Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

The Scot in America
Pioneers


AS might be expected of a race which began, so far as we know to the contrary, in Greece, sojourned in Egypt, Portugal, and other places, and at presernt has it's headquarters in the northern portion of the island of Great Britain, the Scots early began to turn their attention to America. Indeed, it has been gravely argued that America was really discovered long before Columbus was heard of by a band of Scotch mariners who were driven by stress of weather on the coast of Newfoundland, and a full account of the discovery now reposes in the "transactions" of some learned society. It is alleged that the mariners' boat was too much battered by the waves to be of any more practical service out at sea, and as the Scots got a hearty welcome from the natives they concluded there was no use of struggling with wind and weather any longer and they settled down, were adopted by the aborigines, and married among them. The Captain, as was natural, married a princess. Most all Europeans of whom we have record who married into Indian families got princesses for their brides, and from that we infer that princesses were more plentiful than were young women of ordinary degree. Had the Captain only written home an account of the adventures of himself and his crew, what priceless documents the epistles would have been to-day! His name would have been revered as the discoverer of America, while we would have been erecting statues in his honor and celebrating his anniversary! But he missed his opportunity, and, as Scotsmen, Scotsmen abroad especially, very seldom do that, we are rather inclined to doubt the whole story.

Mr. J. M. Moine, in his interesting paper on "The Scot in New France," suggests that among Cartier's crew, when that discoverer made his first acquaintance with Canada, were several Scots seamen. "Herue, Henry," he says, "seems to us an easy transmutation of Henry Herue, or Hervey." Again, in reference to another, he remarks that "michel Herue sounds mightily in our ears like Michael Harvey, one of the Murray Bay Harveys of Major Nairn." With reference to the facility with which names may be changed or adapted to circumstances, Mr. Le Moine gives an illistration which came under his own observation. "We once knew, at Cap Rouge, near Quebec, a worthy Greenock pilot whose name was Tom Everell. In the next generation a singular change took place in his patronymic; it stood transformed thus: Everell Tom. Everell Tom in the course of time became the respected sire of a numerous progeny of sons and daughters -- Jean Baptiste Tom, Norbert Tom, Henriette Tom, and a variety of other Toms."

In the same interesting monograph, Mr. Le Moine brings to our notice a veritable Scotch pioneer in the following words: "Who has not heard of the King's St. Lawrence pilot, Abraham Martin dit l'Ecossais -- Abraham Martin alias the Scot. Can there be any room for uncertainty about the nationality of this old salt -- styled in the Jesuits' 'Journal' 'Maitre Abraham,' and who has bequeathed his name to our world-renowned battlefield (the Plains of Abraham). * * *  The exhaustless research of our antiquarians has unearthed curious particulars about this Scotch seafaring man -- the number, sex, and age of his children; his speculations in real estate; his fishing ventures in the Lower St. Lawrence. Sometimes we light on tid-bits of historical lore anent Master Abraham not very creditable to his morality. Once he gets into chancery; as there is no account of his being brought to trial, let us hope the charge was unfounded -- a case of blackmail originated by some 'loose and disorderly' character of that period or by a spiteful policeman. On September 8, 1664, the King's pilot closed his career at the ripe age of seventy-five."

There is, however, something mythical and unsatisfactory in all we know of this industrious and enterprising personage, and we turn with satisfaction to consider a greater man in every respect, although by a curious freak of fortune his name has not been immortalized by any world-renowned landmark like the Plains of Abraham. This was the Earl of Stirling, in many ways one of the most extraordinary men of his time, a man who was restless in his activity, who won fame in many walks of life, who was one of the most extensive landowners of which the world has any knowledge, yet who died poor -- a bankrupt. William Alexander was born at Menstrie, Stirlingshire, in 1580. Through the influence of the Argyll family he obtained a position at Court, and became tutor to Prince Henry, eldest son of James VI. He soon won the good graces of the sovereign by his learning, his shrewdness, and his poetical abilities, and when the crowns of Scotland and England were united Alexander followed the King to London. That Alexander enjoyed much popular favor and high reputation during his lifetime as a poet is undoubted, although few except students of literature venture to read his productions now. They are heavy, discursive, and, with the exception of a few of his sonnets and his "Paraenesis to Prince Henry," rather monotonous. But the evidence that he was a slave to the mannerisms and affectations of the age cannot blind us to the fact that he was really possessed of a rich share of poetic ability. With his poetical writings or his merits as a poet, however, we have nothing to do in this place, nor do we need to discuss the question as to whether or not he wrote King James's "Psalms," or even the nature of his statesmanship as exemplified in his official relations with his native country. We have to deal with him simply as a colonizer -- one of the first to colonize America. His career at Court may be summed up by mentioning that he was knighted in 1609, created Lord Alexander of Tullibody and Viscount Stirling in 1630, Earl of Stirling and Viscount Canada in 1633 and Earl of Dovan in 1639. A year later he died.

Lord Stirling found that the English were striving to establish colonies on the American seaboard, and thought, like the patriot which he undoubtedly was, that his own countrymen should have a share in the rich lands across the sea. Early in 1621 he sent a petition to King James for a grant of territory in America on which he hoped to induce Scotsmen to settle. "A great number of Scotch families," he told his sovereign, "had lately emigrated to Poland, Sweden, and Russia," and he pointed out that "it would be equally beneficial to the interests of the kingdom, and to the individuals themselves, if they were permitted to settle this valuable and fertile portion of His Majesty's dominions."

The petition was granted by the King -- probably that was satisfactorily arranged before it had been committed to paper -- and indorsed by the Privy Council. When these formalities had been gone through, Lord Stirling entered on formal possession of what is now mainly included in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, a goodly portion of the State of Maine and of the Province of Quebec. This territory was to be known as New Scotland -- Nova Scotia the charter dignifiedly called it -- and over it the new owner and those acting for him were supreme even to the establishment of churches and of courts of law. For some reason, not now exactly known, Lord Stirling at once handed over a part of his new dominion to Sir Robert Gordon of Lochinvar. That part is known as Cape Breton, but it was then given the more national name of New Galloway.

