Robert Charles Hudson was born at a crossroads named Shamrock in Ontario, Canada, on February 8, 1868. Shamrock can still be located on highway 132 in Renfrew county about twelve miles southwest of the town of Renfrew. A Canadian directory in 1871 describes Shamrock as a small village with a population of 50 and mail delivered three times a week. Several men are listed with their occupations, among them Charles Hudson, "tavernkeeper."
The parents of Robert Charles were this Charles Hudson and Margaret McWilliams, who moved to Renfrew county soon after their marriage (i.e., between 1858 and 1860). They may have first settled in the town of Renfrew, but by the 1861 census they appear in Admaston township where Shamrock is located. At that time Charles Hudson operated a store--a one-story log building which also served as their house--on the southwest corner of the crossroads. The store is identified on a township map circa 1863 as "the store and residence of Charles Hudson." Ownership of the one acre of land on which the store stood was transferred to him by "assignment" September 26, 1864.
During this same period Charles Hudson owned and operated the Exchange Hotel in the town of Renfrew. The occupation of hotelkeeper (or tavernkeeper) was very popular on the Canadian frontier, where mass transportation was limited to stage, steamboat, and the newly constructed railways. A typical hotel would serve food and drink for its guests, and would have stables to keep horses as well. Some of the regular patrons were men who floated logs down the Bonnechere river through Renfrew and on to the landing at the Ottawa river. "The Exchange Hotel catered to a widely assorted public. A tribute to good management and hospitality through the years, it remained a landmark of life in Renfrew when other hotels had disappeared." (William P. Allum)
By 1866 Charles Hudson had opened a hotel at Shamrock, which he maintained until his death in 1874. Shamrock was, as the name suggests, a very Irish village with surnames such as Kelly, Gorman, and Murphy predominant. Charles Hudson, of English origin, married into an Irish family which probably helped in social and business relations with his neighbors . His brother-in-law, Mark McWilliams, followed his trade as plasterer in Shamrock. Other neighbors included: Patrick Gorman, postmaster; John Hartnett, blacksmith; Thomas Hunt, shoemaker; John Bulger, carpenter; James Gorman, schoolmaster; John Gorman, storekeeper; Simon Gorman, hotelkeeper; still many others who were farmers.
Shamrock was predominantly Irish and Roman Catholic. When he was born in 1868, Robert Charles was baptized at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, which is located in Mount St. Patrick, about seven miles southwest from Shamrock. His older brother, Edward James (born and died 1860), is buried at the cemetery in Mount St. Patrick, and his parents may be also, though no burial record or marker has been found for them yet.
Robert Charles also had a younger brother, John Lewis, born in 1873 or 1874. After their parents died, Charles in 1874 and Margaret in 1877, Robert Charles remained in Shamrock a few years, possibly with Mark McWilliams. In October, 1879 his school district was still Shamrock: Robert Charles (by now his name given as Charles) was among students from Admaston township who finished high on "competitive examinations." In the third class, he received third prize in grammar and second prize in geography. By the 1881 census he had left Shamrock and was living with Robert C. Mills in Renfrew. Five years later the Mills family moved to the boom town of Elsinore, California, and took a teenage boy from Shamrock with them.
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