19 May 2012

McIntyre Road, Cameron Detour

The power of blogging: Originally dated 10 May 2012, this post has been extensively re-worked. A perceptive cousin pointed out an egregious error on my part about John Cameron’s age, and then provided more information from what I think of as the Cameron Collaborative. See how writing a blog post can draw out unexpected rewards?

Wheels within wheels, to confuse the metaphor. Sometimes the research road forks in several directions. Exploring all of them, tangential though they may be, can add or eliminate extra indirect evidence to a troublesome problem. 

Following Frasers Parts 19 and 20 ... the main goal is testing the hypothesis that these two women are sisters. So far we have no clues from the women, although like-minded Scottish and French customs identified married women by their birth surnames. Neither woman has been found in the 1861 census.

Catherine McIntyre was born ca.1777 in Scotland; she married John Cameron before about 1803.
Margery McIntyre was born ca.1785 in Scotland; she married John Fraser 17 August 1808.[1]

Margery is my ancestor. Her year of birth is consistent with her stated age at marriage, the 1851 census, and her burial record. She came to St Andrews East some time before her marriage. Her husband came to St Andrews East “from Inverness-shire” between about 1804 and 1806[2]—the years of birth in Scotland and Quebec, respectively, for the last two children of his first marriage.

Catherine is more of a challenge. Her age is available only in the 1851 census. If she and Margery are sisters, the gap in their ages could imply intermediate siblings. Catherine's husband in 1851 (and father of her children from 1803 to 1814) was John Cameron who may or may not be the man known as Preacher John Cameron, said to have come to St Andrews in 1802 “from Fort William, Scotland.”[3] 

We first turn to their husbands in case there are common denominators (records of their adult children could also be useful, but that is still in progress with no relevant results to date). The place names attached to Preacher John Cameron “from Fort William” and  John Fraser “of Inverness-shire” are compatible; Fort William was in Kilmallie parish, Inverness-shire. Those place names are secondary information from a derivative source.

Yet we know only that Catherine McIntyre was married to a John Cameron[4] ... the tangent! That John is definitely the man who fathered Catherine's children as per numerous baptismal entries and his will. That John was illiterate—clearly stated in his will (“ ... the said Testator having persisted therein had made his mark having declared that he could not write his name ...”)[5], in his land transactions, and at the baptism of a son in 1807 (“parents don't write”).[6]

So Cameron researchers are in as much a quandary as I: Is it possible to be a preacher without being able to read the Bible? Still ... the evidence does not preclude rhetorical ability in a pious pioneer to witness the faith and inspire others, based on his own aural learning. So I am told by colleagues with knowledge of similar situations.

The identity of Preacher John Cameron has been extremely difficult to pin down, aside from a few anecdotal statements in Thomas' local history compilation. There it was said:
■ he lived in Lachine for about a year after arrival from Scotland;
■ he came in 1802 to the St. Andrews area (Cote du Midi to be precise—the lots of which were slightly east of the River Rouge lots);
■ he preached in Gaelic;
■ he was a Volunteer serving six weeks at Lachine during the War of 1812;
■ he had sheep on his farm;
■ his eldest son Hugh later lived on the homestead;
■ a son also bore “the same cognomen,” i.e. Preacher;
■ grandson John owns the original land (when the book was published);
■ he had seven sons and six daughters;
■ he died about 1867.[7]
(The last two statements immediately above are not entirely clear if referring to John or son Hugh.)
       
After relaying the above information, Thomas refers us to another section of his book for more about the same man, where the Presbyterian incumbent of 1896 wrote:
“The district was much in need of Gospel ordinances, no minister having ever been settled in it. Mr. Easton of Montreal occasionally came to attend to the Presbyterians. An Episcopal minister preached once a fortnight to the people of that body, while a good man, Hugh Cameron of Cote du Midi, was wont to exhort the people, and even, it is said, sometime to baptize children. He was usually spoken of as 'Hughy the Minister,' and his descendants are still distinguished by the cognomen of 'the minister.'”[8]

Woops! John or Hugh? Here is an example where the often-valuable clues provided by a local history (derivative source) run amok. Stories about the same individual fail to coincide. I have not heard John Cameron descendants mention a son also known as a preacher or 'minister,' or of the appellation lingering in the next generations. Who had the better memory—the local historian giving the tale to the clergyman (who arrived in Quebec more than fifty years after the fact) or the informant for the Cote du Midi section of the book? Alas. 

What I know from the historical record (original sources) is that not only was a John Cameron in the parish of St. Andrews interacting occasionally with my John Fraser, but a Hugh Cameron was even more visible at Fraser church sacraments. A network of Cameron researchers has done extensive work to find relationships. My thanks to them for sharing with me even though my main McIntyre interest skirts the edge of their large project.

