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Transcript of an Address given by John N.

MacDonald,
To the Heatherdale Orange Lodge, circa 1900-10

THE PIONEERS OF BROWN’S CREEK


(former name of Heatherdale)

When our Scotch forefathers left their homes in Bonnie Scotland and
braved the dangers and discomforts of what was sometimes a three month
ocean voyage, in slow sailing vessels, to reach this new country, they carried
with them no guaranteed return-passage tickets. They were not looked after by
the government as emigrants are to-day. They simply took their lives in their
hands, and determined to make a new start in a new world, of which they knew
very little, except that it was largely wilderness and that it afforded an
opportunity for strong hands and stout hearts to make a living in a home of their
own.
When we compare the extreme hardships which our forefathers endured,
some sixty or seventy years ago, coming to this country, and compare the
conditions with those of the immigration schemes of to-day, there is much food
for thought.
In those far off days, when a sailing vessel would take months to cross
the Atlantic Ocean, it would be the best part of a half-year before friends whom
they left behind would know whether or not they had reached their destination.
To-day, immigrants are not only brought to this country in fast and comfortable
steamships, in a week or two, but we are told recently that there is continuous
communication with a ship at sea by a new invention called wirelesstelegraphy.
This wonderful contrivance sends its messages from a transmitter by means of
strong electrical power, which in some way or other are recorded on a receiver
by dots and dashes. These are decifered by someone who understands the
code. What will be the next step for inventive genius to take?
Referring to our own forefathers, who settled in different parts of the
province, and particularly to those who settled in Brown’s Creek and Valleyfield,
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it is hoped that no one will misunderstand any reference made to the aid given to
the present day immigrants by our government, for no offence is intended. This
reference is made to draw comparison between present day methods and the
methods in use when our dear forefathers crossed the Atlantic to make homes
for themselves and us in this beautiful country. What great courage and wisdom
they must have had!
When we think of the privations and difficulties under which the sturdy
sons of Old Scotland left their beloved country; leaving many of their kindred
and loved ones behind them; leaving the place of their birth and early pleasant
memories, of a country second to none other in the world, both for fertility and
for beautiful and picturesque scenery, beloved by huntsmen and poet, and
whose only curse was landlordism; a country to whose shores they never
expected to return. They faced the wilds of North America without the promise of
a free homestead, on emigrant steam-ship or train, without even an axe
wherewith to clear a spot on which to plant their humble home, but instead they
had to pay high passage on old and uncomfortable slow sailing vessels, and to
be landed where they had to pay for a leasehold with an annual quit rent, on a
farm covered with immense forest to which they were not at all accustomed.
Such was the lot of our beloved forefathers. Well they may be called the pious
pioneers of Brown’s Creek.
In the year 1840, two emigrant ships were chartered to carry a cargo of
Scotch settlers to Canada. One of these vessels was a full rigged ship. The
other was a brig. Both vessels left Loch Snizord, or Loch Uigg about the last
week in July. The ship took on board 400 passengers and the brig 225. Though
they left the shores of the Isle of Skye within a short time of one another, the brig
arrived in Charlottetown Harbour nearly a month ahead of her big companion. It
appears that the Captain of the ship was not a good mariner as he went out of
his course a long way to the North. As luck happened, however, there was on
board, among the passengers, an experienced deep water captain who
remonstrated with the man in charge of the vessel, stating that should he not
change his course he would fetch about the south end of Greenland. No wonder
though the poor passengers would be alarmed at this strange conduct and want
of judgement and knowledge of the man whom their lives were entrusted for safe
passage. The beautiful July weather of their native country had soon changed
into winterish temperature. The passengers found it difficult to remain on deck
for the short period required of them daily. Soon again, however, they noticed
another change with setting sun going down on the other bow. They began to
feel they were getting into a warmer climate.
Both vessels called at Cape Breton. Here, they discharged some of their
passengers, and proceeded thence to Charlottetown where the remaining weary
bodies and longing hearts were safely landed. The brig came across the broad
Atlantic in thirty-one days, while her comrade was eight long weeks on her zig-
zag course. Nine of the 400 passengers were buried at sea, and four or five
babies died on the voyage and were buried on board ship.
A number of these passengers settled in this settlement, mostly all the
farms along the south side of the Whim Road of today were taken up between
the county line and the present the present Commercial Cross. Others of the
new comers settled in the present Valleyfield, Bellevue, Grand River, Cardigan,
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High Bank, and on the west side of Charlottetown. Many of those, although they
took up land, did not build houses until the following year. They spent the first
winter with kind friends who had come to this country a few years previously.
On the following summer another large ship sailed from the same harbour in the
Isle of Skye. It took on board 850 passengers. This ship was called the
