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The Scottish Tradition in Canada
Patterns of Settlement in the East
K. J. Duncan

Until early in the nineteenth century, Britain and the other European powers, in accordance with prevailing mercantilist theory, discouraged emigration on the grounds that it weakened the nation both militarily and economically through loss of manpower at home, and offered no compensating advantages abroad. Colonies, it was believed, should be exploited for the benefit of the mother country and their populations kept as small as possible consistent with that end. Nevertheless, it is evident that people did emigrate from Britain to Europe and the North American colonies in rather substantial numbers before the Seven Years' War.1 A few might have ended up in Newfoundland or in the environs of Halifax and some Scots even found their way as settlers to the French colonies, but overwhelmingly they went to the older British colonies on the mainland, particularly the Carolinas.

In 1763, by the Treaty of Paris which ended the Seven Years' War, France surrendered to Britain substantially all of her Canadian territories. And in that same year, the first sizable grants of land of which there is record were made to soldiers of disbanded Scottish regiments who had fought in North America. Thus began a history of over two hundred years of Scottish settlement in Canada.2 There were, during the period, several patterns of settlement: military settlement of disbanded regiments from the various wars, proprietary settlement of groups and individuals organized and often financed by people with charitable or profit motives or both, and free settlement by groups or individuals either on tracts held by various land companies or on property somehow acquired in the open market.3 Military settlement and proprietary settlement always took immigrants directly to the land, but much of the free settlement was preceded by a period in which the immigrant acquired either the skills or money or both to achieve his goal. In the most general terms military and proprietary settlement can be thought of as underwriting, where necessary, a period of apprenticeship in frontier farming, which free settlers were obliged in some way to manage themselves.

Despite sometimes generous aid and encouragement, some proprietary settlements failed. It is not surprising then that free settlers who went directly to wild lands paid a high cost in suffering and privation and that while many ultimately triumphed, many failed and left. Even those who brought or earned funds to buy made farms often had lean years until they had adapted fully to local agricultural conditions.

Whatever the particular type of settlement, there were problems common to all which form a uniting thread. Among them were ignorance of agricultural techniques appropriate to the location, lack of skill in the essential techniques of axemanship and land clearance, the overwhelming presence of the bush and the sense of helplessness and isolation it fostered, poor communications with towns and a general lack of public services of any kind. In addition, there were problems peculiar to each type of settlement which will be touched upon below.

The various types of settlement did not follow each other in strict chronological sequence; rather they overlapped, particularly in the early part of the period, and there were points in time when two or three were in existence at once, sometimes in the same general area, sometimes in locations separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles.4 However, the block settlement of disbanded regiments ended with the post-revolutionary period, and with the increased flow of immigration during the rest of the century, the other types of settlement were ultimately of far greater importance. As the nineteenth century wore on, proprietary settlement became less important as people became aware of the impossibility of building landed estates on the British pattern in the face of available cheap land and a chronic shortage of labour in frontier conditions.5 In the end, land company settlement, small groups and individual settlement, which were frequently not all that different in their essentials, became the dominant patterns.

This chapter will examine the main types of settlement in which Scots played their parts and discuss the problems they faced and the adjustments they made to them.


If wars solve old problems, they inevitably produce new ones. The end of the Seven Years' War presented several problems to the British government and the measures it took to solve them had profound and permanent effects in the New World. Among them three stood out: how to re-establish the large numbers of disbanded troops with the minimum disruption of civil society; how to occupy the newly conquered French territories at a minimum cost; and finally, how to increase garrison strength in North America as unobtrusively as possible given the political and economic discontent already evident in the English-speaking colonies to the south.

To all of these problems the establishment of settlements of disbanded soldiers in the newly won territories seemed the ideal solution.

The Highland regiments raised for service in the Seven Years' War presented the British government with the problem of what to do with discharged troops in aggravated form. The collapse of the clan system, which had been under way since the turn of the eighteenth century, had been accelerated by the defeat of some of the clans at Culloden in 1746.

The chief no longer found advantage in a large number of retainers who were costly to keep and whose presence no longer guaranteed military might. The old days of raiding were past and the Highlands, with Europe let in upon them, were no longer a world unto themselves. The response of many chiefs was to force out the hereditary tacksmen who held land in return for marching with their armed tenants, and either to lease their holdings to the highest bidder or to deal directly with the tenants themselves. The new lessees, to recover their costs, usually forced out the tenantry in order to graze the more profitable cattle. Thus there was widespread dispossession of both tacksmen and tenants which undoubtedly applied heavy pressure to emigrate.6

After 1760, the introduction of sheep herding accelerated the Highland clearances and produced a very complex pattern of population movements. Some areas rapidly lost population, others continued to grow. There was large scale movement to the western coasts where the thriving kelp industry offered employment. In short, the Highlands underwent rapid and profound social and economic change in the eighteenth century.7

It appears evident that the British government was reluctant to turn large numbers of disbanded soldiers, with doubtful prospects of successful re-establishment, back into this rapidly changing society and, at the same time, was anxious to reward faithful service. In an era when land represented wealth and security as nothing else could, free land in North America seemed the ideal solution.

The settlement of disbanded regiments in the New World was also attractive on other grounds. Established in the new territories, they would be self-supporting colonies of people with proven loyalty and the military skill necessary to deal with possible French-Canadian insurrection, or, settled in the older colonies, they would be available for service if the discontent already evident there should issue in open rebellion. Altogether, the settlement of disbanded veterans of the Seven Years' War in the New World appeared to be the solution to a whole complex of problems, both at home and in America. Small wonder Britain abandoned, in this instance, her fixed opposition to emigration.

As remarked earlier, the first settlement of Scottish immigrants in any part of what is now Canada was of disbanded soldiers. The Fraser Highlanders and the Black Watch had been raised in the Highlands and both had fought with distinction in North America in the Seven Years' War. At the war's end, men from these regiments settled in Quebec and Nova Scotia with the largest concentrations at Murray Bay and Mount Murray. Captain John Nairne received three thousand acres and Lieutenant Malcolm Fraser received two thousand acres from General James Murray in the year 1762 in accordance with government regulations, while the non-commissioned officers and men who accompanied them each received two hundred and fifty acres respectively.8

Although the countryside around Murray Bay is very picturesque and rather reminiscent of Scotland, the soil is not of the best, and military considerations, the protection of Quebec on the seaward side, unquestionably played the major part in the location of the settlements. There was no outside communication by road but that was not as serious a matter as might be thought, since the river, except at freeze-up in the fall and breakup in the spring, provided excellent communications. Salmon and whales abounded in the St. Lawrence and formed the basis of a fishery which was soon begun by men who had fished in Scotland before answering the call to arms.

Little is known of the day-to-day trials of the settlement. In accordance with government policy the settlers were supplied with implements of husbandry, tools, provisions, arms, etc., a practice to be followed in all subsequent military settlements. There is no record of particular difficulty or hardship in establishing the settlements. The twin bonds of clan membership and military service must have ensured a high level of co-operation in the construction of houses and the other necessary tasks of settlement. Land was soon cleared and crops of oats and potatoes planted in among the stumps. Churches were begun and the inevitable grist and saw mills were constructed. However, the building of the settlement was slowed by the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775.

Although it is generally conceded that the long term results were bad, the British policy of military settlement was in the short run vindicated by the events of that year. Lieutenant-Colonel Allan MacLean of the 104th Highland Regiment went through the military settlements in Quebec, largely in and about Murray Bay, and recruited the 1st Battalion, the Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment. This regiment served faithfully throughout the Revolutionary War until disbanded in 1784.

