Some History & Pictures

Article from "The Wanderer"
Written by Captain Harry C. Morrison, Englishtown
 By.Jo- Anne Wood

Torquil MacLean was my grandfather.  He was born at Wreck
Cove, Victoria 
County, in 1840.  He died at his home in Englishtown,
December 28th, 192181 
years of age.  He spent most of his early years as a
sailor.  His early 
years were on foreign ships and square riggers.  But most
of his life he 
operated the ferry between Englishtown and Jersey Cove. 
Torquil was married 
to Sarah MacLean from Middle River around 1875.  They lived
in Englishtown 
on a small farm and grew most of their own food.  There
were eleven in their 
family: six boys and five girls.  Torquil was short of
stature but built 
like a wrestler and strong as an ox.   He always wore a
heavy beard which 
made him look cross, but he was a good natured man, and had
a heart of gold. 
  He saw perhaps more than his share of suffering: His
brother cut himself 
in the woods and bled to death on Torquil's back as Torquil
carried him out; 
he lost one son, a lad of 19, in a coal mine in New
Waterford, and he lost 
another in a mine in Alberta; and one son went off after
returning from 
World War I, and was never heard of again. Yet Torquil
remained a strong and 
reliable ferryman whose home was always open to the
traveler in the storma 
job of low pay, and occasionally thankless.  During his
first years at the 
ferry, Torquil used a large row boat, as most of the
traffic was on foot.  
Sometimes the odd horse and sulky ( a two-wheeled carriage
) was ferried.  
The sulky would be taken on board the rowboat and the horse
would swim 
behind, a long rope attached to his halter and tied to the
stern or held by 
the passenger.  When they reached the other side, Torquil
often had to haul 
this large boat by himself.  He did not mind getting wet or
going up to his 
waist in the water.  He always wore heavy pantssummer and
leather boots that reached to his knees.  I often saw him
take his boots off 
after a ferry trip.   He'd empty them out, wring out his
woolen socks, put 
them back on and be ready for the next trip.  As traffic
was increasing, 
Torquil had to have a larger boat.. Well, there was only
one place he knew 
of to have one built, and that was at Wreck Cove where he
was born.  He knew 
he could get just the kind of boat he wanted built there by
two able 
Scotchmen and God-fearing men named Kenneth Morrison and
Alex Morrison.  
This boat was about twenty feet long and nine feet wide. 
It had a flat 
bottom and two thwarts in the bow to form seats for the two
rowing the oars 
or sweeps (which were fourteen feet long).  The bow was
sharp and the stern 
was square.  The boat was capable of carrying two horses
and one carriage at 
a time.  Sometimes Torquil had to row it himself.  As the
children grew, one 
of them would lend a hand.  This boat was known as the Old
Scow.  I believe 
Torquil had to pay for it himself.  And I think he got a
small subsidy from 
the government.  The fare was twenty cents for horse and
carriage, five 
cents for passengers.  The Old Scow had a launch-way made
of poles and a 
capstan was used to pull it out of the water.  The capstan
consisted of a 
heavy piece of log about six feet long with four holes
bored into it about 
two feet from the top.  Poles were inserted into these
holes.  A long piece 
of rope ran from the bow of the bow to the log post, and
one or more men 
would grip the poles and walk in a circle, wrapping the
rope around the log 
and drawing the Scow up the launch-way a few inches with
each turn.  When 
the tide was low, this was a long slow process but the boat
had to be hauled 
above high water mark.  And when a storm was threatening it
had to be hauled 
right up to the bank.  Torquil had several smaller rowboats
built on the 
North Shore by Kenneth Morrison and his son Sandy Kenny. 
These rowboats 
were used for passengers and mail during the Winter, after
the Harbour had 
frozen.  During 1919 and 1920 the rural mail came to
Englishtown from 
Baddeck at midnight.  It was sorted at the Englishtown Post
Office, then 
taken to the ferry on a two-wheeled carriage or rickshaw. 
There would only 
be one or two bags.  They were rowed across and transferred
to a horse and 
carriage for the ride to Wreck Cove. The Old Scow was
hauled and turned 
bottom-up to dry out, and the ice itself was used to
transport teams.  The 
crossing was tested by some reliable person and if a good
report was given, 
the way was marked from the Englishtown shore to Raymond's
Beach with about 
125 seven-foot spruce trees.  I used to help my father
"Bush the Ice".  Ice 
bushing gave the traveler a safe crossing in a snowstorm. 
He ha only to 
keep between the two rows of trees.  I have heard of horses
and sleds 
driving into open water and the horses drowning, but the
drivers somehow 
always managed to reach shore.  In early March Torquil
would start to repair 
the Old Scow.  There was no paint used n this type of boat.
 He would wait 
for a clear sunny day.  A fire would be built of driftwood
and a tar pot 
containing a goodly amount of pitch for hardener would be
held by a crane 
over the fire.  The crane would permit the tar pot to swing
clear of the 
fire.  Sometimes the tar would boil over and there would be
a rush for the 
wet burlap that was always kept on hand.  The hot tar was
applied to the 
bottom of the Scow with a tar mop on a four-foot stick. 
The job took about 
three hours, and before th tar set a fine sprinkling of
sand helped toughen 
the tar.  Then the Scow would be turned right side up and
the sheathing 
removed from the inside.  The sheathing was one inch boards
that made the 
Old Scow sturdier and protected the planks from the steel
horseshoes.  Loose 
tar and sand was removed, a coat of tar was applied and the
sheathing was 
put back.  New oars and sets of thole pins were made.  When
cars began to be 
ferried, two sets of planks were used, two inches by ten
inches by fourteen 
feet long.  One set was placed on board the Scow, one end
on the forward 
thwart and the other on the stern thwart, set wide enough
apart for the 
car-wheels.  The other set was used for loading and
unloading, and were set 
from the stern to the beach.  I don't remember Torquil
being sick until the 
time of his death.  A few days before he died he came to
our house and gave 
all the Morrisons a 25 cent paper bill (currency used at
that time).  I 
believe he gave my mother five dollars.  On December 28th
he made his last 
ferry crossing.  In the early afternoon he told Grandmaw he
was going to lie 
down for a spell, and retired to his rom just off the
kitchen.   He 
stretched upon the bed with his clothes on, as he very
often did.  A short 
time later he complained of heavy chest pains, and after a
few hours of 
severe suffering he passed away.  He is buried the
Englishtown Cemetery, the 
land for which he donated.  It overlooks the ferry
crossing.  My Uncle Allan 
MacLean took over the ferry in 1921.  In1920 he had
purchased a four 
horsepower motor launch to tow the Old Scow.  This required
another hand so 
my brother Neil was hired.  He received twenty-five dollars
a moth and 
stayed at the ferry almost two years.  The first government
ferry and ferry 
wharfs were built in that summer of 1921.  Two wharfs were
built on each 
side, one for high tide and the other for a low tide
landing.  The ferry 
boat was built at Bay St. Lawrence by a Fitzgerald.  She
was about 
thirty-five feet long and eleven feet wide, with a square
stern.  She was 
equipped with a double cylinder twelve horsepower Acadia
motor and a reverse 
gear.  She was paid for by the Provincial Government and
she was able to 
carry one car.  She was used from 1921 to 1936 and replaced
by one built by 
Best and Hussy at Ingonish, a boat that carried two to
three cars (three if 
they were small).  In 1952, the Highland Lass took over;
she was built in 
North Sydney.  And when the Seal Island Bridge opened, the
present ferry, 
the Gordon S. Harrington, came to Englishtown from New

Jo-Anne M. Wood, CPA
Utah Valley State College


NORTH RIVER HISTORY It was written in 1956 Transcribed by Lark Szick Written by John J. MacRitchie, a North River native, who lived most of his life in Boston, was married to Agnes MacKay, Boularderie. It was written in 1956 North River was settled by Scotch emigrants from the Highlands of Scotland during the first part of the 19th century. The place was then known as Petit Pierre’s Arm. The name given to it by the French people who lived there previous to the arrival of the Scotch emigrants. The name was changed to North River about the middle of the century. The first Scotch people to settle there at North River were the family of John MacLeod “Mason” who took up land near the mouth of the North River. Settling there in the year 1821. John MacLeod was born in Assynt, Rossshire. He had two sons, Donald and Alexander. Donald settled on the part of his father’s farm and married Sarah MacGregor. They had fours sons and three daughters. Murdock Angus, Sadie and Dan Neil. Dan Neil still lives on the farm settled by his great grandfather. Alexander the other son of the pioneer John MacLeod, for a time settled on the other half of his father’s farm. After some years he decided to move to the other side of the world following the Rev. Norman MacLeod, taking up his residence in New Zealand where his descendents presumably still live. His farm at North River was bought by Murdoch Montgomery, where he and his wife the former Isabel MacKenzie raised a family of five sons and four daughters. The farm is vacant but still in the possession of some of the grandchildren. The adjoining farm was occupied by Rory MacLeod “Rory Mohr” and his wife. They had three sons and two daughters. Sons John and Angus livid on the old farm. Jessie married Malcolm MacDonald “Little”. Maggie never married. John MacLeod had four sons, three of them continue to live on the old farm Norman, Murdock and Donald John took up the farm of Neil MacGregor, who had gone to New Zealand. Hugh MacKenzie lived on the next farm, taking it over from “ Big” John MacGregor, who had moved to Ontario. John MacGregor was married to a MacRichie woman from West Bay. She had two sons from a previous marriage and both drowned in the North River. In the last part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century this section of the North River, known as Rooster Hill, consisted of eight families and a population of over fifty during some of that period. Today only two of the eight homes are open. In one home, John MacLeod “Peggy” a great grand son of the late Rory “Mohr” lives with his son Jimmy. In the other home lives his niece, Maggie, a great great grand daughter of Rory “Mhor”. On the North side of MacLennan Brook, lived Ewan MacGregor, on the farm later occupied by Murdock MacLeod “Shoe Maker”. Murdock MacLeod had a very large family of sons and daughters. One son Neil, known as Big Neil, lived on the old farm until his death. A nephew, Norman Smith now lives on a part of the farm. The rest of the farm was later bought by Ben and Mae Bezanson. Murdock MacGregor lived on the next farm, he had three sons, John who went to Ontario, William and Angus who were twins, remained on the old farm. John’s son Donald continued to work the farm. Donald married Sarah Kerr. They had three sons and one daughter. One son John, lived on the farm until his death. At the present time, Dan K. MacLeod and family are living on the place. The next farm was owned by John MacLeod who came there from New Brunswick. Aeneas Morrison ”School Teacher” lived there a short time before going on to New Zealand. William MacDonald also lived there a short time. The farm was then divided. The south part bought by Donald MacLeod. The north part bought by William MacRichie. Donald MacLeod was born in Scotland, came to Canada with his parents when he was a year old. He lived with his parents at Upper Baddeck River. He married Mary Morrison and bought the farm at North River Centre. They had a family of two sons and six daughters. John E. the oldest son, married Mary Ann Morrison. They lived on the farm until his death. It is vacant now. The North half of this farm, as already mentioned, was bought by William MacRitchie. He also was born in Scotland, as was his wife, Effie MacLeod, coming to Canada in 1828. They were married in Canada, taking up residence at Breton Cove, North Shore. After a short time, the MacRiches moved to Meadow, North River, eventually buying the farm at North River Centre and selling the farm on the Meadow to Donald Montgomery. William MacRitchie’s family consisted of four sons and two daughters. Two sons, Malcolm and Donald lived on the farm all their lives. Malcolm married Margaret MacDonald. They had one son and three daughters. In 1932 the farm was bought by Dan A. MacLeod, a grandson of Donald Montgomery who bought the original MacRitchie farm on the Meadow. The place is vacant now. The next farm was settled by Donald MacDonald, who was married to Jessie MacKenzie. They had two sons and three daughters. John and Donald lived on the farm all their lives. John married Isabel MacKenzie. They had a family of four sons and four daughters. One son, Simon, who married Emma Montgomery, continued to live on the old farm. They had a family of three daughters. Margaret the youngest, marrying Abraham MacDonald still lived in the home after her parents death. They moved to Newton, Mass in 1954. The place is vacant now. The last three homes mentioned are vacant now after being occupied for over one hundred years. Next to MacDonald’s lived Alexander MacKenzie, later, Alexander Campbell for a short time and then Norman Matheson for a short time. All three families went to New Zealand. After that, Donald MacLeod and his brother lived there. Murdock married Effie Buchanan and bought a piece of land from Murdock MacLeod “Shoemaker”. Donald stayed on the farm. His first marriage was to a sister of John MacDonald, his next door neighbor. They had two daughters. His second [marriage] was a neighbor on the other side, Margaret MacDonald. From this union they had three sons and two daughters. After the death of their parents the family moved away. Then after a number of years, the farm was bought by John MacAulay, who died some years ago. His widow, the former Josie Nicholson now lives at North River Bridge. Part of the farm is now owned