Michael Cassin and Margaret Kelly
(c1772 - 11 October 1843) (c1778 - 1850's)
Michael Cassin and his wife, Margaret Kelly, were one of the original families of Valcartier, Quebec. From the age listed on his tombstone, we know that Michael was born between October, 1772 and October 1773 and from census records, it appears that Margaret was born about 1778. It is assumed that they were both born and married in Ireland. Michael's children and wife state in census records that Ireland was their place of birth. It also appears that although the founder of Valcartier was an American, many of the original land holders were from Ireland or possibly Scotland. On Michael’s son, Patrick’s marriage certificate it states that Michael came from Queen’s County, Ireland. Other Valcartier settlers also came from this county (which was later renamed Laois County) and the Cassin surname is found in that county’s records.
County Laois, formerly Queen’s County (purple above)
From a Wikipedia note: Created in 1556 by Mary I, Queen of England as Queen's County, Laois received its present Irish language name (pronounced Lee-shay) following the Irish War of Independence. Portlaoise (previously Maryborough) is the county town. Laois was the subject of two plantations or colonizations by English settlers. The first occurred in 1556, when the Earl of Sussex dispossessed the O'Moore clan from the area and attempted to replace them with English settlers. However, this only led to a long drawn out guerilla war in the county and left a small English community clustered around garrisons. There was a more successful plantation in the county in 17th century, which expanded the existing English settlement with more landowners and tenants from England. Neither plantation was fully successful due to a lack of tenants and because of continuous raids and attacks by the O' Moores. Finally, the county became home to a community of French Huguenots in the 1690s, who were settled in Ireland after their service to William of Orange in the Williamite war in Ireland. This may possibly be the origin of the Cassin name as other resources state it is of French derivation. The county is landlocked and, uniquely amongst Irish counties it does not border any other counties with a sea coast. It is therefore considered to be "the most landlocked county in Ireland".
Nothing is known of Michael and Margaret’s lives before they came to Quebec one summer between 1817 and 1819 (youngest son, Patrick was born in 1817 or 1818 in Ireland and the Cassins were shown on a Valcartier map of 1819. Following the war of 1812 with the French, the British government was offering free passage and land to settlers with the hope of increasing an English stronghold in the area as a deterrent to invaders. Life in the British Isles was difficult following the war. Taxes increased, cities were overcrowded, and the increase use of machinery in tasks previously done by workers caused fewer jobs to be available. As a result, many citizens were easily persuaded to leave and colonize the land known as Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario). The Cassins probably embarked on a ship in Dublin or in a Cork harbour and would have spent a difficult eight weeks at sea. I have not yet found them listed on a passenger list but there is online a diary written by a man who made a similar voyage during this time from Dublin to Quebec. He describes the constant seasickness and violent storms that they faced as they crossed the Atlantic, rounded Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and finally traveled the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City. I imagine the Cassins took this same route, 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 probably 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. A map of Valcartier drawn in 1819 shows Lot 11 on the left side of the road as belonging to M. Cassin and Lot 12 to D. Cassin. 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 were a total of 34 lots in the town of Valcartier with two reserved for mill property. The Cassins were obviously one of the first families to settle in the area. It would be interesting to know how they picked Valcartier. Did they hear that the land to the north of Quebec City was a beautiful area with lakes and rivers? Did they hear the area was settled mostly by their Irish countrymen? Or did they travel with a group from their native Ireland on the same ship and several traveled together to settle Valcartier?
When they arrived in Quebec, Michael would have been about 45 years old and Margaret 40. I have found mention of six children - 4 boys and 2 girls who would have ranged in age from infancy to 20. There is the strong possibility that there were at least two more children as the 1825 census states that Michael had 9 in his house, and daughter, Mary had already married and she and her husband were living beside the Cassins. That leaves Michael and Margaret and 5 children in the house. Who were the other two in the census? Were they other relatives or farm workers or possibly other children? Their is a gap of 8 or 9 years between two of the known children's birth, so this leads me to believe that there were more children. I have recently found a “John Cassin of Valcartier” who married in 1835 in Quebec City. It is very possible that this was another of the children.
Michael and his sons were always listed as farmers in the censuses, as were most of the people in Valcartier. The land was fairly fertile but the growing season quite short. Wheat and potatoes were staples grown for the area and these were also taken to the city to sell. 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.
As stated earlier, Michael and Margaret had six known children. A little about each will be presented here.
Denis - born in Ireland between 1798 and 1799. 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. She is buried in St. Gabriel's Catholic Cemetery in Valcartier. 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.
Mary - born in Ireland about 1803 according to the 1851 census. She married Denis Hogan about 1825, presumably in the Valcartier area. They had eight children, the oldest and youngest were girls. Two of the children, Ann the youngest died at 1 month of age, and Michael died when he was about 20 years old. It appears that Mary's husband, Denis, died the same year as son Michael, so it is possible that the cause of death was an accident or a communicable disease. It appears that Mary might have died between 1861 an 1871 as she is not found in the latter census. I could not find her stone in the cemetery.
Edward - born in Ireland between 1811 and 1812. Reportedly was nicknamed Ned. He 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, and Edward at 77 on the 24th of November in 1887. Both are buried in St. Gabriel's Cemetery.
Thomas - born in Ireland about 1812. 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, both of Ireland. 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. Thomas died on the 16th of April, 1888 at the age of 76 and is also buried at St. Gabriel's. His wife Bridget was also 76 when she died 30th of April, 1895.
Margaret - born in Ireland the 31st of October, 1814. She married William Neilson, a Presbyterian, on the 15th of February 1830, at 15 years of age. William Neilson was the son of the famous 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. Margaret died early at the age of 38. 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. Patrick would have been only an infant when the Cassin family crossed the Atlantic. Patrick, first married Catherine Dowler, in 1844. However, she died in November 1844, two weeks after giving birth to a daughter, also name Catherine. Daughter, Catherine died the following May. 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.
Michael Cassin died at the age of 70. 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.
Written by Patricia Balkcom, July, 2008