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SCOTLAND &
LANARK COUNTY, ONTARIO

My Day-by-Day Account of the Gilmour & McFarlane Journey from Scotland to Canada.

By Ken Godfrey

The following is my attempt to provide a "real-time" account of my ancestors’ journey from Scotland to their new homes in Ramsay Township, Ontario, Canada. It is provided as a "Supplement" to my master account, titled The Gilmour Journey from Scotland to Canada in 1821.

It is based on two actual accounts, with some speculative detail added, which I think is consistent with actual historical events. The two main sources for this are:

1. "Narrative of a Voyage to Quebec, and the Journey from thence to New Lanark in Upper Canada" – by John McDonald, a Lanark Society Settler of 1821, originally published in 1823. The book was re-published by Global Heritage Press in 2016, with ISBN Number 978-1-77240-044-
NOTE: Excerpts from this book are used with the kind permission of Rick Roberts, of GlobalGenealogy.com Inc., Carleton Place, ON, Canada, K7C 1J2.

2. "The John McFarlane Journal" [1821, per the Toronto Reference Library,] transcribed by Charlie Dobie. (The link connects to the transcription on this website).

These daily reports were originally published as individual e-mails (to my Gilmour relatives, and some other interested friends), similar to a "blog", and afterwards, consolidated into this single document.


Day 1 — The Sailing of the Ship David on May 19, 1821

Today marks the 200th. Anniversary of our Gilmour ancestors (and John Gemmill) leaving Scotland, and bound for a new life in Canada! With the current time difference between Scotland and our part of Ontario (and taking into account that there was no Daylight savings time in 1821), I estimate that their ship, the "David of London", got underway at approximately 10:00 a.m. (our Eastern Daylight Time) on Saturday, May 19th., 1821.

John Gilmour Senior (my 4 times great grandfather) got involved with the Glasgow Trongate Emigration Society, and that is how he, his wife Ann, and 3 sons Hugh, Allan, and James came to Canada. His family and approximately 364 other settlers booked passage on the ship "David of London", which set sail from Greenock (near Glasgow, and from the East Quay), on Saturday, May 19th, 1821. Per John McDonald’s book [page 3] ". . . I left Glasgow for Greenock, to embark on board the ship "David of London", for Quebec, alongst with nearly 400 other passengers, where, having gone through the necessary steps at the Custom-House, we left the quay on the 19th. of May 1821. A steam boat dragged the ship to the tail of the bank, and the wind being favourable, we immediately sailed, and in 28 hours lost sight of land." (Note: Greenock is 25 miles west of Glasgow.) John McFarlane added in his journal, that "after the steam boat brought the ship out at 4:00 p.m., three tugs brought us clear."

Another (more detailed account) of the ship’s departure was provided by an article in the Edinburgh Courant newspaper (per the British Newspaper Archives):

The "David" left Greenock about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday [May 19] with 364 passengers [bound] for Canada. She was towed out by a steamboat, and immediately proceeded to sea with a fair wind. The "David" was left by the owner and friends of the passengers about 2 miles below [south of] the Cloch Lighthouse, at 6:00 o’clock p.m. with 3 hearty cheers from the passengers and crew, which were immediately returned from the boat and repeated from the ship.

And thus their journey began! We all owe a debt of gratitude to our ancestors, whomever they may be, and whenever they arrived in this country, and this is my offering to pay homage to my, and our, Gilmour branch of the tree.


Ken Godfrey (ken.godfrey1@gmail.com) 94 Wishing Well Drive, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, M1T 1J4.


P.S. May 19, 2021 also marks the 108th. anniversary of the birth of my mother, Rose Gilmour, so this is a double anniversary to celebrate!

NOTE: I continued to send out daily e-mails, similar to a "blog" to family and friends, and these daily reports follow below. These daily accounts rely on actual material from the book by John McDonald, and the journal of John McFarlane.


Day 2 — Past the Mull of Kintyre and out of sight of Land – May 20, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 2 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Sunday, May 20, 1821, and their ship has passed the Mull of Kintyre early in the morning, which is the large peninsula to the west of Greenock, Scotland. (And "yes", the same Mull of Kintyre that Paul McCartney made popular in his song of the same name!) Their last sight of land occurred at 8:00 p.m. that evening.

One can only imagine the excitement of what was probably their first voyage on a ship, heading for the open sea! As well, they would have had a chance to explore what they could of the ship, and realize the narrow confines that would be their home for many weeks yet to come. Although not specifically mentioned, it being Sunday, the Rev. John Gemmill would probably have held a prayer service to provide comfort to the anxious travelers.


Day 3 — Report from the Ship DavidMay 21, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 3 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is a little late in the day, but I just encountered Microsoft Word problems on my computer, which completely scrambled the files I was using, and it took some time to recover from that! Of course, these were not problems that anyone had to deal with in 1821! But, no doubt, John McFarlane had to be careful to keep his paper Journal dry, especially when on deck!

It is now Monday, May 21st., 1821, and their ship is sailing along at 9 knots per hour (per the Journal of John McFarlane). I am assuming that by now, they are somewhere off the north coast of Ireland, and that their ship is starting to roll in the ocean waves! This will be an entirely new experience for the immigrants. (More on that tomorrow!)


Day 4 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 22, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 4 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Tuesday, May 22nd., 1821, and the wind has switched, and is coming from the South-West (per the Journal of John McFarlane), and their ship is now constantly rolling in the big waves. It is not only their ship that is rolling, but it is also their stomachs and inner-ears as well, and McFarlane reports that most are now sea-sick! Now, imagine 364 passengers, and most of them are nauseous and vomiting — not a pretty sight, or a fragrant smell. They would not as yet have their "sea-legs", so it would be difficult for them to get up on deck in time, and be sick over the side of the ship.

If sea-sickness (or general motion sickness) is somehow genetically inherited, now I know where I get it. My Dad reveled in storms on large ships, and went up on deck to enjoy them, while my mother (Rose Gilmour) would suffer the same fate as her ancestors did on this voyage!


Day 5 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 23, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 5 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Wednesday, May 23rd., 1821, and hopefully many of the passengers are feeling better today, and able to take a little food, without upsetting their delicate stomachs! The ship is sailing at 4 and a half knots an hour, so this means that the wind has lessened, and the ship would not be rolling as badly as the day prior.

As well, McFarlane reports that a number of porpoises passed the ship, so that might be a new experience for the passengers, and a matter of some delight for the children on board.


Day 6 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 24, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 6 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Thursday, May 24th., 1821, and most of the passengers would be feeling much better today, as McFarlane reports that the ship lay becalmed.

He also adds, in a terse (but tantalizing) note, that "a mutiny occurred on board". That is all — no description, or explanation, so one may wonder what exactly happened, what was its cause, and how was it resolved?

Now, our first reaction may be that it was a bloody insurrection against the captain (like the famous Mutiny on the Bounty, vs. Captain Bligh), but more probably it was some serious disagreement between the crew and the officers, that was ultimately resolved in a peaceful manner, or else the ship may never have reached its final destination!

Per Wikipedia, a "mutiny" may be defined as — a revolt among a group of people (typically of a military, of a crew or of a crew of pirates) to oppose, change, or overthrow an organization to which they were previously loyal. The term is commonly used for a rebellion among members of the military against an internal force, but it can also sometimes mean any type of rebellion against any force. Mutiny does not necessarily need to refer to a military force and can describe a political, economic, or power structure in which there is a change of power.

Therefore, taking the milder part of this definition, it may well have been "any type of rebellion against any force", (possibly some harsh discipline meted out to one of the crew?), and McFarlane's use of the word was in the manner of sensational journalism.


Day 7 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 25, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 7 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Friday, May 25th., 1821, and the ship, passengers, and crew all seem to have survived the short-lived "mutiny", as there is no further mention of it in McFarlane's journal.

He merely reports that it was cloudy in the morning, and that the wind blew hard through the night.


Day 8 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 26, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 8 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Saturday, May 26th., 1821, and the passengers have spent a full week on board the ship. McFarlane reports that the wind blew very hard, and that a child is born.

Regrettably, he says no more about the name or sex of the child, nor of the names of its parents. This is the first birth of several that occurred during the voyage. Due to cramped quarters below deck, the mother of this new-born would have had little privacy, and perhaps only shielded from view by a blanket tied to the beams above her bunk. However, it must have been a source of joy and relief to the mother, and to her husband, and perhaps taken as a good omen by the rest of the passengers, marking a new life born into a new adventure for all of them!


Day 9 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 27, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 9 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Sunday, May 27th., 1821, and McFarlane reports that there is now a head-wind, which means that the ship would be "beating" into the wind, and the waves would be at an oblique angle to the bow, and hence somewhat more stable on deck, thus permitting most of the passengers to come up on deck to hear Rev. Gemmill's Sunday Sermon.

McFarlane also briefly reports that a child has died, and again, he says no more about a possible name or sex of the child, nor of the names of its parents. This is the first death of several children that occurred during the voyage. The child MAY have been the baby born just the day before, or one of the other many children on board. Its body was probably wrapped in cloth, some weights added, the shroud sewn shut, and during a brief service conducted by Rev. Gemmill, slipped over the side of the ship and into the waiting Atlantic Ocean.


Day 10 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 28, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 10 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Monday, May 28th., 1821, and it is a quiet and uneventful day on board the ship, as McFarlane merely reports that there is a "fine breeze, at 8 knots".

But, we all know how quickly the weather can change at sea, given frequent reports off Canada's eastern coast, of fishing vessels getting into serious trouble, or disappearing without trace!

So, we will see what tomorrow may bring!


Day 11 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 29, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 11 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Tuesday, May 29th., 1821, and McFarlane reports that the wind is blowing at 9 knots. Note this is an increase of one knot from the day before, so nothing of which to be of immediate concern. However, we can imagine that the experienced Captain Gemmill would be constantly checking the skies, and checking the barometer in his cabin, and noting later in the day, a sudden and dramatic drop in the barometric pressure, only meaning one thing: that a major storm was on its way!

In fact, this was to be the start of a severe 9-day storm!


Day 12 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 30, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 12 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Wednesday, May 30th., 1821, and McFarlane reports that "heavy gales blowing". As this was "real-time" reporting, we can forgive McFarlane for not providing more detail.

John McDonald, in his account (written much later), adds more detail of this major storm. He says "The wind rose, a heavy gale commenced, and the waves rolled mountains high, and made a mighty noise. To see a ship making her way in the midst of a storm, over these lofty billows, is both grand and awful. We now became like drunken men, reeling and staggering to and fro." [I'll add more of his account tomorrow.]

Of course, by now, Captain Gemmill would have ordered his crew to reduce the amount of sail substantially, with only enough aloft to enable the ship to be steered into the great wind, and to secure as much of the loose items on deck as possible. As well, all of the passengers would have been ordered below deck, and the hatches battened down, to prevent sea water from flooding down the stairs, and making conditions even worse than they already were.


Day 13 — Report from the Ship David of LondonMay 31, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 13 report (and Day 3 of the huge storm) on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Thursday, May 31st., 1821, and McFarlane merely reports "ditto"! Again, this was "real-time" reporting, so we can forgive McFarlane for not trying to write more in his journal during this huge storm!

But, as before, John McDonald, in his account (written much later), adds more detail of this major storm. He goes on to say "To walk on deck was impossible, and the places where the pots were erected for cooking, tumbled down, so that we could not get any victuals made ready, and some of our associates were compelled to mix a little meal [he refers to oatmeal here] and molasses, and use this composition as a substitute for better fare." [I'll add more of his account tomorrow.]

Of course, Captain Gemmill and his crew would be doing all they could to keep the ship headed into the wind, so as not to be hit broadside by a gigantic wave, and keep their tiny vessel, like a cork bobbing on the ocean, afloat!


Day 14 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 1, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 14 report (and Day 4 of the huge storm) on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Friday, June 1st., 1821, and McFarlane again reports "ditto"! Given his circumstances, we can forgive McFarlane for his economical notation, during this huge storm! Clearly, he had much more important things on his mind — like his survival!

But, as before, we are indebted to John McDonald, in his account, which adds more detail of this major storm. He goes on to say "The comparative want of food, and the storm together, rendered us very weak." He also noted that "At the commencement of the storm the weather became very cold." One can only imagine the discomfort and fear of the passengers under these extremely trying conditions, and also dealing with the uncertainty as to when (if?) this dreadful storm would ever end. [I'll add more of his account tomorrow.]

Of course, Captain Gemmill and his crew would continue to be fighting to keep the ship headed into the wind, and no doubt manning the bilge pumps, to get rid of sea water in the hold!


Day 15 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 2, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 15 report (and Day 5 of the huge storm) on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Saturday, June 2nd., 1821, and you are no doubt on the edge of your seat wondering what comes next! I'm very happy to report that the ship is still afloat, and apparently weathering the storm well. McFarlane again reports "ditto"! (Is there a pattern developing here?). But, he also adds "a child is born" — so there is some good news, though maybe not for the mother of the child, who not only has to recover from childbirth, but also care for her new-born, and manage to function below decks in a rolling and tossing ship!

John McDonald continues his account. He goes on to say "Several times, many of our company got themselves drenched with the waves of heavy rolling sea breaking over the deck, and which also entering the hatch-hole, wetted us very much." [I'll add more of his account tomorrow.] So, being wet, many no doubt sea-sick, and without any hot food (even if one's stomach was up to the task), they must have felt a very miserable, and despondent group.

Of course, Captain Gemmill and his crew fight on!


Day 16 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 3, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 16 report (and Day 6 of the huge storm) on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Sunday, June 3rd., 1821. Again, I'm very happy to report that the ship is still afloat! McFarlane again reports "ditto"! (There is definitely a pattern developing here!). It was probably not possible for the Rev. Gemmill to preach his usual Sunday Sermon under these trying conditions, but he may well have held a brief service below deck, and, I would guess, with a major portion of it composed of fervent prayers!

John McDonald continues his account, and goes on to say, after referencing the fact that the weather had become very cold, "This circumstance, providentially, was greatly in our favour, from our being so much crowded together, which in several respects was very disagreeable to our feelings." I believe what he is trying to say here is something like 'The bad news was that it was very cold; the good news was that we were so tightly packed together as to keep one another warm; but the bad news was, since we smelled so much of sweat and vomit, and other bodily odours, that this close proximity with our fellow travelers was quite unpleasant — to say the least!’


Day 17 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 4, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 17 report (and Day 7 of the huge storm) on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Monday, June 4th., 1821. To-day's report will be very brief, as I am running out of specific data re the storm. McFarlane again reports "ditto"! (He is obviously saving ink!), and the additional brief notation "a child born". So, the birth of the third child during the voyage must have given all hope that, as life was going on, they might just see their way through to the other side! While the storm was still obviously raging, there is no further specific mention of it today — either by John McFarlane, or by John McDonald.

But, despite the lack of a specific description for the day, we must assume that the suffering and the sea-sickness continued among the passengers.


Day 18 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 5, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 18 report (and Day 8 of the huge storm) on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Tuesday, June 5th., 1821. To-day's report will be very brief. McFarlane again reports "ditto", which means that the storm was still obviously raging, and there is no further specific mention of it today — either by John McFarlane, or by John McDonald.

No doubt the suffering and sea-sickness, and frequent prayers for deliverance continued among the passengers.


Day 19 — Report form the Ship David of LondonJune 6, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 19 report (and Day 9 of the huge storm) on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Wednesday, June 6th., 1821. Just as we remember that today, on June 6th, 1944, was "D-Day" for the Allies invasion of France during WW II, 123 years after the voyage of this ship, we may also think of this day in 1821 as a sort of "D-Day" as well — but in this context, the "D" may stand for "Deliverance" from the Storm! Why, because, after 9 days, John McFarlane reports (and I'm sure with much relief) "gale slackened".

So, one may imagine shouts of "Hallelujah" from the passengers and crew, and thanks given to God for sparing them, from what Captain Gemmill described (per the account of John McDonald) as ". . . that he had never witnessed a tempest of such long continuance at that season of the year." From here on, they all experienced relatively calm sailing.


Day 20 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 7, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 20 report (and no more storm!) on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Thursday, June 7th., 1821. McFarlane reports in his Journal "wind at 6 knots" — which is a fair breeze, and one making for comfortable sailing, and the ability to get back up on deck, and to light cooking fires, and have perhaps their first hot food in almost 10 days!

But, per another cruel twist of fate, he also reports "child died". Again, it is not clear if this is the same child, born only 3 days (or the one 5 days) earlier, or another child, but it may well be one of these 2 new-borns. Regardless, the ship's company and passengers would no doubt be witness to yet another sad burial at sea.


Day 21 — Report form the Ship David of London — June 8, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 21 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Friday, June 8th., 1821, and the ship is 3 weeks at sea. McFarlane reports in his Journal: "passed a French Brig". So, one assumes there is no more weather problems (for the moment anyway), and that they are now on course, and sailing in established shipping-lanes, given the sighting of the French brig.

So, nothing too dramatic happened today, and apparently good progress is being made towards their destination.


Day 22 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 9, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 22 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Saturday, June 9th., 1821, and the ship is now entering its 4th. week at sea. McFarlane reports "saw a ship ahead". Now, this may not seem to be a very exciting entry in his Journal, but it does indicate that having seen another ship 2 days in a row, they are not alone out in the Atlantic Ocean, which in itself, must have provided some comfort to the stressed travelers.


Day 23 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 10, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 23 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Sunday, June 10th., 1821. McFarlane reports that they passed a ship called either the "Providence of Taymouth", or the "Providence of Bournemouth". (NOTE: The uncertainty here is a result of two possible interpretations of his hand-writing.) This "Providence" had been 20 days at sea, so uncertain what her original port of departure was, but it could well have been in the United Kingdom, somewhere. He goes on to report that another ship passed, loaded with stoves for Liverpool, England. As well, it being a Sunday, and the weather much more agreeable, "Rev. Gemmill preached a sermon". This would be his first formal sermon in 2 weeks, due to the 9-day storm.

Now, this Journal entry indicates their having seen at least one other ship 3 days in a row! The ship carrying stoves for Liverpool, may well have originated from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or Quebec. Per these entries, it is interesting to note that these other ships must have passed fairly close by the "David of London", for them to have made out the name in one case, and the cargo in the other — with loud-hailing going on betwixt the passing ships, regarding the information being recorded.


Day 24 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 11, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 24 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Monday, June 11th., 1821. McFarlane reports that they are now on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland (good news, as they are getting closer to land), but goes on to say "in a heavy gale and intense cold winds" (so some bad news as well)!

But, as the weather can be very changeable, we know that this will not last.


Day 25 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 12, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 25 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Tuesday, June 12th., 1821. McFarlane reports that we "lay almost becalmed", so the heavy gale from yesterday was indeed short-lived, and the intense cold winds have disappeared.

Hence, the passengers would be able to come on deck, and bring their wet bedding and clothes up to dry in the sun. As well, given the very light winds, they would once again be able to light their cooking fires on deck, and prepare a hot meal of some kind.


Day 26 — Report from the Ship David of London – June 13, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 26 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Wednesday, June 13th., 1821. Not much to report today, as McFarlane merely states "light breezes", which is not a bad thing at all.

Hence, the passengers would be able to come on deck, and enjoy the gentle wind, and look forward to the rest of their journey with some positive anticipation as well.

P.S. Nothing to do with their journey, but I am very happy to report that I got Shot #2 of the Pfizer vaccine this afternoon in Parry Sound, so hopefully (about 2 weeks from now) my enhanced protection will greatly reduce my risk of contracting Covid. I hope that all of you soon we be able to get your second shot as well (if you have not already!) Note that vaccinations for Smallpox were equally topical and crucial for sea voyages in 1821!

P.P.S - Judy already got her Shot #2 a week ago in Toronto. YEAAH!


Day 27 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 14, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 27 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Thursday, June 14th., 1821. Some exciting news for the passengers on the ship today, as McFarlane reports "light breeze", (again), but then goes on to say "Saw 15 vessels ahead of us."

Now, this sight must have gladdened their hearts, at seeing so many ships close to them — the most they had seen in almost 4 weeks of being at sea!


Day 28 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 15, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 28 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey. They have now been a full 4 weeks at sea.

It is now Friday, June 15th., 1821. McFarlane reports that we passed most of these 15 ships seen yesterday. So, by inference, these 15 ships were also sailing westward, and possibly towards Quebec City, the major port, (or maybe Halifax, Nova Scotia, or St. John, New Brunswick).

Whatever the destination of these other 15 ships, it is noteworthy that the "David of London" was sailing much faster than most of them!


Day 29 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 16, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 29 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Saturday, June 16th., 1821. McFarlane reports "strong breeze". He also tells us that his son was scalded! This accident may have been caused by his son standing too close to the cooking fire on deck, and boiling water having spilled over the edge of a cooking pot, caused by the ship's rolling in the "strong breeze"!

So, just like today, parents had to be ever-vigilant for potential dangers that might be suffered by their children.


Day 30 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 17, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 30 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Sunday, June 17th., 1821. McFarlane reports "slight breeze, stronger at night". He also tells us that the Reverend Gemmill preached a sermon; and that the ship entered the "Gulf". By this, I assume he meant the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

As well, we now have a little more pertinent data from John McDonald's book, as he states "Having entered the Gulf of St. Laurence, {sic} we found it necessary to obtain a Pilot." Of course, this would be a wise move on the part of Captain Gemmill, as a local Pilot would be much more familiar with the many rocks, shoals, and reefs in the much shallower waters they were now entering.


Day 31 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 18, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 31 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Monday, June 18th., 1821. McFarlane again reports a "slight breeze". He also tells us that another child was born (but, as before, no hint of a name, sex, or its parents). However, this marks the fourth child to be born during this voyage.

As well, here is some more information from the book of John McDonald. The cold weather of the Atlantic Ocean is now gone, having entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence, "when it became so warm, that I was nearly suffocated from the smell and heat below deck. I was consequently compelled to sleep on deck, together with many others, who were in a similar situation. Every favourable day, the Captain ordered all his passengers to bring up their clothes, and air them. The sick passengers were also all ordered above, those who were unable, being assisted. The Captain was much afraid lest an infectious fever should get in amongst us . . ."


Day 32 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 19, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 32 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Tuesday, June 19th., 1821. McFarlane reports a "fair breeze at 10 knots". He goes on to describe the coast line that they could see: "Saw the coast of Nova Scotia on the left, which appeared mountainous, with some specks of snow on them, and closely clothed with trees . . . Saw Labrador on our right."

It would seem that he is describing the northern tip of Nova Scotia, which we now know as Cape Breton, (it then being Cape Breton Island, long before the causeway was built, connecting it to the mainland).

COMMENT: I wonder if McFarlane could really see the Labrador coast from this position. Is it possible that he meant the coast of Newfoundland instead? The reason I question this, is given the curvature of the earth, I believe that one can only see approximately 27 miles at sea from any given point.


Day 33 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 20, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 33 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Wednesday, June 20th., 1821. McFarlane reports only a "slight breeze". He goes on to report that a "child dies of the croup". This is the third death of a child during the voyage. Again, he provides no indication of the name, sex, age, or parents of this child.

John McDonald also reports that "The weather now became warmer, and as the wind was a-head {sic} of us, our rate of sailing became slower, and we had to cast anchor several times." This slower rate of progress must have been frustrating for most passengers, but a welcome relief for those continuing to suffer sea-sickness, or other ailments!


