Written by Patricia Balkcom, October 2019
Michael Cassin and his wife, Margaret Kelly, were one of the original families of Valcartier, Quebec. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time of their emigration from Ireland as ships’ manifests no longer exist for the early 1800s. Michael Cassin’s name is listed on an early Valcartier map by William Sax, Surveyor and it is believed the map was drawn in 1819. Also, on this survey are the Bethel and Abraham families who came from the same area of Queen’s County, Ireland as the Cassins. Did they travel together? How did they know there was land available in Valcartier, was it before or after they landed in Quebec?
Michael and Margaret’s marriage record has been found in the Castletown church records in Offerlane Parish in Queen’s County. The marriage took place on May 19th, 1793 and the witnesses were Garret Kavanagh and Mary Kelly. Mary was possibly the sister of Margaret. Michael would have been about 21 years of age and Margaret about 16. These ages are based on birthdate estimates resulting from burial and census records. Nothing is known of the parents or siblings of Michael and Margaret. There were mention of other Cassins and Kellys though in their marriage and baptismal records for their children. Names mentioned include: Mary Kelly, William Kelly, and Mary Cassin. Irish naming traditions of children may indicate that Margaret Kelly’s parents were named John and Elizabeth Kelly and that Michael Cassin’s parents may have been named Mary and Denis Cassin.
Military records for a “Michael Cassin, born in the Parish of Upperwood…aged 38 years” indicate that Private Cassin was being discharged from service in the 7th Royal Fusiliers on August 1, 1814. Records have not been found to definitively identify Private Cassin as our Michael Cassin. However, the birthdate and birthplace are in the same general timeframe and location that we speculate for our Michael. Also, Private Cassin’s records indicate that he was wounded in a battle during the Napoleonic War and soldiers of this war were frequently given land in Valcartier to reward them for their loyal service. If this is not “our” Michael Cassin, then I strongly suspect that it is one of his cousins. Upperwood is the name of the Barony in which Castletown is located. The transcription of the military record for Private Michael Cassin is provided here –
From the British Service Records (WO97 Chelsea Pensioners’ List)
“His Majesty’s 7th Royal Fusilier Regiment of Foot whereof General Sir Alured Clarke K. B. is Colonel
These are to Certify, that Priv. Michael Cassin in (?)Cap. H. English’s Company in the Regiment aforesaid, born in the Parish of Upperwood in or near the Town of (not filled in) in Queens County hath served in the said Regiment for the space of Thirteen years and three hundred forty six days, as likewise in other Corps, according to the following statement, but in consequence of a wound of left leg received in Action near Pamplona Spain 28 July 1810 is considered unfit for further service abroad, and is proposed to be Discharged; and has been ordered to the Army Depot in the Isle of Wight, that his case may be finally determined on, having first received all just demands of Pay, Clothing, & c. from his entry into the said Regiment to the date of this Discharge, as appears by the Receipt on the back hereof.
And to prevent any improper use being made of this Discharge, by its falling into other hands, the following is a Description of the said Michael Cassin…
He is about thirty-eight years of age, is five feet five & ¾ inches high, sandy hair, gray eyes, flush complexion, and by trade a labourer.
Statement of Service:
In what Corps. – Engaged for Unlimited Service 7th Royal Fusilier
From – 17th March 1800
To – 24th February 1814
Private for – 13 years, 346 days
Total Service – 15 years, 346 days
In West Indies included in foregoing Total – 2 years
Given under my Hand and Seal of the Regiment, at Camp (?) Roquefort in France this 17th Day of March 1814.
I certify that the above-mentioned Michael Cassin is unfit for further service, in consequence of the above Mich. Cassin is hereby Discharged.
1 Aug 1814
(Unable to read signatures)
10 Aug 1814
I, Michael Cassin do acknowledge that I have received all of my clothing, pay, arrears of pay, and all just demands whatsoever, from the time of my enlisting in the Regiment, mentioned on the other side, to this day of my Discharge.
As Witness my hand this 1 Day of Aug 1814
Michael (his mark) Cassin
I do hereby certify that the cause, which has rendered it necessary to Discharge the within-mentioned Michael Cassin as stated on the other side, has not arisen from vice or misconduct, and that he is not, to my knowledge, incapacitated by the sentence of a General court Martial, from receiving his Pension
J.W. Beatty, Major Commanding.
Gen. A. Clarke
Aged – 38
Served – 14 4/12
W. I. – 1
Total – 15 4/12
A wounded left leg near Pamplona 28 July 1813
Upperwood, Queens County, labourer.”
The only other Irish records that have been found to date are baptismal records for some of their children registered in the same Castletown church where Michael and Margaret married. The records indicate that they lived in Shanderry which was a tiny townland located on the southern border of the current day town of Coolrain. Today, there still exists an estate known as Shanderry House that is believed to have been built in the early 1800s. It’s possible that Michael may have worked as a laborer on this property. By 1818, Michael and Margaret had at least nine children; it’s possible there may have been more children that died early. No records have been found that indicate that Michael was a landowner and with many children, he would have been thinking of leaving for America where land was available. The famine had not yet struck but complete Catholic emancipation from the Penal laws had also not occurred by 1820. Many Irish were beginning to leave for Canada where passage was cheaper than to the United States. Also, as it is possible that Michael had been in the recent war, he may have been offered land in Quebec.
The most common way to travel to Quebec at this time was to go on a “timber” ship. These ships would carry timber from Quebec to Ireland, unload, and then refit the ship quickly for passengers. The ships were often in poor condition and the makeshift quarters were barely livable. Passengers were required to bring their own food and often would run out of supplies before the eight-week voyage was over. These were not people of means who would have had large stores of food available to them to take on such a voyage. Many got sick and died on the passage over. It is difficult to imagine the Cassins travelling under such circumstances. Michael would have been about 45 years old and Margaret in her late 30s. Their children ranged in age from an infant to about 20 years of age.
They would have disembarked at Quebec City and then traveled over land in wagons and on horses the 25 miles to Valcartier. There would have been lots of work to do when they arrived. Land had to be cleared to build a house and supplies procured to make it through the first winter as there probably wasn’t enough time left in the season to plant a crop. The first winter was probably an extreme hardship as the Irish were not used to the snow and cold temperatures they would have experienced in this part of Quebec. The 1819 survey map by William Sax shows Valcartier Lot #11 on the left side of the road as reserved for M. Cassin and Lot #12 to D. Cassin, both of these would have been north of the Jacques Cartier River in what would be division known as the 3rd Concession. I am assuming that Lot 12 was for Michael’s son, Denis, who was about 20 years old at the time. However, Denis, is not listed as a “head of household” in the 1825 census, so he and Michael might have shared the property until Denis married in 1829. The 1831 census shows Denis and his wife living next to Michael. This same map shows that there was a total of 34 lots in the town of Valcartier with two reserved for mill property.
Michael and his sons were always listed as farmers in the censuses, as were most of the people in Valcartier. The land was fertile but the growing season quite short. Grains such as wheat, oats and rye were commonly grown as well as potatoes, carrots, peas, cabbages and turnips. Hay and clover were used to feed the cows and pigs that the family might own. Salmon fishing was very popular. Wildlife, including moose and bear, was abundant. However, the winters were long and difficult, so a lot had to be accomplished in the short summers if enough supplies were to be put away for winter.
There was a Census taken in 1824 but Michael Cassin is not listed on it. We know that he was in Valcartier though as he was granted two lots of land in 1821. The 1825 Census indicates:
“Michael Cassin”, head of family of 9.
3 children aged 6 – 13.
4 children aged 14 -17.
1 Married Male aged 40 – 59.
1 Married Female over 45.
They are living next to Denis Hogan (who is married to his daughter, Mary) and Charles Hunt.
It is somewhat confusing as all of these children cannot be accounted for. I believe that the children aged 6 to 13 are Patrick, Margaret and Edward. I think that Thomas and John are included in the group aged 14 to 17, however, I believe that John was actually 19 and I cannot account for who the other two children in this group might be. Were there children who died or left Valcartier between 1825 and 1831 as only two children are still listed as living at home by then?
The 1831 Census indicates:
Michael is head of household with a family of four, living in the 4th Range. On the lot to the side of him, is daughter, Mary, married to Denis Hogan and their family.
On the other side, is his son, Denis, and his family. The four in his family consist of:
1 child aged 6 to 13 (this would most likely be son, Patrick).
1 unmarried male aged 18 to 20. (Probably son, Thomas; son, John must be out on his own.)
All four are Catholic.
1 married male aged 60 and up and 1 married female, aged 45 and up (Michael and Margaret).
They are occupying 120 arpents and 40 are under cultivation. They had produced 40 minots of wheat, 6 of peas, 200 of oats, and 700 of potatoes. They own 6 cows and 4 pigs.
Michael Cassin died at the age of 70 on October 11, 1842, no Will has been located. He is buried in St. Gabriel’s Cemetery in the same plot as his daughter, Margaret. It appears that Margaret’s husband, William Neilson, erected the stone when she died and had it engraved for Michael also. At this time, I do not know when Margaret Kelly, Michael’s wife died. However, she is listed in the Valcartier census of 1851 as a widow of 73 years of age. She is living with her son, Denis, and his family and next door to her son, Edward, and his family. I could not find her in the 1861 census, so it is likely that she died between 1851-1861. I assume that she is also buried in the same cemetery, but a stone was not found, nor could I find her in the burial records for the church. If she had an engraved stone, it appears that it has been destroyed over the years. All of Michael’s children continued to live in Valcartier until their death, however, future Cassins eventually left the area as will be discussed in other biographies.
Children of Michael Cassin and Margaret Kelly
As stated, Denis and Margaret had nine known children. A little about each of them is presented here.
Elizabeth – Appears to be the first child of Michael and Margaret. Irish tradition was that the first daughter was named for the wife’s mother, Margaret Kelly’s mother was named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was baptized in Castletown on August 2nd, 1794. No further information has been found on her either in Ireland or in Canada. She may have died as a child before they left Ireland, or she may have married in Ireland and stayed there with her husband. She would have been about 25 years of age when her parents left for Canada.
Denis – baptized on February 21, 1797. “Shanderry, Feb. 21, Denis, son of Mich. Cassin & Margt. Kelly. Sponsors: Denis Dunne and Mary Kelly.” This is the first indication that they were living in Shanderry. It is also possible that Denis was named after his paternal grandfather. Denis would have been about 20 years of age when they landed in Quebec and land had been reserved for him – Lot #13 beside his father’s land. Married Mary Landrigan, daughter of Andrew Landrigan and Mary Lynch, on the 4th of July 1829 in St. Ambroise Catholic Church in Loretteville, Quebec. They had 9 children, the first five were girls and the last four were boys. Two of the boys, Denis and Andrew, died in infancy. Mary died giving birth to son, Thomas, on the 23rd of January 1848 at the age of 38. Denis’ mother, Margaret moved in with him assumedly to help with the children as he had 7 children under 18 when his wife died. Denis died at the age of 69 on the 11th July 1867 and is also buried in St. Gabriel’s Cemetery. The witnesses to his burial were Patrick Cassin (probably his brother) and Edward Vandal.
John – baptized in August 1799, day of baptism is not visible. Sponsors were William Kelly and Mary Cashian (sic), possible siblings of the parents. It appears that John likely died before 1806 as another son was named John in that year.
Mary – born in Shanderry and baptized on June 13, 1803. Mary married Denis Hogan about 1825, presumably in the Valcartier area. They had They had 6 boys and 3 girls, and two of the girls died as children. Denis Hogan died before 1861 and Mary later moved to London, Ontario to live with her daughter, Margaret who had married Thomas Lawless. Thomas and Margaret’s marriage did not last for many years after that and Margaret and her mother have not been found in records after the 1871 Census.
John – Census records (1861, 1871) and burial records indicate that John was born between 1806 and 1809. It is possible that these ages are incorrect and that he is the John that was born in 1899. No baptismal record in Ireland has been found for a child of Michael and Margaret between these years. John married Hannah Haney, daughter of Elijah Haney and Mary Randall (widowed names Dutch and Huckins) in St. Peter Anglican Church, Quebec City on the 24th of September 1835. Hannah had a 6-year-old son, named Thomas J. Brown when they married. John and Hannah had 7 children. Shortly after they married, they relocated to Ottawa (c1836) and stayed there until about 1844 when they moved to Kingsey, Quebec. It appears that Hannah’s parents also moved there about the same time. John Cassin died on 26th June 1876 at about 70 years of age and is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in St-Felix-de-Kingsey. Hannah died 9th January 1890 and is reportedly buried in the Anglican Cemetery in Kingsey.
