1793 Voyage of the Argyll

In 1793, in early summer, 150 Highlanders in 40 families sailed away from Glenelg in western Inverness bound for Glengarry in Upper Canada. Six generations ago, my ancestors were amongst the passengers on that ship, including: John Bàn McLeor (my 4x great grandfather), Roderick Òg McLeod (an infant who would become my 3x great grandfather), and John McCuaig (my 5x great grandfather).

Ship Hector

The Hector which carried Highland Emigrants to Nova Scotia in the 1770s was perhaps similar to the Argyll which carried them to Prince Edward Island in 1793

The story of their arduous voyage in 1793 has been retold in numerous publications and with differing details. But this version, told by Alexander McLeod (leader of the settlers) in 1838 in a land petition is likely the closest in time, if not accuracy to the actual events. I have transcribed part of the document below.

McLeod Land Petition The Petition of Alexander McLeod of the 6th Concession of Lochiel, Yoeman, Most respectfully herewith,

That in the year 1793, Your Petitioner having determined on emigrating to this Province, gave up the possessions he held in the Highlands of Scotland but previous to his departure he engaged 150 Settlers from Glenelg, Glenmorriston, Strathglass, and Knoydart to accompany him. That for this purpose he went twice from Glenelg to Greenock, freighted a ship there to carry himself and the other Settlers to this Province, and having proceeded from Greenock to Culreagh in Glenelg arrived there on the 12th of June 1793, and all the Settlers being there awaiting her arrival, they were all embarked with their baggage by your Petitioner, and the Ship set sail on the destined voyage on the 15th of the same month.
That the Ship had proceeded on her voyage to nearly half way across the Atlantic when they encountered a most tremendous Storm which caused her to spring a very dangerous leak, on which the Officers of the Ship having held a consultation, it was adjudged best and safest that the Ship should return to Greenock to have the leak repaired, rather than run the risk of perishing at sea by prosecuting the voyage further at present. That the Ship did accordingly return to Greenock, where your Petitioner and his Settlers were landed, and where they remained for more than a fortnight waiting until the same Ship or some other vessel could be got ready. That the Company from whom your Petitioner freighted the Ship got a Brig ready at the end of the fortnight, and your Petitioner having again embarked his Settlers with their baggage, then proceeded on the intended voyage., but had not been out more than 4 days when a heavy squall of wind carried away her upper masts and sails, on which she was obliged to return to Lamlash in Scotland to have the damage repaired. Here she remained for 3 days; and all things having been set to rights again, she set sail, and on the 1st of next November arrived during a severe snow storm and exceedingly cold weather off Prince Edward’s Island, and not being able to proceed to Quebec on account of the lateness of the Season; she put to Charlotte-town in that Island where the Settlers and your Petitioner were obliged to winter. That during the course of the winter your Petitioner proceeded to the South Side of the Island, and engaged a large Schooner owned by some Canadians to carry his Settlers early in next Summer to Quebec. That on the latter part of May the Schooner arrived at Charlotte-town, and your Petitioner having got all his Settlers and baggage on board, she proceeded on her voyage, and arrived at Quebec on the 4th of June, 1794. That your Petitioner again engaged the same Schooner to carry them all to Montreal, where they arrived safe, a few days thereafter. From thence they were accommodated with the King’s Boats with a passage to the River aux Raisin in this Province. From thence they proceeded overland to what was then called “North Lancaster”, now “Lochiel”, and the Settlers, rather the heads of the families having obtained a Grant each of 200 acres of Land, and are now a thriving and numerous body in their own persons and in that of their descendants.

One variation of the story has the first ship departing Scotland springing a leak after 4 days at sea as a result of pursuing a Dutch merchant ship which they had mistaken for a French vessel. As mentioned above, Britain and France were at war at this point.

When the voyage was resumed it was aboard the Argyll, a 139 ton Brig which had been built in Nova Scotia, in 1790. The vessel may have looked like the Hector, pictured above. Local lore has it that the Argyll moored in the lee of Skye and that the emigrants and baggage were rowed across the narrows at Culreagh from the ramp where the present-day Glenelg to Kylerhea ferry departs. The vessel is said to have arrived on the north shore of Prince Edward Island on 2 November 1793 with a foot of ice on her decks.

Brig in Harbour at Charlottetown 1770s. From Library & Archives Canada

Another version of the story has the passage up the St. Lawrence from Prince Edward Island to Quebec made aboard two separate smaller vessels. One, the 39 ton schooner Charlotte built in Grand Rustico, PEI in 1793 for Simon Gallant, and captained by William Hillman arriving on 3 June 1794 with the majority of the settlers aboard. And a second schooner, the 25 ton, John under Capt. D. McFarlane with 42 passengers arriving a week later.


Quebec Gazette June 5, 1794 recording the arrival of the settlers from Prince Edward Island

By August of 1794 the Highlanders, my ancestors amongst them, had settled on their new lands in Glengarry. I can say with some certainty, they were exhausted but exhilarated as they set about cutting down their own trees and hunting deer on their own land as they prepared to face their second winter in Canada.

MacLeod Settlement Commemorative Plaque at Kirkhill, Glengarry

MacLeod Settlement Commemorative Plaque at Kirkhill, Glengarry

A few years and much hard labour later they were raising crops and Canadian-born children in their new homeland. Less than a decade later, in 1802, another ship, the Neptune would set sail from Glenelg carrying more of my Scots ancestors to Canada.

This entry was posted in Dewar, MacLeor, McCuaig, McLeod and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to 1793 Voyage of the Argyll

  1. Kathy Burgar says:

    I have a copy of the book ” The MacLeods of Glengarry 1793-1971, the Genealogy of a Clan ” about the descendants of Alexander McLeod in Canada.
    I rescued it form a book sale where it was being thrown out as unsold.
    Although by Scots ancestors are from Glen Moriston ,Scotland, they didn’t come to Canada until 1910.

    SO Would you be interested in the Book…

    • barrypeers says:

      Kathy, thank you for offering to sell me your copy of the MacLeod Book. I was able to buy a new copy of the book directly from the Clan President in Glengarry a couple of years ago. It was an invaluable source for my genealogical quest and this blog post. My family is actually included in the book thanks to a cousin of mine who was a contributing author. I don’t know how many copies of the book are left but I doubt it will be updated or reprinted.
      Thanks again.

  2. Snapsintime says:

    Great Blog! I have ancestors who lived in Argenteuil (for a couple of generations in the township of Chatham)…McKenzie, Douglas, Thomson…but have not yet researched further. They were from Scotland according to census info and were there prior to 1840…probably earlier. The task seems daunting as these are quite common surnames. Any suggestions?
    In any case, thanks for the Blog…its inspiring.

  3. barrypeers says:

    Thanks for reading and for your complimentary comment. The Scots have had a long and significant presence in Argenteuil and in west Quebec in general. But of course I would say that wouldn’t I.
    As far as suggestions about sorting out your Scots ancestors in Quebec… The Scots often used recognizable and repeating conventions or patterns for naming children after ancestors. Once you know the pattern it may help sort out who belongs to who. Keep in mind that that some of the early Scots immigrants spoke neither English or French but Gaelic and might also not have been able to spell. Consequently some of the records can get quite phonetic and creative. First names varied, Sally for Sarah, Roddy for Roderick, Ann for Nancy etc. And of course Mc and Mac variants of surnames.
    Although some Scots arrived directly in St. Andrews, Chatham, Grenville etc after the War of 1812 to work as stonemasons on the canals more probably arrived first in the adjacent counties of Glengarry and Prescott in Ontario then moved across the Ottawa River. The county changed from Deux Montagnes to Argenteuil between the 1841 and1852 census. People moved back and forth both seasonally and throughout their lives so you have to look for records in both places.

    Once you get started sorting your people out and if you run into a brick wall let me know and perhaps I can help.

  4. Pingback: Roderick Dewar of Harrington | Plaids, Potteries & Pioneers

  5. Shawna says:

    Thanks for all your hard work Barry! I am currently trying to trace my McCuaigs back to either the Argyll or the Neptune. As far as I can tell, they settled in the Glengarry region and didn’t make their way up to Quebec as some of them did. Do you have a good resource to suggest for tracing McCuaigs?

    • barrypeers says:

      The Family Search website has three publications in their catalogue with McCuaigs of Glengarry which I have used. Try there first and let me know if you need more.

  6. Lillian McCrimmon says:

    Looking for a Malcolm McGillivray. Believe he may have been on the Argyle as he showed up in Glengarry Ontario 1794

    • barrypeers says:

      The McLeod book lists at least 4 or 5 McGillvray families who petitioned for land in Glengarry in 1794 and who are assumed to have arrived on the Argyle but none of the heads of these families was named Malcolm. Was the guy you are looking for a child belonging to one of these?

  7. Lillian McCrimmon says:

    Info from Family Search indicates he was born 1788-1790.I have his name as Malcolm John McGillivray born Argyllshire. Came to Canada 1794. So I think its reasonable to say he was a child. Never found any parents for him.

  8. barrypeers says:

    Hmm, as far as I know the families who came across on the Argyle in 1793 were from the McLeod estate on the Glenelg peninsula which is in western Inverness-shire, north of Argyllshire where your guy was born. The two places seem close on a map but even by today’s standards Glenelg is quite remote. Although place of birth (Argyll) does not preclude him sailing from Glenelg it makes it somewhat less likely I think.
    The 1851 census of Glengarry has a John McGillvray as the owner of lot 8, concession 4 in Lancaster township, and a 42 year old Malcolm on concession 9, lot 15 in Kenyon. Are either of these two your guy?
    Do you have a name of Malcolm/John’s spouse?

  9. Lillian McCrimmon says:

    Info on Malcolm that I have he married Helen Nelly Chisholm born 1790 Williamnstown,, dau. of Allan Chisholm and Mary McKay Williamnstown, Glengarry County. DOM 19 th March,1811 Williamnstown. They had a family of 8 children. No DOD for Helen but Malcolm DOD 29th Nov.1870 Simcoe, Ont.. Believed they farmed at Lochiel

    My husband’s great grandfather John McCrimmon married Christy( Christina) McGillivray born 11/Oct. 1823. DOM 27th March,1844 dau of Malcolm and Helen John and Christy farmed Lot NE22-Con 8 Lochiel.
    Helen had a sister Christian born 1796 who married John McGillivray 10 Dec. 1833 Williamnstown I found a death of a John McGillivray born 1799 Invernesshire,Scotland Burial Kirkhill United Church Cemetery. I don’t know for sure if he the one that married Christian, if they had children or where they farmed .

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