Narrated by Yvonne Richardson
Puslinch Historical Society Spirit Walk
June 11, 2013
There are forty-two Camerons in Crown cemetery, and there is genealogical information for seven or eight generation of Camerons in Puslinch Historical Society archives. We have chosen Roderick Cameron for tonight, as he was the first to come to Puslinch from Scotland.
Roderick Cameron was born in 1776 in Killearan parish in the county of Ross-shire, Scotland. The Cameron name was more common in Perthshire in central Scotland than Ross, so it's possible that one of Roderick's ancestors may have moved to Ross from Perthshire.
Scottish records show Roderick as a merchant. The family was engaged in trade, so Roderick would have travelled about buying and selling his goods, and would have been exposed to outside influences more than most people in Scotland at that time. He would have heard about opportunities in the New World.
Roderick was likely better off than most, thanks to his trade. He would have served an apprenticeship of about five years, which may explain why he was thirty-eight before he married. He belonged to the Free Church of Scotland, and most likely Gaelic was his mother tongue, as was common in the Highlands.
Roderick and his family lived in the village of Ullapool on Loch Broom on the west coast, just across from the Hebrides. Times were uncertain in Scotland in the 1830's, especially in the Highlands, and everybody had big families to feed. Industrialization had thrown many out of work. There was much displacement due to changes in agriculture and the infamous Clearances. Camerons would have heard about others leaving for Canada where free land was available and Scottish settlers were welcomed. At the same time, very little was being done to improve life in the Highlands. Traveller John Knox said at the time that Great Britain considered the Highlands as nothing more than a source for soldiers and seamen. Great Britain was encouraging people to emigrate, as the population had risen by fifty percent in the seventy-five years before 1830, and there was not enough of the traditional diet of oatmeal, cheese and meat to go round. In 1837, the Camerons decided to leave.
Roderick's wife Christina was twenty-one when they got married in about 1812. We don't know her maiden name. In the 19th century women's surnames, or even their given names, were often omitted in records such as the census.
Roderick and Christina had thirteen born children. In the Cameron family, there were two Anna's and two Kenneth's in the baptism records, thus the first Anna and Kenneth must have died as infants.
Roderick was not a young man when they left Scotland for the New World, in fact he was almost 60, and Christina was 46. All of their children had been born in Scotland before they left about 1835. Duncan, the youngest, was three years old when they left Scotland, and the oldest, Roderick was about twenty-two.
Nothing is known of their trip across the Atlantic. However, the crossing usually took about five or six weeks at that time. Our first record of them here is the census of 1837 in Puslinch which shows them on Concession 3 Front, Lot 21, a 100-acre parcel. Two years later Roderick and his sons had 12 acres cultivated, two oxen, and a cow. They would have lived in a log house for the first few years, as did most people at that time.
By 1840 Puslinch was filling in quickly and people were getting settled. They wanted schools built so their children could get an education. The men of School Section 5 where Camerons lived got together about 1850 to put up a frame building for the first school. In 1865 it was replaced by a stone-built school, the stones having been gathered from neighbouring farms, and the building again put up by the local farmers who also looked after maintenance. Roderick Cameron (this would be the son Roderick) supplied the school with four cords of firewood in 1880 for example. S. S. # 5 is on Road 34, a mile west of the Hanlon. It closed in 1965 and is now a home.
By 1840 Kenneth, the nineteen-year-old third son, had his own land, Lot 22, Concession 3 Front, right beside his fathers. He had nine acres under cultivation. Roderick's eldest son Roderick took up Lot 30, Rear of the Gore.
Grain was threshed by flail in the early days, and may well have been the method first used by Roderick Cameron to harvest his crop. By 1835, primitive threshing machines were in use, powered by horses walking in a circle or on a treadmill. About 1855 more efficient machines came into use, and threshing gangs would go from farm to farm, as not everyone had their own threshing equipment. In 1855, Roderick Cameron and his neighbour had over 1000 bushels of wheat, barley and oats threshed by thresher-man A. McCormick.
For a number of years, there was a post office at Aikensville where people collected their mail, but no real village ever really formed in this area. People went to Aberfoyle or Hespeler for what they needed. Apart from Ellis Chapel, no church was ever established either. When Duff's Church was built in 1837, Roderick Cameron was one of the first elders, serving in 1844 and 1845. A Sabbath school was organized in S.S. # 5 in 1857 and conducted there in the summer months.
Roderick died in 1855, at almost 80, and Christina died in 1858 and the fourth son, Donald took over the farm. Roderick had been here not quite twenty years, and had made a go of it despite being an old man when he arrived, and his sons had been able to acquire farms too. He owned a span of horses, three cows, three young horses, five sheep, eleven pigs, a carriage and agricultural implements when he died.
When Roderick died, he still did not have patent on his land. This was not uncommon. It was not until after his son Donald, who took over the farm, died in 1872 that patent was granted to his widow.
Some of Roderick's descendants are traced to North Dakota. His daughter Anna married Andrew Beith and moved to Kinloss in Bruce County. From there they went west to North Dakota in 1875. In 1886 Andrew was thrown from his horse when it stepped into a hole during a buffalo hunt. His leg was broken and had to be amputated, and he died shortly after the accident.
The Crimean War of 1853-6 sent the price of wheat soaring, and Canadian farmers could suddenly make improvements to their farms. In the 1860's, Donald could afford to replace the first crude Cameron home, and he had a fine storey-and-a-half stone house erected, later owned by Hugh Ross, followed by his son Carl. (see picture below) This house was plaqued by the Heritage Committee in 2000 for its architectural and historical significance.
[Back to research menu]
"Descendants of Roderick & Christiana Cameron by Lois M. Cameron Stinson
Annals of Puslinch 1850-1950
Puslinch Historical Society files
Puslinch Heritage Committee
"Settlers of Puslinch" by W.F. McKenzie
"Our Home and Native Land", by Marjorie Clark