Letters of Rev. John McRae & Family

Pictou County, Nova Scotia GenWeb
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The following is a letter describing the circumstances of Rev. John McRae's sister Isabel, making arrangements to come to Nova Scotia in 1830.

The letter has been generously donated by Ian Shields of Ottawa, April 2004. Please note the image of the letter at the bottom of the page.

Letter 14-M #1 - Concerning passage to Canada for Isabel (McRae) McLean

This is oldest and perhaps my favorite of all the McLean letters. It was the only one that was received before immigration and brought over to the new world. Mr. A. McBean writes from Greenock (a port near Glasgow) to Isabel (McRae) McLean and advises her about ships going to Pictou, Nova Scotia. Her husband John McLean was already in what is now Canada, and had been there for seven years (since 1823) preparing a home for his wife and three children. Presumably he has now sent for his family and she has written to
Mr. McBean to ask his advice as to which ship to take. We do not know what John, her husband, did in the seven years or where, in what is now Canada, or where he did it. We suspect he was in Upper Canada; there are stories that it might have been in Cornwall (now Ontario). But Isabel's destination is Pictou, where her bother, the Reverend John McRae, lives with his family.

A letter a year later by John McLean, then in Port Dover on Lake Erie, Upper Canada, to the Reverend John McRae implies that former has never been in Nova Scotia. Thus, one imagines that John did not meet Isobel in Pictou. Perhaps her brother, the Reverend John, greeted her and her children there, they had some weeks to recover from the arduous journey, and then proceeded by boat up the St. Lawreance in the direction of Upper Canada to join John before winter set in the and the river froze.

I note from the letter's envelope that Isobel was under the care of Mr. Alexander McRae in the village of Culcabock. Her grandfather was an Alexander McRae, but if he was still living in 1830 he would have been 96 years old, so a more likely candidate is her uncle Alexander. Why he would be at Mr. Lyon's shop in Church Street we do not know. Culcabock had once been a separate village, but by 1830 appears to have been subsumed by or become a suburb of a growing Inverness.

We have no proof that Isabel actually sailed on The Hero, but the fact that this is the only letter that was brought over from Scotland suggests that it is special. I suggest that she preserved the letter as a memento because on receipt of it, in what Mr. McBean called her "impatience" she hastened down to the dock in Inverness and booked passage to Pictou for herself and three children (viz., Isabella, Anne, and Donald). She had waited seven years to join her husband and if the Hero was an excellent, as well as the next ship,
they were on it.

It strikes me as being fitting that Isobel (McRae) McLean came to the new world on a ship called The Hero, for the heroism of all immigrants is to be admired. Canadian author Jane Urquhart's Away captures the heroism of our early pioneers in her haunting and award -winning novel Away.

-Ian Shields, 31 March 2004

Envelope:
Mrs. McLean, Culcabock
Care of Mr. Alexr. McRae at Mr. Lyons Shop
Church Street
Inverness

Greenock, July 22, 1830

Mrs. McLean,

I received your letter some time ago and would have returned an Answer
before this time if I had any information to give you. I would even delay
writing you for a week longer were I not sure that you are becoming
impatient. The ships which sail for Pictou and Halifax have not yet returned
from the Spring Voyage. They are now expected every day and the day of
their sailing again cannot be known untill they Arrive. Their stay in port
however will be short. I have this day learned that there is a brig loading
here at present called the Hero, an excellent vessel with a good commander,
she is to sail in the end of next week and she is to call at Pictou for
landing passengers, if you are quite ready you may be in time for the Hero.
I also find that another ship is preparing to sail for Halifax she is
likewise a very good vessel and is Advertised to sail on the 12th of August;
these are the only vessels at present for these quarters but there will be
several more very soon so that you cannot be disappointed.

I am yours truly,

A. McBean



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