The will of John Cameron (naming his wife Catherine McIntyre) does not mention a son Hugh. He does refer to his eldest son Donald! Now it's not unusual for older children to have been provided for, before a man executes his will, but generally they are acknowledged. In fact, he mentions eight children by name, although researchers still wrestle with the possibility of some from a previous marriage. Therein lies the crux for descendants of an early Hugh Cameron, who is present in various records of the period. Was he a son unacknowledged in the will?

John Cameron executed his 1836 will “in the dwelling house of said Testator at the place [???] Riviere? rouge” [as transcribed by a descendant]. He later deeded River Rouge land to younger sons Alexander and Angus in 1845.[9] The document refers to “where the donor currently lives,” specifically lot 28 in the River Rouge settlement.

The 1851 census enumerates elderly John and wife Catherine between married daughter Catherine (Cameron) Lavigne and son Angus, the lot 28 recipient. The next folio indicates the Lavigne family was the sole family in one residence, whereas Angus Cameron has two families occupying his home (the column for type of residence and number of families “belongs” to Angus, not his parents in the two lines above him in the personal schedule). Even if most of his lifetime the Preacher was known to be “of” Cote du Midi, he may have moved in his old age to one of his children for care. At this point I conclude John and Catherine Cameron were living with son Angus, probably since 1836 at the least.

I should not lose sight of the possibility that “my” John Cameron could have owned property in both River Rouge and Cote du Midi and could indeed be one and the same as the Preacher. More work can be done in earlier census returns (household heads only: 1825, 1831, 1842) to compare and correlate John Cameron occurrences. Do we have two “senior” men living in the same general area at the same time? Four names appear in the 1842 census for Argenteuil, but two can probably be eliminated because of occupation or single person status. Perhaps we will be able to analyze enough evidence to say John Cameron—age 88 and the husband of Catherine McIntyre in the 1851 census—is also the father of Hugh and thus the Preacher. Camerons are discussing DNA testing of known descendants of both Catherine’s husband and Hugh, the Preacher’s alleged son.

The previous version of this post concluded that Catherine's husband seemed to have three strikes against his being the Preacher—which doesn’t directly affect the sister hypothesis. Now my mind is open again.

Recently I learned the Preacher John Cameron homestead location at Cote du Midi is known to his descendants. Most surprising to me was the discovery (uncovery might be a better word) this month of a burial ground on that farm. Its existence had been long suspected but was apparently heavily obscured by bush and undergrowth. Descendants have second- or third-hand information that ten people are buried there. Hopefully another expedition can ascertain, with the appropriate tools, if there are sunken stones or markers of any type. In an ideal world, we’d find that it’s the resting place of Preacher John Cameron and identifiable members of his family.

Besides the potential of DNA testing, another big challenge is access to more Quebec-based documentation, i.e. off-line, on-site materials, especially land transfer records and wills. The fact remains that if my John Cameron was not the Preacher, I can forget the assumptive Fort William origin—once a weak point in my rationale, but a fascinating byway on my McIntyre road journey. It’s safe to say this is not the end of my detour, by any means.

[1] St. Gabriel Street (Montreal, Quebec) Presbyterian register of baptisms, marriage, and burials, 1808, Fraser-McIntyre marriage, p. 47; Archives of Ontario (AO) microfilm MS 351 reel 1. Also, “Quebec Vital and Church Records, Drouin Collection,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca/ : accessed 19 April 2008) where he is indexed as John Francer.
[2] Cyrus Thomas, History of the Counties Argenteuil, Quebec and Prescott, Ontario (1896; reprint Belleville, ON: Mika Publishing, 1981), 149.
[3] Thomas, 144.
[4] John Cameron household, 1851 Census Canada East, County Deux Montagnes, enumeration district 11, parish of St. Andrews, sheet 21, stamped p. 41; Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm C-1147.
[5] Cour supérieure, District judiciaire de Terrebonne, Répertoire du notaire Michel-Gaspard Thibaudière de LaRonde (1825-1882), (Saint-André Avellin, Québec), document no. 3211, 20 September 1836 and codicil 13 August 1840, will of John Cameron; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Quebec (BAnQ) at Montreal, CN606, S5.
[6] “Quebec Vital and Church Records, 1621-1967 (Drouin Collection), digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 5 March 2012), baptism Allan Cameron, 30 October 1807, “parents don't write”; citing St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec).
[7] Thomas, 144.
[8] Thomas, 106.
[9] A transcription of the John Cameron notarial document was provided by third-party Cameron researchers; the citation is incomplete until details can be provided or unless I can see the original documents: District of Montreal, County of Two Mountains, notaries J.Geo. Lebel and F.H. Leclair of St. Hermas, document no. 944 (20 January 1845), John Cameron to Alexander and Angus Cameron.


© Brenda Dougall Merriman 2012

2 comments:

Brian Anderson said...

Very well done!!! :D

BDM said...

Thank you for your support and keen eye, Brian!