Alexander & Grizel Departing from Glasgow, Scotland - Spring 1822
Before 1815 Alexander and John, sons of Robert and Flora Taylor, left Bute and went to the mainland to begin working as weavers in Dalry, Ayrshire. John would marry Margaret Wylie the daughter of a well-known weaver and Alexander would meet and marry Grizzel McConachy who was also from a family of Crofters from Bute. Alexander and Grizzel (Grace) were married in Dalry in 1815. At that time Alexander's father, Robert, was living, with his occupation was noted as “Seaman of Rothesay”. In 1822 when Alexander's family left Scotland there was no mention of his father Robert which leads us to believe that he died sometime between 1815 and 1822. Alexander's mother Flora went to Canada with them.
In 1820 a Crofter or Weaver's life was a difficult one. Those who had already been on a voyage to America and back encouraged young men and families to not waist time in deciding to go to Canada . Alexander and Grizzel, a daughter Jean, age 4, a son Robert, age 3, and Alexander’s mother Flora McFie Taylor, then age 64 made the decision to go to Canada. Arrangements were made to make that long 7 week journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Quebec, Canada.
This would have been a difficult decision for everyone. They would never see their family and friends in Scotland again. The Taylor's had been forced off their Croft and after the death of Robert, Flora may have felt Town life and weaving was not the life for her. The promise of farm land in Canada would have been enticing to Alexander, his mother, and new wife Grizzel. Even so, Flora, would be leaving not only her son John, but her three grandchildren as well. There would be much preparations needed for the journey with two young children. Preparing enough food to last the voyage and taking proper clothing was of primary importance. Alexander would have worked at his weaving job to save as much money as possible for the supplies his family would need to survive in this new land called Canada.
In spring of 1822, the majority of ships arrived in Quebec around June. It should have been a 6 week journey to Quebec but the spring of 1822 had many detained an additional 6-12 days because of ice. 1822 would be another year of increased emigration to America. There were 4 ships that left Greenock, Scotland that spring.
On April 3, 1822 the Brig Jean of Irvine, the first ship owned by Alex Allan, left Glasgow. There were only 22 passengers on board. After 7 weeks and 1 day the ship landed in the mud in Montreal as there was no wharf. Many on that ship had intentions to go further west but after arriving they were encouraged to keep near Montreal where there was a ready market and high prices.
They went to the Chateauguay Valley as it was said that “the English River had good land”.
Alex Taylor, along with Alex McCarthur, a fellow Scot who most likely came to Canada on the same ship, made their way on foot to the English River Concession. It was recorded that “Alex squatted on the west bank but had to leave as it hadn't yet been surveyed”. (source: The History of the County of Huntingdon and of the Seigniories of Chateauguay & Beauharnois, Robert Sellar, 1888- A definitive history of the Chateauguay Valley with many personal recollections of early settlers.)
On December 28, 1822 Alexander Taylor received a Concession Deed for Lot 6, Edwardstown, on the west side of the English River. They had been in Canada 7 months in Williamston working on the River and the Lachine Canal. Alex's wife, Grizzel, was then 6 months pregnant.
The Taylor family would have been quite happy in this new, almost all Scottish settlement. It was said that the Gaelic-speaking Highland Scots were among the hardiest of Townships pioneers.
Alexander had obtained Lot 6, English River Concession, a 50 acre lot in the Edwardstown area, between the English River and Norton Creek. This land was in Huntingdon, later called Beauharnois and yearly rent was required (30 livres (pounds) and 4 Minots (bushel) of Wheat) Alexander, along with his skills as a Weaver, could have found work logging and working on the building of the Lachine Canal to earn money to support his family. Winter would be a good time to fell trees to clear an area of land for a shanty. The land in the Chateauguay Valley was dense with trees right up the river’s edge, with no meadows.
There is also a reference to Alexander Taylor on Lot 3 in the same English Concession. He was called Alex and sometimes Sandy by his friends and neighbours. While on this lot he was able to make additional much needed money by fishing the large amount of oak from the river bed that was left from wrecked rafts.
The English River Concession was also called the “Scotch Concessions” and the people there, being all Scots, quickly became close friends. It is likely the family was assisted with a place to stay for the rest of 1822 and until Flora was born in March of 1823, giving Alexander a little time to get a shanty built on his new land.
When their daughter Flora was born in 1823 they are listed as former residents of Williamstown at the time of her baptism that took place in a neighbour's home in English River.
The Taylor family remained faithful to their Presbyterian faith and we see baptisms registered at the Georgetown Presbyterian Church in Howick which was built in 1823 when the new minister, Alexander McWattie arrived from Scotland.
When William was born in 1827 and John in 1831 they are listed as residing in Edwardstown. The Baptisms were also recorded in St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Montreal. There was no record found regarding the birth or baptism of Alexander in 1825 but information on Minister McWattie says that he had problems with alcohol abuse and his record keeping suffered because of it.
The people of the Scotch Concessions lived happily together as many if not all of them came from Scotland with their traditions and way of life being the same. In the winter of 1825 the ice was in such prime condition that James Davies, a keen curler from Scotland proposed they should play a game using blocks of wood. This new idea saw curling become the recreation of the English River District. Ploughing matches were held starting in 1827.
Life in 1822 Quebec
The History of the County of Huntingdon and of the Seigniories of Chateauguay & Beauharnois, Robert Sellar, 1888- A definitive history of the Chateauguay Valley with many personal recollections of early settlers. -
Story as was told by William McKell,
We sailed from Scotland in the spring of 1821 and stayed about Montreal during the spring and summer of 1821. It would be in September that my father, accompanied by David Wilson and Arthur Ritchie, hearing there was land to be had on the Chateauguay, started on foot to see it.
They stayed overnight at Reeves, where Milne happened to be, and he told them the seignior would assign no lots that year, but next spring would open a large stretch of territory for settlement and urged them to wait. It was a common saying that the settler who got in arrears for 3 years rent ($30) might as well leave. Many went to work on the Lachine Canal to earn a little. During the summer of 1822 the lots were laid off by Livingstone, and the seigniory fined us $20 each for having taken possession without leave. That season settlers came in thick, and before very long every lot was taken up.
“Alex McArthur and Alex Taylor squatted on the west bank, which had not been surveyed and were compelled to leave by the seigniory agent, and got lots on the other side. ”
The settlers were, with a few exceptions, Lowland Scotch, in politics liberals to the point of radicalism and in religion, largely dissenters. They were an intelligent and industrious class of men, and comparatively few had been farmers, being shepherds or tradesmen
Notes made by the new Presbyterian Minister McWattie who arrived at Georgetown, Beauharnois, Chateauguay Valley, Quebec in 1823.
Alex Taylor was one of 7 men who
"must have been here* 1822 or earlier"
*Those living in English River Concessions prior to 1823.