Amelia “Emily” Rath

Emily (Amelia) Rath (or sometimes spelled as “Wrath”) was born 5 April 1820, probably in Goulbourn Township, Ontario, Canada.  Her place of birth are a bit uncertain but this is the best estimate available for the beginning of her earthly life.  Her parents were Thomas and Mary Rath. 

Her father, Thomas, was born and raised as an Irish Catholic, and he had recently been discharged in Canada from the British Army (in 1818) sometime prior to Emily’s birth.  Her mother was a Scottish Protestant, so there may have been some disagreement in the family as to how the children were to be raised.  Thomas won and Emily, along with each of her siblings, was a good Catholic.  All but the mother attended St. Philip’s Parish in Richmond, Goulbourn, Ontario.  Here Emily grew to young womanhood.

Relatively little is known of her childhood other than the family lived on a farm and worked hard to make it productive enough to provide the food needed for them to subsist.  She had a lot of siblings—the exact number though is unknown.  It does not appear that she had the opportunity to attend school or to learn to read or write.

Emily took her religion seriously and when the parish formed a “Total Abstinence Society” to discourage the use of alcohol she lined up to have her name entered on the role of this worthwhile organization. 

She was about twenty-nine years old when a young immigrant from Ireland, by the name of Andrew McDonald (sometimes spelled McDonnell) move into the area.  He attended the same parish and they soon became well acquainted.  They were married in St. Philip’s Parish on 22 January, 1849.

Following the wedding, Emily and Andrew packed up their few belongings and moved north, about thirty miles to the village that was then known as “Bytown” but later had the name changed to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada—which is now the Capital of that nation. 

This town lies on the south side of the Ottawa River.  On the opposite shore is the town of Hull near the mouth of the Gatineau River, which flows in from Quebec to the north.  Quite a few Irish immigrants had come to this area to help build the town and a canal and then had spread out in the surrounding countryside creating a sizable Irish population in this area. 

After staying here just one year, Andy and Emily learned of new virgin forested lands that were being opened up a few miles to the north.  So, again they packed up their meager possessions, bought a canoe and paddled up the Gatineau River for about fifty miles to where they found a small stream flowing in from the west.  They turned into this creek (which was called Stag Creek) and paddled another ten miles or so, until they arrived at a small waterfall by a meadow in a beautiful valley.

Here Andy and Emily pulled their canoe out of the creek and looked around at what was to become their new home.  A large hill stood just to the southwest of the small waterfall, which they climbed to build their first log house.  Being on top of the hill protected them from the occasional flooding of the creek, but it also meant that Emily had to haul the water a long way up the hill each day.  So, in time, after clearing the land for their farm, they built a second home on the northern end of their property along the side of the new “McDonald Road” which provided a more direct route eastward through the woods, from their home to the Gatineau River, which was about three miles to the east.

It was at just this same time that a new Catholic Church was constructed at Farrellton, Quebec, which was only about eight miles SE of their farm.  Andrew and Emily’s oldest child, Catherine McDonald, was one of the first children to be baptized in this new parish in 1850.  Over the next fifteen years this good woman bore a total of eight children.  Her third, and the oldest boy, was named Michael McDonald (and he was the grandfather of Donald T. McDonald, our ancestor). 

Life was not easy for people who were trying to create a farm out of forested lands.  Andy and Emily staked a claim on 300 acres of land—some of it swampy with ponds and creeks, some of it meadow, but most of it was timbered.  This had to be cleared in order to begin to raise their crops.  As the children grew they had to pitch in and help with the work.  Quebec was far enough north to have a relatively short growing season and long, cold winters.

There were no schools close by and although Andy could read and write there didn’t seem to be time for him to teach his children or his wife.  However, being rather enterprising and one of the few in the area who could read, Andy set up a post office in his home.  He would take his wagon to the village of Farrellton and bring back the mail for the other settlers who lived near his home.  When any of them were in the area they could stop in at Emily’s house to check if they had any letters, and to visit for a spell.  Andy also began to sell whiskey whenever they stopped by so his post office and “store” began to pay off.  Between this enterprise and his farm Andy and Emily were able to provide for their growing family.

As time went on, Emily watched her children grow to young adulthood, and then marry some of the local boys and girls from their parish.  She had the satisfaction of seeing most of her children settle down nearby and begin raising their own families. 

In about 1858 Emily’s father, Thomas Rath, died back in Goulbourn, Ontario.  He had gone blind prior to his death leaving most of the responsibility for his farm on the shoulders of his good wife, Mary.  She lived for a time with some of her other children, but later moved to Stagsburn to live with her daughter, Emily and Andy McDonald on their farm where she remained for the rest of her life.  Although a protestant, when she died, her daughter Emily had her buried in St. Camillus Catholic Churchyard.

Emily Rath McDonald had at least 59 grandchildren, most of whom lived close enough to know her personally.  Her grandson, Thomas, seemed to have a special spot in his heart for both of his grandparents and left us a short synopsis of their lives—“The McDonalds and Where They Came From”. 

Emily took care of her aged husband in his final illness until he died on 13 January 1911.  She survived him by just over two years and passed away at her home on 16 May 1913.  Both of them were buried in the St. Camillus Parish cemetery in Farrellton, Wakefield, Gatineau, Quebec. 

Stagburn Falls on Stag Creek

Site where Andy & Emily first claimed their farm land

McDonald Road (looking SW)

The log and branches lying in the depression in the foreground are in the cellar dug by Andy beneath his second home site.  This is where he also had his post office and store.

Andy & Emily’s farm lies mostly across the road and to the left (south) of the fence.

The farm in the distance was Andy’s western 100 acres that he deeded to his son, Michael McDonald and is the farm where Michael’s children, including his son, Thomas M. McDonald were born and raised.  Stag Creek meanders across this farm in the row of shrubs in the middle of the photo.

McDonald Road (looking SE) with Andy & Emily’s farm across the fence to the south. 

St. Camillus Catholic Church

Farrellton, Wakefield, Gatineau, Quebec.

This is the parish church where the McDonald, Sullivans, Kellys and others attended church, and where many, including Andrew & Emily McDonald are buried.  The cemetery is just to the immediate left of the spot where the photographer is standing.

Grave marker of Andrew McDonald and Emily Wrath.

St. Camillus Catholic Church

Farrellton, Wakefield, Gatineau, Quebec


Amelia Rath                             Mini Bio