New Glasgow as it was 100 Years Ago

Provided to the Register by Rodney Ling -



Charles Dickieson tells an interesting Story of Pioneer life in one of the most populated sections of our fair and fertile Province.

"As 1920 is the one hundredth anniversary of the settlement of New Glasgow, I write these lines to show you some of difficulties our fathers and grandfathers had to contend with, not only in 1820, but before and after that time.

If one or more had taken a pleasure trip around the province at that time, they would have seen a fringe of clear land with a settlement here and there all around the coast. Neat small houses and barns built by immigrants who had settled here twenty or twenty five years before. On the north shore there were Cavendish, Rustico, Cove Head, New London, Malpeque, and there were many more all around the Province.

The question might be put, " What did the rest of the Province consist of ? " It was a wilderness of heavy trees of birch, beach, maple, pine, spruce, hemlock, and others. So if it had been in the month of May, they would of seen an immigrant ship heading for Rustico Harbour and the pilot Mr. McKenzie, hustling to get the passengers and their belongings out of the ship, that it might get into the harbour safe and it did so.

The ship came from Scotland. Some of the passengers came out of towns, some from farms along the Clyde. Some settled in New Glasgow, others in different parts, and some went back to the ship. Those who settled in New Glasgow were James Arthur, James Houston, Robert Orr, David Orr, Alexander Leard [Laird], James Leard [Laird], John Park, Andrew Nisbett [sic], George Nisbett [sic], John Stevenson, James Dickieson, James Sample,and John Muffat. Four of these were single. They were married a year or two later. I do not know how many men, women and children there were. Some of the families had 13 sons and daughters. Those named above took farms of one hundred acres each in the wilderness on the hills of New Glasgow in May of the year 1820.

Some were farmers, some carpenters, some wheelwrights, shoe makers and silk weavers in the home they came from. What a change it must of been to them, especially to those who came out of the towns of Glasgow and Paisley, but there was some comfort to those who had families when they came. The oldest of the children were about eighteen years of age, so they would be quite a help to their mothers and fathers the first few years. It must of been rather sad day to think of the ocean between their old home and that wilderness without house, roads, bridges, schools, church, horse, cow, or anything that a community requires. They did not weep long over the prospects but went to work with strong resolutions and willing hands and, as they increased in years, the wilderness disappeared, and other things needful for a country to prosper grew thereon, but wood is as much needed in a new country as any thing else. It is wanted for buildings of all kinds, bridges, wharves, fires and all other things that were made of wood.

After eight or ten years the young lads had grown to manhood and got their bearings. They began to think of business of some kind and some of the Orr, Houston, and Stevenson young men built the first ship that was built in the settlement, and took her to Newfoundland and made some money. They did the same thing the next year.

The Houstons and Stevensons went out of business and bought farms at Fredericton, about five miles from New Glasgow. They were the first to settle in that place. Ship building was quite a business in New Glasgow; for many years the Orrs and John Darrach were the chief builders. Lawson from Cove Head built one or two; also, William and George Bagnall built some. Those ships were not small schooners of 50 or 60 ton, but from 250 to 500 tons which were good sized vessels in those days.

The ship that took the forty miners out to San Francisco in the year 1849 was built in New Glasgow, also the one that took George Bagnall and John Darrach and families to New Zealand in the year 1865. Joshua and John Doiron also built some at Dennis creek a mile or so from New Glasgow. At Wheatley River the MacMillans, McRaes, and others carried on the business, for a time. At first, those ships were built for Jas. Peake, one of the leading businessmen of the province at that time. He kept a first class workman in the city, making rigging for those ships and others. He would send him out to put it on when the ships were ready.

These ships were ballasted with square timber before leaving the harbour, finished loading in Charlottetown, and then sent to England. This business kept quite a number of men at work constructing and getting material for all that was required in the business. In fact it was the only business of any account in the Province, but I have wandered a little from the difficulties. The first thing that was required was a good sharp axe to chop down the trees, trim them, and cut them into junks [chunks], so that a piece of land might be cleared and a little shack be built thereon, but before this could be done, all the brush and junks must be piled together and burned.

