Grand River West and The Queen of Greenock

Collected by - Tom O'Connor -
Please direct Queries to the email link above!

This information was passed along to the Register by Tom, Nov. 5 1997. It consists of an article of the arrival of the Brig Queen to Charlottetown, and the text of the Rev. Alfred E. Burke's History of Grand River West and of St. Patrick's Church written ca. 1885.

Source: Boston Pub Library. Royal Gazette. Number V vol. I, Friday, Sept 9, 1791

"The brig; Queen, Capt. William Morrison, with 300 passengers and the brig; Mally John Maxwell with 230 all from the Island of Uistt have arrived here [Charlottetown, PEI]. The Mally was without fuel part of the passage and her water so bad that it was scarcely possible to use it. The passengers of the Queen speak highly of the kind treatment they received from Capt. Morrison. His conduct is worthy of being followed by all masters of vessels, and humanity should dictate a similar treatment. It is with pleasure we announce the arrival of these honest and worth Caledonian emigrants whom we before mentioned to have embarked for this Island in health and spirit, notwithstanding a tedious passage of many weeks. there is no doubt but they will receive a kind reception and experience that hospitality which so characteristically and eminently distinguishes the Highland Race."

[This item interested me very much partly because in any of my searchings of PEI records I have seen only one cite of, "Queen" before. That was in the following story about Scottish emigrants who settled on Lot 14 in 1792 and whose story is remarkably similar in many ways to that of the Glenaladale settlers who came about 20 years earlier.

Notes on the copies indicate it was written by Fr. A.E. Burke about 1881 when, according to Rev. Arthur O' Shea's, "A,E. Burke": Charlottetown, 1993, Burke was studying Theology at Laval in Quebec. However he later served as Secretary to Bishop McIntyre and later as Pastor of Sacred Heart in Alberton. I am also interested in this story because I think my grandmother Mary (MacDonald) Ahearn (b.c. 1780) was a young passenger on this ship.

The author credits as a source, Murdock McKinnon, son of Alexander, who was a leader of the group of emigrants. I have retyped this from the typed copy and have tried to follow the writers style faithfully, including an excessive, (by our standards) use of commas.]

Mission of St Patrick PEIPA Accession # 2353 Item # 24(?)5 Grand River West

by Rev. A.E. Burke around 1881 [as told by Murdock McKinnon]

This mission was first settled in 1790 by twenty eight Highland families from Barra in the Hebrides or Western Island of Scotland. These men were tenants of McNeil of Barra a colonist who after vainly endeavoring to inoculate his tenantry with the tenets of his new religion, became so arbitrary and despotic that he forbade their erecting a new church notwithstanding the fact their old one was insufficient to accommodate their congregation. Four men were delegated to choose a site for the proposed church, whilst proceeding with their duty met the Laird going his rounds.

An argument ensued which terminated in a decided quarrel, this was on the 9th March 1790, and on the following day all McNeils Catholic tenants gave him notice that they had decided to give up their holdings and leave the country. They went to Tobermory in the Island of Mull and laid their case before Bishop McDonald who happened to be there at the time and who gave them a letter to Colonel Fraser in Edinburgh. This officer was much interested in promoting emigration to Nova Scotia and promised them a ship to convey them if they could muster three hundred and fifty emigrants. The required number was made up by the addition of some families from Uist and from the Mainlands. They sailed from Tobermory in the "Queen" early in July 1790. Their charter was for Louisburg, Cape Breton, but a violent storm overtaking them at Cape North, they were obliged to change course.

After being out eight weeks the passengers became dishearted(sic) and, taking counsel among themselves, drew up a petition which was signed by all heads of families on board, begging the Captain to put them ashore on the first land he caught sight. This happened to be Pointe de Roche near Savage Harbour in Prince Edward Island opposite which the "Queen" anchored.

Alexander McKinnon of Barra who had been the man to do battle with the laird for the rights of his fellow countrymen, and who had taken a leading part in the immigration, was, almost the only man of the band who spoke English, he and one other, with four of the ship's crew landed in order to search for a pilot who would take their ship to Charlottetown. They met four men walking upon the beach, these were the Rev. Anneas McEachern lately arriving from Scotland, his brother and two McCormacks.

Father McEachern's brother having agreed to act as pilot, the "Queen" again spread her sails to the breeze and steered for Charlottetown, the priest, who intended to visit the capital, laughingly telling the emigrants that he would go on foot over land and be there as soon as they.

On the 20th September 1790, the men of Barra landed in Charlottetown, the proprietors of Township Eighteen held out flattering inducements to them to settle upon their estate, but the terms not being satisfactory, they took up Royalty lands at Princetown, where they made small clearings and planted wheat, potatoes, etc. After a while Father McEachern came down to see them, and told them of the good lands to be had on Township Fourteen, from Mr Cambridge, offering, should they decide upon removing there, to intercede with Mr Cambridge on their behalf, and secure for them the title of their farms.

They did so decide, and in the spring of 1792 removed to Grand River, where they built for themselves little log houses all along the rivers brink(sic). Hither Father McEachern came once of twice a year to administer the Sacraments, and to say Mass in one or other of the humble dwellings.

In the year 1810 the men of Barra set about building their first church which was adapted to do duty both as church and presbytery, so that the priest could lodge there, when he visited Grand River. This building was made of logs, it was thirty two feet in length by eighteen in width, it was boarded and battened and furnished with a fire place. The committee who superintended were Alexander McKinnon, (who had moved to Grand River from Cascumpec) Laughlin McIintyre, John Gillis and Roderick McNeill. Mass was offered in this church in February 1810.

