| Aug 21, 2008

Feature Article - August 21, 2008

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Feature Article - August 21, 2008 How did Sharbot Lake get its name?By Jeff GreenIf you look on the wall to the left of the stage in the Oso Hall, there is an old framed photograph of a man and a woman. The photo was taken in the 1800s, and it is a photo of Francis and Mary Sharbot, after whom Sharbot Lake was named.

The photograph was installed in the Oso Hall by order of council in 1936, (Oso is one of four townships that were amalgamated into Central Frontenac in 1998).

There are no longer any people listed by the name of Sharbot under Sharbot Lake in the phone book, since the branch of the family that retained the name moved to the Pembroke and Calabogie areas in the early years of the 20th century. However, in recent years they have taken an interest in their family roots in Sharbot Lake.

One of the descendants of Francis and Mary Sharbot, Cathie Duchene, has returned to Eastern Ontario from British Columbia this summer to promote the research she had done into the family history in light of the Algonquin Land Claim that is being pursued by the Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nation (formerly Sharbot Lake Algonquins). Cathie Duchene has also taken an interest in the controversy over uranium exploration in the region.

Duchene is the grand-daughter of Cecil Sharbot (1902-1989) who was born at Sharbot Lake to Thomas Sharbot (1866 – 1927) and Cecilia Antoine. Thomas Sharbot was the son of Francis and Mary Sharbot.

Accounts vary concerning when the Sharbots arrived in Sharbot Lake. According to one account it was in 1825, and it came with a land grant of 100 acres. One account from the history of the Barker and Warren families, written by Grace Croft, talks about the arrival of John Warren in Oso township in the late 1846 or 1847. “John rode horseback throughout the wilderness country, following an Indian trail, to the Indian village of Sharbot. Chief Sharbot showed him how to blaze trees for marking a trail from Sharbot to his homestead. The Chief also showed him how to notch and fell his first tree.”

According to Cathie Duchene, the family had a history in the area that goes back even earlier, to 1777. “Francis Sharbot’s father visited the area in 1777; it could have been to investigate the possibility of logging the area, and Francis moved to Sharbot Lake from Lake of Two Mountains,” she said in an interview.

In the 1861 census Francis and Mary Shabotte (nee Guigue) are listed under Frontenac County District 34 (Oso) along with three children, Francis, John and Mary. Also listed as living in the same house are Mary Antoine, 30, Antoine Antoine, 16, and Nabus? Antoine, 14.

At the bottom of the census record it says “out of a total population of 300 in the township, only Francis and Mary and family (families) are Indians. Others are from England, Scotland, Canadian born, some Irish and one USA.”

In the 1871 census, Francis and Mary are listed under the name of Shabot or possible Sherbert, and at that point there were seven children listed.

In 1914, members of the family, including Thomas Sharbot Sr (photo left), who was born in 1870, left the Sharbot Lake area and moved to Calabogie.

Throughout the census information, the family’s occupation is listed as “hunting and fishing”. By 1914 trapping in the Sharbot Lake area was not as good as it had been and Thomas and Cecilia Sharbot (nee Antoine) left for Calabogie, with children Harold, Jerome, Cecil, Cecilia, Tom, and a baby sister (who later died in a tragic shotgun accident.

Cecil, Harold, Jerome and Thomas Sharbot.

Wes Boomhower of Calabogie has written a history of the life of Tom Sharbot Jr., who was born in 1910 and died in 1995.

Tom Sharbot, who never married, lived a colourful life. He was a fiddle player and a baseball player, as well as a war hero in the 2nd World War. He cared for his mother Cecilia, who lived until the age of 99 and died in 1973. Tom Sharbot performed the fiddle music for the film “The best damn fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar” although he was disappointed that the music was not included in the final version of the film, which starred a young Margot Kidder.

Tom's brother Cecil, who was born in 1902 at Sharbot Lake, died in 1989, and his offspring have taken up an interest in the family history, and in the question as to the ethnic origin of the family.

Cathie Duchene says, “My grandfather Cecil Sharbot wanted me to let everyone know that we are a Mohawk family, that Francis Sharbot and Mary Guigue were Mohawks from Lake of Two Mountains, as was the Antoine family. Sharbot Lake is Six Nations territory, not Algonqun territory.”

Duchene has returned to Ontario from British Columbia, intent on taking this issue public.

Indeed, according to all family records, from the story of Tom Sharbot by Wes Boomhower, to the research Cathie Duchene has done, as well as the account of her 73-year-old uncle Warren Sharbot, Francis Sharbot was a Mohawk.

However, in recent years most of the family, with the notable exception of Cathie Duchene, have applied for and received native status from the department of Native Affairs (Canada) as Algonquins under the auspices of the only Ontario Algonquin reserve at Golden Lake.

Warren Sharbot, who was born in Pembroke and lives in London, Ontario, explains his decision to apply for status in this way. “I have never had a reason to apply for status since I worked for the government for 37 years and I have pension and health benefits, but I am interested in the original land grant that was given to Francis and Mary Sharbot.”

According to Warren Sharbot, who applied for and received his status last year, he could not prove his Mohawk ancestry because all the records were lost in a fire at the Catholic church at Lake of Two Mountains many years ago, but he has Algonquin ancestry on his grandmother’s side, for which there are records.

“I've been told that I have three years to change the designation to Mohawk if I can come up with the paperwork,” he said.

According to Wes Boomhower's account of the life of Tom Sharbot, he also was a Mohawk who eventually became an Algonquin.

Boomhower quotes from Tom Sharbot's speech, given at his 85th birthday party shortly before he died: “I've been a North American Indian all my life, but now I'm no longer a Mohawk, I'm an Algonquin.”

According to Boomhower, Tom Sharbot was referring to having been “adopted as an elder by the Algonquins of Golden Lake.”

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