Cnoc na Gaoithe

As one travels towards Earltown from The Falls on the 311, one notices a ridge at the head of the valley. This same ridge is part of the view when entering West Earltown from Central Earltown. In the 19th century it was commonly known as Cnoc na Gaoithe, (pronounced Croc na Gee), and later became known in English by its translation, Windy Hill. It is named after a similar hill in the Parish of Clyne located to the north of Loch Brora and near Dalfolly. It was the ancestral home of several first settlers in West Earltown. There were once eight homesteads in this remote area. Most were vacant by 1930. They were served by the church at The Falls, the Brown School at West Earltown, and, for a period of time, a store at the end of the road leading into the settlement. Most of these people were buried in the Murray Cemetery. The first four homesteads along the main route through the settlement were settled by an extended family in 1821. They were the three Baillie brothers along with their sister who was married to a MacKay. We will notice their particulars as we proceed along the road.

The Baillies were raised on the Cnoc na Gaoithe in Clyne. Their home was supposedly on the opposite side of Strath Brora from other Baillies that came to the Earltown area around the same time.   They were certainly among the evicted of Strath Brora . Their land grant petitions suggest they came over in 1821.  They made their way to the Lovat – West River Station area where other Baillie families were already established.   There is a strong family tradition that they were near relatives to the Baillies that arrived in those settlements around 1814. They requested land in the West River area but were instead pointed to West Earltown, the preferred gathering place for Sutherland evictees in the early 1820’s. An older brother, Donald, chose to settle on the summit of Spiddle Hill on the farm recently restored by Edwin Cameron for buffalo pasture. The remaining siblings took a block of land along the ridge of Cnoc na Gaoithe.

Today one gains access to this area from the Kavanagh’s Mills Road. About 700 meters from the 311 highway, a road turns off to the left and heads south. About 500 meters along that road one comes to a cross road. The one to the left is a lane into the Robert Baillie grant. Part of the clearing is now a gravel pit however the ruins of the house were in existence as recent as 1990. Robert Baillie, (1799-1871), was a son of Alexander and Janet Baillie of Cnoc na Gaoithe, Clyne. He lived as a bachelor at this location for several years establishing a viable farm. Around 1833 he married Margaret Murray, (1812-1839), then living across the road from Knox Church. She was born to William Murray “Ardachu” and Margaret MacKay in Rogart and arrived in Earltown with them in 1831/32.   The 1838 census shows that Robert and Margaret had three children. We have only been able to identify one, that being a daughter Margaret, wife of Hugh MacKay “Uhr” of MacKay’s Hill near Kavanagh’s Mills. Margaret, wife of Robert Baillie, is buried with her parents in Earltown and is memorialized by an elaborate table stone. There are no markers for children of this marriage but one wonders if the unknown children expired along with the mother due to a virus. Left with at least one small child, loneliness, necessity and hopefully love led to Robert’s second marriage to an Isabel MacKay. Isabel was born in Scotland. Her grandson Geordie Sutherland “Macin” claimed that she belonged to the Uhr MacKays at Kavanagh’s Mills. If that is the case, she came to Nova Scotia subsequent to 1841 with a sister in law, Annie MacDonald MacKay, and her family as well as a clan of MacKays known as the Boodles.  The Boodle MacKays settled near Earltown Lake.   By this union, Robert had Margaret, (Mrs. George Sutherland “Macin”), Mary, Annie, (Mrs. Tom Mattatall of West Tatamagouche), Robert Jr., and Alexander.

Robert Baillie Sr. died in 1871 and the farm eventually went to his son Robert. This Robert married Isabella MacKay, “Black”, daughter of “Kicking” George MacKay and Janet MacKay “Deacon”, West Earltown.   Robert and Isabella, as well as his widowed mother, moved to Malagash in the late 1880’s. They had Jessie, (Mrs. Walter Craig of Niacom, Sk.), Bessie, (Mrs. Louis Langille of Waugh River), and Melville Baillie who died at Pashendale, France, on November 2, 1917 in the service of King and Country.

The Baillie’s sold this farm to Neil Murray of Earltown. Neil was a nephew of Margaret Murray Baillie, Robert Sr.’s first wife. Neil, (1854-1924), was a son of Donald Murray “Bible” and Janet MacKay “Tailor” of Earltown.   He had a first wife, name unknown, and a son John by that marriage. His second wife was Christena MacDonald, daughter of Neil MacDonald and Janet MacIntosh of North River. In addition to farming, Neil also operated a store in the house for the surrounding community.   Neil and Christena had four children: Maude, (Mrs. Charles Douglas, North River), Mamie died young, Gordon, (m. Catherine MacLeod of The Falls), and lived at Upper River John Road. The youngest child was Mabel, wife of Dan Robert MacLeod, The Falls and Trail, BC..  Neil spent his final years with his son Gordon on the River John Road.

The Alonzo, (Lonnie), Sullivan family were the next to occupy this farm. They were formerly of North River. In later years they built a new house near to the junction of the 311 and the Kavanagh’s Mills Road. Members of that family still live on parts of the original homestead.

Returning to the road on the ridge, another road turns to the right opposite the Baillie – Sullivan land. It leads into a clearing currently under blueberries. It seems that this parcel may have been part of the Hector MacKay grant.  This parcel seems to have been settled around 1848 by Donald MacKay and his wife Mary MacKay. Mary was a daughter of John MacKay “Post” on Gunn’s Hill. Donald’s origins are vague but tradition claims that he was one of the Achlean MacKays in the Clydesdale.   Donald and Mary had six children, William, John, Alex, Christena, Catherine and Jessie. Alex never married and worked as a carpenter around Denmark, N.S. .  John spent the his final years at the county poor farm in North River. Catherine died at home in 1927. Christy took over the farm and was first married to an Angus MacDonald. To date we cannot trace Mr. MacDonald.   Christy’s second husband was Neddie Tattrie of French River. They had an infant son. This couple lived to be elderly and are buried in Earltown. The farm has been vacant since. A roadway through this farm eventually continued over the hill to the Corktown Road passing through the farm of John S. Baillie.

Back on the road along the ridge, one ascends a half kilometer into the remains of the Donald MacKay “Macomish” grant.   The origins of the name Macomish is now unknown. The name appears in the rent rolls of the Sutherland Estate in the early to mid 1700’s, a time when many of the families had unique Gaelic surnames.   Macomish may have been an old branch of the MacKay clan or a tribe that took the MacKay name towards the late 1700’s. This family lived on the west bank of the Blackwater, a river flowing into Strath Brora from the North. In 1820, prior to emigration, Donald was living at Dalvait near the mouth of the Blackwater. Donald married Marion Baillie in Clyne. As previously mentioned, she was a sister of the Baillie brothers on the adjoining farms. Marion had a daughter prior to her marriage, also Marion, who was raised in the MacKay household. This Marion married Alexander Sutherland “Loib Bheg” of Central Earltown. Together, Donald and Marion had a daughters Janet, who was born in Clyne and died unmarried in 1867, Christy, wife of James Sutherland “Loib Bheg” or Lake at Earltown Lake, Margaret, first wife of Hugh MacKay “Gouda”, West Earltown, sons Alexander and William.   Donald and Marion are buried in Murray Cemetery. This grant was divided between the two sons.

William was given the original homestead and Alexander occupied a portion further along the road. William MacKay “Macomish” 1827-1872, was twice married. His first wife was Isabel Sutherland “Loib Bheg”, daughter of Robert Sutherland and Eliza MacKay, Earltown Lake. They had Marion, (Mrs. William Sutherland “Macin”, Corktown), Eliza, (Mrs. Jim Sutherland, Caribou of The Falls), Dolina, unmarried, Robert died in 1883 unmarried, Dan, (Mary Heughan) and William. Isabella died in 1864 leaving William with a young family.

He married a second time to Ellen MacKay, daughter of Hector MacKay and Jane Sutherland, West Earltown. They had a son Hector who died young. In the late 1860’s William vacated the farm on Cnoc na Gaoithe and moved to the New Truro Road about three miles south of Tatamagouche Village. A number of properties along that road had become available for settlement at that time. It was flat and considerably more arable than the mountain properties. William died shortly after the move and the farm was taken over by his young sons. Dan, known as Dan Macomish, was the eventual heritor of the farm which later passed to his grandson, Freeman MacKay.

Alexander Macomish, son of Donald, cleared the rear part of the grant. He was married to Annie Sutherland, sister of William’s wife Isabel and Christy’s husband James.  She was also a half sister of Alex Sutherland, the husband of Marion Baillie. The Macomish MacKay and Sutherland Loib Bheg families were greatly intertwined likely due to some close connection back in Clyne. Alex and Annie raised a dozen children on that remote and marginal homestead.   Marion, (married George Sutherland, Sawyer), Betsy, unmarried, Dan, Eliza, Robert, Janet, William, Betsy, Christy Ann, Isabel, (Mrs. Robert Morrison, Vancouver), and Margaret, wife of Big Donald MacDonald of East Earltown.   Some of this family left home young and their whereabouts became unknown.   Some died single on the home farm. The last of this family was Donald who was also known as Dan Macomish. He was a bit of an eccentric and roamed the back country at night by lantern light. He spent his last years as a border with Hugh Alan and Minnie Sutherland, Balmoral.

These Macomish MacKay farms bordered on the farm of the Black MacKay’s and the clearings were open to one another at one time. The Black MacKay’s entered their homestead from the West Earltown side near the Devil’s Elbow.

At the back of the MacKay clearing a road branched to the south east and eventually entered the Morrison clearing. This farm would be to the southwest of the old Brown School at West Earltown. It was only inhabited by one family for a relatively short life. We don’t know what circumstances brought William Morrison to Earltown. He was born in Scotland in 1820. He first appears in the official records marrying Betsy MacDonald at Tatamagouche in 1851. Betsy was born in the Parish of Reay, Caithness in 1826. She was a daughter of Donald MacDonald and Jane Murray and came to Earltown in 1832.   She was a granddaughter of Alex Murray “Corrigan” of Spiddle Hill who later emigrated from Reay. William and Betsy’s farm, although remote today, was only a couple of properties away from her parent’s farm above Ferguson Brook Road.

In 1873 William and Betsy vacated their farm and set out with the family for the American West. They chose to settle in Ardoch, North Dakota, a new settlement in the Red River Basin. William died there in 1886 and Betsy in 1915. They had ten children. What is most remarkable about this family is that they kept in contact with their friends and relatives in Nova Scotia. Five of the family married people originally from Earltown who had somehow tracked them down. The family was later centered on the outskirts of Los Angeles with two sons owning citrus farms. An elderly relative from Idaho once told the writer of visits to the Morrison homes as a child visiting Los Angeles. They remained true to their roots, were keen on the Scottish obsession with genealogy, and sang the old Presbyterian hymns as a source of entertainment.

The children were:   Robert, (m. Isabel MacKay, Macomish) and lived in Vancouver; Christy, (m. Alex MacKay, Gouda), Grand Forks, North Dakota; Jane, (m. John Murray, Bonesetter of The Falls), Pine City, Mn; Margaret; John, a rancher in Dakota who retired to California; Alexander, a farmer in San Dimas, Ca., (m. 2. Johanna MacKay, Canada); Elizabeth; Donald, San Jose, Ca.; Peter, a farmer in San Dimas, Ca., (m. Ellen MacKay, Tailor).

Back on the road leading to Corktown, we next come to the first of two Baillie grants. The first was granted to William Baillie, (1798-1844). He was the ancestor of a branch of the Baillies nicknamed the Jaffries. William was married in Clyne in 1820 to Margaret Anderson.   She was born at Badnellan in Clyne. Her people remained in Scotland and are still living in the area today. Their first home as a couple was on Alt Na Mhuillan above Aschoile Beg.  Family tradition claims they lived for a short period of time in the West River area while William was securing a permanent home. While at West River, their eldest son was born in 1821. They had at least four children: Alexander, settled on the next farm; Nancy, unmarried; Margaret, the second wife of Alex Baillie “Doctor” of West Earltown; and William who continued on the home place.

