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Fraser's Scottish Annual
A Scotsman in Early Canada


By James Bain Jr, Toronto

The CHANGED conditions which existed in the Highlands of Scotland after Culloden forced many of the inhabitants to look abroad for new homes. Poverty stricken landlords, coal tax, salt tax, and many other burdens were resting heavy on the people. The reports which had been received from the new settlements in New York State, the Carolinas, and also Georgia, had been favorable, and undoubtedly a considerable emigration would have flowed into the colonies if the revolutionary war had not broken out. The same spirit of loyalty, however, which led them to follow Prince Charlie, turned them from the now United States. The letters of those who had followed the British flag to take up their residence in the newly explored lands of Canada diverted attention in that direction, supplemented as they were by the stories of many a returned Highland soldier. With characteristic Scottish caution, however, Scotsmen were for many years in the habit of coming to spy out the land and report upon its possibilities and capabilities for settlement, and among the earliest was a Mr. Campbell. From the title page of his book, which was published in Edinburgh in 1793, we glean no information about him, except that his Christian name commenced with S., but from conversations reported in the text we gather that he had been in charge of the deer forest of Mamlorn, and that he had given up his position owing to some misunderstanding with the steward.

"I betook myself to farming, trading a little by sea and land, by which I made out so well as now to be enabled to give up all business and gratify a passion for travelling." A Scotsman of Scotsmen, he marks his journey by the distance from one Scotsman's home to another, he is of the opinion that if the revolutionary war had been managed by Scotsmen, the result would have been different. All the English generals failed, and the only successful officers were Sir Archibald Campbell, Generals Campbell and M'Lean.

"Does it not verify what the great Lord Chatham said, 'That he sought for merit everywhere, and found it in the healthy mountains of the North?'" "'Tis a barren clime, but breeds a generous race." A casual allusion gives us a hint as to his religious views. When passing a Quaker settlement, he says: ''I suppose their religious tenets, in point of morality and decency, to be the best in the world, and they in that respect come nearer the Scotch Presbyterians than any other class of men whatever."

The start was made on June 11th, 1791, from Fort William, arriving at Greenock on 18th, where he took passage in the brig Argyle for New Brunswick. The ship sailed on the 21d of July, but meeting with a severe storm off the Mull of Kintyre, was forced to return to the Fairly roads until the 8th. It was not till the 27th of August that the traveller reached St. John's, after what he calls a fine passage of fifty-six days.

The St. John's of that day "was well planned;" the streets cut at right angles but from the unevenness and raggedness of the sloping ground on which it is built, does not appear regular to the eye. It consists of about five hundred houses, all of timber, well painted. They have a neat appearance, and some of them even elegant; generally consisting of two stories high. The shops, stores and wharfs, numerous and commodious. They have two churches, also of wood, the largest not yet finished but when it is, may contain a numerous congregation; and so well painted on the outside is this church that, without strict examination, any spectator would conclude it to be built of stone and lime." The fishing everywhere interests him, and he invariably devotes a considerable space to a description of the fish and methods of fishing, and the prospects of foreign markets. The St. John's river had been settled but a few years before by loyalists, and his first inland journey was up this river, stopping each night at a settler's house, who all appear to have been men of a superior class. Everywhere he goes he appears to meet Highlanders in well-to-do circumstances, and among others his relative, Lieutenant Dugald Campbell. He learns of a large settlement of Highlanders on Nashwack, and that they it were in many respects not a whit better than the real Indians that they would set out in the dead of winter, with their guns and dogs; travel into the deep recesses of distant forests, continue there two or three weeks at atune, sleeping at night in the snow, and in the open air and return with sleas loaded with venison yet withal, were acknowledged to be the most prudent and industrious farmers in all this province of New Brunswick, and lived most easy and independent."

Reaching this settlement he spent some time visiting from house to house, where he was received with Highland hospitality, in shooting and fishing, and examining the lands, of which he speaks enthusiastically. As an extreme example of the abundance of fish, he says that Captain Symon told him that three Frenchmen enspeared seven hundred salmon in one night. The Nashwack settlement was largely formed from the 42nd regiment, and the "'greatest want, and what they complained most of, was women for their young men, they begged of me to recommend some hundred of them to come, and that they would engage that they should all get husbands, or masters, before they should be three weeks in the country." The last settler on the river was Angus Macintosh, ''a very decent man, originally from Inverness, and a sergeant in the 71st regiment. His wife told me they had every necessary of life in abundance on their own property, but there was one thing which she wished much to have that was heather. And as she had heard there was an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence opposite to the mouth of the Mirimashee river, where it grew, and as she understood I was going that way, she earnestly entreated I would bring her two or three stalks, or cows, as she-called it, which she would plant on a barren brae behind her house, where she supposed it would grow; that she made the same request to several going that way, but had not got any of it, which she knew would greatly beautify the place for, said she, 'This is an ugly country that has no heather. I never yet saw any good or pleasant place without it.'" From Fredericton he made his way through the bush to the Mirimashee river, where a considerable settlement had been made, the principal men of which were Scotsmen. Their shipbuilding, lumbering and fishing industries were all inspected, and the rapid growth of their exports noted with hearty interest. Returning to Fredericton by the same route, he resolved to continue his journey westward across the barren and untrodden country lying between that town and the French settlements on the St. Lawrence, ''through impenetrable forests, a savage wilderness, and mountains covered with snow." He was accompanied by his servant and his constant companion, his dog, and for guide, one of the settlers familiar with the wood, George M'Gregor. It was late in the season, for in October he might expect to find some of the upper waters frozen, and the cold would be at times severe, but in spite of all his difficulties he reached Quebec before the end of the month. The calashes, the wild bull's skin ''which we call buffalo liye," the system of post houses, the "porpoise" fisheries, and the system of "signiories'' are all new and interesting. A short account of Quebec, with some anecdotes of the late siege by Montgomery, is given before he starts upon his journey further westward. At Three Rivers ''I fell in with a Scotchman dignified with the title of Sieur Forbes, who kept one of the post houses, an old man, formerly a private soldier in the 71st regiment, or Fraser's Highlanders married to a Highlaud girl, who lately emigrated from Morar in Inverness-shire. Here I dined, and was much pressed to stay all night. She spoke French fluently, but very little English, so that she and I conversed in Gaelic." In the island of Montreal he especially admires the farms "possessed by some Englishmen who cultivate and manure their lands as is done in that country, forming a great contrast to the habitants, who are perhaps the worst farmers in the world." The price of wheat is 3s. sterling per bushel, beef at 1d. per lb., turkeys and geese from 10d. to 1s. each.

On the 5th of November he started for the upper country, spending the first night at Lachine with Messrs. Grant and Ross and Lieutenant M'Donnell from Knoidart, when he acknowledges to have drank a good deal of port and Madeira, a very common confession of Mr. Campbell's. These gentlemen insisted upon giving his servant and himself a free passage to Kingston. Travelling leisurely in ''battoes," and walking over the portages, he invariably finds a Fraser, Beaton, M'Donald, Gray, M'Kay, or M'Martin with whom to spend the night and make merry over their wine. The latter told him "there was a Glenorchy woman whom I remember to have seen in that country, married to a Captain Thomas Fraser, some miles farther up the river." When he reached the house he could not believe that any Highlander owned so fine a place with so much farm stock, but was induced to enter. "When I came up they took no sort of notice of me farther than desiring me to sit down. My trousers being torn with the bushes, and the rest of my dress being in situation, they supposed me to be a Vanky come from the States. After sitting a while in this way, nobody speaking to me or I to them, Mrs. Fraser happened to sit by me. I looked full in her face, and clearly recognizing her features, I accosted her in and asked her if she had ever seen me before. She could not say whether or not. This turned the eyes of. everybody in the house toward us; but on my asking if she had heard of or known such a person, naming myself, she said she did, and knew him very well; but could not suppose that I was him. On saying I was, she turned about to her husband, 'My dear,' said she, 'this is the gentleman whom I have often told you was so kind to us when he was forester of Mamlorn, and whatever disputes we and our neighbors had when our cattle trespassed upon the forest, he always favored our family.' Captain Fraser on instantly welcomed me to his house, ordered dinner and venison stakes to be got ready immediately." Thence he passes to Captain William Fraser's, where he passes the night, and next morning to another Fraser's, a Highlander who had been a long time a private in the 42nd regiment, and so he goes on Kingston is reached. Kingston very favorably in- presses him. ''I never saw a prettier situation for an inland town than this place. The town is in its infancy yet, but fast increasing. It is well supplied with provisions of all kinds from the fertile country behind it." He dines at the mess with the officers of the garrison, rides out into the country to see Parson Stewart's and Sir John Johnson's houses, and is shown the place where ''it is supposed the new Governor of Upper Canada will erect his place of residence and fix the seat of Government. If so surely none can be more suitable. Everything is inviting, and it seems by nature intended for the emporium of this new country. capable of being extended to a considerable Empire." It was as late as November 24th when he got on board the Colville sloop, mounting two six-pounders and two swivels, bound to Niagara. The weather was stormy, the captain drunk, as were most of the men, so that by nightfall they were glad to get back behind Carleton Island, where they remained in shelter for four days. It was not until December 8th that they reached Niagara, thus actually spending fifteen days in the passage. Fort Niagara was still in the hands of the British, so that they crossed to that side, and "puts up at the only public house in the place, which is near the fort.'' The town of Niagara on the western side was just being ''lined out," and lots were given gratis to such as will undertake to build on. Half an acre is allowed for the "stance of each house and garden, and eight acres at a distance for enclosure." The question of the situation of the seat of Government was evidently exciting public interest, for he says: "On the opposite side of the lake, at a place called Toronto, fifteen miles across from Niagara, is a fine bay and safe anchorage, where some people suppose the seat of the new governor will be erected." After a short stay he visited the Falls of Niagara in compaiy with Mr. Robert Hamilton, a well-known resident of Queenstown, returning to the fort, where he spent the month of January. Early in February he set out with a "party of gentlemen in two sleas" on an excursion to the Grand River. The first night was spent at Squire McNab's; next day they crossed "Geneva Lake— now Burlington Bay—where he was deeply interested in the various devices for capturing fish beneath the ice used by the Indians of the Messessagoe nation, and on the following day reached the residence of Captain Brant on Grand River. Here they were received with much hospitality. Captain Brant he finds was well acquainted with European manners, and "Mrs. Brant appeared superbly dressed in the Indian fashion, the elegance of her person, grandeur of her looks and deportment, her large mild eyes, symmetry and harmony of her expressive features, though much darker in the complexion, so far surpassed them as not to admit of the smallest comparison between time Indian and the fair European ladies." The children are also praised in the same strain. Tea served in time handsomest china plate. Next day was Sunday, and dinner was served on return from a saunter round the village.

Two slaves attended the table, the one in scarlet, the other in colored clothes, with silver buckles on shoes." We drank pretty freely after dinner, port and Maderia wines.'' After nightfall Captain Brant arranged to show him a war dance, which intersted him very much. " No sooner the war dance was over than they began their own native and civil ones, in which Captain Brant and I joined; he placed me between two handsome young squaws and himself between other two in this way we continued for two hours more without coming off the floor, dancing and singing." Campbell was evidently in for a night's enjoyment, for "after this and every other dance peculiar to their nation was over, we began to Scotch reels." Here we continued until near daylight. I told Captain Brant that in my country at all country weddings and frolics, it was customary to kiss both before and after every dance. He said it was a strange though agreeable custom, but that it would never do here. I had brought two gallons of rum to entertain them, and he had ordered six bottles of Maderia wine from his own house, and would hardly allow the other gentlemen and myself to taste any other liquor. By my being in a manner under the necessity of often drinking grog with the young Indian and squaws, I got tipsy, though I and one young Indian were the only persons present in the least affected. As for the squaws I could hardly get them to taste, however warm they might he with dancing.'' Well might he say that ''on the whole I do not remember I ever passed a night in all my life I enjoyed more." The following day was spent in seeing Brant's curiosities, and discoursing upon all kinds of subjects, from firearms to religion, which latter carries him off on long discussion of that burning subject among Highlanders at the end of the last century, the authorship of "Ossian." The return was made via Chippewa. the road to Fort Niagara being marked by a series of carousals. On 10th of March he set out on homeward journey by way of Albany and New York, travelling on horseback over roads which led through forests and swamps almost impassable at that season of the year. Even in the German settlements of the Mohawk Valley he finds Scots, for at a public house kept by a German, "the landlady, judging by mine and servant's language, that we were Scotch, accosted me in Gaelic, and asked if I understood that language, when I answered in the affirmative, she seemed very happy. The whole family and other strangers that were there, all Dutch, looked with amazement on hearing her and me converse in an unknown language. She was born in this country, of Scotch Highland parents of the name of Fraser, from Straherrich." He also begins to find old acquaintances like John McVean, upon whom he maliciously attempts to pass himself off as a German. "I asked him in that language if his name was McVean, and if he understood German; he answered in English that his name was McVean, but that devil a word of German he could speak. I then asked him in the same language if Mr. McVean could speak Gaelic; he understood me well, and said he could speak Gaelic, and instantly turned about to his wife, and said in that tongue, seemingly with a great deal of surprise in his countenance, that he never saw anyone so like the head forester of Manilorn as that Dutchman was. At length, after some conversation in this way, with a great deal of surprise on part and amusement on mine, I discovered myself by asking, ''what would you say if it was the forester himself?" In troth I believe it is," said he, "of which discovery we were very happy." The number of Scottish people in the district tempts him to stay over a day and accept some of the many invitations sent to him. Among others he meets with an old friend, Angus Cameron, his former under-forester. A large fur cap I had brought from Canada, and had on the time, disguised me so much in the eyes of my friend that he supposed me to be a Frenchman or a Dutchman. I accosted him in German, and asked him if he had any oxen to dispose of. He said that I must change my tongue and speak to him in English or Lochmaber German, otherwise he could give me no answer. Mr. McIntyre asked him in in Gaelic if he knew me; he answered not. "Why, then, (says the other) he says he knows you." "The fellow is a d--d liar (says Cameron), he never saw me in his life; but let him be what he will, he speaks more languages than one. On saying this he put on a curious enquiring face that I could not help smiling, which he observed, and then came up to me and examined my clothes and took off my cap, and knew me."

Eventually reaching New York, and finding it difficult to continue his journey south, he took ship for St. John's, New Brunswick, and ascended the river as far as Fredericton, resolved to purchase land near the latter place. His brief residence in the United States has not toned his patriotism, intensified by his visits to so many Scottish loyalists, and he continually contrasts Upper Canada with New York, much to the latter's disadvantage.

"From all the States," he says, "they fly to Upper Canada, which is now deemed the paradise of the New World." His final reflection of the political state is, that the British Colonies are so sensible of the advantage they derive from a free trade with Britain, the British laws and Government, the protection of its navy to their shipping and trade, no duty paid, no land tax, no cess, nor any public burden imposed, no grievances whatever, have many facilities in that line no country in the world enjoys, and many other unnecessary to enumerate here, that were they millions strong, their first and last wish would be a continuation of their connection with Great Britain. The examples of the Federal States, as already observed, would operate so powerfully as to preclude all idea of the remaining British Colonies ever wishing for a change." Mr. Campbell's style is characteristically his own, and free from all affectation, but his orthography leaves much room for improvement. Scrol, School; Keraboo, or Cariboo; inelases, molasses; Preskeil, Presqu'ile; Lasheen, Lachine; Keiity, Quinte; squeel, squeal; Kieuga, Cayuga; Unindagoe, Onondago; Onido, Oneida. In spite, however, of all defects, he is a good specimen of a brave, courteous and loyal Scottish Highlander, of the old school.


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