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FINDLAY, brothers Walter & James

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The  Voters List for 1837 is the earliest we have for Westmeath Township and one might say that those men listed (women had no vote) are the grandfathers of the old township. One of those gentlemen was named Walter Findlay (1822 – 1904) and he would become well known and even have a very special set of islands in the Ottawa River named for him. “The Findlay Islands Ecological Reserve

Findlay Islands Conservation Area in the Ottawa River, east of Waltham, Quebec, and at the top end of Lake Coulonge.

Captain Walter Findlay of the “Union Forwarding Company”

Walter Findlay had a superior knowledge of the Ottawa River during his lifetime because he made his living on its waters. He served as captain or master on steamboats during the river’s lumber trade and passenger service hey-day. Once the Age of steam brought train travel, which could be scheduled in all weathers & seasons, the use of the river as a highway for goods and people was over.

In the mid-1800s Captain Walter Findlay was employed by the Union Forwarding Company as a Steamboat Captain taking goods and passengers upstream and downstream on various stretches of the Ottawa River.

Advertisements show that Findlay was captaining the “OREGON” in 1851; the “EMERALD” in 1854; the “ALLIANCE” in 1867.

Steamboat work was seasonal work and the winter left Walter and his brother James with plenty of time to work as lumber merchants. More on the transportation system on the Ottawa River during that era can be found at Gould’s Line.

Findlay “Immigrant Ancestors” Robert Findlay (1797-1858) and Margaret Russell (1794-1878)  had emigrated out to the British Colony coming to Chateauguay, Quebec.  At least four of the children of this family moved up the Ottawa Valley, settling both Ontario-side Westmeath Township and in Litchfield Township in Fort Coulonge, PQ. The parents Robert Findlay and Margaret Russell had come to Canada from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

The two sons Walter and James, in Westmeath Township, knew good money was being made in the lumbering business. In Westmeath Village, Walter worked with Timber Baron Alex Fraser and Hiram Chamberlain, both heavyweights in the booming lumber trade.

“It is the Findlay family that I am researching. I have seen many references to Walter Findlay, my Great-Great-Grand father and to his brother James (both were presidents of the agricultural society for a while and Walter was a steamer captain on the Ottawa as well as being a farmer and a lumber man (he had timber rights that were just north of Fraser’s on the Black River – but he lost them to JR Booth – my mother always said that they were stolen from him, but I have no evidence of that).  Walter was married to Mary McCaskill (McCaskell was the spelling once they got to Renfrew county, but the correct spelling is McCaskill according to records in Williamstown). She was said to be a first cousin to Angus McCaskill [the Cape Breton Island Giant] (but again, no evidence).  Her mother was Rosemary Higginson and a family photo says that she is the niece of General George Alexander Wentworth Higginson (Godfather to Queen Victoria and Captain of the tower of London).”     Submitted by Findlay descendant Kenneth Gourlay.

The two brothers were born in different countries – Walter born in 1822 in Scotland and James born in 1834 in Chateauguay, Quebec; the south shore of St. Lawrence at Montreal.

Walter Findlay & Mary McCaskill

In 1858 Walter Findlay (1822 – 1904) married Mary McCaskill (1836-1907) and set up a home in Westmeath Village.  When they wed, Walter, son of Robert Findlay and Margaret Russell,  was living in Litchfield Township across the river from Westmeath Township and Mary, daughter of Donald McCaskill and Rose Margaret Higginson, was living in Ross Township, Ontario, adjacent to Westmeath Township.   1858 Marriage Registrar Walter&Mary

Mary McCaskill Findlay

Captain Walter Findlay

1871 Census Westmeath Township, Walter Findlay Household. Walter was by then a wealthy man and headed one of the only Westmeath Village households employing a Governess for his children and a Clerk for his businesses.

Findlay-McCaskill stone, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Cemetery, Fort Coulonge Village, PQ. “In memory of Walter Findlay born at Hamilton Scotland Aug 7, 1822, died Dec 21, 1904, at Coulonge and Mary McCaskill his wife born at Glengarry Ont. Nov 21, 1835, died at Coulonge Mar 6, 1907”. From

In the 1893 Voter’s List for Westmeath Township, Walter Findlay is the owner of S1/2 Lot 15, B  CFL (Coulonge Lake Front), as well as Lot 15 WFA; on the 1896 Voter’s List, he owns Lot 14, E 1/2 15 B CFL.

1901 Census, Pontiac, Village of Fort Colounge, PQ. Walter and James’ sister Margaret Findlay (1827- ) has her own household with her niece and the local school teacher is a lodger. She is listed as a general merchant. The Walter and Mary Findlay household has 4 daughters still at home.

The children of Walter and Mary Findlay were:

  1. Robert R. Findlay (1860-

    Robert and Susan Findlay. Submitted by David Pounder.

  2. Donald Higginson Findlay (1860-1947)  went westward to make his fortune and in 1887, in Manitoba, married Mary Barbara Robertson (1866-1930). They would live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

    Donald Findlay

    Mary Barbara Robinson

    Two sons Robert “Bob” and Donald standing; with Walter Findlay in the chair. From

  3. Margaret “Maggie” Findlay (1864-
  4. Rosemary Findlay  (1866-1903) m. ___Leach. Buried at Cranbrook Old General Cemetery, East Kootenay, BC.
  5.  Anna “Annie” Walterena Findlay (1869-1909) buried at Presbyterian Cemetery, Ft. Coulonge, PQ.
  6. Jamesena “Jessy” Findlay (1875- 1951), spinster.

    Ottawa Journal, January 12, 1951.

  7. Walteretta Mary Elizabeth Findlay (1876- 1918) m. William Wallace from Ottawa. 1911 Marriage Walteretta&William. She was only 42 when she died.

    Wallace stone at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Cemetery Coulonge.

James Findlay & Susan Isabel Williamson

Lumber Merchant James Findlay (1833-1923) lived in Beachburg Village, Westmeath Township and for the first part of his adult life remained a bachelor.

1871 Census Westmeath, Township, James Findlay household. He is 37 and a lumber merchant.

James Findlay owned in Beachburg Village & countryside:   N 1/2  of Lot 9, & Lot 14, Concession 4 EML, Westmeath Township, according to the 1893 Voter’s List.

Finally, at age 56, James married Susie Williamson (1856-1940), daughter of John and Elizabeth Williamson from Athens, Lansdowne Twp., Lanark County. 1889 Marriage James & Susie Williamson.

Susan Williamson Findlay, on right, with daughter Susan Findlay. Submitted by David Pounder

James would live to an old age of 90; 1923 Death Reg. – James Findlay.

1901 Census, Beachburg Village, Westmeath Twsp. – Findlay Household


James Findlay Family. Submitted by David Pounder.

The children of  James and Susie Findlay were:

  1. Susan Margaret Findlay (  ) m. Irvine Rudsdale Pounder. 1919 Marriage Susan & Irvine They were both school teachers. He was the son of Joseph Pounder & Mary Jane Dunn of Pembroke.
  2. James Walter McCheyne Findlay (1897-1971)

By the 1921 Census, this family was living in Pembroke Ontario with James Findlay aged 88, wife Susie Isobel Findlay aged 65, and son James W, aged 27, occupation “Agent”.