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In 1792, the Municipality of Clarendon was planned and named after a place in Wiltshire, England. After several attempts to have the township surveyed and settled, the government commissioned a retired Bristish Army Officer, Ensign James Prendergast, to undertake this work.

The first 15 settlers were granted land in 1826, mostly near the centre of the township, which is now the village of Shawville. Prendergast brought in school teachers and established the first four schools between 1827 and 1835. He also built a water-driven sawmill and grist mill at his home at the front of the municipality near the Ottawa River.

It is no coincidence that the Shawville-Clarendon area is the heartland of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism in Western Quebec. "When Prendergast emigrated from Ireland in 1825, he brought his dreams of being surrounded by as settlement without the religious tension of his homeland", Joan Finnigan writes in her Guide to the Ottawa Valley. "When he became Crown Land Agent, he made one condition: only Protestants would be allowed to settle in his territory".

The bulk of Clarendon settlement came in two large waves; the first from 1825 to 1827. This rush stopped when free land grants were discontinued and settlement did not pick up again until the late 1830's and the 1840's when the timber industry started to prosper. The population of Clarendon doubled between 1840 and 1850.

The Municipality of Clarendon was established in 1841 and Thomas Corrigan was one of the first mayors. Clarendon remains an English speaking community in a province, which is largely French.