Born on in 1811 in Lissavahaun, Ireland, John Egan immigrated to Canada in 1830, settling in Clarendon Township where he became a clerk for Thomas Durrell, selling supplies for the shanties. In 1838, after years of experience in the square timber trade, purchasing supplies and gaining many friends in the timber industry, he decided to go into business for himself. He formed John Egan and Company and bought the farm of James Wadsworth on the Bonnechere River which one day would become the village of Eganville, named for John Egan, himself.
Supplying more than three dozen other producers, Egan began building dams and timber slides on the Bonnechere River and on Hurd’s Creek in order to move his own timber. Egan continued to build dams and timber slides in upper and lower Canada: Quyon, Petawawa, Madawaska and their tributaries. In 1852 joined Danial Mclachlin, James Skead and others to build a wagon road from Arnprior to the head of the Log Rapids on the Madawaska.
John Egan became a dominant force in the timber trade along the Ottawa River employing 3,500 men throughout the Ottawa valley and gave work to hundreds of farmers who provided supplies including 1600 oxen and horses which the company used. Egan’s timber limits covered more than 2000 square miles and were unmatched by anyone on the Ottawa except perhaps Allan and James Gilmour, making Eganville a major hub for lumber activity. The Canadian Merchants’ Magazine even described John Egan as the ‘Napoleon of the Ottawa’
Interestingly enough, John Egan did not actually live in Eganville. Making his home in Quebec, John had been elected mayor of Aylmer in 1847. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada in the riding of Ottawa County in 1848 and was re-elected there in 1851. In 1854, he became the first elected representative for the newly formed riding of Pontiac.
John Egan eventually went bankrupt over a decline in the red pine market and died of cholera in 1857. In 1867, Egan’s rich timber limits on the Madawaska River were bought for $45,000 (equivalent to over $700,000 today!) by Canadian lumber king, John Rudolphus Booth.