Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Rambler – Exodus from Savary

Submitted to BIFHSGO Family History Writing Competition June 30, 2014

For those of you who have read previous blog posts, you will note some information that was previously posted.


Before I begin, I must thank Lucille Campey for the path she laid out that made this story possible. I heard Lucille Campey, a leading historian on Scottish Settlers to Canada, speak at the British Isles Family History Society of Greater, September 2012 conference.  Ms. Campey's talk on Lord Selkirk, together with her two books, was like a compass pointing us in the right direction.  A Very Fine Class of Immigrants – Prince Edward Island’s Scottish Pioneers 1770-1850,[i] presented the history of Scottish immigration to the Island, while The Silver Chief – Lord Selkirk and the Scottish Pioneers of Belfast, Baldoon and Red River,[ii] provided detailed insights to the arrival of the 1803 Selkirk Pioneers.  Careful reading of these two books gave the essential historical context to assess the documents I would later see, as well as gave me suggestions on further references to explore.  In The Silver Chief, she transcribed a letter from John McDougald to his brother Hugh[iii], which would prove most fortuitous.
David Charles MacInnis, my maternal grandfather came from a line of proud Scots who were amongst the earliest pioneers to Prince Edward Island. His mother had researched her Aitken ancestors together with her cousin Alice Fraser.  The family tree was in a little red book “The Aitkens of Kings County”. [iv] We knew our John Aitken arrived on the ship The Lovely Nelly in 1775[v] and settled in Montague.  Our MacInnis roots were not quite so clear.  We had a typed family tree[vi], with annotations in my grandfather’s hand, as well as that of some other unknown person.  At the top “Charles McInnis – emigrated from Scotland”.   That was it!

My grandfather passed away in 1992, after having lived a good life, working as a Chartered Accountant into his 80’s and seeing the arrival of his first great-grandchild, my daughter.  There were signs of our Scottish heritage throughout his home and in his life; books, paintings, music and the ever-present tartan.  He often wore the MacInnes red dress tartan, never the dark blue and green, usually in the form of a tie or suit vest.  He made sure each of his grandchildren had pieces of this heritage, kilt pins and tartan books.  Oddly, I don’t recall him ever saying exactly where in Scotland his ancestors came from. As I began to research, I began to wonder if he ever knew.

While many of the Catholic MacInnes came to Prince Edward Island from the Isle of Skye, our ancestors came from the Protestant[vii] area of Morvern, Argyllshire where MacInnes were the keepers of Castle Kinlochaline for hundreds of years.[viii]  They lived[ix] about three miles along edge of the Sound of Mull to the west of Keil Church in Lochaline, along the bank of the Savary River.  

There they had survived the burning of Morvern[x] during the Jacobite Rising and had rebuilt their lives. They were small-tenant farmers in Savary, Morvern, an area owned by the Duke of Argyll.  Unlike most of the other farmers, they were not subject to a tacksman, so they paid their rent directly to the Duke.[xi]

In 1779, when the Duke of Argyll completed his census, Donald McInnish and his two older sons Angus and Archibald were tenant farmers.  They were three families, amongst a total of 16 families in Savary, most of whom were likely relations.  The McInnishes were 11 out of the 85 inhabitants of Savary.[xii] 

Ardtordnish Castle – East of Savary
They lived fairly close to the shore near where the current road crosses the Savary River. They likely kept cattle, a few sheep, did a bit of fishing and grew oats.  Their homes were small stone cottages, which they likely shared with their animals.  In the summer, they would move up the hill, about two and half miles north, to the shielings to follow the animals.[xiii]

Stone Cottage at Aros

The shift to sheep farming came slowly to Morvern[xiv], and it probably was not very apparent when Angus and Archibald entered into their agreement with the Duke of Argyll to build dykes and enclosures in Barr and Rahoy[xv].  Barr and Rahoy were farms about four and six miles northwest of their cottages, adjacent to Loch Teacuis.

The contract was for £182, 10 shillings and 10 pennies.  It required them to complete hundreds of feet stone dykes, in various locations, four feet high and three feet wide at the foundations, thirteen inches across at the top.  There were required to build seven-foot wide ditches and fale dykes seven feet high[xvi].  It’s likely they employed many of their relatives and local men to help in the building, as this was a large project and the money would have be very welcome in the community.  Philip Gaskell in his book Morvern Transformed put a labourer’s annual wage at £4 – 5, while a shepherd made “£7 -10 plus, house maintenance and shoes”.[xvii]

The Duke advanced them an unspecified sum, so as to begin work, while the brothers undertook to provide all the materials except the grass for their horses and the timber for their “sledes”.  This they would all complete by the “first day of January next”.[xviii]

In 1779, Angus’ eldest son Donald was 11 years old.  He may have helped his father and uncle in the building of the dykes.  Perhaps Donald may have been the one assigned the responsibility for minding the cows and the sheep while the men went off to work, leaving him to enjoy the sweeping views.


By the turn of the century, the clearances in Morvern had begun.  They were smaller, less dramatic than others in Scotland.  While the Duke of Argyll did not evict tenants on his lands to make room for sheep, with his death on the 24th of May 1806, came a new order.  His son, George, the Sixth Duke, was known to be a “rake and a spendthrift” and he began to sell his properties to pay his debts.[xix]  It is no doubt that Angus was an astute man and he saw the winds of change on the horizon. It’s unlikely that one event, like the death of a caring, well-respected landlord would prompt the McInnis’ to emigrate, but it may have been that last nail in the coffin.
In a letter from the father of his daughter-in-law Mary McDougal, wife to son Hector[xx], there is a clue that he was thinking about emigrating as early as 1804 when the McDougals left Tobermory[xxi] for Baldoon, Ontario.  This letter also confirmed our family lore that claimed the ancestor who immigrated was “a piper to the Duke of Argyll”.  While we have not confirmed that he was a piper to the Duke, this adds to our certainty that we have the right “Angus”. 

Baldoon April 29th 1806
            “…You shall be at the trouble as to let them know at Morvern all about us, and especially to Angus McInnes piper and tell him that he would do a great deal better hear than where he is and if he does not come let do his best for to send my daughters.

I am so
Your most affectionate Brother
John McDougald

Mr Hugh McDougald Aros (originally transcribed as Arive)
To the care of Mr Rob Maxwell
Island of Mull
Argyleshire - No Britain”

John Maxwell, Chamberlain to the Duke of Argyll’s House - Aros
On June 20, 1806, The Rambler[xxiii], Captained by Master Leith James Norris, left Tobermory, North Britain, on the Isle of Mull with 129 passengers aboard, at least 55 of whom were from Savary, Morvern, or related to Angus McInnis[xxiv].  Sixteen passengers were McInnis, by blood or marriage.  There were thirteen people over fifty who departed to a new life.  Angus, John Cameron and Mary McArthur were all sixty years old. Some of the passengers went on to settle near Donald on Lot 58, others on Lot 65, they spread across the Island. 

On July 16, 1807, when Angus purchased his farm of 150 acres on Lot 33 in Queens County, Prince Edward Island, for £75[xxv], he was sixty-one years old.  He and his son Donald purchased their respective properties for pounds sterling cash, unusual for the time, as most the settlers bought with the Halifax dollar.[xxvi]  It would seem that the McInnis family bought the necessary supplies, paid up to £100 to travel to Prince Edward Island and still had the cash to purchase a second property for Donald on Lot 58 for £110[xxvii].  A total of £275 between them meant they were not the poor Selkirk settlers that arrived just three years earlier.[xxviii]

The McInnis family remained on the property for at least two more generations.  By 1834, the property was jointly owned by Hector and Allan McInnis[xxix]. Angus had likely passed on, as he would have been 89 years old in 1834. There was a wharf at the McInnis shoreline[xxx], which served the local community, with shipbuilding and farming on the property.

In Prince Edward Island, simple red Island sandstone markers, engraved with initials, mark many of the early settlers graves.  The sandstone is soft, time and the elements wearing away clues as to who lies beneath.

Portage Shore Pioneer Cemetery Gravestone
The Portage Shore Old Pioneer Cemetery, true to its name is close to the shore.  It is located on the property that used to belong to old Angus, overgrown and hard to find. The first house was likely built close to the shore, because the land was covered in forest and travel was by boat[xxxi].

Access to the cemetery is on private property. The existing farmhouse on the property also originally belonged to the McInnis family and then the Robinsons.  Built about 1860, it was likely the second or third family home[xxxii].  

Windsong Farm – Formerly McInnis Homestead – Brackley Beach, PEI

The path to the cemetery is through bush, tall fields of grain with thick swaths of mosquitos.  It is overgrown, with only a few stones left.  It's very likely that Angus and his family are buried here at the Portage Shore Old Pioneer Cemetery.  With the exception of Angus' son Donald and his family who are buried in the St John's Presbyterian Church cemetery in Belfast, we have not confirmed where the rest our ancestors who came on The Rambler are buried.[xxxiii]  

A cousin who grew up on the property[xxxiv], recalled that when he was young, there were about 15 -20 markers in the cemetery. Stan believed the last people buried were people from Wheatly River.  An older gentleman and his son would come every fall to clean it up.  There were many trees and the Blue Herons would roost in the trees.  Eventually the Blue Heron’s roosting killed off the trees. As a child, with his father, they would work the field around the cemetery.  When they came across fieldstones, they piled the stones up against the edge of the cemetery.  

