Compiled October 1999 by David A. Crerar, 1166 Melville Street #1501, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6E 4P5, Ph. (604) 331-8707 Fax: (604) 899-8027 e-mail: email@example.com
Any additions, corrections or queries most welcome.
Crerars, Hattons, and MacKenzies
of Pictou, Merigomish and Antigonish,
with related families:
McIntosh, Walker, Dunn, Cameron, Patterson, Clarke, Fennell, Young,
Ackley, DeWolfe, Hudson, Carson, Johnston, Elliott, Campbell, Kirkpatrick,
Brown, Moore, MacKeen, Mortimer, Lowden, Farquharson, & Smith
Ships, Railways, Law,
Civil Engineering, Merchants,
St. James Anglican Church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Laurel Hill Cemetery,
Crystal Cliffs (Antigonish), Glen Almond (Pictou), Seaforth (Pictou)
Pictou Academy, King’s College School
by David Anthony Crerar
The Crerar Compendium
Comments, additions and questions very welcome:
1166 Melville Street #1501
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6E 4P5
Ph. (604) 331-8707 Fax: (604) 899-8027 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Above: Machuim, the burying field in which generations of Crerars and other Lochtayside inhabitants have been buried.
Crerars of Lawers and Pictou, Nova Scotia
Above: a ruined cottage on Cuiltrannich farm, Lawers, and the view of Loch Tay and the south shore from within the ruins.
Above: the map of Cuiltrannich, from the 1769 Survey of Loch Tay, and the ruined 1669 Church in the deserted village of Lawers [from Hilary Wheater, Guide in Hand to Kenmore and Loch Tay].
Lawers and Loch Tay
Peter Crerar left Lawers in 1817, and I’ve been chasing him ever since. It is unknown how long he actually stayed in Lawers. At the time of the birth of his son John, he was resident on the farm called Cuiltrannich, located on the Ben Lawers side of the road running along the north side of Loch Tay. In Gaelic, Cuiltrannich means “Nook of Bracken.” On it were located the meal mill of Lawers, as well as the smithy. In the neighbouring field of Lawernacroy there is an ancient stone circle, and across the road and by the Loch one finds the burying ground of the district, in which generations of Crerars sleep. This field, Machuim - the burial place of the plain - take its name from this graveyard. The centuries of use have raised the graveyard considerably above the fields around it, and the stones within are circled with heather. Apparently a famed witch of Lawers is buried under the gateway. Across Lawers Burn to the west is the site of Lawers town, once bustling with commerce and activity and now completely ruined. The church, built in 1669, is the most preserved structure, but it is now overgrown, with several trees growing up from the congregation.
In Marquis of Breadalbane’s 1769 Survey, Cuiltrannich was possessed by Duncan McMartin, Malcolm McMartin and Duncan Clerk. The surveyors made the observation that “…the bank on both sides of the burn is so steep and dangerous especially near the head of the farms as frequently to occasion the death of some of their cattle. On this account both sides of the burn, where danger is, ought to be enclosed and planted with firs or oaks.” At the end of the century, several members of the Breadalbane Fencibles were settled on holdings in the township of Cuiltrannich, which was further developed at this time [In Famed Breadalbane, 204]. It is now quite deserted, except for bleating black-faced sheep, who graze in the ruins of cottages.
Two centuries ago there were over 3500 people on the north shore of Loch Tay, stretching from Killin in the south to Kenmore in the north. By the time of the Education Act of 1872, the Parish had produced 1 member of Parliament, a professor, nine ministers, eleven teachers and seven doctors. What caused the drain of Breadalbane’s youth, among them Peter Crerar ? In the early eighteenth century the Highlanders lived a marginal existence, farming the poor soil inefficiently. Fallow was unheard of. They ate oatmeal, and for protein would bleed the cattle, and mix it in their oats. As potatoes grew to be the staple diet, their health improved and there was a population boom in the late eighteenth century. In Crieff, for example, there was a 33 % population increase between 1776 and 1791, and in Comrie there was a 15% population increase between 1755 and 1791. In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, this population reached a saturation point, as veterans returned with an attendant jump in births. This was exacerbated by a post-war deflation in agricultural prices. At this point, the British Government began encouraging emigration from the Highlands to the colonies.
While there were clearances in Breadalbane, these did not occur until the 1830’s, under the command of the Second Marquis of Breadalbane. The infamous Highland Clearances of 1755-1801 were not reproduced in so dramatic and violent a fashion in Breadalbane, but they did strike a mortal blow to the population around Loch Tay. Economic expediency was given as the reason for replacing men with sheep; as John Campbell of Lochend wrote, “the sides of Loch Tay in general were never intended by nature for the plough, and if the fertile, level lands in the better climate of England were thought to be more profitable under grass than under the plough, what could be expected from cultivation of the steep, broken patches of land on Lochtayside, however good the quality might be, so far north, so high above the sea and so frequently deluged with rain ?”
In 1834, on the advice of his factor, James Wyllie, the Marquis cleared families off the farms at Rhynachluig, Edramuckie, Kiltyrie, Cloichran, and from Acharn, the birthplace of the Crerar name. The next year the entire population of Glenquaich was cleared, thus populating the Huron settlement in Western Ontario. After a decade, the land was striking in its desertion. Of the 3500 inhabitants once living at Loch Tayside, only one hundred were left by 1850. That year the Second Marquis tried to raise a Fencible Regiment, as had his father so successfully in the eighteenth century. He found no recruits. An old man of Loch Tayside growled at him to “Put your red coats on the backs of the sheep that have replaced the men!”
Today Lawers is beautiful in its desolation. Downhill lies Loch Tay,
fourteen miles long and averaging one mile wide. It is famous for its salmon.
Uphill one finds the former shielings of the Loch Tay farmers, where families
would spend their springs and summers. Above the rolling hills towers Ben
Lawers, the highest mountain in southern Scotland. It height was estimated
by early cartographer to exceed 4,000 feet, but in 1852 it was discovered
to be a mere 3,982 feet. In response, one outraged local mountaineer erected
on the summit a 20 foot cairn making up the difference. It is now popular
with hikers, and boasts a unique flora habitat with many rare species of
Above: a map of Pictou copied from one in the possession of Peter Crerar, and last known to be in the possession of J.S. Arnison, Sandyford House, Newcastle-upon-Tyne [a former prominent merchant of Pictou; Patterson’s History of Pictou].
