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Kentiana
Lord Selkirk’s Baldoon Settlement


A synopsis of a paper by
GEORGE MITCHELL, M.D.

THE founding of the Baldoon Settlement in Dover Township in 1804 was the direct result of eviction by Scottish land owners of tenants from their small land holdings called "Highland Clearances," in order that the owners might turn their land into large sheep ranches for greater profit.

The plight of the evicted crofters appealed to the sympathy of Thomas Douglas, the fifth Earl of Selkirk, born in 1771 at St. Mary’s Isle, at the mouth of the Dee River, in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, and he planned to assist some of the evicted crofters to emigrate to Canada.

In 1803 he organized a party of emigrants and brought them to Canada, settling them on a strip of land on the coast of Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The same year he visited Montreal, and it is believed, Toronto, where he procured the land in the Township of Dover for the future Baldoon Settlement.

Later in the year 1803 a second emigration party numbering 111 persons was organized at Tobemory on the Island of Mull. From Mull the group went to Kirkcudbright where they learned that war had been declared between England and France and that French Privateers were on the high seas, so Lord Selkirk decided against sailing at that time. The party remained at Kirkcudbright until May 1804 when they sailed for Canada, and the Baldoon Settlement, on the ship "Oughton" of Greenock, and after five weeks the banks of Newfoundland were sighted.

The following were the heads of the families in the party:

Angus McDonald, Printer, Glasgow
Donald McDonald, Tailor, Teree
Allen McLean, Teree
Angus
McDonald, Farmer
The Piper McDonald
Peter McDonald, School teacher
Donald McCallurn, Farmer
Charles Morrison, Drover
McPherson, Farmer
John Buchanan, Farmer
John McDonald
of Argyle
Albert McDonald of Argyle
John McDougall of Argyle
Angus McDougall of Argyle
John McKenzie

Of this group we have the names of one entire family, that of Donald McCallum, whose family consisted of his wife, whose maiden name was Morrison, his son Hugh aged 17, daughters Isabella 15, Flora 13, Emily 10, Margaret 7, and Annie 5.

When out about three weeks from Kirkcudbright, a young brother of John Buchanan died and was buried at sea.

The party disembarked at Montreal, and were transported by carts to a point above the Lachine Rapids. At Lachine they were transferred to batteaux and proceeded as far as Kingston.

Lord Selkirk did not accompany the party from Scotland, but came to America via New York, and at Albany met one Lionel Johnson, whom he had known in the old land, and who, with his family had emigrated in 1803 from the Fenton Farm at Woller, Northumberland, England, and had settled at Albany, New York. Lord Selkirk had shipped over a large number of merino sheep, intended for the Baldoon Settlement, and Johnson was given charge of the sheep. Lord Selkirk, with Johnson, his wife and two sons, James and Lionel 4, journeyed to Kingston where the Johnson family joined the other settlers for Baldoon. The entire party then boarded a boat bound for Queenston on the Niagara River. From Queenston the party and their effects were taken by portage to a safe distance above the Falls and once more boarded batteaux. They skirted the north shore of Lake Erie to Amherstburg, and then in open boats proceeded to the Baldoon Farm on the Chanel Ecarte, where they arrived early in September.

The Farm contained 950 acres located in the Township of Dover, County of Kent, and was named Baldoon after a parish in the Highlands of Scotland. The greater part of the farm consisted of prairie bordering the rivers, the part to the north was wooded, indented on the south and west with prairie.

Ship carpenters and others had been sent on in advance to provide housing for the oncoming settlers, but owing to fear of Indians did not remain long enough to erect any buildings, and on arrival the settlers were forced to live in tents until the men of the party could erect log cabins. The settlers were Highlanders and unused to low lying land, and soon fell a prey to malarial fevers and dysentery. This coupled with the hardships of the journey and the lack of shelter on arrival, caused the death of 42 of the original party the first year, the first to die being Donald McCallum, his wife, and daughter Emily aged 10, all dying within five days of each other and within a month of their arrival.

The farm was originally divided into lots fronting on the rivers so that each settler could have a farm of his own. The main buildings of the settlement fronted on the Chanel Ecarte. The farm required to be stocked with horses, cattle, etc., but it is not known how these were procured . The sheep as we know were brought from Scotland, and had to be protected after reaching Baldoon, from the wolves which infested the country.

After the first two years the little colony prospered until the war of 1812—14, when it is said General McArthur, serving under General Hull of Detroit, robbed the settlement of their stores and cattle and carried away several hundred sheep, intended for General Hull’s private use, and not for his army.

Several men of the settlement served in the War of 1812-14.

After Lord Selkirk had placed the settlers on the Baldoon Farm he turned his attention to colonizing the Red River Country, and in 1811-12 brought over several ship-loads of emigrants mostly from Scotland, in spite of severe opposition from the North West and Hudson’s Bay Trading Companies, who did not favour the country being settled at that time.

The Red River Colonization venture of Lord Selkirk injured his health and occasioned him serious financial loss. On September 17, 1818, he deeded the Baldoon Farm to John McNab, a Hudson Bay Trader, and he returned to Scotland. Later he went to the south of France in quest of health, and died on April 8, 1820, at Pau, in the Department of the Basses Pyrenees. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Orthes in the same Department.

It has been wondered why the Baldoon Settlement was chosen as a site for settlers. At the time the site was selected in 1803, the waters in the rivers and lakes in this district were five or six feet lower than at any time since 1834, in which year the water began to rise and at no time has it receded to the low level of 1804.


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