His great-uncle, Cleve Robinson who was born in 1882, had a story from when he was a teenager. A fellow from Charlottetown, who was to go to Boston to medical school, was obliged to take a skeleton for his studies.  Presented with this challenge, he took a skeleton from the cemetery, cleaning the bones on the train as he travelled.

There were also rumours that some of the lost souls of the 1851 Yankee Gale[xxxv] were buried in the cemetery.  The Yankee Gale was a terrible storm where many boats floundered against the north shore of Prince Edward Island.  Bodies were found along the beach after the storm. They were taken to Collin McClure’s barn where they laid them out for identification.   This is not improbable as the cemetery is only 158 feet from the shore. Meacham’s shows the McClure's right at the point, with the cemetery not far away.[xxxvi]

From Meacham's 1880 Map of PEI on Island Imagined Website
Cemetery at the X

Sometime in the 1960's[xxxvii], the local Women’s Institute, looking for a useful project, decided they would clean up the cemetery.  They hired two men who came in with bulldozers and cut out the stumps.  They moved all the sandstone markers and fieldstones, cleared the cemetery clean, seeded grass.  Once it was nice and clean, they returned the markers and the sand stones, and likely the field stones that had been along the fence.  The stones were then lined up, in a nice neat east-west, north-south, square and diagonal arrangement. 

Stan was certain one of the Ross stones was not put back in its original place.  That Sadie was reset with the “S” backwards and the “9” is a “P."   So we can no longer see the exact resting place.

After hearing these stories, I revisited the cemetery transcripts[xxxviii], together with my list of "missing ancestors”[xxxix]

Looking at the protestant family names adjacent to the area, one can see there were many with the name Ross, Robinson, McKenzie and Matheson.  None had the last name beginning with an "I".  So, I suspect that the initials "M-I" stand for McInnis.   
With this in mind, I matched up the following stones with our family names:
Row 1.                         A-M-I (Angus or Allan McInnis?)
                                    F.M-I D.G. – 70 (Flora McInnis & D.G.?)
                                    J-M-M-I  (Janet or John or James McInnis?)                                  
Row 2.                        J-H-M-I (Janet or John or James McInnis?)
                                    ZADI – M-C-I-J (Sadie aka Sarah McInnis?)
Row 6.                         J-M-I (Janet or John or James McInnis?)

In the end, it does not matter, as this is where old Angus lies. It is special to walk were our ancestors first walked and where they were likely buried.  Imagine what the land must have been like, covered in forest and that it was our folks’ hard work that cleared those fields.  What it must have been like, in moments of peace, standing by the water.  Did they miss the home they had left across the ocean? Or, perhaps, they were just too busy from dawn to dusk, surviving, to take in the stars on a clear night?  It is likely after a few years in this new land, they would have been as happy as John McDougald was in his letter to Hugh.

Angus had the courage to leave his home and emigrate to Canada.  He was likely a strong, smart man and a leader amongst his neighbours and relatives. My grandfather would have would have been proud of his great-great grandfather Angus McInnis.

Notes :
1. Names are as spelled in the orignal documents.
2. All photographs were taken by the author and are copyright protected.   