Mystery Pictonian Crerars : Peter Crerar’s brother and sisters?:
I. ‘Jessie’ JANET CRERAR (b.1785 - 21 March 1868 Big Island, Merigomish) = James WALKER (b.1780 - d.1859)
In his 1847 will James left his first and second sons only a shilling each, leaving £80 to his only daughter Margaret, with the remainder, after the death of his wife Janet, to be divided between his third and fourth sons. In that document, James refers to himself as a farmer of Merigomish. He appointed James Crerar, esq., of Merigomish as executor of his will [Pictou #985].
In the probate file of James Crerar, Jessie is stated to be “the only next-of-kin in this province.” It is unusual that Peter Crerar and his clan would not be mentioned in her obituary if she was Peter’s sister, although if “next-of-kin” were defined narrowly as siblings or children, this would make sense.
Jessie’s obituary reads as follows: “On March 21 at Big Island, Merigomish, Mrs. Walker, widow of the late James Walker, and sister of the late James Crerar, esq. Her life was one of quiet consistency, her sickness submissively borne, and at the advanced age of 81 years, she calmly fell asleep in Jesus.” [25 March 1868 Eastern Chronicle]. They are buried in Merigomish Cemetery, St.Paul’s Presbyterian [MG5, vol.10 #1], although their gravestone is no longer to be found; only half of the older stones are still standing. In her will Janet left all in equal shares to her children Margaret and David Walker [Pictou #1013]. David Walker was the executor.
In his 29 June 1849 Merigomish Will [Pictou #682], James Crerar left £10 a year to his sister Catherine. In George Johnston’s 1859 recounting of the circumstances surrounding James’s 1858 will, it was noted that Catherine lately died in Scotland. A single Catherine Crerar, daughter of John Crerar and Catherine McQuarry of Glenalmond died in Muckhart in 1857 -- almost certainly the parents of James and Catherine. After his death the estate of James Crerar received a bill of exchange worth £83 from the estate of his sister in Scotland.
III. JAMES CRERAR (b.c.1787 Glenalmond, Perthshire - d.10 December 1858 Pictou ) = Catherine MCINTOSH (b. Kenmore 1795 - d. 20 July 1867 Pictou)
James appears to have been a wealthy and prominent citizen of Merigomish, Nova Scotia, but his biography consists of scattered references and it is unclear how he is related to Peter Crerar’s family. It is likely that they were brothers, given the proximity in time and place of birth, and emigration to Canada, and the fact that James and his wife are buried with Peter’s brood in the Laurel Hill Cemetery, Pictou. Yet the correspondence of Peter’s family makes no reference to their neighbouring would-be uncle. The fullest and surest biography is on his gravestone: “In Memory James Crerar, esq.: A native of Glenalmond, Perthshire, Scotland. He emigrated to this province in the year 1808 and was for 40 years a resident of Merigomish and afterwards removed to Pictou where he died on 10 December 1858 in the 71st year of his age.” The righteous shall be held in everlasting remembrance” [Laurel Hill burial table (buried with Catherine)]. If this is true, James would have the honour of being the first North American Crerar.
The gravestone would put his year of birth at approximately 1787, but as with Peter, there is no parish record of his birth. The most promising birth record is for James Crearer (chr. 1 Jan 1787 Dunacraggan, Monzie), the son of Donald Crerar and his spouse Ann Macpherson (but see above -- based on the death record of his sister, his parent are likely John Crerar and Catherien McQuarry of Glenalmond, although no record exists for a James born to them). While Peter hailed (at least immediately prior to his emigration) from Cuiltrannich, Kenmore Parish, James, as a native of Glenalmond, would be from Monzie. It is notable that the main Crerar house in Pictou, owned first by James, and then by the Peter Crerar branch, was named “Glenalmond.”
The first reference to James is as a teacher in New Glasgow. On 16 September 1808, James contracted to “do his best diligence to teach the children of the subscribers,” James McGregor, Alexander Fraser, Colin McKay, John McKay, William Robertson, Donald McKenzie, Robert McIntosh, Donald Fraser, and John Fraser, for six months, beginning on 19 September. His salary would be eked out by ‘boarding around.’ At the time he would be a very young man, just arrived from Scotland [E. Chronicle , 30 May 1889]. His student John McKay remembers him as “a good teacher, a good scholar, but very short-tempered” [J.MacKay, “Reminiscences of a Long Life” (in Sinclair papers, Hector Centre, Pictou)]. He also taught in Merigomish, in the first schoolhouse in the area, built in 1802 in Avondale, standing near the bank of the river, west of Hugh Walker’s Orchard [L.Mawdsley, K. MacIntosh, History of Merigomish (1972) at 38]. In 1810 and 1812 deeds, James Crerar is referred to as a yeoman and schoolmaster of East River of Pictou [20 Jan., 1810; v.4, p.222].
By 1816 he has made Merigomish his principle residence, working primarily as a merchant, as is revealed in other deeds [vol.6, p.23; vol.20, p.166]. The Crerar farm in Merigomish is located on the Shore Road [see Inventory Site Form]. As stated below, in his will James authorized his wife to sell it to (her brother ?) Duncan McIntosh for £900. In 1863 Catherine transferred it by deed to Duncan, who built the present house on the site [Pictou, 49-756]. It remained in Duncan’s name until 1910. In 1991 it was held by Albert F. Fulton. At the time of James’s death the Merigomish farm was valued at £900. He also owned the Robert Smith farm at Merigomish, and a lot at Barney’s River, Merigomish.
At the Merigomish farm the Crerars employed a carpenter, Donald Crerar Sutherland, whose middle name came from that of his employers. Donald named his daughter Abigail Louden Sutherland, presumably after that prominent shipbuilding family [Lucille Cameron].
