Scotch-Irish Settlers in Canada

Source:The Scotch-Irish in America
Author:Samuel Swett Green

In the first third of the seventeenth century Sir William Alexander, a favorite of James the First, tried to found a new Scotland in America. The only existing memorial of that attempt is the name of Nova Scotia.[28] A more successful effort was made after the forced evacuation of the French from that province in 1755. About the year 1760, a party of Scotch-Irishmen, many of them from Londonderry, N. H., started a permanent settlement at Truro. Among the settlers from Londonderry were several Archibalds, members of a family which has held a distinguished place in the public life of Nova Scotia.[29] Among the pioneers was Captain William Blair also, a son of Colonel Robert Blair, of Worcester, Massachusetts, and grandson of Colonel Robert Blair, one of the defenders of Londonderry, Ireland.[30] Other Scotch-Irish settlers followed, and their descendants became numerous, and peopled neighboring towns.

October 9, 1761, Colonel Alexander McNutt, an agent of the British government, arrived in Halifax with more than 300 settlers from the north of Ireland. In the following spring some of these went to Londonderry, Onslow, and Truro.[31] September 15, 1773, the “Hector,” the first emigrant ship from Scotland to come to Nova Scotia, arrived in the harbor of Pictou. The pioneers who came in that vessel formed the beginning of a stream of emigrants from Scotland which flowed over the county of Pictou, the eastern portions of the province, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, portions of New Brunswick and even the upper provinces.[32] A large portion of these emigrants, however, came from the Highlands of Scotland, and, although they formed a valuable part of the population of Nova Scotia and other provinces, were of a somewhat different blood from the Lowland Scotch and their matured countrymen, the Scotch-Irish.

A very considerable portion of the people of Canada are of the Scotch-Irish race. There are in every province, it is said, centres almost entirely settled by people of that extraction. That is the case with Colchester County in Nova Scotia, in which Truro, of which I have spoken, is situated. It is so with Simcoe County in Ontario. Rev. Stuart Acheson, who was a settled pastor in the last named county for ten years, states that in his “First Essa Church”[33] all the families but one were Scotch-Irish. New Brunswick has her share of this race. It should be added, that the Counties in the Dominion of Canada in which this people have lived have been leaders in civilization.

There is an incident in Canadian history in which two distinguished Scotch-Irishmen figured conspicuously. Sir Guy Carleton, whom we remember in the United States as the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army at the close of the Revolution, was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec in 1767, and while holding that office earned for himself the title of Saviour of Canada. He was born at Strabane, in the County of Tyrone, in Ireland. Richard Montgomery, his companion in arms at the siege of Quebec when it was taken by Wolfe, was born not more than seven miles away, at Conroy.[34] These two Scotch-Irishmen, fellow-soldiers at first, became formidable foes later. In the latter part of the year 1775, General Montgomery, as is well known, led an army of the disaffected colonies into Canada. Guy Carleton was in command of the Canadian forces which opposed him. They were both brave and able men. Montgomery had the advantage at first; he took Montreal and other places, and succeeded in placing his army between Carleton’s troops and Quebec. The latter general’s position seemed desperate. But he was equal to the occasion. You have often heard the story of his action at this juncture of affairs. Disguised as a French Canadian peasant or as a fisherman, with a faithful aide-de-camp also disguised, he got into a little boat to go down the St. Lawrence to Quebec. He reached Three Rivers, and found it full of the enemy. He and his companion stayed long enough in the place to take some refreshments and then, unrecognized, continued their journey. Finally they overhauled two schooners flying the British flag, were taken aboard and carried to Quebec. Montgomery united with Benedict Arnold, who had made a futile attempt to take the citadel of Quebec, at Pointe aux Trembles and, together, they proceeded to make another attempt to take Quebec. They reached the Plains of Abraham, and demanded its surrender. Carleton declined to surrender. After battering the walls of the citadel for a short time ineffectually, Montgomery determined to storm the town. You recall the failure of the attempt, and the tragic end of Montgomery. As he and his men came under the fire of the enemy its cannon greeted them with a destructive discharge, and the brave general and many of his men were laid low in death.[35] After the battle Carleton sought out, amid the winter snow, the body of his fellow-countryman and neighbor, and, paying the tribute of one Scotch-Irishman to another Scotch-Irishman, had it buried with military honors.

The passage of more than one hundred years since The Scotch-Irish in America by Henry Jones Ford was first published in 1915 has rendered the book no less fascinating and gripping. Written in a thoroughly accessible way, it tells the story of how the hardy breed of men and women, who in America came to be known as the ‘Scotch-Irish’, was forged in the north of Ireland during the seventeenth century. This book is a comprehensive and very informative account of the history of the Scotch-Irish in America.