The earliest settlers in the Shawville area were Irish Protestants from County Tipperary who came to Canada after the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815. Many had first settled in the Carp Valley on the Upper Canada side of the Ottawa River. Local lore tells us that Thomas Hodgins, John Dale and his wife Elizabeth set out from this colony in the summer of 1821 to search for new land to settle. It is believed they paddled up the river, landing in a small bay some forty miles upriver. The two men then set off northward in search of a suitable place to homestead. They fought thick bush, insects and swamp, until on the second day they reached a clearing where a beautiful spring bubbled out of the ground. They decided that this was where they would begin their new farms.
Before the decade was out, many other families from Carleton joined them in the new township of Clarendon. Before long, businesses were set up to serve the farming community that was sprouting up around the original settlement. This area became known as "Clarendon Centre". By the 1840's the Centre had become a small but thriving village.
On January 12, 1873 Shawville was proclaimed as a separate municipality, to be named after one of its most influential and prosperous families, the Shaws.
The town's first mayor, John Dale, Jr, had seen in his lifetime the evolution of the town from a mere collection of farmers' homesteads to status as a full-fledged municipality.
In 1995 Shawville opened its Historical Walking Tour, which takes visitors around the village to sites of historic interest, guided by information plaques and a printed booklet. The first stop on the tour is at the original site of the Shawville train Station. Today's empty railroad bed belies the fact that this was one of the busiest places in town at the turn of the century. The completion of the Pontiac and Pacific Junction Railway in the winter of 1886 sparked perhaps the largest party in the village's history. On nearby Victoria Avenue we find two of Shawville's original hospitals. On the corner of Lang Street is the former residence of Dr Powels, who opened a hospital there in the 1920s. The large house on the north end of the street served as a hospital from 1938 to 1946, when Pontiac Community Hospital opened.
Just east of this sport is the Shawville Fairgrounds, where the largest event in Pontiac is held each year. Farmers here first met in 1856 to form the Pontiac Agricultural Society. Their annual Fair has continued to grow in size, recently drawing upwards of 30,000 people over the Labor Day weekend.
A short walk south brings the tourist to Mill Dam Park, where James Hodgins built a grist and sawmill in 1858. For 40 years this mill served the town until one fall night in 1896 when it burned to the ground. Ruins of the dam can still be seen beside the playground and picnic tables.
It was in the first heady decades after the arrival of the railway that Shawville's downtown acquired much of its present look. In the prosperity of that time new buildings went up, like G F Hodgins store, which is now the Stedman's building. If one looks at the second story facade, Hodgin's name is still clearly visible. The W A Hodgins store on Main Street has been in the same family for 150 years. In the old days, two grand Victorian hotels, the Pontiac House and the Russell House, ran fiercely competitive businesses on Main Street. Sadly, they both succumbed to fire. On the whole, however, the commercial core retains much of the look and feel that it did one hundred years ago.
The earliest town meetings in Clarendon were held in Robin McDowell's tavern at the far western edge of the village. Refreshing themselves with McDowell's strong grog often led to a failure of decorum among the councillors. The councillors decided they might improve the situation by building a town hall a full mile east of the tavern. The old hall stood where Memorial Park is now located, and served admirably for decades. The present town hall was built in 1927 as a post office and federal building. It was turned over to the town in time for its centennial in 1973. Courtesy Shawville Walking Tour.