How Chagnon Became Shonyo - Magog, Quebec, 1800s

Site Map for the Genealogy Pages

How a French-Canadian Became an English-Speaking Canadian

A Paper Presented to La Société d'histoire du Lac Memphrémagog
by Jacques Boisvert, President
August 1989

[[Notes by Laurie Dickinson Trask Mann, 1997]]

On the 13th of August 1989, I proceeded to Georgeville to see an exhibition of old houses when I noticed a book on sale, relating to the history of these homes. On page 32 I read:

In 1894, the sheriff seized the assetts of Francis Martin (his real name was François Martel!)

Today's story concerns a French-Canadian, probably illiterate, who when arriving in our region, had to change his name, due to circunstances.

While driving along the Eastern Townships autoroute, near the curve by lake Orford, heading towards Magog, you will notice a mountain on your right which is called Mont Chagnon (altitude 1925 feet). The irony of all this is that the accuracy of the original name survived on its own. A 1914 geographical map and also one dated 1921 indicate the mountain as Mont Chagnon. In the geographical nomenclature of the Province of Quebec one can read: "Chagnon Mountain situated in the Township of Bolton, County of Brome (and not Shonyo which is only an improper translation of this French name)." This has nothing to do with the Francophone drive that we have known for many years.

Ouisant Shanyo was the first pioneer to arrive in the north-east area of the Township of Bolton, and settled not far from Mont Orford in 1822. His nearest neighbour was located 2 miles away.

Monsieur Shanyo came from the "seigneuries" somewhere near the Richelieu river. A year after his arrival he built his log cabin and on the 22nd of December 1823 he was married to Annis Boyden. The officiating protestant minister was Richard B. Whitwell of the Episcopalian denomination who was the first minister assigned to this region in 1821. On his wedding day, Ouisant signed his name in the marriage register: Lewis Shonnio . But, could his name be Chagnon, by any chance? Reverend Ernest M. Taylor in an article published in 1926 quotes: "He was a staunch French Protestant". The spelling of his original name would be Chagnon. From this marriage 3 sons and 3 daughters were born and all took the name of Shonyo and not Shanyo. When he decided to sell his farm to his son Demeritt Daniel in 1857 he signed the document Wesaw Shonyo. Of the farm he had reserved a piece of land 200 feet by 200 to be used for a cemetary. On his death in 1886, he was buried on this site and his tombstone carried the name of Lewis W. Shanyo. Many years after, his great grandson Burton Shonyo, arranged for the remains to be transferred to the Protestant Cemetary in Magog where one can see the monument.

Summing up, the ancestor signed his name Lewis Shoniio, Wesaw Shonyo, Lewis W Shonyo.

A document received from the "Commision de Toponymie" mentions: an old land survey plan shows the name Mt. Shanyo. In reality this geographical entity is situated near Mont Orford and owns its name to Ouisant Chagnon, pioneer of the last century. The Ancestor's great grandson, Burton Shonyo, born September 24th 1896, still resides in Magog. We met together at the corner of chemin Milletta and North road where the Shonyo school use to be, and we discovered the granit stone used as a main entrance step.

In conclusion, Monsieur Chagnon, Shoniio, or Shanyo, who settled down in a corner of the Township of Bolton in the early days of white immegration probably never thaught that one day someone would try to throw a little light on the subject of why he signed his name differently at times, but it is most probable that this person could not write and signed his name in a phonetical style.

Nevertheless, research allowed me to establish that different signatures always referred to the same person.

Jacques Boisvert, crypto-dracontologue
Societe internationale de dracontologie du lac Memphremagog
Société d'histoire du lac Memphremagog
Web page
Membre / Member réseau parallèle

[[Jacques sent me the following excerpts from local Magog papers about the Shonyos:]]

Express & Standard, July 13, 1880

On the 4th Mrs. Shonyo had new potatoes, mealy and of good size.

Express & Standard, August 24, 1880

There have been several removals from this place recently ; our station agent sold ten tickets to Colorado one day last week, among those gone are J. Norton and wife, W. Wood, E. Smith, E. Bradley. Mr. Shonyo's family have removed to Roxton Falls, Mr. Shonyo being in the employ of Prouty & Miller who are putting up a new steam mill in that place.

[[I have copy of an old clipping that is about the family of Demerritt D. Shonyo. The clipping is from somewhere in the 1930s, or possibly the 1940s:

Royal Message Sent Granby Centernarian
Mrs. D. D. Shonyo Received Congratulations of King and Queen on 100th Birthday - Nearly 200 Visitors Pay Respects on Anniversary

Among the most cherished possessions of Mrs. D. D. Shonyo, who celebrated her 100th birthday on New Year's Day, is a cable of congratulations from the King and Queen, which was dated at Sandringham December 31 and read as follows "The King and Queen send you hearty congratulations and good wishes on your 100th birthday."

((More info about other cables deleted))

Several other telegrams were received from friends and relatives, including Dr. John & Mrs, Bella Shonyo of St. John, NB (grandchildren)....(clipping missing a few lines here)... (and) Mr. & Mrs. Walter Warren of Regina.

((More info about other cables deleted))

The unusual spectacle of five generations in a direct line was seen, consisting of Mrs. D. D. Shonyo, her son, Mr. Hosea Shonyo of Orford Mountain, Que., his daughter, Mrs. Albert Seale, her daughter, Mrs. Alfred Wade, and her son, Master Gordon Wade.

All of Mrs. Shonyo's living children, Mr. Hosea Shonyo of Orford Mountain, Mr. Henry Shonyo of Detroit, and Mrs. R. T. Seale of Granby were present. Other relatives included Mr. Edgar R. Shonyo of Muskegon, MI, Burton Shonyo of Eastman (grandchildren) and Dr. J. H. Seale of Salem, Mass.


[[In doing an online search on Shonyo, I found the following:

The Detroit Newspaper Agency, May 3, 1996:

SHONYO,EDGAR R., May 3, 1996. Beloved husband of Virginia. Dear brother of Marjorie and Bertha Shonyo. Services Monday 1 p.m. at the Heeney-Sundquist Funeral Home 23720 Farmington Rd., (btw. 9-10 Mile Rds.), Farmington (810-474-5200). Visitation Saturday 1-5 p.m., Sunday 1-6 p.m. Gramd Chapter O.E.S. service Sunday 3 p.m. For memorial contributions, please consider the Metropolitan United Methodist Church, 8000 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 48202 or the Educational Fund Grand Chapter O.E.S., P.O. Box 26, Comstock, Mi., 49041

Problems With names a link that lists many transliterated names, particuarly of Quebec families. ]]

Information about the Shonyos who settled in Vermont.