The theme of this blog is Catholic priest, the Reverend John O’Grady. I was inspired to learn more about Fr. John O’Grady because recently in my notary research in the register of Edward George Cannon, I came across his last will and testament and the inventory of his estate. You can learn a lot about a person when you see a detailed examination of the property in their possession at the time of death. Finding this document made me curious for more. A cursory on-line search revealed that a written biography for him did not seem to exist. Further, Fr. John O’Grady was very significant to the Frampton Irish community and several Irish communities in Quebec. In fact, he performed the marriage ceremony for my great great grandparents James McLean and Anastasia O’Connor in 1837. He performed many Frampton marriages in the 1830s in which he meticulously listed some of the Ireland place names that the early settlers came from. Although he was the second Irish priest to actually live in Frampton, he was the first to live there long term and he came from County Wexford and was a son of the Rebellion of 1798 like many of his parishioner. So here is my attempt at his biography.
He was born on December 27, 1803 at St. Martin in County Wexford, Ireland. St. Martin was in the town of Ballycullan in the civil parish of Tintern. His brother would later be identified as a resident of the Townland on Curraghmore, also in the parish of Tintern. His parents were Patrick O’Grady and Margaret Caulfield. His name has occasionally been found as Fr. John Caulfield O’Grady, perhaps due to his mother’s maiden name. He has at least three siblings. James O’Grady, Thomas O’Grady and Sarah O’Grady. While the parish of Tintern was located at a distance from the homeland of many of the Frampton Irish near Oulart, it was no less affected by the events of the Rebellion of 1798 and its aftermath. The O’Gradys could quite possibly have relatives among the families that lived near Oulart.
Fr. John O’Grady was ordained a priest in Quebec on June 17, 1832 after study at Ste. Anne de la Pocatiere. Fr. Gagnon’s "History of Frampton" stated that he had received a French education so it is reasonable to assume that he was in Quebec as early as 1828. This year would be consistent with when the majority of the Wexford Irish came to Quebec.
Four months after his ordination he was assigned to the recently created mission parish of St. Edouard de Frampton, so this was most likely his first assignment. He was appointed cure and missionary of St. Edouard de Frampton on October 26, 1832 and he arrived in Frampton on October 30. When Fr. O’Grady arrived in Frampton, life there was very primitive and difficult. After he had been there for 10 months, he wrote to the Bishop describing some of the conditions he was confrnted with. He told the bishop that he was responsible for the townships of Frrampton, Cranbourne, Standon and part of Buckland. Hr also served the Irish families in Ste. Marguerite. He stated that most of the houses are very remote and in the middle of the thick woods. He remarked on how difficult it was to travel throughout his mission due to the bad state of the roads. He stated: "An entire trip in part takes around six hours and it takes about ten hours when it is sufficiently difficult to make 18 or 20 miles." He described a situation in which the parishioners must pay an annual subscription of 5, 10 or 15 shillings per family so that Fr. O’Grady might have a salary of about 112 livres (pounds). He told the Bishop that the parishioner were poor and in most cases unable to pay. However, he had received flour, meat, butter, potatoes and some money valued at about 25 livres. He stated that he had to go in debt just to get a bed, table and kitchen articles. In terms of his quarters, he described the presbytery as an "old shed" and that there were cracks and holes in the wall where daylight can be seen and the roof was so bad that rain and snow gathered in the loft. He also had to share this building with the Frampton school. So his first assignment was somewhat a life of poverty.
Two months later, in an attempt to assist Fr. O’Grady in his financial needs, Captain of the Militia, Andrew Murphy wrote a note to Antoine Charles Taschereau in Ste. Marie. The note stated: "I would thank you if you would let the bearer know when will be a Court at St. Marie or whether I will be able to try small causes as our people don’t pay, the Cure Mr. Grady his salary, as I am bound to the Lord Bishop to see the Priest paid his yearly salary."
Fr. O’Grady’s first entry in the Frampton parish register was a on November 13, 1832. It was the baptism of Martin Horan, son of Edward Horan and Bridget Deegan. He would baptize, bury, and marry many of the early settlers of Frampton. On May 13, 1839, his brother James O’Grady was married to Ann Lawlor. The marriage was performed by Fr. Grenier, cure of Ste. Claire and witnessed by Andrew Murphy, Captain of the Militia and several others. James O’Grady’s farm was known to be in lot 22 of range 1 of Frampton Township. Fr. John O’Grady must have earlier filed a petition for a grant of that land because on December 1, 1857 he received a grant from the Crown for 327 acres in that lot. He apparently allowed his brother James O’Grady to establish there and cultivate the land.
