Peter AYLEN -- Lumber Baron in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Aylen Lake in Algonquin Park
March 20, 2012:
From the records of Notre Dame Cathedral, Sussex Street, Bytown: (Drouin records at ancestry.ca)
15 May 1831
Baptism of Anna Helen, aged 19 mos. Father: Peter Aylen; mother: Helen / Ellen Ferris
Godparents: James Ferris and Anna Ferris
Angus McDonell, M. Ap. (Priest)
Source: Pioneers of the Upper Ottawa and Humors of the Valley, by Anson A. Gard, 1904, Page 294
Keywords: Symmes (See picture of Symmes Hotel in Aylmer, Quebec), Prentiss, Bolton
March 31, 2002:
My family has been spending summers (and some winters) in Ontario since the 1940s when
my grandparents scrounged enough money to buy a small plot of lakefront property on Aylen
Lake. Through family and friends' photos and local folklore and stories from logging friends,
I've been amazed to hear, learn and see how Aylen Lake has developed through the years.
I have always wanted to know from where or whom the lake got its name. After a search on the
web, your site came up, and found Peter Aylen (Lumber Baron). Do you have any other
information on this man and how the lake ended up being named after him?
I'd appreciate any information!
Thanks so much,
Thanks for your interesting e-mail regarding the origin of the name of Aylen Lake
in Algonquin Park.
Here are a couple of excerpts from my own family history (we're not directly related
to Peter Aylen):
"At age thirty-five, Patrick CHRISTOPHER married Mary FITZGERALD on February 2, 1835 at Notre
Dame Church in Bytown. Today the church is called Notre Dame
Cathedral. This was the first Roman Catholic Church built in Ottawa and there are records
going back to 1827. Patrick and Mary lived in Bytown at the time of their marriage.
Bytown in 1835 was at the peak of the "Shiners’ War" which lasted from roughly 1828 to
about 1840. This was an era when there was very high unemployment among the Irish labourers -
the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832 and the only large pool of unskilled jobs was in the timber
trade - working in the shanties in the winter and the log drives down the Ottawa River to
Quebec City every spring after ice-out.
The shanties were located up the Ottawa / Mississippi / Madawaska / Gatineau River
valleys. Organized violence, (amounting almost to insurrection and civil war erupted as
the Shiners - Irish Catholics living in Lowertown and in dugouts and caves along the
banks of the canal), took place as the Catholics, led by Peter Aylen, attempted to oust
the French Canadians from the jobs in the timber trade. They also turned their frustrations
on the "gentry" who lived in Upper Town (west of the canal, in the area of Sparks Street).
They also fought pitched battles against the inhabitants of Richmond in Goulbourn Township. Richmond
was a strong Orange bastien and the friction between Richmond and Bytown was a continuation
of the old Orange / Green faction fighting from Ireland."
and another excerpt:
Irish Gangs in Bytown:
"In the New World, the formation of gangs was a common reaction to alienation, survival
needs and social support for some ethnic groups. Each growing city had its Irish equivalent
of Lowertown and within each of these shanty towns there emerged loose groups of informally
organized, ghettoized young men. In New York City for example, an Irish gang called the
"Forty Thieves" was organized about 1810. In Bytown, a group of several hundred local Irish
Catholic young men evolved into a group known as the Shiners. The leadership catalyst was
provided by Peter Aylen, a lumber kingpen in the Ottawa Valley. He needed a supply of cheap
labour for his timber operations and was able to mobilize the disparate Irish gangs in
Lowertown into a larger cohesive group. After the disastrous year of 1832 (cholera epidemic)and it’s social and
economic upheaval, the Irish Catholics needed jobs and most of the available work in the lumber
camps during winter were monopolized by French Canadians.
Peter Aylen’s gang of Shiners used violence to displace the French Canadian workers. This in
turn led to an increasing rift within the local Catholic church (Notre Dame) between the
French and Irish parishioners. Despite sharing a common religion and neighbourhood, marriages
between 1832 and 1840 are almost exclusively divided along linguistic boundaries. Father Molloy
was brought into Notre Dame as a sort of deputy priest in the early 1840’s to appease the Irish
parishioners and he began to build bridges between the French and Irish church communities. He
established the House of Mercy for "fallen" women who were known as Father Molloy’s Girls, a
home for the Catholic aged and a boarding house for single women."
Peter Aylen was a self-made adventurer. He was a sailor - on the old three-masted sailing ships.
He jumped ship in the early 1820's at what is now Quebec City, made his way to Ottawa and
became one of the leading players in the timber trade here in the 1830's. He won the support
of the Irish labourers here by wining and dining them in style in his mansion on the Richmond Road.
He brought in women from Montreal to "entertain" the men at his parties.
About 1840 he had a complete reversal in his lifestyle. He sold his mansion and moved across
the Ottawa River to Aylmer, Quebec and became a model citizen.
I've canoed in the Aylen Lake area. If memory serves me correctly, there is also a Booth Lake
in that area of Algonquin Park. I believe it was named after another Ottawa Lumber Baron, J. R.
Booth whose home is still standing in Ottawa.
If you go to the search engine (below) you may find other references to Peter Aylen and the
Thanks again for your e-mail. Do you mind if I post it to a new page on my web site?
It would be an interesting lead-in to a page on Peter Aylen.
... Al Lewis, Ottawa
Sources: The History of the Ottawa Police by Gilles LaRochelle, The Shiner's War in Bytown by
October 7, 2002:
My name is Jose Dore. I'm looking for a picture of Peter Aylen. Where
could I find it?
> Thank you.
> Jose Dore
Thanks for your e-mail regarding Peter Aylen.
I don't know where we can get a picture of him, but come to think about it,
there must be some around somewhere. I'd like to get one for my web site
I know that the latter years of his life were spent living in Aylmer Quebec,
across the river from Ottawa. Apparently the Archives in Hull are very good
and it's possible that they might have something. Unfortunately I don't have
an e-mail address for them.
If I can locate a picture of Peter Aylen, I'll let you know. Can you let me
know if you find anything?
November 29, 2002:
hello, I came across this web site bytown or bust looking for my fam's history, I understand u
are looking 4 info & pics of peter aylen. well good news i am a direct desendant of peter aylen,
I am now the 7th generation, full name dennis peter rogder aylen , email me if wish for more info
I have lots!
July 20, 2014:
A descendant of Peter Aylen, Elise Aylen, poet married the well-known national poet Duncan Campbell Scott.
December 27, 2014:
Obituary of John Gordon Aylen, Ottawa Citizen
December 27, 2014, page E4
E-mail Jose Dore, Dennis Aylen and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa area