Submitted by Mark McGarry

Peter McGarry Peter McGARRY (1788-1884) was a native of Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland who farmsteaded almost 60 years in Drummond Township. He was the elder son of John McGARRY & Mary TONE, his mother a relative of the celebrated Irish patriot Theobald Wolfe TONE. Peter emigrated from Ireland about 1820 along with his father, brother James McGARRY, and sisters (the future) Mrs. Annie FLANNAGAN/HALL, Mrs. Elizabeth STAFFORD, Mrs. Mary DORAN, Mrs. Julia BAILEY/McGRATH and Mrs. Margaret SKINNER/DUFFY.


Arriving in Perth independently of the more typical military settlers or “assisted immigration” groups, Peter, James and John McGARRY were assigned lots in Darling Twp. by the Bathurst Land Board in November of 1823. The lots proved too rocky to till, were abandoned and eventually forfeited back to the Crown in 1837. In 1824 James, ancestor of the contributor, headed to his destiny in Niagara. In 1827 Peter purchased Lot 10 Drummond Twp., the same lot originally ticketed in June 1816 to James McGARRY, not his brother but an unproven uncle who was a discharged soldier of the 99th Regiment of Foot.


The McGARRYs were not part of Perth’s early social hierarchy of ex-officio halfpay military officers. Like other immigrants, the family followed relatives that ventured to a new land. The family then adapted to life in Canada through a network of local and distant family contacts.

What is surprising is the high degree of mobility displayed by the family in early to mid-nineteenth century Canada. Peter’s sister Julia was in Montreal. Elizabeth STAFFORD, who married a Fergusons Falls homesteader, and Mary DORAN, who married into a prosperous business family in Perth, were in Lanark County with Peter and father John. James, Annie and Margaret were in Niagara. Along this Montreal, Lanark and Niagara triangle can be found the earliest intertwined records of the family in Canada. The 1833 marriage record of Margaret, who married Colin SKINNER of Niagara, was found in the register of St. John the Baptist in Perth. The 1837 baptism of Richard DORAN, a son of John and Mary DORAN and ancestor of another LCGS member, was found in the St. Vincent de Paul register in Niagara-on-the-Lake. In 1842, Thomas FLANNAGAN the husband of Ann died of cholera on the train in Hamilton while en route from Niagara to Perth. And in the 1840s, James McGARRY sent a son, my ancestor, to school in Laval near Montreal, and later to nearby McGill.


In 1831 at Perth, Peter McGARRY married Mary COYLE (1812-1895) who was a native of Glascow, Scotland and a daughter of Thomas & Anne COYLE of Lanark Twp. Twelve children were born to Peter and Mary on the Drummond Twp. farm — John (1831-1841), William (1833-1910), James (1835-1854), Mrs. Ellen McCAFFREY (1837-1917), Michael (1839-1911), Peter (1841-1904), Thomas (1843-1871), Alexander (1846-1926), Patrick (1849-1911), Mrs. Mary DOWNEY (1851-1934), Richard (1854-1877+) and Henry (1857-1931).

In long view, William, Alexander, Patrick and Ellen McCAFFREY stayed in Lanark County. Mary DOWNEY moved to Brockville, within Eastern Ontario. Michael, Peter, Richard and Henry migrated to the American West.


In 1882, two years before his death at age 96, Peter McGARRY signed an elaborate will that reflected his intellect and his character. Two themes underscore its contents. First, he articulated specific bequests to each of his surviving children. Second, and more important in terms of the provisions of the will, Peter attests to his deep love of his wife Mary COYLE.


Descriptions of the sons of Peter McGARRY and, by derivation, description of the father, can be found in Perth Courier obituaries. The sons are characterized as nineteenth century stereotypical Ontario farmers — “calm and patient”, “kind and loving”, “courteous and hospitable”, and “a warm-hearted friend”. Moreover, the legacy of Peter McGARRY in Drummond Twp. would have been typical of many immigrant settlers in Lanark County — had it not been for bitter tragedy in counterpoint to remarkable success and triumph. Peter’s carefully orchestrated life of family, farm and church was marred by the premature death of three sons. One son, Thomas, was murdered at age 28 in 1871 by John DOWDALL. In contrast, another son, William, was appointed Sheriff of Lanark County 1904-1911 and a grandson Thomas, a son of murdered Tom Senior, was appointed Provincial Treasurer of Ontario 1914-1919.


The life of Peter McGARRY, and those of his brother and sisters, represent a distinct chapter in the history of the McGARRY family. They were remarkably mobile and adaptive as demonstrated by their emigration from Ireland, and their settlement in Lanark County, Montreal and Niagara. And remarkable too in terms of travel among those points within 19th century Canada.

Peter was an exemplary pioneer Lanark County homesteader. Once finally settled on good Drummond Twp. farmland and married at age 43, Peter and Mary COYLE flourished. Their substantial brick house on Concession 7 still stands in testament to this special period in Lanark County history.

Submitted June 1999 by Mark McGarry