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The Hector People

Before the "Hector" arrived, McNutt's grant had been, in 1770, escheated to the Crown. The whole Harbor front and Cariboo shore were thus thrown open to settlement. The "Hector" reached Pictou on September 15, 1773. Some forty or more years ago this date was arbitrarily selected as Pictou's "Natal Day," a selection made for purely temporary purposes, which has been largely responsible for the popular modem belief that the real history of Pictou began with the coming of the "Hector." But the truth is, that September 15 was chosen because June 10, the "Hope" day was past at the time when it became desirable to hold a public picnic for a charitable purpose.

Those who reached Pictou by the "Hector," on September 15, 1773, numbered, according to one statement, 189; according to another, 179. On January 1, 1770, there were 84 in the Pictou settlement. Probably a good many others had arrived in the intervening three years; so that had the whole "Hector" contingent remained in the County they would scarcely have outnumbered those already in the settlement. But it appears from the list given by Dr. Patterson, which was compiled by William Mackenzie, who ultimately settled at Loch Broom, and was admittedly the only specially educated member of the party, that of 57 heads of families or single men who came by the "Hector," only 27 remained in Pictou. Thirty almost immediately left for other parts of the Province. Even of the 27 who found ultimate resting place in Pictou several at first went elsewhere; and they or their children only returned at later dates, when the settlement had been very materially increased by immigration from various other sources. These facts indicate that the "Hope" settlement was far from being submerged or eclipsed by the "Hector" party. It seems unlikely that those from the "Hector" who actually settled in. the County numbered as many as the "Hope" people whom they found in original possession. Moreover, the "Hector" element was much weakened in influence by two special causes.

With the exception of William MacKenzie, Alexander Cameron, George McConnell, Alexander Fraser and John Patterson, not many of its members could speak English at all fluently; and they scattered themselves over the County, while the "Hope" people were compactly settled together on the Harbor front. It was the descendants of the "Hector" people rather than the first comers of them who made their influence felt in the District. But there were certain marked exceptions to this which will be duly noted.

The party had been recruited from many parts of the North of Scotland. Of those who shipped at Glasgow, John Patterson settled at Pictou; and George McConnell, great grandfather of the late Robert McConnell, the well known journalist, at West River. Of those from Invernesshire, William McKay settled on the East River, near Stellarton along with Roderick McKay, Colin McKay, Donald Cameron and Donald McKay; Hugh Fraser settled at McLennan's Brook; Donald McDonald at Middle River; Colin Douglas at Middle River; Hugh Fraser at Twelve Mile House, West River; Alexander Fraser, at Middle River; James Grant, settled first in King's County but returned to upper East River; Alexander Cameron settled at Loch Broom; Alexander Ross, at Middle River; Colin McKenzie at East River, near New Glasgow; William MacKenzie at Loch Broom; John McLennan at the mouth of McLennan's Brook; William McLennan, his relative on the east side of West River; above Durham; Alexander Falconer, near Hopewell. Of those from Southerlandshire, Kenneth Fraser, after first settling at Londonderry returned and settled at Middle River, back of Green Hill; Walter Murray settled at Merigomish; James McLeod, at Middle River; Hugh McLeod at West River; William Matheson settled first at Londonderry, but returned to Rogers Hill. Of those above named, the following impressed themselves specially on the history of the County:

William McKay, who settled at East River became a Justice of the Peace; and exercised much influence in his day. One of his sons, William, prepared a map of Nova Scotia, which was published in London and was regarded as authoritative for many years. Another son, Alexander, owned the town site of New Glasgow.

Roderick McKay of Beauly, Invernesshire, also settled at East River. One of his daughters was married to Rev. Dr. McGregor, the pioneer Presbyterian clergyman of the County, and was the grandmother of James D. McGregor the present Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. Another of Roderick McKay's daughters was the mother of the late J. D. B. Fraser, of Pictou, who, besides being prominent in business, was a distinguished leader in the early temperance movement. R. P. Fraser, Esq., Collector of Customs at Pictou, is his son. Roderick McKay's son, the late Robert McKay, Esq., was long Keeper of the Rolls of the County. His grandson, John U. Ross, K. C., is Chairman of the Nova Scotia Public Utilities Commission.

Alexander Cameron settled at Loch Broom which was so named because of its resemblance, from the Harbor approaches, to Loch Broom in Invernesshire. He was of notable family, being a near relative of Cameron of Lochiel, who figured so prominently at the battle of Culloden, which young Alexander Cameron witnessed as a runaway boy of fifteen. Many distinguished Pictou County names are in his line of descent. Among them, Rev. Alexander Blaikie, D. D., long a leading clergyman of Boston; Thomas Fraser, a Californian Senator, and Alexander Fraser, his brother who constructed the first ship railway across the Isthmus of Panama; the late E. M. Macdonald, M. P., a prominent journalist and at the time of his death Collector of Customs at Halifax; his brother A. C. Macdonald of Pictou, barrister, at one time Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly and father of the late C. D. Macdonald, barrister, of Arthur C. Macdonald, a prominent Consulting Engineer and capitalist of London, England, and of Mrs. James Primrose of Pictou; John D. Macdonald, late Treasurer of the County of Pictou and his sons, E. M. Macdonald, K. C., M. P., barrister, at present representing the County in the Dominion Parliament, Rev. Peter M. Macdonald, a leading clergyman and literary man of Toronto, and John D. Macdonald, editor and proprietor of the Pictou "Advocate"; the late Hon. W. D. R. Cameron, formerly of Durham, Member for Guysborough County of the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia; William Cameron, ex-M. P. P., at present Municipal Treasurer of the County, and Mrs. W. E. Maclellan of Halifax. This partial list of Alexander Cameron's better known descendants furnishes striking evidence of the possible value of one good settler to a new country.

Alexander Fraser, settled at Middle River. He also was of excellent birth. He was an immediate descendant of the Frasers, Lords Lovat. Along with the noble head of that House he was deeply involved in the "Forty-Five." Two of his brothers were slain at Culloden. His wife was Marion Campbell, youngest daughter of the Laird of Skreigh, Invernesshire, who had raised a troop for Prince Charlie, and was wounded at Culloden. A son of this couple was the first native born Pictonian. From them descended the Rocklin Frasers, so prominent in the industrial life of the County. John Fraser of Hopewell, is a grandson. His son, Thomas, the "Beachcomber" of the Morning Chronicle and formerly editor of the Halifax "Daily Echo," is at present a leading citizen of Saskatoon. Mrs. J. P. Esdaile of Halifax is Alexander Fraser's great granddaughter. Dr. Patterson states that Fraser was in most "comfortable circumstances" when he left Scotland.

William MacKenzie ultimately settled at Loch Broom, beside his particular friend and associate, Alexander Cameron, after having spent some years at Liverpool, Nova Scotia, where he married a daughter of one of the pioneer settlers of that place, a lineal descendant of one of the "Pilgrim Fathers," who came to Massachusetts Bay in the "Mayflower," in 1621. William MacKenzie also was of good family. His father was a gentleman of title and a scion of the Seaforth MacKenzie family. Young MacKenzie was a student of eighteen, when he left Scotland. He engaged himself as schoolmaster to the "Hector" party in a spirit of youthful adventure, but pressed also, no doubt, by the necessities of the times. The party broke up at Pictou, and he was never required to exercise his assumed vocation; but he became, which was of much more importance, the historian of the party. It was from his memoranda and diaries that Dr. Patterson obtained most of his definite authentic information concerning the "Hector" party. He had only one son, and nearly all of his grandchildren removed to the United States where, without exception, they prospered in business or industry. Only two of his lineal descendants are now in Nova Scotia Mrs. W. E. Maclellan of Halifax and Mrs. John Carson of Pictou.

He was known in his day as the "Peacemaker." It was he who donated the site of the first church erected in Pictou County, which was situated at Loch Broom, close to the east shore of the West River estuary, on lands latterly owned by the late Duncan McCabe.

John Patterson, grandfather of the late Rev. Dr. Patterson, the painstaking and talented historian of the County, settled near the future town, where he became a prosperous business man, a Justice of the Peace and a leading citizen. Several of his descendants, besides the late Dr. Patterson have been prominent as public and business men in Colchester and other counties of the Province. His Honor, Judge Patterson, of the County Court, New Glasgow, is a son of Dr. Patterson and a great grandson of John Patterson of the "Hector".

