HENNESSY, Martin and Emily Winters Hennessy
The votes are not all in; but it’s clear that the Hennessy clan is one of the most adventurous of the Westmeath Township Families.
Like so many of his countrymen, Irishman Martin Hennessy came to the New World hoping for a better life. These hard, tough labourers brought the muscle power to the developing nation of Canada. There was a Rideau Canal to be carved out of Frontenac granite and malarial swamps. There were lumber camps to be manned. There were land claims for the taking and fortunes to be made. But discrimination against the Irish was accepted practice in “civilized circles” of the early nineteenth century.
The Irish were considered to be at the lowest rung of the social ladder because of historical antipathy and their refusal to assimilate. Hiring practices left too many Irish laborers with no alternative but to gang together to change the system. It made for “Wild West” justice – perilous at best. Martin Hennessy was part of the war. He was one of the “Irish Gangs” of Ottawa, then Bytown, and ultimately fighting caused his death.
“After the completion of the Rideau Canal in 1832, many Irish workers were left unemployed. The timber industry, the major economic activity in the region at the time, mainly employed French-Canadians laborers, who were reputed to be hard-working and better skilled. Out of frustration, some of the unemployed banded together to try to create jobs for themselves by intimidation. This started the Shiner’s War. At this time, the town of Bytown did not have a permanent police force. From street fights, the violence escalated into robbery and murder.
“One of the lumber barons, Peter Aylen, only employed Irish workers and called himself “King of the Shiners“. The legendary Joseph Montferrand took the side of the French-Canadians.
“In 1837, the town magistrates formed armed patrols to monitor the town at night. This largely put an end to the gangs and violence, although some outbreaks continued to occur into the 1840s.”
Joseph Montferrand – the real “Big Joe Mufferaw“, is very well-known in the Ottawa Valley and has almost become a folk hero; known for his prowess in fighting and lumbering. Stompin’ Tom Connors’ song on this mythic figure has made “Mufferaw Joe” famous and many fans of the song never know that it was based on a real man.
Mufferaw was not the only fighting muscleman of the Grand (Ottawa) River Valley. The other rough customer was one Martin “Mart” Hennessy and the two men squared off in this tale courtesy of Liz Duffy:
“One day a crowd caught Joe in a saloon, when they all got at him at once. “Hold”, said Joe, “stop, let me out or I’ll use my feet.” They knew that this meant serious results, as his kick was far more dangerous than the kick of the proverbial mule, and they let him out. Mart Hennessy was one of the crowd. Mart followed Joe into the street, but only to receive a bad licking. Now, long years after, the friends of Mart claim that he whipped Joe. It was not claimed at the time. Joe said that he felt the effects of this fight more than any other he had ever had, so that there may have been some truth in the Hennessy claim of victory.”
Larry Cotton in his “Whiskey & Wickedness, No. 4, Renfrew County, 1825 – 1900” tells of Hennessy’s death:
“Shiner King Peter Aylen, employed a giant of a man named Martin Hennessy to lead his gang into fighting situations. Known far and wide, as a brutal drunken bully, Hennessy’s reputation for violence surpassed all others. In a fight in the Upper Ottawa Valley in February 1840, he finally met his match. The reference to the Grand River was another name for the Ottawa River in the early days. A Perth newspaper recorded the events thusly:
“Martin Hennessy, who has for a number of years, been the terror of the Grand River, was killed in an affray with a man named Hiram Whitney, on the Upper Les Allumette. An Inquest was held on the body, before C.S. Bellows, Esq., Westmeath, when a verdict was given to the effect, that Martin Hennessy came to his death by the hands of Hiram Whitney and that he is guilty of ‘Wilful Murder’. The perpetrator of the offense did not elude pursuit, but willingly gave himself up. He arrived….in charge of two constables, to be placed in gaol to await his trial.”
Hiram Whitney was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six months imprisonment at hard labor.
From notes submitted to this Registry entry, by his great-great-grandson Bill Hennessy; the story goes on:
“Old Martin Hennessy Sr. was brought over from Ireland to be the fighter for the “Irish Gang” on the Ottawa. They used to get into scraps in Hull. Hennessy at one point rode into a bar in Hull (with a shotgun?).”
