Onslow and Quyon History
Municipality of Pontiac, MRC des Collines de l’Outaouais, Québec, Canada.

From Early History by S. Wyman MacKechnie, in Quyon-Onslow, 1875-1975, Souvenir of Centennial, 1975, and
The Upper Ottawa Valley to 1855, Ed. Richard Reid, Carleton University Press, 1990.

|Quio or Quyon?| |Philemon Wright| |Joseph Wyman| |John Christian Mohr|
|Steamboats and Pontiac Village| |John Egan| |Walton Smith|
|Prince of Wales| |Village of Quyon incorporated| |Churches|
|John James Muldoon| |Douglas Humphreys Pimlott|
|Pontiac Pacific Junction railway| |Mining| |Quyon Ferry|

There were people here long before the pioneers came and some of them may have lived here temporarily, but they could hardly be called settlers. Champlain was probably the first white man to see the mouth of the Quio River or the Chats Falls, on his way up the Ottawa River in 1613. This long established waterway of the Indians soon became well known to the fur traders and the voyageurs.

Joseph Mondion cleared a farm on a point (Indian Point or Point Indienne or Mondion Point) about a mile below the Chats Falls in 1786. He raised cattle and hogs and sold the meat to the fur traders passing by. It was said he also sold whisky to the voyageurs, a forbidden practice. This got him into trouble and in 1800 he sold his holding to Forsyth, Richardson and Company, trading merchants of Montreal. The property was later owned by the North-West Company and after that the Hudson’s Bay Company, and was used as a trading post.

In 1821 when a new fur trade sprang up along the Ottawa River with headquarters in Lachine, trading posts or forts were set up at Lac des Deux Montagnes (Oka), Chats (Quyon), Fort Coulonge, Lac des Allumettes (Fort William), des Joachims, Mattawa and Fort Temiscamingue. These posts were usually situated near Indian hunting grounds, and continued as lumbermen moved in to Indian territory. (See also Canoe travel on the Ottawa River).

In 1837 the Chats post was closed as Indians had been displaced out of the area and lumbermen were buying food from the new settlers. With the end of the fur trade it was purchased by a man named Julien who farmed it. At that time Indian Point was known as Julien’s Point. Now there are many summer homes located there.

Pontiac Bay lies just upstream from Indian Point and was a focal point in the early days for shipping, lumbering and settlement. The Wrights had a timber slide and a saw mill there around 1840. Later the O’Connor Brothers operated a saw mill there also.

Names: Onslow, Quyon or Quio?

Settlement took place long before any municipalities were organized. Why the name Onslow was given to this area is unknown. The name Quio is an Indian name and means “river with a sandy bottom” or possibly “river with a muddy bottom”, although the first meaning is more accurate.

Old maps show the spelling of the river as Quio and the settlement that grew up near where it enters the Ottawa as The Quio, a name long used and still heard. As far as local council records are concerned the change in spelling seems to have taken place at the time the village was incorporated, being used in the documents proclaiming the Village of Quyon in December 1874. Before that the post office was known as Onslow. Post office records kept at Woburn (later Wyman), a hamlet about four miles to the west, show the mail coming from Quio as late as 1886, eleven years after incorporation. When the railway came in 1886 the spelling of the name on the station was Quio and remained that way until about 1920. In the records of one of the churches the spelling Quyon is first used in an entry of January 5, 1887. The Upper Ottawa Improvement Company, one of the early enterprises of the district, spelled the name of its establishment Quio Boom until logs were no longer floated down the Ottawa (?1975).

After Onslow was surveyed in 1808 large areas were sold or granted for speculation or development. Philemon Wright, who came from Woburn, Massachusetts in 1800 and founded Hull, was one of those who bought land. Wright was known to the Indians as “the white chief of the Ottawa”, and as “the King of the Gatineau” by lumber workers, but he was an important figure in Onslow as well. At the time of his death in 1839 he owned 12,000 acres in the first six ranges of Onslow. In Wright’s papers, in the National Archives of Canada, he frequently refers to his properties in Onslow, both his timber cutting operations and his farming activities there, listing acreages of oats and potatoes and his numbers of cattle. Unfortunately he did not state who was living on the properties or looking after his interests in the township.

Philemon Wright’s brother-in-law, Joseph Wyman, and his son Joseph Jr., who also came from Woburn, Massachusetts about 1835, obtained several hundred acres in the west end of the township through Wright. They named the new settlement Woburn after their New England home, and brought in other settlers. On April 1, 1885, Woburn was renamed Billerica. On November 1 1905 the name was changed to Wyman. The younger Joseph later ran the stage coach from Aylmer to Portage du Fort, continuing to do so until 1887, one year after the PPJ Railway was built.

About 1840, John Christian Mohr, who earlier had come to Montreal from Sweden, obtained large tracts of land in what was to become the Beech Grove area, and developed it as a prosperous farming community and built a mill there. The stone house built by John C. Mohr (on lot 21, range 3 of Onslow, south side of River Rd at Mohr) in 1846, is the oldest stone house still standing in the municipality of Pontiac.

Steamboats and Pontiac village
The first steamboat to sail from Aylmer to Pontiac Bay on Lac Deschênes was Lady Colborne, built in 1832 in Aylmer, and in service until 1846. In 1836, the George Buchanan went into service on Lac des Chats above the Falls. By the early 1840s Lady Colborne was carrying almost 6500 passengers and over 1000 tons of freight a year. In 1846 John Egan and Joseph Aumond built the Emerald for Lac Deschênes and the Oregon for Lac des Chats. The first village of any size in the area grew around Pontiac Bay. (Pontiac Village.) Its growth was stimulated and river traffic greatly increased with the building of the three mile long horse drawn portage train between Pontiac Bay and Lac des Chats; the Union Railroad. There is a model of Pontiac Village in the Arnprior museum. (See also Steamboats on the Ottawa River).

John Egan
Meanwhile Egan’s lumber mill at The Quio, built in 1846, resulted in a village springing up there. John Egan was born in Ireland, came to Canada about 1840 and immediately became involved in the lumber industry. He operated on the Bonnechere River on the Upper Canada side and built a sawmill there. The town that developed was named Eganville. Egan had vast timber limits all over Pontiac County also but soon concentrated on the timber along the Quio river where there was the best white pine in the land.

The logs were floated down the stream to a point near where the present Egan Street crosses the river. To avoid the sandy shoals near the mouth of the Quio, the logs were caught in a boom at that spot and diverted through a narrow sluiceway to his mill on the bank of the Ottawa. John Egan’s mill was soon turning out a half million feet of lumber a year, and was the principal source of employment for the entire district. He donated land for the three churches in Quio, sites which they occupy to this day.

John Egan was a man of great enterprise and impeccable character. In recognition of his ability and of his dedication to the prosperity of his adopted land he was selected as Member of Parliament for Pontiac in 1847, a position he held until his untimely death (not from cholera as frequently stated) in Quebec City in 1857. He was also the first mayor of Aylmer, which incorporated as a village independent from Hull Township in 1847. By 1850 Egan had a large saw mill at the foot of Chats Falls and was sending rafts of planks to Québec, in addition to square timber.

In 1853, £50,000 was allocated to build a four lock canal on the north shore at Chats Falls, as part of the Georgian Bay Canal system. For two years engineers tried to cut a canal with little success and in 1857, after the government had spent over £96,000 the project was abandoned. This greatly diminished the importance of Pontiac Village. Finally the building of the Pontiac Pacific Junction Railway in 1886, resulting in the transfer of business from river boat to railway, sounded the death knell of the once important and prosperous village.

Walton Smith
Walton Smith figured prominently in the early development of Quio. Born in England he decided to come to Canada as a very young man. He approached a London bank for references for employment and was given the name of John Egan. On his arrival in Canada in the early 1840s, Smith went directly to Egan who engaged him as manager. Walton Smith continued in business here for many years and exerted a strong influence in business and municipal affairs, and operated Egan’s business after his death.
In 1855 Onslow became an organized municipality and elected its first council with John Behan as mayor. The first meeting was entirely taken up with deciding “pathmasters” to maintain roads between various points in Onslow. Walton Smith was elected Onslow’s second mayor and served in that capacity for two terms, a total of ten years.

Prince of Wales’ visit
In 1860, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, while visiting Canada, came on a cruise up the Ottawa River on the steamer Ann Sisson. Evening was approaching and the royal party decided to stay overnight at the Quio. There was only one hostelry, an inn at the river shore catering mostly to lumbermen and local river travellers. The proprietor was an elderly Irish lady by the name of Mrs. Mary Beane, who was not the least bit flustered at the prospect of entertaining the future King of England. She sent out and borrowed some silver, china and linen to supplement her own supply, and the royal entourage was duly accommodated in her establishment, leaving a mark of distinction on her place as well as on the entire town.

Incorporation of Village of Quyon
In 1875 a proclamation was issued setting up the village of Quyon (as it was now spelled) as a separate municipality and providing for the election of a council of its own. Walton Smith was Quyon’s first mayor and also served as postmaster for 26 years. His house, built in 1862 on Clarendon Street is one of the landmarks of the town. In 1873 it was bought by William Mohr, oldest son of John C. Mohr, and it is still owned by the Mohr family four generations later.

South Onslow
In 1876 a further division was made when South Onslow was formed by dividing Onslow at the 7th concession.

20th Century
The great fire of October 6th, 1951...
In 1958, after years of planning and hard work, the modern filtration plant, water supply system and sewer service were opened at an impressive ceremony marking a new era in the standard of living for Quyon.

Municipality of Pontiac
On January 1, 1975, Quyon, North Onslow, South Onslow and Eardley amalgamated to form one municipality known as the Municipality of Pontiac.

Churches in Onslow and Quyon
Episcopal log chapel in Onslow near Cooney’s Lake, 1852, burned two years later.
St John the Evangelist, 1855.
Onslow Mission (Methodist, forerunner of present United Church) 1859. Church built 1873-.
St Mary’s, Quyon, frame, brick veneer, 1877. New church built 1906-1915.
Beech grove area, Bethel (Methodist) Church 1877. Nearby Presbyterian congregation merged in 1916.
Beech grove area, Presbyterian church 1886-1925.
New church emerged near Bethel site, Wesley United Church about 1925.
St Bridget’s Onslow, 1888.
Billerica (Wyman) (Methodist) church 1899-1954. (Woburn was known as Billerica from April 1, 1885 to November 1, 1905. On November 1 1905 the name was changed to Wyman.)
North Onslow (Methodist) church, about 1900-1967.

John James Muldoon
The heaviest man in Canada in his time and a notable figure throughout Pontiac.
His weight of 461 pounds was not the only remarkable thing about this man, for in spite of his great weight he was exceedingly light on his feet, an exceptionally good stepdancer. He was a jolly man, a good fiddle player and was noted for his hospitality and neighbourliness.

He was a descendant of a family that came from Ireland at the time of the potato famine. They settled in South March, Ontario, and Mr. Muldoon was married there to Mary Anne Kennedy. A remarkable fact was that he was one of six Muldoon brothers who married six Kennedy sisters. Soon after their marriage they moved to the Beech Grove area in Onslow, where the union was blessed with four daughters and six sons.

Mr. Muldoon operated a large farm and sold machinery. He served on South Onslow council for several years and for some time he was postmaster at an office that bore his name - Muldoon. He was an ardent Liberal in politics and a devout Catholic in religion. He died on the 8th of December 1909 at the age of fifty-four. A special casket had to be made with handles for eight pall bearers. His funeral service was held in St. Mary’s Church Quyon, with interment in the parish cemetery.

Douglas Humphreys Pimlott, conservationist, wildlife biologist, ecologist, environmentalist was born at Quyon, Québec, 4 January 1920; died at Richmond Hill, Ontario, 31 July 1978). A founder of the modern environmental movement in Canada, Pimlott advocated the conservation of wolves as predators with a rightful place in nature. He eliminated the wolf bounty in Ontario and launched conservation programs in Europe where only a few wolves remained. He was also one of the first spokesmen in the 1970s for protecting the northern Canadian environment. Pimlott directed a number of Canadian environmental organisations, founded the Canada-US Environmental Council and chaired an international wolf specialist group. He taught at University of Toronto and published many professional articles and books, including The Ecology of the Timber Wolf in Algonquin Park (reprinted 1978), and coauthored Oil Under the Ice (1976).
(by Monte Hummel, from The 1999 Canadian Encyclopedia: World Edition, Copyright © 1998 by McClelland & Stewart Inc.)

The first train of the Pontiac Pacific Junction railway (affectionately known as “Push, Pull and Jerk”), pulled into Shawville in January 1886. The original survey for the rail bed didn’t go into Shawville but was located out north by the 7th Line. Before work began a local delegation headed by J.A. McGuire and George Hynes met chief engineer Dale Harris and managed to have the route changed to go through Shawville, for a “consideration” of $500, a large amount in those days.
(information from The Equity, June 24, 1998, second section, page 8).

This was a good investment for Shawville as other communities that were by-passed by the railway, such as Bryson and Portage du Fort, declined in importance and population. In a similar way in more recent times, Quyon and Luskville villages have seen businesses close as the highway was improved and village centres by-passed to take cars and trucks past faster. In Quyon, a bus service carried passengers, mail and “express” the mile to and from the station twice a day.

Mining in Onslow and Quyon
A ninety foot shaft was sunk on a quartz vein by Pat Clarke on Range 1, South Onslow around 1890. This was all drilled by hand and the rock was hoisted by horse power. The ore was not of commercial value. A small pit was opened on range 3 to mine barium, but work was dropped after a few months.

A mica pit was opened on Range 1, North Onslow, north of the Steele line around 1910. Several tons of high grade mica were excavated and then when the vein narrowed to about 10 feet the project was abandoned. This mine was reopened in the 1950s and several truck loads of second grade mica were sold.

Gravel from range 7 of North Onslow is considered to be of the highest quality and millions of yards have been hauled from the Steele and Walsh pits, with lesser amounts from a dozen other pits between Pontiac Bay and the north of North Onslow.

There is iron west of Quyon, copper near Frontenac Hill, a mountain of tombstone granite between Curley’s Lake and Wilson’s Lake, and other minor deposits of minerals in outcrops throughout Onslow.

The most important mineral in the area is molybdenite. There are about twenty known deposits of molybdenite in Onslow. It is used for hardening steel and was used in the barrels of big guns in WWI to reduce heat. At that time Archie MacLean of Eardley, Ab Payne and Everett Steele started prospecting for molybdenite. They found two good deposits on the Robert Steele farm. Another group from Quyon found a deposit half a mile east on the Walsh farm. (On the edge of the Eardley escarpment on lots 9 and 10, range 7, North Onslow.) Mr. MacLean formed a syndicate and contacted Henry E. Wood of Denver Colorado, who formed the Canadian Wood Molybdenite Company. In March 1917 the mine was sold to the Dominion Molybdenite Company, who installed new equipment and kept production high until summer 1919. This was the first molybdenite mine in Canada and between 1916-1919 was the world’s largest producer of molybdenite. Some highlights of this period:
The only fatal accident happened on June 12, 1917 when Howard Edey of Wyman, age 33, was killed with a dynamite blast which was heard ten miles away.
756,091 pounds of MoS2 (molybdenite) were produced.
120 men were employed for three years, 90% local.
19 men died in the great flu epidemic of 1919.
The manager was B. Kirkham, an engineer, born in England.

In 1924-25 the mine reopened for six months but only produced 63, 000 lbs of MoS2 and closed because of depression prices. 12 million gallons of water were pumped out of the pit and 45 men worked at the mine.

In 1939 with WWII imminent, Ellsworth Wood, son of Henry E Wood, formed a new company called Quyon Molybdenite Mines. They spent $200,000 building a new mill, smelter, bunkhouse, office and headframe. After a difficult first year there was a major reorganisation of staff in 1941 and with the help of government subsidies production continued until July 1944. Edgar Mulligan was manager. Sixty men kept the mill processing 160 tons of ore per day, with a production of over 500, 000 pounds of molybdenite. The subsidy was dropped in July 1944 and the mine was closed.

What remains are four open pits, cement pillars on the mill site, rotted pipes, traces of roads, and the memories of those who worked in the mine mill and smelter. (Moss (MoS?) Mine on topographical map, north of Steele at Wolf Lake Rd.) This industry gave Quyon fame, and fortune for the whole community for a total period of ten years.

Quyon Ferry, (819) 458-2286
There has been transportation of some kind from Quyon to Ontario from the earliest days of European settlement. Each winter, local residents would build and maintain an ice bridge, used by many travellers. It was built by flooding a route marked by tree branches. It was quite safe until the Chats Falls Hydro Dam was built in 1932, when the water level was never constant and the ice became unsafe for heavy loads.

From April to December a shuttle ferry service was in operation. The cargo usually was pedestrians, livestock and perhaps a horse and buggy. Until spring 1916 there were several small ferry boats, propelled by two paddle wheels near the back at each side. Two horses were attached to a turnstile that drove the paddle wheels. The ferry was steered by a long oar, and took about twelve minutes to cross.

According to Mrs Angus Maclean and Bernie Badore of Arnprior, the very first horse ferry was owned and piloted by Augustus Davis, and began around 1885. William Moore and Harry Davis followed. In 1893, William Henry Maclean got the contract and continued to operate his horse ferry until 1916 except for a short time when Alec Coburn won the contract.

In 1916 Angus Maclean took over from his father, using a new ferry with a Fairbanks Morse gasoline engine to replace the horse ferry. Angus Maclean ran the service until 1956, when he was forced to retire due to ill health, and Ed McColgan operated Angus’ ferry for one season. The following year the tired, grey paddle wheel ferry was retired after 41 years. Ed McColgan built a new ferry right on the Quyon shore, and it was equipped with a Harbourmaster outboard diesel engine. It was designed to carry six cars and to cross in about five minutes.

This new ferry was popular with cottagers, and business rapidly picked up. Mr. McColgan then built two larger, all-steel ferries in 1968 and 1971 and ran the business until his death in 1973. His two sons Mark and Don took over the business.

Quyon ferry webpage

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