At Merigomish James also owned a shipyard and was a ship owner and builder [Deed James Crerar to Donald MacKay, 20 January 1810; Deed James Hamilton to James Crerar 20 May 1816]. It was located on the peninsula to the east of the French River, just north of the site of the Merigomish Station, and currently a campsite. Patterson, reporting on the site of James Crerar’s shipyard many years after his death, states that, “…the old shipyard is now almost entirely covered with water so that where the bow of the vessel rested on the “way” is now about high water mark.” [G. Patterson: History of the County of Pictou, 14-15]. The 1864 A.F. Church & Co. Map of Pictou County notes “Crerar’s Point” in Merigomish [but not seen by author].
James is associated with two ships. In 1852 he built the 233 ton brig Catherine in Merigomish [P. Advocate, 12 July 1918, 3]. Six years later he owned, with possible nephew William Grant Crerar, the brigantine Ewan Crerar: “On Friday a fine new brig of 250 tons called the Evan Crerar made her appearance in the harbour in tow of the steamer Pluto. She was built in the shipyard of James Kitchin, River John, and is owned by Captain W. G. Crerar, and Mrs. James Crerar. This fine vessel is named in memory of the late Capt. Ewan Crerar, who perished in the unfortunate ship Lord Ashburton on the Grand Manan some 18 months ago.” [E. Chronicle, 6 May 1858].
The 1838 Pictou Census lists James Crerar as a merchant in Maxwelltown [i.e. eastern Pictou, presumably Merigomish], living with 3 women over 14 years [p.126]. The 1851 Pictou Census lists James and his wife as two adults over 50 years. Also living with them were one male and one female aged 20-30 (both unmarried), and one male and one female aged 10-20. James’s occupation was listed as farmer, merchant, and trader. All in the household were Presbyterian.
In his lifetime James amassed significant wealth. At the time of his 1858 death he had assets in excess of £7036 [Pictou #682].
Two years prior to his death James purchased a farm with “Buildings, fences, Hedges and Fruit Trees” at a good price from James Dawson of Pictou, who was leaving Pictou to join his famous son, Sir William Dawson, Professor at McGill University, Montreal [James Dawson, Recollections of His Life]. James named this farm Glenalmond, after his native glen in Scotland. In late October 1858 he moved from Merigomish to Glenalmond. The 1859 inventory of James Crerar’s estate lists the “Glenalmond Farm at Pictou” valued at £600. [For more on the history of Glenalmond Estate, see W.G. Crerar biography below].
In early November 1858 James’s friend George M. Johnston visited the ailing James Crerar, his wife, and Miss McIntosh at Glenalmond. At that time James stated that he had made an earlier will in Merigomish and that he would have to alter it. In early December James took ill and George Johnston travelled to Glenalmond with the Rev. James Bayne and John McKinlay to record James’s will. George Johnston noted that James gave his directions intelligibly, only faltering on the name of the Foreign Mission Society -- “tut, I can’t mind the name.” He eventually gave the full name, along with that of the British and Foreign Bible Society which also received money. George transcribed the will and after hearing it read, James stated “tut, I can sign it myself.” George Johnston assisted James’s hand in signing his surname. [G.Johnston’ account of will, Pictou #682]. In his account, Johnston remarked that he had heard that some intimates of James Crerar would be disappointed by the will.
In this same document George Johnston also recounted the contents of James Crerar’s former will, dated 29 June 1849 in Merigomish and leaving bequests to:
James died the next day, on 10 December 1858 at Glenalmond, in Pictou.
His death was reported as far away as Fredericton, where the Headquarters
carried an obituary [Vital Statistics from New Brunswick Newspapers,
D.F. Johnson]. The obituary in the Colonial Standard [14 Dec. 1858,
p.3] states that he was an elder in the United Presbyterian Church, and
that he had emigrated “fifty years ago from Glenquaich” [an error for Glenalmond,
which is almost certainly his correct birthplace as the latter is the place
of origin inscribed on James’s tombstone by his family].
James Crerar’s wife:
CATHERINE MCINTOSH (b.1794 Kenmore, Breadalbane - d.20 July 1867 Glenalmond House, Pictou) = JAMES CRERAR of Glenalmond, Merigomish and Pictou
According to her death records, Catherine was the daughter of John and Jane McIntosh of Perthshire. She was survived by a niece, Margaret McIntosh [Pictou County Death Records v.1 1864-1869].
She had at least two brothers who honoured their Crerar ties in naming their children. Duncan McIntosh of Wallace, Cumberland, Nova Scotia (alive 1861; dead before 1867) [Will of Catherine Crerar] had a son, James Crerar McIntosh, who would have been left £50 in the 1849 Merigomish Will of James Crerar, but for its later revision [Pictou #682]. Catherine’s other brother, David McIntosh had a son, J. Crerar McIntosh, who would have been left £50 in the 1849 Merigomish Will of James Crerar.
Following her husband’s death, Catherine showed herself to be tough and litigious at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, collecting debts left outstanding to her deceased husband. The 1859 inventory of James’s estate listed mortgage amounts due in excess of £1650, notes due worth over £1006, and over £519 in debts considered “wholly bad and unrecoverable” [Pictou 682]. In 1862 and 1863, respectively, Catherine won “$648 together with $18.60 for his costs of suit” from John Murray, and then “$671.50 and $17.10 for the costs of suit” from Alexander Murray. In her will she notes that “since the death of the said James Crerar I have collected and recovered sundry debts and monies due and belonging to the said James Crerar in his life time which monies are funds, monies and assets of the estate of the said James Crerar though held in my name as aforesaid” [Pictou Wills, p.451; #987].
In her 16 March 1861 Will she appointed William Dunn of Merigomish, Alexander James Patterson and the Rev. James Bayne as executors. Her brother Duncan McIntosh of Wallace, Cumberland Co. was the contingent executor if any of the other executors refused. Catherine’s “friend Margaret McIntosh” set Catherine’s seal for her on the will, which was witnessed by George Johnston and John McKinley. In a codicil dated 24 April 1867 she replaced two executors: William Dunn, as most of James’s affairs in Merigomish had been dealt with, and Duncan McIntosh, now deceased. She added William McKinley as executor.
Her obituary states that she followed her husband’s request to bequeath
her remaining wealth to the Bible Society and the Church: “Mrs. Crerar
was distinguished by unostentatious piety and Christian liberality fully
appeasing and sustaining by her last will and testament the devise of her
husband…” [The Colonial Standard, 13 August 1867, p.3]. Her executors
were merchant Alexander James Patterson (who note was married to Jessie
Crerar, below) and the Reverend James Bayne, both of Pictou. The maxim
on her grave reads “The memory of the just is blessed”
Possible children of James and Catherine
The fact that no offspring are mentioned in Catherine’s will is perhaps telling. The 1838 census lists two female children over 14, while the 1851 census lists four children: a brother and sister in their teenaged years, and a brother and sister in their twenties [1838 Census of Pictou; 1851 Pictou County Census]. There are several miscellaneous Pictou County Crerars, most of whom are probably offspring of James and Catherine. It is also likely that no male offspring survived of this branch and thus the name died in this line. It is also highly probable that Daniel and James never existed, the first being the erroneous product of an elderly captain’s memory as recounted in a newspaper interview, and the second being a mistaken extraction from James Crerar himself.
1. DANIEL CRERAR (b.c. 1825-d.1855) The primary source of this Daniel, is the reminiscence of an aged sea captain in 1950: “Lost with his boat’s crew returning to his ship, an English transport, at Sebastopol during the Crimean War in 1855” [Military History of Pictou; also: James M. Cameron, Ships, Shipbuilders, and Seamen of New Glasgow at 101 and “Pictou County Captains”, as recalled from memory by the elderly Captain D.M. MacKenzie in 1950 Pictou Advocate]. He apparently fell from a small boat in the clam waters of Sebastopol Harbour. This reference is confusing, as Peter, James’ supposed brother also had a son Daniel. If both brothers (?) followed Scots naming patterns, however, it would be natural to have two Daniels of roughly the same age; this theory would also indicate that Peter’s father was Daniel/Donald. It is likely that this Daniel was confused with Peter Crerar’s son Daniel, who also met his demise overseas in the 1850’s, but in Shanghai.
2. JAMES CRERAR (b.1811-d.1877): “James Crerar, teacher, New
Glasgow, 1811 - died 1877” at Merigomish [Ritchie files at New Glasgow
Library]. There is also a reference to a James Crerar, commissioner of
schools in Pictou County -- presumably the same person [Eastern Chronicle
(date unknown) [biographical filecard, P.A.N.S.]. [n.b. it may be that
this Crerar is simply confused with James Crerar of Merigomish]
A close relative:
CATHERINE CRERAR MCINTOSH (b.1824 Nova Scotia - d.14 Aug. 1872 Merigomish) = William DUNN (b.1812 Nova Scotia - d.24 Jan. 1892 Merigomish)
In his 6 February 1890 will [Pictou #2319] William only mentions some of his children, possibly indicating that the others predeceased him. To his son John he left all of his Merigomish real estate, on the condition that he provide comfortable maintenance and a house on the old homestead to his three daughters.
1. James Crerar Dunn (chr.26 March 1848 Merigomish- died before 1890?)
a. Helen B. Dunn (b.1892 NS)
b. Catherine Dunn (b.1894 NS)
c. James H. Dunn (b.1896 NS)
d. D______ (daughter) Dunn (b.189 NS)
John Crerar Macdonald (d.c.1939) = Ellie Corbett
1. Hazel MacDonald of Pictou , daughter of John Crerar
MacDonald, states that her grandmother was a
cousin of the Crerars at Ponds, Merigomish [letter from Mrs. Evangeline Way, 25 May 1988]. Ponds is located to the east of Barney’s River and Merigomish.
Relatives of James and Catherine, or possibly Scottish cousins
JAMES CRERAR (d.before 1879) = Barbara CAMERON (d.before 1879) M: 20 June1808 Fortingall, Perth
1. JOHN CRERAR (chr. 18 Jan 1810 Carie, Carwhin, Kenmore) [OPR]
2. CATHERINE CRERAR (chr. 12 Jan 1812 Carie, Carwhin, Kenmore [OPR] - d. 26 December 1879 Edinburgh #745)
Catherine Crerar, the sister of Jessie Crerar, died in Edinburgh at age 67 [#745]. Her death certificate records that she died of pleuritis, congestion pulnomum, at 11:30 p.m. at 10 Brougham Street, St. Giles District, Edinburgh. The informant was her cousin germain (i.e. first cousin), A.C. Cameron of Fettercairn, Kincardineshire. Catherine was single, with occupation listed as “fundholder”. She had made her will in Pictou nine years previous, from which most clues arise [Pictou Probate Office, #1549; 2 November 1870]. John Crerar, son of Peter, had business dealings with her. Like Catherine McIntosh Crerar, she called upon the Reverend James Bayne and her brother-in-law Alexander J. Patterson to be executors of her will, in which she left all of her total estate of $5024.65 “…to sister Jessie Patterson, the wife of Alexander James Patterson of Pictou, merchant.”
3. Janet CRERAR (chr. 23 June 1819 Edinburgh FF: James CRERAR MM: Barbara CAMERON
4. JESSIE CRERAR (b.1 June 1823 Edinburgh - d.15 Sept 1892 Pictou) = Alexander James PATTERSON (b.1817 - d.29 January 1900)
Jessie married into the Pictonian founding family of Patterson, on 29 May 1851. The service was officiated by the Rev. George Patterson [E. Chronicle, 12 June 1851, p.3]. The groom, Alexander Patterson, a Pictonian grocery and wine merchant, was the son of Isabella MacKay (d. of Roderick Mackay of East River) and John Patterson, Jr., and was the grandson of John Patterson, the founder of Pictou. Alexander Patterson lived in the Patterson homestead at the head of Deacon’s Hill [at the intersection of High and Constitution Streets], containing the 1788 and 1871 Patterson houses. He also owned considerable tracks of land on Patterson Street [1879 Atlas]. From 1880 to 1884 the house at 42 High Street was held in Jessie’s name, before passing to Trustees for Crerar and then to Dal Patterson [Bk. 82, p.768l Bk.85, p.555]. In her 24 November 1891 Will [Pictou 2360]. Jessie left her property to her children. Both Jessie and Alexander are buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery [Pictou Advocate, 2 Feb. 1900, and Ritchie Cemetery List]. Their children were the last generation of Pictou Pattersons:
1. Jessie Patterson (b.1845 - d.28 Dec. 1861)
2. John Patterson (b.March 1852 - d.16 Feb. 1861)
I. PETER CRERAR I (b. between Dec. 1784 and Nov. 1785 Breadalbane - d. 5 November 1856 Pictou) = Anne CLARKE of Nessintully, Invernesshire (b.c. 1791 Nessintully, Badenoch, Invernesshire- d. 15 April 1865 Pictou)
The origins of my original ancestor are frustratingly obscure. His newspaper obituaries place his birth around 1785 in Breadalbane, Scotland, but no Peters are recorded in the parish records as being born at that time. Two theories could account for this. The first is that because of a stamp tax imposed in 1783, levying a tax of 3d on every entry of a birth or baptism, marriage or burial, many births went unrecorded by thrifty Scots seeking to save money. A second theory is that as the name Peter represented an anglicised version of the more traditional and Gaelic Patrick, he could have been christened with this name, changing it later to suit the fashion, and his own rising fortunes. If this were the case, two candidates spring to mind: (a) Patrick Crerar, son of John Crerar and Jean Deor of Carwhin, Killin Parish, Perthshire christened there 1 Jan 1785; (b) Patrick Crerar, son of John Crerar and Katherine McGrigor, christened 20 June 1785 in Carwhin, Killin. As Scottish name pattern dictates that the first son be named after the father’s father, and as Peter Crerar’s first son was named John, both of these births are plausible candidates. On the other hand, Peter is described as a native of Cuiltrannich, whose lands are situated in Killin’s northerly neighbouring parish of Kenmore. John was also unfortunately by far the most common name perpetrated by unoriginal and ancestor-fearing Crerars in Perthshire. Following traditional Scots naming patterns for females, the name of Peter’s first daughter, May, should also be that of his mother. Unfortunately, there is no record of nuptials between a John and May before the nineteenth century. Fog and mist.
It is easier to conjecture about Peter’s early career as a civil engineer. It is said that he gained his skills working under the celebrated father of civil engineering, Peter’s fellow Scot Thomas Telford [The Pictou Book, p.247]. This theory meshes well with known history: between 1802 and 1820, Telford was responsible for planning, designing and building 1,200 bridges and 920 miles of new road in the Highlands. He also refurbished 280 miles of military roads. Telford wrote:
A speculative link with Telford is the giving of that name to a hamlet on the road between Sutherland River and French River, a road almost certainly surveyed by Peter Crerar. Note, however, that the Index of Nova Scotia Place names hypothesizes that the name comes from early settlers in the later 18th or early 19th century.
Romance and civil engineering are an unlikely pair but one can also hypothesize that the Highland road project brought Peter to his Inverness bride, Ann Clark of “Nessintully, Speyside, Invernesshire,” far away from his native Breadalbane [Family Bible]. The Register of Laggan Parish (in which Nessintully is located) notes that “Peter Criarer from the Parish of Kenmore and Ann Clark of Nessintully were married 15 November 1814 [104/1 Laggan Parish Register; but note that the family Bible lists the marriage as on 29th October 1814 [Family Bible]. It is interesting to note here the misspelling of the Crerar name, unfamiliar in Invernesshire. Records show that between 1809 and 1818 Telford built the Laggan Road, Inverness-shire, reinforcing the scenario. An account of the road’s construction also mentions that a firm of contractors called “Messrs Clarke’s” were employed to work on this road - whether or not this was a relative of Ann’s (and this is a precarious conjecture, given the abundance of Clarkes in Speyside) is not known [John Rickman, Life of Thomas Telford, 381].
The next known record of Peter Crerar has him back in Kenmore, situated on the farm of Cuiltrannich, in Lawers, on the north shore of Loch Tay. There Ann Clark gave birth to John Crerar, their first child, on September 13, 1815 [Family Bible; mentioned in Kenmore Parish Register as 18 August 1815]. They departed for Canada in July 1817, probably aboard the Brig Hope, which sailed from Greenock to Pictou in 1817. The Hope landed passengers at Sydney, Cape Breton Island on 23 July and then proceeded onto Pictou. Another possible ship is the William Tell, which also sailed from Greenock, and which landed passengers at Sydney on 25 July 1817 before proceeding onto Pictou; most of the William Tell émigrés were from the Isle of Barra [T.M.Punch, “Scots to Nova Scotia in 1817 -- Perhaps on the William Tell”, Nova Scotia Genealogist, vol.3, 1985, number 2, p.91-92]. In any case, on the voyage Ann was very pregnant with their first daughter May, who came into the world “on a passage to America upon the Banks of Newfoundland Friday the 19th July about 6 o’clock A.M. 1817” [Family Bible]. On 31 July 1817 a petition in which 94 newly-arrived Scots sought assistance and relief from the Nova Scotia government included Peter Crerar, his wife and two children [RG5, Series GP, vol.7, no.7].
It is not known exactly why they left their native land for rough and wild Nova Scotia. Certainly Peter was not a victim of the infamous clearances, which did not affect Perthshire until fifteen years later (driving, for example, the Glenquaich Crerars to Ontario. Crerars seem possessed with a knack to move on before impending collapse. With a slump in grain prices following the Napoleonic wars, perhaps Peter saw the writing on the wall and decided to raise his family in the new world. There his engineering skills would be much sought after, and he could leave the agrarian ways of his forefathers, an era whose twilight was approaching in the Highlands.
The family landed in the summer of 1817 and settled in Fisher’s Grant, to the east of Pictou. The settlement’s name referred to the 1765 grant of land to John Fisher. In 1785 members of the 82nd Regiment, out of action since the end of the American Revolution, laid out plans for a proposed town on the site, called “Walmsley.” This village remained, however, trapped on paper. Fisher’s Grant is now a cottage retreat known as Pictou Landing. The 1817 Census records Peter and family living at Fisher’s Grant, where May died on 8 June 1818 and Ewan Clarke Crerar, their second son, was born on 18 July 1819.
