Land Grant Petitions
by John Dye

M. G. 1 Vol 559 No 262


By MacIan

Among the papers in the Public Archives at Halifax are many petitions from the early immigrants of, say, 1790 to 1840, applying to the Government for grants of land. Those relating to land in Cape Breton are filed separately from Nova Scotian petitions and all are indexed. In some of these land petitions the petitioners give various interesting details, and as through the courtesy of Prof. D. C. Harvey I was permitted to look over some of these papers, I propose giving a summary of a few petitions. Although my interest has been chiefly in connection with our early Highland immigrants, I have also included some details supplied by those of other cases. It should be emphasised that there are many thousands of these land papers, and I was able to run them over only in a very hurried and incomplete manner, selecting occasionally a petitions which it seemed to me might be of interest to the historically inclined:

HUGH MILLER - In a petition dated August 4, 1806, at Cape Breton, he applied for a Crown lease of land he had previously settled on. He claimed to have been the first settler at River Inhabitants after the French evacuation.

PATRICK KING OF MIRA RIVER - stated in a petition dated Sept 8 1807, that he had served in the Royal Navy seven years under Admiral Rodney in H.M.S. "Conquerer" and suffered a leg wound which caused him great pain for years and finally caused the amputation of the leg. He applied for land adjoining that held by "Wild Patrick", otherwise Patrick Callanans.

JAMES FITZGERALD - He stated on April 6, 1810, that he was born in Ireland and was then living at Louisberg, but had lived at Belle Isle on the Labrador Coast for the space of twenty-six years. He was married with five children, and applied for land at Louisberg. The long residence on the bleak Labrador coast at such an early period is rather interesting.

JOHN CAMERON - His petition is dated June 28, 1813, and in it he applied for and was given a large lot of land at River Inhabitants. It appears he was born in Argyle in 1775, and in 1796 was commissioned Lieutenant in the Loyal Invernesshire Fencibles, serving for years on hard duty in Ireland from 1795 to 1799. He was then appointed Lieutenant in the Argyleshire Fencible Regiment, serving nine months in Jersey(?) and two years in Gibraltar, after which the Regiment was sent home and disbanded in 1802. He had a wife and family.

FRANCIS JASPER - of Port Hood on June 27, 1814, petitioned for a back lot at Port Hood. He had been in the British Merchant Service for seven years, being then over twenty-two years of age. He had been on board the ship "Sally" of Portsmouth which was lost near Port Hood two years previously, since which time he had lived with Hugh Watts of Port Hood. He had been born in Portugal.

JOHN KLASGYE - At St. Peters on April 19, 1814, he petitioned for land near Lenox Passage, stating that he had been born in Poland, was then aged Twenty-seven, with a wife and two children, and had resided in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton for the past five years. Previous to that he had served seven years in the 2nd Battalion of the Sixtieth Regiment of Foot and had been wounded at the Battle of Aboukir in Egypt.

MARY MACNEIL - widow of Roderick MacNeil of Benacardie, declared in a land petition dated Oct. 25, 1816, that her late husband was many years a soldier and had been wounded at Louisberg. Some ten years previous to 1816 he had settled at Benacadie, but died before title to the land was obtained.

HUGH WATTS - of Port Hood addressed a petition to the Government on June 24, 1816, praying for a grant of land. It appears that he was born in Scotland, and from 1780 to 1783 was in His Majesty's Service as commander of an armed transport, as a guardship in the rivers of Charlestown, South Carolina. In October, 1784, he came to Cape Breton with his family, along with Governor Des Barres, and had lived in Cape Breton for the ensuing thirty-two years. He had drawn three hundred acres of Government land already at Little Judique, but did not like it, and had disposed of the land to another family twelve years before. At the time of addressing his petition to the Government he was Captain of a company of Militia and also a Justice of the Peace.

NEIL MACNEIL of Cape George, who was granted one hundred acres of land in that locality, had the experience of being forced to serve in the Royal Navy, for he was impressed on board H.M.S . sloop "Squirrel", and his petition for a grant of land is dated at Halifax on May 26, 1809. He was a native of Invernesshire and had already lived eighteen years at the Cape.

ALEXANDER FRASER - was also a native of Invernessire and received a grant of two hundred and twenty-five acres of land at Gaspereau Lake in 1814. His petition indicates that he had come with other settlers to Sheet Harbour in 1784 and had then drawn one hundred and fifty acres of rather barren land.

JAMES G. BRADSHAW - of Antigonish declares in a petition dated November 11, 1819, that he had been born near Albany, New York, and had lived in Antigonish for twelve years. He had received five hundred acres of land from various parties, Wentworth, Blanchard and Symonds, and claimed to have been the first settler on the large block of land they controlled. He had assisted in exploring their land and opened up a road for a distance of five miles into the said tract of land, and was the first man who took a team or sled into that grant, also the first who claimed any land there or raised any wheat thereupon. He was a mechanic and a deputy land surveyor, was married, and had four children living in Antigonish. He asked for a grant of the land then in his possession and some additional land as well, and was awarded five hundred acres in all.

JAMES BEAVER - was an Englishman and his petition is dated at Sydney on April 2, 1819. It affirms that he was bon at Chelsea and was aged 63, married, and with five children, all living at River Seal near St. Peters. He had served four years and seven months on board H.M.S. "Tartar" during the Revolutionary War prior to the Peace of 1783, and was exchanged from that ship at the request of the Colonel of the Royal Fencibles, who gave another man in his place. Beaver entered the Fencibles and served three and a half years with the Regiment, being discharged on procuring two men to take his place. Some time after his discharge he had come to Cape Breton and had resided there for the past nine years.

SAMUEL PUE - was probably an Englishman also, although his petition, which is dated at Sydney on Sept. 19, 1810, does not indicate his birthplace. He had a wife and three sons and applied for land on the Eastern side of Indian Bay. His petition declares that Pue had been serving his King and Country since 1779, and had been on board H.M.S. "Alfred", Wm. Brayn Commander, under Admiral Ceury - off St. Kitts, where they landed eight hundred men against eight thousand of the Irish Brigade under Count Dillon - the French fleet 33 sail of the line and the British 22 sail under Lord Hood in Easern Bay. Capt. Brayn (sic) was shot through the thigh on the 9th of April, 1792 (entered as 1892), and the first Lieutenant, Mr. Hall, took charge of the ship "Alfred", the petitioner being placed in H.M.S. "Ardent" under command of Capt. Ball. Pue also declares that he was a volunteer at St. Vincent's Island and had also suffered much by the rebellion in Ireland.

DANIEL CARMICHAEL - This man had a most unusual and harrowing experience in coming out from Scotland. His petition for land on the North side of Mabou River is dated February 24, 1810, and in it he sets forth that he was born in Argyleshire and had served five years in the "Glasco Highland Volunteers". He then came out to Canada in 1809 on a lumber ship bound for Pictou, but on the way out and when near Cape Breton the ship encountered ice, which caused the Captain and crew to abandon the ship in the hope of getting ashore on the ice. Meeting with a French sailing vessel near the Island of St. Paul, they went on board, expecting to be put on shore by the Frenchmen with more safety than by proceeding over the ice. Provisions on the French vessel became scarce, so the petitioner and twelve comrades left the French vessel and managed to get ashore between Cape North and Ingonish, destitute of food except for a little seal meat. They secured some food at Ingonish and finally got to Sydney, where they were received with great kindness.

ALEXANDER GILLIS - His petition is dated at Little Judique, October 24, 1818, and applies for two hundred acres of land. He was a native of Invernesshire and an only son, and in 1778 joined the First North Fencibles, commanded by his Grace the Duke of Gordon, serving during the establishment of that Regiment. In 1794 he served as Lieutenant in the late Fraser Fencible Highlanders, commanded by Colonel Simon Fraser of Lovat. The Regiment arrived in Ireland on August 31, 1795, and Lieutenant Gillis served there with the Regiment during the Rebellion until 1801. His petition declares that he was the first volunteer for foreign service, and that he had forty-seven men ready to volunteer with him in any part of Europe required by the King. His health being impaired by fatigue marching, Col. Fraser sent him on recruiting service. On April 30, 1801, being on the way to Inverness with three men, he had his right hand and wrist injured by a horse falling on him and had never since that time recovered the proper use of it. He finally emigrated to Canada and arrived in Pictou on Oct. 4 1817. It appears that he had some daughters but no sons. One of the daughters married James Macdonald with issue of several children, one of whom was Alexander Macdonald, Barrister, of Port Hood, who died in 1909.

JAMES MOORE - of Margaree C. B., on June 8, 1804, stated in a land petition that he had been born in Germany and had come to Cape Breton twenty-six years previously. He was enrolled in Capt. MacKinnon's Company of Militia, and had a wife and four children living. His application was for land on the Northwest side of Margaree River, adjoining Robert Cranton's western boundary. This petition illustrates again from what various countries the early immigrants to Cape Breton came. While by far the larger portion came from the Highlands of Scotland, in going through the land papers I was impressed with the large number who had come from Ireland.

JOHN MACINTYRE - His petition is dated November 1, 1815, and recites that he was born in Scotland and had come to Prince Edward Island about twenty-four years previously where he lived until he came to Margaree in 1814. He had a wife and eight children and was also enrolled in the Militia. The land he applied for was between Margaree and Cape Mabou, and close to the Western boundary of Lachlan MacDougall's land.

