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Like Paul Bunyan, he made his living chopping down trees. The name is also sometimes spelled Muffero, Muffera, Muffraw, and Montferrand. The last spelling, Montferrand, is his actual French name: Joseph Montferrand. Anglophones who had trouble with it used one of the other spellings.
A real strongman, a logger in the Ottawa Valley timber trade by the name of Joseph Montferrand lived from 1802 to 1864. French Canadian writer Benjamin Sulte told this man's story in a 1975 book. He also is the subject of a chapter in Joan Finnegan'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.
His name was Joseph Montferrand and he was born and raised in what is now Gatineau. Many of his exploits – the tales Stompin’ Tom sang about – would have taken place in Ottawa. As with most tall tales, there are nuggets of truth at the core of the stories. Montferrand was apparently a giant of a man, and because he was a French-Canadian, working in the hey-day of the square-timber trade, he was an easy target for the Shiners, an Irish street gang led by Peter Aylen, which attempted to take over the timber trade in the Ottawa Valley in the 1830s.
A statue of Joe Mufferaw was erected outside of the Mattawa Museum in Mattawa, Ontario, during the spring of 2005. It was carved by local carving artist Peter Cianafrani, and was his last statue before he died later in the spring.