Saturday, October 24, 2009

Peter Aylen

The plaque says:
“C. 1830. Aylen Heney House,150 Richmond Road. As built in the 1830's. This building housed labourers on the farm of Peter Aylen. Aylen was notorious as a Leader of the shiners, Irish labourers whose riotous habits enlivened early Bytown. In the 1870's, John “Buffalo” Heney added the metal clad mansard roof.”
Just when I was about to snap the picture a woman drove up and parked her mini-van. She ran to the brick house next door. I waited for her return, but eventually had to take the picture as I was on my lunch hour.

“Enlivened” was a polite and generous term, in my opinion. Peter Aylen was nicknamed King of the Shiners. He was born in 1800, probably in England. (While not researching Peter Aylen myself, I have since learned that Peter was born in Ireland). As a teenager he was a cabin boy on a British frigate. He had a stone house and a stone barn on the Ottawa River. (but it was probably set far back from the river, situated where the Canadian Bank Note Company is today).  Are the ruins still there today? (the ruins are no longer there today as the Canadian Bank Note Company is on the manicured site today)   “Imbedded in the wall of his barn was a mysterious stone inscribed with the initials P. A. V.(1).  Peter employed shiners who were “fearless, fighting rivermen.”. I have read that they even fought with Big Joe Mufferaw (Joseph Montferrand). Peter Aylen was many things in his lifetime, one of them being a lumberman. “All his timber rafts to Quebec were manned by shiners...Peter...married a daughter of William Thomson, and his son married into another great river family when he became the husband of a daughter of Charles Symmes.” The son’s name was also Peter Aylen, and the woman he married was my 3rd cousin 6 time removed! The house in picture above sits kitty corner to the Canadian Bank Note Company, which was the site of the original Peter Aylen homestead

(1) I have since been informed that the P.A.V. in the wall of the barn stands for Peter Aylen Villiers (or de Villiers) the name he was born with but took the name of his mother when he jumped ship at Quebec City. (the reason for this has not been researched but as a guess he may have owed money for his passage)  This information comes to me from a great grandson of Peter Aylen, and Peter's birthplace according to family, was near the border of northern Ireland, and not in England.

Still not sure how this blogging works.....but UPDATE :  I have since learned after posting the above paragraphs that a great uncle of mine Edward Sands Bradley (1802-1836) was beat up by the Shiners, in the late 1820s.  He died as of a result of his injuries some years later, in 1836.  Newspaper reporting in the Ottawa Valley was scant to say the least.  I have only been able to find a one or two lined death notice for Sands, but no account of the beating.  If you have information on Sands demise, please email me at


Mary La Fever said...

I am interested in all things Aylen/Vallely. Had not heard the mother's name of de Villiers. Do you know where in Northern Ireland he was born? I had heard it might be Armagh, so I visited there when in Ireland in 2009. Met a couple Vallelys who LOOK like my brother and my cousin, but I would like to trace the Vallely name to Armagh and specific folks, if anyone knows. Thanks for this blog, and for your info!! Mary LaFever (my grandfather was an Aylen)

Karen said...

Hello Mary
Please accept my apologies for replying at this late date. Until now I did not know exactly how this blogging worked. Please email me your email address so we can discuss further but please put Aylen in the subj. line.
Have you read the book "Carleton County 1879" by H. Belden? In it, Peter Aylen is mentioned. It says "...Though the lumber trade of the Ottawa in the early 1800s was insignificant compared to the proportions of 1879, quite a number were engaged in it. Those who operated at and above Hull included Squire Wright...Peter Aylen, H. M. Fulford..." There is more.
I am assuming the surname Vallely is the anglicized version of de Villiers, the ORIGINAL surname of Peter Aylen (not his mother`s name)(de Villiers was his father`s surname). Peter assumed his mother`s maiden name of Aylen when he jumped ship at Quebec City. Why would he do such a thing? One possibility is that he owed for his passage and could not pay it. Or perhaps he was in some other kind of trouble. Hard to know at this point, however he did not want to be tracked down. I have an extensive library, and can research Peter and let you know what I come up with. However due to local demand I do have to charge for this service. If I cannot answer your questions regarding Peter`s place of birth there would be no charge. You would be looking at less than $100 for this research, and I would provide you with a nice report of what my research uncovered. With that said, it is unlikely that I would find any information on Villiers or Vallely, as the scope of my research does not extend into Ireland. I am not a genealogist, just a researcher & writer, who spends an awful lot of time on local history. If this is a service you would be interested in, please email me at the address above. Thank you for your interest. Karen Prytula

Larry Devine said...

Hello! I have a blog titled "The Rivermen Researcher". I am currently Working on a number of articles on river history. I find your blog is of interest to me.

Please include me amongst other bloggers!
Larry Devine