The Descendants of Donald and Sarah (McNeil) McPhee


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Submitted by Bruce Nicholson Levis - blevis@roadrunner.com

There are additional generations of this family to share. Please direct Queries and requests for source information to the email link above! My thanks to Judy A. LeDrew and Kevin Byrne for their assistance in providing data and clarifying information


The Descendants of Donald and Sarah (McNeil) McPhee

West River, Lot 31, PEI

Donald McPhee and family were among the 115 passengers who disembarked from the ship "Spencer" at Pinette Harbour, PEI on 22 September 1806. Lord Selkirk had arranged for these Scotts to leave their homes on Colonsay, in the Hebrides, and seek new opportunity across the Atlantic on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The names of the passengers were recorded as they came ashore by the Collector of Customs, William Townsend. The passengers, who spoke only Gaelic, had to provide their names through a crew member or other interpreter who might have limited knowledge of either English or Gaelic. As it happened, several names were recorded incorrectly. The Gaelic name "Macdhubhsith" translates to McDuffie or MacPhie (the latter now recognized by the Lyon Court in Edinburgh as the Clan name). The Passenger List had the McPhees recorded as McDuffs and Donald, the father, listed as Duncan. His wife, Sarah McNeil, (Sarah is "Mor" in Gaelic) was recorded as "Mary" McNeil. The names of the seven children were correct. At the time of this undertaking, Donald was 54 and Sarah was 40 years of age. An obituary notice from the newspaper, "The Islander",printed 4 March 1859: "Died- at West River on Wed., 15th ult., in the 95'th year of her age, Sarah, relic of the late Donald McPhee. The deceased emigrated to this island from Colonsay, Argylshire, Scotland in 1806. She has left 8 children, 58 grand- children, 138 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great grand children."

The settlers spent the winter at Pinette with food and shelter provided by their now landlord, Lord Selkirk. That spring, they moved on and chose their new home sites. Donald McPhee settled on the north side of the West River on Lot 31. Their property was directly across the river from what is now St. Catherines. McPhee's Creek, which flows through their property into West River, took its name from this pioneer family. The land adjacent to West River was cleared for agricultural use, while timber was harvested from the uplands.

Known children of Donald and Sarah (McNeil) McPhee: 1st Generation

Pass. No. Name Age Relationship Birth Date
25 Margaret McPhee age 20 daughter born 1785
29 Nancy (McPhee) Currie age 19 daughter born 1786
34 Dugald McPhee age 17 son born 1788
26 Janet McPhee age 14 daughter born 1791
27 Catherine McPhee age 9 daughter born 1796
28 Effy McPhee age 5 daughter born 1800
35 Donald McPhee age 4 son born 1802

1. Margaret McPhee married Alexander McNeil (also a "Spencer" passenger). Their 1st child, Turkill/Torguil McNeil - b. July 27, 1811, bapt. 18 August, 1811 from St. Paul's Church records, PEI.

2. Nancy/Annie McPhee was married to James Currie, age 30, in Colonsay. Their 1st child, Mary, was seven months of age when the Curries came over on the "Spencer".

3. Dugald McPhee married Flora Mary Shaw, 18 August, 1812 in Covehead, PEI. The bride was born in 1794 in Mull, Scotland. Dr. Earle Douglas McPhee recognized Dugald and Flora as his great-grandparents. Dugald's dwelling was located about 100 yds. east of what is believed to be the parent's homestead. Dugald worked as a ship builder at Yeo's Shipyard in Bideford. In the census of 1841, Dugald was listed as a farmer on Lot 31. At that time, they had 2 boys under age 16 and 2 girls under age 16 as well. Dugald was leasing 87 acres of land from Lord Selkirk. The members of his family belonged to the Church of Scotland.

