We will take note of one of the later Matheson families to come to Nova Scotia in the Clearance era. This is the paternal line of the editor.
George's son was Gilbert Matheson, a soldier, who married Christy MacPherson ca. 1790. Gilbert was a corporal in the Sutherland Fencibles and was also employed as a cobbler at Fort George near Inverness. It appears from Parish records that his wife and young family occupied a croft at Balblair, a hamlet on Loch Fleet near the Little Ferry to Dornoch. This was also his wife's maiden home and no doubt her father, John MacPherson, took care of the croft during Gilbert's tours of duty.
Gilbert's military career is not easy to follow. It appears his regiment served primarily in the British Isles and intervened in cases of civil disobedience in the Lowlands and Northern Ireland. The regiment was noted for its outstanding discipline and was sometimes engaged in diffusing mutiny in other regiments.
Gilbert was released from duty in 1799 shortly after the birth of his youngest son Gilbert (2). The family remained at Balblair for many years until the dark days of the Highland Clearances. From their cottage they would have seen thousands of evicted tenants book passage at Little Ferry for North America.
We read in R.J. Adams' "Sutherland Estate Papers" that Balblair was singled out for clearance in 1818. Gilbert's croft, and that of his father-in-law, were small holdings held directly under the Countess of Sutherland. Her lands were under the care of the notorious Patrick Sellar, her agent who personally directed the burning of houses and crops of the tenants to induce them to move.
The book documents that the Mathesons, MacPhersons and Bannermans of that hamlet were warned to leave and were allowed to remove their roof timbers to wherever they choose to resettle. The record is silent as to whether Gilbert cooperated or waited to be forcibly evicted.
We lose track of the family until 1830 at which time Gilbert (2), the son, and his wife Catherine Watson appear in the Rogart Parish records baptising their son Gilbert (3). The record lists their residence at Morness, a hamlet in the northwest corner of Rogart parish and near the homelands of many of the Earltown families. We presume that Rogart was the family's destination after the 1818 eviction. Other than Gilbert (2) we do not know the eventual destination of other family members. Tradition relates that some members settled in the manufacturing town of Galashields in the lowlands. Another tradition tells of Gilbert's (2) brother living in Ontario.
In 1832 Gilbert, Catherine and young son Gilbert W. (3) left Scotland forever and sailed to Pictou. A number of other families arrived in North Colchester the same year, presumably on the same ship. Gilbert's land application was approved and he received 100 acres at Upper Kemptown beside a small stream known today as the Matheson Brook.
The new home was not kind to the pioneer couple resulting in the death of Catherine in 1836 at the age of 33. Their son was placed in the care of Strachan Gordon, an elderly veteran of the Sutherland Fencibles, who settled on a farm adjoining Gilbert.
Gilbert (2) remarried ca. 1840 to Annie MacLean of Riversdale whose parents came to the area via West River Stn. from Loch Broom, Scotland. Together they raised an additional eleven children on their impoverished upland farm.
Gilbert died in 1883 at the advanced age of 85 having survived the routine famines of Sutherlandshire, the clearances, a trying voyage, widowed with an infant in the new settlement, and carving a new home out of the forest. He was a member of the Free Church at Earltown and was buried in the Earltown Village Cemetery.
Only a handful of descendants still live in Colchester County. - His sons
and daughters found their way to places such as Winnipeg, Langley,
Washington State, Montana, New Hampshire, and Halifax. Succeeding
generations are even more disbursed from their humble origins at Upper
Taken from: The Matheson Clan in Eastern Canada: Selected Notes on the Clan's History and Migration to the Maritime Provinces.
by Glen M. Matheson.
Copyright (C) 1995: Glen M. Matheson
Included here with the kind permission of Glen M. Matheson
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