Sir William Alexander, to give Lord Stirling the name by which his is probably best remembered, sent out his first expedition to colonize New Scotland in March, 1622. These pioneers, with the exception of an adventurous clergyman, were of the humblest class of agricultural laborers, and only a single artisan -- a blacksmith -- was among them. The voyage was a rough one, and after sighting the coast of Cape Breton the emigrants were glad to shape their course back to Newfoundland, where they spent the Winter. Next Spring Sir William, who had been advised of the failure of the first expedition, sent out another ship with colonists and provisions. The early reports of the land on which the new colony was to settle were communicated to him by some of his people soon after they managed to get landed -- which they did in the guise of an exploring party. These reports were submitted by him to the world, with all the attractiveness of a modern advertising expert, in his work entitled "An Encouragement to Colonies." The explorers described the country they visited (mainly the coast of Cape Breton) as presenting "very delecate meadowes, having roses white and red growing thereon, with a kind of wild Lilly, which hath a daintie smell." The ground "was without wood, and very good, fat earth, having several sort of berries growing thereon, as gooseberries, strawberries, hindberries, raspberries, and a kind of wine berrie; as also some sorts of grain as pease, some eares of wheat, barly, and rie growing there wilde. * * * They likewise found in every river abundance of lobsters, cockles, and all other shel-fishes, and also, not only in the rivers, but all the coasts alongst, numbers of several sorts of wilde-fowle, as wild-goose, black Ducke, woodcock, crane, heron, pidgeon, and many other sorts of Foule which they knew not. They did kill as they sayled alongst the coast, great store of cod, with severall orther sorts of great fishes. The countrie is full of woods, not very thick, and the most part Oake; the rest Firre, Spruce, Birch and some Sicamores and Ashes and many other sorts of Wood which they had not sene before." All this information so cunningly and attractively set forth by Sir William in his book of encouragement -- which, by the way, had a map of the territory in which Scottish names are given to every point and section and river -- failed  to attract settlers, and the projector found himself some 6,000 out of pocket by his patriotism. To reimburse him, and at the same time to add a little to the royal treasury, the Order of Baronets of Nova Scotia was founded, on the pattern of the Order of Ulster. Even this move was not substantially successful, although the terms were reasonable and the lands accompanying the honor were "three myles long vpon the coast and ten mile vp into the countrie."

We need not follow the details of Sir William's colonizing scheme any further. They belong really to the history of Canada. Each failure seemed to be compensated for by a fresh grant of territory, and if we may believe a map issued long after by one of the many claimants for his hereditary titles and "land rights" the Alexander family held "by right of charters," the sort of documents which the Duke of Argyll believes to be the most sacred on earth, not only about the whole of Canada, but the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and an undefined territory two or three times as large as all that has been named put together.

Sir William never saw his possessions on this side of the Atlantic, but his eldest son, known as Lord Alexander, did, and "efter his returne from his sea voyage, gave to  the puir of Stirling fifty-aught pundes money" -- the first of a log series of gifts to Scotland from Scots who have enjoyed a blink of fortune's sun on the western side of the Atlantic.

Among the first actual settlers from Scotland of whom we have record in what is now the United States, were the passengers on the ship "John and Sara," which arrived in Boston Harbor in 1652. That there were Scotsmen settled and doing business -- perhaps making sillar and meditating speeches about St. Andrew -- before that time there is no doubt. Of the fact, indeed, there is plenty of evidence, but these arrivals came in a body and under such sad circumstances that the early Scottish-American history of the time, especially in New England, crystallizes about them. They were prisoners of war, captured by Cromwell's forces after the battle of Dunbar, and sentenced to be transported to the American plantations and sold as slaves. This was done. Some appear to have been traded off in New England for a term of years; others were sent to the West Indies. The entire "cargo" was soon disposed of in one way or another, and for various terms of servitude, and there were other consignments of unfortunates about the same period and for many years after sent to the New World. The John and Sara prisoners, however, stand out in bold and creditable relief from the rest, as it was due to their plight that the Scots' Charitable Society of Boston was established in 1657. The same class of prisoners, staunch, stern Presbyterians, were the founders of colonies on the Elizabeth River, Virginia, and in Maryland, and it was invariably the case that one of the first structures in each settlement was a church, although the tabernacle was only built of logs.

The Scottish population received many of its earlier recruits from soldiers belonging to the Highland regiments who completed their terms of service while in this country or were disbanded after the close of the war for possession with the French. Large colonies of these settled in the Carolinas and Virginia, and through them many immigrants were induced to join them from the home country. Canada enjoyed its full share of these settlers, and after the Revolution it had a monopoly of them, while they in turn monopolized a good deal themselves. Indeed, it is said that up to the year 1810 there was not a merchant in the French City of Quebec who did not hail from the "Land o' Cakes."

"After the termination of the Seven Years' War," writes Bancroft in his great History of the United States, "very few of the Highland regiments returned home, soldiers and officers choosing rather to accept grants of land in America for settlement. Many, also, of the inhabitants of Northwestern Scotland, especially of the clans of Macdonald and Macleod, listened to overtures from those who had obtained concessions of vast domains and migrated to Middle Carolina, tearing themselves, with bitterest grief, from kindred whose sorrow at parting knew no consolation. Most who went first reported favorable of the clear, sunny clime where every man might have land of his own; and from the isles of Raasay and Skye whole neighborhoods formed parties for removal, sweetening their exile by carrying with them their costume and opinions, their Celtic language and songs." Marlborough, Bladensburg, Maryland, the Cape Fear, Wilmington, North Carolina, York and Rappahannock Rivers, Virginia, Delaware, Albemarle Sound were among the places at which, or near to which, Scotch colonies settled whose history is really an interesting part of that early Commonwealths.

In the State of New York there were many such colonies and one in particular deserves notice for the publicity it received at the time, and the scandal it created among the local politicians. In 1738 Captain Laughlin Campbell, an Argyllshire man, sold off his Scotch estate and expended the proceeds in conveying across the Atlantic eighty-three families from his own countryside. He had obtained a grant of 47,450 acres in what is now Washington County, on the borders of Lake George, and proposed to settle down there as a feudal baron, with his retainers around him. Many of the emigrants were indebted to him for the entire cost of their passage; all were his debtors to a greater or less extent, and the people, numbering some 500, were to recoup him by their labor after settling in America. His means were practically exhausted after bringing that host across the sea, and his indignation and sorrow many be imagined when, after landing, some of them refused to settle on his lands. They would pay what they owed him as soon as they earned any surplus, but they intended to earn that surplus in their own way and asserted that they had no idea, when they left Scotland, of simply exchanging a system of vassalage from Scotch landlords to one in America. It was a terrible, an unexpected muddle. The Colonial Assembly interfered. The Governor, George Clarke, asked that some provision be made for those who were penniless, which seems to have been the whole lot, and a motion was made todonate 7 to each family to start them in their new career. The contracts Campbell had made with the Colonial authorities and with his people were perfectly legal, and after considerable bickering and argument all around, his party or most of them reached Washington County and settled down on the tract which had been awarded to their leader. There they experienced the hardships which are the usual accompaniments of pioneer life. But the majority appear to ave overcome these hardships and to have succeeded fairly well in bettering their condition." "By this immigration," writes Mr. Ellis H. Roberts in his "History of New York," "the province secured a much-needed  addition to its population, and these Highlanders must have sent messages home not altogether unfavorable, for they were the pioneers of a multitide whose coming in successive years was to add strength and thrift and intelligence beyond the ratio of their numbers to the communities in which they set up their homes." However the others may have fared, Captain Campbell was ruined by the scheme, and we cannot say that we feel even a sentiment of regret over his misfortune, for his policy was dictated by selfishness from first to last. The tract on which these Highlanders settled was named by them Argyle, and when it was incorporated in 1764 with Duncan Reid, Neil Shaw, Alexander McNachten, and Neil Gillespie as trustees, they had begun to have high notions as to its future. They drew up a plan on paper -- thus showing that they had become thoroughly Americanized -- of the town, and its principal avenue was there seen to be a broad thoroughfare called The Street and extending in a fairly straight line for seven miles. They divided their property into city lots and farm lots, and, apparently, hoped to get rich quickly; but their hopes did not materialize, and Argyle, North Argyle, and South Argyle, populated by Livingstones, Campbells, Gillies, McRaes, and others of such patronymics still retain to this day much of their original and delightful rural simplicity.

Quite a Scotch colony settled at one time, too, in what is now Putnam Country, N.Y. The town of Patterson was mostly settled by Scotch and New England Presbyterians before 1750. The town got its name from Matthew Patterson, a Scotch mason who settled in New York several years before the Revolution. As a Captain of volunteers he served under General Abercrombie in the northern campaign against the French troops. At the Revolution he took the side of the Colonial Whigs, and was much respected for his honesty and superior intelligence. He was nine times elected a member of the New York Legislature, and was nine years a County Judge. He purchased 160 acres of land, which had belonged to the Beverly Robinson forfeited estate, and on this he erected a mansion which was long the most prominent in Patterson.

The names of the Scottish families which settled in the place were McLean, Grant, Fraser, and Fleming; and there was a Capt. Kidd -- no relation, however, of the pirate of the same name we have already spoken about. Several fugitives from the massacre of Wyoming, made classic by the genius of Campbell, found refuge and homes in Dutchess County; and among the number was a Scotch family of the name Stark.

We would like to refer to other colonies, notably that of Glengarry in Ontario, but that, and such settlements as those at Pictou, Antigonish, and others all over the Lower Provinces would require a volume to themselves. As this work is indicative rather than exhaustive we have said enough for the present to show the existence of such colonies, while several others will be mentioned in connection with various matters during the course of our present study. We will therefore devote the remainder of this chapter mainly to recalling the experiences and adventures of a few individuals who may be regarded as representative of the grand army of pioneers.

In the last decade of the eighteenth century no man was better known throughout Western New York for his success and energy as a promoter and pioneer than Chalres Williamson. He was born at Edinburgh in 1757 and was the scion of a respectable Dumfries-shire family. In early life he held a commission in the British Army, and it was in the course of his military duty that he first crossed the ocean to visit America. He landed at Boston, however, as a prisoner of war, the vessel on which he was a passenger having been captured by a French privateer. While on parole in Boston he fell in love with the young daughter of the family with whom he boarded -- or she fell in love with him -- and when he obtained his release the two were married under what some people might think romantic circumstances. The pair left the country in 1781, and for several years resided at Balgray, Scotland. In 1790 he returned to this country as the principal agent of what was known as the Pulteney estate, from the name of Sir William Pulteney, the leading spirit of a British syndicate which had purchased a tract of 1,200,000 acres of land in Western New York for colonization purposes from Robert Morris, the representative of the United States Government. This property included mainly what is now Steuben County, and, although Sir William Pulteney was nominally the head of the syndicate and another Englishman, John Hornby, was a leading shareholder, its moving spirit was Patrick Colquhoun. This notable Scot was born in Dumbarton in 1745 and was a cadet of the family of Luss. When a youth he was sent to Virginia, and there he engaged in business and was very successful during the few years of his sojourn. In 1766 he left the country and settled in Glasgow, where he soon became one of the most noted local figures. He was three times elected its Lord Provost, organized the city's Chamber of Commerce and obtained a royal charter for it, and was generally regarded as the most influential of its citizens. In 1789 he moved to London, became one of the Police Magistrates of the British metropolis, and distinguished himself by his untiring energy in that capacity, by this plans for the protection of the property in the city and on the Thames, as well as by his writings on police, indigence, and other practical social questions. He died in 1820, and like so many other kindly Scots at all times, bequeathed a part of his accumulated savings to help the poor of his native parish, that of Dumbarton. Colquhoun retained during his long career a deep interest in America andf was one of the most enthusiastic believers in its future greatness and importance. His residence in Virginia and the share he took in developing the Pulteney syndicate are sufficient to account for and illustrate this, but there were probably other ways now forgotten in which his actions commended him to the good will of many in America. How otherwise can we account for the presence of a marble memorial tablet, bearing a long, biographical and highly flattering inscription, in one of the churches at Canandaigua? It was erected there soon after Colquhoun's death, in 1820, and was removed, for some unknown reason, and by ignoble hands, about 1880.

It was undoubtedly through Colquhoun that Williamson received the appointment to take charge of the lands of the Pulteney syndicate. He arrived at Norfolk, Va., in 1791 and spent the Winter of that year mainly in Pennsylvania. But while resting he was conceiving schemes for the future management of the property intrusted to him, and on a flying visit which he paid to the land in midwinter he located the site of a future town which was to bear his name -- and still bears it, although its intended greatness has not yet materialized. He also became a citizen and received a deed of the lands of the syndicate, as the law did not permit aliens to own real estate in New York. Next Spring, 1792, he entered on his duties in earnest and soon had "things hummin'," as the Yankees say. The property was quickly surveyed and improvements begun. He opened roads, built bridges, laid out farms, erected schoolhouses and hotels, and, more important than all, had the tract widely talked about and induced intending settlers to visit the territory and buy or lease its lands. His greatest energy was devoted, however, to the town of Bath, named after Lady Bath, the only daughter of Sir William Pulteney, which he founded in 1793. It was to be a metropolitan city, and he hustled to make it great. It had a newspaper, the theatre, a racecourse, and for a time, was the centre of a great amount of business, of real estate speculation, and of schemes of all sorts. Naturally all that attracted crowds to the place, and its population increased; but the throng was mainly composed of speculators, gamblers, and adventurers of various sorts -- hardly the sort of people to give a settlement any permanence. But while the boom lasted, Bath enjoyed the luxury of indulging in hopes of a glorious future, and every month seemed to add to Capt. Williamson's importance, while the members of the syndicate in London, when they looked at the neat maps of the estate and the extensive plan of the City of Bath, had visions of unexampled wealth lying in their coffers. Williamson was elected to the State Legislature, was appointed a Judge, had Steuben County created, and was its representative in the Assembly, and became Colonel of the local militia. He had a large establishment, kept open house, and entertained lavishly. Among his other guests were the Duke de la Rochefoucault and his suite, and that nobleman afterward wrote an interesting account of his sojourn in the collection of small houses which formed the Williamson home, and which had been built from time to time, just as increased accommodation was required. Afterward Williamson erected for himself a stately mansion, which was long the most imposing private residence in the county. Williamson's schemes and plans would certainly have had wonderful results had he been allowed to carry them on in his own way. But his doings were on an extravagant and costly scale, and as no dividends were being remitted to London, the syndicate became restive. All retired, selling their interests to Pulteney, and that capitalist in 1800 revoked Williamson's appointment. The latter remained in Steuben for a few years, attending to his own affairs and seeing the work he had inaugurated and so hopefully developed gradually falling into a state of decay. Domestic troubles helped to make his position additionally embarrassing and his prospects more gloomy, and in 1806 he went back to Scotland. Two years later he got an appointment from the British Government in connection with the Island of Jamaica, and while on the journey there died of yellow fever at New Orleans, in September, 1808.

Bath soon fell into decay and never regained its prominence, nor did much success attend the town of Williamson, or that of Cameron, which latter was founded not far away and about the same time by Dugald Cameron, who accompanied Williamson from Scotland to help him in the work of the agency. But if the Scotch people did not found towns very successfully, they gave to the county a race of settlers who, to the present day, are proud of their ancestry and have developed the agricultural resources of Steuben to their fullest extent.

It must not be inferred from the failure of Williamson's schemes that either his judgment or methods were at fault. The trouble lay simply in the impatience of the people at headquarters, who expected an immediate profit upon their capital. Nor are Scotsmen to be regarded as failures in respect to town founding in America. Half of the towns in Canada, the centres which are the marts of the country, were founded by Scotsmen, and, indeed, to the present day are controlled by people whose boast is that they are either native-born Scotch or of Scotch descent. The City of Chicago was really founded by John Kinzie, an Indian trader and agent, the son of a Scotsman, John McKenzie, althought he name got twisted round a little to suit the people who could not catch hold of the grand old Scotch name, just as a well-known New York clergyman whose name was Menzies whe he landed, and pronounced it like a true Scot "Meengies," found himself so often addressed as Mingins that he was forced to adopt that very peculiar modification of an old Celtic name. Kinzie was born at Quebec in 1763, and died in the city he had founded in 1828, probably without much idea of its ultimate greatness. Another example of a prosperous American town founded by a Scot is Paterson, N. J., which owed its origin to the public spirit of Alexander Hamilton, Washington' Secretary of the Treasury, and until the present day its Scottish residents have been regarded as among its most representative citizens.

An instance of a pioneer in humble life, although a pioneer very much against his will, is that of Peter Williamson, a sort of universal genius, who acquired more than local fame by being the first to introduce the penny post into Edinburgh and more than fleeting reputation by having his portrait done by Kay, the Edinburgh engraver and miniature painter, and included in the published collection of that noted caricaturists's works. From that wonderful storehouse of quaint information we learn that Williamson, who was a native of the Parish of Aboyne, was kidnapped in Aberdeen when only eight years of age. The ship a month later started on a voyage to America, when Williamson and some other young unfortunates were permitted to go on deck and assigned to various duties. The ship was wrecked off Cape May, but no lives were lost, and the crew camped in the woods for three weeks, when the kidnapped lads were taken to Philadelphia and sold for 16 a head. Williamson's master appears to have been a rather kindhearted sort of fellow, and he made his bondsman as comfortable as possible. He died, however, when Williamson was seventeen years of age, leaving him 120 in cash, a horse, and other valuables, For seven years more Williamson worked wherever he could find employment, being his own master, and managed to save a little money. Then he determined to settle down for life, and, marrying the daughter of a planter, received with her a gift of a farm of some 200 acres on the Pennsylvania frontier. His troubles then began.

It was not long after he had gotten fairly settled down that one evening, his wife being absent, making a call, he heard the terrible Indian war whoop, and soon his house was surrounded and he was forced to surrender to the savages. After they had destroyed his buildings and stock they carried him off with them on their march of destruction. They committed many fiendish cruelties as they proceeded, burning and destroying all they could not take away, murdering without scruple, and carrying into captivity a few unfortunates who took their fancy, principally as fit subjects of torture. Williamson's treatment was something terrible even to read about, and he appears to have been the most gently handled of the lot. They tied him so tightly to trees that the blood oozed from his finger nails; they applied burning faggots to various parts of his body, threw tomahawks at him, beat him unmercifully, forced him to carry the heaviest possible loads, starved him, and to put it mildly, made him emphatically decide that life really was not worth living. After several months of this sort of pioneering, Williamson managed to make his escape, and at the close of a series of startling adventures reached his father-in-law's house, only to find that his wife had died shortly after his capture. For three years Williamson served with the military forces of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, repaying the Indians with interest for what he had suffered, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant in the army by his bravery and success as an Indian fighter. This pleasant occupation was stopped at length by his capture by the French. On being released he was taken to Plymouth, England, and beng there found unfit for further service, was graciously discharged from His Majesty's service with six shillings in his pocket. His after career in his native land was full of startling incidents, but they do not concern us here. He died at Edinburgh, in poor circumstances, in 1799.]

Some people might deny that Williamson was exactly a pioneer, as he did not betake himself to open up new fields, or of his own volition went into sections of the country which, prior to his time, had not been under the observation or the sway of white men. But he was there, nevertheless, and his experiences and observations were of value in the struggle for possession then going on. If we turn, however, to the careers of such men as Donald Mackenzie or Robert Stuart, we will meet with pioneers whose claim to the title not even the most fastidious in the choice of words and terms will affect to deny. A great deal of the adventures of these two men and of several other Scotch prioneers, is to be found in Washington Irving's delightful work, "Astoria," which possibly presents a more graphic and truthful decription of old American frontier life than any other volume. Donald Mackenzie was born in Scotland in 1783, spent his early manhood in the service of the Northwest Company, and became one of the partners in Astor's American Fur Company, mainly because promotion in the other concern was slow, and under new conditions and auspices he saw a chance of bettering his prospects. Like most of the other Scots who joined Mr. Astor as partners of the new company, he apprehended that he might be called upon to take part in opposition to his own countrymen, but the fact that the British Minister to the United States, to whom the whole matter had been privately submitted by two of the Scotch partners, saw no reason why men owning allegiance to the British flag should not take part in an American expedition to trade in a territory which was at that time no-man's land, quieted his scruples, as it did that of the others. Irving tells us that prior to joining the Astor Company, Mackenzie "had been ten years in the interior in the service of the Northwest Company and valued himself on his knowedge of 'woodcraft' and the strategy of Indian trade and Indian warfare. He had a frame seasoned to toils and hardships, a spirit not to be intimidated, and was reputed to be a remarkable shot, which of itself was sufficient to give him renown on the frontier." His adventures are fully related in the pages of "Astoria," and, indeed, if the doings of Stuart, Mackenzie, Mackay, and other Scots were taken out of that book, its subject matter would occupy ony a few pages. Mackenzie seems to have been intended by nature for a pioneer. His soul revelled in the trackless woods; he knew no sense of fatigue or fear, was perfectly happy with each day's work, had no care for the future, took a delight in getting the best of the Indians in any transaction, warlike or peaceful; was always ready for any expedition, no matter how hopeless it seemed, and had that degree of chivalrous daring which was most likely to inspire admiration in the hearts of friends and foes alike. An instance is given so graphically in Irving's narrative that we cannot forbear quoting ithere, although that volume is happily still widely read. A rifle belonging to one of Mackenzie's associates was held as a trophy in an Indian village after its owner had fallen into the hands of the redskins. Being near that same village with a small party, Mackenzie determined to make an attempt to recover the rifle, and along with two of his men, who volunteered to accompany him, started on his dangerous mission. "The trio," wrote Iriving, "soon reached the opposite side of the river. On landing, they freshly primed their rifles and pistols. A path, winding for about a hundred yards among rocks and crags, led to the village. No notice seemed to be taken of their approach. Not a solitary being -- man, woman, or child -- greeted them. The very dogs, those noisy pests of an Indian town, kept silence. On entering the village, a boy made his appearance and pointed to a house of larger dimensions than the rest. They had to stoop to enter it. As soon as they had passed the threshold, the narrow passage behind them was filled up by a sudden rush of Indians, who had before kept out of sight. Mackenzie and his companions found themselves in a rude chamber of about twenty-five feet in length and twenty in width. A bright fire was blazing at one end, near which sat the chief, about sixty years old. A large number of Indians, wrapped in buffalo robes, were squatted in rows, three deep, forming a semi-circle round three sides of the room. A single glance sufficed to show them the grim and dangerous assembly into which they had intruded, and that all retreat was cut off by the mass which blocked up the entrance. The chief pointed to the vacant side of the room, opposite the door, and motioned for them to take their seats. They complied. A dead pause ensued. The grim warriors around sat like statues, each muffled in his robe, with his fierce eyes bent on the intruders. The latter felt they were in a perilous predicament. 'Keep your eyes on the chief while I am addressing him,' said Mackenzie to his companions. 'Should he give any sign to his band, shoot him and make for the door.' Mackenzie advanced and offered the pipe of peach to the chief, but it was refused. He then made a regular speech, explaining the object of their visit and proposing to give in exchange for the rifle two blankets, an axe, some beads, and tobacco. When he had done the chief arose, began to address him in a low tone, but soon became loud and violent, and ended by working himself up into a furious passion. He upbraided the white men for their sordid conduct in passing and repassing through their neighborhood without giving them a blanket or any other article of goods merely because they had no furs to barter in exchange, and he alluded with menaces of vengeance to the death of the Indian killed by the whites in the skirmish at the falls. Matters were now verging to a crisis. It was evident the surrounding savages were only waiting a signal from the chief to rush on their prey. Mackenzie and his companions had gradually risen to their feet during the speech, and had brought their rifles to a horizontal position, the barrels resting in their left hands; the muzzle of Mackenzie's piece was within three feet of the speaker's heart. They cocked their rifles; the click of the locks for a moment suffused the dark cheek of the savage, and there was a pause. They coolly but promptly advanced to the door; the Indians fell back in awe and suffered them to pass. The sun was just setting as they emerged from the dangerous den. They took the precaution to keep along the tops of the rocks as much as possible on their way back to the canoe and reached the camp in safety, congratulating themselves on their escape and feeling to desire to make a second visit to the grim warriors of Wish-ram."

After a life of such adventure it is wonderful to record that Mackenzie spend a short season of repose before he died at Maysville, N. Y., in 1851.

Stuart was a man much superior, intellectually, to Mackenzie, although he had all his qualities of hardihood, daring, and an equal experience of frontier life. He was born at Callander in 1785, a scion of one of the recognized septs of the Stuarts, and the grandson of Alexander Stuart, Rob Roy's most bitter enemy. He crossed the Atlantic in 1806. Irving describes him as "an easy soul and of a social disposition. He had seen life in Canada and on the coast of Labrador; had been a fur trader in the former and a fisherman on the latter, and in the course of his experiences had made various expeditions with voyageurs. He was accustomed, therefore, to the familiarity which prevails between that class and their superiors, and the gossipings which take place among them when seated round a fire at their encampments.Stuart was never so happy as when he could seat himself on the deck with a number of these men around him in camping style, smoke together, passing the pipe from mouth to mouth, after the manner of the Indians; sing old Canadian boat songs, and tell stories about their hardships and adventures, in the course of which he rivalled Sinbad in his long tales of the sea, about his fishing exploits off Labrador." This personage occupies a very prominent position throughout the volume on Astoria, and, indeed, he was one of Mr. Astor's must trusted partners in that expedition. Particular care is devoted to relate his memorable journey across the continent -- he was the third to attempt such a task -- which lasted from June, 1812, until the middle of the following year. For the details of this journey the inquirer cannot do better than study the pages of Irving's book, and there he will find much additional information about Scottish and other pioneers connected with early Oregon.

In 1819, Stuart left Oregon and settled at Mackinaw, Mich., where he continued to act as a fur trader and was appointed by the Federal Government Commissioner for the Indian tribes of the Northwest. In 1834 he settled in Detroit, and among other important offices, served as Treasurer of Michigan. His honesty was of the most scrupulous order, and when he died, at Chicago, in 1848, his loss was regretted by the Indian tribes over whom he had exercised authority, for they recognized in him a true friend, one whose word was his bond, and a man who was ever ready to further their welfare. Such a man deserves to be held in kindly remembrance. He was faithful to every trust imposed upon him. Whatever duty was intrusted to him was well done. His whole life had all the elements of romance, but its entire series of events were always controlled by some useful, practical purpose and of direct benefit to the country of which he became a citizen. His devotion to the land of his adoption was reproduced in the career of his son, David, who was born at Brooklyn in 1816. Educated as a lawyer, he became very popular in public life and served in Congress, as one of the Representatives of Michigan, from December, 1853, to March, 1855. Then he removed to Chicago to become attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad. In 1861, when the war broke out, he went to the front as Colonel of the Fifty-fifth Illinois Infantry, and commanded a brigade under Sherman. After being wounded at Shiloh, he was laid aside from military service for a while, but soon returned to active duty, and, being appointed a Brigadier General of Volunteers, performed brilliant service at Corinth and other places. At that time, however, political feeling ran high, and being Democrat, Congress failed to confirm his appointment, so he retired from the army and resumed the practice of law at Detroit. He died there in 1868.

The Scotch pioneer may be divided into three classes -- those whose efforts were directed to wholesale colonizing, those who braved the dangers and discomforts of the new land as individual settlers, and those who were simply explorers. In the first of these classes, a most noted figure is that of Lord Daer whose only title to remembrance, or immortality, as some would say, lies in the fact that he invited Robert Burns to dinner, and that the latter wrote a poem about it. Lord Selkirk was born in 1771, and in 1799 succeeded to his ancestral title and estates. Like nearly all the rest of his family, he was possessed of much public spirit. He visited America in 1802-3, and was so struck by the benefits which were likely to accrue to his countrymen through organized immigration that throughout his career he never ceased to advocate all measures tending to promote the settlement in Canada of Scotch colonies. His appearance while traveling in America is thus described in a letter written by Mrs. Thomas Morris: "I recollect a short visit from Prince Ruspoli, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, and in a few days from Lord Selkirk on his journey to visit a settlement he was forming in Canada -- far to the north. He struck me as a reserved, diffident young man, almost austere in his dress, with heavy, dusty shoes tied with leather thongs; but then, to support his aristocratic pretenses, he had a dandy servant, who laid out his toilet like a lady's." His first experience as a colonizer, in Prince Edward Island, was very encouraging. In the history of that island by the late Duncan Campbell, we read: "The Earl of Selkirk brought out to his property about 800 souls. They were located on land north and south of Point Prim, which had been previously occupied by French settlers, but a large portion of which was now again covered with wood and thus rendered difficult cultivation. Many of His Lordship's tenants became successful settlers." He also settled a colony in Kent, Ontario, which proved very prosperous.

But the settlement by which Lord Selkirk is best remembered in the annals of Canada is that of the Red River colony, in what is now the Province of Manitoba. While residing in Montreal he heard many stories of the wonderful fertility of the Northwest, and saw in that section an unlimited field for settlement. He bought largely of the stock of the Hudson Bay Company, and through the influence he thus acquired, he was enabled to induce that corporation to sell him a vast tract of land in the Red River Valley in 1811. The lands were fertile and eminently suited for an agricultural community. Nature had done everything possible to aid man to reap a rich harvest from the soil, and even the severity of the Winters had their advantages. The settlers, mainly from Kildonan, Sutherlandshire, arrived in the Fall of 1812, and were given holdings around Fort Garry -- the site of which is now included in the thriving City of Winnipeg. It was a wild time. The rivalries of the different fur-trading companies often culminated in a fight in the settlement, and the Indians harassed the colonists' lives and destroyed their crops. The first Winter's experience disheartened many, and a memorable march was made by the faint-hearted ones back to civilization. Those who remained encountered many misfortunes and disasters, and we read that in a battle in June, 1819 -- the battle of Seven Oaks -- twenty of the colonists lost their lives. Then they had to abandon their holdings and were reduced to terrible straits. The Earl returned to America in 1817 and, learning of the troubles in the Red River Valley, started there with a small but sufficient force to re-establish his authority. This was successful, life and property were rendered safe, and the last vestige of the Indian claims on the lands was removed by a solemn treaty with the chiefs of the Salteaux and Cree tribes. Lord Selkirk died at Paris in 1821, and in 1836 the Hudson Bay Company repurchased the lands from his heirs for 84,000. >From 1817, however, Manitoba gradually advanced in population and importance, not by any "boom," but slowly and surely, and to-day it is one of the most progressive of the provinces in the Canadian federation. In its entire history Scotsmen crop out in every page and predominate in all the commercial, financial, manufacturing, mining, educational, legislative, and other interests over those of all other nationalities.

The Mackenzie River, one of the great waterways of Northwestern Canada -- a navigable stream for over 800 miles from the Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean -- takes its name along with the name of the bay at its mouth from its discoverer, Sir Alexander Mackenzie. This indefatigable traveler was a native on Inverness, where he was born in 1755. He was a merchant in Canada,  and after he became connected with the Northwest Fur Company, was able to indulge in his desire for exploration. He traveled through the entire Northwest, penetrating over the Rockies to the Pacific, and told the story of his adventures and discovereis, notably that of the Mackenzie River, in 1789, in a modest sort of way in a work he published in 1801. In the following year he was knighted. Another Canadian merchant who became an explorer was Duncan McTavish, a native of Strathherrick, Inverness-shire. For twenty-four years he traveled through the Northwest in furtherance of the interests of the Northwest Company. He managed to win the entire confidence of the Indians, among whom his business transactions chiefly lay. While engaged in this service he anticipated on of the purposes of the Canadian Pacific Railway by conceiving the idea that the natural course of trade between the Orient and Europe was through Canada, and it was while making explorations with a view to mapping out a route for this trade that he was drowned, with six companions, near Cape Disappointment, on the Northern Pacific Ocean, in 1815. The name of McTavish has been a prominent one in the history of the far Western Provinces of Canada. John George McTavish, one of the partners of the Northwest Company, was conqueror at Astoria when that port had to be abandoned, and dictated the terms of surrender, although he did it on a liberal and honorable basis. Another of the same sept, William McTavish, who left Scotland in 1833 and entered the Hudson Bay Company as a clerk, became its chief factor in 1852. Afterward, as Governor of Assinboia and of Rupert's Land, he did much good work by the introduction of law and order into those then wild territories. He died in Liverpool, while on a European trip in search of health, in 1872.

Among the thousands of Scotsmen whose labors and enterprise made the Hudson Bay Company as important as it was to the early discovery and development of Canada, and its dividends so satisfactory to the pockets of its stockholders, none held a higher place or did more good work than George Simpson. He was a native of Lochbroom, Ross-shire, and commenced his business career as a clerk in a merchant's office in London. He there attracted the attention of Lord Selfirk, and through that nobleman's interest got an appointment in the service of the Hudson Bay Company. Early in 1820 Simpson sailed for Canada, and almost as soon as he reached Montreal started off to his post of duty in the then unknown lands around Lake Athabasca. His first Winter there was one of great privation, but he liked the work and saw in it an opportunity for a prosperous future. At that time the rivalry between the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company was at its height, but Simpson acted with such energy that when, in 1821, the rivals pooled their issues, he was appointed Governor of one of the departments. Indeed, it is asserted on good grounds that it was at his suggestion and through his diplomacy that the coalition of the rival companies was effected. Subsequently he was appointed Governor or Rupert's Land and  General Superintendent of the Hudson Bay Company's affairs. It was while holding these responsible positions that he promoted those schemes of discovery by which his name is most generally recalled. Under his direction most of the Arctic coast was surveyed and his liberality, his apparently intuitive estimate of the capabillities of the men he employed, or was associated with, or called to his assistance, and his good judgment in planning the various expeditions he fitted out were rewarded with knighthood in 1841. In that year he made a tour round the world, an account of which he afterward published in two handsome volumes. Sir Geroge's closing years were spent at Lachine, near Montreal, and he took a leading part in financial affairs in that city. His hospitality was unbounded, and only a few days before his death, in 1860, he entertained the Prince of Wales in a manner befitting the heir to the British throne.

This representative Scot had a brother, Alexander Simpson, who was a trusted official of the Hudson Bay Company, was for a long time afterward British Consul at Hawaii, and enriched the literature of travel by the compilation of several volumes descriptive of places he had seen. The intellectual genius of the family, however, was Thomas Simpson, a cousin of the two already mentioned. He was born at Dingwall in 1808, and had a brilliant career at Aberdeen Unviersity, where he won, among other honors, the Huttonian Prize. On completing his studies, he went to Canada and entered the service of the Hudson Company. His immediate work seems to have been more scientific than commercial, however, and in 1836 he was placed in command of an expedition which succeeded in tracing the coast line from the mouith of the Mackenzie River to Point Barrow, and from the mouth of Coppermine River to the Gulf of Boothis. This expedition occupied over three years, and it was while returning from it, in 1840, that he was murdered by some Indians near Turtle River. He claimed in some of his memoranda and letters to have discovered a clear water passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and his claim was well founded, although the passage has been of no service to commerce. The dream of most of these Scotch explorers was to find a way for opening up a direct trade with India and China, either through Canada or by water. At that time railroads were still in the stages of early experiment, and a practical waterway would have settled the question, while a route across the continent would have been more difficult, and as tedious and costly as the long voyage around the Cape, which it was hoped to avoid. Nowadays the Suez Canal and the transcontinental railroad systems have brought the East very much nearer to the commercial centres of Europe and taken all the practical interest out of the once burning question of a Northwest passage.

Another name connected with the New Canada is that of Sir James Douglas, who passed away at Victoria, British Columbia, in 1877. He was born in Demerara, British Guiana, of Scotch parents. His father died when James was a lad, and he went with an elder brother to Canada. There he entred the service of the Northwest Company and was soon recognized as one of tis most adventurous and indomitable agents. When that company consolidated with its great rival he was advanced to the dignity of chief factor. In that capacity he visited even the most distant and outlying posts of the company and became as well acquainted with the "primeval forests and everlasting hills" as the Indians themselves. His adventures were many and dangerous. Once, for instance, he was kept a close prisoner for six weeks by some Indians, and was so long prevented from reporting his whereabouts that he was supposed to have been killed by the red men, or to have died in the bush. In 1833 he became chief agent of the region west of the Rocky Mountains, and in 1851 was made Governor of the infant colony of Vancouver. In 1859, when Vancouver was made a Crown colony, he was appointed its Chief Executive by the Government, and made a Companion of the Bath. In 1863 he received the honor of knighthood, and a year later retired to private life to enjoy a few years of well-earned rest before answering to the last great call -- the call that summons all men.

We have said that one of Sir George Simpson's qualifications as a successful administrator lay in his abililty to judge of the capacity of the men over whom he had control. An instance of this is given in the career of one of his most trusted associates, that of Robert Campbell, who died in WInnipeg in 1890, at the ripe old age of eighty-six. Few adventurers attain such wealth of years, but it is noticeable of the Scotch pioneers in the Canadian Northwest that they were a long-lived race, in spite of the hardships and privations and dangers through which they passed. Campbell was born in Perthshire and worked on his father's farm until his twenty-second year, when he entered the Hudson Bay Company's service. One of his first duties was to take part in an expedition to Kentucky to purchase a lot of sheep and convey them into the company's territory. The journey from Kentucky to Canada with the animals was a long and tedious one, and most of them died on the way. It was the result of his experiences on this trip that induced Campbell, long afterward, to import to Manitoba West Highland cattle, a breed which is better adapted for standing the climate than any other. In 1834 he became attached to the agency at Fort Simpson, and showed his mettle by volunteering to establish a post on Dease's Lake, a position of great danger, as the Indians there were in the service of Russian traders and bitterly opposed to the incursions of the British adventurers. He held his position there in spite of jealousies and dangers, and made it fairly remunerative.

Enough has been said to show the pioneer services of the Scottish race, and we leave that branch of our subject here, although it might be extended almost indefinitely. Such names as those we have dwelt upon, and hundreds of others that might be mentioned, are really part and parcel of the history of the Northwestern provinces, and when that history comes to be fittingly written, the names of these Scotch pioneers, traders, and merchants will certainly, if the history be an honest one, receive due and deserved prominence. Nor is the race extinct even yet. The pioneers are no longer fur traders, but Government surveyors, and year after year the immense territory to the north of the settled strip along the great lakes is being made known to the world by a number of hardy scientists, and such names among them as Gordon, Ogilvie, Ross, Robertson, and McLatchie are sufficiently indicative that Scotland is still to the front in bringing a knowledge of the resources of Canada to the civilized world. It was one of these pioneers, Andrew R. Gordon, a native of Aberdeen, who first demonstrated the advisability of a railroad connection between Winnipeg and Hudson's Bay, and when his plans are carried out, as they are certain sooner or later to be, Manitoba will be in direct, cheap, and comparatively easy communication with Europe for at least six months in each year, while Winnipeg will rival Glasgow as a commercial centre.

Nor is the spirit of colonizing yet dead. It is still helping to people Manitoba and other new Canadian provinces, and every now and again we hear of fresh colonies arriving from the old land and settling down on the far West in this country as well as in Canada, and even in some of the Southern States. Sometimes such colonies turn out disastrously, as did one or two that settled a few years ago in North Carolina, mainly because they were badly managed and because the ground selected was unfitted for cultivation. In short, the colonies failed because the colonists were the victims of land sharks, and had not taken the precaution of fully acquainting themselves with all the facts in the case. But such failures are exceptions, and these colonies are generally successful, even when they cast their lot in some of the older portions of the continent. In 1873 a colony was settled in Victoria County, New Brunswick, certainly not a part of Canada which is very extensively "boomed" for its fertility or its future. A recent visitor to the settlement writes: "The colony was organized by a Capt. Brown, belonging to Kincardineshire, who brought the people over in the Castilia, a steamer of which he was commander. A large proportion of these colonists were from the Mearns, some from Aberdeen, Montrose, Forfar, Kirriemuir, and Glasgow. One man, I found, was from Inverarity, and his wife from Dundee. This lady told me she had been born and brought up in Dundee, but had never been down the length of the [Broughty] Ferry. Those who have been most successful and are the most contented are those who have been at farm service in the Old Country. Here, they say, they enjoy a degree of independence, comfort, and style of living which they never could have attained at home."

Thus, among the pioneers of the American Continent, in all classes, dignified and humble, we find the Scot holding a position which is everywhere honorable to his nationality and helpful to the continent itself. His efforts have ever been on the side of law and order, have ever been on conservative lines, and have been accomplished with a disregard of personal danger worthy of the representative of a nation whose struggle for civil and religious freedom has made personal heroism to be accepted by the world as one of the most noted characteristics of the race.


Return to Book Index Page

privacy policy