1802 Voyage of the Neptune

Most of my Highland ancestors departed Glenelg bound for Glengarry aboard the Argyll in 1793. Others would likely have followed soon thereafter but the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars greatly reduced emigration over the next nine years. Highlanders were recruited as soldiers to serve in the regiments being raised by the “lairds”. In exchange for military service by some of their tenants, the landlords curtailed rent increases and the creation of new sheep farms. The remaining family members were able to carry on, temporarily at least, with a semblance of their traditional Highland way of life.

In 1802, with the declaration of the Peace of Amiens, the regiments were disbanded and the fragile arrangements that had held the emigrations in check came crashing down. The sheep reinvaded, the rents skyrocketed and the evictions ruthlessly renewed. The bond of trust between laird and clan that had lasted for generations had finally and irrevocably broken. The floodgates opened and thousands of emigrants departed Western Inverness for the new world.

Lord Seaforth

Francis McKenzie, Lord Seaforth of Kintail

Some of the landlords, such as Francis MacKenzie (Lord Seaforth), of Kintail offered concessions to entice his tenants to stay but the Highlanders felt it was too little and too late. They had already endured enough and letters from kin and friends already settled in Canada convinced them that their prospects were much better on the other side.

The King's Wharf, Québec, circa 1827-1841

The King’s Wharf, Québec, circa 1827-1841
Source: http://ur1.ca/fkfif

And so, in late June 1802, Captain Boyd steered the Neptune out of Loch Nevis enroute to Quebec. On board were some 400 Higlanders and 150 children from Knoydart and North Morar, Glenelg, and Kintail and Lochalsh. The names of only a few who made the passage were recorded but amongst them were the McCuaigs, including Peter and his wife Helen Fraser, my 4x great grandparents. They were going to join Peter’s parents, John McCuaig and Catherine McLeod who had departed Glenelg in 1793 on the Argyll and were already well established in Glengarry.

Although the passenger list only records a few of the emigrants’ surnames it is thought that there may have been seven Morrison brothers and their families on board, all from Glenelg. My great great great grandmother, Sarah or Sally Morrison, who would have been a child about 6-years old at the time,  and her parents may have been amongst them although I have no documentation for this assertion.

Most of the emigrants had spent everything they had to pay for their passage and arrived in Quebec after nine weeks at sea on 25 August 1802 without enough money to continue their journey to Glengarry. The Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, the owners of the Neptune and 60 other subscribers contributed over £100 to assist the indigent passengers on their way upriver.


Once past the Lachine Rapids the settlers likely moved up the St. Lawrence from Montreal to Glengarry county in Durham Boats.
Durham boats, “Jones Falls” by Philip John Bainbrigge, c.1838, Library and Archives Canada, 1983-47-44

They arrived in Glengarry in September, and most, like the McCuaigs, were welcomed and accommodated by their relatives who had preceded them. By 1802 much of the best land in the county had already been allocated and some of the newly-arrived immigrants, including the McCuaigs, took up land in the adjacent Quebec county of Soulanges. The line on the map dividing Upper (Ontario) and Lower (Quebec) Canada was of little significance to the new settlers. The land was good and it was their own, with no rent and no sheep!

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28 Responses to 1802 Voyage of the Neptune

  1. Allan McRae says:

    I have extensive info to continue the Voyage of the Neptune which included McLennans, Finlaysons, McRaes & McCaigs. They all had their weddings, baptisms & Burials at St. Gabriel’s in Montreal and most Buried in Beechridge cemetery. GREAT POST, thank you

    • barrypeers says:

      Thanks Allan for reading and commenting upon my post on the Neptune. I have some McCuaigs and McLellans amongst my Scots ancestors but I believe they settled in Soulanges Vaudreil counties. St. Gabriels in Montreal has come up for a few but not Beechridge Cemetery. It was my assumption that my people tended to stick close to their Presbyterian compatriots in Glengarry. But perhaps some dispersed south of the river on the Huntingdon Ormstown side. Perhaps I could send you a few McCuaigs and McLellan and you could see if they show up in your lot.
      Thanks again for your complementary comment.

    • Patti de Bruijn-McDonald says:

      I would very much like to get in contact with you as my great grandmother was a McCuaig and her parents were McCuaig and Morrison. They lived in Newton area of Soulanges County, Québec and are probably buried in Cote St. Georges Cemetery.

    • Erin Blair says:

      My g-g-grandparents were married at the Beechridge Church in 1837. Malcolm McLennan (b. 1806 Mount Johnson?- d.1863 Moose Creek, ON) and Martha McRae (b.1814 St Jean-sur-Richelieu ? – d. 1888 Moose Creek, ON). Moose Creek is in Stormont County very close to the border with Glengarry. I am in the process now of delving into a variety of sources of information to glean what I can about the McLennans and MacRae’s – am definitely interested in corresponding with others. Thank you to the owner of this website for getting this going!

    • Larry McLennan says:

      Allan-Would love to communicate with you. I believe my 3rd great grandfather Duncan McLennan was on the Neptune, later settling in Beechridge with his wife Catherine McKerlich and their eight children (with many McRae and Finlayson relations). My email address is

      • barrypeers says:

        Apparently there was also a Duncan McLennan who came across on the Eliza in 1815 but I believe that his surname was incorrectly transcribed and that it was really McLellan. I think this Duncan was my 4XG grandfather and that he settled in Lochiel, Glengarry

      • wayne morrison says:

        Hi! This is a reminder that we are having a special Celebration at the stone church, know as the Cote StGeorge Presbyterian Church, Cote St.George Rd, St. Telesphore OC The celebration will be held in the church with the NEW ceiling, Sun.Aug. 30th. at 2pm. We have a Great Gospel Group joining us, a short sermon, some old fashion Hymn singing led by a century plus pump organ, some history to share, and great people to meet!

        After the celebration, refreshments will be served!

        This is the old ancestral church that SO MANY of your own ancestors built and worshipped in. HOPE you can attend. If attending just let me know from your private e-mail as this one is rather long and in my constant rush, I might miss your message at the end? Whatever?

        With fondest regards,

        Wayne Morrison

    • Kara says:

      My family was Donald Finlayson, who came across on the Neptune with his two sisters Jane and Elizabeth.

  2. Laurie McRae says:

    Hello and thank you for your Neptune story. My Catholic McRaes were probably steerage on that same voyage, headed to Lancaster. Several of the children were baptised in Soulanges at St. Polycarpe. I also have a connection into the McLellans.

    • barrypeers says:

      Thanks for reading Laurie. Were your McRae ancestors comfortable settling along the Quebec Ontario line where they were wedged in between their French Catholic and Gaelic Protestant neighbours? Or did they move away in future generations?

      • Laurie McRae says:

        They settled in Lancaster Concession 4, lot 9 and/or 10 for a while; several died there and others moved to Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Washington. My line moved to WI and stayed there. We visited the area in 2000 and it was like going home. The geography felt very similar to WI.

  3. barrypeers says:

    And now the gentle pastoral landscape of Glengarry which reminded you of home is covered in snow. And like Wisconsin it will be weeks and weeks before we see green again. Best to stay indoors, in the warm glow of a computer screen, doing genealogical research and imagining what it must have been like for our ancestors, that first winter in the new world.

  4. Wayne C Morrison says:

    Hello Barry
    I am a descendant of one of the 7 Morrison brothers who came over to Canada on the Neptune, in 1802, from Glenelg, Inverness shire, Scotland.
    They settled in the Cote St. george area, Soulanges, Quebec.
    I understand that Patti from Holland has sent to you a copy of an original document I had given her, showing the list of family members of Malcom McCuaig, wo left Glenelg in 1802. This was copied by me from the original document, which since then was destroyed by fire.
    These McCuaigs are related to us in different ways.
    I would be interested in keeping in touch with you, as I may have info. that would be of use to you and visa versa.
    My e-mail is
    Hope to hear from you in the near future.
    With kind regards,
    Wayne C. Morrison

  5. Erin Blair says:

    This is about the most information that I have come across on the Neptune. I have yet to see a passenger list anywhere but i have come across names of people who were said to be on the Neptune. As I plow through tonnes of information I’ve often thought it would be worthwhile to gather the names of individuals who were likely on the Neptune and where possible provide a genealogical chart (3 generations for example) so we and others could make connections and benefit from this, Would this space be the place to do this given it is where much has already been discussed? (thank to the author!) Create a website? A new blog devoted to this?

