Michael McDERMOTT and (1) Mary CONNOLLY and (2) Catherine FITZGERALD
Land Surveyor in Bytown, 1842 to 1849
also Sir William LOGAN
September 5, 2014: This page has been re-written to include
new material from Mrs. Winnie Bowman, including new photographs and a .pdf file of Michael McDermott's memoirs (near the bottom of this page.
Thanks to Mrs. Winnie Bowman who has sent along this wonderful photograph of Michael McDermott who was a surveyor
in Bytown and his second wife, Catherine Fitzgerald. Michael McDermott lived in Bytown from about 1842 to 1849.
He was well known and respected in the community. He was a gentleman and left Bytown in 1850 after becoming disgusted
with the sectarian violence between the Irish Protestants and the Irish Catholics who had settled in our area. He was
a first person witness to the Stoney Monday Riots.
Many of the potential community leaders, both urban and rural, left after the Stoney Monday Riots in Lowertown in 1849.
Some rural parishes were decimated as groups migrated to the United States, especially after several murders occurred here
in the 1850's.
Michael McDermott Catherine Fitzgerald McDermott
Mary Connelly, first wife of Michael McDermott, died at Aylmer, Quebec in 1842. She is buried there in the cemetery of
St. Paul's Church. I believe that during the year 1842, Michael McDermott was living in Aylmer, Quebec to qualify for his
professional surveyors' licence for Lower Canada. He was already certified in England, Scotland and Ireland as well as
in Upper Canada (now Ontario, Canada).
Here is the death record for Mary Connelly from St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Aylmer.
Source: Drouin Records at ancestry.ca
The witnesses were John Derby and George McGuire
December 7, 2004:
Dear Mr. Lewis:
I have enjoyed your "Bytown or Bust" site and have some information you
may find of interest. My great grandfather, Michael McDermott, was a
surveyor in Bytown from 1842 to 1849. He keep a collection of notes and
observations from this period that he later put into a rough compilation
for autobiographical usage. He became a respected surveyor and civil
engineer in Milwaukee (Wisconsin USA) and Chicago (Illinois USA) and these
notes were sent to the United States Library of Congress for historical
preservation. Nothing has really been done with them for over a hundred
years until I took an interest in organizing family fact and fiction.
I have since been transcribing his memoirs from old copies of the original
handwritten notes, and have attached the preliminary draft of the pertinent
section for your perusal. Please let me know of any glaring errors or
omissions that might make it a more readable piece; or point me to where
I might further my research. You must also feel free to use whatever you
find useful for your own purposes. As you will discover in these pages,
these are the notes of a man who lost most of his fingers to the Canadian
winter and my interpretation of his writing leaves some room for improvement.
I hope you find this interesting and useful.
Arrival in Canada
(In the Summer of 1842,) I sailed up the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers to
Bytown, then a growing town in the woods; but now called "Ottawa," the seat
of the Government of British Provinces in America. Finding that I could not
survey without my Canada commission, I engaged as teacher of the Aylmer public
school, at 75 dollars per month. Aylmer was nine miles from Bytown (now Ottawa).
Messers John Egan, Doyle, and Blackburn were interested in the school management.
Doctor Church was the physician of best repute (in Aylmer, and) I was here
two days when my beloved wife, Mary, was safely delivered by Church of
a fine boy. She felt well for 10 days until 1st August 1842 (when)
inflammation of the womb set in, and she died. The (newborn) child
lived six weeks after her. The Christian people of Aylmer were as kind
to as if she were born there.
Mary Connolly McDermott died August the 1st, 1842 (and is) buried at
Aylmer (Ville D'Aylmer), near Ottawa, Canada. With her I have living
Ellen (McDermott) Foley and one grandson, Francis Foley, (one granddaughter)
Hattie Foley, and (Ellen's) husband, Philip in Chicago, USA. (September 17th, 1888).
Adieu, my dear and loving wife,
May your pure soul in Heaven rest;
When I depart this dreary life,
May you and I in Heaven be blessed.
Nine years we lived in health and joy
Blessed with two daughters and a boy.
They are now dead, except all but Ellen,
May I meet them with you in Heaven.
In May, 1843, I married Catherine Fitzgerald, daughter of James Fitzgerald and
Catherine Rochford of Feighmore, Parish of Cloona (Clooney), County Clare
(near Quin Abbey).
Catherine ("Kate") Fitzgerald was sister to:
-Doctor Patrick Fitzgerald of Ennis (County Clare)[ ];
-James Fitzgerald of Ennistymon (County Clare), a dry goods merchant;
-Thomas Fitzgerald, who died at Beech Ridge near St. Andrews, Lower Canada
(now St.-Andre-Est, Quebec, Canada);
-Anne Fitzgerald Murray, who died on Mill Ridge Farms, Washington Territory, USA.
