The MacDonells/MacDonalds of Glengarry / Stormont, Canada By Duncan (Darby) MacDonald UE

While there are areas in Canada that can boast of large settlements and emigrations of MacDonalds (most notable being that of Eastern Canada, i.e. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) there are none that can lay claim to having had more members of the Clan MacDonald or MacDonell (Clan Donald) emigrate in greater numbers to what was then called “Upper Canada”, than those by that name who arrived and settled in the two Eastern-Ontario Counties of Glengarry and Stormont.

The first census (1851/52) lists the following names for the County of Glengarry, and I mention here the names of the Townships and the reader will soon wonder if he is in Canada or the Highlands of Scotland:

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Is it any wonder that in Glengarry, and likewise in Stormont, they called this part of Eastern Ontario “MacDONALD COUNTRY”.

Clan Donald Branch Formed

It is in this area (of Eastern-Ontario. CANADA) that Clan Donald can now report that the latest Branch of the Clan has been formed and indeed has already issued the first Newsletter “From Sea To Sea” to members and selected interested Scots. One can see from the above figures that of all the areas in Ontario that demanded such a Clan Donald Society be formed this should have been the premier location and indeed organizers are looking forward to one of the largest and strongest societies in Canada in the years to come.

Early Migrations

Of the 10 or so early migrations dating from 1772 through 1820 to Upper Canada (the early 1773 date includes two groups who arrived and settled for a time in America and who fled to Canada, and adhered to the Unity of the Empire and joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in 1783, and from which many descendants bear the initials “UE” after their name, indicating that they are a descendant of a United Empire Loyalist, which was the “Mark Of Honour”), were, for the great part, from that area of the Highlands of Scotland known as Western Inverness [Glengarry] predominantly that of Knoydart, Lochiel and Glenelg.

The record of Crown Lands shows that those of the name MacDonell or MacDonald outranked in number those of any other individual name in the Province (of Ontario) and that there were more Loyalists of that name than any three English names combined in the whole Province.

Although most historians will document that the Scots first settled in the areas of Upper Canada around 1784 having waited since the end of the Revolutionary War (1776-1783), in Lower Canada (Quebec) or St. John’s, for direction and permission to “take up lands” as Loyalists, there is now evidence of earlier Scots locating in both Stormont and Glengarry.

Some of these early Scots, members of the same Regiments as those waiting in Quebec for lands; The Royal Highland Emigrants (later the 84th Regiment of foot). The King’s Royal Regiment, Butler’s Rangers, etc., would be those who would tell the others how well this new land was that they had squatted on and where they had begun to edge out a living (most were removed or given proper lands later) and others were Scots who took their discharge from the 78th or Fraser’s Highlanders, after doing their duty at Quebec (Plains of Abraham, 1759) and had remained in the area.

Stormont, Dundas & Glegarry Highlanders

A letter from  Downing Street, dated   1st  March   1803,  and addressed by Lord Hobart, Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the Lt. Gov. of Upper Canada, explains the migration of 1803 which was made up of many members of the Glengarry Fencibles, (the forerunner   of  the   famous   Stormont,   Dundas   &   Glengarry Highlanders still an active unit in these Counties, and who still wear the kilt of “The MacDonells of Glengarry” and a hat badge that bears the “Raven On The Rock”. The   Claymore of the Commanding Officer, to be handed down from CO to CO, is one presented by Ellice and Rosa McDonald, Jr., of Clan Donald):

“A body of Highlanders, mostly MacDonells, and partly disbanded soldiers of the Glengarry Fencible Regiment, with their families and immediate connections, are upon the point of quitting their present place of abode, with a design of following into Upper Canada some of their relatives who have already established themselves in that Province …”

The late Right Rev. Monsignor Ewen J. Macdonald, VG MC (“Father Ewen”) would remark in an address given on the Diocese of Alexandria (in Glengarry, Stormont, Canada):

“The early Scot settlers were, for the greatest part, Roman Catholics,  The  Catholic  Clans,  notably Glengarry  and  Clan Ranald, were faithful to the Stuart cause. Their story of devotion and heroism is familiar to all. They suffered the “Disarming Acts”, the “Proscribing Acts” and “Jurisdiction Acts”, and intolerable conditions generally, forced them to leave their Highland glens.

“And so they came to this new world, to the wilderness, and for a large proportion of the people of Glengarry and Stormont. were for several generations necessarily shut out from intercourse with the rest of the world, the world of newspaper and magazine. For them the art of reading had not killed the art of story-telling, so that stories and traditions were handed down over the years and a heritage was protected.”

In Glengarry, Canada, there still is spoken, and indeed taught, the Gaelic language.