With the return of peace and a good part of its manpower, the area began to thrive. By 1832, Murray Bay had a population of over 3,000. Churches flourished, good roads linked farms and villages; grist and saw mills, blacksmith shops and breweries gave evidence of a well-established and prosperous community.9

The second period of military settlement began with the end of the American Revolution. Highland regiments had been raised for that conflict both in North America and in Scotland, and with the end of hostilities Britain faced essentially the same problems she had had in 1763. The major difference now was that she, Britain, had to plan the defence of the very territories she had wrested from the French but a few years earlier.

Once again the decision was made to give grants of land to disbanded regiments, a decision which at once rewarded faithful service, helped hold down population in the Highlands and established loyal settlers with military skills in an area where it was hoped they could counter any attack. Of all the Scottish military settlements, those of Glengarry, in what is now eastern Ontario, are the best known and perhaps the most successful.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, Sir John Johnson and his cousin Guy Johnson, who held lands in New York, had recruited among the newly arrived Scots in the Mohawk Valley. Macdonells, Chisholms, Grants, Camerons, McIntyres and Fergusons flocked to their banners leaving behind their barely completed houses and steadings at the call to arms. Two battalions were finally raised and both served throughout the conflict.

At the end of the Revolution in 1783, men of the 1st Battalion, nearly 1500 strong, were granted lands in Lancaster, Charlottenburg, Cornwall, Osnabruck and Williamsburg townships on the St. Lawrence and men of the 2nd Battalion received grants to the west of them, upriver from Cata-raqui. Some men of the 1st Battalion Royal Highland Emigrants also took land in the area. The Highlanders, along with Hessian veterans and a variety of civilian loyalists, spent the winter in camp at Sorel. With the spring break-up, they were conducted up the St. Lawrence by barge to the areas of settlement accompanied by wives, children and all the appurtenances of settlement. The British government did not stint.

The settlers were provided by Government with everything that their situation rendered necessary . . . food and clothes for three years . .. , seed to sow on their new clearances .... Each received an axe, a hoe and a spade; a plough and one cow were allotted to two families, a whip and a cross-cut saw to every fourth family .... Pork was then as now the staple article of animal food.10

Work proceeded very rapidly in clearing the land and erecting huts of logs with wattle and daub fireplaces and chimneys. This was, of course, to be expected. Most of the men were familiar with axe and saw and many had pioneered before or were the sons of pioneers with experience in the Mohawk Valley or the Murray Bay area. In a very short time they were established with their wives and children in their new homes.

This is not to imply that there was no difficulty or suffering. In the best of conditions, felling huge trees, scrubbing brush, whipsawing logs, building shanties, and breaking the soil are arduous tasks. Supplies sometimes ran short. The cold in winter and the black flies and mosquitoes in the spring and summer were great trials. MacGregor perhaps exaggerates a little when he writes, "The Highlanders at Glengarry . . . had extraordinary difficulties to overcome and suffered great privations."11 Nonetheless, the trials of the first two years were considerable. Some of the less robust left but the great mass stayed on and within two or three years had made the wilderness bloom.

The success of this venture is attributable to several factors - free land which allowed the settlers to apply such capital as they had to other purposes; provision of food, clothing and implements to see the settlers through the first cropless year; the prior experience of the settlers in frontier clearing and agricultural techniques; the social and moral solidarity of the groups based on clan, family and military ties; and the good transportation facilities provided by the St. Lawrence River.

There could be no better indication of the success and satisfaction of the settlers in Glengarry than their action in sending to Scotland for friends and relatives to join them. At their urging, over 500 people from Glengarry, the men mostly discharged veterans of the Glengarry Fencibles, arrived in 1785 under the leadership of the Rev. Alexander Macdonell. In 1791, MacDonell conducted a second group to the Glengarry area and yet another group of Scottish Glengarrians arrived in 1803. Once again the men were mostly veterans of the Fencibles and at the instruction of Lord Hobart, Secretary of State for the Colonies, each was granted the usual 200 acres of crown land because of "the merit and service of the Regiment" as well as "their connections now residing in the District of Glengarry of whose industry and general good conduct very favourable representations have been received here." 12

In 1793, a group of MacLeods left Scotland and took up land about Kirkhill and in 1799 another large group settled at Lochiel. These new arrivals typically had relatives and friends in the area and were able to draw upon their help and experience while becoming themselves established. The whole Highland settlement in the eastern extremity of modern Ontario had, and long continued to have, all the characteristics of a closed community. Many years later, Sir Francis Bond Head, in his book The Emigrant, remarked upon this: "As the inhabitants of the township of Glengarry speak nothing but Gaelic, there is scarcely a stranger among them." Speaking specifically of the MacDonells (sic) he observed "their religion, language, habits and honour have continued there ever since, unaltered, unadulterated and unsullied." 13

It is a fundamental fact of migration that an immigrant community once established becomes a destination for new immigrants from the common area of origin. Glengarry quickly came to have that role for many Highlanders in the first half of the nineteenth century. Although there was no further large scale movement of disbanded troops, small groups and individuals who continued to arrive from Glengarry, Scotland, were certain of a welcome and practical assistance from those upon whom they had claims of kinship.

There can be no doubt that the Glengarry settlement was economically and socially successful. In the opinion of near contemporaries, at least, it also vindicated British policy so far as its potential military role was concerned, providing troops for the War of 1812 and the suppression of the rebellion in Lower Canada. Bond Head remarked of the latter service that the settlers had by no means lost their Highland characteristics for "while they went down as infantry, they came back as cavalry."14

Other military settlements also took place after the American Revolution both in Canada and in the Maritime colonies. Men of the 1st Battalion Royal Highland Emigrants who were disbanded in 1784 were granted lands in Chatham Township in what is now Quebec in 1788. By 1793, all available land there had been taken under the usual conditions of settlement but, for reasons that are not clear, the settlement did not initially succeed. Almost all of the enlisted men sold out to their officers, particularly to Colonel Robertson, who accumulated much land in addition to his own grant. It seems probable that those who left simply realized what money they could and returned to the Murray Bay area where they had been recruited. Ultimately this settlement did flourish. Robertson actively sought settlers and by 1804 had fifty families well-established on the land.

There was also extensive settlement of disbanded troops in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. After much debate with British authorities about the size and location of their grants - their officers seemed particularly voracious - most of the men of the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Highland Emigrants settled on the north side of Pictou Harbour, while the 82nd (Hamilton's) Regiment took their grants on the south side. Although many of the men of the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Highland Emigrants were recruited as they stepped from the ship at the outbreak of the Revolution and had not, therefore, had time to learn frontier agricultural techniques before enlisting, there is no evidence that they experienced abnormal difficulty. Aided, no doubt, by their proximity to the established settlement at Pictou, as well as generous government assistance in the form of supplies, implements and clothing, the veterans quickly built houses and cleared their lands. Their Highland background, good physical condition, disciplined habits and sober outlook must also have stood them in good stead. They and their neighbors of the 82nd Regiment are described by MacDonald as "a sober, industrious lot who cleared immense tracts of land."15

The veterans of these regiments added considerably to the population and helped to confirm the Scottish cast of society in the eastern third of Nova Scotia begun by John Pagan and reinforced by the famous "Hecto-rians" whose settlement at Pictou will be described below. Many disbanded soldiers were also settled in what is now New Brunswick. There was excellent unoccupied land on the St. John River from its mouth up to where Woodstock now stands and it was upon this land that the military settlements took place. Officers and men took up their lands regiment by regiment, almost as if falling into line of battle. This extensive settlement gave a conservative and loyalist character to the province, conspicious even today. A number of Scots were among the settlers and as one reported, they, in common with the others, "suffered very great hardships for the first few years after settling .... There were some idlers and faint hearted people . . . among us who left the settlement but all those who have remained have prospered."16

Looked at from the point of view of the settlers themselves, the military settlements following the Seven Years' War and the Revolutionary War can only be regarded as successful. There were early hardships and significant numbers failed, but the great majority became established, independent freeholders, with a wealth in land and possessions and a stature in the community that few of them could ever have achieved in the land of their birth. Highland Scots, as seen, were deeply involved in this type of settlement and although they might echo the words of a veteran of the 42nd Regiment who settled in New Brunswick, "never will we forget the tales, the songs, the music we heard in the Highlands,"l7 yet like him, they were content in their new homes.