“Washington”, and hailed from Liverpool, England. She was 1660 tons burden,
and one of the largest, if not indeed the very largest sailing vessel ever to enter
Charlottetown harbour. She made a very quick passage. She left Loch Uigg on
the 6th of July, and dropped her anchor in the three tides Charlottetown, on the
28th of the same month, twenty-two days out. Her passengers were from
Snizard, Kilmure, and the east side of Skye. There were two died on her way
out. One. a Mr. Mckay, died off the coast of Newfoundland. Seeing the sailors
pulling hard in setting up a large topsail, he being used to that kind of work, ran
to lend a hand, but immediately after letting go the halyards, he took a severe
hemorrhage and in a very short time died. His body was placed in a coffin and
taken to Charlottetown where he was buried. The other death on board ship was
an aged woman who died mid ocean. She was buried at sea.
It was always customary on this ship, as was also on the other vessels I
have already referred to, that on the Sabbath day, worship should be kept
morning and evenings, by the passengers, on the deck of the vessel. Most of
the families also kept family worship down below, regularly morning and night.
On arriving in Charlottetown the passengers left in groups for different parts of
the Island. A great many went to Scotch Settlement, as it was then called, on the
other side of Charlottetown, and a large number came to this settlement.
This same year on the 26th day of June, the bark “Ocean” also hailing
from Liverpool left the town of Portree, Isle of Skye,with 450 passengers, most of
whom came from the Island of Rosa, a small island near the Isle of Skye, and
opposite the Portree harbour, came direct from Portree to Charlottetown. It was
36 days on the way. There were no deaths among the passengers, but two
children were born on the voyage. Quite a few of her passengers also came to
this settlement.
The usual fare charged was three pounds sterling, which at the present
time is about fifteen dollars in our money. Two children under twelve years of
age, were allowed for the same fare as one adult.
Now I will give you a short description of the conditions of this part of the
country to which they came to build their homes:
There was no road at all east of the Murray Harbour Road. There was
only a short piece of the Lower Montague Road, and another road in Gasperaux;
also a couple of short pieces of road in the vicinity of McDonald’s mill, then
known as Bear’s Mill. The County Line, Valleyfield, St.Mary’s Road, Brooklyn,
and Whim Road were all surveyed and marked by spots on the trees called
‘blaze’; along this ‘blaze’ our forefathers carried their supplies, provisions and
luggage from the Murray Harbour Road where sometimes kind friends in Orwell
or Kinross would send the stuff with a horse, or an ox as far as the road was
open.
There was a dam, owned by William Gile, in the site of MacRae’s Mill. It
was used to drive lumber down the river. A man by the name of Matt Young had
a permit to cut pine on Lot 61. He also had dam in the site of the one used by
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the late Benjamin Nicholson, Brooklyn. James Hayden, of Lot 49, had a sawmill
in the site of Broderick MacKenzie’s mill. Some of the early settlers used to get a
few boards and slabs from him to make a floor for their log cabins. They carried
those green heavy slabs on their backs through the woods. Old Roderick
Fraser, grandfather of Roderick Fraser Junior, Commercial Cross, carried slabs
enough to make a roof for his log cabin from this mill, a distance of over four
miles. The slabs would be slung across his back in a birch rope, and he would
have to go along sideways between the trees. Many of the houses, however,
had no floor at all, and the roofs were covered with horizontal poles and fir bark,
but a home of some kind was all they looked for till they would clear away some
of the forest where they could grow something to eat. For all that, I have no
hesitation in saying that though these huts would not be good enough for us
today to shelter our sheep, yet the people who lived in them were far more
contented and happier than most of us in our up-to-date houses, filled with
furniture and clothing and the best of food.

The following is from a reprint of ‘Institute News’ submitted


by Miss Anne MacDonald, Kilmuir, March 4 1952.
--- When more land was cleared, seed was brought into the new
settlement in the same manner. A man often carried as much as two bushels of
seed potatoes on his back for several miles.

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‘At one time when the supply of salt gave out in the community, six
stalwarts volunteered to go to the nearest store, which was at St. Andrew’s Point.
They returned early in the evening, each carrying a bushel of salt on his back.
As there wasn’t any road, they followed the river for about twelve miles.
Once settled in homes, these pioneers began to open up roads. This was
done by statute labour. Every man, between the age of sixteen and sixty, was
required to work three days each year. The first horse in the settlement was an
object of much rejoicing. It’s owner was the late Murdock MacPhee.
The present school district of Kilmuir was organized in 1885 at which time
the Brown’s Creek boundary line was moved westward and the Whim Road
boundary moved eastward. Originally, the school was a part of the church
building which is still in use. It was bought by the church for half the price of
what it cost to build it, namely $137.50. This was put towards the new school
building in its present location. The first school teacher was Angus MacLeod,
who later became a member of Parliament. He was succeeded by John A.
Nicholson, who became a professor in McGill University. Many subsequent
teachers became prominent in professions of business in later life’
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