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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (M)
William Murihead

My great, great, great grandfather was William Alexander Muirhead, born 1802.  He was an Empire Loyalist and came across from New England to settle in Brantford Ontario.  When leaving the New England area during the American Revolution he brought with him Mohawks natives.  He informed them that under Yankee government that they would have no rights or entitlement to traditional lands. They came with him, and helped defend the border during an attempted invasion. We still have the musket that he used during this war.

He then took several chiefs with him to England to meet with King George IV, to prove to the King that the natives were noble and deserving of rights.  The Six Nations lands in southern Ontario was a result of six different native tribes coming together, that included the Mohawks.

William Muirhead went on to become the first Major of Brantford, Ontario and first bank manager for the Bank of Montreal. We have a painted portrait of the gentleman hanging in our house. He had two sons - William and Edward.

Ross Muirhead


This book is dedicated to the family and is intended to throw some light on what would otherwise be a dark spot. These stories I heard told when young around Ingle or Hearth, none of which I have been in the habit of telling my children for the reason I have always been busy ---and which I enjoyed so much---have often made me think they would like to know something of our ancestors and how they lived. And so I have been compelled to write this book in leisure.

May 20, 1910.


I was born in a small house about one-half mile from Coupar Angus in Fortashire, Scotland, in the year 1844 on the 25th day of October and was the sixth child of my mother and seventh of my father. There was one younger than I. The names are as follows: George who died in youth; (father’s son by not mother’s); Jess, born October 25th, 1832; Peter, born about two years later; James, born about two years later; Rachel, born about two years after James and who died about 1886; Jane Ann, David (myself) and John. These are the names of my father and mother’s children as they wer born unto them.

George died when young and had no children. Peter, is now old and has no children and all the remainder have large families. Thus I have given a brief of my father’s family so far.

Of my ancestors I know very little --- in fact nothing but by tradition and will here put down all I know.

In the feudal times when Scotland was divided into Clans and hereditary Lordships and when there were highland chiefs and Lowland Lords. Then my grandfather was a young man and lived with his parents on a small farm at a place near camp Moore. [Campmuir? Which is about a mile Southwest of Markethill] About this time the war of the rebellion, or as some call it, the war of the Pretender*, began. There were five brothers all living at home as the custom was in those days, attending on My Lord as he was called. Now this lord was no less a personage than the great Putcur [should be Pitcur?] whos place and castle still stood in my boyhood days. It stands about three hundred yards off the main turnpike road running between Dundee and Coupar Angus (or Coupar in Angus) about two and a half miles from Coupar Angus and about eleven and one-half miles from Dundee in the Parish of Katence, which village [Kittens?] is about one mile from Coupar Angus. And there would any of have to go if we wished to trace our birth or marriages backward *and I think it very probable that my father and mother were married here, at Coupar Angus or in Storemount, as all my mother’s people lived there in Storemount; her maiden name was Christinie or Christinia Pilliar [Could be Piliar] and to the best of my ability to state her home was about three or four miles East or Southeast of Dunkell [Dunkeld?] at the entrance to the highlands of Scotland on the river Tay. Her people lived there when I was a boy* and the place was known to me as the Storemount, being a good large district including some villages, but I never knew there names. And here it would be well to say that some of my father’s children might have been born in Coupar Angus or Miggle [Meigle?] and they would be registered there.

Now to return to my great grandfather; he as his four other brothers, went to the war and followed Prince Charley and of course shared in his downfall. Well, the battle of Coloden [1745] was fought as history tells and Charlie and his followers were scattered and of the five brothers who followed him one returned to comfort the declining years of the old people.* This man was my great-grandfather and then he moved after his father’s death to a place called Kirksteps by the side of a running stream and how long they lived there I do not know, but my grandfather engaged in horse trading and the like was considered to be fairly well off. While he was yet comparatively young he moved from Kirksteps to Markethill, one half mile form Coupar Angus on the west side of the Dundee turnpike road and there ended his days in the same parish in which he was born and was buried in the same churchyard lot as his father had been which lots are three grave breadths and situated about thirty feet from the West end of the parish church and in direct line with the South wall on the church.(Parish Church of Katence in Fortashire, Scotland.) [Newhall Parish?]