The last military settlements established in Canada were those in the Bathurst district of Upper Canada following the War of 1812. The pattern was somewhat different in that civilian settlers from Britain, as well as disbanded soldiers from the late war, were induced to settle in this agriculturally inferior and geographically remote district by offers of free land, rations and equipment. This was the first instance of government assistance to civilian immigrants and the abandonment of the mercantilist position on emigration.

The War of 1812 had demonstrated to Britain how tenuous was her hold on Upper Canada and the territory to the west. It was widely believed that only the loyalty of the inhabitants of the central and eastern parts of the colony, particularly the Scots between Kingston and Brockville, had prevented the Americans from occupying everything west of Montreal.

With only the width of the St. Lawrence as protection against attack, the need for an interior line of communication from Montreal to the upper colony was evident. The Rideau Lakes system promised to fill the need. The settlements at Perth (1816), Richmond (1818) and Lanark (1821) were in direct pursuit of a policy of establishing loyal citizens with military potential to serve this strategic end. Drummondville in Quebec was established for much the same reasons.

The histories of the Perth and Lanark settlements are well known and may be summarized here. The Perth settlers were recruited by John Campbell in Scotland. Most appear to have been Highlanders. They left Glasgow in July and August and in September, 1815 reached Quebec whence they proceeded up country at once, only to discover that the surveys had not been completed and their allotments were not ready. Understandably there was much dissatisfaction among them. Several, upon learning more about the proposed area of settlement, petitioned to be allowed to locate elsewhere, naming "early frost," "lack of water communication," and "poor land" as their reasons, but no attention was paid them.18 The Scots spent the winter at Brockville and in the following spring and summer were conducted to their new lands on the newly named River Tay where the depot of Perth had been established.

Although the settlers had considerable aid, there was also considerable hardship, most of it consequent upon their lack of skill with the axe and unfamiliarity with frontiering techniques. The first days of settlement could hardly have been worse. Constant bickering between different departments of government involved in transport and surveying, and a joint civil-military administration, often halted all action. Most settlers had long since run out of money and there was almost no food. No one seemed willing to help the settlers locate their lots, or advise them in the unfamiliar techniques of land clearance, house construction and frontier agriculture. Dishonest officials diverted supplies and as a final blow the first crop sown among the ragged stumps was an almost total failure. It is hardly surprising that many left to join friends and kinsmen in the United States and it is likely that many more would have done so had they had the wherewithal to make the journey. However, many remained upon the promise of continued rations, and the long term advantages of the area began slowly to become apparent. The soil was good and the location, although it had first seemed remote, proved in the end to be most convenient.

When Robert Gourlay carried out his survey of the settlement in July, 1817, only thirteen months after its commencement, some forty-two settlers interviewed all expressed themselves as "well satisfied"19 with their condition. In 1828, it was referred to as a place of "happiness and contentment" and by 1850 it was unquestionaly one of the most prosperous, orderly and contented settlements in British America.

The subsequent settlements in New Lanark, drawing upon the experience gained at Perth, were much better organized. A recurrence of severe distress among Scottish weavers led Lord Bathurst to encourage emigration to Canada once again with the active assistance of emigration societies in Paisley, Hamilton and Lanark. Private philanthropy, painfully accumulated savings and government assistance combined to transport some 1200 settlers to Canada where they were expeditiously located on their lots some miles northwest of Perth in Lanark and Dalhousie townships. The settlers received the by now usual 100 acres, seed and implements, as well as a government loan of 100 to be repaid within ten years.

Although the initial organization and settlement was handled much more efficiently than at the Perth settlement, the New Lanark settlement was, in the long run, less successful. Most of the land was swampy and heavily treed or composed of rocky ridges with deceptive pockets of fertile soil between. The settlers knew nothing of agriculture in any form and moreover were many miles from market and without roads or transport to get there. Growth was painfully slow and no real prosperity ever arrived. The original settlers undoubtedly bettered themselves somewhat and certainly they provided their children with hope for the future. It is regrettable, however, that the time, money and energy expended by all concerned in the enterprises were not directed to the populating of areas with a better agricultural potential. The long term experience of the area has proved to be much rural poverty and large scale depopulation as the indifferent soil lost what initial fertility it had.


Proprietary settlement began early in what is now Canada and continued sporadically throughout the nineteenth century, sometimes successfully and sometimes disastrously. In its essentials, proprietary settlement involved the acquisition of land by an individual and the active recruitment of immigrants to settle upon it according to terms agreed upon between themselves and the proprietor, subject of course to the ordinary protections of law and such conditions as the government had laid down.

The motives of the proprietors were various. Some acted from motives of pure philanthropy. Others clearly hoped to establish great landed estates upon which they expected to establish a social structure not unlike the clan system already dying in Scotland, while others sought only financial gain. The first setttlements that might properly be called proprietary took place on Prince Edward Island (Isle St. Jean) in the years 1768-72. The whole island had been allotted to some sixty-seven proprietors (most of them Scots), subject to a number of conditions. The principal conditions were the settlement of Protestants from Europe and the old colonies to the south, and payment for the whole of their properties at the end of ten years, at an average rate of about four shillings per hundred acres. Few lived up to their commitments. Some sold out at once and no more than five ever lived upon their estates. The remaining proprietors found they could not compete with the older colonies for Protestant European settlers and not unnaturally turned to Scotland and recruited among largely Catholic Highlanders.

Of the early proprietors, Captain John MacDonald, Chief of Glenala-dale and late of the 84th Regiment, was most energetic. Having seen the island, he sold his Scottish holdings and purchased two townships with the express purpose of settling Highland Catholics upon them. Between the years 1770-1773 he brought in some 300 families from Uist and Moydart to locate at Tracadie and to this area headed many more in succeeding years.

Chief Baron Montgomery and Peter Stewart also arranged the dispatch of over 200 families between them, but settlement of the island went slowly and unevenly. In 1779 only 16 of the 67 townships had any settlers at all. Some of the settlers suffered great initial difficulties. In 1772 many arrived late in the season and without provisions, and some were reported to have starved to death in Prince Town. In 1774 a plague of locusts which destroyed their crops so discouraged settlers from Dumfries that they abandoned their lands and resettled at Pictou in Nova Scotia. MacGregor reports, "... the early settlers were . . . subjected for one or two years to all but perishing by famine."20 The "absence of steady industrious habits" as well as "ignorance in clearing and managing land" commented on by MacDonald, also created problems.21 Settlement continued very slowly for the next thirty years. The proprietors appeared more interested in speculative gain than in peopling their lands and busied themselves with political intrigues that gave the winners leverage in land sale manipulation. The advent of the American Revolution, providing military employment as an alternative to emigration and adding, of course, to the perils of travel, also had a dampening effect. It was not until the dawn of the nineteenth century that settlement in Prince Edward Island began again to thrive.

In 1803, in Prince Edward Island, Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk, established the first of the Canadian settlements that place him among the best known of all the proprietors. Selkirk, perhaps the most benevolent and philanthropic man ever involved in Scottish emigration, devoted himself to the welfare of his countrymen and expended both his fortune and his life in the effort.

