Eusebe VARIN and Margaret WILLIAMS
Eusebe Varin came from St. Jacques l'Achigan near Joilette, Quebec, c. 1840
Varin Family, Late 1890s
Top Row - Margaret, Alma, Josephine
Middle Row - Sophia, Charles, Homer, Celina Robitaille
Front Row - Eva
August 21, 2013:
I have found your Bytown or Bust website very interesting and impressive.
I would like to seek your help in my attempts to track down an apparent tragedy among my ancestors. There is indication in Family Trees
posted on Ancestry.ca that three children in my GG grandfather's family drowned (probably together) on 11 June 1868 in Almonte, Ontario.
I have not yet been able to confirm this information.
My GG Grandfather was Eusebe Varin. He came from St Jacques l'Achigan near Joilette and probably arrived in Bytown in the early 1840s.
He married my GG grandmother Margaret Williams in Notre Dame de Ottawa in 1845 and they had nine children baptised there.
Eusebe Varin was a successful merchant / entrepreneur who built a large stone store / home at the corner of Sussex and Clarence in
lower town in the early 1850s.
The building still stands today - see photo below. (Photo Source: google.ca)
Eusebe Varin served on the first city council of Ottawa after Bytown became Ottawa in 1855 and had interests in the lumber business
and real estate as well as his dry goods store.
Eusebe age 42 and his youngest child four year old Rosalinda died within days of each other in April 1865. I suspect they were victims
of an infectious disease.
Margaret Williams was left a widow at age 42 with seven surviving children. The eldest Claire (aka Clara) was 20, just married and
gave birth to a son Eusebe Telesphore Turgeon within a week of his grandfather’s death. Eusebe Varin’s
business probably failed following his death and it appears that Margaret Williams moved to Almonte, Ontario with her children.
Daughter Claire and her husband Telesphore Turgeon went too. Almonte was a booming mill town about 30 miles from Ottawa on the
Mississippi River a tributary of the Ottawa River.
Information from Family Trees put up on Ancestry shows that Margaret Williams died in Almonte on the 21 Sept 1867 at the age of 45.
I have not yet been able to confirm this. She left seven children orphans with married daughter Claire age 22 the eldest.
Information from Family Trees on Ancestry is that the two youngest Varin girls ages fourteen and nine and their three year old
nephew Eusebe Telesphore Turgeon, the son of their eldest sister, all died on 11 June 1868. Information is that the youngest
girl drowned. There is no information on the cause of death given for the other two children.
Clara Varin Turgeon and her husband Telesphore Turgeon lived in Almonte until well into the 1880s and had a number of children.
The family then moved to Minnesota, USA, to the area between Duluth and Minneapolis where Telesphore died in the huge Hinkley
forest fire in 1895. The rest of the family survived and the children married. Their descendents live in the States. I surmize
that the information regading the deaths of Margaret Williams Varin in 1867 and the three children in 1868 comes from family
history of the Turgeon family.
Searches on Ancestry regarding Margaret Williams Varin and her two daughters come up blank.
I have information on all of Eusebe Varin's other children including my G grandfather Charles Henry Varin.
Please let me know if you have any suggestions on where to look for information that might confirm these tragic drowning deaths.
Good evening, Joe:
Thanks for your e-mail about the unfortunate drowning involving your ancestors in Almonte in 1868.
Below is the newspaper write-up from page 3 of the Ottawa Citizen dated June 19, 1868 which describes this tragic event.
The drownings were also recorded in the Almonte Gazette and it mentioned that the accident occurred near the “falls” in
Almonte. There is a photo of the rapids above the falls near the top of our web page at www.bytown.net/almonte.htm.
I have run across the surnames Varin and Turgeon many times. These were well-known families who are also recorded often in the
registers of Notre Dame Cathedral on Sussex Street.
Is it OK with you if I add your e-mail to a new web page on our site for the family of Eusebe Varin? I’d also include your
picture of the building at the corner of Sussex and Clarence.
Please let me know.
September 12, 2013:
Further on Eusebe Varin I attach a write up (see below) about Eusebe and his family. It turned out a bit longer than two pages but when you
are dealing with a man with nine children it takes a bit of space to cover all of them. Thank you for the information about the
new webpage you set up about Eusebe Varin.
I also attach a picture of Eusebe's grave in Notre Dame Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario.
...and of his son Charles Henry Varin and family taken in the mid- to late-1890s. For the family portrait of the Charles
Varin Family Late 1890s the people are from the left: Top Row - Margaret, Alma, Josephine; Middle Row - Sophia, Charles,
Homer, Celina Robitaille; Front Row - Eva (see at top of this page).