This process had to be followed in clearing every acre of land on the Island before anything could be grown. This would be quite an undertaking to those men who never saw a tree cut down before, but an acre or two had to be cleared so that a few bushels of potatoes or oats might be grown to tide them over the first winter. The next thing needed was a hoe so that the seed might be covered. These two implements and crutch harrow were all that were required for the first few years to put in the crop. Of course it would not take long for the young men to become expert axe men. After getting their deeds for their farms the next thing to do would be to get somewhere to live in and something to live on. To do this, the forest would have to be cleared and small houses built, and crops grown on the land, but this would be quite a job, as this heavy timber would have to be cut down and cut into junks and piled together and burned. The usual way of clearing the woods was by chopping it down and leaving it until it was dry and then setting fire to the brush, and all that would burn all the small rubbish out of the way. Every acre of land on the Province was cleared in that way, but although it was ready to chop [plant using a hoe], it was not ready to plough on account of the stumps and green roots which grew from them.

These had to be left six or eight years, and by that time they [the stumps and roots] were ready to be taken out, but on many farms on the Island and especially on the hills of New Glasgow there were hundreds of loads of stone to be taken off the land before it could be ploughed.

At that time there were no roads to Charlottetown or any other part of the island. At first the roads were lined out by a surveyor or someone who knew where the road was going to be put. Those lines were blazed. This was done by taking the bark off one side of the trees on each side of the line so that travelers would know which way to go, and the sapling and brush were cut out of the way so that anyone travelling on foot or horse-back could get along without hindrance, as it was not then ready for wheels. At that time there were no sawmills, and everything done in building had to be done by hand.

There was an old grist mill in Rustico, but it was rather a back number, as the meal had to be sifted by hand when brought home, but as the years rolled on horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, and all things necessary for farming were provided. and as immigration increased, wilderness decreased.

About the year 1832 several families came from England and settled on the road leading from New Glasgow to Charlottetown and others on the Winsloe Road. By this time, on the roads from New Glasgow to Charlottetown, New London, Cavendish, and Hazel Grove, wheels were used. About ten years later, in about 1842, there was a large immigration from Scotland to different parts of the Province. A few years later, Charles McNeill from Cavendish built a grist mill on the property formerly owned by the late James Laird, now owned by Mr. Frank Andrews. He sold to Mr. Laird and went to Canada about 1840.

William Bagnall, George Bagnall, and George Stevenson put up what is now known as Bagnall's mills, although Mr. Campbell owns it now. This was quite a help to the settlement, and the others around, as it was the only sawmill within several miles. There was only one at Hazel Grove put up a few years before. I do not know when the first school was built, as I was not born till the year 1834, but the school house I got my education in was a good sized old fashioned building with desks built up against three walls. Men who subsequently became Governors, M. P.'s, bishops, preachers, judges, teachers, etc. spent their first years in that school."

Charles Dickieson was also involved in the Tenant League of PEI and is mentioned in Ian Ross Robertson's book by the same name.

Rodney notes: "I am related to James Dickieson, who travelled from Scotland in 1820 to Prince Edward Island, Canada. Unfortunately, James and his 2 brothers changed their name to Dickieson, consequently their original name is unknown.

James travelled with:

John Stevenson/Margaret Nesbit [sic], & their daughter Catherine Stevenson
James Houston George Nesbit [sic] Robert Orr (shipbuilder)
Alexander Laird James Laird James Semple
James Arthur Alexander Lang and others.

It is thought that the ship that they came on was the Alexander. However my aunt Ethel (Dickieson) Bagnall doesnít think so. She remembers her grandfather Charles Dickieson lining the older children up and telling them not only Jamesí original name but also the name of the ship they came on. She thinks the shipís name is a short one, however being young at the time it didnít mean much to her. In his memoirs he mentions a Capt. McKenzie and landing at Rustico. I have also heard that they came in 1819.

Shortly after arrival in Canada, my James married Catherine Stevenson. Catherine Stevenson was born in Houston Parish, Paisley, Scotland in 1804. Her grandparents were Charles Stevenson/Margaret Anderson and Andrew Nesbit/Catherine Guild. James was also born in Paisley.

In a letter, written by Margaret (Anderson) Stevenson in 1823,she mentions that the lawsuit over the Ducal estate was settled in May 1821. She went on to say that on 16 farms, the tenants had either left or had been turned out since 1818. These farms were:

Burnbrae Midbranches Burnbank
Greenside Lukerton Tounfoot
High Nutton Laighwood-head High Hugh
Laigh Hugh Hardridge Horswand
Burbank Midtoun Bridge-end
West Lawpark

Perhaps some of Jamesí shipmates and maybe even James himself came from one of these farms which I presume were on the Ducal Estate."

