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Murrays General

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The Murray's

Murray is one of the oldest surnames in Scotland and one large branch of the family takes its name from the ancient province of Moray, which once included Inverness-shire besides the former county of Moray.

Our first Murray ancestors we know of are Walter and James Murray of Sutherlandshire, Scotland. Walter was born in 1735 in Rogart, an area where the Murray Clan was prominent. He served with the British Army in India before coming to Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
Walter married Christian (possibly Sutherland) in Scotland. One story related by several family sources was that Walter and Christian left a young married daughter and baby in Scotland when they came to Nova Scotia.
Reverend George Patterson in his 1877 "A History of the County of Pictou Nova Scotia" indicates that the Murrays were from Sutherlandshire. He goes on to say "WALTER MURRAY AND FAMILY. Settled in Merigomish, where a number of his descendants still are." (Patterson indicated that this list was drawn up about forty years ago (ca. 1837) by the late William McKenzie, Loch Broom.).
James Murray may have been an older brother of Walter. James was born circa 1730 also in Sutherlandshire. Reverend Patterson relates, "JAMES MURRAY AND FAMILY. Removed to Lodonderry, where his descendants still are. For the present, we have primarily researched Walter and his family and have left for the future and others to look at James' family except that we will here more about his daughter Abigail, her marriage and eldest daughter Sarah Crowe.

Walter and his wife Christian and young daughter Elizabeth (under 2 yrs. old) as well as James Murray and wife Lily Sutherland and children Margaret, Adam, Abigal, George & Christian (2 to 8 yrs old), and Elizabeth (under 2 yrs old) came to Nova Scotia on the infamous ship "Hector" in July, 1773.

The "Hector" was a Dutch boot ship of 200 tons berthen. She was 85 feet on deck, 22 feet wide, 11 feet 6 inches deep with an overall length of 110 feet. The "Hector" was three masted and ship rigged, and carried a large gaff sail aft.

They boarded the ship in Loch Broom near the town of Ullapool in northwestern Scotland. As menetioned above the passenger list for the "Hector" includes Walter Murray and family as well as James Murray and his family. John Prebble in his book "The Highland Clearances" tells a little about the trip.
"From the beginning the emigrants were the victims of speculators and ship-masters, of typhus, cholera and dysentery. They were deceived in most of the promises made to them. In July, 1773, two hundred people of Ross, thirty-three families and twenty-five single men, boarded the Hector at Ullapool on Loch Broom. The ship was so rotten that the
emigrants were able to pick away its timbers with their finger-nails. It was owned by two Englishman, Pagan and Witherspoon, who had bought unbroken land in Nova Scotia which they proposed to settle with Highlanders, rightly concluding that these were gullible or desperate enough to believe that they would receive a farm for every family and a years free provisions for all. The people left in good spirits, and when their piper was ordered ashore because he had no money to pay for his passage "they pleaded to have him allowed to accompany them, and offered to share their own rations with him in exchange for his music".
The voyage was long and hard. Off the Newfoundland coast gales drove the Hector back into the Atlantic, adding two more weeks to its bitter passage. Eighteen children died of smallpox or dysentery. Water in the barrels was green and almost undrinkable and in the end it was so scarce that the emigrants were unable to eat the little salt meat that was left. They searched the ships hold for scraps of mouldy oatcake they had previously thrown away. In Nova Scotia they went ashore behind their piper, wearing the tartan that was still under proscription in Scotland, and some of the young men carried broadswords at their hips. But nothing they had been promised was awaiting them. Many were sent into the timberland without food or tools to build houses. It was October, too late to break the land or plant it. That winter men and women walked eighty miles through the snow to exchange their clothing for potatoes. Some tried to live on the bark of trees or by hacking clams or oysters from the ice. Others bound themselves away as indentured servants to earlier settlers. Then they rose in protest, mobbed the owners stores, bound the agent who had brought them from Ross and since deserted them, took what they needed in food and clothing, and left notes against their willingness to pay when they could. A company of militia ordered out against them refused to march. "I know the Highlanders," said its captain, "and if they are fairly treated there will be no trouble with them." In the spring only seventy-eight of the original two hundred emigrants were left on the settlement."

My Aunt Jean Sutherland recalled to us when we first started looking into our family history in the late 1970s that some of her ancestors were "sent" from Scotland on the Hector so we expect it was Walter and Christian and James and his wife and daughter Abigail that she had been told about.
the town of Pictou has a Hector Heritage Quay with an interpretative centre describing the history and culture of the area and the conditions in Scotland that caused so much emigration. The community is also reconstructing a full scale replica of the "Hector". The ship was launched September 17, 2000. As you walk around the ship you wonder how 200 people could have lived in these cramped quarters for two and one half months. Much work remains to complete the "Hector", masts, sails etc. but it is a fine tribute to our Scots ancestors and their great effort in coming and developing Nova Scotia.

Walter and his family received a grant of land on August 26th, 1783 located on - "Eastern side the east River at Pictou near the Indian Burying Ground Containing two hundred and Eighty acres, and seventy in an after Division Containing in the whole Three Hundred and fifty acres," (Crown Grant No1, Lib 2 fol. 488 Bk 13 Pg 12) This land was located about 4 miles below what is now New Glasgow, almost across the East River from where our ancestor Robert Dunbar settled a few years later. The family did not remain long on this grant on East River. "They moved to Merigomish where, along with Barnabus McGee and George Morrison, made up the first three families living in that area. Walter "took up land on the east side of Barneys River. He was taken around the coast in a shallop belonging to McGee, he, his family and household goods. In commencing their labours, Murray and Morrison each carried a bushel of potatoes on their backs all the way from Truro to Barneys River. Using a knife or quill, they removed the eyes for seed, and the remainder was eaten. It could be said that each planted his bushel and ate it as well" (McIntosh, K., A History of Merigomish, pp. 10-11).

In the book Scotland Farewell by Donald MacKay he includes in Appendix C "Official list on the number of families in the District of Pictou as of November 8, 1775 " . The list includes Walter Murray. In Appendix D is listed "The militia roll of the men of "Pictou or Tinmouth" capable of bearing arms as of February 12, 1783. (The district extended to Merigomish and near the end of the list is..) Morton (Walter) Murray, George Morrison, Barnabus McGee." End of list. Morrison and Barnabus McGee are Walters neighbors so this is our Walter. He would be about 48 years old but was a discharged soldier so logically would be capable of bearing arms.

It was 1785 when Walter sold his property at East River to Jas. McKay and his property at Fishers Grant to Donald McKay. That same year he bought the property at Merigomish on the East side of Barneys River from James Carmichael and John Frazer.
James Carmichael, a Sargent in the 82nd Regiment and John Frazer, a Corporal, had only received their 200 acre grants at Merigomish that year. Evidently they decided to sell out to Walter. In Scotland Farewell, Donald MacKay mentions that some soldiers tired of the tough pioneer life and quickly sold their grants for rather modest sums. On the Crown Lands map Walters received a grant of 450 acres on the South shore of Merigomish Harbor in 1809. It appears to be the same property so I dont quite understand the subsequent grant but certainly confirms its Walters grant. It extends from the shore of Merigomish Harbour about one-half mile West of Murrays Point, southerly about 2.6 miles and westerly 0.3 miles. There was about an equal amount of property on each side of Barneys River. Farther upstream, near Avondale, there is another 500 acre grant to Walter Murray on the west side of Barneys River just north of William Hatties property. Walter received this property in 1792.
Patterson also gives a November 8, 1775 "List of the number of families in the district of Pictou, viz. .."and the list includes "Walter Murray."

Dorothy MacDonalds book "First 200 Years in A Journey of Faith" includes a "List of Inhabitants of Merigomish and Little Harbour" and it includes Walter Murray with a family of seven and owning twelve cattle. We thought the number in the family should be eight but possibly one of the girls we know less about has already married or passed away.
Only a few other families had as many as ten cattle.

We have a copy of the 6th day of February, 1792 document granting to "Walter Murray and Thirty Two others the several allotments of land containing Ten Thousand One Hundred Acres. One attachment to this grant indicates that all the grantees were ex soldiers and plead they were having difficulty "settling a wilderness Country with throng (?) families Maintain could not before now cleare the expenses " Walter received 500 acres at this time. With Walter Murray being named first one would assume he was a leader in initiating this grant request.

In 1886, H.H. Bruce (born 1845) wrote a brief HISTORY OF BARNEYS RIVER for the Eastern Chronicle of Pictou which gives us a little more insight as to life in this pioneer society. His introduction-

"The history of Barneys River, like the early history of most places, consists principally of tradition, somewhat obscure; growing indistinct and unreliable as that tradition descends from generation to generation. Although it may be now too late to do justice to the subject, the writer, for his own amusement, by your leave, Mr. Editor, designs to unravel the legends and incidents of pioneer life here, in the hope that such records of the olden time may be of some interest to readers of the CHRONICLE in beguiling a leisure winter hour.

We find by reference to early documents that for some years after its first settlement, Barneys River was known as the "East River Merigomish," and was given its present name by some clever way, in honor of a solitary representative of the Irish race named, Barnabas McGee, who, after a short residence in West Pictou, lifted the light of his countenance toward the rising sun, and settled one hundred and ten years ago on the farm now occupied by Mrs. McDonald, Lower Barneys River. About the same time one Walter Murray, a Scotchman and an old soldier, took up his abode on a lot nearer the waters of the Harbour, where his great -grand son now resides, (Mr. John D. Murray).
The face of the country at that time was an unbroken forest, and the only neighbors the newcomers had were the native Indians, who were in a state of barbarity, and proved troublesome, if not dangerous to have pale face invaders of their domain. Other immigrants arrived later amongst whom may be mentioned John Paton, who took up lands at Ponds, where his descendants still reside, and Robert McDonald and Archibald Walker, who were the first to wage war with the forest at the settlement now known as Avondale, where are many of their descendants.


