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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

The story of this Handsome couple, the Duval's come to Penetang.

When I started researching, my goal was to fit the oral histories of my family to documentation. Someone told me not to bother most oral histories are lies. Well perhaps her family are just a bunch of liars. Because in mind, the stories are backed up in documents. The family story I have here is that of two young men who came to Penetang from a place along the Ottawa River, which although is made up of Lorignal, Hawkesbury and VanKleet Hill, we'll call them Hawkesbury here.

These two young men I was told came here, one was killed and the other continued on here to raise a family. Well, documents show a slightly different story, as I have shown here. Not only do we see the documents, but the connections with friends and family as well..

Adelard and Cordelia Duval

Timber booms on the Ottawa River 1872. McCord Museum

Hawkesbury LAte 19th century

Hawkesbury is on the southern shore of the Ottawa river. It is in the county of Prescott. In late 19th century, two brothers set out from Hawkesbury area and found their way to Penetang. Antoine and Adelard Duval were their names. They came to Penetang as young men, following the lumber industry. Likely they knew that Penetang was a french town, as was the area of Hawkesbury at the time. (and still is today)

The two men, were well educated, having an equivalent to a high school education, which was rare for the time. The Brothers would probably hop a ship in Hawkesbury and travel back past the former home town of their father in St Polycarpe.

The Duval's had not been in Hawkesbury for a very long time, Antoine senior having moved there from St Polycarp Quebec at some point. The Duval Family originally came to Canada and settled in the Trois Riviere area, in the Seigneury of Pointe-Du Lac. They were there for several generations before a branch of the family moved south along the St Lawrence to St Polycarpe, which is south west of the Ottawa River.

The Men would probably go as far as Lindsay, then take the train to Penetang. OR possibly go as far as Toronto then North. It's hard to pin down not knowing the exact date they travelled and the ever changing Grand Trunk Railway. The trip would be approximately 600 Kilometers, mostly by train. (At least I assume)

That they found work at a lumber mill is not surprising, as Hawkesbury was a mill town. What is kind of interesting is that at the time they moved here, the lumber industry shows us a probable reason. The men, probably a little more than boys, came here when the lumber industry was in decline there. The men arrived prior to 1888, as Antoine would marry Parmelia Vaillancourt in 1888. But we can narrow it down even more. When Joseph Duval Married Marie Gervis, in 1886, Antoine Duval and Virginie Cousineau were witnesses. So Antoine came between 1886 and 1888, with the prior date probably being closer, as some courting had to fit in there too. It's conceivable that Antoine would have travelled back for the wedding, but he is listed as living in Prescott (Hawkesbury), so unlikely. Hawkesbury had mills as far back as the Napoleonic wars. By 1875 they were on the decline. This lead to lumber companies moving on, and workers looking for new opportunities.

Interestingly that some of the Hawkesbury once known by my Duval ancestors is now underwater, the victim of a Hydro electric Dam. (Most of it remains above water to this day however)

Two American's Thomas Mears and David Pattee established the first mill by Hawkesbury. The town sprang up around that mill. By 1870 a number of lumber mills were in operation around that town. But not too long after it's heyday, Hawkesbury was in the midst of an economic downturn right around about Adelard was born in 1875.

So in 1886-87 Antoine would set off for Penetang, would Adelard have travelled with his brother, at that time a 13 year old boy? HE may have came later, again hard to tell. Family legend only tells that Adelard was young, and as he was married at 20 in Penetang, he obviously was younger than 20 when coming here.

We don't know where they worked specifically, at that early date, but we do know that Antoine was killed tragically in a sawmill accident. All aspects of the lumber trade was dangerous at the time. Power was all coming from the river or creek and to turn on or off machinery involved running a belt over a pulley, or removing the belt. No switches, no breakers, just a pole and a belt. Antoine would leave a widow, Parmelia Vaillencourt. (In an aside, Parmelia would marry Napoleon Dubeau a widower. And would be listed as next of kin (Step mother) of Medore Dubeau, who I write about serving in WW1)

The Duval's were a french family, and they brought the language here. Those from Hawkesbury continue to know the french language to this day, as 80% claim to speak french curently.

The french language would continue in the family. My father learned english in school, they did not speak english at home, but french. That the french language was taken out of schools in my Grandfathers time was a source of discontent for him...but that is for another day.

Adelard and Cordelia

But getting back to the story...Adelard, married Cordelia Bellisle, in 1896. They were a very young couple, he was twenty and she 18. The witnesses at the wedding :John Bellisle, Cordelia's brother, and Clemence Vaillancourt, so their circle of friends seemed to be heavily influenced by the Vaillancourts. I wonder if the Vaillancourts or Bellisles had a boarding house, as the young men would have needed accommodations in those early years.

The Bellisle had also come to Ontario from Quebec, John was born in St Jacques Quebec, while his younger sister Cordelia, was born in Penetang.

After the loss of his brother, Adelard and Cordelia returned to Hawkesbury. There they remained for awhile, long enough to have two children, Antoine in 1898 and Emilia in 1899, but by 1901, would eventually return to his new home of Penetang.(Note:Emilia's name is spelled various ways) The rest of their children, including three lost in childhood, were born in Penetang. Penetang was on the rise, and Hawkesbury the decline, so that coupled with the Belisle's, and probably the Vaillancourt's remaining in Penetang precipitated a return.

Another sister of Cordelia's and John Bellisle, Delia, married a Vaillancourt, so the Bellisle, Duval's and Vaillancourt's probably ran in the same circles around the turn of the century.

Back:Art, Alex, Adelard Jr, Antoine Front Eva Emilia, Adelard Sn, Stella, Willy

Adelard's oldest son was named Antoine, maybe after his uncle. His second youngest son was named Arthur to which I am named after. Adelard's father was also named Antoine, so the family name continued. The names Adelard and Antoine were in the family for generations, they just don't make Adelard's any more.

Hawkesbury's loss was Penetang's gain. In the late Nineteenth century Penetang was connected to the Grand Trunk Railway, what followed was industry, particularly lumber mills. Mills ran by the families, McGibbon, Davidson and the Beck sprang up around the bay. Whereas the decline was negatively affecting the town of Hawkesbury and environs, the town of Penetang was thriving.

George Bellisle Cordelia's Grandfather

Adelard would follow the usual course of those in Penetang who worked in the lumber trade, he would head north and work in camps, to make ends meet. Above is a picture of him and a crew from the Beck Lumber Company with a large load of wood. My Grandfather would claim this was done for the photo, I guess we'll never know. Wahnapitae is probably the one in the Sudbury district, now a reserve.

This was the life of early 19th century Penetang. Saw in hand, the lumber jacks would go into the bush each winter and their first task often was to build a shelter where they would live for the winter. Over the course of the year, they would down trees, which come winter would be dragged or carted to the river. Once spring came the logs would be rolled into the river and would travel down to Georgian Bay. From there, the lumber mills would employ steamboats to bring them to the mills in Penetang. Life was tough for the Duval's, Adelard would lose his wife in 1922. After a three year battle with Tuberculosis, Cordelia would pass away. She was 45 years old. At that time, the life of a single father and his family was not what it is today. This caused issues, but not within the family. Things were not perfect but they were what they were and they did the best they could. But at the time, with three kids under ten, life was altered. The older kids were in their twenties, but the younger kids were 4-6, exhibiting typical French Canadian math whereas a child was added every 2-3 years, depending on the weather. Some of the older children filled in raising the younger ones like my Grandfather.

Adelard would live not in Penetang proper, but in a house in a community we used to call across the Bay. My Grandfather would also live across the bay in a house by the Northwest Basin. That house he would often tell was just a cabin before he had it. It wasn't much more than that after. It was purchased from his father Adelard, who sold it to him for a price, a cow and some chickens I believe. The sentence, Love and affection was also added to the bill of sale.


thats the story of two men who came to Penetang, the tragic loss of one of them and the thriving Duval family that exist today. It was almost the thriving Duval family of Hawkesbury!

Art Duval Pipesmoke of the Past.

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