Selkirk had originally planned to found a settlement in Upper Canada, but under pressure from the British government which preferred maritime settlement, he abandoned his original intention and instead bought land in Prince Edward Island. In 1803, Selkirk himself led out some 800 people from Skye, Ross, Uist and Argyll. His plans were well worked out. Land was sold very cheaply or on credit to those without money, supplies were provided and, above all, instruction and leadership were provided to meet both the agricultural and social needs of the settlers.

To obviate the terrors which the woods were calculated to inspire, the settlement was not dispersed as those of the Americans usually are, but concentrated within a moderate space. The lots were laid out in such a manner that there were generally four or five families . . . who built their houses in a little knot together. Each of them was inhabited by persons nearly related who sometimes carried on their work in common . . . . 22

All went well. A year later Selkirk reported, I found the settlers engaged in securing the harvest. . . they had a small proportion of grain of various kinds but potatoes were the principal crop . . . several boats had been built. . and ... a supply of fish obtained.23

More immigrants were brought from Stornoway, Lochiel, Kintyre and Perthshire in 1804 and in 1807-8. Selkirk, by this time, had matters so well in hand that later arrivals were usually able to settle on land that had at least a few acres cleared for them, a critical matter for people without the axeman's skills.

There were, as always, difficulties. Grasshoppers devastated one crop and a plague of mice destroyed another but by 1810 the Selkirk settlement was the most progressive and prosperous on the island. Emigrants from Scotland continued to join relatives in succeeding years and there can be no doubt that Selkirk's initial colonizing effort was an almost unqualified success.

Selkirk's second venture in colonization, this time in Upper Canada, was an almost unqualified disaster. Encouraged by the results of his work in Prince Edward Island, he again applied for land and after some difficulty with the colonial administration, he received a grant in Dover Township near Lake St. Clair. In 1804, some twenty families from Scotland arrived at the new settlement of Baldoon.

Selkirk had employed Alexander McDonell of Glengarry to superintend the new colony and from the start all went wrong. McDonell's part in it is clouded by conflicting testimony. Some viewed him as a tyrant, others, more sympathetic, saw him as a man facing an impossible task in trying to establish a parcel of drunken and idle rogues. The truth likely lies between. In addition to clashes of personality, there were other problems. The land, though fertile enough, was swampy and ill-drained. It proved nearly unworkable using the standard frontier agricultural methods. In any event the settlers arrived too late to plant a crop, food was scarce through the winter and there was much illness and nearly fifty deaths. The first crop in 1805 was parched by a summer drought and destroyed by an autumn flood. Finally, despairing of success, McDonell removed most of the remaining settlers to Sandwich.

Selkirk was sadly disappointed. However, he accepted the failure and lent the survivors sufficient money both for immediate needs and to buy cleared farms elsewhere. He now realized that his lands in Dover and Chatham were not well suited to settlement and he did not renew his attempts there. By 1820 most of this property has been sold to help meet the enormous debts he incurred in his next venture.

Undeterred by failure in Baldoon, Selkirk next turned his attention to the Red River Valley in the vast western territories of the Hudson's Bay Company. The story is well known. He set out to gain control of the Company and by 1810 he had done so. In 1811 he acquired from it 116,000 square miles of land which he meant to settle with immigrant Scots. From the outset, the Montreal-based North West Company, which had long traded in the area, did everything possible to hinder progress. The Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company had long been rivals in the fur trade and had just broken off bitter and prolonged negotiations aimed at an equitable division of the vast western territory. It is not surprising then that the North West Company was alarmed at the prospect of a settlement dominated by the Hudson's Bay Company's largest shareholder, occupying the territory south of Lake Winnipeg through which ran the rivers vital to the North West Company's communications system and where Metis produced the pemmican necessary to provision the traders in winter. Despite the strong possibility of armed conflict, Selkirk pressed on. He employed Miles McDonell to take a reconnaissance party west to prepare for the main group to come. It arrived in the spring of 1812 and chose a site below the forks of the Red River.

The first group of settlers left Stornoway in June of 1811 and was followed by others from Kildonan and elsewhere in 1812 and 1814. The vast distances and primitive transport caused great initial difficulties. The parties of 1812 and 1813 were both forced to spend the winter on the shores of Hudson's Bay "living on oatmeal and ptarmigan" and suffering much hardship from cold and illness before going on to the colony. However, once arrived, the settlers found lightly timbered fertile land and settlement itself went well. But they were not left long in peace.

Food was scarce in the colony and the governor, fearing starvation among the people expected to arrive in 1814, prohibited the export of pemmican. Shortly after, he seized the supply which had been prepared for the winter rations of the North West Company's trading parties. To the North West Company's directors these constituted acts of open hostility, clearly intended to ruin their trade, and they now determined to eliminate the colony at any cost. Under the leadership of Duncan Cameron and Alexander MacDonell who enlisted the local Metis, the North West Company in essence made war on the Hudson's Bay Company and the settlers. In 1815, the settlers were attacked and dispersed and their houses and steadings burned. Many of the dispossessed made their way with the help of friendly Saultaux Indians to Upper Canada where eventually they were located with some government aid in various parts of the colony, notably in the Talbot Settlement. Some merely withdrew to the shores of Lake Winnipeg and when joined by a new group of Highlanders returned to reestablish the settlement.

The North West Company failed in attempts to incite the Cree and Assiniboine Indians to attack the colony but pursuaded the Metis to do so by representing the settlers as a threat to the Metis way of life. In June of 1816 a group of Metis attacked at Seven Oaks and killed Governor Semple and twenty-one of his followers. Selkirk, already on his way with an armed party of French and Scottish veterans of the late War of 1812, arrived within a few days, arrested the ringleaders and founded a new settlement, Kildonan. With characteristic generosity, he forgave all previous debt because of the hardships the settlers had endured and gave them new lots free.

These events on the Red River were followed by legal battles in the Upper Canadian courts. The case went against Selkirk and he was fined heavily. What Selkirk believed to be manifest injustice was a heavy blow to him. He left Canada in poor health in 1818 and died in 1820 while on holiday at Pau. It seems ironic that the rivalry of two great companies both dominated by Scots and with large numbers of Scots in their employ should have inhibited Scottish settlement on the Red River.24

Immigration declined markedly without Selkirk's active interest and promotion. The Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company amalgamated in 1821 and thereafter many of the company servants took up land in the area and eventually outnumbered Selkirk's settlers. Thus, in the end, and despite great difficulties, Selkirk's belief that a permanent colony could be established on the Red River was vindicated.

Thomas Talbot, on the other hand, founder and director of the Talbot Settlement, was beyond question the most successful colonizer in the history of Canada. An Irishman of good family and connections, while in service as a young man under John Graves Simcoe he saw the Lake Erie country, which he resolved to devote his life to settling. Not without difficulty he arranged, in 1803, an initial grant of 5000 acres in Dunwich Township. Over the next thirty-odd years, the settlement grew to total twenty-eight townships on the shores of Lake Erie. Talbot's general plan was to form tight-knit settlements of people loyal to British institutions as a defence against United States influence and possible attack. He directed his efforts to recruiting Britons in the United States and throughout the British Isles, in the process inducing many Scots, both Highland and Lowland, to settle in Upper Canada.

His method of settlement was efficient and practical. He had learned from Simcoe the importance of good roads and the free grant of 50 acres was conditional, not only upon building a substantial house and sowing ten acres within three years, but also upon satisfactorily completing half of the road the lot abutted. If this was all done to Talbot's satisfaction, and he usually conducted a personal inspection, the settler was then able to buy additional land at 12/- per acre. If, in Talbot's view, the settler had failed, he was simply and literally "rubbed out." His name was removed with an eraser from where it had been pencilled in on the master lot plan and he was forced to vacate forthwith.

Although at first all went slowly many Scots, both Highland and Lowland, took land in the Talbot Settlement. The first sizable body appears to have been composed of Highlanders from Caledonia, in New York State, who took up land in Aldboro. Later Mr. Buchanan, the British consul in New York, sent others to the Talbot Settlement. About 140 refugees from Selkirk's Red River colony were also granted land. The glowing accounts of the settlement arriving in Scotland in the period 1818-21 persuaded many people from Argyllshire and Perthshire to emigrate thence. It was not long, however, before the Highlanders were involved in a bitter dispute with Talbot.

Briefly, he settled them upon fifty-acre plots on a tract reserved for but not yet granted to him and promised them additional Crown land which he proved in the end unable to give. The Highlanders for their part came to believe Talbot was defrauding them of land to which they had a right and applied to the Legislative Council for remedy. The Council reluctantly confirmed Talbot's grant to "regularize" the situation and, at his suggestion, reduced the fees payable by the settlers for additional grants. The Highlanders were not satisfied and in an insulting memorial to the Council demanded their "rights." A stiff reply informed them they had no rights to further land and that only an apology for the unfounded charges would induce the Council to confirm the grants already promised. Not until 1824 did the Scots submit, after over five years of conflict.

There can be little doubt this experience soured Talbot's attitude to Highlanders. He cautioned Peter Robinson against them as "they make the worst settlers for new Roads."25 While he continued to accept Highland settlers, his dislike of them was clear and where possible he gave preference to English, Irish and Lowland Scots, many of whom settled about St. Thomas and in Lobo, London, and Williams townships.

By 1835 most of Talbot's lands had been settled. Although he was eccentric, domineering and arbitrary, there can be no doubt he had, according to his own lights, the interest of the country and his settlers foremost in his mind, going to enormous lengths to help those he thought deserving. He was by all odds the most successful of the proprietors and was instrumental in setting the feet of a great many Scots upon the road to independence and prosperity.

Two other early proprietors should also be mentioned, Donald Cameron and Archibald McNab of McNab, although neither in fact brought many settlers to Upper Canada. Cameron was in some ways a tragic figure although he was the author of much of his own misfortune. He spent a considerable sum of his own money assisting some 600 Scots and then applied for a grant of land upon which to settle them. He was at first refused but shortly after the Executive Council granted him lands in the townships of Thorah and Eldon for the settlement "of a few Scottish settlers" within one year. This time limit was his undoing. He was unable to collect his settlers before the deadline and applied, over the years, for extension after extension. An unsigned complaint led to an investigation which concluded that Cameron had heavily padded his lists of settlers and otherwise falsified his records - quite a usual practice at the time. Cameron denied the charges but did not escape arrest and jailing at York. His settlers rallied to his defence with petitions on his behalf and years of contention followed. Several investigations were carried out apparently complicated by the political struggles between the Executive Council and the Legislative Assembly. In 1849 Cameron's last hope failed when the Colonial Office refused to consider the matter. Cameron was generous in the extreme, diligent in the service of his settlers and highly regarded by them, none of which can be said of the notorious Archibald McNab.26

McNab's machinations are in the main so well known and in detail so complex that they can only be summarized here. McNab was a man of immense energy, charm and determination. He arrived from Scotland "bankrupt and a fugitive from justice" but was well-received by Lord Dalhousie, which gave him access to the highest levels of government and society. He sought and without difficulty procured a township (to be called McNab) on the Ottawa River. In some way he secured with the grant a most unusual condition, that the Scots settlers he recruited would receive no deed until he certified they had met his required terms of settlement. In the light of subsequent events, it seems evident he meant, by the simple expedient of never certifying they had done so, to keep them in permanent dependency and de facto create for himself a vast estate worked by what amounted to a tenantry. The settlers, recruited by Dr. Hamilton of Arn-prior in Scotland, arrived some twenty-eight families strong in 1824. Each family was committed to yield McNab one bushel of wheat per cleared acre forever after, having three rent-free years at the outset, and to repay a debt which averaged about 85 per family.

McNab began at once to behave with all the arrogance of a feudal lord. He demanded and received from the settlers, who were totally ignorant of their rights and completely trusting of their clan chief, mortgages to their lands. He refused to give the provisions Hamilton had promised would await them, claimed all the standing timber on the settlers' lots, even convinced them they could not depart the township without his leave. As discontent arose, he used his interest with government, his power as justice of the peace, and his traditional authority to punish savagely all who opposed him. When Hamilton, hearing of his behaviour, refused to recruit more settlers, McNab himself met immigrant Highlanders disembarking at Montreal and persuaded them to settle on his lands.

Very quickly his settlers came to hate and fear him and a fifteen-year struggle commenced which finally broke his arbitrary power. Arrests, lawsuits and finally two government investigations punctuated by the Rebellion of 1837 in which his settlers refused to serve under McNab as Colonel, finally came to an end in 1841. An order-in-council granted the settlers full title to their lands upon payment of a fair valuation. All of McNab's powers were removed from him and he was given a final cash settlement of 2500. Abandoned by his friends, hated by those he had tried to defraud and suffering withal from a lively sense of injustice, McNab retired to a small estate in the Orkneys where he died in 1860.27

A less well-known but much more successful proprietor than either Cameron or McNab was William Dickson. He emigrated to Upper Canada from Dumfries and practiced law at Niagara. In 1816 he bought outright the Township of Dundee and proceeded to bring out Scottish settlers. He gave them sound instruction, easy credit for supplies and good terms of purchase. Within twenty years his township had a population of over 6,000, almost all Scots, well supplied with schools, churches and mills, and by common consent highly prosperous. Dickson also wrote a well-publicized series of letters on emigration and was responsible for encouraging many other Scots, besides his own settlers, to seek their fortunes in Canada.28

Proprietary settlement had a number of distinguishing characteristics. Among them was the direct personal interest of the proprietor, be it philanthropic or otherwise, in procuring the land, recruiting the settlers and so far as possible personally supervising the settlement itself. Settlers were conducted directly to their lots, provided with tools, provisions and seed, sometimes at little or no cost, given some instruction in clearing and farming methods and in some instances at least helped and encouraged through the first lean years. They were very often group settlements too, in which people could rely on assistance from friends and relatives settled around them. In all of this, of course, the proprietary settlements much resembled the military settlements which they just overlapped in time.

When the proprietor was energetic and able, the settlers well-chosen and the land good, proprietary settlement proved to be a useful and economical way to reduce Scotland's population and increase that of the colonies. Without that combination of talents and conditions, it created hardship and disappointment for the emigrant and heartbreak, frustration and bitterness for the proprietor. By 1850 it had largely disappeared and free settlement because of its character had become the dominant pattern.


Although both military and proprietary patterns of settlement were of great importance in Scottish emigration to Canada, free settlement still accounted for the largest part. At its simplest, it involved a decision to leave Scotland for the colonies, arranging a passage and upon arrival, if the place of settlement was not already decided, choosing a destination either urban or rural and going there. In practice it took many different forms. Much emigration, although technically free, was forced either by unemployment after the Napoleonic Wars, by the Highland clearances, or by repeated failures of the potato crop, for the potato in Scotland had long since become a stale of diet among the poor.

Interest in emigration as a remedy for Scottish ills was widespread. Every city and town appeared to have an "Emigration Society" active in raising passage money. The hand weavers, who had suffered much from mechanization, were very active in both forming and using them.29 Many landlords paid all or part of the passage money for thousands of their tenants, among them such people as Colonel Gordon, Lady Sutherland, the Duke of Argyll, Ramsay of Kildalton, the Duke of Hamilton and much later, Lady Gordon Cathcart who founded Benbecula in Saskatchewan in the 1880s in almost proprietary fashion and peopled it with Scots from her Hebridean estates.30

Nor were destinations haphazardly chosen. There was a large volume of correspondence between the colonies and Scotland. Would-be emigrants usually had friends or relatives to join. Thus, areas once settled by Scots were constantly reinforced by new immigration and people continued to go to the Maritimes and to Ontario until all good land (and much bad) was occupied. Immigrant guides, published collections of letters, travellers' accounts and land company agents offered an embarrassment of advice, so that many people set out with a good idea of where they were going and what they would do when they got there. Indeed, it became common practice to send a member of the family or representatives of a group to spy out the land and decide upon the best location in advance of the main body.

People who were not involved in proprietary settlement but wished to farm, as most Scots appeared to do, had several choices open to them. They could buy a farm at some stage of development at a price that varied with the amount cleared, buildings erected, closeness to services, and access to market. They could buy wild land held by speculators, of whom there were many. They could homestead Crown land for payment of the standard fees or they could buy from land companies, some of which had lands in various stages of preparation ranging from a few cleared acres with a house and barn close to essential services, to wild land remote from any. After 1825, land companies progressively came to dominate settlement in the eastern half of what is now Canada. Although in the end few ever returned much profit to their shareholders, they had an enormous impact on the development of Canadian society.31

The settlements of Pictou in 1765, so overwhelmingly important in the subsequent heavy Scottish immigration into the whole of eastern Nova Scotia, began as a colonization company, i.e., a land company venture. After the capture of Louisbourg in 1758, John Pagan, a native of Greenock living in Philadelphia, bought three shares in the Philadelphia company which held land in the Pictou area. Thither, he conducted a few Scots and Ulster Irish from the older colony and began through his agent John Ross to seek emigrants in Scotland. His efforts led to the departure of some 189 people from Loch Broom in the ship Hector which arrived in Pictou in July of 1773.

The Hectorians suffered much hardship. They had no tools, seed or supplies, most were illiterate, had no skill whatever with the axe and possessed only rudimentary agricultural knowledge. Many had hoped to fish but that hope was frustrated since all of the shorelands so necessary to fishing were already granted and they were compelled to settle inland. The first few years and particularly the first winter brought dreadful hardship but slowly the Scots learned the necessary techniques, cleared their lands and finally prospered. In succeeding years they were joined by many others from Inverness, Perth, Ross and Sutherland as well as the discharged veterans mentioned earlier. By 1830 all the available land was gone and the population of the settlement was over 21,000.32 Most of the early settlers were Presbyterian but they were later joined by Catholic immigrants, many of whom worked their way into Cape Breton Island when it was thrown open to settlement after 1784. The nearness of Nova Scotia to Scotland itself, the rugged terrain and the sea both so reminiscent of home and, of course, the presence of other Scots, all made Nova Scotia immensely attractive to Scottish immigrants who arrived in large numbers for generations thereafter. Parts of eastern Nova Scotia, particularly Cape Breton Island, became as Gaelic in speech and outlook as the Highlands themselves and to some degree remain so.33

Settlement was again attempted in Canada in the nineteenth century. Many companies were proposed, some formed but hardly any prospered. The Canada Company, promoted and first directed by John Galt and with another well-known Scot, William "Tiger" Dunlop as a senior officer, was most important in Scottish settlement. The Company acquired the vast Huron Tract of some 1,100,000 acres and another 1,384,413 acres of Crown Reserves scattered across nearly every township in Upper Canada in return for 348,680, less some remissions for public improvements.

The Company was chartered in 1826 and began a vigorous campaign to recruit settlers. Agents were established in the principal cities of Britain, two in Scotland at Edinburgh and Glasgow. Agents were also established at the principal Canadian ports of entry and at New York. Galt and Dunlop were both well-known in Scotland and many prominent men recommended the Company to intending emigrants and, although many English and Irish emigrants took Company lands, there always seemed to be some particular affinity between the Company and Scotsmen, many of whom were diverted to Canada from intended destinations in the United States.

Numerous Scots settled along the Maitland Road which Dr. Dunlop had slashed through the bush to the site of the new Town of Goderich, and around the area of Seaforth in what is now Huron County. The Scots tended, understandably, to settle in groups which grew by increments of new settlers and the names of many towns in Company-settled territories reveal their Scottish link. Leigh, Rothsay, Holyrood, Rannoch, and West Montrose, among others, come easily to mind. Many Scots were also settled on Company lands in other parts of Upper Canada where all contributed to the markedly Scottish cast of society in central and southwestern Ontario evident even today.

Galt, after many disagreements with his directors, was removed from his post in 1829 to the great regret of most of his settlers and those who had worked with him in Upper Canada. His offence was that of having more care for human beings than for profits. His importance in the history of settlement could hardly be exaggerated, however, for he set in motion and in part oversaw the transformation of a wilderness into a rich agricultural territory with a sturdy, industrious and independent population.34 Although one may find fault with a policy which in fact turned over to a private company what ought to have been accepted as a public responsibility, there is no reason to suppose any government of the time could have planned or worked to better purpose than Galt did in promoting settlement in Upper Canada.35

Among other land companies involved in Scottish settlement were the British American Land Company and The New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Land Company. The former, which was opposed by local and particularly French-Canadian interests, was finally given a charter in 1834. The Company, pointing out economic stagnation in Britain and the consequent availability of a good quality of immigrants and playing on official fears of American infiltration into the Eastern Townships on the one hand and French-Canadian infiltration on the other, was finally able to convince Lord Aylmer, the lieutenant-governor, that this militarily sensitive area should be settled by the loyal Britons the Company would undertake to provide. The prospect of receiving some 120,000 over a period of ten years, at a time when the Legislative Assembly was refusing to vote the Civil List, must also have been a consideration.36

The Eastern Townships were by no means empty of settlers, many of them American, and about a third of the Company land was already surveyed and reasonably well served by mills, stores, churches, etc. The remainder was unsurveyed wilderness. The Company was given 847,661 uninhabited acres in the counties of Shefford, Stanstead and Sherbrooke. Agents recruited actively in Britain and the United States with special appeals addressed to Highland Scots who in the end formed the bulk of the settlers. The campaign was, in its initial phases, a little too successful. Poor immigrants were promised work in road-building, etc., to help pay for their lots. They began to arrive when plans for development were incomplete and many had no money, no work and no food. However, accommodations and compromises were worked out, jobs did begin to appear and later arrivals found the situation much improved.

In 1844, after much bickering with officials, the Company was deprived of much of its best land by the Government of Lower Canada which then proceeded to sell some lots on easy terms and to give free title to many others. This generous policy attracted many more immigrants, many of them Scots, but made the operations of the Company doubly difficult.

In 1844 Alexander Gait, John Galt's son, took over as commissioner. While he vigorously recruited settlers, he also became heavily involved in financing the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad which he thought would materially benefit the area. By the 1850s a change in the character of settlement was evident.37 British settlers were passing through to Canada West while more and more French Canadians were moving to Company lands as a result of population pressure in other areas.38 Although the Eastern Townships were once home to many Scots and their children, the area today is almost totally French Canadian.