Day 34 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 21, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 34 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Thursday, June 21st., 1821. McFarlane reports a "slight breeze and changeable". He goes on to report that another "child dies". This is the fourth death of a child during the voyage, and the second in 2 days! Again, he does not provide any further identification of the child or its parents. He goes on to write that we "saw our first houses — about 8 in number, close together, which had a fine appearance. Afterward, saw game along the shore at considerable distance".

John McDonald also reports that, because all of the passengers recovered quickly, that "This was a very happy circumstance" and therefore "no impediment to prevent our landing" when such an opportunity presented itself.

P.S. Although this has nothing directly to do with our ancestors' journey to the New World (or does it?), I want to acknowledge that today (June 21, 2021) is the 25th. anniversary of National Indigenous People's Day. We all should recall that our forebears were not entering a land devoid of people (who had already been here for thousands of years), and that they had an impact (mostly negative) on our indigenous population.

To understand this a little bit better, please click on this link: Miigwetch! National Indigenous Peoples Day.


Day 35 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 22, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 35 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Friday, June 22nd., 1821. McFarlane reports that the wind is variable, the river narrows, and that they passed an island, possibly Belle Isle, (but his handwriting is difficult to make out), and had a closer view of Labrador which appears partly sandy along the shore, with its south side having beautiful high hills, with woods right down to the river. They also saw more houses, and then passed the Green Isle, which had a Lighthouse on it.

Now, this may all seem quite specific, until one looks at a modern map, and finds the following. If in fact the "Belle Isle" mentioned is the one in the Straits of Belle Isle, it would be 15 miles south of the Labrador coast, and 20 miles north of the northern tip of Newfoundland. This would put the ship on the route of the shortest shipping lane between the UK and Quebec. However, the only "Green Isle" I could discover in that general area on modern maps, was on the south shore of Newfoundland, (and not at all on the logical route of the ship), so the "Green Isle" to which he refers may well in fact have been Anticosti Island.

COMMENT: Nick Turnbull also questions why the ship would have taken this northern route, around the tip of Newfoundland, instead of the more direct route which would be south of Nfld. If this is the case, then the "Belle Isle" mentioned is NOT the one in the Straits of Belle Isle. And, the "Green Isle" he mentioned, could well be the Green Isle off the south coast of Newfoundland. Of course, there is no way to determine what actual route the ship took, and IF they were blown off course by the severe 9-day storm, they may well have had to sail through the Straits of Belle Isle on the northern tip of Nfld.


Day 36 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 23, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 36 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Saturday, June 23rd., 1821. McFarlane reports that they enjoyed a beautiful fine breeze until about noon, when they heaved anchor. They saw houses on the north side of the river, including many islands in the river, as well as mountains which extended for some length, and after they raised anchor, "came a little further where we lay that night". He goes on to report that a "child dies". This is the fifth death of a child on the voyage.

John McDonald's book provides us with more detail on the births and deaths of the children, and one accident, but not their names. "Four births took place during our passage, but three of the children died, and a boy of four years old; another fell from the deck into the hold, and broke his arm; and had he not fallen upon some persons who were providentially at that time in that place, the event would probably have been much more serious." [Note that his tally is a little at odds with that of McFarlane, who notes that four children were born, but a total of five died.] One may speculate that, as the ship is now relatively close to their destination of Quebec City, there may have now been the option to keep the child's body until arrival, and give it a proper land burial in one of the cemeteries there.

Again, if you will permit me some element of speculation on the date at this juncture, it may well also be the day that McDonald recounts in his book, as follows. Since the ship's surgeon had declared that all of the passengers had now recovered from their fever, there was no impediment to prevent their landing, and have their first time on shore since they left Scotland. "We consequently got all in at once, and having anchored, the Captain and several of the passengers went ashore, having ordered the Mate not to suffer any ardent spirits to be brought on board.

"Nevertheless, some of the passengers who had gone ashore, returned with some rum, which was taken from them and thrown over board. This circumstance caused no small disturbance, and produced blows between the sailors and passengers, and even also amongst the sailors themselves; and till the scuffle terminated, it was indeed a very disorderly night." So, was this the second incident of some "ardent spirits" being discovered on board, perhaps in the crew's quarters, and hence the cause of their "mutiny" on May 24th?


Day 37 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 24, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 37 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Sunday, June 24th., 1821. McFarlane reports that they anchored four times that day, and that a number of vessels passed them homeward bound [i.e. going back to the U.K.]. He also indicates that they saw the Island of Orleans on their right, which appeared well-cultivated and peopled, and very beautiful. The left side [i.e. the south shore] appeared so likewise. The weather was very foggy through the night, but the day was very warm. Although there is no specific mention of it, being Sunday, we may assume that the Rev. Gemmill once more preached his customary sermon.

John McDonald's book provides us with no detail of this particular day. However, we may speculate that since it was the feast of St. John the Baptist, the passengers may have heard the sounds of some festivities from the French-Canadian inhabitants on the island of Orleans, or from the farms on the south shore of the St. Lawrence.


Day 38 — Report from the Ship David of LondonJune 25, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 38 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Monday, June 25th., 1821. McFarlane reports that they raised the anchor, and came to the head of the Island of Orleans, where they saw the falls of "Marant". [Note: I believe he mis-heard the name of the waterfall, and it really was the Montmorency Falls.] A short time later they anchored at Quebec City. He remarks that Quebec City showed "a most striking appearance, on account of the Rock where the fortress stands, and the glaring appearance of churches and houses which are principally covered with tin. There are some most elegant houses and shops which have a grand appearance. But, having only a few hours time in it, I can not be very particular about it, as I left about eleven o'clock at night in the "Lady Sherbrooke" steam boat for Montreal, which is by far the largest steam vessel of the kind I ever saw."

John McDonald's book provides us with more detail of this particularly special day, but with a slight contradiction as to the timing, set down by John McFarlane in his journal. "We arrived at Quebec on the 25th. of June, when we were all inspected by the surgeon, and then passed through the custom-house. We all slept that night on board, and by 6 o'clock in the morning the steam boat was laid along side of us, when we all set to work to get out luggage on board of it. We continued all that day at Quebec, and then went off in the steam boat at 11 o'clock at night. As we were setting out, a tremendous storm of thunder and lightning came on, the most dreadful that ever I either saw or heard; the rain was also uncommonly heavy."

So, as I read the two accounts, McFarlane reports that they arrived in Quebec on the morning of June 25th, and by 11 o'clock that same night, they departed for Montreal on the "Lady Sherbrooke"; whereas McDonald writes (albeit, some time later) that they slept on board [the "David"] the night of June 25th. and it was the next day, June 26th., that they moved their luggage from the "David" to the "Lady Sherbrooke", and then departed that night [June 26th.] at 11 o'clock. I know that my readers may not be concerned with this seeming inconsistency in the two accounts, but I am endeavouring to be as precise in all of the dates, as is possible. Since I believe that most of McFarlane's journal was written on the actual day in question, I am tending to favour his timeline, as to that of McDonald, who wrote his book probably several months later.


Day 39 — Report from the Steamboat "Lady Sherbrooke"June 26, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 39 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Tuesday, June 26th., 1821. McFarlane reports that on board the "Lady Sherbrooke", they suffered a heavy deluge of rain, and all on deck got completely drenched. It turned very cold in the morning, and they arrived at Montreal at 11:00 p.m., but stayed on board all that night. [So, it was a full 24 hours to travel up-river from Quebec City to Montreal. Note that this steamboat, and other ones similar to her, were built and operated by the Molson family — now better known as manufacturers of beer!]

