 1828, Hyacinthe Mallet dit Leblanc bought goods on credit. A
second similar entry follows for July 22, 1829 for purchases by a Hubert Mallet.
The two purchases seem to be guaranteed by John Cullen. It is likely that the
Mallets worked for John. In the 1842 Census, there is a Hyacinthe Mallette
living in Templeton. (There are three different John Cullen signatures
associated with these entries– one for a John G. Cullen; all signatures are
different. It is not known which, if any, of the three are our John's
signature.) John Cullen may have met Macdonell on their initial settlement
trip up the Ottawa River in 1826. There are several ties between the Templeton
Cullens and Pointe-Fortune. They will unfold below.
John Macdonell's 1828 Journal Journal
entry showing John Cullen's guarantee of
Hubert Maillet's goods purchases
and three John Cullen signatures
his family may have lived near the Rideau Canal works or in Lower Town until
sometime in 1828 when he most likely moved his family to his land. John had
erected a log dwelling of "piece-sur-piece" construction and cleared and
cultivated land (amount unknown). On February 20, 1830 the land agent certified
in writing that the 'settlement duties had been performed'.
It took another eight months for the bureaucracy to catch up with John. He and
Peter and Francis McGuire, also from Cavan, joined forces to petition for deeds
to their lands, having complied with the requirements and having paid their
share of the surveying costs.
On October 18, 1830, John's land was officially granted
and on December 7, 1830, the Surveyor General noted his name on the official
diagram of Templeton Township. Yet it wasn't until July 22, 1833 that letters
patent for the land were issued. Obviously, bureaucracy reigned supreme even in
Life of the Settler in the
Obtaining his land was the settler's first task. Then his real work began: doing
all the things necessary to occupy his land, feed and provide for his family and
start to enjoy life in his new land.
For the uninitiated immigrant, there was much assistance. There were four
to the Canadas, one by William Watson of Dublin in 1822; a second published by
His Majesty's Chief Agent for the Superintendence of Settlers and Emigrants in
1832; a third by Francis Evans, agent for the Eastern Townships in 1833; and a
fourth in 1834 by A.C. Buchanan, Chief Agent for Emigration to the Canadas.
These guides were detailed instruction manuals on labour climate, means of
transportation and obtaining land, currency use, building a home and planting
crops and were useful to settlers, who, as soon as their boat docked at Quebec,
were met by many providers of advice and services, not all entirely
John Cullen would have seen the Watson guide. Watson described himself as "a
practical and experimental agriculturist" who had spent time in the Canadas and
deplored the sensational "grass is greener in the Canadas" information getting
back to prospective emigrants in his country.
John came face to face with the realities of being a settler. He had to clear
land, build a house and plant crops. On his land, there would have been a mix of
hardwood and softwood trees. With his sons and hired workers, his first task was
to chop trees to provide timber and clear an area for a home. The open area
surrounding the house location had to be sufficient in size to protect the
homestead against fires. The trees were cut into 10-20 foot lengths, squared,
notched and placed to fit on top of one another with dovetailed corners, then
chinked with lime and sand mortar to provide insulation. This was so-called
"piece-sur-piece" construction. The houses were up to 24' X 30' in size with 10'
ceilings and included a wooden floor to provide some insulation in winter. Also,
nearby or under the floor, the settler dug a 5-6' deep root cellar for storage
and protection of his farm produce from the cold of winter and the heat of
summer. As winter approached, the settler would "bank up" the house foundation
with earth to protect the cellar against frost and make the house as warm as
Most of the Templeton settlers built homes of this type of construction.
Initially, the houses would have been cabin-sized, but over time expanded in
floor space and stories. By 1850, most of the Cullens had 1 1/2 storey homes.
The 1833 Emigrant's Guide had this to say about the settler's new
"In such a house a family may live comfortably, cheered by the gratifying
reflection that they are residing in their own estate, which will become more
valuable every year, and for which they do not have to pay rent, taxes, nor any
other of those charges, which have been to them, while in their native country,
a source of perpetual uneasiness: where they can taste the sweets of freedom,
independence, serenity and repose."
Amen for the liberated
Howard home, Rue
Notre Dame, Gatineau - A good example of "maison piece-sur-piece"
The cleared land was a source of revenue to the settler. There would have been
much extra wood cleared including brush and small timber. The excess would be
used for firewood and the balance burned in a large pot to produce potash.
Potash in this state was worth six pence to 1 shilling per bushel. If processed
further into salts of lye, the value increased to 17 shillings and 6 pence per
cwt. An acre of hardwood would produce about 3-4 cwt. of potash. Then there was
the timber itself. Pine, spruce and cedar, when cut and floated downriver (the
Blanche River bisected John's land), could be delivered to timber merchants at a
price of between 1 shilling and 2 shillings 6 pence per tree.
Tree stumps were left in the fields. Leaving them "injured" the land less than
digging them out. They would eventually dry out and rot and then could be dug
out more easily. In the meantime, the settler could plough and plant between
them without difficulty. The more troubling hassle was removing stones from the
land, which on some properties took many years.
The settler then had to purchase livestock and farm implements. Prices at the
time, in pounds, were as follows: a milk cow from 3 to 5, steers more, a working
horse from 7 to 10, a yoke of oxen from 8 to 12, sheep from 7 to 15 shillings
and pigs from 3 to 15 shillings depending on age. A plough cost from 2 to 3
pounds. As well, he needed seeds for planting, an array of axes, hoes, saws,
files, chisels, planes, hammers, nails, hinges, glass and putty.
By the mid 1850s, all the Cullens were operating sizeable farms which produced
milk, cheese, eggs, butter, cereals, vegetables, fruits, potatoes, beef, pork,
corn and hay for the animals, potash and wood for construction, fences and
heating. Horses or oxen were used for plowing and for transportation. Sheep wool
was used to make clothes. Excess product was sold or used in their winter timber
of early settler's house, Pontiac County
While the settler's life was strenuous, particularly in the initial years, it
was not all toil and no play. There was regular singing and dancing on Saturday
nights with the family and neighbours. And the Irish loved their card games. No
doubt also there were private stills which made use of rye grown on their lands.
No wonder our ancestors loved their rye whiskey. They could also make the
occasional trip to the inns in nearby East Templeton and Pointe Gatineau. One of
the inns in Pointe Gatineau was owned by son-in-law James O’Hagan.
Pictures from The Picture Gallery of Canadian History
Emigrants in a
had a blacksmith shop on his farm in 1851
may have used corduroy pole construction for his bridge
Templeton Township was a thriving part of the
colonial Canadian timber industry and many inhabitants, including the Cullen
family, played a part in its development. Templeton and other townships along
the Ottawa River were ideally suited for the industry being blessed with the
largest stock of red and white pine in British North America and a variety of
hardwoods including oak, elm, maple, birch, ash and butternut. White pine with
its height of up to 250 feet and girth of up to six feet, together with its
strength and lightness characteristics, was much in demand for ship masts and
spars in Britain. Red pine was heavier and used for structural work and also for
The stimulus for
initial development was Napoleon's blockade of Baltic ports to British ships in
1805, thus depriving its shipping industry from its source of wood for ship
building. The British then looked to colonial North America for a new source and
initial shipments came from Vermont and the St. Lawrence and Richelieu Rivers
via Quebec as the port. In 1806, Philemon Wright floated his first raft of
timber from Wrights Town to Quebec and thus was born the Ottawa River timber
This initial success
proved an incentive for settlers to become timbermen, cutting pine and hardwoods
from their properties. After clearing a space and constructing a log cabin and
planting a few crops, settlers still had an abundance of trees for additional
logging for the export market. All that was needed was set of axes, a team of
horses, access to water transportation, and much toil.
cutting Upper Ottawa River c1871 McCord Museum
Throughout the entire Ottawa Valley, entrepreneurial types had greater
ambitions. The government owned most of the land and auctioned off the right to
cut timber from "timber limits". These were 10 mile square land plots which were
auctioned to the highest bidder at about $1.00-$1.50 per square mile.
Annual rent for the limit was also paid. Then, once the timber was cut, an
additional tax or duty of 1/2 to 4 pence per cubic foot, depending on type of
timber, was due. The timberman hired 25-50 labourers to work the limits. Most of
the work was done in the winter. Their base was called a “shanty” (from the
French 'chantier'), a large log building in which the workers were housed and
fed. There was a hole in the shanty roof which let light in and smoke out. Meals
were cooked over the open fire in the centre of the shanty and the fire burned
all day and was also used for heat. Sleeping quarters surrounded the
were called "shantymen" and included many of the settlers earning much needed
income in the winter months to supplement their farm earnings the rest of the
year. They would leave their wives to look after the family while working in the
woods. French and Irish worked together. The work consisted of felling timber,
squaring felled logs (removing bark and wood by broadaxe to "square" the log for
easier transporting), and hauling timber by horse or oxen to the nearest
tributary to wait for the spring breakup. The skilled workers were the
axemen and the hewers and were paid accordingly. Shantymen worked six days a
week with Sundays off. Their spare time was spent sharpening their axes, smoking
pipes, playing cards and drying their clothes. On Saturday nights there was
fiddle playing, singing and dancing and story telling (in English and French).
Occasionally on Sundays a priest would visit the shanty to say Mass.
Blasdell broadaxes made in Bytown Shanty Upper Ottawa
c1871 McCord Museum Hauling Logs Upper Ottawa River
c1871 McCord Museum
With the spring thaw, logs were dumped in the rivers for the
trip downstream to the Ottawa River,
aided by the "draveurs" who worked on the river to keep logs from
jamming. Once there, the logs and squared timber were formed into
24' wide cribs of about 20 squared logs tied together by other logs and cross
timbers. Cribs were then joined together to form large rafts for the trip to
Timber Raft on the St. Lawrence 1859
Draveur at work
Timber cut above the Chaudiere Falls had to be transported through numerous
rapids and falls. Many "timber slides" were built to circumvent these obstacles.
These were wide enough to accommodate a crib. Rafts would be broken down into
cribs above the falls and reassembled below. In 1829, Philemon Wright's son
Ruggles, built the first timber slide to bypass the Chaudiere Falls, on the Hull
side of the Ottawa.
If there was no slide, depending on the force of the rapids, the cribs would be
broken down into timber then reformed once through. This process continued on
down the Ottawa to Montreal and the St. Lawrence where the raft continued
downstream to Quebec. Steam powered boats were also used to tow the rafts in
The rafts were manned by "river men" who used 30 foot oars or "sweeps" to propel
the current-assisted rafts. They lived on the rafts for the duration of the
trip. Cribs at the rear were used for cooking (known as a "cambuse") and
for sleeping quarters.
Slide Hull 1855
J.R. Booth Raft c1890 LAC
At Quebec, an agent handled the sale of the timber which was then loaded into
specially designed ships (built in Quebec) and transported to
Diamond at Wolfe's Cove Quebec
LAC Ships Loading Timber
Quebec c1860 LAC
of the shantymen was lonely and dangerous. They were away from their families
for months on end. Many accidents occurred and lives were lost in timber
cutting, draveuring and rafting accidents. The industry was inherently dangerous
and many of the same conditions remain in today's forest industry.
The timberman either provided his own working capital or arranged for his winter
inventory of provisions and supplies from a supplier, with payment plus
commission made the following spring or summer when the timber was sold at
Quebec. To avoid the uncertainties of markets and pricing, many operators
balanced staying small within their means against becoming larger on credit. As
discussed in detail below and in the next chapter, the entire Cullen family was
involved in the timber business, Anthony being the largest operator. However,
each of the brothers and brothers-in-law had enough employees at one time or
another to have operated shanties. Yet, as relatively small operators, they may
have prudently contracted their winter timber production to larger lumbermen or
arranged for transport to Quebec through rafting conducted by others.