[i] Campey, Lucille H., « A Very Fine Class of Immigrants » : Prince Edward Island’s Scottish Pioneers 1770-1850 (Toronto : Natural Heritage Books, 2001).
[ii] Campey, Lucille H., The Silver Chief- Lord Selkirk and the Scottish Pioneers of Belfast, Baldoon and Red River. (Toronto : Natural Heritage Books, 2003).
[iii] Ibid, p 66.
[iv] Fraser, Alice, The Aitkens of Kings County, Prince Edward Island (Montague :Self-Published, circa 1978).
[v] Passenger List of the "Lovely Nelly", 1774. (http://www.islandregister.com/nellie1774.html      30 June 2014).
[vi] David Charles MacInnis Family Group Sheet, unknown – 1973, supplied by MacInnis, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Orleans, Ontario 2012.  This sheet offers names, some dates are provided, with no specific documentation for any data.
[vii] Gaskell, Phillip, Morvern Transformed: A Highland Parish in the Nineteenth Century. (Cambridge: University Press, 1980) p 35.
[viii] About Clan MacInnes (http://www.macinnes.org: accessed 30 June 2014)
[ix] Ibid, p xxviii.
[x] Fergusson, Sir James, Argyll in the Forty-Five,(London: Faber and Faber, 1951), p 117 – 126.
[xi] Gaskell, Morvern Transformed, p 15.
[xii] Campbell, John, (Fifth Duke of Argyll), Inhabitants of the Argyll Estate, 1779. (Census compiled by order of John, 5th Duke of Argyll.) Edited by Eric R. Cregeen (Edinburgh, Scottish Records Society, 1963) p 69.
[xiii] Gaskell, Morvern Transformed, p 6.
[xiv] Ibid, p 7.
[xv] Cregeen, Eric R., Argyll Estate Instructions: Mull, Morvern, Tiree: 1771 – 1805 (Edinburgh: Scottish Records Society, 1964), p 134 – 135.
[xvi] Ibid.
[xvii] Ibid.
[xviii] Ibid.
[xix] Gaskell, Morvern Transformed, p 23.
[xx] Scotland, « Search Old Parish Registers (OPR) Banns & Marriages (1553 - 1854). » Database. ScotlandsPeople. (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed 13 April 2013).
[xxi] Campey, Lucille H., The Silver Chief : Lord Selkirk and the Scottish Pioneers of Belfast, Baldoon and Red River (Toronto : Natural Heritage Books, 2003) p. 50 and 60.
[xxii] Copy of the Letter sent by John MacDougald of Baldoon to his brother Hugh MacDougald in Mull, dated April 29, 1806, LAC microfilm C-14 14739-40, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
[xxiii] Prince Edward Island, Ship’s List, The Rambler, 1806, PACO ACC #27021883, Public Archives of Prince Edward Island (PAPEI), Charlottetown.
[xxiv] Campbell, Inhabitants of the Argyll Estate, 1779, p 69-70.
[xxv] Prince Edward Island, Registry Office Conveyances 1769-1876. Vol. 13, p.420 -425, PACO ACC #RG 16, Public Archives of Prince Edward Island (PAPEI), Charlottetown.
[xxvi] Campey,The Silver Chief, p. 47.
[xxvii] Prince Edward Island, Registry Office Conveyances 1769-1876. Vol. 13, p.66-69, PACO ACC #RG 16, Public Archives of Prince Edward Island (PAPEI), Charlottetown.
[xxviii] Campey, Lucille H., An Unstoppable Force; The Scottish Exodus to Canada, River (Toronto : Natural Heritage Books, 2008) p. 37.
[xxix] Island Imagined, Plan of Township No. 33 in Prince Edward Island: Part of the Estate of John Hodges Winsloe Esq. According to the latest Surveys, (http://www.islandimagined.ca/fedora/repository/imagined%3A208325: accessed 28 April 2014)
[xxx] "Wharf at M’Innis’ Point, Rustico. SEALED TENDERS will be received…”, Royal Gazette, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 4 May 1847, p. 3 col 2, PACO ACC, Reel #6, 19 May 1846 – 3 October 1848, Public Archives of Prince Edward Island (PAPEI), Charlottetown.
[xxxi] Campey, The Silver Chief, p. 36.
[xxxii] Fred Curtis, son of Helena MacInnis, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Halifax, Nova Scotia, interview, by Dena Palamedes, 31 July 2013, transcript privately held by interviewer, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Orleans, Ontario, 2013.
[xxxiii] Cemetery, St. John’s Presbyterian Church (Belfast, Prince Edward Island, Canada) Donald McInnes tombstone inscription read by D. Palamedes, 2 August 2013.
[xxxiv] Stanely Skeffington, son of Gladys MacInnis, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Rustico, Prince Edward Island, interview, by Dena Palamedes, 1 August 2013, transcript privately held by interviewer, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Orleans, Ontario, 2013.
[xxxv] The Island Register. « The Yankee Gale of 1851 » (http://www.islandregister.com/yankeegale.html: accessed 7 September 2013).
[xxxvi] Island Imagined, J. H. Meacham Company, the Illustrated Historical Atlas of the Province of Prince Edward Island 1880, Lot 33, (www.islandimagined.ca/fedora/repository/imagined:2084027: accessed on September 2013).
[xxxvii] Stanley Skeffington, interview, 1 August 2013.
[xxxviii] P.E.I. Genealogical Society, Cemetery Transcript, Ch. Of Scotland Portage Road Old Pioneer Cemetery Lot 33-6 (Charlottetown: The P.E.I. Genealogical Society, Updated 2000).
[xxxix] Palamedes, Dena, Portage Shore Old Pioneer Cemetery : Where Might They Be? (http://myhistorymypast.blogspot.ca/2013/09/portage-shore-old-pioneer-cemetery.html: accessed 7 September 2013).