(N.B. This settler must have come out with the second immigration to P. E. I. viz., those who came in 1790 to Scotchfort with Bishop MacEachern. The records show tht a great many of the early Highland settlers in Cape Breton had come out first to Prince Edward Island). (See Petition Apr. 7 1819 - name given as "Boorithy").

JOHN MACDONALD - This man also came to Prince Edward Island in 1790. His petition is dated March 5, 1815, and affirms that he was born in Invernesshire and had come with his parents to Prince Edward Island in 1790, but had resided for the last twelve years at the Cut of Canso. He had a wife and family and was enrolled in the Ninth Company of the Second Regiment of the Island Militia - Hugh Skinner, Captain. He applied for a lot of land on the Southwest Margaree, adjoining a lot located by the Government to George Wright. (of Kinlochmoidart, see petition Mch 18/1816).

ALEXANDER MACNEIL - His land petition, dated in 1816, has pencilled on the back the word "Kinloch Moidart", which may indicate the district from which he came, He was also distinguished among those of his day as "Saor". He had then resided at Broad Cove for five years and I believe lived and died at St. Rose. It seems likely that the notation as to his hailing from Moidart is correct, for an elderly woman in Moidart told me of Alex. MacNeil (Snor) having had brothers and sisters who lived and died at Kinloch Moidart. I think it was around 1700 that the first MacNeils came from Barra to Moidart.

JOHN MACEACHERN - At Sydney, C. B. on August 3, 1817, he petitioned the Government for land on the South side of the Bras D'Or Lakes. He has been born in Prince Edward Island and was then aged twenty, and the distinguishing name pencilled on the land petition is "Pisgot", which is very likely the same as the modern "Pisquid", a district near the Hillshore River, close to Mount Stewart.

ANGUS MACEACHERN - It seems likely this man came out to Prince Edward Island in the same vessel as Rt. Rev. Bishop MacEachern, for his land petition, which is dated at Sydney on July 22, 1818, states that he was born in Moydart and had resided in prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia since August, 1790, when he came to P. E. I. He applied for a grant of 500 acres of land at a cove known as "Laugh at the Yankees". The petition bears the pencilled notation of "Kingearloch"; and if this is a Highland place name, I am unable to identify it. (This was the Bishop himself, who was really a MacLean).

ANGUS MACEACHERN - His petition is dated at Sydney also and was made on October 6, 1819. It states that he was a Scot, aged twenty-one years, and had been in Cape Breton for seventeen years and was unmarried. He was applying for land between Long Point and Low Point, at the Gulf of Canso. The pencilled distinguishing name on the land petition is given as "Ashery", which may be "Essary" or "Assary" - a croft on Kinlochmoidart.

JOHN MACINNES - On July 23, 1819, he petitioned at Sydney for land between Long Point and Low Point, Gulf of Canso, and stated that he was a native of Scotland, married and with six children, and had lived nearly two years in Cape Breton. The notation on his petition is "Guidall", which may possibly be Guidale (or Ghaotal) in Arisaig, Invernesshire.

MALCOLM MACDONALD - His petition is dated at St. Peters on February 25, 1830, and goes on to say that he was a native of Scotland, aged seventy-five, who emigrated to P. E. I. in 1790, and settled on a farm there. About 1810 he came to Cape Breton and applied for land. At the time of making the petition he was living at the Straight of Canso - Lots 18, 19 and 23.

JOHN GRAHAM - The name of Graham is a familiar one in Judique, for it is that of one of he early settlers. John Graham's petition is made on his behalf by John Campbell, and the petition, which is dated at Sydney on March 2, 1820, was for a grant of five hundred acres covering the land on which he had resided since the year 1796. The notation of the word "Montrose" appears on the petition itself.

HUGH MACKAY - of Lushaivick at Sydney on March 1, 1819, applied for a grant of a lot of land at the Gulf of Canso. He was a native of Scotland, aged thirty-five, unmarried, and had been in Cape Breton since September 1818. He had spent three years on board warships and was in the frigate H.M.S. "Phoebe" when she captured the American frigate "Essex" at Valparaiso, Chile. The petition shows the distinguishing name of "Skourie", probably meant for "Scourie".

ANGUS MACDOUGAL - His petition is dated at Sydney on February 20, 1819, and in it he applies for land on the Southeast side of Lake Ainslie, to be called Glenfinnan. He was a native of Scotland, aged forty-seven, with a wife and eleven children, and had spent the previous two years in Nova Scotia. The petition is also endorsed "Glenfinnan", so it seems very probable that he hailed from the place of that name at the head of Loch Shiel, Invernesshire.

DONALD MCCORMICK - who applied for a lot of land at River Inhabitants, in a petition dated at Sydney December 14, 1819, was a native of Scotland, aged thrity-eight, and had then resided at Cape Breton for five years. His petition is endorsed with the word "Clanranald". So far as I am aware there were few, if any, of this name in the mainland territories of MacDonald of Clanranald, but there were a good many in the Isles.

