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Cradled between hills and rivers

Mayors and Councillors: the political commitment

One cannot speak of the Municipality’s history without mentioning the people who contributed to its development through their political commitment. Several Councillors and mayors stood out throughout the Municipality’s history: they have provided essential infrastructures, contributed to its economic development and to the implementation of sports and recreational activities. Some of them served their fellow-citizens for several years, even decades.

 

A few prominent figures

The development of the village of Quyon is closely linked to the name John Egan. The first MP of Pontiac County, Egan established a saw mill on the Quyon River in 1846 (he had already built another facility of this type in 1840 at Pontiac Village, which was possibly the largest facility of its kind along the Ottawa River), in the heart of the village bearing the same name, where Dowd Mill is actually located on Egan Street[1]. Serveral families have settled around this establishment, and the small village of Quyon took shape. Egan also gave land to various religious denominations to build Churches in the Onslow Township and in Quyon.  However, in 1857, while he is barely 46 years of age, the businessman dies prematurely, victim of the cholera epidemic that hit Quebec City, where Parliament seated at the time.

His assistant Walton Smith, also in the timber trade, was also a citizen who was very committed to the village’s development. From 1860 to 1865, and again from 1873 to 1875, Smith was Mayor of Onslow. In 1875, when the municipality of the village of Quyon was created, he became the first mayor and held the position until 1878. In 1860, he also had the large three-story pine house built, located at 1020 Clarendon Street, which is also known as the Mohr house.  Smith was also postmaster for 26 years.

Philemon Wright’s nephew, Joseph Wyman Jr. settles with his wife Sally Olmstead on lots 3 and 4 of the 4th Concession in the Onslow Township (223 Clarendon Street) around 1835.  He founded a hamlet that he named Woburn, in honor of the town in Massachusetts where he was originally from.  The hamlet is then known under the name Billerica, but in 1956, the name is officially changed from Wyman (name that had been used since the beginning of the 20th Century, but was recognized later by the Quebec Geography Commission). Wyman played an important role in the region’s communications history.  As of the 1840s, he was in charge of transporting the mail between Aylmer and Portage-du-Fort.  His mill provided timber for the construction of buildings to house the kitchen and dormitory for the men who worked on the site of the Georgienne Bay Canal (1854-57) to the village of Pontiac.  Councillor in Onslow over the course of several years, he would also become its Mayor in 1877.

Son of Captain Donald Charles McLean, former employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company (H.B.C.), who became famous for having travelled the distance from Montreal to Hudson Bay by snowshoe, Hector M. McLean was Mayor of Eardley for 17 years and Prefect of the Ottawa County for 5 years (Eardley had long been in the Ottawa County).  He would also be Mayor of the village of Quyon from 1889 to 1891.  He was the owner of the old Egan Mill (which previously belonged to Walton Smith) from 1886, which he then sold in 1897 to the Dowd Milling Company.

John James Muldoon, resident in the Beechgrove hamlet, considered as the heaviest man in Canada at the end of the 19th Century (weighing in at 461 pounds), also served as Councillor in South Onslow for several years (including 1895-1897) and was also postmaster.

At the turn of the 20th Century, North Onslow experienced a few turbulent or unstable years.  Between 1897 and 1904, for reasons unknown, Patrick Farrell and William Mooney exchanged the position of Mayor at least three times.  This municipality became more stable in January 1906 when Patrick O’Reilly was elected, and remained in the position until 1925. He was, incidentally, the longest serving Mayor in North Onslow, with a total of 19 years.  Second to him was Andrew Daley with 14 years of service, from 1937 to 1951[2].

 


Patrick O’Reilly, Mayor of North Onslow from 1906 to 1925. O’Reilly remained the longest serving Mayor of North Onslow, with a total of 19 years. He was also Prefect of Pontiac County from 1921 to 1924.  Source : Pontiac Archives.

Certain Councillors have also served for long periods of time.  Bernard Armitage participated in the creation of the Municipality of Pontiac, representing North Onslow for 30 years[3]. Leo Gibbons for his part, who sat on the Quyon Municipal Council from 1965 to 1975, returned to politics at the end of the 1980s as Councillor for Quyon within the new municipality[4]. President of the Quyon Agricultural Society, Kenneth Bronson served during 35 years as Mayor (1961-1975) and as Councillor for South Onslow, and the Municipality of Pontiac.

Another key figure with civic commitment is undoubtedly S. Wyman Mackechnie. Actively involved with the Quyon Agricultural Society and the Quyon Milk and Cheese Coop, this Ayrshire dairy farmer received the Medal of Agricultural Merit in 1953[5]. Mayor of South Onslow from 1941 to 1951, he was first a Councillor in the 1930s. In his book largely autobiographical, Weathering the Thirties (1982), he explains how he came into municipal politics when certain of his fellow citizens asked him to run for office at the time when negotiations between the Municipality of South Onslow and Hydro-Ontario began for fixed payments over 20 years ($300,000), a sum deemed well below the value of the facilities.[6]

 


Wyman MacKechnie, Mayor of South Onslow from 1941-1951. A citizen committed to the Quyon Agricultural Society, MacKechnie was first a municipal councillor in the 1930s. He was Prefect of the Pontiac County from 1947 to 1949. Source: Pontiac Archives.


Finally, in the Eardley sector, the Lusk family played a predominant role on the Municipal Council.  At least two of them, Isaac Lusk and Jos F. Lusk served on the Municipal Council.

 

Characteristics of municipal representation

Generally, pioneering families (Wyman, Mohr, Merrifield, Lusk, Mulligan, etc.) whose names are found in the local toponomy, have all had, at one time or another, a Mayor or a Councilllor in the four municipalities that form the Municipality of Pontiac today. Furthermore, in the 19th Century, as in most rural municipalities in Quebec, politics, to a great extent is controlled by merchants (Smith, Lough, Mohr) and the few members of liberal professions (Dr. Ashely in Quyon). At the turn of the 20th Century, the improvement of farming techniques and the orientation towards milk and cheese production resulted in the development of several successful farms. These producers (including the Mackechnies, the Kennedys and the Bronsons, to name a few), would play an increasingly important role within municipal councils, reflecting the transformation of economic activities that were present within the municipality and confirming the long decline of the forest industry.

Although today, close to 50% of the population in the Municipality of Pontiac is francophone, they have largely been absent as elected representatives in the west part of the municipality in the 19th Century and in the first half of the 20th Century. In their history, neither South Onslow nor North Onslow or Quyon have had a French-speaking mayor. On the other hand, to the east of the Municipality, in Eardley, a few francophones served on the Municipal Council in the 1970s (Albert Tremblay, Ephrem Martial and Marcel Lavigne). The first French-speaking Mayor of the Municipality of Pontiac is Marcel Lavigne, elected in 1979.

As everywhere else in Quebec, the women were late in entering municipal politics. Although, Quebec is the first Canadian province to grant women the right to vote (1940), the first woman elected to be in charge of a municipality is Elsie Gibbons from Portage-du-Fort in 1953. If no woman seemingly served on a council before then, one must not however conclude that they did not influence municipal politics.

The Mayors’ spouses have undoubtedly played an important role within the framework of their husbands’ mandate, if not only to draw attention to various issues. Many of them however, were very involved in their community. A few of them were President of various subsidiaries of the Women’s Institutes, such as Mrs. S. Wyman Mackechnie, Mrs. J. Fred Lusk, Mrs. Russell Taber and Muriel Bronson whose spouses are Mayor or Councillor. In the 1950s in Quyon, there was a Secretary-treasurer (non-elected), Velan Cooney Browlee under William Burke’s administration (1959-1975). Joan Brady held this position at the time the Municipality of Pontiac was newly created in 1975, and it is mentioned that in 1978, two employees of the municipality, Mary Ann Glazer and Idena Fraser acted as President and Secretary of elections[7].