John McDonald's book provides us with more detail of this very uncomfortable, and probably very discouraging, one-day voyage to Montreal. Most of the nearly 400 people on the steamboat were obliged to sit on deck, in the open, all that night. He writes ". . . we all had to remain, drenched as we were, in our wet clothes, till they dried on our backs. We had no alternative, access to our chests being impossible, as they were all locked up in the hold." It took 24 hours to travel the 190 miles from Quebec City to Montreal. He attributes later illness suffered by many of the passengers to this very wet night. He goes on to write "Nay, to show you further our distress, the beds of those passengers who were stationed on the lee side of the boat, between the engine-house and the paddles, were made literally to swim with the rain water. Every thing was spoiled, our very meal and bread being reduced to a state of dough."

For those of us currently experiencing very heavy rain in Ontario, we can well appreciate what their misery must have been like!


Day 40 — Report from their First Land Journey – June 27, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 40 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Wednesday, June 27th., 1821. McFarlane reports that they got their luggage on shore from the steamboat "Lady Sherbrooke". He found his old friend, James Young, who helped him load some carts, and put his wife and family onto 2 carts for LaChine, while he had tea and a visit for 2 hours with Mr. Young. He also remarks that he saw 15 Indians roasting meat on sticks over a fire. [These were, no doubt, the first Indigenous people that he had ever seen.] He arrived at Lower LaChine about 10:00 p.m.

John McDonald's book provides us with a little more detail of this aspect of their journey. He writes that they carried their luggage from the steamboat to the abundant wagons provided by the Government, helping one another in this task. All who were unable to walk got on top of these wagons, as far as the village of LaChine, ten miles up the St. Lawrence from Montreal.

So, at least now they were on dry firm land (for a time at least), rather than the constantly moving decks of the ship and the steamboat!


Day 41 — Report from Lower LaChine, Lower Canada – June 28, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 41 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Thursday, June 28th., 1821. McFarlane provides some general comments on what he sees in Lower LaChine, where they had to lay-over for 5 days (i.e. for June 28 to June 30, and July 1 to July 2), awaiting the arrival of smaller boats to take them up-river. It was a depot for troops, and where they saw numbers of horses, cows, sheep, and swine; as well as a great variety of fruit, especially apple trees and wine grapes. He also mentions fine gardens with a variety of vegetables, some of which he did not recognize.

McFarlane goes on to report on a tragedy that occurred the morning they arrived at Lower LaChine. James Dick went into the river to bathe, and encountering a steep part, went over his head, and the water running very rapidly, swept him down into a deep and swirling part of the river, and he was drowned. His corpse had not yet been found. He left behind his wife and eleven children (but some were adult men and women), and his loss was much lamented, for he was as good a man as any who had been on board the ship.

John McDonald's book only provides one additional fact on the death of James Dick, and that was that he had been part of the Bathgate Emigration Society.

As there is virtually no additional information provided by McFarlane or McDonald for these 5 days, I too may take a 5-day break, and resume my daily reports on July 2nd or 3rd. Wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day on July 1st., even though we have much to ponder on our past (and present) treatment of Indigenous and Metis peoples.


Day 45 — Report from their last day in Lower LaChine – July 2, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 45 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey. And "Yes", if you are counting my "daily reports", you will notice that Days 42 to 44 were indeed missing, as nothing was reported by either McFarlane or McDonald.

It is now Monday, July 2nd., 1821. McFarlane writes that they got their luggage on board the 15 smaller boats, and ready for departure the following morning.

Now, this is purely speculation on my part, but our intrepid travelers just MAY have witnessed signs of preparation for the long-awaited, and much-anticipated, Lachine Canal, construction for which was to start mere days after they set off through the treacherous rapids.

Per Wikipedia, we have the following information on the history of the Lachine Canal (N.B. I have also used LaChine per the old written records, but it is more commonly written as "Lachine" today.)

"Beginning in 1689, attempts were made by the French Colonial government and several other groups to build a canal that would allow ships to bypass the treacherous Lachine Rapids. After more than 130 years of failure, a consortium that included the young Scottish immigrant John Redpath was successful. John Richardson was Chairman of the Committee of Management of the canal project and its chief engineer was Thomas Brunett. The contractors were Thomas McKay and John Redpath, plus the firms of Thomas Phillips & Andrew White, and Abner Bagg & Oliver Wait.

"The Lachine Canal was built to bypass the rapids at Lachine, upstream of Montreal. Freight and passengers destined for points past Lachine had to portage the 8 or 9 miles from Montreal's port to the village of Lachine where they could resume their trip by boat. Work on the canal commenced on July 17, 1821 under Chief Engineer Thomas Burnett and Construction Engineer John Richardson. The original canal was 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) long and had seven locks, each 30 metres (98 ft) long, 6 metres (20 ft) wide and 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) deep. The new canal officially opened in 1825, helping turn Montreal into a major port, and eventually attracting industry to its banks, when the Society of Sulpician Order decided to sell lots."


Day 46 — Report on the St. Lawrence River Journey to Prescott – July 3, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 46 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Tuesday, July 3rd., 1821. McFarlane reports that they embarked on board these 15 very heavily laden boats called "batteaux" [or, I think more probably "Durham Boats", which were much larger, and capable of carrying all on the people from the ship "David of London".]

John McDonald adds more details from his book. He does not call them "batteaux", but simply "flat-bottomed boats", which were capable of carrying the 366 persons who made up their number. Here a very difficult part of their journey commenced, "namely, the passing the rapids of the St. Laurence {sic}. Some of these have a very strong current, and as the stream is very shallow and stoney, the boats sometimes grounded. Then all the men who were able were necessitated to jump into the river to haul the boats, wading up to the middle of their bodies, and sometimes deeper." (Since this journey to Prescott will take 6 days, we shall pick up this account in more detail tomorrow.)

P.S. A note re the mention yesterday of John Redpath (a Scots-Quebecer) being part of the Lachine Canal consortium. "Yes", (for those of you who are Canadians) this is the same John Redpath who founded the Redpath Sugar Company.


Day 47 — Report on their Journey to Prescott by Boat – July 4, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 47 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Wednesday, July 4th., 1821. McFarlane reports that the first day "we came on pretty well; we crossed a lake in the afternoon with a fine breeze". After they stopped at night, they were in a hurry to get their supper cooked, and make their bed on the side of a bush". So, it seems that they were sleeping outside at this time.

John McDonald continues his narrative, from the point of describing how the men had to jump into the water, to help pull the boats through the shallow rapids. "At these rapids the women and children were obliged to come out and walk; and in several places, the rapids run with such force, that we were compelled to get 2 horses to haul every boat. None but those who have experienced it, can conceive the difficulty of ascending these rapids. To me it seems wonderful how they can surmount them."


Day 48 — Report on their Journey to Prescott by Boat – July 5, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 48 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey. It has been delayed, somewhat, due to a series of thunderstorms sweeping through cottage country!

It is now Thursday, July 5th., 1821. McFarlane continues his report. He tells us that at some point, it was so shallow that they had to lighten the boats by removing some of the luggage from them. Even then, they had to be dragged along by the parties belonging to each boat, often times up to their haunches in mud and water. At the Long Sault (which he described as a terrible rapid, about half a mile long) they had to hire 2 horses to drag each boat through, at a cost of half a dollar each.

John McDonald continues his narrative, by commenting on how difficult this portion of the journey was for everyone, suffering from the heat of the season, and from drinking [probably contaminated] river water! Because they were constantly into and out of the water, their clothes were wet night and day. "Many of them took badly [i.e. became sick] on the road, and were obliged to remain behind their families many days," Thus, some families were separated for several days due to illness. "When night came, we remained on the river side. Sometimes we got access to farm houses, and sometimes not. Others lay in the woods all night, where, having kindled a fire, they would have cooked their supper in the best way they could, and spread such clothes under them as they had, for a bed."


Day 49 — Report on the Continuation of their Trip to Prescott by Boat – July 6, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 49 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Friday, July 6th., 1821. McFarlane continues his report as follows. "I saw a number of islands, some of them beautiful and partly cultivated; likewise some elegant houses built of stone and lime, with pavilion roofs of three and four storeys, and of a great width and length. We passed a number of saw and flour mills."