PS You will note a brief mention of the Hickey family in the write up. I have read various material in your site regarding
Andrew Hickey and his wife Margaret Farley Hickey. My G grandmother's sister Margaret Robitaille was married to James Hickey
the twin brother of Andrew. Margaret Robitaille was the first cousin of Margaret Farley ( Guess what granny's first name was?).
Thus we had twin brothers married to first cousins both named Margaret. The Hickeys all lived along what is now Chamberlain
Avenue between Bronson and the Canal - just a few blocks from my house in the Glebe.
The Eusebe Varin Family
Eusebe Varin was born about 1822 in or close to St Jacques l'Achigan (now known as St Jacques de Montcalm) a farming community
north east of Montreal not far from Joliette. His parents were Louis Varin (also called Joseph Varin) and Julie Beauchamp.
His parents were married in St. Jacques in 1818.
I have not yet located Eusebe's baptismal record in the parish register although I have been able to find the baptismal records
of his sisters Marceline (1821), Zoe (1823) and Sophia (1825). I have approximated Eusebe's year of birth from the information
about his age at death. This information is not always precise.
Eusebe had a younger brother Joseph Varin who was born in 1836. I have his baptismal record from the parish of St. Esprit in the
County of Montcalm not far from St Jacques.
There may have been other children of Louis Varin and Julie Beauchamp that I have not yet located.
Eusebe Varin married Margaret Williams in Notre Dame in Ottawa (then Bytown) on 1 April, 1845. Both the bride and groom were
adults. The marriage record shows both of Margaret Williams' parents, George Williams and Celeste Johnson, were dead by the
time of the marriage. The marriage record does not show either of the Varin parents as deceased although this does not
guarantee this was not the case.
The 1861 Census record of the Varin family suggests that Margaret Williams was born in Montreal but the writing is difficult
Widowed Mother, Brother and Sister in Bytown
Julie Beauchamp Varin mother of Eusebe was widowed and living in Bytown at the time of the 1851 census with two of her
children Sophia and Joseph. We have records of Sophia marrying in 1856 and Joseph in 1857 both in Ottawa. We also have a
record of Julie Varin living alone in Ottawa in the 1861 census. I have record of the burial of "Veuve Varin" age 60 at
Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa on 11 December 1864. There is no information on the first name or maiden name. Perhaps
this was Julie Beauchamp Varin.
Did Julie Beauchamp Varin move to Ottawa with two of her children after she was widowed? This is plausible as her son
Eusebe was here. We know that Eusebe was in the dry goods business at the corner of Sussex Drive and Clarence Street
in the market area (see photograph near the top of this page).
Eusebe Varin Dry Goods Merchant and In the Lumber Business
Eusebe was also a lumber merchant and there are records of his holding lumber cutting leases from the government and
paying for use of the lumber slide at the Chaudiere Falls. He was also involved in real estate as there are records
of his giving mortgages on several lots in the Sandy Hill area of Ottawa.
Eusebe built the building at the corner of Sussex and Clarence where his store was. This four story building (465 Sussex
Drive) still exists and can be viewed on Google Street View. It is directly across the street from the front door of the
US Embassy. Presumably he and his family lived there when they were recorded in the 1861 census.
Nine Varin Children
Eusebe Varin and his wife Margaret Williams had nine children between 1845 and 1861. I have records of all of these baptisms
at Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa. Eusebe served on the first City Council of the City of Ottawa after the City's name was
changed from Bytown in 1855. There is indication that he served several more one year terms as councillor.
Eusebe Varin - Margaret Williams Children
All Born in Bytown/Ottawa and Baptised at Notre Dame Cathedral
Name Born Died
Claire Venerande (Clara Turgeon) 9 October 1845 Duluth, Minnesota 1922
Guillaume Georges (George) 19 August 1847 Indianapolis, Indiana 1908
Charles Henri 20 October 1849 North Bay, Ontario 1920
Marie Josephine (Josephine Lindsay) 22 August 1851 Ottawa 25 January 1878
Jean Baptiste Achille 13 June 1853 Ottawa very young
Marguerite Elizabeth Antoinette (Margaret) 17 March 1855 Drowned Almonte, Ontario 11 June 1868
Joseph Eugene 9 March 1857 Providence, Rhode Island. 1932
Marie Elizabeth (Elizabeth) 7 July 1859 Drowned Almonte, Ontario 11 June 1868
Marie Rosalinda Victoria (Rosalinda) 25 April 1861 Ottawa 10 April 1865
The 1861 census shows the Eusebe Varin family with seven children. The youngest child, Rosalinda was not yet born and
Jean Baptist Achille born 1853 is not shown in the census. He probably died as a young child but I have not yet found any
record of his death. The census also indicates that Eusebe has a total investment of $30,000 in his enterprise and real
estate. This would have been a substantial amount 150 years ago.