Her husband, John Murray, was a soldier when she married him. She left a son
who was educated in a convent. Murray moved . . . probably to the mines.
-Timothy Fitzgerald was a private tutor to families in Ireland and America.
He died suddenly and no one knows what became of his long earnings.
-John Fitzgerald died a few days after Tim's death. He took cold at the
funeral. John's family were at Shrub Oak, West Chester County, New York, USA.
(Shrub Oak was a hamlet that is now part of Yorktown, Westchester County, NY).
-William Fitzgerald died (leaving children).
-Bridget Fitzgerald became Mrs. Edward Thyne ("Thynne" is a north Clare name).
Receiving My Canadian Commission
Although I had my diploma for Great Britain and Ireland, the law of Canada
required that I should serve three years with a Provincial Surveyor and (then)
be examined, give bonds, and in Upper Canada my time was reduced to one
and one-half years on account of my diploma. I entered with John McNaughton,
Esquire, land surveyor and Justice of the Peace, at the end of my (school)
term (in Aylmer) of three months. Mr. McNaughton was an old man, a model
man and (a) Christian of Scotch descent. He did not take my time as fees.
He treated me as a brother (and) paid me well for my services in making a
large map of the Ottawa River Valley and other surveys since published.
Note: There is to this day a company of surveyors in Ottawa. The company is called "McNaughton Surveying"
or similar name. ... Al
I passed my examinations (and) got my diploma as Provincial Land Surveyor
for Upper Canada, dated December 16, 1843, and my diploma, or commission,
for Lower Canada, dated September 12, 1844.
I surveyed and partitioned the Philemon Wright (PW) estates in the Townships of
Hull and Templeton, on the River Ottawa, near then Bytown (now the Seat of
Government and is called Ottawa). I made an everlasting survey here. Drove
long 2" iron bars with fox wedges for landmarks. All lines referred their
angles to the true meridian. It was noble to see all that great family
partition their large estates without a dissenting word. (Tribute here
to be inserted. MMCD)
In my bonds for Provincial Land Surveyor were Christopher Forbes of Cumberland
and Bishop Phelan of Kingston. My being many years connected with the Royal
Engineers in Ireland and England made way for me amongst that learned corps
in Canada, with whom I spent 4 years making a detailed survey of the City
of Ottawa, and of the Rideau Canal from Ottawa (then "Bytown") to Kingston.
The maps were duplicated: one for Canada and one for the Home London Office of
the Ordnance Department.
I spent my time about equally divided between making surveys for the Home
(British) Government, and the Provincial Government, and the private citizens,
until I left Bytown in September 1849, having thrown up an excellent
situation on the Ordnance Department. I never can forget the happy days
I have been employed on Ordnance Surveys in Ireland, under Lieutenants
Broughton and Lancy. In Canada, under the supervision of Lieutenants White
and King, and Colonel Thompson, of the Royal Engineers. In my surveys for
the Provincial Government of Canada, I always found (the) Hon. Andrew Russell
and Joseph Bouchette, Surveyor-Generals, and Thomas Devine, Esquire, Head of
Surveys, my warmest friends. They are now -- October 7, 1878 -- living at
the head of their respective old Departments, having lived a long life of
usefulness, which I hope will be prolonged. To Sir William Logan, Provincial
Geologist, I am indebted for much information. I lived nearly eight years in
Ottawa, Canada, where my friends were very numerous. The dearest of all to me
was Alphonso Wells, Provincial Land Surveyor, who was the best surveyor I
ever met. He had been so badly frostbitten on a Government survey that it
was the remote cause of his death.
Frostbite and Amputation
On February 1st, 1845, on a survey of part of the Riviere Deserte, a branch
of the Gatineau, at Maniwaki. I was severely frostbitten (eventually) losing all the
toes on my left foot, first joints of all the fingers of my left hand and
top joints of the right hand. The thumbs escaped. Under the care of Doctor Hill,
an able English surgeon, I soon healed and began to work on 25 April.
Making my boot about ½" shorter and boxed with a piece of thick sod between the
insoles made me feel no difficulty in walking. I attribute much to good nursing
and never using any intoxicating drinks, snuff, or tobacco. It was then I knew
what it was to have a kind wife (and nurse): almost sleepless, ever cheerful
and ready to change (the dressings on) my aching limbs. My Christian brother,
John McNaughton, (also) watched over me, all along relating pleasing stories
and anecdotes. Hail, snow, frost or rain, he (would) attend 6 o'clock Mass.