At the beginning of the present century, an eccentric old bachelor named William Hattie, took up his abode on the West side of the River, a short distance below what is still known as Hatties Bridge, and was enterprising enough to build the first mill in this section of Pictou County. The mill stood opposite the present burying ground at Avondale, where a good foundation for a dam could not be obtained, hence the latter had to be rebuilt every summer. However, the labor was given gratuitously-or at least for the privilege of dancing in the evening to music furnished by the jolly miller. One miller erected another farther up the river about 1825, remains of which might be seen until recently at the base of the "Big Cutting." The unfortunate owner, after completing the machinery and grinding a few bushels of grain, found it would not work satisfactorily, and being unacquainted with mechanical science, he got discouraged, and left for parts unknown. A year or two later William Brown, of Merigomish built the mill now owned by Andrew Stewart. I may add that old Willie Murray, as he was called, a son of the settler already mentioned, erected one in 1811 at Lower Barneys River where the late Walter Murray served the public in that capacity many years afterwards. "Auld Willie" seems to have a presentment that many sons were destined to adorn his household, (a prophesy subsequently borne out by the facts), for he took up a large tract, several hundred acres of land north of the Hattie lot. But of these "boys" we may have something to say farther on.

In the early days there were no roads or means of communications except by footpaths through the woods, or around the coast; and persons were in danger of losing there way in the wilderness, or their shoes in the mud, moving from one place to another.

On one occasion a company was proceeding up the river, at night, when on a roll call being made, it was discovered that one of the party named Betsey McDonald was missing. A rescuing "Posse" retraced their steps and found the unfortunate Betsey in a sorry case, with her feet fast in the mud. Tradition says it took the combined strength of several men to fish the girl out from amongst the eel, and land her, like Bunyans Pilgrim, let us hope, on the safe side of the Slough. The bridge across the creek at this particular spot still retains the euphonious name of "Betsys Hole."

The first school house of which we have any record was built about 1802, and stood near the bank of the River a little west of Hugh Walkers orchard at Avondale. The late James Crerar was one of the teachers. ..." Mr. Bruce goes on but well come back to him as he has more to say about "Auld Willies" sons.

On the modern map of Merigomish there is Barneys Point, on the east side of the mouth of Barneys River, next east is Cemetery Point (where the Murray Point Cemetery is located), next east is Murrays Point and finally Pattersons Point. These are all named after early settlers in this area.

When grants of land were made in the late 1700s "little attention was paid to Indian reserves and it so happened that a part of the land settled by Walter Murray (at Merigomish) was a spot favored by the Indians as a planting ground. Even after Murray had his potatoes in, the Indians came and planted the land to corn. So Murray bought the land from the Indians for the sum of Fifteen pounds". (Eastern Chronicle, 01 Mar 1904). Whether all of these details are true, it is known that Walter Murray made a written agreement with certain Indians in 1794. The paper containing the original agreement is in the possession of Lyall Murray in Merigomish.

It reads as follows:
Agreement between Walter Murray and Major Francis Anthony and Indians.
Memorandum - It is agreed this seventeenth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four between Walter Murray of Merigomish in the county of Halifax yeoman of the one part and Major Francis Anthony of behalf of himself and the following Indians Sapior Mark Anthony Suland Mark Anthony John Paths John Morris Charles Toney Joseph Anthony John Toney Newole Path Martell Mark Anthony Wilmot Gooh Francis Two Arm Peter John Bettle and Mary Anthony by and with their consent of the other part as follows
"Whereas a claim has been made by the said Indians of land contained in the grant of the said Walter Murray formerly cleared by them which has this day been surveyed and found to contain one acre and a half and thirty perches and for the latter accommodating the said Indians a survey has also been made of two acres and quarter and thirty perches of new land and it is mutually agreed that the said Indians shall have the liberty of taking a crop out of the first mentioned land and the same shall then become the property of the said Walter Murray free and clear of any claim or demand of the said Indians and that the last mentioned survey shall hereafter become the property of the said Indians forever and that the same shall be represented to the Governor and Council for their approbation and the said Indians do agree not to cut or clear any more of the land of said Walter Murray and that each shall do their proportion of fencing the said land last mentioned bounded as follows:
"Beginning at the lower part of the Island running upwards till it contains the above mentioned quantity of the lands first mentioned being on the east side of the river as witness their hands.
The mark (+) of
Francis Mark Anthony

Witness hereunto (Sgd) William Fraser Esq. Surveyor
(Sgd) John Gault
Merigomish 17 May 1794
Acknowledged to be the act and deed of each
party before me
(Sgd) Nich. P. Olding, J.P.
(Nicholas Purdue Olding)

Patterson relates the story thusly on page 186-- " Walter Murray, in Merigomish, finding them coming and planting corn, even where he had planted his potatoes, finally agreed to pay them five pounds to relinquish all claims, which they accepted, and never troubled him again."

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