The fighting was real and deadly; Hennessy became a casualty of the days of violence and whiskey. The Hennessy family passed down the story from Liz Hennessy Duffy like this:
“My lineage is as follows: Mart Hennessy> Martin Hennessy>Obadiah Martin Hennessy> Edgar Everest Hennessy>Elizabeth Evelyn Hennessy Duffy. Much of what I am about to write is legend which has been passed down through the family all these years.
“Mart Hennessy arrived in Canada from Ireland during the potato famine in Ireland. It is said that another faction of his family left for France about that time and introduced and still produce Hennessy Cognac. We have been told that Mart Hennessy could stand in a room and leap from a standstill, leaving his bootprints on the ceiling of the room. He was employed by Shiner King Peter Aylen to lead his gang into fighting situations and since Mart was sometimes known as a drunken Irish bully, he was chosen to lead his gang into many quarrels over the years. He finally met his match in February of 1840 when he was murdered by a man named Hiram Whitney during a fight in the upper Ottawa Valley. Hiram Whitney was found guilty of “wilful murder” following an inquest into his death performed by C.S.Bellows of Westmeath and the former was sentenced to six months in prison at hard labour upon being convicted of manslaughter. When an autopsy was done on Mart’s body, it was found to have , not a rib cage, but a solid breastbone.
Also submitted by great-great granddaughter Liz Duffy: the following is a newspaper account taken from the Bytown Gazette, Mar.12,1840, which is a verbatim copy from the Bathurst Courier Feb.28,1840.
“On the 18th of February a man named Martin Hennessy, who has for a number of years been the terror of the Grand River, was killed in an affray with one Hiram Whitney, on the Upper Les Allumette. An inquest was held on the body to the effect, that Martin Hennessy came to his death by the hands of Hiram Whitney, and that he is guilty of “wilful murder.” The perpetrator of the offence did not elude pursuit but willingly gave himself up. He arrived here on Saturday last in charge of two constables, to be placed in gaol to await his trial–Perth Courier”.
This is the stuff of legend and lore. From Liz Hennessy Duffy comes two poems of that frontier era in what would later be Ottawa; taken from the volume Recollections of Bytown:With narrow little street between, This was the village that I mean. Then William Graham kept the peace Of all the town with perfect ease; Potato whiskey then was cheap, And we had little peace to keep. Such monstrous practice was unknown As kicking when a man was down, Though many a stunning blow was felt, None ever struck below the belt; The ring was form’d, and fair play Reign’d without challenge at each fray, And never yet, that I could hear, Did constable e’er interfere, Or even think that among crimes Rank’d this brave pastime of old times. Then Martin Hennessy was young, A Hercules with sinews strung; You might as well an anvil “lick”, Or stand against a horse’s kick And fear not shattered rib or jaw As risk a smash from Martin’s paw. I’ve seen him in the days of yore His fist crash through a panel door. Martin soon ran his wild race out, For “Doctor Whitney” with a “clout” Of a great bludgeon laid him out Ready for a post mortem and bier, Thus ended Martin’s rough career. Ah! Those were happy halcyon days, Well worthy of immortal lays. Here I must summon from the band Of the departed shadowy land George Parsons, and his name entwine In this poetic wreath of mine. And Galipeau, who kept good whiskey, And Old Jamaica to make frisky The visitors to his retreat, On the east side of Sussex street, Close to the very spot, I think, Where now James Thompson deals in mink, Otter and other kinds of fur, Prime and unprime, without demur. ‘Twas at this in one afternoon In ’33, the month was June, That Martin Hennessy once tried On horseback up the stairs to ride, And would have done so, but for this, A pistol shot that did not miss, Which gave him, oh, most foul disgrace! A charge of buckshot in the face, Which spoiled his beauty without doubt, And knocked his “dexter peeper” out.