by Duncan MacLean, the other by James F. MacDonald. The next farm was owned by Murdock MacDonald, “Malcolm’s son”. He married Isabel MacDonald. They had six sons and four daughters. The last members of their family to live on the place were Arabel and Kenneth. The farm was eventually turned over to their nephew, D. J. MacLeod. He passed away in 1912 from the effects of an accident in a coal mine in Glace Bay. After his death, her brother, Kenneth moved in with her and is with her still. Her two daughters are married, Margaret Erickson in Norwood, Mass. and May Kerr in Sydney. The next farm to Murdock MacDonald was occupied by his father Malcolm MacDonald, who lived with his tow sons, John and Black John. John MacDonald moved to New Zealand. Part of his farm was sold t Kenneth Morrison, where some of his grand children still reside. Malcolm MacRae and his brother Murdock, from Middle River, settled on the other part of this farm. Murdock living in the house now occupied by Duncan Morrison. This part of the farm was later divided, half to Alex MacRae, the other half bought by Murdock MacDonald, who was a brother of the aforementioned Kenneth MacDonald. Murdock MacDonald married Annie MacRitchie, they had one son and one daughter, Christy Belle Andrews. The place in now owned by Duncan Morrison, who lives in the original house, built by the MacDonalds over one hundred years ago. The next farm was settled by Angus MacKenzie, Neil’s son. He was married to a MacLeod woman. The farm was divided between two of his sons. Hector married to Belle MacRae, later moved to Sydney. Hector Ross lived there for some time. Donald MacLean built a house and store on part of it at the junction of the North River and West Oregon “Meadow” roads. It was later bought by Donald Smith and still later bought by Norman MacLeod . It is now owned by Archie D. Carmichael. The other half of the MacKenzie farm belonged to the other son, Murdock who was married to Flora MacKenzie. James MacLeod bought half of Murdock MacKenzie’s farm and built a house on it. After his death the family moved away and the property was bought by the United Church congregation and maintained as a Manse. It has been occupied by Rev. A. C. Fraser, Rev. John N. MacLeod, Rev. Ross Hamilton, and at present by Rev. Harold Kennedy. On the North side of that is the farm settled by John MacDonald “King”. It was granted to him by King George IV, for services in the British Army. John MacDonald was married to a woman by the name of Munroe. They had a large family. Two of his sons, Donald and Kenneth lived on the old farm. Kenneth was married and had two sons and three daughters. Donald was a bachelor and lived in the old home with tow old maid sisters. He willed part of the farm to his nephew, John Kerr, to take care of him after his sisters died. The other part was given to a niece, who was married to Neil Morrison. Neil built a house on it and lived there for a number of years and then moved to Boularderie. This property now belongs to a son of John Kerr. Another son and his family lived in the original home. As we cross the North River Bridge, the first farm on the east side was settled by a family by the name of Fraser, then for a while occupied by Murdock MacLeod, who went to New Zealand and who was a brother of Luther MacLeod, who lived at South Haven. It was then bought by Donald MacLeod who moved there from River Bennet and who was married to a woman from River Denys. Two of his sons and a daughter lived there all their lives. None of them married. One son R. H. MacLeod conducted a general store on the farm for a number of years, another son George was postmaster for many years. The home is now occupied by Alton MacLeod, who was adopted by that family. Mrs. Cassie MacDonald lives in a cottage on the same farm. The store in which R. H. MacLeod conducted business, has since been remodeled and is now the home of Dan A. MacLeod. The first church at North River was built on this farm. It was remodeled about 30 years ago and is the property of the Presbyterian Church Congregation. The next farm on the east side of North River on the Muray Road, originally known as Smith Mountain road, was settled by a family named Daisley, who later moved to Cape North [1838], whose descendents are still there. The farm was then bought by Duncan MacKenzie, Neil’s son. His son John married Mary MacLeod and lived on the farm. They had a family of seven sons and three daughters. Only two of the family ever married. One son, Duncan was a harness maker in Glace Bay for many years. The first Post Office at North River was opened in the MacKenzie home. The next was a George MacLeod’s as already mentioned. In the meantime a Post Office was opened at North River Centre, conducted by Malcolm MacRitchie for nearly thirty years. A rural mail delivery was in operation between Baddeck and North River. John