At the end of 1864 the oldest child, Claire Venerande (Clara) married Telesphore Turgeon. Turgeon was 30 years old
and Claire 19.
An Early Death
In April 1865 disaster struck the Varin family. Eusebe age 42 and his youngest child Rosalinda age 4 died on April 14
and 15 respectively. I have not learned the cause of death but surmise it might have been an infectious disease such
as typhoid. Margaret Williams Varin was left a widow with six children at home ranging in age from 17 to 5.
Within a week of Eusebe's death Claire, his oldest child, gave birth to his first grandchild Eusebe Telesphore Turgeon.
I have very little information on what became of Eusebe's business at his death. His children were too young to have
taken it over. The Ottawa newspapers in November 1865 had a notice for the forced sale of several properties in Sandy
Hill that were owned by Eusebe Varin and mortgaged to the City of Ottawa.
Family Moves to Almonte
Margaret Williams Varin and her children moved to Almonte, Ontario following Eusebe's death. Married daughter Clara
and her husband Telesphore Turgeon went too. Almonte is 30 miles from Ottawa and was in those days a booming textile
mill town on the Mississippi River a tributary of the Ottawa River.
Margaret Williams died in Almonte in 1867 at the age of 45. Her eldest child Clara Varin Turgeon and her husband
effectively had the care of the six younger children.
Daughter Josephine Varin married Henry Lindsay in Ottawa in January 1868 at the age of 16. She died in 1878 at the age
of 27 from consumption (TB). I have a record of one child born in 1876. Henry Lindsay was a clerk in the House of
Commons where is father was chief clerk.
In June 1868 daughters Margaret and Elizabeth Varin aged fourteen and nine respectively and their four year old
nephew Eusebe Turgeon drowned when the boat they were in was swept over the falls in Almonte.
The 1871 census shows Clara Varin Turgeon, her husband Telesphore and their growing family living in Almonte as
well as her three brothers George, Charles and Joseph Eugene. Telesphore was a barber and his brothers-in-law
George and Joseph took up this trade.
Three Children Move to the States
Clara Varin Turgeon and her husband had six children while living in Almonte where Telesphore was a barber. In the
late 1880s the family moved to upper Minnesota in the area between Duluth and Minneapolis. In 1894 Telesphore lost
his life in the huge Hinkley forest fire that killed over 500 people. Clare and the children survived and lived
on in Minnesota. Much of the information about the Turgeon family including family pictures comes from a family
tree prepared by Turgeon descendants in the States.
George Varin the oldest son of Eusebe moved to the States in 1875 at the age of 28. He married there in 1883 at
the age of 35. He and his wife had five children. In 1900 he was living in Indianapolis where he ran a barbers'
and hairdressers' supply business. Much information about George Varin's family including a picture of one of
George's sons comes from a family tree prepared by Varin descendants in the States.
Joseph Eugene Varin the youngest son of Eusebe grew up in Almonte living with his sister Clara. He married in
Almonte in 1883 and he and his wife had three children there before moving to Providence, Rhode Island, USA, in 1886
or 1887. The couple had two more children in Rhode Island in 1888 and 1889. I have not been able to find the
family in the 1890 Census but do have records of his wife and children in the census of 1900 when she reports
she is divorced - something that was rather rare in those days. Joseph Eugene Varin died in Providence about
1932. His wife and children lived on in the States and there are records of their marriages and deaths and
family trees prepared by descendants.
Charles Varin, Sheriff of the District of Nipissing and Temiskaming
Charles Varin married Celina Robitaille Groulx in Ottawa in 1876. He was 28 when he married. She was 25 years
old, the widow of Alphonse Groulx, and the mother of four young children. Charles and Celina had six children
of their own.