Today's cycles of lumber demand and pricing are not new. The early entrepreneurs
faced the same market circumstances and suffered similar economic results.
Moreover, the industry was plagued with government favoritism for the large
operators in licensing and taxation. And because there were so many small
players, there likely would have resulted many more personal bankruptcies and
life-altering cases of financial ruin.
In the colonial forest products sector, squared timber was the primary product
until the early 1860s. At that time a number of factors influenced the rise of
sawn lumber for export. New milling technology was emerging and a reciprocity
treaty with the U.S. stimulated exports. Also, transportation of exports through
the Rideau Canal was a boost to Ottawa area sawmills. Underlying growth of
exports from the Canadas was due to American economic expansion throughout the
Midwest and western states. Dependence on the U.S. market is still pretty much
the same story with today's forest products industry in Canada.
I have not described the sawmilling and lumber industry in depth since the
Cullens are not known to have engaged in this sector. Suffice to say that the
lumber industry was an equally important economic driver in the Ottawa Valley
and Bytown area throughout the 19th century.
John Cullen and
there is little information about John Cullen and his family in the 1830s, it is
evident they were active in establishing the first farm and early beginnings of
their timber activities. I attribute the lack of references to their advancing
years and John's turning over the family business to Anthony by around
reference to John is on a c1836 map of Eardley, Hull and Templeton Townships
obtained from the Archives which shows lands for sale at that time.
It also identifies lot owners and from this we can see the growing land base of
the Cullens. By 1836, they had amassed 900 acres, including purchases totaling
600 acres - a choice 200 acre lot fronting the Ottawa River (Range 1, Lot 11),
200 acres to the east of the original grant (Range 2, Lot 7) and 200 acres in
Perkins. While John likely supplied the influence and capital to obtain the
land, it is assumed that he and Anthony used part of the land base, particularly
the more northerly-located lots in the Township, as the start of their timber
In the 150 year
history of St. Francois de Sales parish of Pointe-Gatineau, there is an account
of its early organization efforts by Templeton area Catholics. On July 10, 1838,
Messrs J. McGoey, Homier, Cullin (sic) and Laurent met with the Church’s
representative, Patrick Phelan, regarding an eight arpent parcel of land at
Pointe Gatineau to be donated by Philomen Wright and the community's desire to
create a new parish. A small chapel was built later that year. The "Cullin"
reference must be to John as our Cullens were the only ones in the area at that
By the 1850s, all
John's sons and his sons-in-law were involved in the timber business. They
likely got their start with John and Anthony, with the younger sons working with
their father and older brother during the 1830s.
The 1842 census shows that John was a farmer occupying 100 acres of which 16
acres were 'improved' and producing 150 bu. each of oats and potatoes. He had 4
milk cows, 7 hogs and 6 horses. At the time, the number of horses was a sign of
prosperity and, undoubtedly, the horses were needed for the family timber
business. They employed one female servant. We assume John’s farm was in Range 2
and was part of the original grant. A later census indicates that Anthony was
living on 100 acres of John’s original granted lot. So it's probable that John
severed the property and Anthony built a house on the lot beside his father.
By the 1851 census, John was in his mid 70s and he and Elizabeth still lived on
the same farm. He was producing oats, potatoes and hay, but at a much smaller
scale than in prior years. His livestock consisted of only 4 cattle and 2 pigs.
He was obviously in retirement.
In August 1858, John died of unknown cause at age 82. Subsequently, Anthony took
over his father's land and in 1861, the Census shows Elizabeth living with her
youngest son John Jr. on his farm at Range 1, Lot 11.
