Canadian History Historical
Essay on the Scots of the Upper St. Francis District of Quebec
The first Hebridean Scots to inhabit the
Eastern Townships came in 1838 from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer
Hebrides of Scotland. They were probably unaware of the extreme hardships
ahead of them. Their deplorable situation in Lewis, however, drove them to
emigration--not the lure of Canada as "the Promised land." This
first group of settlers from the Isle of Lewis came from the village of
Mealista on the west side of Uig and were settled by the BALC in the
township of Lingwick which was in the region known as the Upper St.
Francis District. They arrived only "with the clothes they wore,
sometimes a piece of furniture, the tools of their trade, and their
beloved Bible" (McLeod, 1977:1).
Unfortunately, the BALC could not pay for
the passage of these Hebridean immigrants. They had to pay for their
tickets themselves, but the BALC sold the land to them cheaply and on very
favorable terms of interest. They did not have to start paying the Company
back until a year after their arrival. In return the settlers agreed to
clear one-tenth of the land within four years and to clear a road 20 feet
wide in front of their lots.
This arrangement attracted an increasing
number of immigrants from the Isle of Lewis and Harris, with a sprinkling
from other Hebridean islands like Skye and the two Uists.
Life is hard for the Scots in the early
When first settled, this part of the
Eastern Townships had no road, was thickly forested with many swampy areas
along the Salmon River which flowed through Lingwick. Some officials
considered the area unfit for habitation. It apparently seemed so to some
of the newcomers, some of whom went back to Lewis and others moved to
other parts of Canada after a few years in Lingwick.
The first few years of the Lewis Scots in
Lingwick were indeed difficult ones. The journalist L.S. Channell
described the hardships in this way half a century later:
"The first eight families... all
settled on the road between Bury and Gould, as close together as they
could. This was always the main thought with the Scotch settlers in
those days. ... They wanted to have a settlement of their own, where
they could live like Highlanders, 'shoulder to shoulder.' None of them
in those days thought of owning a larger farm than fifty acres.
"The cabins built by the settlers
the first year were very small.... The cabins had no fire places or
chimneys the first winter... A hole was made in the roof to let all the
smoke out that was inclined to escape. The roof was generally so badly
constructed that whenever it rained outside it rained inside also.
"The settlers lived the first year
principally on oatmeal, advanced by the B.A.L. Company. They paid for
this the following summer at the rate of $5 for one hundred pounds, by
grubbing out a road from Bury to Gould." (Channell (1896:256-57)
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