Alex Fraser – in this piece referred to with the pseudonym of “Sandy” – was a Westmeath Timber Baron with a large workforce in the western Quebec forests. In this tale 1869-battle-of-black-river, written by Harry J. Walker and published in The Ottawa Journal, Saturday, May 10, 1941, Fraser called on Mart Hennessey to help win the Battle.
Old Mart’s son, Martin Hennessy Jr. met and married Emily Winters, from an American family who had moved north into Quebec from Vermont as United Empire Loyalists. Martin was born in Lanark County and the young couple took advantage of the land grants available as Westmeath Township was surveyed and opened for settlement.
They set up their homestead on the shores of the Ottawa along the “Lost Road”. A large bay on the south shore of Lake Coulonge today bears the family name. Martin Hennessy was ready for a more “conventional” home life – not following in his fighting father’s footsteps. Bill Hennessy now lives on the original Hennessy homestead on the shores of the Ottawa River, just to the west of Coulonge Lake.
Emily Winter (1840-1907) was a daughter of Peter Obadiah Winters and Helena Marr Leroy of Grenville, Ont. She married Martin Hennessy on June 9, 1859 in Renfrew County. Martin Hennessy would also serve on the local school board. See S.S. #13 Rapid Road School.
This was a Methodist family of farmers. By election-time in 1909 Martin and his son Arthur, are eligible to vote and are listed as farmers. (1909 Voter List). In the 1911 Census Martin Hennessy is listed at age 76 years and Emily is presumed dead.
The children of Martin (1835- ) and Emily Winter (1840-1907) are:
1. Helen Hennessy (1861-1891) m. (1) Jack Turk, and (2) Norrie Bryson
2. Bishop Edward Hennessy (1866-1922) Bishop died in Cochrane, Ont. m. Mary Catherine “Katy” Poupore and their children were:
ii. Kathleen Viola Hennessy (1901- );
iii. Robert Roy Hennessy (1904-1967);
iv. Alexander Hennessy (1905- ).
3. William James Hennessy (1868-1917) m. Margaret Maggie Bryson. Their children are: Jim Hennessy, Doug Hennessy, Daley Coghill.
4. Obadiah “Dyer” Martin Hennessy (1869-1917) m. Emma Elizabeth “Liz” Carlson (1876-1953). She was a local Westmeath girl & the first of two Carlson’s to marry into the family. See CARLSON entry. Dyer died at age 48 in Temiskaming District, Ont.
Dyer and Liz raised six children:
i. Graham Winters Hennessy (1896- );
ii. Hugh D. Hennessy (1898-1926); – his death is included in the excerpt below.
iii. Marjorie Rose Hennessy (1901- );
iv. Edgar Everest Hennessy (1905- );
v. Clinton Rupert Hennessy (1906- )
vi. John Dominion Hennessy
Dyer’s accidental death at the young age of 48, and at the height of his career, struck hard as outlined in this article submitted by his granddaughter Elizabeth Hennessy Duffy, daughter of Edgar Everest Hennessy. Also included is the tragic news of the death of his son Hugh in 1926:
A History of the Obadiah Martin Hennessy family, Volume 5, THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO – a history 1615-1927 by Jesse Edgar Middleton and Fred Landon, M.A., Published by THE DOMINION PUBLISHING COMPANY, LIMITED TORONTO
“When news of the capsizing of a canoe, resulting in the drowning of Obadiah Martin Hennessy, was heard, it reverberated throughout the entire territory of Northern Ontario, where, for many years he had been known and loved wherever he went in woods or city streets, at home, or in company, for the hosts of his friends were legion. Few men have held the high respect of business associates and personal friends as was held by Obadiah Martin Hennessy. He exemplified the brotherhood of man in his brotherly kindness to all with whom he came in contact whether they worked for him, with him, or he in the same spirit served them.
“His grandfather and his father were lumbermen, and the inclination to follow their calling came naturally to Obadiah Martin Hennessy. Growing up in the life of a lumberman’s son, he learned his trade by contact as well as practice, which gave him a knowledge of forestry not to be gained by mere theory and opinion, and through this natural aptitude and ability, he became invaluable to those whom he served. It is difficult to fill the place of such a man.
