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The Scottish Tradition in Canada
The Scot as Farmer and Artisan
J. A. Mclntyre

The objective in this chapter is to show the part played by Scottish farmers and artisans in the shaping of Canada in its formative years. Two periods of time will be discussed: the early years of settlement and the years from 1800 to 1867, the later period receiving most attention. Even for this period, however, it is possible at this juncture to present only an impressionistic picture for lack of data: a broad, sweeping sketch of where the immigrants came from, where they settled, what conditions they met and how they responded to those conditions. The study in detail and the precise measurement of their contribution will have to await the assembling of such material as family histories, collections of correspondence and corporate histories.


In the seventeenth century, although the Scots made attempts at colonization in North America, no settlement of any importance was established. Scotland at the time possessed neither the financial, military and naval support, nor the independent foreign policy needed for such an enterprise. The Scots who went to North America during this century went more often as a consequence of compulsion of one type or other than of their own free will: transportation, penal as well as political, or outright abduction. Such forced movement is said to have continued well into the eighteenth century.

During the eighteenth century the foundations were laid for the substantial immigration of Scots to British North America that was to occur in the following century. The first major emigration began during the middle years of the century, principally following the '45. Substantial social change was under way in Scotland. The alterations in clan organization, hikes in land rents, and innovations in agricultural methods all contributed to a profound altering of an inefficient and archaic social system.

The first to respond to the changes by emigrating were families of social standing, trying to transfer their whole social system to the New World. They were tacksmen, semi-aristocratic tenants of large acreage, who sublet their holdings to crofters and small farmers. Many had substantial capital, although some may have been poverty stricken.1 In the last quarter of the century, they were followed by more humble emigrants.2 Some were clansmen with families, of modest financial resources and sometimes unskilled, who had known the semi-agricultural life of the Highlands or Islands. Others were discharged members of the military, settled upon small holdings in North America by a grateful government in lieu of being transported home, and intended to serve as part of a buffer of military capacity north of the troublesome North American colonists who had dealt the first revolutionary blow to the Empire.3

In addition to those who came directly from Scotland to Canada, it must not be overlooked that the triumph of the American colonists' revolution resulted in driving northward, into what would become Canada, a substantial number of colonists, many of them Scots, who, loyal to the Crown and its established political institutions, saw only disarray in the constitutional forms emerging in the rebellious colonies. For the most part, these United Empire Loyalists were of the tacksmen class, still possessing substantial wealth even though in some instances they had lost much because of their hurried departure. As established entrepreneurs they quickly regrouped to make a substantial contribution to their newly adopted country. Only in rare instances were they farmers or artisans. The massive immigration of farmer and artisan was still in the future: it would characterize the Scots emigration of the nineteenth century.


Settlements begun in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island in 1773 and 1777 served to attract other Scots after the American war was over. The disbanded regiments served as nuclei for immigrants, attracting them to Quebec, Montreal, and the Ottawa Valley. It was not, however, until the social and economic upheaval characterizing Scotland during the nineteenth century encouraged substantial emigration, and until both government and free enterprise undertook commercial ventures in emigration, that peasants began to reach North America in substantial numbers:

Between 1815 and 1820 many went overseas from Sutherland and other parts of the West Highlands ... by the 1820s the clearance or eviction of tenants for the sake of sheep farming was well under way, and emigration began to be looked upon with a fresh eye. Many thought it desirable, as providing an outlet for over-numerous tenants who were a burden on the estates. Much of the clearance involved nothing more than resettling tenants on new holdings within the same county, sometimes within the same parish, and the notion that scheming landlords, for their own financial profit, shipped to America tenants who were living in plenty, or even in comfort, at home, is preposterous. The truth is that people who had experienced the miseries of life in the Highlands in the 1840s clamoured for assistance to enable them to leave the country . . . When the next highland crisis came, in the 1880s, emigration was once more regarded as the obvious remedy. Again there was private enterprise . . . But it was also true that the Napier Commission which investigated crofting conditions and made recommendations so favourable to the tenants, reported in favour of emigration, aided and directed by the state, as the only remedy for the overpopulation of certain areas.4

