MacLeod Road Farms

The MacLeod Road is accessed about 1/2 kilometre south of The Falls Cemetery on Highway 311.   Today it leads up the hill and terminates on a vacant farm.  Few people realize that it was once a through road to the community of Kavanagh’s Mills.

The first farm, as one starts up the hill, was originally the homestead of Donald MacLeod, (1803-1876).  Donald was born in Kilbraialhaid, Clyne, a crofting community in Strath Brora.  At the age of 18, he emigrated with his widowed father Hugh, sisters Marion and Margaret and brother John.   They were passengers on the Ossian of Cromarty and arrived in the port of Pictou in 1821.

The family were first allotted land at West Earltown on the farm last inhabited by Joe MacKay.  It was a low lying acreage on the Waugh River in the shadow of Spiddle Hill.  Hugh complained to the authorities that it was unsuitable due to late frosts.  The family then acquired land at The Falls,  Donald on the subject property and John directly across the river.  Their sister Marion married William Sutherland “Ban” who had settled immediately to the south of Donald.

Donald married Barbara Gunn, (1816-1879), a daughter of William Gunn of Strath Halladale, Parish of Raey.  The Gunns didn’t come to Nova Scotia until the 1830’s, settling briefly at Middle River and then eventually settling on the Charles McGill farm at West Earltown.  Barbara’s brother Hugh settled near East Earltown while another brother, Alex, lived for a time near Earltown Lake before settled at Brule.

This couple had a family of ten including a son William who settled the  southern half of the property which runs along the MacLeod Road at the crest of the hill.  He was the father of Geordie MacLeod who took over that property and the grandfather of Don MacLeod who retired to the farm around 1970.  The property is now the summer home of Joyce Ferguson.

Donald Sr.’s younger son John, (1858-1933),  took over the main homestead.  He married Elizabeth (Bess) MacKay, daughter of John MacKay “Black” and Janet MacDonald “Salt” of Balfron.  They had a family of eight including Barbara Murray of Rossville, Catherine Murray of Waugh River, Jessie Gunn of Brule,  Dan Robert and Alex in British Columbia, John and Marion died young and John Will MacLeod, the hier to the property.

John Will was a confirmed bachelor and farmed the homestead well into his seventies.  He sported a Model A Ford from 1930 until shortly before his death in 1971.  He was an elder in the United Church.

The farm was then owned by an Anderson family during the 1970’s. It is now the home of Jack Ferguson.

On the crest of the hill are a couple of homes of more recent vintage.

At the edge of the forest, a branch of the road veers to right and enters another early homestead of The Falls.  This place was originally granted to a Francis Henry but there is no evidence of this man ever improving the property.  The earliest settlers appear to be Widow Catherine Sutherland and her two unmarried sons,  George and Angus.  Catherine was the widow of a George Sutherland in the hamlet of Eilanan, Strath Brora.  George seems to have died in the old country before Catherine and her five sons emigrated in 1821.  It would appear that they first lived on the property now owned by Reg Terry, (Caribou Sutherland homestead), but gave it up for a series of properties along the MacLeod Road. Land documents show that the family was a given a survey ticket to occupy this lot. After clearing a field and planting their potatoes, it was discovered that Francis Henry still had a claim.  The matter was eventually resolved. The last of this family to live on the property was George Jr. who died around 1880.

The next permanent resident was Donald (Dan) MacLeod, (1857-1922).  He was a son of Donald MacLeod and Barbara Gunn.  He married Margaret Baillie of West Earltown.  They lived in an old style house on the bank of a small brook.  They had three children, Danny, twins Barbara and Willie John.   Barbara died unmarried in Boston.  Danny, unmarried, lived with his Baillie aunts and uncles at Kavanagh’s Mills.  Willie John took over the farm and built the present house.  He was married to Sadie Hayman of Balmoral.  This couple had four children.  After Willie John died in 1959, Sadie moved to the Dan Baillie house at The Falls.  Dan MacRae lived there briefly before the place was acquired by Tommie Pugh.  The Pugh’s moved to Bass River around 1980.  It is currently owned by Geoff Crinean.

Continuing along, the branch road crests a second hill before forking.  The right fork leads through the woods to the bank of the Baillie Brook where we find the remains of a small farm.  This was the home of Paul MacDonald and his sister Christy.  They were two of several unmarried children of William MacDonald “Paul” and Jane Matheson of Earltown.  Christy died in 1911 and Paul shortly thereafter.  The farm was added to the Dan MacLeod farm.  It is now part of the Dorje Denma Ling Centre to the north.

The left fork of the branch road used to lead along the MacLeod clearing to the Matheson farm.  Today the property is accessed by a new road further up the main MacLeod Road.  This property was originally part of the James Foreman grant which extended across the Baillie Brook to Tatamagouche Mountain.  It was first settled on the Tatamagouche Mountain side by Hiram Downing.  The east side of the brook, (150 acres), was subdivided and sold to Dan MacKay, Achany, in the 1870’s. Local lore tells that a hermit lived on a small clearing on this property for several years.  Dan MacKay doesn’t appear to have lived on the lot.  He eventually took over his father’s farm on the Peter MacDonald road.

George Matheson, (1847-1928),  was the first permanent settler.  He was a son of Gilbert Matheson and Annie MacLean of Upper Kemptown.  He was married to Christy MacDonald (MacAddie), of The Falls.  They lived on the Carl Beck farm at Balfron when they were first married but returned it to its former owner and settled on this property.  They built a small house and cleared fifty acres for cultivation.  It was the last farm to be cleared at The Falls.  George and Christy had eight children:  Adam lived on Nuttby before moving to Montesano, Washington,  Gilbert of Trenton,  Bill of Olympia, Washington, Gordon, Margaret Polson of Montesano, Cassie died young, Tena MacIntosh of Oliver and Bessie Nelson of Nappan.

Gilbert and his first wife, Maud Hiscox, enlarged the house with intentions of taking over the homestead.  Maud died young and Gilbert went to Boston to work as a carpenter.  He returned with a second wife, Ellen Campbell,  and took up residence at Balfron before settling in Trenton.

After Gilbert’s departure, the youngest son, Gordon, came home from the west and took over the farm. He married a schoolteacher from College Grant,  Grace Murray.  They had four children,  George, Neta, Murray and Robert.   After Murray returned from service overseas, the family decided to vacate and take up farming in a less remote location at Balfron.  The MacLeod Road farm is still in the family.

Returning to the main MacLeod Road, we continue up the hill and past the new road to Mathesons.  At the top of the hill is the remains of the next farm.  In better days, it had a commanding view over the lowlands of North Colchester and the Northumberland Strait.  This was originally the farm of Robert Sutherland, son of Widow Catherine Sutherland.  He was born in Eilanan, Strath Brora in 1799.  He married Janet Sutherland, likely of Pictou County.  Their descendants were known as the MacRobbies.

This couple only had one known child,  George Robbie Sutherland.  George Robbie continued on the farm and married his first cousin, Betsy Sutherland “MacIan”   They had four children,  James and John who both died as young men, Christy, (Mrs. Johnny Munro of Willow Church Road), and Jennie Bell.

Jennie Bell took over the farm.  She was married to Jim MacDonald of Upper Kemptown.  Jim was known as “Corbett”, a reference to a well known boxer at the turn of the century.  Jennie Bell and Jim had two daughters, Christy who died young, and Elsie who married Lewis Cook.  Elsie and Lewis lived for a few years in a small cabin on the lower part of the property.

Jim and Jennie Bell retired to Kemptown to live with Elsie and Lewis.  The place has been vacant since and under the ownership of Donald Sutherland and his son Douglas.

