Ste-Marthe County, Vaudreuil, Québec, and The Maddens

From February 1997 NUACHT, Newsletter of St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal

Maben Poirier reports on the continuing research into the Irish of the Parish Ste-Marthe. Professor Poirier lectures in the Political Science Department of Concordia.

Research on the history of Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Irish community located in the Parishes of Ste-Madeleine de Rigaud and Ste-Marthe in the County of Vaudreuil, off the western tip of the Island of Montreal, and last reported on in this newsletter in February 1995, is progressing nicely. The settlement of the community in the early 1830s, the migration into and out of the community over the next century, and the history of a number of the early families is much better understood now than in the past. Still, there is one annoying question that. needs to be resolved, and it has to do with the Irish origins of the majority of the members of the community.

Try as we might, we have not yet been able to discover the Irish homes of the Barrys, the Benys, the Cavanaughs, the Cregans, the Downs, the Dunnigans, the Hynes, etc., and so the best that we can do at the moment is speculate about where most of these families might have come from in Ireland.

Fortunately, however, this is not universally the case. We do know the Irish origins of a few families, and most notably that of the Madden family, a family that first settled in St. Colomban, it seems, and then moved to Ste-Marthe. This family, which was from Cootehill, Cavan, was certainly one of the more interesting families to come out of Ste-Marthe in the early days, inasmuch as it produced a number of fascinating characters. The best remembered amongst the many members of the family is undoubtedly the Canadian-American author Mary Ann Madden (1820-1903), who married James Sadlier, Montreal representative of the New York publishing firm of D. & J. Sadlier, Co., in Ste-Marthe in November 1846, and then spent what seems to be the better part of her life travelling between New York, Montreal and her family in Ste Marthe. (Older readers of this newsletter may remember the name Sadlier from their school days in the 1840s and ’50s, for the Sadlier Company published the Baltimore Catechism, an elementary school text for so many of us.) Mary Ann was the author of a large number of historical and Catholic devotional works in the Nineteenth Century style. Her best remembered work is The Confederate Chieftains, a historical novel, .we would call it today, dealing with the 1641 uprising in Ireland. Locally, she is perhaps best recalled as being a friend to Thomas D’Arcy McGee. It was this friendship which led her to edit and publish McGee’s poetry. She was also the advisor and confidant of a number of public figures in mid-Nineteenth Century Montreal society.

Mary Ann’s cousins were also a colourful lot. James Madden was a judge in New Mexico. He, it appears, was almost killed when a bandit he had been responsible for jailing, upon release, decided to take it out on the judge, and tried to shoot him at point blank range in the doorway of his New Mexico home. It seems that as the trigger was pulled the gun jammed. The judge, it is reported, immediately subdued the bandit. The bandit no doubt discovered that Ste-Marthe’s Irish were made of stern stuff. Another Madden, brother to the judge, was also a judge in Greely, Colorado (he, we are told, led a less dangerous life style). Perhaps the best travelled of the brothers was Major Peter Madden, who served under General Kitchener in the Sudan in 1884, and later held a position in the War Office in London during World War I.

We would appreciate hearing from anyone who might have a connection to the Ste-Marthe and Rigaud community. Perhaps the easiest way to reach us is, by telephoning 514-458-4290 in the early evening.

M.W. Poirier