Heritage Tour 2016

REBELS and REFUGEES

In the early 19th century, the Countess of Sutherland embarked on an ambitious socio-economic scheme to convert her vast holdings into large sheep farms. Her tenants, residents of the interior valleys and glens for countless generations, were forced to move in mass. Some gladly left to join relatives in North America while others stubbornly resisted and were forcefully evicted.

 
This great upheaval gave birth to a homogeneous community of Gaelic speaking farmers in the Cobequid Hills which would become the District of Earltown.
 
Join us on July 24th at 3 PM at MacKenzie Cemetery for a guided heritage tour of the final resting place of these rebels and refugees. 
 
For those wishing assistance locating the cemetery, you may assemble at Sugar Moon Farm before 2:45 to car pool.  For more information, you may contact Glen at 902-957-0532 or gmmatheson@gmail.com 

Bonesetter – Part II

Due to the preponderance of the Murray surname in Northern Nova Scotia,  it was necessary for each Murray family to have a byname.  As would be expected, Peter and his descendants became known as the “Bonesetters”.

Peter and Eliza had twelve children:

  1. Alexander   (1817-1890)  married Christy Murray “Ardachu” and lived at The Falls.
  2. Janet  (ca 1818)  died young, possibly in Scotland
  3. Christy  (1821-     ) married Alexander MacKay “Post”
  4. Janet    died young
  5. John (1826-1917)   never married and remained on the home farm.
  6. Donald (1829-1890) married Jane Sutherland “Square” of The Falls.  Died in Waukon, Iowa
  7. Infant daughter
  8. Ellen   (1831-1908)  married John Sutherland “Elasaid” North Earltown
  9. Angus  (1832-        )
  10. Infant son
  11. William  (1835-1862)
  12. Robert (1837-1906)  married Lydia MacKay  “Judge”

Peter died in 1875 at the full age of 97 years.  As a boy and young man he experienced the centuries old rural lifestyle of cattle rearing in the uplands of Sutherland.  He witnessed the upheaval of the clearances, survived an ocean crossing and adapted to farming on the forest and stone clad hills of Earltown.  He helped found a church and cemetery.  He was the first elected spiritual leader in the surrounding area. Most notable was his lifetime of healing of fractures, sprains and various injuries.

Eliza’s life was no less notable.  She was cleared from her home not once but three times.  She ran a farm while Peter was attending to the physically and spiritually injured neighbours.  She brought twelve children into the world and lost four in infancy.  She died in 1898 at the advanced age of 103!!   What a story she could have told.

Of their surviving children,  Alexander took up residence at The Falls on the farm surrounding the Murray Cemetery.   He was known simply as Alex Bonesetter and may have practiced the skill in that district.

Christy married the boy next door,  Alex MacKay “Post”, who lived on a farm on the Nuttby Road.

Donald also moved to The Falls where he married Jane Sutherland, daughter of “Gib Square”.  He left his young family in the care of the Sutherlands around 1870 and went to Chicago with Jane’s brother in search of new opportunities.  He first settled in Minnesota where his young family joined him.  They later moved to Lafayette, Iowa, where they farmed and Donald made shoes.  He later took up a farm in Waukon where he died.  His widow later lived in Rock Grove, Iowa.

John Murray, son of Peter and Eliza, never married.  He took over the Sugar Moon farm after his father died.

Robert Murray acquired the farm immediately behind the Earltown Village Cemetery.  Like his father, he was an accomplished bonesetter.  This article best sums up his life story:

Truro Daily News, August 11, 1906:  Mr. Robert Murray, who died at Earltown, July 28th, is worthy of more than passing notice. He was justly famous over a wide district as a bone setter.  His skill in reducing fractures, dislocations and sprains, was wonderful.  With a light and delicate, yet firm hand, he did wonders in bone setting; with the least possible pain to the patient and many who passed under his hands will regret his death… The best doctors welcomed his assistance in serious cases.

The bonesetting skill also passed through the family of his daughter Ellen.   Ellen married John Sutherland “Elasaid”, (pronounced Allsage), who lived between Matheson Corner and Spiddle Hill.  Whether taught by Ellen or Peter,  her son Hugh Alan Sutherland was a noted bonesetter well into the 20th century.  He was still practicing in the late 1920’s when he set the broken hip of his mother in law, Mary Sutherland  “Ban”.  It was reported as a complete success.  The poor woman had another fracture in the early 30’s which was set by a local physician.  It apparently left her lame.   Whether the lack of success on the second fracture was due to lack of skill or advancing age, one might debate either way.

Peter Murray’s tombstone does not mention his unique vocation however signage at his homestead on the Alex MacDonald Road bears witness to his life calling.

 

 

 

 

The Bonesetter

Physicians, as we know them today, were not readily available in the remote valleys of Sutherlandshire nor in rural Nova Scotia. When they did become assessable to the rural population, their services dealt mostly with internal medicine. Routine matters, such as obstetrics, remedies for common illnesses, and skeletal injury fell upon traditional holistic practices by members of the community.

The herbalists, with their arsenal of natural plant material, seemed to be few in number among the immigrants to the Scottish neighbourhoods. The lack of familiar plant material in their new surroundings likely led to their demise. The midwife was an important member of all rural communities. Some practised at large while others tended only to their extended family. The lessor known medic today is the bonesetter.

The bonesetter, or fear fuidhachaidh chnamh, as known in Gaelic, was once ubiquitous in many cultures. As the name suggests, they primarily set broken bones – human and animal. They also repaired dislocated bones and joints and performed many of the treatments common to chiropractors today.

In Earltown, the earliest practitioner was Peter Murray, alias The Bonesetter.
Peter was born around 1778 and brought up in DailfeusaigDailfeusaig, Rogart  (Peter Murray) in the Parish of Rogart. This hamlet was located on the upper portion of the Brora River that formed the boundary between Rogart and Clyne. His father John was a labourer, likely a cattle herder, for a more substantial tenant of the Sutherland Estate. Both John and Peter show up in an 1812 militia list as living at Dailfeusaig with Peter listed as a “residenter”.

On November 3rd, 1814, Peter married a childhood friend named Eliza. She was born in 1795 at nearby Scibberscross to Alexander Murray and Christy Sutherland. Her father had moved to a remote area called Altandoin in the Parish of Kildonan when Eliza was a young girl. That family was uprooted by the clearances of 1812 and found refuge on the heights of Slettil Hill during 1813 before moving into Strath Halladale to the north. The young couple took their vows in the manse of Kildonan on the above date before Rev. Alexander Sage.

We assume that the young couple returned to Dailfeusaig where things were much more stable than in Kildonan and further north. However, this was not to continue. Dailfeusaig was part of a holding over which John Sutherland of Scibberscross was tacksman. Sutherland of Scibberscross was an antagonist of the Sutherland Estate management. It was no surprise when the Scibberscross tack was taken from John Sutherland and given to John Hall in 1818. In 1819 the area along the Brora, between its source and Scibberscross, was cleared. Most of the people took flight to Pictou including several families who eventually landed in Earltown that summer.

In the land petitions of 1822, Peter claims he was a recent arrival from Scotland. However various traditions, settlement patterns and other evidence would suggest he arrived in 1819 with brother in law Alex Sutherland “Ballan”, his former neighbour and militia buddy, Robert Douglas, and a host of other families that settled in the vicinity of Earltown Village.  Some of these early emigrants temporarily lived in the Scotsburn area with earlier emigrants while waiting for location tickets or made that area a home base while clearing their new land.

Peter, Eliza and their two eldest children settled on what is now Sugar Moon farm. Remains of an early dwelling  can be found on the Rogart Mountain trail. In its day, itBonesetter's ruin, Alex MacDonald Road (Peter Murray).jpg looked out over the blossoming settlement in the basin and surrounding hills.
Peter became a leader in both the spiritual and physical life of the community. He was one of the first elders to be elected after the Presbyterian church formally organized in the 1840’s. He was credited with being the one who selected the site of the Village Cemetery in 1824.

Peter’s most important contribution was his bone setting skills. This was something he obviously learned in the old country. During the settlement years, the nearest medical professionals were located in Pictou and, as already noted, were not apt to respond to cases involving broken bones. No doubt there were many bones to heal as land clearing was a dangerous task and few of the settlers had any experience with an axe or bringing down trees. Sprains and dislocations were likely rampant as well. The treatments were likely harsh and painful but the long term relief and rehabilitation endeared him to the community.

To be continued

Part II will deal with Peter’s later life and the bonesetters among his descendants.

Sources:

  1. 1812/13 Sutherland Militia Muster Lists
  2. Correspondence and notes of Mrs. Ida MacKay,  Dartmouth, NS
  3. Whiston, Norris,  Land Petitions of North Colchester, NS
  4. Correspondence of Dr. James Hunter, Scotland
  5. Correspondence of Alexander Murray “Banker” , Inverness, Scotland

Joseph MacKenzie – Catechist of Strath Halladale

When Joseph MacKenzie was born, Strath Halladale in the Parish of Reay was still in the hands of the MacKays, ancient overlords of the far north of Scotland. The area escaped the wide scale clearances of the early 1800’s. In fact, the area was a refuge for people fleeing the shackles of the Sutherland Estate. That came to an end in 1830’s when MacKay of Bighouse, of the ancient MacKay lineage, sold his holdings to the Duke of Sutherland.   Thus the Sutherland Estate acquired a large slice of land in the Parish of Reay. Shortly after this out migration began which resulted in a few families from the area finding their way into Earltown.

Joseph was born in the township of Coull in Reay to Alexander MacKenzie and Ann MacKay. At the time of his marriage to Esther Bruce of Bighouse, he was living in Croik, a hamlet in the upper part of the Strath.   Around 1840, Joseph, Esther, their young children, Joseph’s brother Hector, and brother in law Hector Bruce sailed for Pictou. Hector MacKenzie remained in Pictou County.   Joseph located a farm at Central Earltown while Hector Bruce settled on Boodle Hill. (The Boodle MacKays appear to have emigrated at the same time).

Joseph’s grandson, Kenneth MacKenzie of Toronto, recorded the family story in a small book called “Sabots and Slippers”. Kenneth tells us that Joseph was a devout man and schooled in religious leadership. Upon reaching Earltown, Joseph became a leader at local prayer meetings and also travelled throughout the district teaching the Gospel.

It was on one such trip that Joseph became lost in a blizzard. His health rapidly failed thereafter and he died of pneumonia the following summer. This would be in the year 1848.

Many of Joseph’s offspring died young and are buried in the Earltown Village Cemetery including a daughter Josephine who was born posthumously but didn’t survive long. Only two sons continued with a full life.

William was a merchant who started a small trade in the family house at Central Earltown. He later moved the business to the village. The business has been in continuous operation to this day. The other son, Hugh, became a lawyer and conducted a successful practice in Truro.

 

William Murray “Inchure” – Catechist

The Murrays were inhabitants of Strath Fleet in Rogart for centuries. Their introduction to the eastern portion of Sutherland harkens back to the time of Bishop Gilbert of Moray, (d. 1245), when he and his extended family were planted there by the King to establish order in what had been a barbaric hinterland.   Gilbert was later known as Saint Gilbert of Dornoch.

From this saintly past came a humble family of Murray’s who lived in Acheilidh, one of the more fertile situations in Strath Fleet. They lived on a holding that was known as Inchure, a name that has been a descriptor of this line of Murrays to this day.

The father of this post’s subject was John Murray “Inchure”, a catechist in his own right, who tended to the flock of his native parish of Rogart during the later years of the 18th century. The biographies of the day make no mention of John however his term was short due to an untimely death.

One of his students in matters of Grace was his son William. William was born 1784 and, as a teen, would have been witness to his father’s spiritual work.   William, so the family tradition goes, also received the training to be a catechist although it is not known whether he practiced in Rogart before emigration.

William married Christena Matheson of Strath Cornaig, a remote part of Dornoch Parish bordering on Rogart. She was a near relation of Rev. George Matheson, a blind preacher in Edinburgh and writer of several well known hymns.

In 1822 this couple joined the tide of migrants to Nova Scotia. This did not seem to be caused by eviction but rather a need to find a better living in the soon to be prospering parts of Nova Scotia. They arrived in Pictou of that year and then took passage to the port of River John. From there they found their way to their new home on the Clydesdale Road. Traces of this homestead can be found near the junction of the Clydesdale and Captain’s Roads.

As mentioned in previous posts, it would be some time before the people of Earltown would have the full attention of ordained clergy. William was one of those who conducted neighbourhood prayer meetings and continued his calling to the catechisms without compensation.

It will come as no surprise that his teaching left an impression on two of his sons, William and Robert, who went on to study theology.   William, in addition to a successful ministry in the Annapolis Valley, also served as a missionary in Jamaica. Rev. Robert was less inclined towards pastoral care but aspired to become the editor of the widely read “Presbyterian Witness” for many years. In addition to sound writing on religious matters, Rev. Robert was a proponent for confederation and debated his preference in his paper in response to the anti-confederate views of Joe Howe. Robert was also a hymn writer, From Ocean unto Ocean being the better known.

William Inchure’s other children were: Nancy, (Donald Murray), of Spiddle Hill, John – customs officer in Halifax, Alex, (Ellen Sutherland), on the home farm, Christy died young, Catherine, (married twice – Robert Sutherland and Andrew Campbell), and Hugh, a prospector in the Yukon.

William died at the early age of 57 in 1841. He is buried in the Village Cemetery.

 

______________________

Sources:

Goodwin, William Murray, The Inchure Murrays,   unpublished manuscript

The Catechist of Coiranscaig – Part II

We ended part I with George, Catherine and young family arriving in Pictou and being dispatched to Earltown.

It was August in 1822 when the Baillie family, along with others from their home parish, set out from Pictou to find their new home. Old friends and familiar faces were to be found along the way in the Caribou District, West Branch and finally in the Berrichan. The Caribou people were already well established. The Berrichan people, particularly the Baillies of Kilbraur, were two years into the pioneer experience.   Most of this group migrated down the Waugh River valley towards Tatamagouche and extended the 1821 settlement of West Earltown towards The Falls.

George took a 200 acre parcel on the west facing slope of Spiddle Hill. At the top of this slope is an outcropping of rock much reminiscent of the Carrol Rock near Coiranscaig in Clyne. This familiar looking landmark probably convinced George that this would be home.   According to tradition, he chose to clear the hilltop rather than the more fertile valley bottom next to the river.

In addition to the rigors of establishing a viable farm, George assumed a self appointed role of a Highland catechist.   It would be many years before the mother church would secure a permanent minister for the growing district. Thus George had a potential mission of several hundred souls to nurture.   In the years to come, William Murray and Joseph MacKenzie, both trained catechists, settled in the Earltown area and lightened the load.   However, George did not contain his zeal to Earltown. As evidenced by the marriage of several descendants into the Gaelic Presbyterian community surrounding Wallace in Cumberland County, it appears that he was a regular apostle to Kirk people in that area.   There were also strong associations with the Caribou District in Pictou.

“Records of Grace in Sutherland” relates how George Baillie “by his holy life, he continued to adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour” in North America. “One day, it is affirmed, he had occasion to go to a place some distance from his new home. On his return, he completely lost his way in the pathless forest. In his helplessness, he had recourse to prayer, and when he rose from his knees, he saw a strange dog approaching and fawning upon him and then moving in a certain direction. He followed the sagacious animal until at least he came in sight of his own log cabin.”[i]

In addition to weekly prayer meetings and catechising in the settlers’ homes, he continued to exercise his debating skills at four day communions in the scattered districts of North Colchester and Pictou. It was reported in a paper in the 1840’s that “prominent among the men speaking to the question at a recent Tatamagouche communion, was the venerable George Baillie of Earltown, whose grasp of the doctrines could match or exceed that of the attending clergy”. Therefore, George was a powerful speaker in both Gaelic and English, as Tatamagouche would not have conducted their communion in the tongue of the Gael.

Not everyone was enamoured by his religious zeal. An elderly lady once related to this writer that George Baillie was a regular visitor to her grandfather’s home.   Although her grandfather was an elder and pious, he dreaded these visits and would have the whole family hide in the hopes that Baillie would move along to the next farm.   Although the clergy describe him in the most flattering of terms, he could be very dour and not bashful about rebuking parents and children alike for lapses in their scriptural knowledge or attention to family devotions.

When a church structure finally came to Earltown, both the Kirk and the Free Church, George was one of two elders elected to represent The Falls District of the Earltown Congregation under the auspices of the Free Church of Scotland.

Of his family, his eldest son, Alexander, settled the lower 100 acres of his grant beside the river. Alex was more commonly known as “Doctor Baillie”, supposedly due to a practice of setting broken bones. His eldest daughter Christy married Alexander Sutherland, “Laughing Sandy”, of MacLeod Road. Several tales survive of “Laughing Christy” who apparently had the second sight for which her Grandmother Baillie was renowned.  Four daughters, Margaret, Ann, Mary and Elizabeth, married in the Wallace area as did a son John. Their youngest son, Dan, was a successful farmer at Balfron.

The August 12th, 1854 edition of the Presbyterian Witness gave notice of his death: “At Earltown, June 26th, Mr. George Bailie, age 72 years. Mr. Bailie was a native of the parish of Clyne, Sutherlandshire, Scotland. He gave evidence early of a saving acquaintance with God, and at the early age of 23 he became a member of the Church of Scotland. He emigrated to America in the year 1822 and on this side of the Atlantic he still maintained his Christian profession.   Possessed of an exceedingly retentive memory….”[ii]

His remains lie in Murray Cemetery, in the shadow of his home on Spiddle Hill.

 

_______________

[i] Munro, Rev. Donald, “Records of Grace in Sutherland”, Free Church of Scotland 1953 (A biographical collection compiled by Rev. Munro of Rogart in the mid 1800’s)

[ii] Presbyterian Witness, August 12, 1854 Microfilm   PANS

Iii Interview, Mrs. Gladys MacDonald, 1982

The Catechist of Coiranscaig (Part I)

Coiranscaig is a pre-clearance hamlet situated on a hillside overlooking the narrows of Loch Brora. It was a place long associated with the Baillies, probably back to 1500 or prior when they were a prominent family under the Earl of Sutherland.   By the late 18th century, Coiranscaig became well known as the home turf of a pious family of Baillies who ranked high among the laity of Sutherland.

One of “Men” of Strathbrora was a Hugh Baillie who was born at Coiranscaig in the mid 1700’s.   He was “a most impressive speaker, and, latterly, on account of his years and ripe experience, he was usually one of the first Strath Brora “men” to be called at Fellowship meetings. It was an inspiration to see him rise on a communion Friday. His venerable appearance, his solemn and subdued manner, and even the quiet flow of his address, always os fresh and savoury, drew upon him the eyes of hundreds in the congregation and sustained their attention until he sat down.”   Hugh was a fixture at communions throughout the Highlands, often travelling for a week over mountain passes and down glens to reach destinations on the west coast.

Hugh’s wife, whose name has not been documented, was outstanding among the women of her parish for her kindness and piety. She seems to have been gifted with the second sight. On one occasion, after entertaining some travellers with refreshments, she sensed that the men were going to experience something serious. Some of the travellers drowned later that day while crossing Loch Brora.

This good couple had only one child, a son George. George was born September 22, 1782 on Coiranscaig. He grew up being a witness to his father’s evangelism and often attended the sacraments with his father. “ In his religious training he was exceptionally favoured, for not only did he come under home influences greatly fitted for fostering true piety, but he enjoyed rare opportunities of associating with the many outstanding saints in the neighbourhood, at whose feet he considered it a privilege to sit.”[i]

In a time when the fathers of Sutherland were reluctant to bring young men into their saintly circle, George was granted a high standing among the catechists and elders. It was also an era in which full membership to the Kirk was reserved for people mature in biblical instruction and experience. However, George was confirmed at the exceptional youthful age of 23.

George was married twice. His first wife, Jane Stewart, died at an early age leaving George with a young son John. John was put in the care of his mother’s people who raised him. John’s descendants still live in Clyne.

George was married the second time to Catherine Grant on August 8, 1808. She was the daughter of Alexander Grant and Margaret MacKenzie, Alexander being one of the prominent churchmen of Strath Brora and a tenant of some means.   George and Catherine had six children at Coiranscaig of which four survived before emigrating in 1822.   A daughter, Mary, was born at sea in 1822.   Three more children were born in Nova Scotia.

As mentioned already, the Baillies were tenants of some means during their early tenure in Sutherland and held lands on the shores of Loch Brora.   With the ascendancy of the Gordon family, they lost their status and became small tenants of the Carrol Estate under the Gordon’s of Carrol.   They seemed to have had a satisfactory relationship with the Gordons for several generations. However, this came to an end in 1812 upon the death of John Gordon.   His heirs sold the estate to the Countess of Sutherland in order to pay off accumulated debts.   The Countess gave assurances to the heirs that the tenants would not be disturbed.[ii]

Agents of the Countess had other plans, and set out to gradually depopulate the estate to turn it into a large sheep farm. Portions were cleared as early as 1813 with the removals reaching their height in 1820.   In that year, George and Catherine were issued writs of removal.   We are not certain what became of them at that point but they most likely moved to the coast to claim a small holding being offered to the evictees. It was the grand scheme of the estate to use the displaced farmers as labourers in various industries around Brora. Like many of their former neighbours, they found the small lots to be unsatisfactory and longed to emigrate. By 1822, an opportunity presented itself.   Joseph Gordon, son of their former landlord, arranged for subsidized passage to Pictou. Gordon had solicited funds from merchants in Bengal, India, to assist the evictees in leaving Sutherland. He had motives other than of a benefactor. He wanted to “get even” with the Countess for failing to keep her promise with respect to his father’s former tenants.

George, Catherine and their six or seven children arrived in Pictou in August of 1822[iii] along with several dozen families from Strath Brora. A few were given location tickets in East Pictou but many were dispatched to Earltown where they joined family and friends who had preceded them in 1819 and 1820.

The next post will tell of George’s spiritual calling in the New World.

 

 

[i] Munro, Rev. Donald, “Records of Grace in Sutherland”, Free Church of Scotland 1953 (A biographical collection compiled by Rev. Munro of Rogart in the mid 1800’s)

[ii] Hunter, Dr. James, “Set Adrift Upon the World, The Sutherland Clearances”,   Birlinn 2016

[iii] Church records: Earltown Congregation, Family Register, Microfilm, Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia

iv Correspondence – Hugh Baillie, Brora, Sutherland