The road continues a short distance over the crest of the hill and presently terminates in another old ruin.  This was the homestead of Alexander Sutherland better known in the district as Laughing Sandy Sutherland.  Laughing Sandy was a brother to Robert “MacRobbie” , George and Angus who lived on the preceding farms.  He came to Nova Scotia with his widowed mother and four brothers.  His wife, Christy Baillie, was also a native of  Clyne and the eldest daughter of George Baillie, Catechist, of Spiddle Hill.  They had seven children.  Only two married, Margaret to John MacDonald of Shinimicas, and Catherine to John Sutherland, Shawnee, of the Berrichan.   The last two children to live on the farm were Elspy and Robert.  The farm was later associated with the Sterling Matheson property at The Falls as a woodlot.

At this point, the road can no longer be navigated by motor vehicles.  A hiker can follow the old road down the grade and eventually come out on a vacant farm above the Kavanagh’s Mills Road.  This small farm was originally granted to Edward Studivan.   Studivan, so the story goes, was actually Edward Denoon, the son of a Scottish land agent, Hugh Denoon.   Denoon Sr. recruited settlers for the Pictou District in the Highlands and brought them over in over crowded boats in the 1801-1803 time frame.  Edward chose his wife’s maiden name for his surname.   They had at least three sons,  William, Murdoch and John.   William was the ancestor of the present day family on Studivan Mountain.  Murdoch and John settled in Cumberland County.

After Edward Studivan moved on, the farm was acquired by Geordie Sutherland “MacIan”.  He was a son of John Sutherland and Christy Ferguson.  His father John lived across the brook on the Kavanagh’s Mills Road and was the original MacIan or Macin as it was pronounced. John was a brother to Laughing Sandy,  Robert, George and Angus.  Thus the whole family of Widow Catherine were settled on the entire length of the MacLeod Road.

Geordie “MacIan”, (1841-1914), was married to Margaret Baillie, a daughter of Robert Baillie and Isabel MacKay of West Earltown.  They had eight children.  Son Robert lived at Durham, John in New Westminister, Dan died in WWI,  Hugh died young,  Jim and Geordie Macin Jr. lived on the home place unmarried.  A daughter Bella never married and another daughter,  Christy, married Paul MacDonald at Central Earltown.

The MacLeod Road crosses the Baillie Brook below the former farm house and joins the Kavanagh’s Mill Road.  This is the boundary between Earltown and New Annan.

Map with code: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?hl=en&authuser=0&mid=zWuNe7Aar9m4.kTJ1hRJWA7vA

2 comments on “MacLeod Road Farms

  1. Margaretta Sander says:

    What about the Acadians? There’s a house on the old Macleod road at what is now Denma Farm – it looks like the Acadians may have been there first? Old house has been abandoned for many years next to the refurbished farm house now owned by Geoff Crinean

    • glenmath says:

      Thank you for your inquiry and updating me on the name of the current owner.
      When the first permanent European settlers arrived in North Colchester in 1771, the ruins of the Acadian farms were still very visible. The expulsion was only 16 years earlier. The Acadians confined their farming to land with easy access to salt water marshes and shipping. There was no evidence of their activities south of an abandoned copper mine near the Waugh River – Balfron boundary. Balfron, The Falls and Earltown were unsettled except for seasonal hunting camps used by the First Nations.
      I am familiar with the old house mentioned in your post. I passed by it many times in my youth on the way to our family pastures further back. My great, great, great, great grandmother Catherine Sutherland and her unmarried sons were the first permanent residents of that property. They would have lived in a log abode near the present buildings. It is possible that they constructed the old house when they upgraded to a frame dwelling. If there is evidence of stone fireplace inside, it would likely date back to her time.
      My grandparents, who lived on the next farm to the rear, seemed to think it may have been built by Dan and Maggie MacLeod in the late 1870’s. They acquired the farm shortly after their marriage. Maggie was my maternal grandmother’s aunt and she was a frequent visitor at that house as were my paternal grandparents.
      The current house was built around 1920 when the MacLeod’s son, Willie John, was starting his own family. I am not sure if the older generation and siblings moved into the new house at that time. My late father recalled playing in the old house in the mid 20’s after it had been converted to a storage building and shop.

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