Fr. O’Grady served the people of Frampton for about eight years until September 1840. He was then reassigned to be the cure for the parish of Perce from 1840 to 1842. He then moved to serve Drummondville from 1842 to 1846 and then to Ste. Catherine from 1846 to 1851. While at Ste. Catherine’s he became aware of the blight of the Irish emigrants who were isolated at Grosse Ile. Around 1847, Irish born priest Rev. Bernard McGauran lead a team of chaplains to Grosse Ile. Among the priest that served at Grosse Ile were John Caulfield O’Grady, James McDivitt, Hugh McGuirk, James McDonnell, Michael O’Reilly, Michael Kerrigan, James Nelligan, Edward Horan, William Dunn, Hubert Robson, Michael Power and Taschereau. Fr. Taschereau would later become Canada’s first Cardinal. Two of these priests (Robson & Dunn) also served as cures at Frampton. The priests ministered to the sick and dying Irish at Grosse Ile. They also assisted in placing many orphaned children with some of the parishioners they had contact with in their parishes. A few of these children were placed with Frampton families,
Fr. John O’Grady became the cure at St. Sylvestre in 1851. St. Sylvester was an "Irish" parish and Fr. O’Grady replaced fellow Irishman Fr. James Nelligan. There was some degree of unrest in St. Sylvester. The French Canadians resented the control that the Irish seemed to have in running the parish. There was also some conflicts between the Catholic and Protestant communities. D. Aidan McQuillan in his Beaurivage: The Development of an Irish Ethnic Identity in Rural Quebec: 1820-1860 states: "Fr. O’Grady, did not have his predecessor’s diplomatic skills and his leadership in the parish was ineffective." The "Corrigan affair" erupted during Fr. O’Grady’s tenure there. Protestant Hugh Corrigan was rather outspoken in his anti-Catholic rhetoric. He was a judge at a local agricultural fair and gave low grades to the livestock owned by a Catholic farmer. A physical altercation took place in which Corrigan’s skull was cracked. He accused some Catholics as his attackers. The accused went into hiding. The local Orangemen assisted the local officers of the law in conducting raids on many of the Catholic homes. The accused finally gave themselves up, but changes in testimony resulted in a mistrial and they were acquitted. Then in 1858, an election was held in which the Irish Catholic community may have been involved in "poll rigging" to support their preferred candidate for a legislative seat. Fr. O’Grady may have been implicit in this fraud and he was "secretly" removed and reassigned.
Fr. O’Grady was then appointed as the cure for the neighboring parish of St. Gilles which also had some Irish parishioners. He would serve there for one year before being reassigned to Ste. Catherine de Fossambault where he would serve until his death. Fr. John O’Grady is found in the 1861 Canada census in Portneuf (near Quebec City), and his household included his cousin Bridget Welsh. He purchased an "emplacement" of land with buildings situated in the Parish of Ste. Foye from Joseph Berthiaume on October 18, 1870 before Notaire H. Bolduc. It is assumed that this was his place of residence. In the 1871 Canada census, he is found in the Portneuf and his household included Bridget (Welsh) Dunphy and a Margaret Driscoll (age 16).
Fr. John O’Grady made a last will and testament on January 18, 1872 before Notaire Edward George Cannon. However, on January 20, 1872 he made a new will and testament before the same notaire. In that document testament he appointed the Rev. Bernard McGauran as his executor and his housekeeper and cousin Bridget Welsh as his universal legatee. In his will he bequeathed to his brother Thomas O’Grady of the Parish of Tintern (Townland of Curraghmore), County Wexford, Ireland £ 800. He bequeathed to his sister Sarah O’Grady, widow of John Harrison, boot maker, of Philadelphia £ 200. He bequeathed to the children of his late brother James O’Grady and Ann Lawlor £ 100 each to Eliza O’Grady, John O’Grady, Margaret O’Grady, Bridget O’Grady, Andrew O’Grady, Ann O’Grady, James O’Grady and Mary O’Grady, all of Frampton. He bequeathed to his cousin and housekeeper Bridget Welsh, wife of Edward Dunphy, £ 500. He also made bequeaths to the following institutions in various amounts: St. Bridget Asylum, Propagation of the Faith, English speaking Catholics of Quebec City, Convent of the Good Shepherd, Fabrique of St. Catherine de Fossambault, Parish of St. Sylvester. College of St. Ann, the poor of St. Edouard de Frampton and the Seminary of Quebec.
John O’Grady died at Ste. Foy on February 8, 1872. A notice appeared in the Quebec Mercury that stated: "The funeral of the Rev. Father O’Grady will leave his late residence, near St. Foye Church, on Sunday at 10 a.m., and thence the corpse will be conveyed to St. Catherines when the funeral serviceand burial will take place. He was buried at Ste. Catherine de Jacques Cartier (also known as Fossambault and Portneuf) on February 12, 1872. Many of the cures of the surrounding parishes were present at the funeral.
An inventory of Fr. John O’Grady’s property was taken on February 27, 1872 before Notaire Edward George Cannon. His inventory indicated that he owned an "emplacement" with buildings in the Parish of Ste. Foye. His household goods were valued at $272.67; he had bank accounts worth $5,467.79; He had $2,000,00 in debentures; he had $157.62 in cash; He had $3,600.00 in bank stock; he had $3,000.00 in outstanding obligation debts; he had $230.00 in promissory note debts; he had $183.97 owed him by certain parishioners in St. Sylvester; he owed $946.25 in cents; and his estate was worth about $12,865.80. There were a great many Irish names among those listed that owed him money. He apparently was quite generous in making loans and didn’t pay much attention towards collecting the debts.
Among his possessions was a large collection of books. There were several bibles, catechism, and theology texts. But he also had sets of Encyclopedia and a seven volume set of the "History of Ireland." He had come a long ways since living in the "old shed" in Frampton in 1832.
I must acknowledge the following sources in compiling this biography: e-mail from Barry O’Grady; Fichier Origine, Federation quebecoise des societes de genealogie; Irish Priests in the Diocese of Quebec in the Nineteenth Century, Marianna O’Gallagher; Beaurivage: The Development of an Irish Ethnic Identity in Rural Quebec: 1820-1860, D. Aidan McQuillan; and the Register of Notaire Edward George Cannon.