“Obadiah Martin Hennessy was born in Renfrew County, Ontario on April5, 1869. His father was Martin Hennessy and his mother Emily (Winters) Hennessy, both natives of Ontario. His education was always toward the occupation or calling in which he was perfected and in the activity of lumberman he followed his trade as a leader to those under him.
“For eighteen years, he was associated with the J.R. Booth lumber interests, leaving that post to become woods manager for the Abitibi Power and Paper Company in Iroquois Falls. In entering upon the duties of this highly responsible position, he organized the woods force, for he was the first woods manager for the company, and retained full charge of operations until the day of his untimely death.
“When O.M. Hennessy first came into the North Country to look after the Booth interests, he, with his family, resided in Haileybury for about two years. While there, and also after coming to Iroquois Falls, he was actively interested in public affairs and served on the City Council in 1912. He was a member of Abitibi Lodge 485, Free and Accepted Masons and a member of the Methodist Church.
“Obadiah Martin Hennessy died June 20,1917. His death was due to an accident, the capsizing of his canoe, when he and his foreman were running the Little Couchiching rapids. With his going, the family loss was an irreparable one and to the town and community there was the loss of a man of the highest type of citizen and the company which he so valiantly served was left with a vacancy difficult to fill. In the history of the development of the North Country, the name of Obadiah Martin Hennessy will always hold a prominent place. He was buried in Haileybury, the funeral being conducted from the Methodist Church with full Masonic honours.”-also taken from the same volume:
“Hugh D. Hennessy, son of the late Obadiah Martin Hennessy and Emma Elizabeth (Carlson) Hennessy, died in Montreal, on November 26, 1926, in the twenty-eighth year of his age. The early demise of this promising and greatly loved young man caused much grief in the entire community and among his associates with whom he was a notable favourite. After the death of his father, O.M. Hennessy, Hugh D. Hennessy did all that a son could do to replace the loss of his esteemed parent in the home, and went into the woods as timber superintendent for the Abitibi Power and Paper Company, to carry on, in a measure, the work that his father had been doing. No young man had a brighter future and, having just been married a short while, he had taken his place as an established citizen, when business called him to Montreal. Here, after a few days illness, he passed away.
“The immediate relatives who survive him are his wife; his mother, Emma Elizabeth Hennessy (Mrs. O.M.); a brother, Lieutenant Graham W. Hennessy, of Haileybury; a sister, Marjorie Rose, wife of John F. Hennessey, of New Liskeard; three younger brothers, Edgar Everest, Clinton Rupert, and John Dominion.”
Clint Hennessy was the fifth child of Liz and Dyer. He married a Westmeath woman Alice Fraser. See FRASER entry. Her sister was Kitty Fraser Hickey who was married to Hec Hickey. See ETHIER entry. They spent most of their married lives in Copper Cliff where they raised their family, but Kitty and Hec are both buried in Westmeath.
Clint and Alice are buried in the family plot in Haileybury On. They had one son named Hugh who died in Thunder Bay circa 1989. He was married but had no children.
5. Henry Hennessy (1871-
7. Hedley Seymour Hennessy (1873-1922) m. Alice Johnson
8. Peter Hennessy (1873-
9. Rose Emily Hennessy (1874-1927) m. William Henry Millar (1874-1948) and she died in Temiskaming District, Ont. See MILLAR entry.
10. Rosana Hennessy (1876-
Arthur W. Hennessy and Jessie Jackson’s children are:
(1) Emily Hennessy (1908-1994) m. Donald Fletcher;
(2) Charles Edmund “Ted” Hennessy (1911-1965). Hennessy, Ted and Lowell Ted married Frances Margaret Poupore (1908-1994) and they settled in Westmeath Village. See POUPORE entry. Ted had a career with Atomic Energy (AECL) and went to India with the company to work on an Indian reactor. Their children: Terry Hennessy , Barbara Hennessy m. John Ethier and Gail Hennessy m. Ron Ethier.
