Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (Mc)
Will MacCallum

Family History of our Scottish Immigrant ancestors

Will MacCallum <>

Falcon Ridge Inn B&B
Alma, NB

I came across your website today and thought you might like to read the attached and see where it might fit on your website (Bios?).

This is the culmination of research started by my grandfather decades ago and which I have corroborated and extended in the last twenty years or so.

There is much that you will find probably find surprising about the history I've attached. I have not listed all the sources for the story but any detail that you'd like to know the source of, I can tell you. Just ask.

I have MacCallum Ancestry Stories facebook page that currently has 46 members - all of whom are descendants (or their spouses) of my ancestors Archibald MacCallum (~1750 - prob 1786) and Catherine McDiarmid (~1755 - 1790). It is only open to people who can prove descent from this couple - some of whom because I have discovered and contacted them and told them they are!

And no, I haven't sent you the wrong file even though it is called The Life of John Dewar! Enjoy.

William A. MacCallum

The Life of John Dewar

John Dewar was born by Loch Tay in Perthshire Scotland probably between 1745 and 1747 at Croftintygan, Crannich, around the time that Bonnie Prince Charlie was staging his attempted insurrection. Dewar's life's story is a poignant example of the sort of experiences that many Scots lived through in the century after the Forty-Five as the Highlands were mostly emptied of people.

In 1768 Dewar left Scotland and travelled overland to Portsmouth, England. Exactly when he left Portsmouth is not known. Military records* say that his ship arrived in New York City just as the American Revolution was beginning (probably 1775 or 1776). He and his wife Mary McDiarmid settled on a farm in Jerseyfield, near present-day Johnstown, New York in 1776. When and where they were married is not known although it is known that her family was from Tulloch, on Loch Tay, just across the lake from where John Dewar hailed. The military records show that he bought 100 acres in Jerseyfield from a Mr. Brown in 1776 and that he owned 2 horses, 3 cows and other smaller livestock.

John Dewar enlisted in the British army to fight in the American Revolution on June 2, 1777 at Carleton Island, one of the “1000 Islands” in the St. Lawrence River. He served in the King's Royal Regiment of New York which was actually based in Montreal during the war and made regular raids into New York State via Lake Champlain. Military records show that he 'officially' arrived in Canada in 1779 and by 1784 had purchased 200 acres for the purpose of building a new homestead. The cost was 28 pounds. This property was very close to where the eventual border with the U.S. would be drawn, at the junction of the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain, in the present-day municipality of Noyan, Quebec. He would have been well aware of the property before buying it, as he would have had to have passed it many times during the raids.

When the war ended the 'Royal Yorkers' regiment was disbanded. By 1786 John had built a wooden house, a long barn for cows and crops and another barn for horses and to store weapons, as John continued to be Captain of the local militia for the area that was then called Caldwell's Manor (now part of Noyan, Quebec). The horse barn still stands and has been used to this day (although it stores farm machinery and lumber now, not weapons!).

Meanwhile, in the spring of 1785, Mary's sister Catherine and her husband Archibald MacCallum left Scotland with their two young girls, landing in Boston and making their way up into the mountains of central New Hampshire, where a small settlement had been established near present-day West Thornton. On December 27th, Catherine gave birth to a son. Then tragedy struck.

Archibald was out clearing his land, when he was killed by a tree falling on him. The official records in Thornton give his date of death as March 9th, but the year is illegible. Our oral family history says it happened during the first winter in America, 1786.

Shortly afterwards, Catherine also died. The records indicate she died January 30th, 1790. Family tradition says that she 'died of a broken heart' but this overly romantic perspective covers up the incredible physical difficulties that she would have endured. She would have been well along in her pregnancy while aboard the disease infested immigrant ship. She would have almost definitely given birth in rural New Hampshire without any medical assistance, and there were often complications. As well as all the usual demands placed on women at the time, she would have also had to do much of the work associated with creating and preparing a new home, quickly, so the family could survive, especially after Archibald died. If she had not been in the best of health when she left Scotland (as was true for many Scottish immigrants) it is easy to understand how her body could have eventually succumbed to one of any number of diseases.

So by early 1790, there were three little Scottish orphans in this bleak pioneer outpost: Margaret, 9, Flora, 8, and Daniel MacCallum, barely 4 years old. They were taken in and looked after by other local pioneers, probably of Scottish origin as well.

Meanwhile, John Dewar and his wife Mary received a letter relating what had happened to Mary's sister. You can imagine how Mary would have reacted. She would not have rested until she convinced John that they adopt her nieces and nephew, especially since they had no children of their own. (They may have had some children who had died).

So, in the spring of 1790, they set off in a wagon pulled by a pair of oxen. There were practically no roads, and they travelled across some the highest mountains on the continent east of the Rockies. The trip to the settlement in central New Hampshire would have been a minimum of 200 km of unimaginable difficulty.

But their problems were just starting. When they arrived, the local people would not give them the children. It seems they could not prove the relationship. Of course, the animosity between Americans and 'British Red-Coats', only seven years after the war had ended, would still have been great, possibly greater even than the bond of the Scottish heritage they shared.

So they went home empty handed but they did not take "no" for an answer. They petitioned the British government for the papers to prove the relationship. After a number of months they received the necessary papers. They immediately undertook the journey again to New Hampshire and this time they came home with the children.

Out of respect for his brother-in-law, John Dewar allowed the children to keep their last name. In all other respects though, he and Mary raised the children as their own and upon John Dewar's death, the boy, Daniel MacCallum, inherited all his property.

John Dewar made a good living, having the contract to supply the British army at St. Helen's Island near Montreal with beef, which was produced by himself and other local farmers. There were no local schools so when Daniel MacCallum was a teenager he was sent to a tutor in Montreal to learn to read, write and do mathematics. Letters from Scotland, from both John's brother Patrick, a teacher in Amulree, and Mary's brother Hugh in Ardeonaig by Loch Tay, kept coming, asking about life in the new world.

Finally, John's brother Daniel Dewar and his family consisting of his wife and children, his mother (who may have been John's father's second wife and therefore not John's mother) and Daniel's sister Christian along with her young son, decided to come to Canada in 1799. Just as the boat was about to set sail from Scotland, tragedy struck again. Daniel's mother (who must have been over 60) passed away, and since the boat was literally pulling out of the harbour, the body was taken ashore and buried by strangers.

When the remaining family members arrived at John Dewar's homestead in Noyan, Daniel Dewar was very sick. He died a few weeks later, on August 12. He was 45 years old. His gravestone still exists on the MacCallum farm.

In a petition to apply for land grants as new areas were surveyed,dated May 14th 1802, John Dewar lists his dependents: his wife, his sister, his brother's widow, and 10 children (all actually adopted nieces and nephews). The petition was successful and one of the new plots of land at Freleighsburg, Quebec was given to his adopted daughter Flora MacCallum and her new husband Asa Westover. Then in 1807, the other MacCallum girl, Margaret, married a Duncan Dewar (no relation as far as we can tell) and moved to Carillon, Quebec on the Ottawa River. In 1818, another Dewar emigrated from Scotland: Archibald Dewar, the keeper of the Quigrich, one of the ancient relics of St. Fillan. He passed by Duncan and Margaret's home on his way up the Ottawa River to his new home in Beckwith Township, Ontario. Duncan and Margaret's son, named Donald, who was a young lad, was suffering from whooping cough. The Quigrich was slipped around young Donald's neck according to ancient custom. In time, Donald recovered and lived to the age of 95. The Quigrich was returned to Scotland in 1875 and can be seen in the Scottish Museum in Edinburgh.

Most of John and Mary Dewar's other nieces and nephews moved away eventually as well, but Daniel MacCallum remained in Noyan. In the War of 1812, he fought for the British as a Captain, eventually rising to the rank of Colonel of the local militia and commanded troops during the Rebellion of 1837. In 1820, when he was 34, he married 20 year old Mary Brisbin, and took over the farm from his stepfather John Dewar. Their first child was named John Dewar MacCallum. The Scottish naming tradition was to name the first son after the paternal grandfather, so this means that Daniel did think of John Dewar as his father. Their second son was named Archibald MacCallum, after Daniel’s biological father.

In 1832, James Ritchie, a Scottish stonemason living in Vermont, was hired to build a stone house, like the laird's houses that John Dewar would have remembered from his youth. The wooden house was torn down and the family moved into the big new two-storey house complete with back-kitchen and cellar, one of the finest houses in rural Canada at that time. By then in his eighties, John Dewar must have felt like his life-long battle to build a piece of Scotland in the new world was finally complete.

On April 27th 1835, John Dewar passed away. He is remembered with a simple wooden cross near the barn he built. A few decades ago, my grandfather Donald MacCallum placed a sign on the barn which is still there today. It reads: 'This barn was built by John Dewar in 1786'. His wife Mary Dewar (nee McDiarmid) passed away three years later on July 28, 1838. The farm is still owned and operated today by descendants of Daniel MacCallum, my uncle Bruce and cousin Owen MacCallum.

- by William MacCallum (The great, great, great, great grandson of Daniel MacCallum)

Notes: The original 250-word story by Donald MacCallum (my grandfather) was published in Missisquoi: Water by the Mill in 1974. He originated this research and inspired me to carry on. The military records referred to are from the Museum of Applied Canadian History in King City, Ontario, specifically John Dewar's claim for redress of the British Army dated July 11, 1787 in Montreal. John's family's last name was spelled 'Deor' in the records prior to about 1790. The English imposed standard anglicized spelling on Gaelic last names around that time - so all the various spellings of the clan Dewar were changed to "Dewar".

Return to Mc Index
Return to Mini Bios Index


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus