Alexander Baillie “Spain”
The young men of Sutherland were always a valuable asset in time of warfare. Starting with the tribal warring of local landlords or clans in distant times, there were few generations that didn’t see battle. For many years the House of Sutherland and its loyal allies, the Murrays, Baillies and others in the south, were at a constant war with the MacKays of the far north and the Sinclairs of Caithness. When peace came on that front, men were offered up by their landlords to fight for King and country – domestically in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745 as well as in Northern Ireland. In the period leading up to emigration, many from Sutherland served in the Peninsular War – including Alexander Baillie.
After hostilities ended, Alexander returned to his family in Strathbrora who were living in the township of Torrisilaire. He and his wife Janet, believed to be a Baillie as well, were wed around 1804. Between 1808 and 1814 there were no recorded children indicating Alexander was likely absent for most of this time. Upon return to Strathbrora, prospects were likely bleak. Peacetime could be just as challenging as war time when men returned to their home parishes with few prospects of obtaining a full lease or employment. With news of generous land grants in Nova Scotia, it would not have taken much to convince the couple to migrate. Having sailed back and forth to Portugal, another ocean voyage was not as daunting as to some.
Land petitions indicated that they arrived in Pictou sometime in 1814 and went first to West River. Shortly thereafter they were awarded a 350 acre holding on what would later be the Colchester Pictou county line. His next door neighbour, Donald MacIntosh, settled across the line in Earltown the previous year. Fellow veteran, Donald Cameron, took a grant on the hill to the south. Their exploits and adventures in far off Spain earned the community the derisive name “Spain” and its inhabitants the title “Na Spainach Crosgach” or Bare Footed Spanish. (1)
As there were many Alexander Baillies in the area throughout the 19th century, bynames or descriptors were a necessity. This branch didn’t seem to have an all encompassing descriptor at the time but “Spain” had come into use in the 20th century as a means of keeping the genealogies in check.
We have no record of Alexander’s death but Janet passed away on October 30, 1844 age 59. They are believed to be buried in unmarked graves in Gunn Cemetery near the graves of their two sons.
This group of Baillies were related to those who settled a few years later at West Earltown. Three generations of both families referred to the other as cousins. Also, the Baillie family of Gilbert’s Hill and West River Station were also closely connected. Family tradition claimed that Annie, daughter of Alexander “Spain”, married her first cousin, Alex Baillie, of the West River Station tribe.
Alexander and Janet had nine children known to us:
- John 1805-1892, known as Johnny Poga or Johnny with the sack. He was a day labourer and carried away leftovers from his host’s meal in a sack over his shoulder. He was married to a Sally MacIntosh of Roger’s Hill and had four children.
- Grace 1808- married Robert Ferguson, a native of Strathbrora, who lived on the Berrichan Road where descendants still live.
- William 1814-1896 was known as Quilly as he fashioned weaving needles out of porcupine quills. He and his wife, Helen Sutherland, lived on a road between the Berrichan and Clydesdale Roads. They had nine children.
- Donald 1717-1878 married Margaret Murray “Lassie” and settled on the meadows between West Branch and College Grant. They had seven children all of whom left the area and settled around Truro and Tatamagouche.
- Annie 1820- married Alexander Baillie of West River Station. They lived on the home farm and are ancestors to a sizable family in the West Branch area.
- George 1820-1882 married Annie MacKay of Dalhousie Mountain. She was brought up in Earltown. George and Annie lived on Spiddle Hill.
- Hugh 1823-1899 married Catherine Sutherland “Macin” of West Earltown. They lived near the Drysdale Falls. He was known as “Back Mountain Hugh”. Descendants lived at Tatamagouche Mountain and Nuttby.