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The Scottish Catholics in Prince Edward Island 1772 - 1922
Chapter XIV


Whilst throughout Kings County centres of population were being formed, and new homesteads evolved from the primeval forest, Prince County in the west of the Province, joined in the general activities and welcomed bands of Scotch Catholic immigrants, whose inclinations led them towards that section of the Colony.

They too had suffered for their Faith in Scotland, and had experienced the blighting effects of Landlordism; and only when conditions had grown intolerable did they make up their minds to sever the ties that bound them to the Motherland and emigrate to America.

Very early in the history of the Colony, in fact only a short time after Captain John MacDonald organized the emigration to Scotchfort, one of his cousins in Scotland, Captain Allan MacDonald of Rhetland, had his thoughts turned towards Prince County as a suitable place for colonization. He obtained from the Crown for military service ten thousand acres of land on Lot 25, in the settlement now known as Bedeque. On receipt of this extensive grant he decided to purchase the remainder of the Lot, and bring a number of his countrymen to settle upon it. But unfortunately at the very time that he was negotiating the purchase, he was drowned at sea, as he was returning from a visit to one of the neighboring Islands. His children were young at the time and there was no one that would take the matter up, and so by his death his plans of colonization came to naught.

Some years later one of his sons named Alexander came to Prince Edward Island; but apparently did not find the place to his liking, for beyond apportioning a tract of land to three of his Aunts he does not seem to have made a permanent disposition of the Estate. In this way it almost all passed to other people, and today only two homesteads remain in the hands of descendants of the original proprietor. One of his descendants somewhat later secured a grant of land on Lot 47 near East Point, and was the progenitor of those people who reside there today, and who are familiarly known as the Rhetland MacDonalds.

Subsequent attempts at colonization in Prince County achieved more definite results. In the early years of the nineteenth century two vessels arrived from Scotland, bringing bands of immigrants made up of Gillises, MacNeills, MacLellans, MacDougalls, MacKinnons, MacDonalds, Morrisons, Camerons and MacIntyres. According to a tradition prevailing amongst some of their descendants, their intention on leaving Scotland was not to come to Prince Edward Island, but make their way to Glengarry, Ontario, where a Colony of Scottish Catholics had already been established; but as they were nearing the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence they became enveloped in a dense fog, and the Captain, either by accident or design, missed his course and landed his passengers at a point near Charlottetown. Here they were met by the proprietor of Lot Eighteen in Prince County, who placed before them a pretty picture of the advantages they would reap by settling on his particular Township. By multiplying inducements he finally persuaded them to try their fortune in that part of the country; and they accordingly went westward and settled some at Indian River, some at Grand River, whilst others settled on Lot 26, where with other emigrants, MacDonalds, MacInnises, and Campbells they formed a settlement, that eventually became the Parish of St. Peters at Seven Mile Bay.

In this way were formed in Prince County three important centres of Scottish Catholic activity, from which settlers went forth year after year, whose descendants are still to be found at Brae, Kildare, Montrose, Palmer Road, and other places throughout the County. These early settlers encountered the same trials and hardships that fell to the lot of all the pioneers ; but they were men of sterling character, who quailed not at the sight of hardships, and so they manfully took up the burden of their trying existence in the Colony, and bore it unflinchingly throughout the years. Father MacEachern visited them as often as he found it possible to do so, and his presence amongst them went far to reconcile them to the hardships of their condition. With the devotedness of a true Apostile, he seemed to grow ubiquitous as he multiplied his efforts to reach all the people, who were in need of his Spiritual care. Under his direction small Churches were put up at an early date at Grand River, Indian River, and Seven Mile Bay, which, though rude in construction and small in proportions were nevertheless dear to the hearts of the people, who looked upon them as holy places, set apart for the worship of Almighty God, and hallowed by the sacrificial presence of His Divine Son on the Altar.

A brighter era dawned for the people residing in this part of Prince County in the year 1842, when Father James MacDonald, recently ordained to the Holy Priesthood, came to them as their resident Pastor. He went to live at Indian River, and forthwith began to administer to the Spiritual wants of the scattered flock committed to his care. One of his first acts was to build a new Church at Indian River to replace the primitive house of worship, that had become too small for the congregation. The new Church, which was a large and elegant edifice was erected in the year 1840', and filled the role of Parish Church till the year 1896, when it was destroyed by fire. Father James found similar needs throughout his other Missions and hence we find him at this time completing a Church at Grand River, that had been commenced by Right Reverend B. D. MacDonald, who became Administrator of the Diocese on the death of Bishop MacEachern in 1835. This Church was entirely remodelled and enlarged during the pastorate of Reverend Laughlin J. MacDonald, and still stands overlooking the valley of the Grand River, linking up the ease and prosperity of the present generation with the trials and privations of their forebears in the Faith.

The District of Seven Mile Bay also required similar attention, but the people were few in number and matters there naturally proceeded with less celerity, and it was not till the year 1856 that steps were taken to replace the original Church by another more in keeping with the improved condition of the people. This Church was twice enlarged by Reverend John J. MacDonald, and in its improved condition gives ample accomodation to the congregation.


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