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Skye Pioneers and "The Island"
Belfast Families - Donald Nicholson of Orwell


Among the several families of Nicholsons who arrived on the "Polly" was that of John Nicholson of Stenscholl, Skye, and his wife Jane Martin.

In 1806 John Nicholson and his son Donald, in consideration of the sum of 50 of lawful money of P. E. Island, received from the Earl of Selkirk a grant of five hundred acres of freehold land, of which one hundred and thirty-four acres were on the south side of the Portree Creek or Newtown River, and three hundred and sixty-six acres to the north of said river, and fronting on Orwell Bay. This land was probably occupied in 1803, for in the conveyance dated 1806 it is described as "beginning near the dwelling some time ago and now occupied by the said John and Donald Nicholson along Samuel Martin's land, etc." On his second visit to Prince Edward Island Lord Selkirk was guest in this house, which stood near the shore, and commanded a pleasing view of Orwell Bay, and the beautiful wooded country extending to the north. Samuel Martin, cousin of Jane, had received his grant for the two hundred and fifty acres adjoining on the north, in 1805. Both John and Jane Nicholson were buried in the French cemetery. They had issue:

I. HANNAH, married in Skye, died on P.E.I. without issue;
II. RACHEL, unmarried;
III. DONALD, Miller, Orwell, Magistrate, b. about 1780, married Isabella Nicholson, Skye. She died about 1855 or 1856, over 80 years of age. Both are buried in Belfast churchyard.
Their issue were:
I. HANNAH, d. May 17, 1881, aged about 75, wife of William Harris, b. Bideford, Devon, England, d. March 12, 1884, aged 80, at Milton, P.E.I., with issue: Janet, d. Dec. 17, 1904, aged 68, wife of Thomas Darke, Bideford, Devon, England, d. at Milton, P.E.I. June 20, 1884, aged 59, with issue:
a. HANNAH JANE, wife of Robert Bagnall, Hunter River, P. E. L, without issue;
b. FRANCIS NICHOLSON, b. Oct. 26, 1863, Regina, Sask. ex-M.P., married Anne Elizabeth Mackinnon, of Milton, P.E.L, with issue surviving: Vernon Frank, Clarence Thomas (U. of T., Harvard), Trevyln Victor;
c. CHARLOTTE MARGARET, wife of Benjamin Moore, Charlottetown, Royalty, with issue;
d. ELIZABETH LAVINIA, wife of James P. Moore, Milton with issue;
e. ADELINE CHARLOTTE, wife of Bruce Mackinnon, Regina, with issue;
f. AMANDA JANET, wife of Pope Balderson, North Wiltshire, with issue;
2. FLORA, b. June 27, 1808, d. April 13, 1895, wife of Donald Ross, Uigg, with issue;
3. PETER, miller, Orwell, b. 1809, d. May 10, 1884, married Marion Munro, daughter of Dr. James Munro, Kilmuir, Skye, b. 1812, d. June 1897, with issue:
a. ISABELLA, b. 1845, d. July 3, 1926, married, May, 1871, John Angus Macqueen of Orwell, with issue;
b. ELIZA, b. 1850, d. 1923, wife of Capt. Alexander William MacLeod, Orwell Cove, d. June 1, 1919, with issue surviving; William, married Alma Taylor, with issue, two daughters: Marion, wife of Roger Cronsberry, Ottawa, Ont., with issue; Mary, wife of George Mutch, Earnscliffe, P.E.I., with issue, Benjamin; 2nd to Harold B. Collins.
c. ANNABELLA, b. 1852, wife of Daniel Nicholson, Victoria, B.C., with issue surviving: Sadie. Arthur
Stirling, Los Angeles, married Myrtle Singer, with issue, Gordon Daniel; and Ruth, wife of Arthur A. Dods, Victoria, B.C., with issue, Gordon Arthur.
4. MARY, died in youth;
5. MARGARET, wife of Donald Macphee, Miller, Heatherdale, with issue, among others: Rev. Samuel D. Macphee (Dal. Pine Hill), b. Feb. 10, 1865, d. Oct. 26, 1913, married with issue: Margaret, wife of her cousin, James Nicholson, Orwell Cove, with issue;
6. ISABELLA, wife of John Donald Matheson, born Skye, emigrated to Uigg, 1829, d. March 3, 1876, aged 74, with issue, among others: Roderick, married with issue;
7. JANE, Earnscliffe, b. March 20, 1814, d. March 28, 1899, unmarried;
8. JOHN, died in youth;
9. CHRISTINA, d. June 20, 1885, aged 60, wife of Alexander MacLeod, Earnscliffe, d. Oct. 3, 1893, aged 73, with issue, among others:
a. RACHEL LIVINIA, wife of Mr. Walker, Westboro, Mass., with issue, Annie and Joseph.
b. CHARLOTTE EUNICE, wife of Mr. Ward, Mass.;
c. MALCOLM J., b. June 27, 1860, married Sarah Dockerty, Seal River, with issue: Gordon, Sydney, David Sutherland (B.A. Dal. Pine Hill), and Eva;
IV. JOHN, Orwell Cove, d. Nov. 10, 1866, aged 74, married Mary MacLeod, Orwell Cove, d. 1886, aged 87, with issue, among others: Donald, married Miss MacMillan, Wood Islands, with issue, among others: James, on the old homestead, married Margaret Macphee, with issue, six sons and four daughters.

In 1804 or 1805 Donald Nicholson, who later operated the mill on Orwell River, returned to Skye. On the voyage a heavy storm was encountered. It was thought all would be lost. After the tempest abated he composed a Gaelic poem, which, during the early history of Belfast, was on everyone's lips. Today in the Orwell district a few persons only are able to repeat it, among them being Mrs. Malcolm MacLeod, and Margaret MacLeod (Peggy Neil). In this poem the author recounts the violence of the storm, and the danger to ship and passengers. That women only have preserved the poem may be due to its stirring appeal to their more romantic nature. The author pictures himself on his way back to his beloved Skye to meet his intended bride, who, spinning and knitting, waits anxiously for her fond sweetheart, then in the extremities of a peril so dire that he may never return to her.

In 1805 or 1806 he returned to Prince Edward Island with his bride, on the "Rambler," bringing several new immigrants from Skye and adjoining parts, who settled in Flat River and Belle River districts.

He was shipping agent for Lord Selkirk, and in this capacity made frequent trips to Halifax and other parts in connection with the lumber industry.

In the early days of the settlement news was preserved in form of poetry. When the first log house, in which the family lived, was consumed by fire the event was commemorated in a Gaelic ballad which recounts, among other incidents, that the bed curtains went up in smoke. Two other log houses succeeded this one in succession. In one of them lived Rachel, and to this day the field about is known as Rachel's field.


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