Charles and Celina Varin had three daughters in Ottawa - Margaret 1877, Alma 1879 and Josephine 1882. It is
possible that they did not live in Ottawa for all this period as Charles Varin likely operated a store along
the CPR rail line west of Ottawa. Perhaps his wife took the train down to Ottawa to be with her mother and
family when giving birth. The Varins were living in Rutherglen west of Mattawa in the upper Ottawa Valley in
1883 when daughter Sophia was born. Eva was born in Ottawa in 1885 and Homer in Bonfield close to Rutherglen
in 1888. Charles Varin gives his occupation as "Merchant". Both Rutherglen and Bonfield are on the rail line
from Ottawa to North Bay - the main transcontinental line at that time.
Sometime after Homer's birth the family moved to North Bay where Charles Varin became the Sheriff of the District
of Nipissing and Temiskaming. I have his certificate of appointment dated 1895. The sheriff was a court official
who essentially ran the courthouse and jail. The family lived in a large house on McIntyre Avenue just across
the side street from the courthouse. The house still stands and can be viewed in Google Street View.
Charles Varin lived in North Bay until his death in 1920 at the age of 73. Following his death his widow Celina
Robitaille built a smaller house next door to the large family home and lived in it until her death in 1932. She
left the smaller house to her unmarried daughter Margaret who lived with her.
Six Children of Charles and Celina Robitaille Varin
Charles Henry Varin's youngest child and only son, Homer, was killed in action in the battle of Courcelette in
1916 in the First World War. He was unmarried.
Margaret Varin the first child of Charles and Celina Varin did not marry. She lived at home in North Bay and worked
in the court house. Following her father's death in 1920 she lived with her mother Celina Varin in the small house
built next door to the large family home. She inherited the house from her mother in 1932 and lived there until her
death in 1945 at the age of 68.
Alma Varin the second child of Charles and Celina Varin did not marry. She was living with her sister Sophia and her
family in Ottawa when she caught the Spanish Flu and died in 1918 at the age of 37. It is difficult to imagine the
effect of this on her sister. Imagine not only having one's sister die young but to do so from a deadly infectious
disease while living with your four young children.
Josephine Varin the third child of Charles and Celina Varin was raised, in Ottawa, by her aunt Margaret Robitaille
Hickey, a sister of her mother Celina Robitaille. Margaret and her husband James Hickey were childless. Margaret
Hickey also raised Charles Groulx a son of her sister Celina by her first marriage to Alphonse Groulx. Josephine
married Michael Conway in Ottawa in 1914 at the age of 32. She did not have any children and inherited the estate
of her aunt Margaret Robitaille Hickey. The Hickey family were early landowners in the Glebe in Ottawa and reasonably
wealthy as a result. Josephine Varin Hickey Conway died in Ottawa in the early 1950s.
Sophia Varin the fourth child of Charles and Celina Varin married Milton Courtright in North Bay in 1909. He was a civil
engineer engaged in building the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway north from North Bay to Moosonee. The family moved to
Ottawa in 1915. Sophia and Milton had five children.
Railway Map Source: Building an Empire: "Big Pants" Harry McLean and his Sons of Martha, by Teresa Charland, page 146
Eva Varin the fifth child of Charles and Celina Varin married James Smith in North Bay in 1908. I understand that the
Smiths had five children but have, to date, only found the births of three. The Smiths lived in Toronto.
Varin Plot in Notre Dame Cemetery Ottawa
A reading of Ottawa history suggests that Eusebe Varin would have been buried in the old Sandy Hill Cemetery when he died
In 1872 the Archdiocese opened a new cemetery, Notre Dame, on Montreal Road and urged people to move their relatives' remains
there as the old cemetery was not only being closed but the real estate was being redeveloped. Charles Varin and his sister
Josephine, probably the only family members living in Ottawa at the time, purchased a plot in 1872 and presumably moved their
father's remains to it. The plot was later used for the burial of Josephine Varin in 1878. In the 20th century Charles Varin
and his wife Celina Robitaille and two of their daughters - Alma and Margaret were buried there. The second half of the plot
was used for the burial of daughter Sophia Varin, her husband Milton Courtright and their daughter Celina.
... Joe Courtright
September 17, 2013:
I note that Holy Name of Mary Church in Almonte burned down at Christmas 1868. There was even mention of this in this weekend's
(Sept 14-15 2013) Ottawa Citizen which has an article about the church. I imagine that a fire like this would have destroyed
records. This may explain why I drew a blank in using Ancestry to search for both Margaret Williams Varin's death in 1867 as
well as the drowning death of her two daughters in 1868. It will also not be helpful in a search for the Williams family in
The Lindsay family mentioned in my history of the Varins were not settlers in Ontario. Rather they were old (18th Century)
Quebec City Anglos who were clerks of the Legislature of Lower Canada and in the second generation of the House of Commons
of Canada. I attach snips taken from the Lindsay Family Tree - owner Michael Lindsay. (I have not yet figured out whether
one can email a link to a Family Tree on Ancestry). This Tree adds a family story to the history of the evolution from
the Legislative Council of Lower Canada to the Legislature of Canada (Canada East and Canada West) to the Parliament of
Canada post 1867.