John McDonald continues his narrative of their hardships, and comments on the discomforts of sleeping outside. "In which situation I have found in the morning my night-cap, blankets, and mat, so soaked with dew, that they might have been wrung. One may easily conceive that this was very prejudicial to our health. Some of the passengers indeed got into barns, but by far the most part of them lodged out in the fields for six nights."

You will note a very different tone in the accounts of these 2 men. While McFarlane does not gloss over the real problems and hardships of their voyage, he does see the beautiful aspects of his surroundings, and comments upon them in a positive manner; while for the most part, the account of McDonald focuses on their trials, discomforts, and almost constant suffering.


Day 50 — Report of their Continued Boat Journey to Prescott – July 7, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 50 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey. Imagine - already 50 days in transit, and still quite some time until their arrival at the final destination. This is certainly not a pleasure trip!

It is now Saturday, July 7th., 1821. McFarlane continues his report, describing a very-nearly fatal accident he experienced. He tells us that he almost went head first into a very swiftly flowing part of the river, about 5 feet deep, and it was only due to his good fortune of having hold of the end of a rope, that he was pulled to safety, or else the current would have kept him under water. Since he was completely wet, that night he had to strip to his skin, and roll himself in a duffle to sleep. In the morning he had to put on his wet shirt, owing to the very heavy dews of the night, and that fact, and the cold of the morning "set my teeth a chittering, till I got warm with the oar", which he was helping with for the 5 days on this part of the journey, "without intermission betwixt rowing and dragging." Thus, it seems that the passengers were also pressed into service as crew members, as their duties sometimes included having to row their own boat!

John McDonald has finished his narrative at this point, and resumes it after they have arrived at Prescott.


Day 51 — Report of their Continued Journey by Boat to Prescott – July 8, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 51 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Sunday, July 8th., 1821. McFarlane continues his report, describing (and obviously very impressed by) "a number of very extensive rafts of timber which must be very dangerous to the conductors over the rapids. Some of them [i.e. the rapids] have a dreadful appearance from rocks and large stones at the surface of the water, which breaks over them in a most dreadful manner. The most part of the stones so far as I have seen are limestone of a blue kind."

The large timer rafts of which he writes, are in fact ones made of squared timber, tied together, to be taken to waiting ships in Quebec City. Some of these were so large that they had small cabins in their centres to house the timber raftsmen during their journey of several days downstream, along with a bed of sand for a cooking fire.

As I mentioned yesterday, John McDonald has finished his narrative at this point, and resumes it after they have arrived at Prescott.


Day 52 — Report from Prescott, Upper Canada — July 9, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 52 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Monday, July 9th., 1821. McFarlane announces that they arrived at Prescott at 11:00 a.m. This must have been a great relief to all, who had suffered on their trip up through the many rapids. However, much to their surprise, they discovered that all of the passengers belonging to the ship "Commerce", and part of those who were on board the "Earl of Buckinghamshire" were still there, and including the newly arrived passengers from the "David of London", their numbers totaled in excess of 1,000 persons; and hence they were all there together, awaiting sufficient wagons to continue their journey by land.

John McDonald once again picks up his narrative of their trip. He indicates that their journey from La Chine {sic} to Prescott was 120 miles. At Prescott they had to pitch their tents in the open field, and he describes them as "wretched dwellings indeed". He says that many of them had to spend the whole night bailing water from around their tents with dishes, as it "literally ran below our very beds." It was here that many of the travelers began to feel the effects of their river journey, and of their lying out in the fields at night. "Many were afflicted with the bloody flux, some also took fevers, and many died of a few days illness." One of those who died here was William Purdie, the agent for the Trongate Society.

We now know the "bloody flux" to be amoebic dysentery, and it was (and still is) caused by the contamination of food and water by human waste; and it can be lethal if untreated by antibiotics, which of course were unknown in 1821.


Day 53 — Report from Prescott, Upper Canada – July 10, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 53 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Tuesday, July 10th., 1821. McFarlane describes what he sees at Prescott. "There is a Fort Wellington here, which did some damage to a town on the opposite side of the river belonging to the States of the name of Ogdensburg, which is situated on the Black River. It is pretty sizeable and appears to be rapidly increasing [in size]. I was twice over in it, and purchased some small articles on reasonable terms. There is a steam boat that passes between this place and Kingston."

Note that our ancestors are not very much different than the Canadians of today, casually doing some cross-border shopping in the USA, to find bargains! Fort Wellington still exists, and as a National Historic Site, is open to the public. It was built in 1813 (during the War of 1812) to defend the St. Lawrence River shipping route from attack by the United States. It was armed with two 24-pounder cannons which could fire on Ogdensburg successfully.

John McDonald continues his narrative with a description of the town of Prescott. "Prescott is a fine town, and daily increasing — it is a military station. Two churches are building here, the one an episcopal chapel, the other a presbyterian meeting-house." He notes that, prior to this, the inhabitants had to use a school-house for their church services. However, McDonald seriously laments how the Sabbath is so little respected there. "Many were employed in singing, in playing on flutes, and drinking." He does indicate that he and his fellow travelers were able to use the school-house on three Sundays, to sing the Lord's song, and to read his word.


Day 54 — Report from Prescott, Upper Canada – July 11, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 54 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Wednesday, July 11th., 1821. McFarlane echoes comments made by John McDonald, saying that "there was a number of our country men and women and children died here after the fatigues of the voyage. Mrs. Dick died here that lost her husband at La Chine, and here Mr. Purdey {sic} breathed his last — a very sensible agreeable man in my opinion and I considered him badly used by a number, which I considered was partly the cause of his death." More from John McFarlane tomorrow.

John McDonald continues his narrative as follows. "We found those days [i.e. the 3 weeks spent at Prescott] to be the most pleasant of all the days we spent in a foreign land. The majority of the inhabitants are Irish and French, and increasing fast. Here the mail-coach stops, this being the only road to Kingston, which is 62 miles straight up the river." This marks the end of McDonald's comments during their 3-week stay in Prescott.


Day 55 — Report from Prescott Upper Canada – July 12, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 55 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey.

It is now Thursday, July 12th., 1821. McFarlane now continues his narrative on a more positive note. "Prescott is a pleasant cheery healthy situation. It is a port town where the Kings batteaux bring a vast quantity of stores and provisions for troops and emigrants; and a number of merchant vessels which is [sic} Durham boats and batteaux. The Durham Boats are of a considerable size, about 60 or 70 feet long, with a gangway on each side with small blocks for their feet, which they push along with poles after the nature of barges [?]. They use sails for them when the wind answereth."

Now, you may recall in my comments earlier, that I thought it very unlikely that the boats used to transport them from Lachine to Prescott were in fact "batteaux" (smaller vessels), given the fact that 360 odd people, and all of their baggage, would be hard-pressed to fit into 15 "batteaux", but now we see from the details of John McFarlane's journal, that he was well aware of the distinction between the two types and sizes of vessels, so he probably was correct in referring to them as "batteaux", and that I was wrong in my speculation.

John McDonald has nothing further to say until they leave Prescott, on the next leg of their journey.

Given the fact that neither author has anything else to add to their time spent in Prescott, (and I really should not speculate on what they did — or didn't do — for the balance of their time there) so, with my readers' permission, I too should take a break of almost 3 weeks, and resume again on July 30th, 2021 (which would have been Monday, July 30th, 1821).


Day 72 — Report from Prescott Upper Canada – July 29, 1821

Hello All, I’m Back! As promised, here is my Day 72 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well. You will note that, since I have not reported since Thursday, July 12th., I have necessarily eliminated about 17 days from my narrative — i.e. Friday July 13th. (which was Day 56), to today, Sunday July 29th. (which was Day 72).

So, it is now Sunday, July 29th., 1821. These past 3 weeks must have been a very mixed blessing for our travelers. Although it offered some of them time to rest and recuperate from the hardships of their trip so far, and time to grieve over those family members (or fellow travelers) who have died, it must also have been a source of frustration for them, as they were anxious to complete this penultimate portion of their trip, and then get on with the task of selecting and settling upon their lot, and setting to work to build their new home, before Winter set in!