Wise was he.
The day came that I should undergo amputation of the toes, Doctors Hill, Stewart,
Morrison, and Sims the military doctor were in attendance. In those days we had
no chloroform, so that by faith and patience I faced the ordeal.
I had three amputation days viz. Thursday, Monday, and Wednesday. I was
several days returning home (and) kept inflammation down by Tamarac bark boiled,
and washed the sores with the decoction. It is the best to be found.
When at home, I applied a poultice made of oatmeal and charcoal. This
removed all the foul flesh and soon showed the lines of separation.
On the right hand, my dear Kate asked (them) to spare my small finger
on the right which she saved with long and delicate care.[ ] After the
amputation, I soon healed, which I attribute to my strictly temperate habits,
for I never drank spirituous liquor nor used that narcotic weed - tobacco.
On My Being Frostbitten
I have written:
We left our camp at four o'clock,
With one axe, two flints, spunk and steel.
In hopes to reach the Picanoc[ ]
Before the sun would down be sunk.
The air was light, the sky serene,
All Nature seemed in ice then clad.
The North West breeze was very keen
And Jack Frost used the power he had.
At night fall in a cedar swamp,
We halted a minute or two,
Where I spoke to him as follows:
"Francois, Francois fait le feu."
"J'ai froid, j'ai froid," kind Francois cried
"J'ai froid et malade, mon Dieu."
We will make haste to the Picanoc,
And bid these cold hills adieu.
Away again we started
Without the least dismay;
In hopes to reach the Picanoc
Before it would be day.
The night got dark, the air was moist'
Heart rending was the piercing cold;
We lost our knives and all our flints
Because our hands could nothing hold.
May 8, 2005:
See also the Geological Survey of Canada headed by Sir William Logan.
October 30, 2006:
Mr. Randy Martinez is researching the biography of William McDermott, a son
of Michael McDermott. William McDermott became a Senator and the 8th
U.S. Marshal of the District of Montana, USA.
April 27, 2007:
On July 20, 2005, I wrote you requesting information on Michael McDermott,
a Provincial Land Surveyor who lived in Bytown in 1845. I later received
useful information on him from Francis McDermott.
I am now pleased to tell you that the results of my research have recently
been published by the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The title of the
publication is "William E. Logan's 1845 Survey of the Upper Ottawa Valley,
Edited and Introduced by Charles H. Smith and Ian Dyck". Copies of the
publication can be ordered from the CMC.
The publication is based on Logan's 1845 journal, written on a geological
expedition up the Ottawa River from Lachine to Lake Timiskaming, and is
sprinkled with stories of daily life and the people he met along the way.
Thanks to "Bytown or Bust" for the assistance!
Google "Canadian Museum of History", click on "Boutique", then click on
"Publications" to find this book.
May 9, 2013:
I am glad to announce that the Bytown or Bust Library now has a copy of "William E. Logan's 1845 Survey of the Upper Ottawa Valley",
Edited and Introduced by Charles H. Smith and Ian Dyck. This book is of tremendous value for anyone interested in the history of
the Ottawa River Watershed. It covers Mr. Logan's trip of exploration and topographical surverying between Oka and Lake Temiskaming.
The names of many families are mentioned covering the year 1845 - names which appear elsewhere on this web site.
I am attaching some excerpts for Michael McDermott’s Memoirs of his surveying experiences in Canada. I have taken the
excerpts from the transcription of the Memoirs done by my cousin, Don McDermott. I hope you can understand them
and that it will give you more insight into the Canadian surveyors of the time.
Yes, we do have a Montana, USA, connection. Two of Michael and Catherine’s sons (William, b. 1850 in Milwaukee) and
Peter (b. 1855 in Chicago) spent quite a bit of time in Butte, MT, in the 1880s and 1890s. They were in mining.
I think you have something already on William. In addition to mining, he was in the state senate for a time and
also a US Marshall. Peter spent less time there and subsequently went to mine in Arizona and California.
He died in Nicaragua in 1910. William moved to Arizona and Utah and finally ended in California, dying in 1937.
Other relatives spent time in Montana around that time.
I’m glad we are able to exchange information. Any other questions, please ask.
Note: See more Excerpts from Michael McDermott's Memoirs in .pdf format.
This file gives first person account of the Stoney Monday Riots of 1849.
It also includes many early names from the Ottawa area, such as fellow surveyor Hugh Falls.
More photographs from Butte Montana, USA:,
E-mail Francis McDermott, Charles Smith, Mrs. Winnie Bowman and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa area