Wednesday, December 17, 2014

52 Ancestors #50 Barnabas McGee and Nancy Carroll First Settlers of Merigomish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Barnabas McGee was born about 1742, believed to have been born in Northern Ireland (likely Ulster). 

New World and Marriage
Barnabas immigrated to Pennsylvania where he married Ann (Nancy) Carroll of London, England. 

I'm fairly certain they departed for Canada from the port of Philadelphia. 
Prior to departing they lived in PA, New Jersey or nearby.

Move to Canada, to Pictou
Originally Pictou, Nova Scotia was awarded by the King of England to a handful of subjects who agreed to settle it for England.

The King's permission contained a complex mandate about clearing the land and planting crops, and establishing a town all within certain time parameters. 
It tells you something about the scramble for territory.
Eastern Canada today
The very best land was already held by the earliest settlers (all British subjects) before Barnabas and Nancy even left for Canada. 
The map above of Eastern Canada will give you an idea where Nova Scotia is relative to other provinces of E. Canada.
The settlement they left for had been nicknamed Pictou "New Scotland" for the many settlers of Scottish descent. 

It was 1767 or 1768 that Barnabas and Nancy packed up and moved to Nova Scotia from PA. (The year tells me he wasn't a Loyalist). 
Once there, Barnabas was awarded a large grant of land at Roger's Hill in Pictou.  However, Rogers Hill is a good way from the coast. 

Where is Pictou?
Today Pictou is a town in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. 

Now you're wondering: "Where is Pictou?"  
You may have heard of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the capital of the Province of Nova Scotia. 

The map below shows Pictou's location relative to Halifax.
Province of Nova Scotia. Halifax in south, Pictou to north/east.
The McGees had a daughter they called Polly in Pictou and the family remained there about nine years. 

First White Settlers of Merigomish, Nova Scotia, Canada
But Barnabas was not content with his location on Rogers Hill. Though he had a good amount of land, I would guess he -or they-wanted to be nearer the shore.

So, in the fall of 1776 or the spring of 1777 he moved to Merigomish, NS, and settled not far from the shore, but on the eastern side of a river. Oh happy day!
Merigomish Train Depot 1900s

Shore Rd, Merigomish, NS

Turn off to Barneys Road in Merigomish, NS
So, How far is Merigomish from Pictou?  
If you travel overland, it’s 23 miles (38 KMS) by today’s roads from Pictou to Mergomish. 
However, if you go by boat, (I don’t have the nautical miles), but it looks like it’s not more than 6 miles south from Pictou to what is Mergomish.

Yes, the McGees now had land near the shore. 
And while  Barnabas McGee and Nancy Carroll were officially the first white settlers of Merigomish which comes with its own bit of wondefulness, but it could be a bit lonely.

Barnaby's River, Merigomish
The river they settled by was later called Barney's River after Barnabas, some time around or after his death. 

From The History of Barneys River—Early Days in East Pictou by HH Bruce for the Eastern Chronicle.  18 September 1886
From the book, Place Names of Nova Scotia
Barnabas and Nancy had four* more children, and they were the first white settlers born in the area.

Work and Staying Fed
Barnabas (“Barney”) was said to be a cooper by trade (cooper makes barrels, casks and the like). He would likely have searched the northern forests for oak. 

Eventually however, he (possibly for financial reasons?) turned to shipbuilding and fishing. 

"A record from September 1788 says that he sold a good shallop [sloop] 'Nancy' about twenty-two tons, to Hugh Denoon of Merigomish, trader, for the sum of 45 pounds."

Also, there are many records of sales of land by Barnabas McGee. One record of him says that he:
"is still remembered for his hospitality to strangers and travellers."
Two Deaths & the Widow
Barney McGee and his son, Barnabas, set out one fall to sail to Newfoundland but never arrived.  

They were shipwrecked and drowned. Their bodies weren't found until spring -- on the shore of nearby Cape Breton.
His widow Nancy was then on her own. 
It was said that she made a name for herself. 
She always ministered to the medical needs of her neighbors. For example, there is one record where she removed frozen fingers from the survivors of a ship wreck. 

Nancy was often called upon to help out at the most inconvenient times. 
When there was too much snow, she'd don snowshoes to facilitate her trek to help those in need.
Land Granted to the Widow McGee
Nancy was given a grant of 500 acres of land for her "public services" (I'm not sure what that means). She sold the land for 250 pounds.

Barnabas McGee Facts
* Born in County Ulster, N. Ireland
* Emigrated to PA
* Married Ann (AKA Nancy) Carroll of London, England
* Moved to Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada 1767/1768 

and received a land grant on Rogers Hill in Pictou. 
* Remained there for almost a decade.
* Moved in 1776 to become the first white family settled in Merigomish, Nova Scotia
* Death by drowning (he and son Barnabas)

They had five children, including but not limited to Barnabas McGee and Polly McGee, as well as my husband’s 4th gr- grandfather:
Charles M McGee
B 24 Nov 1778 Merigomish,Pictou Co, Nova Scotia, Canada D. 28 Sep 1876 Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada 
This is the end of what I am fairly certain of for the early settler and ancestor, Barnabas McGee.
I have a sketchy family tree of my husband's grandfather's family. The families lived in for many years in  Gaspe (Quebec) and Nova Scotia, Canada, and later in other parts of the Province of Quebec. These make up one portion of my husband’s father JOHN McGEE JOHNSON‘s family tree.


  1. I am a 4th great granddaughter of Polly McGee. She married Charles Arbuckle of the 82 Regiment of Foot hope was as a Cpl granted 200 acres in the area of Merigomish. Thank you for mot=re info on my family tree!I have an extensive tree with allot of names but not many facts how did Polly's Husband die? Where did he come from? so many unanswered questions... but this has been wonderful! Thank you to the Author! Signed Shelly Arbuckle Cold Lake, Alberta.

    1. Shelly, So pleased to "meet" you! You and my husband are related, then. His Canadian lineage is so old that his father could have easily claimed citizenship. Arbuckle--interesting. You may wish to find out if he was granted land for being Loyal to the King (during the Am. Rev), many of John's ancestors got there that way. I'm glad this helped. Perhaps a trip to eastern Canada might be in your future!? --all the best, Charity (Johnson-Higgins)

    2. Awesome information .... So I too am also a descendant Barnabas McGee/Nancy Ann Carroll (who are my 5th Great Grandparents) - their daughter Polly McGee married Charles Arbuckle - and their daughter Charlotte married David Bone(Bowen) - and then Robert Bone etc............................................Thank you for sharing

  2. Hello... anyone reading this?

    My name is Gail Hildebrant, related maternally to Barnabas. This site was a delight to read! Thanks!
    Phoenix, AZ, USA.

    1. Hi Gail!
      I DO indeed read the posts! I am so glad you were able find a post on Barnabas McGee. We had a lovely time doing our 'scavenger hunt' for Barney's River--and I'm particularly glad I did something for my husband's side of the family.

  3. Hello - my name is James Thompson Shaw III, descended from Lillian Riggs, hence to William and Willena Riggs (her maiden name was Arbuckle), descended from William Arbuckle and Mary Vincent, descended from Polly Arbuckle and "Barney McGee Arbuckle", descended from "Barney Arbuckle." Or so our sketchy tree indicates. Grandmother Lillian wrote in the tree book, based on a 1957 visit to PEI and visiting relatives, that "polly married Barney McGee Arbuckle (a foster brother)"... The story goes that Barney Arbuckle was major domo in the home of an irish earl. Said earl was a bit of a lad and it was found a comely housemaid expected a child with no doubt as to the male parent. Barney Arbuckle and his wife were emigrating to Canada, so when the child was born, to avoid scandal - they took the boy and brought him up as their own. Later they had a daughter Polly, who later married her foster brother. Even in those days it seems people had fun. ... Incidentally, Polly was the first white child born in the province of Nova Scotia..." Well I can't swear to the truth of any of it, but I can swear that's what she wrote. Best, Jim

  4. As far as I know it was not an Irish earl that was the father of Barney Arbuckle. It was Boyd of Kilmarnock in Scotland. Dean Castle.

  5. Thanks, Jim. I love your commnet, "but I can swear that's what she wrote."! :)

  6. James that is very interesting. And so is the information about Scotland. I too have some papers somewhere that refer to Charles Arbuckle as the illegitimate son of an Earl however, that Earl is James Boyd (James Hay) of Falkirk. Supposedly, Charles caught a groom "beating a horse about the head with a whip" so he beat the groom up. He thought he killed the groom. To avoid persecution he took off and joined The 82nd Regiment, also known as the Hamilton Regiment, which was assembled in 1778 in Scotland. Not far from Falkirk. That is how he ended up in Nova Scotia. Later he was granted 200 acres in Merigomish and met and married Polly McGee. Your story corroborates the info that I have about Charles being an illegitimate son of an Earl and that Ear may be James Hay, 15th Earl of Erroll (20 April 1723 – 3 July 1778) styled Lord Boyd from 1728 to 1746, a Scottish nobleman and the son of William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock.

    In case you aren't familiar with what a grooms role was in the 1700's - The groom (or ostler in a coaching inn) was always male. In the horse stables of a gentleman, there would be a head groom, several under-grooms and also a stable boy or two. Often the head groom would be responsible for teaching the daughters of the house to ride and thereby frequently held a position of respect and licence.

  7. As an Arbuckle decendent and an Arbuckle... I would think that if the house of Boyd was so eager to dismiss the claim that Charles was an illigitimate son of the Earl (which I have heard from other sources)that they could well have someone in the present direct male Boyd line, and one of us do DNA samples... that would clear everything up in that regard... I would volunteer!

  8. hi, this was interesting, i have pieced some together as Andrew Blackie was my grandfathers grandfather, and part of the Hopetown Quebec McGees, my grandfather left there and joined the army in Debert NS where he met my grandmother, i am hoping to eventually do one of the dna kits for history

  9. This information has been an eye opener - Terry Cameron here (originally from the Ponds) Charles Arbuckle who married Mary Polly McGee was my g.g.g.g.grandfather and I have a family tree (MyHeritage) with many of their decendents. He was born 1751 in Falkirk, Scotland and died Feb 19, 1817 in the Ponds and is buried in Murrays Point Cemetery at Lower Barneys River. Mary Polly McGee was born 1768 in Rogers Hill and died 1865 in the Ponds.