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September 21, 2001

Canada's Mythical Mufferaw is a real part of Mattawa

Joe Montferrand (1802-1864) is one of Canada's most famous lumberjacks and athletes, and as Joe Mufferaw, has recently become one of Canada's folk heroes. 

He would marvel at the changes in the forest industry, as shown in the Forestry Expo in Mattawa beginning today and extending through Saturday.

The Mattawa Chamber of Commerce and the Mattawa Forestry Committee for Economic Development recognized his importance by commissioning a 16-foot carved pine statue of him for their Explorer's Point. They are also arranging to sell books and other items in Mattawa, celebrating his life. I will have a booth at the Forestry Expo 2001 and will have some Mufferaw items available. Drop by and say hello.

Joe Montferrand 

Joe was an outstanding athlete, shanty foreman, walking boss and timber raft boss over several decades in the early square timber era. 

Non-French speaking people had trouble with his name and pronounced it phonetically, where it came out as Muffero, Muffera, and Mufferaw. The latter name is the one used in his current new life as a folk hero. 

Joe was a legitimate folk hero in his own time, and after a century evolved into the mythical hero where writers began to tell exaggerated tales about him. The stories were much like those children use is "lying contests," where the wilder the tale the better.

Joe's true story was recorded in French in a biography by Benjamin Sulte in 1975. Joan Finnegan, the well-known Ottawa Valley author, included a chapter on him in her book Giants of the Ottawa Valley (1981) and mythologized him in her book Look! The Land is Growing Giants (1983). 

Several other people, including Donald MacKay in his book The Lumberjacks, have written about Joe.

Joe Mufferaw 

Joe was established permanently in Canadian folklore when Bernie Bedore of Arnprior wrote three remarkable books on Joe Mufferaw's incredible adventures as follows: Tall Tales of Joe Mufferaw (1979); : More Tall Tales of Joe Mufferaw (1981); and Mythical Mufferaw (1994). (The last two are avalibale online from the Past Forward Company Store
 
The cover of the second Joe Mufferaw book by Bernie Bedore.

Stompin' Tom Connors added to Joe's fame with his song big Joe Mufferaw, which appears on several of his CDs. Stompin' Tom's song-where he says, "bug Joe Mufferaw paddled into Mattawa, all the way from Ottawa in just one day, hey!"-was one of the things that prompted the organizations mentioned above to commission the carving. 
 
Peter Cianfriani, the carver of the Joe Mufferaw statue, with the model that is being reproduced as a 16-foot tall pine carving.

Peter Cianfriani, the sculptor, is currently completing the carving, and it is expected to be mounted on its base in the near future. Some miniatures of the carving are available.

The Bernie Bedore Mufferaw stories are remarkably creative and beautifully illustrated. 

I read some to my grandchildren recently and they enjoyed them immensely. 
 
The cover of the third Joe Mufferaw book by Bernie Bedore. 

 

 

Bernie, who has written other books, poetry, and songs, has created various Mufferaw characters who have become a part of Canadian folklore. 

Bernie grew up around the old Central Hotel in Arnprior, which his parents owned. It housed many old shantymen who were great storytellers, and many of their stories improved in the telling. 

Some of the Mufferaw narrators, such as Joe Beef and Johnny Coulogne, are based on these old characters. They tell stories of Joe Mufferaw's adventures with Broadaxe the Moose, Barrum the Frog, and Bucky the Beaver, to name only a few of the characters in Mufferawland.

Congratulations to the people in Mattawa for making Joe come to life there for the pleasure of local people and visitors to the area.

PS: The Joe Mufferand miniature carving by Peter Cianfarani, which was the prize at my booth at the Mattawa Forestry Expo 2001, was won by Katy Albrecht of Deep River, who is home schooled and turned nine the day she got the prize. Congratulations Katy.

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