Although most of the Baillies emigrated between 1814 and 1832, there was one exception in the late 1700’s. A John Baillie of Sutherland, likely a soldier in the American Wars, settled on the Pictou – Antigonish border in a place known to this day as Baillie’s Brook. Patterson in his history of Pictou County mentions that he was from Sutherlandshire but little else is known about him.
Much has been written about the Highland Clearances and, in recent years, more has been learned about the Sutherland clearances. This was a social-economic experiment in converting from a cattle based economy to a sheep and wool industry. The principal landowner of the day, the Countess of Sutherland, was counselled to clear out her small tenantry and create vast sheep farms. There were many practical aspects to such a policy. There would only be a handful of tenants to administer, the labour would be a fraction of what was required for cattle and the returns would be many times greater.
The disposition of the people was the main problem. However the Estate made plans to relocate the small tenants and lotters to the coast where they would be employed in either the fishery, the local coal mine, the salt pans or, later, a distillery. This did not go over well with the tenants. They had been cattlemen for generations and had no love of either sea or coal pits. Those with money made plans to emigrate to Nova Scotia. Those without means rebelled.
The politics and atrocities are beyond the scope of this post. In summary, a few leaders managed to extend their leases for a brief period, some were forcibly evicted, the minister sided with the landlord, the military was brought in to finish the evictions, etc.. The end result was that a vast swath of the Parish of Clyne, including Kilbraur, was cleared of all its people and their homes were destroyed.
The next known Baillies to arrive in Pictou was an early player in this mass eviction. Robert Baillie and his wife Marion (Margaret) were living near Kilbraur on lands that were part of the Carroll Estate. The Gordon family had owned the Estate for several generations however the last resident owner, John Gordon, died in 1807 leaving his family with massive debts. To clear the debt, his son and executor, Joseph Gordon sold the estate to the Countess on the condition that the tenants would not be evicted. That promise was empty and the Sutherland estate began clearing Carroll in 1813. (Joseph Gordon, greatly vexed by the broken promise, would become instrumental in relocating the evictees to Nova Scotia).
Robert Baillie, in a family of seven, arrived in Pictou in 1814 along with five other families from the same neighbourhood. Their land petition, unique in its narrative, explains that the memorialists emigrated from the county of Sutherland in North Britain this month and had done so in consequence of their having been turned out of their possessions to make way for sheep dealers and were thus looking for asylum in Nova Scotia. They had certificates of character from their parish minister, “and have nothing to recommend them further but to assure your Excellency that they were faithful subjects at home to his Majesty and will now so continue.’
The group were awarded a generous 1400 acre swath of forest extending from Saltsprings to Lovat in Pictou County. This began the allure of a new life in a distant colony where one could own one’s farm and, for a pittance of taxes, be free of landlord whims forever.