In Pontiac in the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s (at least until 1995), Hélène Bélisle was a Councillor under Marcel Lavigne’s and Edward McCann’s administration. In 1998, Denise Thériault-Levasseur is elected as Councillor at the time when Bruce Campbell was elected mayor[8]. Near the end of the 2000s, the feminine representation had slightly increased, with the presence of Lynn Beaton (2009-2013), Inès Pontiroli (2009-) and Nancy Draper-Maxsom (2013-) as Councillors[9].

 

The Prefects

Finally, a few mayors from the Municipality of Pontiac’s territory have also been Prefect of the Pontiac County (known today as the Pontiac RCM). They include Walton Smith (Onslow, and the village of Quyon) from 1872 to 1879, Patrick O’Reilly (Onslow, northern part) from 1921 to 1924, Herbert Young (Onslow South) from 1932 to 1933, P. H McCann (Quyon) from 1933 to 1935, S. Wyman MacKechnie (Onslow, southern part) from 1947 to 1949 and William Burke (Quyon) from 1961 to 1971.  Hector M. McLean, Mayor of Eardley and of Quyon, was Prefect of the Ottawa County.

 


P. H. McCann was elected Mayor of Quyon in 1929. He remained in the position until 1942 (i.e.13 years).He was also chosen as Prefect of the Pontiac County from 1933 to 1935.  Source : Pontiac Archives.


The Municipal Council in 2015

The 2015, the Municipal Council is comprised of Roger Larose (Mayor), Nancy Draper-Maxsom (district 1), Thomas Howard (district 3), Inès Pontiroli (district 4), Brian Middlemiss (district 5) and Dr. Jean Amyotte (district 6).

Mayors of the Municipality of Pontiac (since 1975)

Name

Election (mandate)

William Burke

1975-1979

Marcel Lavigne

1979-1990

Edward McCann

1990-1994

Marcel Lavigne

1994-1998

Bruce Campbell

1998-2005

Edward McCann

2005-2013

Roger Larose

2013-2017

 

Appendix 1. The Mayors on the territory of the Municipality of Pontiac

Onslow and the northern section of Onslow, as of 1878[10]

Name

Election (mandate)

John Beahan (Behan)

July 25, 1855

Walton Smith

January 23, 1860 (1860-1865)

Andrew Bolger

January 20, 1866 (1866-1869)

William Lough (Logue)

January 17, 1869 (1870-1873)

Walton Smith

January 15, 1872 (1872-1875)

Patrick A. Farrell

January 25, 1875 (1875-1877)

Daniel Beahan (Behan)

February 5, 1877 (1877-1878)

Robert McKinney (Onslow, northern section)

March 4, 1878 (1878-1885)

Patrick Farrell

January 12, 1885 (1885-1887)

William Mooney

1887 (1887-1889)

Nicholas Morrisey

1890 (1890-1894)

Robert McKinney

1894 (1894-1896)

William Mooney

January 11, 1897 (1897-1902)

Patrick Farrell

March 2, 1902

William Mooney

January 18, 1903

Patrick Farrell

March 2, 1903

Nicholas Morrisey

March 7, 1904 (1904-1905)

Patrick O’Reilly

1906 (1906-1924)

John James O’Donnell

1925 (1925-1929)

Patrick J. Dolan

April 2, 1929 (1929-1937)

Andrew Daley

March 1, 1937 (1937-1951)

James McGoff

May 7, 1951 (1951-1953)

Daniel Farrell

January 21, 1953 (1953-1957)

Harry Foran

October 22, 1957 (1957-1962)

Everett Steele

October 12, 1962 (1962-1969)

Sherwood Henderson

February 6, 1969 (1969-1975)

Bernard Armitage

1975

 

South Onslow, separated from Onslow in 1876

Name

Election (mandate)

Hugh Mulligan

1876

Joseph Wyman

1877

Thomas Sally

1878

Hugh Mulligan

1879-1891

Dennis Kennedy

1891-1901

W. W. MacKechnie

1900-1902

Richard Sally

1902-1904

W. W. MacKechnie

1904-1906

Dennis Kennedy

1906-1913

John Hickey

1913

Alex Erwin

1914

Dennis Kennedy

1915

Courtney Charles Hutchison

1916

William Burden

1916-1920

Herbie Young

1920-1923

Courtney Charles Hutchison

1923-1927

Herbie Young

1927-1933

Ambrose Kennedy

1933-1941

S. Wyman MacKechnie

1941-1951

Austin Clarke

1951-1952

John McBane

1952-1961

Kenneth Bronson

1961-1975

 

