Comann Eachdraichd Uig

The Lewis Colony in Duluth, Minnesota

A large number of Lewismen settled in Duluth, Minnesota in the 1870s and 1880s, many becoming prominent citizens in the town. The first was William L Maclennan (1834-1888), son of Donald Maclennan. This family seems to have originated in Kintail or Lochalsh; in 1841 Donald was a shepherd in Bunavoneadar, Harris, and soon thereafter became a small tenant at Kinlochresort, Uig. The family emigrated to Bruce County, Ontario in the 1850s. The following appeared in the Stornoway Gazette in the 1940s:

It is uncertain who were the first Lewismen at the Head of Lake Superior or when they came. It is a well-known fact that in the early days of the Hudson Bay Company, they preferred to recruit men for their service in the Isle of Lewis, as Lewismen were found to be very hardy and able to carry on in the severe work of trading, and it was also found that they were more capable of making friends with the Indians of Northwest America than was any other group of people. It is known that Morrison County, in the central part of Minnesota, was named for a descendant of the last Brieve of Lewis.

However, the first Lewisman who made his permanent home in Duluth was William L Maclennan, whose home in Lewis was near Loch Hamnaway. His family emigrated to Ontario in the ‘fifties. After a short period there, Mr Maclennan conceived the idea that there might be better opportunities for a young man in the United States, so he moved to Duluth in the late ‘sixties. Duluth was then only a small pioneer town on the outskirts of civilisation. He went into several lines of business in the new town, principally contracting and real estate. He was the builder of the breakwater in Lake Superior that formed what was then the outside harbour of Duluth before the canal was opened to the main harbour.

After settling in Duluth, he brought Miss Julia Macleod to this country in 1872 to be his wife. She was a daughter of Roderick Macleod, a well-known builder in Stornoway at the time. Shortly after they were married, Mr Maclennan became one of the organisers of the first bank in Duluth. After organising the bank, the promoters were looking for a capable man to manage the new bank. Mrs Maclennan suggested Mr AR Macfarlane who at that time was in a bank at Toronto, Ontario. Mr Macfarlane, a native of Stornoway, got his early training in the banks there. Mr Macfarlane accepted the new position, and under his guidance the American Exchange Bank of Duluth grew to be one of the largest in the Northwest. Mr Alexander M Morrison of Stornoway, an acquaintance of Mrs Maclennan and Mr Macfarlane, moved to Duluth in the early ‘seventies. He entered the grocery business and made a success of it.

Petition for the Arrest of Mac an t-Sronaich, 1834

Mac an t-Sronaich was a notorious and shadowy murderer and robber of Lewis legend who was active in Uig in the early 19th century.  He lived in a cave behind Keose in Lochs that is still known as Uamh Mac an t-Sronaich and he was reputedly the first cousin of Lilly Macaulay Linshader, the wife of Rev Robert Finlayson, Keose Manse. On many occasions he found refuge at the manse at Keose and Lilly would leave food for him in one of the outhouses.  Tradition maintains that on occasion he slept in the manse, and the marks in the panelling above his bed show where he would stick his dagger overnight.  

When things got hot for him, he came to Uig:  “As long as I keep to the Uig hills, the Uig hills will keep me,” he said.

The only person reputed to have frightened Mac an t-Sronaich was Domhnall Ruadh Beag from Enaclete.  Mac an t-Sronaich was on the hill Mula Chaolartain and he saw something going down the side of Beinn a Deas, the route to Hamnaway. Domhnall Ruadh Beag was barefoot and taking a herring net on his back to Loch Hamnaway where there were huge shoals of herring being caught.  All Mac an t-Sronaich could see was this round black thing moving along on little white legs. He couldn’t understand what it was and came to the conclusion it was the devil himself.