In 1816 Bishop McEachern, during one of his visits to Grand River, addressed the parishioners, telling them that the time had come for them to make preparations for building a new church, and that although he put up with the existing one, his successor would not. A committee was formed, consisting of Laughlin McIntyre, John Gillis, and Roderick McKinnon. These men went to Mr Hills Saw mill at Cascumpec and purchased boards for the church, these they lashed across two boats and brought to Grand River, where they lay piled on the shore until the next summer, when they were brought to the site and work commenced. Messrs. John Walsh, Patrick Malloy, Mathew Deveraux and Martin Walsh, from Miramichi were the builders. This church was thirty six feet in length by twenty six in width. Bishop McEachern offered the first Mass at its altar and consecrated the burying ground on St. Patrick's Day in 1818.

In the year 1812 Monsigneur Plessis, bishop of Quebec, having jurisdiction over all Catholic missions in the British North American Colonies, visited Prince Edward Island. In the course of his visit he remained two days at St. Eleanor's, administering Baptism and Confirmation, hearing Confession etc. During these days the entire settlement of Grand river repaired to St Eleanor's in boats and many of them were confirmed. Some at a very tender and others at a ripe age. Bishop Plessis left one of his attendant priests, the Rev. Jean Louis Beaubieu to minister to the parishioners of the Island. Father Beaubieu, although not supposed to attend to Scottish parishes, seems to have made an exception in favour of Grand river for he frequently said mass there and attended sick calls when it would be impossible for Fr. McEachern to reach the sufferer on time.

Father Beaubieu was much beloved by the dwellers in the mission those among the old people who still remember him say that he was a very handsome man and spoke excellent English. Alexander McKinnon whose superior education and force of character made him a leading man in parochial matters, was a particular friend of Father Beaubieu. On the Sunday and Holiday when there was no mass in their own mission nor in any adjacent one Mr, McKinnon was in the habit of assembling the people in the church where he would read the mass prayers to them. This pious practice gained for him the title of Saggarth Maide or the Wooden priest. This good old gentleman bequeathed to his son Mr. Murdock McKinnon of Big Marsh a precious relic of the past in the shape of a prayer book which was given to him by Father Beaubieu, and in which his name was written by that good missionary.

In 1818 Father Beaubieu was succeeded by Father Cecile, who occasionally ministered to the faithful band of Highlanders on the banks of Grand River. To him succeeded the Rev. Bernard Donald MacDonald, who took charge of the western parishes and who came to Grand River three times a year. Father MacDonald built the first glebe house of the mission which is now used as a coachhouse by the present occupants of St. Patrick's parish. In 1836 he commenced building the existing church, but being summoned to Charlottetown to receive the mitre, he left the completion of St Patrick's to Rev. James McDonald who succeeded him in the western missions. The new church of St Patrick's was opened in 1839, but not completed interiorly until 1844. It is sixty feet in length by forty in breadth, with a wall of twenty four feet. In 1844 the presbytery was built by Father James McDonald who attended the mission from his home at Indian River, a distance of over twenty miles.

In 1869 Father McDonald was appointed Rector of St Dunstan's' College, Charlottetown, and St Patrick's mission was attended from Miscouche by Rev Donald McDonald until 1876 when Rev. M.J. McMillan went to Grand river as the first resident priest. In 1878 he was removed to St. Theresa's mission Baldwin's Road, and was replaced by Rev. Laughlin McDonald the present pastor.

The country around St Patrick's church which was so wild when the first settlers built their little log cabins around the margin of the river, is now in a high state of cultivation and the descendants of the emigrants of 1790 are, many of them, wealthy men. The older settlers retain a vivid impression of the hardships they endured when the settlement was young, nor are the terrible journeys that fell to the lot of their missionaries forgotten.

From the rocks of the North Cape to the low lands of Rustico, the priests went to and fro at all seasons and over all sorts of roads, sometimes on horseback, sometime on snow shoes, and more frequently in canoe.

Mr Murdock McKinnon relates how on one occasion he went in search of Father Cecile for a dying person. The priest was at Tignish and the boy had thirty miles to travel in order to bring him to the bedside of his dying friend. He took a canoe from Grand River Ferry to Kildare inlet, and completed the journey on foot. On the return voyage, while dragging their canoe across the portage from Port Hill to Grand River Mr. Cecile, whose knowledge of English was very slight, took the boys hand in his own and squeezed it hard asking; - "What is the English of that"?"

To Mr.McKinnon, the son of that Alexander McKinnon who dauntlessly confronted the laird of Barra, in defense of his rights we are indebted for most of the history of Grand River mission, Mr McKinnon who is the possessor of broad and fertile acres, and whose family are settled around him in comfort and prosperity, tells the story of the expatriation of his friends and kindred in glowing words, referring with pardonable pride to the success which they have achieved in the new world, while in the old country the voice of their persecutor is long since silent, and the family of Mr. Leod(sic) of Barra has become extinct.

Dave Hunter and The Island Register: HTML and Graphics© 1997

Last Updated: 06/22/2001 6:17:54 PM
Return to Top!
Return to Ships Page!
Return to Bits'n Pieces Page!
Return to Census and Other Records Page!
Return to Main Page!