(3) Margaret Hennessy (1913-1954) m. David Still;
(4) Dyer Hennessy;
(5) Lowell Hennessy m. Kyla Jackson, one son William “Bill” Hennessy who contributed to this entry.
That daring-do that Old Martin Hennessy had in abundance, must have skipped a generation; because his grandsons had plenty to go around. Risk-takers and adventurers bred in the bone, maybe, but not fighters. Arthur and Jesse’s grandson Bill Hennessy again takes up the tale:
“The Hennessy’s were well-known in the timber industry. I did a bit of prospecting myself and the old prospectors up there thought the Hennessy’s owned the Abitibi. Nepotism was the way important jobs were assigned.
“Arthur (my grandfather) was also, prior to 1922, in business with his cousin, (I think), Bishop (J.B.) Hennessy whose wife was Alice and they owned and operated a coal mine in Saunders Creek, Alberta. The mine was shipping coal to Ottawa apparently, when Bishop died and his wife called a $40,000 note which caused Arthur to lose almost everything.
“Bishop and Alice have a large mausoleum in the Hailaybury grave yard indicating Bishop died in 1922.”
“When active in the north, Arthur and his wife Jesse Jackson left the Abitibi and struck out on his own in the contracting (lumber) business. He had walked timber limits as a walker for the Abitibi before he was given “Woods Manager” so knew something about that industry. He apparently had 1,000 men working for him in the north one winter.
“I remember my dad Lowell talking about how as a young teenager he left Ashbury College in Ottawa to work with his dad in the bush. His dad (Arthur) wanted dad to go into business so bought him a general store in New Liskeard. Dad told me he could go into the local tailor and buy anything he wanted and Grandpa would look after it. He was only 17 and way too young. All my dad wanted to do was have fun and spend his dad’s money ….. They had a maid and chauffeur.
“By the time my mom met my dad it was depression years, the Hupmobile was parked and they were back to horse and buggy and living on the old Hennessy farm. Until they moved , this was mainly their summer home. The money was all gone.”
“The Abitibi” was the vast ranges of boreal forests across northern Ontario in the area of the Abitibi River watershed. Abitibi Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd. was founded in 1912 at Iroquois Falls, Ontario on the Abitibi River. That major Canadian corporation and its many re-incarnations and tentacles opened up vast swaths of northern and north-western Ontario.
Arthur Hennessy wasn’t alone in his quest for adventure. As told by Bill Hennessy, some of the other Hennessy family members also had adventures:
“Bishop’s son Bishop was up in Moosonee when I met him. He and his wife owned the Two Bay garage and the school bus line. Alex became famous when he took a contract to supply the DEW Line. He and Bob also were given a contract to supply a movie set near Temagami. The last silent movie that was made there was called “The Hungry Winter”, as I recall. I think I have a copy around here somewhere.
“I saw Alex when he was living in a retirement home in Vancouver. He told me a lot about his adventures with his brother Bob. The movie company gave them the set when they left. I recall one time in the Royal York in Toronto I asked one of the Bell Hops if he knew Alex Hennessy. He shouted over to another Bell Hop “Have you seen Alex around here lately?” He kept a suite at the hotel I heard.
Bob also went into contracting but it was sort of boom and bust for all of them. Bob called my dad when we were living in Timmins and offered him a job sub-contracting on the Seaway. Dad dabbled in logging all his life along with his regular jobs. Mom and Dad decided on a more stable life and moved to London where I finished high school. Dad lived there until he died.
When I retired I returned to my roots here and built on part of the old Hennessy farm. I was fortunate to have Mom live with us here for the last three years of her life.
Bob has a son Bob, whose daughter Kimberly is also doing a family history. They dropped in here one time and decided to head up to Hailaybury after I told them about Bishop and Alice’s grave marker. Alex gave me a photo album of his experience along with a recording of each picture in it but I have somehow and mysteriously lost the album. I would have given it to Kimberly had I been able to find it.
If the Hennessys’ continue to run true to form, Kimberly will have quite a story to tell.
Thank you to Larry Cotton, author of the Whiskey & Wickedness series of books for his permission to use the excerpt.