Emigration to Canada

(C. Howard Shillington)

   An old handwritten record relates that the Thomas Shillington family came to Canada by sailboat and was seven weeks at sea. While their experiences on this trip are unknown, it can be surmised that they were similar to many other families migrating to Canada at that time. E.C.Gullet relates some of the experiences of which in his book, "The Great Migration".

   The main reason for migrating to Canada at this particular time relates to the wish of the British government to establish settlers in the Ottawa Valley. The "Saga of Carleton County" reports this as follows:

   "While the war (1812-1814) was still being waged, the British government was thinking about the defense of that thinly defended by settlement of loyal British stock north of the St. Lawrence and north of the Rideau. To populate this it was decided to bring in, on a selected basis, a stable element of assisted British settlers. It was suggested that all males should be potential militia who could be used to assist in the defense of the Colony."

   Another history record, "A pioneer History of the County of Lanark" reports:

   "At the close of the war (1812-1814), the British government was faced with two major problems, unemployment and industrial depression at home and an uneasy peace with the Americans abroad. Upper Canada was still vulnerable to invasion and it was thought the interior should be settled as a strong line of defense against further hostilities.

   An immigration scheme was put into effect to settle the great wilderness north and west of the Rideau River, which flowed into the Ottawa.

   The land, which was purchased, from the Chippewa and Missagisauga tribes included the present townships of Bathurst, Drummond, Beckwith and Goulbourn. It was part of the Precambrian Shield, oldest rock in the world and only some of it was fit for agriculture. The remainder grew timber and much of it was swamp and rocky hillock."

   To obtain the necessary settlers, the British Government offered special incentives to both the discharged soldier settlers and to the non-military groups. Besides free or low cost transportation, each head of family received an axe, shovel, hoe, scythe, knife, hammer, saw, kettle, nails, putty, twelve panes of glass, two files and a sharpening stone. Each man was allotted one hundred acres of land, which had to be proved up.

   The end of the war found a large force of British troops already in the country and these were to form the bulwark for the planned new settlements.

   A large number of the officers and men of the 99th and 100th regiments were discharged and given land grants and other help as mentioned and thereafter became the nucleus of the Military Settlements of Perth and Richmond. The members of the old 100th regiment were directed to the Perth area while those of the 99th were settled in the newly established military district of Richmond. All told, more than 400 officers and men received such grants.

   As mentioned, it had been recommended and approved that a new military settlement be established somewhere between Perth and Ottawa. A site was selected on what is now known as the Jock River and given the name Richmond in honor of the Duke of Richmond who was arriving in Canada to take over as governor-general. While the discharged soldiers of the 99th were waiting at Lachine, Quebec, for the opening up of a road to Richmond and completion of the military settlement, other events were taking place.

   A party of 300 Scottish farmers, under the direction of John Robertson of Breadalbane, Scotland, arrived in Canada from Perthshire, desiring to settle in the Beckwith-Goulbourn area. These independent immigrants had made their own arrangements for emigration with the Earl of Bathurst. They paid their own passage to Quebec and were to be conveyed thereafter to their land at the expense of the government. After landing at Quebec City they were brought down river to Lachine and up to Bellows Point on the Ottawa River, at the foot of Chaudiere Falls. It was at this location, now part of Ottawa, where the families remained while the menfolk blazed a trail through the woods. During these weeks it is a matter of record that these settlers suffered much hardship through sickness, fire and loss of luggage. Eventually, however, a trail was cleared to enable them to trudge through the woods carrying their belongings.

   Most of those arriving were from Loch Earn and Loch Tay and other neighboring parishes. Each head of family deposited ten pounds as security and the terms of their arrangement required the Colonial Office to provide land grants of 100 acres to each member or family head. Interesting to Shillington descendants is the record that shows that among the three hundred settlers, mostly from Scotland, there was a small contingent of Irish settlers from northern Ireland. After much research of the existing records, I have come to the conclusion that among this small group of Irish settlers, was Thomas Shillington and his family. The embarkation point for sailing was Greenock, where after a lengthy delay for suitable winds, they set sail on three ships, the Jane, the Sophia and the brig, Curlew, in the spring of the year 1818.

   Most of the eastern section of Beckwith, known as the "Derry", so-called after a similar spot in Scotland, was largely settled by this group of immigrants. Others took up land in an area near the Township of Montague, which is known as "The Cuckoo's Nest". Lying between the fifth and sixth concessions in Beckwith Township and on the western fringes of Goulbourn Township (which was still part of Beckwith and not organized into a separate township until after the arrival of these settlers).

   While Perthshire settlers had battled their way through the woods from Ottawa River landing to the land of their choice, the discharged soldiers, due to settle at Richmond, were still waiting at L'achine for the completion of the road and military settlement base.

   Eventually, the first of the discharged soldiers began to arrive in August and by November, Colonel Cockburn was able to report to the Duke of Richmond that, "a very good road" had now been built from the Bay below the Chaudiere Falls to the village now known as Richmond. By November, four hundred families had been located at this new settlement.

   Cockburn had also linked the depots of Richmond and Perth with a bush road, which followed the 4th concession line of Beckwith as far west as the center of the township (now the road linking Franktown and Richmond). Here it turned south to third line to Gillies Corners thence south-west to Drummond and thereafter to Perth.

   In the Ottawa Archives there is a document, "Richmond Military Settlement", dated November 30th, 1821, giving a list of persons entitled to grants of lands, "having performed the terms of their settlement". This list contains over six hundred names of first families located in Beckwith and Goulbourn, among which is Shillington.