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George Sandfield Macdonald Scribble Books 1883 -1889 


              The principal article of food was milled indian corn*. This was made into dumplings. About 1830 a wheat harvest was such a poor one, that the whole bill of fare consisted of these dumplings and this diet continued for two years. Tea had never been heard of. When the wheat had been threshed, parties would make a journey to Montreal. On his first trip there Allan noticed Col. Jarvis' Father buying some tea and to be fashionable he also bought a couple of pounds. When Mary beheld the dry looking substance she wonderingly asked its name. "Its what they call tea" replied Allan. Forthwith it was cooked, the juice thrown away and the leaves placed on the table. Allan found the strange dish too dry to eatable and his wife's suggestion to put butter on it didn't seem to render it more palatable.


              Each settler made his own harness out of leather bark and the reins of horse air. Laird McGillis and Col. Fraser were probably the first in Glengarry to sport leather reins. Double reins for teams had not been invented then; a line attached to the outside end of each bit was used, so that when driven the horses heads would be turned from each other in a manner that nowadays would appear comical. Sleighbells are also a modern invention. A large single bell that might have served in a school house was used. The traces were generally of chain, and what with the clanking of these and the noise of the bell the approach of a sleigh could be heard from over a mile.


              The majority of the settlers who came to the region about St. Raphaels were R. Catholics and their faith was of the most fervent kind. As an instance of this, the palms distributed in the festival day known as Palm Sunday were taken to pieces and formed into crosses; a cross would be placed in the well, another put into the churn to give good luck in butter making, The fields were sprinkled with holy water with a similar object. The belief in witch craft was strong; the most remarkable example of this occurred in a family by the name of McGillis who lived in the Black River between Williamstown and Lancaster; for seven years they endured the hardship of dung appearing over their food the moment they sat down to table. Of this family was John Ban McGillis who was the first white man born in Glengarry; the first white woman was a Macrae. the wife of Finlay Macrae of St. Raphaels; she died in May 1883 at about the age of 97; she was born on a farm in Lancaster township known as the Charles Wesley farm; at the time of her death her eldest daughter was 71 years old; it was said she (Finlays wife) never saw a steamboat or a railway.

              My great grandfather Allan never saw his wife until after the marriage negotiations had been completed. An ambassador was sent to the girls father, Angus McGillis with the message that Allan wanted to marry his daughter Mary. "Well" said Angus "what will his father Ranald give him?" "2 cows and 3 sheep" replied the ambassador." Then he cannot have her" Angus remarked "but if he will give Allan 4 cows and 6 sheep then he may get her." The demand was acceded to by Ranald. Allan proceeded to McGillis and the bargain was concluded by a shaking of hands. Mary was then called in and introduced to her future husband. The settlers carried over with them this custom of bargaining for a wife with some alterations. Instead of parleying in the simple & direct manner that prevailed in the highlands, the following roundabout fashion was introduced in Glengarry; Given a young man desirous of wedding a certain lass; his first step was not to see the father but to get some influential acquaintances; these would join together and visit the house in a party bringing along the swain and a crock of rum. After a good many drams had gone around the advisability of the daughter getting married would be diplomatically touched upon and between the discussion that would ensue and the genial liquid the old couple were easily worked up to surrender the coveted prize. The ceremony was called retcheaugh' the gaelic for 'contract'. The consent was of course requisite. The custom has gradually died away.


              13. retcheaugh: If the girl consented to her sweethearts' proposal it was generally with the proviso of her parents sanction. The man would then obtain some elderly relative or influential acquaintance who would see the parents & inform them that such a young man wished to marry their daughter. If they agreed, a night was appointed for the retcbeaugh or confirmation of the contract, at which a number of the friends would be present. The man would bring a keg of rum.

              13. retcheaugh was sometimes arranged between the parents without consulting the girl much. If there were any objections to the marriage, any of the priests at the retcheaugh might take that opportunity of stating them. Sometimes the ceremony was abortive as the girl would go off with somebody else. Duncan McDougall thus obtained Capt. Cameron's daughter.

              Sheep were generally killed at a wedding. Every young man was supposed to carry gun and they fired before every horse (house?) they passed.