Village of Quyon (Quio Village), separated from Onslow in 1875

Name

Year of election (mandate)

Walton Smith

1875-1878

William Lough (Logue)

1878-1880

Joseph Amm

1880-1882

Dr. F. D. Astley

1883

Joseph Amm

1883-1889

Hector M. McLean

1889-1891

J. P. O’Donnell

1891-1893

W. H. Meredith

1893-1903

William Regan

1903-1904

George T. Mohr

1904-1906

William-F. Harrison

1906

Geo. Guthrie

1907

James Moyle

1907-1911

Fred A. Davis

1911-1923

Dr. R. S. Dowd

1923-1928

P. H. McCann

1929

J. P. Daley

1942

Fred R. Hutchison

1947

Basil Stanton

1949

J. P. Daley

1953

C. Russell Taber

1955

William Burke

1959-1975

 


Mayor of Quyon for 16 years (1959-1975), William Burke played a key role in the creation of the new Municipality of Pontiac in 1975. He would also the first Mayor (1975-1979). Burke was also Prefect of the Pontiac County from 1961 to 1971.  Source : Pontiac Archives.

 


Municipal Council under the Bill Burke (Quyon) administration, (undated). From left to right : Lyle Bronson, Leo Gibbons, Aurel Trudeau, Billy Burke (Mayor), Velma Cooney Bronwlee (secretary), Laurie MacKechnie, Basil Murphy. Source : Pontiac Archives.

Eardley (partial list of mayors and councillors)

Name

Hector M. McLean

Meredith Caldwell

Isaac Lusk

David A. Dowd

Abraham J. Payne

Emanuel R. Faris

G. Kenneth Campbell

Jos. F. Lusk

Ira Merrifield

Hewitt H. Bell

Athanase Chamberland

Clifford Bradley

Albert Tremblay

Ephrem Martial

Marcel Lavigne

 

Sources for list of mayors

Archives of municipal elections results (since 2001), MAMROT.

Directory of municipal elected representatives in the Outaouais from 1845-1975, Regional Centre of the Outaouais Archives

Janko Pavsic, Padrem Québec (prosopography of Executive Directors and Directory of municipal entities in Quebec).

Souvenir of Centennial. Quyon, South and North Onslow (1975).

 

 

 



[1] Richard M. Reid, « Egan, John », Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

[2] « North Onslow Mayors from 1855 to 1970 », The Equity, August 20, 1970.

[3] « Award for 30 years on council », The Equity, July 6, 1983.

[4] Denise Belec, « Gibbons wins close race », The Equity, August 24, 1988.

[5] « 1953 Winner, Mackechnie », in the exhibit  One hundred years of agricultural merit, St-Ephrem Museum.

[6] See this subject under chapter « The Councillor », Weathering the Thirties (Shawville, Dickson, 1982), p. 71-81. Finally, Mackechnie mentions that the new mayor « was (…) determined in his demand for an assessment of one million dollars on the company property. In this he was supported by five councillors. The other said little or nothing either way. Finally the company agreed on the condition that he municipality lower its rate from ten mills on the dollar to six. With the company’s valuation as a base, this was possible and the council agreed. In fact the board had planned to move in that direction all along as more total revenue would be received thus removing considerable load from the local taxpayers. Thus went into history one of the few cases of substantial tax reduction to be found in municipal records anywhere. », p. 80.

[7] « Election statistics in the Municipality of Pontiac », The Equity, January 11, 1978.

[8] Fred Ryan, « Upset in Pontiac election », Quebec Post, November 6, 1998.

[9] See Archives des résultats des élections municipales (since 2001), MAMROT.

[10] « North Onslow Mayors from 1855 to 1970 », The Equity, August 20, 1970.