Elizabeth died at age 82 on March 4 1862. No death notices or obituaries have
Both John and Elizabeth were
buried at St. Francois de Sales Church in Gatineau Point. When my father was
doing early Cullen research, he sought out their graves with no result. A church
worker advised him that when a new school was being built behind the church,
bones were unearthed. The bones were collected and put in a composite crypt near
the Church. Church officials denied this account. However, the St. Francois
parish history states that in August 1885, civil and church officials gave
permission to exhume the bones from the original cemetery in order to complete
the church construction. There is no mention of a crypt.
At age 82, John and Elizabeth were to outlive, in chronological terms, many of
their descendants. Two of their children, Catherine and Michael, had predeceased
them. They had shepherded their family through the trials of Ireland, emigration
and a new life of prosperity in Canada. To this time of writing, they had
fostered a family of several hundred descendants.
Township Cadastral Plan
1878 showing the extent of known Cullen family landholdings in the
Other Cullen Families in the
During and after the Rideau Canal
construction period, there were several other Cullens in the Bytown and
Templeton areas. We have not been able to link them to John, but the assumption
is that some of them are probably related.
A possible relative is Anthony
Cullen from Lisnabantry, Killinkere, County Cavan. He is listed No. 558 on
The McCabe List and it is noted that he was married and that "his uncle James
Cullin & family reside at Killincare .....". This James may be the one referred
to in the Raffony Graveyard (see Page 6). No further record of this
Anthony has been found.
In the 1861 census there was a
Thomas Cullen (age 62) living with wife Bridget (58), married in 1829,
both born in Ireland, living in the 6th to 13th Range in
Templeton (location unknown). Thomas was a school teacher. In 1856, a Thomas
Cullen was godfather to Michael Thomas, son of Michael and Mary Cullen. This is
the only record of a Thomas Cullen in the area. The likelihood is Thomas is
related to our Cullens.
There was a Martin
Cullen in Aylmer. He was a tailor. He arrived in the early 1840s. His son
Martin married into one of the Cantley Burke families and later became a
blacksmith in Pointe-Gatineau. We have found no church-related connections to
our line such as godparents or witnesses at weddings and burials. Although
Martin is a name in our Cullen line of descendants, I doubt we are related to
There was a Margaret Cullen resident in Templeton until the early 1850s.
She was related by marriage to Owen Lynch (No. 359 on the McCabe List)
and Peter Lynch, both from Killinkere, Cavan, who also worked on the Rideau
Canal and would have been known to John Cullen. Both Owen and Peter were issued
their tickets for Templeton land grants one day after John and Anthony. In the
early 1850s, the Lynches and Margaret Cullen and other families relocated to Jo
Daviess County, Illinois. Also living in Illinois at that time were Edward and
Simon Cullen worked on the Rideau Canal. He
is listed No. 50 on the McCabe List. He was from Kings County and relocated to
the Peterborough area. Simon is most likely not related.
In the Buckingham area, south of the old town, there is a Rue Cullen,
located south of Rue Pierre Laporte and joins rues Scullion and
Arthur Gratton. The street may be named after the original Cullen family or the
family of Martin Cullen, son of John Bernard, who was prominent in Buckingham in
In the northern part of Wakefield Township in Range 11, Lot 8, there are two
lakes Lac Cullen and Petit Lac Cullen. There is also Lac
Cassidy in Range 11, Lot 7. How these lakes came to be
named is unknown, but they are most likely named after our family (Anthony's
timber activities perhaps and great great great grandfather Thomas Cassidy and
his son James, whose homesteads were in Range 11, Lots 4 and 5,
The lakes are located in a hilly, wild area of crown land which is
populated by many small lakes as well as the larger Lac St. Charles. The
elevation of the area is about 350 metres. Access to these lakes is off Chemin
Hogan from the south and from Chemin Paugan in the north, but is restricted as
the entire tract is reserved for a private fishing club. Barbara and I searched
for the lakes in May 2007, but were advised by our relative Basil Carroll and
his neighbour Thurlow Canavan that the trek in to the lakes was long and arduous
and that one had to be mindful of the wildlife including bears. We took their
Lac Cullen, Petit
Lac Cullen & Lac Cassidy, Wakefield Township cGoogle