              2.  Coming out on the Cochrane & whilst they were coming up the St. Lawrence, a sea gull perched in the mast. One John McGuinnis shot the bird which fell in the deck, the blood spattering about. Shortly after the ship struck a sand bar. A council was held (of which my grt grandfather was one) and they decided that McGuinnis must have been guilty of murder in the old country and they would have pitched him overboard but for the intervention of Scotus. This McGuinnis was a blacksmith. A grand uncle of McGinnis the carter in Cornwall

              7.  Bish McDonell was consecrated such in 1822, Montreal. On his return to Glengarry a large crowd met him at Bridge End escorted him to St. Raphaels. On arriving at the manse, the two women who kept the house were at the door. As the Bish approached they fell on their knees. In his blessing he told them to stand remarking "I am only a man; reserve that attitude for your Creator".

              The Bish was exceedingly clannish to his own people, and this feeling led him frequently to lay the blame for misconduct, where McDonells & others were mixed up, upon the latter. He was held in general steem but the Macdonalds were those who esteemed him the least.

              14. There was a witch called Ross who lived where Aibins is now. The McGillis affair was not believed by the better class. The wife was an ugly-tempered woman & she probably did the work.

              Informatiom from Misses Lachlan McD Jan '84


              Extract from Neilson's Gazette, Quebec, 1786

              Capt. Robert Stevenson

              "Arrived Ship McDonald from Grenock (Knoidart) with emigrants mainly the whole of a parish in the north of Scotland who emigrated with their priest the Revs Alexander McDonald (Scotus) & 19 cabin passengers together with 520 steerage passengers, to better their case up to Cataraqui-"

              6.  The first church was called Blue Chapl and was built by Rev'd Alex McDonald Scotus.

              7.  After McD Scotus came Rod McDonald, Desaulnier & John McDonald; W.P. McDonald

              Revd John McDonald placed the sundial at St. Raphaels. He came out in 1786 in the ship McDonald with his father & mother. John McDonald and Anna McGillis & 2 other children; he was 3 1/2; his eldest brother Aneas McDonald 7. The latter also became a priest & was professor at the Petit Seminaire Montreal, studied divinity in Quebec, ordained priest there 1814. Died in the 97th year at Lancaster, Mar. 79 buried at St. Andrews.

                  The lay professors at Iona Coll St. Raphaels were McDonald, Murdock, Hammond & McPherson.

                  Extract from Miss Popes Questions

              2.  "The old man at St. Raphaels spoke of 2 bands who emigrated from Inverness in 1786. Where did they sail from? One was under Fr. Alexander Scotus. Who conducted the other. According to him the latter band pushed up the Delaware & entered at Philadelphia - lost all by fire and in the spring started for their destination. Were met by their friends at Ile aux Noix. They met a party of U. E.s under Sir John Johnstone who had been 2 years on Isle Jesu. How did they get to Ile Jesu? The band of Fr. Scotus seems to have arrived in safety without incident.


              Information from D. Cashion about Mr. John

              The ceremony of christening was a very unpretentious affair; he was put is a salt sack when taken to Church to be baptized.

              Once he went to St. Raphaels with a comrade, both being sent by their fathers to confess. They found Mr. John walking around the college in bare feet & head uncovered reading his prayers; the day was a sultry summer one & Mr. John's eccentric appearance frightened the boys. He would have nothing to do with the latter averring he belonged to the next parish but told young Cashion he might come in. Mr. John then entered the College & the 2 boys seizing the opportunity dashed for home. On their return his father asked: "What success boys?" "We thought the man was crazy," was the answer "and we didn't go in". Next day the boys were driven to St. Raphaels by their fathers who had them duly shieved.

              ~~~~going char of the Hares had recoved to Rochester ona visit when he became engaged and the day of their wedding was laid. The party started and reached the Church early in the morning. The service began about seven a.m. after which Mr. John began to preach upon the perils of city life & the iniquity of Buffalo (Rochester?) in particular. The sermon lasted until 2 p.m. during which the young couple were frequently alarmed by Mr. John expressing doubts of their enduring the wickedness of Buffalo, he should marry them. However at the end of this address of such remarkable length. he performed the ceremony.


              Information from R. S.

              When Scotus died , Archie McDonald (bro. of Col James) Archie McDonald VIII Lan. & Angus Roy McDonald * who ~~ the Brown House at Sandfield Corners, took the body for burial to Montreal. The Bishop there demanded L60 as price of ceremony & fees. Angus Roy who was a lumberman had had dealings with the firm Auldjo & Cor & from them he obtained a draft for this amount.

              *Ask Mrs. McLellan about this man

              The following anecdote of him is from the Lachlan notes: On one occasion, he declined to give the particulars of a factive fight that Bish. McDonell wished to investigate. Angus was willing to state thecase privately to the Bish. & elders but objected to speak before the congregation. The Bish. not agreeing ordered him out of the Church. Angus left & reentered by another door. The Bish asked him "Did I not order you out of the Church? "Yes" replied Angus "but when the Lord closes one door, he opens another".


              From R. S.

              When the '86 band arrived in Quebec the women and children were placed in Batteaus and proceeded to make the toilsome journey to

              montreal. The men walked. They came up probably on the north shore. Some French Canadians gave the cucumbers - the first time the highlanders saw that vegetable. Afterwards they came across green corn & pumpkins. Eating a large quantity of these they got diarrhea & some of them had to be carried.

              2.  Col James Father was a leading man

              12. Col. Macpherson of the Black River had a suit & got the map of Macniff's survey, dated 1786, from a grandson of Sir John Johnson who was living at the time on the Grand River and my father obtained it from the Colonel.

              2.  Tobermory was the place the ship 'Cochrane' started from with the '86 band.

              5.  The settlers had first to carry their grain, when amill became available; to the Cedars. There were no roads and they followed the course of Sutherlands' Creek to its mouth on the Front. Thence they walked to McGee's Pt. There they got the & Peen, a french Canadian, to ferry them to Coteau. Thence they proceeded to the Seigneur's mill.

              Then Snyder of II Lan built a small mill about1790. The stones were about the size of grindstones. Ask John P. Snyder his grandson about this.

              Next Sir John built one at Williamstown. Then Duncan Chisholm, Char. on the Kings Rd near John Dingwalls', built a small one, probably on the property now owned by Angus Ranald Rory.

              Then Malcolm McMartin father of the member built at Martintown.

              Then Bish. McDonell built the Alexandria mill, called the priests' mill.

              Munro built at Roebucks.

              Duncan Cameron at Glennins?. Find out the dates of these mills.


              Information from B. Cain Feb '84  age 96

              6.  The first church built at Williamstown was a Presbyterian one. Mr. Bacon was the minister.

              5.  The flax mill at Williamstown was started by Wm Hay. Cain grew flax and took it to the mill. The work done was not good and the stuff was not liked.

              Malcolm McMartin sold flour at the rate of $7 per quintal. Cain obtained a quintal on one occasion but on arriving home it was discovered that the flour consisted largely of pea meal, Cain remonstrated with Malcolm but the latter remarked that he used it ~~that others used it and that Cain was not better than other people. Duncan Chisholm had an oatmill

              20. Cain went to Hugh McLarens' school probably the first established in the county. It was near Black John Macdonalds' sawmill about 4 miles from Williamstown. The teacher's manner was vulgar. He was a great flogger & in this respect served girls and boys alike.

              8.  At the election of Donald Greenfield against Col Fraser, the latter had ordered some of the Glengarry militia on parade.A portion of them in Charlottenburgh disobeyed the command and were fined in consequence. The next time the Colonel ran, this fining was used against him and contributed to his defeat.

              3.  According to Cain, Sir John was generally liked.

              17. In the War of 1812 a detachment of soldiers, mostly Glengarrians, marched over to the Salmon River & forced a company of Americans to surrender. Cain does not confirm Croil's story as to the business of whisky.

              1.  The Cashions were not U. E. 's

              17. Soldiers in the 1812 war (presumably the militia) got six pence a day whilstin active service. Each man would draw 1/2 pint rum when there was fatigue work.

              16. During the years of scarcity, wild garlic fried was a common article of diet. Anything in the way of 'greens' that could be made palatable was used. Nettles were much eaten.

              Cain says Capt. Donald Roy McDonell sold the land Ottawa now stands on to Sparks.


              From William Maclean on the Front

              There were protestants who emigrated from Scotland in 1772. Find out the reason of their going, probably they were in the military service.

              1.  The U. E. took 9 days to reach St. Regis from Johnstown. They were obliged to kill thir dogs for food. Their families went by water by Lake Champlain to St.. John thence to Coteau where they probably remained through the war.

              5.  The Govt supplied the U. E. with portable mills.

              6.  The Presbyterian Church at Williamstown was built by Squire Mackenzie for Mr. Bethune. When Mr. Bethune wished to conduct service at the church in the Front near Summerstown, he would take a canoe, go down the Black River & then up the St. Lawrence.

              7.  A Mr. Mackenzie succeeded Bethune & then came Watson.

              8.  At the 1st election, the candidates could not speak English fluently, & their efforts at speechifying were comical. Women attended the meetings and there was a general good time.

              16. There was a scarce year shortly after the war of 1812.

              5.  The flour was sieved by the settlers as there was no bolting.

              9.  Soup was corn browned and pounded. It was generally cooked with milk.

              1.  On the journey from Johnstown to St. Regis want of food brought them to such a week state that on arriving at the latter place, the Indians only allowed them a little soup, & the ration was just so much as could take at the end of the fingers.

              The Patent Deeds of the U. E.s contained a reservation to the Govt of mines and the white pine. A "good & sufficient house" had to be put up within 3 years & "during the space of one year thence next insuring the building of same" the house was to have a resident.

              The above is taken from a deed dated 1798. In this deed is the following style: "The Honorable Peter Russell our President of the Govt of our said Province."

              17. 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Volunteers commanded in 1802 by Lieut. Col. John McDonell.

              10. Horses had a habit of giving out in the winter time owing to hard work and bad roads.

              18. Enquire about the Youngs writing poetry.

              6.  Was there a church built on the Front before Williamstown?

              2 Have taught in the meeting house on the Front. Perhaps he was the 1st teacher in the county. Phelan also taught there & perhaps Benson. Phelan was severe & would take down the boys pants.


              From R. S.

              18. Donald McGraith, father of little Donald, & his brother Dugald.

              There were some in Kenyon & Lochiel. Ask about Donald Fiddler.

              6.  The first church put up by the U. E.'s was by the old Presbyterian burying ground at South Lancaster. Wm Maclean thinks the 1st church was at the area occupied by the present chapel at Fairfield. At St. Raphaels they had at 1st a log house. Then there was a frame church. About 65 years ago they began the stone church & was called by the French "la chapelle bleu". The frame church was a little east of the stone one. 

              5.  The plese mill at Williamstown was put up by Fraser, a lowlander.

              1.  The Wilkinsons are buried before John Murcheons stable door.

              Jan 84. From Donald Sutherland aged 84


              5.  Sir John commissioned Col. Sutherland to such a grist mill on 12 I Lan. It was burnt about a year after. Then Snyder put up a mill. Some of the running gear of the lot will was saved & served for Snyder's.

              21. Bark was used in lieu of shingles.

              1.  Col. Sutherland was a magistrate & was looked upon as a prominentman in Lancaster. He was Col. in the Regular army. His brother Major Sutherland settled in VI Lan on the 2nd lot E of Leclairs. The negroes who settled in Lancaster were refugee slaves and shared with the U. E. s.

              The U.E.s left the Mohawk & went through the Green Bush guided by Indians. They had only one dog for 9 days & they divided it by inches. They slept in a barn one night onder Hay. A party of Americans came by & suspecting hiders, they fringed the hay with their bayonets. Col. Sutherland was jabbed 11/2 inches but did not utter a cry. The women came by water through lake Champlain & landed at Sorel where the Govt erected Barracks for them.

              13. The wedding took place at the fathers & the next day there was the 'welcome home' when the festivities of the preceeding day were more or less repeated.

              17. During the war the women did all the work at home - chopping the wood and raising the crops. The French would come and thresh.

              General Hull had grey hair down to the shoulder. The boats with the prisoners stopped on the way to Montreal at McGowan's Pt for Provisions. The General had no covering on his head but a blanket was about his soldiers so that his appearance was singular. The children on shore thought he was some wild beast. Soft snow was falling at the time.

              Fraser was colonel of the militia of the Front townships & Donald Greenfield of the back townships.

              20. The first regular school house in Lancaster was on Lot 14 II. Before that teachers would go from house to house. The father would board the teacher for a time proportionate to the number of his children who took lessons. The salary was about .50 ct, a month per child. Phelan went thus from house to house. Squire McLennan was the 1st teacher at the choolhouse (father of the M.P.). He afterwards turned to farming. When he wished to chastise a boy, he would send him to the bush to prepare a whip. One teacher called Green once took a knife & slit a girls ear.* He mentioned the chance of a teacher who 1st employed a gentle system. Find out his name.


              James Ranald McGillis

              About the time of their flight, some of the U.E.'s received a warning by means of a man playing on the bagpipes a gaelic refrain. "The canoe is down there" intimating they were to cross the river & fly.

              2.The people selected Scotus & Angus Macdonald (Sandeck) to procure a ship to take them over. They obtained an old war or troop ship called "McDonald". It started from Knoydart on the 29th day of June 1786 & arrived at Quebec on the 7th Sept 1786. Six years after, 1792, came the ship 'Cochrane' with a few immigrants, among whom were some of his relatives & he believes my people were on board.

              Doesn’t believe the Deleware story. Believes the Chevrier have been destroyed and thinks Angus R knows something of its contents.

              3.  Sir John McGillis of Montreal about the Johnsons.

              6.  Father Rod Macdonald (Leek) put up the 1st Catholic chapel in U.C. at St. Andrews in 1784

              7.  St. Raphaels was named by Mr. Scotus. He had a log house put up & then a frame church about 50 X 60. Bish McD. built the stone one.

              About 1788 Mr. Scotus wanted a salary for an assistant or clerk to be made up by each parishioner contributing .50 cts. a year. A number in the parish objected & wrote to the Bish. at Montreal. The Bish sent the letter to Scotus with the names of the complainants attached. It was read before the people. Scotus boarded at my grt grandfathers. The latter died in 1818.

              Says there is no truth in the L60 story.

              Between the time of Scotus's death & Bish McD's advent there was no priest stationed at St. Raphaels, Fitzsimmons of St. Andrews came occasionally.

              Mr. Roderick died about 1801. I mentioned to McGillis that Bish McD in one of his letters to Sir F. B Head states on arrival in U.C. he found only priests in the province  -in what is now the township of Sandwich & the other in the Eastern district & that the latter sum deserted his post. I asked McGillis if the Bish here referred to Fitzsimmons ?. He said he couldn't say, but he believed that it was the impression of the people at the time that Mr. McD wanted to be the only priest in the eastern district & this desire on the fact of the Bish to have undivided authority may have led to the withdrawal of Fitzsimmons.

              8.  Thinks Gray was the 1st member for Glengarry & was lost in a schooner crossing Lake Ontario.

              13. retcheaugh is the gaelic for "settling" Tuesday was probably the wedding day.

              14. Believes the McGillis affair.


              From the Lacland notes

              7.  Denies the 'sheepskin's & 'gag in the mouth stories' about Mr. John.


              From Judge Pringle

              Of the Gray family. Col Gray was the one who settled on the Front. His son was the 1st solicitor general of U.C. was lost on the schooner 'Speedy'. Never married.


              From Alick E. Macdonald

              List of settlers by Ship McDonald, 1786 who took land in VIII & VII concessions of Lancaster township:


              Alex (Eachern) Macdonald    Knoydart    with two sons:Angus & Donald

              John Roy Macdonald          Knoydart    CROSSED OUT

              John McGillis               Morar

              William McGillis            Morar

              Hugh Macdonald              Knoydart

              John Macdonald              Knoydart

              Lachlan Macdonald           Knoydart    brother of Ranald

              Ranald Macdonald            Knoydart    brother of Lachlan

              Roderick Macdonald          Knoydart    brother of Alexander & John

              Alexander Macdonald         Knoydart    brother of Roderick and John

              John Macdonald              Knoydart    brother of Roderick and Alexander

              Archibald McDonell          Glengarry

              Allan Macdonald             Knoydart    my great granduncle bro of John in VII Lan

              Archibald McDougald         Knoydart

              Duncan Macmillan * ?        ?

              Donald Kennedy              ?

              Captain Donald Macmillan    ?

              Dugald McLaughlin           ?

              Angus Macdonald             Knoydart

              Donald Kennedy              ?

              Neil Macdonald              Knoydart

              Ranald Macdonald            Knoydart    father of Angus R. Macdonald

              Donald Macdonald            Knoydart

              Angus McDougall             Knoydart

              Archibald Macdonald         Knoydart

              Donald Macdonald            Knoydart

              Hugh Macdonald              Knoydart

              Finlay Macdonald            Knoydart

              Angus Macdonald             Knoydart

              John Macdonald              Knoydart    My father's maternal grandfather. Had a large ashery but got involved & lost his property

              Alex McDonell               Glengarry

              John McGuinnis              Knoydart

              *those marked ? are doubtful as being settles by same ship &date as the others.

              2.  Does not believe the Deleware story

              3.  Sir John died 1829 at Montreal & lived near Chambly. The people and Indians turned out in great numbers.

              7.  Scotus' quarrel was only with the elders of whom there were about nine. Big Jim's father & his bro Archie & Archie Uncle Finnan were among the elders. The Bishop must refer to Fitzsimmons in speaking of the priest who deserted his post.

              13. There were instances where the retcheaugh was a means of coercing the girl. They shook hand over it & then the publication took place. Contradict, Maclean as to the guests making known any objections to the match at the netcheaugh meeting.

              A very large number of guests were invited to the wedding, that a few got into debt & lost their property on account of extravagance in this way. A few only of the particular friends attended the welcome home.

              16. Never heard of famine


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