Eganville – The Egans were back in Eganville recently with a portrait believed to be of Sir Henry Egan, son of village founder John Egan.
Descendants of the Egans came to the village named after them on October 5 and presented the portrait at Bonnechere Valley council. The great-great-nephew of John Egan, David Gill, explained the portrait came from his family estate. He noted John Egan was the first mayor of Aylmer, Quebec. Although he offered the portrait to Gatineau, which incorporated Aylmer, first, when he received no response, he eventually reached out to Eganville to pass it on.
Preston O’Grady accepted the portrait on behalf of the Bonnechere Museum and offered a history of John Egan and the founding of Eganville.
“John Egan came to Canada in 1830,” he said, adding he quickly became involved in timber operations.
“He really fell in love with the timber industry and decided to start his own business,” he said.
England was at war with Napoleon and the need for timber was great. As well, England was cut off from their wood supply on the continent of Europe, so the demand in North America increased. Following the end of the war, the lumber business boomed.
“Things changed in the Ottawa Valley because they had set up here to get their wood,” he said. “The square timber that went to Quebec, went down our river, was loaded in ships and that is why it was squared so the logs would fit in tightly.”
Mr. O’Grady pointed out the first logs going down the Bonnechere River were not piloted by Mr. Egan’s men but by men hired by a Mr. McDonnell.
“It came from Killaloe, from Brennan’s Creek,” he added.
At that time Killaloe was known as Fort McDonnell, he said.
“It was only later a man who lived in Eganville but worked for John Egan came from Killaloe in Ireland and he decided he would like to change Fort McDonnell Killaloe and it stuck,” he said. “Another name that stuck was Eganville because John Egan had the background for this whole area and he held the timber limits.”
There was a strong French influence in the area prior to the arrival of the English and Irish, he added.
“The name of our river -- Bonnechere – was French,” he said. “The influence from France was shifting to the British influence and the Irish influence.”
Mr. Egan was instrumental in bringing the area forward in an economic sense, Mr. O’Grady added.
“The influence of Egan has spread and continued to this day,” he said. “He first surveyed Eganville.
“Before it was called Eganville, it was called Fairfield Farm,” he said.
Mr. Egan died a relatively young man at 47. He had eight children.
“When you are at the Legion in Eganville when you walk out just lift your head and you will see John Egan’s house,” he said. “He built a house in Eganville just in case he might live here. But he was so busy in Aylmer he never got around to living here.”
John Egan died of cholera in 1857.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader