Early Scottish Pioneers in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan, Canada


In 1889, our Macdonald family left the Isle of Lewis and settled on a 160-acre homestead in Saltcoats, Saskatchewan, Canada. Catherine Matheson, her son Malcolm Alexander MacDonald from her first marriage, her 2nd husband Alexander Macdonald and their three daughters.


In 1888, a colonization scheme sent thirty families, consisting of 183 persons from the Isle of Lewis and Harris to Killarney, in South Western Manitoba, Canada (about 160 miles west of Winnipeg, Manitoba). Of the thirty families, the 18 families from the Isle of Lewis left Glasgow on May 17th, 1888 on the ‘S.S. Corean’ and the 12 families from Harris left Glasgow on June 2nd, 1888 on the ‘S.S. Buenos Ayrean’.


On April 1, 1889, the same colonization scheme sent forty-nine families, consisting of 282 persons to Saltcoats, Saskatchewan (then the North-West Territories), Canada (about 260 miles west of Winnipeg, Manitoba). Saltcoats is located on the CP Rail line, near the Manitoba border, 20 miles Southeast of Yorkton, Saskatchewan.


These new Canadian settlers were advanced money for travelling from the Isle of Lewis to Saltcoats (or Killarney) and funds for expenditure and maintenance in Canada. These advances were to be paid back through mortgages on the land and assets the settlers held in Canada.


On April 1, 1889, the forty-nine families sailed from the Isle of Lewis, Harris and North Uist in the Hebrides of Scotland to Glasgow. On April 3, 1889, the Saltcoats settlers left Glasgow, Scotland on the steamship ‘S.S. Scandinavian’ (Allan Line) and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on April 14, 1889. On April 24, 1889, the forty-nine families arrived at their 160 acre homesteads in Saltcoats, Saskatchewan, Canada.


The Saltcoats settlers were anxious for schools so the Dunleath and Tupper schools were built, the buildings being also used as churches. The Saltcoats settlers also established the nearby town of Stornoway in Saskatchewan.


One of these settlers who became highly distinguished is Colonel Malcolm Docherty. He was a sergeant in the Boer war, helping to capture the Boer General Cronje. Malcolm remained in the British Army and obtained a Captains' Commission. He was promoted to Colonel and while holding that rank was killed in France while leading a cavalry charge. He had many decorations.


Before the Saltcoats colony of 1889, another Scottish settlement was established at St. Andrews and Benbecula in 1883 and 1884. St. Andrews and Benbecula are near Moosomin and south of Saltcoats, near the Manitoba border.


These settlements were sponsored by Lady Emily Gordon Cathcart who owned estates in South Uist, Benbecula and Barra (North Uist, South Uist, Benbecula and Barra are just south of the Isle of Lewis and Harris). In 1883, she sent ten families of Scottish crofters, consisting of 38 persons to St. Andrews and Benbecula. In May 1884, she sent thirty-seven families and ten single persons, numbering 229 persons to these settlements. Each family was given a 160 acre homestead.


Saltcoats, St. Andrews and Benbecula were not the first Scottish settlements in SaskatchewanIn 1811 and 1812, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, brought a group of Highlanders to Manitoba, Canada. The Earl of Selkirk was granted 116,000 square miles of land along the Red River and Assiniboine River and some of this land was in Saskatchewan, then called the North-West Territories. Some of the communities north of Yorkton on the Manitoba border, such as Kamsack and Sturgis, were part of Selkirk’s Red River Colony.


On July 26, 1866, Reverend James Nisbet (born in Scotland and came to Canada in 1844) led a party of pioneers from the Red River Colony and founded Prince Albert, north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Reverend James Nisbet named Prince Albert after Queen Victoria’s husband.



Bruce MacDonald




Appendix: Norton, Wayne. Help Us to a Better Land: Crofter Colonies in the Canadian West.
Appendix: Saltcoats Settlers: The King Colony and The Lothian Colony
Appendix: Killarney Settlers: The Killarney Colony and The Argyle Colony

If people can find their ancestors on these above lists, a genealogist named Bill Lawson, of the Isle of Harris, probably has their family tree. He has over 4,000 family trees for people in the Hebrides.

I hope this info helps others interested in Scottish settlements in Saskatchewan.




From: Bruce MacDonald

To  Sask Gen Web

Tue, 21 Feb 2006

Scottish Saskatchewan Genealogy Roots

Sask Gen Web

Visitor # [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Web Publish Date: Thu Sep 13 2018