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Joseph "Jos" Montferrand
Drawing of Montferrand by W. M. Macdonnel
Joseph Favre

October 25, 1802
DiedOctober 4, 1864(1864-10-04) (aged 61)
Resting placeNotre Dame des Neiges Cemetery, Montreal, Quebec
Occupationlumberjack, professional boxing
Spouse(s)Marie-Anne Trépanier, then Esther Bertrand
ChildrenJoseph-Louis Montferrand
Relativesone sister, "Hélène" and two brothers.

Joseph "Jos" Montferrand (French: [ʒɔzɛf mɔ̃fɛʁɑ̃]; born Joseph Favre [favʁ]; October 25, 1802 – October 4, 1864) was a French-Canadian logger, strongman, and folk hero of the working man,[1] who was the inspiration for the legendary Ottawa Valley figure Big Joe Mufferaw.


Joseph Montferrand, dit Favre, was born in the St. Lawrence district of Montreal in 1802. The family men were known for their strength and powerful build. Joe was 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall with blue eyes and fair hair. Although he was mild in manner and appearance, he could more than hold his own in a street fight. He successfully challenged several famed boxers during his youth. He came to fame as a result of a challenge issued at a boxing match in the Champ de Mars, Montreal. Two English-speaking boxers had just fought for the championship. The organizers then asked if there was anyone in the crowd who wished to challenge the champion of Canada. The 16-year-old Montferrand stepped into the ring and with one punch, felled the (former) champion. News of this surprising event spread quickly.[2]

At the age of 21, he joined the Hudson's Bay Company as a voyageur. In 1827, he began work as a logger on the Rivière du Nord in Lower Canada and then moved to the upper Ottawa River. The loggers felled trees over the winter and then drove the logs down the river, eventually arriving at Quebec City. Montferrand would also briefly have a stint in the United States, working for the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester, New Hampshire.[3]: 165  Montferrand spent the remainder of his working years in the lumber trade in the Outaouais. There was ongoing animosity between Anglophones and Francophones and frequent fights between English-, Irish-, and French-Canadian loggers. Montferrand's prowess with his fists and boots was legendary in avenging the wrongs he and his compatriots were subjected to.

Headstone of Joseph Montferrand
Headstone of Joseph Montferrand

Montferrand defended French-Canadian workers against gangs of Irish immigrants known as "Shiners" in the Bytown area.[4] After 1840, he mainly worked the log drives as foreman and retired in 1857. In his later years, he had back and joint pain. He died in Montreal in 1864, aged 61 and was interred at the Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery.


Statue of Mufferaw in Mattawa, Ontario.
Statue of Mufferaw in Mattawa, Ontario.

Montferrand's legendary nickname, Big Joe Mufferaw (also sometimes spelled Muffero, Muffera, Muffraw), is believed to be a result of English speakers mispronouncing "Montferrand" phonetically. Already a legitimate folk hero in his own time, his reputation grew into the mythical hero when exaggerated tales were told about him.[5] Like Paul Bunyan, he became the subject of many similar tall tales. Mufferaw is sometimes enlisted as a defender of oppressed French Canadian loggers[1] in the days when their bosses were English-Canadians and their rivals for work were Irish-Canadian criminals. In one story, Big Joe was in a Montreal bar, where a British army major named Jones was freely insulting French Canadians. After Big Joe beat the major, he bellowed, "Any more insults for the Canadians?" Some Mufferaw tales take place in the northeast United States.

French Canadian writer Benjamin Sulte told this man's story in a 1884 book.[6] He also is the subject of a chapter in Joan Finnigan's 1981 book Giants of the Ottawa Valley and her 1983 book Look! The Land Is Growing Giants. Bernie Bedore of Arnprior also wrote several books recounting Joe's adventures.[5]

Stompin' Tom Connors made him the hero of a 1970 song.[1]

A statue of Joe Mufferaw was erected outside of the Mattawa Museum in Mattawa, Ontario, during the spring of 2005.[1] It was carved by local carving artist Peter Cianafrani, and was his last statue before he died later in the spring. A plaque commemorating his name sits at the base of the statue. He was also the inspiration for the Big Joe mascot of the Ottawa Redblacks CFL team.



  1. ^ a b c d Reid, Mark Collin (2017). "Timber!". Canada's History. 97 (5): 20–23. ISSN 1920-9894.
  2. ^ Amerique Francaise: Jos Montferrand, legendary figure of the Outaouais
  3. ^ Ducharme, Jacques (1943). The Shadows of the Trees, The Story of French-Canadians in New England. New York & London: Harper & Brothers. OCLC 5824785.
  4. ^ Prévost, Michel (June 2005). "Jos. Montferrand, de la légende à la réalité" (PDF). Histoire Québec. Érudit. 11 (1): 38–39.
  5. ^ a b Doug Mackey (21 September 2001). "Heritage Perspectives: Joe Mufferaw". Toronto, Ontario: Past Forward Heritage Limited. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Histoire de Montferrand, l'athlète canadien, par Benjamin Sulte". Project Gutenberg Canada. 1884. Retrieved 4 September 2019.