A Pembroke Pioneer
Many years ago while visiting the red brick house with the huge front porch at 202 Isabella Street in Pembroke, I had little idea about the people who lived in that grand home.
Francois Evariste Fortin, my great grandfather spent his early years on the banks of the Ottawa River in Montebello Quebec.
Francois was born on the 6th of July 1845. At the age of twenty he married Adele Chevrier from Rigaud. She was also twenty. The marriage took place in Bon Secours Church in Montebello in mid-May of 1866. They settled in Hull, Quebec where he was an innkeeper.
Several years later, in 1874 after the birth of Louisa, their third child, ( my grandmother) Francois, Adele and their children moved up the Ottawa River to Pembroke, Ontario where the family grew. They had one son, Frank, who worked for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York and five daughters, Emma, Julia (Sr. St. Gabriel) who became a Grey nun, Louisa, my grandmother, Alice who taught music for the City of New York until she was seventy-five and Aline who remained a spinster caring for her parents.
Francois began a business as a merchant-tailor and according to the 1881 and 1891 Census he had thirteen employees. Later census records indicate that he became a contractor for the railroads and an inspector. He was actively involved with the Pembroke Southern Railway (PSR) and an original director and in time was named Vice-President. Francois invested substantially in the PSR. The railway linked Pembroke to other local communities. It was eventually bought out by C.N.R. and at the time became a spur line.
His interest in municipal affairs and a genuine concern for the welfare of the town led him to run for town council and eventually for the mayoralty in 1894. He was the first Mayor to serve three years in succession, 1894 – 1896. Francois-Evariste was also interested in politics and a staunch supporter of the Liberals. He worked tirelessly for the party.
Francois and his family were devout Roman Catholics. They would gather in their home each evening to recite the Rosary. He played an active role during the construction of Saint Columbkille Cathedral just blocks from their home. Along the way he had a falling out with the Church and refused to participate in the evening recitation of the Rosary. He would seclude himself in his office. The family made certain that he could hear their prayers.
Over the years, Francois eventually was brought back in to the fold and made peace with the Church. He died less than two weeks before his ninety-first birthday, July 17th. He had lived in that community for sixty-two years. He was mourned by his family and the citizens of Pembroke alike and remembered as a well respected pioneer in the community. A Requiem High Mass was celebrated in Saint Columbkille. He is buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Pembroke, beside his wife, Adele who predeceased him by ten years.
Obituaries: The Ottawa Journal, July 7, 1936. p.10
Census of Canada 1851, 1871, 1881, 1891 1911, 1921
Interview with Madelyn Smith (Percival) 2011 my ninety year old cousin.
Canada Voter’s List 1935
Canadian Dominion Directory for 1871. John Lovell’s Province of Quebec Directory for 1871. Volume 1 p.998 John Lovell & Son, Montreal,1871
Ontario, Canada, Deaths,1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas 1838-1847
Copyright 2013 Drouin Institute (Lafrance) dlp_32631325.jpg
Le centre de genealogie francphone d’Amerique 1997-2006 GEDCOMn155 #Individu 19607
special thanks to fellow genealogist Oskar Keller for finding the grave.
Of interest: Excerpt from The History of Pembroke http://www.pembrokeontario..com/city-hall/history-of-pembroke#sthash.rCHphQZD.groK4XiT.dpuf/
Pembroke was the first town in Canada in which electric power was generated for commercial use. On October 8,1884 the very first street lights in Canada cast their glow down Pembroke Street. A small building on Pembroke Street east of the Muskrat River provided electricity for street lighting as well as for the factories in the Town.
In 2003 a fully redundant fibre optic cable was installed around Pembroke, enabling local businesses to work anywhere in the world – without leaving their desks- through a telecommunications infrastructure that is vital to remaining competitive in today’s global economy.