However, I must now admit to making an error in my assumption that ALL of these settlers from the "David of London" actually left Prescott on the same day. By reading McFarlane’s Journal once more, I realized that he stated that he left Prescott on July 13th. (a Friday, and Day 56), and arrived at Lanark 4 days later on July 17th. (a Tuesday, and Day 60).

Therefore, (and this makes perfect sense), smaller groups of settlers would have to wait for the next group of returning wagons, to be able to depart from Prescott. Perhaps they drew straws in a simple lottery to decide who should go with the next departure. While McFarlane and his family, and probably a few others, were able to leave early (July 13th.), John McDonald and others, would have had to wait more than another 2 weeks to start their final leg on July 30th. Since we have narratives from two separate (but similar) journeys, I’ll do my best to incorporate them into a single ‘chapter’, as their story continues.

MORAL: One must read carefully, and then re-read documents; and check, and then re-check one’s own work for accuracy!

Their journey continues tomorrow!


Day 73 — Report on their Departure from Prescott, Upper Canada – July 30, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 73 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well. Of course, before departure, everyone would have to help in the loading of their possessions onto the horse-drawn baggage wagons.

So, it is now Monday, July 30th., 1821. John McFarlane reported (actually on his departure on Friday, July 13th.) as follows: "We begun {sic} our march by land. We passed Brockville about 10 miles above Prescott. It [Brockville] contains a number of very elegant houses, and stands on the banks of the St. Lourance {sic} and has a fine appearance. Here we left the course of the river when we begun {sic} our march through bad roads."

John McDonald described his departure on July 30th. as follows: "We left Prescot {sic} on Monday the 30th. July, at 9 o'clock [i.e. 9:00 a.m.], and travelled {sic} six miles that night, and stopt {sic} at an inn. Here we took in our clothes, and slept all night on the floor." So, at least this night they were inside, and protected from the heavy over-night dews.

Their journey continues tomorrow.


Day 74 — Report on Their Journey to New Lanark – July 31, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 74 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well.

So, it is now Tuesday, July 31st., 1821. John McFarlane remarks that he and his wife had to carry their 2 youngest children for almost 3 days. He also comments on the state of the "roads", as being nothing more than tree-cuts through the bush, and "in swampy ground trees are cut to lengths of 12 feet . . . and laid across the road side by side." Today, we know these log roads as "corduroy roads".

John McDonald continues his description of this portion of their journey. "Got up next morning by break of day, and arrived at Brockville, 6 miles distant, and breakfasted there." He goes on to say that Brockville is growing, and contains several fine buildings of wood and others of brick, but they only stopped one hour there. This is the point where they left the St. Lawrence River, and struck out through the country, heading NW. That night they stopped at a farmer's house, where they slept in a barn, but feared that they felt some snakes in the new hay!


Day 75 — Report on their Journey to New Lanark – August 1, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 75 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well.

It is now Wednesday, August 1st, 1821. John McFarlane has nothing to report for this particular section of the journey.

John McDonald continues his description of this part of his journey, by indicating that they had to wait on the farmer's property for 3 hours, so their driver could fetch a fresh horse, as one of his horses had been injured the preceding night. They then set off, but as they proceeded, the condition of the road worsened so much towards night-fall that the horse was unfit to proceed. Fortunately, another waggoner took their load, and they were able to proceed another 4 miles, and arrived at the driver's house in the dark. Here, they were able to take in their bed-clothes, have some supper, and were allowed to sleep on the floor.


Day 76 — Report on Their Journey to New Lanark – August 2, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 76 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well.

It is now Thursday, August 2nd., 1821. Again, John McFarlane has nothing to report for this particular section of the journey.

John McDonald tells us that they got up early this morning, had breakfast, and set off with the same horse, but with another driver, who was very attentive in avoiding hazards in the road. However, many other wagons overturned with men, women, and children — one boy being killed, several others hurt, including one man with a broken arm. But McDonald's wagon became mired in the mud, and the horse fell down in exhaustion 3 times in the mud. They were able to get the horse out of the mud, but even then, it could not free their wagon. The only solution was to use a team of oxen along with the horse, which accomplished the task. Since heavy rain started soon after, they sought refuge in the first farm-house they could find, and lay at the fire-side all night to dry out.


Day 77 — Report on Their Journey to New Lanark – August 3, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 77 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well.

It is now Friday, August 3rd., 1821. John McFarlane mentions their crossing of the Rideau River by ferry, at what is now the village of (wait for it!) Rideau Ferry, which is just a few miles SE of Perth. However, this location was then known as "Oliver’s Ferry". He also remarks that the Rideau River is as broad as the Clyde River, from his native Scotland! After arriving in Perth in the evening, he comments on the fact that its size is increasing rapidly, given the fact that the town is barely 4 years old since its first house was built.

John McDonald tells us that they again got up early this morning, but found the road in such bad condition that they had to pull up the farmers' fences to lay in the ruts to be able to get through. As they approached New Perth [so-called to distinguish it from Perth, Scotland], the road improved sufficiently that the driver invited some of his party to ride in the wagon; but, when the horses moved forward unexpectedly, McDonald fell out onto a small stone, and broke one of his ribs. A doctor in New Perth advised him to bathe the injured part with vinegar, and bind it tightly. He and his party slept that night in a stable.

McDonald goes on to describe Perth as a thriving place, and growing daily in population. It contained 2 churches: one Presbyterian meeting house, and one Roman Catholic chapel. There were also 2 bakers, several store-keepers, 2 or 3 smiths, and a Post-Office. He noted a very long list of names affixed to the Post-Office door, for whom letters were awaiting pick up, as the mail delivery went no further. He later noted that there was a similar list affixed to the door of the King's store at New Lanark.


Day 78 — Report on Their Journey to New Lanark — Final Leg – August 4, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 78 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well.

It is now Saturday, August 4th., 1821. John McFarlane writes that, after they left Perth, some time later they came to the Mississippi River, and crossed it at the ferry . . . which is between 2 and 3 miles from Lanark town. [This ferry location would be SE of the village of New Lanark.] John McDonald tells us that they "left Perth next morning (leaving behind "a great many of my fellow travellers {sic} . . . some on account of sickness and fatigue"), which is 14 miles from New Lanark, and came to a large stream, called the Little Mississippi, over which we had to ferry." [He obviously uses the term "Little Mississippi" to distinguish it from the other Mississippi, south of the border!] "Having advanced within two miles of New Lanark, on the 4th. of August, we were informed that the settlers were getting a deal worse, and that no less than four of a family were sick at the same time." [I am assuming that since they were so close to their destination (only 2 miles away), that they carried on to New Lanark before night-fall.]

Now, one might expect much more relief and enthusiasm from both McFarlane's and McDonald's accounts, at the arrival in their next-to-last destination, but it was not so. One supposes that McFarlane knew that his really hard work was about to begin, and McDonald, in typical fashion, concentrates on the negatives in his description of sickness, fever, stagnant atmosphere, agues, misery and distress., rain, wind, snakes and lizards; and oxen and cows coming close to their tents!

We have no way of knowing exactly when our Gilmour and Gemmill ancestors arrived in New Lanark, and when they were able to venture out from there to view their prospective lots, but I am assuming that most of their group would have arrived in New Lanark by August 4th., 1821, so subsequent descriptions will follow this date.


Day 79 — Report from New Lanark – August 5, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 79 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well.

It is now Sunday, August 5th., 1821. I will speculate that the new arrivals (those without tents) would immediately set to work building make-shift shelters for their first night there. I would also guess that the Reverend Gemmill may well have conducted a service, thanking God for their safe arrival after such an arduous journey.

