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The Shaws of Lake Dore

A brief history …

John Shaw, originally from Inverness, Scotland, his wife, the former Barbara Thompson and their two-year-old son John II arrived here by canoe from Bytown (Ottawa) in 1847. Barbara was a niece of Ann Crichton, wife of the Hon. Thomas McKay, who built many locks along the Rideau Canal and his home Rideau Hall, now home to Canada’s Governors General. John Shaw was McKay’s miller and he and Barbara were married at Rideau Hall.

Upper Canada was quite a remote destination in those days with only a few families living in the united townships of Wilberforce, Grattan and Frazer (sic). Drawn by the potential water power of the Snake River, a sawmill and three-story gristmill were quickly established. By 1851 seven people were employed and the young enterprise had begun a long history, making it now the longest established family-owned lumber business in Canada. Fifth generation John 5th and Dana Shaw carry on the business today.

The Shaw’s first house was a simple 1 ½-story log structure. A mixed farm produced a variety of products to be sold or traded for help running the mills across the road. Several of the Shaws served as postmaster for the Lake Dore hamlet. John Shaw ll, known as “Honest John”, was at one time reeve and treasurer of Wilberforce Township and served on County Council in 1880. Local farmers from miles around would draw logs to be sawn and grain to be milled. In 19th century Renfrew County it was not uncommon to carry 35 kg. bags of grain for many miles and return home later that day with the ground flour. You can see two of the original grist stones, shipped from Scotland and used in the mill, at the Shaws Pond dam-site.

Several ‘day books’ from this time period tabulate the business’s local commerce, and every year (or two) the accounts would be settled. Trading of goods and services such as with the “Desjardin Steam Carriage, Sleigh and Waggon Factory” was established. The Shaws provided sawn basswood lumber, a lightweight and easily worked component for sleighs and carriages, and the Pembroke company supplied manufactured items for the Lake Dore company’s operations. At year’s end the party with accounts receivable had the dollar amount listed with the antiquated accounting term ‘favor’.

In 1942 the company, now operated by Herb and Len Shaw, sons of John ll, relocated to Pembroke to be closer to business interests. Their stately frame home, with its impressive stone fences and gardens was removed when the Bulger Road was widened. In the early 1950’s the farm fields were reforested with pine by Herb’s sons, John and Donald Shaw.

In the 1970’s the National Museum of Natural Sciences and the Nature Conservancy of Canada became interested in the property’s natural heritage value, and in partnership with the Shaw family established the Shaw Woods Nature Preserve. With uncommon plant species, centuries-old trees and animals as diverse as lynx and bald eagle, the woods have welcomed visitors from far and wide for decades. Over the years many scientific journals have contained reference to research conducted here, taking special advantage of the virtually untouched living laboratory. Currently, Algonquin College, the University of Guelph and the Great Lakes Forestry Centre all have field research projects.

Recently, a local not-for-profit charitable organization (SWOEC) was formed to provide for enhanced interpretive and educational opportunities. Their mandate is to foster an ethic of responsible environmental stewardship and highlight sound forest management practice, (a legacy of the Shaw owners down through the years) while at the same time respecting and protecting reserves such as this one for generations to come.......We hope you enjoy your visit.

by Grant Dobson and Mernie James, with Lana Shaw, Lisa Shaw-Verhoek and Lisbeth Shaw-Cullen