It is possible that before going across the harbour to Fisher’s Grant, Peter resided for a few months in Pictou Town. This would be consistent with Peter’s first brush with Pictou history, in the founding of the Pictou Academy by the famous Dr. McCulloch. Set up as an Presbyterian academy to rival the Episcopal King’s College of Windsor: “That the Pictou Academy originated among men of the most liberal sentiments, and whose strongest opinion was that knowledge should be as free as the light of Heaven. The unjust and monopolising spirits of King’s College had first produced the idea that a seminary for all denominations of Nova Scotians might be established with honour to the enlightened virtue and judicious conduct of the government…” [Pictou Academy Papers]. George Patterson, historian of Pictou and scion of its leading family, recounts the founding: “Dr.McCulloch was chosen its first president, and before the building was erected, teaching began. The first classes were opened, as near as we can ascertain, in the fall of 1817. A room was fitted up in one end of the house, in which the late Peter Crerar, Esq. resided, the other being occupied by the Rev. John McKinlay. Here plain pine desks were erected, so shaky, that on one occasion a Highland student, intent on taking notes, found it so difficult under the movements of his fellow students, when, his patience exhausted, he exclaimed, “Please, master, they’re shaking the dask on me.” In this fashion, thus began the first attempt at a free liberal education in these Provinces…” [George Patterson, A History of the County of Pictou, p. 329]. Peter Crerar was for a time a schoolmaster at the academy and was listed on 15 May 1854 as one of its trustees [Pictou Academy Papers: 15th May 1854]. His commitment to Presbyterianism was also manifest in his service, from his early days in Pictou, as an elder of St.Andrew’s Church [Presbyterian Witness, 5 Nov.1856 obituary].
Peter’s main contribution to Pictou County was in his engineering projects. The earliest recorded work was the drawing up plans for St. James’ Anglican Church, Pictou in 1824. The main figure behind this church’s construction was Henry Hatton, later to be Peter’s son’s father-in-law [A Lion in Thistle, 9]. The next year he wrote to the Lieutenant-Governor regarding alterations to the road between Mount Thom and Pictou, and project he would work on for the next few years [PANS, RG7 vol.3, #104]. He also reported on the Fisher’s Grant Road [1827 Roads and Bridges], the French River, Huggins, and Sutherland Bridges [August 9, 1830: “…I think it proper to mention that Sutherland Bridge is in a very dilapidated condition and likely will be down before next season. . .” [PANS RG7, vol.6, #27], the pier at Arisaig [1832, Roads and Bridges] and the Wallace Bridge [Roads and Bridges 1832]. His 1827 plan of the Pictou Farm of the late “King of Pictou”, Edward Mortimer, survive [Hector Centre, MG3-16]. In the first issue of the Colonial Patriot Peter Crerar as Roads Commissioner called for tenders on the construction of two bridges in the county [7 December 1827].
Peter Crerar’s greatest engineering feat was the design and construction of one of the first railroads in North America, and the first standard-gauge railroad in North America, at Stellarton, near Pictou. Peter had shown an early interest in railways as shown on 3 February 1836 when Peter, “well known to our Readers as an able and experienced Surveyor and Road Maker,” wrote a lengthy letter [published in The Novascotian on 1 June 1836] in response to a letter he had received regarding a proposed railway between Halifax and Windsor:
Leaving your especially offspring to your present care and nursing, and wishing that it may grow and prosper, I will now look a little nearer home.
We of the East, are not a little jealous of your partiality for the folks of the opposite point of the compass. Why did you not turn the attention of the public to the making of a rail road from Halifax to Pictou; for most assuredly, we could send to market as much agricultural produce of every description as our western neighbours, with the edition of Free Stone, Lime Stone and Coals; and most certainly we should draw from the Capital at least as great a quantity of its merchandise.
That the whole of this root is perfectly practicable, I am convinced of, from a personal knowledge of the distance.
From this grand Trunk, as it might be turned, branches might diverge off to Musquodoboit and Stewiacke, crossing, through a notch in that ridge of land which separates the southern from the north eastern section of the Province, at New Lairg, in this District. Thence extending to the eastward toward the Garden of Eden, from which it might diverge into two branches, one to Antigonish, and the other to Guysborough. This is not a mere chimera, for the whole route is perfectly practicable, and though neither of you, nor I may see any portion of this scheme completed, I have no doubt, but future generations may see the whole accomplished.
Then will spring up inland Towns where trade and manufacture will flourish; and my imagination contemplates one at the Garden of Eden, another at the heads of the East and middle Rivers of Pictou, and one at Stewiacke. This is a prospect which fancy would like to dwell upon; but as it is, perhaps not prudent to have too many irons in the fire, I will quit rail road making in the eastern quarter, and solicit your attention to our main post road… [Peter concludes by urging an improvement of the main road to Pictou from Halifax]
The building of the Albion Railway began in 1836 and the road was opened for traffic in 1839. When completed it was in every way equal to England’s first steam railway; a remarkable feat, in view of the fact that Peter Crerar had never seen a railroad. The line, 6 miles in length, was so nearly straight that the least radius of its curves was 1” -- 300 feet. The estimated quantity of excavations was 400,000 cubic yards. At the water terminus there was a wharf 1500 feet long by 24 feet wide, commanding a fall of 17 feet above high water level at the shoots. The masonry, bridges, culverts, etc., were of cut freestone, from a nearby quarry. The total cost of construction was $160,000 [see generally S.E. Woods, Cinders & Saltwater (1992) at 11].
While the railroad was being constructed, three locomotives were being built in England by Timothy Hackworth. They were landed at Pictou and brought up the East River in lighters, towed by the Company steamship. The three locomotives were The Samson, The Hercules, and the John Buddle. The three locomotives were accompanied by Davidson, a first machinist, who superintended their setting up and for a great many years was the driver of The Samson, which was the engine made ready first. The Albion, a locomotive built later, was of neater design, and faster, but was perhaps not as powerful as The Samson [C.W.Lunn, McLeans’s, October 1936; quoted in The Pictou Book, pp.245-47].
As Patterson reports, the feat was celebrated province-wide:
On their return, a feast was given to the employees of the Company, for which 1,100 lbs. of beef and mutton, with corresponding quantities of other articles, were provided; a dinner was given to invited guests, and the night was spent in general festivity…
Following this success, Peter continued to report on engineering projects, at the same time serving as Deputy Registrar General of Pictou County. In writing to the powers of the province he displays strict courtesy, and a genteel upbringing (or a fast study):
Peter Crerar was also involved in several property transactions. On 20 April 1825 he deeded to George McLeod a plot of land situate at the northwest corner on the waterfront of Chance Harbour, Pictou County [Pictou, Book 11, p.202]. In August 1827 he obtained part of George McLeod’s farm north of Spring or High Street, and then appeared to sell it to David Burke that same year [Pictou, Bk 11, p.385-387].
On 13 September 1847 Peter Crerar obtained for the sum of £150 “the land situated in Pictou beginning on the west side of Academy [also known as College or Willow Street] Street at its angle of intersection in the north side of Spring [now High] Street…” from John Duffus, a Haligonian banker and barrister, and dear Crerar friend. This property later passed into the hands of John Crerar, who devised it to the children of David Stewart Crerar. The children of David Crerar apparently replaced any Crerar homestead existing on that property with a new 1889 edifice.
My original Canadian ancestor departed his busy life on 5 November 1856. His Pictou obituary read as follows:
Possible clues linking Peter Crerar with Atholl family of Crerars (an illegitimate son ?)
Ann Clark, wife of Peter Crerar:
ANN CLARK (b.c. 1791 Nessintully, Badenoch, Invernesshire- d. 15 April 1865 Pictou)
More is known of the genealogy of Ann Clarke than that of her husband. Her father was one Ewan Clark. Inverness Parish records list an Evan Clark, son of Malcolm Clark and Jannet Cameron, christened 23 September 1753 at Inverness / Kingussie and Insch. At her wedding she is mentioned as “of Nessintully.” In Gaelic Nessintully, means “the junction of two rivers” reflecting its location at the confluence of the Spey and Truim near Newtonmore. “Nessin Tullich” is now a logged forest, with little trace of any farm. The nearest farm extant is Glentruim, which can be found on most maps.
According to a 1940 genealogical study, Ann Clark, of “Nessintully” had two sisters. One married a Stewart of Beliad. They had two children:
2. Charles Stewart I = _________ Macpherson from Glen Truim
Ann Clark, of “Nessintully”, was first cousin to the Clarks of Dalawest [sic: should read Dalnavert], who were apparently known for their good looks [M.Scarlett, 67]. There was quite a large family and two sons, John and Malcolm, entered the army. John Clark was a lieutenant in the 92nd Gordon Highlanders at Waterloo. His medal was in the possession of J.P. Crerar, of Ottawa, Canada (1940) and its whereabouts are currently unknown. Malcolm Clark served in the artillery. There were also three daughters who married army men, Colonel Rideout, Colonel Boileau and Colonel Metcalf.” [Crerar and Allied Families, commissioned by Marie Girvin Owens]. Waterloo Rolls mention in the “92nd Regiment of Foot: Gordon Highlanders: Ensign John Clarke, 26 August 1813 Reg., Lieut. 20th July 1815; placed on half pay 1817, but restored as lieutenant in same regiment 15 March 1821, out of regiment before 1830.” [Waterloo Rolls].
While the Clark name was common in the area, Ann seems to have been related to some of the more prominent members of the Inverness branch of the Clarks. The evidence for the exact relationship, however is sketchy. The first source is the unsubstantiated genealogical study mentioned above. The second is a copy of Stewart’s Lectures on the Mountains, or, The Highlands and Highlanders, marked with marginalia by John Crerar, Ann’s eldest son. The following references to Inverness Clarks and Grants are in some way highlighted by John’s pencil:
• Glentruim: The seat of Robert Macpherson, esq., [John Crerar’s marginalia: “cousin”] son of the late Major Ewan Macpherson, of Glentruim. Glentruim, which formed a portion of the Gordon estates, was converted from a bleak and bare region into a beautiful residence, by the late enterprising proprietor, Major Ewan Macpherson, of Ralia. An elegant mansion was the first of a series of judicious improvements, which in time will prove remunerating to the proprietor and an embellishment to that part of the country [ibid, 273]
• Bialid: Once a seat of a family of the name of Macpherson, and for a long time possessed by Captain Lachlan Macpherson [John Crerar’s marginalia: “Uncle”] … in his person, affords an instance of what talent and perseverance will do in raising an aspiring Highlander from a humble situation in life to some rank and affluence…A strong politician, an ardent conservative…Captain Macpherson, who died some years ago, left an only son, James Macpherson, esq., [John Crerar’s marginalia: “cousin”] sometime an officer in the Inverness-shire Militia, and magistrate of the County of Inverness; now tacksman of Cairn Bank, Forfarshire, who possesses in an eminent degree those energetic talents which distinguished his respected father. He is married to a daughter of Colonel Macpherson, of Kerrow, by whom he has a large family.” [ibid., 274]
• Noide: Formerly the residence of a branch of the chief of Clan Chattan Macpherson. This farm was lately occupied by Captain Aeneas Macpherson, a gallant officer, who was wounded in the Peninsula -- sometime factor for J.E.Baillie, esq., of Kingussie -- now in Australia [ibid., 275; highlighted in John Crerar’s copy] [pronounced ‘Nude’]
• Benchar: …Badenoch was likewise the native country of the following distinguished officers: Colonel Malcolm Macpherson of the 74th regiment [marginalia: “Cousin”]; … two sons of Mr. Clark, of Nessintully [marginalia: Nuide’s John and Malcolm: ***] [ibid. 283]
• Achterblair: Originally the seat of James, the third son of the head of the Clan Allan, Achterblair was long the residence of Major John Grant, who had seen much service at home and abroad. Major Grant was married to a daughter of the Rev. Patrick Grant, some time minister of Duthel, who was married to Miss Campbell, of Duntroon, Argyleshire, an early associate and favourite of Mrs. Grant, of Laggan, and sister of Sir Niel Campbell, the British commissioner, who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte to the Island of Elba, and the authoress of an excellent little work on education. By Major Grant’s marriage to Miss Grant, he had a family of sons and daughters trained under the superintendence of their worthy grandmother and parents.
Of this family, two sons, Patrick and William, at any early age, embraced the profession of arms. Patrick, entering the East India Company service, his professional talents and energy, early marked him out for situations of trust. Appointed Deputy Adjutant-General of the Bengal army, he, on the death of General Lumlry, became principal Adjutant-General of the Indian forces, and the trying, but glorious Sutlej campaign of General Gough, was his right arm in the memorable battles of Ferozeshaw, Sobraon and Moodkie, in which last-mentioned battles he was severely wounded. Returning home to recruit his health, he was, in acknowledgement of his distinguished services, nominated one of her Majesty’s aides-de-camp and C.B.; and, in 1855, he was appointed by Government Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Presidency, and raised to the rank of Knight Companion of the Bath and Lieutenant-General. On the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny, the Governor-General, on the death of General Anson, nominated him interim Commander-in-chief of the army in India -- a position he would have been the most fitted to fill, next to the old tied veteran, the hero of the Alma, Lord Clyde…Sir Patrick Grant, lineally descended, both on the father and mother’s side, from the old family of Tullochgorum, was first married to a daughter of William Fraser Tytler, esq., long sheriff and convener of Invernesshire, and second, to a daughter of the right Hon.Lord Viscount Gough, and has issue.
Not less distinguished, as a noble, gallant, and energetic soldier was his brother, Captain William Grant, who, at the time of his death, held the post of Assistant Adjutant-General in Afghanistan, in the first trying and disastrous campaign to Cabool. Captain Grant was wounded in the action at Jugdaluck. With about twenty officers, he formed a line to oppose the enemy’s advance, and in a hand-to-hand combat with overwhelming numbers, he nobly fell at the pass of Gundannuck, 13th of January, 1842 at the age of thirty-eight. Achterblair has been long possessed by Lieut.A.MacBain and his family.” [ibid. 254; marginalia in John Crerar’s copy: Patrick and William Grant are cousins of Mrs. Clark ??]
• Beannich, residence of Alexander Cummin, esq, merchant, and Provost of Inverness [ibid, 259; marginalia in John Crerar’s copy: marked in margin as of interest]
… I received several letters from my Aunt Jean Stewart and James McPherson and they are all pressing on me to go to the Highlands and stay with them for the whole six months. James McPherson has wasted a whole sheet of paper advising me to say I will give you a sample of his letter. He begins thus:
My aunt J____ Bullir [Boileau, née Clarke, wife of Colonel ?] has been in Edinburgh days this week. She left yesterday. She is in good health and spirits.
I hope the __________ that you…
…You say in your letter that mother was wanting to know who this McPherson man - - - but I am not able to buck with his genealogy and as for this old fellow that his mother Bowes [Brown?] . I know nothing save that his name is William McKenzie [McKay?] ...his father was an old ... [rest incomprehensible]
After Peter’s death,Ann lived near the intersection of College [now
Willow] and Spring [now High] Streets [Hutchinson’s Nova Scotia
Directory 1864-63; Deed, John Crerar to Ann Clark Crerar 1857]. She
died 15 April 1865 and was buried with her husband in the Crerar plot at
Laurel Hill Cemetery, Pictou.
I. Peter Crerar and Ann Clarke had seven sons and one daughter:
A. JOHN CRERAR (of whom more later)
B. MAY CRERAR (“born on a passage to North America upon the Banks of Newfoundland Friday the 19th July about 6 o’clock 1817. She died at Fishers Grant between 12 and 1 o’clock Monday Morning the 8th June 1818.”)
C. Captain [Evan] EWAN CLARKE CRERAR (b.18 July 1819, Fisher’s Grant - d.19 January 1857, wreck of the Lord Ashburton at Grand Manan)
Ewan Clarke Crerar was celebrated in life and death as a brave, at times seemingly foolhardy sea-captain. His most famous feat was to captain the waterlogged and overburdened Wolfe to Liverpool. The sale of its contents netted the Crerar brothers their fortune. The newspaper duly notes the ship’s arrival: “The ship Wolfe owned by Messrs. J & P Crerar arrived in Liverpool from Pictou. She was purchased with her cargo as she lay stranded at St. Peter’s Island, Cape Breton. Capt. Evan Crerar, brother of the owners contained her at Liverpool” [E.Chronicle, 20 Sept, 1853]. Roland Sherwood, the historian of Pictou, tells the story with more colour:
It is possible that Ewan did not actually return to Pictou from his triumph in Liverpool, but that he joined a Liverpool shipping company, as claims Sherwood. There he was made captain of the Lord Ashburton, which had been built in 1843 by Joshua Briggs for Nehemiah Marks, owner and master, at Brandy Cove, New Brunswick. 1009 tonnes [F.W. Wallace, Wooden Ships and Iron Men]. In December 1856 the Lord Ashburton, set sail from Toulon, France, bound for Saint John, New Brunswick. Sherwood continues:
Have you heard of the Seven Days’ Work? It is a towering cliff on Grand Manan Island, upon the face of which seven different strata of rock are plainly discernible. It was near here that the Lord Ashburton went down, and it was here that the lone survivor, James Lawson, scaled the cliffs, and it was here that he went out each spring, and on the face of the Seven Days’ Work, painted a huge white cross in memory of his lost captain and shipmates.
Evan Clarke Crerar was named according to traditional Scottish pattern,
after his maternal grandfather. At times he is called Ewen, Ewan, Evan,
and Owen, perhaps indicative of a shift from the Celtic version of his
name to a more English one.
Above: a map of Grand Manan Island, from Roland Sherwood, Pictou Parade
The Second Generation: Counter-Clockwise from top left: Dr. James Peter, in old age and youth. His wife, Susan Jeanette Young . His brother Peter Crerar Jr.