and Kennie, sons of the aboved mentioned John MacKenzie and Mary MacLeod were the last members of the family to live on the farm. It was rented for a few years by James MacLeod, who came from Port Bevis, to succeed Neil MacDonald as manager of a store at North River, owned by MacKay, MacAskill & Co. of Baddeck. The farm was then bought by Dan MacLean of Oregon Glen but who was at that time farming in western Canada. It was occupied for a short time by Rev. A. C. Fraser. It is now owned by Duncan MacLean, who was also in western Canada, but came back to North River about 25 years ago, and lives there at present time. He was married to Christene MacRitchie, who died in 1952. He is now married to the widow of the late John MacIver, formerly Mary M. MacLeod of North River. John Fraser Memorial United Church was built on this property, in 1936, The next farm was owned by John MaLeod, whose adopted daughter, Mary MacLean, married Norman MacLeod “Little”. His son John K. married Jessie MacDonald, South Haven and settled on the farm and raised a family of four sons and one daughter. Mrs. MacLeod, now 90 years of age, is still living with her youngest son, Angus K. on the old farm. The next farm was owned by Malcolm MacDonald “Little”, who married Jessie MacLeod, Rory Mohr’s daughter, from Rooster Hill. One of his sons, Dan lived o one half of the farm where he raised a family. He was married twice, and had a son and a daughter from both marriages. In later years he moved to Boularderie. Another son Allan lived on the other half of the farm. He was a black smith by trade. When old age compelled him to retire, his two sons followed the same trade. One son, James was a black smith, first at Goose Cove, then he moved to Baddeck, where he kept a shop, until his death a few years ago. The next farm was occupied by Rory Kerr, who was married to Barbara MacGregor. The place was later bought by Donald MacInnis, and still later by Murdock MacEachern. Then by Andrew Sutherland. It is at present owned by John A. Smith who is married to the former Alice MacRae. The have a family of four sons and two daughters. The next farm was settled by John MacGregor, who was married to Kate Urquhart. They moved to Ontario. The farm was then bought by John MacLean. He married Mary MacDonal. They had on son and two daughters. One of the daughters married Rod MacDonald. After the mother’s death, she and her family and father moved to Louisburg, where her husband conducted a general store for a number of years. Finally they moved to Alberta, where the family still lives. The other daughter married Rev. Philip MacRae, Frank MacRae’s uncle. He had pastorates in Earltown, N.S., Baddeck Forks and Little Narrows. Finally they moved to Alberta. John MacLean’s son, Dan, married Emma Morrison, Englishtown. They also moved to Western Canada, where their descendents still live. Then the place was bought by Murdock MacEacher, who in turn sold it to Murdock MacDonald “Bahn”, who lives there now. His brother’s widow and her family live with him. The next farm was settled by John MacDonal, whose family moved to Ontario. After a few years they moved back to Smith Mountain, where two of the boys Donald and John spent the rest of their days. Angus Kerr bought the farm but he was drowned coming from St Pierre, on a vessel owned by N.K. MacLeod. Angus Kerr’s son Rory settled on the farm. His son Rod married May MacLeod and lived there for a short time an then moved to Sydney where the live now. The next farm was settled by John MacLean, Alex’s son, and later by Donald MacDonald, “Cathechist” who decided to move to Whycocomagh to be near the Rev. Peter MacLean. Shortly afterwards the minister moved to Scotland. Then Donald MacDonald went to Middle River where he lived for a short time, before moving to Tarbet, where he lived the remaining years of his life. His son John D. still lives there at the ripe old age of 95 years. Murdock MacLeod” Shoe maker” had a son named Allan, who bought the MacLean farm. He and his wife lived there for many years. After their death, Mrs. MacLeod’s niece the former Margaret Matherson of Breton Cover married to Murdock MacLeod, Boularderie came to live there. After Murdock died his wife moved to North River. The farm is now vacant. The next farm was bought by Donald and John MacDonald when they moved back from Ontario. Also now vacant. The last farm on the East side of North River was settled by Donald Smith, married to a MacLeod woman, Shoe Maker’s sister. William Smith who married Mary Dingwall, also lived on this farm. Later it was taken over by a grandson, William MacDonal who married Flora MacLeod and who are at present living on part of the farm owned by Johanna “Josie” MacLeod.

Dale MacRae-Barry Cape Breton Site

Great site for Cape Breton...MacRae,Mac Donald,Cameron.Sinclair: Mac Phail,Murchison.Chisolm,,Sutherland,Mac Kenzie