Children of Dugald McPhee and Flora Mary Shaw: 2nd Generation.

a.. Angus McPhee b. 23 June, 1813

b.. Colin McPhee b.1814-1818?

c. John McPhee b.17 March, 1818

d.. Donald McPhee b. 01 April, 1821

e.. Neil McPhee b. 1835

f.. Daniel McPhee b.??

g.. Rebecca McPhee b.1837

h.. Katherine McPhee b. 1842

4. Janet/Jane McPhee married Archibald Darrach (also a "Spencer" passenger) 28, January, 1812. St. Paul's Church records.

Children of Janet/Jane McPhee and Archibald Darrach: 2nd Generation

a.. Neil Darrach b. 12 August, 1814. Baptized 12 Nov., 1814. (St. Paul's Church records.)

b.. Angus Darrach b. 1818. Died 1 Feb.,1892

5. Catherine McPhee married Duncan McCannell. Dates of d. : 6 May 1885 and 26 May, 1873. Both Catherine and Duncan are buried at Pioneer Cemetery in St. Catherines.

Children of Catherine McPhee and Duncan McCannell: 2d Generation

a.. Neil McCannell b.? m. Sarah Webster. d. 06 Nov., 1879 and 27 Jan., 1899 respectively.

6. Euphemia/Effy McPhee - No information to date.

7. Donald McPhee married Catherine McQuarrie b. 20 Mar., 1813 on PEI. They were married by J.P. Thomas Fairbairn 10 Jan., 1833. Dugald McPhee, was a witness at his younger brother's wedding. Donald set up his own shipyard at McPhee's Creek. The location of their homestead appears to be the parent's former dwelling. The Census of 1841 shows Donald as "Ship Builder". He and Catherine list 19 in their household. Of this number 10 are men between 16 and 45 years of age. Four are men from 45-60 years of age. Sixteen persons in the household were listed as Presbyterian and 3 as Roman Catholic. This would indicate that they ran a boarding house in conjunction with the shipyard to draw the skilled help needed.

Donald was a member of the Building Committee for the West River Presbyterian Church that was built in 1862. The community changed its name to Churchill after WWll and the church is now the Churchill Presbyterian Church. Donald and Catherine are buried at the Pioneer Cemetery in St. Catherines with two of their sons, John and Hector. The two sons both died on the 7th of Sept. at age 22, but 9 years apart (1870 and 1879). Donald died Nov. 1884 at age 82. Catherine resided with her daughter, Isabella, and son-in-law, Donald Darrach. At the time of the 1891 Census, she was listed at age 79, widow, mother-in-law, born in PEI, parents born in Scotland, religion: Free Church of Scotland. Catherine died on 18 Oct. , 1909 at age 92.

Personal note: I have a wooden spokeshave used by Donald (my great-grandfather) in his ship building.

Children of Donald McPhee (7) and Catherine McQuarrie: 2d Generation

i. Archibald McPhee b. 1832 married 01 Jan., 1868 by Rev. John C. Cameron to Sarah MacNeil b. 08 Jan., 1847 in West River, PEI, occupation - weaver/seamstress.

Vital statistics from New Brunswick (Canada) newspapers: "Vol. 41 2H2 d. Long Creek, Lot 65, PEI,

12th inst. ,Archibald McPhee, Post Master, 45'th year, after four years lingering illness of consumption, left wife, five children, 27 Dec., 1877 D.T. " This family of McPhees began using the spelling "MacPhee" as their surname. The Census of 1901 lists Sarah MacPhee, widow, age 54 with sons George J. age 28, and Alexander K. age 26.

Children of Archibld McPhee (i) and Sarah MacNeil: 3d Generation

a. Margaret J. MacPhee m. 21 June, 1886 Archibald MacLeod both of West River, Lot 65 in Lic. to Rev. A.H. Lavers.

b. Edward A. MacPhee b. 1870, PEI. Occupation: Baptist minister. Died 1946 in Ma., USA.

c. John George MacPhee b. 16 Feb., 1872, PEI Occupation: Farm labourer. Died 02, Oct., 1939. Buried: Long Creek United Baptist Church Cemetery. Tombstone reads: "George J. "

d. Alexander Kinley MacPhee b. 05 June, 1875.

ii. Donald McPhee b. 10 Dec., 1835, West River, PEI. Baptised 16 July, 1836 St. Paul's Anglican Church, Charlottetown, PEI. Donald married Mary McNevin b. 1836-1839 on PEI. On 26 July, 1884, Donald (the ship builder) prepared his last will and testament. Donald (his oldest living son) was bequeathed half his father's land and assets. The balance went to his wife , Catherine. The father passed away in November, 1884.

Children of Donald McPhee (ii) and Mary McNevin: 3d Generation

a. John Nicholas McPhee b. 1878

b. William McPhee b. 1879/80. prob. Dunedin, PEI. Died before 1891. Prob. Dunedin, PEI.

iii Mary McPhee b. 03 Apr., 1837, West River, PEI. Baptized St. Paul's Anglican Church, Charlottetown, PEI. Baptism from PEI Archives: Mary McPhee -West River, born: 03 April, 1837. bapt. 26 Feb., 1838 by L.C.Jenkins. Father: Donald McPhee, Mother: Catherine McQuarrie. Book #2 , p.126

iv. Catherine McPhee b. 1838, d. 1930. buried Pioneer Cemetery, St. Catherines, PEI.

v. Sarah McPhee b.29 Mar., 1839, West River, PEI. Bapt. St. Paul's Anglican Church, Charlottetown, PEI to Hugh Beaton. Hugh Beaton, widower, Eliot River and Sarah McPhee (S), New Haven married by John H. MacLeod. Witnesses: Obadiah Shaw, and Isabella McPhee - from Zion Presbyterian Church records - Book #1 p.9 (MacLure Collection ) Hugh Beaton was a next door neighbor to Donald, the ship builder (Sarah's father) in the Census of 1881.

vi. John Soloman McPhee b. Mar., 1848, West River, PEI. Baptized 05 Feb., 1868. Rev. R.T.Duncan St. James Church, Charlottetown. Died 07 Sept., 1870, age 22, buried Pioneer Cemetery, St. Catherines, PEI. On the tombstone of the parents (Donald and Catherine) inscribed on the side:

"Our Boys- How Many Hopes Buried Here", then lists John and Hector's names, ages and dates of death. John died at age 22, 07 Sept., 1870, and his brother, Hector, also 22, nine years later on 07 Sept., 1879.

vii. Colin McPhee was b. 1849, West River, PEI, and bapt. 02 Sept. 1869 (United Church), Hampton, PEI.. In the Census of 1891, there is a Colin McPhee, age 42 born in PEI and married who is a patient in a mental institution. This seems to be this Colin.

viii. Alexander McPhee b. 1850, West River, PEI, bapt. 02 Sept., 1869 United Church, Hampton PEI. Occupation: Carpenter, married 19 Mar. 1885, by Rev. John MacLeod, Anne May McArthur b. 23 July, 1856, PEI, in the manse of the Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown. They moved to Boston, Ma. where Alec worked as a carpenter. The Boston Directory for 1890 shows their address as 49 Bower St. On the 23 July, 1895, Anne died of Consumption (TB). Alec remarried two years later to Jane Nicholson formerly of Montague, PEI, now employed as a seamstress in Roxbury, Ma. They were married at the First Presbyterian Church, Roxbury, on 28, April 1897. They moved to N. Cambridge, next door to west Somerville, where Alec had set up a woodworking mill within walking distance of their home. Many fine houses in the Boston area displayed his workmanship. Alexander McPhee died August 25, 1949, at age 99.

Personal note:

In my boyhood, Alec (my grandfather) lived with us in Belmont, Ma. We had a close relationship from the time he was my babysitter to my late teens when I helped him with his personal needs. Alec told me, that in his boyhood the family spoke in Gaelic. At age 14 Alec's father (Donald the ship builder) had arranged for him to serve his apprenticeship under a Master Carpenter in Liverpool, England. He spent four years there and upon completion of the requirements went to sea as a ship's carpenter. They sailed around the "Horn" of South America to Peru, bringing over Machinery and returning with guano, mined by the prizon colonies.