The New Brunswick Company, among whose organizers was the well-known Samuel Cunard, received a grant of 550,000 acres in 1833, in York County, N.B., in return for a note for 56,250. Agents recruited heavily, almost exclusively in Scotland and the north of England. Their lavish promises of cleared land and log houses awaiting on hundred-acre holdings with easy fifty-year leases attracted Highlanders and Lowlanders alike. Cowan reports the Gaelic-speaking agents even promised free transport. As often happened, promises exceed delivery, development costs far exceeded revenues and the immigrants, particularly those from Skye, were most discontented. They arrived on the Nashwaak River to find no lands cleared nor houses built. Many who were fishermen and wished to remain so objected to clearing land or working in the lumbering industry, and left. The Company struggled along for many years, sometimes in direct competition with the provincial government, which for its part granted long and easy leases on Crown lands to poor settlers. It was never profitable for its backers, and although it did settle Scots, their numbers were not great.39

As was pointed out above, military and proprietary settlement involved the movement of people directly to the land from their points of origin, and encouragement and assistance, sometimes lavish, in the process of settlement itself. Free settlement was quite different from this. Although many settlers, particularly those with money, went direct to the land, many did not, either from preference or necessity.

Perhaps the most widespread misapprehension about the pattern of free settlement is the fixed belief that the immigrant boarded ship at Glasgow or Liverpool, debarked at Montreal, made his way up country, went immediately to the farthest frontier, put up his shanty and began an individual assault on the forest primeval, ending up a couple of decades later a prosperous freeholder. It is true that many people tried to follow such a pattern and it is also true that many who tried succeeded, but the failure rate was high and as travellers' accounts and immigrants letters home accumulated, it became more and more recognized that pioneering was for specialists and fewer and fewer immigrants went directly to the woods. Two things were necessary for successful settlement on wild land - pioneering skills and money. There is an impression abroad that one could begin in the bush with nearly nothing. This was far from true. Aside from the cost of land if purchased in 1855-60, a man would need at least 100, which would amount to about $2000.00 at today's prices. A pair of oxen, a yoke, a logging chain, a harrow, a year's supply of food and the hire of some assistance in clearing and building easily ate up such a sum. If a man were an expert axeman, he might dispense with some hired help and thereby save a little, but few immigrants were familiar with the axe.

Of all the pioneering skills, that of the axeman was paramount. A good axeman could clear land, make a house and steadings, build furniture and make many of his other tools with the axe alone. The experienced wife could make soap, spin, knit and weave, recognize useful wild herbs and fruits, and do a myriad of things necessary to the isolated life of the agricultural frontier. Above all, the pioneer family must become used to the drudgery and isolation of life in the wilderness. There was even a specialized frontier agriculture - corn, beans and pumpkins grown together, with the beans twining round the corn and the pumpkin vine spreading over the hillock in a perfect symbiotic relationship. Pioneering, in fact, became a specialized way of life for some people who acquired the land, cleared a few acres, put up a log house and outbuildings, fenced the clearing, took a few crops from among the burned stumps and then moved on to do it all over again. These people were almost all Canadian or American-born. They were, so to speak, the cutting edge of the agricultural frontier. When in the late 1850s good land became scarce in Canada West (Ontario), they simply moved out to the U.S. agricultural frontier or to Manitoba. It was not their intention to create a property for succeeding generations but, to quote from Jones' valuable study, A History of Agriculture in Ontario, "their livelihood came not from the sale of. . . produce but from the increase of their farms consequent upon being cleared."40 In short, the professional pioneer made a new farm and just when it was coming to a state when a British farmer might begin to consider it fit for use, he would begin to think it time to sell, in order to move on to where he could once again put his specialist skills to use. So clear was this pattern that it was commonly remarked of Upper Canada that within a few years in any area, the original settlers were nearly entirely replaced by British immigrants. Lynch in 1855-56 wrote of a man who "cleared up a new farm almost entirely with his own hands every five or six years, until he came to the ploughing when he became dissatisfied and sold out."41 Even so, there were always those among the immigrants prepared to take the risk of true pioneering. Those with money could maximize their holdings by purchasing uncleared or, as it was called, "wild" land, and paying expert axemen to clear it but, in the main, immigrants seemed to prefer to buy a made farm, close to settlements and their amenities, where they could use their superior agricultural knowledge.

Since a great many immigrants arrived without sufficient funds even to take up Crown land, how did they go about getting farms, the grand aim and intention of almost all of them? There appear to have been two general patterns, either to work at a trade or some non-agricultural pursuit or to work as an agricultural labourer. Persons who adopted the first procedure usually bought cleared farms, which of course cost more, and this might mean a lapse of some years while savings were accumulated. Persons who "hired out" to established farmers quickly learned the techniques of Canadian agriculture and, most important of all, how to use the North American axe with its distinctive curved handle as well as native Canadians could. It was most often such persons as these who, when the time came to purchase, bought uncleared land on the back lots and really did pioneer in the frontier fashion in the '50s and '60s. Yet another common practice was to take a farm on a sharing arrangement. This was ordinarily done with partially cleared farms, the contract calling for the owner to supply stock, implements and seed, and to receive half the produce of the farm while the tenant worked the land and continued to clear it. There were other more complex arrangements developed after the 1860s. However, the aim was always to own land. Renting, leasing and sharing arrangements were always thought to be temporary measures to be abandoned as soon as the accumulation of savings made purchase possible.

The time lapse between arrival and farm ownership was of course quite variable. A Lieutenant Cook reported a man near Cornwall who, as he said, earned enough as a labourer in two years to buy a farm in part because "he was not encumbered by a wife." A Wellington County farmer who first settled in Simcoe "worked in Toronto as a carpenter for one year, most of the time making coffins for people who died of cholera .. . then settling in. . . Simcoe County purchasing a farm for $400.00."42 For a man starting from nothing in Upper Canada, it took about eight years on an average to save enough to buy in the period 1840-1860. It appears that as the century wore on the length of time increased somewhat.

A study of early agricultural settlers in Wellington County reveals some had been lawyers, weavers, smiths, ministers, coopers, millwrights, etc. In all, forty different occupations were represented. Even more interesting, most persons with trades and professions seemed to have continued them even when farming. John Harland's prize essay, "A Report of The State of Agriculture in Wellington County 1852," reports "Persons who are styled farmers here are a very different class of men to those who follow the same occupation in the British Isles .... Numbers have settled here who were brought up to the plough, but the great majority of those who now live by cultivating the soil, were educated to some variety of trade .... They have an idea of commerce and decline selling to an old customer if a new one will offer a high figure."43 Sad to say, he quotes no numbers and cites no sources, but his assertions have not been disputed. The observation is interesting in that it implies the new style of farmer using business techniques was very much market-orientated in contrast with a more traditional subsistence farmer of the period before 1840.

To summarize, the pattern of free settlement on the agricultural frontier went like this: (1) First clearing and making of farms by a specialist group of pioneers with the appropriate skills. Intermingled with this group were numbers of immigrants. These were of two sorts, those who had the money to pay for clearing and thus maximize land holdings, and those who in ignorance or hardihood went to the frontier and learned pioneering skills as best they could. For the latter, the failure rate was high and the suffering considerable. (2) The pioneering group was followed by immigrants, many of them Scots who, if they had cash, bought a "made" farm by preference. Those who recognized their ignorance sometimes deliberately hired out to learn Canadian techniques in agriculture before taking up their own holdings. (3) Finally, people without money worked either as farm labourers, or in villages and towns, in order to accumulate the necessary cash through savings.

