• The Lewis Settlement in Bruce County

    by  • 10 August 2008 • Emigration, History • 0 Comments

    In 1851, at least six emigrant ships took Lewismen to Canada:  the Marquis of Stafford (500 passengers), the Barlow (287), the Wolfeville (69), the Prince George (203), the Islay (68) and the Urgent (370).  In 1852, the Blanche (453) and the Melissa (330) followed.  The first port of call after crossing the sea was usually Quebec City and many proceeded from there to the Eastern Townships of Quebec, but some continued on to Upper Canada and settled in Bruce County on the shores of Lake Huron, eventually forming the so-called “Lewis Settlement”, though they were not the first settlers in the area.  In Norman Robertson’s History of the County of Bruce, the following account is given by Angus Martyn of Ripley, a son of emigrant Leodhasachs:

    The Highlanders from Lewis, Ross-shire, Scotland, who settled in Huron emigrated to this country in 1851.  Two shiploads left Stornoway in Lewis that year.  They were nine weeks and four days in crossing the Atlantic.  They came on sailing vessels and landed at Quebec on the 4th of August, 1851.  They then went by boat to Port St Francis, where the party of emigrants divided, the majority going to the county of Compton, Lower Canada, and the remainder went on the same boat to Montreal, from there by another boat to Hamilton, touching at Toronto.  From August to December they remained in Hamilton, the men working on the Great Western Railway, which was then in course of construction.  Smallpox broke out among them in Hamilton and carried off many.  In December they scattered, going to Guelph, Stratford, Galt and Goderich.  All met in Goderich in the summer of 1852.  Some more emigrants from Lewis came to Canada in 1852 and joined the others at Goderich in the fall of that year, when all moved to Huron Township in the county of Bruce.  There were 109 families in all. 

    A process of evicting by the proprietor of the island of Lewis was the cause of the emigration of this large number from one locality.  To smooth over the heartlessness of the eviction the proprietor of the island offered a free passage to any part of Canada to anyone who was willing to emigrate, and at the same time offered to purchase their horses, cattle and sheep ift they could not otherwise get sale for them.  The men among the passengers were all fishermen, as accustomed to the sea as the crews of the vessels on which they crossed the Atlantic, and so during a severe storm were able to render valuable aid in weathering the gale.  One of the ships lost two of her masts during this storm and to ease her fifty ton of pig iron were cast overboard.  During the first year of the settlement in Huron these hardy pioneers had to get their supplies, flour, etc, in Goderich, from which place they brought them on their backs, along the lake shore to the foot of the eighth concession, and thence home through the bush.

    The Marquis of Stafford sailed from Lewis on 20 May 1851, calling at Troon later in the week, which would make it approximately 9½ weeks at sea, if she is the ship Martyn refers to as arriving on 4 August.  The Islay left Lewis about the same time, with a smaller contingent.

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