Thomas – baptismal record states: “Jan. 29th (1811) – Lower Shanderry, Thom., son of Michael Cassin & Margt. Kelly. Sponsors: (?) Dunne and Mary Fitzpatrick.”. Married Bridget O’Neill on the 2nd of April 1839 at St. Catherine’s Church in Portneuf. Bridget was the daughter of John O’Neill and Judith Duffy, who had also emigrated from Ireland to Valcartier. Thomas and Bridget were my great-great grandparents. They had 8 sons and 4 daughters. Thomas and Bridget’s youngest son, Patrick, was my great-grandfather. A few months before Michael Cassin died in 1842, he gave Lot #4 to his son, Thomas. Thomas died on the 16th of April 1888 at the age of 76 and his wife Bridget was also 76 when she died 30th of April 1895. Both are buried in St. Gabriel’s Cemetery.
Edward – born in Ireland. “Ned’’s burial record in Valcartier states that he died on the 24th of November 1887 and that he was 76 years, 4 months old. This would make his birthdate about July, 1811. However, a baptismal record has not been found and there is one for his brother, Thomas, in January 1811. Two possibilities – he was actually 75 years, 4 months and born July 1812; Thomas was baptized later than normal and was born in early 1810. Ned married Bridget O’Rielly about 1831. They had five daughters and six sons. However, three of the boys died young: John, age 21; Edward, age 7; and Thomas, age 3 months. Bridget died at age 70, on the 12th March 1800. Both are buried in St. Gabriel’s Cemetery. According to Edward’s Will, his daughter, Bridget, moved into his house, presumably to take care of him after his wife died. His will interestingly gives us an indication of his character – “I hereby order and direct that my funeral shall be conducted in such a manner that there shall be no display of vanity made to incur unnecessary expense, and I also forbid my executor hereinafter named to allow the use of any spirituous liquors at my wake.”
Margaret – the age given on her gravestone states indicates was born on the 31st of October 1814; however, baptismal records states she was baptized in Shanderry on November 2, 1813, so I suspect she was born October 31, 1813. She married William Neilson, a Presbyterian, on the 15th of February 1830, at 16 years of age. William Neilson was the son of the well-known John Neilson, a Scot who came to Quebec and became a publisher, printer, bookseller, politician, farmer, and militia officer. William and Margaret had 5 daughters and 5 sons, three of the sons died as children. Margaret died early at the age of 39. Her husband erected a large gravestone in her honor at St. Gabriel’s where she is buried beside her father.
Patrick – born in Ireland in 1817 or 1818, baptismal record has not been located. Patrick would have been an infant when the Cassin family crossed the Atlantic. Patrick first married 18 year old, Catherine Dowler, January 3, 1844. Catherine died months later on November 10, 1844 after giving birth to a daughter, also named Catherine. Daughter, Catherine died the at six months of age. Patrick remarried the 11th of April 1849 to Ann Boyle at St. Gabriel’s Church. They had six daughters and one son. Sadly, they lost three of these children early, son, Michael, age 19, daughter, Susan, age 21, and daughter, Clara, age 24. Patrick died at age 60, on the 30th of March 1878. He, his wife, Ann, and the children who died early are all buried at St. Gabriel’s.
Great info! Thanks for all your research. Hope to get up to Valcartier in a few years.
Kathleen Brose in Seattle
Wife of Gary Brose
Gary is son of Muriel Raasch Brose
Muriel was daughter of Mary Cassin Raasch of Minneapolis
Fascinating as my Mother’s family is from Offerlane and Abbeyleix in Queen’s Co. The Rourke and Cassin Clans are numerous in Queen’s Co. Also Fitzpatricks. I came to Canada, not knowing a soul nor having any relatives in Canada. I now live in St. Gabriel and discovered that my great great great grandfather had an adjoining farm next to Allan Rourke’s Great Great Great Grandfather from Offerlane who emigrated from Ireland in 1815 or so. The world is small indeed! I grew up in St. Gabriel’s parish in Clontarf Dublin, where my family still resides.
Very nice to hear from you. Who was your ggg-grandfather who lived in Valcartier?
My grandmother was a Cassin.
The Bethel family also came from Queen’s.