  6. barrypeers says:

    Marianne MacLean in People of Glengarry seems to have reconstructed a partial list of passengers aboard the Neptune in 1802 (~22 of possibly more than 400). Some of the Commenters to this blog post, including yourself, may have additional names to contribute and are welcome to do so here. But the actual compilation of a list is well beyond my interest and committment level. You may want to get in touch with sswiggum@gmail.com or marj@uwaterloo.ca of http://www.theshipslist.com/index.html and propose starting one of that site’s special projects. Also the Ancestry Glengarry discussion group might be a good place to get the ball rolling.
    Go for it,

  7. Nina Tilton says:

    This was a wonderful find for me! Thank you for sharing all this information. I was told my 3x great grandfather Kenneth Morrison came over on the Neptune as a baby with his parents (his father was a Morrison and his mother was a McCuaig) and all the dates and places (Glenelg, Quebec, Soulanges, Glengarry) my research has uncovered lines up perfectly with your timeline and migration route. I am now confident that my Morrison ancestors did ingeed come over on the Neptune.
    Serena (Morrison) Tilton

    • Patti de Bruijn-McDonald says:

      It is wonderful to read your write up. My great grandmother was a M ccuaig and her mother was a Morrison.. i would lo to hear from you. Wishing you a Happy, Health New Year.
      Patti de Bruijn McDonald

      • barrypeers says:

        Greetings Patti from frigid eastern Canada and return best wishes for 2018. From the comfort of central heating and with the prospect of a tropical getaway ahead, it’s hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for our Morrison/McCuaig ancestors living in log cabins that first winter they arrived in Canada. Good thing they survived; otherwise we wouldn’t be here.

      • Patti de Bruijn-McDonald says:

        Hi Barry, I can say it is a lot warmer here. We have a high of 14C with rain. Best wishes to you and your family for 2018. You are so right our fore fathers ha ing a tough time it then again they were Scottish and strong people. Happy New Year!

    • barrypeers says:

      Hi Nina,
      Glad the Neptune post was useful for your genealogical research. Do you think your ancestor Norman was one of the seven Morrison brothers who we speculate came across in 1802? Have you been in touch with Wayne Morrison (his email is listed in one of the previous comment) who still lives in the area where our Morrison/McCuaig ancestors settled in Soulanges county?

      • Nina Tilton says:

        Kenneth was my ancestor, and he was the son of one of the 7 brothers. Ludovic, I think, if I have been told correctly. I have not been in touch with Wayne for a long time. My dad and uncle (Ken) went up to a reunion in 2002, and met Wayne there, but I couldn’t go then, as I had babies at home. I would love to get back in touch with Wayne, if he is still alive.

  8. Helen says:

    A very good book on emigration is http://www.mqup.ca/people-of-glengarry–the-products-9780773511569.php – also the book by Robert Sellars

    • barrypeers says:

      Helen, could you provide the title, author, publisher, and date of the two books you are recommending to facilitate others in finding them. Thanks.

  9. Debbie Morrison McCandless says:

    I believe I am related to Norman Morrison, who ended up in NC and then GA. My father, Robert Morrison had his DNA tested and his origins were from Glenelg. I have found a certified statement from Norman in NC which stated he imigrated in 1802. Please let me know any information you have on Norman.

    Debbie Morrison McCandless

  10. Pauline (Morrison) Britnell says:

    I believe my 5x great grandfather was also one of the 7 brothers that came across on the Neptune. I believe he had a son named John Morrison who married Catherine McGillvary at St. Gabriel’s in Montreal, John and Catherine went on to have the following children John born in 1817, Morachadh born in 1818, Louis born 1821, Mary born 1824, Murdock born 1829, Malcolm born 1831 (at St. Polycarpe) & Nancy born 1831 (twins?) Flory born 1834 and Christy born 1836. Murdock and Malcom moved up into the Ottawa Valley, Christy married a Gemmill and lived in Peterborough.

    • barrypeers says:

      Thanks Pauline for adding your Morrison ancestors to what we know about the brothers who came across from Glenelg on the Neptune. As I think I wrote in the Neptune post, my 3X great grandmother Sarah Morrison was born about 1793 (likely in Glenelg). I speculate that she was a daughter of one of the Morrison brothers who came across in 1802 but I don’t know her father’s name. Sarah married Alexander McCaskill in 1817 and like your ancestor John the marriage took place at St. Gabriel’s Presbyterian in Montreal. What is interesting is that although Sarah marked the register with her X, one of the witnesses signed his name as John Morrison. I wonder if the witness was your John and whether he was her older brother or her father?? Do you have a record of your John’s marriage to Catherine McGillvary and does the record have a witness name? Given the Highland naming conventions, it is possible that one of the original Morrison brothers was also named John and that he was your and my common ancestor. (Speculation only). I have had some autosomal DNA testing done on Family Tree DNA. We are obviously distantly related but it would be interesting to see if this shows up in our DNA. Any additional information you have about your earliest known Morrison ancestor would be of interest to me and possibly others who have stumbled upon this blog posting about the Voyage of the Neptune.

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