Changes in Lowland agriculture, beginning in the eighteenth century, ultimately revolutionized this aspect of the Scottish economy. Root crops and new types of grasses, in combination, created an improvement in the feed, hence in the animal stock. By more careful fertilization practices, coupled with a careful rotation of crops, soil productivity was increased. Implements underwent improvement; for example, a lighter plough was developed and came into use. Farms gradually became larger with fields being enclosed by dikes and tenant farmers being granted long leases to enable them more readily to recover their investment in any improvement they introduced. In short, Scottish agriculture became more efficient, and this, coupled with a substantial increase in demand for agricultural produce, led to growing prosperity among Scottish farmers.5 But the new methods of farming often led to surplus labour. Tenants whose leases expired without hope of renewal therefore had an understandable desire for emigration, supported by the widespread belief that departure was no longer exile but potentially beneficial.6

Vitality was evident also in the industrial sector of the Scottish economy during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Indeed, the substantial development and expansion of industry had the inevitable consequence of altering a predominately rural country into a labour-saving machine-oriented industrialized one. While it is said that "the general pattern of Scottish industry in the nineteenth century was one of progress and prosperity and of opportunities for Scotsmen of capacity,"7 and that this was equally true for those working in agriculture as well up to the middle of the century, the general trends tend to obscure the effects of slumps, depressions, financial crises, bad harvests, and altered legislation, such as the Corn Laws. All of these together with the application of mechanization had important influences upon another general trend, namely, the displacement of people from productive employment on the land and in the factory. Weavers were among those particularly affected, and former weavers made up a significant part of the emigration from Scotland.

An additional factor influencing the development of a desire to emigrate overseas was the widespread belief that less social and political inequality as well as better economic conditions existed in British North America.8 The belief was probably well grounded as far as the frontier areas were concerned. The necessity for all to labour at the same chores had a powerful levelling effect in the backwoods, further strengthened by the egalitarian ideology that wafted northward from the United States. In the towns, however, the situation was otherwise, with small cliques of office-holders in government, church and army jealously guarding their privileges.

Lower class Scots during the nineteenth century thus seem mainly to have emigrated in order to escape destitution at home; they came from the Highlands and the Lowlands but also from the major cities to which they had previously moved as a response to unfavourable economic conditions. They arrived with intelligence, shrewdness, and adaptability, but often with few skills which could qualify them as farmers, let alone artisans.9 In some instances, however, they had and could use basic skills, long in use in the Highland and Lowland areas from which they had come:

Even in the most primitive communities in the Highlands and Islands . the people had employed local handy men who specialized each in some craft. As society stabilized itself in the New World, the settlement gathered around itself a clergyman, a doctor, a teacher, a storekeeper and a group of artisans. Each district was provided with a shoemaker and a tailor, who often travelled from house to house in the traditional Scottish manner. Each district had its own grist-mill and saw-mill. Villagers often had both a cabinet-maker and a carriage-maker, sometimes a boat-builder, and always a blacksmith .... An occupational directory of Nova Scotia for the year 1864 presents a very different picture of the Highland communities from that of today. In Whycocomagh, for instance (which at that time had a population of about 1,800), besides the inevitable teacher, innkeepers, and merchants, we find a shipwright, a carriage-maker, a wheelwright, a tanner, two millers, two blacksmiths, and two tailors. A later directory for the year 1868 shows the village still as well provided and enumerates, in addition to the previous list, one dyer ....

Other districts were all once well supplied with the service of the local craftsmen. Sometimes one craft predominated, sometimes another. In North Gut St. Ann's, for instance, we find no less than five weavers listed for the year 1864. On the mainland of Nova Scotia during the same period we find in the St. Andrew's district seven carpenters, six shoemakers, three ship-carpenters, three tailors, two masons, two millwrights, two carriage-makers, two tanners, and a surveyor.10

For the most part, the problem lay in adapting to the newer conditions characterized by an initially hostile environment that could by hard and persistent work be coaxed to fecund response.

Although the early emigration attracted much opposition, by the first decades of the nineteenth century public opinion in Scotland had swung completely around. Through the assistance of kinsmen and emigration associations, and with substantial overseas encouragement through correspondence, a thriving passenger service developed for those who could pay their passage. It is said that "by 1820, small tradesmen, mechanics, men of every occupation were joining the throngs of emigrating small farmers, and every port in the north and west was sending hundreds annually to Nova Scotia and Quebec."11

Even though many emigrants were disaffected politically, were relatively unskilled and by no means members of the 'proprietory class,' they exhibited no lack of knowledge, initiative, capacity for work or adaptability upon their arrival in the New World. They brought with them not only a desire for a less definitively ordered class structure, but also the willingness to try new methods and new means for wresting a livelihood from the climate and the land. By no means all were destitute, but most had to husband their resources with care.12

They came to Nova Scotia or Quebec. For the most part, however, their objective was farther west. Nova Scotia and the St. Lawrence lowlands were settled; the Eastern Townships of Lower Canada near the American border and Upper Canada were being opened up, and promised most to the industrious immigrant. Since by no means all possessed funds for buying land from local land boards, individuals like Colonel Talbot, or land development companies such as the Canada Company, the initial step was frequently to make a down payment or accept employment on the land with the intent to save capital for ultimate purchase.

Appearing before the Select Committee on Emigration, Scotland, Dr. Thomas Rolph from Upper Canada commented concerning one Scot who emigrated to Canada:

Under judicious management the expense might be very much abridged. I will give you proof of one from Aberdeen whom I hired at $16.00 a month as a farm labourer. I had an Englishman at the same time to whom I paid the same wages. I was astonished that the Scotsman never came to me for his wages; he said he wanted to accumulate them for a certain purpose; at the end of three years he took nearly $100 off me and went and purchased land of his own.13

Where did these newcomers tend to settle? Frequently they were attracted to locations where fellow clansmen, relatives or other Scots had already established themselves. If they came out under the auspices of one of the developers, whether an individual or a company, they settled on their lands. In some cases, one cannot but suspect that even the scenery which reminded them of their Scottish homeland may have exercised a determining influence. Even today, a traveller through the Eastern

Townships of Quebec or the Grey and Bruce Counties in Ontario cannot but be impressed with the fact that the appearance of the land is very similar to that of Scotland, which may well have attracted the homesick colonist.

One example of the interaction of a number of these factors is to be found in the settlement of a part of the Eastern Townships where many Scots established themselves, i.e. the Township of Leeds, Megantic County. During the mid-1820s a number of Scottish families moved on to the back concessions: Allans, Olivers, Gillanders, Nugents and others. In 1828 William Reid and his family arrived from New York where they had located the preceding year, but for a number of reasons had decided to return to British rule in Canada. At first they had visited the Township of Hinchinbrook, Beauharnois County, but it was too flat for their liking, and hearing of the Scottish settlement at Leeds, an area geographically very similar to the Perthshire from which they had come, they obtained land in that township. Soon afterwards they were joined by Andrew Dunn, a distant relative, who had originally planned to settle in Nova Scotia.14

Meanwhile other Scots, usually related to each other in some way, had received grants in the Township of Hinchinbrook, which the Reids had scorned. Out of 225 families settled there in 1831, Scots formed 79, located mainly on the land as farmers, while the Irish, the next largest group (78), moved into the village of Huntingdon.15

One group of Scots made up of between 60 and 80 families settled in the parish of St. Anne Desplaines in the 1820s, in the Seigneurie of Blainville on the mainland north of Montreal. This caused some surprise among the French-Canadian habitants, for the land was not particularly good, which we can see from the fact that the local cure referred to the parish as "mon desert." But what was perhaps the principal reason for the surprise was that the new arrivals would hold the land en roturier, which would mean that they would have to pay cens et rentes and fulfil other seigneurial obligations. This was quite unusual since the Scottish settlers, like the English and the Irish, usually sought to obtain land in free and common socage. Indeed, Joseph Bouchette, in his Topographical Dictionary of Lower Canada, explains that the principal reason for the immigrants from the British Isles and the United States settling in Megantic County was that free and common socage was the only form of landholding in that area. He points out that since none of the land was held by seigneurial tenure, there were no French Canadians in the county.16

In Upper Canada much the same pattern of settlement was followed, as is indicated by what happened in and around Guelph at the same time as the settlement of the Eastern Townships (1827-30):

Another party of emigrants arrived later in the summer, and being mostly farmers, they settled on what has since been known as the Scotch Block, on the Elora Road. Among them were Alex McTavish, Donald Gillies, Alex Reid, McFie, Peter Butchart, Angus Campbell, Halliday, Joseph McDonald (who was an uncle of the present Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, and who died a few years ago upwards of 90 years of age), Jas. Stirton, Jas. McQuillan, Wm. Patterson, Rose, the Kennedys (three families) - most of whom, however, afterwards sold out, when they had made some improvements and removed elsewhere . . . While on the other hand, all of those who retained the farms they themselves had cleared afterwards became more or less wealthy, and many of them were in after years able to purchase eligible land in other places. A third party arrived at about the same time and settled in the Paisley Block, among them were - Jas. Inglis, Jas. Laidlaw, J. McCorkindale, Drew, Campbell, Alexander, Gideon, Hand-Boyd, McKersie, John Speirs, Thos. Jackson . . . most of whom became wealthy and influential citizens. Most of these early settlers had families, and the sons of some of them have since held prominent positions in the various councils and in the legislative halls of the country.17

We observe the essential Scottishness of the emigrants, their tendency to settle together, the nature of their enterprise of hard work, risk-taking, and ultimately their upward mobility. Another author summarized: "Like the sheep on their Scottish hills, as far as possible, they settled together in flocks, and it was uncommon to find one of them located alone among people of other origins."18

In all of this settlement and ensuing development, the Scot, and in particular the Highlander, was a sought-after immigrant. For example, the British American Land Company made special appeals to Scottish Highlanders who are said to have arrived in numbers greater than the Company could employ.19 At an earlier period, when the Huron Tract was under development, Dr. Ailing of Guelph, in presenting testimony before the British Parliamentary Select Committee, urged the virtue of Scotch emigrants over others.20 Not all observers, however, found the Highlander the most satisfactory of farmers. John McGregor mixed praise and blame:

The Scotchman, habituated to greater privations in his native country has probably left it with the full determination of undergoing any hardships that may lead to the acquisition of solid advantages. He therefore acts with great caution and industry, subjects himself to many inconveniences, neglects the comforts for some time which the Englishman considers indispensable, and in time certainly succeeds in surmounting all the difficulties, and then and not till then, does he willingly enjoy the comforts of life ..

The Highland Scotch, unless intermixed with other settlers, are not only careless, in many particulars, of cleanliness, within their houses but are also regardless of neatness and convenience in their agricultural implements and arrangements. All this arises from the force of habit, and the long prevalence of the make-shift system; for whenever a Scotch Highlander is planted among a promiscuous population, no one is more anxious than he to rival the more respectable establishment of his neighbours.

The Scotch settlers from the Lowland countries, although they generally know much better, yet remain from a determination first to accumulate property, for some years regardless of comfort or convenience in their dwellings; but they at last build respectable houses, and enjoy the fruits of industry . . . Few people, however, find themselves sooner at their ease than the Highland Scotch; no class can endure difficulties or suffer privations with more hardihood, or endure fatigue with less repining. They acquire what they consider an independence in a few years; but they remain, in too many instances, contented with their condition, where they find themselves possessed of more ample means than they possessed in their native country ... I have observed, that whenever the Highlanders inhabit a distinct settlement, their habits, their systems of husbandry, their disregard for comfort in their houses, their ancient hospitable customs, and their language undergo no sensible change.21.

Adam Fergusson, on his journey throughout Upper Canada during the 1830s, commented acidly:

One of the first settlements we meet with is the Glengarry district, an extensive tract of good land enjoying the advantage of water carriage. The language, the customs, the native courage of their Celtic sires still distinguishes the Clans, though at the same time we are afraid accompanied by some of those less profitable traits which stamp the Highlander as more at home wielding the claymore or extracting the mountain dew, than in guiding the plough-shares to slow but certain results. The farms are but indifferently improved, considering the advantages they have enjoyed; and much valuable time is expended in the depths of the forest in a semi-savage life, cutting and preparing timber for the lumber merchant, which if steadily devoted to the cultivation of the land would certainly be attended with infinitely greater benefit, both in a physical and mental point of view.

and again:

The Canadian farmers pursue the old Scottish practice of infield and outfield taking crop after crop of grain from their fields until nothing but weeds remain and looking to nature for the renovation which their own industry ought to have effected.

These are comments and observations of a Lowland agricultural specialist who might be expected to have an extremely critical eye for Highland practices. Not all his comments were acerbic, however:

My Angus friend who seemed to be in the enjoyment of very easy circumstances, affords a proof, among hundreds, of what an industrious and steady man may do for himself in Canada. He came out in 1817, was wrecked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, suffered many hardships, and finally landed in Montreal, devoid of every resource, save his own hands and good spirits. He soon found employment and in due time took a lease of a farm which he finds to succeed extremely well. His wheat and potatoes he says are excellent: oats inferior. He cultivates green crops, taking mangel wurzel instead of turnips which suffer from the fly. He uses horses in preference to oxen: has iron plows, and follows what he called a sort of rotation - 1st wheat; 2nd green crop; 3rd clover; 4th timothy for hay; and 5th pasture.22

Fergusson's favourable comments are borne out by the evidence of other of his contemporaries as well as by later historians. According to one recent French-Canadian work, the habitants' agricultural methods were very backward at the opening of the nineteenth century, and it was the advent of "les Yankees et les Ecossais" which improved the situation.23 Bouchette when describing the Seigneurie de Blainville, after he had referred to the Scotch Church in Ste. Therese, added this comment in the next sentence:

The Protestants who are all cultivators, cannot but be advantageous to the improvement of agriculture for the system they practise is so good that their Canadian neighbors cannot long delay to adopt it, at least in part.