Grandfather died at the age of eighty-four years. Grandmother at the age of eighty years. Grandfather’s name was James Morris and Grandmother’s Rachel whose maiden name was Wilson. Their family was three sons and two daughters – Jame, David and Peter. James emigrated to Canada in 1832 sailing from Glasgow Scotland and he is generally supposed to have died very rich about 1863 or 1864. David died about 1855 or 1856 and was buried in the family burying ground in the Parish church yard. Peter, who was also my father, died in 1869, aged 63 years in the same house in which he was born and was buried in the same grave in which his wife was buried twenty three years before.** She was my mother and her maiden mane was Chistinia Pillar, her age at death being 39 years.

This I am writing for the benefit of my own family and from recollection of the tales told twenty-five or thirty years ago and if some things seem anything but straight or parallel excuse these blunders and oblige.


In this chapter I will give a brief outline of what I know of my Grandfather’s children’s relations. Some of them are engaged in manufacturing in or near Coupar Angus and grew to be pretty well off but most of them I knew were old maids and lived in fine houses but never acknowledged us or seemed to know we lived. The cause was said to be my father’s highmindedness – But I think our poverty more likely. They were highly respected by everybody in the community.

Here I will give the names of my brothers and sisters and age as near as I know them:

Jess, born October 25th, 1832
Peter, born September, 1834
James, born 1836
Ratchel, born 1838
Jane Ann, born 1841
David, born October 25th, 1844
John, born 1846

George was about the age of Jess or a little older, being the son of my father but not of my mother and he died when yet in his teens.

Of these children of my father and mother one has died and six are living. The living are Jess, whose home is in Nebraska; Peter now in South Africa; James in South Africa [James and/or Peter might have owned a diamond mine]; Rachel, died about 1886; Jane Ann, residing in Kansas City; David, (myself) residing in Kansas City; John also residing, in Kansas City, Missouri.


Now I am going to write somewhat of my own self and family. I was sent to the parish school and soon learned to read and write a little and there my schooling stopped for a long time. I was then apprenticed to the stone cutting trade and served nearly five years but got served out when I was twenty years and seven months old. I then went to Dundee and worked for about three months but as I had an inclination to roam I went to New Castle on the Tyne, England and there and there worked about a year and then I went to Carlyle and two or three months again. From there I went to Leeds in Yorkshire, visiting York and Selby on the way.

In passing I will here give an incident which happened to me. It may deter some one from doing what I did when working at or near New Castle on the Tyne. I had a young man for a companion who played to piccolo or flute and we were working for a man who gave and required to be given two weeks notice to quit and he kept saying let us go to Rothbury, a small town where there was a large hotel being built on the river Annan – all stone. At last he prevailed and I consented but so impatient was he that although we agreed I should give notice to quit, I being the oldest, he had hardly laid eyes on the boss before he rushed to him and told him we were to quit on a certain day but before that day came he wanted me to go and ask the boss to work on but I would not. He went home to his father and I went to Rothbury where I had a very rough time.

Never listen to such men they always deceive one.


I will here give some account of Hannah Fletcher who became my wife. She was the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Fletcher who lived at Grotton not far from Saltburn by the Sea and her father’s people were well to do and owned the farm of the Shaw near Salem Bridge. The Shaw farm is still owned by the Fletchers but of two generations later. The wife’s maiden name was Prudom who was also well to do and lived near Egton Bridge in Yorkshire, England (about six miles from Whitby) but I think the name is lost out of that family there. There were four sisters; Mrs. Searl, Mrs. Hugill, Mrs. Petty and Mrs. Fletcher who was the oldest of the four sisters and of whom I wish to write.

Grandmother Prudom was very proud and very anxious that her marry children should marry well and as grandmother Fletcher loved and wished to marry a poor stone cutter, her mother (grandmother Prudom) under threat of disinheritance compelled her to marry Mr. Fletcher and she being of rather submissive disposition submitted and as a result no happiness in the family. Father Fletcher had a sister who lived with them in Grotton who domineered over Mrs. Fletcher to such an extent that they together cowed and almost broke the heart of Mrs. Fletcher.

Then there came a man by the name of T. Taylor who had a great deal of influence over Mr. Fletcher and his sister and persuaded them to sell their property and entrust their money to him and them by his influence and their pleading poverty, they could get Mrs. Fletcher into an asylum at the State’s expense. His scheme succeeded all right and when Taylor got all the contents of the grocery store and the realty (for they owned the store as well as the pretty stone house they lived in) and Grandmother Fletcher (the wife) in the asylum at York, Taylor kept the money and as Fletcher had pleaded poverty to get his wife to the asylum he could not sue at law Taylor got the money and Fletcher got poverty and disgrace.

The children were cared for by relatives of the Prudoms until they were able to take care of themselves. The offspring of this unhappy marriage were three daughters, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Isabella – two of whom remain and Isabelle is deceased.

Mr. Fletcher did not long survive the things just narrated above. He went to work as a laborer at Marske by the Sea and while doing something in or with a stone had his leg hurt and died of blood poisoning and was buried in Marske churchyard and there he sleeps within hearing of rush and roll of the great Atlantic Ocean until the day of resurrection and his wife sleeps in the asylum burying ground at York by the waters of the beautiful river Ouse, one of the most lovely and quiet spots I have ever seen and no one think for a moment that these people came from a mean or low stock of people for all in that country those people’s descendants who are merged into the Robinsons and Briggs through the Prudom side and Fletcher by the father’s side are very highly respected.

As for me I have told what related to me when I lived in Lingdale, England by distant relatives of the Fletchers and the denounced Thomas Taylor of Skelton in no uncertain language but I will leave all to the mercies of God which is greater than man’s.

The foregoing relates entirely to the family of Hannah Morris and leads up to the present generation.


It is needless to give an account of my travels through the country in search of work and my successes and disappointments and the trial I went through but after long years of looking at things I have come to the conclusion that the wage earners of all countries are a very much abused people. They are treated worse than the animals by those who are in power and have the losses to make up out of their ranks.

After living in Leeds about two months I became acquainted with Hannah Fletcher and kept company with her for about fourteen months and then we got married on the second day of June, White Tuesday or Whitsentide week, A.D. 1868 at a place called Stockley in the Parish of Stockley in Yorkshire, England and the wedding was witnessed by a good many people but there were few relatives, being most friends on her part. Uncle John Hughill, then living at Easby about three miles from Stockosley (south-east) was there.

We then went to Middlesboro and stayed about two weeks and from there we moved to Leeds where we lived about two years and where there were two children born to us. William, born June 24th, 1869 and Joseph born May .., 1870 who died in infancy.

All the foregoing pages were written in the fall of 1892 and a great change has come over the writer. I feel lonely and my children are all grown up and I long to see them in the church of the living God for there is nothing that will comfort in old age as the hope in God. (Sunday, May 12th, 1907.)

Ed. NOTE: David and Hannah Morris with their children came to America in 1881.


The house in which I first saw the light of day and with which most of my early recollections are connected, stands on the West side of the Dundee Public road at the junction of the Dundee and Greenburn roads.[Greenburns is a small town to the North East of Markethill] Two houses stood joined together; on thatched with straw and the other had a slate roof. The family of Peter Morris lived in the farther from the Dundee Road ie the Westermost one. Now there were three similar houses right there but only one stood with its end to the road. The other two stood parallel to the Dundee road.

On leaving Coupar Angus going South by or on the Dundee road the first landmark forty years ago (it is that long since I saw it) was the church yard and the old abby overgrown with Ivy – the real ivy that is always green. Then came the lover’s Lane for the lovers in those days and that town like in all towns in all ages, loved the secluded spots as they do in our day. Then came Stoneknee (spoken Stonee) and the stone bridge from which it took its name. [Looking at a 2002 map of the area, there are the roads Abbey Rd and Abbey Gdns just south of Coupar Angus]

I remember there being a toll gate there where teams had to pay for using the macadam highway and I remember when it was taken away and made a free highway known then as the King’s Highway. The houses were on both the East and the West sides of the road. The burn or creek flows toward the East and then a little further on, on the East side of the road was Drinkstill. Further South on the West side of the road came the house in which I was born, the Westmost of the two known by the name of Markethill. [Markethill is on the 2002 map just south of a creek]

The burnside path from the dam of Buldunnie [Baldinny? Where there is a creek and small lake in 2002, not too far away is also a Newton of Ballunie] to make a short cut to McBeth’s hill should be followed. The dam being left we cross the burn on a foot plank. Here the saw-mill stands where the trees on the estate of Hallburton [Mains of Hallyburton and Hallyburton Ho are by the lake] were converted into lumber for fences and to rebuild farm buildings. The farmer hauled the trees to the mill then when Mr. Spaulding and his son Charley had converted them into lumber they hauled them away for Lord Hallburton’s carpenders to build or repair, with them as the case might be. This (Bugove) saw mill had mysteries of murder and shadow hobgoblins which we youngsters never were able to fully unravel.[There is a Balgove around a mile Southwest of Hallyburton] The ghosts were even so bold as to be seen on the King’s Highway anywhere from the dam of Buldunnie to the wagon road leading to the saw mill.

Leaving the sawmill one comes to the farm of Bugove [Balgove] where we again cross the burn – this time on the wagon bridge and from this farm to the Ford of Pitcur [Ford of Pitcur] where the wagons cross this burn on a stone bridge; along this pathway is a scene of beauty when the Hawthorne is in bloom but scenes change while memory holds them as last seen.

At this stone bridge foot passengers for MacBeth’s hill have to take the driveway or wagon road. Those for the Gaskill Heep, the burnside or for the Corse of Gowrie do the same thing but the path on the upper burnside is more rugged the the lower and less lovely and beautiful.

Now for MacBeth’s hill. Starting from Markethill, the name of the place I was born in, and looking South and a little West, it can be seen about five mile away. [reality it is not that far] Moving along this direction we will take a walk to it starting out at eight in the morning, South on the Dundee road past the beach wood then the cross road known as the Kantance road is passed. [Kettins] Following this the mile post and presently we arrive to the dam of Bulldunie (spoken Budunnie) and you have reached a famouse hedge of Holleywood, the only one I ever saw which was cared for in my boyhood in fine condition.

Looking around here a little and one sees going East the carriage drive to Lord Hallburton’s residence about a half mile away with its turnouts North and South and large shade trees standing in the triangle formed by the intersection of the curves with the main road. Here also is the burn or creek coming over out of the Gaskill.

Let us leave this by the path along the burnside. But before passing I would say that at this carriage drive entrance there has been built a lodge cottage by Hallburton, the name of the estate on which we lived for we were only lodgers or renters, along the path by the burnside, foot passengers go for a short cut, but by the main road or driving, one has to keep on going South until one comes to the four road ends or cross roads where the cottage of Putcur [Pitcur] stands in the Northeast angle.

At Putcur stands the ruin of an old castle where the Lord of Putcur lived and all the surrounding country was his retainers and vassal’s land and when he said go to war and rob some neighbor and steal his cattle and kill his men and take captive his wives and children they did if they could. If they did not many of them would be killed and some captured and made vassals or kept in prison perhaps for years. Then the neighbor who beat in battle would make a counter raid and redeem cattle and maybe his retainers also. This was the kind of life lead in that country until after the union of England and Scotland.

The scenes I have described were everywhere in the land but more especially in the Highlands and the border country between England and Scotland.

Again resuming the journey to MacBeth’s hill at the cottage of Putcur, turn West and the first thing you meet of interest is the little town called the Ford of Putcur which I have before mentioned. Then passing through the Ford keep straight on West. The next we come to is the cross road at the Gask farm then on West past the hill called the Gaskhill and next to the Fel’s farm (I think). [There is the town of South Gask on the map here]

Then came the hill on which MacBeth’s castle stood. There one has to leave the team if they have one and proceed on foot. There was some kind of road up to it but we never cared for a road as we went through the field over the fences and through the wood and jumped the creek or burns and if we could not jump them (and I don’t remember any we could not) we waded them. We got to the summit of the hill on a fine July morning and there find the trenches where the walls stood, full of grass and red berries, at least they were in my day. [If this is on the map it is Cairn. I can’t find any connection to MacBeth]

On the East side of the hill is a chasm between two hills, which I should judge was thirty or thirty-five foot wide and about fifty feet deep with natural vertical walls of stove and flat on the bottom which runs North and South and makes a barrier over which no one could possibly pass. To the South the same rock makes ascent almost perpendicularly and could not be climbed without great labor if at all. All of the hills I have named are almost perpendicular rocks facing Southward but facing Northward the ascent is steep but even and can be climbed by a pedestrian though with hard work. Also to the Northwest the ascent is not so bad.

Now getting onto the site of the castle. It seems as though they had pulled down the walls and heaped them in the center for there in the center was the highest place and from it you can see the woods of Scune and Corse of Gowry[Carse of Gowrie] and the Kingdom of Fife lying away to the South and East with the River Tay flowing right on through the valley and into the firth of Fife of Firth of Tay and it is a wonderful scene of beauty as on a July morning when the skies are clear. Then turn and look Northern and you have a view of the Grampian Hills from Dunkell to the Grenisley (spoken Grenily) and between you and the Grampians lays the valley of Strathmore and right North and a little East lies Markethill. Coupar Angus is plainly in sight as also the myers of Meigel where MacBeth was supposed to have been slain, They lay in the bend of the River Isla just about two and a half South of the town Glamis. This river is lost in the Tay at or near Mucleham, I have forgotten just what they called the place but it was just about two miles West of the bridge I have already described.

I here intend to write about the bridge over the Isla River near Muckelour [Meikleour] but I find I have only mentioned two bridges, that at stonee and the Ford of Putcur neither of which is the one over the Isla. This bridge is near the junction of the Tay and the Isla rivers about a half mile from the junction and is a notable piece of work being of solid masonry. It was built sometime in the thirties or forties. Building of good roads was the craze in the country in 1840 when the people crusaded for them, The span is about eighty or one hundred feet and rises from the high water mark until the crown of the arch is reached. It is the segment of a circle yet the crown rises a great height above the water and the high ground on each side of the river affords splendid opportunity to make approaches to the bridge on each side. The road crosses almost on a level with the wings of the abutments and are carried out to the high ground at the North end of the bridge. There stands a row of exceedingly tall beech trees in a hedge form and so close together one could not pass between the butts; they might have been cut down by this time however. [The map list a Bridge of Isla here and to the North is a place called Meikleour Beech Hedge]

In the town of Muckelour when I worked there in 1862, I think stood a stone which, when the ruling law chained prisoners up by the neck, stood on the coom grounds and was about seven feet high and two and a half feet wide and almost eight inches thick. Through this stone at about the height of a man was drilled a hole into which was thrust an iron bolt. Attached to this bolt was an iron chain three or for links – good and stout – and at the end of the chain was an iron collar. It had a hinge in the back and when a man stood up against the stone, the chain allowed the collar to be clasped around the neck and thus he had to stand as long as his punishment lasted. It was the instrument of punishment which I have ever seen of its kind and I never heard of another. It will still be there for that country stone will stand exposed to the weather a thousand years. A crust grows on its surface but it does not crumble like the stone of this country.

One can also see from a vantage point Blairgowrie on the River Erick but forfar, Perth and Dundee are hidden by the bend in the hills at Glamis.

There is another historical castle in the corse of Gowrie then the castle of Earldoom but as boys we disregarded those titles which our elders reverenced.[couldn’t verify this one but there is a Megginch Castle by Errol? In the area spoken of. There are some unnamed castles in the area as well.] There is one more place I will mention before I leave off that is the castle of Myerthly [Murthly] situated in the bend of the River Tay about three miles down from Dunkell [Dunkeld]. This place has a fine cut stone castle building and when I visited there about forty-eight years ago the roof was intact and it was all closed up. After spending his fortune laying out the grounds and building the walls of the castle, the Master of the estate retired to private life to save money to finish the inside but died before he had succeeded. I will now try to describe it first. After crossing the River Tay on the Ferry Boat which at this point is a very rapid current, you almost immediately come to the grounds of the Murthley estate and when on foot walk along a gravel smooth path with shrubs and flowers on both sides and the grounds were laid out beautifully everywhere. One could look on all sides and there were beautiful beds of every kind of flowers and shrubs and after about an hour’s walk come to the castle or home place. When I was here, I was met by my oldest brother who was then an assistant gardener who took me all over the gardens and through the castle and on to its roof. The gardens were all enclosed with stone walls seven or eight feet high with large iron gates hung in the sides so that they would allow wagons to pass. Now the garden in that part of the world is used mostly for raising vegetables. They have hot houses in them and hot beds and mushroom houses and also have some flowers but although they grow some rare flowers in the garden the greater part of them are to be found in the grounds surrounding the mansions themselves.

From the roof of the castle there is a fine view if this part of the Tay Valley which is fine for scenery, There is a high rolling ground to the South for her the river Tay makes a perfect letter [backward] S starting from Dunkell [Dunkeld] running East to Muckelour [Meikleour] thence West to Perth, then East through the Corse of Gowrie [Carse of Gowrie] and along the shores of Fife and pas Dundee and Broughty Ferry into the Firth of Tay and Myrthly [Murthly] castle lays in this enclosure.

May 20th, 1910

[Information in brackets were added by Roger Allen Morris the great great grandson or David Morris, great grandson of David Morris, Grandson of Harold D. Morris, son of Robert H Morris]

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