ARCHIBALD GILLIS - who petitioned for land from Sydney on November 8, 1818, and had arrived from Scotland in the month of June, 1818, was aged thrity-three, married and asked for land near Judique. The land petition bears the notation "Aberfoil", which is probably a Highland place name.

RODERICK GILLIS - His petition is also dated 1818, on April 3rd, and was made at Sydney. It conveys his request for a lot of land on the South side of Little Bras D'Or. He had come from Scotland in the summer of 1817 in the ship "William Tell", and is distinguished on his land petition by the word "Killy Valloch".

DONALD MACPHEE - His petition, which is dated Sydney on August 25th, 1817, applies for two hundred acres of land on the road from River Inhabitants to the Northwest arm of Bras D'Or Lake. He was a Scot, married and with five children, being aged thirty. The petition bears the distinguishing name of "Auchranish".

DAVID MACPHERSON - He applied for Lot No. 12 at the Gut of Canso in a petition dated at Sydney Sept. 30, 1817. He was born in Scotland but had lived in Cape Breton for twenty years. The notation on the back of the petition is "Baldunie".

DONALD MACKINNON - His petition is dated from Margaree on October 30, 1817, and applied for land at Broad Cove. He was aged over twenty-one and had come from Scotland about twenty years before 1817. The petition bears the distinguishing name "Galavard".

ALLAN MACKINNON - According to his petition dated August 5, 1817, he was a Scot, aged nineteen, who had been born in Argyleshire and had lived in Cape Breton for fifteen years. The petition is endorsed "Lundy" or "Sandy Nixir".

GREGOR MCGREGOR - he applied for land at Sydney on October 2, 1817, asking for a lot at False Bay, west of River Bourgeois. He was a Scot, aged sixty-two, with a wife and thirteen children, and had served six years in the British Army. He was in the 74th Regiment of Foot, discharged December 24, 1783, and on coming to Canada drew land in Nova Scotia, but did not find it sufficient for himself and family and so moved to Cape Breton. His petition is named "Carnashan".

DUNCAN MACEACHRON - of Long Point, applied for land on September 26, 1817. The petition is endorsed "Dun Eachen".

JOHN MCEACHAN - His petition is dated at Sydney on July 15, 1817, and applies for land on the South side of St. Andrew's Channel, adjoining the lot belonging to Dugal McDonald He had been born in Prince Edward Island and was then aged twenty. The distinguishing name on the petition is given as "Ranachan".

ALEXANDER MACDONALD - ON August 5, 1817, he executed a petition for land, dated at Sydney, saying he was a Scot, aged twenty-five, unmarried, who had lived in Cape Breton for sixteen years. He applied for 200 acres of land (Lot 21) at Cape Mabou, to the West of Hugh MacLean's lot. The petition is endorsed "Bernera", which I take to be a Highland place name.

DONALD MACDONALD JR. - His petition is dated at Sydney on July 8, 1817, and in it he applied for land on the South side of St. Andrew's Channel, being the second lot to the East of land taken up by Dugal MacDonald, lately from Prince Edward Island. Donald MacDonald was born in Prince Edward Island and was then aged twenty-nine, with a wife and two children, and had lately come over from P. E. I. His petition is endorsed "Long Pond".

BOYCE MACKENZIE - ON December 3, 1817, he executed a petition at Sydney applying for land at Inshavick. He was born in Sutherlandshire, Scotland, aged twenty-six, not married, and was a reduced Ensign of the 45th Regiment. He had then been in Cape Breton for two months, and it appears that he, along with his father, had previously petitioned the Government of Nova Scotia for land. The petition bears the distinguishing name of "Melness".

WILLIAM MACKENZIE - His petition is also dated from Sydney on September 10, 1817, and it appears he was of Scottish birth, aged twenty-eight and unmarried. He had served three years in the 52nd Regiment, was wounded at Waterloo, and received a pension. His application was for land at St. Esprit, about twenty-four miles from St. Peter's Bay. The petition is endorsed "Badney Bay".

LT. CHARLES MACDONALD - I have no record of his land petition, but he was a son of the famous Flora MacDonald (Milton) and was an officer of the 84th Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment. He applied for a lot of land at Lunenburg, but he did not remain in Nova Scotia, and the lot was finally granted to another man.

DUGALD MACDONALD of the Gulf Shore - In this case also I have no record of the petition for land, but attached to the petition itself there is a certificate from Rt. Rev. Aeneas B. MacEachern, first Bishop of Prince Edward Island, saying that Dugald MacDonald had conducted himself as an honest and industrious man in Scotland and would probably do so in this country.