When we consider the context in which this is stated and his later reference to the 60 or more Scottish families in Ste. Anne Desplaines, it is clear that he is referring to the predominantly Scottish element in the area. In discussing the Eastern Townships, particularly Megantic Country where so many Scots settled, he remarked:

Labouring under the weighty disadvantage of the want of good and convenient roads communicating with the principal market-towns of the province, the prosperity of the eastern townships can only be attributed to the enterprise, industry and perseverence of the inhabitants, who, considering merely the mildness of the climate, the advantages of the soil, and the locality, boldly entered the wilderness originally, and have now the gratification of seeing around them corn-fields of unrivalled luxuriance, thriving farms, and flourishing villages.24

Modern historians agree with this estimate of the situation, holding that "Les colons anglophones y sont ouverts, actifs entreprenant." Since they found it easier to sell their produce on the adjacent American market, however, the only thing which kept them from seeking annexation to the United States was their very strong British loyalty.25 But not all emigrants possessed skills essential to effective survival, although officialdom tended to anticipate fairly rapid self-sufficiency. Less than one year after one of the settlements had begun, "most of the people at Drummondville, inexperienced even in agriculture, let alone pioneer agriculture, were plunged in abject misery."26

It is difficult to ascertain with any precision what industrial skills the Scots possessed on coming to British North America. Records were kept not only of the sources of immigrants who arrived at Quebec and other ports, but also of the trades and callings of the immigrants; however, no cross-classifications were made. Information about Scottish artisans must therefore be gleaned from such sources as family histories, local histories and travellers' journals.

From these, it appears that immigrants brought a variety of skills with them. Guillet noted:

A list of 24 Scots settled at Perth in 1816 shows that one had been a farm grieve (manager) in Scotland, and seven others farmers or farm labourers. The other 16 included the following occupations: weaver, dyer, shoemaker, ship-master, mason, millwright, ship carpenter, schoolmaster, whitesmith, widow, shopkeeper, gardener, clerk.27

Even among the farmers, many had acquired skills by the practice of which they could supplement the yield of their fields.

But more significant are the occupational activities in which the Scots engaged in Canada. In addition to farming, and to business and finance, in which Scottish participation has been so notable as to warrant detailed discussion, Scots in the nineteenth century exercised skills acquired before migration or newly learned in British North America as millwrights, distillers, coopers, smiths, sawyers, masons, builders, tanners, cobblers, weavers, dyers, tailors, iron workers, bakers - in short, as mechanics or artisans in all of the callings of which their young communities had need. The number of cheese factories, sometimes one-man operations, established by Scots28 was notable, as was the number of flour mills, fanning mills, sawmills, paper mills and carding mills.29 Distilleries also, not unexpectedly, were set up in quantity.30

Many of the Scottish artisans enjoyed only local fame; others, however, won wider renown. For example, Adam Fergusson was not solely a gentleman farmer and keen observer; he possessed an alert imagination, progressive ideas, and a capacity for persuasion which resulted not only in the founding of a community, now the town of Fergus, but also in the training of veterinarians, the breeding of Durham bulls, and indeed, the founding of the Ontario Agricultural College.31 Red Fife, the first hard spring wheat developed in North America, owes its origin to David Fife of Otonabee Township who enterprisingly secured the original European Northern wheat from which he developed this ultimately widely approved strain. Patrick Bell's reaper, which he did not patent, was widely used in the 1830s and was considered "a beautiful piece of mechanism, (which) cut the grain .. . and by an endless conveyor belt of canvas laid it in a swath on one side of the machine."32 Peter McKellar and another man in the Talbot Settlement in 1819 invented a handmill which they called a 'bragh' which was widely used among the settlers in that district. "It consisted of granite stones fitted into a framework, the smaller stones on top and a large bolt passing through the centre of both to fasten them together. A large eye at the top of the bolt made it possible to insert a hand spike and carry the mill from place to place."33 Finally, the founder of Hull, Philemon Wright, was considered one of the most enterprising, resourceful and successful of Canadian settlers. Sometimes referred to as the ' white chief of the Ottawa,'' he owned and operated a mill and tavern at Chaudiere Falls; in 1840 his financial worth was estimated at 100,000.34

In Montreal as industry began to develop, particularly in engineering and similar fields, Scots from the Clydeside shipyards, from the engine-building works in Motherwell and various engineering firms in other parts of Lanark, Renfrew and the Glasgow area, began to emigrate to Canada, some to carry on their trades and crafts in the Maritime provinces, but most to obtain employment in the CPR Angus Shops in the east end of Montreal or in the Grand Trunk shops in the St. Henry district. Even in the first decade of the present century either first or second generation Scottish immigrants still dominated the skilled personnel employed in these two large plants.

