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]
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.
I am so
Your most affectionate Brother
Mr Hugh McDougald Aros (originally transcribed as Arive)
To the care of Mr Rob Maxwell
Island of Mull
Argyleshire - No Britain” [xxii]
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.
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].
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]
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.