John McDonald describes what I believe to be the shelters built in New Lanark, with words such as "a few posts driven into the ground, and then wrapped together with the frail branches of trees. Such substitutes, when the branches wither, are almost completely open at the sides. Some, who are able, cover them with blankets, or whatever else they can obtain, on the roof . . ." However, he adds that these are "utterly insufficient to keep out the torrents of rain."

As time is of the essence, those that have not already selected their lots, would probably set out as soon as possible to do so. More on this tomorrow.


Day 80 — Report from New Lanark – August 6, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 80 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well.

It is now Monday, August 6th., 1821. McDonald continues to tell us the process that was in place. Colonel Marshall was in charge of issuing "tickets" to new settlers to go out and view prospective lots. Of course, those who arrived first got the best lots. If the first lot they saw was not to their liking, Colonel Marshall would issue more "tickets" [known as Location Tickets] for other lots until they were satisfied. The townships in which these lots were located included Lanark, Dalhousie, Sherbrooke (presumably both North and South Sherbrooke), and Ramsay.

The available 100-acre lots have already been surveyed, and "A post is fixed in the ground to mark the limit or boundary of each concession, both front and rear." The usual practice is that a guide (which they had to pay 5 or 6 shillings per day) would take two or three together to find, and then view the lots, which commonly took 3 days. As each immigrant got 2 lots from which to choose, and assuming 3 immigrants set out together, (to minimize the guide expense), there would be 600 acres to be inspected!

McDonald remarks on the physical exhaustion that these men experienced during these viewing trips, from the intense heat of the days, to the cold and dewy nights, and goes into great detail on the musquitoes {sic} which tormented them day and night. To quote from his book "I have had my legs all over pierced with the fangs of these tormenting and mischievous insects, and from the effects of their bites, they seemed as if they had been covered all over with small pox, and attended with an equal itch."


Day 81 — Report from New Lanark – August 7, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 81 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well.

It is now Tuesday, August 7th., 1821. It is not certain when exactly John McFarlane selected his lot, but he does tell us in his Journal, that he settled on the eleventh concession of Lanark [Township], and I think on Lot number 13, after he had viewed lots in Ramsay and Dalhousie Townships as well. He also tells us that after he was located on his new lot, he was obliged to work on road building for 3 weeks, so this work would probably have delayed the construction of his cabin. His lot was about 11 miles from the town of Lanark, and he was well satisfied with it. He was able to build a house 19 by 21 feet of logs, and his roof was covered with bass logs split in two, which were hollowed out and laid down in alternating fashion to form a waterproof covering. He also indicates that he got a "stone vent built in the house which is of great benefit", which I take to mean a stone chimney. His lot was about 14 miles from Perth. He finishes his Journal entries (insofar as the journey itself is concerned) by stating the obvious — "roads are not very good or plenty as yet"!

McDonald continues to tell us more about the construction of the settlers' log homes. "They take the small logs, and cut them to certain lengths and breadths, and lay them one above another, notching them into each other at the four corners of angles." He also notes that the front wall is highest, which means they would have what we now refer to as a "shed roof". He also confirms McFarlane's description of how the best roofs were made, and that the "hollow log" method is much superior to those who merely used tree bark to cover the rafters. The gaps between the logs, according to McDonald, are filled with pieces of wood and clay.

But, he does tell us, that later on, when a farmer has it in his power, he builds one more durable and substantial, with squared logs laid one upon another, and with shingles made of fir, which are nailed onto the roof. [I have seen residents of Lanark County still living in these squared timber houses, 200 years later!] McDonald concludes this part of his story, with his description of New Lanark: "The only houses, or what have the appearance of them, in New Lanark, are those belonging to store keepers. The river [now called the Clyde] runs through the centre of the town, and has a bridge across it. Its banks are high and slopping, and at a small distance back, is very hilly and stony."


Day 82 — Conclusion to My Gilmour 200th Anniversary Story – August 8, 1821

As promised, here is my Day 82 report on our Gilmour Ancestors' journey, and that of John Gemmill as well. It is now Wednesday, August 8th, 1821.

It is time to wind this story up! John McFarlane’s Journal, insofar as his (and their) journey, has concluded. Although John McDonald’s book provides a lot more detail on the crops grown, the wild animals, the wild produce such as fruit, fowl, and fish, etc., the cost of food items, not to mention the lack of nearby grist mills, and markets for their produce, there is essentially no more data, either specific to their journey, or to its conclusion.

McFarlane stayed in this new land, and worked hard to build a new life for himself and his family. McDonald, seeing mostly the negative aspects of his experience in Canada, returned to Scotland soon after his arrival in Upper Canada, and published his book in Edinburgh in 1823.

We now know where John McFarlane and his family settled (per yesterday’s note). We also know where (but not exactly when) our Gilmour and Gemmill ancestors settled. John Gilmour Senior chose West Lot 13, Concession 7 of Ramsay Township and his son James (single, at this time) chose the adjacent lot — i.e. East Lot 13, Concession 7 of Ramsay. Hugh chose East Lot 14, Concession 8 of Ramsay, and his brother Allan the adjacent lot — i.e. East Lot 15, Concession 8 of Ramsay. So, father and his 3 sons, were all within easy walking distance of one another, and available for help and support.

John Gemmill (my 3 times great grandfather), who had come alone (sending for his wife and family to join him the following year) settled on Lot 13, Concession 8 of Lanark Township. It so happens that John McFarlane lived only 2 miles away from our John Gemmill. John Gemmill eventually built a beautiful stone house on this property (which still survives), and which no doubt was there when his son Andrew visited him and his family, in August of 1842.

So, while many stayed in the Almonte area, on their original farms, many moved further west, to take advantage of better farm land, and better opportunities. James Gilmour, John Gilmour Senior’s son, moved to Stanley Township, in Huron County. Some of the Gemmill family moved to southern Manitoba. More of our Gilmour family moved to farms near Moose Jaw, in Saskatchewan, and on into Alberta. Later generations moved for a time (or permanently) to Vancouver, British Columbia. One of our Gilmour ancestors even emigrated to Australia, where, I am pleased to say, that I am in touch with his current generation now!

While this is merely speculation, I feel that even the later arrivals to New Lanark would probably have been able to view alternative lots, finally make their decisions, and move what worldly possessions that they had been able to bring with them, in approximately a 3-week period; so, given this assumption, I feel that they all would have been settled, and actively engaged in building their log homes by Day 100, which would have been Sunday, August 26th., 1821.

Of course, many things occurred in their lives after their arrival: the birth of new children, the making of new friends, the learning of new skills, the building of better homes, the acquisition of farm animals and more tools, the marriage of existing, and some of these new children some years later, the subsequent birth of grand-children, and the ultimate decease of those original settlers.

Although I cannot be certain of the place of burial of John Gilmour Senior and his wife, Ann Whyte, they are probably interred in either the Auld Kirk graveyard, or that of the now long-gone secessionist Presbyterian Church which was kitty-corner across the road. So, in my direct descent line, we would have John Gilmour Senior (and his wife Ann Whyte), his son Allan Gilmour (and his wife Margaret Anderson), James Gilmour (and his wife Jessie Miller Templeton), Allan Gilmour (and his wife Susan Coultas), Harry Gilmour (and his wife Rose Gammons), and lastly my mother, Rose (nee Gilmour) Godfrey — 6 generations — all buried in the Auld Kirk, just west of Almonte.


In closing, I would like to say that I am proud of ALL of my ancestors, (whatever their surnames may be), and of their sacrifices and determination that have made my life possible.

I hope that most of you have enjoyed, (or at least tolerated), this tale of migration and settlement, and if any reader of this protracted story has any comments, additions, clarifications, or corrections, I would be most happy and grateful to receive them. You may do so by contacting me via e-mail (ken.­godfrey1­@gmail­.com), or in the old manner (if you do not have e-mail, or my electronic address has changed in the future), by writing to me — Ken Godfrey, 94 Wishing Well Drive, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, M1T 1J4.

Thank you. Ken Godfrey — December 10, 2021.


Also see a letter written to John McFarlane by his father in 1829, on this website.

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