Rodney Ling, 1999.

Patriot Monday, 23 Aug., 1920 page 8


On Thursday, August 19th the people of New Glasgow, P.E.I. celebrated in a fitting manner the settlement of that community one hundred years ago. On the farm of Mr. Albert Laird, beside the beautiful Clyde River, a number of booths were erected for a picnic. Thursday afternoon a large number of people from New Glasgow and the surrounding country gathered on these grounds, the older people to exchange reminiscences and the younger folk to enjoy the swing, the foot races and the baseball games. In the booths tables were set up accomodating sixty people at a sitting. Here everyone on the grounds was given an excellent supper, without charge through the kindness of the ladies of New Glasgow.

After spending a most enjoyable afternoon on the picnic grounds, the whole concourse moved to the New Glasgow hall, where a splendid entertainment was given commencing at 8 p.m. The hall was packed to its utmost capacity, not even a foot of standing room being left. A large number who could not gain admittance remained outside at the doors and the windows of the hall. There was no admission fee.

Mr. Chas. Dickieson was called to the chair. Mr. Dickieson who is the oldest man in the community, being over eighty-five, then related some of the happenings which he had heard from the lips of the founders of the settlement incident on their landing at New Glasgow. It was indeed interesting to hear his account of the stern struggle which our forefathers had hadwhen they landed on this Island. The whole country was covered with the primeval forest and the only path was by the river or the lake. The audience listened with the greatest interest and attention to the remarks of Mr. Dickieson.

Mr. Artemas Moffatt was appointed to the active duties of chairman and, thanks to his competent management, there was not a moments delay between the different items on the programme.

Rev. John Murchison of Malpeque, sang very sweetly "The March of the Cameron Men." On being heartily encored he responded with a comic song.

Mr. W. Brown read a poem entitled "An Address to the Clyde", composed by his grandfather, George Smith and dealing with the landing of the first settlers in this district.

The Misses Morley, two little girls who are visitors from New Bedford, Mass., very gracefully danced the Highland Fling and other dances.

The next item on the programme was an address by Mr. Sidney Bonnell. He dealt with the great heroism and devotion of our forefathers who came out into a strange land and there amid all the perils of their new life, blazed out an Empire. He showed that we can understand the secret of their courage and endurance only as we remember the Homeland from which they came. It was the spirit of Drake, of Hawkins, of Nelson and other British heroes which lured these forefathers of ours away across the great uncharted waters of the Atlantic into a vast and unexplored country. In conclusion he pointed out that their devotion to duty, in their loyalty to their Homeland and to their God, they have left behind not merely a name worthy to be honoured, but an example and inspiration which should fire the hearts of thousands of the youth of our land.

One of the most enjoyable items on the programme was the singing of Robert Lamont, whose rendering of Scotch songs has endeared him to all lovers of pure Scottish music. His first selection was Burns' "The Scotch Emigrant's Farewell." On being repeatedly encored he responded with "Duncan's Grey" and "Bonny Mary of Argyle."

A very amusing reading was cleverly given by little Miss Musie Stevenson.

Miss Mildred Slackford of Hunter River, delighted the audience by her singing of "The Old-fashioned House".

Mr. W.W. Smith read a very interesting essay entitled "Reminiscences of Early Days."

He was followed by Mr. George Beers of Charlottetown, who sang with splendid effect that stirring solo "The Trumpeter" The loud applause which followed showed the keen enjoyment of his audience. On being twice encored he responded with humerous Scotch songs.

A quartet composed of four Stevensons, namely Dr. R.W., G.H., and Richard Stevenson, sang very acceptably "Annie Laurie" and "Auld Lang Syne."

Appropriate and inspiring remarks were briefly made by the following Rev. John Sterling, Rev. R.H. Stavert Rev. John Simpson, and Mr. D. H. Laird, a prominent lawyer of Winnipeg, whose old home is in New Glasgow.

The entertainment was brought to a close with the singing of the Island Hymn and God Save the King.

Mrs. Will Bulman was the accompanist of the evening, and her playing called forth many favorable comments.

This centenary celebration was one of the most successful ever held in the Province, and will be long remembered by all those who were priviledged to attend.

Transcription of article provided by: Gary Carroll

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