William Jr. , (1830-1908), was married to Isabella Sutherland “Macin”, daughter of John Sutherland and Christy Ferguson. They raised a family of nine in this remote setting:   Margaret, Mrs. Dan MacLeod, MacLeod Road; Christena, second wife of Jim Sutherland, “Caribou”, The Falls; Annie, Mrs. David Murray, Kavanagh’s Mills; William died young; Georgie, unmarried; Catherine, Mrs. William Sutherland, “Dearg”, East Earltown; John S. Baillie, Corktown; Alex S. Baillie, at home; and Bessie Baillie, unmarried. Alex S. Baillie worked for a number of years in the United States and came home to look after the homestead around the time his parents could no longer manage. After their deaths, he moved with his sisters Georgie and Bessie to the old Henderson farm on Studivan Mountain. This is still a remote setting but was a considerable improvement over the farm on the far side of Cnoc na Gaoithe. Continuing on through the Baillie grant, we come to former homestead of Alex Baillie, son of William. He broke with tradition and married someone outside the Gaeldacht, Margaret Jane Tucker of Corktown. They also had nine children: William, Hugh and Alex died as young men on the home place, James went west and was never heard of again, Margaret married Joe Dunford of Wittenburg, NS; Elizabeth was first married to Finley MacDonald of the Berrichan and later married Murdoch Munro of Loganville Glen; George Baillie married Bella Ross Meagher and they took over her first husband’s farm at The Falls; Annie married Alex Sutherland “Macin” and lived on the Kavanagh’s Mills Road; and John Baillie who lived at Waugh’s River and was married twice.

At this point the crosses into the New Annan District and the community once known as Corktown. The next property was granted to Alexander Baillie, the youngest of the Baillie siblings to settle along this road.   Very little is known of this man.   He married a woman by the name of Annie and had at least two sons, William and Alexander.   William went to Londonderry, (then known as Acadia Mines), to work where he met and married Margaret Spencer. He later appears among the early inhabitants of Calgary. Alexander Baillie the younger, known locally as Alloch, continued with the homestead. He married Janet Baillie, (1842-1910), a daughter of William Baillie, “Quilly” and Helen Sutherland of Clydesdale. Janet, known as Jessie, was a distant cousin.   They had four children, Robert who lived near Trenton, N.S.; Alex William in Trail, B.C.; Christy, Mrs. John Pugh; and John.   John went by the nickname Johnny Alloch, was a bachelor, and worked in the lumber camps most of his life. He died in Truro and was buried at North River. The land at this point is extremely poor. The continues through Baillie’s Bog and emerges on the Old Nuttby Road in Corktown.

The locations on this map are approximate:  https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?hl=en&authuser=0&mid=zWuNe7Aar9m4.kZghunWViU_U

3 comments on “Cnoc na Gaoithe

  1. Betty Wall says:

    Hi Glen

    Really enjoyed this article. Find out something new every time. Did you ever see a picture of the rope bridge across to the West Earltown school?

    Betty

  2. Alex Morrison says:

    Thank you! William Morrison and Betsy MacDonald were my 2nd great grandparents. We have struggled a bit to track them before Ardoch! Robert and Isabella were my great grandparents. Their son, Loyle Alexander, was my grandfather. He moved with the family to Vancouver before pursuing graduate studies in California and then New York. He then began working for the US Tariff Commission and raised a family here in the Washington, DC area. I cannot wait to find a time to come and visit Earltown!

    • GMMatheson says:

      Thank you for the additional information on the Morrison family. It is always great to hear from descendants of the people who left the area. Feel free to contact me direct at gmmatheson@gmail.com and I may be able to connect you into some of the other families in the area.

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