Alexander Falconer, who settled near Hopewell, was the grandfather of the late Rev. Dr. Falconer, a few years ago Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, whose two talented and highly distinguished sons are Dr. R. A. Falconer, President of the University of Toronto, and Dr. James W. Falconer, of the Presbyterian College, Halifax, William Matheson who settled at Rogers Hill was the father of the late William Matheson, of Durham, grand father of the late David Matheson, barrister of Pictou, and great grandfather of E. S. Matheson Town Engineer, Yarmouth.

Should it seem surprising to any that so many men of good birth came to Pictou among the pioneers, it is only necessary to point out that the same thing is now happening in the Northwest. Sons of some of the best families in the United Kingdom are at present homesteaders and working farmers on the Canadian prairies. A few years ago the titled head of one of the oldest Baronetcies in Ireland died as a billiard marker in a Winnipeg Saloon; and he was no scapegrace. He had gone to the West in the hope of restoring the fallen family fortunes, and had accepted the first employment available. It was only after his death that his identity was disclosed, although without proclaiming his title he had not changed his name.

Speaking of the times when Pictou was first settled, in connection with the fact that a noble Lord, a member of the Scottish House of Peers and the representative of one of the oldest families in Scotland was a glover in Edinburgh, Burke, compiler of "Burke's Peerage" and "Landed Gentry", in his "Vicissitudes of Families" states that a Nobleman, one of whose family afterwards settled in Pictou County, "used to stand for years in the Old Town, Edinburgh, selling gloves to those present; for, according to the fashion of the time, a new pair was required for every dance. The only occasion in which he was absent from his post was at the ball following the election of a representative Peer, when he appeared in full dress, and joined with those present in the dance. It may be added that sons of the best families in Scotland are often found at trades in. these times, arising from the difficulty of being provided for."

The great disadvantage under which most of the "Hector" settlers labored was lack of means. The fact that they were able to emigrate at all, at their own charge in those days of "hard times" is proof positive that they were the most prosperous and enterprising of their contemporaries, and that they were much better off than the average of their countrymen at that time. Scotland was then in a state of extreme financial and industrial depression. With reference to that period the latter half of the eighteenth century Lord Rosebery, in addressing the annual meeting of the Edinburgh Savings Bank, in 1909, stated that "there was not then more than two or three hundred thousand pounds of current money in all Scotland," whereas at the date of his speech there were "over fourteen million pounds of deposits in the two savings Banks of Edinburgh and Glasgow alone." Lord Rosebery said, and his words are well worth pondering by all who would form just conceptions of the character of the "Hector" settlers in Pictou, "Our great grandfathers my great grandfather, at any rate was living at that time. Our great grandfathers did great things in those days on a mess of pottage they had no more, but with it they helped to mould the Empire. They maintained their poor without legal compulsion. They sought nothing from external help; and they laid, in their nakedness, and barrenness, the foundations of the prosperity which reigns in Scotland at this moment. None of us would care to live as they did. Some of the poorest in our country at present would shrink from the manner of life which was endured by some of the noblest in those days. We should not care to share their privations; but we should not be unwilling to be convinced that we possess their independence, their self reliance, their self respect; and I regard that as the greatest blessing resulting out of thrift independence of character. Whether Scottish pride arose out of Scottish thrift, or whether Scottish thrift arose out of Scottish pride, I really cannot decide; but they are closely intertwined so closely that you cannot perhaps separate them. But, at any rate, the combination produced a character which has governed the country."

These are striking facts, vouched for by a very great and reliable man. Dr. Patterson's invaluable history of Pictou County makes it clear beyond dispute that the "Hector" settlers possessed "the thrift" and "the pride" of their country in the highest degree. The subsequent lives of them and their descendants have demonstrated beyond question that they possessed also the "governing character."

At the close of 1773, there were thus in Pictou County, two very distinct pioneer strains, almost equal in numbers the "Hope" settlers of mixed American, English, South of Scotland and North of Ireland origin, who had been some years in the country, and the "Hector" settlers, of north of Scotland extraction, newly arrived and, for the immediate time being, a charge rather than a help to the struggling settlement, although they contributed so materially to its development and progress in later years.

Pictonians at Home and Abroad, 1914

 

Pictou County


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