A hundred years ago land represented the ultimate security. Most men, even professional men and tradesmen, sought and bought land as soon as they were able. Thus, the phenomenon we think so modern - the man who farms and also works at another job - proves not to be new at all. A study of the emergence after 1870 of the specialist farmer who did not do anything but farm, remains to be done. Tradesmen and mechanics who saved and bought farms seem to have done just as well at farming as those with agricultural backgrounds. This could imply several things: first, some prior knowledge of agriculture gained in Scotland; second, the use of hired labour for the day-to-day work of the farm, which was a fairly common pattern; third, and least likely, there was not much to farming. The real difference between these groups was the tendency of the town worker or trademen to buy a made farm in preference to wild land, while those Scots who had worked on farms for others were much more likely to take wild land and clear and build themselves.

A study made by the author of the course of Scottish settlement in Wellington County revealed that at most one Scot in five bought wild land on arriving in the county and cleared it himself and that he might have worked in agriculture in Scotland beforehand. About four Scots in five who ultimately owned farms in Wellington County in the period before 1905 either bought farms which had been cleared by others or bought wild land which they then had cleared by local axemen. Some of the wealthier immigrants were able to afford to have a house and outbuildings constructed although this did not happen with great frequency.

The same study showed that Scots settlement did not diverge markedly from what appears to have been the general pattern of immigrant settlement on an open agricultural frontier. They were, however, somewhat less likely to buy land immediately upon arrival than were other immigrants, which may run counter to the belief that most Scottish immigrants were relatively well off vis-a-vis English and Irish immigrants. They avoided where possible the pitfalls of true pioneering, preferring to buy made farms, but if they did go on wild land they were at least as successful as others.44

In discussing patterns of settlements, very little has been said of the individual pioneer experience, the techniques required to farm successfully in Canada, the influence of the landscape, etc. There is a wealth of information but these areas are studies in themselves. This chapter has dealt with eighteenth and nineteenth century rural settlement, mainly in Eastern Canada. The subject is of great interest and importance and deserves a far more detailed presentation than has been possible here. The contribution of Scots to rural society in Western Canada is considered in another chapter. The whole subject of the migration of industrial and commercial workers from Scotland to Canada is now beginning to receive the attention it deserves.

To sum up, Scots have played an extremely important part in the settlement of Canada. In the earliest days of British settlement, the Scottish role was clearly the most important. Although with time Scots were outnumbered by English and Irish immigrants, they always came and continue to come today. Their contribution to Canadian society as evidenced in other chapters has been out of all proportion even to their substantial numbers.


1. See Stanley C. Johnson, Emigration from the United Kingdom to North America (London: George Routledge and Sons Ltd., 1913), p. 1.

2. The settlements on the Annapolis Basin made in 1629 under the sponsorship of Sir William Alexander were abandoned when Nova Scotia was returned to France by Charles I.

3. Of the many proprietors, Selkirk, Talbot, McNab and Lady Gordon are, for very different reasons, best known.

4. The settlement at Perth in 1816 and Selkirk's settlement on the Red River in 1811-15 are cases in point.

5. The most interesting attempt to transplant the Old World to the New was that of Archibald McNab. Cf. the short account below and the detailed study by M.J. Fraser, "Feudalism in Upper Canada," Ontario History Society, Papers and Records, 12 (1914).

6. It is impossible to do more than guess at the numbers leaving Scotland annually in this period. Cf. contemporary issues of Scots Magazine for references to emigration from Scotland.

7. For a good short description of social and economic change in the Highlands see Gordon Donaldson, The Scots Overseas (London: Robert Hale, 1966), Chapters 3 and 4.

8. Norman MacDonald, Canada, 1763-1841 Immigration and Settlement: The Administration of The Imperial Land Settlements (Toronto: Longmans, Green and Co., 1939), p. 43.

9. Ibid., p. 44.

10. J.S. MacDonell, History of Glengarry County, cited in J. Murray Gibbon, Scots in Canada (Toronto: Musson, 1911), p. 66.

11. J. MacGregor, Emigration to British America (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, 1829), p. 46.

12. Lord Hobart to Lieutenant-General Hunter, reprinted in A Short Account of the Emigration from the Highlands of Scotland to North America: and the Establishment of the Catholic Diocese of Upper Canada (Kingston: Whig Office, 1839), p. 19.

13. Sir Francis Bond Head, Bart., The Emigrant (London: John Murray, 1846), p. 116.

14. Ibid., p. 118.

15. MacDonald, p. 50.

16. Ibid., p. 49.

17. Ibid, p. 50.

18. Andrew Haydon, Pioneer Sketches in the district of Bathurst (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1925), I, p. 37.

19. Robert Gourlay, Statistical Account of Upper Canada (London: Limp-kin and Marshall, 1822) I, p. 525.

20. MacGregor, p. 48.

21. MacDonald, p. 103.

22. Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk, Observations on the present state of the Highlands of Scotland with a view of the causes and probable consequences (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1806), p. 206.

23. Quoted in J.M. McGibbon, Scots in Canada.

24. For more detailed accounts cf., among others, George Bryce, MacKenzie, Selkirk, Simpson (Toronto: Morang and Co. Ltd., 1905) p. 115 et seq. in the Series "The Makers of Canada," Duncan Scott and Pelham Edgar, eds., and the excellent monograph by John Gray, Lord Selkirk of The Red River (Toronto: The MacMillan Company of Canada, 1963).

25. Quoted in F.C. Hamil, Lake Erie Baron (Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1955), p. 146.

26. Cf. MacDonald, pp. 181-186. It is appropriate here to pay tribute to the enormously useful and detailed work of Professor MacDonald to be found in the volume cited and in Canada, Immigration and Colonization: 1841-1903 (Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1966.) Both have been used extensively in preparation of this chapter.

27. This account draws upon Marjorie J.F. Fraser, "Feudalism in Upper Canada," Ontario Historical Society Papers and Records, 12 (1914), pp. 142-152, Roland Wild, McNab, The Last Laird (London: Methuen, 1938) and MacDonald, p. l86 et seq.

28. J. Young, Reminiscences of the Early History of Galt, and The Settlement of Dumfries (Toronto: Hunter, Rose, 1880).

29. Johnson, p. 55.

30. Helen Cowan, British Emigration To British North America, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967), p. 209 ff.

31. W.T. Easterbrook and Hugh Aitken, Canadian Economic History (Toronto: The MacMillan Company of Canada, 1967), p. 277.

32. George Patterson, A History of The County of Pictou Nova Scotia (Montreal: Dawson Brothers, 1877), Chapters 4 and 5.

33. G. Campbell, A History of Nova Scotia (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1948), p. 182.

34. Cf. Easterbrook, p. 132 et seq., and for a detailed and fascinating account of life in Huron Tract, Robina and Kathleen Lizars, In The Days of The Canada Company (Toronto: W. Briggs, 1896).

35. Oscar Skelton, Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1920), Chapter 1.

36. Ibid., Chapter 2.

37. Ibid., Chapter 4.

38. Ibid., p. 43.

39. W. MacNutt, New Brunswick, A History: 1784:1867 (Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1963), p. 305.

40. R. Jones, History of Agriculture in Ontario (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946), p. 52.

41. J. Lynch, "Report of the Agricultural Condition And Prospects of the County of Bruce,'' Journal And Transactions of The Board of Agriculture of Upper Canada, Vol. I (1856), p. 615.

42. Historical Atlas of Wellington County (Toronto: Historical Atlas Publishing Co., 1905), p. 55. This Atlas is almost unique in Ontario in containing several hundred thumb-nail family histories of great interest to scholars.

43. J. Harland, "Report On The State of Agriculture In The County of Wellington," Journal And Transactions of The Board of Agriculture of Upper Canada, Vol. I (1856), p. 216.

44. K. Duncan, "Aspects of Scottish Settlement In Wellington County," Scottish Colloquium Proceedings (Guelph: University of Guelph, 1970), 3, 15-20.

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