February 24, 2015:
Joe and Al
I am pleased to find info on the Varin Family. I am connected with the family of H C Varin, Sheriff of North Bay.
My Great-Uncle Thomas John Bourke was married to H C Varin's step-Daughter, Louise Groulx.
I also understand one of the Courtright family members was involved in the building of the O&TR. My Grandfather
Joseph M Bourke was also involved , first as a surveyor and later as a Construction Superintnendent on that line.
I would like to get in touch with you to discuss further family connections.
Nice to hear from you. Given the popularity of large families back in the days of our Great grandparents it's not
surprising that there are a number of descendants around. The trick is to connect with them.
My grandfather Milton Courtright who married Sophia Varin in August 1909 was a civil engineer engaged in building
the T&NO. Milton was from SW Ontario near Sarnia. He came to North Bay to work and met the Varins - a family
with five daughters!
Following their marriage my grandparents moved up the rail line to where Milton was working on extending the line.
He was the "Boss" of the operation. He had a small log cabin built for his bride. Everyday my Grandfather and his men
would go off on the work train leaving my newly married grandmother in her little log home. She was the first white woman
that the Natives peoples in the area had ever seen and the Indian woman would come to see her.
When she found them looking at her through the glass windows of the cabin she invited them in for tea. She spoke English
and French but the Indian women spoke only their own language. They would sit on the floor of the cabin and watch her
silently as she did her housekeeping and cooking and baking using all the latest gadgets she had received as wedding
presents. It must have been as interesting an experience for them as it was for her. When the train whistle announced
the return of the men the Indian women would go back to their camp but return the next day.
My grandparents were burned out twice by forest fires in their first two or three years of marriage losing all their
household wedding presents in the process. In one fire they had to take their baby daughter Celina out on a lake
in a canoe to avoid the flames.
Home base remained North Bay where my grandmother delivered her first child Celina at her parent's home in 1910.
The first decade or so of the 20th century was a boom time for railway construction in Canada with the building of the
Canadian Northern and the National Transcontinental as well as the T&NO. In the west the Grand Trunk Pacific was
being built at the same time.
I have indications that my grandfather not only worked on the construction of the T&NO but also on the NTR (National
Transcontinental) and possibly on another railroad.
The railroad building boom came to an end with the start of WWI and my grandparents moved to Ottawa
in fall of 1915 where my grandfather worked as civil engineer with the Federal Government during the war.
Ottawa was home to my grandparents for the rest of their lives. My grandfather worked on a variety of construction projects
but these were scarce at times during the depression.
My grandmother would take all her children home to North Bay in the summer to visit her parents and the children
could play with their cousins.
My aunt Celina who died in 2013 at the age of 102 would in her latter years recall with considerable precision and
detail her summers spent in North Bay with her grandparents and cousins.
She had particularly fond memories of her Aunt Louise and Uncle Tom Bourke. She said the mother and children in
the family were musically inclined and trained (I don't know about Uncle Tom) and an evening at their house
was always entertaining. Aunt Louise taught music.
Celina was almost exactly the same age as her cousin Ida Bourke and they were great friends. She kept in touch
with Ida throughout her life.
I would imagine that my grandfather knew your grandfather Joseph M Bourke both from work and through the Bourke - Varin
March 1, 2015:
Sometime ago you were very helpful to me in providing information about a tragic triple drowning of three children
of the Varin family in Almonte on June 11, 1868.
This summer past I went on a short "genealogy field trip" to Almonte and visited Old St Mary's Cemetary (sic) on the SE corner
of Concession 12 and March Road where the children are buried.
I attach a picture of the gravestone and copy of the inscription on the stone.
This was a very poignant find.
... Joe Courtright
Transcription for Turgeon Varin Tombstone
Old St. Mary’s Cemetary (sic)
In Memory of
THEL & CLAIRE TURGEON
Who died June 11, 1868
AGE 3 yrs & 3 mo
MAGGIE & LIZIE
died June 11, 1868 AGE 14 & 8 yrs.
... Joe Courtright
E-mail Joe Courtright Bob Bourke and Allan Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa, Canada, area -- Early French-Canadian families