Brian and Marty's Canadian Roots
In honor of Switchback's upcoming tour of Canada July 16 through 24, the following is a bit of history about the FitzGeralds and McCormacks in Canada~
Brian’s original Canadian ancestor was Garrett FitzGerald (Brian’s great great great grandfather) who came from St Mary's parish in Limerick. He came to Canada to fight in the War of 1812 as a member of the British 99th Regiment of Foot. He was a dispatch rider for General Isaac Brock during the war. After the war, the British army decided to establish a military outpost in Richmond, Ontario which is near Ottawa. Garrett was one of the initial members of the village's government and eventually became the Town Clerk. Census records show that Garrett and his wife, Elizabeth Simpson, had one son, Gerald, and several daughters.
Brian’s great grandfather, Christopher James FitzGerald Sr., was born in Richmond in 1863 to Gerald and his wife, Mary McKenna. They eventually migrated with Elizabeth (around 1870) to Lucan, Ontario which is near London, Ontario. Gerald worked in Lucan as a saddle and harness maker. Great grandfather, Christopher Sr., was schooled in Lucan and was eventually trained to be a telegraph operator. In 1881 he left Canada and migrated to Philadelphia, New York, and eventually to Greenwich, Ct. He became a famous sports writer and race track official. While the family lived in Lucan, an infamous Canadian scandal occurred which most Canadians are aware of. It is referred to as the "Donnelly Massacre".
The Donnelly family (father, sons, including the mother) were a rough bunch who terrorized the other settlers in Lucan: burning barns, maiming horses and cattle, beating and robbing, and so on. Finally, the parish priest (who the Donnellys had also offended) formed a "protective association" against the Donnellys. All the men in the parish (including great great grandfather, Gerald FitzGerald) were pressured to join the association by signing a book on their way out of church after mass one Sunday under the watchful eye of the parish priest.
Some of the men got carried away with their feud against the Donnellys and on the night of Feb 4, 1880, they entered the Donnelly homestead and bludgeoned four of the family's members to death. However, Brian’s relative, Gerald was not among the group involved in the murders. There have been several books written about the case, some TV documentaries, and even a play. Even to this day, there is much interest in the scandal.
Like Brian, Marty has Canadian roots and they run on both side of his family. On his mother’s side the family was Walker, who were Scottish emigrants to Ireland. The Walker clan came from Wishaw, Scotland, settling in County Fermanagh. It was assumed that the Walker clans were orangemen. But John T. Walker married a Catholic girl named Catherine McDonough. If it is true that this was a marriage of “the orange and the green”, then they had a good reason to immigrate to North America. At any rate John became a staunch Catholic, helping to raise the first church in Ops, Ontario. He also became one of the founding fathers of the town of Lindsay.
According to the obituary for Catherine Walker:
“In the year 1831, she, with her late husband and five children, took voyage from Londonderry to Quebec. They were one month at sea and about another month in coming up the St. Lawrence and the lakes to Cobourg. Thence they came to Peterboro and up Mud Lake to Omemee. They made their way through the unbroken wilderness and settled on lot 15, con. 7, Ops (Marty’s note: Ops is the wife of Saturn in Roman myth and was the goddess of plenty) known as the Walker homestead where their son David now resides. They underwent all the hardships and privations of pioneer life. The settlers then had to carry all their provisions and supplies on their backs on packs along blazed tracks from Cobour, Port Hope and Peterboro. But with unflagging energy they overcame all difficulties and turned the forests into fertile fields. John Walker and the subject of this sketch prospered and in time purchased enough land for all their children.”
Their one child, Francis T. Walker, Marty’s great-great grandfather, was going to be a priest and studied for the ministry in Montreal. However, he found out that he did not have the calling and emigrated from the family homestead to Dubuque, Iowa, where he became a successful attorney. He later died on the Isle of Capri, Italy, vainly searching for a cure for stomach cancer. (see Marty’s journal for excerpts from his letters)
On Marty’s dad’s side, his grandfather, Luke McCormack, married Cecelia Suprenant of St. George, Illinois. His grandmother was of Quebecois descent, speaking fluent French her whole life. The Suprenants can trace their history to Quebec and all the way to France. The first to arrive in Canada, Jacques Suprenant was born around 1644 in St. Martin, Montagne, Perche, France. He came as a soldier in the Carignan-Salieres regiment of the French army, around the year 1665. Among many of the firsts, it was the first regiment to have uniforms in the French army and it also was the first army in North America to conduct a winter campaign. Jacques saw some fighting with the Iroquois tribes that were then threatening Nouvelle France. (for more history on this, visit this link) After several successful skirmishes (and with the Iroquois decimated by smallpox) the regiment succeeded in a peace treaty with the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. The king of France then offered the soldiers something they would never get back home, a chance to settle and own land in New France. Jacques did just that with the Suprenants settling mostly around L’Acadie, Quebec. He married a “filles du roi” or “daughter of the King” named Jeanne Denaut. A fille du roi was a Frenchwoman who was encouraged to immigrate to North America to marry and help settle Canada for France. The crown guaranteed her a hefty sum of 50 pounds as a dowry. Jacques incidentally died on Marty’s birthday, July 16, 1710 in Laprairie, Quebec.
Hearing stories of the fertile farmland lands in the former French stronghold of Illinois, Jacques descendants moved to “Le Petite Canada”, the area of St. George, near Kankakee in the 1850s.