When he started building houses, everything was built on the site (including windows, doors and moldings) I still have his wooden sash tool , rabbet and molding planes along with the enormous family Bible that Alec gave to his first wife, Anne May McArthur.

It would not seem fair if I did not tell of the ghost in our family closet. Back in the early 1940's we had an unexpected visitor from California. It was a nephew of Alec's named Hector Beaton. He had just retired from a career in Hollywood with one of the major film companies where he had been in charge of costumes. At the dinner table that evening, Hector was conversing with his uncle Alec, now in his nineties, when he commented "Oh by the way, your son is doing very well. He was made a judge in Saskatchewan!" My mother looked at him and then her father in a state of shock ! To her knowledge she had but one brother, Frank, who was in the newspaper business in Lawrence, Ma.

The matter went no further until decades later when I got involved with family genealogy. George W. McPhee was born out of wedlock by Annie McPhee of St. Catherines 17 Nov., 1880. Alexander McPhee (cousin to Annie) who lived across the West River, is believed to have been the father. Photos of Judge McPhee leave little doubt that my uncle, Frank McPhee, was his half brother.

Children of Alexander McPhee (viii.) and Jane Nicholson: 3d Generation

a. Frank McPhee b. 18 June, 1898. Managed a vaudville theatre in Cambridge, Ma. during the 1920's. Married Alice Gertrude Nichols,b.30 Oct., 1898. The marriage took place in NY City, NY.During the "Great Depression", the vaudville era ended. Frank went into newspaper advertising, and in his sixties, retired from the Lawrence Sunday Sun in Lawrence, Ma. Alice and Frank had no children.

b. Ruth McPhee b. 08 Mar., 1900 graduated from Cambridge High and Latin School and went on to graduate from Fisher Secretarial School. She married Dr. Charles E. Levis Sr.b.30 Sept., 1894 on 15 Sept. 1923. Ruth died 13 June, 1989 at age 89. The following is from her obituary: -the wife of the late Dr. Charles E. Levis Sr., had lived in Belmont , Ma. for more than 60 years. She was a past president and charter member of the Florence Crittendon League, and a past president of the New England Council of Optometrists Auxillary. Mrs. Levis was also a past president of the Belmont Woman's Club, the Belmont Community Nursing Association, and the Payson Park Church Fellowship Guild. She was a past director of the Belmont Women of Rotary, and a member of the Belmont Chapter order of Eastern Star.She also served on the Belmont Council of Churches.

Children of Dr. Charles E. Levis and Ruth McPhee (b.):4th Generation

I . Dr. Charles Erwin Levis Jr. b. 19 June, 1926 m. Elaine McKenney b. 27 May, 1928. Married in Belmont, Ma. 19, May 1951.

II. Bruce Nicholson Levis b23 Nov., 1929 m. Judith Sargent Sanborn b.10 Aug., 1931. Married in Kingston, NH 27 June, 1953.

III. Jane Lucille Levis b. 06 Mar., 1933 m. David Dixon b. 1931. Married in Belmont, Ma. 18 June, 1954.Divorced.

ix. Isabella McPhee b. 22 Feb. 1853, PEI. Married Donald Darrach. Census of 1901 gives her birth date, widow, Presbyterian , widowed elderly mother living with her. (Catherine McPhee).

x. Hector McPhee b. 1857, West River, PEI. Bapt. 02 Sept., 1869, United Church, Hampton, PEI. Died 07, Sept., 1879, age 22. Buried Pioneer Cemetery, St. Catherines, PEI with his parents and brother

John S. A child , Neil is listed as the illegitimate son of Hector McPhee, West River and Jessie McNeil, Vernon. He was baptized at one month of age. It does not show whether his surname is McPhee or McNeil. Jessie was Roman Catholic, which could be the reason they did not marry.


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Last Updated: 09/18/2002 3:36:42 PM
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