In the category of artisan, we should perhaps also include Sandford Fleming, an engineer. His career embraced much more than railroading, although it is worth noting that the Great Western Toronto-Hamilton (1854), the Canada Southern (Hamilton-Port Dover), the Inter-Colonial, and finally the Canadian Pacific Railroad all bore his imprint. He also initiated the first Canadian postage stamp (1851), and pioneered in the establishment of Standard Time in 1884. He was instrumental in the construction of the Dundas Canal; before he died in 1915 he had also served as Chancellor of Queen's University. This was an impressive record for any person in any country.35

An indication of the role of the Scots may be found in the description of a community founded and largely populated by Scots, such as Guelph, Ontario. In 1843 Guelph had

It will be recalled that Guelph was founded in 1827. At the time of the above analysis the community was the capital of Wellington County and contained a population of 703 persons. It would be extremely valuable to be able to identify all the persons classified in these respective occupations. By name we could obtain perhaps some meagre indication of national origin. At this time the following persons are identified as living in Guelph and employed in the cited occupations: architect, Victor Stewart; master builders, David Kennedy, Thomas Dobbie, Robert Grierson, Robert Emslie, James Davidson, James Barclay, George and Alexander Bruce, James Dobbie.37 It seems a reasonable assumption that all were Scots.

William Allan, born in Killochan, Ayrshire, arrived in Canada in 1830. An engineer and specialist in the erection of saw and flour mills in Sweden, he acquired property from the Canada Company in the Guelph area and proceeded to construct "a mill proper, a cooper shop to make the barrels, a blacksmith and a metal-working ship, a planing mill and a wood-working shop."38 His eldest son, David, became owner and manager and he, "being an architect, maintained a fully equipped drafting room above his business office."39 Son James, who was a competent miller, looked after flour production, while son John, who was a qualified millwright, kept the machinery running. Son William completed schooling at Rockwood Academy and afterwards at Tassies in Galt, ultimately becoming office manager. In a sense this is a not unusual series of events and illustrates the cumulative human component in a specific Scots family brought to the New World even though the illustration may only be tenuously artisan.

Alex (Sandy) Glass and John Busby, head and assistant gardener respectively at the Priory when owned by William Allan, would have to be considered specialists in agriculture. It is said that:

These two men kept the grounds always in excellent order. There was the green-house, in the centre, in which many rare plants were propagated, as well as some choice varieties of grapes, the roots or seeds for which were imported from Spain; then, out in the garden, were some varieties of gooseberries which attained large size, apples and plums also of choice varieties, which yielded luscious fruit, many of them prize winners in the horticultural show in the Fall. 'Sandy' developed some choice varieties himself, including what was afterwards "the Glass seedling plum", which some years later (after he had moved to St. Catharines), became a staple and much sought for fruit in that district.40

This is surely an example of substantial and significant contribution, not only to the lifestyle of the times but to its life content as well. The degree of sophistication of the agriculturalists cited, their contact with and dependence upon other parts of the world, particularly Europe, clarifies a little of the 'actual lifestyle' occasionally to be discovered, in 'life in the bush.' It suggests also that one of the critically important ingredients permitting 'contribution' is the human's perception of the type and variety of opportunity.

Mr. Alex McKenzie, who worked in the office of the Allan mill, later became clerk of the surrogate court in Guelph.41 James Mays settled on 100 acres in 1830; later he built a fanning mill; still later he moved to Guelph and built a stone residence and a stone business block. Robert Crowe arrived in 1832 and started a foundry for the production of stoves and general castings. Messrs Harley and Heather set up an iron and brass foundry. Mr. Thain in 1862 opened a blacksmith and wagon shop; Mr. Stewart in 1854 opened a wood products business; Mr. Clarke built the first bridge on Dundas Street for the Canada Company, later returning to Guelph to open a tannery. Two tanneries were also opened in 1869, one by a Mr. Harvey who later became town clerk, and another by a Mr. Gow who later became sheriff of the community. In 1864 a Mr. Bell established a business to manufacture melodeons, which business was later taken over by McLeod, Wood and Company, still later by John Jackson and Company.

The Mechanics Institute in 1850 had as the principal officers president, C.J. Mickle, secretary, T. Sandilands, and librarian, Edwin Newton, and members with the names of McDonald, Torrance, Scott, Gow, Ferguson, Watt, Savage and Armstrong. The precursor of the organized public library system, the Mechanics Institute represented an important contribution to informal education, principally for the working man. It is interesting that some of the key people in the endeavour were Scots, continuing the tradition of a concern for learning.42

What could one conclude from the following list of 'firsts' in the town of Guelph except that the Scots had impressively made their presence felt in that community, contributing significantly to the emerging social structure?

James Logan, a Scottish advocate who visited Canada in 1836, noted that David Allan of Guelph, an ingenious mechanic, had erected a distillery with his own hands.44

The main portion of Scots coming to British North America after the beginning of the nineteenth century were artisans or farmers or those who in the absence of such skill or knowledge took up work on the farm, in the factory, or in the store with the confident intention of self-improvement. For the most part their first move in the new environment was to obtain land, either to farm or to use as a base of operation. Frequently they cleared it, sold it and moved on to repeat the process; served, that is, as openers of land rather than developers of it. Others came with particular and specific skills which they were not always able to use immediately to personal advantage in the new country. The skilled carpenter was not always able to obtain work at his trade, but frequently transferred his skill to clearing the land and building a dwelling place; in short, there seems to have been substantial capacity, adaptability, and initiative which as time passed flowered under the stimulus of a variety of social and economic stimuli.

This tendency continued even after the new arrivals were well and confortably settled. As one traces the fortunes of the Scots who took up their residence in the Maritime provinces, the Eastern Townships, Glengarry and western Ontario, one soon finds that they were often not content to remain merely as farmers or artisans. If they did desire to continue on the land they were usually on the constant lookout for new and better locations in places such as the Prairie provinces and British Columbia, with the result that the Scottish settlements in Eastern Canada were often depleted by the adventurous who were caught up in the movement to the West in the late nineteenth century. Others left the farms or the factories to obtain an education and to enter the professions. The Township of Leeds, for instance, of which mention has been made earlier, for the period of a century after its first settlement put forth over 100 school teachers, about the same number of nurses, some 25 clergymen (mostly Presbyterian), fifteen doctors, one of whom was the first woman psychiatrist in the United States, an equal number of lawyers and smaller numbers in other professions; and Leeds was by no means exceptional.45

An important ingredient in this flowering was the social environment, and more particularly the feeling the immigrant had about it. The majority of the immigrants, although they may have been short of funds, were trying to escape not so much from poverty as from lack of opportunity in Scotland. As McColl states:

In warm houses sheltered by the great woods, in homes they could for the first time call their own, with no pompous aristocrat to collect rent, or threaten eviction, or compel obeisance, they were comparatively comfortable and contented, and from the outlook of the future received both cheer and stimulus.46

It is sometimes said that the effect of 'open opportunity' upon the emigrant has been overemphasized, that the whole notion of 'open opportunity' is romantic, and not a 'hard, scientific fact.' However, although no quantification is possible, the growth and development of the nation called Canada offers strong evidence that the ' definition of the situation ' formed a profound and critical part of the circumstances requisite to the survival of immigrants and their ultimate success. In the early pioneer stage on the land, the freedom to fail was a powerful stimulant to concerted effort towards achievement. This appears no less true at later stages in the development of the country, although with the emergence of organized economic activity some of the flavour of independently co-operating with one's neighbours in the 'Scotch Block' for one's own profit may have appeared ephemeral or possibly non-existent to the immigrant employed as a mechanic in a railway shop at an hourly wage. Then the circumstances may well have seemed little different from those they had left, although the difference seems still to have been perceived as significant. Certainly in aspiring towns and cities, Scottish enterprise was no less evident than in rural communities, among artisans and craftsmen as well as among businessmen, financiers, politicians and scholars.


1. Margaret I. Adam, "The Highland Emigration of 1770," The Scottish Historical Review, 15/16 (1918-19), 282-84.

2. Ibid., 17/18 (1920-21), 74.

3. Ibid., 284-290.

4. Gordon Donaldson, The Scots Overseas (London: Hale, 1966), pp. 74-


5. Ibid., pp. 82-83.

6. Helen I. Cowan, British Emigration to British North America (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961), Chapter v.

7. Donaldson, p. 85.

8. Ibid., p. 88.

9. Ibid., pp. 205-206.

10. Charles W. Dunn, Highland Settler (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1953), pp. 120-121.

11. Cowan, p. 52.

12. Ibid.,p. 53.

13. Z2009(1841), 173,V 1-8, British Parliamentary Papers, paragraph 1548.

14. McKillop, The Annals of Megantic (n.p., 1902), pp. 135, 148; W.D. Reid, The Genealogy of the Reid Family (Unpublished).

15. J. Bouchette, The British Dominions in North America (London: Colburn & Bentley, 1831, repr. N.Y., AMS, 1968) I. Topographical Dictionary of Lower Canada: "Hinchinbrook."

16. Ibid., II, "Megantic County,""Mille Isles, Seigneurie of."

17. C. Acton Burrows, The Annals of the Town of Guelph (Guelph: Herald Steam Printing House, 1877) p. 15.

18. H. McColl, Sketches of Highland Pioneers of the County of Middlesex (1901), in Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa. See also James M. Cameron, "An introduction of the Study of Scottish Settlement of Southern Ontario: A Comparison of Place Names." Ontario History, LXI (1969), 167-172.

19. Cowan, p. 137.

20. Z 2009 (1842), 173, V 1-8, Brit. Parl. Papers, para. 1561.

21. John McGregor, British America (Edinburgh, 1833), Vol. II, pp. 445, 447-50.

22. Adam Fergusson, Tour in Canda, 11th ed. (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1833), p. 263.

23. J. Hamelin & Y. Roby, Histoire economique de Quebec, 1851-1896 (Montreal: Fides, 1971), p. 9.

24. Bouchette, i, p. 308.

25. Hamelin & Roby, p. 21. F. Ouellet [Histoire economique et sociale du Quebec, 1760-1850 (Montreal: Fides, 1966), pp. 81 ff] points out that the first English-speaking governor of Quebec, General James Murray, a Scot, did everything he could to improve agriculture but that the real drive for advance came from the British merchants and settlers, most of whom were Scots. Lord Elgin, also a Scottish governor in the mid 1850s distributed 50,000 copies of a tract to give guidance about agriculture, while Governor Dalhousie, another Scot, endeavoured to organize agricultural societies, presumably along the pattern of the Scottish agricultural bodies of the time. [M. Seguin, La "Nation Canadienne" et l'Agriculture, (1760-1850), (Montreal: Boreal, 1970), pp. 137ff].

26. Ibid., p. 41.

27. E.C. Guillet, The Pioneer Farm and Backwoodsman (Toronto: The Ontario Publishing Co. Ltd., 1963), p. 87.

28. Norman Robertson, History of the County of Bruce (originally published in 1906 by William Briggs of Toronto, reprinted, Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1960), p. 332; Robert J. Fraser, As Others See Us (Beamsville, Ont., Beamsville Express, 1959), pp. 112,235-239.

29. F.H. Dobbin, Our Old Home Town (Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1943), pp. 12, 226, 227; Norman Robertson, History of the County of Bruce (originally published in 1906 by William Briggs of Toronto, reprinted in Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1960), pp. 328-0, 339, 374; Claire Thompson, Township of Lanark 1820-1970 (Lanark, Ont., The Lanark Era, 1970), p. 25; Andrew F. Hunter, A History of Simcoe County (Bar-rie, Ont., Historical Committee of Simcoe County, 1909), pp. 211, 237, 247.

30. E.A. Owen, Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement (Originally published in 1898 by William Briggs of Toronto, reprinted in Canadian Reprint Series, No. 17, Belleville Ont., Milca Silk Screening Ltd., 1972), pp. 400, 401; Dobbin, Our Old Home Town, pp. 13-14, 227.

31. Fraser, p. 64.

32. Ibid., p. 148.

33. Ibid., p. 216.

34. Ibid., p. 46.

35. Thomas Melville Bailey, Traces, Places and Faces: Links between Canada and Scotland (Hamilton, 1957).

36. D. Allan, "About Guelph, its Early Days and later," (Unpublished typescript, 1939, in Guelph Public Library), p. 37.

37. Ibid.p.38..

38. Ibid.,p.9.

39. Ibid., p. 10.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid, p. 11.

42. Burrows, p. 63.

43. Allan, p. 61.

44. A.C. Byerly, The Beginning of Things (Guelph: The Guelph Publishing Co., 1935), p. 26.

45. Personal recollections of the late Rev. W.D. Reid who himself was one of the first natives of Leeds Co. to leave home.

46. McColl,p.4.

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