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


The total population of the Colony at this time did not surpass one hundred and fifty families, and these were settled here and there, generally near the sea-coast, just as their notions of personal convenience would lead them to locate. About one-third of the inhabitants were Roman Catholics, almost entirely made up of French Acadians, of whom about fifty families lived principally in the neighborhood of Malpeque in Prince County. Prior to the Conquest in 1758, there had been a flourishing Parish in that locality, with a comfortable Church and a resident Pastor. When the British troops attacked Fort LaJoie, Malpeque, thanks to its distance, virtually escaped annoyance. The work of destruction carried out in other places did not extend so far west, and hence when the other Churches were given to the flames it would seem that the Church of Malpeque remained intact, and whilst the other Clergy were instantly deported to France, Father Dosquet, the Pastor of Malpeque, was able to make his way to Quebec, where he spent the remainder of his life. His parishoners, however, were in mortal terror, not knowing what might happen from day to day, and many of them made their way to the mainland, whilst others hid in the woods until they found all danger past, when they returned to take up life anew amid the changed conditions that had fallen upon them. From that time they had lived in comparative seclusion without a Priest to supply their Spiritual wants, and anxiously awaiting the day when the kind Providence of God would send them one to lighten the gloom of their existence. This abandoned condition of the Acadian people had been discussed by the immigrants before they set out from Scotland, and was one of the motives that induced Father James to accompany them across the sea. This we learn from a letter of Bishop Hay written on the 24th of November, 1771, at the time that Captain John MacDonald was negotiating for the purchase of an estate in Prince Edward Island. His Lordship writes in part: "MacDonald of Glenaladale is here in order to treat of a place of settlement with Lord Advocate, Henry Dundas, who has large tracts of land in the Island of St. John, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a most excellent soil and fine climate, and who, though a man so much of the Government, is most willing to give them all encouragement, and their being Roman Catholics is far from being an objection with him. There are, he says, about fifty families of the old French inhabitants upon the Island, of whom His Lordship has received a most favorable account, and he is glad to think that this proposal may be the means of getting a Catholic Clergyman to the Island for their benefit. Indeed a friend of mine, a Presbyterian Minister, who went out there last summer as a teacher and factor, and who is himself very well disposed towards us, wrote me this harvest a most effecting letter about the poor French Catholics there, representing their case in the most moving terms, and begging that I would see to get a Catholic Churchman sent amongst them: Upon which I wrote about their situation to Rome, to Reverend Robert Grant, desiring him to see and provide one with a sufficient knowledge of the French language, and he tells me he is in hopes of getting a very pious and good man. By this I hope the French people will be supplied whether our people go out or not."

In view of these considerations, the missionary heart of Father James went out in pity to those long abandoned people, and he determined that on his arrival in the Colony he would take up their case, and do whatsoever lay in his power to add to their comfort, both spiritual and temporal. Accordingly, having seen his friends settled at Scotchfort he set out for Malpeque, where his advent was hailed with feelings of joy more easy to imagine than describe. Here he spent his first winter in Prince Edward Island, and here he made his first attempt to communicate with the Bishop of Quebec, an attempt however, that failed, as his letter never reached its destination.

Before setting out for Malpeque on this occasion, Father James directed the people of Scotchfort to commence preparations for the erection of a house of worship for themselves. The materials for the same were provided during the winter, and in a short time they succeeded in putting up a little Church, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, and which served as a place of worship for about thirty years.

It was a simple log building covered by a roof of thatch, and though it fell far beneath the modern ideas of Church architecture it was a veritable joy for the people, who could worship within its walls in perfect freedom, without fear of annoyance from any quarter. [The monument erected at Scotchfort points out the site of this Church.]


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