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


Mention has already been made of Doctor Roderick MacDonald, who held a prominent place amongst the emigrants of 1772. On his arrival in the Colony he took up a tract of land at Scotchfort, and built on it a residence which he continued to occupy till his death. His home, long known by the name of "Doctor's Farm" and "Doctor's House" was among the best country residences to be seen anywhere in the Colony at that early date, and was the scene of many meetings and reunions on the part of the people, who always found the latch string hanging out in true Highland hospitality. The Doctor himself spent much of his time travelling from place to place, according as his professional services were required by the people, and in this particular he closely imitated the devotedness of his illustrious relative Father James. It was on one of these journeys he met his death. He was crossing the ice in the springtime, near the Head of Tracadie Bay, and was going along apparently unaware of any danger, when suddenly his horse broke through the ice and carried the driver with him.

There was no one near to render assistance, and the Doctor, unable to extricate himself from his perilous position, met his death in the waters of Tracadie Bay. His body was soon recovered and was laid to rest in the French cemetery at Scotchfort. His wife, two sons and four daughters survived him. In a short time afterwards the sons, grown to man's estate, decided to leave Scotchfort. The uncertainty of land tenures had never proved satisfactory to the Doctor, and now that he was dead, they decided to leave the Tracadie Estate and forthwith bought a tract of land at Vernon River, whither they moved and took up their home in the year 1801, and where their descendants still reside. These latter people are known as the "Doctors" a name that comes down to them from their earliest progenitor in Prince Edward Island, Doctor Roderick MacDonald.

Captain John MacDonald reserved to his own personal use a block of five hundred acres of land on Lot 36, situated at the extreme head of Tracadie Bay, and running westward to the boundary line of Lot 35. Here he built an elegant residence, wherein he lived in all the ease and comfort of a landed proprietor. Being a man of energy and education, he took a prominent part in every movement that concerned the Colony, and in this way contributed not a little to shape its destinies. He was always a staunch Loyalist and never failed to give public expression to his views in favor of British connection.

At the outbreak of the American war of Independence, he, in conjunction with Major Small of Charlottetown, organized a Company of soldiers, composed mainly of his own countrymen, and rendered valuable service throughout the entire war in defence of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Indeed Captain John MacDonald saw little of his own home during the war, as his military activities kept him at various posts here and there, where his services might haply be required at short notice. In recognition of his services on this occasion the British Government offered him the position of Governor of Prince Edward Island; but he was obliged to decline the honour, because the oath of office under the Penal Laws was such as to do violence to his Catholic principles, and when it was suggested to him that the oath in question was only a matter of form, his answer was that: "Neither his honour nor his conscience would permit him to take such an oath," and he therefore never became Governor of the Colony.

Captain MacDonald was twice married. When a young man in Scotland he married Miss Gordon of Wardhouse, who died at an early age, together with her infant son the only child of their marriage. Sorely tried by this bereavement, Captain MacDonald made up his mind not to remarry, and chose his younger brother, Donald MacDonald, to be his heir; but this brother, who was a Lieutenant in the British Navy, lost his life in an engagement with the French, and Captain John, finding his plans thus overturned, decided to marry again, and selected for his second wife, Margaret MacDonald of the Ghernish branch of the Clan. She survived her husband for some years, and after his death was known amongst the people as the Queen of Tracadie.

Of this second marriage were born four sons, viz :Donald, Roderick, William and John, and one daughter Flora. Donald, the eldest succeeded his father as proprietor of the Tracadie Estate, and was in his day a person of some importance in the community. Roderick took up a Naval career, in which he achieved a certain measure of success. He served in different places throughout the Empire, and died while on duty as Pay-master of the British forces at a Military Station in the Ionian Islands. William, when only a young lad, was drowned at Sea on his way to England to enter College. John spent some years in a Catholic College in England, whence he went to Paris for the study of Theology, and there he was raised to the Holy Priesthood in the year 1825. After his ordination he labored for about five years in Scotland on the Missions in the Diocese of Glasgow, and at the expiration of that time he organized an immigration of Irish Catholics, whom he brought to Prince Edward Island and settled upon his family Estate on the South side of the Hillsborough River, at a place to which he gave the name, Fort Augustus. During the earlier years of this new settlement he lived with his mother at Tracadie, and was thus able to keep in constant touch with his tenantry. But after the death of Bishop MacEachern he was appointed to the Scottish Missions in Kings County, and made his headquarters first at Launching and latterly at St. Margarets or Bear River. At the time of his stay at this latter place, disagreement between the people and the proprietors had reached an acute stage throughout Prince Edward Island, and in consequence considerable discontent prevailed in the community. Father John being more or less involved in these disputes, owing to the fact that he was an extensive land owner, found himself somewhat compromised in the eyes of the people, amongst whom he lived and labored, and so the Church authorities of the day decided, that it would be better for him to retire from the administration of the Mission of which he was in charge. He accordingly left St. Margarets and went back to England, where he lived in comparative retirement till his death.

Flora, the only daughter of the family, was educated at the Ursuline Convent at Quebec, and soon after her return home married Alexander McDonnell, Esquire, of Donaldston, and died in Charlottetown at an advanced age.


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